December 25th, 2014
Merry Christmas! And here’s a special holiday treat. Amazon has now released 18 different free games for their black-and-white e-ink Kindles. And for Christmas a couple years ago, they released two more that were specifically for the holiday season!
“We were going to wait to start talking about the holidays, but this new free game for Kindle is getting us in the spirit a little early,” read one announcement on the Kindle’s page on Facebook. “Check it out for yourself, but don’t blame us if you suddenly get the urge to start stringing lights and singing carols!” That new game was “Picture Perfect Holiday Puzzles,” and within four hours of the announcement, it had already earned 208 “Like” votes on Facebook and drawn 35 enthusiastic comments. (Like the woman in Minnesota who posted “OMG! OMG! OMG! This is my all time FAVORITE Kindle game, I’ve been waiting for a Part 2 forever!! YESSSS!!!!!!!”) It was a “sequel” to a free game Amazon released called simply “Picture Perfect Puzzles”. In both those games, users try to form a picture by darkening all the correct squares in a grid, making logical deductions from clues showing the number of squares that need darkening in each row and column. But for the second “holiday” version, Amazon created 35 more puzzles, each one with a fun holiday theme. (The puzzles were grouped into six categories: Winter Begins, Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Continues, Kwanzaa, and New Years.)
And did you want to write a letter to Santa Claus this year? Just remember that there’s a free app for that — at least, if you own a Kindle Fire tablet (or an iPad). Two years ago Amazon proudly announced a free Santa app to create holidays wish lists, “for children and their parents…to share with friends, family and Mr. Claus.” They’ve identified more than half a million popular “kid-friendly” items available on Amazon, and according to the director of Amazon Mobile, the apps makes it “fun, easy and intuitive for kids to find exactly what they want.” Just point your browser to amazon.com/santa_app
There’s books, of course, but also toys, games, video games, music, and even movies and TV shows — and you can browse the individual categories or search for specific items. By secretly tracking which gifts have been purchased, it can help different relatives avoid buying the same gift, and Amazon says the app offers “a great way for parents to spend some quality time with their kids…”
And, “to help make certain there’s a smile Christmas morning.”
October 21st, 2014
Here’s a Halloween treat! Amazon’s dropping the price for the Charlie Brown Halloween app for both Kindle Fire and Android devices. It’s a special surprise that just might bring back some fond memories of “hallowed evenings” past. And I feel a little smile every time I see tbe title: “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”
Last year I passed out our trick-or-treat candy while entertaining myself with this app. It recreates the classic TV special perfectly, with the original voices and a nearly identical artwork — except now the story is interactive! Linus is still spending Halloween night in a pumpkin patch, but you can actually poke your fingers into the drawings to make all the Peanuts characters jiggle around. And it’s narrated by Peter Robbins, who provided the voice for Charlie Brown in the original 1966 TV special!
Because it’s an Android app, you can play it on any of your color Kindle tablets or on any Android device! And I was impressed by the smooth interface, which includes an old vinyl record on the game’s menu page to represent the narration. (Which you can turn on and off…) But best of all, it’s got all the sequences you remember from the TV special, with some of the artwork even laid out like a newspaper comic strip. It was a real thrill to see Charlie Brown’s big pile of autumn leaves again — and then to see Linus trying to jump into it while holding a wet lollipop!
If you don’t have a Kindle Fire, there’s still some other Halloween games available at Amazon for the black-and-white Kindles. I love “Futoshiki Halloween Edition, and there’s also a Halloween version of the game Blossom. There’s even a Halloween version of Mahjong Solitaire, and if you’re looking for something scarier, there’s also a text adventure “Choice of the Zombies”.
But I have fond childhood memories of watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. So if you’ve always wanted a free app that revives this Halloween tradition…there’s a special treat waiting for you tonight in Amazon’s appstore.
Remember, for a shortcut, just point your web browser to tinyurl.com/CharlieHalloween
May 23rd, 2014
I spotted a surprise in Amazon’s app store today. They’re giving away a free $10 credit! Of course, they’re paying you in “Amazon money,” but it’s still a $10 value!
There’s five free apps at that URL — but for each one that you download, Amazon will add a $2 credit to your account. (The credit comes in the form of “Amazon Coins”, the virtual currency Amazon issues for in-app purchases, which can also be redeemed when buying an app). One “Amazon Coin” equals one penny, and if you download all five of these apps, Amazon will give you 1,000 of ‘em. But ignore that extra layer of “abstraction” and just focus on the bottom line. If you download the apps, you get a $10 credit.
One of the five free apps is actually from the Food Network. It offers thousands of recipes, and lets you search based on a specific ingredient you want to use — or even for your favorite chef! And I was really intrigued by the second free app — which is called iHeartRadio. It lets you listen to radio stations live on your Kindle Fire or Android smartphone!
But why are they issuing these credits in Amazon coins? The strategy is to make it seem less like you’re spending real money and more like it’s just fun play pretend money. Forcing people to do this conversion in their head — from Amazon money to real money — makes it harder for people to remember their budget! But if you just download these five free apps, you’re already starting out ahead.
And you’ll end up with $10 worth of free credits to spend in Amazon’s Android app store!
January 3rd, 2013
Guess what? I just released a new word game for the Kindle!
It’s called “Throw in the Vowel 2″, and it’s available on all of Amazon’s e-ink Kindles. (Even the Kindle 2 and the Kindle DX as well as the Kindle Touch, the Kindle Paperwhite, the new Kindle and the Kindle 3…) It’s a big moment, and as corny as it sounds, I really want to share the excitement. And you can be one of the very first people to play “Throw in the Vowel 2″ if you download the game this week from Amazon’s Kindle Store!
Or, as it we put it in the game’s product description at Amazon, “Return to the land where words can be created by combining the correct sets of letters.” (I still get a thrill every time I see that magical three-dimensional fantasy-land that our graphic designer created for the game’s background.) And I really love the way those mists almost seem glow for real whenever you pull the game up on a Kindle Paperwhite. With the newer Kindles, you can create words just by touching the “clue boxes” on the screen!
But no matter which Kindle you’re using, there’s never any typing involved, and you don’t even need to re-arrange any of the letters, since they’re all already in the order that they’ll appear in the final word. You just need to “throw in the vowel” in your head — figure out which box of vowels will match with a box of consonants to form a commonly-used English word. (For example, the box with OIOU matches with the box BVS, since the letters can combine to form the word OBVIOUS.)
My girlfriend complained that in the first version of our game, some of the words were too hard to find — so this time we started the game off with a couple of easier puzzles. But there’s still 750 “devilishly clever” words, as my friend Len Edgerly once described it. (“It’s a very simple game in concept,” he announced on his Kindle Chronicles podcast this weekend, “but devilishly hard to work through, so it’s satisfying when you have some success with it!”)
I was delighted that he noticed the game’s built-in hints, and called its other navigation features “quite elegantly done.” And he seemed to have a message for Kindle owners who are looking for a fun alternative to ebooks. “If you like word games, you should try it out. And if you bought the original version of the game, I’m sure you’re going to be glad to see there’s a whole new set of another 750 words….”
But the person’s who’s most excited about this new game is probably my business partner, Dr. Jeffrey Prince, who came up with the idea for these games several years ago. We first met at a start-up biotechnology company more than 20 years ago, and even back then he told me he’d always wanted to write a new brain-teaser game. Now Jeffrey’s in his sixties, but in 2005 he’d suggested that we finally make this dream come true. So I’d mocked up a prototype of the game, and for the next few years, we kept trying to improve it…
Actually, we spent a lot of the next five years cheerfully trying to stump each other with new variations on our puzzles, but now it all seems worthwhile. We’ve now not only released Throw in the Vowel on the Kindle, but also a second wonderful game in the same series. And when Throw in the Vowel 2 finally launched in Amazon’s Kindle Store, I asked Jeffrey how he was feeling — and promised that I’d let him have the last word when we first announced our game. And it turns out he was just as excited as I was, and said “We’ve been thrilled by the overwhelming positive reaction to our game.
“And we’ve worked hard to make the sequel just as much fun to play!”
Check it out at
December 20th, 2012
Amazon has now released 18 different free games, and last year they released two that were designed especially for the holiday season! “We were going to wait to start talking about the holidays, but this new free game for Kindle is getting us in the spirit a little early,” read one announcement on the Kindle’s page on Facebook. “Check it out for yourself, but don’t blame us if you suddenly get the urge to start stringing lights and singing carols!”
That new game was “Picture Perfect Holiday Puzzles,” and within four hours of the announcement, it had already earned 208 “Like” votes and drawn 35 enthusiastic comments. (Like the woman in Minnesota who posted “OMG! OMG! OMG! This is my all time FAVORITE Kindle game, I’ve been waiting for a Part 2 forever!! YESSSS!!!!!!!”) It was a “sequel” to a free game Amazon released called simply “Picture Perfect Puzzles”. In both those games, users try to form a picture by darkening all the correct squares in a grid, making logical deductions from clues showing the number of squares that need darkening in each row and column. But for the second “holiday” version, Amazon created 35 more puzzles, each one with a fun holiday theme. (The puzzles were grouped into six categories: Winter Begins, Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Continues, Kwanzaa, and New Years.)
And would you like to write to Santa Claus? There’s an app for that — at least, if you own a Kindle Fire tablet (or an iPad). Last Christmas, Amazon announced a free Santa app to create holidays wish lists, “for children and their parents…to share with friends, family and Mr. Claus.” They’ve identified more than half a million popular “kid-friendly” items available on Amazon, and according to the director of Amazon Mobile, the apps makes it “fun, easy and intuitive for kids to find exactly what they want.” Just point your browser to amazon.com/santa_app
There’s books, of course, but also toys, games, video games, music, and even movies and TV shows — and you can browse the individual categories or search for specific items. By secretly tracking which gifts have been purchased, it can helip different relatives avoid buying the same gift, and Amazon says the app offers “a great way for parents to spend some quality time with their kids…”
And, “to help make certain there’s a smile Christmas morning.”
October 31st, 2012
Here’s a Halloween surprise! Amazon’s giving away a free app today for both Kindle Fire and Android devices. And it’s a special Halloween app that’s sure to bring back some fond memories of hallowed evenings past. The name of the free app they’re giving away?
“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”
You can download the free app today in Amazon’s app store. (For a shortcut, just point your web browser to tinyurl.com/CharlieHalloween .) It’s an interactive version of the famous TV special that finds Linus spending Halloween night in a pumpkin patch. You can actually poke your fingers into the drawings, to make all the Peanuts characters jiggle around. And it’s narrated by Peter Robbins, who provided the voice for Charlie Brown in the original 1966 TV special!
