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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Retro Review Tuesday: Marble Madness

A special sibling joint review. We've both been too busy/distracted to do review on our own so we did one together.

Introduction


Marble Madness is the sort of game we rarely see these days, no real plot, no real characters and with 6 short but difficult to nigh on impossible levels. It was originally released in 1984 the arcade in and has seen several ports. We choose to focus on the NES version as it's the one we first became familiar with.



Overview

As I said in the introduction Marble Madness really has no true plot line as far as I know. You control a marble trying to traverse a series of increasingly complex mazes populated with strange and seemingly random enemies. Though I personally prefer my theory that your marbles are secret agents known as code names Left and Right, who's mysterious mission is to attempt to foil the evil plot of the Black Marble Syndicate, which is somehow tied to winning races in absurd locales...

Controls are simple in theory the d pad moves and the a button speeds up your marbles speed. however, the marble will move erratically before you get used to it's distinct movement pattern. This game originally used a ball for movement so changing it to d pad does create some responsiveness problems. Though honestly, I find it much easier to control with the slightly sluggish controls than with the original super sensitive type.


Graphically it's stood the test of time pretty well. The color palate is more limited than I'd like but it's pretty standard for games of the era. The 3d graphics were revolutionary at the time period and still look good even by today's standards. You really do feel like the playing field is completely in 3d you never get a sense that it was in fact way beyond gaming's capabilities at the time (though it really was). It doesn't have any of the clunkiness you usually associate with early 3d games half as old (I'm looking at you Virtua Fighter).


Musically, it's classic. The tracks an memorable, complex, and catchy. Even if you didn't grow up with these songs, if you enjoy vintage game soundtracks at all these are love at first listen. They also make for some great remixes, I have a fantastic one I got from OCR on the very top of my playlist. In fact the music from Marble madness is so good I'm going to share that remix with you. Here it for your enjoyment:


Didn't that fill your day with more awesome? You know it did, it's just a shame I don't have access to the original tracks to share.


Gameplay
Your try to roll your marble through the courses in record time to advance. It's important to think of your marble like a real character they get dizzy, they get hurt (though I imagine most humans don't shatter when hit enough*) and they scream when they go flying of the edge. You'll waste a lot of time with any of those afflictions so it's best to try to keep your marbles happy and healthy. Occasionally you can still win a tough race even after pitching yourself over the side a few times, but it's not something you want to do unless you've got an uncanny ability to attract the randomly appearing magic wands which will appear above your marble and grant you a 10 second time bonus.

As this game is basically about rolling marbles through courses so there's not much to talk about here other than the courses themselves and the enemies who make things just a little tougher.

You start off by selecting whether Lefty Blue is going to go in as a solo agent or if you're bringing your partner Righty Reddy with you. Once that's our of the way you make your way to the Practice Race: A very simple course, you'll have 60 seconds to get used to the controls and feel of the game. Nothing's too complicated, and a lot of the danger zones are barricaded. The time used here does not carry over to the next race. There's not a lot of reason to fail, here. This race is to make sure all that you retained some of the knowledge you learned back at marble academy. How to roll fast and straight without lobbing yourself off the edge. Though since it doesn't count, now might be the perfect time to lob yourself off the edge and contemplate how exactly your marbles scream without mouths.



From there you move on to Beginner Race. Don't let the name fool you, it's actually quite difficult, especially when you're new to it. Easy to fall down holes, with hostiles and obstacles to overcome, including special flooring to throw you off.






Next up is the Intermediate Race, actually not too bad, although still difficult when beginning. Paths are very narrow, and enemies are plentiful. Offers a shortcut at the expense of requiring more skill to make use of it.






You're probably thinking I got this, next is the hard race, but you're wrong. Sit down and don't raise your hand unless you've got a correct answer. What we really have next is the Aerial Race. Definitely the stopping point for beginning to intermediate players, this one's a big bad circus of marble death. An initial push in the direction of death welcomes you to this one. Vacuums to suck you up, catapults, and other obstacles will kick you around, guaranteeing your first successful run of this race will be anything but pretty.



In the unlikely event you managed to pass that last race you move on to, Silly Race. It gives what it promises. Physics work in reverse here, pipes make little sense, and enemies are so small you can crush them (giving you a 3-second time bonus for every one you squash). This one's mostly difficult due to the time spent overcoming the three preceding races (as the first one doesn't count) but its craziness will certainly give you much to think about.



If you managed to roll on through those first four you're given the supreme honor of falling to your death in the Ultimate Race. You'll use everything you've learned to take your best shot at this one. It's pretty tame to begin with, but once you reach the final stretch, you'll be challenged immensely, as you try to navigate your marble over thin, segmented, traveling floors. Should you overcome this harsh test of maneuverability, you will pass through the final flags and will have completed the game.

