Monday, May 26, 2008


If only I'd known how temporary the insanity would be - after the inscrutable KJumpingCube that kept me from updating for a week or so (my downtime due to a dead power-supply doesn't count), I found Klickety quite easy to scrute. It plays like a couple of other games we've looked at before, most prominently SameGnome (review here). There's a bunch of pieces of different colors, and you attempt to clear the screen of all blocks.

It's basically the same game, actually, though there are a few more colors than you'll find in SameGnome, and consequently the game is harder. You clear blocks out by clicking on them - when there is at least one other block of the same color horizontally or vertically right next to that block, all of the blocks of that color disappear. More colors = less blocks of the same color residing in the requisite spots.

Outside of that, Klickety sucks compared to SameGnome. It's less configurable, it's ugly as hell by default and you can't make it prettier (SameGnome has themes). The only thing Klickety has over its Gnome sibling is internet-enabled high scores that allow you to compare yourself to the other people playing this inferior version of the same mechanic.

Did I say this game left me unflummoxed? My bad. I neglected to mention that I can't make any sense of the high-score list. The top players all have a score of '0' which I would take to mean that they were ordered according to who finished fastest, but... no. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to how the players are ranked.

Unless you're obsessed with comparing your accomplishments to those of faceless others (and don't mind a mindboggling metric for comparison), I can't recommend this game to anyone. What it does is done better another, equally free, equally open-source game. Why bother?

Sunday, May 25, 2008


There are many reasons for my extended absence, but the most recently relevant is that KJumpingCube was too smart for me. I got a new job, my power supply died, and I started playing Knights of the Old Republic but all of that had been dealt with a few days ago. All that's been keeping me from posting for those past three or four days is the fact that I can't figure this damn game out.

It should be simple. You click on squares in a grid, sort of like Mines (review here), only clicking on them doesn't uncover them, it just gives a +1 to the value of the square and, if the square is neutral, makes it yours. All squares start out neutral, with a value of one. The goal is to make every square your own.

It's a classic world domination game, if we assume that the world consists of a simple grid which itself consists of a collection of numerical values.

And it totally sounds simple, doesn't it? Things get complicated with the following statement from the rules: "If a square has more points than it has neighbors, the points jump to its neighbors and take them over."

Which, in and of itself, also sounds simple. But the way it plays out, I just can't scrute. I've tried off and on, for a few minutes here and there, for the past week and a half. And every time I think I know exactly what it means, it behaves in some weird way that belies the explanation for previous behavior I've so studiously developed.

I'm not even going to get into it. If you're really curious, or you think I've missed something extremely basic, feel free to comment. I'll respond there. The basic premise of the game seems either fundamentally arcane or fundamentally flawed, and either way, it both irritated and shamed me so badly I've been putting off updating this blog despite the fact that I got a new PSU days ago.

KJumpingCube makes me feel less a man. I have this sort of... faith, for lack of a better word, in the innate sensibleness of the open-source community. They may make games that are ugly, or boring, or broken, but they do not make games that I can't figure out. For god's sake, I figured out Einstein (review here). (That was a joke; Einstein is not a hard game to figure out) KJumpingCube is ugly, and would be boring (to me) if I could understand what was going on. It gains interest-points it doesn't deserve by virtue of being seemingly inconsisten.

I can't recommend it, but I feel like I can't pass a judgement on it at all, because I can't understand it. This game is a failure on my part. If you like two-player logic puzzles (with bad AI - I don't know what I'm doing, but still never managed to lose a game) then you might both enjoy this and be able to figure out by what method the game mechanics operate. More power to you.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


There's no need to dwell long on Kiriki as it's just a KDE clone of Tali (review here), which is in turn a Yahtzee clone. There's almost no difference - I think even the default names for the computer players were the same. All of the same features are used the same way to the same result: a decent game of Yahtzee.

