Posts Tagged ‘3.0’

Armed Seven Review

Armed Seven Featured

Armed Seven Boxart

Developer: Astro Port
Publisher: Nyu Media
Platform: PC – Desura

Are you a fan of shooters? Although there are still many coming out in the modern era, it feels like many have lost touch with the classics. Now, there’s an increased focus on the moe (or cute-ified) shooter, which often sacrifices quality for style. But there are still developers out there who have been making serious sidescrolling shooters. Many of them just happen to be from Japan. Astro Port is one quality shmup developer and their game, Armed Seven, has finally released in the West thanks to Nyu Media.

Armed Seven is basically just like all those retro shooters that were cool, difficult, and always able to tempt a player into extra rounds. However, it also has some neat flourishes which keep the game from feeling stale. Before each stage, players can choose their main weapon, sub weapon, and charge weapon. Main and sub fire whenever you fire, but of course charge only activates after it has received a proper charge. Interestingly, your mech’s gun is not completely static. If the mech flies upward, the gun will shift to face that direction as well, and vice versa. This leads to increased complexity but also possibility for players to take down opponents from safer angles.

Probably the biggest sticking point with growing the audience for shmups is their high difficulty. Now, don’t get me wrong, Armed Seven is not a bullet hell game. Those are where the screen is filled to the brim with complex patterns that take a lot of practice to dodge. Here you’ve got much more manageable enemies and bullets but only one life. After your life bar is depleted, it’s game over! Thankfully, it’s always possible to return to the furthest stage you’ve played via the stage select. There are also a variety of difficulties to select from which were a tremendous help for mostly unskilled players such as myself.

Armed Seven Screenshot

In regards to the graphics it seems like a game that could have easily been a hidden retro gem. It has nicely detailed art, even if the enemies aren’t hugely different from existing games. Really though, how much variety do you need? There need to be cool mechs, big bosses, and a soundtrack to get you pumped! While I don’t think the music is a standout soundtrack for a shooter, it is still exciting. Of course, it doesn’t help that the genre has some of the most incredible soundtracks in all of gaming history.

Playing Armed Seven is an entertaining challenge. If you’re a pro, then the game can totally be finished in half an hour, but the majority of players will be required to spend a lot more time to make it through even once. Those later stages (while still not classified as bullet hell) are killer! My best tip is to try out a variety of weapon loadouts and see which best fits your style. From there, go forth dodging bullets and taking down everything in your path!


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Bad Hotel Review

Bad Hotel Featured

Bad Hotel Boxart

Developer: Lucky Frame
Publisher: Lucky Frame
Platform: iOS, PC – Steam

Many gamers have tired of the tower defense genre as it was shoehorned into many games in the past year. I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to tune out any new games which rest within the genre, but even so, you might want to check out Bad Hotel. That’s because Bad Hotel creates something quite different out of the simple tower defense conventions.

First is the plot which sets you out as a hotel owner. The hotel is effectively your “tower” and, under normal circumstances, there should be nothing threatening its existence. However, Tarnation Tadstock happens to be in the neighborhood and he isn’t pleased with a new entrepreneur in his midst. As such, he sends legions of seagulls, swimmers, clouds, and a host of other enemies at you to make your hotel crumble.

Of course, you’re able to fight back! The player is always presented with a handful of possible rooms they can build. For example, there are main rooms which offer you money. Then there are rooms that house guns or healing stations. Unfortunately, of all the rooms, only the standard ones (aka, free of any other function) will generate cash. Without cash, you can’t build more weapons to fight. Each level is always a test to see how much weaponry you need versus funding.

Bad Hotel Screenshot

Each section of the building has its own health. Once it has been whittled to zero, it disappears, meaning you lose whatever benefit it offered. Skillfully deciding between how to orient weapon or health rooms is important because they’re usually expensive and you don’t want them going to waste. Housing them safely between standard rooms is helpful, but sometimes circumstances go so fast you’ll barely have time to think. It seems at these times that playing on an iPhone or iPad would be preferred, simply because it is hard to maneuver new rooms onto the hotel fast enough otherwise.

