Cocoto Magic Circus – Nintendo Wii Game Review

Cocoto Magic Circus Title Screen

Cocoto Magic Circus Title Screen

This is the worst game ever. I hate this game! It’s so stupid! – my wife.

Cocoto Magic Circus is a light-gun mini-game shooter released for the Nintendo Wii in 2008. It was developed by Neko Entertainment and published by Conspiracy Entertainment. It follows the same classic formula of many of the light-gun mini-game shooters of the era. The game case boasts, “40 mini-games, each more original than the last!” All of the games are point and shoot with lots of similar patterns strewn throughout all of them making the advertising deceptive at best.

Cocoto Magic Circus was not a new game when it came out on the Nintendo Wii. It debuted on the Playstation 2 where it was played with the GunCon light gun. Since the Nintendo Wii was the ideal console for this type of shooter, it makes sense that Cocoto Magic Circus might be re-released for the system.

Save Fairy from the spiders before she's eaten!

Save Fairy from the spiders before she’s eaten!

The beginning cutscene handily tells the backstory without any words. Four monster-looking friends: Cocoto, Baggy, Neuro, and Shiny, according to the game manual, and their friend Fairy who is a pixie, meet a clown in the woods. He looks creepy as all get-out, but instead of running away they stick around to be friendly with him. The clown kidnaps Fairy, and the others race to help rescue her. Theoretically the objective of the game is to rescue Fairy by shooting her captors in the various mini-games. While some mini-games had us shooting bad guys to keep them away from Fairy, there was no point at the end of any mode of gameplay where Fairy ever regained her freedom that I noticed. The competing monsters would just hop up on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place stands at the end of the game to show how they placed in the Tournament or Duel modes.

This is air hockey... with guns. This shouldn't be a mini-game, but a full featured title.

This is air hockey… with guns. This shouldn’t be a mini-game, but a full featured title.

There are three multiplayer modes: Arcade, Tournament, and Duel. In arcade mode, one or two players play simultaneously and cooperatively until they run out of lives. Lives may be replenished in periodic bonus rounds. Tournament mode is a little bit of a misnomer that actually means hot seat in the case of Cocoto Magic Circus. In tournament mode players pass around one controller and play the mini-games one player at a time competitively. Some mini-games actually lend themselves to this mode of play better, especially for players who are less experienced with aiming a wiimote. This mode allows 2, 3, or 4 players to play. Duel mode allows 2 or 4 players to play competitively and simultaneously for a set number of games.

Try not to shoot Fairy in the face. Oops, instant mini-game over.

Try not to shoot Fairy in the face. Oops, instant mini-game over.

As I alluded earlier, some of the mini-games can be rather frustrating when playing simultaneously with another player. There are a handful of mini-games where all players are aiming at the same target and they only are given one shot to hit it. If all miss, the mini-game is failed. If an opponent hits the target first, the mini-game ends and you won’t get a chance to hit it as well. Then at the end of this short “mini-game,” the player who hit the target is awarded a large number of points for the round and the other players receive nothing. I felt like this happened more frequently than it should have, keeping the game from being well balanced. For this reason I am not sure this game would be very high on my list for Wii games to pull out in a party setting. It seems like the kind of game that is just begging for an argument to break out. My wife argued and screamed about how unfair the game was. I couldn’t understand why the ESRB rated this game for players 10+. There are no unsavory themes that I could find that a 7-year old couldn’t handle. Perhaps the frustration/unfairness issues were a factor?

Cocoto Magic Circus Game Disc

Cocoto Magic Circus Game Disc

Cocoto Magic Circus is a fine game for practicing accuracy with the wiimotes on the Nintendo Wii, but out of all of the similar light-gun games I have played on the Wii, this one is actually my least favorite. It’s just more blah than fun. That combined with the fact that my opponent was yelling at the television the entire time we played made me want to put Cocoto Magic Circus back on the shelf for awhile.

Battalion Wars 2 – Nintendo Wii Game First Impressions

Battalion Wars 2 Title Screen

Battalion Wars 2 Title Screen

I purchased my Nintendo Wii right before I graduated college. I actually had it set up to host a post graduation party at my then new apartment. The Wii was relatively new at the time and given that I had scored a new software development job, I decided to make the Nintendo Wii a graduation gift to myself. Coming from a computer gaming background, probably my favorite game genre at that point was real-time strategy.

