Diner Dash

Last night, after I’d read an awful lot of Harlot’s Ghost, and then watched another lecture on Academic Earth, I decided to find a brainless computer game to play. So I checked to see what was on my laptop. Hm. Diner Dash. Click.

It sent me to the Internet and said I could play four times before purchasing. At $19.95 or something ridiculous. Seriously, I could have sworn that I’d seen this game at Half Price Books for five bucks. Whatever.

I played for two hours. Those guys are tricksy, with their loss leaders and their “must have it but it’s the middle of the night so I will pay $19.95”. Good thing I have some self-control. (snort).

So today, I went to Half Price Books. Five bucks. Or Diner Dash and Diner Dash 2 for seven bucks. Hah.

Plus the four books I had to have right now. (sigh)

I am never going to get to those 17 episodes of Chuck.

Open House – Games

My friend Noah is a serious gamer. He is a perennial game master and plays in one other game that I know of. He is the reason I tried role-playing games in college and got all sucked in to playing Vampire.

When we were in college, he and I had a running game of gin rummy. Noah carried around the score sheet in his wallet and whenever we were bored, we played a quick game.

These days, Noah has an open house every couple of months where people gather at his house to play board games. Because my weekends have been tied up with homework for about ever, Saturday was the first tie I was able to attend.

I was the first to arrive. Noah’s two young children were having Quiet Time in their rooms and Noah and his wife, Jenny were playing Guitar Head. When they were done, Noah made an X Box avatar for me, just in case we decided to play video games. He gave me Princess Leia hair.

Noah has every board game under the sun – most things I have never heard of – and he knows all of the rules and can explain them. I love that he always knows whose turn it is and what actions they can take.

There were ten of us playing and I stayed for two games: Pandemic, which is a cooperative game where you try to eradicate diseases before they take over the earth. We lost that one; and Power Grid, where you compete with the other players to provide electricity to the entire US. Noah won.

One of the things that has gotten better about board games – or maybe this is how Noah chooses his games – is that there is less “elimination”, where the last man standing wins. The games have a point where they end for everyone and there is different criteria for winning. That way people aren’t sitting around waiting for others to finish. We had a good time.

Murder on the Orient Express

I picked up the PC game Murder on the Orient Express at Half Price Books just before the end of the semester. I enjoyed the first Agatha Christie game and this one features Hercule Poirot. Awesome.

The PC is not Poirot, but a young lady named Antoinette that is an employee of the train line. She is a mystery fan and does the leg work for Poirot, who may or may not have sprained his ankle when the avalanche hit the train.

This was pretty basic mystery-game stuff. Question the suspects, search their rooms. There is always a weird way to take fingerprints. In this case it was taking a piece of coal from the engine car, crushing it with a hammer, putting the dust into a turkey baster found in the kitchen and then using tape.

Would not have put that together without the cheats. Or, by the way, how to use the little statue and a punch bowl filled with orange juice to fix the ham radio. Puleeze.

I liked that I was not worried about saving the game all the time. I liked that Poirot was all validating. I did not like that the game forces the PC to validate clues that we already had. For example, we interrogate the Countess and find her true identity. Then we have to research it on the ham radio. Then we are forced to confront her again before moving on. I suspect glitches like this are because there was less structure to the timeline than in many games. You’d think I’d appreciate that.

Anyway, the game did a fine job of sticking to the spirit of the novel as I remember it without the novel giving away the whole thing. For the eight dollars paid, I am happy to continue playing this series.

Dracula 3 – The Path of the Dragon

Just to get it out of the way, “The Path of the Dragon” sounds like a Bruce Lee film, not a vampire game. “The dragon” in this case is Dracula himself and “the Path” is the way to find him. To put it simply. Some people might call it the Path to Immortality, but whatever.

The interface (I think that’s what it is called) is very similar to the first two games. But happily, there is also an “objectives” feature to which a player can refer so that she is not required to cheat quite so much. The player-character also gives more hints for things like, “I’d better call the bishop now” so I wasn’t wandering around trying to figure out how to get to the next stage.

While the second Dracula game was a sequel to the first – which featured the Harkers of the Stoker novel, this third game calls the Stoker novel fiction. It does, however, speculate on the extent to which the fiction is based on reality (or game-reality as it may be). It calls Stoker on the obvious – if everyone from whom Dracula drinks became a vampire, why aren’t we are world peopled with vampires?

The PC is a priest sent to Transylvania to investigate whether a local doctor should be canonized. It is 1920 and the town was left in ruins after the war. And, of course, one of those ruins is the castle of Vlad Tepes (as pictured). The original investigation is quickly resolved when the PC discovers the doctor was fighting vampires. But now the Vatican wants an investigation into the existence of vampires. You know, to prove that they don’t.

So the story was good with the usual quirky characters and betrayals. I wish there had been better continuity with the landscape of the previous games. In the castle, for example, I didn’t recognize anything and it would have cool if I had.

I liked that you don’t actually see Dracula until the end. I like that the PC is dealing with science and history and actual people screwing with him for most of the way. Traditionally, Dracula’s minions just freak me out. But when that confrontation happens…well first, the character of Dracula is nothing like he was in the previous games. And he actually has blood on his face. His voice is all wrong and his wording seemed off.

I found the puzzles tiresome, so that’s where I did most of my cheating. One was so annoying, even with the cheat, that I thought I might quit so I read ahead to see if it was worth continuing. Unfortunately, I read how to win the game when I might have figured it out myself.

I liked that when something killed the character, the game sent you back to try again. There was only one time where it didn’t help – I had to reload because I messed up something before the return point.

Overall, it was decent. But I’m looking forward to getting back to the Agatha Christie games.

Dracula – The Resurrection

Several weeks ago, feeling like I was burning out, I was looking at computer games at Half Price Books. They had a three-pack of Dracula games, so I bought it.

I took the final exam yesterday.

After enjoying what was left of the nice weather, I camped out in my room and played the first game – Dracula, The Resurrection.

It was fine. The audio was choppy and I cheated a lot, but it was fun. The player is Harker, trying to save Mina again. I never could stand Mina. And because it is a computer game, Mina looks like this each of the few screens where we see her.

So low cut that even as a CG character, one doesn’t want to look.

I started the second game a few minutes ago and was killed by a giant vampire bat in the second scene. So I guess this is a game where you can get killed.