Monday, January 30, 2012


When I play any video game, not just a browser game, I try not to let the visuals bother me too much. So long as I can figure out what something is in a very general sense, I'm okay. The fact that I've extensively played Dwarf Fortress in the past should be proof of this claim.

So when I say that Closure's graphics have me damn torn on this game, you should know that I'm not kidding around. I've never vacillated between 'amazing' and 'so hard on the eyes' as much in any other game - though whichever way I go, I doubt I'll NOT play Closure, 'cause it's bloody brilliant.

(For the record, it's 'Closure.' with a period at the end. For the sake of not muddling up my grammar, though, I'll just call it Closure, without the period.)


I cannot go too deep into Closure's story without giving a lot away. You might wonder at first if there IS a story. The answer is yes, there's a plot tucked away in Closure... but you need to do some digging to find it. Do so yourself, as it's rather neatly done, if deliberately confusing.

Beyond the plot is a game wherein you, some dude, are trapped in a world consisting of light, shadow and numerous background details that only appear when light is cast upon them. There is a trick here, however - if light is not shed upon an item, it does not exist. Consequently, if you try to walk where there is no light, you won't just stumble around... you'll fall to your death. (Happens a lot, so that really just means starting the level over.)

The idea of playing with light in such a unique way is brilliant. Even more so, though, is the way in which you discover light's unique properties, as you're never really told how it works - you just have to figure it out as you go along, with a few scant instructions included on the walls. As the light moves around you'll discover how to use its creation properties to your advantage, however, thereby solving puzzles that block your path to doors leading to subsequent levels. Excellent mechanic.


Closure's controls are very simple. Arrow keys lead you about, down allows you to pick up an orb of light or key, space drops the aforementioned object, and another down opens the door to the next level. Easy enough to understand.

To use, though? Not so much. It's not that Closure's controls are problematic or jerky or whatever. No, it's the damned jumping that always gets me, 'cause your guy can't leap very FAR when he tries, and if you're not spot on you'll probably drop to your doom. This can usually be solved by smarter placement of light orbs, though, so I imagine the lack of air time is deliberate.


Here we go. The major are of contention.

Don't get me wrong. Closure's visuals are wonderful. It's such a unique game, and half that stems from the bizarre way in which its depicted. Very impressive for a browser game.

At the same time... Closure is hard to play. Because the way light and shadow is used is bad for the eyes. The visuals are very sketchy, if that makes sense, and the way they were employed bugged my corneas from start to finish. Maybe this is just me, but the point stands - Closure is sure to please some, irritate others, and, if you're like me, confuse yet others.

Not sure where I stand, in short. Help?


Closure's audio bugged me for a while. It relies primarily on spooky music to fill the time, and though it was okay at first, the constantly-looping nature of the track got on my nerves, and distracted from the puzzles.

What I DIDN'T realize at first was the more fluid nature of the audio. As you get further into Closure the music changes, picking up in pace depending on how you're reacting to the environment - and, often, introducing dire musical shifts that may screw you up, 'cause you think a monster's gonna jump on your from the darkness.

Oh, and lest I forget, there are occasional, unexpected ambient noises that point even more vigorously at impending attack. So brace yourself, as you'll probably jump in your seat when these pop up.

Altogether? Good use of sound. A bit annoying at times, but overall solid.

Challenge Rating

Bloody hell. I won't mince words - Closure is a bitch to complete. It's not the most difficult puzzle game I've played, but it nevertheless has the chops to aggravate even the smartest of players. It's very easy to forget that darkness equals a bottomless pit, and whenever you fall victim to such forgetfulness, well, start over.

For the most part, Closure is fair in its difficulty. The levels scale evenly enough, and there aren't many that are absolutely stymieing without outside aid. That said there are a few early levels that are horrifying to beat until you learn what needs to be done, primarily because the game doesn't TELL you that you can do certain things (in my case, this pertained to taking balls of lights out of floating lamps). A little eensy weensy bit more direction, please?

Overall, Closure is fair. Not always, but generally. Just... don't expect it to hold your hand for long.


Despite the questionable graphics and unforgiving difficulty, Closure is still a brilliant game. It sports some of the most innovative puzzle challenges I've seen in a while, and despite its length (you can conceivably play through it in about twenty minutes, assuming you're a super genius) most players should get a solid hour or two of play. Very, very well done.


Friday, January 27, 2012


Ever seen the movie Memento? The one where the guy can't remember much more than a few minutes at a time before he forgets everything? And the movie is set in reverse, so you see the end first and the beginning last?

Yeah. That's kinda what REW is like. Except memory isn't the problem - it's just telling the tale so your expectations are reversed. Cool way of doing a video game, but does it work in practice?


