Rockstar Diner Food in ‘Papa’s Cheeseria’


papa's cheeseria bannerCasual browser game Papa’s Cheeseria has all the cute time-management fun from Papa’s Donuteria, but instead of decorating donuts for hungry customers, this time players will be fixing delicious grilled cheese sandwiches.

Players begin as a young rockstar with a gig a Papa Louie’s Grilled Cheese restaurant. (Hey, when you’re a starving artist, any show is a good show!)  It’s worth pointing out that you can play as a boy or a girl, and the goals are exactly the same. Hmm, it’s almost like it’s not all that hard to add playable female characters to games. Anyway, when my rocker Scarlett’s gear was tragically stolen, Papa Louie offered her a job making grilled cheese sandwiches. Scarlett keeps her adorable star earrings and adorable rocker accessories even in her food service uniform.

This time-management game is a little bit different from DQ Tycoon, Youda Survivor, or Cake Mania. In the Papa games,  one customer at a time arrives, with a long and complicated order, and players need to fill their request before next customer can give an order. Fortunately, most customers love their grilled cheese, and tip well for their custom orders.

Each customer wants a certain kind of bread, cheese, extra like bacon or tomato, and a side of fries. Players start with a lot of options, and just like Papa’s Donuteria, there’s a lot more interaction and choice, and not very much appointment-style click-and-wait.

Except for the frying part… I’ll never understand why watching a timer tick down is considered fun. I’ve been conditioned to check to see if there was an Inst-fryer as an in-app purchase, but no. Frying and waiting wasn’t a plea for an IAP — the game really is free —  just not a mechanic best suited for impatient players. I just wanted to plate and style my virtual food, like in Cooking Mama!

This is another cute, casual cooking game in the Papa Louie series, but this one makes you hungry for diner food!

Papa’s Cheeseria is currently available on CrazyGames, along with plenty of other Flash games like puzzle game 2048, and evil twin 2584, secret vampire makeouts in Twilight Kissing, and cute buttonmashing adventure Mighty Knight.

[Here comes the game]

Source: CrazyGames


crazygamesThis post is shared with you in partnership with CrazyGames.





Pineapples Don’t Wear Makeup

I wrote a quick post about the latest dev diary for No Pineapple Left Behind. It’s great to see this game taking shape!

The latest dev diary video introduces a teaching dilemma: a young boy named David likes wearing makeup to class. Should you create a comprehensive anti-bullying program, teaching children to respect each other’s differences, and provide reasonable consequences as a deterrent to bullying behavior? Or just turn David into a pineapple? Pineapples, as we all know, don’t wear makeup and don’t get bullied.

via “No Pineapple Left Behind” Hilariously Pokes Fun at the Not-so-Funny Flaws of the American Education System | (The) Absolute


See Ya, Space Cowgirls: Til Cows Tear Us Apart

I’ve been playing tons of browser games to review for my students, which means spending a lot of time on sites like Kongregate. I keep getting Til Cows Tear Us Apart in my recommended games, which is probably because a retro space adventure about alien ladies is perfect for me. But I’m usually looking for games to share with my students, and one of the first player choices in Cows is whether or not to pretend to be hookers, and that’s followed by which kind of recreational drugs to buy, so even though I really wanted to see where it led, I realized this was probably not the best choice to introduce to my 10-year-olds.

Wah wah wah, I had to stop playing the game I wanted and go play a different game for work, wah wah, my life is so terribly hard. But I finally had the chance to play it at home, and this game did not disappoint.

welcome to the freakshow

Welcome to the freakshow, foreigners!

Til Cows Tear Us Apart is about two girlfriends, Enora and Quanee, and their struggles to smuggle a payload of cows across the galaxy to Truxon, where cows are super valuable because the citizens really, really like cows. Ahem. (Hmm, that part’s probably not kid-friend either.)

The spacefaring duo need sneak to past alien customs, battle bounty hunters or try fast talking out of trouble. There are multiple paths with different endings, depending on player choices, or whether you use the FTL drive to warp out of or into trouble. Along the way, the cow counter on the top of the screen keeps track of how many cows have been sold, given as bribes, teleported away, or otherwise disappeared.  In between conflicts, Quanee and Enora will flirt, discuss their heist, and listen to the radio, in a Cowgirl Bebop kind of way.

louise gannett

She seems nice. Pretty too. Did Enora date her?

