Monday
Mar142016

Horror in the Asylum Review

You find yourself locked away in an asylum, and you're going to be the only one who is going to get you out of there. So you will have to explore the asylum, find what hides in the dark, and solve puzzles that present themselves as the asylum doesn't want to let you go easily.

In Horror in the Asylum you will have plenty of puzzles to solve, but there is always just one solution. This of course will come in handy when you die and start the entire game again from scratch. There are no save points in this game, there is no randomizing of the level, and to be honest there's not a whole lot of excitement when you're doing a specific section for the 15th time.

My biggest issue with the game is that there's a good chunk of it that is trial and error, and the error sends you back to the very beginning of the game. Sure this game will keep you wondering what will happen next, but an even bigger thought is, "am I going to have to do all of this over AGAIN???"

Now that's not to say that there aren't some interesting things in the game, but there are more frustrating and boring things that will cause you to want to drop the game after a while. You of course need a flashlight to move around in the dark halls, and I really like the blue light that reveals that which is hidden. I do find it odd, however that when you hide in cover that your light automatically turns on, even if you have it off, or blue. You can then toggle the light all you want without an indication of what position the light will be in once you get out of cover. Speaking of getting into cover, you will have to bend to fit in a spot, or crawl under a bed, however there is no crouch mechanic for items that are basically at knee level so you have to get just the correct camera angle in this first person view to collect items.

I could also mention that this game crashes every time I've exited the game, and look I just did, but that's the least of my worries when it comes to this game. There's something about it that seems like it was rushed. It feels like there's a story here, but there's no polish. The text choice for the notes that you collect while walking through the asylum have a terrible font choice which makes it difficult to read. There's also the lock picking mechanic that doesn't feel right. 

I really want to say that this game is worth playing through, but I can't, I really can't, and it really has to do with the forced rinse and repeat actions that are constantly occurring. After so many restarts it's just not worth trying to go through the exact same steps again. This game gets a 4.7 out of 10.

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Wednesday
Mar092016

Blue Rider Gameplay & Review

Play the video below for gameplay with thoughts about the game.  Or read on if words are your thing!

Blue Rider is a solid new shoot 'em up game from Ravegan.  It's a throwback to classics like Raptor: Call Of the Shadow, 1942, and Raiden (plus all the sequels).

The controls are solid, which is necessary since the game gets rather hard quickly.  Players can use either the keyboard & mouse or gamepad.  I played both, and they each feel equally solid.  One control element that takes getting used to in momentum.  Your ship will continue to glide after your release the throttle which can make dodging bullets interesting.  As far as weapons go, you have primary and secondary (bomb) weapons.  Primary consists of the tradition red "spread" bullets and the tighter blue laser bullets.  Missles either shoot forward or are homing.  You'll be able to upgrade or change your weapons from destroying caches throughout the level.

Each world introduces new and progressively more difficult - both with more firepower and more health - enemies and bigger and badder bosses.  I appreciate that each boss fight feels unique and well thought out.  It's not just a bunch of random bullets fired at you (though there certainly will be a lot of bullets!), but rather little challenges within each boss fight to overcome.

A "boss rush" mode would be cool and a welcome addition to the features.  Speaking of features, there's not really any options other than screen resolution and mouse sensitivity.  You choose your starting level and that is it.  No audio options.  Nothing about upgrades outside the game.  There is no meta here - the game consists solely of the worlds.  That's not a bad thing; just counter to the trend where most games have some kind of meta with upgrades & leveling outside the stages.  In a way, the simplicity is refreshing.

I highly recommend Blue Rider to anyone who's a fan of the classic arcade hits or the popular Raptor: Call of the Shadows.  It is a solid shoot 'em game!

Monday
Feb292016

PATCHWORK Review

At first glance this game may appear to be just for ladies of a quilting circle, but if you don't at least give this game a chance you are missing out big time. This game not only requires a keen eye for trying to create a pattern with no holes in it, but strategy upon strategy. 

You see the game is all about trying to play the long game, sure you can try to put all the pieces together to make a nice close stitched patterned, but be careful your opponent can pull a fast one on you. The name of the game is the final score. It really doesn't matter all that much what you do in the game as long as you can get the best score.

