Casual Fridays – We don’t need no stinking handhelds …

Welcome to Casual Fridays!  This is your fun Friday post where you get reviews of flash games, mobile games and anything else that’s quick, and fun around the net.  We’re moving to a bi-weekly format so that I can make sure to get them out in time, but that might mean there’s going to be a few more games on the review table rather than the standard two or three per post.  There are a sea of games out there, we’re hoping to provide you with a life raft to find the games you want to play.

Continuing on our quest to find a wider variety of games, I’ve scoured the Android market to find games that are fun, entertaining, free or really inexpensive to pick up.  The three I’m reviewing this week are Math Maniac (yes, the title is problematic, we’ll talk about it), 9 Innings: Pro Baseball, Choice of Broadside.

As a technology note, all the games were played on an HTC Legend using Android 2.2 (Froyo).

Math Maniac

I was asked to find some math games on the Android phone, because that’s what I have, and I did my best to comply with that request.  Let me tell you, there aren’t that many math games out there.  Note to anyone who is interested in making games, there is a gap here and you may want to fill it.

That’s why I grabbed this game, despite the fact that it’s got a rather problematic title.  We tend to take things, and I’m guilty as charged, and add the word ‘mania’ or ‘maniac’ to the end of it to try to make a game sound just awesome.  Or, as commentator Static Nonsense said:

“society’s concept of ‘madness’ in such naming or titling mechanics are derived from the preconceived notion of mental illness and its effects causing people to do things ‘out of the ordinary’ and ‘extreme’.”

Despite this problem I went ahead with this review because I searched far and wide for a mobile math game and there really aren’t a lot of others out there.  So, Math Maniac it is.

The game itself is an addition game.  The game gives you a number and you have to select the appropriate digits on the screen that, when added together, become that very given number.  You can use as many as you want, you just need to complete the task within the time frame given.

The time frame depends on what level of difficulty you choose.  If you pick easy you get 20 seconds, and if you pick hard you only get 10 to do the mental math needed to arrive at the proper sum.  The higher the level the higher the sums tend to be, which means that you spend a lot of time looking for the 9s to get to that number as fast as you can.

It’s strangely addictive, I know it impacted me because I spend a lot of time thinking that I’m good at mental math.  However, it is quite different when you’ve only got ten seconds to hunt down the right number for the job.  Ultimately you do wish there was a little more to the game than just trying to find the right combination of numbers that will answer the question.  The kind where if you get the right set of numbers you unlock the safe or do something.  Maybe that’s just a skin for something that doesn’t need it, but I feel the distinct lack of anything other than hunting for numbers on a grid.

There is a paid version which allows you to stop and go back to levels you’ve previously accomplished, but the game really isn’t that long or that hard to start over.

Cost: Free (€0.79 for the Gold edition)

Save to SD: Happily it does!

Completely Arbitrary Number Value Judgement: 9 + 7 + 9 + 9 + 8 = The Answer!

9 Innings: Pro Baseball

Baseball games on your phone is really just a joy.  While I’m not a huge fan of watching the sport, there’s something about the duality of the game that transitions well to the video game format.  The sport goes from a duel between a batter and a pitcher to a team dealing with the results of that duel.  9 Innings: Pro Baseball out of all the baseball games out there, and there are a lot, is a pretty phenomenal one.

First of all, it’s licensed by the MLBPA which means that while the teams and their logos aren’t to be found you do get to play with all the players that are actually in the league.  I personally find this cool, though it is a bit off putting at times not to have the team logos, though the players are playing on their respective teams.

The game play itself runs really well, except for the ridiculous animation that makes it look like all baseball players when they have nothing to do would rather be doing power squats, with each pitcher being able to choose from various pitches, which take a certain amount of stamina to use.  Batting is a single button, and in an interesting decision it is located on the same side as the ‘hand’ that the batters use.  Batters that bat left will make you use your left thumb to swing, while those that swing right will need your right thumb.

Fielding the ball is wonderfully smooth as well.  You can program what moves you want to have happen.  That way, when you know that ball is primed for a double play you can program where you want your players to throw the ball and they’ll do it.  The base runners, all run the right way.  If it’s a fly ball they’ll go about half way and stop, waiting to see what happens.  If it’s caught they run back.  The iconography of the game is pretty cute and endearing.  Lots of things representing swinging the bat, running for extra bases or running back.

