Diner Dash

November 30, 2009 by Laura Broome  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox Live Arcade

Overview


Title: Diner Dash

Release Date: 18th November 2009

Genre: Casual

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade

Developer/Publisher: Backbone Entertainment/Hudson Entertainment INC

Storyline


Guide Flo while she masters her restaurant career. In “Story Mode” you aid Flo through four stages to complete her restaurant empire. Help her gain stars throughout the game by impressing critics and serving up food and drinks to varied customers. You are responsible for seating customers, taking their orders, serving them their food and and clearing away after them; whilst ensuring they are happy before they leave. Each new group of customers come along with their different demands and their varied likes and dislikes. Progress through the game and earn more money to see your restaurant improve and grow.

Gameplay


This game has been available on PC for many years and is available in quite a few episodes. I have personally spent way too many hours playing this game and so was rather excited when my favourite game was suddenly available on my favourite console! I had no idea how well it would work and I have to say I have been very impressed.

There are different modes to try out. In singleplayer mode you can play story or endless shift. Story mode guides you through lots of levels which increase in difficulty as you progess. You have two money based goals to meet the first is the initial goal to be able to continue to the next level and the second is expert which is fairly easy to achieve in the early stages but increasingly more difficult as you get to the higher levels.

The game is fairly basic and, although the difficulty does increase the general gameplay, stays the same throughout, however there are some ways in which you have to change the way you play to be able to achieve your set goals. In endless shift mode you play the game at a higher pace and you progress by meeting monetary goals and gaining upgrades. The upgrades you choose will depict on how long you survive in this mode so pic them carefully.

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In multiplayer mode there are various games to play. You can choose between tip wars where you and another player fight it out to seat, serve and clear up after each customer to gain the tips. You can play head to head which is fairly self-explanatory and (my personal favourite) which is team battles which a friend and I managed to master by ignoring our personal scores in favor of getting a higher team score which we did by concentrating on having specific jobs, for example I was in charge of taking orders and serving while she concentrated on seating people and clearing away.

By adding multiplayer and co-op play it completely rejuvenates a classic casual game and makes it more addictive than ever before. Generally the game is easy to navigate and is easier than using a mouse and keyboard. It is very responsive and everything seems to flow easier than on the PC.

Graphics


The graphics for this game are good. I was pleasantly surprised and personally think it is much better than the graphics on the PC. Everything is clearer and more defined and makes it easier to play. I have played this using both HD and without and of course HD is better but to be honest it works just as well without. All in all it is a bright cheerful game that is of course basic but clear.

Audio


The audio it is repetitive and can be annoying, especially for anyone else in the room who is not actually playing the game. In fact, I lost count of how many times I was asked to turn the volume off. This is not to say that it is bad but more that it is similar to any other casual arcade game and so the audio does not stand out as anything special. After playing with the audio on I soon turned it off and put some music on instead as playing without the game audio does not take anything away from the game’s playability.

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Lips: Number One Hits

October 22, 2009 by Laura Broome  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

Lips-Number-One-Hits-

Overview

Title: Lips: Number One Hits

Release Date: October 23rd 2009

Developer/Publisher: Microsoft

Genre: Music

Platform[s]: Xbox 360

Storyline

Lips: Number One Hits is a karaoke game which can be played on your own, with friends and family or over the net. Rack up as many points, medals and stars as you can by singing your heart out, the better you sing the higher you score. If you cant sing aim for stars or get medals by shaking your mic for percussion and putting on a great performance. The higher your score the higher you rank, the higher you rank the more trophies you get and the more achievements you unlock. Pretty simple but actually harder than it appears!