So here's how it breaks down, you take the leftover available buttons and the add/subtract that from the number of holes times 2. If you did get a complete 7x7 section you get to add 7 points to your score, but to be honest I haven't seen too many matches where that is going to be the deciding factor. Now of course you get this score with the original scoring rules, there's also another choice of rules, but to get the most out of it I would keep it on the original mode.

The game is a turn based game where a random selection of patterns in different shapes will be available to you for a button price. If you have the correct number of buttons you can add that patch to your 9 x 9 quilt area. This is where some of the strategy comes into place. You see attached to each of these different pattern shapes is a number of moves you'll be making on the scoring track. You don't want to get too far ahead of your opponent but you do want to make sure you make it to the single square patches before they do so that you can plug up those small holes you might have made. If you move past a button on the track you get the number of buttons that have been sewn into your quilt as they are attached to different pattern shapes. 

The complexity and level of strategy needed to really master this game is astounding and to be honest with you you're definitely never going to have the same game twice, so a strategy that worked one time might not work the next, especially since the pattern shapes are randomized before each game. There's also the fact that you can see what patterns will be revealed later in the game. If you choose a pattern that isn't the first in the group the ones skipped over are discarded.

The game features several different modes to play with. You have the versus AI (easy/medium/hard), you have the hotseat option that allows two people to play on a device, there's also multiplayer mode (ranked/unranked). You can also do a little microtransaction action on the side, although it is just for different sets of patterns to use while in game.

I'm not going to lie when I first heard about this game I wasn't impressed, but after researching it a little bit and actually playing the game, I can't get enough of the challenging gameplay and the constant need to be flexible with the kind of strategy I bring to the table. As I said before, if you don't even give this game a chance, you are going to miss out on something great. This game gets a 9.0 out of 10.

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Friday
Feb262016

The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human Review

The Earth is dead, well at least above sea level, and as the humans move to the sea and use up the resources there as well they are put into a desperate situation. They must send submarine like ships into a wormhole in the sky to see if they can find a new habitable place to live. That's where you come in. You are one of the brave pilots to go through the wormhole, but something strange happens. You return to Earth but a million years into the future. There appears to be no one left alive, and it is up to you to explore and discover what happened under the sea.

This is a challenging game, The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human, that will have you pulling your hair out one minute, and then getting lost in the music and the retro-graphics the next minute. The reason why I say you'll be pulling your hair out is because you are going to be set with a certain amount of limitations that you'll have to unlock, or solve in order to advance the game. The thing is that in order to truly advance you will have to take on the bosses, and none of them are push-overs. Hell the first boss might take you a couple of tries to beat, and it only gets tougher from there.

As I mentioned before this game has retro-graphics. You are not going to be blown away by any photo-realistic graphics, but you will feel like you are playing a polished game from the past. There are several different locations, all with their own look that will have you wondering what exactly happened. You will travel through ruined underwater cities, through a sea of pipes, a warehouse, and more. There is definitely plenty to see, not to mention the fact that all the bosses have their own look which might haunt you in your dreams if you can't defeat them in combat.

To be honest the difficulty in this game REALLY only centers around the bosses, outside of that its just a matter of dodging some projectiles, avoiding corrosive gas, and keeping very far away from snapping clams. That's not to say that you can't die while just exploring the underwater world, believe me I learned that if you go straight at a floating mine you will die on impact.

The game is broken up by the power ups you gain as you play. You'll get a harpoon gun, which shoots from the bottom of the craft, and doesn't aim further up than parallel to the bottom of the ship, you'll also get a saw that will power through shining vines, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. The one thing I recommend doing is finding out where the second boss on is and then exploring every nook and cranny to see if there are power ups for your hull recovery or the hull strength. You will need ever single one of those power ups if you are going to survive.

Alright so here's the one issue with the game, and to be honest with you it's not a deal breaker, but its very annoying, and it has to do with the checkpoint system. You have to consciously interact with each checkpoint, while not fighting a boss, in order to respawn there. If you don't you will respawn somewhere far from where you last started and so you are left backtracking a ton, sometimes losing where and what you were previously doing.

There's also the area maps. I would have loved to uncover the map as I'm moving through the area so I know where I've searched on the screen, but instead as soon as you hit a new screen the entire map is displayed leaving you to wonder if you've been to that screen before, and if so have you searched EVERY inch of it. You never know what could be hiding in that section.

