Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

More Games I Love Playing

When I’m not writing, I have a number of hobbies to keep me entertained. I enjoy photography, and if you’ve been a regular reader of my site, then you’ll know I get a thrill telling you about my love affair with capturing the right moment. I also enjoy food. Being Italian, I’ve come to appreciate the big Sunday meals at an early age. In fact, I’ve shared those things with you many times. I can’t deny it is one of my favorite things to do as a way to bond the family. And, along with all the other hobbies I have, I love listening to music. There’s nothing quite like having a song appear on a playlist to take me by surprise and change my mood. Tell me the theme Raiders of the Lost Ark doesn’t make you want to jump on a horse and conquer the world. Yeah, music, there’s nothing like it.

But of all the hobbies I have, the one that excites me, and keeps me focused for hours, is playing games. One quick game of chess on my phone is a great way to distract me enough to feel refreshed and carry on with my day.

I have a number of new games I’ve been playing that I thought I would share with you. I enjoy getting lost in these games, so they may not be for you. I do find, however, they are entertaining enough for a mention.

SimCity BuildIt
SimCity BuildIt

SimCity BuildIt—I discovered this game one weekend while searching for something to do between eating lunch and going to my kid’s recital. If you haven’t played any of those time-sensitive games, where you’re creating a farm, a town, or in this case, a city, then take this as a lovely introduction. The first thing you’ll notice with SimCity BuildIt is its incredible attention to detail. Sometimes, I simply sit back and watch as the scene changes from day to night. The building model is quick. You have to zone areas for growth, add electricity, add water, and, if you really would like your citizens to be happy, a park or two. The economics are in perfect balance with player expectations. When you build a residential neighborhood, you don’t have to wait long to see growth. The added city that comes with the game is a pleasure to watch come alive. This is a great game to pick up for your phone or tablet.

Card Shark
Card Shark

Card Shark—I’ve played many Solitaire games, but none quite like Klondike in the Card Shark universe. The game has many other card games, such as DrawPoker and MemoryMatch, yet I really do enjoy having that quick game of Klondike when I travel. Even at home, it’s a wonderful app to play until dinner is ready. I think my favorite part about this app is all its options to customize the playing field. You can choose from a bevy of card decks to play, different backgrounds for the table, and even go so far as to choose if you you’d like uniform or messy stacks for the deal and discard piles. And to top it all off, the game looks great. I have yet to encounter an app with cards that look as realistic as those presented in Card Shark.

Action Movie FX
Action Movie FX

Action Movie FX—Okay, so this isn’t a game per se, but I can’t resist getting enough of this app. It’s a film studio on your phone, complete with real special effects from well-known movies. The most recent version I downloaded has the little robot from the new Star Wars movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens as one of the effects to use as part of a clip you can capture yourself. The way it works is you shoot a video with your camera or tablet, process the effect with the app and share it with all your friends. The app makes ordinary shots hilarious, and equally funny when sharing it with people you know. For instance, one morning I took a video of my wife sitting at the table having breakfast while she was reading. In the clip, I then added the Star Wars robot rolling into the scene and blasting her in her seat. We couldn’t stop laughing at the ridiculousness of the scene. The app also has explosions, rocket and other robot effects to play with. I love this app so much that I do consider it a great way to spend a few minutes playing with it to see what else it can do.

I had a longer list of games to go through, but these are the one I like the most.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

Do you play games? What games do you play, and which game would you recommend I should play next?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

The Sims

For a few weeks now, I’ve been rediscovering an old game I thought I had put away for good. My youngest is to blame since all I’ve been hearing in the house is The Sims 3 theme song. No, I haven’t been playing The Sims 3, but instead dusted off my copy of The Sims 2 and have lost myself in the pixels somewhere between my mouse and the game environment.

Electronic Arts' The Sims Games
Electronic Arts’ The Sims Games

If you haven’t played any of The Sims games, it’s an experience. As I’d mentioned, it’s been a rediscovery for me, given I have a virtual canvas to create the family, community and town I’ve always dreamed of. It’s a thrill to place myself in the game as a character to see what I’m capable of within the confines of a controlled environment. I say this with a smirk on my face knowing how deceptive a game environment can be. I’ll explain more about that later.

Now, The Sims 2 is an old game according to today’s technology standards. It came out back in the mid-2000s and soon spawned multiple stuff and expansion packs, adding to the game’s potential as life’s little petri dish.

