Game Review: Escape Land

March 30th, 2015

I’ve gotten completely addicted to escape rooms this year. The idea is simple: your team gets locked inside a themed room filled with hidden objects, puzzles and various other things, and you need to escape the room in 60 minutes by solving all the clues. It’s pretty much the real life version of those flash games from the 90s.

There are at least 8 escape room companies now in London alone, providing 15 rooms all together, each themed and setup in a completely unique way. I was curious though? How do these rooms compare to each other? So I’ve decided to take on the bothersome task of trying out all these rooms with the same team, and reviewing them here!

Escape Land - Live  Escape Game

The first room our team got to do was Escape Land, organized by Escape Games London. I got kindly invited by Sandor from Escape Games to review their room, so on a gloomy Thursday our group made our way to Bethnal Green to get locked in.

★★☆☆☆ Story

The story behind this room is that your group got sucked into a time tunnel and end up in the home of two steampunk scientists. You need to escape the room before the rest of their Illuminati friends arrive. This is all explained on their website, but when we got to the place there wasn’t really an intro to set the scene of the story.

The story element doesn’t get much better when you enter the room. Throughout the room there were several letters involving clues and puzzles, but not much to build the story of why you are there and why you need to escape.

★★☆☆☆ Atmosphere & Set Design

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh here, but compared to some of the other rooms I’ve done, the atmosphere of the room could have been better. The room is decorated with a desk, a set of drawers and two creepy mannequins that all look steampunky, and the walls are covered with various steampunk puzzle elements. But it doesn’t look polished or coherent enough; it doesn’t feel like you’ve just walked into the home of two steampunk scientists.

Now I wasn’t sure whether to mention this here or in the next section about puzzle design (bit of an in-between area, I guess), but all the locks were actual locks. Some used keys, some used code combinations, but they were all still I-can-buy-these-from-Amazon-style locks. Which also meant that the result of each puzzle was either a key or a number code. With the steampunk theme I was hoping for some more interesting contraptions, like using cogs or hidden switches to open wall compartments or doors.

★★★☆☆ Difficulty & Puzzle Design

While the locks themselves didn’t feel very steampunk, the puzzles certainly did make use of the steampunk theme, using pipes, cogs, vials and more. There was a good selection of different types of puzzles; some logical, some physical, some mechanical. Our host boasted that with their 16 puzzles, they had more than any other escape room.

This also meant that since we were with 5 people, all of us were constantly busy working on some puzzle. I liked that there were several puzzles which needed at least 2 people, meaning you really had to work together to solve it. We all had our own brilliant aha-moments, where we each finally figured out something.

I don’t want to go into spoiler-area detail of any of the puzzles, but I did enjoy the ones that I solved. As I said in the previous section, my only disappointment was that the result of every puzzle was a key or a number code. This also meant that if you had figured 2 out of the 3 clues/digits of a number code, you could easily brute-force the solution for the last digit.


In the end, we managed to escape the room in 39:08 minutes. I don’t know what the current standing record is, but it sounded like we had set a pretty fast time.

I really enjoyed escaping from the Escape Land room. It’s not as polished or immersive as some of the other rooms, but I think the puzzles are entertaining and fun to work on. It’s a great way to spend an evening with a group of friends!

Disclaimer: I got invited by Escape Rooms London to review their room. All thoughts and opinions are my own though.

If you’ve read some of my posts the past few weeks, you’ll know I’ve been hoping to get my hands on the new Tomb Raider game. Well, now thanks to Ladbrokes I got the chance to play the game. Besides that as part of their promotion of their own Tomb Raider Slot Game they’ve given me a copy to giveaway to one of my lovely readers!


What do you need to do to enter? Simply fill in the following form:

You’ll also get an extra entry if you mention the giveaway on Twitter with the hashtag #missgeeky, and another extra entry if you like this post on Facebook. The competition is only open to residents in the UK. The winner will be drawn randomly and I will contact them on Tuesday April 3rd.

So what did I think of the game? Short version: fun yet brutal game that somehow doesn’t feel like “my” Tomb Raider.

I used to be a huge Tomb Raider fan. It had a strong kickass female protagonist, featured lots of spooky ancient places and the main gameplay was focused on solving puzzles. I wasn’t very good at it, but it was fun and the part of me that loved ancient history enjoyed seeing the myths and tombs come to life. I could walk around the ruins of an ancient Indian temple or explore the catacombs of a Egyptian temple and it filled me with awe and wonder. I loved how you could pull a random lever, hear a click and not know what the effect was, leaving you wandering around trying to find what had changed. I loved how you had to battle dinosaurs, mutants, gods, and other weird things that inhabited those ancient tombs.


