This game is a compilation of several games that share the same set of graphics. One of them is a game of "memory" played on a grid of 4*4 cards. The number of wrong guesses permitted for completing the current level decreases as the difficulty level increases. Two others are sliding puzzles: one of them on a grid of 5*5, the other one on a grid of 4*4. The last and most challenging game in this compilation is a five-in-a-row game on a vertical grid of 10*10. In addition to the standard four-in-a-row rules, there are special ability-cards that may be used in order to turn the current situation in the game upside down. One of them does this literally by flipping the whole grid over.
Not much of a story in the first three games.
In the five-in-a-row, the player assumes the role of one of ten girls that challenges all others in the five-in-a-row game. Each of them has special magic abilities; and by winning, they gain the abilities of the beaten opponent. Small dialogues before the challenge and after winning make up a small and shallow story for each character.
Because I had no instruction booklet in my box, I assume that was a general production error of the print and no instructions to these games exists at all. Also, it was quite some trouble to figure out how each game, especially the five-in-a-row, worked, so I'd like to give players who were helpless in the same manner at this point a helping hand.
At start, the 16 cards (8 pairs of matching cards) are shuffled and placed in the 4*4 grid face down. The player has to click two cards. These cards are turned face up and revealed in this manner. If they match, they are removed from the table; if they don't, then the current try was a wrong guess and the cards are turned again face down.
The player continues selecting two cards until:
a) all cards are removed from the table
b) the number of wrong guesses allowed for the current level is exceeded
In a sliding puzzle, the grid is filled with the parts of the puzzle and one empty space that is the size of a puzzle part. The player has to click a part adjacent to the empty space in order to move this part into the empty space. This moves the empty space to the position of the clicked part. The player has the task to arrange the parts of the puzzle properly, by using this method of moving as the means to exchange them into their correct positions.
Five-in-a-row is played on a grid that stands upright. Chips the size of a cell in the grid and colored red for player #1, or colored blue for player #2, are inserted in turns by the players from the top of the grid into a column of the grid, and fall down within this column to the bottom of the grid, or onto the last chip inserted in that column before. Each player has the goal to build a line of 5 chips in his color in horizontal, vertical or diagonal direction.
In addition to this, each character has special supporting abilities, displayed as special effect cards that are lined up below the grid. On each card is displayed how many cards of this kind are available for each player: The number on the upper half of the card is the number of cards the computer player has, and the number on the lower half of the card is the number of cards, the human player has. If no number is displayed on the half of one player, this player has no cards of that type.
If a special ability is used, the number of available cards of this type decreases by 1. If a special ability is not used during a whole match and the player has more than one card of this ability, the unused cards will "breed" and another card of that kind is available in the next match. Also, at the start of a match, the cards of the opponent are added to the cards of the player, so not using the abilities of an opponent against himself is the key to use this ability by breeding against later opponents.
In order to use a card in play, you have to click the card you wish to use before clicking the row to insert the chip.
I named the cards (from left to right):
scarecrow (had no matching idea for this one)
They have the following effects:
The player using the lazy dog no longer has to insert a chip in this turn. It's the other player’s turn again.
Instead of just one chip, two chips are inserted in the selected column. The lower chip is a neutral gray chip that counts for no player; the upper chip is a normal chip of the current player.
The inserted chip destroys all chips in this column, including itself.
All chips in the row the inserted chip lands in are removed from the grid. All chips in the rows above the removed chips fall into the position one row below.
The inserted chip removes itself, the chips directly to the right, to the left, and below the position it landed on.
First, the chip at the very bottom of the selected column is removed from the board. All other chips in that column remain on the boards but move down one position. The currently inserted chip that triggered the whole effect remains on top of the column. It's not possible to use this function on an entirely full column.
After the inserted chip falls into its position, the chips at the three directly adjacent positions (right, left and below the inserted chip) are turned into neutral chips, regardless of which color they had before. The inserted chip keeps its color.
The entire grid and all columns of chips in the grid are turned upside down.
You have to click a pair of cards in order to turn them face up and check if they match.
In order to move the parts, you have to click a part directly adjacent to the empty space. This part will be moved into the empty space.
You and the computer take turns in inserting one of your chips into the board. If it's your turn, click the column you want to insert your chip into. In order to apply a special ability card to your current move, you have to click this card before clicking the column.
Nothing spectacular in the memory or sliding puzzle games, but simply a theme for each game.
However, in the five-in-a-row game, the played tune relates to the current opponent and gives a better impression on that character. Not a masterpiece, but nice ear-candy anyway.
Graphics and Animations:
All graphics, except the ones that display the final winning scene of each character, display the character in front of a plain background. However, the characters themselves are nicely drawn and exist with different expressions. In the five-in-a-row-game, these expressions are used to display the current tactical situation of that character. If a character looks happy, she is close to winning; if a character looks rather desperate, she has almost lost.
In the memory game and the 5*5 sliding puzzle, for solving a level, one of the losing graphics of the five-in-a-row-game (showing the losing character tortured or otherwise humiliated) are also used as the reward in the memory-game for solving a level and the 5*5 sliding puzzle. These are the demosaiced versions of the originally mosaiced pictures used in the five-in-a-row-game after the displayed character lost a match. Only the movement of the sliding puzzle parts and the falling chips in the five-in-a-row-game may be counted as animations. At least, something is moving around on the screen.
Regardless of which game is played, the grid of the five-in-a-row is always the background of the games on which the cards of the memory games or the parts of the sliding puzzles are displayed. In the memory game, above the grid there is the numeric counter for the remaining guesses in the current level.
In the five-in-a-row game, to the left of the grid is the player’s character with her current expression, and to the right of the grid the opponent’s character with her current expression visible. Below the grid, there are the special ability cards with the amount owned by each player displayed.
After all levels of the memory game or the 5*5-puzzle are beaten, the demosaiced reward-graphics, won in that game, are available via the "continue"-option. However, if an already beaten game were started again from scratch, the continue-option of this game would be set again to the current position in the restarted game. In the five-in-a-row-game, the gallery of the graphics of the player’s characters becomes available after the player has beaten all other characters by using this character.
My personal opinion:
The only game I really enjoyed of these four was the five-in-a-row game. (and only after I figured out how it worked)
However, this game was almost hidden by the way the startup-menu presented its options: It contained the options "uncensored game" and "original game". These choices imply at first sight, that both options lead to the same games, the first one with the graphics demosaiced, the second one with original mosaiced graphics. In fact, the "uncensored game" contained the memory game and the sliding puzzles, while the "original game" was the five-in-a-row.
If it were not for my curiosity, and a picture on the back of the box displaying a screenshot of the five-in-a-row game, I myself would have been fooled and perhaps never tried the "original game" option.
The five-in-a-row-game left alone was almost worth the price of the game. It would have been better, if the in-game-texts were translated to english instead of the de-mosaicing of the graphics plus the disappointing puzzle and memory games. And of course, a more direct textual hint on the box regarding the five-in-a-row would have also been nice.
Also an instruction booklet (for the memory game and the sliding puzzles not that necessary) would have been
a) an unmistakable hint on the existence of the five-in-a-row game
b) a big help for anyone, playing the game the first time.