New PC Games: Timebuilders, Puppies and Witches

Explore a forgotten time when dinosaurs ruled the earth in The Timebuilders: Caveman’s Prophecy, a fun Time Management game! Guide your tribe out of their cave and into the world. Discover new lands filled with dinosaurs, carnivorous plants, and mischievous saber-toothed kittens. Use all your skills to manage your people, build houses, and gather resources while creating awesome inventions to help your people!

Strange alien traps are popping up all over Puppy Island! Rescue the trapped puppies before the aliens have a chance to retrieve them! Keep your rescued pups safe, warm, and happy in your Puppy Sanctuary. Use collected gems to buy toys and decorations for different locations and search for food and firewood supplies within the ancient island ruins. Use your Match 3 talents to save all the adorable animals in this fun game!

Life’s not always a fairytale when you are a witch, especially in a world that is full of suspicion. Explore this magical world in The Witch and The Warrior! An uncomfortable truce is only just forming between the magic and non-magic folk after years of war, but the message is spreading slowly. Experience the trials of a teenage witch in this fun and exciting Strategy game.


Study: Casual Video Games Helps Reduce Depression and Anxiety

I believe this to be true. At the end of 2009, I played Bejeweled Blitz for hours — something I rarely do. We had a family crisis and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Playing the game gave me purpose (trying to top my friends’ high scores) and helped me relax a little. Games also come to the rescue when my brain won’t focus.

It’s like those times when you don’t feel like going to a party or another social event. Once you get there, smile and chat… you feel better. Casual games (non-violent, family-friendly) do that for me and I can get on with my day. Here are the details of the study:

East Carolina University’s Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic completed a year-long randomized, controlled clinical study to look at the efficiency of casual video games for reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Almost 60 subjects that met the criteria of clinical depression participated in the study. Half of the subjects were part of the control group. The participants played three family-friendly, non-violent puzzle games: Bejeweled 2, Peggle and Bookworm Adventures. (All of the games are made by PopCap Games, underwriter of the study.)

The result was a 57 percent reduction of depression symptoms along with improved moods.

“The results of this study clearly demonstrate the intrinsic value of certain casual games in terms of significant, positive effects on the moods and anxiety levels of people suffering from any level of depression,” stated Dr. Carmen Russoniello, Director of the Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic at ECU and the professor who oversaw the study (as well as previous studies involving the same games’ effects on stress levels). “In my opinion the findings support the possibility of using prescribed casual video games for treating depression and anxiety as an adjunct to, or perhaps even a replacement for, standard therapies including medication.”

Ehh… I’m not sure I’d recommend games as a replacement to standard therapies and medicine. But at least, it’s an option that might work with all the therapies or for those who are just feeling down, but haven’t been diagnosed with depression. Depression is a real problem, a real illness. But some don’t see it as a real illness without physical symptoms. Nonetheless, games do affect the mood and chase the doldrums away.

Russoniello said that the games had both short term (after 30 minutes of game play) and long term (after one month) effects when compared to the control group.

  Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Meryl Evans


Cradle of Rome 2 PC Game Review

Friends, Romans, countryfolk… lend me your eyes. Cradle of Rome swallowed up a lot of my time for weeks as I matched my way to level 100. When I reached the 100th level, I had one citizen that I left to earn and could never get that guy. I let it go and accepted the Roman journey more than satisfied and delighted me.

Last year, I reported Cradle of Rome 2 was on its way. And many others kept asking when it was hitting the streets. As eager as I wanted to go on another journey in Rome, I figured Awem wanted to perfect the game before sharing it with the world. Sometimes deadlines need missing for quality’s sake.

And you might expect, Cradle of Rome 2 was worth the wait. After all, it was enough time to memorize Marc Antony’s speech from Julius Caesar. No excuses for not knowing it by memory. Hey, I memorized it in 10th grade. Funny thing about memorized poems and speeches, I end up like the author, play or whatever they’re from. Anyhoo… the game!

