Alphabear: Hardcover Edition – Compatibility

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition Title Screen

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition Title Screen

System Requirements

Windows

Operating System: Windows 7 or later
Processor: Intel Core Duo 1.66 GHz or better
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: 256 MB Graphics Memory
Hard Disk: 400 MB

Mac OS X

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.8 or later
Processor: Intel Core Duo 1.66 GHz or better
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: 256 MB Graphics Memory
Hard Disk: 400 MB

Windows 10

This game was designed for Windows 10 and ran flawlessly when I played it in Windows 10.

Mac OS X 10.12

This game was designed for Mac OS X 10.12.

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition – Windows 10 and Mac OS X 10.12 Game First Impressions

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition Title Screen

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition Title Screen

Alphabear is a single-player word puzzle game first released for mobile devices on the iOS and Android platforms in 2015. In 2017, the game was released for the Windows 10 and Mac OS X 10.12 operating systems as Alphabear: Hardcover Edition as a download for the Steam platform. The game was developed and is published by Spry Fox LLC.

Within a typical level, the player is tasked with making words from the letters provided in the blocks on the screen. The more letters are used, the more space is freed up on the board which is then consumed by the player’s bears on the screen. Each letter begins with a score count and with a green color. Each turn a letter is not used its color changes from green to yellow to red and its total score count decreases. A deep red letter will become unusable on the next turn and transform into a stone. Stones impede the players ability to grow their bears and should therefore be avoided.

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition puzzle gameplay

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition puzzle gameplay

The objective of the game is to maximize points by maximizing the size of the words the player creates and the size of the bears within the playing field. Most levels have a point goal the player must reach in order to progress. Occasional levels introduce a time limit within which the player must complete the level.

Skinny Bear Leveled Up!

Skinny Bear Leveled Up!

At the end of each level, the player’s score is tallied up and a new player bear is unlocked or a bear already existing within the player’s inventory levels up in ability. This introduces somewhat of an role-playing game element to Alphabear: Hardcover Edition. Prior to entering a new puzzle stage, the player may enter her bear inventory and choose up to three bears on her roster to participate in the next puzzle based on their various abilities. As a bear is gained or levels up, the player is greeted with a screen where their bear is in a selfie containing a cute little tweet randomly generated using the words the player made during the last stage. The player may actually tweet or save these selfies before they progress to the next round if they so choose.

Level End Scoreboard

Level End Scoreboard

At first blush, Alphabear: Hardcover Edition seems to be just another word puzzle game. I saw it was being offered on Steam’s free weekend, so I downloaded it to write a quick first impressions article. The game install file is only 196 megabytes in size; downloading and installing it on Steam takes virtually no time at all. Not paying attention to the clock, I played it long enough that I almost ran out of space on my game recording device. Alphabear is fun and addicting.

Bear Inventory

Bear Inventory

As with other word puzzle games, it is often the case that the player begins trying to coin words that are new to them in order to get out of a tight spot where they don’t know what word they can legally play next. Alphabear: Hardcover Edition offers a dictionary that defines every word that is played. I found this to be particularly helpful when I was just clicking around and stumbled upon a word I didn’t know. This game would be extremely helpful to those who are hoping to get better at Scrabble and actually know the words they are playing. It also appears it might help a child with an elementary vocabulary to learn more words and better spelling for fun outside of their classroom.

As I said, this title is free for the weekend, and only around five dollars retail. I had fun with it and thought it was worthwhile. It may be one of the better edutainment titles I have played. Check it out and see what you think.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified – Compatibility

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Title Screen

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 7 or better
Processor: Quad Core x86 compatible
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: AMD Radeon HD 6950, NVidia GeForce GTX 560, or better
(Incompatible with Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics)
Sound: DirectX compatible sound card
Hard Disk: 12 GB

Windows 10

The Steam version of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified ran flawlessly for me in Windows 10.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified – Windows 8 and Mac OS X 10.8 Game First Impressions

