Posts Tagged ‘2014’

Lexica Review

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Developer: d3t
Publisher: Merge Games
Platform: PC – Steam

Games revolving around creating or uncovering words are usually just my thing. After all, much of my free time is spent reading or writing thanks to a love of written language. That’s why I finally snapped up Lexica, and expected its semi-hybrid of sudoku and Scrabble to be perfect. As it turns out, I am totally awful at playing it.

My struggles come from the design of the game itself, which apparently are not as easily understandable as other word puzzle games that came before. Each stage presents a crossword-looking screen which you fill with letters until words form. However, each letter connects to a specific row, meaning you can’t place a letter anywhere at all. This is what makes it puzzling, as players must logically determine where to slide letters with few overt clues.

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In Lexica’s tutorial you’re basically told that puzzle solutions require word logic. Players themselves need to imagine what words could be made with the given letters and remove certain letter combinations which make absolutely no sense. The concept is very cool, but when given the almost total freedom of a blank board my mind fails to focus. Instead it just makes up words that fit without considering potential ramifications.

So, for me, Lexica is a serious disappointment. I recognize that some folks out there will absolutely adore it, as the challenge is better than most word games. There are 100 puzzles and 3 difficulties in all but chances are only the most diehard fans will see the game through to completion.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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Domestic Dog Simulator Review

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Domestic Dog Simulator Boxart

Developer: Surreal Distractions
Publisher: Surreal Distractions
Platform: PC – Steam, Desura

By now many abhor the “funny simulator” fad in gaming. Well, I’m not! Domestic Dog Simulator is a lovely little title I first discovered via Desura and was very excited to see it hit Steam. Having played again after my first foray a bit ago, some aspects have actually changed! However, the main game is still the same. You still play as a randomly generated doggy trying to survive.

Every time you boot up Domestic Dog Simulator you’re treated to a new alien/robot/whatever dog-like creature. Its goals are simple: Stay fed and hydrated, flea-free, get some exercise, and pee/poop on stuff. As you navigate around the tiny town you’ll discover odd, but cute things. For example, the arcade currently features three games to muck around with. The coolest aspect, however, are the secrets hidden right underneath the surface.

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At first glance it really feels like Domestic Dog Simulator is an incredibly simplistic, repetitive game. It is certainly repetitive in that you need to constantly refill your meters (lest the dog die), but play long enough and you’ll uncover new areas and other great Easter eggs. Achievements offer slight hints for what to do or where to go, if you need it. My biggest complaint is that every time you close the game you’re saying goodbye to that dog and its run. I don’t have the time to sit and game for hours on end!

With that said, the developer has shown that they are still hard at work on Domestic Dog Simulator. No, it’s not in Early Access but Surreal Distractions continues to add and tweak features in response to players. They’ve even addressed the complaint of new dogs on launch and may offer a solution. Controller support is incoming as well which is great considering the current keyboard controls are iffy. Domestic Dog Simulator might be immensely simple, but sometimes that’s exactly what I’m looking for.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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AdVenture Capitalist Review

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Developer: Hyper Hippo Productions
Publisher: Hyper Hippo Productions
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – Steam, Web

 The incremental game genre is super weird to folks who’ve never experienced it firsthand before. Basically, these titles are gaming-ness distilled to a very pure form. In AdVenture Capitalist you’re simply presented with a screen of potential businesses for you to buy out and profit from. The lemonade stand is your first business, but soon enough you’ve moved onto a pizza parlor – and then your own hockey team because why not?

All you do is click the business you wish to buy more of and expend some cash. After owning enough of one the speed at which you receive profits from it increases. Upgrades and managers multiple profits further, leading to eventual profits far surpassing the trillions. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek (and simplified!) version of capitalism but the framing makes more sense than Cookie Clicker at least.

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So basically, AdVenture Capitalist is all about clicking icons every so often, closing the game, and letting it accrue funds overnight and then repeating the procedure. Every so often you’ll even want to reset back to 0 businesses in order to gain angel investors. Angel investors add a 2% bonus apiece each restart which means future playthroughs gain immense amounts of cash faster each time.