Consoles are not typically known for their real-time strategy titles. There are many reasons often given for this. I have heard it implied that the game pad controllers are not a good fit for strategy titles. This sounds like a cop out to me. I could imagine it may be difficult to provide a good competitive real-time strategy experience between multiple players playing on a split-screen where everyone can see each other’s troop movements. I’m not sure this would stop such a game from being fun though, and many console strategy titles have some very solid single-player campaigns. I wager the greatest historical reason why gaming consoles did not see many real-time strategy releases was due to the lack of online multiplayer capability.

Empress Lei-Qo of the Sun Empire.

Empress Lei-Qo of the Sun Empire.

I remember the first time I saw a gaming console play a multiplayer real-time strategy game. The game was Command & Conquer: Red Alert on the original Sony Playstation. Two of my friends had hooked their Playstations together using a link cable and were playing two separate sides on two distinct television screens. This seemed ground breaking for consoles to me at the time, but in truth I already owned Starcraft on the PC and was playing it on Blizzard’s Battle.net nearly daily with millions of people around the globe.

Anglo Military Intelligence is second to none!

Anglo Military Intelligence is second to none!

I was a little conflicted on whether I should purchase a Nintendo Wii. On one hand, everyone who had one seemed to be having a lot of fun with it. The Wii-mote controllers were incredibly novel, and worked well. I played extensively with a Wii my friend had. We had some great late-night experiences playing mini-games of Wii Play, Wii Sports, and WarioWare. The Wii seemed like a remarkable party console, and one I wanted to collect for eventually, but wasn’t sure if I needed one right then.

Player begins controlling one person as in a third-person shooter.

Player begins controlling one person as in a third-person shooter.

I don’t know how I heard of Battalion Wars 2. Somehow I think I was complaining that there weren’t enough strategy titles for game consoles. The first game console I had ever purchased was a Sony Playstation 2. One of the first titles I purchased for it was Goblin Commander, a real-time strategy title that was published for the Microsoft XBox and Nintendo Gamecube as well. I figure I must have complained to the right person who encouraged me to look into Battalion Wars 2. I read several positive reviews, and that’s how I got sold on purchasing a Nintendo Wii.

Take command of multiple types of units.

Take command of multiple types of units.

While Battalion Wars 2 used to have the ability to play multiplayer over Nintendo’s Wifi platform, this service is no longer operational. These days a gamer has to be satisfied with its single-player campaign if they wish to play it. In spite of this limitation, I have experienced a great deal of pleasure replaying Battalion Wars 2. Battalion Wars 2 is a real-time tactics game for the Nintendo Wii and was released in 2007. It was developed by Kuju Entertainment and published by Nintendo.

Battalion Wars 2 takes the approach of being an action/strategy hybrid. The game tutorial begins with the player controlling a single commander unit. This commander may be freely moved around the game field from a third-person perspective. The player may target enemies and fire upon them as if they were playing any other third-person shooter console title.

Hopping into a tank and shooting anti-aircraft missiles is fun.

Hopping into a tank and shooting anti-aircraft missiles is fun.

As the player progresses through the tutorial they encounter other units that they may then recruit and command. This opens controls for the player to command units while simultaneously dodging enemy fire and engaging in active combat along-side the player’s troops. In the first mission, the player is then taught to view the battlefield from a bird’s eye view in order to better command the troops under their command.

Battalion Wars 2 is specially designed for the Wii to best use its controls. It never attempts to be another Starcraft or Command & Conquer. It is Battalion Wars 2, and it’s really good at it. There are five different single-player campaigns that may be played: the Solar Empire campaign, the Western Frontier campaign, the Anglo Isles campaign, the Iron Legion campaign, and the Tundran Territories campaign. In my first few missions playing the Solar Empire campaign, I realized how much I had forgotten of the storyline in the ten years since I last played, but have been greatly impressed with how well the game has held up in those years.

The player can get a bird eye's view of the battlefield.

The player can get a bird eye’s view of the battlefield.

The design choices of the races in the campaigns of Battalion Wars 2 are interesting. The Solar Empire, clearly framed as a force of good and light through the beginning of the game, appears to be modeled in many ways after Japan, while their immediate enemy in the first campaign’s missions is the Anglo Isles whose characters are clearly of English decent. Given that this is a Japanese strategy title dealing with military themes, it’s probably one of the few games I have seen provide a Japanese take on modern military politics providing a different view in a genre typically dominated by developers with a western cultural background.

Battalion Wars 2 Game Disc

Battalion Wars 2 Game Disc

There is so much more to be said about Battalion Wars 2 that I will need to save for a more in-depth review. This is in my opinion one of the best titles on the Wii. I purchased a Wii to play this game, and ten years later I have not regretted it. If you come across Battalion Wars 2 and you are a fan of tactics and wouldn’t mind a little action mixed in, I would highly recommend it.

