Archives for March, 2009

Game Review: Magic Toychest

Posted on Mar 31, 2009 under Gaming News | 36 Comments

The object of the new Magic Toychest from Graduate Games is to tidy up your room before Mom yells at you. Trust me, it’s much more fun in videogame land. (Being a 20-year-old waitress is also more fun in videogame land.)

Players use toys to build crazy contraptions that send toys into the toychest. Each toy has a different effect, with rockets and toy guns and trains to move items, as well as alphabet blocks and dominoes for building.

If you enjoyed the recent Crayon Physics, this is fun in the same way, a puzzle game without any blood or violence. Magic Toychest is a good kid-friendly game, without defaulting to the usual match-3 system of many indie all-ages games.

I was a bit sad that the physics challenges were interacting more with blocky anti-gravity terrain rather than the background bedroom. Different toys are available on different levels, presumably to keep the challenge up, for a real sandbox experience, try the level editor. How could you not want sandbox play with trains and domino towers?

One cool feature is the ability to skip a frustrating level, which was especially nice for me because I found some levels quite difficult and others quite simple. The toys were so cute that even redoing the difficult parts wasn’t too frustrating.

Definitely a fun kids’ game, and adult might find themselves playing as well!

Popularity: 12% [?]

The growing free-to-play model

Posted on Mar 31, 2009 under Discussion | 4 Comments

I mentioned the growing free-to-play model when I talked about China’s gamers a few days ago, and about the differences in Chinese gaming and American gaming. Fat Foogoo is also talking about this:

A primary deterrent to early free-to-play titles in the Western market was that they were developed in and for an Eastern market style of play. That, and 9 times out of 10, well, to be honest, they just weren’t of very good quality, thereby leaving the end user with a ‘errr….this is crap, can I play WoW now please?’ experience. Add to this experience the fact that Western developers and studios just couldn’t grasp the profitability margin in ‘optional payment’ games. Fast forward, and may I introduce to you both ‘Runes of Magic’ as distributed by Frogster, and ‘Wizard 101’ as developed by Kingsisle. Note that ‘Runes of Magic’ is in fact developed by Taiwanese studio Runewaker, but distributed and marketed by a Western firm, Frogster (based in Berlin, Germany). Both of these free-to-plays have conquered a rather vociferous audience and successfully ported them to the world of free-to-play. Sure, there have been some grumbles here and there, but at the end of the day, the numbers that both Runes and Wizard are putting up in such a short amount of time cannot be a coincidence.

Interesting choice of example games. I played the beta and reviewed Wizard 101, and guest author Lexton Collins played the beta and reviewed Runes of Magic. We didn’t set out to make an East-West comparison, but it is an interesting one.

I think the free-to-play model will continue to grow among young, Western gamers, since it gives players a chance to try out a new game without a prohibitively high price tag. I see this type of marketing as similar to the system on Big Fish and other portals who offer a free demo and then a paid full version.

In either system, if you’re hooked, then you pay, and most gamers don’t mind shelling out for a game they enjoy but are wary of buying something they haven’t played. There are losers who steal games but in general gamers have a respect for the people who make our toys and don’t mind paying for something good.

(And, yes, this logo has almost nothing to do with the discussion, I just like how it looks.)

Quote from 2009: The year of Free-to-Play .

Popularity: 14% [?]

Beta Sign-Up: The Call Of Solum

Posted on Mar 31, 2009 under Beta | 1 Comment

...Ys Online is ready for sign-ups for their closed beta of The Call of Solum. You’ll need to make an account on the site first, and then request a beta key, and then hope you’re chosen! The fantasy / anime graphics look great, check out the gallery.

Via Ys Online Europe – Call of Solum | Free MMO.

Popularity: 10% [?]

WoW Extras Without Leaving The House!

Posted on Mar 31, 2009 under Gaming News | 2 Comments

Do you play WoW? Want to shop for upgrades and playtime without leaving the house? Instead of having a monthly fee debited from a bank account, some World of WarCraft players are using WoW game cards. These game cards offer 60 days of online playtime, and they can be sent as a code to your email for instant access, so you can buy World of WarCraft playtime immediately. While shopping online, you could also upgrade your basic WoW game with Burning Crusade and/or Wrath of the Lich King by buying a WoW battle chest. Gaming without leaving the house. That’s gamer convenience!

