Posts Tagged ‘2013’

MURI Review

MURI Featured

MURI Logo

Developer: Ludosity, Remar Games
Publisher: Ludosity, Remar Games
Platform: PC – Steam

Although my first computer was an Apple IIe, some of my fondest memories came after obtaining a magnificent machine running Windows 95. It was then that I gained a taste for rip-offs of more popular games. I didn’t play DOOM –  I had Chex Quest. I didn’t play Command & Conquer but took up 7th Legion instead. In any case, even these titles were fairly similar to what they duplicated. MURI, a modern shooter evoking a retro aesthetic, brings me right back to my youth.

The game is most comparable to titles such as the original Duke Nukem and Commander Keen. In MURI, you play as a scientist and mother named Adwoa. She has just helped design a new and powerful armored suit, but this causes unrest. Suddenly, as Mars disappears, everyone dons their suits and engages in battle. Although the story isn’t particularly deep, it was really cool to see Adwoa as the lead.

As would be expected from a retro PC game, it is a 2D platformer and shooter. There are four stages in all and you must work through them to find the exits. Of course, enemies dot the landscape and hardly want to let anyone pass. By default, the gun is rather weak, but this all changes upon grabbing power-ups. Goodies like “Mega” grant powerful homing bullets while “MKV” spews bullets out in a fan shape. Despite the simplistic play, it is a ton of fun.

MURI Screenshot

However, modern players might be fussed by MURI’s slow controls. This is because the game can run at 16FPS – an atrocity in this age. Personally, I really dug it but it’s easy to see why this could bug people. For one, it is harder to switch directions and time dodges as well. If this is an issue for you, simply switch to the turbo mode which brings the framerate up to 32. With that framerate selected the game moves far smoother.

Attention to retro detail wasn’t just provided in gameplay style and framerate. The visuals and audio also stand up to a DOS feel. The colors and blocky pixels feel directly out of the era. This definitely isn’t a game simply using the term “retro” wildly. Research was obviously done to make the color palettes as accurate as possible. Similarly, the sound attempts to emulate PC speaker sound. Yep, in all its blaring glory. It wasn’t annoying to me but there is an option to turn the sound off if need be.

MURI comes with multiple difficulty selections meaning most will be able to beat it. Playing on easy took me under two hours to complete, but normal took a little longer. I’ve yet to try the next difficulties but they are likely a far greater challenge. After all, the game’s name does translate to “impossible”. All in all, MURI was a tremendously fun experience and I just wish there were more levels to play. Maybe if I send a letter to the developer they’ll mail me a floppy with more?


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Two Brothers Review

Two Brothers Featured

Two Brothers Boxart

Developer: Ackk Studios
Publisher: Ackk Studios
Platform: PC – Steam

Late last year, Ackk Studios came to Kickstarter in an attempt to finish their game. Two Brothers showed a great deal of promise with a GameBoy-inspired aesthetic and not only reached its goal but more than doubled it. A little over a year later the game has finally arrived on Steam (with digital console versions arriving later on).

The story starts out like many others in gaming history. We are greeted to a couple who are explorers. Apparently married and happily in love, things are going swimmingly until the klutz of a husband steps on a trap. The wife dies, but it isn’t long before the husband joins her. Except he can’t – he wakes up in a strange alternate world. There are colors here (instead of the green/black style of GameBoy)! Apparently, it isn’t his time to die yet. He cannot rejoin with his wife and must return to living. This is just the first inkling that Two Brothers is doing something different.

It continues to slowly be ushered in during play. The game itself feels like it would be right at home on a handheld. Although it isn’t a perfect recreation of GameBoy technology, it does capture the feel. When playing in its native resolution the game is incredibly tiny (although, I think a little larger than the size of GB screens). Exploring through the top-down landscape, helping townsfolk, and fighting enemies are all handled well.

Two Brothers Screenshot

But there are little things that seem “off” in regarding this as a classic-style game. For one, there’s the story which utilizes death in an unusual fashion. In most games, when you die you get a game over screen or go back to a checkpoint. Here, you go back to this colorful and strange land above the clouds. If someone has died, you might even find them there to talk to. Another odd little touch is the health restoring hearts. These things actually look like real human beating hearts!

