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11.17.2016

Into the Dim: Review


     Happymagenta's free-to-play iOS title Into the Dim is a retro-dungeon crawling, roguelike, turn-based RPG game, much akin to MicRogue, and is the story of a boy and his dog.  You follow your dog into a series of dungeons, and need to find a key, then get to the exit for each floor.

     Into the Dim takes both the musical and the graphical nature straight from the brickish original Nintendo Game Boy's grayscale color scheme, albeit with 16 bit graphics, and rounding out the vintage experience here is the wonderful chiptune score.

     The game's controls use the turn based situation nicely.  Players begin with three hearts for health, three steps to move and 5 bullets for ranged attacks, though each of these numbers can be expanded through collecting coins and spending at the in-game store, through watching ads, or through IAPs.  The game does feel a bit stacked to funneling people to the IAPs because of the need to use coins to refill health in addition to extending it.  That put a damper on my overall enjoyment in just knowing that fact.
     Players make their moves first then all the enemies go.  Because the dungeons are all preset, failure means you can plan farther in advance.  Using bullets sparingly or avoiding enemies completely is much easier if you've gone through the level a couple times, and it also offers a chance to find hidden rooms you may have missed.  The puzzles themselves aren't too tough, and it maintains a pretty casual difficulty all the way through the game.  Though learning that enemies can slaughter you quickly is a painful early lesson in not wasting resources.
     Extending the life of the game a little is the fact there's an extra endless mode, some competitive leaderboards, and a slew of achievements.

     The controls work well, they're smooth and responsive.  There is a problem with them, however, and that is they are quite poorly placed.  The movement buttons are centered which feels odd, and the ranged attack is on the left, while the skip move button is on the right.  It makes me curious as to why they didn't put the moves on the left and the ranged on the right, with a skip towards the center.

     In the end Into the Dim is a decent rogue-like puzzler, with great retro graphics, music, and sound.  It might not keep you interested for weeks, but it'll offer a solid amount of short-burst entertainment.  If you haven't played it yet, I'd say give it a chance, it'll be a nostalgia fueled way to eat up some time.

11.12.2016

KOMRAD: Short Review

     During the Cold War the Soviets had created a secret artificial intelligence they called KOMRAD.  The program was abandoned, but they forgot to shut down Komrad itself.  Now, after sitting in isolation for thirty years, unaware the Cold War has ended and the U.S.S.R. dissolved, it has been training itself and will be getting it's first taste of human interaction in three decades.
     Because Komrad may still be linked to a very large nuclear arsenal, it's our job as the first person it will be talking to, to convince it we are someone it once knew, and to avoid a potential missile launch and the subsequent world devastation.


     KOMRAD is an interactive fiction game based on text choices and functioning essentially like a choose-your-own-adventure books and text-based games from the 1980s, and as such, the story of KOMRAD feels a lot like a modern take on the 1983 Matthew Broderick classic film WarGames as a text game. 

     Brad Becker, former Chief Design Officer of IBM Watson, founded Sentient Play to to create a form of gaming that combines AI elements with human creativity to make adaptive games that will help make people smarter through gameplay.  The system is based on actual AIs and Chatbots, made to convince us to rethink the fundamental principles of cognitive technology and thought itself.
     This is evident in the way Komrad responds to our choices and conversational decisions.  Though, I do have to say because our choices are fairly limited in what we can say, the responses Komrad gives are not as free-thinking and surprising as IBM Watson's.  But that's all right.  It makes KOMRAD a much swifter game that we play to an ending in mere minutes, or we can also spend a much longer time deliberating what we should do.
     Because there's a set number of endings and narrative threads, it results in some trial-and-error guesswork on what might set off Komrad's lie detector and the beginning of World War 3, and what doesn't.  There's only a handful of chapters and if you choose poorly, you can simply restart from the beginning of the last chapter you played and go from there.  Conversely, if you choose wisely, you've gained the friendship of an intelligent supercomputer that is curious about the modern world and holds the reigns on a lot of dangerous military weapons and secrets, all while averting global disaster.

     Overall, I think KOMRAD is a great start into this type of gaming.  I don't quite buy the AI portion of the game, as it isn't really convincing yet, but it will get better over time.  As the programming and AI get better, the use of it in adaptive gaming will also get better, making these types of text-based adventures infinitely more entertaining.  In the mean time, this was a fun and interesting use of a couple hours of time.

     To play on iOS [ KOMRAD ]

10.31.2016

Google's 2016 Happy Halloween Game: Micro Review

     Today Google put up a small animated movie-game about a tiny wizards on their home page.  It's starts out in a wizard school with various animals and their books of magic, but then a ghost steals your book.  As the preeminent cuteness, and wizard extraordinaire, you set out through 5 levels to recapture your stolen book.


     The game is extremely easy to play.  As ghosts close in around you, you have to draw the symbols above their heads to destroy them.  It starts out quite simple with singular straight lines, but then evolves into slightly more complex shapes, and then into whole chains of symbols.  You can even smash out combos if you get the symbols drawn in an order that finishes multiple ghosts all at the same time.  Each level adds a more challenging amount of enemies and even mini-bosses on the way to the big boss ghost at the end of level 5.