REW starts off pretty dang confusing, and understandably so - you begin with the end. You play the part of a shady-looking little bear who has just murdered an old woman, and is on the way out of the house through the window. From there the game works backwards, detailing why this seemingly harmless woman needed to be brutally murdered in the first place.

The story is probably REW's strongest element. Without revealing too much, REW does a great job of reversing expectations - not to mention explaining events that, at first, make no sense at all. Your 'hero', if you can call a murderer a hero, is not at all what he seems.

Beyond the story, REW is a point-and-click adventure game. You must manipulate items scattered around the screen to progress. This, predictably, involves a lot of clicking to see what items work with what parts of the environment.


Point-and-click. If your mouse works, so does REW.


REW is pretty nifty looking. Almost the entire thing is cast in midnight blacks and purples, with occasional dips into lighter colours for variety. The characters are particularly provocative, for though most of them don't say a word, they're quite expressive in their mannerisms. I especially liked the little murderer - he looks so damn twisted.


The same spooky song... over... and over... and over. I felt pretty meh about REW's sound offering, as the tune isn't terribly catchy (how many horror-esque songs can you peg as 'catchy?') and it never ends. Ever. Variety would have helped propel the story along.

Challenge Rating

Ah. Yeah. Here's where REW gets dicey: it's not difficult at all.

Which, for story-based games, doesn't usually bother me too much. You're trying to tell a tale, you want the gamer to progress, you keep the game fairly simple as a result. I get that. Thing is, you still need to provide interesting game play to support the story - and REW fails in that department.

Point-and-click adventures are seldom exciting. Most of the time you're staring at largely static screens, trying to figure out how this axe works with this tree, or whether this key fits in this lock, or that box, or maybe that bowl of pudding. Interesting, stimulating, but not exciting.

Unfortunately, REW is neither exciting nor terribly stimulating. The point-and-click nature of the game often isn't logical: rather than taking an item and using it somewhere else, in most cases you're just clicking on stuff until something happens. Do so in the right order and presto! The game continues. (Backwards.) Giving the player more control to figure out how items work together would've been nice.

That said, I WILL admit that the concept of working backwards for this kind of game is pretty neat, for it you can remember where an item was in the previous screen, you can probably figure out what's supposed to happen to make it get there in the NEXT screen. More interaction would have made this (perhaps unintended, I'm not sure) mechanic downright fascinating.


REW is a neat experience. As a game it's not so hot, but as a story it's quite nifty. Give yourself ten or fifteen minutes to run through this little murder mystery - it's well worth the time spent.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reduced reviews.

Owing to increased amounts of work in other places, I am reducing Browser Rousers to three times a week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Hopefully this will allow me to bang out better, more extensive reviews without feeling rushed.

On the plus side, I'm planning on overhauling the site in the next week. What'll it look like? God knows. If nothing else, though, I'll be getting rid of that dumb Blogger bar at the top. Huzzah!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I kinda suck at escape games. I enjoy 'em, don't get me wrong, but the hectic nature of quick-reflexes flight from a series of dangers, getting progressively harder as you go... I usually get creamed in no time. And yes, practice makes perfect, but that's only true if you actually improve.

I guess I improve a little bit. Over time. Not so much on / ESCAPE \, though, which is about as distilled escape-style gaming as you're likely to ever find.


You are a little ninja dude who vaguely resembles a purple Wolverine. You're trapped in a pit, just below a massive chute filled with shocking wall patches and a laser that steadily rises if anything dares to go above it. With nothing better to do, you must guide the ninja dude in leaping from one wall to the other, as far up the chute as you can go, until you die.


That's / ESCAPE \ in a nutshell. Go until you can't go no more. Harsh, but that's life: live until you get zapped by high technology.


/ ESCAPE \'s name betrays its control scheme. You don't choose where the guy goes; you just choose how hard he goes. How? The ESC key, of course. Hitting it makes him jump from one wall to the next. Tap the key gently to rein in his jumping, or mash the sucker to make him fly.

That said, control over your ninja is not as simple as it sounds. Because the area is littered with electrical traps you need to time your jumps to avoid getting zapped - but if you wait too long your ninja will slide down the wall and into the rising laser trap. What a conundrum, albeit a fun one.

My only major concern with the controls stems from the combination jump you can achieve by, essentially double jumping. It makes you go higher and faster, which is good for escaping the laser trap, but it also seems to have unpredictable effects. Why bother with this when most people, especially later on, won't dare use it?


/ ESCAPE \ looks nifty enough. The surroundings are fairly neat, the laser is appropriately apocalyptic, and your guy really plays the part of a ninja with his dramatic jumping and slight after-image. Won't blow your mind, but it does the job.

Could it use more variety? Sure. But, hell, you'd probably die long before you reached said variety.


/ ESCAPE \ boasts a single track that repeats throughout each game, which is generally undesirable. That said it's such a high-octane number that you won't mind, as you need your senses pumping at all times to maximize your reaction time. All in all, not bad.

