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As Summer winds down and the tang of Fall begins to threaten us with the harsh bite of Winter, the yarn crafters begin to think of Scarves.  So, this week, I’ve got a Binary Scarf pattern for you knitter, by Christine Dumoulin.

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This neat geeky scarf is perfect for any tech geek in your life. It’s a bonus that the designer even made the scarf so that each row is one byte of data. Pretty snazzy.

If you make one of these, make sure at least one of the rows is 00101010. You may also want to consider a 7 row word of: 01000010, 01100001, 01100100, 01110111, 01101111, 01101100, 01100110.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?


Well, folks, I’ve pretty much come to the end of my personal selection of point-and-click-adventures.  As such, I figured I’d tell you about a game I played last weekend called Power Grid by Rio Grande Games.

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Power Grid is a strategy game that focuses on resource management and zone control.  It’s basically like if you merged Risk and Monopoly and removed all the dice rolls.  The game proceeds in 5 phases.

  1. First phase the turn order is determined based on the current player setups (Person with the most cities controlled goes first.  Ties are resolved by who has the most expensive power plant and then who has the most money).
  2. Second phase is power-plant auctioning.  Basically the players take turns picking a power plant out of a 4 plant line-up and putting it up for everyone to bid on with their funds (called electro in the game).  The winner of the auction pays the price of their bid and takes the plant into their lineup.  Auctions continue until each player has either purchased a plant, or passed on their turn to auction a plant.
  3. Third phase is the resource phase.  Starting with the last person’s turn, each player has the opportunity to buy one of four resources (Coal, Oil, Trash, and Radioactive Material).  As more of the resources are purchased, the price for each unit of resource increases to simulate scarcity.  Resources are used to power your plants which in turn can provide power to a number of cities as indicated on the plant card (For instance, you might have a plant that produces 2 units of power on 2 units of oil).
  4. Fourth phase is where players have an opportunity to purchase a contract with a city to power it.  The price of buying this contract is based on how far it is from your starting city, and how many other players already have a share of the city (The more existing contracts in a city, the more expensive it is to buy an additional one).
  5. The final stage is bureaucracy, where each player can choose to consume resources in order to power cities and collect money based on the number of cities powered.

At this point you go back to the first phase.  The game is further divided into three steps, with each step changing how many shares can be bought in a city, how the auctions are handled, and how many resources are replenished to the market each turn.

For a more in-depth look at the game, check out this Dice Tower review:

I really enjoy games like this.  It’s mostly strategy with a little bit of luck involved.  It’s a fairly long game to play, with four people it took just under 2 1/2 hours to play (3 1/2 if you count wrangling the children and eating some donuts).

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?


This week I’m brining you a Crochet House Elf Pattern by Quirkeecrochet.

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While I’m not personally a fan of Harry Potter, it’s got enough of a following to be considered Geek.  So, Harry Potter Fans, this one’s for you.  The pattern is affordable priced at $5 and is a great gift for that HP fan in your life.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?


Sorry for the weird updates this week.  The holiday threw off my whole week.

Another addition to my continuing list of 80s and 90′s era point and click adventure games is Broken Sword by Revolution Software.

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Broken sword is a more serious and deep look at genre, incorporating a much more mysterious and complex plot than most of the other PACA games of the time.  That said, there is still some humor to be had and the game’s aim still includes entertainment rather than an entirely heavy-handed focus on mysterious plot.  Aside from the plot, the game is beautifully drawn with impeccable art direction, the voice acting is solid, and the musical score is well written.  The Broken Sword series was successful for good reason: the games are very good.

Mechanically, there isn’t a lot new to be had.  It’s the same basic toolset you’ll see in most PACA games.  You move around by clicking and you collect items and clues to solve puzzles to progress through the game.  Even though the equation is tried and true, Broken Sword stands out as one of the better entries to the genre.

Recently, the first two Broken Sword games were re-released with updates as an Andoird App (also available on Google Play).  Both are $4 and well worth the investment.  Beyond those two, There are also several sequels of the game beyond that, which include The Sleeping Dragon, which uses a 3D engine and is quite a deviation from the first two games, The Angel of Death which returns to a more classical point and click interface but keeps the 3D rendering, and the planned The Serpents Curse which was a Kickstarter funded project that is a return to the 2D style and is scheduled for release later this year. I highly recommend checking all of these games out if you’re new to the series and a fan of PACA games.  Even the worst of the games is still very good.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?


This week I’ve got a Knit Raygun pattern by NeedleNoodles.

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This is a neat little knit project for the ray-gun enthusiest (and with a different color scheme and a few accessories, could easily be converted into a steam-punk pattern).  And, at $4, it’s a reasonably priced.  There’s also a crochet pattern in existence, but the pattern was removed from NN’s shop for whatever reason.  Unfortunate, because It think the crochet version looks a lot cooler.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?


As I continue on this point-and-click adventure kick, I thought it would be a good thing to step back and take a look at one of the early games that really helped define the genre.  To that end, today I’m going to talk about Maniac Mansion by LucasArts (LucasFilms).

Maniac Mansion screenshot

Maniac Mansion was the very first foray into game making by the LucasFils/LucasArts group, and a very successful foray it was too. Maniac Mansion ended up founding many of the mechanics of later PACA games. While it wasn’t the first PACA game, it certainly was one of the most influential.

In Maniac Mansion you control Dave Miller and two companions who you pick at the start of the game. Much like all PACA games, the gameplay features puzzle solving and exploration. In this case, you’re in the Mansion of Dr. Fred, a mad scientist who has captured Dave Miller’s cheerleader girlfriend, Sandy Pantz. The tone of the game is very humorous, drawing heavily from B-movie horror clichés, which fits very nicely in the general atmosphere of humor across all North American PACA games.