Now it's not as though racing through many of those courses isn't difficult enough just via their course construction, but the BMS (Black Marble Syndicate for those of you with short attention spans) isn't ready to just hand over their badges of pure evil without a heck of a fight. Oh no, they've got henchmen to make your little glassy life, just that much more difficult. So here come the enemies:


Black Marble - Henchmen for what we call the evil Black Marble Syndicate, these smash into your marble, throwing you off course, and sometimes causing you to careen off into oblivion. You can, however, shatter them either by fighting with them for long enough, or causing them to fall from a distance. You will see the first of these in the Beginner Race.


Eaters - With movement that resembles a Slinky on stairs, if you get to close to these amusing little guys, they will attempt to pounce on your marble, devouring it if successful, and licking its "lips" to add insult to injury. First seen in the Beginner Race.


Slimes - Green little puddles of something or other, these make their debut in the Intermediate Race. They slither across the ground and will melt your marble into themselves if you make contact with them.



Warp Birds: Strange creatures found only in the Silly Race, if these hit you they will warp your marble a small distance, possibly beneficial, possibly detrimental.


Conclusion:

Marble Madness is certainly one of the oddities of the classic gaming world. And in being this way, one can't help but be attracted to its quixotic offerings. It is a demanding but lovable piece of programming that truly deserves a place in this here blog; one that has forever rolled its way into our hearts.

~ Stephanie & Richard

* Sub Zero's freeze and shatter fatality not withstanding, because Mortal Kombat should probably not be used to formulate a medical hypothesis about anything.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cell Gallery Update!

We just updated our collection of cels and sketches in our gallery! As usual I'm just going to post a few highlights;

Buyo from Inuyasha:

I bought this for Jen as an end of semester present. She's not actually to the end of the semester yet, but I gave it to her early as she needed a pick me up. I'll be putting it in her gallery at some point, but I thought it was too good not to put in ours as well.

A very smug faced Usagi from Sailor Moon:

We just couldn't resist Usagi's fantastic facial expression here.

And what we're most excited about, a new section for art from CLAMP's Clover music video:
We've been hoping to see art from this as soon as we saw the video years ago. We feel so lucky to have gotten beautiful sketches and backgrounds. The background and sketch sets were certainly our rarest and most important purchase this year. We're still squeeing with joy over them.

~Stephanie

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December Coupon Codes!

(sorry for the deluge of sales related stuff lately, but I want to see this stuff move)

If you use coupon code : BigSale in my bonanazle booth, you'll get a HUGE 40% off until monday only! There are some super great prices to be had. So head on over and get yourself some good deals! Many of these items would make great Christmas gifts!


I really want to clear a lot of the older stock out and get my booth in sync with our main store, which is the reason for the huge discount! However, if you're looking for a lot more variety, The main store has twice as many items and you can use coupon code decembergifts to get 15% off there this month. So If you're looking for rarer items and greater variety you should head there. You can mix and match though. If you make an order through both selling venues for different items you can use both coupon codes and I'll combine the shipping costs!* So you could save a huge amount!

~Stephanie

* If you choose to order from both stores you'd have to pay the full shipping cost quoted by bisi, but bonanazle orders have to be hand approved before being charged so I'd adjust the shipping via that invoice to get you the best possible rate!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Retro Review Tuesday: Vegas Stakes

Introduction

Nintendo is a company that never ceases to surprise us. Amidst all the Mario, Zelda, what have you, you forget that they do indeed have other great games. And one of those other titles would be Vegas Stakes. Perhaps you're not in the mood to save this princess, or that one. Perhaps you just want to tell both of them to figure it the hell out, and relax over in ol' Vegas, trying your luck on Poker, Roulette, Craps, Blackjack, and of course, the Slots. A real "just sit down and play" kind of game, Vegas Stakes offers the fun and interaction that [their interpretation of] Las Vegas has to offer. Place a bet, buy a lottery ticket, insert a coin, get your pocket picked, do it all in this very fun, classic gambling simulation.


Overview



The premise for Vegas stakes is five friends headed out together on a long planned trip Vegas. The main character is whatever you put your name in is , we played as Mr. Cooteller (No I don't why we named ourselves that either). I'm not sure of the motivations of your friends, but your completely reasonable and rational goal is to turn your 1 thousand dollars in to 10 million dollars before leaving Vegas. The game doesn't end until you hit that goal or spend every last dime trying.



