Thursday, 9 September 2010

Free Logic Puzzle Heaven

Remember this URL It is the personal homepage of Angela and Otto Janko. As well as documenting much of their home life such as their pets, garden and hobbies, there is also a whole treasure trove of brainteasers here and make up a great bulk of the site. Taking submissions from puzzle authors and categorising them by type, size and difficulty there is a whole wealth of fun times to be had. Better still, many of the popular japanese logic puzzles are all solvable interactively in custom designed Java applets which allow you to save progress, check for errors and retrace your steps as well as including 'what if' markers so you can graphically check for contradictions if you are into that kind of thing.

Bonus points to anyone who can find puzzles I've submitted to this site. Oh and be sure to use google translator when you get to the puzzles section as the website is written in German. There are a collection of flags at the top left hand corner of the Puzzle/Raetsel section. This site is regularly updated and continues to expand.

Oh and just for another good timewaster, try Picture Logic for some of the popular Hanije puzzles, also frequently updated.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Puzzle Quest 2: The Time-Sink Diaries

If you have already played the first Puzzle Quest game, skip this paragraph. For those who haven't, the original Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords blended the 'match-3 of the same thing' game mechanic with the character based RPG system and the result was frankly quite a bit dull but inexplicably addictive to many. The story was barely worth reading and the visuals didn't inspire and at times the game doesn't even seem remotely fair with the very reasonable possibility of losing without having the chance to even swap one pair of the game's millions of gems. This game ate up most of my study time at one stage and I often found myself playing til the late hours without being aware of it. Dangerous stuff. You've been warned.

The word 'Pummel' always makes me chuckle, as does the word 'Yeast'.

The sequel takes this oddly successful formula and smooths out a lot of the kinks. Playing this on Steam I found a large wealth of achievements for those that are into that kind of thing. As for the story, it has been reduced to minimal chit chat to connect quests together and that's all you get, which is a welcome change compared to the reams of uninspired dialogue you were treated to in the previous game. Another nice edition is the change to the weapons and levelling systems which are much simpler (you don't have to worry about percentages this time around) and it's all much more pretty. Rather than there being 'experience gems' on the board to level up with there are now 'action gems' in the form of gauntlets that add an extra layer of strategy. Collected action points can be spent using weapons to attack or other effects such as increased defence from a shield or regaining health from a potion. The combat isn't radically different but fans of the old game will relish the tweaks and twiddles made here.

Everything (everything) is match-3 mayhem (or tedium) from picking locks, bashing down doors and disarming traps, each task bringing with it special rules and strategies whilst all being so disarmingly simple and fun to play and trust me, if the single player doesn't keep you playing for half of forever, the four character classes and tonnes of side quests most certainly will. The online multiplayer will fill up the rest of eternity for you if you are so desperate, and believe me if this game leaves you lacking for a timewaster... you are. On that bombshell, I shall once again assume the form of dread barbarian Jakkus and kill another Polar Bear, send hate mail to the usual address...

Katie Highnam's Virtual Reality

When I was a little girl, many moons ago, before the Sims and Age of Empires or Baldur’s gate got me into gaming, I used to read a great many books. My favourite genre of which was sci-fi and one of my favourite authors within this genre was a name that some gamers might recognise: Tom Clancy.

Of all his books, the best, in my opinion, were, or indeed still are, the Net force and the Net force explorer books, an international internet police force with their own real life select special ops group. The thing that most enamoured me to Mr Clancy's books were, the emotionally screwed up main characters, but more importantly the very widespread presence of virtual reality.

By 2010 Tom Clancy claimed that most of our spare time and all the time we browsed the web, would be spent not just sitting at our desks staring at a bright screen but actually immersed in a virtual representation of the web, a representation of our own choosing. 
In his world by now we would all have basic programming skills and would be used to altering our own, and with greater skills, others appearances at work meetings or during gaming.

Obviously this isn't what happened but why?

Given the big 3 gaming companies are all pushing for new markets and trying to make gaming easier and more desirable to non-gamers, what could be easier or more fun than thinking you are fully immersed in a "reality". Only the lack of smell or touch really stopping you from believing it.

What Microsoft has got with the Kinect software IS virtual reality, but yet all the games it is showcasing with this new and exciting thing are, to be honest, pretty crap. Even non-gamers can see that. If Microsoft would just give us the virtual reality headset! Make this "new" (old) technology really take off. We've had it for years, giving it to the mainstream consumers is just going to make everything more exciting and really expand the consumer base of the FIRST big brand to do it.

Games are constantly trying to build an atmosphere to help the players forget about the real world, and gamers are constantly looking for an escape from reality, even for a little while. Virtual reality ticks everyone’s boxes, and I'm still holding out for a future where it's possible.