Challenge Rating

/ ESCAPE \ is pretty goddamned hard, and understandably so - it's not reeeeally a game you're supposed to win. The point, rather, is to play against the scores of OTHER players, and then outdo 'em. In that, / ESCAPE \ is great, as it can be played quickly and easily but damn near anyone...

... though, in the end, the ninja will always die. Depressing.


/ ESCAPE \ ain't bad. It's one of many such similar games, true, but it includes a level of finesse that's not always present in these titles. Worth playing, especially since you can conceivably be doing so for less than a minute and still have a fulfilling experience.

Where you die.

(PS Sorry about the lackluster screenshots. It's bloody hard to get any good ones while playing / ESCAPE \.)


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Don't Look Back

I've seen lots of mythical monsters pop up in video games before - minotaurs are damn near staples in fantasy games, for example - but I don't know that I'd ever played a game directly based on a myth before I locked horns with Don't Look Back. Needless to say, at least in this case, the combination works beautifully.

Assuming, you know, you have the willpower needed to never turn around.


If you're familiar with Greek mythology, you'll probably recognize the myth behind Don't Look Back as soon as you read the title. It refers to the tale of Orpheus, a man who waded into Hell itself (well, okay, Hades) to take back his fallen love Eurydice - only to look back just before they emerged and watch her spirit vanish forever. Fun times.

Don't Look Back follows Orpheus' trek, albeit in a more modern fashion. A man has lost his significant other, and he treks into Hell (Hades?) to get her back. He gets a gun, though, so you can't QUITE say he's Orpheus... just a close analogue.

Game play-wise, Don't Look Back is a platformer. You need to jump over enemies and circumvent traps to survive. Once you fetch your lady love, you need to leave Hell, and... do... y'know... the obvious. (Or NOT do the obvious, as the case may be.)


Don't Look Back's controls are perhaps its weakest aspect. They aren't bad, but they do tend to make the game more difficult than necessary: responsiveness is a teensy bit laggy on some jumps, and your capacity for firing your gun isn't as swift as I might like. There is no life count and you restart on the same screen you died each time, fortunately, so the controls don't destroy the game.


My first thought when Don't Look Back booted up was 'Atari'. Granted, it looks a hell of a lot nicer than most Atari games in animation and execution, but the point stands: the pixelated nature of this title is pure retro. Which, given that it's based on an ancient myth, seems altogether appropriate. (Though it perhaps could have used a climbing animation for the ropes. Tiny detail.)


Don't Look Back is half-and-half silence and gloomy horror music. Silence is primarily ambient noises, which are difficult to fault; the music was pretty decent. There are two primary tracks, one for bosses and another for cave exploration, and both smack of epic combat against creatures most foul. I enjoyed the selection, even if it was tiny.

Challenge Rating

Don't Look Back is a surprisingly difficult game, and that's not the fault of the controls. The puzzles in the game are fairly inventive, and given the do-or-die nature of their completion you need to remain on your toes throughout the game. This is also true of the bosses, though given the nature of restarting after a death it's fairly easy to pick up on patterns necessary to oust the big baddies.

The most difficult part of Don't Look Back, however, has to be not looking back in the second half of the game. You'd be amazed who hard it is to master the impulse to hit the left key when avoiding a trouble area. Get ready to learn.


Don't Look Back is another nice art piece with a strong message pointing towards the futility of fighting death. It's also a solid game in its own right, if a little short. Greek mythology fan or not, you'll probably appreciate this title - especially if you want a challenge. It doesn't take long to beat, but doing so feels good.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Effing Worms

Worms. Can't live with 'em, can't kill 'em. Usually can't kill 'em.

Effing worms.


I COULD sum up Effing Worms, but the description IN the game is so succinct that I might as well just post a screencap:

Not enough? Okay. Here's the not-so-skinny: you're a worm. A biiiig worm. Human beings running about on the surface offend you and make your tummy rumble. Eat the bastards. Giant worms don't need storylines, they just need meals. So, from a purely game play perspective, Effing Worms is a fast-paced mission to guide your worm about and make it as large as possible by eating things. Eat enough things in one go and you'll enter a frenetic rage that will speed up your worm. Between levels you can choose evolutions that will make your worm faster, tougher and altogether more deadly.

But, yeah, at the end of the day you're just out to eat stuff.


Effing Worm's controls are a little confusing, but only at first. Utilizing WASD or the arrow keys, you can throttle your worm into high gear by holding up or W, then use right/D or left/A to change its angle and direction. A little like a gas pedal and a steering wheel in a car, though this car eats people. The controls will grow on you in no time, and I had few issues with them, aside from the occasional difficulty of locking onto tiny targets.


