Jul 032013
 

how-to-play-blackjack[1]With the popularity of online card games scaling new heights in recent years there was never any doubt that the big guns of video gaming would start to exploit Blackjack’s undisputable appeal. So what have Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo done to make the most of what has become a worldwide obsession?

Card games such as poker and blackjack have never been too far away from the PC screen since computers were first sold on the market. The first ever computers that were capable of providing a selection of fun, casual games to the user were often dominated with card games. The simplicity and universal appeal of these games such as Blackjack and Solitaire provided the platform that was needed for card games to appeal to all ages and not just those who traveled to Las Vegas for their summer holidays. What’s more, PC card games such as Blackjack were capable of pairing two or more players together, thus promoting the idea of multiplayer gaming before it had even been established as a genre.

As technology has progressed, gamers across the globe have taken to online gaming by joining a huge community of gamers, each with their own interests and preferences. However, Blackjack has never strayed too far from the gaming world as it still manages to retain its universal appeal. If you are among those who love to play blackjack online at popular sites such as Slots.com, either for free or in the style of a online casino which has become hugely popular thanks to its communal and financial benefits. Furthermore, the enhancement in graphics and realistic design provides an even more substantial atmosphere for the player. With the momentum of card games in full swing, it was time for the big names to take to the stage as card-game development became a top priority.

Microsoft were looking to create the best free Blackjack experience for the player and, with such a huge community to try and win over, it was important that they integrated all the necessary traits that would make the game playable for all ages. Microsoft took their Avatar concept to create Avatar Deluxe Blackjack, one of a series of games that adopts the basic concepts of Blackjack with a few added extras such as a variety of tables to play on and bonuses as you start winning, considered by avid gamers as one of the best blackjack games available. Microsoft makes the most of its Xbox Live experience to allow for up to 12 players to experience the game together and compete against each other. You can find details of this game in the marketplace together with in-depth online Blackjack reviews at the website for Xbox.

Sony have released a couple of smaller games that look to exploit the true classic feel of casino card games. Card Shark is a game that looks and feels very similar to the classic forms of the game, although the theme and simplicity makes it a popular choice for gamers looking to experience the gambling phenomena. The aim is to beat the dealer in a game of Blackjack and simply keep on piling up the winnings. Whilst it lacks flair and modernization, you won’t be disappointed with what’s on offer. An alternative is Everybody’s Arcade, a game that looks to appeal to a wider audience thanks to its colorful design and simplistic values. The Playstation store can be located at Playstation.com.

Despite Nintendo’s popularity amongst a family audience and their ability to appeal to people of all ages, they have not held back in trying to create the most realistic form of Blackjack on our consoles to date. V.I.P Casino: Blackjack is a game that looks to replicate the conception of the pressure experienced in a real-life Blackjack scenario. The 3-D graphics and first-person camera create the atmosphere every keen card-gamer looks for. The quality of graphics make the game easy to play and get used to, whilst keeping the complex Blackjack scenarios that you may have to face. Look for these great games at the Wii-Ware store at Nintendo.com.

All-in-all, the progression of Blackjack throughout the world has aided the gradual development of the game and the different variations of this popular card game that are now available across the gaming world. You’ll even find sites which teach beginners how to play blackjack or which allow people to play blackjack online for free! With so much to experience there is no doubting the further progression of what has become such an appealing card game.

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May 222012
 

Battlefleet Game[1]By Peter Ruth II

Dreadfleet Meets Axis And Allies War At Sea

Now that I’ve finally advanced out of the dark ages and gotten an iPad and iPhone, I’ve realized that there’s a veritable sea of amazing board game ports and strategy games out there to waste time with. I’m firmly of a mind that eventually, all games will become digital, with only the most afflicted of Luddites still having the cardboard versions.

