New Games Web Site Coming Soon

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009 at 8:40 AM | Category: Blogging, Games, Marketing, Meryl's Notes Blog No comments

The Game ZenI thought it was time to break out the games portion of my site and send it out on its own. This site’s main blog content focuses on business, marketing, writing, and technology. Though games technically (pun intended) fall under technology, it worried me that it would bother some readers to have it blended.

I tried to keep the content separate, but I noticed the game’s content was showing up in the email feed. The two parts of the site attract different audiences.


To celebrate the official launch, I’m collecting prizes to give away to you and your friends. How big will this be? Well, when I celebrated my blog’s 8th birthday in June 2008, I collected over $5000 worth of prizes and jumped out of a plane as a thank you.

No plane jump this time (hey, I’ve had enough injuries for 2008 to last me a couple of years). Anyway, if you would like to be a sponsor, you can count on link backs to your web site from this blog, the new site, twitter, and everyone who helps spread the word.

To Sponsor

To sponsor a prize please email me (merylk [AT] game DOT] com) with the prize you generously wish to donate along with a link to your web site so I can link back and the value in $ of your prize. Here’s the 8th birthday bash final list of prizes if you need ideas.

Hold on to your codes or whatever you’re donating — we’ll work it all out later.

Excited? You betcha!

Wanna peak? Wanna give feedback? It’s all happening at


Prize Winners for Magic Farm PC Game

Saturday, June 7th, 2008 at 9:14 AM | Category: Blogging, Games, Meryl's Notes Blog No comments

We have our first winners in this whole 8th blog birthday shebang in our first drawing for two copies of Magic Farm. The winners posted comments in 7 Things You Must Know Before Moving Your Blog. did the hard work in drawing the numbers.

eDrum roll, please…

<eDrum rolls>

Yuwanda Black

Ecommerce Newsletter

Congrats, you two! I will send you an email with the details.

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10 Overused Game Journalism Cliches

Sunday, March 30th, 2008 at 10:36 AM | Category: Games, Language, Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 2 comments

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 (article no longer available) 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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GiftTRAP Board Game Review

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006 at 7:12 PM | Category: Games, Meryl's Notes Blog, Reviews, Shopping 1 comment

GiftTRAP GameThink you know your friends and family well? GiftTRAP sets out to challenge that assumption with its game of giving and receiving. When you have a choice of giving a roadside emergency kit, learn to be a graffiti artist (obviously a course), space age purse or a space hopper (???) — gift-giving turns into an adventure.

At first glance, it looks like a game promoting materialism and the gimmes, but instead the game is about great conversations, laughs and getting to know each other better. After all, it’s not as if you would actually get a flagpole, whale watching trip, or a public speaking course for family and friends.

The creative packaging looks like a gift box. Open the lid to reveal the folded game board. Move that and find the eight brightly colored gift bags sitting in a tray filled with game pieces. Remove the tray to find the game cards with the gift ideas from absurd and weird to practical and cool.

Place the gift cards on the board so players decide on who gets what while ranking the available gives from “Great” to “No way!” Players receive points for giving others gifts they like and lose points for giving a gift that gets a “No way!” The same concept applies for receiving gifts: Score points for the right ones and lose ’em for getting the “I’ll be returning that one to the store” gifts. To win the game, a player needs to get both Give and Get markers in the GIFTED zone.GiftTRAP Board Game

Imagine how hilarious it was to hear another player admit to wanting laser hair removal treatment. Not exactly something to give as a gift, but it loosened up everyone in the room within seconds.

The games business sees a disappointing trend. Manufacturers reissue older and classic games with cheap quality game pieces. But GiftTRAP doesn’t fall into this trap with its lovely gift bags and good quality game pieces and markers. The box contains colorful photos, as do the gift cards.

Side note: Something interesting lurks in the game instructions: a Creative Commons license! This is the first I’ve seen in a game, heck anything outside of the Internet.

Also the folks behind the game have a few fun contests happening. They’re accepting photos for use in the next edition of the game. Got my camera ready and hunting for odd gifts.

P.S. Anyone know what a space hopper is?

