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I've got more than a few reviews in my queue, photos to process, and grand dreams to finish.  I actually checked off a step in the latter category, making my first playable Android game.  (It was for an online course, but I'll put the apk & code up for others to poke at once the assignment is marked.)

Speaking of Android games, though, it's occurred to me that although I play games pretty frequently, I don't talk about them much here. So here's part 1 in a series of "what I've been playing lately" :

Marvel Puzzle Quest
Marvel puzzle quest

Puzzle quest was one of my favourite games for the Nintendo DS.  I played not only puzzle quest, but also puzzle quest 2 and the hexagonal Galactrix all through to the end, which is spectacular given how few games I have time to finish.  (Although to be fair, DS games are shorter so I tend to finish them more often).  It blends a simple RPG with a fight system based around the match-3 mechanic (aka Bejewelled) and makes it work.  You have characters with different powers that are fueled by the colours you match off the game board, and beyond the match-3 strategy, there's some further thinking you can do in producing combos with different character powers, and making good use of one-game powerups that you get occasionally.

Marvel Puzzle Quest is exactly what you'd expect from the name alone: same gameplay, now with snarky comments from Marvel characters between games.  That's pretty much the sequel I never knew to want!

The base game is free, but like many such games you can pay for upgrades to do things like level faster or buy extra character slots.  You do acquire the same types of points within the game, so there's no need to pay if you're patient and willing to blitz your way through the odd tournament or event.  I don't really see the point in paying to go through the game faster, but it is really quite nice to have a few extra character slots.  It has optional Facebook integration, which periodically allows you to send random in-game items to your facebook friends.  I don't have many facebook friends playing, alas, but I do send stuff to John, and I'd be happy to send stuff to other folk!

I have only 2 complaints: 
1. It requires you to be online, so no playing when you have no data (this was very sad when I was on the airplane and would have loved to get my puzzle quest fix!).
2. It's *very* big and thus didn't fit on my sister's older phone, which is very sad 'cause I totally wanted to send her in-game items!

I've been playing this game in frequent little spurts since November or so, and I expect I'll be playing it for quite some time to come, since I'm enjoying getting new characters and learning to combine their various skills.  It's a few minutes per match, so perfect for train rides and waiting for my toast to pop in the morning.

Link: Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign

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When we were playing Kinect games at Dan's on Saturday, a few of us got into a conversation about what other genres of Kinect game we thought would be cool, and we came up with this idea for Kinect Conductor, the symphony conducting game.




I was reminded of this idea when I saw this video promo involving paint, speakers, and a conductor. (More behind the scenes pictures and even a link to the 3d version here). And now I've spent a bit of time this afternoon contemplating what exactly the Kinect Conductor game would be like.

Brainstorming ideas from the weekend and from while I was making lunch today:

Basic Gameplay

  • You'd have to learn the basic conducting patterns: 4/4, cut time, 3/4, 6/8, etc. and keep them up/change when necessary
  • Gameplay could include giving cues to various sections (in real life musicians will often be fine without cues, but in game maybe we'd make them more reliant upon you? Or with a % chance to fail if the conducting isn't great?)
  • Will the game speed up/slow down the music with you, or will you have to keep up with a runaway orchestra? Both modes might be interesting for game play (and both happen sometimes if you conduct...)


Celebrity conducting gigs

  • Celebrity symphony orchestras? I'd love to conduct the Boston Pops, or my local NACO... (And, ok, I admit it, I'd love to have real symphony orchestras getting bonus income from video games!)
  • Mickey Mouse mode, where instead of seeing a symphony you get to do something like Mickey in Fantasia with stars and waves and awesomeness. Like those paint-covered speakers in the image above, maybe? Might be too trippy, but fun?
  • Speaking of cartoons... what about conducting to match other famous ones, like the Bugs Bunny/Barber of Seville one?
  • Or what about musicals? Famous movie-musicals?


Advanced Modes

  • Will you get a full score with actual sheet music on screen? Maybe a simplified one? Is real sheet music too hard to use or is it enough to get the shape of things even for those who can't read music? (I think it's doable, but I've got a lot of musical training, including conducting.) Would full sheet music be "expert" mode? Would full sheet music even be legible on a TV screen?
  • Will you have to turn the sheet music yourself? Again, could be a different game mode/advanced mode like racing games that sometimes force you to shift a manual transmission and sometimes go all auto.
  • Soloist game mode, where the conductor has to follow a soloist who may interpret the piece in a different way on different run-throughs? Hard for people who are only really good at pattern repetition and not improvisation and adaptation, but probably more reasonable.
  • Actually, I wonder if you could work improvisation into some sort of disaster recovery mode for the main game? Some conductors are amazing at skipping a beat and grabbing us again if necessary.
  • Stage musical game mode, where the conductor needs to learn when to cue music into a scene and needs to learn to repeat sections if something happens on stage and the scene goes too long?


I'm much too excited about this and kinda want to try some kinect hacking, since it seems doable if I set up a little midi orchestra to make some music... but I don't really have time, so I'm braindumping it for now and hoping that'll help me clear the fixation and get back to my day job.

But I kinda wish I could just put this in the xbox downstairs and play now!

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