I’ll never forget when I opened the game interface for the very first time. I really didn’t know what to do. I mean, here was this small community with floating green diamonds over the houses, and I had no clue as to what the goal was. First, I’d thought it was another SimCity game complete with animated people to control, but then I didn’t see the people. Second, I’d thought I needed to create houses and create a virtual economy. Boy, did I have a lot to learn. It took several attempts to understand I had to play the game at a more familiar level, the family level. Once I discovered how to enter the homes in the town, life became interesting. All it took was a double-click of my mouse and I unlocked a virtual home complete with appliances, electronics and kids fighting. No different from any other family.

Game architecture
Game architecture

Anyway, that was the first time I’d played the game almost a decade ago. Today, since The Sims 2 is open-ended, my goals have changed. I play a more leisurely game. Contrary to previous years, I haven’t built my own house yet complete with pool, Jacuzzi and big screen TV, but I have explored the various other communities available through the expansion packs with my Sim. My Sim now knows how to swim, paint, play darts and chess, workout and countless of other activities. My Sim puts me to shame for my sitting on my rump in a passive stupor.

As for the controlled environment I’d mentioned earlier, it is rather controlled, yes. You can’t kill your Sim on purpose, but you can certainly try. Nothing prevents a player to throw their Sim into a pool and removing the ladder or tossing them into a room and removing the door, thereby starving them to death. Or it doesn’t even prevent a player from starting a fire in the kitchen and watching the Sim go up in flames in a ball of charred cinder.

Fun stuff for a Freedom Friday, huh?

My favorite part about The Sims 2 is decorating the house with Christmas props, presents and all that jolly yuletide madness, and celebrating Christmas year-round. Better still, how about Halloween all year long? Who wouldn’t want all those spooky decorations plastered all over the walls and furniture? I know I would. Who knows maybe one day, the zombies will come knocking on the door.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Have you played The Sims 2 or any of the other Sims games? If not, what is your favorite game?

Posted in Freedom Friday

SimAddict

Before the internet there were video games. Some were good. Some, not so good. One in particular caught my eye and wouldn’t let go. How can I describe it for Freedom Friday?

SimCity
SimCity

How ‘bout like this:

“I got hooked in 1989. At first, I could control the urges thinking I could get ahead of them. I’d think—one more time won’t hurt. Just a little. The next day I’d pay for it, waking up late with a massive headache, feeling groggy and tired. Somehow, a small taste wasn’t enough. I wanted more. The longer it went on, the worse it’d gotten. I thought I could control the urges, but once something new came along I slid and crashed again.

“Over the years, as I’d vow it wouldn’t happen again, I regressed further. Sometimes not eating. Sometimes not sleeping. Until one day, I said enough. Just like that.”

I’m talking about SimCity, the incredibly addictive city simulation for PC. With every new version of the game, I was right there buying it on release day. I can’t believe how much time I had spent on the intricacies of city and population manipulation. If you haven’t played this kind of game before, it’s very simple yet difficult to master. Later versions have more complex interfaces, but the same principles apply.

You’re the mayor of a new town. In fact, you have to build the town into a thriving metropolis. The way you do this is by laying down industrial, commercial and residential zones. Then, you supply water and electricity to the zone, and wait. Yes, much like real life. You’ll soon see traffic move into the zones. Small bungalows become two-story detached homes, which in turn grow to apartment buildings. Retail outlets turn into department stores, which eventually spring to multilevel office buildings. In industrial zones, the small manufacturing shops gear up to pollution-centric factories.

The game is open-ended. It means you create your own goals and from there play to your heart’s content achieving your goals.

My goal had always been to make the absolute best town to live in for a family. So I’d have lots of open spaces, plenty of parks for walking, and fun things to do for the kids. Many of my towns had industrial areas just outside city limits so as I could avoid the pitfalls of maintaining such monstrosities.

Car Crash
Car Crash

SimCity also offers many other options for the casual gamer such as a sleek budgeting interface, a town council to appease, and various panels to check your statistics. I can’t tell you how important it is to look at the town’s stats in order to gauge future growth.

When I played, and I’m talking heavy game play, I tended to stem growth leaning toward building a quality life for my Sims instead. In other words, numbers meant nothing to me. If I knew a hundred Sims enjoyed their life in a rich environment as opposed to a thousand Sims who were unhappy in nothing but a cookie cutter municipality, I knew I had completed my job.

