Live Search Club

By Michael Flanakin @ 5:48 PM :: 2831 Views :: Technology, Other :: Digg it!

Microsoft released Live Search Club about a month or so ago and I've been meaning to check it out. Well, I finally did and I think it's interesting, but I don't see it really winning anyone over anytime soon. The basis is pretty much summed up by the ads: "Play games. Earn tickets. Win prizes." With that, it's more enticing than most games out there, where you don't have the chance to get anything back. Then again, looking at the prize list, I kind of have mixed feelings. Most prizes to me aren't worth the time to even try to win. Then again, the bottom of the list -- consisting of Vista, Office 2007, Zune, and Xbox 360 -- is definitely interesting. Of course, you'll need at least 6000 tickets to get to this level and 35,000 for that Xbox. With all that, there's just one question: How quickly can we earn points?

There are 7 games that all revolve around search -- go figure. Some of them work with the search, others don't. My impressions are below, but let me summarize... All-in-all, this is simply a marketing campaign to get more people using Live Search. If you ask me, I think it could work. I expect numbers to start jumping up... if people find out about it, that is. I guess one good thing is that these games will also be publicized on MSN Games, which is a pretty big crowd. Of course, you don't have a chance to win prizes on MSN Games, so if you're going to play, make sure you go to Live Search Club.

Chicktionary 1.00.009

Synopsis: 7 chickens can each lay an egg with a specific letter. You basically have to make as many words out of that as you can. More specifically, it looks like you have to spell around 10 three-, four-, and five-letter words, 5 or 6 six-letter words, and 1 seven-letter word. These numbers change from game-to-game, so they may be different. The bottom line is you have to come up with 35 words that fall into these groups. You may be able to come up with 35 three-letter words alone, but you still have a limit.

Playtime / Points Earned: 20-60m / 20 pts

You'll knock out most of your words in a matter of minutes. The problem comes in when you're trying to get those six-letter words. And, just to forewarn you, don't bother saving your hints for those, because they "run out" regardless. I just played a game that I was able to knock out all but 2 six-letter words in the first two minutes and after going thru countless words I tried to make up, I decided to go for my first hint. Guess what... it claimed I used all my hints. Apparently, this must be at least in part based on what you have left.

I will say that, if you're into learning new words, this is a great one for you because of how search is integrated. After you submit a "word." Live search will throw the definition up for you to see what the word was. This can be interesting when you start getting down to those last few words. When you do, tho, you do have the option to give up. If you give up, you're also giving up on points, so take note of that. Then again, by the time you get to that point, you're so aggravated it doesn't matter.

One last thing I should mention: search doesn't give you a whole lot here, but it can, if you're lucky. I was able to get a few hints on properly spelled wods by using the spelling correction. I would by no means depend on this, but it did help me get lucky a few times.

While I like this game, I spend most of my time trying to figure out 3 or 4 words, which just doesn't up the enjoyment factor all that much. If you like these types of games, go for it. The fact that there's no time, tho, is what kills me. If I had to change one thing, it'd be that some concept of time and levels be brought into play here.

Clink 1.00.025

Synopsis: You're given 10 hints, each corresponding to 2-3 blanks, and 13 words to fill those blanks. The words can be used as many times as necessary to fulfill the hints.

Playtime / Points Earned: 5-10m / 10 pts

I like this one, partially because it's relatively simple. Search is easily integrated here because you are encouraged to search for the hints, words from the pool, or any combination of both. This can help, but knowing a secret to the game helps a bit more. Not that this was an all-powerful secret, but here's what I noticed... In every answer, one of the words will be used in the next answer and another will be in the previous answer. For instance, here are the top three answers in one game: Will and Grace, say grace, and strange to say. As you can see, "grace" is used on 1 and 2, and "say" is used on 2 and 3. This pattern is in every game I've played so far. Also, you'll notice that, when you have 3 word answers, the third word is only used once in the game. So, if you're stuck on a three-word answer, you should know 2 of the 3 words, so all you have to do is find the last word that hasn't been used, then put them in an order that makes sense.

Of course, with a simple game come simple points. While I find this one relatively quick to get thru -- usually -- I find it hard trying to build up the points with this one.