Controls are very simple. This is one of the few games that supports the SNES mouse and obviously we all know how to use a mouse. If you use a control it's not much different as you only use 3 buttons anyway. They're responsive enough, though it honestly doesn't matter much as it's not an action oriented game.



Graphically it's pretty dated. The graphics aren't bad, but they reek of the early 90's limited Palette VGA "realism" graphics that are more commonly seen in PC games of the era. They were mind blowingly realistic at the time, but not so pretty by today's standards. However this game does feature some of the best facial expressions on NPcs in any game ever. Johnny's smile is my personal favorite.


Soundwise it's memorable if not a bit repetitive. Each Casino has it's own theme song that you'll constantly be hearing in the background. the songs correspond to theme of each casino IE the Buffalo head has a western song playing and the Laurel Palace has a generic "classical piece". In my opinion the best music is easily the electronica in the 2020, though I'm rather fond of Laurel Palace's music as well. Though regardless of which music you personally prefer, it is probably going to get annoying after awhile as it will play no matter what game you're playing and there's no way to turn it off.

Gameplay

You start off in the car with your friends all having a conversation about how excited they all are to be going to Vegas. Once you make it to the hotel you put in whatever name you choose and head up to your hotel room. From the room you can choose one of your friends, Cliff, Maria, Isabelle, or Richard to go out gambling with. We always choose Richard because he's so cute and non-threatening. Whomever you choose will give you info about the locations and games.When you want to take a break from gambling or just get tired of looking at whomever you've gone out with you can head back to the hotel room. Here you can save your progress and choose a new firend to go out with. Once you're prepared to hit the strip, you get 4 Casinos to choose from each with their own theming and table limits.


The Hideway: The Casino equivalent of a dive bar. This is the cheapest Casino you'll find with $1 minimums and $50 maximums. You won't lose a lot , but you won't make a lot. This is probably only a good bet if you've spent almost all your cash elsewhere.

The Golden Paradise: Your standard generic looking casino. This is the Casino your hotel is in and the one you start off in. It's right in the middle, not to high and not to low. Table minimums at $20 and the maximum $250. Definitely a good starting point to amass your vast fortune.

The Buffalo Head: The wild west, Vegas style! It's another middle of the road casino, with slightly higher minimums at $50 and Maximums at $500. Another good spot to start off amassing your fortune.

The 2020: Futuristic post apocalyptic sci-fi gambling. This is the last casino you can visit before reaching your high roller status. The table minimums start at $100 and go to $1000. This is probably going to be where you're going to make it to high roller status, but you're going to want to avoid it until you've got a good cash cushion built up or you'll eat through your cash in short order.

Once you've effectively gambled your way to $100,000 you're elevated to High Roller Status and you'll get new swanky hotel room and you gain access to the Laurel Palace.

The Laurel Palace: The creme de le creme of casinos with ornate detailing including marble statues on the slots. Even though you can gamble here as soon as you've reached $100k, it's a better idea to wait until you're at around half a million as the minimum starts at $1,000 and have no limit. It's very easy to blow through money here, but when you hit you hit it big. Once you're at a million or better you'll probably be constantly playing here if you want to make any real headway towards your $10 million goal.

Of course you don't make money just hanging out in Casinos so you've got your choice of 5 games which you can use to make your fortune.

Black Jack: Your standard rules game of 21. Beat the dealers hand or get 21 to win. You won't make a lot of money playing BJ, but your odds are pretty good.

Slots: You choose from 1 of 4 bet denominations. Depending on the Casino you get different machine style and a different choice of limits. Slots are probably the quickest and easiest means of making money also the easiest means of losing. Slots require no skills or planning just a lot of good luck.

Roulette: Another luck game. Bet on your lucky number and hope for the best. You can get the odds for each bet from whichever friend you've decided to go with.


Craps: A game of odds. Mostly toss the dice and hope for good luck. But there's a good amount of skill involved in knowing and playing the odds in your favor.

Poker: 7-Card Stud. The Most Complex game. You play with 4 other people random selected from the pool of 8 NPCs + 3 of your 4 friends (you can't play with whomever is with you) for total 11 potential players. Each NPC has their own unique playing style, bluffing style and tells. It takes a good amount of skill, research and luck to be successful. This is the most engaging and interesting game because of the other players and complexity of the game itself.

As if playing exciting Vegas games on your SNES isn't enough there are several random interactions with NPCs that happen while you're playing your games. In every case an NPC who magically knows your name will approach you and ask for something or offer something. Sometimes these are very good for you, sometimes they're very bad and sometimes they do a whole lot of nothing. They are however some of the most memorable and interesting parts of the game.

