Dr. Cares: Family Practice (Gamehouse)

After a long absence, Amy’s mother, Alice, comes back to Snuggford to offer Amy the chance of a lifetime, to work with dolphins and help the mother, Shira, give birth. Is the offer genuine, or does Alice have her own agenda?

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Mortimer Beckett and the Book of Gold (Gamehouse)

When Mortimer inherits his uncle’s museum in Snuggford, he gets the task of protecting the Book of Gold.  Unfortunately, a sheik desires the book for sinister purposes. Now Mortimer must team up with Kate and prevent the book from falling into the wrong hands.

Mortimer’s back and, like Sally, he’s joined the cast of Delicious.  This time, he teams up with Patrick’s sister, Kate O’Malley, who longs for adventure.  I have to admit, this is the first time I’m hearing about this characterization. However, they don’t really do much with Kate except use her as a false love interest and hint that she makes perfume.  That last part went the way of Francois’s interior decorating business. Kate is now Watson to Mortimer’s Sherlock Holmes, even if she thinks she’s the hero and Mortimer’s the sidekick. There are even hints of romance between Mortimer and Kate, which, if you ask me, really isn’t necessary.  The writers just believed that, because it’s a man and a woman hanging out, there must be romance between them. Unless the man is gay, then he just gets subtle hints of his orientation and no romance. I will give the writers credit on not turning Mortimer into a dogged nice guy. He’s just a regular man with a crush who doesn’t feel entitled to Kate and only follows her vigorously because she has the Book of Gold in her backpack.  They even have Mortimer admit that he’s never been with a woman because he feels that his life is too chaotic for romance. That’s right; they actually reference his past adventures. Spoiler alert, at the end when Kate says that she’s not sure if a life with Mortimer is right for her, he doesn’t pressure her into staying.

The storyline has a tendency to pad, such as when Kate falls into a hole and needs to get out.  The worst offense would have to be when the police arrest Mortimer because they mistook him for the notorious criminal Jackal.  This serves no purpose because we never hear about this Jackal again. All right, it serves one purpose and that’s to rub the Mortimer and Kate romance in our faces.  The game will do this quite often, so be prepared. However, this is an adventure storyline about an introverted guy and an extroverted girl teaming up to find an artifact, which can quickly become a tired old gender cliche.  You can easily make Kate and Mortimer good friends without ruining the storyline.

As I said, this is a story about a thinker and a doer.  The plot does fall victim to the Straw Vulcan trope at one point, with Mortimer and Kate arguing over a map.  Mortimer has trouble deciphering the map, so Kate follows her intuition. She ends up with the Book of Gold and Mortimer, who wants work extra hard at deciphering the map, ends up poisoned.  Mortimer has to solve a puzzle only for a poisonous spider to bite him, which begs the question of why someone would put a puzzle there and have the reward be a near death experience. Instead of chalking this up to dumb luck, the story treats Kate as being in the right.  There’s another instance where the game does not delegate the tasks to the characters properly. Mortimer’s job is to call for help while Kate looks for clues. Since Mortimer is the detective and Kate the social newcomer, I feel that it should be the other way around.

These aren’t the only problems with the storyline.  For instance, when Kate first meets Mortimer, she mistakes him for a janitor.  I don’t know about you, but if my car broke down in front of a museum and I met a well-dressed man, I wouldn’t think he was the janitor.  Don’t forget that Mortimer became famous for thwarting the Crimson Thief and, if Kate really does want adventure, there’s a chance she might know who he is.  The biggest problem would have to be the artifact in the title, the Book of Gold. What is it about the Book of Gold that makes it so important that people are willing to kill for it?  What does it do other than come up with random sayings everybody knows? When you make a game about the artifact in the title, you have to come up with a good reason for why it would be important.

The game play is actually unique for a hidden object.  You go through the map and play each level in the same style that you would play a Gamehouse time management game.  

