Pros: Addictive; simple; strategic; fun; silly; inexpensive; easy to purchase and download
Rating: 5 out of 5
First published 1/6/2005
I don’t play a whole lot of computer games. I like them; I’m just not very good at them. Lately, however, I’ve gotten addicted to some real gems from PopCap Games. I first saw their games mentioned in a Penny Arcade post, and when I went to check them out, I was hooked. Sadly not all of their games will run on Mac OS X (some are Windows only)–I really hope they put out “Bejeweled 2” and “Insaniquarium” for the Mac someday. But at least “Big Money,” “Bejeweled,” and “Alchemy” all have Mac OS X versions. While “Alchemy” is the first one I played, and I really enjoy “Bejeweled,” it’s “Big Money” that I return to over and over, whenever I need a five-minute or even thirty-minute break from working.
In Big Money, you’re trying to become wealthy. In the basic strategic (non-timed) game, you click on combinations of three or more coins of the same color to shunt them from the board; new coins occasionally rise up from beneath your stacks of cash. When you collect enough money, a money-bag drops down from the ceiling and onto your stacks of coins. When you click on a combination of three or more coins of the same color just beneath that money-bag, you “collect” the bag. Once you’ve collected a certain number of bags you advance to the next level. If the coins ever touch the ceiling, your game ends.
In the timed game, coins are constantly pushing upward all the time instead of being dependent on the number of turns you take (i.e., the number of times you click coins away).
There’s also a puzzle variation in which you start out with money bags on top of your coins and your job is to click away two or more coins of the same color at a time until you can get a certain number of money bags to drop off the bottom of the screen. If you run out of moves without collecting enough bags, your game ends.
There are also three different difficulty levels, just in case all this isn’t enough for you! If you quit your game in the middle the game will save it for you, and you can start it up again (or start a new one) as you please later. You can muck with the volume of the sound effects from silent to loud, and the effects haven’t yet annoyed me even after hours of game-play. The game will even check with the site now and then (it’ll ask you first!) to see if there’s a newer version of the game available.
Why I Love PopCap Games
PopCap games have a certain sort of style to them, and most of them involve some combination of the following characteristics:
They tend to involve pattern- and/or color-matching skills, and you might be able to squeeze the term “educational” in there somewhere, or at least try to convince yourself that you’re developing your mind by playing them. Sounds good to me, at least!
They’re silly and fun. For instance, as you gain points in Big Money you progress through various ranks such as Pauper, Ditch Digger, Fry Cook, Fry Cook of the Month, and on up to Temp, CEO, and even Venture Capitalist.
They have a lot of style. A lot of thought clearly goes into the “atmosphere” of the game. The “playing pieces” in Big Money are brightly-colored coins, and the whole thing has a sort of cartoony style that’s just plain fun.
They aren’t expensive. I think the most I’ve ever paid for a PopCap game was about $20.
They’re convenient. You can get them on CD if you want. Or you can download them and purchase a registration key. That way as long as you have your key you can always download it again if anthing happens to the old copy.
They include various modes and varieties of game-play. For instance, you can play Big Money under time pressure or not, as you choose. There’s also that puzzle-play option I mentioned above.
PopCap also understands that people want to try things out before they buy them these days, and so they make it possible for you to play many of their games in your web browser from their website! I find that for some reason Safari and IE for the Mac can’t handle a number of them, but it can handle some of the simpler ones, and I’ve been able to play others (like Insaniquarium) through Virtual PC. You can also download the “deluxe” version if they have one for your platform (some games are for the PC only; some are for PC or Mac–and they have Palm versions of games too!) and you can play it as a demo for a limited number of times before you need to register.
I think games like Big Money are kind of for people who like things like solitaire, and sometimes want to zone out to a fun little game now and then, but who want something a little new, interesting, and zany rather than just another deck of cards. By all means, if this sounds interesting to you, go check out their website, play a game or two, and see for yourself!