Arctic Tale – Nintendo Wii Game First Impressions

Arctic Tale Title Screen (Dawww!)

Arctic Tale Title Screen (Dawww! So cute!)

In 2007, National Geographic released a movie to theaters called Arctic Tale. It was a documentary that focused in part on a female polar bear they called Nanu. To capitalize on the release of this film, a game with the same name was developed for the Nintendo Wii by Atomic Planet Entertainment and published by Destination Software in the same year. It says on the cover, “Play through the adventures of the major motion picture!” Arctic Tale may be played by one or two players. I didn’t have anyone to play with me this time, so I’ll have to review the two player option at a later date. 🙁

When starting a new game in Arctic Tale, the player begins as a little polar bear cub. You walk around collecting silver and gold paw print tokens. Press the A button to walk around the landscape. The silver tokens provide bonuses and unlock game features, while the gold tokens level up your bear. Be careful of predators and larger polar bears. They want to eat you for breakfast. Run away from them by pressing B. Collecting dead animals replenishes your health. Also strewn across the landscape are larger markers indicating an available mini-game.

Hey, there's Shamu!

Hey, there’s Shamu!

The primary purpose of playing Arctic Tale so far appears to be to collect tokens, fight other creatures in the wild, and get bronze, silver, then gold rankings in the mini-games. I suppose this is really par for the course as far as Wii games go; Arctic Tale was released in the hay day of Nintendo Wii mini-game titles. The four mini-games I played in my first encounter with Arctic Tale were Scavenge, Balance Fight, Ice Slide, and Shuffle Bear.

Hunting for seals trying not to wake up papa bear.

Hunting for seals while trying not to wake up papa bear.

In Scavenge, you attempt to steal the required number of dead seals while sneaking around sleeping grown male polar bears. If you wake the bears, they will attempt to attack you so be wery wery quiet. If you see a line of flashing sparkles, don’t walk over to it unless you have your quota of seals. That is the boundary of the mini-game and the game will end when you cross it. I curiously crossed this line when I was close and had to repeat the whole experience. It was a little irritating.

I'm gonna push this bear into the water where he belongs. I'm king of this ice.

I’m gonna push this bear into the water where he belongs. I’m king of this ice.

In Balance Fight you are trying to knock a fellow polar bear cub off of a tiny floating piece of ice that forms a little sumo wrestling arena. There are some quicktime events that prompt the player to push a button or wave the controller in a specific way. Do what the game says and it’s not hard to get the gold snowflake in this mini-game.

Sliding down. Wee!

Sliding down, collecting tokens. Wee!

Ice Slide is like playing Tux Racer on any Linux box. The controls seemed awkward, but it may be I am not practiced enough with them yet. It could also be this is what happens when you have multiple types of mini-games in a single title and use the same control system for all of them. People who have played the Rebel Assault series may know what I’m talking about.

Playing some Shuffle Bear.

Playing some Shuffle Bear.

The best mini-game I played in my first encounter with Arctic Tale was Shuffle Bear. I’m a big fan of shuffle board, and this is the same thing but with a polar bear instead. Just charge up your bear and see if you can hit the bull’s eye. I got the game Arctic Tale by fishing through a bargain bin. I really got this game because it looked like a good beginner title for small children; I thought my son might like it. But paying a couple bucks to play shuffle bear was worth it for me.

Arctic Tale Game Disc

Arctic Tale Game Disc

It will be interesting to see what other things this game has to offer. While Arctic Tale teaches players about polar bears, it has yet to demonstrate itself as a truly edutainment title. Playing Arctic Tale is about as educational as riding the rides at Sea World without reading any of the literature associated with the ride while in line or on the way toward the ride’s exit. The game thus far hasn’t attempted to define itself in any way or give me any idea of what to expect as I continue in my objectives through it. At first blush, I would imagine I have already seen is all there is to see: lots of snow, killer whales in the background, mini-games, and feeling what it’s like to control a polar bear in a game. But is much here that seems to subtly hint that there is more to come. As it stands, Arctic Tale has impressed me more than most three dollar titles do. If you have small children, this is a fun and safe title for them to play, and at the price I paid well worth it.