Because it’s an Android app, you can play it on your Kindle Fire or any Android phone. And I was impressed by the smooth interface, which includes an old vinyl record on the game’s menu page to represent the narration (which you can turn on and off). It’s got all the sequences you remember from the TV special, with some of the artwork laid out like a newspaper comic strip. It was a real thrill to see Charlie Brown’s pile of autumn leaves again — and then to see Linus trying to jump into it while holding a wet lollipop!
If you don’t have a Kindle Fire, there’s still some other Halloween games available at Amazon. Yesterday I wrote about “Futoshiki Halloween Edition, and there’s also a Halloween version of the game Blossom. There’s even a Halloween version of Mahjong Solitaire, and if you’re looking for something scarier, there’s also a text adventure “Choice of the Zombies”.
But I have fond childhood memories of watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. So if you’ve always wanted a free app that revives this Halloween tradition…there’s a special treat waiting for you tonight in Amazon’s appstore.
Remember, for a shortcut, just point your web browser to tinyurl.com/CharlieHalloween
October 30th, 2012
I have a special holiday tradition. Each year around Halloween, I creep up on the Kindle Store, and take a peek at just how many ebooks have zombies in their title. And lately, zombies have started turning up in Kindle games! Last year I even asked in this blog, Are zombies taking over the Kindle? (“If you haven’t been paying attention, you may not have noticed the rising zombie invasion…”)
Amazingly, in September of 2011, there were 1,992 Kindle ebooks with the word “zombie” in their title. But by that Halloween, there were 277 more. And this year? The number of zombie titles has doubled again in less than a year. There are now 4,874 different ebooks in the Kindle Store with zombies in their title.
And there’s also several “Halloween” versions of some popular Kindle games. (As the author of a Kindle word game, it’s really fun for me to see game developers taking their established Kindle titles, and then updating them with special holiday editions.) For example, the makers of Slingo have come up with “Poker of the Dead” — which combines the challenges of the classic “Texas Hold ‘Em” card game with…zombies! It’s a seven-day tournament (with 10 hands per day), with a dramatic backstory adding the complication of an onslaught by the living dead. But fortunately, according to the game’s description, your zombie opponents “have no brains, never fold, and will always call your bet.” The phrase “winner takes all” gets a whole new meaning, but if you defeat all these poker-playing zombies, you’ll live to fight another day.
There’s also a spooky version of the Sudoku-like logic puzzle, Futoshiki. “Futoshiki Halloween Edition takes an eerie twist as witches and zombies take over in a graveyard game board,” warned the game’s page in the Kindle store. There’s a dangerous-looking tree in the background of the game board, and the top of the screen even includes the silhouette of a witch. But somehow, the stark contrast on the Kindle’s black-and-white screen seems to fit the holiday perfectly.
There’s also a zombie-themed text adventure called “Choice of the Zombies”, plus a Halloween version of the game Blossom. This has always been one of my personal favorite Kindle games, and it’s fun to see it getting a holiday makeover. In the original version, you’d rotate squares in a grid to connect a network of pipes to make some flowers blossom. But in the Halloween edition, those restful flowers have been replaced by jack-o-lanterns — and instead of a watering can, they’re connecting to a black witch’s cauldron!
And believe it or not, there’s now even a Halloween version of Mahjong Solitaire. “This game is so fun it’s scary!” reads its description in the Kindle Store, which promises to complement its 13 different layouts with two special Halloween tile sets. Their pictures include pumpkins, tombstones, and even something that looks like a smirking ghost. It usually costs $3.99, but today it’s on sale for just 99 cents. If you like Mahjong Solitaire, this looks like a fun novelty.
But zombies still keep stalking their into the Kindle Store, and it’s been a very strange journey. Last year one of the top 100 free ebooks in the Kindle Store was something called Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb. But the real message may be that each Halloween, there’s more and more self-published authors who are writing zombie fiction. Even the Library of Congress only has 601 books with the word “zombie” in their title (up from 523 in 2011). Oh my god, run everybody — Amazon’s Kindle store now has eight times as many zombies!!!
They’re not real zombies, but it does suggest the Kindle store’s amateur authors are especially attracted to the zombie genre. Or are they? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the amateurs from the pros. Take a peek at the new titles, and you’ll be startled at just how many zombie ebooks there are. Don’t look now, but the living dead could be shambling up to your Kindle!
Here’s some of the stranger ebooks.
To be fair, “Texas Biker Zombies From Outer Space” is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, “intentionally designed to give the reader an interactive experience using the advantages over print that E-Books allow.” And Zombie Spaceship Wasteland was written by actor/comedian Patton Oswalt, using the horror movie monsters as a metaphor in a collection of essays “vividly evoking his zombie-like co-worker,” according to Booklist‘s review. Even 71-year-old literary author Joyce Carol Oates — twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize — named her 2009 novel Zombie (P.S.) It’s about a serial killer — named Zombie — who keeps a diary as he pursues his victims.
But yeah, most of the titles in the Kindle Store aren’t as ambitious.
I can understand why some of these books aren’t in the Library of Congress. (It’s probably more surprising that there’s any zombie books in the Library of Congress.) But to explore the popularity of stories about the shambling undead, I asked my friend Thomas Roche, a professional writer for more than 15 years, who’s just published his first novel about zombies. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten a quote back.
I think zombies may have actually eaten his brains.
Or maybe he’s just busy reading all the ebooks he’s competing with…
That last book is actually the newest book in R. L. Stine’s popular “Goosebumps” series of scary stories for younger readers (which have sold more than 350 million copies. I used its colorful cover at the top of this blog post. It’s easy to laugh at the titles, but they may have tapped into a storyline with some primal universal appeal. Some authors have enjoyed wild success by re-creating our darkest nightmares, and maybe that’s the ultimate irony.
It’s not that the zombies are attracted to our brains. It’s that our brains are attracted to zombies!
There’s even zombie Christmas books, believe it or not, including A Zombie Christmas Carol and A Christmas Carol of the Living Dead: a zombie holiday tale. (Plus A Zombie Christmas and “A Christmas Wish: A Zombie Tale for the Holidays.”) If you think that’s confusing, try reading The Christmas Zombie: The story of why zombies celebrate Christmas. And if you’re just looking for holiday cheer, there’s It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies (Christmas carols “composed specifically for…the decomposing).”
Some authors have also tried their hand at creating zombie books for other holidays. (Like Dangerous Hunts: A Zombie Father’s Day Tale.”) And A Very Zombie Holiday even follows a zombie father as he attempts to celebrate every holiday with his living family. If you’re after a classic bedtime story, there’s Snow White and the Seven Dead Dwarves: A Zombie Fairy Tale.” And for educational purposes, there’s also something called Zombie Ed Counts To Twenty, and its sequel, Zombie Ed Loves Halloween. (“Text-to-speech enabled… Finally! A zombie book for children! “)
And — uh-oh. Here comes another wave of more strange zombie ebooks…
I’m not sure what to make of an ebook called James Joyce and the Zombie Priest, though it’s attracted at least one positive review on its web page at Amazon. (“If there is a better zombie version of Araby by James Joyce, it would be news to me!”) This trend probably all started when real-world bookstores started seeing big sales of a 2009 parody novel called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (crediting Jane Austen as a co-author). It rose to #3 on the New York Times best-seller list, according to Wikipedia, apparently spawning a new generation of even stranger zombie novels — and zombie ebooks. There’s even a Garrison Keillor parody called The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten that’s attributed to an author named Harrison Geillor. (“The humor in this parody lies in the simple truth that even a zombie bear with a hatchet in its head won’t faze a Minnesotan,” writes Publisher’s Weekly.)
And there’s zombie parodies of other books — like Zombies of Oz (and The Terrible Zombie of Oz). There’s also The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim and Wuthering Heights and a Werewolf…and a Zombie Too.” Someone’s even written zombie versions of two Sherlock Holmes stories, a book of zombie fairy tales, and a zombie version of The War of the Worlds (“plus Blood, Guts, and Zombies”). And if you liked Great Expectations, you might try Pip and the Zombies, by Charles Dickens and Louis Skipper.
In the two years since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the concept has apparently festered its way into a full-fledged literary movement. I was surprised to see a book titled simply Zombies for Zombies — until I realized it was a parody of the “For Dummies” book (receiving thirteen 5-star reviews). There’s also The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Zombies, which strangely is not a parody, but an official title in the “Idiot’s Guide” series, which traces the origin of zombie stories with chapters about books, movies, and comic books. But just when it couldn’t get any creepier, I discovered that there’s even some zombie books that are actually about personal investing.
Zombie Economics: A Guide to Personal Finance
How to Prosper During the Coming Zombie Apocalypse
Workplace Of The Living Dead: What Zombies Can Teach Leaders About Engaging Employees
Zombie Project Management
And there’s also some zombie history books. (Which, honestly, throws some doubt over their historical accuracy.)
A Zombie’s History of the United States
A Tale of Zombies in Czarist Russia
A Tale of Zombies in the Old West
Everything My Grandmother Taught Me about Killing Zombies
The Eagle has Re-Animated
Pappy’s Old Time Zombie Radio Show
Zombies Take Manhattan
There’s something strangely inspiring about the sheer number of books that have ultimately been inspired about zombies. It’s nice to see this massive outpouring of new creativity, as people all around the globe start wondering what’s going to happen in their imaginary zombie scenario. In fact, zombies are turning up in a surprising variety of different kinds of books. Though some authors even seem to think that maybe the lonely zombies just need a friend…
Maybe they were also inspired by the success of the Twilight series of books about a vampire’s teenaged romance. (One ebook author has even written Vampire Among the Zombies.) But I had to laugh when I saw an ebook titled “Where are the Zombies?”
Dude, you’re not paying attention. They’re everywhere!
October 19th, 2012
The Kindle Paperwhite has only been available since early October, but there’s already a new game available for it — mine! Wednesday Amazon added our Kindle word game, “Throw in the Vowel,” to their list of games which are now also approved for the Kindle Paperwhite. I released the game with my business partner back in February, and it’s nice to see that our updates have finally paid off. There’s only 110 different games available now for the Kindle Paperwhite, but ours is one of them!
In two days, “Throw in the Vowel” has already become one of the Kindle Paperwhite’s top 30 best-selling games. (And of course, it’s also available for the Kindle Touch, the new Kindle, the older Kindle 2 and 3 “Kindle Keyboards, and even the Kindle DX.) But I’m excited for another reason. Some things really do look better on the Kindle Paperwhite’s glowing screen.
