Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The World's Biggest Pac-Man

I'm not quite old enough to have experienced the whole Pac-Man phase - was born three years after it first came out? - but I'm no stranger to the game. I played it many, many times in arcades growing up, and I've since played it plenty of times online. Pac-Man's one of those games you're going to experience eventually no matter what you do or where you go.

There was always one problem, though: you always had to play the same damn levels over and over. Time to remedy that problem? Yooooou betcha, and that's just what World's Biggest Pac-Man does.


Predictably enough, World's Biggest Pac-Man is still Pac-Man. You need to gather all the little pellet thingers while avoiding the ghosts. Easy peasy.

The name change comes with one rather massive addition, however: World's Biggest Pac-Man is a sort of Pac-Man MMO, in that players can create and submit their own Pac-Man maps. What's more, every map is sewn together in a massive web, each new map accessible at the sides of the previous map, so you can conceivably play Pac-Man all day long and not see the same map twice. It's a really neat idea - though the quality of your experience is often dependent on whomever's map you've found.


Like the original Pac-Man, World's Biggest Pac-Man features controls that aren't as tight as you'd probably like. Pac-Man is in constant motion unless he hits a wall, and though you'll usually make corners, there are odd occasions where Pac-Man will refuse to obey. All part of the fun, I guess.


It's Pac-Man. Hasn't changed, probably shouldn't change. (I don't like the attempts to modernize Pac-Man and the ghosts in newer incarnations. They just don't look right.)


Wakka wakka wakka!

Challenge Rating

On average, World's Biggest Pac-Man is a teensy bit easier than a normal game of Pac-Man, simply because you have four escape routes to use if the ghosts are incoming. You could pass from one side of the screen to the other in the classic game, true, but the ghosts could always follow. Less problematic here.

That said, World's Biggest Pac-Man's difficulty really depends on the map. Most, like the one I did of Dragomir above, are on par with the old game. (Actually, I'd say Dragomir's a bit tougher than average. I didn't put any power dots near the center. Give it a try here.) Some, on the other hand, are disgustingly hard...

... while others are stupidly easy.

Poor trapped ghosts.

You still need to be good at Pac-Man to survive in World's Biggest Pac-Man, of course, and you'll get lots of practice to that effect - just don't expect to beat every map. It's probably grown hopelessly huge by now.


World's Biggest Pac-Man is, in the end, just a new version of Pac-Man. If you like Pac-Man, you'll like this website. If not, there are plenty of other ghosts in the sea.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Zombies, Inc.

Zombies are big business these days. They've become so deeply ingrained in popular culture that you're hard pressed to surf the Internet without coming across references to zombies. Consequently, it was only a matter of time before zombies themselves took up the business - and in doing so, began spreading themselves across the planet.

Okay, so, that's not ACTUALLY happening. But it can in Flash form!


I more or less ran through the idea behind Zombies, Inc. already, but here's a more direct approach: you're the CEO of the game's company. It's your job to lead Zombie, Inc.'s business strategy to financial and military success through purchasable products, the hiring of new staff and, of course, sending zombies out into cities worldwide to spread mayhem. The more money you're earning, the stronger your zombies can become - assuming you don't run your company into the red by accident and bankrupt yourself in the process.

The zombie presence aside, Zombies, Inc. is primarily a resource allocation simulator, somewhat akin to the Sim line. Granted, it's simplified and somewhat easy as a result, but it's still an excellent idea for a browser game - at least for a while.




Zombies, Inc. boasts some fairly decent graphics, considering it relies more on strategy than visualization to capture players. Even though you're stuck seeing the same animations repeated over and over, they're at least consistently GOOD animations. These cartoony zombies bring more life to the table than the average undead dunces populating these sorts of games. The more zombies you have on staff the slower the game gets, though, so be wary.


Zombies, Inc. features a single madcap horror song that repeats itself endlessly. That in and of itself is a slight irritant, though the song is generally quiet enough that it should blend effortlessly into the background after a while. The various sound effects outside the song are, as well, fairly negligible in affecting the game one way or another.

Challenge Rating

Zombies, Inc. is not a difficult game. At first it SEEMS like it might be, but it's not. Just about any player could challenge and beat the Hard mode right after their first play through.

For the first little while, you'll struggle with money. Your zombies won't be strong enough to beat many human cities, and you'll be forced to wait as cash trickles in. After about twenty minutes of playing that will probably cease to be a problem, however, as conquering cities starts yielding insane amounts of cash, and even though expansion increases your expenses, it does little to raise the difficulty bar. By the end you'll likely have millions of dollars squirreled away, and without much effort to boot:

What's more, once you unlock the game's strongest zombies the strategy gets stripped away from Zombies, Inc., reducing the game play to a climactic ten minutes of conquering a city, refilling your ranks, conquering the next city, refilling and so forth. It's a regrettably tedious end to an otherwise interesting experience.