Twenty-Two – Card Game Review

Twenty-Two Gameplay

Twenty-Two Gameplay

I went camping this past weekend. As I mentioned in the Mexican Train domino game review I published the other week, dominoes seem like a good durable piece of gaming equipment for rough terrain and weathered environments. I took my double-twelve domino set on the camping trip and we played a few rounds of Mexican Train. It worked well. The dominoes got very dirty as you might expect, however. I would recommend keeping two sets of dominoes, one for indoor use and another for outdoor use. It also might be good to clean the outdoor dominoes from time to time.

The biggest downside to taking a double-twelve set of dominoes camping is that it significantly adds to the weight I carry on the hiking trail. I have a travel sized double-six domino set that is approximately the size and weight of a pack of playing cards. Games played with double six dominoes I feel are over too quickly and tend to leave me hungry for more, though I have begun browsing through domino game rules that use a double-six set to see if there are any exceptions that will prove me wrong.

In the meantime it seems the most logical piece of gaming equipment to take the place of the double-twelve domino set in a camping situation would be the classic deck of cards. While not as durable, standard decks of playing cards are cheap and easily replaceable. Most importantly they are very light and easy to pack.

My wife gets bored from time to time as was the case last night. When she gets bored she corners me and demands that we play a game together. When we can’t agree on a game, we usually look up a new game neither of us have played. That way we have the greatest potential of being equally bad at something new. And if one of us happens to be naturally good at playing the new game, the other can chalk it up to beginner’s luck without feeling taken advantage of.

Last night’s new game is called Twenty-Two. It is played with a standard deck of 52 cards, four suits ace to king sans jokers. The cards are ranked such that aces are high and twos are low. All suits are equally ranked. Twenty-Two is a trick taking game sort of like Hearts, Spades or Euchre, but with a great deal of difference in objective and strategy of gameplay.

The objective for the player when playing Twenty-Two is to be the last player with a total score less than 22 points. Any number of players can play Twenty-Two. For every six players, simply add another deck of cards. So 2-6 players, play with one deck. For 6-12 players, play with two decks, and so forth. Each player is dealt seven cards by the dealer. The first dealer is chosen by everyone drawing a card from the deck, highest card is dealer, ties are redrawn.

After the cards have been dealt, the players beginning with the player to the left of the dealer, may choose to discard any number of cards up to and including their full hand and redraw that number of cards from the draw pile. If you’ve got good cards you don’t have to do this, but this is probably the most important mechanic of Twenty-Two. If the number of cards in the deck run out before everyone has a chance to do this, the remaining players are out of luck and the first trick begins.

Right player led with three jacks. Left player won the trick with two aces and a king.

Right player led with three jacks. Left player won the trick with two aces and a king.

The player to the left of the dealer begins the first trick. A card or multiple cards of any one rank may be played. In one of our games three jacks were led, but it would have been illegal to begin a trick with two jacks and a queen. Play then continues clockwise with each player attempting to beat or equal the leading cards. For instance, with three jacks led a player could beat the jacks by playing three queens or two queens and a jack. The next player could beat the second player’s play with three kings and so forth. If a player cannot beat the highest valued play in the trick before him, he must play his lowest cards. So if three kings are now the highest valued cards in play, he must play the three lowest cards in his hand.

Left player then leads the second trick with a queen. Right player wins trick with a king.

Left player then leads the second trick with a queen. Right player wins this trick with a king.

As soon as everyone has made their play, the player with the highest ranked play wins the trick. That player then leads the next trick. Any number of cards of the same rank may be played to lead any trick, but the last card in everyone’s hand must always be saved for the last trick. On the last trick, everyone plays their card to see who had the highest card. The player with the highest ranked card, or players in case of a tie, in the final trick lost the round of play. They keep their final card to the side as their score. If they rack up the equivalent of 22 or more points in last round cards, they are eliminated from the game. Number cards are scored at their numeric value. Face cards are worth 10 points, and aces are worth 11 points.

Right player leads third trick with two fives. Unable to beat both fives, the left player plays his two lowest cards.

Right player leads third trick with two fives. Unable to beat both fives, the left player plays his two lowest cards.

The person who lost the round becomes the new dealer who deals out seven cards to each player and play continues in the next round. If there is a tie, the tied players draw for who is dealer; the player with the highest draw becomes dealer. The game continues until all but one player is eliminated from the game. The last player standing is the winner.

In the final trick, the left player has the highest card. He loses and becomes the dealer for the next round.

In the final trick, the left player has the highest card. He loses and becomes the dealer for the next round.

