It’s the games Kindles play

It’s the games Kindles play

“Does it play games?”

That used to be one of the frequently asked questions about Kindles.  Hey, what’s that “shwrr, shwrr” sound?  Oh, it’s the literati rolling their eyes.  :)

Well, the answer actually is, yes, the Kindles play games.

I know, I know…some of you are shuddering.  You’d no sooner play a game on your EBR (E-Book Reader) than read Chaucer in Modern English.  Why, the very thought of having fun in the same place you read is abhorrent!   If you really must play, do it outside where you won’t disturb anybody.  ;)  Just kidding, of course.   There is an understandable desire to see the Kindle as allied to intellectual literary pursuits rather than to Xboxes and Wiis.

However, as I wrote in this earlier post on TV and reading, I don’t see the two as antithetical.  I managed a bookstore, as many of you know.  I also managed a game store.  We sold board games, strategy games, role-playing games, darts…quite a wide variety of things geared towards the adult market.  That’s adult as opposed to children, you salacious thing, you.  :)

There is quite an overlap between game players and readers.  They both require a certain amount of imagination…both are somewhat intellectual.  If you go to a science fiction convention, even one geared towards the literature, there will be a lot of game-playing.  How to Host a Murder was one of our popular items, and clearly appealed to readers of mysteries.  There are even hybrids, referred to as “gamebooks”, which I’ll address later.

If the idea of playing games on your Kindle is against your principles, you can just skip this post and come back tomorrow.  :)  I try and keep it a good mix, so everybody gets their ninety-nine cents a month’s worth.  :)

My initial instructions will be for any Kindle except a K1, provided that it as been updated to 2.3

Minesweeper

This game became wide-known when it was part of Windows 3.1 (and then appeared in subsequent versions).

The basic “plot” is that you are trying to clear a minefield by logically deducing where the mines are.  It’s purely symbolic…no more violent than, say, Hangman.  Actually, even less than that. 

Here’s the idea: you have a grid of squares.  When you are standing in a square in the middle of the board, there are eight squares around you.  When you “tap the ground”, you can tell how many squares around you contain a mine…from zero to eight.

If you tap the ground in a square with a mine in it, you lose.  Conceptually, you set off the mine.  My Significant Other doesn’t like the game for that reason…seems violent. 

When you’ve deduced where a mine is, you can mark it, so you (and other people, if you are actually pretending you are clearing a minefield) don’t step on it.  If you identify all the mines without exploding one, you win.

Let’s take a look at a board that I’ve started.  You can deduce the location of several mines in this screengrab:

Minesweeper screengrab

Minesweeper screengrab

See that square towards the bottom, three squares in from the bottom right corner and two up from the bottom?  We know there is a mine there.

How do we know?

Whenever there is an arrangement of three “1”s, making a corner (and all the other numbers behind those three have been exposed), there has to be a mine in that corner spot. 

1  1

1 m

Besides, there is only square left around the 1 that is four from the bottom right corner and three up.   The rest of them all have their numbers revealed. 

So, you would 5-way over to that one, and mark it with the M. 

Minewsweeper screengrab marked with an M for "mine"

Minewsweeper screengrab marked with an M for "mine"

The game doesn’t tell you if you were right or not, by the way.  It’s possible to mark a mine in error, and have to fix it later.

Okay, now what about that 1 that’s in four from the bottom right, bottom row?  Well, we think we know where its one mine is, so we can tap the ground next to it.  That reveals another number, and we can deduce from there. 

That’s pretty much the way it goes.   There’s a lot more strategy, but from there, it’s just logic.  :) 

Alt+Shift+M (shift is the up arrow) = start the game

Click = Tap the ground

M = Mark (or unmark, if you think you were wrong) a mine

R = Restart (new game)

Menu=change difficulty (there are three levels)

You’ll get a running count of how many mines you haven’t marked.  That doesn’t tell you if you were right or not…on the Windows version, I’ve seen it say you have “-2 mines left”, basically. 

G = start Gomoku

Home = go to the homescreen

On a Kindle 1: you can’t use the 5-way, so you use the letter keys instead to move around, or you can switch which way the scroll wheel works.

I = up

J = left

K = down

L = left

Alt = switch the scroll wheel to move in the other axis (up/down versus left/right)

Spacebar or M to mark mines

Gomoku

If you’ve played Tic Tac Toe, you’ve played a simpler version of Gomoku.  Instead of getting three in a row, you are trying to get five in a row.  The grid is much larger.   It’s quite a bit more difficult, because you don’t have edges around you (that really helps in Tic Tac Toe).