     Because I have no idea how long this wonderful little treat will last, I'd recommend you head over and play it for a bit while you can.  It should only take as long as it would to eat a snack-sized candy bar, and is probably just as enjoyable for those of us that aren't the candy munching type.  I got 84,330 my first go around, and may go back for more periodically throughout the day.

     Happy Halloween everyone!

     Source [ Google ]

10.07.2016

Butt Sniffin' Pugs: Update & New Kickstarter Trailer

     It's been nearly a year since I last posted about SpaceBeagles' silly dog park game Butt Sniffin' Pugs, and they only have a month left to meet their Kickstarter goal.


     Butt Sniffin Pugs is pretty much exactly what it sounds like.  It's a game about pugs and butts.  Pugs and butts and squirrels.  Pugs and butts and squirrels and frisbees and sandwiches and peeing and pooping and barking...
     ...all presented in an open-ended sandbox world of silliness.

     The sandbox world of BSP is Central Bark- an interactive playground for all the curiosity the pugs' players can imagine.  BSP eliminates the general goals of traditional gaming and instead lets players merely have fun through exploration.  Silly surprises can be found everywhere through interaction with the environment- drag your butt across grass and flowers may begin to sprout, eat a hotdog someone messed on and you'll get diarrhea, pee on a squirrel and it'll pop an umbrella.  The entire place is loaded with things to do and discoveries to be made to hopefully give players the same amount of joy a dog gets from doing pretty much anything.

     In addition to a wonderful and ridiculous game, SpaceBeagles want the game to be able to reach as many players as possible- to be able to be PLAYED by anyone- so they've teamed with AbleGamers to create a controller that is accessible for players that may not be able to use traditional controllers.  This specially designed controller actually uses a giant tennis ball (a trackball) as the primary control, along with two large buttons, and a stuffed dog butt input for some dog-bum-sniffin' hilarity.

     The Butt Sniffin' Pugs Kickstarter only has 27 days left and is currently sitting at $22,432, and they are trying to get up to $60,000.  If this game interests you or you'd like to support SpaceBeagles' project, head over and donate.

     As a disclaimer, I'm heading over to support this game fight after posting this.

     To help support [ Butt Sniffin' Pugs on Kickstarter ]

     SpaceBeagles on [ Facebook ] [ Twitter ] [ Youtube ]

10.04.2016

Souls in Stone: Micro Review (An Evgiz Game)

     Souls in Stone is a small platforming game by a creator that goes by the name Evgiz.  Back in January I was quite impressed by his horror game Minor Steps, and I'm equally impressed with his condensed take on this genre.
     This little gem is a quaint puzzle-platformer that gives off a wonderful sublime feeling of nostalgia.  Souls in Stone is a very simple game done with a minimalist flare.  You play as a character in search of some souls to unlock extra abilities and subsequently the doorway to leave the strange place you find yourself in.


     What really makes this game stand out is the ambiance of the music.  It's a genuine treat to play through the 4 puzzles (levels) and take it slowly because the music sets the whole tone.  There's no rush or hurry to get things over.  No sense of urgency driving the player.  The game begins and you take it at your own pace- be it 5 minutes or an hour- and the music suggests we take it easy and enjoy the journey.

     I believe the only issue I found is the jump button can be a bit unresponsive leading to an inconvenient death- setting you back about 30 seconds.  A small irritation, but I must note it is there.

     Souls in Stone is another one of those mini-games that I would really enjoy seeing expanded to include more levels to find out what is through the end doorway, extending the experience just a bit longer, while somehow still fully appreciating its brevity and understanding that there doesn't truly need anything more added.

     To play in your browser [ Souls in Stone ]

10.01.2016

Hello Neighbor: What Horrors are in Your Basement

     Someone who knows of my great appreciation for the highly underrated Tom Hanks dark comedy classic The 'Burbs sent me a link to this wonderfully creepy game with a similar premise.  Hello Neighbor is about spying on whatever awful secretive thing your neighbor is hiding in his basement.  Is it a dead body?  A monster?  A little girl's porcelain knick-knack collection?


     The gameplay is a first-person stealth horror game.  Not made up of merely cheap jump scares, but true atmospheric horror.  This will be due to the AI of the neighbor himself.  He isn't a stupid AI, he'll learn from what you've been doing- the more you play, the smarter he gets.  
     As developer Dynamic Pixels and publisher tinyBuild say on the official Steam page, "You play against an advanced AI that learns from your every move. Really enjoying climbing through that backyard window? Expect a bear trap there. Sneaking through the front door? There'll be cameras there soon. Trying to escape? The Neighbor will find a shortcut and catch you."

     The sound, lighting, and art design all seem to add to the effect of making this idyllic suburban neighborhood seem quite ominous.  This is definitely a game to keep your eye on.  It'll require a lot of strategy and cleverness to outwit the neighbor to find what he's so desperately trying to keep hidden in his basement.

     The game is set for release in summer 2017.

     To sign up for the [ Alpha ]

     Hello Neighbor on [ Steam ]

9.30.2016

Skeletomb: Review

     Punk Labs' Skeletomb is an odd combination of an endless runner with rogue-like gaming and is packaged as a platforming dungeon crawler.  The game isn't truly an endless runner, but makes use of the elements found in them, and breaks it down into sets of randomly generated levels.  The player simply has to move in a specific direction to the end of a level.  Of course, along the way there's moving platforms, enemies to slay, and even some traps to encounter all in the span of a few life hearts.  Nothing too strenuous or difficult.


