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Games

A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Five

Today wraps up my deep dive into the Apple Arcade. As a refresher, here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: This covers what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The part you're reading now; the second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

And now, the rest of the keepers…

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A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Four

Today wraps up my deep dive into the Apple Arcade. When I planned this, one Part Four post was going to cover everything left…but it was way too long. So I'm still publishing it all today, but I've split the last part into three separate posts. So here's the full series:

  • Part One: This covers what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The part you're reading now; the first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

Before I get to the keepers, though, there were two more games released while I was working on these posts, so I'll take a quick look at those.

All of You In this unique puzzler, your character is a chicken that needs to collect a number of lost baby chicks. Your chicken walks from left to right across the circles as seen at right. One circle can be animating at a time while the others are still. On some levels, you can rearrange and/or flip the circles, too. (In the level at right, you animate the dynamite circle first, so it explodes before you walk across.)

Higher levels have more circles, so there's not so much empty space…and some of the puzzles get a bit tricky. It's fun, but I'm not sure it's a keeper just yet.

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A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Three

My new iPad Air came with a surprise (at least, to me): A three-month trial to Apple Arcade. So I decided to look at all 139 games available in the Apple Arcade.

Here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: This post includes what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: The part you're reading now; a slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

Here's the second set of nine games that I felt worth more time testing. Obviously these summaries still aren't anything close to a full review, but there's a bit more detail (and screenshots; click for the large version).

No Way Home What starts as a top-down space shoot-em-up turns into more of a mission-focused shooter—collect things for upgrades, take this to that. Lovely graphics and fun gameplay, plus a helpful robot assistant helps you battle. And while it's another dual control, the second control is for firing direction not camera view direction, which is much less of a pain for me.
Operator 41 One of the "sneak about in the dark" games, and the graphics have a nice grainy texture to them. The ground is divided into grid squares, and you move by tapping on a destination grid square. It's a simple concept, but it's well executed here, and some of the moves require impeccable timing—roving guards and rotating security lights make for brief bits of protected space.

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A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part Two

My new iPad Air came with a surprise (at least, to me): A three-month trial to Apple Arcade. So I decided to look at all 139 141*Two more games were released during the writeup of this series. games available in the Apple Arcade.

Here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: This post includes what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: The part you're reading now—a slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five: The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

Obviously these summaries still aren't anything close to a full review, but there's a bit more detail (and screenshots; click for the large version).

A Fold Apart This puzzler's unique twist is that the characters are walking around in what is, essentially, a landscape made up of pieces of paper. The paper can be folded and/or flipped over, and solving puzzles involves some combination of flipping and folding in order to complete the path the characters are following. It's colorful and relaxing, yet the puzzles require some creative thinking.

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A deep dive into the Apple Arcade—Part One

My new iPad Air came with a surprise (at least, to me): A three-month trial to Apple Arcade.

I thought if I'm going to trial it, I should really trial it. And what better way to do that than by playing everything they offer? So over the last few days, I have downloaded, launched, played a bit of, taken some very brief notes on, and (in most cases) deleted a total of 139 141*Two more games were released during the writeup of this series. games.

Here's what's in each part of the series:

  • Part One: The part you're reading now, it covers what I look for in games, some general observations on the games in the Arcade, and the lengthy list of games that didn't make my first cut.
  • Part Two: A slightly deeper look at the first half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Three: A slightly deeper look at the second half of the games I felt merited additional time for playing and testing.
  • Part Four: The first half of my set of definite keeper games.
  • Part Five The second half of my set of definite keeper games, including my two favorites.
  • Part Six: Wrapping it all up.

I am not going to begin to pretend I will post a full review of each of these games. For most of them, in fact, I can provide only a passing first impression based on my one-time testing of each game.

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Fun family card games to help pass the time

As many of us are under stay at home orders, and schools are canceled (or on partial-day remote learning), it can be a challenge keeping the kids entertained without relying on electronic devices all the time. I thought I'd share three of our favorite card games, which are playable for anyone from kids of roughly middle school age up through adults.

Each can be played with as few as three people (the max varies by game), and all are relatively simple to learn but hard to master, and don't take a huge amount of time to play. The first two are packaged games (from the same company), while the third simply requires two decks of cards.

Five Crowns

Five Crowns is a rummy-style card game, where the objective is to score the fewest points possible. The first hand is three cards per player, with threes wild (plus jokers, which are always wild). Players need to build either straights or of-a-kind collections, consisting of at least three cards. Each turn, you can either draw one card from the discard pile, or from the top of the deck; at the end of you turn, you must discard (including when you go out). The objective is to go out by playing all the cards in your hand. So for the first hand, it's pretty simple.

Once one player goes out, the others put down what minimum three-card groupings they can, then have to add up the value of remaining cards, and that becomes their score for the round. The second round is four cards, and fours are wild; then five with fives wild, etc., all the way up to 13 cards with Kings being wild.

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When castles were dark and pixels were black and white

Recently, while browsing Michael Tsai's blog, I came across a link to a chapter from The Secret History of Mac Gaming, a book by Richard Moss.

