Laura Truchon's "Pressed for Time" will explore the options for those who do not have a whole lot of time to devote to gaming, but need that regular "fix". Games that you can learn as you go, games you can start and finish while your mate is brushing their teeth, games that pass the time when the time is less than a standard television commercial break.
Monkeying Around and Laying Some Tile
It's a brand new year on the Pressed For Time front and time to start fresh. Oh sure, I had a few resolutions of my own when January 1 rolled around: Eat healthier, make more time for myself, stress out less, stay away from reality TV. (Ron Jeremy and Tammy Faye living in the same house? *shudder*), and, of course, get my articles in by deadline. But by the time the Chinese New Year came around on January 22, I still had a monkey on back. Actually, make that around 15 or so monkeys with just the slightest bit of attitude. Fortunately, they made me smirk a lot and I have no plans of giving them up.
So, in honor of the Year of the Monkey and the (not really that) recent Chinese New Year's celebrations, I shall share my new time friendly gaming addictions and give you not one, but two wonderful multi-game programs for your computer! Heck, it's a Leap Year, so if February can give us an extra day, I figure I can give you an extra game. Time's a wastin', so let's hop to it, shall we? You can't tell me you didn't see that one coming...
It was by accident that I discovered Burning Monkey Solitaire 3 by Freeverse Software. (Praise Google!!!) I am a Solitaire freak. I was literally bugging out to find a better Klondike Solitaire game when I began seeing one positive review after another for these so-called "Burning Monkeys." I mean, come on, as a Solitaire addict, even I get a little bored with the same old game that comes with Windows or Linux. And using real cards? Well, that takes effort from this lazy gal's point of view and a bit more table room. I was ready for something kind of different and got more than I even hoped for.
As you may have guessed by the "3" in the game title, this is actually a sequel in the Burning Monkey Solitaire series, but I believe that this is the first in the series available for the Windows OS. Previous versions, as well as this version, are Mac compatible. Freeverse apparently has a nice niche in the area of card games and I can understand why. If this game is any indication of how much fun other products by Freeverse Software are, then I may just have to start using my husband's Mac more often since a number of the games are only Mac compatible.
What makes the standards like Klondike, Freecell, and the rest of the 21 games of Solitaire included in this package more interesting are the Monkeys themselves and their regular stream of bad jokes and unabashed opinions. If they think you're taking too long, they'll definitely let you know. Not to mention give you their view on humans. You take center stage as you play your choice of games while characters like Monty, Herb, Ana, and Nero chatter away, sing, sway, and sometimes literally go up in flames (no, seriously) out in the audience. The Monkeys are interactive and can hold a few surprises when you click on them for a closer look. Oh, and there's the bagel, too. I find much enjoyment with the bagel. "Everything Bagel!!!"
Some perks of the program include being able to listen to your favorite MP3's while you play your game. Yeah, I know, you could probably do that anyway, but it has a nice little place to set up a play list just for your Solitaire monkey shines. A few decent tunes come with the software for your listening pleasure, including the Burning Monkey Solitaire jive song and some techno-ish tunes. The software can also connect to the internet for web updates to keep the bad jokes fresh and to share your high scores on http://www.burningmonkey.com. There are plenty of backgrounds and multiple styles of decks available to choose from when you want a change of scenery. And don't forget a handful of Easter Eggs! Yup, nice little tidbits of joy from the developers!
Preferences are easy to set and include card layout, type of scoring, whether you want the web updates or not, and even if you want your little monkey buddies to be active or more subdued. Appropriately, as this is a game you may find difficult to turn off, they have even kindly provided a menu option called "Boss Coming." From far away, you just might be able feign hard work as "data" flows across the screen, but up close your boss may be wondering what's up with the banana statistics. If you want a preview of what you're getting yourself into, you can view their trailer at http://www.apple.com/games/trailers/burningmonkeysolitaire/ .
Games included with the package are: Baker's Game, Baker's Dozen, Bristol, Four Seasons, Eight Off, Scorpion, Yukon, Klondike, Strict Klondike, Freecell, Pyramid, Strategy, Dragon, Beleaguered Castle, Leapfrog, The Wish, Carpet, Eliminator, Osmosis, 52 Card Pick-Up, and 52 Card Put-Down. Don't worry if you aren't familiar with the games because there is a briefly detailed set of instructions for each one. They are fast and easy to learn and offer a lot of nice alternatives to the standard Klondike game, which has always been my favorite. My suggestions for games to try first: Pyramid, The Wish, 52 Card Pick-Up and 52 Card Put-Down. The last two require no skill, even less time, and have lots of Monkey involvement- first they love you, then they mock you. Such is life.
The great thing is that this is a shareware title. Freeverse offers a fully playable demo which alone was enough to convince me to purchase the full game. The demo is plenty of fun, but the full program offers so much more in the way of goodies, playable games and comes with the box, the disc, and a detailed instruction booklet. The full game purchase price is $24.95. If you want to check out this demo, or any of their other games for Mac or Windows, you can visit http://download.freeverse.com/ . Lots of fun for little time and relatively little cost. I'm already eyeing the Burning Monkey Casino, 3D Hearts Deluxe, and Burning Monkey Mahjong for future purchases.