Effing Worms ain't the cream of the crop, but it's not bad, either. The graphics are basic but sleek, and though the environment around you never changes you won't care about the background anyway - too busy hunting teensy humans. The worm itself is definitely the most impressive visual, going from a wee little thing -

- to a ridiculous monstrosity.

It's so sad watching your children grow into adults.


Effing Worms sports two songs: one that's low key and one that's head-banging, guitar-shredding mayhem. Both are okay, and they're suitable for their respective purposes (not-out-of-the-ground-yet and surprise!). Not wowed, but not disgusted.

Challenge Rating

Effing Worms is not a difficult game, and I highly doubt it was meant to be difficult. The only challenge in the game stems from choosing speed over bulk when accepting wormy upgrades, as speed makes it easier to miss targets and decreases your worm's potential bulk and overall health. You need to keep eating humans and avoiding military weaponry to stay alive, and that's tough to do when you miss your meals every time you come around for another pass.

By the end, Effing Worms is (by the game's own admission) just a sandbox slaughterfest where it's almost impossible to die, assuming you don't stop moving. That does not, however, make the game less fun - it's just stupid fun.


Effing Worms is not high art. This title exists for pure, bloody mayhem. It's a great way to unwind after stress, especially if you're interested in seeing all of the visual combinations you can achieve by evolving your worm. Highly recommended - I'll be going back to play this thing again.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Stellar Hunter 2

Some games challenge your skills. Some games make you think. Some even tempt your inner urges to murder, murder, murder, even if murdering consists of nothing more than a lump on an enemy's head from the sole of your boot.

And some games? Some games are just meant for relaxation. Stellar Hunter 2 is one of those games, and should ONLY be used for relaxation, 'cause frankly, it's not that good at anything else.


Stellar Hunter 2 does not boast some grand scheme for snagging stars out of the night sky. No story is needed: you're simply given a strange, circular capturing device with some magnetic pull and set loose on a series of levels full of stars. Catch as many stars as you can until they all vanish, then move on.

The rub? Well, there isn't one, actually. Just catch stars. The stars sometimes move in strange patterns, so it's... occasionally... a teensy bit difficult...

Yeah, let's get down to brass tacks. Stellar Hunter 2, no doubt like its predecessor, is a pretty game. Thaaaaat's about it.


You move the mouse around to catch stars. Wooooo. I often found that my browser screen moved when trying to move the mouse too high on the playing field, so even in this, Stellar Hunter 2 is a little glitchy - though given the relaxing method of play, it's no big deal.


Ah, the graphics. One of two areas that actually matter in Stellar Hunter 2. Overall, this is indeed a pretty game: the star patterns are fun to watch, especially when they form intricate patterns, and the vibrant, cosmic streaks they leave in their wake are nifty enough to dazzle the eye.

Trippy, man.


Aside from the tinkling of stars upon capture, Stellar Hunter 2 relies entirely on a looping set of calm techno-and-happy-sci-fi songs to keep the ears enthralled. For the most part, the soundtrack works: it smacks of space travel, and is perfectly suited for the subject matter. Now, if it would just loop a little less often...

Challenge Rating

What challenge rating? There isn't one. This isn't a hard game. At all. Hell, I found myself completing levels while taking screenshots, and my disc of star capturing wasn't even MOVING. The challenge was getting snapshots of beautiful star clusters before they got sucked up by my static circle. And since there's no minimum number of stars needed to complete a level, you can happily miss most of 'em and still see the whole game through without worry.


Stellar Hunter 2 is an interactive screen saver. You can play, if you want; conversely, you can sit back and watch the stars dance without so much as touching your mouse. There are no serious repercussions for utterly ignoring the game. Relaxation? Yes. Game play? Not so much.


Thursday, January 19, 2012


I have many vivid video game-related memories from when I was younger, and prominent among them was playing SimAnt. I find ants to be fascinating creatures, and the idea that I could control a colony of the little buggers tickled me pink. Still does - I've got a copy of SimAnt somewhere in the basement that still works just fine, with enough tinkering.

Antbuster isn't QUITE the same thing. But it's ants, so I'll forgive the lapse.


You, the innocent little human, have a piece of cake. And, as an innocent little human who's also a fool, you've placed said cake on the ground, within reach of a colony of voracious ants. They want that sweet, sweet sugar so badly that they're willing to rush out of their nest - in carefully-controlled waves, of course - to try and get the thing.

You COULD just pick up the cake and walk away. But, no, you'd rather defend it with a series of tiny, automated defensive turrets. Thus is born another tower defense game. The logic is infallible, folks.

So, yeah. Keep ants away from cake. Score points, get money, upgrade turrets. Maybe buy more. I said yesterday that I hadn't come across a turret defense game featuring a round trip mechanic, and it figures that I discover just such a thing twenty four hours later. Ah, life.