Gameplay

If you love singing and/or making a prat of yourself then Lips is the way to go! The original Lips was a good sturdy karaoke game but in my mind it was not as good as Sing Star for the Playstation. However this game was a lot better and much improved which I was not expecting, not only do you get 40 new songs but you also get a re-jigged version of the game. Suddenly everything is brighter, clearer, easier to understand and much better to play. You can see your rank changing as your score gets higher, you have more interesting things to do with your mic during the instrumental parts and now in the co-op mode you don’t have to fight over who gets to sing which part of the song as both people get equal chances. The menus are easier to scroll through as well although the marketplace does not seem to have improved too much and is still quite slow. Using your own music via ipod, PC etc is a lot quicker now though, and the videos they put with them are better and match the music in a stronger fashion. The music you have already downloaded for Lips 1 is still playable however if you want to sing a song from the Lips 1 disk you have to put that in to sing it then swap back to Lips Number 1 Hits to get your score and carry on which does get annoying after a while.

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The game makes hours feel like minutes and is highly amusing to both sing yourself and to watch others having a go. It doesn’t seem to matter if you are a serious gamer or not, anyone can play this, although I am not sure I should have given my dad the mic as his rendition of Barbie Girl is currently giving me nightmares. Two pieces of advice though, you may think you are better after a few drinks but trust me you are not and secondly have a camera near by cause it often produces perfect footage for You Tube!

Graphics


The graphics are definitely better than the original game as everything is much clearer to understand. There are added incentives such as winning trophies for good performances and the different videos that are available in all of the modes are much more fun and interesting. I enjoy the fact that you can have the original video while you sing the song but it is also good to use the other modes as well.

Sound

The sound quality is excellent you have options available to adjust the volume of your voice as well as changing the songs so that a lot of the original background singing is cut out. The response from the mics is excellent as well as there is no obvious delays. The percussion is fun when you are doing it but when you get someone messing about in the background it can be annoying so just hide your controllers and/or spare mics!

Overall Score & Replayability

All in all I think this is excellent and a massive improvement on the first game which I was not expecting, the fact that the songs you have downloaded for the first work in this one and that you can download more which are available every weeks keep this game fresh. I find that often you don’t feel like playing it but once you start it is hard to stop. It is also quite fun if you want to play but your friends are not interested because if they are anything like mine you start playing on your own and then suddenly they do want to play after all.

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Scrabble Interactive 2009 Edition

October 21, 2009 by Laura Broome  
Filed under Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, PC, Reviews

Overview

Title: Scrabble Interactive 2009 Edition

Release Date: 2nd October 2009

Developer/Publisher: UBISOFT

Genre: Boardgame

Platform[s]: PC / Nintendo DS / Nintendo Wii - Please note, I am reviewing the PC version of this game!

Objective

The main objective is to make words using a random selection of  letters! No matter whether you play the classic mode or any of the puzzle games this really is the aim. Obviously there are tactical moves to be thought of and ways to make low scoring words in to higher scoring ones by placing them on double or triple score squares.

Basically it is the classic game of Scrabble, but on the computer!

Gameplay

This game has 3 main modes, Single Player, LAN or Multi-player. So far I have only been able to play the single player mode as nobody I know has the game yet, I am really hoping this changes. This doesn’t mean however that you are playing all by yourself. You are able to choose your opponents and they have avatars,  names and are of different abilities. There is a Tutorial Mode that unlocks characters and wallpapers as well as guiding you through all of the types of tactical play.  All in all this is a good word puzzle game with some interesting twists that keeps you mind working whilst playing the hours away.

In Single Player mode there are different games to play. The Classic version plays the same as the board game but is never easy, well for me anyway! I was dubious that the computer version of this game would spoil the real live aspect but actually I feel it enhances it, mainly because you never actually look or feel stupid when you spell something wrong you just get a little box that pops up telling you that the word you have entered is not allowed, and yes this does happen to me quite a lot! You also don’t have to wait for what seems like a life time for your opponents to play their turn as it is automatic. Personally I feel that I could get hooked on it. When I first began playing I was really finding it difficult, I had not heard of a lot of the words that the computer was playing and was missing obvious moves which would increase my score. At this point I did not think I would like this game and would end up putting it on the shelf to gather dust but unlike me (probably because I had to review it) I stuck with it and with a bit of practice I have adjusted to playing a computer and I have actually won a game now!