The other thing this game does well is that all the players are given to you as baseball cards.  You can buy more packs for things to upgrade them, or other players that you might want to use.  I think that’s an awesome idea, which will lead to some fun options.

That’s not to say the game doesn’t have problems.  The biggest one is that you have a “cheerleader.”  Now it could have been a lot worse, it’s a shot of a woman’s face and this is who is your cheerleader.  There’s no gratuitous cheesecake shots, or anything else that I could see, I only played a couple of games, but it’s their job to give you point when you do things like hit a double, strike someone out.  It’s actually incredibly frustrating, because just like the players they have “trading cards” that you can switch out and get bonuses from.  The commentary on that alone could fill up thousands and thousands of words.

If you want to play this game,  there will be gritting your teeth whenever you do something spectacularly baseball like, but at least it’s possible to accomplish something spectacularly baseball like.

Cost: Free (Game does have ads)

Save to SD: Happily it does!

Completely Arbitrary Number Value Judgement: H, 2B, HR almost hitting for the cycle but just coming up short.

Choice of Broadside

Choice of Broadsides comes from the same people who brought Choice of the Dragon, which Brinstar reviewed here.  If you didn’t notice, it got a lot of buzz and in turn spawned a whole series of games each with a different genre.  There’s a point actually where I think I’m going to sit down and review all the ones that haven’t been reviewed yet.

If you enjoyed Choice of the Dragon, you are going to love Choice of Broadsides, which takes the same interesting and engaging storytelling and applies to love, life and adventure on the high seas.  Here you play a midshipperson (you can again choose your gender and sexuality as you see fit), who is trying to climb the ranks in the Albion Navy during it’s war with the Gaul.  Albion is described very much like England (it is England save for the name).  You choose who you are, what you look like, how you react and you go from there.

Unlike Choice of the Dragon, I feel that your decisions have a greater impact on the game and what you get to do.  There are also a few moments when you feel kind of railroaded into certain actions, but this is a choose your own adventure game so the choices, and replay value, are limited.

Some of my favourite lines from this are listed here:

When choosing your gender — “I am a young lady. The idea of gentlemen going to sea and being exposed to the horrors of combat — it’s a frankly revolting idea”

When asked to speak your opponent’s language — “Yes, anything else would be churlish and unworthy of a gentlewoman.”

This is going to lead me towards doing a review of all the Choice of Games, mainly because I find them highly diverting and engaging.

Cost: Free (Donations greatly accepted)

Save to SD: Sad Phone Face.  No Saving to SD

Completely Arbitrary Number Value Judgement: 0=, 0=, 0=, 0=, 0= five cannons to the broadside!

That’s it for this edition of Casual Friday, next up comes the Choice of Games extravaganza!

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If you’ve got a game you’d like to get reviewed, or have anything you’d like to say about casual or mobile gaming in general leave it in the comments!  We like them, it lets us know you’re reading!

12 thoughts on “Casual Fridays – We don’t need no stinking handhelds …”

  1. Ah, Choice of Broadsides! Love that game to bits.
    One of my favorite things about it is that it’s the only game that I can recall getting a same-sex romantic encounter patched in after requests from players. :P (This being accompanied by a thoughtful post about gendered social circles during that historical period and modern perceptions thereof <3 /history nerd)
    And then my other favorite thing is how they handled gender selection and its effect on the narrative. Not too common, that. :)

  2. Choice of Broadsides… So much love for that game and what it did with same-sex romances, society, and gender. I could wax on about it for hours. I admire Choice of Games so much for their products (and their thoughts/listening ear on many social and sexuality issues). <3

    1. The next Casual Friday is going to deal with the rest of the Choice of Games, sadly not all of them are as cool as Choice of the Dragon or Choice of Broadsides.

  3. Thanks for the math game tip. I also appreciated you being up front about the problematic name.

  4. I know a few people at my RPG club who will LOVE Choice of Broadsides. Swashbuckling pseudo-historical naval adventure with gender equality? Yep, I can see this becoming popular.

  5. Was part of the beta for CoR part 2, and hoping it comes out in time for the review (or is the review being held up on account of delayed gaming goodness?).

    Looking forward to both the extension and the writeup, in any event.

    1. It’s was just a scheduling thing. The first part, because there are a lot of them, goes up this Friday. CoR is one of the games in part 1.

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