Jump forward 16 years (!!! wow, now I feel old) and we get the rebooted version featuring a younger more innocent Lara Croft. This new story is all about putting this unexperienced Lara into a deadly dangerous environment and seeing her “grow” into the Lara Croft we know. She’s thrown into this terrible situation and does everything she can to make sure she and her friends survive.

As I expected there’s a lot about this game that feels like Uncharted: ancient ruins, phases of corridors of enemies just shooting at you and the standard jumping and climbing traversals. Once you unlock your special rope arrow ability (also: who the hell went through all the effort of tying ropes around all those bits of trees, doors and pillars?? Someone on that island must have been bored) the game traversal gets a bit more interesting and the use of fire provides some fun puzzle solving.

The problem I had with those “puzzles” though is that they never felt too complex; every single time it was pretty straightforward on how to solve it, I never had the feeling the game was challenging me. I can understand that the main storyline should remain easy and solvable for all, but why couldn’t some of the optional tombs be a bit more trickier? Why couldn’t they bring back the levers, hiding some of the challenges behind secret doors?


Next to that I was missing that awe and wonder I had with the older games. The graphics are way better now, so I was expecting to be blown away by awesome and awe-inspiring ancient ruins. Instead the creators went down the shock and horror route. The game is full of impaled corpses, bloody altars, chunks of unidentifiable slabs of meat hanging off hooks, and piles of skulls and bones. The environment feels bland and brutal, and I felt uneasy the entire time playing.

What it comes down to is that to me the game didn’t feel like the Tomb Raider I grew up with and loved. I wanted a game that makes me feel like I’m a kickass archaeologist, solving tricky puzzles, exploring gorgeous abandoned tombs and discovering awesome artefacts. Instead this Tomb Raider is all about surviving: surviving the harsh environment, surviving the brutal island inhabitants, surviving everything that is thrown at you. I get that that’s what they were going for, I just wish that besides all that surviving Lara had also learnt a sense of wonder and excitement for discovery.

By the end of the game, I don’t think Lara has turned into the Lara Croft of the previous games; instead they’ve rewritten her history so much, that she’s turned into this other unrecognizable Lara with a different personality and motivation, a Lara that I’m not sure I want to see more of. As much as I enjoyed playing the game, I miss “my” Lara and I miss the Tomb Raider of old.

Movies. Games. Books. TV shows. I love all of them and I wish I had more time to watch, play and read all the things I want to. I do notice though how I tend to go through “waves” of each of them: some weeks (like the weeks leading up to the Oscars) I’ll be mainly watching movies, while other weeks I’ll be mainly hooked on certain books and games. I’ve had this idea for a while now to do a visualization of all the stuff I’m addicted to, mashing up my movie data from Letterboxd, my gaming data from Raptr and my reading data from Goodreads. The only thing I’m missing is my TV show data, but I think that one tends to be quite consistent through most of the year.

When it comes to games the past two months, I think I mainly played in the first 2 weeks just after Christmas. I was pretty much playing Assassin’s Creed III and Darksiders II simultaneously, cause I had to share AC3 with Cristiano. The more I play though the more I notice how easier it becomes to switch to different controller controls: it just takes time!

Assassin's Creed III

Assassin’s Creed III

I’ve always enjoyed the Assassin’s Creed series. I loved the overarching scifi-y story with Desmond, the scrambling over rooftops and monuments with Altair and Ezio, and just that sense of history while you’re playing. And while most of that was in AC3, it was also the first game in the series that I’ve been disappointed by.

I wouldn’t say it’s a bad game. There are some annoying glitches, but overall it’s a fun game to play. I think the main reason I was disappointed by it is because of the protagonist Connor. He’s just so booooring and bland, there’s just no way to sympathise with him. Part of me wonders how much that’s got to do with the bad voice artist; would Connor have been more likeable in the hands voice of someone else? Or is it really a problem with the story? You never get a real story reason to do anything beyond the main missions. There’s this weird disconnect between the main and side missions, as if each side was written by someone else who had different ideas of who Connor was.

Despite that though I did spend hours wandering through the forests hunting animals and navigating the high seas completing missions. Both of those were a lof of fun and surprisingly relaxing. It’s weird though that it’s the new elements that made me like this game, while the old elements left me rather disappointed. Today’s news of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag sounds like it will be focusing more on the parts I did like and will hopefully be better than this one!