The Diamond: Occasionally someone will approach in need of money and asks if you're interested in purchasing a diamond appraised at $5000. You can make an offer for it, the lowest we've gotten someone to accept is $700. You can have one of two outcomes: The diamond is fake. After you've bought the diamond someone else will come along and offer you $100 for the diamond and tell you you've been conned. This is what happens roughly 9 times out of 10. The second, the diamond is real and someone will offer you $10,000 for it. In spite of the potentially high pay off this is probably a interaction best avoided.

The Watch: Someone will come along saying they need money for cab fare and asks if you'll spare $200 for a watch. As far we've seen this is always a safe bet. After purchasing it someone will come along and offer you between $400 and 1000 for it.

Sick Child: Someone will come along and ask you to help them paying for their sick child's bills. There are two outcomes, it's a con or it's legit. when it's a con right after you've given the money a police officer will approach you to tell you about a scam happening. If it's legitimate you'll get $200 back. It's only $100 so it's probably not going to hurt you unless you're just starting out, but the return isn't really great either. It's probably just best to say no unless you can't live with the guilt of not helping a child in need.

Oil Well: You'll be approached and asked if you're interested in investing in an oil well and you'll get double you investment. It starts off at $5000, but you can haggle it down to $3000. However, if you strike oil you still only get double back so you invest less, you get less. You can also strike water in which case you obviously lose your investment. It seems to be roughly 50/50 odds.

Lottery ticket: Someone will come up to you and ask if you're interested in buying a a lottery ticket for $500 that was a potential $10,000 payoff. Odds seems to be pretty good for this one, it's generally worth going for unless you're really strapped for cash. Sometimes when someone asks to wipe a spot on your shirt they'll give you a lottery ticket which will always win. The catch to this is they could be a pick pocket or they could do nothing.

Sports bet: Sometimes the person your with will say they're headed off to make a sports bet and ask if you're interested in making a $500 bet. If you win you double your bet. Odds seem completely random.

Check your meter: This only happens while playing slots, occasionally a casino worker will come by and ask if they can check your meter. You can send them away, but if you let them do their thing you'll get a free max bet pull on your slot machine.

Remembering the face: Someone will come up and ask if you remember them. Always say yes even if you've never seen them before that moment as they'll always give you what you for "being so nice" to them.

Returning the wallet: Whomever you're with will occasionally tell you that they found a wallet with cash and asks if you should keep it or return it. I suggest returning it not only because it's ethical, but because it can lead to a payoff much greater than whatever was in the wallet. Occasionally you'll get nothing, but it's a safe gamble given you're not out anything.

In a class of their own are the loads of Pickpocketing scams. They include: twisted ankles, bad luck and a spot on your shirt. While the claim changes from incident to incident, in each of these cases the perpetrator will come up to you and ask for something that requires them to get close to you. Most of the time they'll be walking away with half you current cash if you decide to aid them. Sometimes however, they'll be legitimate and will reward you handsomely for your help. Depending on how much cash you're currently carrying around really depends on whether or not you want to chance them.

Overall you just keep casino hopping, playing the games and dodging the scams until you hit 10million. It's actually quite engaging and entertaining.



Conclusion


Vegas Stakes is so much more than your standard gambling game. Sure all the games are there and you are in Vegas after all, but it's the interaction of that sets things apart. Maybe modern gambling games include pickpocketing scams and intelligent unique poker players, but this was revolutionary for the time period and has managed to stand the test of time admirably. I haven't noticed any real decrease in fun factor from playing Vegas Stakes years ago until now. I'm still just as happy to spend a lazy afternoon of gambling, scams and quick money.

~Stephanie

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cyber Monday Discount in Our Shop

So I know that I said I'd avoid all sales related stuff during the remainder of Nablowrimo, but it's Cyber Monday so I can't avoid it, sorry for all the shameless self promotion NaBlo people!

I'm offering a special discount (as I worked into my last post) So if you go shopping in my store
today you'll get $5 OFF any order over $20! We've got several fun items under $5 so it's like getting a free item!

Just use specail code: Cyber to get your discount, it's only good for today though, so don't miss it!

We've added some rare new items in perfect gift/collector condition as well so there's lots of new stuff perfect for spending your discount on!

First up if you're a sailor moon fan (or just shopping for one) there's the hard to find Sailor Pluto Beauty Change Doll:

Beautiful doll straight from our private collection in great collector or gift giving condition! We've got lots of other dolls too, so check out the dolls section for others if pluto's not your cup of tea.

Next for your favorite anime and game fan there's this beautiful cel of Chun-Li from the Street Fighter Alpha/Zero animated film:


This is an absolutely gorgeous hand painted cel. It was actually used in the production of the film! You can own the same frame you see on screen! We've got several one of a kind production cels and sketches available so if you're looking for a unique gift idea and aren't much of a street fighter fan check out our art section.