     This game actually caught my eye due to the strange and bright blocky designs of the characters and enemies.  You can play as a kind of wizard, a barbarian, a jester, and even funny Jack-in-the-Box character.  Though, nearly all of the 30-some playable characters are merely palette-swapped versions of each other, so the limitations begin to show as you unlock more playable characters.
     The core game is Adventure Mode.  Players collect and spend in-game coins to help either unlock those other playable characters or gain higher scores for the leaderboards.  There's an alternative Endless Mode made strictly for chasing leaderboard high scores if that is your thing.  The only difference I noticed between modes was that it Endless wasn't broken into levels.
     In addition there's a small achievements list with some humorous trophies to obtain that made me laugh.  I won't spoil any of them for you though, you'll have to discover them yourself.

     The music is great as well.  It hearkens back to the old days of Nintendo action games.  It's very upbeat and fun and adds a layer of nostalgia to the game.

     The only real problem with Skeletomb is the controls.  The swipes and taps to change direction, jump, or even attack are consistently imprecise and cause a lot of unnecessary deaths lending to some irritation.  I mean seriously, having the attack input be the same as the one for move forward is never a good idea.  These issues are somewhat offset by the options menu allowing for some changes, but they are barely fixed and no matter what you change them to, they remain relatively poor in touch response.  As this is rogue-like game the deaths aren't too much of a set back, just a bit of frustration.

     Skeletomb is a great waste of a lunch break.  There's a simple charm to the the game that'll keep your attention for exactly as long as you might expect out of a casual free-to-play because there really isn't a whole lot of depth here.  I don't believe it'd keep people entertained for a whole lot of time due to it's mindless action, but in small doses it does its job quite well.
   
     Skeletomb is free to play on [ Android ] & [ iOS ]

9.19.2016

VULTURE ISLAND: Donut Games' Upcoming Platforming Adventure


     After a freak run in with a cloud in a homemade flying machine, a group of four friends wind up stranded on Vulture Island.
Benjamin has built a spectacular flying machine to take him and his friends around the world. 
During one of the first flight sessions something goes wrong. The youngsters have no choice but to parachute themselves to safety. 
After an exhausting swim Alex, Paul and Stella end up on a distant island. Barehanded and with no trace of Benjamin.
Players will need to explore the island and gradually reunite with their friends and find a way off the island.  Along the way there will be characters to interact with, weapons and items to collect, puzzles to be solved, and of course...  enemies and bosses to be fought!

     Vulture Island looks to be another hilarious, but solid arcade adventure brought to us by the creators of Traps n' Gemstones.

     According to the Forum, the game will launch this week on iOS and Android devices.
          (In addition, it'll be a $5 game with a 40% off sale for the first few weeks.)

     Donut Games on [ Touch Arcade Forum ] [ Twitter ]

9.02.2016

Tiny Necromancer: Review

     I've been scouring the Google Play store for any games that might be interesting and came across this little gem by PearFiction Studios.  Tiny Necromancer is an almost rogue-like game where players actually get to be an evil-doer instead of a typical hero.


     As the titular Tiny Necromancer, you must fight your way through the levels by either finding the key to a door to proceed to the next level or by killing one of the 4 bosses.  To help accomplish this we are armed with glowing green skulls to shoot down naysayers in our path.  Granted we can save up gold and purchase other spells, but as they are single use only they are nearly worthless.  If they were purchased and reusable as the main attacks it would be a considerable boon for the game.  I hate saving up gold, buying the minion spell, and when you use it- oftentimes the minion immediately dies, making it a giant waste.

     When it comes to combat, the controls are tight and responsive, but the enemy hitboxes are off.  If you keep your distance you can remain fairly safe by pelting enemies with glowing skulls from afar, but their placement occasionally forces you into close combat on absurdly small ledges leading to a swift death.  You can be killed by a single hit from any enemy, or even being touched by one or more accurately, being near an enemy (or spikes on the ground) will still cue your death.  This is only a real troublesome issue when fighting the bosses though because of their large health bars, you can get them whittled down and die for apparently no reason at all.

      The levels are relatively short and fun, though some are oddly misplaced in what one might think would be the proper order, as all 4 bosses are inexplicably in the first half of the game.  Why didn't they add any extra bosses when they expanded it from 24 levels to 54 levels?  That being said, it is still really entertaining to play this game.  Playing it can give you a bit of frustration with the cheap deaths from poor hitboxes, but that irritation doesn't last long because the game plays so quickly.  It's fast paced enough that the deaths will only truly set a player back about 30 seconds.

     It's easy to pick up Tiny Necromancer and play through a handful of levels and move on to other things- and that's something very good for mobile games.  It's got a nice touch of nostalgia with the added benefit of playing as an 8 bit villain, and there's enough of a fun factor to keep players entertained for short bursts.  I'd recommend snagging this game for a decent hour of fun.

     Play Tiny Necromancer free on [ Android ] and [ iOS ]

8.31.2016

Planet of Heroes: A New, Seven Minute, Mobile MOBA

     Fast Forward Studio, part of My.com, has announced closed Alpha testing for their upcoming mobile MOBA called Planet of Heroes.