Darksiders 2

Darksiders 2

I can’t talk about Darksiders II without first mentioning how sad it is that Vigil Games is no more. I really liked the Darksiders games and would have loved to have seen a Darksiders III, especially cause that one would finally feature Fury, the whip wielding female Horseman of the Apocalypse. It’s such a shame, cause I think they had some great ideas and they were definitely games I enjoyed playing.

In Darksiders II you get to play as Death, our second Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Just like in the first Darksiders, the game is a nice balance of fighting battles, traversing areas and solving puzzles. As the story progresses, Death finds gadgets granting him special abilities like grappling and portal jumping. I loved discovering the new abilities and trying to use them to solve the different puzzles. Some of the puzzles can be quite tricky, and I quite like that most of them aren’t completely obvious at first glance. The fighting I struggled a bit more with, but once you get the hang of it, it can be quite fun.

Bioshock 2

Bioshock 2

I still haven’t finished Bioshock 2, but so far I’m sort of liking it. I mean I think I’m only about one third in, but from what I’ve played it seems very much the same as the first Bioshock. Weapons? Check. Magic Plasmas? Check. Tonics? Check. Research Camera? Check. There are some minor tweaks in equipping abilities and skills, but again most of it seem pretty much copy-paste from the previous game. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I was hoping for something a bit more than just a rehash of the first one.

I again love the look and feel of the game; it’s so cool exploring the different sections of Rapture and they’ve again managed to create some creepy yet gorgeous locations. I just wish there was something new, something innovative, something a bit different, than just the “same” game again.

If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know that one of my New Year’s resolutions is to write more reviews. I really should try and write a review for each game I’ve played, or at least round ups like this one (just a bit more often than every half a year though).

I think the main reason though of why I don’t write reviews for just one game is that I mainly play oldish games; I rarely play games that have just come out, preferring to wait until they’re the price I’m willing to pay for them. And then I just don’t get around writing about those games cause there’s no hurry in writing a review for something that came out ages ago…

mass effect 3

Mass Effect 3

The Mass Effect 3 multiplayer is the number one reason why there aren’t more games on this list. I already put this game on my 2012 January – June list, but I had to mention it here again. The multiplayer is a lot of fun, especially when you’re playing with a group of friends. Since they’ve launched Bioware have put a lot of time into making the game even more addictive.

Back in October they introduced the new Challenge Awards which is pretty much a specialized in-game achievements system, with a ton of challenges tied to weapons, power and character usage. It made me actually want to play with different characters each time and try out different ways to combine weapons and powers. Plus in the 8 weeks leading up to Christmas they released a new character each week. And the only way to unlock new characters is to play more, earn credits and buy packs (which may or may not contain a character). Anyhow it’s turned out to be waaaaay more addictive than I initially expected it to be.

Mass Effect is currently £17 on for both Xbox 360 and PS3.


Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

I played Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune earlier last year and wasn’t super impressed with it, mainly cause I was playing it 5 years after it came out. The story was fun though, so I was curious to see how its sequel would be. Uncharted 2 again has a fun story and it enjoyable to play, but… I can’t put my finger on just quite why, but there’s nothing in either of those games that makes me go “awesome awesome awesome best games ever”. Is it cause I’m just playing them some years after they came out or are these games just not for me?

Uncharted 2 is currently £16.98 on



This was the first game I played back in 2009 when I finally got myself a PS3. I actually didn’t like it all back then, mainly cause I sucked at the battles and kept on dying and dying. Fast forward to 3 years later when I tried it again cause the sequel was coming out, and turns out it’s a whole lot of fun. I really enjoyed the balance of puzzles, battles and item hunting, and love the design of the worlds and the characters.

Darksiders is currently £13.99 (PS3) and £14.99 (Xbox 360) on



I somehow had this idea that Bioshock was massively creepy and scary, which was why I was a bit hesitant to play it. Sometimes though you want to get that creepy, scary experience though, so I finally sat down to play it last month. And got hooked instantly. Turns out it isn’t even that creepy. The levels right at the start of the game are slightly creepy with dark corridors and creatures popping out at you, but as you progress that starts to lessen (although come to think about it: does it really start to lessen or are you just less likely to be creeped out?).

The game is set in the 1960s when your character crashes in the middle of the ocean and discovers Rapture, an almost-abandoned 1940s style underwater city. I loved the style of the game, and the story complements it completely. I definitely wish I had played it sooner.

Bioshock is currently £17.90 (PS3) and £24.99 (Xbox 360) on

So those together with these games (Game Reviews: Janaury – June 2012) are all the games I played last year. 2013 is already off on a brilliant start: I’ve already play bits of Bioshock 2, Assassin’s Creed 3 and Darksiders 2. So what games have you played recently, dear readers?

