Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Our Games at Northwest Public Radio Online Auction

I listen to NPR on a regular basis, especially when I am making the drive from Bellingham, WA to Seattle, WA. Every few months NPR will have a fundraiser (OK, not ever few months but it sure feels like it). This year the local station in the Pacific Northwest is having an online fundraiser. I see this as a great opportunity to give back to NPR so I have donated all five games that Smart Box Design has developed. They are WordPop, Word Monaco Solitaire, Word Watch, Triples, and Farkle Dice. Bidding on the games is from February 16 - 22, 2007. You can go here to get involved and donate or make a bid.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What is the best PDA game ever made?

The editor of Palm 24/7 selects his two favorite games and WordPop is one of them. We are of course thrilled that he would choose WordPop. For all your Mobile news make sure to drop by daily to Palm 24/7.

Here is their commentary:

For me there are two that stand out as being perfectly suited to the PDA / Smart Phone format but it would be good to know which games you have played the most and keep coming back to time and time again.

Igzo The Dolphin is just so addictive and probably the game I have played most on any type of device or games console. It's only 13k and free so there's no excuse not to try it.

WordPop! has had me turning in circles for the past few months- I am not very good at it but that does not stop me trying over and over and over again to beat my high score. It has been responsible for more late nights than anything else lately.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Treo 680 Camera / Memory Patch - This is a must have.

Palm is now distributing a new patch for the camera. There was a bug where the camera would not shut down correctly after being uses which resulted in a battery drain.

You can get the patch from here:

Palm Addicts is reporting significant gains in battery usage after using the patch. Several users are now saying that they can use the phone all day without a recharge.

Great job Palm for releasing a patch so quickly.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Word Monaco Solitaire; Reviewed by Allen Gall of Pocket PC Magazine

I am getting a bit weary of reviewing word games (I love them, but there’s just not that many new things you can do with them at this point), but Word Monaco Solitaire is the most interesting title in this category that I've seen all year. The game is based on the idea of playing a word game based on solitaire at some sort of resort in Monaco (I could probably find better things to do in Monaco than play card games, but that’s the basic idea and it does give the game a nice atmosphere).

Here’s how it works: The game pieces consist of letters that are arranged in columns just like they are in solitaire, and the idea is to move them around until every letter forms a word. That’s the essence of the game, although three rule variations are offered along with nine difficulty levels.

The basic concept works well enough. Even though the number of words in each level is limited, getting all the letters into just the right spot provides a good challenge. Had the game been thrown together with limited sound and mediocre graphics, it would likely be overlooked as just another shoddy word game. What makes WM an exceptional title are not only the terrific graphics, music, but the overall feel of the game. While the graphics and sound evoke the famous French resort country and contributes to the game’s atmosphere as a casual game, WM provides plenty of feedback to the player. Once you successfully create a word, a green gem appears over that column. Dragging over a letter or group of letters results in a pleasant sound effect as well as the last “card” in the column to smoothly flip over.

Word Monaco Solitaire is not quite the same as taking a vacation, but its design and implementation meet all the requirements of a great casual game. Its visually stimulating, has great audio, has challenging but laid back game play, is very engaging, and is very easy to play. While it relies more on eye and ear candy more than other word games, it’s still good fun.

Word Monaco Solitaire
Developer: Smart Box Design
Genre: Word Games
Demo: Y
Platform: Pocket PC 2003+
Price: $14.95
Rating (of 4): 3.4

Friday, January 19, 2007

Review: Farkle. A Smart Game From a Smart Box for that Long Commute Home.

Review: Farkle. A Smart Game From a Smart Box for that Long Commute Home.

January 18th, 2007 by dgoldring

When I read that Farkle was the perfect game for a long commute, I knew I would have to review it. As some of you know, I ride the train for over an hour each way just to get to work. So, anything that is labeled perfect for a long commute, I am going to check out with interest.

Installation and Registration: Just download the Farkle setup file and install it on your Pocket PC via ActiveSync. Once installed, you can play 15 complete games before the trial period expires. Let me tell you, 15 games was more than enough time for me to explore all of the options and realize that this is a great game.

Gameplay: Simply put, Farkle is a game of chance and dice…probably not in that order. It is a combination of Yahtzee’s strategy and Craps’ chance. The object of the game is to score as many points as possible during your turn and reach 10,000 before any of your opponents (Farkle can be played by two or more players, however, 3-5 seems to be ideal).

Your turn begins by throwing six dice. Once they land, you must determine which ones earned you points. Point earning dice are ones, fives, three-of-a-kind, and any roll that combines all six dice together. Once you have identified your points scoring dice, you must decide whether to keep going or pass. If you pass, then your turn ends, and you tally your score from that round into your total score. If you want to keep going, then you roll the remaining non-scoring dice in an attempt to earn more points.