Zombies, Inc. is, despite a few small drawbacks, a good game. It lasts a decent while, and at first should provide a sufficient challenge to simulation enthusiasts. That's just at first, though, and once you get the hang of world domination, it sorta becomes a chore. Definitely worth playing, probably not worth too many repeat ventures.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Pandemic II

Few Flash games have risen to such heights that they've spawned memes. Pandemic II, however, has not only generated a meme, it's generated one that's popular enough to bring about recognition even if someone hasn't played the game. That's quite a feat.

Oh, and, yeah, the game itself is pretty good too. But the meme! The meme!


Unlike most games, Pandemic II actually gives you the role of the aggressor. You are a virus (or bacteria, or parasite, your choice), hell-bent on infecting the world and bringing the human race to its knees. You can evolve, you can spread, and you're ready to cause some trouble.

In essence, then, Pandemic II is a simulation. You are a sickness that's trying to overcome the natural and medical defenses of mankind in an effort to wipe every last person from the face of the map. You do this by slowly evolving your disease to include new symptoms and immunities that will allow it to spread to every country. Do so too quickly or improperly, however, and the governments of the world will take measures to stop the spread, including a vaccine that can bring an immature halt to your pandemic.

Yeah. Cheery concept, eh?


You use a mouse to navigate menus. 'nough said.


Pandemic II sports a relatively basic map of the world and a few menus for evolving your disease and checking up on humanity's progress. Nothing to gawk over, though it gets the job done.


Pandemic II is all about a single music track that's straight out of any number of medical alert movies. It gets pretty irritating after a dozen repetitions.

Challenge Rating

Thought this was gonna be a short review, eh? Here's all the meat.

Pandemic II is a difficult game. It's not difficult to spread your disease to MOST of the world, despite humanity's stopgap measures - it's just getting to one country in PARTICULAR that's tricky. It's this country that spawned the successful Internet meme in the first place:


Madagascar is your real foe in Pandemic II. True, some other countries can shut their borders and kill an otherwise successful game, but most of the time, it's Madagascar that will hit you first. The damn place has no bordering countries, being an island, and it only has a port that allows for infection - and once that port closes down, it's game over. You can't win. You might as well shut your browser and play something else if you see the above picture.

Consequently, Pandemic II is a frustrating experience. It's fun as hell, sure, and you can still go on to enjoy wiping out the rest of humanity, like so:

But you'll always have to live with that one little dot of green on an otherwise orange-red planet. Sigh.

The problem of Madagascar is a bit of a game breaker for me in that you're more or less forced to pick parasites as your starter of choice if you want to succeed. Viruses and bacteria spread too quickly and too openly to prove viable choices, leaving only the meticulous parasites to break through to Madagascar - and even they have a hell of a time. And the worst part is, the spread of your disease is a little luck-based dependent on where you start, so you may be doomed at the beginning of some sessions.

In conclusion?

Give Madagascar a damned airport.

Otherwise, fun game.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Browser-based games are becoming bolder and bolder with time, and I'd say that Killbot! is a prime example of this trend. Not only does it provide its players with a unique, sometimes-silly story, it possesses ambitious level design, an interesting physics engine and far more secrets than the average browser game. The future is looking bright.


Picture this. You're a robot. No, more than that - you're a Killbot. You've just been created, but you're not sure if you want to be killing so much, so you decide to break out of your enclosure at U.S. Killbotics and see the world, one job at a time.

Yep. That's Killbot!

Killbot! actually boasts a fairly expansive story that's consistently present via a series of messages left behind for Killbot in the environment. Consequently, you start to feel for the little guy after a while, as you get the sense that he's starving for something other than the life of a death-dealing machine.

The game play underneath this story is a little different from what you'd expect of a game called Killbot!, however. This title is a puzzler, requiring its players to run and jump their way through six levels, using their programmed telekinesis to manipulate movable objects while looking for an exit. It's a big puzzle with heavy elements of item collecting, in short, and a damn fun one at that.


I wish I could push this part of the review closer to the end, but I have to follow format. The control scheme of Killbot! is, by far, the game's most troublesome aspect.

In theory, moving Killbot and manipulating the environment is simple. A and D move him about, W makes him jump, and the mouse allows you to pick up objects and carry them around. Hit SPACE while an item's in the air and it will freeze in place. (Remember this last bit of info, it's crucial to simplifying your life.)

In practice, this control scheme is unwieldy and problematic. Everything WORKS, yes, but... not as well as you'll want. Killbot has an extremely irritating tendency to slide when he moves around, which isn't a problem unless you're trying to jump. Which happens often. Try to land on something small and you'll almost always overshoot it or slide right off the first couple of times. Aggravating, this is.