It’s time for another half year round-up post and this time it’s all about games! I started this post last Thursday, but with all the busy-ness around BarCampBerkshire (more about that later!) I couldn’t find the time to finish it. The cool thing though is writing this post actually inspired me to talk about these games at BarCamp and giving people the opportunity to share what they were playing.

In total I played 7 games the past half year, completing 6 of them. One a month that’s not too bad! Btw, if you want to add me as friend: I’m Rivanny on Xbox Live and MissGeeky on PSN.

I used to be mainly a Playstation gamer, but in the past year I’ve noticed I’ve really started to like the Xbox 360 much more. It’s mainly because the PS3 dashboard sucks a lot in comparison to the Xbox one; I always get confused on the PS3 as to where I’m supposed to look and find things. I think that’s mainly cause the PS3 is more text based than the colourful pretty image based Xbox. On top of that, the OCD green monster in me loves the way Xbox handles its Achievements; being able to compare your Achievements to your friends and trying to do better than them is so addictive.

Alan Wake

As a kid/teen, I loved those creepy Twilight Zone-y Stephen King-esque TV series. More often than not they would be about a stranger coming to a small town and something paranormal would happen in one way or another (and how often was the protagonist a writer?!?). Alan Wake feels like one of those TV shows. The game is split into 6 chapters, with each one ending with a cliffhanger of sorts and each subsequent one starting with the opening’s title and a summary of what happened last time. It actually feels like you’re playing a TV show. I thoroughly enjoyed that structure; it gives you an easy way to put the game down, come back a week later and get up to speed with what the story was again. The story is about bestselling thriller writer Alan Wake, who suffers from a two-year long stretch of writer’s block and travels with his wife Alice to the small town of Bright Falls for a short vacation. The game starts with Alan coming to in a crashed car a week after he arrived in Bright Falls, not remembering anything of the past few days or what happened to Alice. And he’s being attacked by mysterious shadows, who clearly want something from him.

The gameplay is quite interesting; instead of just having to shoot the “monsters”, you first have to shine your flashlight at it to destroy all the darkness inside. Only then can you switch to your gun and kill it. Walking around the levels is creepy as hell; you know how when you’re watching a horror movie and a character walks into a dark room and you just know something is going to jump out any moment? It’s exactly that, but way more effective, cause you’re actually controlling the reaction. It’s not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it and gets your heart racing in a relaxing manner (the same way watching a horror movie can be weirdly relaxing).

Mass Effect 3

Epic. Despite what you might have heard about the ending, most of Mass Effect 3 is good. It’s got some of best story lines I’ve seen in a video game and it’s hands-down the best sci-fi universe created in recent years. What annoys me about most sci-fi books/games/movies with aliens is that it almost always ends up being about the humans vs the aliens. What I love about Mass Effect is how you have all these different species with their own unique background stories and conflicts. It’s pretty much the same reason why I loved Babylon 5; the humans are only one small piece of this big universe (sidenote: if anyone can recommend books with a similar premise, let me know in the comments).

If you haven’t played any of the games, I’d recommend going back to the start and actually play 1 and 2 (although if you really can’t be bothered with the first one or are playing on PS3, try at least to play ME2). The story in ME3 is great, but it makes the most impact when you’ve been around these characters longer than just the one game. There’s a part in ME3 that actually made me cry, but I know that this is only the case because I played the second game.

The ending… I am a little bit disappointed with those final 10 minutes, that they weren’t as awesome as they could have been, but they don’t negate the fact that the entire series has given me over 100 hours of great gameplay and storytelling. Plus I choose to believe a certain theory which (if true) makes everything in the game make sense. At this point I don’t even care anymore if this theory is true, but for me in my mind everything feels nicely wrapped up. And I’m happy with that.

I also of course have to mention the multiplayer; I can’t begin to count the number of hours I’ve lost into playing that. I wasn’t expecting to like it that much, but it’s been so much fun and it’s great being able to play WITH friends (instead of having to run around and kill your friends). You play in a team of four and have to survive 10 waves of alien attacks, with a mission happening during your 3rd, 6th and 10th wave (like defend a certain position). There are three difficulty levels (Bronze, Silver and Gold) and the further you go the more you start thinking about battle tactics and how to combine different powers, characters and weapons. It’s a lot of fun, especially when you have friends shouting at you through your headset.