Two Brothers is an expansive experience that touches on The Legend of Zelda without stepping directly on its toes. This is quite impressive considering how many games do fail to be different from their subject material. That’s not to say this is a wholly new experience, but it is certainly refreshing. Give Two Brothers a look if you still wish Nintendo were making GameBoy titles instead of their fancy new 3D things.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Stick It To The Man! Vita Review

Stick It To The Man Featured

Stick It To The Man Logo

Developer: Zoink!
Publisher: Ripstone
Platform: PC – Steam PSN – PS3, Vita

“Stick it to the man” is a phrase I don’t think I’ve ever heard used in a serious context. The Man, of course, is meant to be big government or any sort of authority figure. In the case of Stick It To The Man!, there is actually someone called The Man and he’s coming for Ray. Ray’s story begins on the way home from work. Everything is going fine until a secret government weapon flying overhead crashes directly on top of him. Ray doesn’t die but he does end up with this weird thing lodged in his brain. Now, Ray has got a noodly pink arm coming out of his head and it can read people’s minds.

As you might have already guessed, this is quite the silly game. Ray isn’t particularly adept at anything himself. Instead, the hand is used to interact with the world. After reading thoughts, puzzles are revealed. Sometimes, people even conjure up images in their mind for Ray to take in the form of a sticker. Here’s where the name mainly comes in, as these stickers must then be used to solve other people’s troubles. Removing and applying stickers is the main goal, although there are “stealth” sections as well.

Stick It To The Man Screenshot

There are times when The Man’s goons are on patrol on platforms. Your goal is to make it through without getting nabbed along the way. Although it seems simple enough, there is a lot of room for failure. On the Vita, you are supposed to be able to touch strategically placed pins so the hand will grab them and drag Ray safely along. Perfect timing is necessary because these areas are often cramped, meaning bad guys might be only an arm’s length away. Unfortunately, more often than not I found myself pressing the touch screen directly over a pin but the touch wouldn’t register. This caused many frustrating deaths. Although there are ways to make these sections easier (via sticker usage) I still found them harder due to technical troubles.

If you ignore those sections though there is definitely a lot to dig about Stick It To The Man! First, there is the world. Everything is done up to look like cardboard cutouts. Buildings and other features look simply like sharpie drawings and it is very cool. On the Vita the graphics shine and it seems they look even better on PS3. Stages have their own style and it’s a lot of fun to see what the world has in store for you.

Then there’s the writing. I won’t say the story is fantastic, because it’s still a pretty simple “go from point Y to Z – oh, and save your girlfriend” affair. What does stand out is the script for all the characters Ray comes across in the game. Each expresses their problems mentally with ridiculous candor. There were a multitude of times that I just had to stifle laughs at something a character had said. Many games try to be funny, but it’s hard to actually find one that is.

Stick It To The Man Featured

Of course, not everything is perfect. One of the strangest aspects of Stick It To The Man! is how much of a dark comedy it turns out to be. Despite having stickers and a pink noodly appendage on his head, Ray meets with primarily unhappy individuals. Many begrudge their horrendous life circumstances, poor jobs, lost loves, and more. Sure, many characters have positive conclusions, but the path to them can be quite awkward.

All in all, Stick It To The Man! is a fairly fun, but flawed experience. The weird sometimes non-functioning of the Vita touchpad is the biggest strike against it. Even so, some have complained about the PS3 version accidentally targeting the wrong objects. Perhaps the PC version will be the best way to play? In any case, check Stick It To The Man! out if you have three to five hours to kill and don’t mind putting up with a few technical snafus. The writing and attractive visuals definitely make up for it.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Savant – Ascent Review

Savant - Ascent Featured

Savant - Ascent Boxart

Developer: D-Pad Studio
Publisher: D-Pad Studio
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – Direct, GamersGate, Steam

Usually, when musical artists venture into the world of video games the results are, well, not so great. There are such “classics” as the Make My Video series on Sega CD featuring INXS, Kriss Kross, and Marky Mark. Then there are more modern but equally unusual titles such as 50 Cent’s shooters. Those who recognize SAVANT as a musician might fear the same fate for Savant – Ascent. Thankfully, his input didn’t create some ego-stroking game-based catastrophe.

Savant – Ascent is a 2D shooter with a bit of a twin stick vibe even though that’s not really the case. On each stage you control Savant and must shoot up enemies that come at him from all angles. However, stages are quite small. Instead of running around you simply dodge left, right, or jump. Shooting is controlled via mouse or a controller’s analog stick. Sometimes, baddies will explode and leave a CD piece behind. Collecting and completing the four CDs grants Savant upgrades.

Upgrades are incredibly useful and basically necessary to beat the game. Therefore, you’ll probably spend a lot of the first stage trying to collect them. Savant – Ascent is pretty fast paced so it won’t take long. The most useful upgrades for me were the first and third, as they allowed for an extra powerful shot and markers for incoming enemies respectively. One negative thing is that it can be hard to notice the enemy notifications and sometimes there are none if the game thinks you already see the approaching attack.