As I played, I unlocked achievements for reaching different story points, which made even goofy decisions (Should I land on this planet and try the peyote? Should I flirt my way out, or just nuke this guy?) seem more meaningful. Also, players can speed through sections in replays, which encouraged me to replay again and again, for different storylines that did not disappoint. So much blasting, romance, and listening to space music in this little game!

first ghost

This is when Quanee and Enora tripped on peyote and saw the ghost of Chloridian General Clusterduck.

Til Cows Tear Us Apart was created by Pierre Corbinais for the Space Cowboy Game Jam. Even if you’re going to play the browser version on Kongregate, it’s worth checking out the game jam’s page to see how Til Cows Tear Us Apart ranked in essential space cowgirl categories, like Lonesomeness, The Void, and Romance. When I realized this was made in just a couple days, I started to notice that the images of Enora and Quanee at the ship’s console is the majority of the game’s art assets, but that’s ok, because the fun concept, the variety of music and the branching story options make it seem like a much more vivid gameworld.

Til Cows Tear Us Apart blends retro pixel art, choice-based adventures with a Cowboy Bebop / Firefly space bandit universe, which are pretty much all things I like. Probably why it kept coming up on my recommendations.

Destroying Daleks in “Doctor Who Legacy”

screenshotI discovered Doctor Who Legacy when some of the kids at a homeschool convention saw my Tardis necklace, and told me all their favorite Doctor Who games and episodes. When one of the kids showed me this game on his iPad, and I saw the screen full of colored gems, I asked if it was a match-three.

“How did you that’s what you do?” one of the kids asked. “Wait, have you played this before?”

Oh, my sweet summer children.

Doctor Who Legacy is a strategic match-three, where all the powers and characters relate to the show. As you play the match-three boards, you’ll unlock doctors and companions, and each character has a special ability.  Martha Jones increases healing by 15%, and the Eleventh Doctor can use A Fast Plan to attack. One of the companions is a cute little Adipose, with the ability to change black gems into yellow gems. That’s because adipose stem cells are pluripotent and can become all different things. (I hope you laughed, because that joke is the only enjoyment I got out of that science class.)

match 3 square

How did you know this is a match-three, Ms Meg?

You’ll get one doctors and up to five companions on your team, while the rest of the unlocked characters hang out on the Tardis, probably  having the best party ever. You can only use one team at a time, but you can make and save multiple teams, so you could have a team with your favorite doctors and his real companions, and a optimal team for defeating levels of Weeping Angels, and also a team of Beloved and Underused Companions. (I stole that idea from a twelve-year-old, and I am not sorry.)

Each puzzle level progresses the plot, and for dedicated fans, you can also buy the related episode right through the game.

The game is freemium, powered either by 30-second invasive adverts, or an in-app purchase to unlock the a Fan Area with new content. There’s so much free content to play, so many levels and characters and upgrades, that unlocking the Fan Area is only really tempting as a way to make the advertisements stop. I had a long conversation with Harold about whether this is an ad-supported game or the freemium model where the game is deliberately unbalanced, and players are extorted to fix the balance. Actually it wasn’t so much a conversation as it was me ruminating on monetization methods and perceived value while Harold reads a comic and murmurs agreement periodically. Relationships are great!

Also, players who pay unlock Donna Noble, so there’s a serious value add for players who purchase. I’m glad that she’s so much of a fan favorite.

skip the story

Are you really sure? We didn’t get this dialogue approved by all those brand managers just for you to skip it! 

If you don’t want to read the dialogue (which is quite good, but definitely doesn’t hold up the second, third or sixtieth times you replay the level trying to get the Martha Jones rare drop), this pop-up reminds you that without the story, you’re playing a clever match-three.

I tend towards simple puzzle games while I’m unwinding… where most people would read a little, but if I start reading I’ll be up all night finishing the book. Anyway. My friend Jennette talks about playing a few rounds of Candy Crush in the evening, and I’m finding that’s what I do with Doctor Who Legacy: Stretch out and defeat a few Daleks before bedtime.


No Pineapples Will Be Left Behind!