Popularity: 13% [?]

China’s Gamers

Posted on Mar 30, 2009 under Discussion | 8 Comments

It’s not often when my interests in China and gaming collide. Nate, of the China blog Orientation, recently posted on Chinese gaming habits, particularly the huge numbers of MMO gamers in wang ba, or net cafes.

China contains an undulating 59 million online gamers. Despite the fact that 47m of them play free-to-play games, this is a massive amount. To put that into perspective, the 2007 estimate of England’s population was 51,092,000 while the 2008 census quoted America as having 306,068,000 million people. Imagine the entire country of England plunking down and playing a game everyday. Keep in mind that these are only online PC games.

The majority of Chinese gamers, though, seem to play in net cafes and not on personal computers. (Although this may be changing, I saw plenty of Beijing teens with their body weight in personal electronics, and laptops can’t be far behind). Playing in net cafes instead of at home changes the gamer culture quite a bit. No more jokes about nocturnal gamers living in their basements, although there are plenty of 24-hour wang ba for late-night gaming sessions.

Also, fewer games rely on the purchase of software (I’ll save the discussion of China and software piracy for a different post!), since one copy will be installed in the cafe and anyone who comes by will use it. Instead, games have an in-game cash shop or an hourly fee. While talking about Runes Of Magic, Lexton Collins credits the Asian game community for bringing us the free-to-play MMO model.

I also wrote on Chinese net cafes and gaming culture over on  Wang Ba: Gaming In A Strange Land on CNReviews. (It feels a bit odd to quote myself, but it’s better than re-writing my description):

Chinese net bars sell computer time by the hour, and most also sell juice, soda, candy, snacks, and instant noodles, the Chinese equivalent of a Hot Pocket. You can also buy cigarettes, smoking isn’t just permitted in net bars, at times I think it’s mandatory.

The library-like silence of an American net cafe is gone, replaced with the usual thousand-decibel cellphone conversations, Tudou or Youtube videos, and shouts from the boys playing CounterStrike. It might not be the most conductive environment for working, especially when compared with the headphones-wearing crowd back home, but the cheery shouts of videogame victory don’t need translation.

Another thing Nate noticed was the divide between guys playing combat-heavy games and girls spending their internet time using QQ, China’s answer to AIM. Chinese girls do play games but it’s more likely to be something cute on a handheld game or on their mobile phones than hardcore PC games.

I’m sure Chinese netizens and Old China Hands will see this as a very surface analysis, but it’s very interesting to me, to see how the gaming sub-culture translates into other countries! Share your thoughts in the comments!

Related: Travel in China is like a Fantasy Novel, Living In China Is Like an RPG.

Popularity: 20% [?]

Golemizer: Free Steampunk MMO!

Posted on Mar 30, 2009 under MMOGs/MMORPGs, New Press Releases | 16 Comments

New content for Golemizer, a browser-based steampunk MMO:, Canada – March 30, 2009 — Dave Toulouse, an independent game developer, announced the first free content expansion, Diluculo Island, for the free web MMORPG Golemizer. A free 2D steampunk MMORPG, Golemizer requires no download or plug-in to play and features a rich sandbox environment.

Following the path of a mysterious scientist named Dr. Grant, players will discover an island where strange creatures, the bymizins, are living. Are they friendly? Are they hostile? Players will have to find out for themselves while facing the many dangers of the island like giant spiders, zombie velociraptors and the terrifying X-Rex (a steam powered dinosaur).

Along a storyline of 100 new quests, the Diluculo Island expansion features:

- Over 200 new zones to explore
- 3 new golems that players can create (zombie velociraptor, mecha repair-o-tron and even the X-Rex)
- 10 new skills available to all characters
- New island themed items that players can buy to customize their cities and dungeons
- The first vehicle in Golemizer, a blimp that can be built by players!

To meet the requirements of the constantly growing number of players and NPCs (over 10 000), Golemizer has recently been moved to a new server to provide the best gaming experience possible.

