As a woman gamer, I tend to focus on my own experiences feeling a bit out of the mainstream gamer culture. I realized that women gamers are not the only side subset when I met Jeb Havens (formerly of Cyberlore), and read some of his commentary as a gay gamer. But this intro post on the new Border House gaming blog shows me that there’s yet another secret subset of gamers:
Which minority groups do I belong to and why am I here? To start I wasn’t always a woman gamer, I started off as a guy gamer, well on the outside I was. I was born a boy and lived my life as a man until I was 29. I just couldn’t take it any more and had to come clean to the world that I was a woman and have always felt like one. My whole life was thrown up in the air and what came down was mostly shattered into pieces. Relationships were strained or ruined, arguments were had, and life continued only this time with me completely happy for the first time in my life.
Game sequels are in a tough spot. Go too far from what we loved in the original, and players who loved the first game will lose interest in the second. Stick too close to the original game, though, and players feel like we’ve bought the same game in a pretty new case.
Cooking Mama 3 brings back all the usual chopping and frying fun, but adds new recipes and techniques. You’ll still use the stylus as a knife, a whisk, a rolling pin and almost any other kitchen implement as you practice cooking with Mama or prepare dishes for guests. You can also dress Mama in different paper-doll outfits, redecorate the kitchen or jazz up your picture diary, but that’s really secondary to cooking.
Translated instructions are still a bit vague, but the game isn’t too punishing for failure to understand what the arrow is telling you to do.
I could spend all day talking about the cutely addictive qualities of cooking with Mama. The stylized utensils, cartoon meat and produce, Mama’s unfailing ability to recover my burned food, and of course the fun of pretend cooking and pretend serving. Recipes come from all different cultures, with an definite Asian focus — some Western dishes are plated just like the UBC coffee menu. Tempura and sushi offered my favorite minigames (chopping!) and prettiest final dishes. I was especially fond of the dried-squid recipe, although the minigames were nothing special, because it reminded me of the rows of hanging squid, an everyday scene in beachside Shandong province.
CM3 has quite a few options involving de-veining shrimp, gutting salmon (slit the fish’s belly and rub the stylus over opening to clean), de-inking squid and other fish-preparation tasks that would be quite unpleasant off Mama’s pink cutting board. My kindergarten-age niece and Cooking Mama partner-in-crime found some of the seafood preparation tasks a little icky, which led to a long discussion about different cultures, and what we find gross, and why. Foreign customs through Cooking Mama! And people say games aren’t educational.
I loved CM2, so finding more of the same in CM3 was great, but there are also some new playmodes. One of the major changes in Cooking Mama 3 is a new multiplayer mode for competitive chopping, egg breaking and other prep tasks. (I often rant about technical issues interfering with game enjoyment, so it’s worth noting how fast Cooking Mama 3 found and connected with the second DS.) There’s also a chance to make up your own recipes, using ingredients and techniques from other parts of Cooking Mama to make something new.
Cooking Mama 3 also offered a new shopping game, which sends players out to pick up ingredients without running into annoying store characters who’ll slow you down by trapping you into annoying minigames. It was uncannily like shopping in China. I enjoyed the cuteness of the supermarket — Cooking Mama really is adorable without becoming an all-pink disaster – but lost interest in the actual games pretty quickly, just like I did with Gardening Mama.
Overall, I found it a great new addition to the Cooking Mama series. If you liked Cooking Mama 2, and you’ve finished unlocking the recipes, rush out and pick up Cooking Mama 3!
This is what adventurers have been waiting for: On November 25, 2009, the games publisher burda:ic will start the Closed Beta phase for the eagerly anticipated free-2-play online strategy game highlight Avalon Heroes. Starting immediately, all registered members can sign up for the one-of-a-kind Closed Beta at alaplaya.net/pages/ahcbapplication. With a little luck, this means that they will already get to marvel at the impressive skills and weapons of the game characters before the release date. Moreover, in the official Closed Beta forum at avalon.alaplaya.net/forum, players will be able to find more detailed information and share what they experienced in the game.
