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Our Games at Northwest Public Radio Online Auction

I listen to NPR on a regular basis, especially when I am making the drive from Bellingham, WA to Seattle, WA. Every few months NPR will have a fundraiser (OK, not ever few months but it sure feels like it). This year the local station in the Pacific Northwest is having an online fundraiser. I see this as a great opportunity to give back to NPR so I have donated all five games that Smart Box Design has developed. They are WordPop, Word Monaco Solitaire, Word Watch, Triples, and Farkle Dice. Bidding on the games is from February 16 – 22, 2007. You can go here to get involved and donate or make a bid.

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What is the best PDA game ever made?

The editor of Palm 24/7 selects his two favorite games and WordPop is one of them. We are of course thrilled that he would choose WordPop. For all your Mobile news make sure to drop by daily to Palm 24/7.

Here is their commentary:

For me there are two that stand out as being perfectly suited to the PDA / Smart Phone format but it would be good to know which games you have played the most and keep coming back to time and time again.

Igzo The Dolphin is just so addictive and probably the game I have played most on any type of device or games console. It’s only 13k and free so there’s no excuse not to try it.

WordPop! has had me turning in circles for the past few months- I am not very good at it but that does not stop me trying over and over and over again to beat my high score. It has been responsible for more late nights than anything else lately.

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Treo 680 Camera / Memory Patch – This is a must have.

Palm is now distributing a new patch for the camera. There was a bug where the camera would not shut down correctly after being uses which resulted in a battery drain.

You can get the patch from here:
http://www.palm.com/us/support/downloads/treo/680cameraupdate.html

Palm Addicts is reporting significant gains in battery usage after using the patch. Several users are now saying that they can use the phone all day without a recharge.

Great job Palm for releasing a patch so quickly.

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Word Monaco Solitaire; Reviewed by Allen Gall of Pocket PC Magazine

I am getting a bit weary of reviewing word games (I love them, but there’s just not that many new things you can do with them at this point), but Word Monaco Solitaire is the most interesting title in this category that I’ve seen all year. The game is based on the idea of playing a word game based on solitaire at some sort of resort in Monaco (I could probably find better things to do in Monaco than play card games, but that’s the basic idea and it does give the game a nice atmosphere).

Here’s how it works: The game pieces consist of letters that are arranged in columns just like they are in solitaire, and the idea is to move them around until every letter forms a word. That’s the essence of the game, although three rule variations are offered along with nine difficulty levels.

The basic concept works well enough. Even though the number of words in each level is limited, getting all the letters into just the right spot provides a good challenge. Had the game been thrown together with limited sound and mediocre graphics, it would likely be overlooked as just another shoddy word game. What makes WM an exceptional title are not only the terrific graphics, music, but the overall feel of the game. While the graphics and sound evoke the famous French resort country and contributes to the game’s atmosphere as a casual game, WM provides plenty of feedback to the player. Once you successfully create a word, a green gem appears over that column. Dragging over a letter or group of letters results in a pleasant sound effect as well as the last “card” in the column to smoothly flip over.

Word Monaco Solitaire is not quite the same as taking a vacation, but its design and implementation meet all the requirements of a great casual game. Its visually stimulating, has great audio, has challenging but laid back game play, is very engaging, and is very easy to play. While it relies more on eye and ear candy more than other word games, it’s still good fun.

Title:

Word Monaco Solitaire
Developer: Smart Box Design
Genre: Word Games
Demo: Y
Platform: Pocket PC 2003+
Price: $14.95
Rating (of 4): 3.4

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Review: Farkle. A Smart Game From a Smart Box for that Long Commute Home.

Review: Farkle. A Smart Game From a Smart Box for that Long Commute Home.

January 18th, 2007 by dgoldring

When I read that Farkle was the perfect game for a long commute, I knew I would have to review it. As some of you know, I ride the train for over an hour each way just to get to work. So, anything that is labeled perfect for a long commute, I am going to check out with interest.

Installation and Registration: Just download the Farkle setup file and install it on your Pocket PC via ActiveSync. Once installed, you can play 15 complete games before the trial period expires. Let me tell you, 15 games was more than enough time for me to explore all of the options and realize that this is a great game.

Gameplay: Simply put, Farkle is a game of chance and dice…probably not in that order. It is a combination of Yahtzee’s strategy and Craps’ chance. The object of the game is to score as many points as possible during your turn and reach 10,000 before any of your opponents (Farkle can be played by two or more players, however, 3-5 seems to be ideal).