I’ve always said that one of my favorite things about our game was the way that it looked. Its background images show a magical mystery world where mists are shining, and there’s tantalizing words hovering just out of reach. There’s a glowing moon in the three-dimensional background, and a white light shining behind the name of the game. But now it’s a real glow — the light from the Kindle Paperwhite!
We’d had to re-calculate the sizes of the letters too, so we ended up revealing even more of those pretty background images. I tell my friends that it’s almost a dream come true — literally! — since we’d imagined what that world was supposed to look like, and then made it shine out from the screen of the Kindle Paperwhite. Plus, the pixel count is higher on the Kindle Paperwhite, so you can see this little fantasy world in much greater detail. Now there’s even greater clarity for that light that’s shining on the columns, and the shimmering clouds in the sky.
When we released the game last February, we had no idea that Amazon would be releasing even more versions of the Kindle, but I feel like the Kindle Paperwhite is a perfect fit for “Throw in the Vowel”. To be fair, other games also look nicer on the Paperwhite’s glowing screen — and of course, they’re all much easier to play with a touchscreen interface. Our game is available on six different Kindles now — but I honestly feel that this is the best version yet.
It may just be a happy coincidence, but on the Kindle Paperwhite, “Throw in the Vowel” looks fantastic!
September 15th, 2012
It’s just 99 cents now to purchase the new Kindle word game, “Throw in the Vowel.” (I know, because I’m the game’s co-creator!) :) Take a look at this URL…
But I was really excited to see new five-star reviews piling up for the game. It’s gotten 16 of them so far, from all around the country — from Alabama, Florida, California, Kentucky, Oregon… Those five-star reviews have helped to make it one of Amazon’s top-rated Kindle games — we’re actually two ranks above Yahtzee — and it’s always a thrill for me to read what other people are saying.
“I find myself unable to put it down…” wrote the reviewer in Louisville.
“This game is one of the neatest and most different I have ever done… Definitely a great word game if you are not into crosswords and get tired of word search.
Here’s a screenshot showing how the game actually looks. (I almost cried when I saw how beautiful the background image was, thanks to our very talented graphic designer…)
I spent over a year creating this game with my business partner, Dr. Jeffrey Prince, so it was really rewarding to finally see actually people playing with what we’d built – and enjoying it! “If you love word games, you’ll love this!” wrote a reviewer in Pennsylvania, who said it became “one of my favorite Kindle games.” And Len Edgerly, the podcaster behind the popular “Kindle Chronicles” online broadcasts, described it as “Invigorating fun with words.”
“Throw in the Vowel is made to order for taking a break that refreshes and entertains. Highly recommended!”
We just launched the game this spring, but we didn’t release the Kindle Touch version until just this June! And right now our game is still one of Amazon’s top-50 best-selling Kindle games! (In fact, it’s now the #5,097 best-selling item in the entire Kindle Store!) I’m actually not sure how many days this special 99-cent offer is going to last, so this is your best opportunity to see what everyone’s getting so excited about it. As we ask on the game’s web page at Amazon…
Can you “Throw in the Vowel”? :D
Check out the game and its five-star reviews at
August 17th, 2012
Last year I co-authored a game for Amazon’s Kindle. So imagine my surprise when I learned that Amazon had written a new game of their own. Plus, this game was about books — a chance to enter into the world of all your favorite storybook characters. But what’s even more interesting is that Amazon has just launched their own fancy game-creating studio!
“We’re so happy to finally be able to reveal the social game we’ve been hard at work on,” Amazon posted at Games.Amazon.com. It’s called “Living Classics,” and it’s a lavish production, with soaring classical music playing in the background, along with full-color pictures illustrating scenes from the books. It’s a “social game,” which means it’s currently available through Facebook at apps.facebook.com/LivingClassics, and Amazon’s encouraging you to play it with your friends. “We know that many Amazon customers enjoy playing games – including free-to-play social games,” they write, “and thanks to Amazon’s know-how, we believe we can deliver a great, accessible gaming experience that gamers and our customers can play any time.”
It seems possible that Amazon might eventually release a version for their Kindle Fire tablets. This spring they announced an upgrade to the features they were making available to Kindle Fire developers. It included the ability to make purchases from inside a Kindle Fire app — which is also something you can do in this new Facebook game, Living Classics. For $1.00, Amazon will sell you $5 of “virtual” cash that you can spend inside their game!
The web page explains that Amazon Game Studios “is exactly what it sounds like: a new team at Amazon that’s focused on creating innovative, fun and well-crafted games.” And I can’t wait to see what they come up with in future releases, and I’m really impressed by the quality of Living Classics…
So how does the game work? Amazon’s game presents you with a picture of a scene from a famous storybook. (For example, the first scene shows Alice in Wonderland receiving advice from that giant caterpillar…) They’re detailed scenes, but if you look closely, you’ll see that some of the characters are actually moving! The object of the game is to click on every one of the moving items — and to do it as quickly as possible!
Each time you succeed, you’re rewarded with a cartoon fox. (Your ultimate goal is to re-unite all the foxes who’ve gone missing from their family, and one fox returns for each picture that you successfully complete.) They’ve wandered into all kinds of different storybooks, including The Wizard of Oz, King Arthur, and even some Wild West Tales. “The foxes I drew with my magic ink have come to life,” explains an introductory letter on the game’s first page, “and gotten lost in their favorite books.
“Only someone with a good heart can find my foxes again, someone like you.”
June 21st, 2012
If you own a Kindle Touch, here’s two very important announcements.
First, Amazon’s Kindle Store finally got a Kindle Touch version of a new word game this week. It’s called “Throw in the Vowel” — I’m the game’s co-author — and it was released in February for all the other Kindle models. But this Kindle Touch version is even easier to play, since you just tap your finger to make choices on the screen. And unlike some games, you don’t even have to type in the letters in the words to submit your guesses!
You can find a copy at tinyURL.com/ThrowInTheVowel , and the game represents a real milestone. For the last four months, we’ve been fine-tuning this touchscreen version, so it was a real thrill to finally see all the letters jumping happily around the screen in response to my fingertip! And while we were preparing this game, we also learned a lot about the Kindle Touch. For example, we’ve already adapted our game for the next generation of Amazon’s Kindle Touch software!
That software is already “available” for Kindle Touch owners, but right now you have to install it yourself. Eight weeks ago, Amazon’s created a special web page where you can download the new software, along with some easy instructions for how to perform that upgrade. (Just point your web browser to tinyurl.com/KindleTouchUpgrade ). I imagine that Amazon will eventually send this software out automatically over the wireless connection, and they’ll start including it with the Kindle Touches that they’re selling in stores. But after working with it for a few weeks, I learned that this new software includes some really cool features!
For example, it allows you to translate any word in any book into another language, just by pressing your fingertip onto the word (and then selecting “Translation” from the menu that pops up.) You can even customize the Kindle itself, so all of its menus appear in one of six foreign languages. (Besides English, there’s German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese.) And you can also read ebooks in “landscape mode” as well as portrait (a feature which wasn’t available on earlier versions of the device.) Best of all, whenever you’re searching for something, the new software tries to guess what you’re typing! That way, you can just select from one of its on-screen choices rather than having to finish typing out all of the words yourself!
Anyways, these two announcements have a common theme: there’s now new ways to enjoy your Kindle Touch! And I hope you’ll try out “Throw in the Vowel.” We spent over a year identifying 750 challenging words for our game, and polishing up the game’s “look and feel” just for the Kindle.
Now that it’s finally available for the Kindle Touch, it’s your chance to join in the fun!
February 20th, 2012
It’s a real surprise. You launch the game on your Kindle — and see two funny hamsters looking back at you! (They look great on the large screen of my Kindle DX.) And then on the game’s main menu screen, the “selection indicators” are two little hamster icons! The game was released in January, and within a week became one of the top 3 best-selling items in the entire Kindle Store.
In “Hamster Habitat,” there’s a few small squares that represent hamster cages, and every time you nudge your Kindle’s five-way controller, a new tube appears on the screen. You’re trying to connect the hamster cages — and to reach all the hamster treats that are scattered across the screen — but it’s trickier than it looks! Soon you’ll run out of straight tubes (or curvy tubes), so your path has to swerve in another direction!
The puzzles all have funny names, like “Big Nose” or “Treats up Top”. And the hamsters actually move! While you’re staring at the screen, the little hamster icon (in its cage) will occasionally decide to sit up, or to lie back down. It reminds me of a famous web site called “the hamster dance.” In 1998, a Canadian woman inserted 392 tiny images of dancing hamsters onto her web page, accompanied by a speeded-up sound clip of the twangy voice of singer Roger Miller. (“Dee dee dee, doo doo, doo doo, doo…”) I once interviewed the woman who created it, who told me at one point her hamsters were receiving nearly a thousand fan letters each day!
Millions of hamsters later, that meme has now somehow resurfaced in a game for Amazon’s Kindle. It’s similar to “Blossom,” a Kindle game from Braintonik where you’re connecting lots of flowers to a central watering can. The hamsters give this new game a funny twist. Even when you select which level to play. each level is represented by a plate with some cheese on it!
This makes the 16th free game that Amazon has released, and there’s 66 different levels to choose from. At first I had trouble recognizing which of the thin lines represented the “opening” of the hamsters’ cages — it’s even thinner than the other lines — but it was easier when I moved the hamsters onto the giant screen of my Kindle DX. Despite the simple hamsters, it’s a real challenge to solve the puzzles, and at one point I realized I was just guessing. (I’d just nudge the five-way contorller to see what happened, since every time I pressed it, a new tube appeared on the screen, lengthening that hamster’s tunnel and moving it closer to the treats!)
I think games must free some extra creativity in the people who build them. What happens in the Land of Play? It’s only limit is your imagination. A friend of mine once created a game that was called “Roshambo Run” with the strangest instructions I’ve ever seen. (“You’re a minature angry nun who loves coffee. Shut up. You just are. Due to your alarmingly small size, you must go around any muffins in your way…”) If you successfully completed a level, you were even rewarded with a quote from the lead singer of Twisted Sister. (You can still see it at Archive.org. Just point your computer’s web browser to tinyurl.com/RoshamboRun )
Maybe games don’t just free up creativity in the game designers, but also in the people who play the games. After all, once you’ve navigated a game board as a minature angry nun, it’s just one small step to connecting hamster cages on your Kindle!
February 17th, 2012
I wrote a game for the Kindle! We’ve actually fussed over this game’s big concept, on and off, for over six years, so this really feels like a dream that’s finally come true. After more than a year (of preparing it for the Kindle), we’ve finally released “Throw in the Vowel,” our original new word game, in Amazon’s Kindle Store!