Gomoku

Gomoku...5 in a row wins the game

Otherwise, it is similar.  5-way to a square you want to mark as yours, and click.  You are playing against your Kindle, and it will respond (generally, very rapidly).

You can’t beat an opponent who has four in a row with nothing on either end.  If you play on the “North” end, the opponent plays on the “South”, and you lose.  Similarly, if somebody has three in a row with nothing around it, you are two moves away from losing, unless you block one end of the “snake”. 

One interesting option here is that you can switch positions…take over the side that’s “ahead”.  That’s a good learning technique.

Alt+Shift+M, G to start (or just G if you are already in Minesweeper)

5-way to positions

Click to claim a square

S to switch

M to go to Minesweeper

Home to go Home

To my knowledge, those are the freebies.

Games for which you pay

The Kindle does have a games section, with quite a few options.  You can find it here:

Kindle Games category

I’m just going to list a few below.

Sudoku

Sudoku has been a popular game in the United States for about five years now: it’s been in Japan since, I think, 1984.

Basically, you have a series of grids.  Each grid has nine squares.  You need to put the digits 1 through 9 in there.  So far so good, right?  Well, there are actually nine grids (it’s nine by nine).  You aren’t supposed to repeat a number in any row or column.

What makes it harder is that a Sudoku grid comes with numbers already entered in some squares. 

This can certainly have you racking your brain. 

Here’s one you can try (NOTE: Not for Kindle 1s):

Sudoku Volume 1 

You can get a free sample, or it costs a penny at time of writing.  :)  It says it is optimized for larger screens, but I had no problem seeing it on a K2.

It’s a bit weird, in that it downloads the game through the Whispernet (the Kindle’s wireless internet connection).  If you don’t have Whispernet, you can’t play it.  Once you download a game, though, you can turn off the wireless to save battery while you play.

There were some typos in the instructions, but the game seemed to be fine.  You could have it:

  • Check (it will tell you how many errors you have, but not where they are)
  • Remove Errors (nice touch)
  • Solve it for you
  • Reset the game
  • Add a clue

After you play a game, hit Back to get back to where you can select another game.

Word Morph Volume 1

What this author calls “Word Morphs” you may know as “word ladders”, although that’s a bit different, technically (it allows more options), or “word chains”.  If you’ve seen the game show Chain Reaction, that’s the same thing.

Basically, you “change” one word into another word by changing a letter each time to create a new word.

Let’s say you wanted to change the word

cat

into the word

man:

cat

can

man

Easy enough, right?  Each word does have to be a word, though.  Some of them are much harder than this, and this author does make them match a theme (like changing “army” into “navy”).  You also are typically limited as to the number of words.

Again, free to try, one penny to buy.  :)

Crosswords

People ask about crossword puzzles for the Kindle.  A company called Puzux does them, but I downloaded a sample and didn’t get anything playable.  Can’t tell you if they are any good or not, but I know they do require the Whispernet.

UPDATE: Elad of Puzux was nice enough to write me and let me know how my readers can access a sample game.  You can go to http://kindle.puzux.com on your Kindle browser.   When you get there, you need to do a free registration…which can be a bear on the Kindle, honestly.  When you log in, you can try one free crossword puzzle.  Did it work?  Yes, you could play it.  It wasn’t super easy, which is nice, actually.  I think the hardest adjustment was not being able to see the clues and grid at the same time.  That’s because of the size of the screen.  You can adjust the text size (give the site a minute to adjust), which can get you some clues and the grid on the screen.  I work crossword puzzles in ink, and I typically want to verify my answer by projecting out a few clues, which is hard to do when you can’t see the others.  However, if you want to play a crossword on your Kindle, Puzux does make it possible.  The browser makes it quite slow, though.  Elad mentioned the Kindle Development Kit (that will result in the “apps store”), and hopefully, that will allow for a smoother version.  Oh,, they did have a version you can visit on your computer…but the crossword puzzle wouldn’t load for me there.  That one is http://www.puzux.com/mockindle.php.

Choose Your Own Adventure #1

This was quite a fad in the 1980s or so.  We sold a lot of them in the bookstore I used to manage.  Basically, you are reading a story.  You reach a “fork point”, where you can make a decision.  Let’s say you are in a spooky dungeon.  You see a door that’s got a big sign on it: “Beware of the Troll”.  Do you open the door or not?  In a Choose Your Own Adventure book, it would say something like,

If you open the door, turn to page 17

If you turn back, turn to page 39

The story then continues from that point, following your actions.

The books can be “solved”…there is an objective, and if you reach it, you win.

However, when you make a bad decision, you usually (but not always) have to start over.