For the vintage video game fan on your list there's this awesome Mario and Zelda combination Lunch Box:

I use a box like this to get all our postal receipts in. :) I also used one as a purse at geek prom and got a ton of postive comments about it. It would make a really fun gift for a retro gamer and it's currently on sale for $25 so if you buy it today it's only $20! We've got loads of old and new video game memorabilia so if a lunch box isn't your cup of tea you're sure to find something else you'll like.

For your favorite Sci-Fi fan we've got a huge collection of 40 Star Wars miniatures:

These are new and sealed and make a perfect Starwars tabletop RPG starter set as it comes with the books and maps. It's only $25 or $20 ($0.50 cents a figure!) if you buy it today with coupon! Though even if you're not a RPG palyer they make excellent display pieces, we'd know as that's what we do with ours. :)

If none of that stuff tickles your fancy be sure to come take look anyway, we've got 100's of fun items available and some smaller items that would make excellent geeky stocking stuffers that would end up being free today with the purchase of a larger item with coupon!

If you don't see anything you like, but know someone else who might like something please pass the word on to them. We'd like to see as many people as possible benefit from the today's coupon!

~Stephanie

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Collection picture spam!

I've been way off task lately because of all sorts of serious business taking place. Today would be no exception as I've been working all day to get the store fully stocked and things prepped for cyber Monday tomorrow (Psst the coupon code is Cyber and it will get you $5 off a purchase of a purchase of $20 or more!) So instead throwing up another whine, whine, whine, I'm too busy to write a blog post type of thing, I thought I'd spam with some collection picture instead. These are broing collction pictures though, just dvds and video games, not much in the way of fun toys and figures. (which is the sort of suff I like seeing/talking about more) It does give you a bit more of an idea of the scope of our collections and a very good idea as to why we know so much about our store stock.

First off our dvd and game shelves note that each shelf holds 200 items roughly and that we still couldn't make it all fit properly.

We;ve actually changed our set-up a bit now and there are even more games now, though there's less spillover at the tops and under the shelves.

More games, older games this time:

Once again our setup has changed from when I took that picture. Our trophy figures are still out, but the 8-bit bottlecaps are elsewhere and the games in that shelving has changed drastically.

That's about half our game collection maybe when I've got more time, I'll take shots of our PC collection, all our strat guides, and some update shots of the shelvses. Totally exciting stuff right?

~Stephanie

Saturday, November 28, 2009

NaBloWriMo 28

I almost missed today which would have totally bummed me out as I've only got one day left to go before I successfully finish nablowrimo this year.

I haven't got much to say today because I was gone the entire day and I've got mere moments before it's tomorrow.

Exciting developments to come soon!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black friday

So I totally lied, I still haven't had time to be on task. It's amazing how busy we've been lately. we didn't go out and snag and black Friday deals today other than a couple of pizzas that were marked down from $8 each to $2. None of the electronics deals were good enough to brace the crowds. Though my brother did take advantage of the threadless $9 sale and bought me three early christmas presents.

The Ultimate Combo - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever
Magic Mushrooms - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever
A Simple Plan - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

It kind of sucks the I know what I'm egtting for presents, but they're awesome and cheap and nerdy. I am excited.

~Stephanie

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone had a fantastic thanksgiving. We spent the day with my family and had a fairly good time. Since I was out for most of the day, I really don't have a lot to say, but tomorrow I should have something fun and on task. For today, I'm just going to relax and hope everyone else does the same.

~Stephanie

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

So I may have lied...

...When I said I was going o finish adding screenshots to my review today. We had an early thanksgiving today and I ended up cooking, eating and being upset that I ate so much for most of the day. It was a good day, but bad for productivity.

Tomorrow will be out of town spending thanksgiving with my family and returning with my brother which promises all sorts of impending geekery.

Only 5 more NaBlo entries left...

~Stephanie

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Retro Review Tuesday: Mario's Picross

So lately I've been playing a lot of Picross on the DS and it made me reflect on it's predecessor which is why I decide to do this review this week.

Introduction
Mario's picross is really a hidden gem, it's seen as cult favorite, but it wasn't received well in the US when it came out. Which is really a shame as it's one of the most fun hand held puzzle games to grace the gameboy. For me it's really right up there with Tetris, I could easily pick it up and play it just about anytime.


Overview

Like most puzzle games the plot line is a bit thin, Mario is an archaeologist who's searching for the pictographs by slowly chiseling away at stone to reveal the pictures. It's simply a series of nonogram (logic puzzles involving a grid with numbers for every row and column), with loose mario theming.