I’ve heard arguments that cardboard versions will never go away, with the least compelling being that people in the same room will always trump online games. Personally, I think it’s a load of BS because virtually all ports to iOS of any note have both hot-seat, wi-fi, and/or online versions, so technically, a bunch of guys with iPads (or one iPad passed between them) can all get together on Sundays and sit at the same game table and play the same games they always have, but without the need for 20 minutes of setup, 20 minutes of tear down, and an hour of time savings on doing all the rather pedestrian “upkeep” required when playing many of the more complex board games that exist. I mean, how awesome would it be to play Command & Colors: Ancients just as easily with a guy from next door as it would be to play with a guy who actually lives in Rome? Without taking three hours to apply stickers to blocks, and for 40$ or so less?  Epic.

Anyhow, due to my belief that the proliferation of tablet computing will change the face of board gaming irrevocably, I will be doing some spotlight articles on new and upcoming games that I think have promise and should be supported by board gamers. But anyone can review any old crappy iOS game, so I’m only reviewing the ones that you probably haven’t heard of, and that are in the nascent stages so that you can support them on the ground floor so they can have the means necessary and, really, a good reason to further develop the game.

IMG_0182[1]This first article is about a really inexpensive, yet truly entertaining game called Battle Fleet. It’s available in the App Store for about three bucks, and while it’s a little rough around the edges regarding some bugs, the developer is committed to developing the game to its fullest potential.

It’s a bit like the old “Scorched Earth” PC game from the 90s, where you choose your weapon, give an angle and a power setting, and fire away, but it’s far more than that. It has a nice variety of ships such as cruisers, destroyers, battleships, and carriers, each with their own speeds, damage levels, and weapons slots. I’ve been playing it for around a month now, I guess, and I’m still enjoying it, which is tough for a ADD-prone guy like me.

The game comes with two campaigns with absolutely no historical reference, one US campaign that is around ten missions long, and another Japanese campaign that is half the length, but is under further development as I write this. Additionally, there is a PvP hot-seat mode, which allows two players to duke it out on the high seas using a maximum point value used to buy ships. Ships are selected, with a current maximum of three per side, and then a wide range of weapons may be loaded into the available slots of each ship.

Additionally, there are “Command Cards” which are collectible on islands around the battle map, each of which provide powerful and quite differing boons to the players. One gives you a precise range and angle from a ship to a target, another allows you to call in an air strike upon an area of the sea, while yet another allows you to sabotage an enemy ship, thereby causing that ship to lose its turn at a time of your choosing. It’s a great little adder to the game’s strategy, and it’s always fun to pick up a card mid-game and get a nice bump that could potentially tip the balance of power slightly in your favor.  For those who want less luck involved, though, you can disable Command Cards in the setup menu.

IMG_0185[1]Some of the finer points in the game that really set off the mood is that all of the mission briefings and commands are spoken in the native language as well as written on the placard that pops up on the screen. This means that when you play the Japanese campaign, you can actually hear the mission briefing in Japanese while reading along in English, and when you select a ship in-game, you’re met with either an American saying, “Yes Sir?” or a Japanese commander giving one of several responses in his native tongue. It’s those little things that make the game just feel right for a World War II war game.

Another really cool thing I really enjoy about this game is that the soundtrack has a “John Williams” quality about it, in that it really helps keep the tension going a bit. I almost always turn music off in video games, but this is an exception. Another great thing is that, like the old Star Trek simulator BEGIN, there are range rings shown that help you estimate range.

The graphics are really sharp to begin with, but the developer is currently overhauling the backgrounds as there have been some complaints that it’s a little too bland. I didn’t think so, but I can see why some people would. Also, they are going to be expanding both the US and Japanese mission portfolios with extra campaigns, more surface ship types as well as other, alternative craft, different weapons, and a host of new mission types including raiding a land-based airfield.

IMG_0179[1]Now it would be unfair of me to exclude a couple of niggles that I have with the application. There’s a couple of minor bugs that can be painful, such as a “Player X’s Turn” placard not going away for a turn, which leads to basically not being able to take a good turn. It is very seldom seen, and I have yet to be able to replicate it in any repeatable way, but it does exist. The most annoying thing about the game, which isn’t really all that annoying, is that when you place weapons on ships in multiplayer mode, sometimes the touch-sensing isn’t all that hot, so you may have to take a couple tries to place weapons.

