Astraware is one of my favorite software places but I admit that I have not popped by much recently. On my last visit, I noticed they had tweaked their prices, updated their PopCap Games Pack 1 to version 2.61 back in August, and are selling it for $19.95. This collection of popular Web games was a lot of fun when I first got it, so I decided to try it again- especially since my old registration code still works for them!
The star of the pack is the original Bejeweled, the classic game of swapping adjacent pieces to form collections of three or more in a row. The matching vertical or horizontal row vanishes, pieces settle to fill in the gap (and also vanish if a new group is made) and you keep on going. When this came out, Palm PDAs around the world developed little square patterns of scratches on the screen from people playing it so much. I think this game single-handedly fueled the screen protector market for a while! A great game for only $9.95 if you buy it by itself. It plays beautifully on my
Centro and is very stable, using about 1.4m with music.
[The familiar Bejeweled game My next move probably would be the orange and blue gems in the second column, or the middle red and green in the 7th column. Maybe the...]
Alchemy lets you turn ‘lead into gold’ by placing pieces next to each other that match color or symbol. When you reach across the board, the row turns gold. The goal is to turn the whole board gold. There are, of course, a variety of additional elements- extra pieces, a place to toss unwanted pieces, nice sound effects, a great tutorial, several levels or ‘ranks’- all done to PopCap Game’s usual standard of quality. Everything looks good and plays nicely. I think it is a little too like Bejeweled in overall feel to add a lot of variety to the game pack, but it is fun to play. It is sold for $9.95 separately, plays nicely on the Palm Centro, and seems stable. Uses 697k. with music.
[Alchemy game in progress Yellow squares had already been 'turned' in previous moves.]
Atomica has one of those back stories that I think most of us read before we buy the game, and never pay attention to again. Here, you move colored pieces to make ‘molecules’ or squares of four matching atoms in Dr. Atomica’s lab. This is sort of a Bejeweled meets Tetris game where you move pieces to make the groups. More pieces appear (politely telling you where they will show) faster and faster. As the board fills up, it gets harder and harder to move the atoms to make the molecules. Good game- I like it better than Alchemy, and it only costs $4.95 by itself. It does well on the Centro, but I did have to reset the Palm once when it would not exit properly. 642k.
[Atomica The atom symbol is where the next atom appears.]
Mummy Maze is my second favorite game in the pack, after Bejeweled. You control an archeologist/explorer who is trapped in a maze with a mummy trying to kill you. All you have to do is get out through the inconveniently located exit. The thing is, you can only move one square at a time, and the mummy moves two. You don’t get a gun or even a whip to protect you- all you have is your wits. You see, the mummy is really dumb and will always move straight towards you in a predictable pattern. This means you can trap him behind walls or in in little alcoves. As the game progresses, you need to get more and more creative and more and more problems come up, like little booby traps. It costs $4.95, and uses 815k, but I cannot figure out how to exit the game on my Centro- I have to do a ‘take out the battery’ reset. Annoying. I seem to have the problem on many of the game packs I get- the Backgammon game on the old Handmark Classic Board Games did something similar on my Palm Tx.
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[Mummy Maze mazes The stairs in the second shot are top center]
Seven Seas is the game I rarely played the first time around, but seems more fun the second time around. It is similar to Mummy Maze- you have a ship that moves a square at a time, and are being attacked by other ships. Some of these ships are dumb enough to crash into islands, skulls, and each other as they hunt you but some, the Pirate Captains, are pretty smart. You have cannons and transporting whirlpools to help you survive. Like Mummy Maze, it is $4.95 separately, under 600k, and like Mummy Maze, I have to reset my Centro to get out of it.
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[Seven Seas White flag is you. Red sails are the Captains]
I did not see much sign of change in version 2.61, which turns out to be mostly the inclusion of an upgrade of Bejeweled- version 2.61- a changed menu choice, more sparkle and general overhauls for newer devices, language support, etc. The Game Pack installs as separate games and does not include any sort of package installer, master menu, etc. as do programs like Astraware Solitaire. At $19.95 it is a decent value if you enjoy the various games, which would run you $34.75 if purchased individually.