Category Archives: Video Games

Professor Layton and the Curious Village

The Chinese New Year holiday gave me plenty of time to relax and get some Advance Wars Dual Strike play in, but on the last two days I was blessed with a new game, Professor Layton and the Curious Village.

This game is a collection of mini-games and puzzles all following the main plot line of a mysterious treasure. The person who finds this treasure will be left the entire estate, which coincidentally includes the entire village. Along the way Layton encounters additional trials including solving a murder and finding out what the strange tower is in the middle of the town.

The great thing about this game is what it contains:

  • A strong plot-line
  • Puzzles that range from simple to complex
  • A built in hint system for less skilled users
  • A free weekly puzzle that can be downloaded from the internet
  • Full-motion animation and voice acting
  • A quirky retro art style

I recommend anyone who is fond of puzzles (including Martin Gardner fans), mysteries, and logic games check this game out. The great thing is that the website has a fully interactive demo which demonstrates the play mechanics of the game, meaning you can try before you buy.

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Advance Wars: Days of Ruin

I just got a new game that I have fallen in love with, Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. This is an edgy re-make of the previous turn-based strategy Advance Wars: Dual Strike game. In this revision the story has a bit more depth, the cut-scene graphic design is updated, and the overall gameplay is updated to focus more on strategy than on an all out melee.

If you are unfamiliar with turn-based strategy games, you need to think of a war based strategy game where you need to plan your next turn by moving, attacking, building, or repairing tactical units of different strengths on the battle field. After you take your turn, your opponent (the computer) then moves all of their units to do the same. Think of a chess game where you can move all of your pieces once each turn.

One of the final innovations over the previous version is the fact that they have added WiFi gaming to the mix. Online play tied with the ability to create your own maps and terrain provide you with unlimited play options at all skill levels. Play your best friend across the street or strangers who live 5000 miles away (anonymously, of course).

My Wii Friend Code


Wii Friend Code
Originally uploaded by James in Taiwan.

Recently I have been spending a lot of time on my Wii. I know my friends and family have to have a Wii as well. If you do, here is my friend code. Send me a message and then I can reciprocate. If you do you will soon find a virtual James and Steven in your Mii list on your Wii.

Cosmic Osmo being re-released for Windows, no Mac version in sight

Long before I got my first Mac I asked for the CD-ROM game Cosmic Osmo and an AppleCD drive. I ended up borrowing a friend of the family’s Mac Plus to play the game and I was hooked. You could say my love affair with apple products started with this game.

Osmo'sCosmic Osmo is a game set on exploring a surrealistic world. You start off in a strange spacecraft that can visit pre-planets ranging from a giant fish to a planet with a house on one side and a boat on the other. This game was created by Cyan, the creators of Myst and was an evolutionary step in Cyan creating Myst.

This game has no start or end and is pure exploration. Almost anything you see in this game is click able and will start a animation and music sequence.

Recently I downloaded a program called Mini VMac which lets you run old MacOS 6 programs. After booting up an old system hard drive and I opened up my Cosmic Osmo CD and booted it up. It worked, although some of the sounds were out of sync, some of the audio was scrambled and some animation was too fast.

Osmo Reading Inside a Fish

Many people have fond memories of Cosmic Osmo. It was the first CD I ever played on my Sony Diskman (the game had a music track with jazz songs from the game). I also know that my nephews in Portland played the game quite often. So what games can be compared to Cosmic Osmo? Unfortunately there arn’t any.

Myst focuses on solving puzzles, which isn’t the main focus of Cosmic Osmo. There is Leo’s Great Day, a Flash 3 game by Pepworks, but once again this is a story with a beginning and end and a few puzzles, although the animation style and game design approach seems to be similar to Cosmic Osmo. There are really no other games out there like Cosmic Osmo where you can just explore and interact with the world.

Blind Mouse Playing Cheese Piano

So if Cosmic Osmo is so great, why isn’t anyone selling it now? Well for one it was released as a B&W game just for the Macintosh using Mac only technology. There were hints at a masterpiece update to this eleven years ago from a story writeup on the creators of the game, but unfortunately there hasn’t been much progress or cash to throw at a project like this – until recently.