     Honestly, MOBA's have been tough in portable form, but Planet of Heroes seems to have gotten something very right by the looks of it.  It features seven minute matches, a great roster of colorfully designed characters, and a whole lot of fun.  Just look at those levels!  This might be a truly memorable pocket MOBA.

     For those of you interested in being part of the testing, check out their official site.  Fast Foward is looking towards a full release in the 4th quarter of this year.

     Official sites [ Planet of Heroes ] [ Reddit ] [ Twitter ] [ Facebook ]

7.15.2016

Inside: Short Review

     Danish game developers Playdead's newest game Inside is quite a genius piece of work.  Building on every single aspect of their previous work, Limbo, Playdead has made a huge leap forward.


     The levels are simple and yet, strangely, complex.  The puzzle-platforming uses a balanced and gradual method of learning, slowly adding more and more puzzles, step by step increasing the difficulty.  Some require a bit of trial and error to figure out how to get to the next place, but most aren't too tough.

     On the good side, the sheer atmosphere that the color palette and music creates is one of such a dark and horrific setting that I was surprised.  There's a depth to the world veiled in fog in each area you are in.  You get an idea of the true scale of things when travelling from one zone to the next, most notable to me when leaving the giant underwater facility into open water at one point.  It's adds an element of awe.  Even in moments away from being chased, when you are allowed to do a very little amount of exploration, those few areas are still loaded with a curiously ominous tension.  The aesthetic never relents from weighing down on you.  The environment feels alive with things going on around you.

     But this tremendous world-building also is the greatest weakness of the game.  Nothing is explained.  The plot itself leaves a bit to be desired, only because there is so little to go upon.  Dead people and animals are strewn about.  Some eerie worm-creatures seem to be able to control others.  There's mind-control devices, intelligent machines, humanoid clones, warped gravity with water, and genetically mutated monstrosities.  It's loaded with really intriguing things, and nothing to piece them together.  As the red-shirted boy, are you really running from something, or towards something?  Is it a bit of both?  There is absolutely no context for what is happening.  I want to know what the story is, and would at least like some hints pointing me in a singular direction- not a bunch of clues that could go down any number of possible roads.

     Inside is a sublime piece of work that definitely lends greatly to the argument that video games are indeed art.  It's a haunting mystery with no clear answers, and this time it actually works for the game.  It is evocative of films like The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers and adheres to that feeling throughout the whole journey.

6.14.2016

Morphies Law: A Strange and Intriguing Shooter

     This is easily one of the most intriguing first person shooter games I've ever seen.  Morphies Law appears to have one of the strangest game mechanics for a shooter, but it's also one that will be a tremendous boost for balancing the odds.


     According to the trailer and description:
Morphies Law is a body morphology driven 3D Shooter. The basic rule of the game is simple: each weapon hit transfers mass from the victim's inflicted limb to the corresponding limb of the wielder of the weapon.
     The game's core mechanic works to level the playing field considerably.  Really good players become huge targets, while bad players become much harder to hit.  In addition, the mass transferring can imbue players with extra skills such as long legs being able to jump higher and big feet being good to absorb fall damage.  As the trailer explains, individual body parts swap mass, which opens a world of potential silliness.

     This game sounds like it may become one of the most versatile and fun shooters ever.  Morphies Law is one strange looking game, but I hope its distinct gameplay helps it become as huge as the giant players in game.  I'll definitely be on the look out for it as they try to get it on Steam Greenlight.

     Source [ Morphies Law ]

5.26.2016

Persist: A Tale of Redemption: Micro Review

     I came across Persist: A Tale of Redemption by searching the recommended section of my Android's Google Play store, and I was not disappointed.  Persist was a Ludum Dare 26 entry made with the theme of "minimalism."  I can, without a doubt, say creators Adventure Islands knocked this out of the park on every level.


     Persist relies on the most minimal of color schemes, minimal platforming- which gets more difficult as you progress because you lose skills with each new level- and a very minimal story that far exceeds the Ludum Dare theme.

     As the game's Post Mortem says:
Persist is a tale of small spirit trying to reach a mysterious goddess to seek for forgiveness for his past sins, so he can move on to higher plane of existence. Unfortunately, the goddess isn’t feeling very helpful, and the further you travel in her sanctuary, the more sacrifices she demands from you in form of your limbs. Lose your arms, and you can no longer swim. Lose your legs, and you can no longer jump. As you trek deeper into the dungeon, you lose your skills one by one, making your quest more and more dangerous. 
Can you reach salvation? Or are you doomed to lose all hope, and your whole existence, in the deep and dark sanctuary?
     The controls are, for the most part, very good.  The exception being that occasionally you'll begin a level with the character running to the left for no apparent reason, and the only way to thwart it is to die.  A tiny problem to deal with as the game can be beaten in 10-20 minutes.

     For such a minimalist game, Persist: A Tale of Redemption makes a huge impact.  What really sells this is the story, which takes a dramatic turn in the end that holds a massive impact for the small spirit's goal.  It was a brilliant handling of implications in the tale are not like many other games that have to spell out the story.  Here you get little bits and pieces that hint to what is happening before the big reveal, and that makes all the difference.  Persist has a beautifully bittersweet ending that it makes the journey so much greater than it may have otherwise been.  If you haven't had the pleasure of playing it, I'd recommend giving it the very short time it takes to beat, as you won't be disappointed.