Included in GiftTRAP:

* 1 full size game board

* 640 Gift Ideas

* 1 Rules booklet [Read the rules online and see exactly how to play GiftTRAP]

* 8 Organza Gift Bags with each having:

* 2 scoring markers

* 9 gift tokens

* 4 choice tokens

* 3 advanced strategy cards

Players: 3 to 8
Age: 8+
Price: $39.99
Game play: One hour


Chuzzle Game Instructions

Friday, August 18th, 2006 at 9:07 AM | Category: Games, Leftovers 52 comments

ChuzzlePopcap Games and Astraware did it again. This time in the form of cute little fuzzballs known as Chuzzle. Most of the games on my handheld devices come from Popcap — Astraware adopts them for handheld devices. You can tickle the furballs by repeatedly tapping (or clicking) them. Eventually, something happens after a few tickles — including the big Chuzzles. If you leave your mouse over a chuzzle(non-fat), it will get angry.

Darn game is eating into my reading time! Check out Chuzzle.

The game comes with Zen Mode. This version can go on and on as there are no locks, no running out of moves. It was boring at first, but then I earned a charm and that motivated me to keep playing to earn more charms.

The instructions for the game don’t say much. So I went to Astraware’s forums and learned more about the game. The instructions come from the forum and my experience. Some are specific to the PC version and others to the handheld version.

You can get one scramble at at 150,000, 300,000 and 600,000 points. But you can’t have more than three scrambles. You need double score in Expert mode.


If you go into the scores menu, and go into trophies, you will see all the trophies that are possible (NOTE: there is an arrow at the top to go to the next screen), if you tap on each of the un-hilighted trophies, it shows you what you need to do to get the trophy.

Page 1 of Trophy Screen (handheld version has two pages)

Seven At Once – for popping seven Chuzzles as one group (you need 7 Chuzzles of the same color (different sizes are OK) all connected.
Eleven At OnceV1.0 for popping eleven or more Chuzzles as one group
Eight At OnceV1.10 for popping eight or more Chuzzles as one group (To get 8-at-once you need 8 Chuzzles of the same color all connected.)
Chuzzle Bingo – for popping across the whole board with one color
Hundred Grand – for popping 100,000 Chuzzles
Ten Grand – for popping 10,000 Chuzzles
Big Boy – for sparing all fat Chuzzles in a game. I play Speed Expert to get the Fat Boy trophy. Once a fat chuzzle appears on the screen I just let the time run out.
Million Chuzzel Man – for popping 1,000,000 Chuzzles
Reactor – for causing a seven-step cascade
Brainiac – for playing an entire game without using hints
Trophy Collector – for obtaining every other trophy
Puzzler – for reaching level 10 in Mind Binder
Flawless – for playing one level without a bad move. Use speed expert and let time run out.
Quad Combo – for making a quadruple combo
Triple Combo – for making a triple combo

Page 2 of Trophy Screen

Lockmaster – for removing three or more locks in one sweep
Chuzz 10 – For reaching level 10 in Classic or Speed Chuzzel
Mentalist Master – for reachingg level 20 in Mind Bender
Fat Blaster – for popping 1,000 fat Chuzzles.
Mentalist Supremo – for solving all Mind Bender puzzles
Psychic – for solving all puzzles through level 10 in mindbender
Chuzzlebomer – for popping 1,000 Super Chuzzles
Speed Freak – for clearing two Speed Levels without getting a lock
Quad Boomer – for exploding four supper Chuzzels at once
Speed Demon – for passin speed level 5 without getting a lock
Speed Master – for clearing two Speed Levels without a warning
Triple Boomer – for exploding three Super Chuzzles at once


It’s the special mode of Chuzzle that you can unlock; it’s different from the other Chuzzle modes (Speed, Zen, etc.). Not going to spoil the surprise.

To get BeChuzzled, first be sure to get the following five trophies so that they appear in the trophy room.

Triple Combo
Ten Grand
7 at Once

Then click them following the above sequence, from top to bottom. You can see a yellow star appears each time you click on a trophy on the upper left corner. So when you get 5 yellow stars. TADA! BeChuzzled unlocks. It’s accessible via a small round button on the Astraware logo at the main game screen. You only need one Mind Bender trophy: “Puzzler” and that’s achieved by reaching level 10 in Mind Bender.


The more Chuzzles you can pop at once, the higher the score – combinations and cascades are best, every subsequent match in a cascade gains you higher points for the same number of Chuzzles – you’ll see a 2x, 3x etc..