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In each level, you collect pieces of the items to add to your inventory and use them to advance throughout the story.  

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You get a green checkmark for using no hints. Unfortunately, there are no sparkling objects to hint where you need to interact.  Therefore, you have to guess where you’re supposed to use certain items. Like in many hidden objects, you get to play mini games.  

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However, there are no instructions for how to play them, so you just have to guess blindly. Be prepared to consult the walkthrough for The Book of Gold quite often.  You also find the mouse and get hidden challenge levels for diamonds. You have to complete the challenge levels in a certain amount of time if you want the hourglass, which also serves no purpose other than bragging rights.  You use the diamonds to purchase artifacts at an auction.

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I did some research and, from what I could fact check, most of the info is historically accurate.

This game is fun but flawed.  I give it 6 out of 10; only slightly better than the last game in the Delicious series.

Sally’s Studio (Gamehouse)

After running her own successful chain of salons and spas, Sally enters the workout studio business.  Can this venture be just as successful as her other two?

I’m sure everyone who’s played the Sally games knows the answer to this question is yes.  This is why there’s nothing to discuss about the storyline. The game play is another matter and, let me tell you, after the disaster I like to call Sally’s Quick Clips this is a serious improvement.  Sally’s Studio goes back to the game play that made the series famous. Customers enter your shop, you drag them to the right workout station and assist them. Then you check them out and take their money and they pay you based on how much they enjoyed their experience.  It’s something you could never do in real life without getting into trouble with the owner.

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Some customers require mini-games that can give them an extra heart. You can purchase upgrades in-between levels, some of them being workers you can delegate tasks to. Believe me, you’ll find this very helpful.  If you purchase the collector’s edition, you can buy an extra yoga instructor who is the first worker to take a mini-game from you. You can also purchase a greeter and a cashier.

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Unlike in Sally’s Spa, the game doesn’t force the cashier on you. However, you also don’t get to select products for people to buy while they wait.  I’ll admit that I loved this aspect of Sally’s Spa. The collector’s edition also comes with two extra venues. Each venue comes with a medal you can earn if you complete a certain requirement as well as six trophies you can earn throughout the game. Seven trophies, if you purchase the Collector’s Edition.

This game is fun and addictive.  I give it 7 out of 10, not as good as Sally’s Spa but way better than Sally’s Quick Clips.

Sally’s Quick Clips (Gamehouse)

You’ve seen Sally run a series of salons and spas.  Now see how Sally got started in this flashback to her time on a hit TV show!  Is Sally’s success from luck, or did she earn her way to the top?

As you can see, the storyline is quite simple.  Sally competes in a game show, wins prizes and meets many colorful contestants along the way.  I’ll admit that I did snicker at some of the scenes. However, I do wonder how a TV Show about cutting hair managed to get so popular.  Then again, I play video games about cutting hair. So maybe it’s not very shocking. Celebrities also visit your salons with the names Donny Jepp and Damonna.  If you don’t know who these people are supposed to represent, then you need a brain transplant.

If you’ve played the last two games, then you remember that they had Sally running around cutting hair, giving massages and so on. In this one, you have to match up icons in order to wash hair, cut hair and anything else that salons are famous for.  That’s right; they changed a time management game into a match 3 style for no other reason than to make it unique. While I’m not against change, there is a wrong way to implement it. Fans of Jurassic Park should remember when the third movie came out and they changed the mascot from the badass T-Rex to the lame Spinosaurus. The movie itself included a fight scene between the two dinosaurs with the latter having a weak victory over the former.  Then, when Jurassic World came out, the studio realized that they made a huge mistake and went back to the T-Rex. They even filmed an awesome fight scene between the T-Rex and the dinosaur created through genetic engineering.

As for the game play itself, it can be rather addictive but you won’t get extra points for making amazing matches.  Your goal is to fill up the bars for each action and use them on the customers.