Controls are simple it's a gameboy game so there's not much to worry about. You chisel stones by pressing A, you make an X were you shouldn't chisel by pressing B and you move around the grid with the D pad.



Graphically it's fairly nice for an original gameboy game from 1995. Though most of what you see graphically are borders and menus screens as the bulk of the game is the graphs you fill in. It's worth mentioning that I took screenshots via an emulated super gameboy so it's in color, but if you'd played it in a normal gameboy it obviously wouldn't be.


Musically, it's so-so. Like many puzzle games you get a section of background tracks to choose from. They're likable enough and make for fine puzzle completion music, but none of them are as noteworthy or interesting as those found in games like Dr. Mario or Tetris. The sounds themesleves are pretty sparse, but serviceable.

Gameplay



The game divides puzzles into 4 categories, Easy, Kinoko, Star, and Time Trial. Each category consists of 64 puzzles. The puzzles start at 5x5 grids and moves up to 15x15 grids. The puzzles increase in complexity as you move forward.


All you have to do is match the numbers on the grid to corresponding points in the puzzle and chisel out a spot when you find it. It's one of those cases where anyone can learn how to do it, but it hard to master. If you try to chisel a spot where there should be a space you get a time penalty, the penalty goes up depending on how many wrong answers you get. The first wrong answer is -2 minutes, the second is -4 minutes etc. with a max of an 8 minute penalty per mistake. You only have 30 minutes to do these puzzles in so getting a lot of silly mistakes can end your game quite quickly.You also get the option to take a hint in the beginning which will fill both a horizontal and and vertical line correctly this doesn't dock tine and is extremely useful in the larger more difficult puzzles. If you get stuck you can strategically "try out" a spot (preferably one that will help guide you to plot multiple points) you run the risk of losing time, but it often quicker than several rounds of endless speculation in tough spot.

You can start off in either easy picross or just picross where you can select the first normal class, Kinoko (the Japanese word for mushroom). The easy picross puzzles are as you would expect, quite easy. They do move up to 15 x 15 grids, but aren't very complex. The Kinoko puzzles are all a 15x15 grid and are much more complex than the easy puzzles. After completing all 64 of the Kinoko puzzles you'll unlock the Star catergory which has even more complex puzzles.

The first three classes, Easy, kinoko and Star all work in the way described above. The time trial class however, works differently. First you have to have sucessfully completed all 192 of the previous puzzles before you can unlock it. Second, there isn't a time limit, the time just counts up as you work towards completion. The final difference is, you are not told when you make a wrong answer, this may seem nice at first as you don't have to worry about losing, but is actually quite a challenge. If you make a mistake you usually won't know until after it's potentially ruined your entire puzzle.

Overall it's a lot more addicting that it sounds via descriptions and with a total of 256 puzzles you'll have hours of fun with it. Even after you've managed to beat them all, you time totals are stored so you an always try to get better and better times, in time trial mode you can even enter your intials for prosterity.


Conclusion

As I said earlier this one of those games that's easy to learn, but takes a long time to master. It's easy to pick up and play, but you can easily spend hours with it. The logic is easy enough for a child to follow but more than complex enough to keep an adult entertained for hours. If your a fan of games that make you think, puzzles and logic, this is a perfect game for you.

~Stephanie

Monday, November 23, 2009

NaBloWriMo 23

I can't believe I've already managed to do 23 days (though I have had help) It's been a lot harder than I initially expected it to be and I really thought about giving up several times

Unfortunately I've got nothing interesting to say today. I'm still fighting off a really nasty cold so I'm really behind on accomplishing most tasks. We've got a house guest right now too, that's kind of screwing with the household dynamic and thus my productivity levels. OK, so maybe it's not hard to screw with my productivity levels, but I actually do like feeling productive.

However, I don't see my productivity levels rising anytime in the near future, my cold is going to stick around for a while still and we've got two thanksgiving gatherings to attend and my brother is coming for a visit. So all in all it looks to be a very busy week and busy usually is bad for getting anything done you actually want to get done.

So that's my really really boring entry for the day. But at least I managed to add another day on to my NaBloWriMo count only 7 more to go. Honestly, I've had fun with it, but I'll be glad when it's all over with. I don't mind the excuse to write some of the on task entries I've been meaning to do, but when I'm too bust to do anything other than ramble about nothing I think it's best they stay unwritten.

~Stephanie

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sometimes you're know you're crazy.

There are a variety of reasons that I'm totally crazy. I mean how many others would devote so much of their time and money to do some of the stupid crazy stuff we do? Case in point being our large and silly collection of vintage Nintendo stuff. I mean I know I'm not the only one who collects that stuff, but I have to think I'd be the only one really excited about some of the really odd ball stuff. Like for example this Zelda Trash Can that recently went across eBay.


