I've tried a fair number of smartphone games, but most of them bore me after less than a minute. Amazon persists in recommending smartphone games to me, and I ended up trying out one called Red Herring which got good reviews and was a word-based game, which I generally like. (Actually, I had first tried out that company's other, much more famous game called 7 Little Words, but more on that in a future post.)

The premise of Red Herring is simple, but basically involves placing the given set of 16 words into three categories with four words each, with four words (the "red herrings") left over. The game has three difficulty levels for each puzzles, and the difference is that at the easy level all the category names are visible, and at the medium level half of the solution is filled in (but without the category names shown), and the hard level leaves you completely on your own. In general this tiered system works well, as you can start on hard and then gradually reset the difficulty level until you get to a level that is more manageable. So instead of monetizing hints or turns, the game requires you pay for more puzzles, which seems fair.

I'll admit that I played through all the free levels in pretty much one sitting, so in that sense the game is addictive. But it wasn't a completely satisfying addiction; it was more like I kept hoping that things would click and that I would enjoy the game more than I was. Basically the way the game is set up is that two of the three categories are pretty straightforward (e.g. "Fruits", "Things that are blue"), but then the third category is something really nonintuitive and contains words that really don't seem like they have anything to do with each other. Presumably this is the whole point of the game, but I found that the puzzle designers' ideas of what would make a worthwhile, solvable category were almost always completely different from mine. I soldiered through it for a while, but there are also too many times one answer in a category you would know is completely obscure (e.g. "Types of Whales"), which again, is on purpose since you're supposed to be able to figure it out by the process of elimination. The final straw for me, though, is that that are just too many times the categories are much more about trivia than clever word disambiguation or problem solving, e.g. husbands of Elizabeth Taylor, or actors or characters on some TV show I've never heard of. 

All in all this wasn't a complete waste of time, but with just a slightly different balance I would have enjoyed it much more. Presumably they tuned it to some average customer and my taste is just too far away from the center, but the game's concept is solid and the interface is clean and inviting. I'll be keeping my eye out for more from the developers, Blue Ox Technologies in the future.

World of Goo was undoubtedly one of the breakout stars of WiiWare and was released to rave reviews. It's pretty amazing that it was created by basically a team of two, and apparently it was released for WiiWare and PC on the same day (the Mac release followed shortly after). Since then it's been ported to smartphones and tablets, which makes sense since the touchscreen is an ideal interface.

As I've mentioned several times, I'm really not a fan of "physics-based" puzzle games as they seem to really just be an excuse to force a crap ton of trial-and-error into a game. World of Goo avoids this for the most part in that in terms of just getting through a stage the focus is more on the puzzle aspects. Each stage has an "OCD" requirement (e.g. some minimum number of moves required) which shifts the game to be much more about trial and error with precise timing, but they're optional achievements. I didn't bother with those, but even then there were definitely places where specific trial-and-error building and timing were required and the game really sagged and lost all momentum.

The game has a nice, clean aesthetic and soundtrack, and there's a palpable sense of anarchy in the satirical setup and story. The story is generally amusing, although, as is often the case with anarchists, seems unfocused in the disparate collection of topics it ranges over that just seem to fall under the fairly broad heading of "corporate evils". About two-thirds of the way through, a new aesthetic and some new mechanics are introduced that don't seem to really have much to do with the rest of the game and seem shoehorned in just to add some variety. 2DBoy's follow-up, Little Inferno (which I quite enjoyed) had a much narrower scope and mechanics, but made its point with much more of an impact (and in some ways actually feels like a retelling of World of Goo).

Although I didn't personally really enjoy the game much, I can see why it got such high ratings and I appreciated what the developers accomplished. Given my enjoyment of their second game, I'm very curious to see what their next game will be. No word on that yet, though, it seems.

Not-too-sticky World of Goo links:
- Official site, includes a free download of the soundtrack and a series of posts reviewing the early days of the game's development
- Very thorough wiki
- Apparently the game isn't the first bridge-building game. There was a game from 2000 aptly named Bridge Builder.
- Complete text of the game, on GameFAQs.
- Review at NintendoLife
- Entry on Steam
- Entry at Wikipedia

Almost two years ago I did a recap of the Yoshi series, but with a second new game just on the horizon I thought I'd better catch up on an entry that was released since then as the release of another game is fast approaching. Yoshi's New Island was released in for 3DS about a year and a half ago, in March of 2014. There wasn't a lot that seemed very unique about it compared to its predecessors, but I was hoping looks would be deceiving and that I would be pleasantly surprised.