Since its release in September 2008, more than 19 000 players have roamed the creative world of Golemizer. In their journey, they have created 1 200 quests using the player quests creation system, crafted over 800 000 items and created more than 5 000 new zones using the player dungeon system.

I know I already have a long list of games to play… but the combination of crafting and steampunk makes me want to check this one out.

Popularity: 26% [?]

Upcoming Faerie Solitaire

Posted on Mar 27, 2009 under Gaming News, New Press Releases, PC Games | 5 Comments

From the press release:

Subsoap(TM) (, an up and coming developer of
casual games, today announced the launch of Faerie Solitaire.

The game is a fantasy-theme casual card game that’s full of adventure,
mystery, and wonder. Featuring 360 exciting levels, including Hidden
Object mini games, 8 worlds to play through, and hundreds of hours
of gameplay entertainment. Faerie Solitaire is the next triple-A
casual title, and is available exclusively at

Rescuing Lost Faeries

In Faerie Solitaire players will travel across the land of Avalon
in search of magical faeries who have been trapped by some
mysterious force. A move away from what is currently popular in
the casual space, Faerie Solitaire’s strong production values
and compelling gameplay will surely please solitaire fans.

Is it just me, or does that sentence make it sound like other casual games have no production value and boring gameplay? I’m not saying there aren’t a bunch of dull match-3s floating around the internet, but I’ve played some amazing casual games, like Funky Farm 2, Crayon Physics, and Nancy Drew: Lights, Camera, Curses!, just to name a few recent ones that had me addicted.  I hope Faerie Solitaire will be one of them!

Subsoap also plans to launch a new casual gaming portal sometime this year.

Popularity: 21% [?]

SW:TOR Bounty Hunters

Posted on Mar 24, 2009 under Gaming News | No Comment

The use of color allows each planet to have its own unique identity and experience.Like most nerds, I’m a Star Wars fan, but unlike more people I talk with, I’m willing to overlook JarJar and the prequel mistakes because I enjoy the Star Wars universe so much. A few bad movies can’t ruin the good movies, the Star Wars novels, and of course the spinoff games! If you’re not already excited about the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic game, they recently released a sneak preview of the bounty hunters today to get your nerd excitement going.

Hunter, seeker, killer for hire

Countless enemies stand in the way of the Sith Empire’s drive for domination. The Empire spares no expense eliminating these threats, offering massive bounties to employ the galaxy’s most lethal hunters. Earning a death mark from the Empire means a life spent in fear, constantly looking over one’s shoulder. It’s never a question if a Bounty Hunter will find you… only when.

Ok, so the text is a bit fourteen-year-old boy-ish, but I’m still excited. Are you?

The new Star Wars: The Old Republic game is meant to take place 3,500 years before the movies, and about 300 years after the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Which, by the way, my boyfriend is replaying right now!

Via Star Wars: The Old Republic | Classes. (definitely worth following the link for a pretty picture of a bounty hunter character!)

Popularity: 8% [?]

Thoughts on Game Distribution

Posted on Mar 24, 2009 under Gaming News | No Comment

CasualInsider has a piece on exclusive distribution. I hate to quote such a huge portion of the article but I really can’t condense. Basically, the makers of Totem Tribe decided not to offer their game exclusively through one games portal, instead it was offered for sale through multiple channels. Big Fish Games was one of the portals.

I reviewed Totem Tribe about a month ago, after getting it on BFG, but I had no idea of the politicking behind the scenes. Totem Tribe is still available on Big Fish Games even if it’s not on the top 100 list.

The game was released silently on BFG, with no front page coverage, and still manged to get to number 13 on BFG’s top 100 games within a few days of being released, but on the next day, the game vanished from the top 100 completely. On the day BFG removed Totem Tribe from its top 100, the game was the top game on Reflexive, two on Shockwave, and three on Real Arcade. Since, the game has reached the top ten on Amazon, Arcade Town, iWin, Logler Global, Real Arcade, Reflexive, and Shockwave, and, on many of these, reaching the top place.

The game’s best rank on Big Fish Games was 13 of 100, but now the game is no longer to be seen. Moral of the story? Never rely on portals. Build up your own site, and work on developing strong brands that consumers will remember and want more of.