Rainbow chuzzles are worth more, if you can get those to pop during a cascade you can get some serious points on that. I wonder if that’s how you got your 300,000…

Try to set them up so you can get 2 sets to match at once, or a cascade – it’s not easy, but you get the hang of it after a while.

General Notes

In Mind Bender, you only need to solve three of the puzzles on any given level to unlock the next level.

Mind Bender Mode doesn’t count since you don’t pop any Chuzzles. But Zen, Classic or Speed Modes count towards your total popped Chuzzle count.

For fun, tickle the Chuzzles by tapping or clicking on them multiple times including the fat ones. Repeated taps on the Chuzzles and their funny faces and sounds are just for fun and don’t affect game play (unless you’re doing it in Time mode while time is running out). Same for those with sunglasses.

If you pop a Chuzzle in Zen Mode it counts the same as if you pop them in Classic Mode…

Hint on the Speed Level 5 trophy for Chuzzle PC users… Go to:

C:Program FilesPopCap GamesChuzzle DeluxeProfiles[your profile name]

Find the file named SAVEGAME-SPEEDCHUZZLE.DAT (if, of course, you have a saved game in this mode). When you pass level 4, copy this file on your desktop for example, and then overwrite it. This way you’ll play only level 5, you won’t need to pass the other levels. It’s easier.

So I’ve figured out how to check your Chuzzle count for those working towards a million Chuzzle. Go into the Chuzzle Directory in the c drive. There is a folder named profiles. Open up your profile and there will be a file called INFO.CFG. Open that file up with notepad or word and the first 3 lines will tell you how many Chuzzles, fat Chuzzles and super Chuzzles you have popped. Also all charms up top have become gold, they turn into rainbow.

Big Chuzzles Formed: If you pop 4 Chuzzles in a square then you get a big Chuzzles. There are some exceptions to this rule, so it doesn’t always happen.

Glowing Chuzzles Formed: If you pop 5 Chuzzles of one color in a single group, one of them turns into a glowing Chuzzle instead of disappearing.

When Locked Chuzzles Appear: In speed mode, they appear when the bar at the bottom fills. In classic mode, they appear randomly, but more often as you progress up the levels.

Only one secret mode: BeChuzzled.

Flawless Trophy:I used Speed Chuzzle [Expert] and did a minimum number of moves to finish the first level. If you get a few cascades the first level can be over quickly. Then once the 2nd level started, I cleared out a few bottom ones to get a Fat Chuzzle (cuz someone said in another forum that you need to see a fat chuzzle, so I figured it was worth a shot), then I just let it scramble out the rest of the game and I got the Flawless Trophy.

Zen Mode:

Charms appear in the upper right-hand corner after so many points beginning with the heart followed by star, moon, shamrock, musical note, and horseshoe. Each had its own color (blue, green, red, and so on) and then one by one, they turned gold (over a long period of time). Then they turn multi-colored, and reportedly don’t do anything else after this.

I checked the original PC version of the game, and the Astraware version is indeed slightly different. When you get all the rainbow charms they should all turn gold instead of not doing anything. Basically, you don’t get anything at the end of Zen mode, which confuses people because doing the same for Bejeweled 2 unlocked a secret mode. You have to find the secret mode for Chuzzle another way! 😉

There are 20 levels in Mindbender, each containing 5 puzzles. If you don’t seem to be able to get any further, some people have not spotted the arrow buttons in the bottom left. These navigate between levels.

Eyeballs lining up in Zen mode from bottom left to right measure how far you have gotten. If you get enough eyes (or Chuzzles on Pocket PC) then you get a stripe. Get enough stripes, and you get a charm.

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Rules and Resources for Puzzles, Card Games and Other Games

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006 at 8:32 AM | Category: Games, Links, Tech No comments

Bridge Is Cool teaches you how to play mini bridge and regular bridge. Paul and I learned to play bridge with our parents when we were first married and had more time on our hands. Since then, we’ve gotten busy with out children and other things plus our friends don’t know anything about playing bridge. I hope Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s foundation will help bridge get back into action again.

Mattel has instruction sheets for its games and other toys. is a difficult to use site and I couldn’t find the instructions I needed. The site also has rules for sports, TV game shows, and party games.