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Unfortunately, I found myself so busy making matches I’d often forget that I even have customers.  Let me tell you, when the game play distracts from the level’s goal rather than helps you achieve it, that’s the sign of a serious design flaw. You can also purchase upgrades in-between levels and you have to meet the minimum goal in order to get to the next level.  Try for expert but, if you’re anything like me, you’ll just pass through this game without even caring. At the end of each venue is a level where you have to beat a different competitor to come up with your own signature style.

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The challenge is grating and, more often than not, you won’t find the matches you need to win.  I had to replay the final match quite a few times and finally beat it because of a game glitch.

This game is addictive but not worth your time.  I give it 3 out of 10, if you must know how Sally got started, just find someone’s let’s play of the game on YouTube.

Dr. Cares Pet Rescue 911

Recent graduate of Vet school, Amy Care, now has two options.  She can either take a job at the big city vet clinic, or take over her grandfather’s small business.  What will she choose?

I’m sure many of you already predicted in your heads what Amy will pick at the end.  However, the game is less about Amy’s decision and more about the journey she takes to get there.  Spoiler alert, the big city people see animals more as decoration than living things as opposed to the fine people of Snuggford.  I’ll admit that it is rather simplistic, but I’ll talk about this later. There’s one bright spot about the big city. Said bright spot is a non-profit animal shelter Amy’s co-worker volunteers at in his free time.  Only problem is that they have trouble finding donors, an issue also shared by a real life organization I volunteer at called Second Chance SPCA. Though they never say if the shelter in the game is a no kill one or not, while the one I volunteer at actually is a no kill rescue.  Despite the light-hearted nature of the game, some scenes might upset you. I will tell you that the writers drew inspiration from real life events and talk about the controversy behind such events as horseracing. They also discuss people who throw away animals as if they are throwing away the garbage.

Like the previous games in the series, this one also has a romantic subplot.  However, this subplot actually symbolizes Amy’s naivety and character growth. Jasper is Amy’s first boyfriend and is a rich spoiled brat used to getting his way.  It’s similar to how the Pawsitiviy Pet Clinic turns out to be more about making money than they are about helping animals. Jack is the hard-working man who works at the Pawsitivity Pet Clinic for a paycheck but still cares about animals.  He’s also the one who introduces Amy to the animal rescue while Jasper is the one who gets her a job at the stables. The former is about helping animals while the latter is more about grooming the horses to help the humans. Amy also has two friends, one who represents the superficiality of the big city and another who represents the more modest small-town life of Snuggford.  However, the former turns out to be more than just superficiality as she adopts an abandoned puppy who takes a liking to her. Proving that there is a shining light in the big city, which is small but still there.

I said earlier that the game is rather simplistic in its view of small towns good and big cities bad.  The small town in question is Snuggford and it has a Mayberry vibe. Everybody knows each other, everybody gets along and everybody treats their animals well.  The big city is far crueler where one of your jobs is to dye a puppy pink. I am not kidding about that. Be prepared for two spoiler alerts. The first is that you have to expose the owner of the Pawsitivity Pet Clinic for drugging a racehorse.  

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The second is that the original owner of the pink puppy abandons him or her at the animal shelter. Don’t worry, the puppy finds another home with Amy’s big city friend. As much as I wish real life could be this simplistic, it’s not. The truth is small towns are every bit as capable of being cruel to animals as big cities are, such as this farm of horrors found in Massachusetts. It’s just that the big city and sports such as horse racing have more of a reputation for it.

The game play has similarities to Delicious, yet also carries a Heart’s Medicine vibe.  People either bring their pets in for a checkup or go to the counter to purchase items. You give the people what they want and check them out of the clinic.  In the case of the animals, you sometimes have to play mini-games.

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After you’ve checked out the people who brought their animals, you have to clean up after them.  Get the first star to advance to the next level but try for all three, if you feel lucky. Each level comes with a special event you can complete for diamonds and a find the mouse mini-game.  You can use the diamonds to purchase gifts for Newton, Amy’s pet bird.