I had similar problems with carrying items. Depending on the object, movement can range from simple (say, a tiny box) to VERY ANNOYING (a length of pipe - in my experience, the longer an item, the more difficult it is to maneuver). The primary problem is that things like to spin a lot, meaning they'll get jammed in tight corridors and force you to reevaluate your strategy.

All that said, I really did enjoy steering Killbot around. Playing with his weird telekinetic powers is great in open areas, and allows for some innovative puzzle-solving opportunities when used in conjunction with the freezing ability. Just don't expect to be universally floored by the experience.


I can see some people hating the way Killbot! looks. I, however, thought it was great. Everything resembles a doodle on lined paper, albeit one that's in motion on the page. The aesthetic perfectly encapsulates a journey such as Killbot's, particularly given that there are messages scrawled on the walls everywhere he goes. The environments are also rich with detail, including a lot of objects that are present simply to fill out the levels - objects that you can have fun chucking around.

Special mention should be given to the game's reliance on outfits. Every now and then you'll run across barriers that require Killbot to dress up as a human to get by, forcing the pink wanderer to don hairstyles, hats, glasses, clothes and other such articles in weird combinations. It's a neat mechanic, and it underscores Killbot's desire to be more than just a killer. I can appreciate a dress-up system that's deeper than mere appearance.


Killbot! barely has any ambient sounds, so I'll focus on the soundtrack. The expansive, impressive, incredibly fleshed-out soundtrack.

Most browser games scrape by with three or four songs at most. Killbot!, by contrast, has a ton of unlockable tracks, the majority of which I quite enjoyed. (My personal favourite was 'Winter is Coming'.) No two tunes sound alike, either, and you can switch between them at will, a touch I very much enjoyed, as constant repetition of one song during a level can drive me batty.

And the best part? You can find new songs in each level by completing certain side tasks. I would venture to say that half the purpose of playing Killbot! is finding all the music in the game... and then, y'know, buying said music on iTunes.

Challenge Rating

Killbot! isn't a terribly difficult game, but it IS long. It took me about an hour to complete the base game, and that was without collecting all of the extras. (That comes after I'm done with this review.) It's a beefy experience, and more than fun enough to justify the extra exploration, as you seldom have to go TOO far out of your way to gather the extras.

As mentioned earlier, the real challenge in Killbot! is struggling with the controls. The puzzles aren't too hard: it's wrestling the elements need to solve those puzzles that's difficult. I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear that players have been forced to restart levels because of objects stuck on the game's geography, though I, fortunately, didn't run into that trouble.


Despite its shortcomings, Killbot! is a worthy browser game, and should be played by anyone with a keyboard and mouse. The story is great, the game play a lot of fun and the presentation fantastic. (I was listening to the music the whole time I wrote this review. Can't say that's been true of any other game.) If you like a good head scratcher, Killbot!'s the game to play.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Egg Man

Given the sheer number of video games out there, it's probably safe to say that damn near every household object has been the star of its own game, browser or not. Consequently, even though I've never SEEN another game whose egg is a hero, I'm sure it exists.

It's also probably better than Egg Man.


You're an egg. With a cape. And legs and a face and stuff.

Apparently, you have an aversion to veggies, and they to you.


What can I say? Egg Man's story isn't really a story. You're an eggy superhero who has to traverse various levels. Get to the end of the lot and the game ends. I think, anyway. I couldn't get through all of Egg Man, for... various reasons.

To sum up? Egg Man is a platformer. It combines Super Mario Bros. with Mega Man X and... something that's not as good as either of those games.


The control scheme of Egg Man is what makes me so damn iffy about this game. It is not very good.

Okay. I will grant you that Egg Man is not difficult to control. You can do it with one hand, as all you need is the arrow keys. Not tough. The problem here is the game's response to your control inputs, that being not so great - particularly when it comes to jumps, and jumps are CRUCIAL to a platformer. How can you reach the next platform without jumping? In Egg Man, you cannot.

The problem with Egg Man is that he's hellishly slow, and the game grants him almost no reprieve when it comes to taking hits. You need to hit enemies spot on the top of the head, otherwise you're taking damage and flying back into a pit or whatever or something bad. What's more, the jumps require absolute precision, as even coming close to the top of a spot of water will instantly kill your poor little egg. FRUSTRATING.


Egg Man's visuals start out pretty okay. Egg Man himself sports a decent design, the environment looks nice and clean, the enemies are decent... if uninspired... and you even get a nice sun to gawk over your progress. Fancy.

Problem is, the setting never changes. Ever. You'll face the occasional new obstacle or enemy, but they've just set in different configurations for each level. There's no change in tilesets. Preeeeeetty boring.


Egg Man's ambient sound effects are relatively negligible, aside from a few small things, so I'll focus on the music. It starts out okay as a little guitar riff, then moves... into that guitar riff. Again. And again. And... forever, the same snippet of a song, repeated and repeated... in bad quality... and the switchover between repetitions is not smooth... thumbs down.