This particular chapter dealt with the making of Dark Castle, one of the earliest Mac video games. It's a pretty amazing tale of life in the early days of home computing. For example, on the founding of the company that released Dark Castle:

Not one to be discouraged, Jackson withdrew most of his life savings, bought a Lisa, signed up for the Apple developer program, and founded the company Silicon Beach Software in mid-1984. He then met with seventeen-year-old Jonathan Gay and made a deal. Gay wouldn't get any money up front, but he'd get royalties on sales of a Macintosh game that he'd program on weekends.

Reading the chapter brought back memories of playing both Dark Castle and its more-aggravating successor, Beyond Dark Castle. These side-scrolling platformers were fun, frustrating, and rewarding—a great mix for video games of any era. I wondered if it was possible to play them today, 30-plus years later…and of course, it was.

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The ridiculous economics of Real Racing 3

I used to play a lot of Real Racing 3 (RR3), an iOS auto racing game. Like, quite a lot. At one point, I owned all 132 cars available at that time, and had completed all the events.

To reach that point, I spent about $60 on in-app purchases—RR3's in-app purchases were really expensive. And yes, that's a lot, but I didn't own a console at the time, and I judged the app worth the cost of a console racing game. (I also took advantage of some programming glitches that enabled occasional free in-app purchase items; without these glitches, I doubt I would have made it as far as I did.)

Once I'd spent $60 and could go no further without spending more, I stopped playing; $60 was my limit. I did keep my iCloud save game file in case I wanted to revisit it someday. That someday was yesterday.

Since I left, the game has grown a lot: There are now 171 cars available, or 39 more than when I stopped playing. To finish the game again, I'd need to acquire (and upgrade) all of those cars (and race a huge number of new races). I thought "maybe it's OK to spend another $60 or so; it's been a few years."

But as I looked into what it might cost to finish the game, I found that the economics are still absolutely ridiculous. How ridiculous? About $3,665 ridiculous. Yes, I estimate it would cost me $3,665 to finish RR3. At that spending level, though, there are some other purchases I could consider…

Instead of finishing RR3, I could purchase a commercial-grade 48" gas range. Or I could buy a loaded Touch Bar Retina MacBook Pro with a 2.9GHz Core i7 CPU, 1TB SSD, and upgraded graphics.

The third option, though, is the best comparison: For $129 less than what I think it would cost me to finish RR3, I could purchase all of the following:

That's a full console-based driving setup, including a 65" 4K TV, for less than what I'd probably have to pay to finish (temporarily, until the next expansion) Real Racing 3. Yes, I'd say that's ridiculous.

But where do my numbers come from, and how could I possibly think it'd cost that much to finish the game?! Read the rest if you'd like the nitty-gritty on my $3,665 estimate.

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My horrid Minecraft purchasing experience

Summary version: I bought the Mac version of Minecraft via credit card. This led to my card being put on a fraud hold, and the company that handled the charge asking me to provide personal and private information via email. Ergo, my recommendation: do not use a credit card to purchase Minecraft.

Updated on Sept 5: Skip to the end to see Skrill's response to my refusal to provide identity theft documents.

Detailed version: Recently, my daughter started playing Minecraft with a friend of hers. At first, the iOS version was all she wanted to use, and she played that for quite a while. But then her friend upgraded to the desktop version, and after some discussion with her and figuring out how she could help pay for it, we agreed to buy the Mac version.

So I went to the Minecraft site, and followed the steps to pay by credit card. When you do so, your payment is handled by a company named Skrill (previously Moneybookers). Googling on either of these will provide some interesting tidbits, such as default opting-in customers to casino partners and their blocking the WikiLeaks donation site. I only wish I had Googled before I purchased. In my defense, it's only noted in a small line at the bottom of the payment screen:

If I had gone my homework ahead of time, I would've switched to PayPal, but I didn't.
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A Windows Vista hint…

Clearly this one doesn't belong on Mac OS X Hints, but I wanted to have it documented somewhere. There's usually a Windows box of some sort in my home, for testing and game playing. The testing role for my physical Windows box has pretty much been replaced by VMware Fusion, so it's really now a game playing machine.

As such, I upgraded it recently (well, rebuilt it from scratch is a better summary) with a new CPU and video card. I also wanted to put Vista on it, for one reason only: to run Crysis under DirectX 10, which only works in Vista. My Vista DVD is an upgrade installation, which must be installed from within Windows XP. Windows XP, when it came out, didn't support SATA drives, so for a fresh install of XP (it was a new install on my newly-built machine), you must set the SATA mode in the machine's BIOS to IDE. I did that, installed XP, and upgraded to Vista.

Vista includes AHCI support, so my SATA drives can be used in native SATA mode. However, if you just switch your BIOS to ACHI mode, and you were using XP in IDE mode, then your box will fail to boot -- that's because the AHCI drivers are not installed by default in Vista if you start with XP in IDE mode. So how do you switch Vista from IDE to ACHI mode?
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