Posts Tagged ‘4.0’

Violett Review

Violett Featured

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Developer: Forever Entertainment S.A.
Publisher: Forever Entertainment S.A.
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – Steam

Violett is just your average teenager. Her parents have forced her to leave her friends behind as they move to an old house in the country. She’s angry and expects her life to be dull from here on out – until she spies a strange charm. Upon picking it up, she gets transported to another world. This Alice in Wonderland-esque adventure definitely wasn’t what she bargained for!

With the game named Violett after the lead character, it’s obvious that we will spend our time playing as her. Gameplay is of the point and click variety, with a few small tweaks. Along her journey, she discovers new powers. The first grants her telekinesis which is indispensable at times.  Continuing along reveals more, as well as a need to collect orbs to power some skills. Orbs decorate landscapes like a hidden object game and you’ll never have to worry about running out.

Violett Screenshot

As would be expected with a point and click adventure game, there are many puzzles to solve. Some are simple while others require a bit more thought. However, they’re often quite fun and unique. There were a few times I got stuck, and unfortunately, the in game “hint” system rarely offers any tangible hints. Those who can’t figure something out will likely find the Steam Community a great resource.

Interestingly, the story is told without much use of real language. Violett and her family speak gibberish as do the insects and other creatures living in the strange world. Still, you can grasp what characters need to solve their problems via illustrations. Adventure fans who love witty writing won’t get that here, but don’t skip it up just yet!

What Violett does so amazingly is create an environment that stands out against the droves of competition. This game doesn’t just suggest Violett is inhabiting a wonderland – it shows you. The inhabitants are unusual and the backdrops are simply stunning. It’s impossible to convey how awesome they are until wandering into new areas yourself. Seriously, it’s been a while since an adventure game required me to fight the urge to continuously save screenshots.

Violett Featured

Music is another high point for the game. Although there are not a ton of songs, each song is great. They all come back to the game’s theme but each do so in unique ways. Also, even though there aren’t a ton of songs, they’re the kind you are excited to hear one more time. Buying a copy through Steam nets you the official soundtrack at no extra cost, which is definitely handy.

There’s a lot to say about Violett. Although it is not a perfect adventure experience, it offers a wonderful time. From the unique and creative puzzles to the gorgeous backdrop and accompanying soundtrack, it’s hard to ignore the game. Start up Violett and you’ll be in for quite the journey!

Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas

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Theme Park Review

Theme Park Featured

Theme Park Boxart

Developer: Bullfrog Productions
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: PC – Amiga, Amiga CD32, DOS, GOG*

Many 90s children grew up with a little game called Roller Coaster Tycoon. However, it was not the first great theme park-related tycoon out there. That honor should be attributed to Bullfrog’s wonderful Theme Park. This title gets overlooked at times due to Theme Hospital, which they developed a few years later. In any case, let’s take a look back at this classic simulation game.

Theme Park, as the name implies, has the player take on the role of a theme park entrepreneur. Starting from scratch, it is your duty to design the layout, hire staff, pay attention to visitors, and keep track of new park technology. Basically anything that you might expect to have to do when managing a theme park is in this game.

It’s a bit tough to comprehend at first. Laying out park attractions, restaurants, bathrooms, and foliage is fun – until you realize you must think ahead. Spend all your money creating a massive park and staff get left out in the cold. Similarly, if you make your park cramped by design it will be harder to expand later without demolishing buildings. Your staff also happens to be ridiculously incompetent. Janitors in particular like to run laps in the cleanest corners of a park, leaving visitors to experience a yucky walkway. Be absolutely sure to institute patrols for each of them!

Theme Park Featured

Even after roughing out the park, there is more to do. Restaurants require food supplies which don’t replenish on their own. Sometimes, union workers try to increase their wages. On other occasions, one poor visitor may become sick and cause a chain reaction of vomiting. You simply must be prepared for anything. Unfortunately, the map’s default zoom is quite close making it hard to know exactly what is happening at all times.