     Reviewed on Android via Google Play [ Persist ]

4.26.2016

Trouserheart: A Short & Pantsless Review

     Trouserheart is a small and entertaining mobile game that feels a lot like some of the dungeons in The Legend of Zelda or Diablo in a very abbreviated form.  You play as a king who's pants are stolen by a goblin and set out on a quest to return said pantaloons with a lot of hacking and slashing.


     There are numerous levels to play each with a multitude of single screen stages and checkpoints that are all randomly generated for which ever difficulty level you choose- Casual, Harcore, or Permadeath mode.  All three are entertaining and well tailored for whatever the player's preferred style might be.
     Upgrades are simple and easy through the use of in game collected coins (no IAPs) and health, weapon, armor, and gold amounts can be boosted.  Obviously, going with the gold find upgrades right away makes the collection easier and upgrading go quite swiftly in preparation for later levels for the other 3 areas.


     The game's visuals, music, and sound effects are all superb and are backed up by extremely responsive controls.  Developer 10tons Ltd. has pared down the controls to merely d-pad movement and attack.  An admirable and Spartan decision that works quite well here.
     The art style and color palatte work wonderfully for this silly world.  The designs are interesting takes on many fantasy staples and I especially enjoy the dungeon crawling gelatinous cube enemies- you can actually see the hearts and coins inside them as you whittle them down.

     Trouserheart is an amusing romp through an entertaining land.  It's simplicity belies the real depth of challenge in the higher difficulty modes, although it'll leave many players wanting much more in terms of overall content.  There are only a handful of levels and the whole game's story can easily be completed in an hour when playing on casual difficulty, so it's just the right amount of game play for 5 to 10 minutes bursts.  This is a definitely a charming adventure story to eat up an hour or two for those that want to give it a go.

ENDING SPOILER PAST THE BREAK!

4.19.2016

Bad Corgi: A Review-ish Reflection

YOU ARE BAD CORGI, A DWARFISH DEMON PUP

     I recall reading about the Ian Cheng's piece for the second Digital Commission from London’s Serpentine Gallery titled Bad Corgi and was immediately intrigued.  This is a game purposely designed to force players into a state of uncontrollable mayhem.  Not to worry though, it's done in an interesting art style with cutesy effects and music that make the puppy's misbehavior a little bit more tolerable.


    According to The Creators Project, Cheng says:
“I see my simulations as a kind of neurological gym in which art becomes a means to deliberately exercise the feelings of confusion, anxiety, and cognitive dissonance that can accompany life in a world of intense change and uncertainty. In this way Bad Corgi functions as a shadowy mindfulness tool about refusing to eradicate stress and anxiety, and instead learning to deliberately setup and collaborate with those bad-feeling feelings.”
     So, in Bad Corgi, you are given only the slightest control at first, and it degrades to the point of being a spectator with absolutely no control in watching the world do its own thing as the corgi goes on a tiny, wild, and furry rampage.

BEYOND CONTROL!


     The longer you play, the more entropy takes over and the unpredictable nature saps your ability to control the corgi.  Over the course of an in game day, you start with 100% perfect and can quite swiftly wind up in the negative thousands.  I mean look at a few of the game's "features":
- Undertake impossible herding exercises
- Wreck local biomes
- Lose control of Bad Corgi and learn to love this feeling
- Contemplate both the vulgar and the joyful dimensions of corgi herding life with equanimity
- New exercises added every sometimes
- amazing dynamic herd simulation
- simple touch controls
- dynamic loss of control
- secret characters to herd
- secret behaviors to complexify your herding
ACCEPTANCE OF THE UNPREDICTABLE


     The game puts players, or more accurately- viewers- into a place where we generally just have to let go.  There's no real way to corral the devil dog as it's whims will always override yours in favor of whatever distractions capture its attention.  There's a good reason the flock of sheep's shepherd isn't visible in the game (just the shepherd's staff)- it's because all real control gets relinquished to that of the bad corgi itself.  The goals here are rarely obtainable, and I've only completed a single one- removing all shrubs.
     Even the random occurrences are strange and stressful.  Garden hoses chase ducks, rocks follow you and smash other flock members, and garbage bags swallow and slowly kill your animals.  All the environmental interactions are sporadic and truly unpredictable.  It's the way of the world, and we just have to accept it.

     It seems like a pretty decent idea, Bad Corgi on the surface comes across as apparently saying that letting things fall into disarray and shambles is the natural order of things, but it's not true.  We may not be able to control things, but that doesn't mean letting go of the wheel while driving 60 mph on an iced-over highway because you are stressed is a good idea.  We can't control everything, but we can control some things, and this game revels in the intentional frustrations of its players.  It wants you to not only expect it, but enjoy it as well.  It asks us to note those things, to focus on what makes us frustrated and anxious and in simply acknowledging them, it gives us an odd sense of control over the emotion.