Alternate Title: Even More Thoughts Around Games and Education

no pineapple left behindA while ago, I posted about No Pineapple Left Behind, a serious game Seth Alter from Subaltern Games is working on, all about standardized testing and school systems. I was really disappointed to hear that the Kickstarter had failed, and I was completely delighted when Seth told me at IndieCade that he’d found a publisher for No Pineapple Left Behind, so I’ll soon have a chance to play with the pineapple-children.

His first dev diary(ish) is up here:


I’m really glad these pineapples won’t be left behind.


Secrets of ‘High School Story’ #hssgame


A few weeks ago, I was at a homeschool education conference for my work, and I got chatting with a twelve-year-old about our favorite games. (This was a theme of the conference weekend, and I got quite a few game recommendations from the under-18 crowd) She was very excited to find out that I also play High School Story, and gave me all the details of unlocking the secret missions. I didn’t even know there were any secret missions!

But I had my own High School Story secret. See, I didn’t expect to be showing my high-school themed appointment-style game to anyone, so I sort of named all my HSS students after Star Trek characters, and put them in Star Trek situations. As one does.

Student gov’t Seven reveals her #Borg past in #HighSchoolStory #hssgame #Voyager #7of9 #ios #screenshot

A photo posted by Meg (@simpsonsparadox) on

This won’t end well, Tuvok. #hssgame #Voyager #latergram A photo posted by Meg (@simpsonsparadox) on

Think that’s called shipping. #HighSchoolStory #hssgame #startrek #trek #fanfic #otp

A photo posted by Meg (@simpsonsparadox) on

It lines up pretty well, in case you were thinking of trying it.



continuity screenshot“Easy to learn, hard to master” is usually considered the gold standard for a casual game. The more time new players must spend, learning how systems and items work, the less casual and accessible the game is. (I love a good World of Warcraft or Icewind Dale, too, playing a game for years and still discovering new abilities for new character classes, and still finding tweaks to my customized hotkeys.) But accessible doesn’t have to mean match-three.

Continuity simply uses arrow keys to solve puzzles, in two modes. The first mode is a slider puzzle, with gentle meditative background music. In this mode, the puzzle is to build a path for your little hero to get the red key and get into the red door.

Hit spacebar to enter the second mode, a platform adventure exploring the path you just made. Again, players will use arrow keys to navigate, trying to get the key and then reach the door.The faster, more energetic music matches the jumping and running challenge.

continuity 3

There’s a surprising amount of variation in the 30+ levels. Later levels add extra keys, and speed-pausing puzzles, but the real growing challenge, and the real fun, comes from the interplay of the two gameplay modes. Players are building a platform game through a slider puzzle, then playtesting it, switching back to change the layout, playing again, switching back and forth to reach a goal.

Working in games, it’s hard not to play a game and think that it’s just like a popular other title with 1 vector of innovation, the common “like X but with Y” formula. In this case, I played each new level and legitimately wondered how the developers came up with it. So fun. It actually was really easy to learn the game rules, and then quite challenging to defeat the later levels.

Anyway, I discovered the PC version of this game over on Kongregate, but there’s also a mobile version of Continuity 2 for iOs and for Android.

Shades of ‘Grey’ and Rainbow Colors

greyGrey, from Kevin Does Artis a little platformer in a grey world. I’m not great at platformers, well, actually, that’s an understatement, but I tried to overlook my general dislike of platformers when I checked out this game for our students.

The game opens in a sad grey world, which is one of my favorite settings. You’re a little blocky dude, and your little blocky friend with long hair is sad. The game description says that you’re a guy and this friend is your girlfriend, but there’s no dialogue or in-game description to clarify this, so I just imagined her as a sad friend. I liked this interpretation. Save the world from certain doom is a pretty common game story, so go cheer up your buddy made a pretty engaging game hook.

The protag waves at her a couple times, but she doesn’t react. Actually, she doesn’t react to anything, and I’m so bad at platformers that when my friend wouldn’t respond to my actions, I thought I didn’t understand the controls. Then a compass of colored directions appears, which is actually telling you how to solve the puzzle. Of course, I went jumping and running off towards a color, because the world is grey.

I expected to have a lot of trouble with this platform game, but it was more using platforms and jumping as a method to explore, rather than an exercise in timing and tapping buttons. In each direction, there’s a small colorful item, like a blue necklace or a green shamrock, and of course, I picked it up. I’m an adventure gamer, I pick up everything that’s not locked down. Sometimes I get a bobby pin and pick the lock and then I pick up the item. Moving on.