Crosswire 0.06.009

Synopsis: This is basically the matching test you had in grade school. You're given two sets of 9 words and your job is to determine which words on the left match the ones on the right. You must do this with three sets of words, the third of which throws in a kink: one word on each side does not have a match. Be careful here because if you match to/from either of these words, all your matches will be cleared.

Playtime / Points Earned: 10-25m / 20 pts

This one is pretty simple, when you break it down. The most annoying part is if you end up getting the last set cleared for choosing the wong answer. Then again, if you do that, you get to see which two are the bad answers and you'll know which to avoid, so in the end, it's not a huge deal. Usually, you'll be able to figure out the answers you forgot in a minute or two, where it probably took you about 5 minutes to get that far. All-in-all, this is a worthwhile game. I think most will enjoy it, but there's not a whole lot of thought that needs to go into it. I will say this is one where searching can make or break the game. There will definitely be things you won't know without searching for them. Luckily, it's usually fairly easy to search for these answers by using boolean (AND/OR) searches.

Dingbats 1.00.034

Synopsis: This game is a trimmed back version of Wheel of Fortune. You have three phrases you have to guess and hints to go along with each. The name of the game relates to the characters used in place of vowels -- Dingbats is a font. You can guess 10 consonants, but can only get vowels after guessing a phrase correctly, in which case you can uncover 1 of 5 dingbats. Of course, the vowel these dingbats represent change from game-to-game.

Playtime / Points Earned: 5-10m / 3 pts

The first thing I'd suggest is to do a quick search to find out what one of the thee phrases are before picking off letters. Sometimes, it's possible to guess a phrase or two without picking letters. This can be good because you may need those letter guesses later. Also note that the phrases are typically related in one way or another. Some relations have been more obvious than others, but from what I've seen, they have all related back to each other. This can also help when trying to guess a tricky phrase.

While I think Dingbats is a fun and easy game, it's just not worth the 3 points you get for it. If it were 10 points, I'd think about it a little harder, but this one just isn't the point-earner I'd like it to be.

Flexicon 1.10.056

Synopsis: Essentially, Flexicon is a layered crossword puzzle. You have 4 mini crossword puzzles that are linked together by one long word. Your job, as with any crossword puzzle, is to fill in the blanks. Go figure.

Playtime / Points Earned: 15-25m / 25 pts

I like crossword puzzles, so I'm automatically going to gravitate towards this one. The one thing that annoys me the most is how much the focus jumps around as you move your mouse around. Every time you mouse over a hint, the coresponding row/column is highlighted. While this seems like a nice feature, if you're simply moving the mouse to search on something, it's annoying. Maybe it's just me, tho. I do like the fact that you can do just about everything from the keyboard, which makes for faster game play. The only things you're missing is the ability to submit a row/column and the ability to switch between the puzzle and the search pane.

Speaking of search, this is another game that works well with search. You don't always have enough information to make the search productive, but you should be good for about 2/3 of the hints.

Red Carpet Reveal

Synopsis: You're given 5 questions to answer, each revolving around one person who you will have to name at the end of the round.

Playtime / Points Earned: 5-10m / 10 pts

This is my least favorite game, by far. That doesn't mean the game is bad, tho. I just don't like it because it's not my kind of game. It's all about celebrities, which I could care less about. So, if you're into celebs, this might be right up your alley. The game is pretty easy, tho. Search works well for it because you have everything you need to find the answers you're looking for. And, if you think you might be worried about figuring out who the questions all relate to, let me just say that it's usually obvious after the first two questions. If you're searching for answers, you'll notice a name pop up over and over.

Seekadoo 0.04.019

Synopsis: Here's another traditional game: a basic word search. You're given a subject and you have to find 15 words. The only problem: you don't know the words.

Playtime / Points Earned: 5-25m / 15 pts

As simple and fun as word searches might be, this one sucks. With every word you find, the background color of the selected letters changes. I'm not exactly sure why it is, but this just makes it hard to read or something. In the end, the letters that are left unshaded spell something out, but that doesn't help you any when trying to find words. Speaking of not helping, search is absolutely pointless here. Unless I'm missing something, the hint you get for the puzzle is not going to help you narrow down you choices. Admittedly, the hints you can get thru search will help, but in the end, I just feel like search is wasted here.