Finally, and most crucial, the multiplayer mode currently only has a “let’s kill each other’s ships” mode, and I’d like to see some mission-based modes where two players can duke it out using one of the campaign missions, or ideally, go through an entire campaign together on opposing sides.  There is no online multiplayer yet, which is the one thing this game will really need to have in order to be competitive in the game market. The developer is already working on all of these things, so I am hopeful, and he has a blog where he posts updates and whatnot on a semi-regular basis.

At the end of the day, if you’re a sucker for seaborne turn-based war games, this is a great start. I recommend it, even with the bugs, because it has given me more playtime than many other games at much higher price tags, including Xbox and Wii games.  It’s $3.00, people, so get behind this app, and let’s get the developer the means and motivation to expand this from a great, truly fun app into an exceptional app, which I truly believe it can be. Eventually, asynchronous games will become available, and we can all play together, which is what this hobby is all about. Until then, I’ll just have to settle for wiping out my friends locally.

Why Battle Fleet Makes Me Bleed Salt Water:

  • Crisp ship graphics and easy-to-use menus make it a fun
  • Exciting soundtrack makes you feel a little patriotic, even if you’re Japanese
  • Simple interface and well-devised game play allow for lots of replayability
  • Strategy is not limited to “Aim, Fire. Aim, Fire” as movement and position count
  • For less than a pack of smokes, you get a bunch of game play and fun

Why Battle Fleet Sinks:

  • Underdeveloped multiplayer and a lack of online multiplayer hurts the game
  • Some annoying bugs still remain, but are being worked on currently
  • The Japanese campaign is very short, and much harder than the American one

IMG_0180[1]Overall:

This has provided me with more entertainment value than a lot of the other games I’ve played. While it’s not as polished as some, the developer is committed to the title and I’ve had many conversations about what he has in store for the game. This is a chance to get in on the ground floor!

 

 

Rating:

3.75/5 Stars

Learn more about this game at http://www.BattleFleetGame.com/

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Apr 262012
 

mza_8205725067205743194.320x480-75[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

Almost 30 years after this game was designed by Peter Burley, it is given a digital makeover and brought to a tablet near you.

I am not particularly fond of puzzle games. Not because I don’t enjoy them, but because it’s hard for me to get away from them once I start. This one is no exception.

Take It Easy is a very simple puzzle game. The aim of the game is to create straight lines of different colours, with each colour having a different value. The board is a hexagonal board and the pieces have a combination of three lines at an angle, each line of a colour. Place the pieces in the right location, create lines and score points. The trick is that, once the hexagons are placed on the table/screen, you can’t move them or rotate them, so forward thinking can be very handy!

The graphics are lovely. Very colourful and everything is so clearly laid out, that you barely need the tutorial to know what you’re meant to do.

The game can be played against the machine or in multiplayer. I haven’t had the chance to play multiplayer yet, so will only review the single player mode.

Three modes are available: Classic, Progressive and Puzzle.

In classic mode you just try to score as many points as possible by placing the hexagons in the right place an form the longest possible lines with the highest possible value. Easier said than done!

Puzzle mode gives you a few challenges, like having to get a number of points, create a number of lines of  specific length or value.

Last, but not least, progressive mode will challenge you to reach a score in a limited time. Do it quicker than the allocated time, and you get the time left as a bonus for your next puzzle.

Conclusion

The simplicity of this game is genius. The fact that it is as accessible and enjoyable for an adult, as it is for children means this game should be in any mobile device. The joyful frustration of finding the piece you need just when you have placed the previous one in the wrong place is frustrating and hilarious at the same time.