Antbuster is controlled entirely by mouse, and the mouse works fine. No issues with clicking. I will point out that the ability to choose specific targets for your towers was a FANTASTIC feature.


Antbuster was created about five years ago, if memory serves, so I won't be too harsh on the graphics. They aren't bad, but they're not amazing, either - and understandably so, as ants aren't terribly complex-looking from a bird's eye view. The visuals do the job.


Antbuster uses the same musical track throughout the game, and it's a lazy day percussive-and-horn number that suits the subject... though the quality of it is a little meh. Beyond that Antbuster utilizes a series of little snickers whenever ants manage to grab a piece of cake, which are mildly amusing.

Challenge Rating

The difficulty level of Antbuster is its primary weakness. This game is, for the most part, a little too easy.

Despite the fact that you can't really guide the ants down long tunnels of turrets, owing to the steep purchase prices for towers and upgrades, you won't have any trouble keep the little bastards away from your cake. The primary reason for this is the ants' programming, which simulates their occasionally nonsensical movements across the ground: the ants in this game look quite genuine in how they scurry about, often moving from side to side in seemingly random patterns.

This does sound like a plus, yes, but it's a negative on the difficulty for a good reason: the ants are idiots. They typically take a long time to reach the cake, because they're busy running in different directions, and when they DO reach the sugary oasis they often don't go straight back to their nest. Hell, I saw ants get back to home base and then turn around to return to the plate, WITH CAKE IN THEIR MOUTHS, on several occasions. That's pretty stupid, folks.


Despite the lack of difficulty and the stripping-away of some of the genre's complexity, Antbuster is actually a pretty good tower defense game. I'd peg it as a perfect choice for people looking to cut their teeth on other, similar titles, 'cause compared to most such games, this one's a cake walk. Badum-chssh.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Robots vs. Zombies

It has been a little while since I played a game involving tower defense... or zombies... or both combined, which I suppose would be NEVER... so now's a good a time as any. Robots vs. Zombies? Robots vs. Zombies.


The title more or less gives the concept away in this case. You, the robot, must stop the zombies, who are on their way to pick up some delicious energy cores. There you go, folks - that just about covers the plot of Robots vs. Zombies.

And, hey, who needs a plot in a tower defense game? The objective is obvious enough: stop those bastards from getting through. It's a familiar concept, though I will admit that the zombie need to both pick up the cores and carry them away again is something I haven't seen in a tower defense game. If nothing else, the round trip gives you some extra chances to fire on your enemies.

With what? Well, towers, obviously. Beyond that, though, you also have a nice little mech running ops, and when you're not laying down towers you can guide it around to provide some extra firepower. Not enough to stop entire waves, mind, but it's a nice touch, and one that reminds me of The Engineer. (Though in that case the robots were the bad guys. It's all a matter of perspective, folks.)


Familiar fare, here. WASD guides your robot, the mouse lays down and upgrades towers with a few clicks. A goodly combination, and the mouse works fine.

... but the keyboard is a little screwy. Not TOO screwy, but I did have trouble making my robot stop every now and then. Given that the robot provides a lot less cover than the turrets this isn't a big issue, but it's still something that could be addressed.


Robots vs. Zombies is a tad generic visually, but it sports a layer of appreciable polish. The mechs look good, the towers look good, and the zombies... well, they look like zombies. There's plenty of variety in the beasties, one element in which a lot of tower defense games suffer - there's repetition, but variety in that repetition (particularly when two enemy types come blended). Not top notch originality, but more than sufficient for any professional game.


Techno beats. Repetitive techno beats. Not a fan, even if they are suitable to the game.

Challenge Rating

Given that you can adjust the difficulty, and that the game is pretty bloody hard as it is on Normal, Robots vs. Zombies is likely to keep all but the most seasoned tower defense players happy for many long hours. The zombie waves are merciless from the start, and it'll probably take you a while to determine what skills (yes, you can buy skills) and tower combinations best work with your style of play.

There is, however, one problem when it comes to difficulty in this game: it is buggy. I experienced no less than three total game lockouts while playing, and on other occasions the zombies would make it through the exit gate with the last cores, spelling me to doom - only the game wouldn't end. Subsequent waves would stand idly at the door with nothing to do, and I could blow them away at my leisure, providing I had towers close to the door already (further building was not an option). Once or twice in a several-hour session might be excusable, but this happened every two or three maps.

Should I complain when bugs kinda work in my favour? Probably not. Doesn't make for a terribly attractive package, though, when difficult levels are easy to conquer by virtue of technical problems.


Robots vs. Zombies is a borderline generic tower defense game with more depth than the average title, and an equal number of bugs to match. Fix this game up and strip away the rather blatant similarity to Plants Vs. Zombies (really, name it something else) and you'll have a winner.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Super Mario Bros. Crossover

In commemoration of the new Super Mario Bros. Crossover that seems to be lingering on the horizon, I decided to jump all over the FIRST in this newly-dubbed series of games. I'm frankly surprised I've neglected it up until now, as Crossover is browser gaming at its finest.


