May 10, 2012
What a bummer! Tiger Electronics’ Game.com is a pretty shoddy video game system. Released in 1997, it attempted to differentiate itself from Nintendo’s Game Boy, but personally I think it feels cheap and that probably contributed to the system apparently never catching on. It seems more like an upscale toy rather than a serious video game system.
Mimicking the PDAs of the day (remember those?), the Game.com features a touch screen and a system menu with a few layman productivity software features. Included are a phone book, calendar, and a calculator, which would’ve appealed to my younger self as I could organize important information and feel like an adult, but their functionality is reduced in the modern age we’re living in fifteen years later. Also included at the system menu level is a high score application that tracks player’s high scores through all the games they’ve played and solitaire. I really like the idea of consolidating every high score into one place and solitaire is always solid. The system also had internet functionality through a separate cartridge, but I didn’t get the opportunity to try it out.
One of the most interesting features of the Game.com is the dual cartridge slot allowing two games to be inserted at once. But with a lackluster catalog of games, there isn’t much reason to use both. Twenty games were released for the system and I believe they came in two or three waves. Nearly every one of these releases were licensed titles and a gamut of genres were present, but in my experience they were hampered by the system’s infernal motion blurring. Another hindrance to my enjoyment was the system’s monochromatic screen and lack of backlighting. But, it was mostly due to the blurring whenever there’s movement in-game.
They’re available for cheap although many of the games can be hard to track down. I was “lucky” enough to have a local game store that had an abundance of games for cheap and built a large collection very quickly. I recently decided to play through them and compose mini-reviews. This feature will continue for a couple of days.
March 24, 2012
Nintendo’s two Picross games for the Nintendo DS (Picross DS and Picross 3D) easily top the list of great timewasters. In them, players use logic and a hint of math to fill in empty grids that then yield an image. They can take anywhere from a few seconds to a half hour depending on the size of the grid, and each game contains hundreds of puzzles. The ease of playing them and the sense of accomplishment fuels their drive to consume any of my free time.
Mario’s Picross was the original Picross game from Nintendo and it was released on the Game Boy in 1995. It’s also available as a downloadable on the Nintendo 3DS via its Virtual Console storefront. I recently picked it up, and as is always the case when I play one, it consumed my time and had me staying up late saying to myself “just one more” over and over.
Picross puzzles are grids of blank squares that need to be filled in. Beside each row and column are numbers designating how many squares are to be filled, and in what order. For example, imagine a 15 x 15 puzzle with a row that has the numbers 7 and 7 beside it. Because the row is 15 squares long, I know that the first 7 squares are going to get filled in, there’ll be a space, and the last 7 squares will be filled in. That’s an easy example because the numbers indicating how many squares to fill in total 15; 7+1 (blank space)+7=15. It gets trickier when a row or column has only a few filled in squares. In situations like that, players really have to examine other rows and columns and view puzzles in their entirety.
In the Nintendo DS games, when I’d fill in squares, their corresponding numbers beside the row or column would become grayed out, making it easier for me to keep track of what I hadn’t done yet. This feature isn’t present in Mario’s Picross and it made solving puzzles not necessarily tougher, just a little more annoying. Another facet that hinders my play sessions is the size of the screen. If you don’t remember, the screen on the original Game Boy was tiny; it’s probably the reason I wear glasses today. I tended not to play Mario’s Picross for extended sessions to avoid eye strain. The screen is enlarged on the 3DS, I just wish you could distort the perspective to make it fit the handheld’s screen entirely. Still, Mario’s Picross is a great timewaster and a great game for just a couple of bucks.