Challenge Rating

Egg Man is a difficult game, and some of that stems from actual decent level design. Enemy placement is good, the traps scale appropriate to your progress, and some thought it required to get past tough areas. I'll give Egg Man that much.

Unfortunately, more of the challenge comes from the terrible controls and a lack of explanation. For example, you will NEVER know, except through accidental discovery, that Egg Man can wall jump. You do, however, learn through the broken-English tutorial (I imagine the game's a bit better understood in its native tongue) that you can set bombs by collecting eggs.

... the tutorial doesn't tell you that the bombs have extremely slow timers, though, and are damn near useless.

Overall, the biggest challenge in Egg Man is wanting to continue. It's not nearly a good enough game to warrant a full play-through. I got sick of it after trying to struggle through four levels, let alone getting through the full six shown in the walkthrough. (And it looks as though there are more than six levels on the game's map. Is this thing just incomplete?)


Long story short, Egg Man has the elements of a successful video game, but it doesn't put them to use in any significant way. You're probably best off just skipping this game.

That said...


Friday, February 17, 2012

10 Bullets

I fully recognize that I should probably be focusing my efforts on browser games that are relatively robust, ie. they're more than just a single gimmick. Every now and then I feel obliged to write an overly-long review for something tiny, however, and 10 Bullets is the perfect choice for just such a review. So there.


10 Bullets is a shooter. You play the role of a robotic, ground-based defense system, aimed to the sky and set to kill. Ships are zipping by overhead, and you need to shoot 'em down.

And you only have ten bullets. Obviously.

That's pretty much all there is to 10 Bullets. Wait until a ship comes in your range, then hit the SPACE key to fire a bullet. If you hit the ship it will blow up, sending debris in two directions. Manage to hit another ship with that debris and the next will explode into three pieces... then four... then five, six, seven... you get the idea. You want to chain as many exploding ships together as possible.

As far as concepts go, this one's pretty damn basic. Fun for a couple minutes, sure, but it gets mindless in no time. Best suited as a mini game attachment for a larger title? Maybe so.


Does your computer have a SPACE bar? Yes? You're good.


Nothing special. The ships, and particularly your gun, are rather ill-defined. (Seriously, I can't figure out what the gun is supposed to look like.) Some variety in the ships would be cool.


A single techno song, playing over and over. This game is damn short, but I muted my computer in a hurry - I'm not a fan of this kind of music. Most players probably won't react so violently, however.

Challenge Rating

10 Bullets is a teensy bit trickier than it sounds. True, the game's out of your hands as soon as the bullet leaves the barrel of your gun, but you can control the initial explosions to an extent with proper timing. Make sure there are lots of ships flying along a single line, and more incoming on the adjacent lines, before you fire. This should maximize the damage done and raise your combo bonuses as high as possible.

In the end, though, yeah, you can't control what'll happen. Some explosion combos carry on for long minutes; some peter out after two or three hits. This game is luck at play.


Once you hit over a hundred destroyed ships, you'll probably close 10 Bullets and play something else. I probably should have done that rather than write this review, but, there you are. For what it is, 10 Bullets is glitchless and well-executed - it's just as bare-bones a game as you're likely to find.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I'm not sure if compassion towards animals or an innate sense of sadism are at work, but these days, fictionalized accounts of laboratory experiments are much more often carried out on humans. I get the feeling Portal might be to blame for this recurring trend, which is fine - these games seem to work out nicely. And Sqr is, indeed, pretty nice.


Sqr's story is more or less shrouded in mystery - as far as I can tell the name itself doesn't even appear in the game - though I think the primary concern is that you are a person turned lab rat, set loose in a series of test areas where gravity can be changed via a series of arrows. You need to move from one area to the next by collecting keycards that will open a door to the next area.

Yeah. Lab and changing gravity. We've heard both of these elements before, and several times to boot. They still work, so long as the game play is passable, and Sqr's IS passable. More than passable, it turns out, though not without issues.


Simple but complex, Sqr relies on WASD/arrow keys and SPACE, the former doing the obvious and the latter interacting with objects in your environment, primarily arrows. Hit an arrow and gravity now goes in that direction, typically sending your dude, and any boxes or people in the vicinity, flying towards the nearest appropriate wall.

Overall, the controls work. That said, they present the game's biggest problems, as your little dude isn't only somewhat sluggish, he also doesn't always react as you'd like. Movement is usually okay, but the SPACE bar proves consistently problematic. This is a very bad thing if you need to accurately hit an arrow as you're hurtling towards a laser barrier and the SPACE bar doesn't work.


Sqr has a nice 16-bit feel that brought back many fond memories. Nothing is overly complex-looking, and though the environments can get a little drab after a while there's enough variation in the traps and enemies that you shouldn't get bogged down in repetition. The sprites very much reminded me of an old Final Fantasy game, and though there's almost no basis for other comparison between this and Square-Enix games, I revel in the likeness.