This game is not going to be for everyone. It is challenging enough that its going to scare away some of the people who don't like on the fly strategy and some luck when it comes to bosses, but that being said this is a game that you're going to keep coming back to because either you want the challenge, or maybe you just want to shoot the poor defenseless fish that can't actually hurt you, but you sure as hell can massacre each and everyone on the screen, over and over again. This game gets an 8.6 out of 10.

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Wednesday
Feb242016

Tennis in the Face Review

Many people might remember that we review Tennis in the Face on the ill-fated console, the Ouya, well thankfully it made the jump to PC, and I have to say that plays as well, if not better on this console, thanks in huge part to a the fact that this game has gamepad support. You might be thinking to yourself, why would they not have gamepad support on the PC, you'd be surprised.

Now let's give you a little bit of back story, you are a disgraced tennis all-star who owes all his whoas to an energy drink called eXplodz. It is now your mission in life to use your killer serves to take out all opposition as you take revenge on the company behind eXplodz. You will have to make your way through town taking on the likes of clowns, cops, scientists,hippies, and more.

The object of each level is to try to take out all of the enemies in as few hits as possible. Utilizing the platforms, walls, and enemies you will have to bounce the tennis ball to perfection. If you can do it quickly you will gain a crown for mastery of the level, and of course the more crowns you get the more special pieces you unlock.

Graphically this game looks great. The levels are all clearly laid out, the HUD (Heads Up Display) gives you all the information that you need while not cluttering up the screen. There's also the fact that you get to see the outline of your previous hit's path. Actually to take it a step further even if you reset the level you get to see the previous hit's path, so if you are looking to get that perfect shot on the first hit you can take that approach, which is what I did several times when trying to get that crown.

Here's the deal if you are looking for a fun game with plenty of replayability and you like physics based games, you are going to HAVE to have this game in your collection. There is plenty of game here, and the fact is that this is the type of game you can pick up and put down, and pick up again with very little need to learn the system again. There's also the fact that each level is only one screen so going through one takes almost no time at all, so there's no big time sink, well that is unless you get the itch and try to go through the entire game in one sitting. This game gets a 9.2 out of 10.

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Thursday
Feb182016

Hero Defense - Haunted Island Review 

[Click to play video of my playthrough]

Hero Defense - Haunted Island is a new game from Happy Tuesday.  It is of the Tower Defense (TD) genre, but takes a unique spin where you control up to 5 mobile heroes instead of stationary towers in traditional Tower Defense games.  HD is still in Early Access, but the single player campaign certainly feels polished.  So let's jump in!

 

  •  Gameplay: Fun!  You start out with one hero, Jack the crossbow dude.  As you progress to the other maps, the storyline will unlock more heroes, up to five.  At the beginning of each stage, you can place each hero for 100 orbs - you typically start with enough orbs to drop 1 or 2 heroes at start.  As you kill more creeps and gain orbs, you can either continue to drop more heroes (my choice until all 5 are down) and/or level up your heroes.  Like most TD games, creeps will come in waves with varying strengths and weaknesses.  There's definitely a rock/paper/scissor element as some creeps will go down easily to specific heroes while other creeps will barely be hurt by the same hero.  So far, maps can have a green or yellow path so there's a need to move your heroes around.  While it adds to the fun and challenge, it also adds a but of annoyance.  It would be nice if there was a way to move all your heroes at once, like an RTS where you can select multiples.  I also wish the green & yellow path would stay up permanently as it's easy to get confused on the harder levels where you need to be.  When switching around the lanes or heroes, the camera view can also get funky.  That would be my main one gripe - the camera view and controls can definitely use a bit of love.
  • The meta:
    • Leveling up your heroes.  As you complete stages and challenges, your characters will level up.  Each character has their own unique skill tree, though a lot of the skill trees have the same skills.  Eg, most have the skill "increase power" or "increase range."  But all your heroes still have some unique and fun skills.
    • Leveling up your town.  There are 4 buildings to unlock which are naturally unlocked during gameplay.  They allow you access to the skill tree or runes or other useful things.  You can also level up your buildings for more bonuses.  I like that you can reset their skill tree at any time for free so you can mess around with builds.
    • Runes.  Depending on your hero's weapon level, you can add runes which add specific skills such as increases projectiles on fire, more damage, or increased range.  At the beginning of each stage, your character starts at level 1.  When you get enough orbs to level up, you'll gain the power of the runes you placed at that level.  Very cool way to customize your heroes.  Do you want a hero who shoots 7 projectiles at once?  Or maybe a hero with crazy range?  It's your choice!
    • The story.  There is actually a main story line and each hero has their own unique motives for joining your band of merry undead killers.  While it's not the most novel story ever, I did enjoy Happy Tuesday giving each hero their own unique personality and story.

