The Big Fish Games Weekly Catch! June 11-16

At Big Fish Games, a new game is released every day.  Every, single day.  We have the privilege of being among the first to play them, getting the scoop on what’s great and worth your time.  Head on below to read up on games that Big Fish released this week. 

Toy Defense

The lines must hold!

 

Toy Defense is an awesome game! Buy it. It’s a tower defense game, but one where you defend a static path by placing turrets along it. Everything is toys and that’s just about it.

It’s easy to praise a game that sticks to such a well-developed formula though, and I should point out that it’s fairly standard as far as TD games go. However, there is a great unit upgrade system in place where you progressively upgrade them by earning points in combat. I specced my army for all riflemen (the lowliest class) because they’re awesome. It really gives you a sense of identity to flesh out your army as you see fit.

Enemy units are varied too. You’ve got a few different foot soldiers to deal with, unit transport vehicles, light tanks, heavy tanks, planes, etc. I haven’t even seen them all. It’s a hard, long game that sucked up all of my day. I just looked down and it was 4pm. That’s the mark of a great game, right there.

However, there are some slight balance issues that hinder the experience. For example, the unit pricing is a bit drastic. The base riflemen are $20 and that’s good. But the next item, the flame-throwing units, are $100. That’s five times as expensive! From there, there is a $120 unit and a $500 one. Wow, where are the mid-tier ones? And unlocking skills is even more expensive.

Regardless, there is a flipping tonboat of content here. Literally dozens of levels. It does get a bit grind-y at times, where you wish you just could earn money an easier way. But that’s only because it’s so fun to progress. Can’t fault it for that. Right? So, when it’s all said and done, you got one of the most addictive games on BFG to date that’s a bit safe-played. Still, Toy Defense is a treat from beginning to end.
-Nick Cane

Paris Mahjong

Men, RUN!

 

And now, Paris Mahjong. Yikes. What is there to say? It’s mahjong set (superfluously so) in Paris. There is really not too much room for expansion in the mahjong stable. Pick two tiles, match them until there aren’t any left. Over the course of the game, you’ll get special tiles. Some throw out dynamite, some cut away a tile and its mate. These do little to speed up or revitalize the game, which for some is fine as-is. See where I’m going with this?

Let’s see where Paris Mahjong is of note. For one, the images on the tiles are freaking weird for a man to play with. Engagement rings, chocolate, lips, red wine. Really burly stuff, for sure. I found this a bit weird for certain, until I realized their relation to Paris, the most romantic city in the world (man, I wonder what Oakland Mahjong would be like?!).

Oh yes, and the music. Holy moley! You’d think it’d be soothing and calm. At points it is, but other times it’s more appropriately set to the storming of Pelennor Fields by King Elfstone and his fleet of ghost warriors. I outwardly giggled at how epic the music got … in a game of mahjong. It’s not bad at all, it’s actually quite awesome. But not “appropriate” for the game.

Okay, kids. It’s mahjong. What do you expect? If you’re a fan of the game and want some new trappings, go for it. It’s 100% competent and that’s that. There are some great tunes to be had though.
-Nick Cane

May’s Mysteries: The Secret of Dragonville

This wasn’t supposed to happen!

Starting up May’s Mysteries: The Secret of Dragonville, I was stricken with a funny feeling of familiarity. Knowing this is a new release, there was no way I’d ever played the game before. I made an active attempt at shaking this eerie sensation, and then it hit me: May’s Mysteries is Professor Layton. For further reference, read any of the many DS reviews covering that series.

Okay, so May’s Mysteries isn’t exactly Professor Layton, but at least an alter-ego. From the unique and pleasant Victorian-esque visual style to searching through scenes for anything to interact with to start a puzzle, saying Layton inspired this game is simply not enough.

Luckily, Professor Layton is a stellar series, and May’s Mysteries borrows from the best. The presentation is delightful, up to par with any mainstream portable title. Heck, it would even fit right in as an early morning Disney Channel show. You play as May, a girl lost in the strange town of Dragonville in search of her brother after a storm-induced hot air balloon accident. Like a hidden object game, you move from location to location looking for clues. May’s Mysteries should not be mistaken as part of the hidden object genre, however. Instead of collecting items to solve environmental puzzles, these brain teasers are usually initiated through interactions with other characters. Like Layton, puzzles are clever and drastically different from one another, with each challenge feeling fresh.