Although Theme Park is over twenty years old it has an art style that still holds up. The pixelated landscape has a really nice style to it. Buildings are also depicted in fun ways, such as burger stands being shaped like gigantic cartoon hamburgers. Everything looks wonderfully charming and inviting. Of course, it’s actually a pretty tough title, but at least it looks cute!

Theme Park is the kind of game that never ages. Even though many new tycoon games have come and gone, there’s something innately special about this one. It grants the player complete control but balances it with strategic elements. Making your park the best around is tough, but very much worth it.

Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas

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Velocity Ultra Review

Velocity Ultra Logo

Velocity Ultra Logo

Developer: FuturLab, Curve Studios
Publisher: Curve Studios
Platform: PSN – PS3, Vita PC – Steam

Velocity was a lovely little shooter that launched on PS3 and Vita in 2012 to favorable reviews but it seemed that many gamers simply missed out on it. Velocity Ultra is basically the same game, but given a nice HD coat of paint. Now that I’ve finally played it, I’m amazed to how the original game ever managed to slip under the radar of so many.

Velocity Ultra is a scrolling sci-fi shooter but does many things to make it a far more engaging experience than most. Your ship comes with a host of features that are introduced one by one. First, you have the ability to speed boost at will which comes in handy when you need to blast through a stage. There is also an unlimited supply of bombs to help you shoot down or to the side (as with most traditional ships which can’t shoot in any direction but up). Another neat feature is the ability to teleport around. Not only can this get you out of a tight spot between bullets, but it is also necessary when obstacles get in the way.

These might not sound like groundbreaking changes but they come together in such a way that the game is tremendously fun. Although there are no difficulty selections, it really feels like Velocity Ultra caters to a wide audience. Shooter newbies as well as regular players could likely both enjoy it. But what about people who don’t necessarily dig the genre? Even then, the game offers up ways to change the standard formula.

Velocity Ultra Screenshot 1

Gameplay modes vary from stage to stage but sometimes the game suddenly becomes a puzzler. This is done via numbered gates that need to be hit in order to “unlock” an area. However, branching paths make it so you can rarely unlock a zone in one go. Instead, you have to put down a warp (or series of them) in order to return to forks and travel down different paths. Sometimes, paths are nearly hidden by being way off to the side of the screen. Not only do you have to contend with enemies but you must discover all gates!

Despite being only an average shooter fan, I was able to blast through the first forty stages with little issue. After that, you’ve got to return to previous levels to rack up more points to have enough for the last few. The fifty stages are excellent and offer a great deal of replay value. You can compete with yourself to try and get a gold medal time, save all survivors, or destroy all enemy waves for bonuses. Of course, you can also try climbing the ranks of the online leaderboard.

Although Velocity Ultra is entertaining enough just from a gameplay standpoint, the rest of the package blends together wonderfully. For one, the visuals look crisp and stylish. The music is in a whole other league together, with each track being extremely cool and fun to listen to. Personally, I’m fighting the urge to buy the soundtrack! The only downside to the music is that it doesn’t loop, meaning there are moments where no music plays at all before restarting again.

Velocity Ultra Screenshot 2

For all this glowing adoration, there were a few issues lurking on the sidelines. At times, I would warp into a wall (though you’re not supposed to). It’s easy enough to warp back out, but it would always freak me out and cost precious time. Also, it feels like the screen isn’t offering enough vertical space to see what’s coming next. For a vertically scrolling shooter to not have a standard vertically oriented screen is fairly alien to me, although it was probably done to benefit the lateral searching on some stages. Finally, the game is designed with controllers in mind so watch out if you want to play with keyboard.

Velocity Ultra is such a fun game it’s hard to knock it too much. The developers managed to create a shooter that isn’t just fun for genre fans but for new players as well. Anyone looking for a different sort of shooter will find what they’re looking for in Velocity Ultra.

Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas

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MURI Review

MURI Featured


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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Tiny Barbarian DX Review

Tiny Barbarian Featured

Tiny Barbarian Logo Boxart

Developer: StarQuail Games
Publisher: StarQuail Games
Platform: PC – Direct, Steam

Did you ever play a little game by the name of Tiny Barbarian? No? Did you perhaps see a Kickstater of the same name succeed last year? If neither is the case, then don’t worry, as I was actually in the same boat. Despite trying to be well-versed in the world of crowdfunded and/or indie titles, some always manage to slip though. That’s why Tiny Barbarian DX’s sudden appearance on Steam surprised me – but I had to play it.