It's Super Mario Bros. with a bunch of different NES characters. What's not to understand?

Okay, okay, I'll not be a douche. Here's the skinny: Crossover is an entirely-faithful recreation of the original Super Mario Bros. That said, it ALSO incorporates no less than seven additional NES heroes into the works: Samus from Metroid, Ryu from Ninja Gaiden, Link from Legend of Zelda, Sophia III from Blaster Master, Mega Man from... y'know, Simon Belmont from Castlevania and Bill from Contra. The end goal is the same in each game: rescue Princess Toadstool. Peach. Whatever.

What makes Crossover unique from the original game is the fact that each hero brings their respective powers along for the ride. Samus has her arm cannon and can roll up into a ball, for example, while Simon Belmont hefts his whip wherever he goes and can hurl axes at odd angles. You can beat the game as any of the heroes, thanks to extensive tinkering, though playing with characters you've already mastered in other arenas will definitely help your chances - they play the same here as they ever did elsewhere. You can also change characters between levels, which is REALLY helpful for circumventing certain challenges.


The controls vary from character to character, though each utilizes a combination of the arrow keys and Z, X and C. Simple and sweet, just the way I like it. Each character has their own traits when it comes to moving around and attacking, so it's difficult to generalize - though I can at least say that, while faithful to each game, the controls are also nice and tight. If you die, it's your own damn fault.


Everything has been stripped from a slew of NES games, aside from the intro title. If you have beef with 8-bit glory, take it up with Nintendo. I personally thought the combination of games worked beautifully, even if Bill combating goofy turtles looks a little odd.


Again, stripped from various NES games, aside from the selection screen ditty (which is a remix of the famous Mario theme). Deal.

What I liked about the sound was the way in which it was used. Each character received an allotment of tunes from their original games which changed based on the circumstances: for example, Mega Man starts off with the infamous Dr. Wily theme from Mega Man 2, then when he hits a star he reverts to the traditional Mega Man intro screen music. Go in a castle and he's got boss music from the first game. The same applies to each character, making for a nicely varied musical experience - and if you've played any of the games, you should easily recognize the iconic tunes chosen for Crossover.

Challenge Rating

The difficulty level of Crossover varies based on three factors:

a) Your familiarity with the original Super Mario Bros., as it's exactly the same;

b) Your familiarity with your character(s) of choice; and

c) Your choices from level to level.

Though every character is capable of getting through Crossover, some do not fare so well in certain environments compared to others. Mega Man is great for plowing through lots of enemies, but he sucks at jumping, even with Rush at his command. Bill is pretty good for walking levels, but I hated him underwater. Simon Belmont wasn't that great at taking out flying enemies, but he rocked against land-based foes - and he was terrific for leaping long distances with his double jump capacity. You get the picture: everybody's good and bad at something. (I personally thought the Sophia III was the best choice for most situations. Sticking to the ceiling? Fugedaboutit.)

In the end, though, regardless of your character choice or familiarity with Super Mario Bros., your experience with the game boils down to retro skill. Are you good at side scrolling platformers? Then you'll probably do just fine in Crossover.


I could play Super Mario Bros. Crossover all day, each time sampling the levels with a different character. The experience changes so much with just a few game play tweaks that it's like a whole new set of levels on each romp. Whether you're a major NES fan or not, plaaaaaay!


Monday, January 16, 2012


One of my favourite game franchises growing up, despite the wacky storyline, was Metal Gear Solid. The combination of gun-toting action with heart-pulsing stealth made my day - to the point that I got pretty good at avoiding enemies in video games, regardless of the genre. (My skills have atrophied over the years, sad to say.)

Shadowess is a nice reflection of my love, with one caveat - no more guns. This is sneaking, pure and simple, and consequently it's both really, REALLY hard, and bloody fun.


Shadowess is a game that seems to begin without much of a plot, though it develops with time. You play as a free-floating smiley without a smile - and that lack seems to piss it off something fierce. You must run through a series of blackened areas, patrolled by light-bearing dots, and reach exit portals on the opposite sides of the rooms, often contending with small mazes in the process.

So, yeah, it's a bird's eye view espionage game. You can't get caught. Your little guy can't get touched by the enemy without going belly-up in an instant, and every little move can immediately spell your doom. Have fun!

My only complaint? Typos. A fair number of 'em, too. Some quick editing would help.


The majority of Shadowess is spent zipping about with either the arrow controls or WASD. Very simple, and quite responsive, to boot - your character can really motor when it wants. The ability to use arrows or WASD is nice.