A few basic sound effects aside, Sqr's auditory component is ruled by a track that's pure industrial. It's decent, doesn't make me wanna blow my brains out, but it won't make its way onto my MP3 player either.

Challenge Rating

Sqr is a surprisingly tough game, though not as tough as some I've played. It has an evenly-scaling difficulty that doesn't get horribly high until the later levels, and more often than not traps and other inmates are to blame, not impenetrable combinations of gravity-altering arrows. Consequently, Sqr also ranks as a timing-sensitive platformer, above and beyond the obvious puzzler label.

The only thing that bugs me about Sqr is the time it can take to re-complete a level if you die. Your dude can only take a single hit, and if he does bite the dust he'll have to start the puzzle again. The innate slowness of Sqr makes this more of a chore than it probably should be. (Though I could simply be impatient.)


Sqr's a solid game, and despite a couple little snags it delivers some nice, mind-bendingly satisfying puzzles. Give this one a shot if you can wrap your head around gravity changing, because the intuitive nature of control inversion in this sucker is more addictive than I might otherwise have thought.


Monday, February 13, 2012


As frequenters of this blog might already know, I enjoy a good exploratory platformer. Games like Metroid and Castlevania (though I suck so badly at Castlevania) are like bread and butter to me, and I've yet to find one I actively dislike.

Abducted is probably the closest I've come to a bad exploration game. And, given that it's apparently the programmer's first go at Flash games, that's okay - we all stumble when we first give something a go.


Abducted spells out its own concept, plain and simple. You're some 8-bit dude who's been abducted by aliens. You need to escape from their clutches. For some reason they're letting you run free on their ship, so... this isn't as tricky as it sounds... either way, the result is an exploration game with some shooting tossed in for flavour. Fun.

Abducted is, in most ways, a bare-bones endeavour. There's a story - but it's tiny. There's exploration - but not much of it. There's some combat with aliens - but all you get is a single gun, and the aliens are all (with one huge exception) the same. There's a start to something here, but Abducted doesn't get too far past the starting line.


Up and side to side for movements, X and V to activate powers you acquire on the road to freedom. Simple, and for the most part effective enough. The jumping leaves a little to be desired, mostly when trying to reach high platforms.

My biggest control-related grief came from the hit detection. You need to be damn precise with your jumps when trying to avoid aliens, 'cause getting just a little too close will spell your doom. The save points are all close together so dying won't drive you batty, but it's still irritating to bite the dust because your toe nicked an alien's head.


Abducted is a little below NES standards but a little above an Atari game. I appreciate the retro-throwback style, I really do, but this could use more variety in all respects. The aliens get tedious after thirty or forty sightings, and the alien ship... well, it kinda reminded me of Adventure, and from a graphical standpoint that's not a compliment.


Abducted has one track, a typical sci-fi tune that runs throughout the game. I actually thought this track comprised the game's greatest strength, as it's a solid tune that more or less sets the scene. Were the game any longer I'd probably get annoyed hearing it repeated ad nauseum, but I was content to keep my speakers blaring.

Challenge Rating

There's next to no challenge to be found in Abducted, mainly because a) the area is pretty damn small for an exploration game and b) the aliens are all predictable. Either they go up and down or they go left and right. Once you get the hang of jumping, not to mention find a gun, the game's a cake walk. (This also sadly applies to the final boss, which is... well, it looks neat, at least...)

I suppose what disappoints me most is the fact that, on my first run, Abducted only took ten minutes to complete. Games belonging to the Metroidvania genre typically run a lot longer than your average browser-based title. Stretch out the experience and add in some more innovative powers (I did like reverse gravity, though), and Abducted will be better suited for the genre.


Abducted is a good start... and that's about it. You won't get a hell of a lot out of this game. Keep on trying, programmer - with this as a base you can probably create something much more ambitious next time.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Hot Tub Heist

Aliens. They're such bastards, aren't they? One minute they're reaching out in friendship with their glowy fingers, and the next they're trying to kidnap everyone on the planet. Just can't tell which kinda aliens you're gonna meet from day to day.

There are, unfortunately, no friendly aliens in Hot Tub Heist. These dudes wanna take you into their spaceship - and what they'll do after that is best left to the imagination.


You play the part of the industrious-yet-not-terribly-productive company owner, a dude with big pecs and a ridiculous set of hair, who's busy hanging out in his jacuzzi when aliens suddenly attack. Wearing naught more than a tiny speedo you must escape your rapidly-vanishing office building and dash away from the descending spacecraft on a subway at the bottom of each level.

