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Game Info:

The Counting Kingdom
Developed by: Little Worlds Interactive
Released: August 5, 2014
Available on: iOS, Windows, Mac OS X (reviewed)
Number of players: 1 offline
Price: $9.99

Thank you, Little Worlds Interactive, for providing a copy of this game to review!

When I was younger, there was an overabundance of educational software. Reader Rabbit and Carmen Sandiego were practically household names, and it wasn't unusual to find some Windows computers shipping with Magic School Bus or Arthur software. Over the years, though, it seems to me that quality educational software has been abandoned. What little can be found tends to feel like it was a half-hearted attempt to try and make something educational – typically sacrificing fun in the process – or attempts to pass as educational by combining a cookie-cutter platformer with some pathetic trivia game.

However, The Counting Kingdom has given me hope that the trend of quality educational software for children may resume. This is a game that is both educational and entertaining – a nice change of pace from the other offerings as of late.

In The Counting Kingdom, the player assumes the role of a wizard's apprentice. For some reason, it seems that he is the only defense against a horde of monsters that have appeared, determined to destroy the various castles scattered across the land. Fortunately, the young apprentice knows exactly what to do – cast spells to make the monsters disappear in a puff of colorful smoke!

The Counting Kingdom
Highlights:

Strong Points: Cheerful, cartoonish graphics; anti-frustration feature; educational.
Weak Points: Story mode is a bit short.
Moral Warnings:Magic use.

Each of the monsters bears a number from 1 to 15. The player is given a spellbook, and three pages from the book are selected and laid out. To destroy a monster, the player needs to match the sum of the monsters with a page from the spellbook. If they match, all the monsters disappear, along with the page. A new page is selected from the book, and the monsters advance one rank along the four-by-four grid toward the castle walls. The player also may stack pages on top of each other in order to add them together, and can use potions for various effects (typically to increase or decrease the numerical value of one of the monsters on the field). The player earns bonus points if he manages to destroy all the monsters on the grid at the same time. If all the monsters in the wave are destroyed, then the player wins that level. Based on how well the player does, he or she can earn one to three stars for each castle defended. If the monsters do manage to penetrate the castle walls, the player sees a screen with the monsters flying a flag over the castle, and they can try that level again.

There are a total of 31 levels, counting the first tutorial level, spanning a variety of terrains. The game has a relatively short story mode, but there also is the ability to play a randomly-generated wave. The monsters are cartoonish and, occasionally, even cute in appearance, and the background music is peppy and cheerful. 

There is a useful anti-frustration feature built into the game as well. If the player selects a variety of monsters but adds them up incorrectly – in other words, selects the wrong spellbook page – a small window will pop up at the top of the screen that will show the numerical values of the monsters and their sum. When the sum matches one of the available spellbook pages, the page will be highlighted by moving brackets. For players who have difficulty with adding several numbers in their head, this can be quite useful. 

The Counting Kingdom
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 94%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 91%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

This game won't provide too much of a challenge for older gamers, especially with the anti-frustration feature available. But since the game is aimed at younger players, the big question is whether or not they would enjoy it. Fortunately, I happen to have a trio of “game testers” in my house that have been willing to put the game through the paces and decide for themselves. 

My oldest daughter, 10, did enjoy the game. Although some of the later levels did give her some trouble, she was able to play the game and enjoyed it quite a bit. I am hoping that it will encourage her to be faster with her ability to mentally add several numbers. My second daughter, who is 6, seemed to have a harder time getting into the game. She completed the tutorial several times, but once it got to the main levels – even the easiest ones – she tended to balk. It's entirely possible that it's a result of her own stubborn nature, but the game didn't seem to have the ability to draw her in as much as the other two children. My youngest son, 4, also enjoys the game, and it was amusing to watch him watching his sisters – and occasionally blurting out the right answer when they were trying to figure out what to do. I have a feeling that he is going to enjoy the game more as he practices his addition skills. 

In terms of moral concerns, there is little to worry about. The monsters aren't frightening, and even make silly growling sounds when they are trying to be scary. Even though the terrain changes, it never becomes gloomy or decorated with bones – which one could expect from a fantasy-themed game with monsters and magic. None of the monsters even appears to be undead! The only thing that might be a concern to some parents and Christians is that the main character is a young wizard who uses spells, but that's it. 

The Counting Kingdom is a great piece of educational software, especially for a home with younger children, and especially for a homeschooling family. It's a great way to play a game and learn something at the same time. Although the price tag may seem to be a little steep for some people – especially considering the flood of indie games on the market right now – for households with children in it, the price will be well worth it. 