The only real difference that's readily apparent is the way the dice look. Tali featured nice looking rounded red dice. Kiriki features nice looking sharpish-cornered red dice. For what it's worth, I like the rounded ones slightly better, but that's totally a personal-taste thing, and has absolutely no effect on the gameplay whatsoever.

If you're using Kubuntu, I assume this is one of the games installed by default. If you're using Ubuntu (i.e. Gnome), then Tali was installed by default. Just go with whichever one's the default for your system as there's no discernible difference at all, outside of the tiny little corners of the dice.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


I may be way off-base here, but I think KGoldrunner is what happens when you cross Dig-Dug with... Donkey Kong? Something else 80s arcadey, but you can jump in Donkey Kong so it's not perfect. It's an action strategy game where the player must collect all of the gold coins on a level, and then ascend the magic ladder to the next level.

Several things complicate this simple-sounding feat: there are bad guys, for one. But even without those nefarious fellows, levels are layed out in such a way as to utilize your only skill outside of walking. That skill? Digging. To the left or the right. NOT directly below the character.

That limitation is rather important, as it totally changes the way things play out when combined with the other aspect of the digging which is a bit different. That aspect? Blocks dug out fill themselves back in after a second or two, and if you're still where the block was, you diiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeee!

Do you like how I'm eliminating run-on sentences by splitting them up and adding fragments between the two halves? I'm a bit bothered by it, myself. I think next time I will just run on.

Ahem. So, there are two major results of the way those holes operate. Firstly, it's very easy to commit suicide by accidentally falling into a hole you dug. You have to operate in series of holes, if you're going more than one layer down, and it's tricky at times. Especially at first. The flip-side of that is that enemies also die if they're in a hole when it fills back up.

The enemies have a skill that is denied the players: jumping. They can jump out of holes, and will, typically before the hole fills back in, so you have to be strategic. They also never actually die; they just respawn somewhere else in the level after you off them.

All of this needless description of the game mechanics boils down to: real-time action logic-puzzle. Fun mix, to a point. It fails to hold my attention because it ships with hundreds of levels, divided into a half-dozen or so sets. That's actually a good thing, if you anticipate a mind-bending logic puzzle that also requires quick reflexes like I anticipate my next bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon. To me, however, it just seems like a lot of busy-work with no pay-off as there's no story or reward outside of amassing points and bragging rights.

Who would I brag to? No one else I know plays these games. Alas, I have been let down by not only myself, but also my peers!

Graphically, it's very basic. Call it hi-res Intellivision. Everything looks a bit blocky, though the actual movement animations are surprisingly smooth. Even at full-screen, things seem small and lack detail. There are a number of different, and widely variant, themes. This adds a bit of flair and personality to the game, or a bit of ugliness, depending on which theme you choose to go with, but they're all of the same basic level of quality.

There's no sound, which I mention because this seems like the kind of game that just begs for an 8-bit sounding beepy-bloopy sort of soundtrack. I don't mind, but if you're going to spend hours going away at it, you might wish for a bit of sound. I made up for the lack by listening to the 80s show on my favorite radio station, 97.3 FM in Richmond, VA! (shameless plug for the station I DJ on)

The controls are probably the most interesting thing about KGoldrunner. You can use the keyboard, in which case it plays rather annoyingly like Pac-Man. You know how Pac-Man keeps going until he hits a wall? Same here. The way these levels play out, though, it's really annoying. Sometimes you want to stop and it's counter-intuitive as hell to hit up or down to stop yourself, and not even always possible (if you're over or under a latter, one of those won't work, it'll put you on the ladder, moving in the given direction).

The other way you control the game is with the mouse: the character heads for the cursor. If the cursor's right on top of him, he stops. I've played Flash games that worked like this, but generally not in this kind of set-up. Running about in a 2D platformer with the mouse with a lot of vertical movement felt very odd and unique. I'm sure that's just because I'm ignorant, but for what it's worth, it's well implemented and doesn't take too long to get used to. Make sure your mouse is working well, though, and look out for the edge of the mouse-pad to avoid frustration.