Be careful, though. If at any time, you roll a FARKLE (a roll in which you earn no points) then you lose all of the points earned that round. If you score three Farkles in three consecutive rounds, then you will lose 1000 points from your total score.

Characters: One of the great things about this game are the characters. Although they are not graphically represented (and that would be a nice feature in future versions), they each have a different style of play which is reflected in the way they play the game. When you begin a new game, by default, you will be playing against Nervous Nell (a very conservative player who fears Farkles) and Steady Stan (who gobbles up scoring dice like Pac-Man devours dots). Once you learn the basics, you can play against other characters by using the Game Setup Menu. There are a total of six characters, and you can play against any combination of them. Try to work your way up to Jammin’ Jen, the most skilled of the computer characters.

Head-to-Head: In addition to playing against the computer characters, you can also choose to play against up to five friends. Unfortunately, Farkle does not allow you to connect two Pocket PC’s together or play over a Wi-Fi/Internet connection. In order to play against your friends, you will all have to share the same unit and pass it between you. That did not present a large problem for me, however, as I typically do not play against other people.

Graphics: For a simple dice game, Farkle really impressed me with its graphics. The graphics in this game are a perfect example of the old idiom, no matter what you do, do it well. Let’s face it. This is not an adventure game, relying on the graphics to draw you in or tell a story. This is a game of chance. It is a game of rolling dice. I have seen plenty of dice games which are just the dice and a score card. That would have been easy.

Instead, Smart Box had to take the more difficult road. They included a wooden game board with a fine grain and green velvet playing surface. They even included animated dice which can be colored a translucent red or smooth white.

They did not have to do these things, add these extra touches to the graphics, but they did. And that is what makes Farkle more than just a simple dice game.

Audio: This game has some pretty realistic sound effects, such as the sound of the dice bouncing off the walls of the playing surface. The problem for me though, since I ride the train, the people around me do not care to listen to the dice bounce off the playing surface. Unfortunately, the audio in Farkle is not linked to the master audio on the Pocket PC, so it kept overriding me when I would hit mute. This can get frustrating. Thankfully, I discussed this issue with Smart Box, and they assured me that they have already fixed it, and will include better audio control in the next version which should be coming soon (that will be a free upgrade for registered users).

Saving: Since I play games on the train a lot of the time, nothing is more important to me than being able to stop the game when the train reaches my stop. I tend to get very frustrated at games which do not allow me to pick up where I left off. This is another feature that makes Farkle an ideal game for commuting, or just waiting in line at the DMV. When you need to turn it off, just close the program. The next time you open it, the game will automatically pick up exactly where you left off. No need to even remind it to save the game. It already knows what to do. Of course, if you want to change any of the game settings, then your saved game will be lost so you can start a new game with the new settings.

Customization: As I mentioned, you can pick from up to six computerized players to challenge. You can also decide which "house rules" will be followed. Some people like to play with a break-in score (you must reach a minimum score in order to earn any points in that round.) Others don’t like this rule. You can also decide the upper limit of the game. If you think playing 10,000 takes too long, set the game to end at 5,000 instead. These little options allow you to customize Farkle to your personal style of play.

Strategy and Tips: One of the things I loved about Farkle is that it teaches you the game as you go along. The rules are not that difficult. Keep rolling the dice until you stop or earn no points. It is pretty basic, but there can be some complicated strategic decisions. If I roll two scoring dice, do I keep them both or keep only one and hope for a better score with a new roll?
As you progress through the game, various strategy tips will appear which teach you how to look at your roll from all angles and fully immerse you in the game. I really appreciated these tips the first time I played the game, but once you have heard them, they quickly become unnecessary background noise. Fortunately, you can choose to turn them off in the preferences menu.

Conclusion: This is definitely my kind of game. It is quick and easy to learn, but takes some concentration to master the strategy. You can also stop the game at any time and pick up right where you left off. If this were all it offered, Farkle would be a mainstay in my stable of games. Add in the smoothly drawn graphics, six different player characters (which effectively means a variety of skill levels) and various customization options, and Farkle is a must play for anyone who enjoys a simple game of chance or, a really long train ride.

Vital Statistics:

Name: Farkle
Version: 1.0.1
Platform: WM 2003 SE
Also Available: WM5, Palm OS
Smart Box Design
Price: $14.95

Word Monaco reviewed by Palm Addicts

Word Monaco is a great word game for Palm devices from Astraware, and as with Text Twist and other puzzle games there are many of us out there that enjoy such games! Puzzle games are an excellent way of spending time be it on the daily commute to work, when travelling away on holiday or even any spare time you get at home, because they challenge you.

