Xmas eXcavation – a game for Christmas

game screenshot

Xmas eXcavation

A merry Christmas to all, and to all a good 2018.

In celebration, and to give everyone a fun, indoor activity away from the cold, I present Xmas eXcavation (click to play).

The game will be familiar to any Minesweeper players, but with one key difference: you’re trying to locate and uncover presents hidden under the snow, while avoiding the dirty lumps of coal. Double click (or tap) to uncover a patch of snow. Single click to mark a suspected piece of coal. Good luck!
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Multiple Puzzle Solutions in The Witness

The Witness

Perspective tricks are all over The Witness

The Witness is a computer puzzle game from 2016. It’s great to look at, with challenging but satisfying puzzles and a few moments of genius.

Despite its high points, it has to be said that I was massively underwhelmed by the game overall and bored before I reached the end. The attempts to make the game deep by throwing in an assortment of philosophical sound and video recordings sits somewhere between lazy and insulting. Wired have already done an excellent dissection job, though I would choose the adjective “hollow” to describe the experience of playing The Witness, rather than “empty”.

The distinction is subtle, but the game really does look great on the surface. Its desert island setting is covered with perspective tricks and puzzles requiring you to be standing in just the right place so you can trace paths between separate buildings or across vast landscapes. The design of the puzzles in general is great, with LOTS of them, and a minority that are pure frustration. It’s a worthwhile reward at the centre of it all that’s missing, and the game falsely implies you’re going to receive one with its enigmatic wrapping suggesting questions to be answered come the end. Instead, the only reward for solving puzzles are more pretty graphics and more puzzles.

But if you want a challenge, I’d still recommend picking up a copy of the game. Just don’t expect to find meaning, or plot, or satisfying conclusions in it. Most importantly, if you get bored, walk away and come back when you feel in the mood again. Pushing through the game because you’re expecting something to happen rather than because you’re enjoying solving the puzzles will just suck the joy out of the experience.
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Agent A: A Puzzle In Disguise

Agent A

Ruby La Rouge’s cat meets Agent A

Agent A is your typical point-and-click / escape room adventure game. It’s lifted above the average by nice graphics and a great selection of puzzles with few moments of frustration or tedium.

The basic plot is that Ruby La Rouge, an enemy spy with an awful accent, has killed your boss and several of your fellow Agents. You’re Agent A, the best in the business, and it’s up to you to confront Ruby in her hideaway. No sooner have you found your way through the front door, then Ruby turns the tables and traps you inside with her vicious cat.

What follows is a short but charming homage to spy films as you crack safes, reveal secret rooms hidden behind bookcases, and put oversized precious jewels to good uses.
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The Room and Other Computer Game Puzzles

room logo

The Room

The Room came out back in 2012 and won enough awards to get its own Wikipedia page. I decided to give it a whirl to see what the fuss was about. It can be picked up cheaply as a mobile game, or for a few pounds on Steam in a revamped desktop incarnation.

It’s a short game, possible to complete in an evening. It’s also easy to see why it’s popular as it’s beautifully presented, accessible and contains nothing taxing enough to cause severe frustration.

But all the way through I spent more time thinking about other games, and the numerous problems with computer puzzle games as a genre. Problems that have rarely been solved.

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Having fun with Pokemon Go

pokemon go logo

Pokemon Go

It’s difficult to justify writing a blog about treasure hunting without mentioning the biggest treasure hunt of the last 12 months: hunting Pokemon with Pokemon Go. You gotta catch ’em all!

For some, catching Pokemon is an obsession. Others dimiss the game as childish nonsense. As usual, the best option in life is to find a happy medium between two extremes. It’s a digital treasure hunt, not something to get worked up over, and hunting Pokemon can be a lot of fun.

This post is about finding the fun in Pokemon Go if throwing red balls at weird Japanese monsters isn’t your cup of tea.

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The Bus Game

Bus Board Game

The Bus Game final prototype

The Bus Game is a children’s board game of my own design.

My other half and I made a prototype (for my nephew’s birthday) by buying bits of wood off the Internet, painting them with acrylics and tester paints intended for when we finally redecorate the bedroom, then spray-varnishing them.

Players try to get the four coloured buses through the village, from one bus depot to another, before bed-time. The game is co-operative so everyone wins or loses together.

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