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You can also purchase upgrades in-between levels to make your game play experience easier. Throughout the game, you can earn trophies if you meet certain conditions.

This game is addictive, but has its tearjerker moments.  I give it 9 out of 10; some of the scenes upset me in a good way.

Mortimer Beckett and the Secrets of Spooky Manor (Big Fish Games)

When Mortimer Beckett visits his uncle’s mansion, he finds it infested with ghosts.  To make matters worse, his uncle’s disappeared from sight.  It’s up to Mortimer to rescue his uncle and assemble his invention, the ghost machine.

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Those of you who follow me know that I’ve been mainly focusing on catching up on the Delicious games.  One of the games in the series is Mortimer Beckett and the Book of Gold.  However, I had no idea that, like Sally, Mortimer had his own game series before joining the Delicious cast.  Therefore, I decided to check it out before playing the Book of Gold.  The storyline in this game is an excuse plot, so there’s not that much to say.  However, I will tell you that, contrary to what I say in the first paragraph, the ghosts are not dangerous.

The game play is standard hidden object with you visiting each room and collecting items.

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Your goal is to collect the pieces of the four items in each room.  After that, you can use the items to either put them back in their proper place or solve more puzzles to connect the ghost machine.  You only have a limited number of hints in each section of the mansion, so use them wisely.  It’s possible for you to miss a detail entirely because, when I got to the last room, I couldn’t connect the ghost machine.  I thought that I gathered all of the pieces and found myself worried about a bug.  It turned out that I forgot to check one room entirely to get the battery.  I was very relieved that I didn’t have to start the game all over.

This game is fun and simple.  I give it 6 out of 10, a nice little diversion from boredom.

Mary Le Chef: Cooking Passion (Gamehouse)

Mary Vanderworth dreams of being a chef while her parents want her to become a lawyer, like them.  Therefore, she has to maintain her job at the restaurant while working at a law firm to pass the bar.

The storyline is similar to the first venue of Cathy’s Crafts, except this one takes up the entire game.  Mary moves from restaurant to restaurant mastering her chosen profession while meeting other people along the way.  One in particular is a man that wants to be a comedian despite his father’s wish that he take over the family business.  I loved the parallels with Mary’s own conflict and that, in both cases, it takes awhile for the parents to realize that they need to set their children free.  The difference is that he can stand up to his father while Mary is still trying to make her parents happy.

However, I didn’t like one plot element.  This element takes the form of Mary’s boyfriend, Peter.  Not only is his addition pointless to the story, but he shows excessively jealous tendencies towards Mary.  He also shows himself to be indecisive and fickle by breaking up with Mary only to go back to the ex-girlfriend he despised.  While Peter is right that Mary is destroying herself by becoming a lawyer rather than a chef, we didn’t need him to point that out for us.

The game play is similar to the Delicious series with you delivering the required items to the customers.  Then you check them out at the cash register and clean the tables for sitting customers.

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Be quick about it, or customers will leave if they don’t get the table they want the minute they walk in the restaurant.  Believe me when I say it gets frustrating.  You need to reach the first star of every level in order to continue the game, but try for all three if you feel lucky.

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Each level comes with a special challenge you have to complete in order to get diamonds you can spend on gifts for Mary’s room.  You can also win trophies throughout the game by complete special tasks.  Did I mention that you can upgrade the products throughout each venue? However, I should tell you, the game doesn’t really give you an exact idea of how close you are to the newer products and the trophies.  This makes it even more irritating.  Completing venues also unlocks recipes for your cookbook.  Emily’s nemesis, Carl the mouse, also appears in every level for you to catch. That’s right; Emily makes a cameo appearance to explain about the mouse that drove exterminators crazy.

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This time, Carl doesn’t appear in the exact location every time.  Therefore, you had better be quick.

This game is fun, but has a couple of flaws.  I give it 6 out of 10, one point off for the boyfriend and another for the game play issues.