Word Monaco describes itself as solitaire for the sophisticated traveller. And I can safely say that despite being an “interesting” description of a game it is to some extent fairly true! Everybody knows how to play Solitaire, with the aim being to clear the board of all the cards available by placing them in stacks in order and then clearing them by piling them up at the top in order too. And to some extent the way Solitaire is played is the basic principle of Word Monaco. However, no playing cards are involved. Instead cards are in the format of the beginning of a game of Solitaire but they all have letters on.

The aim of the game is to make a full set of words by using all the cards available to you. Words are formed vertically, and you are able to move individual letters or groups of letters from column to column, only if they make a word or the beginning of a word. So simplistically put, you have to drag cards between columns to create words vertically. You also need to get all the cards face up and arranged into words.

When you have created a word which is in the Word Monaco dictionary a diamond appears at the top of the relevant column. The list of available words does not include proper names, acronyms, hyphenated words, or words with apostrophes.

However the game is not quite as simply as I have described it there. There is one little aspect which aims to help you to progress through the game which is the presence of either one or two joker cards. These cards can represent any letter thus making it easier to form words with them if you find yourself in a tricky situation. There is also a little option which lets you peek at the face-down cards. On easy mode there are two jokers present; medium mode has most of the alphabet but without Q, Z, X, J and V, whereas hard mode contains all the letters of the alphabet.

There are also three available game modes which add to the playability and lifespan of Word Monaco, and they are all set in different “areas” of Monaco, hence adding to the sophisticated element. Firstly there is “Royalty CafĂ©” mode where you have to use all the letters to make words. One word must use all the special cards, or three words must use each one separately. Every word must also be three or more letters long. On “Train Station” mode you must also use all the letters; however either one word must use all four special letters or they must be used in four separate words. Plus each word must be four or more letters long. There is also the simplest mode called “Larvotto Beach” where there are no special requirements and you simply have to use all the letters to make words.

The graphics on Word Monaco are very clear, and it is easy to see what is going on. The user interface and game screen are unambiguous and there are many options to choose from which lengthen the lifespan of the game. Word Monaco is an excellent word / puzzle game which is thoroughly entertaining and enthralling, yet also challenging and exciting.

As I mentioned the other day in my review of Text Twist there is a certain element and something that draws you in about puzzle / card / and word games they keeps you coming back for more. They build up this competitive edge which drives you on, aiming to better your previous score. They are also great in a multiplayer aspect; in that once you've achieved the highest score you can you can save your score on the leader board which other people can then attempt to beat.

Word Monaco gets 10 out of 10 from me and the game is available from SmartboxDesign.
POSTED BY Jonathan Winter, Sub Editor, Oldham, UK

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Treo 680 Battery Fix - Maybe

Although this solution has been posted to several sites I thought it was important enough to repeat again on my site. If you have a Treo 680 give this a try.

Treonauts has posted a possible Treo 680 battery fix.

“If you encounter a poor battery life on your Treo 680 and you have to recharge very often even if not using the Phone function, the issue might have been caused by an incorrect first charging of the device.
Please follow the steps below to solve the issue:
1. Connect your Treo to a wall charger.
2. Remove the battery from the Treo and wait for at least one minute.
3. Remove the SIM card from the device and wait for another minute.
4. Put the SIM card AND battery back into the device then let your Treo charge for at least 4 to 6 hours and for this duration:
o Do NOT press any key after reinserting the battery.
o Do NOT switch your TREO On or Off either, it will do so automatically after a short time.
o Do NOT enter the SIM card PIN if prompted to do so, just wait!
After this procedure, which can be performed and repeated any time, you will now dispose of the full charging capacity and the display of the remaining battery power will work correctly.”

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Valentine Day's Poems (Not)

I love jokes. I love them so much that I added them to my forum. You can read them by selecting this link. Jokes remind us not to take life too seriously all the time.



Love may be beautiful, love may be bliss
But I only slept with you, because I was pissed.

I thought that I could love no other
Until, that is, I met your brother.

Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you,
But the roses are wilting, the violets are dead, the sugar
bowl's empty and so is your head.

Of loving beauty you float with grace
If only you could hide your face.

Kind, intelligent, loving and hot
This describes everything you are not.

I want to feel your sweet embrace
But don't take that paper bag off of your face.

I love your smile, your face, and your eyes
Damn, I'm good at telling lies!

My darling, my lover, my beautiful wife:
Marrying you screwed up my life.

I see your face when I am dreaming,
That's why I always wake up screaming.

My love, you take my breath away,
What have you stepped in to smell this way?

My feelings for you no words can tell
Except for maybe "Go To Hell".

What inspired this amorous rhyme?
Two parts vodka, one part lime.

Happy 5th Birthday PDA247!

is my morning cup of coffee news. Like the great rush of caffeine my news junkie habit is not satisfied until I’ve read their latest postings. I especially enjoy their reviews and opinions. In my judgment PDA247 founder Shaun McGill and his staff absolutely love mobile technology and it shows in their commentaries.

