Tuesday
Dec222015

Prominence Review

You awake in a sickbay with no one around, and no memory of how you got there. You try to the door to the hallway only to find that it is locked, and you have a bad feeling that something must have happened. In this sci-fi point and click adventure you will have to be on the look out for tools and items that will aid you in your mission to find out what is going on, who you are, and where everyone is.

Here's the thing about Prominence, its got a good thriller of a story, something that keeps you guessing about who you are, and the fate of the entire crew as you find your way into more and more rooms. This game is going to give you serious fits of nostalgia for point and click adventure games as 90% of the time you are going to be using JUST the mouse to navigate, active, and use items in the game.

Now that sounds like a good old experience, but for some reason the developers missed the mark. I think the issue might be that anyone who was playtesting this game was probably playing it since early on so some of the not so clear pieces of the game weren't an issue because they learned through repetition. My main issue is that nothing in this game is really clear, at all. The biggest issue from the olden days of Point and Clicks is that it was 2D so you had a finite space to look for things as you scroll from left to right, or up and down. This game is from the first person perspective and what you are looking for can be ANYWHERE in your range of view. The developer also did not make any of the items easily spotable, which is evident from the fact that it took 35 minutes of the game to find the first item I needed, and to be honest that mechanic, the finding of items and tools, doesn't get any better.

I do understand that many of the point and clicks of today have some serious hand holding going on, but this game constantly felt like you had to find random items while blindfolded and only being able to feel around with 3 of your toes. There are some instances in the game where you want to slowly move your mouse over the entire object in order to be able to collect it, there are other instances where the item is so small or blends in really well, or is used in a manner that you have no idea why that works.

There's also the fact that during the brief, ineffective, tutorials that you will have no idea what is going on. Here's the prime example, with the right mouse button you are able to open your inventory, but at no time is it pointed out to you that there are tabs at the top of the screen, and what they will be used for. I spent a huge amount of time freaking out because of new functionality I've gained, but I had no idea how to gain access to the stuff I now had access to. I know I'm vague on this, but I don't want to give too much away, and if you play the game it will become apparently about what I'm talking about.

Another issue that I have with the game is the objectives, could you get any vaguer with some of them, I became so lost in this game that I had to result to watching someone's walkthrough of the game so that I could get back on track. There's also supposed to be multiple endings, but I'm going to warn you right now, the objectives will only lead to ONE of those.

The interesting thing about this game is that taking out the lack of being able to really play this game without feeling completely lost, or frustrated to the point that you want to throw something, this is a good game. I liked the story, I liked the setting, I liked the feel of uncertainty as I try to learn what happened, and what my character is capable, but at the end of the day, when a game has something that is really this big of an obstacle to play, this game will sadly have to go down as a miss. This game gets a 5.2 out of 10.

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Tuesday
Dec152015

BEBOP Puzzle Beat Review

It's time to get that special jazzy feel, and take on puzzles. It all seems to be a regular day, you are the band, and the beautiful singer is singing her sweet song when someone snatches her up. Now you, as the four man band, have to chase after the kidnapper and try to rescue the singer.

The puzzle aspect of the game is a matching mechanism. You're going to have several different shaped areas that you'll have to conquer by trying to make strings of matches, the thing is that this isn't your ordinary match three game. You see all you need to do is tap on the same color and do it fast so that you can rack up the big points.

Seems simple enough right? Well that's where it gets a bit dicey and this game starts to really fall apart. I know that challenging aspects in puzzle games is all the rage now, but when you have a board that is spinning out of control and there's no way to possibly tap colors with confidence, there's something wrong. There's also the combo mechanism, its not tap on each of a specific color to get the combo, you need to tap on a color and then try to tap on the same color but make sure you have the same color in the line that is drawn, DON'T tap that one that is in the line, otherwise you don't get the combo, which makes NO SENSE to me.

Now I do understand that this game is for the iOS and that that means this game is available for iPads and iPhones, but playing on the iPhone makes the game almost unplayable, unless you get beyond lucky with your tapping of colors. You see another small wrinkle that's been put in the game is that some of the boards are bigger than the screen causing you to have to scroll, but some of those levels are also rotating and the speed increases as the level goes on. So when you are trying to frantically tap a red square and then another red square, which halts the rotation briefly, you're more likely to put your finger through your iOS device of choice than succeed at that level.

So here's the deal, even with something that could have been fun the sheer mechanics that have been put into place make it impossible to deal with and I don't see many people willing to put up with the level of frustration that this game produces because of something that is completely out of the players control. Now before someone says it, yes I know that if you hold your finger down on the screen you can slow the rotation, and sometimes that kind of helps, but it's not enough to save this game. This game gets a 4.1 out of 10.