 

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Game Info:

Omerta: City of Gangsters
Developed by: Haemimont Games
Published by: Kalypso Media
Release Date: Jan 31, 2013
Genre: Simulation
Number of Players: Up to 2 players online
ESRB Rating: Teen for violence, language, alcohol use
Price: $19.99
(Amazon affiliate link)

Thank you Kalypso Media for sending us this game to review!

I have seen and enjoyed my fair share of gangster movies.  My husband has never understood my family’s fascination with them.    If you enjoy classic mobster movies and simulation games, Omerta: City of Gangsters will be right up your alley.  

 You’re not exactly the Godfather in this game as your character doesn’t start off with much. You determine your gangster’s past and character stats by answering various questions.  Your responses will determine your mobster’s toughness, cunningness and likeability.  There are several scenarios and your character’s resources (and health conditions!) are reset at the beginning of each one.   What you do get to keep in every level is your party’s experience and members.  

The single player campaign slowly introduces and adds henchmen to hire.  Their daily wages and abilities vary.  After a few levels, they can learn new abilities like healing or stronger/more accurate attack moves.  The sandbox mode lets you choose your location, police and rival gang aggression levels and game difficulty level.  All of the mobsters are available for hire in this mode.  

Omerta: City of Gangsters
Highlights:

Strong Points: The city micromanagement portion of the game is enjoyable
Weak Points: Slow combat; No way to speed up the game; Nobody online to play against
Moral Warnings: Same issues present in gangster movies (violence, language, booze, marital affairs);  Some of the informants are palm readers and the Japanese Incentive DLC deals with the KKK

No matter what mode you play, the backdrop is all the same.  The game takes place in the city of Atlanta in the 1920s. The tutorial will guide you through the basics of establishing breweries, distilleries, and speak easies for making and selling alcohol.  It will also recommend stealing cars to make jobs quicker to complete.  If you don’t want the police heat to increase, you can purchase cars at a dealership instead.  New cars are more reliable and don’t break down as much as stolen or used ones.  

In each mission you should seek out information on nearby buildings to see which ones are available for rent or purchase.  There are three building types and new construction buildings can only be purchased with clean money.  Most of your business will be conducted in dirty and sometimes counterfeited money.  You can establish hotels, casinos, pawn shops, pharmacies, Ponzi schemes, insurance companies and pizza joints.  If there is a rival business nearby the owner will lose favor with you and your business’ efficiency rating will drop.  

There are various ways you can handle your competition.  You can destroy their building with some firebombs.  Another option is to raid or steal from them and force them into bankruptcy. Alternatively, you can buy them out if you’re on good terms with the owner.  

Omerta: City of Gangsters
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 72%
Gameplay - 13/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 52%
Violence - 1/10
Language - 6.5/10
Sexual Content - 7/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 4.5/10

If your headquarters is leveled up enough you can establish and hire accountants, lawyers and security companies.  Their services will improve your business efficiency, keep the cops off your tail and protect your buildings from rival gang attacks.  It doesn’t hurt to bribe cops, politicians, and actors to put a good word out for you.

 Most of the gameplay will be spent in the 3D overhead view of the city.  From here you can micromanage you buildings and issue orders to your henchmen.  Aside from looting buildings, there is a jobs menu where you can assign your crew to various liquor and gun jobs.  Sometimes the customers will haggle with you, and it’s important to keep everyone happy.  

Occasionally a raid may go south and the game switches to a battle mode.  In this mode you have to issue orders to your gangsters and have them attack, rescue hostages, and escape from danger. Units with healing abilities can only use their powers once per mission so be careful!  If a unit gets hurt, they can be healed at a clinic if you have one under your control.  If a henchman sustains three injuries they’ll die.  Sometimes a unit is captured and there will be a rescue mission available for them in the job menu.

Honestly, I enjoyed the overview game mode more than the battle system.  I was thankful that the battle system let me auto-resolve on non-story related battles.  I wish there was an option to speed up the game as it can drag on in both game modes.  Many people may find this boring, especially in multiplayer battles.  I did not find anyone online to play against.  

Unsurprisingly, like many mobster movies there is some language in this game.  While I did not hear any F bombs, lesser derogatory words and terms were used.  One of the henchmen would often say “worth going to hell for!” when I sent him on a mission.  Sad.

While Omerta-City of Gansters is entertaining for a little while, there’s a lot of waiting around that makes this game a tad boring at times.  I groaned whenever I had to do a battle sequence.    The base game will give you about fifteen hours of game time and there are several DLC expansions available that add more missions (noted with DLC on the map).  The gold edition of the game retails for $30 on Steam and that includes all of the DLC expansions while the Japanese Incentive expansion alone sells for $15.  There is one free DLC pack and the rest sell for $5 apiece. The main game is $20 which is half of its launch price.  