Laying it all out and picking it up again
Speaking of Mahjong (or Mahjongg depending on your spelling preference), I'm afraid that's another game I've been hooked on for a while and it just happens to tie in so nicely with the Chinese New Year theme since it originates in China.
OK, seriously, there are like hundreds of Mahjong games available for your PC for download and in stores. Go into any Office Depot, Comp USA, or Best Buy and you can find Mahjong CDs for 10 bucks or less. Not to mention quite a load of freebie games online and available for download. But upon searching through Google and http://www.download.com, I found one program that stood out not only to me, but to numerous others and has been evolving over the past seven years.
Kyodai Mahjongg is a Mahjongg Solitaire program designed by René-Gilles Deberdt, which also includes other games such as Rivers, Memory, Clicks, Slider, and Hashira. It is designed for use on Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, and XP. Mahjongg Solitaire can be played by one or two players, the goal being to remove all the tiles from the board. Sounds pretty easy, but you'd be amazed how often you can miss two matching tiles staring you in the face. It also involves a bit of strategy on which tiles to remove and from where and when.
Just like I'm a big supporter of Indie Music, I'm a big supporter of the "small programmer and designer" who make these types of programs available due to the personal passion that they have about it. On his site http://www.kyodai.com/ , René-Gilles Deberdt states "I wrote my own version because I couldn't find one with all the features I wanted..." And he certainly does offer a lot of features and customization with the program that really allow you to tweak it to your liking. I mean, the whole thing is just damn pretty with a great deal of quality!
The program is available in 3D or 2D. The 3D version allows you to either view it 2D or 3D mode and requires at least Direct X 8.0, while the 2D version is smaller and not graphic intensive, but no less enjoyable... While playing in 3D can be cool because you can move the set of tiles around, which can help you spot matching tiles a little better, I find that it gives me a headache after playing it for a while. So I primarily stick with 2D.
It comes with it's very own specifically designed soundtrack that I like a lot and do find relaxing. The Kyodai site has information on one of the composers Miguel Samiez who put out his own CD back in April of 2000. The songs are very appropriate for this type of program and makes the games more enjoyable, in my opinion. And if you like the music a whole lot, there's a link on the site to order one of Miguel's CDs. You can turn the music off, however, if you want or add your own preferred songs to the list. You can play them in order or randomized.
The program also has subtle sound effects and highlighting for the tiles you hover your mouse over. You can change around the many included backgrounds, tiles, skins, tile layouts, and music. All of the games have high score lists, as well, so if you have multiple folks using the program you can make fun of their lowliness every time your score comes out on top! You want to clear your board as quickly as possible, so the faster you do this, the higher your rank.
Now everything above is all stuff that comes with the program - I mean it already has a lot of cool features. But you can take it even further. You can download or make your own customized tile sets, layouts, and backgrounds. Last night I downloaded some Star Trek and Fantasy based tiles sets, which is both kind of geekishly corny, but fun. The Kyodai website has a page of links to some fan pages for the program. One of the links on that page is http://www.aidmilne.plus.com/kyodai.htm which has a lot of ready to go backgrounds and tile sets, plus a zip file of extra tile layouts. You can also do a Google search on Kyodai Mahjongg and you'll find places that offer more of the above mentioned goodies. If you want to go the route of Space Cadet, cowboy, cat lover, etc. themes or just stick with Chinese traditional, it's all out there or ready to be made by you!
A brief word on tiles... Having customized tiles is very neat, but it's how the change in the style of tiles affects the game play, which is kind of interesting. I mean, if you have some really complex designs on the tiles and they are even remotely similar, you can have a heck of a time finding matching pairs! But that in itself is one reason that it makes the game so great. It can become extremely challenging! The layout of the tiles can also have an impact on how far your game can go. But don't worry if you get stuck or make a mistake. You do have the options to undo, shuffle, and restart if all else fails. And if you're really worried about your game, there's even an option to have the tiles set up so you can win, you cheater!!!
This program is also shareware, which means try before you buy. The demo is available at http://www.kyodai.com/kyodown.html. From what I could see, the demo really didn't have any restrictions aside from pop-up reminders asking you to purchase the program if you liked it. And since I did like it so much, I bought it. A lot of work goes into these programs and their designers should be supported! The cost will run you $22.95 plus a little extra if you want a CD sent out to you, but it's probably better to just burn it yourself. Once you pay for it, you'll get your registration information and you're set to go, nothing else to download unless an update comes out.
How can something so fast take up so much of my time?
WARNING! Although these games can be fast as lightening and will fit in to your busy schedule perfectly, you cannot forget the key word in this article is ADDICTIVE. Don't come yapping to me when you start realizing that you have just spent a good 3 or 4 hours playing one game after another while your TV. shows play in the background unwatched or school books for studying lay around unopened. If you have issues with self-control, then that's your problem! Don't say I didn't warn you!
Well I see that Paya, one of my little monkey friends, is telling me that she wants some candy and appears to want to take center stage to perform. I'd best get back to her before someone throws a sink at her again. They all seem restless because I haven't made a move with the cards in such a long time. And even though I may have already blown some of my resolutions only two months into the new year (when is this thing due again?) and ended up hooked on something else to distract me from my class work, I guess I can't be too upset about it. I mean the music from the Mahjongg game is kind of mellowing. That has to count for something, right?
Until we meet again... Just remember that there's always *some* time to play in every single day, so GAME ON!
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