I happened to buy a piece of software last year that is similar to HyperCard, called Runtime Revolution. Every month or so the company that creates the software sends me a developer newsletter. Normally this goes into my special circular file called a trash can, but the last one caught my eye because it was an interview with a developer who is updating and converting Cosmic Osmo. Here are the facts I picked out of the article:

  1. This game will no longer be released as a HyperCard based game
  2. At least 90% of the original game can be ported, the other 10% will be re-created for modern operating systems
  3. All of the original sounds and music will be included in the game
  4. There is a hint at a technology advance that is available and that was not available in the original HyperCard version (I imagine this is hinting at color graphics)

There is one more point from the article. This will be released as a Windows only application – even though it is being developed and can be ported to an updated Mac version with the flip of a switch. This started out as a Mac game, and is being released on Windows even though a Mac version could be created by a flip of the switch, or as the developer puts it:

There are currently no plans to re-release a Macintosh version, though if that should change it would be trivial to recompile the main stack for OS X, which is all that would be required.

I understand the need to release this for Windows, but what about all the loyal fans who have been waiting for a re-release. This is really heartbreaking.

How do you feel about this?  Please leave your comments here for requesting a Mac version of Cosmic Osmo.

I got the Nintendo DS lite!


Nintendo DS lite opened up, stylus and strap
Originally uploaded by James in Taiwan.

I finally got the DS lite today. I took a 1/2 hour train ride to Chungli and picked one up at a store that had 5 in stock. This is one of the benifits of living in Asia, you get all the nice toys.

Web browser for Nintendo DS announced!

Web Browser for NDSMany people might be asking why I am talking about the Nintendo DS so much. Well, outside of work I go home now and watch videos… and play my DS. I can’t help it. True, I do go out on weekends, but you don’t want to hear about Taiwan, do you?

I promise to post some articles on Taiwan soon, but today I have some good news for DS owners. Today a web browser was announced for you.

Who would want a web browser for a DS you may ask? The very same person who wants one for a PDA. The two screens of the DS are much larger than most PDAs together. Furthermore, the DS has a touch screen, perfect for gesture based input and on screen keyboard input.

I broke my IPAQ a while back, and I have been itching for online access, and it seems that Nintendo (Japan) finally has a solution. Nintendo has partnered up with Opera to produce the Opera browser for the Nintendo DS. Initially this product will be released in Japan, but it will eventually be localised for the US and for Europe. This light-weight browser will support the internal Wi-Fi capibilities of the DS. The PSP (Sony’s portable that sells for almost 2x the price of the Nintendo DS) has a web browser, but the fact that there is no touch-pad hinders inputting text. (Imagine typing in http://www.humandesigned.com with a joystick!) Additionally, the DS has the best battery life compared to other handhelds (compared to the PSP and Windows Mobile devices).

The browser will be released on a single DS cartridge (which is 2x the physical size of a SD card) and retail for under 30 USD. This is a bargain and I imagine many business men who want a small web browser purchasing the ND and the Web Browser and a game for under $200 USD. This is much cheaper than a Wi-Fi enabled PDA and will be much more entertaining!

View the English press release from Opera.

I don’t want a next-gen handheld game system (yet)

After looking at the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP I see major flaws in both systems and I am holding off on buying one. I can be seen as an early adopter, but in this case I am not one.

The pros are obvious, they are both flashier, the hot item to get and have a better processor and a slightly larger screen. However, I would like to go over each systems con’s for me.

Nintendo DS

  • It is larger than the Gameboy SP
  • Nintendo DS (From Wikipedia)

  • It does not play all of my Gameboy games (only Gameboy Advance games)
  • It lacks an analog joystick
  • I don’t want 2 screens, i want something smaller with 1 screen
  • I don’t like touch screens (I’ve tried playing stuff on my PocketPC, and playing with a touchscreen sucks)
  • The screen is too small for 3D games

Sony PSP

  • It has a short battery life compared to Nintendo’s 10 hours
  • PSP from Wikipedia

  • It is larger than the Gameboy SP
  • I don’t like disk-based games, especially on handhelds
  • The UMD disks Sony uses are region encoded, meaning you cannot always play something from America on a Japanese PSP
  • I don’t want a Internet device, movie player, mp3 player and game player all in one, I just want to play games
  • It costs more than a PS2
  • I historically like most Nintendo platformers over most Sony games
  • I don’t like 3D games on a small screen
  • There are quality problems with the device