That said, I highly recommend you get used to WASD from the start, because eventually you'll incorporate the mouse into your sneaking efforts. The combination is good, and though it does increase the challenge it also expands your options. Overall, no complaints, other than a teensy bit of floating on some movements, and I imagine this was deliberate to increase the challenge. (You are urged to have well-polished keyboarding skills at the beginning, after all.)


The sprites and environments in Shadowess are exceedingly simple in nature. Your character is nothing more than a circle and two little dots for eyes, and your enemies are coloured dots. Doesn't get much more basic than that.

What brings Shadowess to life is light. Light plays a massive role in character detection, and so it has a tendency to ebb and flow against objects in a very natural, almost frightening way (since getting caught in the light often means the end of the road). Play the game and you'll see that light is, more than anything else, your enemy.


Shadowess doesn't really rely on music. Rather it boasts an ambient track of tense noises that will keep you consistently on your toes, even if they are repetitive. I also appreciated the range of sound effects as you interact with your environment - a simple bump, for example, usually results in a lost level, bringing a whole new meaning to what's otherwise an everyday occurrence.

Challenge Rating

Shadowess is NOT for espionage gaming beginners, especially if said beginners are impatient or fidgety. The sensitivity of the environment makes almost every level in the game a severe challenge, as the movement of light and your ability to avoid objects both play a role in survival. If you prefer mad dashes to calculated movements, you'll never beat Shadowess.

I should point out, that said, that you CAN run your way through some of the levels, pursued by bad guys, and make it to the exit. Sometimes that may seem like the preferred tactic. The game runs on a star-based rating system, however, and every time you're spotted you lose a star - which means that a maximum scores requires no detections. If you thought Shadowess was difficult before, go for perfect. It's damn near impossible unless you're a master sneak.



Shadowess is a great game. It's the ultimate way to practice for other tactical espionage games, as it's probably more difficult than any of 'em. Highly recommended - and if you can beat the thing, let me know. I could not.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

One and One Story

After yesterday's Abobo-extravaganza, I contemplated not doing a review today. Two at once? Then another the next day? Crazy.

But, no, here I am again, and this time I have a nice artsy game to balance out the madness that is Abobo: One and One Story. Trust me, this game is veeeeeeery different - but still really cool in its own way.


One and One Story is the tale of two lovers going through tumultuous times. The guy loves the girl, but the girl can't seem to quite make up her mind about him. The game follows their love, step-by-step, to a dramatic conclusion... well, okay, maybe it's not THAT dramatic, but it's touching. Emotional. Heartfelt. (Probably should've saved this game for Valentine's Day or something.) Could've used an editor at some points, but otherwise, okay. I buy it.

What makes One and One Story rather unique is that the narrative follows along with the game play. The game starts off with you switching between the boy and the girl in a series of shadowy levels filled with pushable blocks and platforms, trying to bring them together - but as the two start to feel differently towards each other, things change. For example, when the story says that the girl runs toward the boy whenever she sees him, she'll start doing that in the levels - and you'll need to be careful that she doesn't fall into a spiked pit. The mechanics change nearly a dozen times over the course of the story, each change corresponding to their romance. It's really neat idea, and it allows the game to re-use levels without them becoming stale, because you need to beat them differently each time.


Varies. One minute you're moving the two characters together, the next the boy can't jump, and the next the girl's free-wandering and you have to save her. In each case, however, the control scheme doesn't get much more complex than arrows for side-to-side movement and up to jump, with Z acting as a switcher between the two characters. (Though in the bonus game that's unlocked for completing the main game, you can control both the boy and the girl with the arrow and WASD keys simultaneously, which makes for an... interesting experience.)

My only comment on the controls is that jumping is not as responsive as I would like. On many occasions I hit up when approaching a ledge, only for my little shadow dude or dudette to plunge to their death without so much as lifting their leg. The levels aren't lengthy so this isn't a big deal, but it's still irksome.


Despite the fact that much of One and One Story is clad in darkness, it's still a hauntingly pretty game. There are lots of little background details - lamps, benches, trees, very park-oriented stuff - that shines amid the black, giving the game a misty, almost watercolour feel. Difficult to describe, but highly impressive in action.


Aside from two little sighs whenever your characters bite the bullet, One and One Story relies primarily on a few ghostly tracks that hint at a tragic love story in the making. They'd go well with any rainy day. (Which, as it happens, is the case from where I'm looking. What a lovely winter scene.)

Challenge Rating

As with the controls, the level of challenge varies from scenario to scenario. Some puzzles are much easier than others to solve, by virtue of the changing controls, and tough logic might dictate that One and One Story would get more and more difficult the further you get, this isn't always the case. It's just easier to handle some control schemes (switch between boy and girl) and others (control them both at the same time, both moving in opposite directions).