Savant - Ascent Featured

So basically, this is quite a tough experience. Even after obtaining all upgrades there’s still a degree of skill (or just plain persistence) required to win. But doing so doesn’t take very long at all. There are three quite cool stages and a cool two-part boss fight… And that’s all. Completing the story mode took under an hour and that’s coming from someone who is not particularly skillful with most games. Yes, there is a time trial and endless mode, and Savant – Ascent is based on scoring, but it’s still quite short. When you factor in the price – $1.99 – it seems far more sensible.

Although the game has fully launched on PC there are some issues that need addressing. For one, having an Xbox 360 controller plugged in at launch causes issues with keyboard and mouse control. All you have to do is unplug it if you wish to use them, but the simple error is unfortunate. There was also a time when I received a “fatal error” upon barely starting a level and had to quit the game entirely. Blemishes like these are far from game-breaking but will definitely turn some people from it before even playing.

Interestingly, D-Pad Studios have committed to providing more stages and music in the future at no extra cost. If this turns out to be true then it’ll be a great way to enhance the value. As it stands, the current music is a lot of fun even if you’re not a SAVANT fan. Similarly, the visuals are crisp although I have to wonder if the final boss design was wise. As it stands, Savant – Ascent is a brief, but entertaining little game. If it can be spruced up to fix a couple of errors and see new content then it will definitely be worth returning to.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Girls’ Fashion Shoot Review

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Developer: Alchemist
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Platform: 3DS

I was excited about trying out Girls’ Fashion Shoot. I had tons of fun with Style Savvy and its sequel, and Girls’ Fashion Shoot looked to be more of the same fabulousness that anyone would be able to enjoy.

As the name implies, Girls’ Fashion Shoot is a fashion game. You can play dress-up, do modeling, and edit a fashion magazine. There are hundreds of clothes and accessories, too, so the possible combinations of outfits are endless. Unfortunately, it’s not exciting whatsoever and becomes boring almost immediately.

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To progress in Girls’ Fashion Shoot, you must complete all the jobs at Rising Star Magazine headquarters that are offered to you each month. This usually entails you composing an outfit that matches a certain theme. Other tasks include designing nails. Whatever you end up having to do, it results in posing for a photo shoot that will go on a magazine cover that you must arrange as well. It is the same process each time, with your boss saying the same sentences each time.

There’s very little to do when you want to get away from your monotonous work life. You can buy new clothes and makeup, learn new poses to use in photo shoots, or get your nails and hair done. Not very appealing, huh? There’s not even very many hair styles or makeup options, either.

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Girls’ Fashion Shoot is definitely the sort of game that is marketed towards young girls. Unfortunately, it has no redeeming features. Everything that it offers, Style Savvy: Trendsetters does better.


Pink Score: 1.51 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Race the Sun Review

Race the Sun Featured

Race the Sun Boxart

Developer: Flippfly
Publisher: Flippfly
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*

Although I enjoy racing games, it’s pretty safe to say that the genre is usually pretty stagnant. Instead of innovation, the focus tends to be on continually improving graphics. That’s why Race the Sun is such a refreshing experience. At its core it is a racer, but an incredibly unique one.

Race the Sun has players controlling a sleek, solar-powered craft. It has wings, which allows you to glide at times, and a lot of possible upgrades. The goal is to race as long as possible before the sun goes down. Of course, this is an inevitability, so the real fun comes in trying to prolong the light a little more each race. This is accomplished via pickups on the playing field, which can reverse the sun’s descent, speed you up, and the like.

There are no other players to race against in the main mode, although there is asynchronous co-op and leaderboards to place on.  Basically, it’s just your craft alone in a host of procedurally generated levels. Getting used to the specifics of each level is exciting, and you’ll never be able to master them, as main stages change every day. Featured user levels also switch out regularly.

Race the Sun Featured

Playing is a very simplistic but entertaining experience as you glide your craft gracefully (or not) through obstacles. At full charge, you’ll be speeding along and hoping that your skills are enough to avoid crashes. The visuals and soundtrack help make Race the Sun less stressful, as well. It looks futuristic, which appeals to me. Then there is the music which is quite soothing. With these elements combined, it is more enticing to continue coming back into a stage for one more try.

Of course, this compulsion is also aided by a checklist of tasks to complete. Do well, and new levels and items are unlocked. This manages to be one of the best and most cumbersome design choices for the game. While some tasks are easy to complete, others will remain locked on your screen a while because of their difficulty. Not completing them keeps new features hidden, and that is annoying.