I thought my sad friend would cheer up when I brought her gifts but she didn’t react. This time, I didn’t think I was doing it wrong, because the world reacted. When I gave her the shamrock, all the grass and trees in the world turned green. With the blue necklace, the gray waters turned blue.

grey greenThe protag can only hold one item at once, so there’s no speedy playthrough by grabbing everything in one circular path, but that meant that I kept exploring a slowly-changing world. Each new color made the world more vibrant and alive, even ones like purple or orange that I expected to be accent colors. It made my landmarks (see previous re: not good at platformers) harder to identify, and made the same old path seem new.

After bringing the last gift, and fulling coloring the world, the sad girl finally reacted. I was… not prepared for this. With the last color, the girl stands up, the protag fades away, and the girl goes on with her life. The animation is open to interpretation, but… I think he’s dead.

Until this point, I’d seen Grey as a minimalist indie platformer about adding colors to a gameworld. The gifts, which seemed like easy-to-draw representations of each color, suddenly seemed terribly sad. A teddy bear, a piece of candy. Actually, didn’t I see a gravestone when I was picking that flower? I realized the sad-girlfriend character was more of a grieving child, retrieving her memories and coming out of a depression, and it was not at all what I expected from a simple platformer.


Career Lessons From The Sims: Lifetime Wish

meg writingSo I recently noticed that following the Writer skill track for The Sims 3 draws an interesting distinction between mastery of the skill, creating brilliant work, selling profitable work, and the activity of writing. Thinking about these distinctions has led to way more existential questions than you might expect from relaxing with my imaginary game people. Does my Sim want to write something brilliant? Create a masterpiece? Earn good money writing? Make money on this piece, or overall?  Or just feel like writing something for fun?

In Sims 3, each Sims has an individual Lifetime Wish, chosen at the beginning of the game, which answers which type of writing they should pursue. They might want to rule the free world, or learn every recipe ever, or be a chess grandmaster, or whatever, and they’ll be working towards this their whole life, unless you’re the kind of player who puts your Sims in the pool and deletes the ladder.

sims writer goals

Anyway, three of these Lifetime Wishes are about writing, and they’re all more detailed than just “be a writer.” The Professional Author Lifetime Wish means making a living as a writer, so this Sim should be focused on completing a wide number of short, saleable works. For the Illustrious Author goal, which means reaching the top of the skill track in writing and artistry, Sims should train, and practice, and read about writing, and study art, and not really bother writing anything to sell until it’s a masterpiece. And there’s another writing-related goal, which is to reach the top of Journalism career track. This is actually a Star News Anchor and turns out being more about building Charisma skills and workplace relationships than writing and creativity (and it doesn’t involve any puns about a rapidly rising anchor, really a missed opportunity).

Mixing these goals up, especially by thinking that as long as your Sim is writing, they’re on their way to their goals, can lead to major life dissatisfaction.

(You can do them all if you turn off aging.)

Oddly Accurate Fairy Sim

Sims 3 Goals

My Sims’s goals are to talk about her  job, work on her novel, become a better writer (because writing skill is distinct from actually completing assignments, isn’t it?) and be worth $20,000.

In case you’re wondering if I’m going to outgrown making myself as a Sim now that I’m in my thirties, I’d like to point out that this time I’m a Fairy sim. I just got Sims 3: Supernatural, and I didn’t even finish reading what Fairies can do,  I chose it the instant I saw that Fairies spend several Sim-lifetimes as Young Adults, before they have to become Adults.

The First Hero: Saving the World on a Grecian Urn

The First Hero, from BeGamer, is a short point-and-click adventure about a young champion on a Greek urn, I mean, a young champion in mythical Greece.


You’re not, as far as I could tell, any particular mythological hero, just a young champion who uses his wits to win the shield of Athene and the helmet and spear of Hephaestus, even though I’m pretty sure Haephestus makes helmets for the GODS and not for random human champions. Nevermind, Zeus probably slept with his mom.

Aphrodite gives you the most beautiful woman in the world, which works about as well it usually does in Greek myth. Battle ensues.