I almost wept the day our graphic designer showed us the beautiful background illustration they’d created for the game, showing shining tall columns, draped with vines, surrounding a detailed tiled floor. We’ve created a beautiful, magical place, where mist glows around virtual columns, and letters hover — hiding in “clue boxes”, highlighted by you, as you nudge your Kindle’s controller. It’s a gentle game of hide-and-seek with words — or as my girlfriend put it, “a love letter to the English language.”
I created this game with an old friend who’s actually had this dream even longer than I have! I first met Jeffrey Prince in 1991, working together at a start-up in Northern California — and even back then, I remember him telling me that he’d always wanted to create a new challenging game to share with the world. Now Jeffrey’s in his sixties, but in 2005 he’d suggested that we finally make this dream come true. I’d mocked up a prototype of the game he’d described, but then we’d kept on fiddling with it. And we spent the next five years cheerfully trying to stump each other with new variations on our puzzles, until eventually we’d created several hundred of them.
But in 2010, Jeffrey resurrected his original 2005 idea, and we realized that this concept was really special. We’ve searched for exotic patterns of vowels — like four O’s in a row, or three U’s — and provided the consonants which will turn them all into words. (But where that match won’t immediately be obvious!) There’s always 10 choices, but can you find the right match among the nine other clue boxes? (Can you “Throw in the Vowel?”) It offers the thrill of creating meaning itself — turning arbitrary patterns into words. In one puzzle, the “clue box” even has five S’s!
For the last year I’ve been telling Jeffrey that he may have invented the world’s next, great word game. “The excitement increases” (as we explain on the game’s page on Amazon) as “a tower of words grows higher.” Each puzzle gets easier as you go along, and there’s an extra-special puzzle at the very end. When we added it, I smiled to myself, wondering if anyone else will love these words just as much as I do…
For each list of 10 words in “Throw in the Vowel”, Jeffrey or I spent nearly an hour considering hundreds of possibilities. And each set required nearly 30 million automated checks against a dictionary, to make sure it was perfectly unique — that there was always only one correct match for every set of letters in each one of our puzzles. It was an intense “labor of love,” and now I feel like I’ve somehow touched the inside of the Kindle Store. And maybe even the Kindle itself, traveling across invisible connections to the screens of hundreds of different Kindles…
Levels are played, scores are kept, highlights move up and down, and players get cheered on with 54 different encouraging comments from Jeffrey and me. (“You rock!” “You’re on fire!” “You found it!” “Keep going…”) I’m excited, and a little proud — and hopeful. (And happy…) But I’m also just amazed, that somehow we’ve crashed through the gate into game-land. We’ve found the secret place where all the words are hiding.
And we’ve joined that family of invisible game-makers who are always out there, somewhere, trying to bring some fun into the world.
Come and play!
November 14th, 2011
I’m always amazed at how many new games keep coming to the Kindle Store. Now there’s another free game from Amazon designed especially for the upcoming holiday season. “We were going to wait to start talking about the holidays, but this new free game for Kindle is getting us in the spirit a little early,” read an announcement on the Kindle’s page on Facebook. “Check it out for yourself, but don’t blame us if you suddenly get the urge to start stringing lights and singing carols.”
The new game is “Picture Perfect Holiday Puzzles,” and within four hours of the announcement, it had already earned 208 “Like” votes and drawn 35 enthusiastic comments. (Like the woman in Minnesota who posted “OMG! OMG! OMG! This is my all time FAVORITE Kindle game, I’ve been waiting for a Part 2 forever!! YESSSS!!!!!!!”) This makes the 14th free game that Amazon has released, and it’s a “sequel” to a free game Amazon released in July called simply “Picture Perfect Puzzles”. In both those games, users try to form a picture by darkening all the correct squares in a grid, making logical deductions from clues showing the number of squares that need darkening in each row and column.
The July version had 50 different picture grids — but now Amazon’s created 35 more puzzles, and each picture has a fun holiday theme. (The puzzles are grouped into six categories: Winter Begins, Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Continues, Kwanzaa, and New Years.) “This is just as addictive as the original Pixel Perfect,” reads one review of the game at Amazon.com. “I decided to pace myself so I could stretch the fun over a few days. That lasted 3 days. Oh well.”
“With reset, the pictures are erased and I can work through the puzzles again. Maybe, I can stretch the fun to last for a week!”
But several more new games have also been released for the Kindle in just the last month. In October Electronic Arts unveiled a Kindle version of the popular “Trivial Pursuit” game. (When the board game version was first released in the early 1980s, it sold over 20 million copies in just one year, according to Wikipedia.) The new $4.99 Kindle version — called “Trivial Pursuit: Master Edition” — still has the same familiar board design (a six-spoked wheel), and your score is still tracked using the wedges of a pie. Some Amazon reviewers are complaining that there’s too many “Entertainment” questions that have slipped into other categories — but the game’s description on Amazon promises there’s 1,500 new questions — and you can play the game by yourself, or with others using the “pass and play” mode.
Of course, there’s competing trivia games already available on the Kindle, including Triviac (a quiz game released in Oct 18) and It’s All About Sports — a brand new game that was just released on November 8. And offering a new twist, there’s also trivia game that seems to alternate trick questions with easier questions — called Moron-o-meter. “A clever blend of serious, not-at-all serious and downright tricky questions will be asked,” warns the game’s description at Amazon.com, “in an attempt to bamboozle you into thinking you might be a moron.”
And besides games, there’s also been a couple useful new applications that have been released for the Kindle — including two spreadsheet programs. Anywhere Spreadsheet was released on Oct 4, and less than a month later, another company released EFRAC spreadsheet. And there’s also a new Day Planner and Calendar app that was released for the Kindle in September, along with a similar app that’s called “Task List professional.” September saw the release of an Address Book app, plus another one called Contacts. And if you’d like to look up nutritional information, there’s even a new app called “MyFood.”
I’m guessing there must be close to 200 games now available on the Kindle — and it seems like more and more are released every month. If you’d like to check for any new games that you might’ve missed, Amazon’s created a special web page where they’re announcing all the new games as they’re released. (Just point your computer’s web browser to tinyurl.com/TopKindleGames )
I’ve always thought of the holidays as the perfect time to take some time off and play. And now it’s finally possible to do some of that playing on a Kindle!
October 23rd, 2011
Yes, it’s finally happened. That whimsical (or annoying) little yellow sponge has officially arrived on the Kindle. Thursday Mobigloo games — the makers of Jewels and Reversi Deluxe — released “SpongeBob’s Treasure Quest,” a new game for the Kindle using characters from Nickelodeon’s popular children’s cartoon.
The yellow sponge is now black and white — but he’s also wearing a pirate’s hat and an eyepatch over one eye. There’s no animation — the storyline is advanced with four-panel comic strips — but you can almost hear the characters’ goofy voices as you’re reading the dialogue.
Hey Patrick, look at this old map.
Wow SpongeBob, that’s not just any old map. That’s a treasure map!
Wow. Whaddya say we go on a little adventure?
Okay. Where do you want to go?
The game’s web page at Amazon.com explains that “It’s up to you, with a little help from Patrick and Sandy, to guide SpongeBob through the deep to uncover the treasures for the Krusty Krab.” The restaurant where SpongeBob works competes with “The Chum Bucket,” and their arch-rivals try to stop him from collecting the treasure icons scattered throughout 50 grids. “It is slightly like Pixel Perfect,” explains a review on Amazon, “in that you have a grid with numbers on the side with information.” Within 48 hours, it had already become one of the top 10 best-selling Kindle games — and it currently ranks as the #239 best-selling item in the entire Kindle Store!
As strange as it seems, I feel like the SpongeBob gives the Kindle some more legitimacy as a platform for game developers. It’s the first “brand-name character” to appear in a Kindle game — someone who’s already very well-known from a major mainstream cartoon. Is it possible that someday we’ll see Kindle games with Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, or Shrek? Even if you’re not a fan of SpongeBob SquarePants, this still feels like a milestone.
Technically SpongeBob made some earlier appearance on the Kindle — in audibooks. In 2003, Audible began releasing audiobook versions of the “chapter book” stories for young readers describing new adventures for the show’s characters. They were read by Mr. Lawrence — one of the voice actors for the show — though unfortunately, he’s not the original voice of the talking sponge, and young listeners may notice the difference. Then again, the show’s creator had originally wanted to call the character “SpongeBoy.” His network insisted he change it when they discovered that name was already taken — by the marketers of a mop accessory!
Of course under the ocean, sponges aren’t yellow and perfectly square, but the show’s creator had made the switch as a kind of private jokes for marine biologists. (Before his career as an animator he’d earned a degree in natural-resource planning at Humboldt State University, according to Wikipedia, and his emphasis was on ocean resources.) His cartoon has since become not only Nickelodeon’s highest-rated show, but also its longest running. It’s been on the air since 1999.
The game developers who produced this game also created the Kindle utilities Easy Calculator and Sticky Notes (as well as Mahjong Solitaire and the new “Mahjong Solitaire Halloween Edition”). And the bottom line is that it’s yet another new way to have fun on your Kindle. My friend Len Edgerly interviewed me for his podcast this week (“The Kindle Chronicles”), and I tried to explain why I’m so excited about the variety of new games available on the Kindle.
Now you’ve reached a point where you’ve got hundreds and hundreds of developers, and it’s going to get wacky, like all the apps you can find on your iPhone now, where any high school kid or college kid or crazy inventor someplace out there in the world who has a wild idea for some kind of game or some kind of app, some kind of instantaneous local celebration of the holiday — can boom! Make it available in the Kindle Store for your Kindle.
I think this is an interesting hint about the future that’s going to come, where we start seeing new things to do on your Kindle that were dreamed up by some guy someplace with a wild idea. And it’s going to open the doors for all kinds of creativity and all kinds of fun, and new things that we haven’t seen before on our Kindles…
More fun things we can do than we ever dreamed possible.
October 16th, 2011
It’s two weeks until Halloween, but the holiday is already having a strange effect on the game section of the Kindle Store. There’s several new “Halloween” versions of some popular Kindle games. And Amazon has also released yet another free mystery game of their own!
It’s fun to see game developers taking their established Kindle titles, and updating them with special Halloween editions. The best-selling game in the Kindle Store right now is the “Ultimate Halloween Quiz” — and it’s one of the top-40 best-selling items in the entire Kindle store! HandyX has already created seven other “interactive quiz” games, but this one promises questions about monsters, magic, and other October-appropriate topics. “Do you know Mary Shelley from Marilyn Manson, or Freddy from Jason…?” asks the game’s description at Amazon.com “Questions topics include horror movies, Halloween facts, scary novels, gruesome history, magical creatures, myths and legends. Halloween will never be the same!”