Of course, I did have my moments playing devil’s advocate where I’d throw a few alien invasions at my towns to measure their resilience against disaster. And sometimes I’d even start a riot or two, just to see what would happen. Thankfully, I never saved those messes and had copies of the originals I could restore.

And that’s the beauty of the game. Whatever your goal is, whether it’s building a population boom or a quiet community nestled in the mountains, SimCity will allow you to do that.

In the meantime, I have yet to fall off the wagon again as I value my sanity. Maybe next time I’ll talk about my other addiction: Age of Empires.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Have you played SimCity? What game is your addiction?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Games I Loved Playing

I’m an avid game player. I thought for Freedom Friday I’d treat you all to some of my favorite games of all time.

Monopoly - The Canadian Edition
Monopoly – The Canadian Edition

When I talk about games, I’m talking about video games. I enjoy playing the good board game with my kids and others, like The Game of Life, Monopoly and chess. But I get personal satisfaction when I vanquish invading Martians attempting to colonize earth in a no holds barred slugfest for my PSP.

Not that there’s anything wrong with loving our family game nights when we play a good round of Risk with ample snacks and drinks to carry us through the night!

Nonetheless, here are my über-favorite video games I’ve played over the course of my life. Maybe you might recognize some, maybe not.

Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64: Doesn’t Mario ever die? You know it’s rather awesome walking into my local Best Buy store and talking with the employees who grew up with Mario. “I love the part where I hit the block over the head and all the coins come out, one after another.” Yeah, it’s those scintillating conversations that make my trip to my nearest retailer something to look forward to. I mean, really. Hasn’t anyone not heard of Mario? I remember playing this game thinking, wow, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this. The game features bright, primary colors. The reds, greens and blues flood the screen, giving the gamer a wonderful and immersive experience. Boy, I wish I had kept the old Nintendo 64 console.

Donkey Kong 64
Donkey Kong 64

Donkey Kong 64: This is another one of those Nintendo 64 games that kept me entertained for hours. It belonged to my older son, but I played tons of it late night, into the weekend. I enjoyed racing through the quests and grabbing keys along the way. My favorite part was to change into the various apes to perform feats of wonder and magic (actually, a player couldn’t get to a particular part of the map without transforming into one of the apes with special abilities). This game truly caused me insomnia.

Duke Nukem 3D: How can I describe this game as anything short of “action game crack”? It was the first game that featured a rich 3D environment in a cartoon-like setting. The storyline was over-the-top, the characters—lovable, and Duke’s quotes—hilarious. Here’s one of my favorite lines in any game, ever…

“Time to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I’m all outta gum.”

Duke’s a gun-toting, muscle man is reminiscent of Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator characters. I’ll never forget playing multi-player for the very first time with this game. One of my friends had his place wired with networked computers and we wailed on each other, flying through the levels in hysterics after killing off one of our opponents. Fun times!

SimCity 2000: Well, included in this, is any SimCity game, really. But I can’t tell you how much time I’d wasted building the absolute perfect city. Balancing residential, commercial and industrial zones to achieve that all-so-glorious-and-mighty, top mayor score. I still have screenshots of my cities I’ll peruse occasionally, admiring my handiwork. And of course, being the responsible player I was, I never let hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or alien invasion harm my cities. Or did I?

FIFA 10: I have almost all the FIFA Soccer games. I began playing them on the PC then moved to my PSP. I think FIFA 10 had the right balance between game play, music, aesthetics and sheer fun. I burned through all the tournaments, creating my own player and training him to score at will. I’d gotten so good on the hardest level that I think even the goalies were afraid of my Frankenstein monsters I’d created!

LEGO Batman
LEGO Batman

LEGO Batman, Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Harry Potter: I’ve played them all. Completed each level. Collected all the bonuses. And found all the secrets. These games are awesome. I have yet to play some of the newer titles, but I’m sure I’ll get to them soon. The wonderful part about these games are the puzzles. I loved working through a level a few times to see if I could find every item. Most of all, I adored, yes, adored having the ability to play the various levels as different characters. This is what makes these LEGO games so addictive (not to mention blasting away anything into a big pile of collectable bricks).

Do you have any games you like playing to pass the time? What platform do you use to play your games (ie. phone, tablet, laptop)?