I agree, but I think CasualInsider’s moral isn’t as pat as it sounds. How is a casual game-player going to find the indie websites of small developers, or even hear about those developers and games at all? Portals like Big Fish Games have a massive advertising budget to spread the word about new games. It’s also easy to bookmark and check back. If I don’t use a portal — and I’ve blogged about my concerns with portals before — how will I even hear about games I might like to try and buy?

Once I discover the site and play a good game, I try to remember the developer’s name but that’s because I blog on gaming. I didn’t care about that before, and besides the big names, I didn’t really follow any development news.

So, how do you hear about new games? Portals? Word-of-mouth? Word of, um, keyboard? And, when you do play a good game, do you remember the developer and check back for new things?

Via Portal Wars: Exclusive, or no deal |

Popularity: 8% [?]

Looks So Fake

Posted on Mar 23, 2009 under Gaming News | 12 Comments

Even decades later, Pac-Man is still a fun classic game. It doesn’t rely on cutting-edge graphics. if you see Pac-Man next to a blue rectangle, and the blue rectangle turns white bit by bit, that’s Pac-Man drinking a glass of water. You’d never think it looks fake.

Have you noticed that as games get prettier, complaints about things “looking so fake” are more common? When playing a game with detailed graphics, something on the Unreal Tournament engine or similar, any awkward animation stands out. We notice a character’s arms held at a weird angle or the omnipresent mitten hands, and it seems like a glaring error when it’s in a pretty game.

The Sims 2 did a great job by keeping things cartoonish so it was easier to accept odd moments of animation (And some of the toddler animations were amazingly true to life!), but more importantly the game was also engaging and entertaining on other levels and didn’t rely entirely on pretty graphics. I guess game graphics are just like movie special effects. I won’t be turned off a solid, entertaining game just because the graphics aren’t cutting edge, and I’ll lose interest in a gorgeous game if it’s nothing but pretty.

Popularity: 7% [?]

Game Review: Travians on SeeJaneGame

Posted on Mar 19, 2009 under Game Reviews | No Comment

I have a review of the addictive browser game Travians up over on SeeJaneGame:

Uncle Horatio has a drinking problem.The game opens with a message from your Travian’s uncle Horatio, asking you to come and help him with the ancestral estate. As he sends you on basic intro quests, it becomes apparent that Uncle Horatio has had a few drinks in his day, and that the ancestral estate is more of a run-down farmhouse. Uncle Horatio’s hiccups and rambling tales set the tone for the game, everyone in Travians is full of character. Some of the first NPCs you meet are a sheep-loving, Horatio-hating guard and a travel pig with memory issues.

As a sidenote, this review also contains my favorite screenshot, of boozy Horatio having yet another drink. I’m not that great with with screenshots, I usually get a capture about two seconds after the cool part ends, so I’m pretty pleased with this one!
Via Travians: Asterix meets The Sims | See Jane Game.

Popularity: 11% [?]

Used Console Games From JJGames!

Posted on Mar 17, 2009 under Gaming Discounts, Gaming News | 1 Comment

I’m really against pirating games, but who can pay $50 or so for a new game? JJGames is a new site where gamers can buy used console games without going broke. They has used games for the N64, Playstation, and other systems, and accessories like controllers, memory cards and rumble packs, etc., and even some used consoles. Plus, their logo matches our colors!

Um, back to the games. Usually the price of shipping or the wait time can be a deal-breaker for online discount sites. You save $6 only to pay $10 in shipping. But they offer free shipping on orders that total over $25 or you can pay extra for faster shipping, like on Amazon.

You might also be able to sell games that you’ve beaten (or gotten bored with) to JJGames, if they’re in good condition. See if the games you have gathering dust qualify here.

Definitely worth checking out before you pay full price for your next game!

Popularity: 9% [?]

Free Casual Game: Jane’s Hotel

Posted on Mar 14, 2009 under PC Games | No Comment

Jane’s Hotel Giveaway of the day is offering a free full-version download of the casual time-management sim Jane’s Hotel.  It’s only available until midnight tonight (march 14th) so hurry over to Game Giveaway of the Day – Jane’s Hotel to get yours!