My final judgement? KGoldrunner is a neat, quirky little game that should appeal to its target audience, although if you need eye-candy you're going to have to look at other action logic-puzzles (good luck; the genre's not exactly chock-full of entries). I wasn't a big fan, but that's a shortcoming on my part, most likely. I've had a gift-certificate to a fancy-schmancy restaurant for the last year that's about to expire: I haven't used it because they don't have anything on their menu I want. I know it's probably all good food, but it's not my kinda food. Same thing here, with KGoldrunner.

Monday, May 5, 2008


My initial reaction to KFourInLine was simply "Wow! Pretty!" and now that I've played with it a bit, that still sums it up quite nicely. KFourInLine is a KDE clone of the classic Connect Four game that was done decently in Four-In-a-Row (review here).

The basic game is simple, so there's not much to say about it. You drop checkers into different columns on the board, trying to get four in a row before your opponent does. Your opponent always wins, in my experience. As far as features go KFourInLine doesn't offer anything that would differentiate itself from other clones.

Where it shines is its look: it's skinnable with different themes, and all of the themes it 'ships' with are fancy lookin'. The board and the score-card are very smooth looking, easy to interpret, and feature a coherent aesthetic that's quite attractive. I congratulate the dev-team for keeping it simple and yet not completely ignoring form in favor of function, as is often the case with open-source games.

One quick complaint: the game runs slow. Probably because my computer is a bit outdated, and it probably runs fine on a more modern machine, but I was still taken aback by the fact that it seemed a Milton-Bradley game actually had a low frame-rate. I never thought of board-game clones as being processor intensive.

Other than that, all I have to mention is the multiplayer. There's support for local as well as the all-important networked human v. human games, and it's very simple to set up. Props for that too: none of the godawful clunkiness and irritation that comes with match-making servers and the like. You just start the game, and your opponent connects to you, or vice-versa. No muss, no fuss.

This is the best Connect Four clone I've ever played. That's faint praise, I admit, but it does mean KFourInLine beats out the one that comes preinstalled with your Ubuntu installation. I recommend it to anyone that wants to play Connect Four on their Linux box. Obviously, if that doesn't sound fun to you, you're advised to pass it up.

Updated Ubuntu to 8.04...

... and it seems that the list of games is a bit different. I think I'm just going to keep going from where I'm at now, and once I finish (if I ever do) I'll go back and plug holes that have appeared due to new games in the repositories.

This quest will never end, apparently... hoo-yah. More reviews comin' up!

Sunday, May 4, 2008


I can't help but feel that Puyo Puyo clones were put on this earth solely for the purpose of causing me irritation. I'd love to complain about KFoulEggs a lot, just because I had to play it, but unfortunately the only thing I can really bitch about is the lack of network multiplayer. Oh, yeah, and being completely broken when playing against the AI.

It's another Puyo Puyo clone, in case you missed that. It plays like Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine only with graphics that lack personality and a better digital font than the last game I remember having a digital font. The original game of this type should have been called 'Bitris' because the pieces drop in twos instead of fours and it bites.

I'm being petty, I'm sorry. KFoulEggs is a solid clone, if you want to play by yourself against nothing. It's not pretty, but it works just fine, and it's not actually ugly, either. It's just uninspired. It attempts to offer up to four opponents, locally or AI-controlled, but... well, see the next paragraph.

The controls work fine. Pressing 'down' to speed the fall of pieces makes them go a bit too rapidly, in my opinion, but you just take that into account and wait on them to fall rather than hurrying them. I did run into one problem: when I was playing multiplayer against the AI, the keys didn't seem to work properly. Nothing worked, actually, except that 'down' button. Couldn't move pieces to the left or right, couldn't rotate them, but I could make 'em fall as fast as I wanted.

