Would you give Flowerz to a loved one, or are you better sticking with flowers?

Flowerz is port of the popular MSN Game of the same name. It is essentially a match-three puzzler with a few twists to liven up proceedings. Unlike Bejeweled there is no timer,  but the increasing complexity of the flowers, which come in an array of colours while some switch colour after being matched, means that it progressively becomes more difficult than your standard match-three game.

It’s a premise that has a classic simplicity for beginners while providing a certain amount of fiendishness for more experienced players. That said, while it’s an enjoyable game to dip in and out of it does have the feel of an average title elevated by the presence of achievements.

Speaking of which, the achievements are pretty varied and tend to avoid too many needless ‘grinds’. They encourage you to play through both Expert and Standard modes so you’ll experience what the game has to offer, and while a few are the sort of irrelevant ones you’ll pick up without thinking about it, e.g. use 100 of item A, the main ones require some real skill to unlock.

The only warning I’d give is that if you get bored after repeated plays you may be left with an outstanding achievement that needs a total cumulative score of 250,000. A high score comes in around 6-7,000 so while it’s not unattainable by any means, it will take a while. Also worth knowing is that the game occasionally gets a bug whereby your score will not be tracked cumulatively, so you will have to reinstall the title and start again when this happens.

The fact you do not know what your cumulative score is means you may not even realise this has happened until you’re sure you’ve passed the threshold that pops the achievement, e.g. 100,000 or 250,000. With this in mind, you may want to keep a spreadsheet to track your scores on so you know the game is working properly. One sign of it resetting your progress is if it crashes midway through a game and when you turn it back on your game has been wiped and you have to start a new one.

This one bug aside it is a solid, if not spectacular game and the ability to dip in for ten minutes and pick it up again later means you can work on Flowerz over the long haul.

You can download Flowerz for free from the Windows Phone marketplace here.

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Can Tetris Blitz match it’s famous, bejeweled cousin in the mobile game market?

Tetris Blitz on Windows Phone 8

Following the successful formula of Bejeweled Blitz (which ironically has still never been ported to Windows Phone), Tetris Blitz is a free Xbox Live game on Windows Phone 8 that serves up fast-paced two-minute games of Tetris to the player.

The game dispenses with the control mechanism of spinning a falling shape and dropping it into place. Instead it outlines the possible combinations of shape positions and you touch the relevant ‘ghost’ shape to place it automatically. You can still spin your shape for extra possibilities if you wish, but given the tight timescale the game operates in it’s quicker just to make do and plough on.

Tetris Blitz on Windows Phone 8

Unlike traditional Tetris the speed of the falling blocks remains the same throughout and even if your blocks reach the top of the screen it wipes the top six layers allowing you to continue playing until your two minutes are up.

In these respects the game strips Tetris down to a select few of its core elements and successfully reduces the controls to the bare minimum necessary for a touch screen device.

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Another tamagotchi-style village game on Windows Phone, but is Ice Age Village any good?

Ice Age Village on Windows Phone 8

Ice Age Village is the second tamagotchi-village style game to be released as a free Xbox LIVE title on Windows Phone after the thankfully now-discontinued Bug Village.

The game follows much the same path, namely building a village of animals that you have to periodically check back in on to keep them happy and complete tasks for.

As the name suggests, it’s tied in to the Ice Age movie franchise and the familiarity of the film characters benefits the game immensely. Small cut-scenes feature conversations from the characters, who all provide you tasks to complete throughout the game. They also provide you with the tasks that drive the game forward.

As mentioned the game is completely free but as is typical these days comes with In-App Purchases (IAP) to help you speed through at a faster pace.

Thankfully it is enjoyable without investing any real-life cash in your progress, but some of the achievements do appear to require such significant amounts of in-app currency as to render them almost unachievable without spending actual money on them.

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Organise your own gaming event in the comfort of your living room

In honour of Revival Mini, the most super-duper retro gaming event in the country, being held in Kenilworth (Yes, Kenilworth!) on 7-8 December 2013 (tickets still available!), here are some essential tips to hosting your own gaming event – in your living room, with your mates. It will be like Revival in your very own living room!*

Choose the right games, not just your favourite ones

Sure, everyone has wasted an evening with their mates playing Call of Duty or Halo, but a proper games night should run the gamut of genres and eras of gaming.

This keeps things fresh and allows you to throw in the odd indie game curveball to shake things up and avoid the ‘usual retro suspects’, such as Sonic 2 on the Megadrive or whatever the hell it is you played on the SNES during that period.

Sonic 2 is one of the classic retro gaming event games.

Sonic 2 is one of the classic retro gaming event games.

One approach is to build a spreadsheet with all the games you and your friends own, allowing other people to choose favourites (or games to be picked at random). Obviously, if you choose to go down the emulation route you have nearly every game ever made at your fingertips but you do lose marks for authenticity. Naturally Revival Mini will have dozens of classic arcade cabinets to choose from, but your trusty C64 may be your best bet for the home.

Choose the contest format

You also need to choose what the contest format is once you have selected the game. Is it a speed-run? Round-robin? Score Attack? Be creative. Who can do the first level of Doom on the hardest setting in the fastest time? Get most head shots in a set time on Halo: Reach Firefight?

