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With “free” online gaming, it is how you play the game

Posted on Friday, April 4, 2014 at 2:28 pm


By Peter Covino
A&E Editor
So what games are on your iPad or android device?
I have a pretty limited attention span when it comes to games and apps and will obsess over a game or application for a few weeks or a month and then abandon it out of boredom or when a near fatal glitch comes along.
Currently, I am still playing Westbound (Kiwi, Inc), a free game available for both android and iPhone applications.
Players build an old west mining town, starting off with a limited amount of gold, silver, tonic (to speed up the building process) and most importantly, pickaxes.
You need gold and silver to buy various buildings (as well as town residents who “work” for you) and you need pickaxes to break through those rocky squares on the playing field.
Like almost every game out there, free is not exactly free. You will get hit every time you play with an offer you can’t refuse to buy a large quantity of axes, gold etc., usually at a big discount, but it will still cost you $20 or more. And that gives you one more reason to make sure your device is set with some kind of security protection so you don’t get a $100 surprise from Google Play or iTunes at the end of the month because one of the younger gamers in your home, or a free-loading cousin, just can’t resist all those offers.
You can get those pickaxes, usually a few at time, as you “level up” in the game, by building homes and businesses, going on quests and gaining experience. You acquire gold (also very hard to come by), silver and tonic the same way. You also get silver and tonic from all of your homes and buildings at regular intervals.
But it is those pickaxes that will be your ruination. In addition to forking over real cash for getting these necessary tools (there are many quests where you have to dig in the canyon or an old mine, and you need them there as well), the game designers also have thought up other ways at acquiring the all-important pickaxe.
You are rewarded for daily play by getting to “spin” the wheel of fortune game. If you play daily you will get five spins on the wheel to get a pickaxe or gold, as well as silver and other resources like tonic, wood and iron. You can also use a coveted gold bar for three additional spins to get that pickaxe.
Other options include  “spending” your pickaxes on treasure chests. It costs five pickaxes to open up a chest, but you might be rewarded with 200 pickaxes. But you probably have chances at winning the Florida Lottery.
You also can spend four gold and plant some mystery seeds, seeds in the bizarre world of gaming, that can grow into more gold, silver and most importantly, pickaxes.
I was on level 39 this week (as with most games, the higher the level, the longer it takes to get to the next level) and have built many of the things you might expect to find in a Wild West town: an inn, a saloon, sheriff’s office, frontier fort, barn etc. The developers try to keep things interesting, I guess, by adding quests that allow you to build things you would never find in a old west town like a mammoth, rainbow maker and even a sasquatch character.
I have bought several of those mystery seed things, and have come up with a quantity of silver a few times, some gold, and finally, once, I was rewarded with five pickaxes.
Oh, the joy. But before I could start digging away in the canyon, the game had a reset and the pickaxes had disappeared.
I have emailed Kiwi, the developers, and at least they have responded. But, so far no pickaxes. This is exactly the kind of thing that makes me quit and move onto the next game.
Overall though, Westbound is fun and creative. The positive reviews online far outweigh the negative, most of the negatives are about how hard it is to get pickaxes, and while the developers need to make money out of this, making pickaxes more accessible will make for a much happier gaming community.
The dead game file
After spending lots of time acquiring rare fish and plants, I finally abandoned Disney’s Nemo’s Reef.
This is a really nice game graphic-wise and looks great on my Nexus 7 tablet. It is also available for smart phones, but the small surface area of an iPhone or probably any smart phone could make it really hard on the eyes.
All of the favorite Nemo characters are here, if not right away, they appear eventually at other levels.
This is Westbound, except with fish and plants. There are various quests at each level, for rewards in sand dollars, to buy plants and reef objects. Plants also produce algae, another key ingredient in playing the game.
Here the most sought after resource are pearls. They are hard to come by, but much easier than axes in Westbound. With pearls you can buy special seeds, that sometimes, produce rare plants, which in turn, attract rare fish.
Daily visits to your reef are rewarded with sand dollars and more importantly, pearls. If you play every day, you might actually get a surplus of pearls, especially since you get even more pearls by feeding your rare fish.
After days of playing, my reef was quite colorful with all the various plants and swimming fish.
I already had about 20 rare fish, as well as Nemo and his friends, and other sea creatures that don’t fall under the rare category. And Nemo fatigue began to settle in.
I probably would have continued up more levels and acquired still more rare fish, but the daily reward of pearls stopped functioning. I returned a few more times to see if the reward glitch had ended, but still no pearls.
My reef lives on, but without me.
I also spent a bunch of time under the sea with Hungry Shark Evolution (Future Games of London), a bloody game with screaming swimmers and one, always hungry, shark. There isn’t much point to this fun time-waster, except you pile up points by eating everything in the sea (including humans) and wait for your shark to evolve into a bigger, hungrier shark. Your shark is not invincible. It can be killed by other predators in the water, as well as shark fisherman, but eventually your shark will evolve into a prehistoric shark from the past, and is almost untouchable. And then it just becomes boring. But it is fun getting to that level. There is just something about a screaming swimmer and a shark.
I also spent a lot of time on various time running games, such as Temple Run, Temple Run Oz, Temple Run Brave (Disney) and Subway Surfers (Kiloo). The object here is pretty simple — you are a runner either through a jungle with obstacles (Temple Run) or a graffiti artist with the cops after you (Subway Surfers) and just keep running until you get killed or apprehended. All three games are quite addictive, hopping from subway car to subway car in Subway Surfers or avoiding poisonous plants and the like in Temple Run. The graphics and visuals are good throughout, but Temple Run Brave and Oz definitely are standouts.
Here’s a tip for just about every popular game that you can download on your phone or tablet. They usually have an online forum consisting of other users who know all about shortcuts, strategies and more.
Roku Stick
Several months ago I bought one of the Google Chromecast devices that you plug into your HDTV’s HDMI port, and instantly you have access to Netflix, HBO Go and more on your TV, via your smartphone or tablet.
Last week, Roku, one of the leaders in set-top boxes for TVs, one-upped Chromecast, with its Streaming Stick. Similar in size and shape to the Chromecast Device, it costs about $15 more, but it has hundreds of free and paid channels, unlike the less than a dozen currently offered by Chromecast. It also comes with a traditional remote for those that want a more friendly navigation system for their channels.
It looks like a good idea, and initial reports that I have seen on line are all pretty enthusiastic. But I think I will stick with my Chromecast for now and hope a lot more channels/apps are in the works.