Your turn begins by throwing six dice. Once they land, you must determine which ones earned you points. Point earning dice are ones, fives, three-of-a-kind, and any roll that combines all six dice together. Once you have identified your points scoring dice, you must decide whether to keep going or pass. If you pass, then your turn ends, and you tally your score from that round into your total score. If you want to keep going, then you roll the remaining non-scoring dice in an attempt to earn more points.

Be careful, though. If at any time, you roll a FARKLE (a roll in which you earn no points) then you lose all of the points earned that round. If you score three Farkles in three consecutive rounds, then you will lose 1000 points from your total score.

Characters: One of the great things about this game are the characters. Although they are not graphically represented (and that would be a nice feature in future versions), they each have a different style of play which is reflected in the way they play the game. When you begin a new game, by default, you will be playing against Nervous Nell (a very conservative player who fears Farkles) and Steady Stan (who gobbles up scoring dice like Pac-Man devours dots). Once you learn the basics, you can play against other characters by using the Game Setup Menu. There are a total of six characters, and you can play against any combination of them. Try to work your way up to Jammin’ Jen, the most skilled of the computer characters.

Head-to-Head: In addition to playing against the computer characters, you can also choose to play against up to five friends. Unfortunately, Farkle does not allow you to connect two Pocket PC’s together or play over a Wi-Fi/Internet connection. In order to play against your friends, you will all have to share the same unit and pass it between you. That did not present a large problem for me, however, as I typically do not play against other people.

Graphics: For a simple dice game, Farkle really impressed me with its graphics. The graphics in this game are a perfect example of the old idiom, no matter what you do, do it well. Let’s face it. This is not an adventure game, relying on the graphics to draw you in or tell a story. This is a game of chance. It is a game of rolling dice. I have seen plenty of dice games which are just the dice and a score card. That would have been easy.

Instead, Smart Box had to take the more difficult road. They included a wooden game board with a fine grain and green velvet playing surface. They even included animated dice which can be colored a translucent red or smooth white.

They did not have to do these things, add these extra touches to the graphics, but they did. And that is what makes Farkle more than just a simple dice game.

Audio: This game has some pretty realistic sound effects, such as the sound of the dice bouncing off the walls of the playing surface. The problem for me though, since I ride the train, the people around me do not care to listen to the dice bounce off the playing surface. Unfortunately, the audio in Farkle is not linked to the master audio on the Pocket PC, so it kept overriding me when I would hit mute. This can get frustrating. Thankfully, I discussed this issue with Smart Box, and they assured me that they have already fixed it, and will include better audio control in the next version which should be coming soon (that will be a free upgrade for registered users).

Saving: Since I play games on the train a lot of the time, nothing is more important to me than being able to stop the game when the train reaches my stop. I tend to get very frustrated at games which do not allow me to pick up where I left off. This is another feature that makes Farkle an ideal game for commuting, or just waiting in line at the DMV. When you need to turn it off, just close the program. The next time you open it, the game will automatically pick up exactly where you left off. No need to even remind it to save the game. It already knows what to do. Of course, if you want to change any of the game settings, then your saved game will be lost so you can start a new game with the new settings.

Customization: As I mentioned, you can pick from up to six computerized players to challenge. You can also decide which “house rules” will be followed. Some people like to play with a break-in score (you must reach a minimum score in order to earn any points in that round.) Others don’t like this rule. You can also decide the upper limit of the game. If you think playing 10,000 takes too long, set the game to end at 5,000 instead. These little options allow you to customize Farkle to your personal style of play.

Strategy and Tips: One of the things I loved about Farkle is that it teaches you the game as you go along. The rules are not that difficult. Keep rolling the dice until you stop or earn no points. It is pretty basic, but there can be some complicated strategic decisions. If I roll two scoring dice, do I keep them both or keep only one and hope for a better score with a new roll?
As you progress through the game, various strategy tips will appear which teach you how to look at your roll from all angles and fully immerse you in the game. I really appreciated these tips the first time I played the game, but once you have heard them, they quickly become unnecessary background noise. Fortunately, you can choose to turn them off in the preferences menu.

Conclusion: This is definitely my kind of game. It is quick and easy to learn, but takes some concentration to master the strategy. You can also stop the game at any time and pick up right where you left off. If this were all it offered, Farkle would be a mainstay in my stable of games. Add in the smoothly drawn graphics, six different player characters (which effectively means a variety of skill levels) and various customization options, and Farkle is a must play for anyone who enjoys a simple game of chance or, a really long train ride.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Farkle
Version: 1.0.1
Platform: WM 2003 SE
Also Available: WM5, Palm OS
Developer:
Smart Box Design
Price: $14.95