I had suggested at one point that these would be great for the Kindle, and lo and behold, the Kindle store got an exclusive on them!  There was even a freebie when they first did it, so I tested it.  It worked great on my Kindle for PC, and was fine on my K2.   Purists may find it a little disconcerting that the kids in the stories have things like cell phones…the stories were updated when a new company released them.

Well, that gives you some games you can play.  :)  I was going to suggest some other things, like “Kindiscus” (hold your Kindle in one hand, spin around three times, and throw it as far as you can), but decided that would be a bad idea.  ;)  Bad idea, kids!  Bad idea…oh, oh;)

UPDATE: On August 3, 2010, Amazon released two downloadable word games for the Kindle (except the Kindle 1).  For more information, see this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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15 Responses to “It’s the games Kindles play”

  1. Elad Says:

    Hi Bufo et al.

    Just wanted to share that at Puzux we offer a free sample crossword and Sudoku puzzle on our website so that you can try them before buying our puzzle books (downloading a book sample will not provide access to the puzzles). Simply point your Kindle browser to kindle.puzux.com to access the free samples.

    In addition to checking answers, correcting errors and getting hints, we also offer the ability to save your puzzles, use notes while solving a Sudoku puzzle, themed crosswords as well as standard ones in two difficulty levels and much more.

    We hope you enjoy our puzzles and are here to help with any question you may have – contactus at puzux dot com

    Elad, Puzux

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for posting this, Elad!

      I’m going to update the post to include this information, and I’ve now been able to test out a sample crossword puzzle.

      For my readers, you may know that I don’t usually post comments from people connected to a site if they are advertisements. Before posting this, I communicated with Elad and tested the site. Going to the site does not require you to buy anything, and does allow you to play a sample crossword puzzle, so I consider it informational rather than an ad.

  2. Shira Says:

    I can’t figure out how to make notes in Sudoku or differentiate between the given numbers and the ones I have added. What am I doing wrong?

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Shira!

      Sudoku isn’t part of the Kindle’s software, you are playing in something external. You may be playing on a website, which wouldn’t allow notes.

      If you tell me a bit more about how you are getting to the game, that would give me some more information.

      • Elad Says:

        Hello again!

        At least on of the Sudokus seems to be ours. Shira – I replied to your support request email directly. Hope this helps!

        Sincerely,
        Elad, Puzux

      • bufocalvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Elad!

        I think it’s great that you took the time to reply here as well as directly to Shira. That shows a company going the extra mile. Is the answer something you want to share here as well?

      • Elad Says:

        Sure, happy to – thank you for this opportunity!

        At Puzux we do support note in our Sudoku puzzles.

        To capture your thoughts as you solve the puzzle, simply type the letter ‘n’ in the number box, followed by the number(s) you want to capture as notes – for example type n39 to add 3 and 9 as notes to this box.

        Notes appear in a smaller font, allowing you to distinct between them and actual input numbers, and you can always edit, delete or replace the note with the actual number that belongs in the box.

        More details are available on puzux.com under the faq section.

        Enjoy!
        Elad, Puzux

  3. dunedenisip Says:

    Kindle 3 (firmware 3.0.1) have 2 Hidden games (Minesweeper and GoMoKu ) build in default software. To acces them press Home then ALT+SHIFT+M

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, dunedenisip!

      Those games have been there for quite a while. I mention them in the post you commented. :) Minewsweeper came with the first K1 release, Gomoku was added later. I find Gomoku too easy to be entertaining for very long, but Minesweeper can be a challenge for me.

  4. Jane Ledbetter Says:

    I purchased a word find game for Kindle 2 but I cannot find any instructions on how to circle the words. Could you help?

  5. Stefani Says:

    I’m addicted to the free word games on the Kindle, and as a result, I’ve noticed that the letters on the keyboard are wearing. I’ve had it for less than 2 weeks. What do you think about suggestions in the forums for using polyurethane or nail polish to preserve the letters?

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Stefani!

      I’d tend to contact Kindle Customer Service and see about getting a replacement, myself. It’s just my feeling on it, but I’d be very concerned about that dripping when it was being applied (although I suppose you could hold the Kindle in the air facedown…until it dried). I’d also worry a bit about it changing the heat exchange properties. My guess is that it might also void the warranty, since they couldn’t refurb it. That’s just a guess, though.

      There are also some Kindle cases where you can push the buttons through a clear cover…that might help.

      A lot of people have reported the problem with the graphite Kindles. But it might not be true of all graphite Kindles.

      You can contact Kindle Customer Service starting here:

      http://www.amazon.com/kindlesupport

      Let me know what happens…I’ll be thinking about it.

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