Zillions of Games 1.0

Reviewed by: Bruce Darken, send e-mail
Published by: Zillions Development
Requires: Pentium 90 or faster, Windows 95/98 or higher, CD-ROM drive, modem or network interface card for on-line play, sound card and speakers, 16 or 24-bit color recommended but only VGA with 16 colors is required
MSRP: $29.95

A zillion games for 33 bucks? Well, yes. The dictionary says that a zillion is an extremely large, indeterminate number, and that's what you get with Zillions of Games--292 games to start with, growing to... Who knows? Right now that number is 390, and it goes up nearly every day.

Zillions of Games is a fascinating product, using a powerful universal gaming engine to allow you to play any game or solve any puzzle for which a rules file has been written. Not only that, but if you're at all skilled at programming you can change the rules files to your heart's content or even create your own and post them on the Zillions web site for all to download and enjoy (or tear their hair out over).

If you're really into exciting, in-your-face action games, you're not going to like Zillions. But if you enjoy board games and puzzles, you'll get hours of enjoyment from this program. It doesn't really come with 292 games, but 292 variations of games: 58 varieties of Chess, five Checkers, 3 Chinese Checkers, 23 Tic-Tac-Toe, four 9 Men's Morris, eight Go-Moku, 44 Solitaire puzzles (not card games), etc., in addition to a wide variety of games for which there are only one or two variations. I'd lost interest in Tic-Tac-Toe many years ago, but the many variations in Zillions make it fun again!

For non-solitaire games, you can choose to play with a friend using just one computer, with a friend and two computers (Internet TCP/IP, Lan IPX/SPX, direct modem connection or serial connection), or against the computer if you're playing alone. (I don't know anyone else with the game, and the times I checked the on-line Zillions chat to challenge a cyber opponent there was nobody else in the chat room, so I was unable to test the use of two computers).

The quality of the computer's play can be changed to suit your whims by varying the Strength, (how deeply it searches for the best move - from Pushover to Expert), the Variety (how well it chooses the best move from the moves it has found), and the Thinking Time Per Move (from one second to infinity or to match the length of time you took for your last move). If you give the computer as much time as it wants, you can always click the Move Now button to force it to quit 'thinking' and make its move. Though you can change the quality of the computer play, it still seems a bit weak for some games and a bit strong for others, both of which frustrated my daughters (10 and 13 years old). I found most games I tried to be suitably challenging and the updates from the Zillions web site contain game tweaks as well as bug fixes and new games. I didn't encounter any game or computer crashes/freezes during my testing.

The game interface is well suited for those who like to learn, then master a new game. In one pane it creates a log of all moves, so you can look back to see what you did and when you did it, allowing multiple undo's, redo's, and restarts, and it gives hints if you request them. It will also allow you to return to a particular point in your game and resume play from there. You can choose to have sounds and animations accompany the moves and one of the few included midi files will play continuously in the background until you get tired of it and turn it off. I wished there were a way to choose the midi file to play or to direct the program to a directory on your hard drive from which it could choose a random file. You could, of course, change the tunes by pasting in the midi files of your choice with the appropriate default names (remembering to rename or move the original midi files first!).

The program installation was a joy - one of the best and easiest installations I've ever done. It even detected that I was using an older version of DirectX and offered to update it (needed only for online play). If you choose a minimal install the program only adds a couple of drivers to your hard drive, and if you choose a complete install (CD no longer needed for play) it still only takes up 17Mb of your precious hard drive space. The games' rules files are very small, so when you download new games from the web site each ZIP file is transferred almost instantly (assuming the game uses images and sounds already part of the Zillions package). The Zillions web site is impressive too (not flashy), for its depth and breadth of support, including new games and instructions for installing them, program updates, rules file programming instructions, a FAQ, troubleshooting guide and links to other gaming sites. It's also the place to go to purchase the program, because Zillions of Games isn't available in any store or from any other mail order or online vendor.

As if the fun you'll have playing over 300 games that don't crash your computer and don't empty your wallet isn't enough, Zillions is also educational, with a brief history and background of every game, not to mention exercising and pumping up your brain through the use of logic, strategy, clarity of thought and memory.

Did you know that gaming guru John Scarne made up a game, Teeko, that was popular in the 1950s, and predicted it would someday pass Chess and Checkers in popularity? Ever hear of it? Me neither. But now, through the power of your computer, Zillions of Games and a quick download from the web, you can play Joe DiMaggio's 'real passion', Teeko, in the comfort of your own home. (Didn't DiMaggio have a 56 game Teeko winning streak?)

Letters to the Editor are welcome and occasionally abused in public. Send e-mail to: whine@kickstartnews.com




© Copyright 2000-2006 kickstartnews.com. All rights reserved. legal notice
home | previous reviews | forums | about us | search | store | subscribe


Forums Search Home Previous Reviews About Us Store Subscribe