Real Shanghai Mahjong Featured

Real Shanghai Mahjong Review

Developer: Smilkobuta Publisher: Smilkobuta Platform: Mobile – Amazon, Android Mahjong is a game of skill that usually has multiple players and utilizes tiles with text or graphics on them. However, in the West many people know of mahjong as a tile-matching […]

Infamous Quests Featured

Quest for Infamy Review

Developer: Infamous Quests Publisher: Phoenix Online Publishing Platform: PC – Steam Of all the classic adventure games of yore, the Quest for Glory series is remembered fondly by many. I was indeed a member of team Sierra in the past but […]

RUSH Featured

RUSH Review

Developer: Two Tribes Publisher: Two Tribes Platform: PC – Steam Puzzle games are both my favorite and least favorite genre. There are always excellent titles to choose from, but some just end up being too convoluted. I wasn’t sure what to […]

Sudokuball Detective Featured

Sudokuball Detective Review

Developer: Witan Entertainment Publisher: Libredia Platform: DS, PC – Amazon, Steam Wii Sudoku is a game I enjoy playing because it only requires one player and is a good time-waster. It was the concept of Sudoku being paired with a […]

Fist of Awesome Featured

Fist of Awesome Review

Developer: I Fight Bears Publisher: I Fight Bears Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS, Ouya PC – Humble Store, Steam For better or for worse, sidescrolling beat ‘em ups have mostly disappeared from the modern gaming landscape. It’s up to indie […]

 

Real Shanghai Mahjong Review

Real Shanghai Mahjong Featured

Real Shanghai Mahjong Logo

Developer: Smilkobuta
Publisher: Smilkobuta
Platform: Mobile – Amazon, Android

Mahjong is a game of skill that usually has multiple players and utilizes tiles with text or graphics on them. However, in the West many people know of mahjong as a tile-matching game. I enjoy tile-matching myself since the actual rules of mahjong are beyond me. So, we’ve got to get this out of the way first: Real Shanghai Mahjong is not “real” mahjong.

Real Shanghai Mahjong is another tile-matching game. However, unlike some, it’s got a sense of progression. There are six stages and each has ten mahjong boards to clear. Puzzles start off very easy and progress in difficulty. At the start you just need to match and things almost always turn out well. Once you get to later stages simply matching the first tiles you see likely won’t work out.

Real Shanghai Mahjong Featured

While playing you learn to think more than one step ahead, as well as strategically whittle away at tile piles. Some are simple but the further you get the more extravagant the layout becomes. This is important because players can only match open titles (tiles with at least one side not touched by other pieces). Although I played on a 7″ tablet, some elaborate designs were too small. I would have appreciated the option to zoom in. Finally, why is there no background music at all?

There also isn’t much to do once you beat all the stages. Yes, there is an online leaderboard (which requires registration) and local board but neither entice me. It also took around four hours to finish. That’s not bad if you only play briefly every week but there’s still not much replay value. Real Shanghai Mahjong might be fibbing with its name but there’s still enjoyment to be had playing it.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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Sakura Spirit May Have Opened the Gates for Eroge on Steam

Steam Eroge Games

From my North American perspective, video games (and all media to an extent) are bracketed by ridiculous notions of “maturity.” For some reason, it has become acceptable and expected that young children can view depictions of violence in games. Parents may not like it so much, but they buy their kids games like Call of Duty anyway. However, show one scantily-clad character or make one heavy-handed sexual euphemism and the content inexplicably becomes more “adult” than seeing a character’s head bursting open with sickening detail in slow motion.

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Loot Crate Review – Villains

Loot Crate July 2014 Villains

I love [thing] of the month clubs. Unfortunately, I”ve never had the disposable income to really dive into any! Since my initial searches for subscription boxes it seems that a whole host of far cooler ones have launched. There are lovely things like OyatsuBox for Japanese snacks, IndieBox for boxed indie games, and Loot Crate which touts a box full of geeky goodness each month.

Luckily for me and my wallet, I was given the chance to review July’s Loot Crate! Each month is themed in some way and this one focused on villains. Considering I’ve always had a fondness for the baddies in games, comics, movies, and all that this was definitely a good starting crate for me.

So, what was inside the box?! As it turns out, a whole heap of stuff despite the relatively small form factor of Loot Crate’s box. My eyes were immediately drawn to Deadpool socks because, well, Deadpool. After that I quickly spied a shirt depicting a mashup of Joker and Loki. A small poster was also rolled up which begged for its immediate unfurling. In fact, it was two posters (featuring Joker and Harley Quinn) with extremely high quality artwork.

Of course, Loot Crate’s July box still held more goodies. Next I noticed the smaller things such as a pin, Darth Vader keychain, Bowser magnet (which was immediately put to use), and DVD for the documentary Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics. Considering I love “unique” documentaries it was a huge surprise to be handed one I’d never heard of before! The most surprising (and impressive) inclusion for July’s set though was definitely the Rocket Raccoon issue #1 comic with Loot Crate-exclusive variant cover. I appreciated that it even came bagged and backed.

