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Genre: Board & Card
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: G3    RAM: 523 MB    Hard Disk: 1000 MB    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

Hoyle Puzzle & Board Games 2009
August 7, 2009 | Charlie Fletcher

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If you have a love for the old days of casual games, then Encore Software Inc.ís Hoyle Puzzle & Board Games 2009, may be the most satisfying gulp of fun youíve come across in ó well, at least a year.

You see, Encore published a nearly identical game set in 2008 that has almost exactly the same games. The only difference is the addition of seven Big Bang games, including Backgammon, Chess, Reversi And Mancala. Still, the addition is significant because the Big Bang games can be played against human opponents on the Internet or through your local area network.

The game set is quite impressive; nearly 50 different games are available for play. You can save your game, so you donít have to finish an entire set in one sitting. If youíre a traveler, this would be a nice set of games for your laptop. The set includes some really old favorites, such as Backgammon, Chess, and Chinese Checkers, as well as some relatively new games, such as Star Collector, Battling Ships, and Zilch.

In all the Hoyle games that I tried ó and I admit that I did not play each one ó the computer play could be set to a level appropriate for a beginner or hard enough to challenge all but the most expert of players. However, the Big Bang games use a different system for computer play, and I found that even at the hardest settings I was able to dominate most of the time. Of course, this isnít surprising, since four of the seven Big Bang games are technically duplicates of games already in the Hoyle P&B set. Big Bang adds network-capable 4-In-A-Row, Mancala and Tic-Tac-Toe, but it duplicates Hoyle with network-capable. Backgammon, Checkers, Chess and Reversi.

Two non-game elements in Hoyle were also a lot of fun: the Face Creator and the Hoyle Bucks catalog. The Face Creator gives you the opportunity to create your own unique player character. You can choose from a wide variety of faces, hairstyles, clothing and voices to outfit yourself. The more you win in the Hoyle games, the more Hoyle Bucks you have. You can use your winnings to buy all sorts of stuff from the catalog: new hairstyles and clothes, new chess sets and card decks, and new music to listen to while you play.

My 15-year-old and 12-year-old daughters had lots of fun customizing their characters. For a while, it almost looked as though they had more fun with that than with playing the games. I liked the extra music tracks. Hoyle P&B comes with some really nice tracks to start with, but any music gets old after a while. The tracks in the catalog were a nice addition.

The Hoyle computer players were also a big plus. Encore has put a lot of personality into these characters to make it easy for you to enjoy playing with them for quite a long time. There are 10 computer players to choose from. Each one has a little bio, a unique face and voice, and strengths and weaknesses in their gameplay.

My favorite was Jack. His bio says that heís a retired travel writer who lives on the coast of New England. Heís a quick-witted guy with lots of stories to tell ó especially about how he learned his skillful moves. ďI learned that move from an African Tribal Chief,Ē he often says as he proceeds to clean your clock in Reversi.

Other players, like Roswell, are just plain weird. (He was my 12 year oldís favorite.) Roz is a space alien from Roswell, New Mexico, where he crashed his spacecraft. After working as a janitor in Area 51 for many years, he retired and now plays games to exercise his brain.

In the Big Bang game set, if you choose to play against the computer, you play either against Sun or Moon. The interface is actually completely separate from Hoyleís, and wins there do not earn Hoyle Bucks. As I mentioned earlier, my view is that the main attraction of the Big Bang games is going to be the network play.

Overall, I enjoyed Hoyle P&B 2009. Itís a great set of games with enduring replay value. However, if you already have last yearís version and donít care to play on the net, itís not worth the upgrade.

• Enjoyable gameplay
• Nice soundtrack
• Entertaining computer opponents
• Big Bang Games add network play

• Big Bang Games only addition since 2008 version

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