It’s amusing to see the looks on kids’ faces and hear their comments when they see me waiting. It could be in the airport or on a plane, or the ophthalmologist’s waiting room, or just waiting for a friend. They don’t expect to see someone who could be their grandmother fervently playing with a Nintendo DS Lite, unless their grandmothers actually do play Nintendo.
As a virtual vegetable, I spend a lot of time on my DS. Since I have a problem falling asleep, I take the DS to bed with me (and my husband). Chip says “good night,” lays his head on his pillow and is instantly asleep. I find that maddening because I can’t do it. But that’s not what keeps me awake at night. Thinking about all the things that should be done or said or invented is my bogeyman. Those thoughts hide under the bed until the lights go out and I’m nice and comfy in my nest. Then — blam — they all crowd into my head at once, screaming and partying and begging for attention. I’ve found that playing with my DS allows me to concentrate on something that will keep those thought-monsters out, and I start to fall asleep while I’m playing. That’s when I celebrate lights out.
Mini-people walking around the screen killing each other does not appeal to me. Puzzles, word and card games, mahjong — that’s what I want. I have been hooked on Tetris since the original Nintendo game system came out, and had various versions of it for my GameBoy, GameBoy Color, GameBoy Advance SP, and Nintendo DS. I like variety though, so I can’t just play Tetris.
Two favorite games for my Nintendos have been Boggle and Dr. Mario. My copy of Boggle, which could not be played on the DS, wore out. There was a DS version but it’s no longer available. I lost my Nintendo Color Dr. Mario, and I don’t think it was ever produced for the DS, unless a conspiracy keeps it from me. Despite the fact that both of these games were timed games, my ideal game offers two features: it’s untimed and I can see it. Being able to see what’s happening on the screen isn’t always so easy for us “mature” adults (snicker, snicker). Time and astigmatism take care of that. Until a few months ago, the only mahjong game that I could actually play is Shanghai Pocket, a goofy little number for the Advance that can satisfy a mahjong jones. It’s not the greatest mahjong in the world, but I can see it. That makes it pretty great. Others that I have seen or read about don’t work for old eyes.
Recently, I purchased Quest Trio. The trio is comprised of Jewel Quest Expeditions, “a classic matching game with over 180 unique jewel boards to choose from”; Mahjong Quest, which allegedly “brings the ancient game of mahjong to life, with a captivating storyline and over 64 tile layouts of increasing challenge to unravel”; and Jewel Quest Solitaire, in which the user gets to “Play tri-peaks solitaire…in a new way using jewel-themed card decks…114 layout and 684 possible card playing scenarios.” I’m tired of the Bejeweled-Bedazzled-Jewel Quest-type matching games, and bought this game specifically for Mahjong Quest. There are three choices here, “Puzzles,” “Classic,” and “Kwazi’s Quest.” I am thrilled to report that all three are visible to the elder eye. The included solitaire is not like any tri-peaks solitaire I have played (on Facebook or DS), but it offers a challenge and a change. I play it more than I play mahjong.
Another senior-friendly game is Touchmaster; it offers a variety of short games ideal for the gaming granny or granpa with attention deficit disorder (yes, some of us are so afflicted). Touchmaster includes 23 card, skill, and puzzle games, and I have played or attempted to play all of them. Mah Jongg Pairs offers two sets of tiles, but the characters on the classic set are much too small. Mahki is a colored tile game somewhat reminiscent of Tetris; card games Target 21, Triple Elevens, and 3 Peak Deluxe are usually my bedtime story. There are nine card games, including a few classics. Touchmaster passed the old-eyes test.
One of the problems in picking games is not knowing what’s inside that tiny cartridge. The blurb on the box sounds wonderful (surprise! surprise!) and I’ve often fallen for the old “if you love [fill in the blank], then you’ll love this.” After buying the game I find I do but I don’t, and I’ve another bad investment on my hands which I can’t even pawn off on my granddaughter, Chloë. Chloë illustrates another problem. She was adamant that I would love Animal Crossing as much as she and her mother do. I made sure I had it before her next visit, and my reaction, once she taught me the game, was “what’s the point?” That’s not Chloë’s fault. Just because your best friend, husband, or beloved granddaughter loves a game doesn’t mean you will, too. The absolute best place I've found to see if a game might be for you (without trying before buying) is the user reviews and screen shots on Amazon. Since these games are not being given away, I won’t buy a game that doesn’t have user reviews or is poorly rated. Professional reviews and product blurbs do not sway me. I want to know what people like me have experienced and think. Most people are very candid. Very.
Word Jong is a game I found through reading user reviews. It’s not purely mahjong; it’s more like taking Boggle and mahjong, throwing the pieces in a blender, and enjoying the results (except for the broken blender part). It’s enormously entertaining for word game fanatics and “If you love Scrabble, you’ll love Word Jong.” (I do and I do.) I also purchased WordMaster, based on Amazon user reviews, and while I don’t enjoy it quite as much as Word Jong, it is definitely a contender for the senior games. Both are easy to see and untimed.
The reason having an untimed game is more enjoyable is the slower reaction time many baby boomers experience. Some of us cannot enjoy a game when we’re trying to beat the clock, too. The premier game publisher for us is PopCap Games. I have long played many of their games on PC and lost many hours to Peggle, Peggle Nights, Book Worm, Chuzzle (the only matching game I enjoy. There’s nothing like blowing up a few cute, little, fuzzy things!), and others. PopCap’s games are available in retail outlets, by directly downloading from the PopCap Games website, or for online play. Many of the games offer the choice of playing timed or untimed. When I read that they were releasing Peggle Dual Shot for the DS, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and pre-ordered from Amazon. I wasn’t disappointed. Combining Peggle and Peggle Nights, Dual Shot is a game you can play for a few minutes or a few hours. I’ve done both. It is not exactly like the original games, but it’s a great play on DS.
Last fall I learned that PopCap’s Book Worm was soon to be released; I pre-ordered this fantastic word game from Amazon. Again, not better or worse, just different. It’s both easy to learn and challenging to play, and another game that entertains for a few minutes or a few hours. Since the game saves when turned off, it’s possible to continue games throughout several sessions. PopCap games are hugely popular, and their appeal is not limited to retirees. To make me ecstatically happy, though, they should release a DS version of Chuzzle.
For those interested in playing Scrabble, it is available on DS and retails for around $30. As for Scrabble and me, there are so many negative reviews about the technical aspect of gameplay at Amazon that I’ve taken a pass. I would love playing the game if it worked well, but for now absence will make my heart grow stronger. I won’t be buying Scrabble until the consumers/experts at Amazon tell me it’s been fixed.
Don't worry about me though, I've got plenty right now on my Nintendo DS to keep me happy.