In playing Twenty-Two I found myself having to figure out new strategies I’m not used to in a card game. On one hand, you don’t want to run out of low ranked cards in your hand so you can have the lowest card possible in the final trick. This makes the game kind of like Hearts. On the other hand, if you are not taking tricks, you’re at risk of being forced to play a higher card during the final trick, which makes me want to play the game more like Spades. The need to think about these things while balancing my hand make this game really fascinating. Twenty-Two is an easy to learn and easy to teach card game that can be played in most any setting with any number of players. Because of its versatility, I would recommend this game for any setting where other games are unfeasible due to the size of the group or the difficulty of setup in the physical environment.

Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven – Compatibility

Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven Title Screen

Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 95
Processor: Intel Pentium compatible 133MHz
Memory: 32MB RAM
Video: 1MB PCI Graphics Card, supports DirectX
Sound: “All major sound cards” says it right on the packaging. Not sure what “major” means in this case.
Optical Drive: 4x CD-ROM
Hard Drive: 170MB

Windows 10

Installs – Yes
Runs – Yes
Uninstalls – Yes

Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven appears to run flawlessly in Windows 10.

Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven – Windows 95 Game First Impressions

Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven Title Screen

Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven Title Screen

Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven is a Windows 95 role-playing game released in 1998. It was developed by New World Computing and published by 3DO. The game has a Doom-like 2.5D graphics engine the player may use to traverse and interact with the in-game world. The beginning cutscene’s story is simple. All sorts of monsters are invading and terrorizing the land. Some heroes run away from certain doom and are aided by a wizard. These are dire times, and those who are able to stand must somehow be part of the Mandate of Heaven. Obviously I will need to play further into the game to unveil the mystery of these things.

Create Party Screen

Create Party Screen

After character selection is completed, the party begins their quest in front of a town. There are a great number of townsfolk there that can be talked to as in most RPGs. I went to talk to a peasant who said they didn’t want to talk to my party and I discovered there is a “Beg” mechanic. Apparently you can beg a person to talk to you. Even stranger was that while I was having Serena, my party’s most diplomatic and charismatic member do all the talking, she often had to beg too. With a goddess-like personality rating of 18, she did receive far more positive responses. Funny enough, whenever she would approach anyone she would say, “Hey you!” I guess when you have a personality of 18 you can just say anything and people will want to please you.

Talk to this guy in the local inn. He'll give you some gold.

Talk to this guy in the local inn. He’ll give you some gold.

The first thing you will want to do when playing Might and Magic VI is enter the local inn. It is to the right just as you enter town. There you’ll want to talk to a Andover Potbello and tell him about a letter. He will give you 1,000 gold pieces and tell you to scram. Spend this money quickly, because you will lose it when you die.

I decided to adventure around the outskirts of town to check out the goblin critters the townsfolk had been complaining about. Once an enemy is triggered to spot and follow you, I don’t know how you can get them to ever stop following you unless you have killed them or they are dead. I went a little too close to the goblin camp outside of town and around ten goblins followed me back into the city. I did what any sane role-playing game adventurer would in my predicament and hid behind the peasants hoping the goblins would be distracted and attack them. No dice. I ran all over town trying to get away from the goblins. They would completely ignore the townspeople and come directly for my party. Even ducking into a building for a few minutes and then coming back out had no effect. The party vs. one goblin has an easy enough time. Three goblins on an open field are not too great a challenge for the party either. But much more than that and the party is overwhelmed and succumbs to death. When you die, the grim reaper himself greets your party and says (I’m paraphrasing), “You’re done when I say you’re done!” and the party is resurrected to the entrance of town penniless.

At least Alexis is having fun.

At least Alexis is having fun.

I went out the north, south, west, and east sides of town, and found them all covered by goblins. The only theory I have to adequately begin this game is to get the 1,000 gold pieces and figure out how to smartly equip the entire party for battling a small army of goblins. There are those in the town who will allow you to join the local spell casting guilds for 100 gold each and others who will sell some items to the party.

Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven Game Disc

Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven Game Disc

Might and Magic VI has been an almost comical experience for me thus far. This game is polished and really what I would expect from an early role-playing game from the first person 2.5D game engine perspective era. From what I have read, this game was originally released to critical acclaim. The graphics are decent for 1998, and it seems to have in many ways aged quite well. But it seems like I fumble through the game at every turn in ways that I haven’t experienced in any other RPG. It makes the experience feel so terrible it’s great. This is a title I will need to explore further in a Twitch stream segment. To be continued.

