CrowdStar Launches Pop Boom on Facebook – A Frisky Hands-On

While CrowdStar may be famous for Facebook games like Happy Pets, Happy Island, and Happy Aquarium, they aren’t content with simply resting on those games, as they have expanded their catalogue yet again, this time with a puzzle game in the same vein as PopCap’s Bejeweled Blitz, called Pop Boom.

Pop Boom is a unique take on the match three genre, that gives you 60 seconds to earn as many points as possible by popping bubbles. Gameplay is quite simple. You’ll be able to stare at your game board for as long as you’d like, to formulate a plan, and can then click on any bubble on the screen to begin the countdown from 60 seconds.

The bubble that you click on will be picked up from the game board, and can then be carried around (simply move your mouse around the screen) and dropped anywhere on the board that you’d like. This will swap the bubble you’re holding with the bubble you click on. The goal, then, would be to click on a bubble and then drop it next to two more bubbles of the same color, to create a match of three or more like-colored bubbles, thus making them explode, giving you points.

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Combos are created as bubbles move from the bottom of the screen towards the top to fill in the empty spaces created by explosions, and as you perform well, bomb bubbles appear at random that can be destroyed in the same way as a normal bubble, causing an explosion that takes out surrounding orbs. If the explosion happens to expand and hit a surrounding bomb, it too will explode, causing a ripple effect that can greatly increase your score.

Additionally, if you create a cross with your bubbles, or any match that includes bubbles going in both the horizontal and vertical directions, you’ll take out the entire row and column at the same time, regardless of whether or not all bubbles in that column or row matched.

After your 60 seconds are up, you’ll earn a certain amount of in-game coins, based on your score. These coins can be used to purchase two kinds of power-ups, including ones that make more bombs appear at the start of the game, or add five additional seconds to your clock, giving you 65 seconds in a game, rather than 60.

Your top score will be shown on a leaderboard on the right-hand side of the screen, which shows your progress against friends that have also played the app. You can click on any friends’ picture to challenge them to beat your score personally, or you can also publish a challenge item to your wall, offering an open challenge for all friends to play the game with you.

If you’d like to give Pop Boom a chance, head over to the game’s page on Facebook. Or, if you’d like to see the game in action, make sure to check out our Frisky Hands-On video of the game below to see the game’s unique twist on traditional match-three gameplay in action.

25 Brain Games: Essential Back-to-School Supplies

Back to school already? Here are 25 social, casual and mobile games that will get your brain in shape before you know it. They’ll also keep you entertained for hours, and (let’s be honest), distract you from all that pesky homework! Did your favorites make the list?

Facebook games:

Brain Buddies by wooga – Brain Buddies offers its users a playful way to determine their brain weight. The game is focusing on a contest among friends to find the one with the heaviest brain. A large set of mini games as well as entertaining graphics make the game fun to play for a long time.

Who Has the Biggest Brain by Playfish – In ‘Who Has The Biggest Brain?’ you are taken through a series of mini games where you test your abilities in 4 areas of your brain: Calculation, Memory, Logic and Visual. The combined score from each of these categories add up to your overall brain rating. A great opportunity to settle the debate, who really does have the biggest brain? After playing a game of ‘Who Has The Biggest Brain?’ you are awarded a ranking, or ‘Brain Type’. There are 27 different brain types that are used to rank you and your friends.

Two other studious selections to try from Playfish are Word Challenge and Geo Challenge.

poweRBrands by Reckitt Benckiser – “Reckitt Benckiser calls the title ‘the first Facebook game of its kind’, as it’s designed to test players’ marketing and business abilities, teach strategy and decision-making skills, and introduce users to the culture and challenges that face the company’s marketers every day.”

DumbVille by GSN – Designed to see just how many brain cells you have kicking around! Tackle quirky questions and puzzle your way through mindless mini-games to rise through the ranks from Village Idiot to Mayor of Dumbville. It’s your chance show your buddies what’s what, but that’s not all. Every time you succeed AND every time your friends fail, you’ll win Oodles – redeemable rewards that you can use to purchase sweepstakes entries and prizes on GSN.com.

Scrabble by Electronic Arts – A new version of the original board game includes built-in chat and dictionary, multiple word lists, dynamic animations, and multiple speed settings for public games. An easy-to-use interface lets you play with anyone who loves the game!

Online games:

Empire Avenue – Reap the benefits of expanding your online influence while buying and selling virtual shares in your best friend, your favorite blogger or that pizza joint down the road – anyone, for free. Connect with other people who like the same things as you, find interesting bloggers to follow, or unearth a cool new business in your home town! This Internet thing is pretty useful, you know, and Empire Avenue helps you find the people and businesses that are relevant to you.