This may not quite spell out the game's mechanics, but once you start playing you'll understand in a hurry: this is a falling game. With a twist. If the top of the screen catches up with you - which is, in this case, the alien ship - you're dead and have to start over. Each new level gets progressively harder and harder, though you also get ability power-ups as you go along, such as improved speed and dashing. using 'em all is absolutely necessary for survival.

I must admit, I'm impressed by Hot Tub Heist's concept. It's quite original, a step above the average falling game, and more than silly enough to enjoy on its own, as the boss is quite a douche. Not only does he spend his whole working day in a jacuzzi, sending messages to employees via cell phone, but he escapes by kicking said employees into walls. Professionalism.


Hot Tub Heist is nice and simple at first, gaining a slight bit of complexity as you go along (but, so far as I can tell, still using the same buttons): arrow keys for movement, space to kick things out of your way. Eventually you'll get some double tap dashing moves that ratchet your options up a notch, but they never make Hot Tub Heist overly confusing.

Control issues are, instead, more related to response time. Your boss is OKAY when it comes to reacting to commands, but not spot-on. He has a tendency to drift a bit, and moving him about just feels generally sluggish. I'm sure this is done to add to the overall difficulty, but it's a little irritating.


Hot Tub Heist looks great. The sprites and backgrounds are all clean and interesting looking, and the office environment offers a fair variety of recyclable elements that keep the stages from growing too repetitive. And that ship... that giant, alien ship... you just KNOW you don't wanna get near that thing. Ever.


Hot Tub Heist's music did not wear off on me in any great way. It's not bad, but it's also not terribly memorable. Take it for what it is.

I was more enamoured by the sounds than I was by the music, and when I say 'sounds' I mean the boss' dialogue. He's a pretty funny guy between levels, and his macho incredulity at what's happening is perfect for the situation - his action-oriented grunts are hilarious when you happen to be kicking an employee out the side of the building.

Challenge Rating

Heeeeere's the troubling part of Hot Tub Heist. It's a hard game. Potentially too hard.

I honestly can't say how long Hot Tub Heist is, because there isn't a chance in hell that I'll get through all the levels (unless there are only five, because five was my max). The growth of the alien ship's weapons is a bit too drastic between levels to make survival an easy task, and the randomized nature of the building's layouts sometimes leaves you with near-impossible escape situations. And, granted, you get powers that help a lot, but they don't come soon enough to be really helpful.

If I knew how many levels there were, I would suggest the programmers move the difficulty curve up a bit more gradually. As I don't KNOW how long the game lasts, though, I can't really recommend that. Just... be prepared for a brutal experience, especially if you're no good at falling games.


Hot Tub Heist is a solid experience. The visuals are great, the accompanying sound effects remind me of Duke Nukem in the business world, and the game play is addictive... if a little too hard. Overall, highly recommended.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Elephant Quest

I've never played an exploratory RPG featuring an elephant. I've never played one where the elephant is the lead character. And I've CERTAINLY never played one where the elephant is surrounded by laser beams.

Today, though, all these things... all of these things have been fulfilled. And I feel a little richer for the experience. Thank you, Elephant Quest, thank you.


Life in the world of elephants has gone to HELL. Wooly, the ultimate in pachyderm bullies, has stolen your hat. Never one to simply lay down and give in, you must traverse the lands in search of Wooly and get that damn hat back. (And why wouldn't you, it's a nice hat.)

That is the ultimate goal of Elephant Quest: find Wooly and force him into submission. Before you get there, though, your little elephant must face a slew of obstacles, ranging from tricky platforms to bloodthirsty enemies to other troubled elephants in need of assistance. Combining all three elements results in an exploratory game similar to Metroid or Castlevania... or, for fans of browser games, Endeavor... with a suffusion of RPG leveling that resembles Final Fantasy X for some extra kick.

And talking elephants.

And lasers.

And... well, lots of weird stuff, I'll be honest.


Elephant Quest's controls are both simple and complex - but only at first. Moving your elephant is as easy as using the arrow keys or WASD. What complicates matters is the inclusion of mouse controls, allowing you to aim your laser using the mouse pointer. This is difficult to do only for a few minutes, though - splitting your brain between the two is eventually a piece of cake.

I had little trouble with the controls themselves, aside from a few problematic jumps (resulting in annoyance, not death). No, the controls in Elephant Quest only become troublesome when your elephant collects too much stuff and everything becomes laggy, which I'll detail below.


Elephant Quest is a visually basic game. The environments are all colourfully cartoony, and I'm glad that there are several different tilesets for the mazes.

I was less wowed by the sprites. The elephants are fine, and the weapons that float about you are good enough (I especially like the tiny elephant minions), but the enemies... they're a bit lacking. There's variety, yes, but none of them screamed originality, and after a while they get somewhat repetitive. And the one enemy I DID like, the Tank, didn't show up very often. So... take what you can get, I guess? At least it's not a long game.