Adventure Mode — my favorite mode by far — of the match three game opens with the miracle story of two brothers and asks you to restore Rome’s glory by buying blueprints and then constructing the building. This makes way for the tie in with the mini-games to give them a little purpose. First, you start playing level 1 and make matches until you break all of the blue tiles. You’ll be done within 30 seconds with just four blue tiles.

Cradle of Rome 2As you make matches, you earn units of food, gold and supplies. Every blueprint costs so much food, gold and supplies. Once you have enough for a blueprint, you can buy it after successfully completing the mini game behind it. Mini games include jigsaw puzzles and finding matching pairs. While these are common mini games, it’s a little break from the matching grind. Completed jigsaw puzzles reveal a building blueprint — so that’s a great tie in with the story.

After completing a building, you can earn a citizen. Every citizen comes with a task you need to complete during the matching to win the citizen. It may be making as simple as matching five tiles to as challenging as making 10 moves in 10 seconds. Adding citizens also gives you an advantage in the game. One citizen gives you 500 extra units of gold in every new level. Another fills up a bonus faster. These bonuses can make or break a level for you depending on your strategy. Bonuses gives you more time, destroy all of the same type of tile, break one tile and so on.

Not only do you win trophies for every citizen, but also for special events such as completing five levels without a time warning and playing the whole game without losing a life.

New in Cradle of Rome 2 are the nasty skulls. When you match three skulls, it puts three blue tiles back on the board. Yeah, like I said, nasty things. As annoying as they are, they increased the game’s challenge. At least, they don’t show up in back to back levels. So you do get a break. Sort of. When not facing skulls, you may face narrow rows or columns that make it hard to break the tiles in them.

Two other modes include Tourney and Blitz. You unlock Tourney after scoring 500,000 points. Blitz stays locked until you’ve finished all 100 levels. These modes rely heavily on the clock, which turns me into a panicky gal. I prefer the clock in Adventure Mode. In Tourney, you have to break all the tiles in the level as fast as you can. The faster you finish the level, the higher your award.

Cradle of Rome 2Let’s say on Level 1, you need to complete the level within 10 seconds to get the gold medal, 15 seconds to get silver, 20 seconds to get bronze or end up with nothing. Seeing the little medal flash from gold to silver to bronze to zilch drove me batty. Even putting my hand over that area of the screen — it was HARD to even get a bronze medal in spite of all the tips and tricks I deployed.

I can tolerate Blitz more than Tourney. This one resembles what you may know as Endless Mode in other games. As long as you keep making matches, the clock slows down. Keep playing levels until the clock runs out. Like I said, I’m jumpy when it comes to heavier timed games, but those who love it will enjoy getting more out of the game.

Cradle of Rome 2. Worth. It.

Download and try Cradle of Rome 2. (Here’s the Mac version.)

FCC warning: The reviewer had a small role in the development of the game and received a copy of the game from the company, which in now way influences whether the game review is good, bad, reviewed or mentioned.


PC Game Review: Bejeweled 3

Addicting games on handheld devices first showed up on the Palm Pilot, not the iPhone or iPod Touch. Bejeweled 3I went to Astraware for Palm games because the company developed bright, sharp colored games that played well on the small touchscreen. (It still does.)

Would you believe that the games on my younger BlackBerry never captivated me like the older Palm device did? Not even close. Playing games on the BlackBerry felt clumsy with ho hum graphics.

Ah, I’m getting off track. Back to the point of the Palm story. One of the earlier games I played on the Palm was Diamond Mine, the game now known as Bejeweled. Popcap Games captured a new audience on Facebook with Bejeweled Blitz (BB). (And now with Zuma Blitz. Grr… I don’t have time for these addictions!) You had one minute to make as many matches as you could.

Bejeweled 3 Quest ModePopcap not only had my friends smack talking me in the game, but also it reeled in my entire family including Mom, sis and bro. Mom played some computer games, but BB had her checking in Facebook daily. Sis and bro didn’t play many games until BB. Family gatherings turned into smack talk fests and “How did you get ##### score??”

The company wouldn’t stop there in fear it can’t repeat the success it had with BB. Never. This company is responsible for hypnotizing gamers with its incredible, clever and creative Plants vs. Zombies. Popcap is also responsible for other game addictions including Chuzzle and Zuma.