The real place where Maniac Mansion shines is in the interface. Most PACA games released around or before Maniac Mansion were actually hybrids of point and click as well as text based. The control of the character would be mostly mouse driven, but most of the interactions had to be done on a command line. This could be frustrating in situations where exact verbiage was necessary, and indeed such moments of specificity were the bane of the early PACA player. Maniac Mansion consolidated the entire system into 15 selectable commands which streamlined the entire process and eliminated the issues with text entry. Most of the other big PACA producers of the time quickly adopted this style; later streamlining it to just a few commands that were context sensitive (typically look, interact, talk, and use item).

Maniac Mansion is a great game that doesn’t require a whole lot of time to play. For somebody who doesn’t know what they’re doing, you can play Manic Mansion from start to end in just an hour or two. If you know what you’re doing, you can get through it in under ten minutes. Despite being a premier title, Maniac Mansion is extremely hard to get one’s hands on legitimately, mostly because the original release was for Commadore 64 and Apple II. The NES carts are still pretty easy to get, though you’ll want to steer away from the NES version since it was heavily censored to meet the Nintendo of America’s strict content standards of the time. Since LucasArts seems to have almost entirely forgotten about the game in their recent re-imaging of several of their classics, you’re pretty much going to have to download Maniac Mansion if you want to play it.

There’s also a very promising looking remake in progress by Edison Interactive; however, it’s progressing slowly.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?


This week I’ve got an awesome, step-by-step tutorial on how to make Piranha Plant Cake Pops by cakecrumbs.

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These are really awesome. Sadly, given the lack of decent artistic ability in our house, I’d imagine that any attempt to do these would end up another entry on one of those “nailed it” lists.

That said, cake balls are pretty damn easy, and while less cool looking, are still tasty as hell.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?


This week continues my foray into great point-and-click adventure games with The Dagger of Amon Ra by Sierra.

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The Dagger of Amon Ra is actually the second in a two-game series starring Laura Bow, though this entry is far superior to the first one in most ways, probably because Sierra had made a lot of progress on their PACA engine between the two releases.  From a mechanics stand-point, The Dagger of Amon Ra is pretty true to the genre: humor, inventory management, puzzles, sudden deaths, and a lot of pointing and clicking.  However, The Dagger of Amon Ra offers a neat little twist.  The game itself is a murder mystery in a museum, throughout the course of the game you investigate several murders in order to find the murderer.  At the end of the game you’re asked a series of questions in order to determine if you’ve solved the case.  Your ending will change based on how much of the case you solve correctly and you’ll be given some extra hints on what you need to do in order to flesh your knowledge of the case on a subsequent playthrough.  It’s unfortunate that these games came so close to the end of Sierra’s production of PACA games, as the mystery aspect could have lead to a whole new sub-genre.

The Dagger of Amon Ra is a great addition to any PACA game collection.  It’s familiar enough that it’s a solid member of the genre, while providing the novel mystery aspect that isn’t seen much elsewhere.  It’s still fairly easy to get a copy of the game, with used copies of the CD-ROM version running around $5 (CD-Rom version is the one you want because it has the voice acting).  You can also snag it on most abandonware sites, and since Sierra has effectively abandoned the series, with no remakes having been made and none planned (hence: abadonware), you can decide how bad you would feel about downloading it (abandonware is a large legal gray-area in my book).  It is a DOS game, so DOSBox is a must.  It probably would also run on early versions of Windows that are based on DOS (3.11 & Win95/98) if you want to play with virtual machines, but DOSBox is far easier.  As of DOSBOX ver0.6 and beyond, Dagger of Amon Ra V1.0 is playable with some minor sound issues.  From what I’ve seen, attempts to install it directly onto XP/Win7 generally do not end well, so plan on having to use an emulator of some kind.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?


With the recent, yearly explosion of interest in sharks (for whatever reason) I figured now would be a good time to whip out this free knit pattern for a Shark Hat by Allison MacAlister.

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I mean really all there is to say is: SHARK HAT!  OM NOM NOM NOM!

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?


Since I’m on this point-and-click-adventure kick, I figured it would be remiss of me not to touch on a few of the Sierra games, which pretty much defined the genre.  This week, I think I’ll talk about Space Quest.

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Space Quest is a series of 6 games that chronicle the adventures of Roger Wilco, space janitor.  The Space Quest series as a whole features more than a little humor while still delivering solid gameplay.  That said, for the veteran PACA player, there won’t be many surprises here (aside from Space Quest 4, which gave you the ability to lick things, a unique control option across pretty much the entire PACA spectrum).  You venture around the universe and have adventures, collect items, solve puzzles, and save the day.  Pretty standard fare.  The game really comes alive with all the zany humor and ridiculous situations you find yourself in.  It’s hard to resist the urge to spoil these, but I’ll hold myself back for the sake of anyone new to the series.

It’s really hard to give a good, solid review of Space Quest because it does its best to defy one’s ability to describe it without cheapening the experience by spoiling all the madcap events.  Really, Space Quest needs to be played in order to truly understand why it’s such a great series of games.  Luckily, it’s highly available.   There have been two compilation releases (featuring updates to the first game to bring it into line with the latter VGA releases), both of which are still available for purchase.  The earlier remake can be found for about $9, while the newer one (with Windows XP compatibility) runs around $13.

There is also a free remake of the second game available online at Infamous Adventures.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

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