And there’s also a spooky new version of the Sudoku-like logic puzzle, Futoshiki. “Futoshiki Halloween Edition takes an eerie twist as witches and zombies take over in a graveyard game board,” warns the game’s page in the Kindle store. There’s a dangerous-looking tree in the background of the game board, and the top of the screen even includes the silhouette of a witch. But somehow, the stark contrast on the Kindle’s black-and-white screen seems to fit the holiday perfectly.
Both those games were released just last Wednesday — and there’s also a new Halloween version of the game Blossom. This has always been one of my personal favorite Kindle games, and it’s fun to see it getting a holiday makeover. In the original version, you’d rotate squares in a grid to connect a network of pipes to make some flowers blossom. But in the Halloween edition, those restful flowers have been replaced by jack-o-lanterns — and instead of a watering can, they’re connecting to a black witch’s cauldron!
And believe it or not, there’s now even a Halloween version of Mahjong Solitaire. “This game is so fun it’s scary!” reads its description in the Kindle Store, which promises to complement its 13 different layouts with two special Halloween tile sets. Their pictures include pumpkins, tombstones, and even something that looks like a smirking ghost. At $3.99, it’s one of the more expensive Kindle games — but if you like Mahjong Solitaire, this looks like a fun novelty.
And there’s one more new game in the Kindle Store with a special connection to Halloween. The makers of Slingo have just come up with “Poker of the Dead” — which combines the challenges of the classic “Texas Hold ‘Em” card game with…zombies! It’s a seven-day tournament (with 10 hands per day), with a dramatic backstory adding the complication of an onslaught by the living dead. But fortunately, according to the game’s description, your zombie opponents “have no brains, never fold, and will always call your bet.” The phrase “winner takes all” gets a whole new meaning, but if you defeat all these poker-playing zombies, you’ll live to fight another day.
Amazon’s newest free game isn’t quite as creepy — but they’ve taken a classic logic puzzle and given it a nice Kindle adaptation. “Grid Detective” recreates those story problems you may remember from puzzle magazines — where, for example, there’s four people receiving four kittens that are four different colors. So who got which kitten? The game offers a series of cryptic clues — but you can “crack the case” if you carefully track them all, and also make the right inferences. In the paper-and-pencil version, you’d have to draw your own grid to keep track of all your deductions, but Amazon’s made this game much simpler to play by creating their own detailed interface. It may not be the most mysterious game ever, but the whole “intrigue” theme seem appropriate for Halloween.
Are we seeing a trend of things to come? Next month will we see special Thanksgiving editions of games for the Kindle — and even more versions for other holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Days? My crystal ball remains hazy, but I do think this is more significant than it seems. Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets will include lots of homegrown apps from outside developers, so there’ll eventually be hundreds of extra brains trying to dream up new ways to entertain us. Maybe this is our first taste of what that future will be like.
But whatever happens, I’m glad to see that there’s already independent Kindle developers out there who are dreaming up their own fun new ways to use a Kindle to celebrate Halloween!
September 12th, 2011
It’s only been a month since I wrote about games available on the Kindle — but during that month, 19 new Kindle games were released! On August 23rd, Amazon even released another new free word game
called Jigsaw Words. And there’s 12 more Kindle games that have been reduced in price, to just 99 cents! (Although today is last day of the sale – your last chance to buy any one of the following 12 Kindle games for just 99 cents…)
So what are the 19 new games available for the Kindle? At least seven of them were released within the last week… In fact, last Tuesday saw the launch of five different Kindle Games.
It was originally a card game — and I even remember a TV game show version — but it’s always had the same fun rules. You’ll reveal what’s hidden on the bottom of the cards (or tiles) — two at a time — while you try to find a matching pair. As you peak under more of the tiles, you’ll have to remember where you last saw it’s match! And to make things even more interesting, this Kindle version gradually increases the number of tiles to choose from!
The King of Shreds and Patches
Welcome to 17th-century London! It’s 1603 in this “interactive fiction” game, which promises to let you interact with both historical and fictional characters, “and thwart an occult conspiracy that threatens to bring down the entire city — or worse.” It’s billed as “a novel-length work…in which your choices control how successfully you navigate the story.” There’s puzzles along the way — plus a hint system (described as “elaborate”) in case you get stuck somewhere along the way!
Japanese Puzzles Volume 1
Sudoku is probably the most famous Japanese logic puzzle in this set — but is also offers you four more! There’s also Katkuro, which offers mathematical clues about which digits should be used to fill in the squares. Another game — “Number Island” — involves choosing the right shades for the squares which surround different “islands” of numbers. “Picture Cross” sounds a little like “Pixel Perfect Puzzles,” in which there’s clues about the number of shaded pixels for both the rows and columns of a grid. And Hitori is like Sudoku in reverse, where your goal is to black out some of the numbered squares to eliminate all the duplicate digits in a row or column!
My First Slider Puzzle
“The art is designed to appeal to kids,” explains this game’s description, ” and “there is a variety of challenges for everyone.” It’s like Amazon’s “Number Slide” puzzle — where you re-arrange the squares in a grid by moving them either horizontally or vertically, one square at a time. But in this game, you’re trying to reassemble the squares into a kid-friendly picture. (And the size of the grids is smaller, from 2 x 3 at the easiest level to 4 x 4 at the hardest level.)
There’s a classic game called “Connect 4″, and this looks like the Kindle version of it. You virtually drop a black (or white) checker down one of seven columns, and you try to line up four of them in a row. But the Kindle also gets a turn, dropping in checkers of the opposite color, so to win, you’ll have to “outflank” them somehow. The game also offers a “pass and play” mode, where instead of the Kindle’s built-in AI, you’re just passing the Kindle to one of your friends so they can enter their moves. (The game’s description promises that it’s “far more engaging than Tic-Tac-Toe!”)
And on Wednesday, another interesting new game was released — called Timothy Parker’s Family Crossword Games. He’s the editor of crossword puzzles for USA Today, and he’s created a set of puzzles that includes a few that are specially designed for kids. (“Spend time with your little future puzzle masters in a fun, educational way,” suggests the game’s description at Amazon.com.) There’s already some other crossword puzzle games on Amazon, but I like the “art deco” style of Timothy’s graphics.
Amd then Thursday, a company called 7 Dragons released Tips for Kindle, which dispenses one of over 100 Kindle-related tips every time you open it — and lets you browse through them to learn more about your Kindle. (And there’s also a “slideshow” mode, which flashes through the tips automatically.)
So that’s seven new Kindle games, but that’s not even half of them.
Flight from the Dark (A Lone Wolf Adventure)
It was actually 27 years ago that this game was first created by Dungeons and Dragon’s fan Joe Dever. A print edition of the “gamebook” sold over 100,000 copies in its first month in 1984, according to Wikipedia, and now a slick new version has finally been created for the Kindle. “In a devastating attack the Darklords have destroyed the monastery where you were learning the skills of the Kai Lords…” explains the game’s description on Amazon — and it looks like the game has some interesting graphics! But mostly it’s just a good old-fashioned text adventure, offering lots of magical, medieval fun. “You swear revenge,” the description continues. “But first you must reach Holmgard to warn the King of Sommerlund of the gathering evil…”
Cluemaster Mini Sudoku Volume 1 ($1.99)
It’s regular Sudoku puzzles using 2 x 3 boxes — “but that doesn’t mean that they’re all easy!” But I’ve find that it’s sometimes more enjoyable to solve Sudoku puzzles when you’re only working with the digits between 1 and 6! This game was created by the Cluemaster, the same company that supplies newspaper puzzles to the Chicago Tribune and the Daily Telegraph, and their Kindle version offers 100 different puzzles with four different difficulty levels. (There’s Gentle, Moderate, Tough…and then Diabolical!) And Cluemaster is also offering a collection of 100 original Sudoku puzzles, plus two other 100-puzzle Kindle games offering more variations
Cluemaster Jigsaw Volume 1
It’s like regular Sudoku — with a twist! The nine digit-boxes aren’t arranged in squares. Instead, they’re clustered together into different “irregular shapes!”
Cluemaster Kakuro Volume 1
There’s some missing digits in the grid, along with mathematical clues about what the total would be if you added all the digits together!
Meanwhile, another company called “16 Hands” has released Doodle for Kindle is one of the most original new games that I’ve seen. You use the Kindle’s controller to sketch a line across the screen — so it’s basically a drawing application! “This reminded me of Etch A Sketch,” wrote one reviewer on Amazon. “With the 5-way, you can move a pixel around on the screen to make a sketch…” And there’s also another new Kindle game with “Doodle” in its title – called Doodle Fit — which is more of a conventional game. In Doodle Fit, you arrange different-sized blocks until they’ve create the target pattern that’s been supplied (as a “doodle.”) And until midnight on Monday, it’s on sale for just 99 cents!
Don’t forget about Jigsaw Words, the new free word game that Amazon released in August. I’d describe it as a “refrigerator magnet” game, where there’s parts of words scattered across different “puzzle pieces,” and you match them up to create a complete set of words, united by a single theme. (For example: birthday parties.) The game starts out easy, but according to at least one five-star review on Amazon, “Some really are a challenge for adults!”
I think the most interesting title for a new Kindle game is Ghostboy and the Nameless Grave. It describes itself as “An Interactive Children’s Book for Kindle,” and I’m really impressed by its funny, elegant graphics. (The size of the game file is 4.6 megabytes). On his birthday, a little boy named Tristan is haunted by a little ghost girl, and the game’s description on Amazon promises that as its four-part story unfolds, “your child explores a town full of mysteries on the night before Halloween.”
There’s barbarians, potions, and a magical ring of wishes in this new “Fighting Fantasy” adventure. (The game was created by Worldweaver, who also produced The Citadel of Chaos and Warlock on Firetop Mountain.) Like the other games, it was based on a popular series of books from the 1980s, and the Kindle version “is totally faithful to the original,” according to one review on Amazon. (“So if you liked the original, including the illustrations, it’s exquisitely reproduced, leaving nothing out.”) It looks like fun, at least judging by the game’s description on Amazon. “In Deathtrap Dungeon, you adventure in the medieval fantasy land of Allansia, where a twisted Baron has set up a great contest which consists primarily of trying to survive the diabolical traps and vicious monsters in the deadly labyrinth, Deathtrap Dungeon. So far, none have survived to lay claim to the prize, but that was before you came along.”