Bejeweled 3 comes with more matching magnetism, smashing sound effects, mesmerizing graphics and spellbinding games. Sequels don’t always do much more than give you more of the same with a different design. Not Bejeweled 3. The game takes a quantum leap compared to most — if not all — sequels. This comes with more game modes, eight mini-games, supercharged sound (even *I* can tell) and high-definition graphics (1920 x 1200 in ultra mode).

Classic and Zen mode are the same. In Classic, you keep making moves until you run out. However, you get a new gem known as the Star gem and when you finish the level, the jewels travel through an breathtaking tunnel. Even my youngest exclaimed, “Coooool!” Zen always has a match waiting for you as the point is to enjoy, be in the moment and take a break from the mean ol’ competitive world. Zen mode also soothes you with its sounds and gives you lots of options so you won’t need Calgon to take you away.

The new modes:

  • Butterflies: Butterflies appear on the board and you need to match them with the same colored gems to prevent them from falling into spider’s hands … legs. Now, my family will tell you I hate spiders including fake ones, even as stuffed animals or jewelry. Yet, I found myself entranced by the game trying to free the butterflies to avoid the ugly, scary, mean spider.
  • Poker: Instead of matching anything and everything you can, you need to plan and strategize to make the most of your five moves. The better your hand, the more points you score. As you progress in the game, a skull appears on the worst hand — a pair. So if all you do is score a pair, then it could be game over — it all depends on the flip of the coin. Land the four-leaf clover, you can keep playing. Get the skull, you’re done. More skulls will appear forcing you to make the best hands possible.
  • Ice storm: This one makes me panic as I have to move fast to prevent the ice filling up the column. I don’t do speed games well, but it’s a chiller and thriller that will please fast-paced game fans.
  • Diamond mine: Use your matches to dig in the dirt to release gold and artifacts.

Bejeweled 3 PokerOne more special mode is Quest mode. Like Adventure modes you see in most casual games, it’s more of play it one time and then you probably won’t want to replay it. I loved this mode and it helped me get to know some of the new modes while playing a couple of new mini-games like alchemy where you need to make matches until the board fills with gold.

The game has 65 achievement badges that will encourage you to keep going so you can win every badge. Furthermore, the end of every game displays statistics. Oh, and Bejeweled 3 steals a page from Peggle with replays. It doesn’t have the same charm as Peggle‘s, but it’s there for you to enjoy when you do amazing plays.

What’s most impressive about number three is that several modes grip me. Most games just have one mode that I play again and again. In Bejeweled 3, I’ll be doing Butterfly one day and the next I’m drawn to Poker.

Bejeweled 3 is worth it. If you like any of the others, you’ll be thrilled with this one — it’ll make you forget the others as well as whatever games you’re playing. The game sounds like an exaggeration, but Popcap went all in with this one.

Download and try Bejeweled 3.

FCC alert: Reviewer received a review copy from the publisher. It had no bearing on the review.

  Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Meryl Evans


Popcap Games
I’m a BB-holic, a Bejeweled Blitz-holic. I couldn’t stop playing the game over winter break until I finally set a resolution to break free. I played one day in the first week of January and haven’t touched it since.

Well, Popcap Games — the company behind the addiction — has released a Bejeweled Blitz for Windows. You don’t have to be on Facebook to play it. You don’t have to be connected to the Internet to play it.

The Windows version offers:

  • Full screen play.
  • Ability to play without an Internet connection.
  • More control over your screen size.
  • More audio sound and effects.
  • One million coins for “Blitz Boosts,” power ups and score-stimulating effects (must buy the game from Popcap to get the coins and use with Facebook Connect).
  • 48 achievement badges to earn.
  • Connect Facebook from the game’s main menu and play the game from the PC without having to open a Web browser. The game will publish high scores and star medals to your Facebook page when logged in Facebook.

You can download a free trial of Bejeweled Blitz, or buy the game.

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Cradle of Rome is one of my all-time favorite match three games. I played it for days and hours trying to get the last trophy and finish the 100th level. I never reached either goal. Alas, I had to move on as games needed to be played and reviewed.