Along with the Classic Version there is also a selection of other mini games to play. There is something for everyone. The game that struck me the most was Scrabble Hold’em. This is a take on the poker game Texas Hold’em and it works very well. You play the computer which plays the part of the different characters. You then are given some money with which you can bet. The dealer button is passed round after each game and there is a small and big blind just like the real game. The basics are that instead of cards you have letters. You are dealt 2 letters with which you can bet, check or fold and then three more letters are drawn and again you can bet check or fold etc. This carries on and once 5 community letters have been drawn then you put in the word you wanted to make using your 2 letters and the community letters. The person with the highest scoring word, which is worked out using the numerical values for each letter, wins the pot. It is a fun way to pass some time and if like me, like poker and word games then you may just find it hard to stop playing.

Most of the other mini games are fairly generic for word games. There is one variation called Duplicate this is available to play in Single –Player mode but is the form that is also mainly played in Multi-Player mode. In this mode all the players are given the same letters to make words with. Once you have decided the word you want to play, you place it on the board, the person who comes up with the highest scoring word has their word put on the board however everyone’s score is added to their total. Once the highest scoring word has been put on the board everyone receives their next set of seven letters, again everyone is given the same tiles and the game carries on in this fashion until the bag of letters is empty. The winner is the one with the most points.

Other mini games include Anagrams, where you have to find all of the possible anagrams from the set of letters, you can move on to the next set of letters if you get stuck but you earn bonus points if you find all of the possible anagrams from the set. This is a good method of training for the real game.

Another game is Escalators which is where you have to form successive words by adding one letter at each step. You do get a time bonus if you manage to get all of the words on the grid without passing. I am not a massive fan of this mode but this is personal choice as it is not the type of word puzzle I favour.

The other mini game is called Puzzleletters and this is fast becoming top of my favourites list. In this mode you have a board of letters and you have to find words by linking adjacent letters together. You begin by having to find 2 words in 100 seconds and this increases as you progress. It is reasonably difficult and you have to try to ensure you don’t block yourself out of making further words as you can only use each letter on the board once.

It is a shame that at present it has not been possible to play the Multi-Play function however I keep popping online in the hope that other people have been out and purchased the game and I am confident that this will soon become quite popular.

This game is very easy to play and it is not a game that becomes frustrating, it allows you to place words in letter by letter or you click all the letters you want to use in order and move them to the board in one go. I have found that you can play this game in two mind-sets, if you want to just click away without much thought and the television on in the background you can although be warned you will probably get beaten! But you can put a lot of thought and concentration in to it as well. My advice would be not to play this after one too many drinks though as the words you try to put in are not usually accepted!

Graphics

The graphics are clear and straightforward and there is a useful bar at the top which gives a description of the words used, this helps when the computer plays something you have never heard of and also aids in helping you to remember the words that are high scoring. There are different backgrounds which you can choose from and most of these are unlocked by playing the tutorial mode. The backgrounds are nothing particularly special but you can change them to spice things up if you want to.

Sound

The audio for this game  is nothing to write home about, fairly usual for these type of games, however it is nice to have them there, especially if you are sitting at home by yourself with no other sound around you and helps you to focus. I tend to play with the sound off and the television or music on in the background but this is down to personal preference. The sound would probably get a little tedious after a while though.

Overall Score & Replayability

Overall this game is highly playable. You do lose track of time quite easily so if you have to be somewhere at a certain time then make sure you set yourself an alarm.  It is always nice when a classic board game hits the computer world but sometimes they can be hugely disappointing, this is not one them. Yes, it is another game that stops us playing with real people whilst having real discussions but lets face it there are times when you want to shut yourself away from the rest of the world and just have some time to yourself. At least if you are playing this you are giving your brain a work out at the same time.

If this was just purely a version of classic scrabble I would say that after a few goes you would become slightly bored, however because of the mini games and the Multi-Player functions then there always seems to be something else to entertain you. So on that note I shall sign off  here and get back to trying to beat my personal best score.

Wish me luck!