Now I really, really really wanted that trash can I wanted it so much I bid $30 not including the $10 shipping fee, for it. In my mind that was way higher than I probably should have bid considering I'm pretty much tapped out at the moment, but still was enough that I thought it was secure victory. If I had won it I was going to declare it an early christmas present from Jen. However when I came home from running errands that day it ended and saw that I lost, I was of course disappointed, and expected I'd probably lsot by $0.50 or so like usual but, no Someone was not only crazier than me they were twice as crazy as I was and it ended at over $60 not including the shipping. Someboday paid $70 ($72.09 to be completely accurate) to own a small metal trash can. First I thought, well they sure are crazy, I wouldn't pay that much. Then reality hit me, I wouldn't pay that much because I couldn't afford that much. If I had the money I'd totally be bragging about my $70 small metal trash can right now.

See, totally crazy.

~Stephanie

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Acklay and Final Fantasy XII Mantis sepearted at birth?

While going through some Star Wars tabletop miniatures we noticed we had quite a number of Acklay figures:

I only vaguely remember seeing this creature in episode 2, I know where and when it appears, but you don't see it for too long. However when examining the figures, I noticed it looks remarkably like the Mantis monsters in Final Fantasy XII. I probably wouldn't have noticed except for that awful mission where you have to fight hordes of them. But other than the color difference they sure do look like siblings:


It really makes me wonder where that intial design came from. Did the FF team copy the Lucas creatures, did they both get it from some other pre-exsisting fantasty creature or is it a coincidence? Just something to ponder on a Saturday night.

~Stephanie

Friday, November 20, 2009

Collection update: Here be Dragons

We just updated our cel gallery recently with more than just cels. A few months ago we managed to get some awesome concept drawings of a dragon. They were apparently supposed to be for a Las Vega theme park that never got off the drawing board.These are Cool dragons on their own, but to make things better they were drawn by Jeff Dee who is a fantasy artist best known for his contributions to Dungeons and Dragons books and modules. GEEK SCORE! So we thought we'd share them here as well:


A great shot of the dragon sleeping on his treasure pile.
The Dragon breathing fire well more likely smoke given that it was supposed to be a theme park and you probably wouldn't want to start your guests on fire.

We added other geeky stuff to the gallery as well.... Our My Little Pony additions spring to mind. So go check out our gallery if you're interested in that sort of stuff.

~Stephanie

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Silent Hill - Alessa comes to Animal Crossing

Sometimes something already geeky, like being an adult playing animal crossing, needs something a little geekier. So borne out of discussion about one of the standard game wall papers, I got the idea to make a Silent Hill themed floor of my animal crossing house. It was honestly half hearted and while eerie, it wasn't quite there. My brother decided he could do a better job. The following are the fruits of his labours...

~

So...a long time in the making, this was an idea that spanned off of mainly impulse...it all started back when I was visiting my sister's house a few months ago...she looked at a "Shanty Wall" in Animal Crossing and said something like "My God, does that ever look Silent-Hilly." So she found a scary looking floor (Incidentally, the "Shanty Flooring") and filled her upstairs with all sorts of creepy looking items, such as strange pottery, eerie hospital equipment, and a haunting audio track. It was a nice try, did look rather depressing, but it still looked too bright. I thought I could do better, making my own designs. Using my own Wii which was with me, I made my first attempt at a custom Silent Hill flooring. And the rest is history.

So without further ado - The Animal Crossing Silent Hill House



MAIN FLOOR: The main floor's theme was originally going to be just random scary stuff that reminded us of Silent Hill. But I then decided that I would base it on the School area of Silent Hill. However, since I couldn't find the floor and what not that I wanted, I lost interest for a while...but upon finding some very nice school equipment, my interest was revitalized and I set out to make the best damn Midwich Elementary School replica Animal Crossing would allow.

-Normal-

Angle 1:

Angle 2:

Angle 3:


Although the Library Wall doesn't make a whole lot of sense, it's still pretty eerie which I decided was a fair trade. I used to have Birch Flooring on the ground but decided to go with Common Flooring after I found a new use for the Birch. I was pleased to have found those desks and chairs, and was happy to finally acquire the large Chalk Board as it is a two-piece item that "snaps" together. The Easel by the chalk board is based on a design I got from Wendell (the notepad design) and I added the faint "letters."