With puzzles solved in as little as a few seconds, this is a game you can come back to time and time again without having to spend any time at all. Perfect for when you are waiting in the queue of the cinema to get your ticket or at the super-market while the person in front of you gets the shopping bagged and ready to go home.

Tons of achievements to be unlocked do expand the life of this game quite considerably and I can’t wait to see what else future releases of this game will come up with!

Yep, this game, and the 4 stars I give it, will be in my iPad for a very, very long time!

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Dec 072011
 

Spidergod1[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

When I was 12 or 13 years old, I used to finish school and visit my mother in our photography shop to get a snack before heading home, since in Spain dinner is a lot later than in most other countries. I would get 200 pesetas (about £2 or 5$) to go and get a sandwich, a cake or whatever I wanted.

What I wanted was a Fighting Fantasy or a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

I would go to the only bookshop in my hometown that stocked the books and get the one I still didn’t have. Then rush home and spend the rest of the evening eagerly reading and playing them, much to the neglect of my homework. The number of times I got into trouble for that is unheard of!

I have never regretted those times for a single second.

So, bring time forward nearly 25 years and I happen to hear that game-books like the ones I used to enjoy so much are coming to the iPad thanks to Tin Man Games. I gleefully get to the App Store and get The Temple of the Spider God. No less because it has been written by Jonathan Green, who is a veteran of Fighting Fantasy books.

So what do you get?

When you download the book, you get a map of Orlandes (where the adventures take place), your achievements, the history of Orlandes, your options, rules, the gamebooks catalogue and, of course the gamebook itself.

mzl.yvudfcpr.320x480-75[1]The book has it’s own dice roller and everything happens on the screen as and when you need to. Somehow they’ve managed to make them very satisfying dice to roll! They bounce very nicely and, since the results determine whether you survive or not, you want to roll as high as you can.

Once you’ve got the rules off the way, in about 5 minutes, you generate your character. That is as simple as choosing a name, choosing what level of difficulty you want to play, and then some basic attributes, like your vitality.

And then the adventure begins. You start to read the book and within a few pages you’re presented with the first choice. If you want to do one thing, go to page xxx. If you want to do something else instead, go to page yyy. And the adventure progresses.

Throughout the book, some gorgeous illustrations will give you an idea of what’s happening. My little rant… there aren’t enough of them.

That is not true, there are plenty to give you an idea of what’s going on, but the existing ones are so lovely that I wanted to see a lot more of them. They really leave you wanting to see more and more! Terrific style and the art direction fits perfectly.

mzl.bucfwaua.480x480-75[1]The book can be read both landscape and portrait without loosing the formatting, so the programming and the thinking behind the whole concept. You can also change the font to something less fancy. Something the dyslexics like me will appreciate.

The story is, to say the list gripping. You’re a conquistador who is given the task to find out where the most recent threat to the realm come from. Before long you’ll be on a journey full of adventure and even fuller with danger. And it is very dangerous indeed.

Playing the game can be frustrating at times. A bad roll of dice can mean you die within a couple of rolls and have to start again. Even though you can use some of the bookmarks to save the location of your progression, it is fairly easy to forget and it is a very “you live or you die” sort of adventure.

However, once you get into it and have got to grips with the book, you’ll be well happy you started. You’ll find yourself in the bus, shaking your device trying to make the dice fall in a favourable position while you quietly shout “nononononononono… dammit!” or “c’monc’monc’mon… yesssss!”. Trust me… I know!

The story is just fantastic, the writing is very appropriate, without being pedantic nor sloppy, provides with plenty of descriptions clear enough to help create a good visual reference in your mind of where you are and what’s happening. And it is a lot deeper than you expect too. It was only after the first time I rushed to the end, and the book begun to ask me if I had items I should have collected in the way, that I realised how much more to it there was. And I had to start again. With pleasure.

If you are a parent, you must buy this book and read it with your children. I can’t wait to visit my family over Christmas and play it with my nieces. If you are one of those lucky ones who grew up with Fighting Fantasy, this the time to have a good time again. Great story, easy mechanics and a ton of fun!

