The second game we tried was the Disoku Apprentice. As you can probably tell from the name, this game is Disney's version of the casual game that's sweeping the world, Sudoku. Just in case one of the two people in the world who have never heard of Sudoku read this article, let me briefly explain the rules of the game. You play on a grid, in the case of the Disoku Apprentice game you choose between a 4x4, 6x6 or 9x9 sized game. In traditional Sudoku you are trying to arrange the numbers 1 to 9 on the grid such that all the numbers appear in every row, column and group of 9 boxes. The game always starts with some numbers filled in for you, how many depends on the difficulty setting of the game. The difference for Disney's version of the game is that on the 4x4 and 6x6 grids you are arranging Disney characters rather than numbers on the board.
The game is simple enough on the 4x4 “easy” mode that my 5 year old has been able to play it with very little instruction from me. The hardest part for him was figuring out the interface, actually. You chose between using a “pen” or “pencil” to fill in the squares. The pen makes your choice more permanent, where the pencil allows you to make a guess and change easier. Of course, either one can be erased if you realize that you'd made a mistake later. Once you pick from either the pen or pencil, you click on the square you want to enter your choice on and then click on the picture on the side to place that picture. Since my son was used to games where he had to “click and drag”, he kept trying to do that in order to fill in the squares. But he soon learned how the interface worked and was off and playing. In the easy mode, the game starts with the board filled in such that you can tell easily what picture has to go in the first few squares, and then have choices for ones later on. On the medium setting you have to look at rows and columns right from the start in order to figure out who goes in what square, but there is still little room for error right at first. On hard mode you really can make mistakes and have to think ahead even on just a 4x4 grid.
For all the reasons that you'd play Sudoku, you want to encourage your kids to play this game. Even from preschool age where you're just asking your little one “What is missing?”, up to adults, everyone can benefit from playing Disoku. Of course, the Disney theme to the game might turn off middle schoolers who are “too cool” for the kids theme, but I think if they can get passed the “theme” of the game and just play for the challenge of the puzzles, even they would find that the game is fun. Mathematical thinking really can be fun, even for those of us who consider ourselves “math challenged” like I do. If you have kids of any age, or are looking for a fun game to play with kids, I highly recommend Disoku Apprentice. You can't beat price compared to the hours of entertainment that the game will bring to the whole family. Just remember, though, don't tell your kids that they are doing math! That would spoil the fun.
The “glory days” of computer gaming for me were when games like Spectre Supreme, Pirate’s Gold, the Might and Magic series, the original Prince of Persia… those sorts of games were coming out on a regular basis. Back then I owned a Macintosh and was a die hard Mac fan. I was one of the first in my area to buy an iMac and on it learned the joy of playing games on the internet like daily crossword puzzle and “mind bender” type puzzles. My first online RPG was given to me for Christmas the year EQ was released, and I was hooked from day one. I played EQ for about a year. I started playing DaoC during late alpha testing, and was hooked on it.. well, to be honest I still am. I’ve tried pretty much every MMORPG I can get my hands on, from big names like EQ, to more obscure ones such as Underlight. I’ve been writing for IMGS since the first DaoC guide, and find I love the challenge of learning a game and presenting what I’ve learned (and sometimes my opinions), to other players.
I’m not a very strong player as far as learning PvE or quick reaction times, so I tend to stay away from games where I’m pitted against someone else in a way that requires physical (rather than mental) response. I still enjoy story and puzzle games, and in a way that’s how I still approach online games. I would much rather spend hours working through a quest than 5 minutes in combat against another player. I still get lost in simulation type games, obsessing over them until I’ve gotten them beaten. And I like being able to sit down at the computer when I’ve got less than half an hour and playing through a few levels of a puzzle game. I tend not to like first-person shooter type games, or anything with person to person violence, so I steer away from them unless they are fantasy based settings. All in all, I enjoy computer gaming so much that my life feels incomplete somehow when my computer is down.