While Race the Sun excels at simplicity, it is this minimalist tone that may be viewed as a “lack of content” to some. However, that’s absolutely the wrong way to approach it. Sure, there are not hundreds of levels to choose from right out of the gate. But there are infinitely many stages available since they are updated daily. There is a devoted fanbase already involved with the game, and there will only be more once this Greenlight success finally launches on Steam.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Farming Simulator Review

Farming Simulator Featured

Farming Simulator Boxart

Developer: Giants Software
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360

I do not long for a farming lifestyle. It seems like an incredible amount effort against increasing odds. Still, I’ve always had a taste for pretending to farm in video games. SimFarm was my first experience with the subject and ended up being a long time favorite. Farming Simulator is a sim I’ve been interested in trying out but never got around to. That is, until the multiplatform console launch.

Farming Simulator is a fairly complex game. That’s why it is highly recommended you check out the multiple tutorials first. Each details how to use various different farm vehicles to tend to crops. Then, you can see how to deposit your crop as well as purchase new seeds from the store. It’s even possible to buy a shiny new truck or livestock! You’ll get all the basics down and then be free to roam.

Farming Simulator Featured

Once in-game, missions will pop up from time to time. Each mission can be accepted or turned down, but you want to accept them whenever possible. The problem I found when taking on new missions was that there was still a lot about Farming Simulator I wasn’t sure of. Where exactly were the buildings that supply crops or livestock? You basically have to commit it to memory since the map doesn’t actually show the names of buildings. As this is a farm we’re dealing with, there is a lot of space to cover to check on buildings. You can quickly warp to different vehicles but you don’t really want one always parked by an important store because then you’d never be able to take it out and use it!

It’s also one heck of a rough-looking title. At least the game is about farming and not something that would require fancier graphics. The GUI is also a bit mucky, although it does have one important feature. The top of the screen shows what button presses can be used within a vehicle. This is necessary because controls vary from vehicle to vehicle, because they each have different jobs to perform.

Farming Simulator can manage to be a fun, zen-like experience but players must be invested enough to get to that point. I was somewhere in the middle. It’s neat to manage my own farm but less so when everything has such a leisurely pace. I guess I wasn’t cut out to be a farmer.


Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender Review

Aqua Kitty - Milk Mine Defender Featured

Aqua Kitty - Milk Mine Defender Boxart

Developer: Tikipod
Publisher: Tikipod
Platform: PC – Desura, GOG* PS Vita – PSN Xbox 360 – XBLIG

One of the first video games that ever hooked me as a child was Seaquest for the Atari 2600. It basically placed players in control of a submarine that had to ferry divers to the surface. However, sea creatures would attack the people first if you couldn’t get to them in time. It still stands as one of my favorite games. This is relevant because Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender by Tikipod reminded me of those past experiences. They created a similar, but far more engaging, title.

Aqua Kitty situates players in a world where kitties are in desperate need of milk. They’re not just our pets, but instead seem to have taken the place of humans. The top feline scientists have found milk within the Earth and you are now part of the crew who is harvesting it in the oceans. There’s only one problem – tons of weird, robotic fish are trying to stop the harvesting effort! As one or two cats (in two player co-op), you run around in a submarine trying to keep the crew safe from the malevolent bots.

Each level has at least one kitty to protect. If weird UFO-like robots get to it, they’ll slowly abduct it away until you can’t save them. The game would be super easy if that’s all you had to contend with, but each stage ups the ante with more fish/robot types to stand in the way. Some bounce and shoot while others act as shields. Things quickly become hectic, but thankfully, the play screen isn’t that large. It simply scrolls horizontally and you loop back to the other side after reaching the end of the screen.

Aqua Kitty - Milk Mine Defender Featured

A little radar maps sits at the top of the screen to keep you alerted to when UFO ships are coming. However, it’s very easy to feel overrun by other enemies and completely miss that a UFO has arrived. That’s when audio cues come in, as the kitty researches will make a distressed mew upon being captured. Rush back and save them if you can! Aqua Kitty quickly becomes a very frantic game, even when playing on easy mode. The high difficulty might make the game impossible to finish for some players (try co-op to alleviate some challenge).

The visuals are another high point. They evoke retro games but also have enough style to be obviously modern. Of course, the pixellated kitties are incredibly adorable as well. Music in the game seems inspired from Commodore 64 greats, which I appreciated quite a bit. As a whole, Aqua Kitty – Milk Mine Defender is a great, well-put together shooter. It’s a little short, but considering its origins on XBLIG and PS Mobile, that is forgivable.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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The Shivah: Kosher Edition Review

The Shivah: Kosher Edition Featured

The Shivah Boxart

Developer: Wadjet Eye Games
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Platform: Mobile – iOS PC – Direct, GOG*, Steam

A “shivah” is a period of mourning observed by people of the Jewish faith. Those outside of the religion may have at least heard the term “sitting shivah” before. In any case, as might be expected, this is a game about death and mourning. But it’s also a tale of questioning God and the concepts surrounding faith to begin with. All told, The Shivah: Kosher Edition is one of the more interesting point and click adventure games I’ve played.