So really, I suppose I was justified in being petty. Never mind about my feeling guilty - this game sucks. There are other games of the same type out there, and they're all better. Some of them offer working multiplayer, some of them offer brilliantly varied gameplay, and none of them have a feature that completely and utterly doesn't work. So far, anyway. I'm sure I'll run into another totally broken Puyo clone at some point in this blog. Until that happens, KFoulEggs is the worst of the lot. Avoid it.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Kill Everything That Moves

While it's currently unimpressive, I have high hopes for K.E.T.M.* - if it isn't completely abandoned. It's a shmup in the classic twitch style, or aims to be, and it's playable in this early incarnation but from screen shots on the website, it's going to be much prettier.

One thing it's not, in the current incarnation, is twitchy. It's kinda slow, actually. It's very smooth - there's no lag, the framerates are fine, and the controls are responsive - but it's not exactly fast-paced. Your ship moves like a fat man in molasses. Hopefully, they'll fix that, as it tends to make the game feel easy. It might not actually be easy - I didn't beat all of the levels - but it just feels like if I wanted to devote the time, it would only take patience to finish it.

The graphics remind me of DOS games towards the end of when they were viable. Not the top-notch ones, mind you, but the decent shareware ones. See the screenshot? Yeah. That's what it looks like. It's decent enough but low-res. I'm not sure if I was getting it as good as it got: I couldn't get fullscreen to work. It was turned on in the options menu, but that didn't have any effect. All of the other options as far as graphics go were set to their highest setting, but if the option menu isn't actually implemented then I'm not sure what meaning that has.

There's no sound. I mention it because sound was turned on in the option menu, and because many shmups have memorable soundtracks. Would have been nice to at least get a zap sound or something when I shot stuff.

There's a decent amount of variability in the weapons. Flame-throwers, homing missiles, bizarre lasers, a basic gun... they look decent, but don't seem to affect the play much because you just keep shooting and killing stuff with not much effort, regardless of what your weapon is. Maneuvering is basically useless, on account of your ship's slow speed, so that's probably a good thing.

K.E.T.M. is basically fatally flawed for fans of shmups, but it's a decent tech demo. The website that seems to be the official page for the project has a screenshot or two of what must be a much later build, but it also has no links to download any version at all. Unfortunately, it also has a blog, last updated early in 2006, revealing that the lead programmer decided to change the engine and recode the game in Python. I'm guessing that this was an overly-ambitious decision that lead to the project being abandoned, but they're still paying for the domain name, anyway, so maybe not. Here's to hoping: this could be decent.

*I can't actually tell if this is the website for this game or a website for a game with the same name, of the same genre. Looking around, it seems like they acknowledge some sort of debt to the game I reviewed in the article, if nothing else, but they have no playable release and their version looks a lot better. No idea on this one, guys.


And so the revolving cycle continues, with Kenolaba being unique if not exactly engrossing. The best way to explain it is Othello if it were sumo-wrestling. Confused? My job here is done!

Honestly, that's pretty much how it plays out, right down to the annoying give-and-take tactics that take forever to play out. You start out on a hexagonal playing-field populated with balls. The point is to push your opponent's balls off of the playing field. You have to have more balls in the group you're pushing with than the group you're pushing.

My room mate cracked up every time I said 'balls' while trying to describe it to him.

It's graphically on-par with late 90s shareware for Windows, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The graphics are simple, but clear, and not entirely unattractive. I hate the color yellow, so I personally don't really care for the color-scheme, but the vaguely golf-ballish look of the pieces is fun. It compares favorably to most of the other KDE games I've looked at, meaning it doesn't make me want to vomit, so there's that.

There's no sound. Once again, and I'm tired of saying that, so I think I'm just not going to mention sound when it isn't present and isn't necessary, this game doesn't need sound. It's a turn-based logic-puzzle/strategy game. Without a plot, or any kind of dramatic tension at all. Sound would just be irritating.

Final verdict? Meh. Not my thing, but at least it's not a clone of something I've played six times already, and fully functional. It's got an AI opponent, with different degrees of difficulty, so it's cool for single-player. If they were to add networked multiplayer it would pretty much be perfect for what it is. Want another abstract strategy game? Check it out. Want another FPS? Pass.