Mooncake HD: Punishment enough

If you want the bottom line on Monncake HD, all I can say is it serves one good purpose. But this time you’ll have to read the review to find out what that purpose is:

In addition, I dwell on multicultural experiences and punishment. But mainly on punishment. When it works, when it doesn’t work and why it isn’t likely to work most of the time. By the end of the review, it will all make sense.

There is an art to punishment. Brute force punishment rarely works, as thousands of bombs and bullets in Afghanistan have demonstrated over the centuries. Hundreds of people are executed each year, most of them in my home state of Texas, and murder isn’t deterred one bit. I spent half of my career in the principal’s office in high school and, well, that should tell you how well that worked as punishment.

In high school the administration decided to convene a group of students on the appropriate punishment to stop smoking in the bathrooms. For some reason, I was asked to participate. The administration suggested a three day suspension. I thought they were joking. “That’s a holiday,” I told them. “Three free days away from school? Half the students who don’t smoke will start.”

They announced that students caught smoking in the bathroom would be suspended for three days and the next day cigarette smoke billowed out from under the bathroom doors, down the hall and out into the school yard.1

Next they announced that students who didn’t dress within the dress code would be suspended for three days. Guys were stuffing their socks down the trash can and untucking their shirts; girls were hiking their dresses up so they remained above their knees.

My father would call me in whenever he heard how badly I misbehaved and begin to tell me for hour after hour how he had invested so much time in me and so much patience and no matter how many sacrifices he made I was still a disappointment. It was all I could do to keep from yelling, “Beat me, ground me or send me to my room for a year. Just stop the sermon.”

Baptists have two approaches to punishment, beatings and Baptist guilt. Beating never worked on me, I screamed as though each swat would slay me and then ran right out and did the same thing again. So they tried guilt and I guess that didn’t take either. This is when I learned the true principle behind punishment. If the reward for the sin is worth the pain of punishment, no punishment will deter the sinner.

I should also add that Baptist guilt is far worse than Catholic and Jewish guilt. Catholic and Jewish guilt is built around family and disappointing family. Baptist guilt is built around Jesus and disappointing Jesus. Baptist guilt basically says, “If it wasn’t for your bad behavior Jesus would never have had to die on the cross.” That’s pretty powerful stuff.

Looking back upon my childhood I have the benefit of hindsight and science. We now know that the teenage brain is basically a doughnut with a big hole right through the part where the idea of consequences should be. Theoretically that hole gets filled in when we’re adults, but knowing most of my friends, adulthood may not really set in until retirement age. And then it’s too late.

I thought about punishment a lot when I spent five years working with dropouts and kids from the corrections system at an experimental charter school. I knew teenagers well enough to know that rewarding good behavior would never outweigh the joys and rewards of bad behavior. So I needed a punishment that would really, really deter bad behavior.

Finally one day I made a video tapes of an entire season of Teletubbies broadcasts and made the offenders watch an entire show. At first they laughed and sat through the tape, only then I gave them the pop quiz and they had to watch it again. The more times they got in trouble, the more episodes of the Teletubbies they had to watch at the back of the room. With quizzes. And the questions changed weekly.

Discipline problems in my classroom ended within two weeks. The only problem was the administration couldn’t believe Teletubbies constituted punishment and I was told to resort to more traditional measures. Discipline went right out the window, which was fine with me. I never really liked imposing it any more than I liked it being imposed upon me.

I begin to mull over all of my experiences with and feelings about punishment when I downloaded Mooncake HD from the App Store’s list of hot games. Whoever added Little Things to the list must have added Mooncake as well, because I found myself remembering the complexity of Little Things more positively. And Little Things makes pitching pennies into empty space exciting.

One screen wonder

Mooncake HD is an homage to multicultural diversity, which I’m all for. The description in the App Store talks about Chinese tradition and the role of the mooncake in the fables of the rabbit and the dragon. So apparently, Mooncake HD is an attempt to bring the experience of China to American iPad gaming.

Here’s the problem. When I got to a Chinese restaurant I want to eat food the way it’s actually prepared in China, whether it be Szechuan, Cantonese or Taiwanese. If I walk into a restaurant filled with Americans eating with forks, it’s not Chinese. If I see green beans and carrots in my egg drop or hot and sour soup, it’s not Chinese. If the waiter lifts the cover from a dish at a table full of gwailo and none of them turns white or has to look away in disgust, it isn’t Chinese.

In fact the only really authentic Chinese experience I don’t want is Shau-shing wine from Taiwan. You can’t miss it. It’s slightly darker than urine and comes in Johnny Walker scotch bottles. Carol and her family spent several years in Taiwan and came back with a taste for the stuff. They would pour it into little cups after every few bites, shout, “ganbei!” (which means “dry glass”) and toss it down the back of their throats before they could swallow. They must have been good tossing without swallowing because Shau-shing tastes awful (here’s a hint, lots of uric acid).

That’s real punishment. Kind of like the experience of playing Mooncake HD. Mooncake HD is simple. You have one screen. Four diners sit at a table with a plate in front of them. Each diner is a cute rabbit or a Chinese dragon, the kind you can see in parades in every other Jackie Chan or Jet Li movie. Each has a plate for their mooncake.

The game puts a quarter cake in the middle of the table. You have to serve the quarter cake to one of the four diners. You have to keep serving pieces or you lose time on the clock. Once you have a whole cake the diner eats, and a new diner takes his place (I suppose this is a multicultural reference to Chinese noodle booths).

If you give a rabbit a cake with four identical pieces, or a dragon a cake with four different pieces you get extra points. That’s it. That’s the game. Right up there with the Teletubbies experience, except that I actually liked the Teletubbies (even though I inflicted them on my students as punishment).

This is the game. All of it.

I’m never one to say a reader will hate a game. I can only say, this one may be one of the most disappointing games yet.

Maybe I’m being mean, but some things just bring the mean out in the best of us, and Mooncake HD pushes all my mean buttons.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a waste of your dollar. Load it on your iPad and when you’re kids finally push every button there is to push, send them to their room and don’t let them out until they’ve scored a thousand points. One trip to their room with Mooncake HD should be enough to prove this is no idle threat.

Personally, I’d rather take the beating.

Jenny Manytoes rates Mooncake HD

Actually, she doesn’t rate Mooncake. She ate the rabbit and left the remains in the litter box.

1Okay, my friends from high school know this is an extreme capsulation of a far more complex story, but neither this review nor the app I’m reviewing merits punishing you with all the details.back

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

iPad Envy is created entirely using apps from my iPad.
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Location:Pitter Pat Ln,Austin,United States


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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