Of course, I am excited about the upcoming release of Cradle of Rome 2, which is due out in the spring of 2010. Here’s a preview from Awem Studio:

Awem also posts its developer’s diary for those wanting details.


7 Wonders: The Treasures 77 Wonders II, the sequel, was the first I’ve played of the 7 Wonders series. While reviewing that one, I checked out 7 Wonders of the World, the original, to see how the sequel measures up. The sequel continues to reign even with the latest 7 Wonders: Treasures of Seven.

Beautiful graphics continue to be the hallmark of the match three series with the latest induction. Players travel to nine countries in 7 Wonders: Treasures of Seven to unlock three rings on an ancient compass. As soon as they unlock all the rings, players take one more journey in search of the Treasures of 7.

Players still work to create matches of three or more. The twist in this one comes in the ability to rotate the entire grid in either direction. First, you must clear the runes to reveal a path. As soon as you clear all the tiles, a “7” key stone and a key hole show up on the path — one at the start and the other at the end.

7 Wonders: The Treasures 7The “7” can’t leave the path as you work to move it toward its destination of the key hole. You can rotate the grid and make matches to guide the “7.” In later levels, a special block appears that can transport the “7.” Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes not. The good comes in that the transporter brings the “7” closer to the key hole. The bad is that it can interfere with its progress, but that makes the game more challenging.

It feels like the game as a whole doesn’t challenge enough. The path does get more difficult by locking the key hole with a specific color. You must make a match over the lock with the same color to unlock it before the “7” can do its job.

Don’t expect many bonuses as the rotating grid provides plenty of help. Shuffle shuffles tiles and you can’t use the feature again until the timer fills back up by making matches. It takes little time. Matches of four provides an ice ball and matches of five gives you a fire ball. Ice balls can destroy tiles across while fire balls can go both directions.

7 Wonders: The Treasures 7A window containing a match shows up from time to time. When making a match that looks like the one in the window, you get to freeze the timer for a little bit. Dice bonuses also return in this one and become available after receiving a handful of fire and ice ball bonuses. Move the dice to destroy random tiles, which usually work in your favor.

7 Wonders: Treasures of Seven has 50 levels, but it doesn’t take as long as you think it would to complete all of them. While the rotating grid certainly stands out from the previous two, the game doesn’t measure up to 7 Wonders II.

With the low pressure game style, 7 Wonders: Treasures of Seven should make a great game for families and kids.

Download 7 Wonders: Treasures of Seven from Big Fish Games.


    4 ElementsAn enchanting experience awaits match three fans in 4 Elements. The game’s stunning visuals, airy music, and twist on match three create a beautiful package. The story begins with the corruption of the magic of the four elements that kept a kingdom running for centuries.

    You need to unlock the four ancient books of magic and collect 16 cards to restore the kingdom. The four books include Earth, fire, air, and water with each containing four cards. Before making matches, players need to unlock one book beginning with Earth. Here, players find all the pieces of objects needed to find the key to unlock the book.

    The objects interact with the scene to help locate more missing pieces and eventually the key. The matching game comes in after unlocking the book. Earth is the first book you must restore by clearing tiles to create a path for the magic energy to flow through until it reaches the altar.

    4 ElementsIn Earth, the clearing the brown tiles lets the green energy make its way to the altar to bring a tree to life. The scenes and tiles match the books’ themes. So the book of fire has red liquid and ends with a flame while water’s energy is blue and the revived altar looks like a waterfall.

    It takes four rounds of matching to find all the missing for a card. Once restored, players need to seek differences between the two scenes of the card to complete restore it. A fairy guides you throughout 4 Elements and offers hints in the key searching and card comparison mini-games when needed.

    Unlike standard match three games, you don’t work to clear all the tiles in the scene. Instead, you work to make a path to help the energy flow from one end to the altar. The scene moves as you progress on the path and you can’t go backward. In making longer matches, the tiles at the end of the match explode affecting tiles around it. The number of tiles depends on the length of the match. So pay attention in case you need a little help from the explosion by creating the match in the right direction.