And there’s also two new “application” offerings that were released last month for the Kindle. TakeNote is basically a memo pad for your Kindle, which (according to its description) “lets you jot down whatever is on your mind quickly and easily.” And Finance Manager offers a financial calendar with alerts about bills which are coming due — plus 12 different “financial calculators” that can crunch the numbers on mortgages, the rates for long-term loans (using both compounding and simple interest), and even one for calculating your credit card payments!
Back in June I’d written that there were now over 100 games available for the Kindle. And then 10 more new games came along in July. So we’re up to at least 129 games for the Kindle now. In facst, there’s so many more new games, I’m wondering how long it will be before there’s finally 200 games available for the Kindle!
August 1st, 2011
I couldn’t believe it. Two weeks ago I wrote a blog post about all the cool new games for the Kindle. And today I discover there’s 10 more games — including another new free game from Amazon!
It’s like a crazy hybrid that answers a riddle: What do you get when you cross Amazon’s “Every Word” game with a crossword puzzle? Just like Amazon’s original “Every Word,” this game presents one set of letters at the top of your screen, then challenges players to type every word that could be created from those letters. But this new version adds a twist: all those words form a crossword puzzle! If you’re stuck, just peek at the “across” and “down” words to see how many squares need to be filled in for each word, and see if any letters have already been filled in by the words that cross!
Amazon released this game — Every Word: Crossings — just five days ago. But they’ve also released a brand new version of their original “Every Word” game. It’s just like the first version, except now there’s an almost unlimited number of puzzles. (“Added over 3,600 new puzzles,” Amazon explains in a release note.) “Our most popular free game for Kindle just got better,” Amazon bragged on their Facebook page – and best of all, it’s still free! (Just point your web browser to amzn.to/roFOWM to download the newest version.)
But my favorite new Kindle game combines challenging brain teaser puzzles with…flowers! A grid of tiles represent the pipes that will irrigate the buds into blossoms. The graphics are very attractive, including the vines and grasses around the edges of the screen – and many of the puzzles are delightfully difficult. It’s from the makers of Strimko and Futoshiki, and even though it was released just a few weeks ago, Blossom’s already become one of Amazon’s top-20 most popular games.
But there’s another new game that has even more complicated graphics. A series of beautiful greyscale images depict scenes from the search for a missing African explorer. “Explore cities, temples, and ruins,” reads the game’s description on Amazon, “while unlocking the secrets of the professor’s groundbreaking research by finding objects hidden within pictures.” It’s one of the largest games ever released for the Kindle — the file size is 6.7 megabytes. But even at $4.99, Hidden Expedition: Amazon has already become the #1 best-selling game in the Kindle store!
There’s also some fascinating new number puzzles. Will Shortz, the editor of the New York Times crossword puzzles, put his name on a new Kindle version of the game KenKen. Like Sudoku, players try to add the correct digits into boxes without using any repeats in each row and column. But in this game, groups of boxes also indicate numbers that can be combined for a specific mathematical result. You’ll either be adding, multiplying, subtracting or dividing all the numbers in the grouped boxes to achieve the result – so you’ll have to work backwards to figure out which digits it could be!
And in the last two weeks, game-maker Puzzazz has released three different Sudoku collections – one of which was just released today! It’s Red Hot Sudoku, which promises 33 classic Sudoku puzzles which are guaranteed not to be too easy. “Sure, you need to know the rules of Sudoku,” promises the game’s description, “but you better have a few extra tricks up your sleeve if you want to tackle these puzzles!” If you’re just getting started, you might prefer Snap Sudoku #1, a collection of the game-maker’s easiest puzzles. (Its description at Amazon.com promises “calibrated super easy Sudoku puzzles…puzzles you can solve in a snap.”) And somewhere in between is a collection called Mad About Sudoku, 33 puzzles which the game-maker says “can be solved without heroic effort.”
I feel bad for Metalgrass Software. Ten days ago they released their very first game for the Kindle, a fun visual logic puzzle called Nonograms. It’s a collection of “simple yet challenging puzzles,” according to the game’s page on Amazon, “in which your goal is to uncover a hidden black and white pattern.” Unfortunately, two weeks earlier Amazon released their own free version in a nearly identical game called Pixel Perfect Puzzles. “Nonograms, Hanjie, Paint by Numbers, Griddlers are some of the names for this puzzle type,” explained one reviewer on Amazon, adding “It was originally developed by Non Ishida in Japan, in 1988.”
A similar problem seems to be confronting a company called CompuLab. Last month they released Word Quest, a collection of word-search puzzles for the Kindle — even though another company has already released two sets of Word Search puzzles for the Kindle. But at least one reviewer was delighted with a new feature in CompuLab’s version. “Interestingly, you can reset a puzzle — it will have the same words, but they will be in different locations!”
Last month there was also a surprising application for business travelers that was slipped into the Kindle game store. Password Manager lets you collect all your passwords into one secure location, so you can carry them all with you on your Kindle. (Protected by a password, of course.) “Password Manager can store up to 500 items,” reads its page in the Amazon Kindle store, “and includes templates for credit cards, bank accounts, PIN codes, frequent flyer numbers, web site log-ins, memberships and more.” It’ll also help suggest new passwords (and advise you on how difficult they’d be to guess), and “To help protect your data, your data is stored with AES encryption, and a security timeout feature will automatically log you off after 2 minutes of inactivity.” It’s currently priced at $4.99, though it sounds like for some Kindle owners, it could be very useful.
But I still think I’d rather play Blossom.
July 18th, 2011
For the next week, eight different Kindle games have been slashed in price by 50%! The sale includes two new games — “Inheritance” and “Affairs of the Court” — both now available for just 99 cents. But Amazon’s also cut the price in half for “Dusk World”, which has always been one of the most expensive Kindle games in Amazon’s store.
I think of Dusk World as Amazon’s game masterpiece — a “noir”-style graphic novel from Amazon Digital Services in which nearly every page of text comes with an original illustration. (For that reason the game’s file size is an enormous 5.2 megabytes, making it one of the largest games in the Kindle store.) It’s a fun detective story about a superhero in jail — he’s imprisoned for a murder which he can’t remember whether he committed. The story is dark and intense, and Amazon even warns in the game’s description that “Dusk World contains content that may be inappropriate for children.” It’s almost like Amazon was trying to invent a new genre for the Kindle — a high-quality interactive choose-your-own-path comic book.
Maybe they were just ahead of their time. But I think Amazon still harbors a secret affection for the “interactive fiction” genre. In a promotional e-mail they sent me Wednesday, instead of describing them as games, Amazon’s calling them “interactive Kindle books”. (“Your choices control the story…” Amazon wrote, “in which multiple plot lines and endings promise a rich reading experience. “) In fact, one of the two new games is “Affairs of the Court” — the first interactive romance novel — in which players control the destiny of “a young noble who comes to court in search of love and power, and catches the sovereign’s eye.” It’s really two games rolled into one — “Choice of Romance” and a sequel, “Choice of Intrigues” — and it’s available for just 99 cents.
The other new game — “Inheritance” — is one of the best-formatted text adventures I’ve ever seen on the Kindle. “I don’t know how to break this to you, but your crazy uncle Ozmo has passed away,” the story begins. “…you must have made a good impression because he’s left you everything in his will.” There’s apparently eight different choices on each screen of the game, though the adventure is a little short (according to one user’s comment). It’s also part of Amazon’s “50% off sale” on interactive fiction, so through July 25 it’s also available for just 99 cents.
Here’s a complete list of all the games which are on sale for the next 10 days.
July 7th, 2011
First, I want to apologize to everyone in England. For over a year, I’ve been talking about games on the Kindle — but apparently, you’re not able to download them if your Kindle’s in England. “I want my Fighting Fantasy…!” joked one British Kindle owner, in a comment at Reddit.com. And he added, “What’s more annoying is that the books are from a U.K. company and they can’t even sell their products on the U.K. market!”
Yes, ironically, two of the most popular games are Kindle versions of the “Fighting Fantasy” series of books — The Citadel of Chaos and The Warlock of Firetop Mountain — where readers choose from multiple paths through a Dungeons and Dragons-style adventure. But this series was created in 1982 by two British authors — Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone — and the rights are now owned by the British publisher, Wizard Books, according to Wikipedia. Warlock of Firetop Mountain was first published in 1982 — the first book in a 59-book series. But nearly 30 years later, when it’s finally made its glorious debut on the Kindle — nobody in England’s able to buy it!
But meanwhile, American customers have more and more games to choose from. Tuesday Amazon released a new free game called Pixel Perfect Puzzles. And last week Yahtzee Yahtzee finally appeared in the Kindle store — the classic dice game originally marketed by Hasbro. Best of all, it was created by Electronic Arts, the digital game-making powerhouse behind big Kindle best-sellers like Scrabble and Monopoly. Founded in 1982, they’ve continued making digital games for nearly 30 years, and they’ve also released three more popular Kindle games — Texas Hold ‘Em, Sudoku, and Solitaire. But Yahtzee is the first new game they’ve released since 2010 — and because it’s new, they’ve slashed its $4.99 price to just 99 cents!
And if you’ve spent any time exploring Amazon, you’ve noticed their teaser for another special announcement. “For a limited time, select Kindle game customer favorites–including Scrabble, Solitaire, and NY Times [Crossword Puzzles] — are on sale for just $0.99 each.” The offer ends on Sunday, July 10, and there’s 11 different games to choose from. Just point your browser to tinyurl.com/JulyGameSale to browse the games’ pages on Amazon.com. Below is a complete list of all the games currently reduced in price to just 99 cents.
And of course, don’t forget Yahtzee!
June 23rd, 2011
I couldn’t believe it. I checked the best-seller lists at Amazon.com, and discovered that there’s now over 100 games that are available for the Kindle — including eight free ones! Monday two more new games arrived in the Kindle store — including the really attractive “Fortune Teller.” (“Your Fortune Told on Kindle…”) But it’s part of a new trend, as different kinds of “active digital content” start appearing in the Kindle store. I’ve assembled a complete list of everything that’s available in the store’s “games” section — and discovered a few surprises.
For example, there’s now also another “game” that provides daily horoscopes, and one that helps you convert measurements — like miles to kilometers. Wednesday a new “reference title” showed up with recipes for cocktails. Another “game” lists the calories in popular fast food meals, and there’s another one which turns your Kindle into a stopwatch. There’s an appointment/calendar book, and of course the Notepad and “Sticky Notes” applications. There’s even educational flashcards for kids, plus other educational games (including one from the Scripps National Spelling Bee).