The temple of the Spider God is available from the App Store

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Nov 172011
 

mzl.odfsinzc.480x480-75[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

When is about games you can safely introduce to anyone, you probably can’t get it wrong with Forbidden Island.

Simple mechanics, complex strategies, fiendishly difficult, gorgeous illustrations, lovely tin box… It has all it takes to get newbies into the hobby.

Thus when I heard that the iPad app had been released, I simply rushed into the App Store and had to buy it. At £2.99, it is terribly well priced and I wasn’t going to say no, quite frankly.

I must say it was with some apprehension. After my experience with Elder Sign, I was expecting my iPad 1 would crash as well. Did it? No.

For those of you who  haven’t played Forbidden Island ever. In this game the players play together. You have to cooperate in order to rescue four treasures from an island that’s sinking little by little. Once you’ve secured the four treasures, you have to get to Fool’s Landing where a handy helicopter will take you away and into safety. If the players manage to do that, that means victory. However things are not as easy. The tiles that form the island can sink every round. If they sink twice, they disappear never to be seen again. To make things even more difficult, at some points a card with a terribly nasty effect will come up. That card will increase the number of tiles that sink every turn, will shuffle all the tiles that have already sunk once, and put them back on top of the pile, thus increasing the risk of parts of the island sinking permanently. The players will have to shore-up the parts of the island that have sunk once, move about to get to the treasures, trade cards, move players from one part of the island to another and use their unique abilities to win the game.

Have I mentioned is a very difficult game to win? Well, it is. And it’s amazing fun!

The game is a true translation from the board game experience to the iPad. Nothing has changed and they have kept everything as intact as you would wish for. The tiles have the same artwork, the board the same shape, and the players can play with the same characters that exist in the physical game. If you’ve played the boardgame before, everything will be cphotoompletely familiar and you’ll be able to start pretty much right away.

If you haven’t played before, the tutorial will take you through the basics of the game in about 10 minutes. It is extremely easy to follow too, and it’ll feel like you’re playing from the moment go, so you won’t get bored. If you want a more thorough look at the rules, there is a digital book with all the rules for you to read at your leisure. I doubt you’ll need them to play, but it’s handy to have them just in case.

The interface is clean, without any distractions. I am really pleased that they’ve not gone through the route of attempting to be too clever with the arrangement or the characterization. For example they’ve left icons for each character rather than giving them faces and “personalities”.  There are a few things they could have done to add interest to the game, like getting the tiles to actually flip when they sink, rather than just shake and go blue-ish, or have different textures for the completely sunk bits of the island. However these would just be nice addition and not something that’d add to the gaming experience, so can’t really criticize them for that.

The soundtrack is pretty much inexistent. There are some basic sounds when the cards shuffle and tiles sink and a few more here and there, but no music to take you through the game. I would have liked to hear something while playing. I know this is being picky, but the game is not short and sometimes it can feel a bit lonely. Again this is not something that detracts from the gameplay, but it’d be a nice touch.

So do I like it? You kidding me?… I love it!

After the initial couple of games when you have to get used to the interface and how to trade cards, you’ll be playing like a pro and the game speeds up considerably. The feeling of dread that comes when one of the cards that raise the level of the water is drawn from the deck is fantastic. The surge of adrenaline when you see you are getting near the end and your island is about to sink all around you… Well.. that’s perfect!

I hope for the next update, or even next version, there will be an online mode. I would LOVE to be able to play this with my friends over the Net. It is the only thing that I truly thing would improve this game.

A fantastic effort on this app that deserves 5 stars for a wonderful conversion to tablet of a wonderful game!

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Nov 152011
 

eso-ipad-6By Paco Garcia Jaen

Let me say this loud and clear. I like Elder Sign. I have played that game a lot of times, both alone and with friends and I like the simple mechanics, the chance of dice, the artwork, the limited cooperation between players… I like the game a lot. Thus when I heard the app was out, I took my shiny iPad and bought it right away.