The House of Cards features traditional and family card games, rules, software downloads, and online card games. You can also learn a bit about playing cards and their history.

Monopoly Money – print money when you lose some. Just add pastel paper if you want to match the real thing (the game’s money, not the bucks that buys things). This page also has a guide.

Hasbro games and toy instructions.

BoardGameGeek is a board gaming resource and community.

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Sudoku Puzzle / Game Addict

Saturday, October 22nd, 2005 at 2:07 PM | Category: Games, Meryl's Notes Blog 5 comments

When I first met Sudoku last June, it was’s puzzle for the month. It took me time to figure out how the game worked. Since then, the puzzle has appeared in more and more places.

Here’s a daily puzzle from Sudogo and Astraware.

The Dallas Morning News publishes one every day (it’s rated one to five stars with one being easy and five is challenging) and that’s the last thing I do before I get to work. Thankfully, the challenging ones appear on the weekend otherwise I’d get little work done. Yesterday was the first time I correctly completed a five-star puzzle. I took my time and I was determine to beat it.

Wikipedia definition.

American Scientist on Sudoku.

Sudoku enumeration problems says there are 6,670,903,752,021,072,936,960 possible solutions.

Wall Street Journal article on the puzzle.

Variety Sudoku brochure [pdf file] from 1st World Sudoku Championship.

Javascript Sudoku Puzzle Solver – for Web geeks who want to take their Sudoku obsession a little further with JavaScript.

Sudoku Tips has two tips.

Before, I used to put a little number in the corners of the boxes to help me stay on track. Thanks to a tip from The Dallas Morning News — I look at each box like phone’s buttons. A dot in the upper right-hand corner to represents ‘1’. A dot in the middle is ‘5’ and lower left-hand corner is ‘9.’ Less messy!

Sudokulist – resources on the game including links, hints, competition, and a helper.

Solve Sudoku without Thinking provides details on how to solve the most challenging puzzles. Rather than entering numbers in every box, save time by not entering numbers of items appearing within the quadrant, row, and column. I suggest completing the square instead of circling to indicate you’ve checked the number. Also, use the aforementioned phone number suggestion instead of writing numbers.

Solving Sudoku tips

Solving Sudoku Puzzles

Sudoku tutorial

Here are several places where you can download an Excel-based Sudoku helper or solver.


* Su Doku Solver

* Sudoku-Help

* Microsoft’s Sudoku Solver for Excel

Sudoku Solver

Su Doku Solver

Sudoku Variations

Info on Sumdoku – killer Sudoku for sadistic Sudoku lovers. Sudoku variations, Killer Sudoku, aand Killer Samurai Sudoku.

BlogOn Sudoku: Sudoku with pictures.

Want to *really* make yourself crazy? Try Kakuro, Sudoku on steroids.

Daily Sudoku posts a puzzle every day, has archives going back to January 2005, and has a daily puzzle for kids.

EdHelper has an easier version for kids plus smaller variations (4×4, 6×6).

Now TV Guide has joined the craze. Except, it doesn’t use numbers. It uses nine letters with most, if not all, of the letters spelling a TV show. The first one was NUMBERS with the extra letters AT. Already, Amazon has a load of products. My dad likes to get everyone a desk calendar every year. I hope I don’t get a Sudoku calendar otherwise I’ll be in trouble in 2006.

Cell phone Sudoku – Can’t run away from it either.

Sudoku for kids


Online Sudoku

Sudogo provided the above puzzle and also has one online for you to play. offers Sudoku puzzles in varying degrees of difficulty as well as a community page where players can post their own Sudoku puzzles.

Number Logic has plenty of Sudoku and plans to add multi-player online gaming, member scores: Harder puzzles earn more points, and real-time scores and times of top players. It also has a two player game.

Web Sudoku – lots of puzzles you can do online.

The online Sudoku speed challenge

Guardian Unlimited archive of puzzles, published six days a week.

USA Today

Sudoku San – “Proudly destroying productivity since 2005” indeed!

Games for the Brain includes Sudoku and other brain exercises.

Sudoku Savior provides hints and lets you enter a puzzle. And it’s a site built without tables to boot!