This incredibly simplistic format is one which most incremental games thrive on and is definitely a love it or hate it sort of thing. If you enjoyed Cookie Clicker, Clicker Heroes, or Candy Box though it’s worth a download. I don’t find it nearly as charming as my preferred Cookie Clicker (which delves into such wonderfully ridiculous territory), but hey, it’s a free game on Steam for me to indulge on between actually playing games.


Score: 3
3 out of 5 alpacas


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Pixel Puzzles: Japan Review

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Developer: Decaying Logic
Publisher: KISS ltd
Platform: PC – Steam

Back in the day I used to really be into jigsaw puzzles. At one point, it even morphed into an interest in those 3D puzzles before realizing those were completely out of my league. Still, 1,000+ piece puzzles were a great way to unwind and build toward something over a few weeks. Pixel Puzzles: Japan is a digital jigsaw puzzle collection themed around Japan. Each puzzle has a nice Japanese vista, soft background music, and puzzles which increase from small sizes to larger.

Pixel Puzzles: Japan offers 21 puzzles (unlocked by playing from easiest to hardest). Unfortunately, gameplay issues become more apparent as you engage in more difficult puzzles. The main problem is that all puzzle pieces float around in a pond prior to being placed in the puzzle space. Instead of organizing pieces by color as you see fit, you’ll need to do so within the puzzle space (but that small area is quickly filled up and inconvenient).

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Letting pieces drift about is annoying because you may need to search a long time for that “one piece” you know you need. Big blobs of puzzle pieces cluster together as they move, making it harder to find the right thing. Similarly, even after you spot the required piece it’s often challenging to actually grab it – Pixel Puzzles: Japan regularly selects a nearby, but incorrect, piece. Frustration doesn’t even begin to describe my reaction to these common incidents.

And, really, when you’re trying to relax with a jigsaw puzzle frustration should be the last thing on your mind. Pixel Puzzles: Japan is an excellent concept but its execution adds too much unneeded “gameplay” into the picture. I’ve yet to play other Pixel Puzzles games (Birds, UndeadZ) but hopefully future renditions provide more enjoyment.


Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas


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Shovel Knight Review

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Developer: Yacht Club Games
Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Platform:  3DS, Wii U PC – GOG*, Steam

In one of the cuter moments in Kickstarter gaming history, a goofy 2D pixelated platformer by the name of Shovel Knight saw itself funded to 415% of its $75,000 goal. I’d believed the “retro craze” was all over – but gamers proved me wrong! In 2014 Shovel Knight launched and made its way onto many Game of the Year lists. But really, how good could it really be? On the eve of release onto PlayStation platforms I decided it was finally time to give the game a go.

Now, before we get all into this, I do not feel particularly nostalgic about the NES. Instead, my tastes fall more in line with the Atari 2600 – but few folks are capitalizing on that! In any case, Shovel Knight still looks quite a bit like a NES classic and captures much of that same appeal. The platformer is immediately simple to grasp. You’re a blue knight who jumps and hits things with a shovel.

Of course, the game quickly ramps up the difficulty (and ways to play it). After accumulating enough gold you can buy new items and abilities. Or, you can boost the health and magic meters. Gold itself isn’t a scare commodity but upon each death some scatters off in floating money bags. Even so, be careful about reclaiming them the next run as greed can be deadly. For about the first half of the game I found Shovel Knight ridiculously enjoyable.

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Once things really started to ramp up in difficulty I noticed some issues (either with the game or myself!). My Xbox 360 controller didn’t seem to register inputs upon every button press. Sometimes skill usage simply wouldn’t fire off when needed, or Shovel Knight wouldn’t stop his shovel jumping despite me trying to get out of the maneuver. Every so often I couldn’t even get out a swing with a shovel despite having a perfect shot at a boss. Whey’re they’re “authentic” or not, precise controls should have been implemented by Yacht Club Games.