Even though I’m not a big comic book lover I could tell that this selection of goodies was pretty darn excellent considering the price of a Loot Crate ($13.37). I mean, if nothing else, fun graphic T-shirts tend to cost $10 at the low end of things. So to get a whole host of fun knick-knacks, a documentary, and comic makes the subscription box seem very worth it. Honestly, now I’m tempted to subscribe just to get a new set of surprise “gifts” once a month! Even if it turns out I don’t adore every themed box I can always share the goodies with friends who do. Loot Crate seems like an excellent deal for people who love geeky media or have someone in their lives who does.

The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection is Free on Origin!

The Sims 2 Ultimate Edition is Free

The Sims 2 Ultimate Edition is Free

Okay, so, Origin is not my favorite digital distributor. In fact, it probably isn’t even on my top five list! I know this is the case for many people out there thanks to EA’s image problem as well as simply not wanting another Steam-like program on their computer. All the same, they’ve been trying hard to push Origin as a viable platform…

Case in point, The Sims 2 Ultimate Collection is currently a free download for anyone with an Origin account. Users who already had any version of The Sims 2 associated to their accounts will have already received the upgrade. However, all of us can benefit from the deal. Simply follow these rules if you’re running the Origin client or head to this link in your browser and use the code I-LOVE-THE-SIMS. Just note that this promotion ends on July 31st at 10AM PST.

Why is this a big deal when The Sims 2 is a ten-year old game? Well, The Sims has always had a special place in my heart since the original game launched. It quickly became my most-played PC game. Of course, this became an issue once I discovered mods and tied up the phone line continuously when browsing mod sites!

Although my favorite game of the series is The Sims, The Sims 2 is a pretty excellent game as well. In fact, I prefer it in almost every way to The Sims 3 (although 3 has nicer-looking mods). 2 brought in some new systems while still retaining the classic formula which helped the game become even easier to play daily. By 3′s release, it felt to me that there was too much going on.

If you have never played a Sims game then 2 is a great place to start. Considering there are zillions of Expansion and Stuff packs for The Sims 2 (all included in the Ultimate Collection) this is an incredible deal – even though you have to suffer downloading Origin to use it.

Quest for Infamy Review

Infamous Quests Featured

Quest for Infamy Logo

Developer: Infamous Quests
Publisher: Phoenix Online Publishing
Platform: PC – Steam

Of all the classic adventure games of yore, the Quest for Glory series is remembered fondly by many. I was indeed a member of team Sierra in the past but somehow completely missed out on the entire series. Quest for Infamy definitely comes from a similar design mindset and as such is immediately liked by fans. But what of someone like me who has no built-in nostalgia for the Quest games?

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RUSH Review

RUSH Featured

RUSH Logo

Developer: Two Tribes
Publisher: Two Tribes
Platform: PC – Steam

Puzzle games are both my favorite and least favorite genre. There are always excellent titles to choose from, but some just end up being too convoluted. I wasn’t sure what to expect from RUSH since people don’t really talk about it… After playing it for hours I don’t understand how it was overlooked.

RUSH starts off simply. The basic gameplay concept boils down to making colored blocks reach a destination of the same color. Each block moves across a 3D cube surface and its path is controlled by signs. Signs allow players to make them move up, down, left, right, pause, and the like. If a block hits a wall it will always turn right and continue trekking along.

Tutorials explain all these rules of block locomotion. As you progress through other puzzles harder difficulties eventually open up. Puzzles are a ton of fun because each has its own design with the 3D cubes. Some look like mazes and one even looked like a big crocodile head! I really enjoyed the simple visual aesthetic of the game. Unfortunately, there is no zoom function so sometimes the camera can’t be placed just where you need it.

RUSH Featured

The soundtrack in RUSH is phenomenal. It sounds like nothing I’d ever expect from a puzzle game which makes it all the more memorable. Perhaps jamming to the tracks helps my mind better process puzzles? In any case, when something is tough just call upon a hint or two. One hint option shows whether signs are in the right spot or not. The second hint does that but also highlights where additional signs must go. Of course, it’s up to you to decipher which signs specifically go where.

Playing RUSH is not without moments of frustration but fun definitely overpowers it. A few tweaks could have made the game even greater but as it stands more people simply must nab RUSH.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Sudokuball Detective Review

Sudokuball Detective Featured

Sudokuball Detective Boxart

Developer: Witan Entertainment
Publisher: Libredia
Platform: DS, PC – Amazon, Steam Wii

Sudoku is a game I enjoy playing because it only requires one player and is a good time-waster. It was the concept of Sudoku being paired with a story that intrigued me into trying Sudokuball Detective. In it, you play as a detective invited to a party. Suddenly, one of the party-goers dies! As the resident detective you must solve the mystery.

Now, I jumped into this game for the story but found myself unable to pay attention to it. It falls into much of the trappings you expect from an upper class murder (hint: it has something to do with inheritance money). Story segments appear between each puzzle and sometimes tweak how puzzles function slightly.

