Saturday, May 16, 2009

Oooh! Shiny! (AKA floating like a butterfly)

It seems like an age since last I posted, but it was actually only last Tuesday. Stage 1 is ongoing. I take comfort from the fact that I seem to be levelling out, but am only too well aware of how easily this might change. I've done some proper shopping and cooking this week, which is about all that's gone to plan. I'm just a bit frazzled.

CC@UK Games Expo'09
I've made some decent progress in my preparations for this tournament, but less than I'd've wished. Still, with a tad less than 3 weeks to the due departure date, I remain confident that I'll manage to do all I'm planning for the event.

Meanwhile, look at the lovely piece of kit I was able to pick up the other day at the local Ryman stationers (formerly known as Stationery Box): my very own LOS checker! (AKA: Retractable chrome badge reel.) Dirt cheap at £1.99. So you where to go fellow CC fans.


A gem of a game
Facebook continues to rule my life in a way I haven't experienced since I first got involved in the online miniatures' gaming scene back in 2000; on sites such as the late, lamented Warp (which appears to have been reincarnated as, or the Bolter and Chainsword, which goes from strength to strength.

Hanging out with friends old and new; liking and commenting on their posts; doing the silly wee quizzes - it's all good. And I recently recently added Bejewelled Blitz to Mafia Wars in the list of fB games over which I obsess. I had seen the BBlitz achievement medals of a few of my fB friends already, but for some reason had thought that it was a quiz (no, really!). I took a proper look when I noticed a new friend plays it. I was hooked after one game.

The gameplay in BBlitz is very simple:
  • Swap orthogonally adjacent gems to create lines of 3, 4 or 5 of the same colour (there are 7 colours).
  • Lines so created are scoring lines, which disappear so that every gem above them drops down to fill the vacant spaces, while the missing gems are replaced by random gems dropping in from the top of the screen.
  • Lines of 4 or 5 create special power-ups, gems whose special effects can give you lots of extra points.
And that's pretty much it. The influence of the legendary games Connect 4 and Tetris strike me as sufficiently obvious as to need no elaboration.

Of course, there's more to it than that once you start playing. First I reckon is the cascade, when the removal of one line sets off a chain reaction of new lines as gem after gem drops into a new position. This is a lot of fun, and looks and sounds great at the same time.

Once I'd become aware of these possibilites I began to realise that there is a layer of strategy in BBlitz bound up with moving gems across the board. This looks to be all about making the right decision when faced with a choice of which line to create for scoring purposes. The most typical example of this faced by us BBlitz newbs is: vertical or horizontal? I've often seen myself choose one only to rue the situation developed by my move because I realised that I could've developed a better position if I'd gone the other way.

Which leads us to what I believe to be the unique features of BBlitz@fB:
  • The 1-minute game.
  • The tournament.
This is just a race to get a weekly high score in short, 1-level games. This game has a harsh learning curve (my max. score is still only some 50k; as against more than 150k at the top of my board; I can only imagine how to play that in just 60 seconds!), but I like the challenge structure.

Compared to the fB implentation, the full game has lots to recommend it:
  • Full screen play.
  • Open-ended multi-level play.
  • Four styles of play.
  • A richer presentation, including gems which move into place with a satisfying 'thunk'.
All of this is very nice, but it doesn't give you the real competition against friends the fB implementation offers, which is why I suspect that I'll still be playing the fB version regularly and often. Too often, no doubt. ;)

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