The new Zenses games by the Game Factory for the Nintendo DS are a refreshing change in the design of casual video games. Instead of juvenile or aggressive sounds and images, the Zenses game packs offer soothing music and lovely graphics that make playing as an adult more pleasant and relaxing. There are two Zenses packs to choose from: Rainforest and Ocean, both aimed primarily at women in recognition that women are an important growing market for video games. The imagery in each Zenses game pack reflects the environment in the title and the games in them are different as well, although all are puzzle games that allow you to play for a few minutes or a few hours depending on your desire for escape.
It is such a relief not to have the carnival beeps and bloops that make up the soundtrack of other games. Here, the sounds of forest and sea blend with the gentle tones of the music to create spa-like atmosphere as you play. The soundtracks are also available for download here if you want to enjoy the relaxing ambiance of the music even if you are not playing.
Each Zenses game pack includes six very different game challenges. I found I liked some more than others, and I suspect each person will lean more toward one or two games in each pack. Some games involve memory, some quick action, and some more strategy and logical thinking. All the games use the stylus in very natural gestures; none of the games requires that you push buttons. Most but not all games are timed so if you want to be pushed to think faster, you can choose one game and if you just want to puzzle out a solution, you can choose another.
My favorite game in the Rainforest pack is called Stack Jack, a name I find a bit odd. The game involves nesting three different sized rings or squares as they fall against a stunning backdrop of a waterfall. I found I could play that game for hours. Maybe it was the water I liked, which would explain why I preferred the Ocean set of games. The memory testing game, Wave Breaker, using images of waves uncovering shells was very satisfying. The one that mesmerized me into the longest play was the Shell Twirl, where shells have to be placed into the proper silhouette as they spin around a whirlpool.
I did have some frustrations with a few games. I simply could not get the Hot Spot bits to connect and assemble the glowfish once it started drifting from side to side. And once you complete each of the five challenges for a game, nothing happens. I’m used to getting a reward for meeting a challenge in unlocked games or graphics. A little something would have been nice.
One nice element is that you don’t have to start back at the beginner’s level each time you play. An Intensity slider lets you choose where you want to start. That is great for the games like Solitaire, which is a tile-jumping game that spends the first few rounds teaching basic combinations. You don’t have to play through those if you don’t want to.
All in all, the game appeals to the sensibilities of an adult female while still providing the escape and challenge of brain-teaser video games. Both beautiful and relaxing in all the design elements, the added benefit of being able to play anywhere on the Nintendo DS makes Zenses a great addition to the field of games aimed at women.
Publisher: Game Factory