The story starts us off in Rabbi Stone’s synagogue. The place is a tiny room, the walls are cracked, and there is barely anyone left attending. His debts are high and if things don’t change the synagogue will have to close down. Things aren’t looking good for Stone until he receives word a past congregation member left him a great deal of money in their will. But why – and how – did he die?

The Shivah: Kosher Edition Featured

Stone can’t just take the money and run. He knows that this person would have never given him money because they parted on very heated and hateful terms. This is where players take over as they try to discover the reasons. It only takes an hour or two, but this cuts out the standard fluff of adventure games. You don’t have to combine millions of objects just to see if one works, or engage in pointless banter with nonsense characters. All that is here is what’s needed and that makes for a very streamlined experience.

This version is a remake of The Shivah, which was Wadjet Eye Games’ first project in 2006. It has enhanced visuals as well as a new soundtrack. There are no new decision points though, which could have been neat. The voice acting is fine although it betrays the less-than-perfect recording conditions at times. Even though it is a compact experience, The Shivah: Kosher Edition gets you involved quickly. There need to be more stories told like this in gaming. We have no reason to restrict ourselves to the drab, dull, and expected.


Score: 4
4 out of 5 alpacas


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The Guided Fate Paradox Review

The Guided Fate Paradox Featured

The Guided Fate Paradox Boxart

Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PS3

One of the most popular storytelling ideas for fantasy games is that a young person is somehow divinely selected as the world’s savior. Of course, as long as the title provides entertainment, then it doesn’t matter how the plot itself is constructed. The Guided Fate Paradox gives us a very different take on common tropes. Protagonist Renya is indeed a young man, but he is chosen for a much greater role. For whatever reason, he has been chosen to become God.

This must be the greatest wish-fulfillment game ever, right? Well, not quite. Despite the incredibly imposing job description, his role is far less powerful than one would expect. God/Renya is not free to do as he wishes but must instead work tirelessly to fulfill the prayers of all living things. Via a machine called the Fate Revolution Circuit, he is able to hone in on specific wishes and make them come true. Said machine generates an alternate reality which can be manipulated by defeating enemies.

The Guided Fate Paradox Screenshot 1

So that’s how they wedge gameplay in with Godly powers. The Fate Revolution Circuit is a dungeon generator! With it, Renya and his angelic partner(s) are able to explore randomly generated dungeons to defeat enemies, level up, and grab loot. The gameplay takes on a distinctly roguelike edge with how it handles leveling up and death. After successful completion of a dungeon, your level returns to 1. However, there is an “overall” leveling system which never resets. If Renya dies, he will be ejected back to the hub with all his items and half his cash destroyed. It’s rough, but dying is definitely part of the picture.

What kind of wishes does God have to answer to anyway? The first chapter starts off in a way that shows every wish is valid, because the wisher is none other than Cinderella! Things get increasingly unusual from there. For all the same-y anime tropes wedged into some characters, other points have much more interesting narrative through-lines. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of The Guided Fate Paradox is how it presents itself. It works hard to look like it panders to fanboys with all women angels dressed in maid outfits from the get go. That, and the 17-year-old hero Renya who begins as nothing other than your “average teenager”. When the plot started to kick into gear I was honestly shocked by how good it turned out to be.

The Guided Fate Paradox Screenshot 2

Earlier I said that the game has a lot of roguelike elements. Don’t let this aspect turn you away, though. It is one of the easiest roguelikes that I’ve played (out of a dozen or so). Although The Guided Fate Paradox is not a breeze, there is a lot put in place to make sure players can make it through the game alive. The only thing that could have been improved was that the “fog of war” on stages gets far too enclosed at points. It is a conceit acknowledged by the game, but left me rushing into the arms of enemies without feeling prepared. This is a relatively small issue, all things considered. Positives of dungeon exploration include cute and/or weird enemy types and creative boss battles.

There is a lot of depth to playing The Guided Fate Paradox and it somehow manages to keep from becoming too complex. Dungeon crawling is a lot of fun, as is slowly revealing the story. The concept behind it sounds supremely goofy, but thankfully the full game reveals far more interesting aspects. The Guided Fate Paradox is a massive, and entertaining, surprise.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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