New iPhone dev studio Bee Appi officially launches their first creation today. CyberWord is a candy-colored Bejeweled-meets-Boggle, built for whiling away time on the train or in the waiting room, but with an addictive blend of match-3 mechanics and wordplay.
“Most word games simply ask the player to look at the screen,” developer Karen Jirak says, “but CyberWord adds a more interactive dimension by asking players to touch letters, swipe words, and shake the phone.” CyberWord offers different playmodes, each with a slightly different twist on the swap and swipe mechanic. Challenge mode asks players to create 12 words before time runs out, with increasingly difficult levels. (Try the Easy setting for a particularly niece-friendly game, Jirak used her first-grade niece as a beta tester for the simpler vocab and easier goals.) Infinite mode adds a bomb, a familiar mechanic from match-3, and Puzzle is an untimed mode, requiring players to use up all the letters on the screen without replacement letters. Although you’ll spend most of the game rearranging the bright letter tiles, CyberWord also has adorable anime-eyed creatures cheering your successes and decorating the margins, for a sweet bit of character without falling into the pink trap.
Future updates include tying CyberWord in with Facebook Connect to share scores for a competitive wordsearch element. Don’t worry if you’ve been annoyed by the status-update barrage from friends playing FarmVille or recruiting mobsters, Jirak promises players can choose how frequently to share their scores on Facebook, and sharing on Facebook isn’t a requirement for progressing in CyberWord.
The BeeAppi team is downloading and playing a wide variety of iPhone games as they consider their next project, but we can expect this to be the first of many adorable BeeAppi games.
For more on Karen, BeeAppi and CyberWord, check out my full story in the next issue of Indie Game Mag.
I was way too excited for the new My Boyfriend game. I anticipated all the fun of Sim dating, plus my favorite guilty pleasure (changing my avatar’s clothes every five minutes), without all that tedious eating and sleeping and meter-watching of actual Sims. I really wanted to like it. I wasn’t lying in angry-feminist wait for objectionable themes, I wanted to blog about frothy dialogue, cute outfits and imaginary boyfriends.
But it was awful.
The game opens with you and your best friend arriving at a resort full of fun activities and hot guys! Unfortunately, the dialogue is stilted, partly because it’s EFL, and partly because I hoped for witty banter. There’s a lot of clicking ok, only “ok” is an awkward agreement. The dialogue was so awkward that I couldn’t always tell who was supposed to be an attractive possible friend and who was a mean girl to be thwarted with my killer wits. I could tell which guys were potential boyfriends, though, because the minor NPCs only had one line to say.
As you walk around the resort, white stars appear over activatable items, and you have the option to participate in different resort activities. Whether you choose to relax in the sun, rent waterskiis, or swim in the pool, you don’t play a minigame or even watch a little cutscene animation. You watch a clock tick. I’m not exaggerating. You watch a pink clock tick. Um, when does the fun start?
Other activities do involve minigames. These are activated by talking to an NPC. I’m usually a big fan of minigames (see also: all my recent hidden objects game reviews), but these minigames were awful. AWFUL. We’re talking incomprehensible directions, repetitive gameplay and bizarrely uneven difficultly levels. For Step Aerobics, you need to click the right color in the right order five times to complete level one. For Kareoke, you need to click the right color at the right time FORTY EIGHT times to complete level one. Wait, one is more difficult than the next by a factor of ten?
Your character can also experiment with makeup, but the extremely limited choices forbade either adorable looks or hilarious fashion trainwrecks. (If you think makeup doesn’t lend itself well to a videogame, check out the facial minigame in Nancy Drew Dossier: Resorting To Danger for a makeup game done right, or Sims 3 for recreational avatar decoration.)
I really wanted to like My Boyfriend, but we have to break up. This just isn’t working out.
TechCrunch has a good piece on Facebook spamming hell over at Scamville: The Social Gaming Ecosystem Of Hell. When I think of the Facebook games spamcycle, I usually think of autoinvites, and invite-500-friends-to-read-your-horoscope apps, but this goes further into the dark side of Facebook games.