I appreciate what Shovel Knight is going for and wholeheartedly believe they achieved it. From the awesome chiptune soundtrack to lovely pixelated graphics this looks just like a retro game. Then there’s that simplicity of play which helps to emphasize its excellent platforming. The biggest issue simply appears to be controls which were acting up for me on PC. Given perfect control I’d still probably be awful, but at least feel that every death was entirely my fault!


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Freedom Planet Review

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Developer: GalaxyTrail
Publisher: GalaxyTrail
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam

You know, people talk about Sonic the Hedgehog as if it were once a golden standard of 2D platformer. To be fair, the first few titles definitely brought a ton of great gameplay to the table… But they were also incredibly difficult! Freedom Planet is game which completely reveres Sonic, and as such, doesn’t stray far from the formula. You play as one of a team of brightly-colored creatures attempting to collect gems and save the world, all the while going really fast.

Freedom Planet certainly looks the part of a Sega Genesis classic. All the cast members are anthropomorphic animals because “mascots” rule! Enemies are evil because of course they are. Each stage offers copious collectibles and even a few secrets. In keeping with the time, it’s also a very brief game (if you’re skilled). Or, if you’re like me and almost immediately switched to “casual” difficulty.

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My main motivation to swap difficulties was due to a variety of problems inherent with Freedom Planet. The biggest is finicky controls. When playing with my 360 gamepad my character sometimes failed to do as I desired. Instead of jumping up, she’d simply look up. At other times I’d want to jump bouncily from a wall climb only to glide off. This caused tons of problems, especially during boss fights where I’d consistently miss hitting their weak point because of ill-performed jumps.

Another issue is that the game simply overloads itself with enemies later on. Some stages are packed full of monsters and missiles, leaving very little room for error. On the lowest difficulty I safely soaked up tons of hits, at least! Freedom Planet looks fantastic and features a lot of great moments. It just happens to fall into the same trap that Sonic games did of not letting speed be the driving gameplay force. Still, it’s a mostly cool 3 hour ride for those who do appreciate Sonic and its many imitators.


Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Review

Letter Quest Grimm's Journey Featured

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Developer: Digerati Distribution
Publisher: Bacon Bandit Games
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – DirectSteam

Words rule. As someone who writes all the time it makes sense that I’ve got at least a passing interest in the English language. That’s why games like Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey appeal to me most. It’s an RPG of sorts completely focused around Scrabble-like mechanics. You’re provided a small selection of letters and must create words with them in a short period of time. The bigger the word, or the rarer letters used (Q, X, etc) and little Grimm will release a stronger attack! Yes, the concept is simple, but quite effective.

Each stage is quite small and features Grimm walking from left to right in a cartoony 2D world. Firing off a word uses up your turn, although players can choose to utilize potions and the like instead. As you progress the enemies grow much tougher which demands more of players. Luckily, Letter Quest never makes slow typers (or clickers) disadvantaged thanks to its turn-based approach. What it does do though is offer really slow character progression.

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Upgrades to Grimm’s health, attack, and such are unlocked via gems. Gems are awarded upon beating persistent quests or levels. They’re certainly easy to get but accumulating enough for upgrades is surprisingly slow going. As such, it can be tough to defeat later stages without a lot of grinding. Really, I was just disappointed my awesome Scrabble skills weren’t enough to keep me powering through.

The concept and execution of Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey is spot on aside from its artificial gatekeeping measures. It looks cute, has a pretty responsive interface, and is an enjoyable puzzle game. If you’re looking for more in the same vein then check out Words for Evil. Although imperfect in its own regards, skilled players are rewarded without restrictions.


Score: 3
3 out of 5 alpacas


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Door Kickers Review

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Developer: KillHouse Games
Publisher: KillHouse Games
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam

Police games intrigue me a whole heck of a lot. From Police 911 to S.W.A.T. they’re all just pretty excellent games. Unfortunately for fans of the latter title, there’s been a real lack of super strategic and gritty games since Sierra got eaten/killed/revived. Door Kickers may not be exactly the same, especially given its top-down perspective, but it is excellent in its own right.