Beat Cop – Compatibility

Beat Cop Title Screen

Beat Cop Title Screen

System Requirements – Windows

Operating System: Windows 7/8/10
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad 2.7 GHz or AMD Phenom II X4 3GHz or better
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: GeForce GTX 260 1GB RAM or better, Direct X 9.0c compatibility required
Sound: DirectX compatible

System Requirements – Mac OS X

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.6 or better
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad 2.7 GHz or AMD Phenom II X4 3GHz or better
Memory: 4GB RAM
Video: GeForce GTX 260 1GB or better
Sound: Integrated

System Requirements – Linux

Operating System: Ubuntu 14.04 or SteamOS or better
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad 2.7GHz or AMD Phenom II X4 3GHz or better
Memory: 4GB RAM
Video: GeForce GTX 260 1GB or better
Sound: Requires current Linux sound drivers.

Beat Cop – Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Beat Cop Title Screen

Beat Cop Title Screen

Your name is Jack Kelly. You were one of the best detectives of the NYPD before that fateful night you were called on to investigate a suspected robbery in progress. A sitting Senator’s diamonds were stolen from his safe. You shot and killed one of the suspects at the scene. Unfortunately for you, the missing diamonds were no longer at the scene of the crime, and you’ve just become a suspect.

Beat Cop, a game released in 2017 for Valve’s Steam platform, places you in the shoes of a former detective turned rookie cop that must now figure out who is framing him and clear his name. Developed by Pixel Crow and published by 11 bit Studios, Beat Cop seeks to channel the art and flare of 1980s television police dramas mixed with retro 16-bit classic Police Quest style graphics. The result is nothing short of impressive to say the least.

Morning briefing at the police station.

Morning briefing at the police station.

A new game in Beat Cop begins with Kelly’s first day with his new precinct. The game is divided into simulated days of gameplay. At the beginning of each day, Sergeant Holloway lists the tasks he wants the player to accomplish during that day. The player has a wrist watch they can use to track time during the game while they are working their shift on the street. At the end of the day, they receive a day’s recap score card that shows them how they did in accomplishing their tasks. I didn’t do so hot the first day; my performance made me want to go back through and replay it. A rewind feature is included to help you do just that.

On the street with Fat Mike.

On the street with Fat Mike.

In the first day, the police captain visits Kelly and tells him that he wants him to work on the case of the missing diamonds so he can clear his name. He says there are 21 days left until he retires, which places a 21 day time limit on the game. To add to Kelly’s growing list of challenges, it turns out his ex-wife is demanding alimony, so the player must ensure they are getting enough money from writing tickets in order to pay Kelly’s alimony bills. There are two rival gangs operating on the street where Kelly is assigned. The player through their decisions must balance their interactions with both to succeed in Beat Cop. The first day on the street serves as a tutorial. The player briefly follows Fat Mike around, a fellow officer serving out his final day before retirement. Mike teaches the player the mechanics of the game. Then it is up to the player to introduce himself to people around the neighborhood and start working out the details of Jack Kelly’s new assignment.

Beat Cop is not meant to be a realistic police simulator. Beat Cop is about making tough decisions, roughing up the bad guys, and making it as a cop out on the streets. If you have some idea of how police behavior ought to occur in a game based on real-life rule of law and civil rights, you will want to approach this game with light humor and some flexibility. There is even a disclaimer to this effect near the game’s title screen. This is a fictional game designed for entertainment purposes.

Enter any buildings to interact with people inside.

Enter any buildings to interact with people inside.

Which brings me to my only real problem with Beat Cop – the dialog. By day 2 the banter among the police officers in the daily briefing was incredibly racy and I really couldn’t figure out why. Even for police department “knock ‘em down a peg” banter, it seemed out of place. I feel like they could have made the dialog less vulgar without compromising on the classic police squad aesthetic. Despite Beat Cop’s primitive graphics, the situations and themes are at times incredibly adult oriented. Because of these vulgar dialogs and adult themes, I would not recommend that any minors play this game.

Day Recap Score Card

Day Recap Score Card

I played through the first day to receive my first underwhelming pay check. I knew I had to step up my game for the next day. Beat Cop is nicely challenging, has colorful graphics, and a killer sound track. Everything included in the game fits within its theme; Beat Cop just feels brilliant. It’s like the game designers knew what they could be good at and discarded all the rest. There’s little where I can blame this game for falling short; it’s kind of a masterpiece. If you like police-style gaming or police movies like the Lethal Weapon series, Beat Cop is an excellent title to add to your collection.

At the time this article was published, Beat Cop was available on the Humble Very Positive Bundle 2 at HumbleBundle.com. If you like what you see here, go there to see about getting a deal on the game and helping charities in the process.

