word game

When I first took a look at Secrets of Olympus, my thoughts were: not ANOTHER match-3! Not another one that’s based on Greek/Roman mythology with a dash of Zeus thrown in! Once I started, however, I realized that this game is much more than the theme. Secrets of Olympus is 4 games in one – Collapse, match-3, hangman, and good old shape match.

At the beginning you’d be faced with the normal mode, which everyone should be familiar with, and the relax mode, which has no timer. Then when a level start you’d be faced with more choices: “Switch” or “Click” which means “switching tiles” or “clicking tiles” – match-3 or collapse. These maps are not identical in each level; they’re designed to play well as either match-3 or collapse. Whichever mode you choose also has different power-ups. Either one you play, the objective is to clear all the stone tiles on the board.

The usual “chain” tiles that you have seen since Big Kahuna Reef still applies. Double chains require double effort, and sometimes you will see tiles that has a key in it. Unlocking 3 of these will land you a new power-up to use. Instead of the “match this object to gain a specific power-up,” Secrets of Olympus has opted for “match anything.” Doing successive stone breaking will also net you stars, and five stars will gain you access to a bonus level of shape match. Question marks will also be present in some levels, and when you break a tile next to those, you can play a game of hangman for bonus points.

What will strike you about Secrets of Olympus is how well everything runs. There is zero load time at the beginning of the game, and everything runs smooth as butter. From the falling of the tiles, to the punch of a power-up, the sound of a letter being chosen wrong in a game of Hangman, there’s never a feel that this game was rushed to production. The mini-games do a lot to alleviate the increasingly boring – mind you, brainlessly addictive – nature of match-3’s. These are also well-done and almost feel like games of their own, which is saying quite a lot for a mini-game in a match-3 of all things.

Definitely worth a download, and most likely, you’d be buying it. This is a game for keeps.

If you’re only going to get one game, you should get Escape From Paradise. I’m not kidding about this; there are so many mini-games (that are actually derivatives of full games) that you’re actually getting 17 games for the price of one. If you’re part of the game club (really, if you’re going to buy it off the fish, you might as well take advantage of the $6.99 pricetag), $6.99 for 17 games is a tremendous deal.

I’m not saying it’s perfect. I thought the graphics look quite dated and the sound effects a little over-compressed and fuzzy. Compared to the cell-shaded graphics of other casual games, and the other Toy Box Games offering, Nanny Mania, this looks downright homely.  The mini-games are very playable, but there’s nothing original about them – it’s just your varied offering of the most typical casual games. From a Diner Dash clone to Chinese Checkers or even a game of marbles, it’s all here. There’s even a game of bridge-war, and I’m not sure if there are casual game equivalents. The last time I played that game was in Romance of the Three Kingdoms X.

The core game is simular to Virtual Villagers, but with much more going on most of the time. X’s will appear all over the sand for you to dig up; new objectives come up on the map as soon as you’re finished with the last one, so you’re never stuck wondering what you should do next. When you’re desperately low on food, you can always play a mini-game and stock up – unlike in VV where if you’re low on food you could be seeing some hard times and some very dead villagers.

Also, instead of the aquarium nature of VV, you have an active colony that you must take part of. There is a choice of buildings to erect as you progress in the game, and as you get closer to the ending, you also get more levels for each of your mini-games to play with.  Even when you’re done with the core game, you can access any of the mini-games via the main menu screen. The animations are varied and well-done – your lumberjacks will chop faster as they progress in skill level, and your providers can whip out a fishing rod when they want to fish.

My only real complaint is that there is no pause button during the mini-games. I LIVE by the pause button – if the baby’s fussing, the kettle’s screaming, I just click pause and get to it and come back later. Without the pause button, I can hardly pass any of the diner levels. Thankfully, time is not that much of an issue in the other mini-games. All in all, a great game to have in your collection, and you get great bang for the buck too.

Once in a while you find a game that’s so simple and classic that you just never end up uninstalling it. Sandscript, to put it simply, is hangman. That’s all it is. It does hangman so well that you’d never play it with pen and paper again. Viqua Games, the developer that brought us Thomas and the Magical Words, really know how to make a word game both fun and educational.

A picture (in this case a video) is worth a thousand words, so here’s a gameplay video. The controls are very, very simple. You can either click on the letters to form the words, or you can just use the keyboard, which is much faster. During Sultan’s challenge, pressing enter also spin/shuffle the letters. There are only three power-ups: reveal all vowels, reveal one letter (at random) or reveal two incorrect letters (at random.)

There are two different modes: Adventure and Endless Nights. In Adventure you progress through different scenes, and in Endless Nights it’s just one stage after another to see how long you can last. You can win gold stars in adventure mode which will add up to treasures at the end of each location, and trophies can be won in both modes that will be displayed in the trophy room.

There is a bonus “Sultan’s Challenge” mode that can either follow a stage, or be accessed from the main menu. You can solve anagrams of 3-7 letters, and the more letters you choose the more points you can get. Words do tend to repeat themselves though – even within the same stage. This takes away a little from the perfection that is this game.

The graphics in Sandscript is Arabian themed – from the shapes of the letters, the backgrounds, the bonuses, and the genie with the flying carpet that you have to race, it’s all very fitting to the name Sanscript. The music is lovely for a game like this, and the sound effects fitting and satisfying when you do things right. Everything runs quite smoothly with minimum load times, and each stage auto-saves mid stage when you quit. You can also choose to restart a level when you’re doing very badly. Fun, educational, addictive. This thing will never get uninstalled.

Curtis: I’ll start liking this game as soon as I know how to read. So, in a few years, this game would come in handy as a treat at reading time.

Thomas and the Magical Words let us trace the footsteps of little Thomas Broombucket, a young wizard who got an F in Magic Spell Words. His uncle Artem magicked him into the spelling textbook, and he must spell his way out, all the while rescuing his animal friends who are also trapped in the book. The arch villain, Sbooky, will be there every turn of the way to make Thomas’ quest all the more difficult.

Reading that theme, you’d think that this is a pure kids’ game. It is. On the other hand, it is a Scrabbles based game that works very well, and can be very enjoyable for the adults who play along. At times it also gets very challenging, but never impossible. The game is time-based, but you race against a VERY slow moving time bar. It plays like Scrabble with a side-scrolling map; you need to build bridges of words in order to reach islands. You get a handful of tiles at a time which will be replenished each time you spell a word -when you reach islands that has animals on them, they will give you power-ups to aid you in your quest.

These power-ups are the hammer, clear, magic tile and the hint hat. The first two are pretty self-explanatory, the magic tile acts as a blank tile, and the hint hat will let you know what words you can spell with the letters you have. Sometimes there will be rows of coins floating in the water or swamp, and building your words on top of them will net you those coins. Building any word will also give you extra time for your time bar.

Weeds and other obstructions are placed on the way to make things a little more challenging. The game doesn’t let you save halfway through a stage, and considering how long each stage is, that can be a bit frustrating. Each stage – depending on how good you are at Scrabble – can take up to 20-25 minutes. Shorter stages pan out to be 5 minutes each if you’re quick to spot words in scrambled letters.

What makes Thomas such a wonderful game to play with kids is also the storybook factor. The game plays in chapters, and each segment of the story is actually entertaining – they’re not just fillers. You can also click on the book anytime during the game to see a little note on each of the animals you’ve rescued, and look at the meanings of the words you have spelled.

Thomas and the Magical Words might not be a new game, but it is a great game that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. A great educational and entertaining game for those of us who love Scrabble (and those who need “fun” put back into spelling!)