For example, if a suspect runs from you your goal is to solve only the squares on the board with red footprints on them. Similarly, you may need to unlock something before people stumble upon you. At this point you must solve specific spots before time runs out. Timers really hurt the experience because I don’t like to feel rushed when solving a puzzle. It’s much more my style to carefully check over each square rather than jamming through with partial guesses.

Sudokuball Detective Featured

Sudokuball Detective’s rendition of Sudoku is also harmed by not allowing players to mark squares with possible values. This is another favorite strategy of mine and useful to keep from rechecking the same spots multiple times. Although this is a video game there’s also no hint function or error check until you complete one of the nine main squares.

Oh, and we haven’t gone into the whole “Sudokuball” aspect yet. For whatever reason there are multiple Sudoku games plastered on a sphere. The execution is a bit rough as sometimes you can’t fully see numbers near the rounded edges. On a personal level I also found it hard to quickly read lines and would sometimes get them wrong because of the curve. Sudokuball Detective is a fresh take on Sudoku but it fails to be much fun.


Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas


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Fist of Awesome Review

Fist of Awesome Featured

Fist of Awesome Logo

Developer: I Fight Bears
Publisher: I Fight Bears
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS, Ouya PC – Humble Store, Steam

For better or for worse, sidescrolling beat ‘em ups have mostly disappeared from the modern gaming landscape. It’s up to indie developers to keep the genre alive with unique twists. Fist of Awesome attempts to reinvigorate audiences by punching intelligent future/past bears. It’s weird, wacky, and fairly short but a neat little brawler.

The star of Fist of Awesome is lumberjack Tim Burr (yep!). Things start out all lovely with his flannel-clad family celebrating something or other when things go completely wrong. Suddenly, Tim is alone and his fist has grown in size and begun talking to him. This apparent future fist explains that the present has been destroyed by time-travelling causing bears to take over the world. How can you set thing straight? Just punch all the bears!

Fist of Awesome Featured

Fighting is incredibly simplistic. You can kick, punch, jump (kick), and a teensy bit more. By holding down on punch you charge a special fist attack. There is an upgrade system in place but increasing your attack or speed doesn’t change much. All in all, levels blend together really quickly as you rarely need to switch from rapidly pressing the punch button. You pound on groupings of bears before reaching a boss. Each stage is short which means the game takes under two hours to beat. After that, you can try out arena mode or a harder difficulty.

As simple as the fighting mechanic is I had fun trying to punch and kick my way through each chapter. I appreciated the lanky pixel art and definitely enjoyed the soundtrack. Fist of Awesome is definitely a simple game and as such may be better purchased on Android or iOS for $3.99. That way you can get your bear-punching on the go and at a lower price!


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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The Child-Like Terror of Among the Sleep

Among the Sleep Featured

Among the Sleep Featured

Among the Sleep is a horror game that was Kickstarted to the tune of $248,358 in 2013. The funding campaign hooked me with the game’s unique premise of playing as a toddler. Although I don’t feel the game reaches as far as my hopes did, it certainly succeeded at being terrifying in a very unique fashion.

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Z Review

Z Featured

Z Logo

Developer: The Bitmap Brothers, TickTock Games
Publisher: KISS ltd, Kavcom
Platform: PC – GOGSteam

I got my first taste of real-time strategy gaming early in life. Since then I’ve sampled a great many titles in the genre but somehow never played Z by The Bitmap Brothers. This re-release changes things. After finally playing it I’m sad to have missed it back in 1996.

Z is an odd game where two factions of robots (red and blue) fight for supremacy and control of a planet. The odd factor comes in thanks to the storyline depicting the main robots as Wayne’s World-style goofballs. It definitely feels a bit dated, but a bit charming as well.

Gameplay also feels unique when compared to other RTSes. For one, you don’t create new buildings. Instead you must reach and control the existing buildings across each map. Of course, the enemy can take them from you if you’re not careful. The same holds true for vehicles which sit unmanned until someone claims them. The concept takes a while to get used to but works well. My history with Command & Conquer games also made the control scheme a bit difficult to grasp at first. It seems this is a holdover from the iOS release.

Z Featured

Each stage introduces new facets of gameplay depth to players. For one there are a great variety of deployable robots (grunts, snipers, etc) who all have advantages and disadvantages. Then there are little things like blowing up bridges for strategic purposes. Of course, there’s also just a lot of fun nuance to tipping the odds in your favor. Z is pretty tough though, even on easy.

One thing The Bitmap Brothers have always gotten just right are the graphics. All of their titles have incredibly good-looking pixel art. Z’s battlefields look far nicer than many modern pixelated games. It appears that the remake has not tampered with the graphics much beyond the GUI to accommodate HD monitors (unfortunately there are no resolution options!). The music is another high point, although the voice samples show their age.

Its rare that games nearly 20 years old hold up so well without a heavy dose of nostalgia to go with them. I hold no fond memories of Z and yet it proves to be an astonishingly good RTS title in 2014 save for its unusual control scheme. It’s a shame there’s no multiplayer because this seems perfect for playing against friends.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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