Overall, though, One and One Story is not too hard. It's tricky, yes, but not really hard. Expect a twenty minute romp through this game before you call it a day. (And, again, there's bonus material at the end. That gets a fair bit more difficult at times, though it also opens up the possibility of multiplayer. How cute.)


I like it. Really. One and One Story isn't robust or terribly exciting, but it does offer something few games can: a story that actually affects the game play in a meaningful way. Neat stuff.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Abobo's Big Adventure

I have been dimly aware of Abobo's Big Adventure for several months, despite the fact that it's apparently been in production for a decade or so - and as soon as I discovered the concept, I knew I had to play the thing. Consequently, I've been checking the Newgrounds 'Countdown to Abobo' almost every day.

Today is the day. Today is Abobo. And Abobo... dear god, Abobo is awesome. Awesome enough that I'm doing two reviews in one day, just because I couldn't resist.


Unless you know your Nintendo lore, you probably don't even know Abobo. He was, originally, a beefy boss from Double Dragon who had the distinction of appearing in several games, even managing to go up against the Battletoads at one point. His unusual appearance, coupled by his debatable handlebar mustache, made him a noteworthy, if minor, NES character.

What you DON'T know is that Abobo actually has a son, Aboboy, who for reasons unknown - probably because this is based on an NES game, and NES games love this stuff - has been kidnapped. Abobo needs to get him back, and he'll do it in the only way he understands: trashing anybody who gets between him and his progeny. On with the adventure!

The story for Abobo's Big Adventure is silly as hell. It's MEANT to be silly as hell, because this is a game that crosses genre boundaries between levels. Literally. You're playing a different NES game in each new venture, whether you're roaming the streets old school Abobo-style, swimming the seas like Mario, plundering the lasery depths of Quick Man's stage ala Mega Man or engaging in a good 'ol Balloon Fight. The game play changes with each stage, so being good at one does not mean you'll be so hot at the next - a challenge that most retro gamers should relish.


As mentioned above, each level has Abobo trying something new. You'll walk, you'll punch, you'll swim, you'll fly... consequently, the controls change all the time, even though you're still using the old Nintendo scheme of directional arrows coupled with two buttons (not A and B, in this one, but A and S).

Overall, the controls in Abobo's Big Adventure are pretty solid, though in many cases they're only as good as the game from which they come. For example, most players will probably find Balloon Fight to be a big pain in the ass, because the original game worked that way as well. Can't blame the programmers for sticking to the classics. I only had issues in the Mega Man stage when it came to controls, in that they weren't as responsive as the original game.

So I died. A lot. In one particular spot. You'll know which.


Oh. Good. Lord. Abobo's Big Adventure is more NES games sewn together than I care to consider, and so the package in its entirety is a giant, glorious, pixelated orgy. The visuals are so wonderfully creative - especially in the bosses and the cut scenes - that you'll want to replay Abobo's Big Adventure several times, just to catch all of the references.

What really dragged me into the game, however, was the attention paid to Abobo himself. He's already damn cool on his own, but the game goes to great lengths to make him even cooler, giving him a series of little transformations to suit each level while remaining staple Abobo. I can't show you every change, 'cause that would spoil much of the game's ending, but they're all awesome - especially when Abobo uses his crazy Rage moves to wipe out every enemy on the screen.


Abobo's Big Adventure, as far as I can tell, relies almost entirely on the soundtracks of other games. If you liked the original NES titles, you'll enjoy Abobo's soundtrack. I also liked the attention to the little sounds beyond the background music, right down to the digitized cheering during cage matches. Bravo.

Challenge Rating

Hard, but not terribly hard. Abobo's Big Adventure is made for NES gamers; everyone else will have a little difficulty getting into the game play, especially since it changes all the time. Some levels are a lot harder than others, and even reshuffling the order wouldn't change this very much.

That said, Abobo's Big Adventure doesn't go out of its way to be too difficult. The game is relatively forgiving in the amount of extra lives, and when you die you can restart at the beginning of the level rather than having to start the entire game over. Abobo's lengthy health meter (fitting for a boss character) and his Rage moves will help pull you through the beefier challenges.

Just, uh, limber up your hands before you start. There's a lot of button tapping in this sucker.


Before I finish off, I will mention one recurring bug: the game froze on me twice. This isn't a huge issue since, cache allowing, you can refresh the page and still have all the unlocked levels at the ready, but the freezing is frustrating as hell if you're almost at the end of a difficult section and have to start over.

Right. Rare negative side over. Ready for the explosion?

YOU. MUST. PLAY. THIS. GAME. If you harbour any sort of love for the NES, you have no choice but to play Abobo's Big Adventure. Sure, you might not give a damn about Abobo himself, but there are so many references jammed into this game that anyone who's so much as touched a Nintendo system will get a few chuckles.

And the ending? Epic. Worth the long wait.

Ready? Then it's time to go. Saddle up, Abobo.

Damn right.