There is a sad side, though. Try as it may, May’s Mysteries just isn’t as smooth as Professor Layton. While witty, dialogue is delivered in nearly never-ending bursts of text with little voice work (a shame, as ex-mayor Doyle is laugh-out-loud hilarious). Conversations can be skipped, but with such a significance placed on story (unusual for a Big Fish Game), ignoring them ruins a large chunk of the ambiance.

Environmental traversal is also hampered by hair-brained design that requires the click of a compass to move or inspect elements. Puzzles themselves are problematic as well. Deep as most may be, some are confusing beyond comprehension. May’s Mysteries is further hurt by having a hint system that would sooner reprimand you (“Use your brain!”) than, I don’t know, actually help you! What’s worse, the majority of these puzzles must be tackled in a linear fashion, with skipping only possible by playing bonus puzzles to earn an insane amount of hint points.

A long-time lover of the Professor Layton franchise, I wanted to fall in love with May’s Mysteries too. I even seemed to be doing so at first, until the imperfections collected to bring down my experience. Meaning to mess with your mind, May’s Mysteries unfortunately focuses on frustration over fun. Real riddle addicts might find some attachment here, and it might even be worth a try for the rest of us on casual mode, if only to soak in the visuals and story. As a game, though, those who don’t derive pleasure from pain can pass on this one.
-Luke Frazier

Dark Alleys: Penumbra Motel

I guess there was a vacancy …

Most of the games that are offered at Big Fish Games are lighthearted. Dark Alleys: Penumbra Motel is not your usual Big Fish game. In fact, it’s not lighthearted at all. At the center of this hidden object game is a very dark tale. The game starts out with a kidnapping, and gets darker from there. This game has an excellent atmosphere. The game is even a little scary. That being said, this game is just another bland hidden object game at its heart. It doesn’t do enough to separate itself from the crowd. This is not a bad game by any means, but it’s just another installment in an overpopulated genre.
(Note: Yes, this game was already released on BGF, here.  Take it for what it’s worth.)
-Jay Curtis

Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart

Umm, bro, you might want to get that checked out.

Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart … Haven’t I already reviewed this one? Oh right, that was Secrets of the Seas: The Flying Dutchman. But you can’t blame me for my initial confusion; both are pirate-themed hidden object titles with dark aesthetics. The similarities soon end, however, as Nightmares quickly forms into the absolute best hidden object game I have ever played.

Remington serves as the featured evil pirate captain here, only this tale is told in modern day as opposed to being a contemporary piece like Secrets. As the manager of a museum set to receive Remington’s recently rediscovered remains, things soon take a turn for the worst as he’s reanimated and kidnaps your daughter. Determined to get her back, you slink aboard the devil-dealing captain’s ghostly ship and engage on a ride through the paranormal.

The presentation and production value of Nightmares are lightyears beyond a typical Big Fish title. All major motions employ 3D modeling which, although the mechanics are more than a tad dated, manages to look terrific due to a painted-picture overtone that encompasses the rest of the graphics. Voice acting is expressed in every character you meet, and it’s actually admirable. The dynamic musical score really shines, though, setting the scenes and lending suspense to all the right moments while adding to an excellent ambiance that still startled me with jump scares in my well-lit room.

Like the visuals, Nightmares’ gameplay is equally top-notch. A hidden object game at its (cursed) heart, the sequences are successes without the common faults of overly-jumbled and jam-packed item hunting messes. The game even goes one step further, alternatively allowing you to play Mahjong in lieu of any hidden object puzzle. With the capability to switch back and forth between the two gametypes at will, this inclusion is pure brilliance.

Refusing to submit to an over-reliance on (and abuse of) hidden object moments like so many others, Nightmares stays interesting by constantly incorporating new and noteworthy environmental puzzles. From brewing grog for trade to properly preparing a cannon for fire, you’ll never face exactly the same task twice.

If you haven’t guessed, I loved Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart. Certainly a certified hidden object veteran given my Big Fish Games backlog, I can honestly admit that I’ve never had more fun within the genre. With an engrossing story, great gameplay, and perfect presentation, Nightmares is the best in the business and should not be missed.
-Luke Frazier

What are you doing here?!  Get on over to Big Fish Games and get yourself some great games!  Being biased towards the game I played, Toy Defense is the Game of the Week (deal with THAT, Mr. Frazier!) for its incredibly addictive gameplay and length.  Still, if you like a great hidden object adventure, don’t count out Nightmares.  Out!

Written by: Nick Cane

Game writer, fervent lover of mac and cheese. Favorite games are ES4: Oblivion, Kirby's Adventure, Link's Awakening, Final Fantasy 8 and Mario Galaxy.

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