Some folks think computer games are great.  Others think they are great time wasters.  I’m kind of on the fence.  When it comes to slaying monsters, trashing aliens, crashing cars, shooting enemy soldiers, or any of those other games you have to have an X-Box for, nope.  But there are some games I really enjoy playing such as “match 3” games like Hexic, Amazonia, and Jewel Quest, the “rolling ball” type games like Zuma and Luxor, “shooter” games like Bubbletown and Cubis 2 , and puzzle piece type games like  Mozaic Tomb of Mystery and Mozaki Blocks.  Then there are games like Talismania (which has gorgeous graphics), Pharaoh’s Secret, and Hexalot which are what I would call “connecting” or “maze” games where you connect point A to point B in various ways.   They give me an opportunity to use my eyes in different ways, to look at colorful things, which can be quite restful after a day spent proofreading black type on a white page.  They exercise a different part of my brain and help me decompress from working all day.

But just here recently, I’ve discovered the “hidden object” games.  They involve some type of “quest” or “task” where you  progress from level to level by solving some type of puzzle or by finding a list of “hidden”objects.  The first one I tried was Magic Academy II.  It has interesting graphics, and it’s cleverly written.  It has several different types of logic puzzles and “brain teasers.”  Next I tried Echoes of the Past- The Citadels of Time.  This has some interesting twists on the hidden object hunt.  For example, in order to find the chicken you have to realize that the chicken is hidden inside an egg and that you need to find a hammer to break it open, so it’s not just finding shapes.  There’s some intuitive thinking involved.  There are also some pretty tricky puzzles, such as one where you have to press a series of buttons in a certain order, but you have to figure the order out by trial and error.  As you figure it out, you have to remember each step so that you can reproduce the correct sequence in order to accomplish the task.  As you work through the game, you have to remember what was where and how to navigate from “place” to “place.” The graphics are very nicely done.  I’ve recently gotten some more of this type game.  They are relatively inexpensive to acquire — costing less than a trip to the cinema, in fact.  Many of them have a truncated trial version that can be played for free online.  The MSN free online game site is a good place to start.

Most people would think I’m way out of the demographic for these kinds of games, being neither male nor a teenager (although I’ve been 15 at least three times now and I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. . .).   However, those in the “brain calisthenics/use it or lose it” crowd scribbling away at the crossword puzzle and sudoku books might want to check out some of these “hidden object” games.  They require you to apply a range of brain skills to a variety of problem solving tasks and logic puzzles, many of which are harder than they look.  Don’t worry if  you’re “not good with computers.”  These games require minimal computer skills to play.  Mostly all you need to know is how to manipulate a mouse.  If you decide to buy some, you can enlist your kid of choice to download the game for you, run the setup and give you a quick tutorial — preferably one who has to be in bed by 9 o’clock so you can get them off the computer long enough to play the game!