Bad Hotel’s gameplay is pretty fun and quickly increases in difficulty. However, that’s not all it has going for it. There are also the visuals that stand out as distinct amongst any other tower defense games, as well as most titles in general. It’s attractively designed with an art deco style and 80s color scheme. Musically the game stands out as well thanks to its procedurally-generated tunes. Each building offers its own sound effect, meaning the player is changing the music simply by how they choose to play.

If there’s any reason to knock Bad Hotel it could just be because it’s a bit too hard. The money given at the start of a round is always sufficient to get going, but if you’re not quick to come up with a strategy it isn’t enough. This could easily be solved by having two difficulty modes. Mostly though, it seems to me that playing on PC is not the ideal way to go. As I said before, quick hotel building would be much easier with touch controls, rather than mouse-based drag and drop functionality. Still, Bad Hotel provides a challenging and unique tower defense experience.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Re-Volt Review

Re-Volt Featured

Re-Volt Boxart

Developer: Acclaim Studios Teesside
Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment, H2 Interactive
Platform: Android, Dreamcast, iOS, Nintendo 64, PC – GOG* (Reviewed), PlayStation 1

Over the years there have been copious amount of racing games across consoles and arcades. And yet, we’ve only rarely seen ones that put players in control of RC cars. The two biggest names to have done so are Re-Volt and the Micro Machines series, both of which have been absent from the most recent console generation. Unlike the latter, Re-Volt only ever got one game but it still managed to develop a following. It was important enough that fans even created a patch to make sure the game would continue to run on modern PCs. But is the game really that deserving of praise?

Despite having only just played this game from 1999 in 2013, it still manages to be a lot of fun. A large part of the fun comes from the fact that you’re racing RC cars. They look just like they should and are tiny against the stage. Instead of racing on well-known race tracks, these cars simply tear it up around the suburbs, market, museum, and the like. This helps Re-Volt have a very unique appearance against its contemporaries.

Cars themselves handle semi-finicky and are downright speedy. This precise control becomes more of an issue if you choose to play with a gamepad, unfortunately. If you encounter too much trouble racing with one then definitely shift to the keyboard. This was my issue because the controller made me over steer and lose races whereas the keyboard was far more manageable. Those who prefer can enable options to change the maximum speed of cars or how they react to crashes to make it an easier or harder racer.

Re-Volt Featured

If you like Mario Kart’s item system then you might even be more interested in this game. Items are scattered across the course and signified by lightning bolts. Once you drive over one, an item is revealed to you and ready for action. You can get bowling balls, oil slicks, firecrackers, and even bombs. It may be aping off an established concept but is utilized well. Thankfully, there are no blue shell analogues!

Even though Re-Volt is over 10 years old now it still looks lively and cute. Many early polygonal games look rough but it still looks just fine to me. This is helped in part by the fact that a fan patch (included with GOG copies) allows the game to run at modern resolutions and look great doing so. This is the main way in which the PC version shines over consoles since they’re locked at much smaller resolutions. In any case, it seems that the game would be wholly enjoyable however you access it.

Re-Volt is a pretty tough racer but it also has a lot of spirit. Check it out if you’re willing to lose your fair share of times before finally getting a hang of your favorite RC car. After racing a while, try your hand at designing some tracks or playing against a friend in multiplayer.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Freedom Fall Review

Freedom Fall Featured

BoxArt

Developer: Stirfire Studios
Publisher: Stirfire Studios
Platform: Android, iOS, Ouya, PC (Reviewed)

Freedom Fall is one heck of a game. It might not be long or incredibly complex but it offers up some entertaining platforming play alongside really neat writing. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s discuss the basics of the game before showering it with positive platitudes.

In this game you play as a shoe-less boy with hair that looks like fire and is apparently named Marsh. Young Marsh is trapped in a tower filled with traps. His goal is to fall from the top of the tower to the bottom but it’s far from easy. If you’ve never played a vertical platformer before then this might take a little getting used to. After all, it can be hard to judge your fall if you can’t even see what’s below you. Usually it isn’t so bad as to cause many repeat jumps, at least.

Why is Marsh in this tower seeking his freedom? By reading the scrawls painted on the wall, you quickly become introduced to a princess character. She is the one who has placed diabolical spikes and saws all about the tower as a means to stop you. Try and avoid them but you’ll definitely hit many on your way down.