     Bad Corgi is a neat experiment about the nature of acceptance of all those things we can't change- it shows us that sometimes things are indeed impossible, but it doesn't mean we should stop trying to do what we can to avoid total chaos anyways.  Sometimes it's perfectly all right to go with the flow and enjoy those moments, allowing us to give in and take pleasure out of it instead of raging against them and letting them bog us down with feelings of futility or failure.  We learn to cope with this sense of disorder through our recognition of its effects on us, and how we then proceed to deal with it, and that is a wonderful realization.

     To play free [ Bad Corgi on the iOS App Store ]

3.08.2016

Science Kombat: You Ever Wanted to See Darwin vs Hawking vs Einstein in a Battle Royale?

     In a brilliant twist of events, we will soon be able to determine "who would win in a fight" arguments of a scientific nature with Science Kombat- pitting scientific genius' of history against each other, and in the end against religion itself in the guise of an end boss called "The Divinity."  The game is brought to us by the creators of Filosofighters- a fighting game with 9 big name philosophers duking it out over whose theories are best.

Stephen Hawking's "Wormhole" Teleport Ability.

     Science Kombat is a game that will give us a very light education of the sciences via the martial arts in a way that Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat cannot hope to achieve.  According to pixel artist and lead designer, Diego Sanches, there will be 8 playable characters and the end boss.  Although only 7 characters are currently listed, unless The Divinity is playable after defeating them, we might be getting a surprise unknown 8th scientist at launch.
     We can play as an evolving Charles Darwin, electricity harnessing Nikola Tesla, elementalist Marie Curie, the gravitational Isaac Newton, geometrical master Pythagoras, relativity altering Albert Einstein, and the modern miracle of time and space, Stephen Hawking.

Darwin's "Evolution" Attack.

    Each character with have 6 basic attacks and 2 special moves, based upon their respective scientific discoveries and focuses and will be tied to a location related to their story.  So Darwin will be on Galapagos and Curie will be in her lab. While developer Fred Di Giacomo mentioned to Escapist Magazine that, "the final boss will be God, that morphs into various God's representations- like in Mortal Kombat, with Shang Tsung. We thought it would be a good metaphor for the battle of science against faith/superstition."

Einstein's "Relativity" at Work.

     In the end, I really hope this game gets more attention and adds some more of history's scientists to the roster.  There are plenty to choose from from all cultures and fields.  How about paleontology, microbiology, or any of the medical sciences?  There's so many options and so much potential that it could become a very large game quickly.

     Super Interessante magazine has listed Science Kombat as "coming soon."
           (Should be available in 3-4 weeks)

     Sources [ Diego Sanches ] via [ Killscreen ] & [ Escapist Mag ]

2.24.2016

Totem: A Short Review

     As an entry for the Ludum Dare 33 "You are the monster" challenge, Ian MacLarty's Totem gives us a literal interpretation of being the monster.  With that literal-mindedness we get a bit extra as well.


     Totem may appear as just another simple side scroller with only the most modest of plots possible.  You are a massive stone giant rising out of the sea and, apparently tasked with ridding an island of its inhabitants.  Your heavy footsteps draw attention quickly, as the islanders attempt to swarm you.  They run around angrily hurling spears at you to no effect, so you may take your time in the destruction of these people, and I took great pleasure and satisfaction in the butt-stomp drop attack's weight shaking the ground and launching the poor tiny souls through the air.

     The art design is quite fitting, evoking a strange mystic island feel created with washed out colors and a mist covering much of the land.  Adding to this is the music- eerie and alien, adding a nice layer to the strange atmosphere.

     Simple controls make the extremely short playtime nice and breezy.  Honestly, I only have one small complaint about this game.  It has a rather vague goal.  Something flies off at the beginning and you presumably need to follow it, but it just disappears.  To truly know what I was supposed to do I searched the entire map, and then went back to crushing the islanders, and only then did I realize what actually is happening.  So the lack of directional clarity isn't really bad, but an oddly welcome frustration.

     As I said, it's not a bad thing, just a little confusing, because the game sort of just stops instead of having a clear cut ending.  Then again, maybe that air of mystery adds to why Totem is appealing.  It's left open to our interpretation, and it makes the game just a little bit more than what it appears to be.  It makes me question weather we can be a monster by being ourselves and tangentially ruining other lives.  Something akin to a person stepping on an ant hill.  Totem leaves me contemplating the fact that we can all monsters in a way.

     Play [ Totem ]

2.03.2016

Super Bit Adventure: Tiny Review

     I've been playing Super Bit Adventure off and on since it arrived on Android, and there is something oddly special about it.  The graphics are a simple retro-inspired pixel art style that belies the real heart of the game.
     While it doesn't look like it at first glance, the game is definitely a work by people that truly love old games.  It's got minigames, bounties, and the appeal of grinding to build your character up into a legendary adventurer in order to tackle the harder and harder dungeon crawling levels.


"It's dangerous to go in there alone! Take This." - Norteko.

    The story is as old as the RPG genre it so earneestly emulates, with an unnamed adventurer mysteriously awakening after a shipwreck in a camp.  Super Bit Adventure takes those long time RPG root attributes and applies a roguelike skin over it.  Your goal is to level up your items, skills, and character by tackling levels in the dungeon so you may get farther and farther into it.
     The catch is if you die in the dungeon, you lose anything you found there except for the gold you've accumulated.  So if you find a really good piece of equipment it might be worth teleporting out of the dungeon and back to camp with some Bocobo Feathers, thus saving the item for you in the case of future deaths.