Popularity: 13% [?]

Runes Of Magic Cinematic Trailer

Posted on Mar 14, 2009 under Beta, Gaming News, MMOGs/MMORPGs | No Comment

The new free-to-play MMO RunesofMagic has their first cinematic trailer up! It’s called Rise of the Demon Lord! I know “free-to-play MMORPG” and “cinematic trailor” don’t usually go together, but as guest auther Lex said in our recent review of the Runes Of Magic beta, RoM offers more than the usual free MMO

Don’t forget, Runes of Magic officially launched on March 19th. If you’re playing the beta, rumor has it that all servers are going offline on March 18th to get everything ready for the official launch.

Via Runes Of Magic Official Cinematic Trailer Released! WATCH IT! – Runes of Magic – Curse.

Popularity: 16% [?]

SeeJaneGame on Second Life

Posted on Mar 13, 2009 under Gaming News | 3 Comments

I’m not a big fan of Second Life. Usually when I say that, people react like told them I hate kittens or sunshine. But to me, Second Life embodies all the annoying things about chatrooms, plus the clipping errors of MMOs, plus the look-but-don’t-touch aspect of the cash shop business model.

 Did not enjoy it.

In an article on User-Generated Content, See Jane Game describes her first foray into Second Life.

Here’s how my experience with Second Life went:

I logged in, created my character, and suddenly found myself in the middle of what could only be called a virtual and frightening sex land, filled with in-game pornographic conversations, men (yes, men) dressed in slutty cheerleading uniforms lying on top of each other (I kid you not) and saying things I shall not repeat here, virtual stores selling nothing but bodies complete with breasts and life-like v-jay jays, and to my dismay, a male character (meaning, another human being) showing me his virtual private parts and asking me if I was “new” there, and really, do I need to continue? To sum it up, it was like this: internet porn came into my personal life and exploded in my face. (Obscene metaphor not intentional!) It was not at all what I expected, little ole innocent me. And I left Second Life feeling disturbed and man-handled.

Via User-Generated Content: A Gaming Revolution – PART I | See Jane Game.

Popularity: 7% [?]

Gears of War 2 Hat Giveaway!

Posted on Mar 10, 2009 under Game Contests | No Comment

TheGameReviews has a Gears of War 2 Hat Giveaway!

It’s day three, and today with have another GoW 2 hat to hand out. Please let other people know about this contest, as the more people who enter, the more often we can do these!

To enter, just post what you hope to see done differently in Gears of War 3! This will be open until March 11 at Noon. The winner will randomly be selected at that time.

So rush over, say what you want to see in GoW3, and cross your fingers!

Via Gears of War 2 Hat Giveaway! – Gamer Talk with

Popularity: 7% [?]

Beta Opp for Hearts of Iron 3

Posted on Mar 10, 2009 under Beta | No Comment

I saw this over on Beta Testers Wanted for Hearts of Iron 3! | Killer Betties It’s no secret that we love chances to  beta test new games here at ThumbGods.

Hearts of Iron III is now approaching the critical Beta stage of development. The last few months have seen the team stabilizing the foundations of the AI, tightening up the rules and mechanics of the game, along with implementing new artwork and interface features.

Johan Andersson, Lead Developer on Hearts of Iron III, specifies what they are looking for in Beta Testers: “We require keen, enthusiastic gamers who are willing to give up a few hours a week to play a Beta version of the game and provide feedback to us on what they think. We want people to play it and tell us what they see. We want them to try and break the game in order for us to fix it and to test out our new advanced AI system to make the computer opponent better.”


To apply for Beta testing, go to:

Via Beta Testers Wanted for Hearts of Iron 3! | Killer Betties.

Edit: Sorry, this beta is full and closed now. If you’re looking for chances to playtest new games, check out our list of beta opportunities!

Popularity: 9% [?]

Game Review: Don’t Look Back

Posted on Mar 06, 2009 under Game Reviews, PC Games | 10 Comments

Don’t Look Back is a new game on Kongregate based on the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. This Greek myth tells the story of the lovers Orpheus and Eurydice, who are tragically parted when Eurydice dies. Unable to live without her, Orpheus journeys to Hades to bring back his lost love. Hades, the god of the underworld, and his wife Persephone are so moved by Orpheus’ love and his musical gifts, that they agree to let Eurydice follow him out of the underworld… on one condition. He can’t turn around and look at Eurydice until they leave the underworld.

