Travel Games for Dummies
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-11-18 Nintendo DS Puzzle E (Everyone) EA

Travel Games was the first "For Dummies" game I played, since it would probably something I'd sit and play on the plane for example. My idea of travel games seems to be different that this DS compilation though.

Travel Games For Dummies is separated into three main categories: Sudoku, Solitaire and Crossword. And first I thought, "Three games? That's it?" and I felt cheated. I'd definetely get tired of those quick enough on my usual 7-hour plane trips to visit the family across the Atlantic.

But this is why reviewing works for me, I explore games and find out that things sometimes are not what they seem. And what I found here was hundreds of Sudoku puzzles, ten different kinds of Solitaires that I didn't even know existed, and 150 Crossword puzzles ranging from beginners to more complex.

As in the "For Dummies" books, all three game categories have a series of tutorials explaining everything from the very basics to advanced techniques, and even offering some trivia info. For example, for the crosswords, it will tell you to consult a dictionary and thesaurus, and that no, this isn't cheating, since crossword puzzles are a way to expand your vocabulary. It also explains what Crosswordese is. You will receive a checkmark for each tutorial completed.

The Practice tab lets you play the games with hints or clues, usually with untimed puzzles.

The Play tab is the actual game. You're on your own here, no hints, no undo option, just knowledge and luck. The more you play, the better you become at it (supposedly, right?), so the game awards you with a colored star ranking system for each activity.

I already know how to play Sudoku, but I went through the tutorials to see how that might work out for someone who has no idea about the game mechanics. The different lessons explain several techniques for finding the right numbers to place on the grid, and you have the option to either write the numbers in or use a number pad and tap the numbers instead.

Solitaire comes in ten different "flavors", including the classics Klondike, Pyramid and Freecell, plus a bunch of others I had never heard of before but took the time to learn and play: Scorpion, Penguin, Golf, Canfield, Yukon, Monte Carlo and Accordian. This is where I spent the most time, since I had to learn the basics and actually take advantage of the whole "For Dummies" system. And hey, guess what? It works! After I finally learned to play Scorpion for the first time, it took me a while to put it down. Although I wish there was an auto-complete function for when you have sorted all the cards and can just click a button for it to finish putting them in the right piles for you. A "deal" option on the puzzle field instead of the main menu would also have been more convenient to restart a game when stuck.

As for the Crossword, I haven't done those in a long time, and usually only did them in my own native language, so English ones are still a challenge because some words are so unusual to me. Crosswords, like Sudoku, also allow you to choose between writing the letters or using a virtual keyboard. The letter recognition is a bit off and I had the most trouble with my A, R and E, but the tutorial section does offer tips as to how to shape the letters when writing them on the scratchpad. Aside from the letter recognition, I didn't find an erase option, which made my puzzles confusing at times with wrong letters in the wrong spaces.

Crossword puzzles don't automatically close when you solve them either, so you must go back to the main menu to pick another puzzle. You must also clear them manually if you want to play them again, since the letters will stay on the grid.

Overall, Travel Games For Dummies is educational and fun at the same time, something casual gamers will appreciate as well. Though I must admit, I found myself wanting a few other games to be included in this package.

Special thanks to Katie Carrico and EA for providing a copy of this title.