Turnspell – Board Game Review

Turnspell Game Box

Turnspell Game Box

Another game we played at our most recent game night was Turnspell released by Mattel in 2016. This is a word game where 2 to 4 players are scored based on their ability to construct four letter words. Contained with the game are four, four-by-four letter boards for each player with scoring pegs and a center spinning board which contains letters chosen randomly from a pouch.

The pouch contains tiled letters with the exact same frequency and score values as Scrabble. I was actually disappointed to discover I am missing an “I” from my favorite travel Scrabble set when I tested the theory that these games use the same lettering system. Mattel, I think you may owe Hasbro an explanation, or at least a concession that they know what they are doing more when it comes to word games.

Scrabble and Turnspell tiles match up perfectly.

Scrabble and Turnspell tiles match up perfectly.

Letters are chosen at random and placed on the center spinning board, filling each of its four four-letter tile spaces. When we started the game we thought you were supposed to spin the spinning board to determine who started with which letters. Don’t do this unless you want pick the letters up off the floor on opposite sides of the room.

Try to make the letter setup truly random so no one feels cheated in the first turn. When we started one game, one of the sides of the center spinning board was completely filled with “E” letter pieces. Given that there are rare letters that are worth more points and common letters that are quite prevalent, my friend was forced to take an “E” on his first turn while his opponents were taking “J” and “X” letters. Perhaps a mulligan system could be employed to provide a more balanced start for all players. I would suggest if a side on the spinning board is completely filled with one-point vowels, or perhaps only one-point letters (vowels or consonants) at the beginning of the game, one letter should be traded out until a higher point valued letter is drawn to take its place.

Center spinning board. Be careful when spinning.

Center spinning board. Be careful when spinning.

All players play simultaneously. Each player draws a letter and places it somewhere on their player board. The player’s objective is to create four-letter words on their board. Once a four-letter word is created, it is scored by counting the point value each of the letters is worth. The word’s total score is added to the player’s score total using the pegs on the player’s board and the letters from the word are then placed back into the letter pouch.

There is a possibility for a player to use a letter to create two four-letter words at the same time. When this happens, the letter values from both words are added together and then that final sum is doubled to compute their total score for that turn. When a player reaches a score of 44, they win the game. If two players surpass a score of 44 in the same turn then the highest scoring player wins. If both players tie past 44 in the same turn, I assume they must fight to the death or the universe explodes. The rules do not specify in this final case.

Once a tile is placed on a player’s board, it cannot be replaced without taking a penalty. If a player wishes to remove one tile, they may surrender five points or twice the point value of the letter to do so, whichever total is higher. If they do not have enough points in the game to take the penalty, they may not remove the tile. When a tile is removed, it is placed back into the letter pouch. It cannot be replaced on the player’s board.

A player board. All she needed was a "Z" and I took it before she could get it.

A player board. All she needed was a “Z” and I took it before she could get it.

The player may also remove an entire row of tiles from their player board for no penalty. If there is only one tile in the row, it may be removed with no penalty. Similar to removing the one tile, if a row is removed from a player’s board it is removed to the pouch, not rearranged on the player’s board. Once all players have placed a tile on their player board, the center spinning board is turned one-click clockwise so that the next set of letters is facing a new player. Then the missing letters from the previous round of play are replaced at random from the letter pouch.

Turnspell is a good word game for board gamers who are not good at word games. I never win at Scrabble. I only ever really play it because other people enjoy it. I won at Turnspell against people who enjoy Scrabble and win often at Scrabble. It felt good, but also felt like sort of a cheap thrill for me while playing with such Scrabble aficionados. This is a nice light party game that takes a lower vocabulary and less brain activity than other word games in its class.

Dragonwood – Card Game Review

Dragonwood Game Box

Dragonwood Game Box

Game night was fast approaching, and it had been made my duty to bring an old game night favorite, Apples to Apples to the festivity. I had many side quests to attend to on my way. In the midst of my engagement to these side quests, I realized I had left all of my games, including Apples to Apples at my abode. Devastated by my error, I made a trip to the local merchant to examine their wares. There I found and purchased a game called Dragonwood, developed by Darren Kisgen and released by Gamewright in 2016, “a game of dice and daring.”

Dragonwood may be played by 2, 3, or 4 adventurers. These adventurers are tasked with slaying all sorts of hideous beasts that seek to threaten the land. These creatures are contained in the green Dragonwood deck. The greatest of these foes are the blue and the orange dragons, the final bosses of the adventurer’s journey. These cards are shuffled into the bottom half of the Dragonwood deck. Prior to this happening, a number of cards must be removed from the Dragonwood deck.