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Sunday
Dec062015

The Purring Quest Review

In a tragic love story you play the role of the ever present pet cat. One of your masters, the woman, passes away suddenly, and you are left with the man. The problem is that the man has fallen into deep depression, and starts to forget about all the good times with the woman. This is where you really come in, you see you have the ability to help him retain the memories that he is losing, but there's a problem. He sees someone, while visit the grave, that looks like his lost love and disappears leaving you alone in the graveyard.

In The Purring Quest, you will now find yourself playing the role of the cat, you will have to navigate through stage after stage, dodging dogs, birds, flower pots, water, and more. You will be tasked with collecting fish skeletons along the way. You will also meet up with at least one cat per level that will help try to guide you back to your human. There's also a cat that is trapped in each level that if you set them free you get bonus points.

Graphically this is a side scrolling game, that looks good, there are a couple of levels in which the background and the foreground get kind of confusing, and it is only when you try to make a jump to a ledge, that isn't really on the same plane as you are that you learn what is available and not to maneuver on.

I would have liked to have seen the different cats that you interact with be voiced, I would have really enjoyed that aspect of the game, and I think that it would have definitely allowed the gamer to be pulled further into the game.

Up to this point in the review, I've basically had a good things to say about the game, but now comes the time where I've got to talk about the flaws, and there are some pretty glaring ones that need to be talked about.

Let's talk first about the tutorial, I do like the fact that there is a tutorial piece to the first level that basically pops up the keys you'll need to use to perform actions in the game, the only problem is that this game allows for gamepad input, and the tutorial does not switch over, so trying to figure out how to jump high, attack, climb, hide behind an object, and other such actions is a trial and error activity, which is never a good thing.

There are no options in the game, outside of first choosing the overall language. I would have loved to be able to control the volume in the game, and it might have alleviated the controls issue if there was an option to select keyboard or gamepad.

Speaking of controls, they just don't feel right, there have been too many times in game where after playing the game over and over again, I'm still having issues remembering what to hit to perform some actions. There's also the fact that there are some precision movement pieces that will have you slamming your head on your desk because of the collision or the slightly too high perch you just can't reach.

Let's talk about bosses, there's a boss at the end of each stage, and I've learned that each fight has been different, which is fine except that these don't feel crisp. I know this is a spoiler, but I'm going to help you out, the frist boss is a crow, you can ONLY hit the crow when its not moving in the middle of the screen, if its moving you're going to take damage.

Speaking of damage, you start off the game with 7 lives, or times you can get hit. Does it not bother anyone else that this number is not 9? I mean Cats equal 9 Lives, when the hell have they ever been 7 lives? I know that's nitpicky, but it bothers the crap out of me.

In the end this is a cute game, it definitely has its moments. If you are looking for a stealth game starring cats, you are going to need to at least take a peek at this game. For me, however, there was just enough flaws in the game that I just could never truly enjoy myself, and so I've got to give this game a 5.2 out of 10.

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Sunday
Dec062015

Wizards & Wagons Review

You are the great hero that destroyed the great evil that threatened the world, and you are sure to live in the lap of luxury for the rest of your life, except you don't. This is the story of how you became a trader and got your life back on track, in Wizards & Wagons, you will have to take to the trading routes to start making money. If you can make enough you can buy back your house, but there's more to the world than first meets the eye and you will get to find out about new ways to protect yourself, and new cities that have new goods that you can turn around for a big profit in another town.

Now all of this seems awesome and a game that people who are into the trading aspects of games would really enjoy, but unfortunately, at least for me, this game is beyond tedious and honestly I think that there's quite a few issues that mare this game.

First off is the Guild Quests, I love the fact that there's always a rotation of quests happening at each city that has a guild, the issue is that they are completely randomized. The only way I can describe this is that there's a master list of quests, and each time you enter a city 3 to 5 of those quests get pulled from the list. My issue is that if you leave the town to go somewhere else and come back its a completely different list. Now why would that be a problem? Well first off you can only have 2 active quests at a time, the second thing is that you are given lots of delivery missions, basically find trade good X and bring it to city Y, but there's a time limit on it. So here's the problem, you might now where you can find the goods, but you'll never be able to get there and then make it to the destination city in the time allotted. So almost all of those quests are now useless, then there are those delivery quests that you are actually in the right city and get the trade goods, but no matter how fast you go you'll never make it to the destination in the limited amount of time. As a once upon developer, I'm thinking that all of these time limits are hard coded, which I hate to be an ass, but that's really sloppy coding. This game could have been fun, instead of frustration, and tedious. 