There is, however, a snag alongside the simplicity. Whenever your elephant completes a task or purchases a particular upgrade, it usually gains a weapon that helps it fight. This is nice at first, but the weapons stack - to the point that you're boasting a rather ridiculous array of combat options by the end:

Yep, everything floating around my blue elephant fires a laser. Yeesh.

I don't MIND this tag-along armory - hell, it's kinda funny - but my computer does, and after a while Elephant Quest got pretty damn slow with all the tiny elephants and tanks and enemy birds and nonsense flying about. Still wasn't HARD, but the lag? Substantial. Expect your final battle with Wooly to be a trifle on the slow side if you're using a laptop.


Elephant Quest is a relatively low-key in its music, boasting a nice variety of tunes that don't obstruct the game in any great way. Nice background selection... if a teensy bit inappropriate at times. The music for the cloud area didn't seem to fit its surroundings at all.

Challenge Rating

Elephant Quest shouldn't take more than an hour to complete, an perhaps another half hour to complete in its entirety. There's a decent amount of side stuff you don't NEED to cover to beat the game, and given the fairly predictable pattern of the final boss, the extra experience points aren't a requirement for victory.

In short, yeah, Elephant Quest ain't that hard.

I'd chalk the ease of victory up to the leveling system more than anything. It's relatively easy to earn levels in Elephant Quest, and they power your elephant up in very short fashion, regardless of the path of upgrades you choose to take. The sheer number of lasers pointed at enemies by the end is ridiculous, especially if you go for minions. And who wouldn't?

Tack on a Game + option and some fairly small, easy-to-navigate areas and you've got a game that's more for exploratory beginners and novices than hardcore players. This doesn't make Elephant Quest any less fun, mind, making it the perfect choice for somebody who's bored over a lunch hour.


This review probably sounded more negative than positive, which is an unfair assessment. I liked Elephant Quest. It's an enjoyable romp through a goofy, expansive land, with a wholly sufficient number of tasks to complete on the way to the conclusion. Well worth playing, overall - just do so on a more powerful computer.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Spermrider: Seed of Destruction

Yes. I am reviewing a game called Spermrider: Seed of Destruction. And that is not a euphemism or metaphor for something else - you are, quite literally, a Spermrider.


Well! Let's have a look, shall we?


Oh, how to describe a game such as Spermrider. Hoooooow to describe. The story's damn simple: you, the spermrider, have come to town on your... giant, floating sperm... with one goal: destroy as much as possible. This generally means crushing people and smashing military machines to bits.

And there are military machines. Oh yes.

In more practical terms, Spermrider is a side-scrolling flier, for lack of a neater category. Spinning about on your giant sperm, you mangle anything that gets in your way. Destroy enough stuff and you'll move on to the next level, which is BASICALLY the exact same as the previous level, only with a new, more difficult brand of foe to defeat in addition to the old bunch (which includes soldiers, helicopters, planes, tanks and, after a while, laser-toting zeppelins).

Yeah. It's difficult to describe Spermrider. Best just to play the thing - you'll understand.


Controls are of paramount importance in Spermrider, and for the most part they do just fine. The sperm will move of its own volition at all times; you just have to give it direction, aiming the sperm with the left and right buttons. Doing so will spin the sperm clockwise or counterclockwise. You can also speed the feller up with either SHIFT or the up key, handy for escaping enemy fire.

I have no problems with the controls. They're simple to figure out after some practice flying. I was more annoyed at using those controls to deflect enemy fire, as you can slap projectiles out of the sky and back at your attackers with your sperm's tail. The slow rotation of the sperm makes this veeeeery tough to do, and though you can beat most of the game without having to resort to deflection, there's one level that absolutely requires the tactic. Stupid tanks. Snappier turning to remedy this, perhaps? (Or maybe I just suck at spermriding?)


I read the name 'Spermrider' before I actually saw the game and action, so I figured it would be a crappy porn game with terrible visuals. Not so on either account, really - it's a clever (if nonsensical) game, and the graphics are actually kinda neat.

Spermrider's visuals are pretty much the results of somebody going to town with some pencil crayons. Everything has a slightly sketchy feel befitting some of the best old school cartoon shorts, particularly when you hit the silly cut scenes between levels. I would argue that Spermrider's presentation is probably its strongest quality, even if the transitions between stages and cut scenes are a little abrupt.


Spermrider's main character is a little cowboy, and you can't have a cowboy without some acoustic accompaniment. And, fittingly, the game's tunes are, for the most part, drawn from the strings of a guitar, providing a near-relaxing-but-at-times-high-octane feel. I overall approve of the musical choices, especially the funeral dirge that plays when your sperm bites the dust.

guuuuuuuilt triiiiiiiiiip

Challenge Rating

Spermrider's middle of the road difficult. It's not very hard to play, and there are only five levels in all, so advanced players with experience in dizzying flight-destruction games such as this should be able to plow their way through in about twenty minutes. There are some tricky bits (the aforementioned tank level being my primary nemesis), but even the final stage with the zeppelins isn't too taxing - and there are custom games and mini games available afterward, so your play can continue in some capacity.