Instead of entertainment, these games are offering actual information in an interactve format. (If you’re taking your Kindle on the road, it could really come in handy!) It shows the variety of active content that’s now available in a Kindle-ready format, and it reminds me of hodgepodge of tempting apps that are available in Apple’s app store. In fact, with all these “useful” applications, it’s nice to see new games being released that are still just plain fun.
Kee-Ko’s Quest — also released Monday — has some delightfully simple graphics. There’s a bug-eyed, smiling robot named Kee-ko (who looks more like a toy car) happily traveling down a track at a factory. Players nudge the five-way controller to move Kee-Ko — and the other robots blocking her way — as she tries to reach the right side of each screen to re-unite with her long-lost robot boyfriend (named F4R4W4Y). I really liked how this game involves a character and a story, instead of just numbers and letters and abstract challenges…
But it also proves how quickly new games are arriving Amazon’s Kindle store. Two weeks ago Amazon released a new game called Pirate Stash — less than three weeks after their last new game, Thread Words! And it seems like the new games are also getting more complicated. Pirate Stash has nearly 120 different brain-teaser puzzles, enough to keep you busy for quite a while! (Pirate Stash isn’t free, but Amazon will send you a free sample with the first 15 puzzles.)
“Fortune Teller” is another example of a seemingly-simple idea with a sophisticated implementation. I loved its graphics — though I remain skeptical as to whether it can truly predict the future. The amazing “Hectar” provides one new prediction a day through a crystal ball on each of five topics — love, money, career, life, and friendship. And the game actually comes with three completely different “modes” of fortune telling — including the more traditional fortune cookie. (“Only 3 cookies can be opened a day so choose wisely.”) And there’s also a “Mystic Pyramid” which works like the Magic Eight Ball, promising “you can merely think a question and pressing the enter key…will give you an answer to the question. Ask as many times as you like!”
Last week saw the release of a new variation on Sudoku called Futoshiki, and there’s also a new text-based “choose your adventure” story called “Choice of the Vampire.” But I realized games were finally catching on for the Kindle when I convinced my friend Len Edgerly (who hosts The Kindle Chronicles podcast) to give Monopoly a try. “I have become a fan of Monopoly,” he admitted in last week’s show. (Adding “I don’t know whether to thank you for that or curse you for it.”) But I think he put his finger on exactly why it can be so enjoyable to play a game on the Kindle. “It’s a very pleasing way to take a break from whatever I’m doing — to move my little hat icon around the board…”
I’ve become almost an evangelist for games on the Kindle — and if you’ve never tried one, you’ll always wonder what you’re missing. So to help you try one, I’ve assembled a complete list of all the games currently available on the Kindle — along with their taglines in the Amazon store, and their current price.
Kee-Ko’s Quest – A Puzzle for Kindle ($1.99)
“Fortune Teller” – Your Fortune Told on Kindle ($1.99)
EA Texas Hold’em – Play the Popular Poker Game ($3.99)
Pirate Stash – A Puzzle Game for Kindle ($1.99)
Wordoku Unbound #1 – A Puzzle Collection (99 cents)
Scrabble – Play the Popular Word Game on Kindle ($4.99)
Word Search – A Word Game for Kindle (99 cents)
EA Solitaire – 12 Card Games to Play on Kindle ($3.99)
Notepad – A Note Taking Tool for Kindle (99 cents)
Calendar Pro – A Schedule Tool for Kindle (99 cents)
Calendar – A Schedule Tool for Kindle (99 cents)
Sudoku Unbound #1 – A Puzzle Collection ($2.99)
Mahjong Solitaire – A Matching Game for Kindle ($3.99)
Sticky Notes – A Note Taking Tool (99 cents)
Maze A Thon – A Game for Kindle (99 cents)
Calculator – A Calculator for Kindle (99 cents)
Snakes and Ladders game – A Game for Kindle (99 cents)
Slingo – A Game for Kindle ($3.99)
Checkers – A Classic Game for Kindle (99 cents)
Checkers – A Classic Game for Kindle (99 cents)
CodeWord – Codewords and Cryptograms for Kindle (99 cents)
Monopoly – Play the Popular Board Game on Kindle ($4.99)
Chess – A Classic Game for Kindle ($2.99)
Hangman 4 Kids – A Kindle Word Game for Children ($1.99)
NY Times Crosswords Vol. 1 – 30 World Famous Easy Puzzles ($1.99)
Word Search Volume 2 – A Word Game for Kindle (99 cents)
EA Sudoku – Play Sudoku on Kindle ($3.99)
Easy Calculator – A Calculator for Kindle (99 cents)
Blocked – Rescue the Block! – A Game for Kindle (99 cents)
NY Times Crosswords Vol. 2 – 90 World Famous Easy Puzzles) ($4.99)
Next Puzzle Game – A Matching Game for Kindle (99 cents)
Stopwatch and Timer – A Time Keeping Tool for Kindle (99 cents)
My Yoga Studio – A Yoga Partner on Kindle ($1.99)
Converter – Easy Conversions for Kindle (99 cents)
Hangman – A Word Game for Kindle ($2.99)
Triple Town – A Puzzle Strategy Game for Kindle ($3.99)
Calendar – Appointments, Birthdays, Holidays and Sticky Notes – A Schedule Tool for Kindle (99 cents)
Tic Tac Toe – A Classic Game for Kindle (99 cents)
Peg Solitaire – A Classic Solitaire Game for Kindle (99 cents)
Scripps Spelling Bee: Word Games – A Word Game for Kindle ($2.99)
Futoshiki – A Logic Puzzle for Kindle (99 cents)
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain – A Fighting Fantasy Adventure ($3.99)
Jumble, 200 Puzzles – A Word Scramble Game ($4.99)
Flip It! – A Game for Kindle (99 cents)
Choice of the Dragon – A Text-Based Adventure ($1.99)
Word Soup – A Word Game for Kindle - ($1.99)
True Backgammon – A Classic Board Game for Kindle ($1.99)
Anywhere Abs – A Workout Partner on Kindle ($1.99)
Flash Cards: Basic Math for Kids – A Learning Tool for Kindle ($2.99)
Strimko – A Logic Game for Kindle ($2.99)
Panda Poet – A Word Game for Kindle ($2.99)
NY Times Crosswords Vol. 3 – 30 World Famous Challenging Puzzles ($1.99)
Flash Cards: Fractions for Kids – A Learning Tool for Kindle ($2.99)
Fast Food Calories – Calorie Counter – A Reference Tool for Kindle ($1.99)
Daily Horoscopes 2011 – 2012 – Your Daily Horoscope on Kindle ($2.99)
Spelling Star – A Learning Game for Kindle ($2.99)
NY Times Crosswords Vol. 5 – 30 World Famous Easy Puzzles ($1.99)
Anywhere Legs – A Workout Partner on Kindle ($1.99)
24-7 Spanish – Vocabulary – A Language Trainer ($3.99)
Choice of the Vampire – A Text-Based Adventure ($2.99)
NY Times Crosswords Vol. 4 – 90 World Famous Challenging Puzzles ($4.99)
Peg Solitaire – A Puzzle Game for Kindle (99 cents)
Jumble, 50 Puzzles – A Word Scramble Game ($2.49)
Choice of Broadsides – A Text-Based Adventure ($1.99)
24-7 Spanish – Basic Phrases – A Language Trainer ($3.99)
The Citadel of Chaos – A Fighting Fantasy Adventure ($3.99)
Ultimate Music Quiz – A Trivia Game for Kindle ($1.99)
Dusk World – An Interactive Fiction Game ($2.99)
Diamond Crosswords – 50 Easy Puzzles – A Word Puzzle for Kindle (99 cents)
Match Genius – A Memory Puzzle Game ($2.99)
Jumble, 20 Puzzles – A Word Scramble Game (99 cents)
Brain Bump Literature – A Trivia Game for Book Lovers (99 cents)
Rockin Reversi – A Classic Game for Kindle ($1.99)
Ultimate Movie Quiz – A Trivia Game for Kindle ($1.99)
Symdoku Unbound #1 – A Puzzle Collection ($2.99)
Flash Cards: Alphabet and Spelling for Kids – A Learning Tool for Kindle ($1.99)
NY Times Crosswords Vol. 6 – 30 World Famous Challenging Puzzles ($1.99)
Reversi Deluxe – A Classic Game for Kindle ($1.99)
Letter Landers – An Early Reader Game for Kindle ($2.99)
24-7 German – Vocabulary – A Language Trainer ($3.99)
24-7 Italian – Basic Phrases – A Language Trainer ($3.99)
24-7 French – Basic Phrases – A Language Trainer ($3.99)
Ultimate Nature Quiz – A Trivia Game for Kindle ($1.99)
24-7 Italian – Vocabulary – A Language Trainer ($3.99)
Spelling Star Spanish Edition – A Learning Game for Kindle ($3.99)
24-7 French – Vocabulary – A Language Trainer ($2.99)
24-7 German – Basic Phrases – A Language Trainer ($3.99)
Ultimate Sci-Fi Quiz – A Trivia Game for Kindle ($1.99)
Tower of Hanoi – Kindle Edition (99 cents)
Cat Jump – Interactive Puzzle for Kindle (99 cents)
Cocktail Mixer – A Reference Title for Kindle ($1.99)
Blossom – A Puzzle for Kindle
Inheritance – A Text Adventure for Kindle
Thread Words – A Free Word Game for Kindle
Dots and Boxes – A Free Game for Kindle
Every Word – A Free Game for Kindle
Blackjack – A Free Game for Kindle
Number Slide – A Free Game for Kindle
Shuffled Row – A Free Game for Kindle
Video Poker – A Free Game for Kindle
Minesweeper – A Free Game for Kindle
May 31st, 2011
I tried to explain to my friend Len Edgerly last week just how much I enjoyed playing games on the Kindle. It’s fun to do something digital on a screen that isn’t backlit — and I always enjoy spending time with my Kindle. And it turns out that two weeks ago, Amazon released a brand new word game for the Kindle — for free. It’s one of several new games that are available for the Kindle — and most of them cost just 99 cents.
Amazon’s new free game is called “Thread Words”, and it’s sort of a cross between “Every Word” and “Boggle”. (There’s 25 letters in a 5 x 5 grid, and your goal is to create words by using one letter from each column, while only moving up and down by one row.) This marks the eighth free game that Amazon has released. (They’d released their slick version of “Dots and Boxes” just three weeks earlier, plus their own version of the classic number-grid game “Number Slide” on March 31.) I’d describe their latest game as “horizontal Boggle,” since you’re trying to form as many words as possible while still reading from left to right.