Risk: The Game of Global Domination on Pogo.com – Based on the classic board game of strategic conquest from Hasbro, Risk comes to life online where the object of the game is simple: Global Domination! Establish your military objectives, take command of your army and begin your campaign to rule the world. Risk is a turn based game with each player starting with their own controllable army in an attempt to capture territories from opposing players and control the entire map.

Word Whomp on Pogo.com – This free Pogo.com favorite challenges you to whomp adorable gophers and spell as many words as you can from a given set of letters before the clock runs out. Gophers will dig up veggies and bonuses as you unscramble words. Reach the carrot to enter the bonus round and score big!

Jeopardy on GSN.com – Test your trivia knowledge, just like the actual game show. Select a question from one of the six game categories by clicking on a dollar value under the category of your choice. When the question appears, you may choose to either “Respond” or “Pass.” If you choose to respond, you will have 15 seconds to answer a multiple-choice question. The game will end when you don’t have enough money to play on.

Wheel of Fortune on GSN.com – You can compete for cash and prizes, just like contestants on the actual game show, with 5 turns to solve the word puzzle. Correctly identify consonants or “buy a vowel.” Each successful guess gives you an additional free spin, but the faster you solve the puzzle, the higher your time bonus! When you choose to solve the puzzle, if your answer is correct, you’ll play in the Bonus Round. If not, you’ll lose a turn.

Tiny Planets – “Targetting kids aged six to 14, this game is based on the Tiny Planets animated TV series, and offers six ‘planets’ for users to visit consisting of simple games, web videos, social networking, a virtual world, goods, and currency, and, of course, learning opportunities. Tiny Planets is rich with entertaining and educational activities that focus on space, conservation, science, creativity, and critical thinking skills.”

Fantage.com, a TriplePoint client – A next-generation destination site for children that offers games and adventures to entertain, delight, and promote positive social interaction in an engaging, exciting, safe environment that both kids and parents love. Fantage also provides an age-appropriate, safe social networking experience within a fun virtual world.

FitBrains.com – Provides scientifically developed brain games targeting the five major brain areas: memory, problem solving, concentration, visual spatial, Language. Focus on one brain area or play all the games to give your brain a complete workout. Brain games are a fun way to exercise your brain and an important pillar in living a healthy life. Try your luck and test your skills in games like Travel Quest, Sum Snap and Uber Brain.

iPhone & iPad games:

The Oregon Trail by Gameloft – Assume the role of a wagon leader in a side-view journey where your strategic decisions must ensure the safety of your party along the treacherous Oregon Trail. Overcome the perilous journey to Oregon in America’s Wild West. Just like the real pioneers, experience the decision-making, problem-solving, and role-playing fun of this historical event. A unique strategy/educational game relating the first pioneers’ journey to Western American.

THINK by TriplePoint client, Ravensburger Digital – 16 exercises spread across four distinct categories, all designed to give your mind a rigorous workout in different areas of thought. THINK is currently available in English, Spanish and German. Could your brain use a boost?

RedFish Puzzle by Fresh Planet – “Fun games for smart people.” Fresh Planet offers several brain games on various platforms, including the RedFish series of learning apps for young children on the iPad. RedFish Piano 4 Kids is another good one to check out.

Words with Friends by Newtoy Inc. – Turn-based crossword gaming in your pocket! Not much else to say, besides this game is Scrabble in your pocket, with your friends, in real time… and it’s as addictive as they come 😉

HexaLex by TriplePoint client Nathan Gray – Takes the classic, easy to learn but hard to master crossword game and adds a new dimension. Hexagonal tiles let you play words in three directions instead of two. Words interact in new and interesting ways. But have no fear, you’ll be up and playing in no time, thanks to the tutorial and detailed, built-in help. If you’ve ever played Scrabble, Lexulous, or Words With Friends you’ll feel right at home!

Word Warp by MobilityWare – Word game fans rejoice! If you’ve enjoyed countless hours playing games like TextTwist, Word Scramble, Jumble, Boggle, or Scrabble, then Word Warp is the game for you! Similar to Text Twist, Word Warp is a challenging anagram type of word game in which you try to form as many words as you can out of the six letters you are given before time runs out. You will receive points for each correct word you come up with, but in order to advance to the next level you must come up with at least one word that uses all six letters.

Word Scramble 2 by Zynga – Scramble is the fast fun game of finding words in a jumbled grid. Quickly slide your finder over letters next to each other to make words! Compete with friends and play live with fellow word game fans.