In Door Kickers you’re given a huge array of campaigns and basically given free rein to complete them exactly how you want. Each features a different strategic situation to assess. Players plan absolutely every aspect for teams and (hopefully) execute it flawlessly. The top-down perspective gives a great vantage point as players see the entire level map. Of course, actually “seeing” where enemies are requires line of sight confirmation. Until that point areas are hidden.

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Brash players can do well enough in early stages with minimal officer deaths, but not through the entire campaign. Door Kickers is definitely designed with tacticians in mind because those players will reap the greatest rewards. It simply feels good to have a plan work perfectly. Of course, surprises are bound to happen. Modifying plans on the fly to suit changing situations feels damn good, too.

Buying Door Kickers is like unlocking a new gaming obsession. Beat all the missions? Now go back and three-star them while completing all the challenges. After that you can download user-created mods/levels, or heck, make your own. Door Kickers is an excellent strategy game, especially for those of us looking to scratch that S.W.A.T. 4 or Rainbow Six itch.


Score: 4.5

4 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Pix the Cat Review

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Developer: Pastagames
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform: PC – Steam PSN – PS4, Vita

Pix the Cat launched on PS4 and Vita last year as one of those PS+ Instant Game Collection titles. At that point I heard tons of people expressing just how good it was! Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to playing it during that time frame. Instead, my waiting resulted in being rewarded with a Steam release. For those who haven’t already played it on PSN, let’s jump right into what it’s all about.

Players control a blue, square-shaped cat named Pix and must collect eggs, which hatch into chicks, and deposit them in little warp holes. The play field looks a bit reminiscent of arcade classics like Pac-Man with a 2D board and twisty rooms. After collecting eggs, the chicks follow directly behind Pix in an increasingly long line. You cannot run into this line – or walls.

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As such, Pix the Cat takes on a fast-paced arcade vibe with heavy puzzle inspirations. While playing you’ll need to discover the most efficient ways around each room to maximize chick drop offs and points. It’ll likely take multiple run throughs to develop said strategies, but the gameplay is enjoyable enough to keep this from becoming monotonous. The only issue I really had was how slow Pix starts off as the most enjoyable gameplay comes when you’re rushing through stages with the timer nearing zero.

Beyond this main mode there are more thoughtful, puzzle-y sections as well as a local multiplayer mode. I’m not a huge fan of the additional modes as the “classic” one is most enjoyable. With that said, Nostalgia mode has outrageously cute visuals so check that out at least once! Pix the Cat is cute, challenging, and a great new take on arcade style.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Hexcells Review

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Developer: Matthew Brown
Publisher: Matthew Brown
Platform: PC – Steam

Every single year tons of new puzzle games launch – and I play a great deal of them. So many fall on established styles and therefore fail to draw my attention. Hexcells, on the other hand, provided a fairly unique experience and has captivated many. Now there’s a whole series of games for fans to enjoy. So how is this very first puzzler?

Simply phenomenal. The concepts at play are incredibly simple, which is almost necessary for a good puzzle game. Each stage presents players with a variety of hexagons laid out so they touch one another. Some include numbers on them. Your goal is to activate adjacent cells equal to the number on a hexagon. It might sound a bit weird at first but the quick tutorial stages make the goal understandable.

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With a bit of knowledge under your belt Hexcells throws a handful of increasingly difficult puzzles your way, adding more considerations along the way. Mistakes are allowed but if you make to many you won’t get enough points to continue on. There aren’t a ton of stages in all, which is the biggest letdown. Then again, the game is only $2.99 to begin with.

Hexcells excels at providing a fun and simple puzzle game that requires some careful thinking along the way. By the end I didn’t quite get the hang of it, but it was still enjoyable to work through each included puzzle. If you absolutely love the game then check out its sequels: Hexcells Infinite and Hexcells Plus.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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