    Four bonuses show up whenever you make enough matches of the bonus’ corresponding color. The shovel — which clears one tile — fills up based on green tile matches. Other bonuses consist of a bomb for clearing a small area, swap for trading two pieces, and rearrange for moving all the tiles in hopes of getting better matches.

    4 Elements4 Elements gives you no reason to play the game again once you play all 64 levels. Games don’t always need to have a second mode, but this one misses an opportunity for not having a second mode consisting of only the matching game considering its unique twist. Chuzzle and Bejeweled don’t have stories, yet their endless mode compel people to play them repeatedly.

    It’s not often we see an original game come along especially in a popular genre. 4 Elements not only brings a fresh approach to match threes, but also comes with amazing production values. Just go download it from your favorite site. One hour of play is worth it.

    Download the game from your favorite site:

      Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Meryl Evans


    A mystery is buried deep within the sands of time and it’s waiting to be discovered. Join the adventures of Christine, an Archaeologist, whose fun-filled journey takes her through the ancient modern times in search of invaluable treasures. Unlock the first chapter of the story and continue the epic quest until the mystery is resolved in The Lost Treasures of Alexandria.


    Zen FashionDon’t let the wave of fashion-style games that have come through the ocean of casual games affect your judgment of the latest fashion entry: Zen Fashion. Instead of a running a business style game play, it fashions a game of match three along with a journey through Asia’s world of fashion.

    A new Japanese fashion designer explores various Asian cities for eight levels each to learn the intricacies of Japanese design. Match at least three of the same flowers to help the young designer gain experience beginning with her basic designs and advancing to beautiful and detailed designs.

    Create matches up/down, left/right, and diagonally. While that sounds too easy, believe me… it’s not after you advance enough levels. The barriers narrow the matching possibilities, lengthening your chances of getting through the level. To complete a level requires clearing all the colored squares with a time limit. As expected of most matching games, later levels have squares that take two, three, or more matches to clear.

    Since the game keeps players too busy to notice the shrinking time on the hourglass, it warns players when 30 seconds remain. The game issues another warning at 20 seconds and then counts down from 10. This feature has proven valuable, but it might help to have a warning a little sooner and then another at 20. The countdown just makes a gal panic and give up unless only one piece remains.

    Zen FashionUpon completing a level, players pick what new article of clothing to add to their collection. The item comes with two power ups. Zen Fashion comes with six power ups, and although the game introduces each one — players may need to review instructions later when they start needing them. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t come with a Help file. Some like the clock are obvious and others like the “Eye for Fashion” are not. Time and practice will help players discover what each power up does.

    Designing 108 new pieces — in the form of making many matches — takes a lot out of a new designer, so take a Zen break and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. A Zen break pauses the game, clears all of the game’s elements, and displays nothing but the serene scene representing the current level’s city. Click anytime to return to the game.

    The coolest part of the game is that players can change up the hair style, blouse, and bottoms for hundreds of outfit possibilities. Remember each one comes with two power ups, so coordinate with style and power up in mind. By the way, our designer earns new fashion — real ones based on the styles from the 12 countries albeit with some updates. I’ve never liked playing dress up as a little kid and enjoyed changing the designer’s outfits as she wears them for the upcoming level.

    The flowers on the grid change very little — just color variations. Since the backgrounds change with each new city, it would be nice to see the objects also change for variety. The game comes with Adventure mode and Zen mode, which is like adventure without the clock and story. Adventure mode unlocks levels for Zen mode, so you can only play Zen mode as far as you have in timed mode.

    Why play Zen mode when you’ve already conquered the level in timed mode? To earn trophies (24 in all) you might not otherwise win in timed mode and to experiment with different styles without the pressure of picking the right power ups or to experiment with power ups so you can finally move on to the next level in timed mode.

    Zen FashionThe sound effects electrify especially when special pieces come into play and set off some serious action on the grid. If Zen Fashion could walk on the runway in Paris, it would dazzle the fashion industry with its great looks, sharp cut, and new twists. It’ll make a worthy addition to the casual gamer’s wardrobe of games without the high price tag that comes with designer gowns.

    Try Zen Fashion.