Fable 3

Ah, Fable 3. I enjoyed Fable 2 a lot, and while I did complete Fable 3, it felt as if it was a much simpler game than 2 was. Having seen trailers for the new Fable addition, it seems to me as if this series is progressing in the wrong direction. Well, wrong for me. Fable 2 had your standard RPG type menu with an inventory, overview of your powers, a map, etc. In Fable 3 this was replaced by a magical series of rooms. Yes, rooms. Each time you wanted to look at your map or change a weapon, you got transported to a room and then had to walk to whichever thing you wanted to check. Seriously?!? Whoever came up with that *brilliant* idea? I love the jokey, non-seriousness of some aspects of the game, but I still expect there to be a decent game basis. There were just too many bits of Fable 3 where I felt like I was wasting time doing trivial stuff.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I had heard about the problems of this game beforehand: the boss battles were a lot more annoying than the normal fights and the game felt unbalanced. I still wanted to play this game though, so I ended up trying it on Easy: and it’s a whole lot that way. I was mainly playing this game for the story and couldn’t care less about how tricky I make it for myself. For the achievements, there’s also NO difference at all with playing this game on Easy vs Normal. There’s a special achievement for playing on Legend, but every single other achievement you can get on Easy.

I loved most of the world they described, but not what they chose to show. You start off the game in the slick offices of Sarif Industries with the promise of this high-tech advanced society. Instead you end up on the “futuristic” streets of Detroit, which just look like normal streets, and the high-tech offices and shiny apartments, which just look like normal offices and apartments. Everything looks so bland and copy-pasted; there’s not enough character in the surroundings. Things get a bit better once you’re in Hengsha, but I just have a feeling this all could have been done better.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

If I had played this game when it originally came out (5 years ago), I would have been more impressed with it. It’s a good game, but there are a couple of things that didn’t feel as slick as they could be (especially the trophies, but I understand they were only added later). The story is great though, and I’m really looking forward to playing the sequels.

Halo: Combat Evolved (Anniversary)

Because I was a Playstation gamer before last year, I had never played any of the Halo games. Cristiano has always been saying how good it was, and how much fun he had playing it with his house mates, but I always thought it was just another first-person shooter. I’d also never had an Xbox (or a good PC) to try them out on. So when the anniversary edition of Halo: CE came out, Cristiano finally convinced me to play the co-op game together. And of course it was a lot of fun.

The anniversary edition is basically a remastered version of the first game, with updated graphics, added online co-op, achievements and hidden content. The cool thing with the updated graphics though is that with just one key press you can switch back to how the old game looked like; it’s not exactly a useful feature, but I thought it was pretty neat. The hidden content includes terminals that provide new back story, and skulls that can change the gameplay (like most of the sequels of the original).

I’m not great at FPS’s (my aim sucks), but the co-op campaign is quite doable with the two of you (although we did struggle a bit with the last mission). You get just as many aliens attacking you as you would when alone, and being with the two of you makes the respawn work much more to your advantage. The story is great, and I really want to continue with the series now. ANybody have an idea whether Halo 2 will be remastered soon?

Dragon Age: Origins

This is the one game I haven’t completed yet… and I’m not sure I will. I like the story and I like the world, but there are just certain parts of the gameplay that annoy me. The battle mechanics aren’t fun to me at all; it almost feels as if I’m learning all the skills and powers as I would for a D&D game. Which is fun for a D&D game, but in a video game I want something a bit more thought-out than that. Then there’s the way you have conversations with NPCs; it sometimes isn’t very clear how the dialogue tree is layered. I kind of want to finish this game, but on the other hand part of me is just thinking: I can’t be bothered.

So what games did you play the past couple of months? Have you played the above games? Do you agree or disagree with me? Let me know in the comments!

I’ve been mainly playing Final Fantasy XIII the past weeks and those of you who follow my tweets will know how frustrated I am by it. It’s not that it’s a bad game, but I really don’t like how linear FFXIII is; the first 30 hours there’s basically only 1 way to play the game. So when I got a review copy of Rune Factory: Frontier, it felt like the perfect antidote to the linearity of FFXIII: this game is so open and non-linear, there are tons of ways you can play it.

Rune Factory Frontier cover

Title: Rune Factory: Frontier
Type: Puzzle, Nintendo Wii
Number of players: 1
Release Date: Out in Europe since April 1st (released in US last year)
Cost: £23.97 (on Amazon)

Rune Factory: Frontier is the third title of the Rune Factory series, but the first to appear on the Wii (the previous two were for the Nintendo DS). The original was a spin-off of the Harvest Moon video game series, and takes the farming aspect of the Harvest Moon series, but adds a dungeon crawling sword wielding side to it. I haven’t played any of the predecessors (neither from the Rune Factory series or the Harvest Moon series), but you don’t need any knowledge about any of those games.