-Reverse Side-

Angle 1:

Angle 2:

Angle 3:


It's been suggested that I should leave the school floor for last as it really is my most impressive floor. But I'm trying to do it in a certain order, but yes...I really did kick this one's ass. I'm especially proud of the Halo of the Sun over there (The save point in Silent Hill 3). The floor was the very first custom design I made for the house, and the walls are the Third. I was very proud of those as well.

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UPPER FLOOR: The upper floor's original theme was scrapped as it just didn't work well with the small size and windows, so I reluctantly moved that theme down to the basement and turned this into my rendition Alessa's childhood bedroom. I also made a reverse version although it seems a little wrong since there isn't normally one in the game but I really wanted to use the reverse floor/wall scheme that I did, so I decided to do it.

-Normal-

Angle 1:

Angle 2:


There weren't many distinctive features I could add here, so I just tried to make a nice, eerie bedroom. I did however make that design of a child's rendition of butterflies as it is pretty important to that theme. Sometimes I switch that design out for Alessa's dress pattern since my designs are always full. You can't really tell but there's also a grandfather clock in there for basic eeriness. Additionally, this is where I decided to put the birch flooring

-Reverse Side-

Angle 1:


Angle 2:


I really wanted to use this surrounding scheme for something, so I decided to just use it for this, although the bedroom shouldn't have a reverse side. I also thought it would be creepier (and also much easier) if all the items stayed unchanged despite the [dare I say horrific?] change of the surroundings. Here, I'm using the second design I made for the house, which was originally meant to be a wall. There are two angles and forms - one showing the original design (angle 2), and one showing what it looks like, placed and rotated (angle 1) which is how I usually set it.

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BASEMENT: I just got the basement for the house today and went straight to work on it at starting at 6 AM. I originally just wanted random scary, chain-linky, basement stuff in there like you'd see in Silent Hill but I had to put the bed/bench down there for the Hospital theme as it wouldn't be very right not to include it. So I just mixed the themes together to make Alessa's hospital room. I suppose it's sort of appropriate to put it down there. This room is always on the reverse side.

Angle 1:

Angle 2:

Angle 3:

Angle 4:


The basement was a hard sell for me but I think I finally got it to where I'm okay with it. There are about 10 stoves down there which are meant to resemble boilers, as you see plenty of boiler-like objects in the game. I'm using a Lab Bench and Amazing Machine it resemble Alessa's hospital bed and the nearby machinery. I can't tell you how proud I am of that wall. It took a long time to make and remake several times, but it was so worth it, definitely the best piece of design work I've done to date. I was going to make the floor down there the same but it seemed a bit repetitive, in the sense that the upper floor also had alike flooring and walls.

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House Exterior:


I liked this better when it was smaller, but I still rather like the outside...I'm especially proud of the seal of Medatron, I wish I had found more things to do with it inside the house.
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Regarding Alessa...

You'll notice she's wearing a different outfit in the first few images and outside of the house. You see, I made that school-girl dress for her to resemble her clothes from the game, but because all of my design space was used up before then, I really couldn't let her wear it. So in the images where she's not I gave her a mummy shirt, as a way to make her look bandaged, which is also appropriate. When she's wearing the school dress, I traded it the butterfly drawing for it at the Able Sisters, so the easel upstairs would have actually had the dress pattern on it at the time...

Other Info: Some down sides to this would be the lack of design storage, for one, as far as what you can use at one time, which is limited to eight designs. Another would be that although the flooring LOOKS metal, when walked on it still makes the sound of ceramic tiling. That's a bummer. Also the windows have the tendency to ruin the effect of the house, so it's nice that the basement had none.

One thing it was suggested I do would be to get an animal's key and keep it for myself to leave it in the house to be ever closer to the game. If an animal I don't like loses their key, I will certainly do this.

I use a musical track in the Reverse version of the rooms and the basement. It is the same track my sister used for her original attempt at the Silent Hill theme many months ago, and it is called "K.K. Dirge." It's a rather eerie tune, and is especially good at the end of its loop when you hear two loud, intimidating pounding noises. For effect it also has a skipping-record sound when it plays the first, lengthy, unsettling note. The main theme is a bit hokey for Silent Hill but I think having the track helps the rooms as a whole.


So yes...that's the Silent Hill House. It took a couple of months to make, what with the scrounging for appropriate items, and of course paying off the dreadful loans towards expansion. All of the custom designs were created by myself. My older sister Steph can also be credited for funding a lot of the project. I am very proud of it, and I know it makes me a new breed of mega-dork. If there are any questions, I will happily answer them. I'd explain everything in detail here but this journal is pretty damn long as it is. If the public interest is there, I'll make another journal showing off alternate design schemes/layouts for the rooms in the future.

Thank you for looking, I hope you've enjoyed it. I know I did.

~R.M.

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