Nintendo games:

Big Brain Academy (Wii and DS) by Nintendo – Weigh Your Brain! With 15 activities that challenge your brain in single-player Test and Practice modes, Big Brain Academy Wii sees how you measure up in five categories: memory, analysis, number crunching, visual recognition, and quick thinking.

My Word Coach (DS) by Ubisoft – My Word Coach, developed in collaboration with linguists, helps players improve their verbal communication and vocabulary in a fun way. Practice need never get boring with six different exercises to choose between. Players can input missing letters from words, spell out the answers to various definitions, choose which word matches a particular definition, form specific words with Scrabble-like tiles, and more. Three levels of difficulty are available, and the game includes a built-in dictionary of over 17,000 words. Two of the games can be played multiplayer over wireless and the data of three different players can be saved.

Personal Trainer: Math (DS) by Nintendo – Makes learning fun with fast-paced, high-speed arithmetic problems that keep your math basics fresh, from addition to subtraction and multiplication to division. Daily math drills and an attendance record help keep you on track. As your calculation speed improves, earn medals in each exercise to prove your mathematical mastery! 40 different exercises, ranging in difficulty from simple to elaborate calculations, provide tons of ways to build on your knowledge and improve your arithmetic skills until all your math worries evaporate forever!

My Virtual Tutor: Reading Kindergarten to 1st Grade(DS) by Mentor Interactive – By combining the kid-friendly Nintendo DS with a proven reading curriculum developed and tested at the University of Colorado, My Virtual Tutor: Reading makes learning reading skills fun, affordable and portable. Through interactive books, school age and grade relevant phonics instruction and fun quiz modes, your child will learn the comprehension, phonics, fluency and vocabulary necessary to become an expert reader, all while having fun with their Nintendo DS.

Brain Age (DS) by Nintendo – The title is a series of minigames designed to give your brain a workout. The 17 engaging activities are all designed to help work your brain and increase blood flow to the prefrontal cortex. Whether you’re playing simple songs on a piano keyboard or monitoring the photo finish of a footrace, you’ll love your new mental workout!

E3 2010: Pac-Man Party Hands-On (Nintendo Wii)

At E3 2010, I had a chance to go hands-on with Pac-Man Party, a new Namco title for the Nintendo Wii. As the name would suggest, the title is a party game, which will have you and your friends staring as members from Pac-Man lore. Of course there’s Pac-Man, as well as Pinky, Blinky, Inky, and Clyde, among others.

Pac-Man Party can be most easily described as a digital board game, but containing various mini-games and a complete substitution of the dice rolling system for its main gameplay components, rather than the aforementioned dice and basic flipping of a card, as one particular example.

As you go around the board, you’ll build castles that match your character’s color, much like you buy properties in a game like Monopoly. For the “dice rolling” segments; that is, segments that determine how many spaces you’ll travel around the board, you’ll throw darts at balloons or a at a dart board (both of which are labeled with numbers), press the button on a virtual slot machine, take part in a small game of Plinko, or otherwise.

If two players land on the same square, this triggers a mini-game challenge – these mini-game challenges utilize the game’s motion controls by having you spin the remote to throw pizza dough, move a paint roller around a canvas (whichever player covers the largest portion of the canvas with paint wins), and so on. Other mini-games are button press games, like one that places all players on a garbage conveyer belt – various household items come from the right side of the screen, towards a trash compactor on the left. You’ll have to stop yourself from going into the trash compactor by pressing a button to jump over the debris, which comes in piles of various shapes and sizes.

Pac-Man Party was announced on Day 2 of E3, and will be hitting store shelves sometime later this year. It’s the first new Pac-Man game in five years, and we’ll be sure to bring you more news about it as it becomes available.

Get All Bejeweled Games At Once, Save Some Dough

PopCap has announced their latest promotion for all of you awesome puzzle game fans out there. Bejeweled is quite possibly their most popular game and for right now, you can score an excellent deal when buying all three versions of it at once. The offer is called “The Bejeweled Bundle” and includes Bejeweled 2, Bejeweled Twist and Bejeweled Blitz. What normally would sell for $59.85 is going for just $39.95 when you buy the Bejeweled Bundle. That’s over 30% off, and I’m sure that anyone can appreciate a good deal when they see it.

You can find the deal right here. It’s unknown just how long the special deal will be available, so I’d jump on it as quickly as possible.