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Title Screen

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Title Screen

When I think of the XCOM series, I think of turn-based strategy and covert government agency management. I have fond memories of playing the first game in the series, XCOM: UFO Defense, with a close friend a few years after it came out in 1994. He found it in a bargain bin at a Tuesday Morning and talked his mom into getting it for him, much to our delight. The gameplay elements introduced in this first game were recreated in Firaxis Games’ reboot XCOM: Enemy Unknown released in 2012. In both of these games, the player recruits a squad of elite special forces soldiers to train and send on missions to defend against the extra-terrestrial menaces facing the planet while determining how government funding should be spent to best protect Earth’s security interests. The premise underlying these games provides intense potential for fantastic storylines across genres. And given the cult following of not only the original game, but also for shows like The X-Files, game developers worked to release other XCOM titles spanning other genres of gameplay.

Just casually walking up these stairs at a reduced speed talking to my superior officer on the telephone while all mayhem is breaking loose around me.

Just casually walking up these stairs at a reduced speed talking to my superior officer on the telephone while all mayhem is breaking loose around me.

When I first installed and played The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, published in 2013 by 2K Games and developed by 2K Marin, I thought it would be based on XCOM: Enemy Unknown from the previous year. Interestingly, development on The Bureau: XCOM Declassified began in 2010 and these games seem in most ways unrelated outside of them both having the player defend earth from extra-terrestrial aggressors. The initial events of the game occur in 1962 during John F. Kennedy’s presidency. I haven’t played the game far enough to know if the developers made it tie-in with the story of other XCOM games in the series.

Press Spacebar to Enter Battle Focus Mode.

Press Spacebar to Enter Battle Focus Mode.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is primarily a third-person shooter with tactical elements. As the player receives new recruits throughout the game, they can press the spacebar to command those recruits to move to points of strategic cover and target specific enemy locations. The interface to this is similar in some ways to Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six but happens from within the mission. Time slows down when entering what is called “Battle Focus Mode,” but does not stop entirely and the player is vulnerable while they are making decisions.

Ducked behind a barrier for cover on a two-dimensional plane.

Ducked behind a barrier for cover on a two-dimensional plane.

In general, the core gaming mechanics require that the player seek cover behind objects while being shot at, and when the time is right, use the right mouse button to aim and fire at enemies. Aiming makes you vulnerable, so it is prudent to time your shots when the enemy is firing the least and is the most vulnerable themselves. The controls used to take cover seemed a little awkward to me. Left-shift while facing a wall or other such structure is supposed to enable the player to crouch behind it. Left-shift while moving forward is also supposed to make the player run. Once in such a defensive position, the player may then use A or D on the keyboard to move left or right respectively across the defensive surface. This maps a number of two-dimensional planes onto a clearly three-dimensional world that is at best confusing. I have yet to tell if I’m just not comfortable with the controls yet, or if there is actually a disconnect in some cases with how the game’s engine handles ducking behind a surface versus running around in the larger three-dimensional environment.

Right-Click to Aim and Shoot Aliens in the Face

Right-Click to Aim and Shoot Aliens in the Face

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is a very linear game divided into levels with cutscenes throughout to advance the storyline. The storyline is fairly typical for its genre, though rich enough thus far. It reminds me a bit of Resistance: Fall of Man. It plays much like the typical console third-person shooter, but without any save-point frustration that I have noticed thus far. The player may press F5 at any time to get a graphical overlay with the direction they game intends for them to go to progress, and any in-game objects that can be interacted with glow a bright golden yellow.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is unfortunately only single-player. I think it would be incredible to have an arena in which players may strategically command their squad while simultaneously participating in a classic deathmatch. Perhaps someone could eventually release a mod for the game to accomplish this.

If you are a fan of The X-Files, XCOM, Men in Black kind of stories, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified would be relevant to your interests. Outside of having an interesting story, I could think of a multitude of other games I would rather be playing. The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is a good game for what it is, polished and enjoyable. But it doesn’t quite stack up as a game that would keep me coming back again and again, like the more traditional games in the XCOM series whose namesake The Bureau: XCOM Declassified shares.