For 2 players, this number is 12 cards.
For 3 players, this number is 10 cards.
For 4 players, this number is 8 cards.

At the beginning of the adventurers’ quest, the top five cards of the Dragonwood deck are drawn and placed face-up in a row in the middle of the table. There are three types of Dragonwood cards: creatures, enhancements, and events. The effects of events occur immediately when drawn. Whatever the event card says must be executed in that moment of play. If an event card is discovered in the original five card reveal, remove it and shuffle it back into the Dragonwood deck and reveal a new card. Enhancements can be used to make the adventurer’s quest easier. And creatures are fodder for the fortune and glory of the adventurers.

The adventurer deck is then shuffled. Five cards from it are dealt to each player. The adventurer deck contains numbered cards 1-12 in five suits along with four joker cards with a Lucky Ladybug on them. When a Lucky Ladybug is drawn, the player discards the Lucky Ladybug and draws two more cards. A player may have no more than 9 adventurer cards in their hand. If they exceed this number, they must immediately discard to bring their total hand size back down to 9.

The adventurer cards are played and creatures are thereby slain and taken as trophies in three ways. The player may strike the creature by playing a straight of numbered cards of any color. An example might be red-9, green-10, blue-11, and green-12. The player may stomp a creature by playing cards of the same number. An example might be purple-4, blue-4, and orange-4. Or the player may scream at a creature by playing cards all of the same color. An example might be cards that are all green.

Each Dragonwood card revealed on the table has a strike, stomp, and scream value. In order to defeat the Hungry Bear I could stomp on him by playing three cards with the number 4 on them. The Hungry Bear’s stomp value is 6, which is the number I have to roll in order to slay the bear and take him as a victory trophy. I receive one die for each card I play in an effort to slay the creature; in this case I would receive three dice. The dice are six-sided and have the following numbers on their faces: 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, and 4. This means with a roll of three dice, it is only slightly probable to get a 12, but impossible to roll an 18. There are six such dice which is the maximum number of cards that may be played at a time. The minimum number of cards a player may play is one. If my roll to slay the Hungry Bear is 6 or above, then I take the Hungry Bear and add him to my personal victory pile and I place the cards I used to attempt to slay him to the adventurer deck’s discard pile. If my roll were less than a 6, then I must discard one card from my hand representing a “wound” from the encounter with the creature. The adventurer card discarded may be from any adventurer card in my possession, not just the cards currently in play. Enchancements are captured in the same way as creatures, but other enhancements cannot be used to aid in capturing new enhancements.

In an adventurer’s turn, the player has two options: draw a card, or attempt to slay a creature or capture an enhancement. The player with the most victory points from slain creatures at the end of the game wins. The game ends when either both the orange and blue dragons have been slain, or the adventurer’s deck has been fully played through then reshuffled and played through a second time.

Dragonwood deck in play, adventurer card combinations, and dice.

Dragonwood deck in play, adventurer card combinations, and dice.

After the rules had been laid down, the adventurers set out on their quest to slay the wild beasts of the land, to ultimately defeat the vicious dragons threatening the safety of their peoples. Laid before us were items of mystical powers and creatures of varying strengths. A Magical Unicorn was charmed by one of my fellow adventurers to give her plus one in subduing any beast. Another fellow adventurer laid claim to a Silver Sword to give her plus two to her strikes against any creature. But me, I chose the way of the sailor, the Bucket of Spinach proved my greatest weapon dealing an extra two stomp damage to any fowl beast.

Along the way we all had our successes and failures, incrementally increasing our victory points, until at last it happened; the blue and orange dragons were revealed. They were the most majestic of creatures: powerful, colorful, graceful in their movements, and deadly. We targeted the blue dragon first, given that it was slightly weaker than the orange dragon. A few of my fellow adventurers tried their luck with the blue dragon, but all wound up wounded from their attempts. As fortune would have it, I had succeeded in obtaining a one time use enchantment, a Lightning Bolt, that would increase my chances against the dragon by 4 damage points. With the help of my trusty Bucket of Spinach, I stomped that blue dragon into the dirt to the cheers of all the people of the land.

Unfortunately for them, the adventurer deck ran out shortly thereafter for the second time. My fellow adventurers and I counted up our victory points, looked at each other, and commended ourselves for the trophies we were able to seize. We’ll let the common folk contend with the Orange Dragon now that we have become rich in our fame and fortune.