Sudoku for Devices, Handhelds, and PCs

My dad gave my mom a Nintendo DS for Mother’s Day. We gave her Brain Age and pre-ordered Big Brain Academy. Sudoku is included. Man, it’s a good thing I sent it home before Mother’s Day instead of have her open it here. Then my son or I might’ve stolen it from her.

I also bought my first extra for my Sidekick II because I kept going somewhere without my PDA or a book when I needed to pass time. Guess which game. Sudoku indeed.

Dr. Sudoku and Sudoku Fever for Gameboy Advance. Sudoku Gridmaster (not one of the better versions) and Sudoku Mania for Nintendo DS.

Astraware also has Sudoku for handhelds. Of course, I got it as soon as it was on sale. I will NOT be buying it for my computer otherwise bye bye work. Mike Miller has a nice version known as SuperDoku.

As judge for Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine Best Software Awards 2006, I discovered too many versions of Sudoku. Luckily, I had a deadline to prevent me from spending too much time on the games. And these are just the nominees for Windows Mobile devices.

* Astraware Sudoku from Astraware Limited

* Fast Sudoku from PPCLink Mobile Software

* Mastersoft SuDoku V2 from Mastersoft Mobile Solutions

* Pocket Sudoku from DKM Software

* Resco Sudoku from Resco, Ltd.

* Sensible Sudoku from Ludimate

* Sudoku Master from Real Dice

* Sudoku Pack from Filao

* Sudoku Rules Extreme! from Spiral Mile

* The Sudoku Collection from Pocket

I find the best electronic Sudoku games have the following traits:

* ability to pencil in numbers
* option to delete pencil numbers when you enter a number
* ability to switch between pencil and writing in the number with ease
* different skins
* non-numeral versions
* no distracting animation
* readable interface (some were hard to see)
* option of installing help file (on handhelds, this should be a standard to save space – some are huge)
* offer a free trial (believe it or not, one didn’t)
* minimize toggling

Free Sudoku game for Windows

[Links: C|Net Science Blog and Steve Bass ]

Updated: September 26, 2006

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The First Mile

Wednesday, August 17th, 2005 at 1:45 PM | Category: Games, Meryl's Notes Blog, Reviews, Tech No comments

Zork. Remember it? I think I hear a mixture of, “What the hey?” and “Oh, yeah! Wow, that brings back memories.” For the former group, Zork was a text-based adventure game from INFOCOM — one of the the first interactive computer games. It resembles the Choose Your Own Adventure books only instead of flipping pages, you enter the command and the story continues.

Play interactive fiction again (or try it out) with the series from Malinche Entertainment. After a glitch — five times over — I got the game working. It was the luck of the draw as I had a bad CD and then instructions that could be read several ways. No one’s fault except for CD problem. The First Mile is available in several versions: PC ($19.95 by download) and iPod ($9.95).

In the PC version, you enter the commands and tell the game what you want to do in the story while the iPod / cell phone version provides you with a few choices and you select what you want to do.

Want to see what it’s like to get involved with the story? Malinche offers a training academy — beware the side effect of training the academy… addiction.

The First Mile is horror fiction, perhaps something torn out of Stephen King’s notebook. As soon as the game begins, my heart thumps harder with each move I make as I encounter a body, hear a hellhound growling, and see many empty buildings and homes. Am I the only person in Dead Rock? Could this be Twilight Zone?

I try to calm my nerves by playing music while living the game, which is possible to do on the iPod and PC. Not even music or a baseball field brings comfort. I shall stop here as it’s all I can take for the time being. At least, I did this much — me who has never read Stephen King nor have I watched horror films at the slumber parties I attended as a teen.

If you can’t get your teen to read a book and she constantly plays video games, sneak this into her computer, iPod, or Smartphone and she’ll convert and read without hesitance. Good news. When she finishes the game, there are more available from Malinche Entertainment. Heck, this works on spouses, friends, and family, too.


* The First Mile is a large story. To start back at the beginning, hold down [Menu] and the center click button at the same time — keep holding till you see the screen blink to the Apple logo, then you can let go. It takes at least six seconds for the logo to appear.

* There isn’t any way to quit and pick up where you left off due to the limitations of the current iPod software. Watch this Web site for updates. Malinche Entertainment has asked Apple to consider adding a “Bookmark” feature.

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