Unfortunately, as with the DS iteration, the game cribs way too much from the original, actually even more so than the DS game. This seems to be the general consensus, and I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one disappointed by the stagnation of the series. The game has almost zero surprises and drags on, and as with the other editions, getting 100% in every level is incredibly tedious. I don't mind finding the 3 star coins in the Mario games, but having to scour every nook and cranny of every level to find the 20 red coins and 5 flowers is annoying, and having to not get hit once in order to keep your 30 star points is doubly annoying. It's been a hallmark of the series that it would do well without. The game contains some 2-player minigames, but they seem very basic and equally uninspired.

Aside from that main complaint, the game's not bad, really, it's just dull. That seems to have been par for the course with long-running Nintendo series for a while now (even with the 2D Mario series), especially ones that Nintendo farms out to other developers (in this case, Artoon/Arzest, who were also responsible for the GBA and DS Yoshi platformer games). By all accounts the forthcoming Yoshi's Wooly World looks like it'll succeed in not just breaking the mold, but being the first game in the series since the original to get rave reviews. I'm not really too psyched about revisiting the aesthetics of Kirby's Epic Yarn (a game that I found pleasant but fairly easy and mindless), but Nintendo has promised a good amount of challenge, so I'm keeping my mind open.

Check out the new tricks of these Yoshi's New Island links:
- Official site, includes wallpapers
- Entry at mariowiki.com
- Entry at howlongtobeat.com
- Review at NintendoLife

There are a ton of fantastic puzzle games on DSi (and available through the 3DS's eShop), even outside of the fantastic Art Style series. Snapdots is a game that has appeared on a lot of "best of DSiware" lists, so I bought it a while back and have been playing it off and on since.

The game looks a lot like Picross and seems to get compared to it a lot. Basically you complete puzzles by shooting out blocks, and can use blocks as barriers (that you eventually remove) in order to fill in spaces that you otherwise wouldn't be able to get to. As with my experience with Picross I found that once I figured out how to solve the puzzles they were all pretty much the same. Granted, I got bored before I got deep into the most-difficult sets of puzzles, but for the most part trial and error and not much deep thought saw me through most of the puzzles up to that point and it's hard to imagine the later levels being significantly more interesting.

Although the presentation of Snapdots is cute, from what I remember of Mario's Picross I would put those games over this one. At that time I had said I preferred Picross to Sudoku, but thinking about it now I would probably give Sudoku the edge, as it seems to more actively exercise my brain than these other series. In any case, if you're a huge fan of Picross then this is an obvious buy, but if you're not then you may want to think twice about getting it.

Check out these not-too-sluggish Snapdots links:
- Apparently this game is a sort of remake of a GBA puzzle game by Compile called Guru Logi Champ
- Some footage of the aforementioned Guru Logi Champ, on YouTube
- Review at NintendoLife

Wii was ripe for the resurgence of light-gun on-rail shooters, and The House of the Dead: Overkill came out late in Wii's lifespan. The game was notable for having an M rating and more F-bombs than the average Quentin Tarantino flick, and it had a grindhouse aesthetic and a funky soundtrack, and a mature style that was unique for being so opposite to Wii's otherwise family-friendly image.

As for the game itself, although I had enjoyed playing The House of the Dead 2 and 3, I found this edition to be fairly dull. This iteration doesn't stray much from the formula of the previous games, and lacks the branching paths of 3. The story wasn't as over the top as 2 and 3, and although there was plenty of swearing, there weren't as many awesomely quotable one-liners as the other two games, e.g. "Suffer the way G did!" from HOTD2, and "A security guard? You gotta be kidding me!" from HOTD3.

The game has a scoring system that rewards unbroken streaks of hits, an upgradeable weapons system, and a bevy of achievements to encourage repeated playthroughs. Beating the game unlocks a "Director's Cut" mode, which is a hard mode that also extends each stage with additional content. Although the default game mode is quite easy, increasing the length of the stages in the hard mode feels unnecessary and just makes the stages drag on. The locales and enemy designs are fairly ho-hum, as are the bosses.

There wasn't much I found really memorable about the game in general, aside from its better-than-average, funky soundtrack and one particular, disturbingly hilarious moment in the epilogue. The game did remind me that I should go back and play more of HOTD2, which is the most difficult of the three by far.

Shoot down these The House of the Dead: Overkill links:
- Somewhat surprisingly, Kotaku included it on their 12 best games on Wii list
- FAQ at GameFAQs, includes a run-down of the achievements