Freedom Fall Screenshot

The princess serves as by far the most interesting character (of the two) because she pushes the narrative forward. She describes how and why she must punish Marsh, as well as how she abhors the typical princess narrative. This includes wearing dresses, being saved, and apparently talking to birds. It’s incredibly refreshing to see a character like this although we primarily see her through her personal graffiti.

Controls are a bit finicky, though. I played with a 360 controller on PC and found them to be not as precise as they could be. Primarily my issues were with hanging/climbing on parts of the wall. Of course, the 360 gamepad is known for being rather imperfect for specific control so who knows who really is at fault here.

In any case, Freedom Fall is a very brief but fun experience. It only took me an hour to play through once, although there is definitely reason to replay if you want to collect all the gears and reach a higher score. I just wish we could have seen even more of the princess and her story.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Shadow Man Review

Shadow Man Featured

Shadow Man Boxart

Developer: Acclaim Studios Teesside
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Platform: Console – Dreamcast, Nintendo 64, PlayStation 1 PC – GOG*, Steam (Reviewed)

The 90s were an incredible era for comic books. We were seeing creative new heroes hitting stands and one of those new names was Shadow Man. Launched in 1992, there was a time when the Shadow Man series sold more than longtime favorites such as Batman! Of course, with such popularity, it was only a matter of time before a video game was produced. The first game, Shadow Man, came in 1999.

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Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut Review

Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut Featured

Lone Survivor Boxart

Developer: Superflat Games
Publisher: Curve Studios
Platform: PS3 (Reviewed), Vita

When Lone Survivor originally came out last year on PC I was simply enamored with it. Everything seemed pitch perfect and developer Jasper Byrne, who makes no secret of his affection for Silent Hill, seemed to manage something of equal quality. At least, that’s how I felt at the time. Incredibly, a year can do a lot – such as exposing me to even more modern indie horror experiences. Now that I’ve returned to an updated version does it still hold that same intense appeal? Somehow, it seems my stance has changed. No longer am I simply overwhelmed by the subtle story, visuals, and music. I have become more critical on my second time through.

For those fresh to Lone Survivor, the game focuses around a man who believes himself to be the “lone survivor” of an epidemic. Now, the world is plunged into darkness with creepy monsters wandering around. As it turns out, he is not the only human left but those he meet all seem to have issues of their own – if they’re even real. As you explore, hints of the story are peppered throughout, leading the player to question what is real and what is simply a projection of the protagonist’s mind.

Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut Screenshot 1

Gameplay plunges right into survival horror’s past to provide an experience that forces you to be very careful with your character’s health. It takes only a few scratches or bites to kill him. As such, you definitely want to avoid enemies whenever possible. This is doable by purposefully placed hiding spots. When utilized properly, you can sneak right by creatures safely. In the beginning, these moments are tense. However, during the second main area of the game there are very few hiding spots to be found. This is not the end game, either! It causes you to have to fight but unfortunately you have to fight a lot.

Of course, just like retro horror games, you aren’t meant to be shooting all the time. Because of this, there are only limited bullets, flares, and the like to aid you in battles (for about half the game). The scarce resources are an issue because of the strange difficulty increase within this large area! Players must shoot with incredible care so as not to waste bullets. It’s true that you can use pills to regain items but these may change the ending received. If I were designing the game, I would reduce enemy encounters tremendously because having them so frequently causes more frustration than fear.

Along these lines of restricted ammo there are also a fairly small amount of food items (again, until a certain point later on). Food is necessary because the survivor needs sustenance regularly. He’ll even stop the game to share the state of his hungry stomach with the player. The intent is cool, but it also becomes a bit annoying if you get into fights too often. Damage can be healed by food, but even if you’re not damaged, you’ll still become hungry. Eating better food allows a longer time between eating but still not as much as might be expected.

Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut Featured

Finally, the coup de grace of classic horror is the requirement of saving in a specific way. You must venture back home and sleep in bed to save. Thankfully, saving is unlimited. How can you always get back? There are mirrors which act as warp points throughout the world. It’s a smart design for an overall archaic mechanic. It seems the point of deliberate saving at the bed serves the story, but it would make things a little less frustrating to be able to save at any time. Yes, it’s scary to know you’ve not saved in a while but that becomes annoying when you end up getting killed long after a save.

