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Publisher: Freeverse    Genre: Board & Card
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: G3 @ 333 MHz    RAM: 64 MB    Hard Disk: 30 MB    Graphics: 16 MB VRAM

Burning Monkey Casino
January 29, 2004 | Matt Diamond

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Burning Monkey Casino is a collection of well-known casual betting games from Freeverse. As usual, Freeverse has mixed things up a bit with lots of silly jokes and visual tricks. If you are in the mood for quick, easily played games like slots or blackjack then this collection is worth a look. Fans of other Freeverse games will find much to like as well. Hardcore casino players will probably want to look elsewhere, and despite Freeverse's efforts to distract the player the underlying games can still feel repetitive.

Burning Monkey Casino is a collection of five casino-themed games that each require the player to place a bet before playing a round, and the computer tracks how much money the player has left as a way of keeping score. Wisely, Freeverse lets players add more money to their account at any time. Players can choose from four preexisting accounts, each with its own name and character graphic, or create new ones. The five games are Slots, Poker, Blackjack, 3-Card Monty and Scratch 'n Win, and each has both appeal and quirks.

Slots is your usual computerized "one-armed bandit." The player can select one of nine variations which change the number of reels and whether the player has the option to "hold" some of the reels and spin the rest again. The payoff list at the top of the screen makes it clear which combinations are winners, and when the player locks one or more reels, the list changes to display only the winning combinations that would still be possible-- a nice touch. (Neither the game nor the manual explain the 9 varieties of slot machine, but most players will have no trouble figuring out what names like "Three Reel With Hold" mean.)

Blackjack is even more straightforward than Slots. I expected that there would be settings to adjust the rules, but most of the options in this one are cosmetic. You can select how many decks are used, which might be important to people who want to practice card-counting techniques. But there is no provision for buying insurance if the dealer's up-card is an ace, nor do five cards totalling less than 21 automatically win. So I don't think serious blackjack players will be satisfied.

Anyone who read the word "poker" and immediately thought of five-card stud (or a fancy variation like Pai Gow) may be disappointed that Burning Monkey Casino just has video poker. Unlike slots, there is no list on screen of the winning combinations and what they pay. This is a shame because there are 18 different video poker variations to choose from and they have confusing names like "8/5 jacks or better with 4000 Royal Flush" or "Double bonus poker with 4000 Royal Flush." These names don't mean anything to me and neither the game nor the manual explains them. (The game's Readme file lists the payouts at least.)

In addition to the three games above, Burning Monkey Casino comes with two "fluff" games and a lounge act. Fluff game numero uno is 3 Card Monte, commonly known as Find the Lady. Three cards shuffle around the screen and the player tries to pick which one is the Queen. There are several variations to choose from, including Las Vegas style (which plays fair,) New York style (which plays like a con artist) and Ego Boost (played strictly for laughs.) Fluff game number two is where you buy a card and scratch off the numbers by waving your mouse over the card. If you got a matching set of numbers you win. There's no skill involved but it is actually embarrassingly fun to play for sort periods of time, and Freeverse gives you an amusing choice of objects to scratch with.

The lounge act treats you to a large member of the primate family crooning the Burning Monkey Casino theme song. If you'd like to sing along, the lyrics are helpfully printed in the game manual.

The lounge act is an example of how Freeverse makes Casino more entertaining than the sum of its individual games. Other fun touches include a cocktail waitress who shows up now and then to offer a drink or comment on your playing, and a comedian who pops up randomly to tell a quick joke that is designed to make you groan. (Sample: "What's the difference between roast beef and pea soup? Anyone can pea soup!")

Casino-based computer games generally attract two kinds of players. The casual players want flash, style, and fun. The hardcore players want to know the exact rules of play so that they can hone their strategy and play the odds more closely. For instance, blackjack players may want to know how many decks are being dealt and how many cards will be dealt before a reshuffle. The trick for the developer is to have the depth the latter player wants, but not in the player's face to distract the casual player.


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