Not Just for Dummies
By now you’re probably quite familiar with the For Dummies series of lessons. Even if you haven’t perused the illuminating pages of concise info within the tomes that cover hundreds of various subjects, the bright yellow cover and goofy caricature should ring a bell.
Recently, the PC has gotten a few games that are one part lengthy tutorial and one part gaming. Now, gamers are getting the For Dummies treatment for their DS. Following the puzzle-gaming-on-the-go tenants established by Brain Training and Big Brain Academy closely, Travel Games For Dummies provides an enjoyable brain-teasing experience.
Putting a slight twist on the genre, this cart throws in succinct strategy lessons in addition to the actual games, which cover Sudoku, Solitaire, and Crosswords. Combining these three games into one title translates into a solid gaming experience for busy travelers and casual gamers alike. All three games are well-represented in Travel Games For Dummies. Unlike other casual gaming experiences, each entry is given a three part treatment: How To, Practice, or Play.
In How To, gamers learn the ins-and-outs of Sudoku, Solitaire, and Crosswords, including strategy and terminology. This is much more than a glorified tutorial mode; however, the information is still quite terse and accessible. For instance, Sudoku players can learn the difference between Naked and Semi-Naked Singles (not to be confused with those found in a hot tub in Aspen), Hidden Pairs, and being Locked In. Likewise, all the rules are clearly given for diverse Solitaire games such as Pyramid, Yukon, and Free Cell. Finally, the Crosswords section covers themes including how to go about solving clues, analyzing clue forms, and even getting to know “Crosswordese” and which references to take advantage of. These in-depth tutorials are remarkably useful for getting to know the classic games much more intimately.
Later, players can apply what they just learned in the How To section by playing through the Practice segment. The Practice tab is full of lesson-specific puzzles or games, and it is a good way to reinforce the themes, especially during the Sudoku portion. When you feel you’ve learned all there is to know, jumping into the Play tab is the next step. There are 500 Sudoku puzzles covering five difficulty levels ranging from Very Easy to Very Hard. Solitaire is equally satisfying, as there a total of ten different Solitaire games to choose from, including Klondike (the most famous iteration), Canfield, Pyramid, Yukon, Scorpion, Monte Carlo, Penguin, Accordion, Golf, and Free Cell (well-known amongst ageing Microsoft Windows users).
The Crosswords section has a total of 100 puzzles ranked as Easy, Medium, and Hard across ten different categories such as Animal Tracks, Extra Extra, Way Back When, Audio File, etc. Also, I found the Sudoku puzzles provided a nice range of difficulty, and the Solitaire games gave a bunch of great replay value. However, the Crosswords were quite easy, even on the hardest setting. If you’re a crosswords hound used to completing the New York Times’ Friday edition, you’ll likely find little to no challenge. Nevertheless, there’s still a lot to like in this game.
Outside of gameplay, developer Beanbag Studios has done an admirable job with Travel Games’ organization. The presentation and touch-screen controls are as straightforward and manageable as the game’s strategy lessons. It is very easy to navigate from lessons, to practice, to puzzles, and the simple menus and tabs lend themselves perfectly to the game’s format.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of minor downsides: the text and touch detection. Though the fonts and spacing are clearly legible to me (I’ve got 20/20 vision), I can imagine some folks may find the small type to be tiring on the eyes after awhile. Also, entering letters while playing Crosswords can be occasionally difficult; some letters aren’t recognized as readily as I would like. Nevertheless, quality touches like being able to save and quit each puzzle at any time and using a help interface from the menu go a long way to making this a very smooth and pleasant portable experience.
Travel Games For Dummies is a very good game for business travelers and casual gamers. Combining classics like Sudoku, Solitaire, and Crosswords together was a grand idea. Moreover, the addition of clearly taught strategy lessons to the mix is a great way for teaching or improving your knowledge of these games, and it helps to differentiate this title from other brain games out there. If you’re in the market for a title that’s great on the go, or you simply want to get a better handle on these classics, Travel Games For Dummies is a nice option. However, if you tend toward hardcore titles or crave adventure and story, definitely look elsewhere.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
The visual presentation is simple and clear. The text may tire weak eyes. 4.0 Control
The touch-screen is ideal for this gaming format, but touch detection can be a bit dodgy. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Virtually nonexistent, but it doesn’t hamper gameplay. 4.0
There are succinct lessons that will give you a better understanding of how to play these classic games. Additionally, there are hundreds of puzzles to keep you occupied, though many are too simplistic for very savvy players.
3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.