This game starts with your character Raguna waking up to discover he has amnesia (of course). He moves to a new town, gets his own farm and some tools to start farming. Oh, and you get introduced to a bunch of girls, who you can potentially woo and marry. There are barely any forced tutorials or anything like that; the game just lets go and gives you the freedom to do whatever you want.

You start the game with the main activity of farming. You get a couple of seeds, a hoe and a watering can, and your own little field where you can sow and grow your crops. After sowing seeds, you have to water your crops once a day, until they are fully grown and you can harvest them. It of course depends on the type of seeds how many days it takes for them to grow; turnips (the seeds you start the game with) take 4 days. One minute in real life is one hour in the game world, so 24 minutes is one day.


Next to farming, you can dungeon crawl. You can buy a proper weapon (like a sword) or you can be cheap and use your hoe. Either way you can start dungeon crawling and destroying monsters straightaway (well you’re not actually ‘destroying’ them, you’re sending them back to the First world or something like that). Besides those two main activities, you can also learn to do other stuff, like cooking and fishing, but you have to find the right tools to start those (mainly by talking to the right people).

And then there’s the ‘love’ game. There are twelve girls in the village you can woo (and eventually end up marrying), each with different likes and dislikes. Each of them (and each of the other NPCs you come across) has a “Love Points” bar that increases as you show them affection. You do this by giving them presents they like (for instance, one girl might like turnips, another one roses). The girls are a bit stereotypical (you have the librarian, the inn keeper’s daughter, etc), but it’s still a lot of fun, figuring out what to get for each of them.

Rune Factory: Frontier is a cute RPG and one that requires more than a few hours of dedication. I love how much freedom the game gives you, letting you focus on those parts of the game that you like (instead of having to do everything). It’s perfect for someone as neurotic as me, trying to collect and create all the items (seriously, if I didn’t have video games, I’d be a crazy cat collector or worse: stamps).

Rune Factory: Frontier is available on for £23.97 and on for $29.99.

A couple of weeks ago I was asked whether I’d like to try out the game Animal Kororo for the Nintendo DS. Sure, I thought, it looks a bit cutesy, but it’s a puzzle game and looks like fun. Surprisingly it’s actually a pretty tough puzzle game, despite the fluffy animals and pastel graphics.


Title: Animal Kororo
Type: Puzzle, Nintendo DS
Number of players: 1-2
Cost: £10-£20 (depending on where you get it)

Animal Kororo is a puzzle game similar to Bejeweled or PuzzleQuest, where you have to match up same coloured objects. Here those objects are cute fluffy animals; you’ll have pigs, blue polar bears, frogs and all other types of cutesy critters. The idea is to roll the animals across the board and make them bump into identical animals to make them disappear. It’s touch screen controlled, so it’s simply tap on an animal and send them rolling in the whatever direction you want. You can’t stop an animal halfway a roll though, once rolled it will continue until it bumps into anything (so wall, other animal or obstacle).

To make it even trickier (and believe me the above is already tricky enough), the directions you’re allowed to roll are always in the same order: up, right, down, left. On the right hand side of the screen, is a bar that shows you what  direction is up next. So it’s not just a matter of rolling animals when you want, but figuring out what the next roll is going to be.


There are three types of modes (Attack, Challenge and Battle), each with varying levels (Easy, Normal and Hard). In Attack Mode, you get a list of which and how many of each animal you have to eliminate (see the top line in the above picture). In Challenge Mode, obstacles appear to make the levels more complex. And finally in Battle Mode you can play against a friend through single or multi-card play. In Attack and Challenge mode you also earn points, which can be then used to purchase items for a virtual house. It’s a bit silly, but the creatures are soo adorable, it kind of makes sense they added the tamagotchi element to it.

Animal Kororo is a cute little game, yet surprisingly tricky. I know I’ll be able to waste a good number of hours on this while on the tube or plane. And the animals are cute!

Animal Kororo is available for £12.00 on

Cristiano and I were able to borrow a Playstation 3 for the weekend, and finally got to try out a couple of games. I mainly wanted to see if our TV could handle the graphics and if it was worth eventually getting a PS3. To be very honest, I would love to get a PS3, but the cost of it just doesn’t seem worth what you get for it in return. My sweet little PS2 takes up way less space and makes less noise, although it of course doesn’t play the newest games. Maybe when the next Final Fantasy is finally released (XIII has a release date for winter in Japan, and XII had almost a full year between Japan and Europe releases), I’ll get around to buying one. For now though the PS2 and Nintendo DS will suit me just fine.


Anyhow, one of the games we tried this weekend was Buzz! Quiz TV. Buzz! Quiz TV is the seventh game of the Buzz! series of quiz games, and is the first to appear on the PS3. It is also the first game to use the new wireless Buzz! controllers. 

