Halloween. Really. That’s its name. Just Halloween.

Spoiler alert! Although the name is far from informative, Halloween is a lot of fun for the six levels where it works. Or kind of works. If it really worked, I would recommend you play it all year long, but I can’t because, sadly, it only works for six levels and part of the seventh. And even then it’s on again off again.

If you’re expecting a game day Friday blog, don’t worry, it’s coming below. As will my last churlish Halloween memory before you pack your kids off to look cute and beg for candy.

But it’s also the last blog before election day.

I had originally written this for next Friday’s blog, but Carol reminded me I had forgotten elections are the Tuesday after Halloween not a week from the Tuesday following Halloween. Silly me. Early voting can really screw up your since of time. And frustrate you if it turns out your party’s losing on top of the very real possibility that the Rangers will have let themselves be swept out of the World Series by San Francisco, and you will have already voted so you can’t rush out and vote to save your party any more than you can save a bullpen that thinks the strike zone is still at the Ball Park in Arlington.

Lose to San Francisco, a team that lost their mojo when they forgot they lived in New York.

Plugging the vote

If you didn’t vote early, you need to vote Tuesday. You have a big choice ahead of you. Vote for the Republicans, who controlled Congress from 1994 until 2008 and got us into this huge mess, or vote for the Democrats who squandered a two-year opportunity to claim credit for what little progress we’ve made since we elected them.

You may think I’m going to promote the Democrats but you’d be wrong. I have a third option, one I’ve been advocating since the 1980s, and one which I am pleased to admit I actually heard a pundit finally espouse on CNN. Jesse Ventura espoused it before the 2008 elections, so that now makes three of us.

Hopefully, readers of this blog will get over the fact that I’m making a political comment on the blog and start campaigning with us. And then there will be six or seven of us.

But let me start with the back story. I had been advocating that we should be allowed to vote “none of the above” for several years when the 1992 primaries rolled around. I was tired of the “lesser of two evils” theory, and couldn’t honestly vote for any of those guys, even the one who became President. I sure couldn’t vote for Bush (the smarter one). So I stuck to my guns and wrote “none of the above” on my ballot for the first time.

As Carol and I were leaving the polling place, the Democratic precinct chair came rushing out with my ballot in her hand and said, “You can’t vote none of the above.” Now, Helen and I knew each other as marginally employed—and possibly marginally talented—visual designers, so she probably knew whose ballot it was because she had heard me spouting off at our monthly Macintosh Design Users meetings.

But my response was, quite appropriately I think, “You’re not supposed to look at my ballot.” What followed was an argument over whether or not I could vote none of the above or whether she could look at my ballot.

Oh, and I pointed out, quite correctly, that “none of the above” was written in my handwriting on my ballot. So ipso facto (a term politicians no longer use because they don’t want to look educated to voters), I could vote none of the above.

Having worked with grass roots political campaigns, I also knew that the worst she could do was challenge my vote and throw it in a box. If the primary wasn’t close, it wouldn’t matter. If it was, they would be forced to count it. I also pointed that out and Helen harrumped and stormed out of the room.

When Carol and I returned to the polls in November, they had posted a large sign at the polling place: “You cannot write in, ‘None of the above.'”

That sign was so wrong. I still laugh about it today. And Clinton still got elected, which was a good thing because if someone held their supposedly second amendment justified normally concealed hand gun at my head and forced me to pick Clinton, Perot or Bush I would have said, “Go ahead and shoot.” Then, when I realized they were serious, I would have picked Clinton.

Was he a better President than Bush? I guess the question would be, which Bush? Was Saturday Night Live funnier when he was President than when either Bush was President? Certainly the Presidential sketches were funnier. At least after Monica Lowensky. In fact, I would have to say, the Saturday Night Live Clinton party in the White House sketches were funnier than any of the sketches of Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush v Bush, or Obama.

Only Sara Palin has inspired funnier sketches. And she’s funny all by herself. Except when she tries to be. What’s the difference between a pit bull and Sara Palin? You can train a pit bull to sit still and not embarrass her family. Oh, yes, and lipstick.