PCHGames Hosting Mahjongg Mother’s Day Tournament

If you’re panicking because Mother’s Day is right around the corner PCHGames sympathizes and is holding a special Mother’s Day themed Mahjongg tournament to help you out. The one-day event, cleverly named Mom-Jongg, is being held on April 28. Why play, you might ask? Prizes, prizes, and more prizes! The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes are $1,000, $500, and $250 respectively. The top 25 scorers will receive 1,000 bonus tokens, and all participants will earn an extra 10x tokens in addition to tokens earned during the course of the tournament. In addition, the event is being sponsored by florist 1-800Flowers.com, and the top 10 scorers at the end of the tournament will receive a bouquet of flowers normally valued at $39.99 for free!

You can head over to the PCHGames website now to participate in Mom-jongg practice rounds. The rounds began Wednesday, and players can start earning their extra 10x tokens now by participating. You can read the official rules here.

Golden Tickets Up for Grabs: Willy Wonka and the Exceptionals Chocolate Contest

Here’s a chocolaty casual game for you – as reported on (the always illustrious) PopCandy, the Nestle-owned Wonka Candy Company is channeling “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” with a new Golden Ticket contest.

Now before you freak out (like I did) or run off to your local candy store to stock up, please  note that there is not fantasy factory tour at stake, or any Oompa Loompas — insert collective sigh here — BUT the prizes are still sweet indeed:

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“Ten grand prize winners get to bring three friends on a trip around the world with $12,500 in spending money. Other prizes include airline vouchers, Ticketmaster gift cards, movie certificates and (of course) free chocolate.”

Buy a premium chocolate bar from Wonka’s new Exceptionals line for your chance to grab one of the Golden Tickets. Thanks to PopCandy for the tasty tip! Will you try your luck with an Exceptionals candy bar?

Subatomic Studios Brings Fieldrunners to DSiWare

You may be familiar with the tower defense game Fieldrunners from its place on the iPhone / iPod Touch, or from its inclusion as a PSP Mini, but, according to CasualGaming.biz, Subatomic Studios is hoping to expand the game’s popularity with a release on the DSi.

The game is now available to download via DSIWare, and includes a new Command HUD feature (found only in this dual-screen version of the game), which allows users to take an in-depth look at their units, resources and enemies.

Subatomic Studios COO Ash Monif spoke of how excited the company is over the game’s arrival on Nintendo’s popular handheld: “We are excited and proud to bring Fieldrunners to the Nintendo DSi. Subatomic Studios has partnered with DoubleTap Games to create a 100 per cent genuine Fieldrunners experience on the Nintendo DSi that we feel is incredibly fun and addicting.”

While the North American version is already live for users to jump into, European players should be able to get their hands on the game “shortly,” although no official release date has been given.

Publishers Clearing House Holding $1,000 Mahjongg Dimensions Tournament

Are you hooked on Mahjongg Dimensions since we warned you it might hook you? Would you like several hours of your life back? You can’t have them, I’m afraid, but the good news is that if you’re willing to spend several more hours, you have a shot at a $1,000 prize. Publishers Clearing House Games has asked us to  inform you that tomorrow, Wednesday, January 20th, they will be holding a Mahjongg Dimensions tournament on their website, PCHGames.com.

Sign up, and from midnight to 11:59 p.m., you can submit as many scores as your eyeballs can stand. At the end of the day, the top three scores will be worth prizes of $1,000, $500, and $250. Publishers Clearing House Games has plenty of other prizes, as well; merely playing the games can earn you “tokens” which can be exchanged for sweepstakes entries, giving you shots at gift cards from Amazon, iTunes, Best Buy, and others.

Yes, sweepstakes. It is Publishers Clearing House, after all. No, an avatar of the late Ed McMahon will not deliver your prize. For more tournament info and rules, check out the official page.

Hello Kitty Online Holds In-Game Food Collection Event for Haiti Relief

Do you think, just because she is impossibly adorable, that Hello Kitty does not care about disaster victims? She, too, is encouraging gamers to come together and support Haiti relief efforts, via her game, Hello Kitty Online. Starting on Thursday, January 21st, players of HKO will have a chance to participate in the Food for Friends 2 event, earning plenty of Loyalty Points for their guilds, and generating valuable donations to Doctors Without Borders.

Sponsored by game developers Sanrio Digital, and regional publishers Aeria Games, Burda:ic GmbH, and Oriented Games, the Food for Friends 2 event will require in-game guilds to gather and give away virtual food in exchange for real-world relief. According to a press release, players can speak to an in-game character to discover which consumable crafted items are eligible for “donation points.” At the end of the competition, January 30th, all accumulated donation points “will be used to calculate a real-world donation to Doctors Without Borders.” In addition, the top three guilds who have donated the most food will receive copious in-game rewards.

It’s about time the cats of the world became socially conscious, honestly. You can play Hello Kitty Online for free, right here.