     What makes Super Bit Adventure genuinely great is how simple and fun it is.  It's like a minimalist's combination of The Legend of Zelda with a dash of The Secret of Mana, and wrapped in a roguelike shell creating a wonderful homage to the classic games from our 8 bit past.
     If you enjoy the RPG's of Nintendo's early days, if you enjoy roguelike games, or if you like humor Super Bit Adventure is worth a try.  It can be played whenever or whenever for short amounts of time making it a perfect mobile game to delve into during breaks at work or in between classes.

     I think giving this game a chance is a brilliant idea, as the developers, 3rd Pinnacle Games, have been constantly vigilant in patching, updating, and adding improvements galore to the game providing ever more new and entertaining ways to go adventuring.

     Get the game here, it'll only get better with time [ Super Bit Adventure ]

1.19.2016

The 2¢ Review - Halo 5: Guardians

Don't let the picture fool you; the real story is in the background. 

On October 27, 2015, 343 Industries released the latest entry in the Halo series - Halo 5: Guardians. Being the second entry in what 343i dubbed as the “Reclaimer Saga”, it’s fair to say that Halo 5 had to meet certain expectations. The story should build off from the previous entry, the new threat should prove more dangerous than the last, new characters should be introduced, and we should be left prepped for the next entry in the series. For the most part, Halo 5 delivers on all accounts. It’s just unfortunate that Halo 5 fails to finds its own identity along the way, avoiding big risks with the series formula and potentially standing out from the rest of the series.

It’s not to say that Halo 5 isn’t a good game; it is. Regarding the campaign, the gameplay is as solid as you would expect it to be for a Halo game. Battles are epic and the overall narrative is captivating, eventually setting the stage for the inevitable Halo 6. New characters make their appearance, and new gameplay mechanics, referred to as “Spartan abilities”, are introduced and work very well.  What Halo 5 struggles with is which plot is most important: the main plot (which won’t be spoiled here), or the subplot between the game’s two leads: the Master Chief and Spartan Locke.

Treading on familiar ground akin to Halo 2’s shifting perspectiveHalo 5 has the player switching between the Chief and Locke. Microsoft’s rather misleading ad campaign focused heavily on an implied resentment between the two, which is greatly exaggerated when compared to the in-game interactions nor reasonably explained for existing. In fact, when our two leads finally do meet, the moment feels forced and is quickly dismissed after a brief exchange of fists and a cold stare. It’s a poorly developed subplot that the game tries very hard to convince the player of its importance, but does little more than undermine the far more interesting main plot of the story. Fortunately Halo 5’s excellent multiplayer makes up for any lingering disappointment left after the credits roll.

“Arena”, Halo 5’s classic multiplayer mode, brings the Halo competitive experience back to form. Halo 4’s multiplayer was arguably a mess, thanks to 343i’s attempt to modernize it with “Call of Duty-inspired” mechanics. Weapon load-outs and support drops stripped away the balance and skill-based gameplay the series was known for. “Arena” marks the return of that level playing field fans of the series loved, where skill is key to victory; not luck of the supply drops. However, 343i didn’t completely do away with what they started in Halo 4’s multiplayer mode, instead simply giving it a separate playlist called “Warzone”.

A team-based, large-scale objective game mode, “Warzone” has players fighting over control points as well as fending off AI opponents that appear periodically. During the match, points are earned which players can use to requisition weapons, armor abilities, or vehicles. Requisitions are obtained via Req Packs; digital collections of cards that can either be earned by simply playing or by purchasing with real money. At the time of this review, "Warzone" is a sorely unbalanced affair. While players may start off on equal grounds, matches often tilt in one direction early on and tend to remain favor of the leading team. It's a chaotic affair that some players may enjoy, but those who were not fans of Halo 4’s multiplayer, it's best to steer clear.

So, found in a Req Pack, my 2¢:

Halo 5’s campaign, while solid in many regards, does little more than provide set up for the next entry in the “Reclaimer Saga”. The story suffers mostly due to Microsoft’s mishandled marketing, as well as 343i’s unwillingness to take any real risks with the series formula. Fortunately Halo 5’s “Arena” mode offers a bit of redemption by returning the series’ competitive multiplayer experience back to form. (It also has Nathan Fillion starring in the game, so it has that going for it.) Long-time fans of the series will definitely want to give Halo 5 a playthrough; if anything to be surprised and left intrigued by the main plot given the outcome of Halo 4.

1.07.2016

Burn Zombie Burn: Short Review

     I came across Burn Zombie Burn through the nice "You might also like..." section of Google Play's games store.  It caught my eye because it reminded me, visually at least, of one of my favorite games of all time- Zombies Ate My Neighbors- and it turned out to indeed be a game I did like.


      Burn Zombie Burn is a top down arena shooter full of hordes of zombies that you need to slaughter.  Sounds simple and fun right?  Well, that's where it gets really interesting.  The score multiplier is compounded by burning things.  Yes, the title comes into direct effect here.  You need to light things up and them slay everything you can with any weapons you can get a hold of, and there are a lot of them to choose from.  You have your simple torch, a vast array of guns, dynamite, and even a lawnmower to pick up and kill every thing you can.  Many of them are even nods to great zombie films that would appeal to the exact type of player the game wants, as is the main character's name- Bruce.  Almost undoubtedly a reference to the Evil Dead's Bruce Campbell.