The game itself is a new experience over the older Tiny Barbarian. DX has better graphics as well as a fantastic new retro soundtrack. The pixellated platformer also retains a classic style of difficulty. It might not be as hard as contemporaries such as Volgarr the Viking, but still puts up a good challenge. Controls are also quite simple with one button to jump and a single attack button.

Simplicity is definitely in Tiny Barbarian DX’s favor as it makes the experience easier to get into. Here I didn’t have to worry about dull introductions or tutorials and could get straight into the action with some degree of skill. Even so, it still took me over ten attempts each to take down each of the bosses. Thankfully, everything happens so fast that death is no hindrance at all.

Tiny Barbarian DX Screenshot

Right now the only downside to playing is that there is only one chapter released. This initial chapter included multiple themed stages as well as bosses to go with them. Still, it was sad to see the journey (temporarily) end after two hours. But don’t let this dissuade you completely as the following episodes will be given to owners for free. At the very least, it’s possible to try to better your score to rank higher on the built-in leaderboards.

Tiny Barbarian DX isn’t the kind of game I normally look to play, but that’s part of why it was so much fun. As shameful as it is to admit, I don’t regularly dust off my NES or SNES and play classic beat ’em ups and platformers. And yet, without feeling that nostalgic appeal, I still enjoyed my time with Tiny Barbarian DX. It’s simplistic, quick, and well put together.  Now I’m just stuck anticipating the second, third, and forth episodes!

Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas

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Kara no Shojo Review

Kara No Shojo Featured

Kara No Shojo Boxart

Developer: Innocent Grey
Publisher: MangaGamer
Platform: PC – MangaGamer*

Oftentimes, it is hard to get people to take visual novels seriously. The supposedly average gamer would much rather “play” games than read them. Of course, if they could just sit down with a few then they might realize how silly they were acting. However, even many visual novel fans are bothered or even angered by the presence of eroge. For the most part, I don’t mind. It’s when there is something that appears to have a compelling storyline that my interest is piqued. Kara no Shojo is one such game which is why I chose to give it a shot.

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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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Desktop Dungeons Review

Desktop Dungeons Featured

Desktop Dungeons Logo

Developer: QCF Design
Publisher: QCF Design
Platform: PC – Browser, Direct, Steam

Last year, I found myself falling in love with the roguelike genre thanks to a handful of new indie games. I had never played Rogue, but it was easy to become a big fan of the concepts. After a while though, it did start to drag a little. Each game felt a little too samey. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Desktop Dungeons but it has managed to far surpass all expectations. This is an incredibly fun roguelike that can be enjoyed by new and veteran players alike.

Desktop Dungeons starts off with some tutorials, which in itself is actually rare in the genre. You get the basic mechanics for exploring dungeons, how battles work, and how to make use of magical skills. You’re also quickly introduced to the fact that your little explorers will die – and die often. From there, you can engage in a variety of missions in different dungeons. Or, you can take on a variety of puzzle missions which seek to teach players how to play with strategies in mind.

Desktop Dungeons Screenshot

Whichever you spend your time with, Desktop Dungeons is a ton of fun. It doesn’t hold back, though! You’ll find yourself dying (and losing all loot) often. Sometimes this can be chalked up to choosing the wrong character type and loadout, but other times it’s all due to a lack of strategic thinking. Managing health potions, taking out higher level enemies, and the like all must be kept in mind. Otherwise, your adventurers are apt to be killed off quickly.

There’s nice looking art as well, although it doesn’t scale up very well, so you’ll likely play in a smaller than average game window. But the graphics are certainly charming, as are the silly little enemies. How much fun you have with Desktop Dungeons is based around how willing you are to learn. Dying is common, but with little consequence, so feel free to try out a variety of play methods. Whether your play style is hitting up one dungeon for a few minutes, or playing multiple for hours, Desktop Dungeons offers great bursts of fun.

Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas

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