Aphrodite, no! Not the most beautiful woman in the world!  Can't you reward me with cash?

Please, Aphrodite, can’t you just reward me with cash?

This is a littler browser game so a thousand ships are not required. Each scene is a simple point-and-click puzzlesolving adventure. It’s simplified enough that everything you need is on one screen (well, almost everything… keep your eyes open in the maze), and you can usually solve the puzzle with a little investigative clicking. If you do get lost in the labyrinth or killed by the hydra, you’ll get another chance to replay the scene.

the first hero

Hades kidnaps the young hero’s girlfriend, because that’s what happens when you have the most beautiful woman in the world,  and the player must descend to the underworld to get her back. I was planning to make a joke about Hades kidnapping the young hero’s girlfriend in revenge for stealing the helmet Heaphestus was about to give to Hades, so when my hero got to the underworld, and Hades actually said, yeah, bring me my helmet and we’ll talk, I laughed out loud.  You’re not actually trading in the helmet for your girl though, Hades is sending you on mission to find his invisible helmet. I’m sure that won’t be too hard to find…

The art is, of course, what attracted me to this game. Each scene is the distinctive terracotta and black of Greek pottery, with columns and meanders to set the scene, and the occasional white accents. I thought it might be a good educational game for the kids, but a certain goddess of love seems to have a bit of an aversion to wearing clothes.

The First Hero doesn’t take too long to complete, but every scene in this short browser adventure riffs on classical art and mythology.

At IndieCade, Part 2

Ikeyboard frame ran into Nate, and then he ran into one of his friends, and introduced me.

“Oh, is your last name Stivison?” Nate’s friend asked.

“Yeah, it is.”

“You reviewed my game!”

I’m always so terribly nervous when that happens, and I was extra nervous, because I has no memory of this game when he said the title (No reflection on the quality of the game, more a reflection of my own awkwardness), but he pulled it up on his phone, and fortunately,  I’d written good things about it.

IndieCade is a good reminder that people actually read what I write.

With Those We Love Alive

with those we love aliveThis is a screenshot, of sorts, from Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive.  I discovered this game through friends on social media sharing photos of their own symbols. I immediately wanted to play it, but put it off until I had real time to devote to it. I’ve got mixed feelings about how my gaming is more in short bursts nowadays (I miss long stretches of Civilization, and how I resent fitting that thirtysomething female player demographic, with my playtime hemmed in by all my adult responsibilities! Still, those adult responsibilities are for work I love, so…) but I would absolutely recommend waiting until you have enough uninterrupted time to play. This isn’t a gameworld for alt-tabbing in and out.

WTWLA begins by letting players know that no choices are wrong, and by offering some choices that seem mainly cosmetic. Pick a birth month, for example, from a list of twelve strange worldbuilding names. Good sci fi presents a world that’s both familiar and foreign, like the vague geography of the Hunger Games’ Panem, or the way Arthur Clark describes future tech, and WTWLA does this from the beginning.

A gross and creepy empress rules a world of dead people and dream stealers. The player is tasked with crafting things for the empress, a role I liked because, well, if you’ve read this blog for a while, I like to make things and when I’m not thrilled with my life and my surroundings, I make more thin, in my visitsgs. (Hey, did you see my story about liiving in the south plus magic, or my story about living the south plus aliens?) I also think being a craftsman is a great hook for a game protag, while being between two worlds usually makes an intriguing novel protagonist.

In the game, I could make small choices, but no large ones. When tasked with crafting something for the Empress, I could choose the least-gross of the material options. I could walk to the lake or to the gardens, and confirm that the descriptions hadn’t changed, except for the occasional dead person appearing. But I couldn’t leave my home in the palace or talk with any friends.

I crafted a telescope immediately, and then wondered endlessly if reading expat blogs while I was stuck in this terrible area was helping or hurting me. Oh, man, did I say reading expat blogs? I totally meant looking through my pretend telescope in this game! How did that slip out?

When I slept, I’d often wake up to a note or a summons from the Empress, so after exploring the permitted areas several times (Any self-respecting point-and-click adventurer investigates carefully), I found myself sleeping a lot in order to progress the game. What a terribly depressing mechanic, sleeping and sleeping in hope of something good happening next.