Back to “none of the above.” This is part of the op ed letter I wrote for NPR that they refused to air in 2000: “If we put ‘none of the above’ on the ballot, and people actually preferred “none of the above” to any of the candidates we would have to throw out the election and start over with a whole new slate of candidates. And all those millions [now billions] of fundraising dollars would have gone for nought. Maybe then we could have true campaign finance reform.”

And the pundit on CNN said exactly the same thing. If he hadn’t been speaking in support of the tea party, I might have remembered his name.

You never heard it on NPR, but you did read it here, and you could have heard it on CNN.

Am I embarrassed that only Jesse Ventura and tea party kooks picked up on it? Absolutely not. It’s all those progressive voters and who were forced to vote for Nader in 2000 and then take the heat (not to mention the editors at NPR) who should be embarrassed that they weren’t as smart as people who listen to FOX even if it was only one time.

Back to the game day blog

It’s Game Day Friday, more specifically Halloween Game Day Friday, the last Game Day Friday of the Halloween season. After you read this you’ll have to get out your candy bowls, hopefully candy bowls with something resembling a Halloween theme to show you put more thought into the making children happy than just buying candy, filling bowls with candy and prepare for a seemingly endless parade of ghosts, goblins pirates and princesses at your door.

Unless you live in our little enclave in Oak Hill. One of the joys of our little enclave is that all of the little rug rats have grown out of the trick-or-treat phase, grown out of the teen vandal phase and moved on to jobs, college or prison. In the case of some of them, prison would be my guess.

We survived the trick-or-treat phase, but we lost two cars, a dozen plastic pink flamingos and a lawn mower to the teen vandal phase. I would have been happy if they just papered the lawn. But rocks through car windows is a no, no.

These days, however, the only children who live on our street live on the other side of our duplex. Their parents have to drive them to another neighborhood. So on Halloween we just park the car down the street, and turn all our lights out in case any strays wander into our neighborhood looking for spare candy.

I don’t remember my childhood experiences with Halloween all that fondly. It usually involved begging my dad to let us buy a real costume from the store so I didn’t have to wear a bandana and dark eye shadow as though people would believe I was a pirate. My sister Beth was cute, so she always went as a princess, which wasn’t a costume really. She really thought she was a princess.

So did my parents. But that’s a whole other Smothers Brother routine.1

So my Halloweens were usually spent tagging along behind large groups of kids hoping no one would notice how stupid my costume was, dodging the local bullies, dodging the wannabe bullies who didn’t actually beat you but settled for throwing eggs, and then getting sick eating all of the swag we collected.

Only Beth would always save hers until after I ate mine, and then make sure I knew she still had candy to enjoy and I didn’t.

Why do we have Halloween again? Oh right, it’s the one holiday where family doesn’t gather in one place and remind each other how miserable we made each other when we were younger.

Anyway, it may seem like I’m in a sour mood, but that could be because I have succeeded in making all the devils disappear in Level 7 of Halloween for the twenty-sixth time only to be told that I still failed completely. And then had the app freeze on me. For the twenty-sixth time.

I should have known when I downloaded a game named nothing more than “Halloween” that the developers didn’t put a lot of extra effort into their work. Wouldn’t you think they would want to name a game something more than a generic “Halloween”? Like “Halloween Physics” or “Halloween: Whack the Devil.”

Okay, you don’t actually whack any devils in Halloween, but I think my point is valid. And I also think this would be a really good game if it actually worked. Usually when I pan a game it’s because I don’t want to try any more levels, not because I would like to but can’t.

Halloween is a spin off of the many physics games available, although you wouldn’t know it from the title. Players are presented with puzzles involving boxes, planes and obstacles. Several of the boxes are demons. The object of the game is to manipulate the demons off the screen by converting boxes to balls and back until momentum and gravity cause the devils to drop out of the picture.

The single help screen makes it pretty clear how the game is played.