I hadn’t played any of the Buzz! games before, but for a time now I’ve been curious to see how the gameplay is. The Buzz! controllers are great; you get much more a sense that you’re playing a quiz game, when you’ve got a big red button at your disposal. Besides the big red button, there are four smaller coloured buttons (blue, orange, yellow, green) for picking answers from the onscreen options. I love the fact that these controllers are wireless; I can’t imagine playing this game with wired ones, especially with our living room setup. 


There are two local options of games: single-player and multiplayer. When playing single player, you get three rounds of Stop The Clock: the faster you answer a question, the more points you get. The multiplayer game consists of seven rounds:

Point Builder: for each correct answer you get 250 points.
Pass The Bomb: answer a question correctly to pass the bomb to another player. If you end up with the bomb when it explodes, you loose 300 points.
Fastest Finger: the player who answers the fastest receives the most points (400). Every subsequent correct answer receives less points.
Pie Fight: if you answer the fastest, you get control of the pie and can throw it at another player. When hit by two pies, you’re kicked out of the round.
Point Stealer: the player who answers the fastest may steal points from another player.
High Stakes: after a brief description of the topic, you have to bet a number of points. If you answer correctly, you win those points. If you answer incorrectly, you loose the points.
Final Countdown: each player is on a raised platform that is slowly moving to the ground. Answering questions correctly slow you from hitting the ground. Answering questions incorrectly speed it up. When your platform hits the ground, you’re kicked out. The player that remains standing wins.


I really liked how this game was setup; the different types of rounds add an interesting aspect to the game. Before each round, the player with the least points is allowed to choose the topic, allowing them to pick other player’s weaknesses (or their own strengths). Some rounds seem a bit unbalanced when only playing with two players (like the Pie round), but it’s still a lot of fun. The topics have a nice range from general knowledge to movies to science and technology. There was the option to play a game within a specific topic (like movies), but I would have loved to seen the opposite: a way to exclude topics. I’m fine with most questions, but I don’t really like sport (and neither does Cristiano), and we would have loved to see a way to leave those questions out of it.

There’s also an option to play online, but I haven’t tried that out yet. The idea is that players are able to create their own quizzes, each containing 8 questions. These can then be shared online with other players. There are also special question packs available in the Playstation store, but these will also be available on the special edition version

I did enjoy this game and I’m looking into getting a PS2 version. It’s a great party game and more addictive than I first imagined it to be. The wireless controllers are a must-have; they make the game so much easier. I’m now curious to see how the specialized versions are, especially the Hollywood one.

Buzz! Quiz TV – game plus buzzers for £39.99 on Amazon, special edition version plus buzzers for £42.99 on Amazon

Back at my student house in Delft, we used to play this game a lot. I never got around to getting the game myself, cause the rules said it was only for 3-4 players. We recently found out though that it is playable with 2 if you adapt some of the rules. It’s a great game and one of must-haves for a true boardgame geek.

Title: Settlers of Catan (Kolonisten van Catan)
Type: Boardgame
#Players: 3-4 (or 2 with adapted rules, 5-6 with extensions)
Cost: £20-25

Settlers of Catan is a played on a board of hexagonal tiles, that represent the island of Catan. At the start of the game the tiles are placed randomly or in a specific predetermined manner (but always with sea tiles surrounding it all). The island tiles represent the different resources: grain, wood, brick, ore and sheep (there aren’t any set names for the resources, we keep using other words like wheat, stone and clay too). Numbered tokens are then placed on each of the tiles, except for the resourceless “desert” tile. 

Katie = undefeated two time champion of Settlers of Catan. Just realizing how imporant these 'Development Cards' are.

The idea of Settlers is to build settlements and roads at the corners and on the edges of the hexes. Every player starts the game with two settlements and two adjoining road segments, and has to collect resources to be able to build more. You’re only allowed to build settlements at the end of one of your roads, and no two settlements may be built on adjacent corners. During each players turn, a roll of two dice determines which resources are allowed to be collected: every person with a settlement on the tiles with the number that was thrown is allowed to collect that resource. For instance, in the game in the picture above: if the number 5 is thrown, both the white player and the blue player may collect a brick, while the orange player is allowed to collect a grain.

During a players turn that player may spend their resource cards to build more. A brick and a wood builds a road. A brick, a wood, a sheep and a grain builds a settlement. And two grain and three ore builds a city. A city is an upgrade of a settlement, allowing a player to pick up double the resources for the adjacent tiles. Besides the building of the above, you can also use resources to buy a development card; these cards can do various useful things (I won’t explain all the different types of cards here).

