I don’t need a study to tell me that playing casual games helps relieve stress and improve my mood. When the writing muse stays away or my spirits drop, I play a game I need to review. Almost every time (don’t like to use 100%), I feel better after a few rounds of a casual game.

See the results of the study and the Popcap Games press release.

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When I first started doing casual game reviews, praising or picking apart a game came easy. Now, when writing game reviews, I feel like I’ve said it all before. The top 10 game journalism cliches captures the challenges game reviewers face. Here is the list along with my comments.

1. Top ten lists: I rarely do this. When I do, the top ten list article comes out at the end of the year. Sites like Mashable often write “## best sites for [enter a topic].” I prefer “## sites for [enter a topic]” because it’s easy to miss deserving candidates.

2. The historical open: This approach gives the writer a nice way to segue into the review. But during these times of information overload, I try to open a review with what it is along with a subtle hint of whether it’s great or blah. What do you want to know when you read a review? For me, I want reviews to tell me what the game, book, or product is about and whether it’s any good.

3. Headlines with a “?” at the end: I don’t have to worry about headlines since all the places I review for just list the game title as in “Diner Dash PC Game Review.” We could argue for and against this method, but it tells you exactly what it is.

4. 7/10 reviews: This would be 4/5 for some of us where ratings use the five point scale instead of 10, but 7/10 appears frequently in working with one client. The local newspaper started adding comments next to the rating such as “two out of five stars (good).” So, two to five stars are positive while one and zero (never happens) stars is negative. That’s no bell curve. It’s as if the newspaper is trying to be gentle and prevent readers from automatically thinking “two stars… don’t go there!” Reviews should be about serving the reader and potential customer, not making nice with the business. Kids today often get a trophy every time they play a sport regardless how their team played. Getting a trophy should make us proud because we earned it not because we signed up and played. How are we going to motivate ourselves to improve?

5. Realistic graphics: No comments on this one.

6. Quirky: Is it good or bad? Exactly the problem.

7. Fans of X will enjoy it: Guilty. I use this line when I don’t have a clever way to end the review.

8. Only time will tell: Pointless. Just give the details now.

9. Reviews broken up into standardized sections: This refers to “graphics,” “sound,” “gameplay,” etc. None of the places I review for use this. They provide a rating. One uses “pros” and “cons,” which gives you a snapshot of what’s good and bad about the game. I think that’s beneficial. Web writing rules apply here — if the review is long, use bold headers every few paragraphs. I rarely do this, though — it just doesn’t work as well for reviews.

10. “Fun.” I try to avoid this like the plague. Considering its synonyms (enjoy, amusing, cool, entertaining, pleasurable) often don’t work well, reviewers sometimes can’t help but use “fun.”

My biggest problem is describing different things such as the graphics and sound. You can only say the same thing so many ways. One thing about reviewing… it offers writers a wonderful way to put their creativity to work. [Link: Gamewire]

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Quick Review Slingo Quest Hawaii

Popular game Slingo Quest returns for a different destination. In Slingo Quest Hawaii, the game takes on a (what else?) Hawaiian theme. In the bingo slash slot machine game, players try to match numbers in a row while earning power ups, jokers, tricks, and bonuses to help them along the way.

Players travel from island to island in Quest mode similar to many of the time management games where trails contain dots indicating your progress. Classic Plus mode works like arcade mode where players repeatedly play the game.

The game relies on luck and little else to get Slingo, five matches in a row. However, you win bonuses for making patterns and clearing the board. The hardest part is clicking the numbers, picking power ups, and using tricks. Otherwise, the game takes little effort. Those who like Slingo Quest will delight playing this tropical edition since it contains more of the original plus new features.

New features include:

  • Tricks that come with powers you can use before spinning.
  • Game modes including Speed Slingo, Volcano Slingo, and Special Shape Boards (The game comes with two different game modes: Classic and Quest. These modes occur as you play).
  • Power ups such as Power up Vision (see through the numbers), Power Shots for matching five cells in one shot, and Tiki Jokers that create Slingo from one match.
  • Collection of Hawaiian postcards (also known as trophies).