But on the same day, a new game company was releasing their very first game for the Kindle. Olmatech Technology has put together a nice version of the classic board game “Chutes and Ladders,” where players take shortcuts through a 100-square board — either traveling up on a ladder, or sliding backwards instead! Surprisingly, the game dates back to ancient India, according to Wikipedia, where its original name was “the ladder to salvation.” (It taught the concept that good deeds are rewarded while bad deeds are punished.) In the Kindle version, there’s a tiny little “Kindle” icon that represents your opponent — and if it slides backwards on the back of a snake, a cute little animation plays in the game’s lower right-hand corner!
There’s also a new kind of crossword puzzle that’s been released by Puzux games. (They’re the company that first brought to the Kindle those Jumble puzzles that you’d see in your Sunday newspaper.) In a mind-boggling twist, the grid is rotated 45 degrees, so the “across” words are formed using squares that only touch at their corners, in what would be a diagonal line in a conventional crossword puzzle. Their game is called Diamond Crossword, of course, and though there’s fewer words than a traditional crossword puzzle, this also means that it won’t take you forever to finally finish a grid!
But those aren’t the only new games for the Kindle. I’ve also been enjoying Strimko from Braintonik games – an interesting variation on Sudoku where all of the digits are connected by a line (instead of appearing in the same box). There’s an easy version (with the digits 1-4) and a trickier version with the digits 1 -7. And if you’d like to try the game before you buy it, just point your web browser to strimko.com/play.htm
But I think I’m most excited to see a new Kindle game called “Peg Solitaire.” I’ve always loved solving brain teasers, and there’s actually 40 different challenges packed into this game. It’s another classic puzzle
that’s finally reached the Kindle. (“Did you know…” the game asks at the bottom of one screen, “the first evidence of the peg solitaire game can be traced back to the court of Louis XIV in the year of 1697.”) I enjoy trying to think out my moves in advance — and even after I’ve solved one of the puzzles, I still get a special thrill if I can solve them again.
Hopefully one of these days, I’ll even be able to convince Len Edgerly to try playing games on his Kindle! ;)
May 3rd, 2011
Thursday Amazon released yet-another free game for the Kindle. It’s called Dots and Boxes, and it’s a very attractive rendition of one of the classic mathematical strategy games.
Amazon’s game was actually invented more than 150 years ago, by a famous French mathematics professor named Edouard Lucas. (According to Wikipedia, he invented another classic math game — the Tower of Hanoi puzzle — which was also recently adapted into a game for the Kindle 120 years after his death.) Lucas once discovered a 40-digit prime number by performing all the calcuations by hand! But what’s funny is that Lucas himself tried to market a version of “Dots and Boxes” back in the 1800s, saying the game’s author was “N. Claus de Siam” (which was really just an anagram for “Lucas d’Amiens” — acknowledging the city in north France, where he was born).
It’s a game which is traditionally played with a pencil and paper, but Amazon’s created a slick update. Players take turns drawing lines between the dots on a grid — and if a player’s line forms the fourth side of a box, a picture of an animal appears inside to show that they’ve claimed the entire square. “Your goal is to beat your opponent by completing more boxes than they do,” Amazon explain in the game’s instructions, but the game is surprisingly difficult. The first time I tried playing a game against my Kindle, the Kindle actually managed to beat me! (“Wow! The Kindle is really smart and very tricky,” posted one reviewer on Amazon.com.)
But I really liked how Amazon indicated which player had claimed the square — using either a lion’s head or the head of an elephant. There’s also a nice illustration of the two animals above each of the menus (which are framed with vines and flowers.) Even when you’re scrolling through the menus, the “selection indicator” is an elephant’s head on one side and an lion’s head on the other. I think it would’ve been fun if Amazon had just decided to call the game “Elephant Heads and Lion Heads.”
This makes the seventh free game that Amazon has released. (Less than a month earlier, Amazon released — Number Slide — and there’s also two free card-based games, Video Poker and Blackjack.) Amazon’s also released two (free) word games — Every Word and Shuffled Row — and of course, the first free game for the Kindle was Minesweeper. There’s a link built into “Dots and Boxes” that leads to Amazon’s own game page in the Kindle store where you can donwload all of their other free games to your Kindle.
This game brought back fond memories for at least one Kindle blogger. “I can remember being in the back of the car on a long trip with a large pad of paper with a 100 square grid playing with my sister,” remembers Michael P. Gallagher. In a review he posted to Amazon’s web site, he suggests that the Kindle version reminded him of some of that childhood drama.
“We were usually good to be a little more quiet for ten minutes or so until one or the other would get frustrated with losing, or gloaring a little too much with winning!”
April 7th, 2011
It’s another special sale. Monopoly — the classic dice-rolling, property-buying board game — is now available on the Kindle for just 99 cents! (First released in December, the game normally sells for $4.99.) It’s a special promotion (which ends Sunday night), but it’s also part of a larger publicity stunt by the game’s manufacturers. “April 7th is Global MONOPOLY Day,” announces Electronic Arts in the game’s product description at Amazon.com. “Join the fun and play MONOPOLY on Kindle for just $0.99…”
And there were more strange details in their official press release yesterday. Hasbro, the original makers of Monopoly, and Electronic Arts (the maker of several digital variations) formally declared Thursday to be “Global Monopoly Day” — but only on Facebook. “MONOPOLY fans around the world are invited to play MONOPOLY Millionaires on Facebook,” they announced in a press release, “to win more than $20,000 in prizes and participate in an attempt to set a new Guinness World Records title.” They’re giving away exactly $20,580 in prizes — the dollar amount that’s in the bank in the board game version of Monopoly — and the prizes include a free Kindle, a Macbook Pro, or an iPad 2. (They’re also giving away versions of Monopoly for the iPhone and Android smartphone, as well as $500 Visa gift cards, and $5,000 in cash.)
“Does this mean we get a day off work to play Monopoly?” joked one game blogger. (Adding “No? Dammit!”) But dig deeper into the press release, and you’ll realize two dirty secrets. First, “Monopoly Day” has nothing to do with the Kindle version of the game. And second, the game they’re celebrating isn’t really Monopoly.
Instead, the companies are trying to set the world record for the most simultaneous players for an entirely different (but equally complicated) game on Facebook. “Monopoly Millionaires” strands each player alone on their own individual Monopoly board, where they’re already the owner of all the colored properties. But at timed intervals, they can make a temporary visit to another player’s board, where they’ll have a chance to earn money or win extra upgrades to their own board’s properties. Unfortunately, the extra upgrades are only awarded at random through a Three-Card Monte-style game that’s triggered by landing on any colored property square.
Confused? I sure was. Especially when the game asked for my credit card number so I could buy more play Monopoly money using real money from my Mastercard. And while you’re playing the game, you’ll see pop-up advertisements urging you to visit the Facebook page for the real Charles Schwab investment brokers. While it’s free to play the game, “Monopoly Millionaries” apparently still earns money for its creator in other ways — and several times, it’ll ask you to lure your friends into playing the game too.
It feels much more like a Facebook game — for example, Farmville — than the classic board game of Monopoly. (Although it’s already racked up 5,880,579 active users just this month, according to statistics on its Facebook page.) Electronic Arts claims Monopoly Millionaires has now reached an audience of “tens of millions of people on Facebook.” Though maybe this is just their way of making you want to play the original classic version of Monopoly on your Kindle!
In fact, by yesterday Monopoly had become one of the top 10 best-selling items in the entire Kindle Store. (34 days ago it wasn’t even in the top 100, presumably because buyers were discouraged by its higher $4.99 price tag.) “I bought this because it was a buck,” joked one reviewer this morning on the game’s page at Amazon.com, “but then remembered that I hate the game.” But other responses were more positive, including one reviewer who posted today that “I bought it for a dollar, and my husband and I just started playing and couldn’t stop. If you like Monopoly, this is an excellent and easy to use version.”
Though she also added that when playing it on her Kindle, “I do miss the pretty colors…”
April 1st, 2011
It sounds like an April Fool’s Day joke — but it’s not! Amazon’s just released a brand-new free game for the Kindle. It’s a beautiful rendition of the classic “number slider” puzzle — this time with a couple of twists.
To start with, there’s just one empty square on a grid of numbered titles, which makes it possible to slide just one tile at a time, either up, down, or sideways. “Your goal is to use the empty space to slide the numbered tiles until they are in order,” Amazon’s instructions explain. “When the tiles are in order with the empty space in the bottom right, you win!”
But Amazon also lets you select a new difficulty level for the puzzle, offering grids that are either “small, medium, or large.” (That is, you can slide the numbers in a small three-by-three grid, a trickier four-by-four grid, or an even more challenging five-by-five grid.) And if you choose the “automatic” setting, a tile will move as soon as you highlight it, so you don’t even have to press in the select button. (And if you instead you choose the “manual” setting, you can cursor past several tiles, and then move them all at once by selecting the one that’s farthest away!)
“You know, the last thing I need is yet another addictive game on my Kindle!” complained blogger Michael P. Gallagher. This morning he posted the game’s first review on its page in the Kindle store, writing that “The graphics are very crisp and the response time is very fast on my Kindle 3 as compared to the slowness I saw on the free Kindle poker game…”
“Now, if I can just find time to read on my darn Kindle….”
This game is part of an unacknowledged trend, since gradually all of the classic games are starting to become available on the Kindle. Just yesterday Oak Systems Leisure Software released Codewords and Cryptograms for Kindle. It’s the familiar cryptograms that appear in your daily newspaper, where a quote from a famous person is hidden with a “substitution” code where different letters are swapped in to represent every letter. (And they’ve also bundled in a fascinating variation on the classic crossword puzzles, called “Codewords,” where you try to perform the same de-ciphering in a crossword puzzle grid!)
That company also released the first Kindle version of Chess in February (as well as a Word Search game). And if you’re looking for traditional crossword puzzles, The New York Times has released six different volumes. One week ago, two different companies even released two different Kindle versions of the board game checkers on the exact same day. And just Tuesday, the same thing happened again, when two companies released competing versions of the disk-flipping game Reversi.
In February, a company named 7 Dragons released a Kindle version of the game Tic Tac Toe (as well as a new game called Flip It) — but two weeks ago, they even unveiled a Kindle version of the classic text-document application, “Notepad.” And there were already two competing versions of the software. So game development is definitely starting to happen on the Kindle platform.
I agree with Michael Gallagher — all these games are cutting into the time that I’d normally spend reading on my Kindle. Number Slide marks the sixth free game that Amazon has released. Below is a complete list of all Amazon’s free Kindle games — in case you’re looking for more fun ways to spend this year’s April Fool’s Day.