Oh dear.

The app uses the same artwork as the boardgame. Therefore is gorgeous. Rich and vivid colours with a very well chosen palette. As usual, Fantasy Flight Games provides with tons of shiny stuff to look at, and every single detail looks totally gorgeous.

Then the app crashed.

Start again. The characters you have to play with are the same that come with the game as well. That’s good… familiar abilities and familiar faces. If you haven’t played the board game before, worry not. The characters come with comprehensive explanation of their abilities that you can access with just a tap on their image.

Oh… it crashed again just as I was about to take a look at a character to show you. How weird!

Uhmm… let’s start it again then. You choose, either randomly or by dragging and dropping the characters into your selection area, four characters. They’ll be the party you’ll use to defeat the hordes of madness that are about to assault our reality.

pic1142646_mdSo how does it play? Well, this was disappointing. There is no tutorial. Instead, there is a video that explains how things work. Unfortunately the app is organised so differently compared to the boardgame, that things don’t make sense right away. It takes a while to understand what’s going on and, even when you’ve watched the video, things move differently than they do in the boardgame.

Never mind… prod along and get on with the game. The interface looks lovely. Big graphics, everything is easily accessible, but, where is the information? If you want to take a look at what objects the current character has, then you have to tap on the character’s backpack, which will be available only if the character has something that can be used. I haven’t been able to find a way to look at other character’s backpack until you get to that character’s turn. That makes planning the following steps somewhat more difficult. Elder Sign is a game with little strategy possibilities, but the app is even more limited!

Oh.. it crashed again! This is getting annoying now!

Every time a character’s turn approaches, there is a break. The screen closes, opens to show a portrait of the character, closes again and when it opens you can select where you want that character to go. You select somewhere. The screen closes, shows you a lovely picture of the location, challenges come up and you proceed to roll the dice… sorry.. flip the pages of the book that contains the sigils.Yep… no dice here, only sigils on pages! Don’t get me wrong, they work like dice and I actually liked them. They just came as a surprise.

So we get on with the game and, eventually, I finish it and, to my surprise, I win! Let’s start another game… see if I get over the nuances.

Wait?… same foe? Athathoth? Where are the rest? Where is Chutlhu?????????

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you only face one foe. And you can’t even face it! If you collect enough doom tokens, the game ends! THAT’S TERRIBLE!

Conclusion

I still like the game. I have played Elder Sign on the iPad some 40 times already and I somewhat enjoy it. However can’t help thinking it could and should be a lot better planned.

The initial tutorial, meaning the video, is not good enough. Explaining a game in a tablet should be an interactive tutorial that leaves no room for doubt and makes everything clear. Ascension and Ticket to Ride are perfect examples. A video is just not good enough. Bu then, Fantasy Flight Games is well renown for not having the best rules in their games… no surprise the tradition continues digitally.

There is some wasted space on the “board”. Space that could have been used to show the other characters so you can see their backpacks and abilities and plan your turns accordingly.

The interruptions of the game every time a turn ends and another begins is very irritating. The lovely pictures get tiresome after a while, to be honest.

One enemy? Just one enemy? That is just terrible! Part of the fun of Elder Sign is that you don’t know what enemy you’ll have to defeat and it adds to the longevity of the game. Call me a cynic here, but i wouldn’t be surprised if an upgrade with new enemies came up for a price. Not that I mind that… the price of this app is more than reasonable.

Furthermore, there is no online gaming. Where this game would be INCREDIBLE online, there is no chance of that. Quite frankly, I have no idea what Fantasy Flight are thinking on that one.

Is the game any good? You bet it is!

The execution does detract from a game that could have easily been the best game app out there, but it is still fun to play and the intensity of seeing your doom tokens and your monsters appear is absolutely fantastic.

If you have some £6 (10$) to spare, you could do a lot worse than getting this app and the likelihood is that it will keep you entertained for a while.

Because of the inadequacies of the development, I will give this game only three stars.

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