Even with all these qualms, the rest of Lone Survivor manages to shine. The pixel art looks fantastically crisp on a large TV set as well as on Vita’s OLED screen. Atmosphere was very carefully rendered to keep the game looking creepy, even if gameplay sometimes hinders it. The music itself is as fantastic as ever with a multitude of tracks that seem to hearken back to Akira Yamaoka’s Silent Hill soundtracks. Of course, there are even references back to Silent Hill 2, which certainly made me smile.

Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut Screenshot 2

What exactly about Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut is so different from before? For Vita, there are added touch features and PS3 has rumble support. Neither are necessary, but hey. The meatier changes focus on new tracks, areas, side quests, and two new endings. Most of this content is locked behind New Game + though, making it so that everyone will first experience Lone Survivor as it was originally intended. All this added content came at Sony’s request and will eventually make its way back to PC as well.

So when it comes right down to it, Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut is certainly the definitive edition of the game. However, it has a handful of issues that keep it from being a purely scary experience. Frustration induced by too many enemies, the survivor’s empty stomach, and losing a fair bit of progress to saves, are the main ones. There is also one extended chase scene which is seriously rage inducing to play on Vita as the pause button is in an awkward location (have never liked the Start/Select buttons on the handheld). Still, those who have not played it may still want to give the game a chance. Just be sure to heed my warning: Conserve your resources, save at every possible juncture, and still be prepared for a tough run!


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Doorways: Chapter 1 & 2 Review

Doorways Featured

Doorways Boxart

Developer: Saibot Studios
Publisher: Saibot Studios
Platform: PC (Desura, Steam)

In the past year or so, it seems that many indie developers have been doing nothing more than riding off the successful formula of Slender. Although the Slender Man mythos itself follows a whole host of “serial stalker” tropes to begin with, many developers have latched onto the design as if it were the only way to make a horror title. Of course, it’s not, and we have a whole history of games within the genre to prove it. I say all this because Doorways does not follow that safe (and frankly, tiring) path and instead charts its own course toward creepiness.

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Northmark: Hour of the Wolf Review

Northmark: Hour of the Wolf Featured

Northmark: Hour of the Wolf Boxart

Developer: Rake in Grass
Publisher: Rake in Grass
Platform: Mobile – iOS PC – Big Fish GamesDirect, Steam

This post is part of the Indie RPG Bundle review collection

Strategy RPGs are pretty popular but card-based counterparts are a bit rarer to come across. Still, when there are already such excellent card games out there such as Magic the Gathering it can be really hard to create something different. Northmark: Hour of the Wolf accomplishes making a sound card-based title without hanging onto other card games’ coattails.

The game begins with an attempted assassination. The kingdom of Northmark is in a panic because of it and you’re the one selected to basically carry out all their duties. Travelling from town to town you will come across helpful people, shops, and tons of opponents standing in your way. The only way to get past them is via fighting, of course.

Fights are when the game shifts into its card form. Both players select their warriors (cards themselves) and can then apply upgrades to them, as well as how they should be armed for attacks. You can tweak the fighters via cards which upgrade their defense, attack, and a number of other things. Weapon cards are used to actually fight the opposing cards, and all relevant information is weighed in order to see what attacks are successful and how much damage they deal.

Northmark: Hour of the Wolf Featured

It’s a surprisingly complex system and one that isn’t described very well by the in-game tutorial. Still, it’s not too hard to get a feel for it after a handful of battles. Between story mission, you can even jump into some prize fights to help level up your character and get more money. Said money can be used to pick up more cards for your deck.

Northmark: Hour of the Wolf also has some excellent presentation. The art looks great from the character models to world map view. Then there are the card designs themselves which look like they could be from a tangible product. Honestly, it’s surprising just how polished it is. The writing is a bit of a let down in comparison, although it has some nice snark about it.