 

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Game Info:

Joe Danger
Developed By: Hello Games
Released: June 25, 2013
Available On: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Racer/Platformer
ESRB Rating: E; Mild Cartoon Violence, Mild Fantasy Violence
Number of Players: 1-4  
Price: $24.99 for full bundle, $14.99 each
(Amazon affiliate link)

A guest review from Video Games and the Bible.

After appearing on everything from the PS3 to the iPhone, Joe Danger’s adventure on PC is definitely a ride worth taking.

The Joe Danger PC bundle is comprised of two titles--Joe Danger and Joe Danger 2: The Movie. Despite appearances, these aren’t just racing games. They’re platformers in the vein of Sonic the Hedgehog with an emphasis on high scores, high speeds, and a funky-retro style rarely seen.

Perhaps the greatest thing about Joe Danger is its ability to make you smile--the little things: The way Joe Danger swirls around in a shark tank or lava pit before popping up, grinning and ready to try again. The humorous shapes, colors and billboards littering the background provide entertainment for the viewer as well as the player. The music is INCREDIBLE (listen to two samples here and here).

Joe Danger
Highlights:

Strong Points: Bright, innocent, smile-inducing style; extremely polished action/platforming gameplay; tons of replay value 
Weak Points: No online multiplayer; best played with a controller
Moral Warnings: An OPTIONAL Halloween DLC contains occult-themed achievements and imagery (such as pentagrams)

When creating Joe Danger, the developers said that “We always wanted to do something more old-school and fun, something that puts a smile on people’s faces.” Through its visual flair, lighthearted design, and relatively forgiving gameplay, they definitely accomplish this.

Yes. That is a man. Dressed as a chicken. Riding a motorcycle. Getting punched by a giant boxing glove.

In-game objectives change from level to level. Whether landing on targets at breakneck speeds, collecting letters spelling “DANGER”, finding secrets or doing all of these at the same time (to unlock new characters), the game always seems to find another way to keep you playing.

Though both Joe Danger and Joe Danger 2 feature the same main character and basic ‘feel’, these titles play quite differently. This is most apparent in the multitude of vehicles available in Joe Danger 2 (unicycles, jetpacks and Skidoo’s-oh my!).

You’re ultimately getting two excellent and separate-yet complementary-experiences.

Joe Danger
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 96%
Gameplay - 19/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 92%
Violence - 9/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The fast-paced action, while serviceable using PC controls, is best played with a controller (instructions on how to set up your own here).

Moving past the gameplay, bonuses include the ability to create your own levels quickly and easily-even [i]while[/i] playing. You can share these levels with players online and download more as well.

There is also a multitude of characters to unlock, fast-paced local multiplayer (though only five levels are available in Joe Danger 2) and “ghosts” to race against.

The graphics have been optimized for PC and look fantastic even on less-advanced computers.

Conclusion:

Since his debut in 2010, Joe Danger has been through quite a journey. Joe Danger 1 takes us from his trailer in the desert to crowd-filled stadiums. Joe Danger 2 then turns this lovable underdog (and the player) into an action hero.

He has also gained a few abilities along the way. These include “ghosts” to race against, the sharing of user-created levels and Pro Badges (rewards of your in-game skill that unlock new characters).

Joe Danger PC takes all of these features, throws in a couple more for good measure, then proceeds to mash them into both classic entries. This results in an amazing and immensely replayable package that will have you smiling with Joe Danger as he races one more time… One more time… One more time…

Potential Concerns:

Most of the potential concerns for this title are minor--two undead medieval racers (such as Sir Bonehead, "Knight of the Living Dead"), the ability to create and play Minecraft-themed levels, etc.

However, the Joe Danger 2 DLC (downloadable content)--the "Undead Movie Pack"--contains occult imagery and hell/horror-themed achievements:

-Spiritualized! [Achieve your first Pentagram Star]

Joe Danger

-Step into the abyss! [Finish the first level]

-Master of Nightmares! [Finish Act 1: Nightmare]

-Master of Hell! [Finish Act 2: Hell]

-Master of the Inferno! [Finish Act 3: Inferno]

If you are uncomfortable with this DLC content, please remember that it is available as an OPTIONAL purchase and is not included with the base game (which we found family/Christian-friendly).

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Game Info:

Robot Rescue Revolution
Developed by: Teyon
Published by: Teyon
Release Date: July 11, 2014
Genre: Puzzle
Available on: PC, PS3
Number of Players: Up to two players
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Price: $4.99

Thank you Teyon for sending us this game to review!

Robots are trapped in diabolical mazes and it's up to you to escort them to safety.  The catch is that your actions control all of the robots at the same time!  You have to do your best to avoid pit falls, mines, Tesla coils, fire, and dynamite.  The tutorials are helpful and will teach you the basics on opening doors, cloning, and teleportation.   Each level has a requirement of how many robots have to be saved, but if one gets destroyed you have to start over from the beginning.  