One thing to note is the current iteration is still in Early Access.  The single-player campaign certainly is polished, albeit not exactly lengthy.  There are additional challenges (more stores, challenges like don't use consumables, etc) that help add to that game's replayability.  I know they're working on beefing up the multi-player aspect.  I'll be honest - I didn't touch multi-player.  

Overall, Hero Defense - Haunted Island is a solid Tower Defense game that I've thoroughly enjoyed playing.  Any fan of the genre should pick it up!

Monday
Feb152016

Clumzee Review

Meet Jimmy the Furball, a furball with great ambitions, if only he wasn't so clumsy. One day he decides to go on an adventure, little does he know that there are many perilous obstacles that could spell the end for him. Clumzee was developed by Triple Hill.

Graphically this game definitely goes the cutesy route. The main character is an adorable furball that starts levels off with 4 arms. I say starts off with because there are plenty of ways to see some if not all of them disappear. There are 8 different themed levels, each with their own special twist. One level has the ability to pull in coins ever so often, while another level allows you to use a jetpack to shoot you further up the level without having to risk life and limb.

Each of these themed levels will be a unique experience each time you play as the levels are randomly generated. So sadly there's no way to master a certain pattern, but on the other hand that definitely opens the game up for infinite replayability. In these levels you will always be trying to climb up while trying to avoid a one-eyed monster that will devour you, if given the chance. The thing is that there are enemies that will make that climb difficult. You will have some that will shoot cannon balls, others that will appear out of no where and fly across the screen, there are also those that have a saw blade just itching to cut off a few limbs. 

The object is to see how far up you can go, as far as I know there isn't an end to a level, but an increasingly more difficult path that you'll be taking. Along the way you will be collecting fireflies and coins. These two pieces of currency are essential for unlocking more of the game. The fireflies will allow you, at 75 fireflies per, to randomly unlock new costumes for Jimmy. The coins are for unlocking new levels at 6000 per pop.

In my honest opinion I think the developers got the firefly amount per costume correct, but they completely missed the mark when it comes to levels. You better LOVE the first level theme of this game, or you will never get to see any other levels. The thing is that through the many many hours that I have played this game I'm lucky to collect 100+ coins per run. So that means that I have to roughly play 60 times to unlock a level? That seems a bit harsh.

I do want to take a second to point out that there are some microtransactions in the game, but its only for the premium costumes, and they are $1.99 per costume. Honestly I think that there's enough fun free ones that you will be able to randomly unlock to really even pay attention to the premiums, but there are probably those out there who have to have the premium ones.

So lets get to the couple of issues that one will find in this game. The first one is really just an OCD thing, but when you first turn on the game, on your iOS device, you are prompted with a "Touch to Skip Intro" option, the funny thing is that when you touch the screen what you actually get is the intro to the game, plus a small "Skip" button, that just seems odd to me. The second thing is that since there is such emphasis on the costumes and the levels, it would have been nice to know what was currently selected on the main menu instead of having to constantly go to the selection menu (the reason is that the last level and the last skin you selected are going to be what you get, but sometimes you might have had a little bit of time between playing sessions and assumed you had something else selected). The third thing is that when you first go into a new level theme you get a tutorial bubble that tells you what the special skill is for that theme, but once you've closed that bubble you can't get it back, however each time you start a level, no matter the theme, or how many times you've played you always get the controls tutorial in the background.

This is by far not a perfect game, but with the random levels, the fun costumes, and the different themes for the levels, you're going to get a lot of mileage out of this game. Would the game be better if it was slightly easier to unlock levels, absolutely, would it have been beneficial to give the gamer some extra love with information that could help enhance the gameplay especially if they haven't played in a while, definitely, but this is a solid game, that if you are up for a challenge you will keep coming back to. This game gets an 8.0 out of 10.

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