Fans of card games will probably enjoy this interesting RPG-ized title. On the other side of things, those without a familiarity of card games in general should probably proceed with caution.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Dragon Fantasy Book II Review

Dragon Fantasy Book II Featured

Dragon Fantasy Book II Boxart

Developer: Muteki Corporation
Publisher: Muteki Corporation
Platform: PS3, Vita (Reviewed)
Review code provided

Many genres fall in and out of favor over the years but one that has stood proudly throughout time is the RPG. Popular in various flavors across the world, the genre has produced some of the best known series’ in all of gaming history. Every once in a while you have one which attempts to poke fun at itself, but they’re not as common as you might think. Dragon Fantasy Book II attempts to inject a RPG with some much-needed humor.

This is evidenced from the very start when you are introduced to the hero Ogden. Instead of being a spry young male, he is instead a bald, bearded man. Although I did not play the original game, it doesn’t seem you need to. Players are easily ushered into the world and get going on their quest. However, players do begin with characters already leveled up somewhat to compensate for the first chapter.

The first thing that players notice (and what may attract them to the game to begin with) is the graphics. Dragon Fantasy Book II is made to look like a 16-Bit RPG that would be right at home on Genesis or SNES. However, the enemies seem more like Earthbound creatures sometimes with a man in a shark suit and rocks with pirate hats in just the first area.

Dragon Fantasy Book II Screenshot

One interesting feature of the game is that the battles are not random. Instead, enemies can be seen on the field at all times, meaning you can sometimes avoid them. This is mostly just a technical truth though because most of the time pathways are so small you won’t be able to avoid an enemy. Other times, they will jump out of the bushes and initiate a fight themselves. There’s a dash of Pokemon in the gameplay too as you can catch weakened enemies and add them to your party.

Unfortunately, there is one gameplay based problem that is continuous. After walking into a new screen (area, building, etc), if you continue to press in a certain direction that direction will not function upon entering the new area. If you let go and then press the direction again it will work, but there’s something odd going on to keep it from being mapped initially. The issue is not game breaking of course but is annoying when all you want to do is hammer up to hurriedly run through an area. In an area that is sure to annoy writers, a fair amount of the text also features typos.

Dragon Fantasy Book II Featured

I played the game on Vita because that’s where it seems the best fit. It is suited easily toward quick bursts of play since you can just fight through a few crowds of enemies before pausing. The game also happens to be fully playable with both controller buttons and touch screen. Using the touch screen actually is my preferred way of navigating the big button menus. You can move Ogden around the screen with it too, but my thumbs aren’t keen on hovering over the screen continuously, considering the size and heft of the Vita.

Dragon Fantasy Book II is a cute little RPG that packs a lot of gameplay value into the experience. It isn’t a very in-depth game or up to par with the best SNES visuals, but it’s likely it still will exceed expectations. If you like classic RPGs then give it a look. Just be aware that it is rough around the edges. Still, it’s hard to go wrong with a game that oozes an obvious love for RPGs of yore.


Score: 3
3 out of 5 alpacas


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Castle of Dr. Brain Review

Castle of Dr. Brain Featured

Castle of Dr. Brain Boxart

Developer: Sierra On-Line
Publisher: Sierra On-Line
Platform: PC (DOS)

When I was younger I was a big proponent of computer-based video games. Of course, at the time, a great deal of my games were so-called edutainment. Some were fun, some were not so fun, and some barely qualified as educational at all. One game that always felt like the latter to me was The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain. It basically featured a lot of minigames with a few mind-working puzzles at times.

Because of that game, I figured I should give another Dr. Brain game a chance sometime. That’s where Castle of Dr. Brain comes in which is in fact a much older game. Unlike the one I experienced however this was a far more challenging experience. Despite being an adult, I found myself stumped at more than one point within the copious puzzles.

Castle of Dr. Brain Featured

The game is part of the Sierra Discovery Series which is certainly meant as a teaching tool. The only problem here is that a few of the puzzles seem way too intense for a child to solve. Either that, or I have really lost my way with logic puzzles. All the same, there was a great deal of variety between them that was much appreciated.

One of my favorite puzzles involved one that taught the basics of how binary octets turn into “numbers”. I’m always a big proponent of friendly methods of teaching children aspects of computer technology and language. Anyway, beyond that, there were some other neat brain teasers and relatively few pure minigames. Any child playing this today is probably a genius.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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