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RGCD Review: Heroes of Loot (PC/Mac/Linux/OUYA/iOS/Android) #OUYA @Playouya

Quickly following on from my review of Doppleganger I have another one up over at RGCD, this time for the OUYA game, Heroes of Loot. It’s made by the same folks who did the awesome Gunslugs and takes its cue from the old classic, Gauntlet.

You can read the full review over at the RGCD website or see below for an excerpt:

Heroes of Loot is the latest OUYA title from Orange Pixel, developers of the superb Gunslugs. Whereas the latter is their take on the run ‘n’ gun arcade genre, Heroes of Loot is described as a Rogue-like with extra helpings of Gauntlet.

As the name suggests Heroes of Loot is a rather light-hearted take on the dungeon crawl genre. Up to two players can choose from four character classes to play as, based almost entirely on the classic Gauntlet set, with a Wizard, Warrior, Elf and Valkyrie to choose from.

As you’d expect from a Rogue-like game the aim is to venture through endless levels of dungeons racking up as big a score as possible before your inevitable death.

Points are gained from killing the myriad of monsters that fill the dungeon, collecting treasure and completing quests. The game features similar chunky pixel art to Gunslugs and the content is also randomised like its run ‘n’ gun cousin. This means no game plays the same twice and neatly combines Orange Pixel’s fondness for randomised content and the typical Rogue-like aesthetic.

A simple levelling up system provides the RPG element, though there is no skill tree to speak of and level advancement simply automatically upgrades your firepower and health.

Gameplay clearly has its roots in mobile gaming and simply holding down the fire button auto-aims to the nearest monster. While the auto-aim system no doubt works well on a mobile touch screen, it sometimes feels slightly basic for a twin-stick joypad even though the game is clearly designed with an auto-aim free-for-all in mind.

As with Gunslugs the game punishes foolhardy play and, especially on later levels, a quick death is never too far away if the player decides to rush headlong into combat. Nonetheless charging into a crowd of monsters when you have a power-up like the Lighting Rune is one of the games great pleasures.

Head on over to the RGCD website for the full review.

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RGCD Review: Doppleganger (PC/Mac/Linux/XBLIG)

I’ve got a new review up on RGCD, moving away from the OUYA for a change and reviewing the Xbox Live Indie Game (now on PC, Mac and Linux), Doppleganger. It’s an old skool shoot ‘em up, taking in influences from Defender and Iridis Alpha.

You can read the full review over at the RGCD website or read an excerpt below (before then going to the RGCD site to read the full review!):

Doppleganger has recently been released on PC, five years after making its debut on Xbox Live Indie Games and six years after we first previewed the game back in RGCD issue #03. Originating from a simpler time before the current day indie-scene explosion, the game is essentially a mash-up of Jeff Minter’s Iridis Alpha and the coin-op classic Defender – and as that would suggest, it’s a ton of classic retro-style twitchy-shmup fun. Also, in contrast to the XBLIG release the pc version is completely free – which is always a good thing.

For those of you unfamiliar with Idris Alpha and Defender, the game takes place across a side-scrolling split screen with the player controlling a ship in each, one which is ‘active’ and the other being a ‘ghost’. Your aim is to fly across the landscape, switching between the two states and protecting the astronauts stranded on the land below from marauding aliens, lasting for as long as possible to build up your score.

Paul Cunningham of Pumpkin Games describes the code for his game as “very bad”, with “programmery” graphics and “meh” sound effects. Nonetheless he is understandably passionate about the game that he loves.

The description of the game probably deserves to be a bit more middling on presentation and gameplay than Paul’s comments above. The glowy graphics and suitably spacey sound are both perfectly acceptable given the quick and easy arcade gameplay – although truth be told, here at RGCD we actually preferred the low resolution pixelled graphics of the original preview version over the clean-cut final.

Doppleganger is a classic example of a game that does nothing wrong per se, but also provides little to appeal to gamers who aren’t already fans of the genre. It may be the case that the game is aimed more to long-time fans of Defender and Iridis Alpha but gamers not steeped in the arcade lore of shoot-em-ups may find Doppleganger too simplistic – even archaic – to get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

Head over to the RGCD website to read the full review.

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Review: Gunstringer: Dead Man Running (Win 8) #win8

The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running on Windows 8

Gunstringer: Dead Man Running is a spin-off Windows 8 title based on the Xbox Live Arcade game, The Gunstringer, a Kinect-based game about a skeletal cowboy.

While that game partially imitates the on-the-rail shooter genre, G:DMR is an endless run clone, and a rather obvious one at that.

Graphically the game is quite good, albeit it never attempts to push any boundaries. More than once you will die and wonder how much of your character actually touched the obstacle. The flailing nature of the Gunstringer means that you’re never quite sure whether it’s you or poor collision detection to blame. Aurally too, it’s perfunctory but perfectly acceptable given the shallow nature of the genre and the classic Western drawl that narrates the game is a welcome touch.

Such is the crowded marketplace for endless run games now, from the (perplexingly) mega-selling Temple Run to the indie hit that started it all, Canabalt, that to do a really good job of an endless run game you have to attempt some sort of Unique Selling Point or do everything so well that it’s like an unoriginal but perfectly executed pop song storming to the top of the charts.

G:DMR makes no attempt at the former and fails at the latter, though not disastrously so.

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