(107/365) :: Settlers

The winner is the player who first reaches 10 victory points. You receive a victory point for each settlement you have on the board, and two victory points for every city you have (so no points for roads). Various other achievements, like building the longest road, can give you extra victory points.

The most interesting aspect of Settlers is the trading. Players are allowed to trade the resources they have in their hand, with other players or “off-island”. During your turn, you can initiate trades with any of the other players (if they are willing). This can be particularly handy if you’re not on a certain resource, while others are. With the “off-island” trade, you can exchange 4 of the same cards into any card you want (with the “bank”). Furthermore, there are special sea ports on the map that allow people with settlements on them better trading prices (like exchanging 2 sheep for anything you want).

As I said at the beginning of this post, Settlers of Catan is meant to be played with 3-4 people. From my own experiences 3 is the best number to play with. When you’re with 4 it’s still possible, but the map is slightly more full, leaving less space to maneuver. There are various adapted rules for 2 players floating around on the internet, and I’ve tried a couple of them. I’m still not completely happy with that game play though, and still trying to refine it.

Game Night

Like Carcasonne, Settlers of Catan is a “friendly” game. All players are in play until the end of the game (unlike Risk) and there are no ways to destroy points from people. There are ways to annoy people though like by refusing to trade, cutting off road routes, taking the longest road (by creating a road longer) and using special development cards. The placement of your settlements at the start of game can be crucial to the rest of your game; you have to give yourself enough space to build more roads and settlements (without getting boxed in), while trying to receive the best possible resources.

Settlers of Catan is a fun board game, which requires logical thinking, smooth talking and scheming. There are a couple of different expansions available, but I haven’t tried them out yet. It’s a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon with a couple of friends, and (like I said before) a must-have for every boardgame geek.

Settlers of Catan is available for £29.99 at The Orc’s Nest (near Cambridge Circus), £33 on, and $33 on

Game Review: Carcassonne

March 18th, 2009

Regular readers will know how much I love puzzles and games. I haven’t done that many game reviews on this blog, but I want to change that. I’ll be reviewing old and new games I’ve played. And not only video games! I’m going back to basics with board games and social games, cause some of these games are just as much fun (sometimes even more) as sitting behind a computer and killing each other (not that that’s the only thing you can do with video games). Plus I find not enough people play these type of games nowadays, which they should! 

To start this off, I’ve chosen Carcassonne, a board game I’ve been addicted to these past weeks.

Title: Carcassonne
Type: Boardgame
Number of players: 5 (but with a certain expansion added: 6)
Cost: £15-£20 for the basic game (depending on where you get it)

Day 40 - Carcassonne

Carcassonne starts with a single tile in the middle of the table, portraying part of a medieval landscape. All other tiles are shuffled and placed face down in a stack. On each turn a player draws a tile and places it adjacent to another tile already on the table. Tiles must be placed in a logical way: roads must extend roads, fields to fields, cities to cities. Simple so far, right?

Besides drawing and placing tiles, every player has seven ‘meeples’, wooden follower pieces to score points. After placing a tile, a player can decide to station a meeple on that tile. The meeple must be placed on a specific feature – road, city, field, cloister – and may not be placed if that feature has already been claimed. Whenever a feature is completed, a player scores points.

The game ends when the last tile is played and the player with the most points wins. And that’s all there is to this game. The basics are so simple, you don’t really need a lengthy explanation to start playing. Kids will grasp the basics just as quick as adults and there aren’t a lot of rules to remember. The game play itself can be quite quick and easy, depending on who you’re playing against. The way we play it though, we tend to take ages trying to figure out what’s the “optimal” spot to place a tile.

Day 62 - Peeple

What I really love about this game though is the number of expansions available, each changing the game in unique ways. For example, the River expansions replaces the single start tile with a river of a couple tiles long (all that changes in game play is the amount of options at the start). With the King and Scout expansion, there is an extra set of points for the player with the largest city and largest road. I love the Traders and Builders expansion, cause it adds two special meeples: one to score extra points in the fields (in the form of a little pig, called affectionately a ‘peeple’), and one to be able to draw an extra tile per turn (a “builder”, so a ‘beeple’). I’m simplifying it a bit now, but each expansion creates a different dynamic to the game and by combining expansions you can tailor the game to exactly how you like it.

If you like the sound of this definitely try out the basic set, or try to grab me at the next BarCampLondon. I’m going to bring it with me then to play during the overnight and maybe even do a session about it.

Carcassonne (the basic set) is available on for £14.95 and on for $22.87.