As they are leaving, Orpheus is overcome with love for Eurydice (in some versions he hears her breathing or her footsteps) and glances back. Eurydice fades away and returns to the underworld, never to see him again.

I really love that tragic love story. In college, I majored in classics, which has greatly helped in my career path of being freakishly well-read. Just a few days ago, I reviewed Electric Box, another Kongregate game and really liked it, so I expected the combination of classical myth and Kongregate to be great.


Don’t Look Back is an arcade platformer, which means jumping, shooting and, in my case, dying. I’m not good at jump-on-the-platform games, and since I don’t really like them, I doubt I’ll ever get good. I’m willing to try platformers with cool slants — I made an exception for the cute jumping game Momo — but they’re not really my thing.

The game opens with a blocky figure standing next to a grave, but there’s no text or explanation to tell you what’s going on. Thank goodness I have my classics degree for moments like this! Don’t Look Back was much better about telling you to use the arrows to move or spacebar to shoot than it was about telling the story.

I found that Don’t Look Back had lots of jumping and landing on platforms, but not a lot of pretty things to look at while you’re doing this. Each new screen is a surprise, with creepy crawlies set to attack Orpheus on entry, so I spent a lot of time dying.

The graphics are cutely retro, in gothy colors, but that just wasn’t enough to distract me from the problems I had with gameplay.

I really wanted to see how the developer interpreted this myth, and when I’m going to write a review, I usually play games to the end. But, even sondiering those, I never made it to rescuing Eurydice.  After repetive scenes of shooting blocky bugs and hopping over obstacles, I just wasn’t having a good time at all.

I hope that other players really liked Don’t Look Back, and that it inspires a whole trend of classical games! And I hope they’re more fun.

Popularity: 21% [?]

Twilight Game

Posted on Mar 06, 2009 under Unplugged Games | 15 Comments really liked Twilight. I’m not saying I run around in a Team Edward shirt, or I’ve seen the movie a hundred times, but I’ve read the books and I loved the movie. Teenage vampire romance, kind of made me want to rent some old episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Anyway, I was excited to see this spinoff, the Twilight boardgame!

Soon you’ll be able to prove your knowledge of all things Edward and Bella, as the “Twilight” board game hits store shelves the week of March 15. Based on trivia and a small bit of chance, users traverse the board going from scene to scene until they wind up at the prom. Take a look below for an inside glimpse at what’s in store.

Via MTV Movies Blog » Exclusive: Roll The Dice With The ‘Twilight’ Board Game!

Popularity: 8% [?]

League of Legends Beta Sign Up

Posted on Mar 04, 2009 under Beta | 11 Comments

League of Legends beta signup has begun. League of Legends describes itself as a “competitive online game set in an imaginative world”, but not an MMORPG. Players are heroes fighting for control in the lands of Valoran. Here’s the trailer:

Interested? Sign up for the League of Legends beta here.

Via League of Legends.

Popularity: 12% [?]

Cooking Mama

Posted on Mar 03, 2009 under In The Media, Xbox Games | No Comment

Bento boxes are a cute, stylized Japanese lunchbox. They use food to make cheery pictures, think smiling apples or rice balls with veggie hearts and stars. Of course, some people turn bento into edible art. Like this Cooking Mama bento box!

Awesome! Anna The Red also has Pikachu, Yoshi and an awesome Katamari Damancy bento.

Via bento#23 Cooking Mama « AnnaTheRed’s bento factory.

Popularity: 10% [?]

Gamer Razor?

Posted on Mar 03, 2009 under In The Media | 1 Comment

I hate to post a link to blatant advertising, but I just saw the Gillette “Gamer” razor. (It’s not shaped like a controller or anything,  seems like ti’s just a name) Not entirely sure what gaming and razors have to do with each other. Unless, it’s just that men play games and men have to shave!

Personally, I’m waiting for Lara Croft shampoo.

Popularity: 8% [?]