WILL you keep playing? That's questionable. I don't know that there's enough difficulty or replay value to warrant lingering over Spermrider. Still, for those willing to endure, there is fun to be had.


Spermrider: Seed of Destruction ain't expansive, it ain't cutting-edge and it sure as hell ain't for everyone, inoffensive though the giant flying sperm may be. That said it's nevertheless a solid, fun browser game, and worth taking for a spin around the block.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Mission in Space

At first glance, Mission in Space neither looks nor sounds terribly special. Indeed, the very name stinks of the generic, even if it does succinctly describe the game in three tiny words.

Don't be fooled. Mission in Space is actually damn fun to play, and a real challenge for anybody with a love of tactical games.


'kay. Get this. Mission in Space is about a colony - in space - that's been overrun by nasty xenomorphic critters. The powers that be can't allow the poor colonists to die unavenged, so they've sent in the marines to assess the situation, clear out any survivors and kill as many aliens as possible.

Sound familiar? 'course it does. That's the plot to a thousand sci-fi movies since the coming of Aliens, and probably even a few times before then. And I'm sure it'll be used many more times in the future, as well, 'cause that scenario is a staple of outer space horror. Where else are ravenous aliens gonna turn up? On Earth? That's boring.

So, yes, the story is a teensy bit lackluster. Behind it, however, lies a turn-based tactical squad game that, while pared back a bit to fit into browser game territory, is nevertheless a hell of a fun ride - not to mention damn difficult, as you have a limited number of units in each level, and they die reeeeeeal easy.


Mission in Space is controlled by your mouse. Got one? You're set. Get ready to browser some menus. And, unlike a lot of other tactical games along the same lines, these menus won't take you five years to figure out. Much appreciated.


Mission in Space immediately reminded me of both X-COM and Jagged Alliance graphically, albeit with cleaner, but slightly less interesting, visuals. Your colonial surroundings aren't TERRIBLY fascinating, but they do set the scene in a wholly adequate manner. And, I'll admit, these is a bit of variety between levels, so you're not always staring at the same four or five hallways.

I was less enamoured by the character sprites. The coloured marines are fine, since a) you need to tell them apart and b) they're all bound to be wearing the same uniforms, but the aliens... eh... not so much. Granted, their colour schemes change with their abilities, but for the most part you're facing the same damn monster a thousand times over. Works in the movies when they're more dynamic, but here... could probably use more variety to spice up the game.


Mission in Space's music vacillates between 'suspenseful-sneaking-down-dark-corridors' and 'it's-time-to-kick-some-alien-ass'. A little generic, like the name, but the tracks were appropriate to the situation, and good enough that I'd never complain. (Sound quality is a little eh.)

The game also offers the usual range of sound effects relating to movement and attack, and while the gunfire and slithering and such was just normal fare, I DID appreciate that each trooper in your squad seems to have a different voice when they get hit. Granted, that means you're just hearing them grunt, but, baby steps, yeah?

Challenge Rating

HERE'S the fun part of Mission in Space, the part that makes the game worth playing. This sucker is hard, hard, hard.

Most missions feature objectives, many of which split your team - DnD fans will know that's a bad idea - but the general idea is this: you have six troopers. You need to get them from point A to point B in turn-based style, fighting forever-respawning aliens along the way. You have limited ammo, only one character can heal his mates, and getting hit two or three times is TYPICALLY more than enough to kill a marine.

Sound like fun? It is, it is.

Granted, your marines are not as overwhelmed as they sound. You can take several shots per marine per turn, and between turns you can even set your units to fire on incoming aliens automatically, drastically reducing the chances that they'll get close. This also reduces the amount of action points they'll get the NEXT round, though, so you need to really get on your mission objectives in a hurry. You can't sit in one spot and blow up aliens until the level empties out, 'cause that just don't happen.

Also, special abilities. And upgrades. Helpful. Very, very helpful. They also give each marine a character, after a fashion, so you start to care for the little guys above and beyond the norm.

Mission in Space is not the most difficult tactical game I've ever played, but at times it comes damn close - and since you're constantly dogged by the alien menace, you'll feel like you're up against impossible odds all the time. That creates some surprisingly tense moments, given that it's a turn-based game.

Poor Woods. He died shortly after that screenshot, defending the door.


Impatient? Compulsive? Suck at chess? Mission in Space is not for you. This is a game for strategic minds, and any player who can form - and execute - a plan based on squad tactics will squeal in glee at the challenge presented by this lovely browser game. Highly recommended. (Good luck on Hard mode - I'm not even gonna try. I'll die.)