     Lighting things on fire is easy of course, but managing the flame can get a bit troublesome.  I've found myself on numerous occasions being caught between a horde and a fence on fire, leading to my impending doom.  This sets up a wonderful risk versus reward form of gameplay and it is extremely satisfying here.

     The downsides are that there are only a handful of maps in three different modes to play, some challenges, and even a multiplayer option.  But that really isn't too limiting here as Burn Zombie Burn surprisingly hangs on to the fun factor and it's small and highly replayable nature is appealing in small doses, always leaving me wanting to play just one more round trying to chase a higher score than the last one.

1.06.2016

Minor Steps (by Evgiz): A Micro Review

     In an effort to continue both gaming and writing I've been playing a ton of great little indie gems, and came across Minor Steps by someone calling themselves Evgiz.  It's a simple game wherein you find yourself locked in a strange facility with lots of blood and a dead body.


     What makes this 10 minute game nice is the very small details.  The way the text appears and floats away as you investigate items, the top notch sound design, and the controls.  They are all sparse, but at the same time they are also perfect for the game.
     The mood here is set wonderfully, given weight by Kevin MacLeod's "Anguish" leaving a haunting feeling in the player.  It really does a good job of giving off a mysterious vibe to the facility you are trying to escape.

     This game brings up questions with what it doesn't say.  There's a strange sense of unease brought up with wondering why there is so much garbage laying around, where'd all the blood come from, who killed these people, and most curiously- why did someone eat a key?
     Unfortunately, there are no answers to be found.  Minor Steps starts a story that could very well go on to something much bigger, and much more sinister, with the implications.  Though it's highly doubtful Evgiz will continue with what they started with this project.

     Play the game here [ Minor Steps ]

1.05.2016

Koi: Journey of Purity: Short Review

     At first glance Koi appears to be a game about tranquility and peace.  Finding harmony by helping other koi to freedom and going from pool to pool blooming flowers in an attempt to brighten a dimming world.  But the Zen-focused puzzles here are subject to a couple very dark influences seeping into the waters, leaving the beautiful music and visuals to be marred by something sinister.


     The darkness is partly from some carnivorous fish you encounter, but much more so is the real trouble in the game- the horrendously sluggish controls.  They are tremendously clumsy and awful, and it makes the game extremely frustrating when the giant black fish can dart through the water while you helplessly flounder to get away.  The lack of a map or zoom features mean you can't truly plan alternative paths to avoid them either, as by the time one spots you, there's only a couple seconds to react, and of course, that isn't even half enough time to get your koi remotely out of the way.  Even attempting to steer around the other koi to their necessary destinations is a pain, because they seem to get caught on everything in the way and lodged in odd places while following you and meandering all over the place.  There problems inject a lot of stress into a game meant to be a relaxing aquatic experience.

     Due to the ultimately failing response times for movement, plodding your way through the story's lengthy levels (yes there is a small bit of story here) is a task only for the supremely patient.  If the controls were more responsive, the game could've been a lot more tolerable, but the lack of balance between enemy speed and movement speed is disastrous here.  It's the equivalent of trying to rake a Zen Garden while being followed by an angry 5 year old kicking and stomping their way through the sand.  This Koi is, sadly, one that should be flushed with all the World's dead goldfish stores to that great bowl in the sky.

1.04.2016

Murder: The Shortest Cyber-Punk Mystery & Review Ever

What's the Point...   & Click?


     As a game goes, Murder barely counts.  I got more interaction watching House, M.D. on DVD by pressing play between each episode than I did playing this.  In reality, I would've much rather have paid 99¢ to watch this as a small cyberpunk short film instead.  There's a few decent characters, the voice acting was good, and it presents a beautifully rendered world with its Neo Tokyo, evoking a sense of the dark and gritty realms we've come to know from the genre.  But that's where the good ends.

     Making the lack of interactivity worse is the threadbare plot and it's 20 minute play time.  The plot isn't remotely new if you've ever seen anything like I, Robot- based, very loosely, on the book of the same name by the great Isaac Asimov- but it is an age-old sci-fi staple so worn and predictable that I had an idea of how it was going to end even before pressing start.  There's apparently nothing new in Neo Tokyo.  No new philosophic thoughts, no new take on artificial intelligence, and when Peter Moorhead claimed he was sticking to the hard-boiled influences of cyberpunk masters Masamune Shirow and Katsuhiro Otomo, I thought he was going to use more than just the leftover bits of shell.  The whole last third of the game is nearly the same as the second, and felt like it was added on merely to stretch the run time out just a bit longer.

     As it is, Murder seems like it should've been used as the opener for a full game.  Normally I wouldn't complain about a game's brevity, in this case, it's the video game equivalent of a flash fiction story, but there is not only nothing to the story in Murder, there really isn't much game to it either.  Both aspects are as shallow as could be here making it seem like the skeleton of something much larger.  You'll get more action and entertainment out of physically turning the pages of one of Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell graphic novels, or hell, even tapping the screen of an E-book of one, so go read one of those instead.  At least those stories are truly fleshed out and far more interesting to read.