Sometimes we talk about whether interactive fiction games are fiction or gameplay. I like this conversation better than the one about whether games can be art, because it’s about whether we enjoy IF as reading or as gameplay. But when we  talk about message games, about whether Twine games are game experiences if they’re novels you click instead of turning pages, and, geez, when we talk about meaningful game mechanics in general, we should mention this game mechanic in which players sleep days and days way with the hope of something good happening.

Every so often, I’d be told it was time to reapply hormones, but I didn’t want to. Partly because there were some odd things going on with gender and femininity in this game, and partly because I’m an exploratory players, and I wanted to know what would happen if I didn’t. But, since I wasn’t able to sleep without reapplying hormones, and I wasn’t able to advance the plot without sleeping, I just wandered around a lot hoping something would happen and I wouldn’t have to. Spoiler: I had to.

Finally, I met an old friend, and got to make large choices (that were still small choices, in a way). I wasn’t entirely clear on whether this person was a friend or a lover, but I don’t think it much matters. With Those We Love Alive blends careful and unusual language choices with carefully creative IF gameplay, and built to a satisfying storyline conclusion.

Oh, right. The screenshot. At points throughout the game, players are asked to draw a symbol of what their character is experiencing. You’ll be asked to draw symbols of burial or rebirth, loss or connection. There’s no wrong answer, no gameplay mechanic punishes you for poor art skills. I used glitter eyeliner for mine, and painted each symbol carefully on the side of my forearm.  I’ve written a lot about about how we as players tend to empathize most with avatars who look like us or avatars we’ve customized and personalized to be more like the way we see ourselves,  and actually drawing on my skin to connect with character experiences was an extreme example of both.

Then, of course, it felt weird washing it off immediately, so I found myself scrubbing a green glitter burial rune off my arm before work the next morning.

The Screaming Narwhal

Telltale Games’s Tales of Monkey Island, not to be confused with the LucasArts updated re-release of the original stories, is an entirely separate adventure in the ongoing saga of Guybrush Threepwood, mighty pirate. The first episode, Launch of the Screaming Narwhal: Chapter 1, brings Guybrush, Elaine Marley, and LeChuck (and at least one other familiar character!) back for new stories, revamped from their grainy 2d incarnations, but following the spirit of the originals.

Goofy dialogue, creative uses for found items and pirate-y silliness are the hallmarks of the Monkey Island games, and the Screaming Narwhal has them all. Guybrush uses his razor-sharp wits to deal with the wacky denizens of Flotsam Island, whether that’s a clever ruse about selling fine leather jackets, an amazing use of misdirection (Look! It’s Louis XIV!) or coming up with a believable excuse on the spot. The dialogue is not a memory test of in-game facts, but a chance for zany interactions.

The freedom of the old Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge options was in stark contrast to the thousand ways to accidentally off the protagonist in the punishing other adventure games I played around the same time. (Crossing the road as Laura Bow and immediately getting killed by a passing car still sticks in my memory as the finest example of pointless player death.) Guybrush can stick a bomb in his pocket or attempt all sorts of athletic feats without any ill effects.

The Monkey Island games make you wonder What would happen if I…? and then encourage you to try it out, a gameplay style I really love. When you try to pair two objects that don’t belong,  use something in the wrong way, or say something ridiculous, Guybrush makes a joke instead of a beep, an error message, or a score punishment. Creativity is rewarded by offering zany responses to zany questions and zany actions. The object was not to beat the level, the boss, or the game, but just to see what would happen next. That’s exactly what I love in games.

The Screaming Narwhal contains the old Monkey Island mechanic of an old pirate map for Guybrush to decipher. I don’t want to give away too much, but this isn’t the usual hidden object standard, there isn’t any squinting at the screen to find map pieces. If you’d like to make the puzzles easier or harder, the hint frequency is on a slider in your options menu, so you can adjust how helpful Guybrush is to you.

When I think about it, the only thing that could possibly be improved is the inventory. Oh, no, not the actual inventory, the U-tube and manatee monocle and breathmints leave no room for improvement. But the way to access the inventory is to mouse over the right hand edge of the screen. This is also the way to walk off the right hand edge of the screen or look at things on the far right of the screen. It is not a game-breaking mechanical failure, but a minor annoyance that came back every time I mean to look at something on the right and opened my inventory.

Originally written for Thumb Gods.