Alright so lets look at some of the other aspects of the game, there are several different islands that have cities on them, that have different supplies and demands, and if you visit the guild hall you will find out what you need to do to get bonuses in the town. This seems like a good idea, until you find out that there's no way that you are going to turn a profit by trying to get goods to the places that demand them. You see in almost every single travel you are going to be attacked, sometimes you are going to get swarmed so fast that you are going to have to restart from either the starting town of the game, or the starting town of your current route, and there's a 10% loss in profits. There's also the chance that when you get attacked some of your goods could be stolen, and if you don't act fast enough they are gone forever. The twist to the between cities action is that you are on set path going at a set speed, so there's no way to stop the wagon and try to fight to get back your goods, which sometimes could completely destroy any chance of making a profit. 

There's also the fact that you are going to be constantly needing to repair your wagon when you get to a city. So here's the deal after putting 8+ hours of trying to see the world with my wagon and basically making hundreds in profits, instead of thousands, I threw the towel in and I'm only playing the game on the starting island. The reason why is that I can actually survive attacks, I can pull 300 to 800 gold worth of profits per visit, BETWEEN towns, and I'm actually starting to amass some wealth instead of being stuck in the mid-teens of thousands. The only time I go off my island is when I have amassed enough wealth to buy upgrades like a better wagon or active/passive advantages (those range from weapons to boosts to health, damage, and speed).

The last thing I will say about this game is that I really wish that there was a way to turn off my active and passive spots on my wagon while trying to load trade goods, I can't tell you how many times I've somehow ended up moving not only the trade good but the active/passive piece and now I've got to rearrange everything to try to get them unstacked. There is one thing I will tell you about selling your trade goods take a REALLY GOOD look at your list of what you're selling, I can't tell you how many times I accidentally sold one of my active/passive pieces and of course you always take one hell of a loss in that department.

So here's the deal, there's a lot to this game, and to be honest with you at the end of the day if there's a goal in this game past buying back your house, I have no idea what it is. Sure you can try to amass the most wealth, but what then. Too much of this game, after thoroughly playing it, doesn't seemed to have been completely thought out, and so with that, even though I keep coming back to play the game, I've got to give this game a 5.7 out of 10.

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Wednesday
Dec022015

Guns, Gore and Cannoli XBOX One Review

You are a hired hitman sent to pull out a man from one of the ruling mob families from another mob family's base. There's only one issues it would appear that someone spiked the illegal liquor and its turning everyone into zombies. To make matters worse the army has been called in so you'll have to wade through zombies of every shape and size, military soldiers, and lets not forget gangsters from the rival family.

Graphically this game makes a flawless transition over to the XBOX One from the PC, and you're going to notice that it plays just as smoothly. There is one added feature to the game and that is a PvP mode for you to sink your teeth into.

Honestly, though, the PvP Deathmatch feature is the weakest thing about the game, and I personally think that the developer might have been trying to make a deadline and didn't flesh it out as much as they should have. Right off the battle there feels like there should be more involved in the multiplayer PvP feature, but there isn't. The menus look crude in comparison to the rest of the game. Then there's the actual gameplay... it doesn't feel right, something is missing or something isn't as crisp. One of my biggest issues when you have this type of deathmatch on a single screen level is that when you spawn you don't have invincibility to start off, that means that camping and just back luck could find you dead before you even know where the hell you have spawned. Speaking of spawning back in the level, there is no color coding of the spawn location, so if more than one person dies you will see the yellow spawn graphic and will have to figure out which one is your's, which of course leads to a huge disadvantage.

I do understand that the developer wanted to add something new to entice those who have it on the PC to get it on the XBOX One, but I feel that what they have added has weakened the product in the end, and personally when I play the game I'm never going to be looking at that multiplayer PvP piece again. This version of the game because of the added feature gets a 7.7 out of 10.

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Wednesday
Nov182015

Pixel Galaxy Review

Imagine you are but a pixel, and it is through combining forces with other like-minded pixels that you will be able to take on anything that stands in your way. Well that's basically what Pixel Galaxy is with bright colors, a strong soundtrack, and lots of challenging fun.

You see in this pixelated space world, you start off as a single pixel, and if you get hit, well that single pixel gets hit, its game over, lights out, please try again. Here's the interesting thing though, its not all about dodging all that could destroy that single pixel. You see if you time it right the other pixels that might have appeared as foes can become part of you.

That's right, as you play through the levels you will have the chance to touch pixels that are moving, or perhaps are stationary on the screen, and in this action you can add them to you. Doing this will, hopefully, build a barrier of expendable pixels between damage and your starting, single pixel.

You will be faced with varying levels of difficulty, and of course which each higher difficulty new things will open up for you to play against. New bosses will test your skill, and you will definitely need to be fast at dodging while hopefully holding on to pixels that can shoot so that you can return fire.