Let me share a lesson I learned the hard way when using Super Jokers first so you don’t waste them like I did. Super Jokers can clear any number on the grid whether they’re in the same column or not while Jokers can only clear items in the same column. The first click applies the Super Joker (unless the number is one of the selected numbers) before applying any Jokers.

The game starts slow, but picks up as players gain more surprises, beautiful scenes, and bonuses. With so many features and power ups, it takes time to learn how things work. Furthermore, the game play changes — so avoid taking any plays for granted. Give the time time — it should start kicking in before the free hour is up. Slingo Quest Hawaii is a vacation for the entire family and it only costs a few bucks not hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Note: Quick reviews are based on playing one hour of the game.

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Gamezebo has published my first game review for its mega-content site. Mystery P.I.: The Lottery Ticket joins the crowded hidden object genre. Pro hidden object seekers will find this one challenging and absorbing. The game doesn’t have anything spectacular about it, but offers a good quality game in the genre.

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Video Games and Women and Kids

Did you hear that? That was feminism acting out as it takes a step backward with Tom’s Hardware Guide Columns: Why Women Aren’t Gamers – Yet – Hands Up Who really Wants Women In Videogaming? Yeah, he’s got some, eh? But really, I understand his point and he is right about everything he said regarding Grand Theft Auto.

I played a lot of games growing up and even after college. I didn’t slow down until I had a kid. Same goes for Paul. My priorities changed. I still love a good game, but I don’t have time for it and I can’t make time for it because I have to do that for other things.

My older son is into Pokemon for the Game Boy. He has lost one of the game cartridges at the after school program during the first week of school. I’m glad he did. He played it way too much over the summer and I was wondering how I was going to wean him with school back in session. That was resolved with his losing the game. What about the other games he has? This one was different because he beat everyone. Yes, my son, the competitive feller. My son who gets a defeatist attitude when making the slightest mistake. I pointed out a minor writing mistake so he could do it right next time. He reacted as if he lost a ball game.

His sister got him into Neopets and she also installed AOL instant messenger (AIM) on his computer. I can live with these. Why? With AIM, you have to read and type. He’s in first grade, so yay literacy. And Neopets? It also involves reading and typing.

Outside? Yes, he still goes outside to play. The problem is that no one else comes out. Considering I loved play games myself, I don’t knock my kids playing. It’s about balancing. Eating a balanced diet. Living a balanced life. I played a lot of sports, so that gave me the exercises I needed.

This started out about women and gaming and ended up being about kids and games. Our lives and priorities change. If I was single, my time would be spent differently (obvious point, I know) — but not all of it. I’d still work. I’d still make time for reading, exercising, and volunteering. Instead of being a wife and mom — I might be a gamer, traveler, and playing volleyball on an adult team.

Off track here again. I don’t like many of the “hot” games out there. If I had time, I’d play Super Mario Sunshine, Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, Sonic Hedgehog, and The Sims — yes, The Sims! I do play games (mostly puzzles from Astraware) on my Palm Tungsten T3 when I get stuck somewhere like the doctor’s office.

But, no, I never played games like Yu-Gi-Oh, Grand Theft Auto, Turok, Metroid Prime, Resident Evil, or any of the typical games you see covered on Lunabean. I did play Castle Wolfenstein way back on my old Apple ][+ or was it //e by then?

Who cares which gender likes which games. If you have a crew playing games together — then it should be about enjoying the game not about women lashing out at a game’s disgusting antics. There is another time and place to do that. If I like to play Grand Theft, then by golly what’s wrong with joining the group of guys to play the game?

Geekwoman wrote an article in response to Aaron’s original. She covered the kinds of things I would address if I played these games. She writes, “There are plenty of women gamers who are just as dedicated to the same games as guys. And some of us are even as well endowed with flat stomachs, too, just like some of the avatars that we use to represent us in our games. A figure like that takes lots of blood, sweat and tears to maintain.

“Some of us frag harder with words than with weapons. That’s where I come in, and why this article was conceived.

“I grew up in an era where women strived for the freedom to be sexual. Women fought for the right to work in the sex industry and obtain biological freedoms such as birth control and safe abortions. I would hate to see all the accomplishments of women’s liberation lost to future generations of women due to the current puritanical fads and censorship.”

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