Robot Rescue Revolution is a 3D casual puzzle game that has colorful levels and diabolical traps to work through.  Most levels give you an unlimited amount of time, but some levels do not.  While the objective of getting to the exit sounds easy, there are often many obstacles preventing you from doing so!  For example some exits are color coded and you have to paint your robot a particular color to use it.  

Robot Rescue Revolution
Highlights:

Strong Points: Unique and challenging puzzles; level editor; compare your score against everyone else's
Weak Points: No story
Moral Warnings: Robotic violence and cloning

Upon completing a level you are graded on how many moves you made and by how much time it took.  You're then given a score and it is compared against everyone that completed the same level.  Just when I feel good about myself for solving a puzzle without seeking Youtube guidance (yes it's out there!), I get crushed by people's scores who have completed the puzzle in fewer moves and less time.  Offline play is possible but this game prefers internet connectivity to sync saves and compare scores.

The controls are pretty straight forward and this game supports both keyboard and game pad.  The directional arrows or dpad will send all of the robots in that direction.   There are objects to manipulate but you either have to push to move them or go on top of a switch to activate it.  

Robot Rescue Revolution
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 80%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 96%
Violence - 8/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

There are over 100 levels to play by yourself or with a nearby friend.  Before a friend can take control of the keyboard or mouse, a profile has to be created for them with the primary controller.  Some of the multiplayer levels are split-screen competitive, while others are cooperative.  

Like many Steam games there are achievements, trading cards, and community sharing of custom created levels.    As of this review, there are over 150 community levels available for download.  The level editor is easy to use with its drag and drop interface.  My kids enjoyed creating levels more than playing the game!

Robot Rescue Revolution is a family friendly game that has mild robotic violence as they fall in pits, get blown up, burned, or electrocuted.  If you don’t mind that or the robotic cloning, there is plenty of fun to be had in this game.  The price is a reasonable $4.99 and the level editor alone has provided hours of entertainment for my children.  

 

boxart
Game Info:

Hyphen
Developed by: Far Space Studios
Release Date: May 27, 2014Available on: PC
Genre: Puzzle
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: Not rated
Price: $6.99

Thank you Far Space Studios for sending us this game to review!

There's not much of a story behind the game Hyphen; after all, you're just a rotating hyphen trying to get to the goal as fast as you can.  How exciting of a life can a hyphen have?  While I cannot answer that question, I can tell you how frustrating it is to get the hyphen to its destination.  The levels gradually get harder and even the easy ones are quite challenging to complete in the recommended amount of time.  (You can brag about it on Facebook if you do.) There are thirty six levels in total and a couple of mini games to unlock. 

The controls are relatively simple with the arrow keys to move around and the space bar to set check points.   The shift key slows down movement, but I honestly didn't notice much of a difference when I tried using it.

Hyphen
Highlights:

Strong Points: Challenging gameplay; ability to set your own check points; Tron inspired music and graphics
Weak Points: This game is hard (even on the easy levels!) and may be too hard for some (looks in the mirror)
Moral Warnings: One of the levels is aptly named Stairway to hell

At first the obstacles are reasonably challenging to maneuver the hyphen around, provided your timing and accuracy is spot on.  Sometimes the path to the goal is locked and you have to trigger a switch or acquire a key first.  I highly recommend creating a check point once you complete an objective or approach a challenging obstacle to save time in the likely event that you perish.  And you will.  A LOT.  

Many obstacles fall into the category:“How the heck am I suppose to get past that??!”  The answer again is timing, accuracy, and patience.  Check points help too, but sadly, they are limited.  You get scored on a level on how fast you completed it and by how few, if any, check points were used.  There are up to five stars to be earned on each level.  You can respawn and retry as much as you like.  

Hyphen
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 78%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 96%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 8/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

And if the obstacles were not tough enough, there are enemies too!  I'm not sure why a harmless spinning hyphen has to get shot at by cannons and blown up by bombs, but it does.  There are magnets too that will slow down your precious movement speed.  Fortunately their range isn't that far.  

The graphics are simple but Tron-like with the neon lit borders.  The background music is composed by Andrew Lloyd and has an electronica feel and it fits well with the Tron theme.  

Hyphen is reasonably priced at $6.99 and there is a demo available which I highly recommend checking out to make sure you like the challenges as much as you think you do.  :)  

Once you decide on getting this game, you may want to see a doctor to make sure your blood pressure is okay.  This game should come with a health warning. While it's not my cup of tea, it is well polished and gives you a sense of accomplishment when clearing a tough obstacle or level.  I didn't get to experience that too much...others will though I'm sure.  

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About Us:

Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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