I highly recommend that you play this game with a gamepad, there's something about controlling the pixel, or the collection of pixels with the left analog that just feels so natural. There's also the ability to rotate with the triggers, something that you are going to want to master so that you can evenly disperse your collection of pixels, be able to aim a bit better, and of course protect the starting pixel from damage.

This is the type of game that I never had an issue with coming back and playing some more. There's always that chance that I will man up and try to take on the next level of difficulty, and of course after getting my ass kicked I'll jump into a lower difficulty, kick some ass, and once again feel really good about myself.

This is a challenging game that has quite a few layers to it, and unique experiences each time as how the pixels come out each time are random, which I have to say I both love and hate. I love because that means no two games are alike, but I hate because I can't learn through repetition to find the best solution. In the end though I think I'd much rather have the unique gameplay than the repetition which I could possibly burn out on.

If you are looking for something a little different, spacey, and pretty easy to pick up, you're going to want to add this game to your collection, there's no question that this should be a game that everyone should take for a spin. This game gets a 9.2 out of 10.

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Tuesday
Nov172015

Banished

Banished is a polished, detailed city builder from Shining Rock Software.  Depending on the difficulty level, you start out with a couple of families and certain starting assets such as crop seeds and animals for breeding.  From there, the game is basically a sandbox in how you want to develop your town.  It's also brutal and unforgiving if you're not paying attention.  You have to account for all the town resources yourself - nothing will be produced if you're not making it happen!  I'd consider this a "serious" city builder, and I like it for that.
My first playing experience was at Extra-Life last weekend.  Even after playing the tutorial, my first couple playthroughs were epic failures for my town of mass extinctions.
The easiest way to explain what's going on is to take a look at this screenshot:
Some basic gameplay overviews:
  • Professions: You manually assign every one of your citizens who's a) not a child or b) in school (refer to the window next to it with 53(citizens)/11(students)/15(children)).  You need more builders?  You decide what job to remove them from.  Need more tools?  Assign someone!
  • Market: Your supplies have to go somewhere.  You have markets, storage barns, stock piles, and trading posts to store stuff at.  The key is that in the case of markets, supplies will reach only so many spots as shown by the yellow circle.  And for all your storage locations, proximity is key for production.
  • Production: Take a look at the Tailor and Wood Cutter windows.  Each needs a supply source.  Tailor = Leather to make clothes & Wood Cutter = wood to make firewood.  Without both clothes and firewood, your citizens will freeze during the winter and die.  But also consider that you must also account for 1) proximity - the further away your wood cutter has to go to pick up wood, the less he produces.  This also means that he produces less the further his work is from home and 2) capacity.  Your storage structures can only store so many goods.  You also need wood to produce your buildings, so it's not as simple as all wood = firewood.
  • Food: You must feed your citizens.  In the 3rd window from the left on the top, you can see I have 20704 food - a lot for my population.  However, everyone died my first 3 games from lack of food so now I produce in excess so I never starve.
  • Trade: Not shown, but you can also trade excess goods for key goods like seeds and livestock when traders visit you.
  • Citizen control.  While births and deaths are somewhat random, you have a fair amount of control over the birthrate.  Are all your houses filled with people or are homeless?  Hello, low birthrate.  Or maybe your surplus of homes house fresh out of school youngens?  You get my situation where more than 1/4 of your population are children creating a possible populating bubble.  Then, you need to account for your citizens' eventual death.  You may have a perfect number of workers today, but if 10 die in 1 year, do you have enough children or students to fill their shoes?

I hope this quick overview shows how you have exacting control over the growth - or death - of your fledgling village.  It's important to note that the stock version of Banished is a sandbox with no real end goals other than don't let everyone die.  This is in stark contrast to a game like Tropico, which is very quest/goal driven.  I've played both Tropico and now Banished a fair amount, and there's something about Banished gameplay that I prefer over Tropico.  It's definitely grabbed my attention for a longer period of time.  However, the lack of defined goals also comes at a cost.  I'm at a point where I'm producing everything in excess and have built every building.  So now it's like... I guess I just build more?  Or course, I'm also still early in the game relatively speaking.  There are many players out there with the entire map filled with buildings so I still have a long ways to go and see how big a city I can create.

One of the other pros for Banished is it's very modable.  There's the CC:New Frontier mod, which I need to check out.  It appears adds an incredible variety of assets to the game giving the player more personal objectives to achieve and a plethora of ways to succeed.

If you're a fan of city builders, definitely check out Banished.  It may take you a few games of trial and error to figure out the balance between expansion, making food, and producing goods your citizens need to live.  Not all games need it, but it is advisable to check out the Tutorial to start with.

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