Monday, January 15, 2007

How would you improve WordPop! for Pocket PC?

Our best selling game WordPop! for Pocket PC is being updated. Below is a list of changes we plan to make. We love hearing ideas from our customers. Please send me an e-mail at support@smartboxdesign.com or post a comment to the Forum. The link is below.

- Ability to Clear High Scores / Best Words
- Add Quit to Game Menu
- Improve sound and music settings
- Display New Player Tips
- Update the word list incorporating the many suggested words e-mailed to me.
- Add Treo 700w and 750w support
- Code optimization for newer devices

I look forward to hearing from you.

Read and Post WordPop Suggestion to the Forum

Save a Dying World - Glyph by Sandlot Games

Smart Box Design is now distributing games from Sandlot Games and Astraware.

The ancients need your help to save their dying world.

Harness the powers of Wood, Fire, Water, and Metal as you explore 255 dazzling levels in 5 different worlds. Help heal the land in Quest Mode and try Action Mode for an even greater challenge.

- Enjoy hours of play with 255 custom levels in 5 unique environments
- Compare your ranking with Worldwide High Score posting
- Try different skills by Assemble the Glyphs in unique bonus levels
- Be the hero and save the world

"Glyph is a fun and easy-to-learn puzzler that's ideal for casual players in search of a relaxing time-waster." Marc Saltzman, Gamezebo Reviewer

We Need Your Pictures

Send us a picture of you, a friend, or family member playing one of our games with a quote and if we use it we'll give you a free copy of one of our games. You can take a picture with your Treo or Pocket PC or any digital camera and e-mail it to support@smartboxdesign.com.

See an example on our web site.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

PalmAddicts Reviews Farkle Dice

Farkle from SmartboxDesign is a new dice based strategy game made by Astraware for Palm devices. I’ve been playing the game for a few hours now, and as Sammy mentioned in today’s video cast he’s never heard me swear so much in such a short period of time, and we’ve worked together for a while now so that’s quite surprising! Though it might sound like a strange thing to say, I have been swearing a lot because Farkle is so addictive, so competitive and so challenging!!

The basis of Farkle is fairly simple. It is essentially very similar in its goals to the ever popular dice based game Yahtzee. To win at Farkle you must be the player with the highest score above 10,000 points on the final round of play. Each player takes turns rolling the dice. On your turn you roll all six dice, and you must select at least one scoring dice. The scoring combinations are as follows:

* A one or a five
* Three of a kind
* Three pairs
* A six dice straight

And the scoring system is as follow: (my apologies if this seems a little tedious, but for all you card and dice buffs out there like myself it is important and you have to know these things!) But the best way is to play. Anyway here we go:

* A one = 100 points
* A five = 50 points* Three ones = 1000 points
* Three of any other kind = the number of points multiplied by 100 e.g. three six’s = 600
* Three pairs = 500
* Six dice straight = 1000
* Three Farkles = -1000 (more on that later)
The best way rather than simply telling you the rules is to take an example. Let’s say you’ve rolled your six dice, and they have produced a combination of
* 1 – 4 – 3 – 6 – 6 – 2

As the rules of the game state you have to select a minimum of one scoring dice, and as you’re only scoring one is a one you can select that. Then you have a choice (which if often a very tough decision based on your situation) to make. You either “pass” and bank the points scored by your selected nice, or you “roll” and roll the remaining five.

Let’s take the following situation. You roll the five and you get three of a kind. The score of that is then added onto your 100 from the previous round, and you have the pass or roll choice again. You can either gamble and hope you get a scoring result from your two dice or pass and bank the points.Scoring is based on selected dice and you cannot earn points from combining dice from different rolls. However if you are unlucky and none of your rolled dice in earn any points, you get a Farkle; whereby you do not receive ANY points from that round. Your go is then over. The danger is if you get three Farkles in a row you lose 1000 points.

The game has another twist, as the final round begins as soon as any one player reaches 10,000 points. This player's score is then frozen, and the two opposition players are given one final chance to get a maximum score. This is a particularly good feature if the game is close, and despite one player getting to 10,000 first, anybody can win!

Once you’ve got the hang of it Farkle is an excellent and incredibly addictive game. The graphics are nice and clear, and the user interface of the game is simple and easy to use. It can be played between CPU players or human players; complete customisation of the game is available, such as increasing or decreasing the cut off point of 10,000 points. However a nice touch is the names of your possible CPU competitors. And I took great pleasure earlier in beating Steady Stan, Average Ann, Smart Alec, Nervous Nell, Jammin’ Jen and Bonzai Bob!

This game is based on your own judgement, which only you are in control of, and is the reason the game is so compelling! The combination of skill, luck, and judgement are all required to succeed at this challenging and incredibly addictive game. Which is great to play against the CPU players or even better against friends.

Farkle is available for $14.95 from SmartboxDesign.