According to the instructions, your only objective is to remove all of the demons from play. The puzzles provide increasingly difficult scenarios as part of that challenge.

Different puzzles require different strategies to eliminate the demons,

The only problem, well one of the only two problems, is that the game either doesn’t seem to understand that removing the demons is your only objective or it doesn’t want to admit you were smart enough to beat it. As I progressed past level three I discovered that I could remove all of the demons and the game still said I hadn’t finished the level.

The first couple of levels where this happened I simply tried a different solution, or made the demons disappear in a different order and the game allowed me to proceed to the next level. I was a little miffed but I figured the objective “remove all the demons from the screen” involved a “yes, but.” You know, yes, remove them from the screen, but do it the way the game thinks you should do it.

Then I hit level seven. This isn’t a high level either. The game has at least thirty of them. No matter how many ways I removed the devils from the screen, the game kept insisting I had failed and needed to replay the level.

Halloween has 30 challenging levels. If only you could get to them.

At first (the first of twenty attempts in which I successfully removed the demons) I thought I simply needed to remove the demons in a different order, or have them all fall off at the same time. But even when I timed it so that all three demons tumbled into the darkness at once, the game still insisted I start over and do it right.

That was when I noticed that every time I removed the demons, I also got a message at the bottom of the screen that announced I had, in fact, achieved a new high score. So on the one hand, I had succeeded well enough to score, but on the other hand I hadn’t succeed well enough to clear the level. So I tried another six times to duplicate that result and each time I was told that I was awarded he score but I still couldn’t unlock the next level.

The game would acknowledge that I had earned the score, but not that I had completed the level.2

As far as I’m concerned that’s not how a game is supposed to work, even if it is the Halloween edition.

You may remember that I said there were actually two problems? Well, the second problem kicked in as soon as I cleared the demons but not the level. I could press the restart button, and the game would reset to the beginning of level seven, but it wouldn’t respond to my touch after that. In short, the game reset but locked up.

Reinstalling the app didn’t work. Hard rebooting didn’t work, and, as far as I’m concerned, if a reviewer encounters these problems, his job is done.

Halloween is one of those joint iPad/iPhone apps that plays without scaling on the iPad. So it may work better on the iPhone. But for the seven levels you can access (and the six you can win), it should be free and not a dollar.

Jenny Manytoes rates Halloween

Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits on Halloween if it worked. The puzzles are challenging, but they can be solved. At least the seven I was able to play.

If only the game would acknowledge that you solved them. But since it doesn’t want to admit that you’re more clever than the puzzles, Jenny Manytoes would bunch her tail at Halloween.

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.

1I know that many users of the Apple generation are too young to remember the Smothers Brothers. Tom and Dick weren’t able to attach themselves to the public’s permanent consciousness like Bill Cosby or Bob Newhart. Oh, you don’t know those guys either? Oh well. They really pissed Nixon off with one of their broadcasts and that was the end of their career. Imagine what would have happened to Bill Maher if he’d been broadcasting when Nixon was President. The CIA could assassinate you in those days, not just sell drugs or out their agents when they piss the President off.
Anyway, if you don’t remember the Smothers Brothers you should tell Apple to pressure their label to rerelease their albums for download on iTunes. In fact, I think I’ll have to write a blog about that.
If, however, you just want to get the joke, check the track list of the only cd I could find at Amazon, Sibling Rivalry. It’s a best of album, which doesn’t usually mean the best of but some producer’s idea of the ones that will sell. But still worth pestering Apple to add to iTunes.`back
2Ironically, and I considered putting this in the body of the blog, but it’s so cool to put it here, ironically when I was trying to capture this screenshot, I set up the game screen to get the failure notice. But when I pasted it into the blog, I realized I was finally given credit for mastering the level. I checked and level eight was unlocked after all. So I redid the level to see if the problem would reappear and, lo and behold, I got this screen shot. The game also locked me out of level 8 again. One failure and they kick you back a grade.back


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
This entry was posted in 2 Stars - Raised Tail, Entertainment, Games, Physics Games, Seasonal and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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