Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Blessings

I wanted to wish all of you the blessings of a most happy Christmas, and thank you for spending some of your time here over the past six months. May the day find you, your families, and loved ones happy, healthy, and joyous.

And from my family to yours, a happy ABCDEFGHIJKMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Botticelli's Mystical Nativity
And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!"
The Gospel of Luke

PS: I must have read and heard this passage hundreds of times, and I still expect it to be followed by "That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Humble Indie Bundle: iOS Version

A group of iOS developers has banded together to offer the Indie iPhone Holiday Sale through the end of December. Six titles are now marked down to $1 each, with 1/3rd of the revenue going to the Child's Play charity. The 6 titles are Osmos, Canabalt, Spider: Secret of Bryce Manor, Eliss, Drop7, and Solipskier.  I don't ever remember seeing Canabalt on sale, so this is a good deal.

This isn't a "bundle." You still have to buy each separately.

And, yes, posting has been light of late. Christmas perpetrations + another cold = low blogging output. It will probably continue to be pretty light until after New Year's Day, but I'm still planning to pop in now and then if something interesting comes across my radar.

Monday, December 20, 2010

App O' The Mornin': Scarlet and the Spark of Life Review

Grade: B
Price: $3

Games like Scarlet and the Spark of Life are a perfect fit for the mobile devices, but developers are still searching for the best way to make them work.

Scarlet plays out like a single mission from a larger adventure game. In fact, I feel like I played this exact same sequence in a King's Quest game years ago. That's not a knock: it's been kind of refreshing to find good old fashioned adventure gaming making a bit of a comeback in recent years.

Scarlet has everything you remember from the old adventure games: long dialog sequences, a few locations that are traversed endlessly, objects to collect and use, puzzles to solve, and a bit of a story to tell. The dialog is the usual mixture of witty banter and lame jokes, but it's fairly well done for the genre and doesn't drag on too long. The puzzles are almost all object-based, and since you only have a few locations, you don't ever have too many objects to try out. Even so, one puzzle takes a bit of time to figure out: not because it's difficult, but because it's illogical. (Hint: use the bird's nest on the rocks.)

This is the only challenge that's a problem, however, and the rest are a fairly pleasing collection of object use, dialog, and single-screen puzzles. None of it will slow down an experienced gamer for more than an hour, and this is is where Scarlet runs into some trouble. Since this is subtitled "Scarlet Adventures: Episode 1," this first game is clearly intended as a sliver of a larger game. That's wonderful: I love that kind format, and would like to see more people implementing episodic gaming, with new chapters ever month or even every week.

A $3 price tag, however, is not going to work for this kind of format. I rarely balk at prices, since $3 is still plenty cheap for a decent game. But Scarlet needs to either be a little less expensive or offer a bit more gameplay for this to work, particularly if Launching Pad Games intends to release these on a regular schedule.

There are some illogical bits in the design, such as boxes of wool that don't quite work correctly and a bit too much back-and-forthing, but these are innocuous annoyances. Visually, the game is quite strong, with bright colors and whimsical designs.

Scarlet is a good 1 hour adventure game for fans of the genre, but it's a probably a better bet for tweens and pre-tweens. It's a good start to a series: it just needs to be longer or cheaper.