Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Battle Panic

Browser-based games represent something of a conundrum for the enterprising development company, as they are typically viewed as freebies. You don't pay for browser games. You log on, you play, you enjoy, you clench your coin purse tightly shut. That's the way it works.

And why? Because the Internet is free. It's a weird beast that's generated a massive base of users who expect free content. This doesn't WORK for the enterprising development company, and, thus, games like Battle Panic appear, games which appear on the surface to be without charge.

Don't be fooled. If you want to COMPLETELY best Battle Panic, unless you are an AMAZING player, you will have to fork out some dough.


All is not well in the world, and it's aaaaaall thanks to orcs. Yep, those red and green bastards are out to cause mischief, spreading grief and sorrow to everyone in their path. It's up to you, a commander among the humans, to kill the northern and southern tribes of orcs and restore peace to the land.

So, in effect, genocide. But defensive genocide. That's not so bad, right?

Battle Panic is a defensive RTS. You're given control of a settlement in each level, and you need to protect your villagers by deploying men-at-arms in three different flavours: footmen, archers, and horsemen. As you mine resources from nearby gold mines and the surrounding forests you can create progressively stronger units, as well as upgrading your settlement into a full-blown castle.

Sounds familiar. Sounds downright generic. So what's the catch?


I'll tell you the catch: you NEVER have to click the mouse buttons. Ever. (Well, except on the map.) Battle Panic requires you to do nothing more than to hover your mouse over objects on the battlefield. Do so and the game will automatically set to work, either mining or building or creating units. Hell, you can even use your mouse cursor to heal friendlies or hurt baddies. It's a really cool idea, and great for lazy gamers.

Does it WORK? Yes, actually. Despite the fact that it's easy to accidentally spend resources on unwanted projects, Battle Panic's system is simple and reliable. I had no troubles doing what I wanted to do - aside from, perhaps, focusing on the right unit in the midst of thousands of other units.


Battle Panic has the sorta soft-full-primary-colour-anime-esque visuals that I've come to expect from these games. I have no problem with that at all. Indeed, I'd say that Battle Panic is a slight step ABOVE similar games in terms of quality. The units don't look so hot close up, but from a distance everybody's just fine. I'm also rather amazed that the sheer number of units that appear in this game can do so, on the same battlefields, with almost no slowdown. Impressive.


Like other defense games, Battle Panic's music doesn't stand out. It's not quirky; it's not chipper; it's not particularly inventive. It's war music, the kind you'd hear in old movies based around sword combat, and easily forgotten.

Challenge Rating

This is the part of the review I'd been eagerly waiting to address. IS BATTLE PANIC HARD?

In one word: maybe. In two words: it depends.

On Normal mode, the compulsory beginning mode, Battle Panic is NOT hard. Not even CLOSE to hard. I went through the entire mode without a single orc getting close to the walls of my settlement. Sure, it can be tricky to earn three stars on every mission, but even THAT'S not terribly hard. Just build up a castle, make tons of troops, and kill. Simple!

Then you get into Hard mode. Hard mode allows you to carry over the stars from Normal mode, which are used to purchase upgrades. That's cool, that's nifty. I liked knowing that my abilities weren't going to vanish. And for the first six or so levels, I appreciated the big boost in difficulty. Hard mode lives up to its name.

That's when the orcs began to get numerous. TOO numerous. Like, so numerous that you don't really stand a chance in hell of beating them... unless you purchase extra upgrade stars. Or gold. Or wood. Or, hell, backup troops. These things can all be done really quickly, but they cost actual money.

After five tries on one level, I gave up. I couldn't beat the damned thing. I'm not sure that anyone could, given the resources available, and I'd be frightened to see what lies beyond. Knowing that I'd essentially been FORCED to pay money to proceed kinda pissed me off.

And I apologize for that! Really, I do. I know, first hand, how hard it is to make money online. Especially from gamers. We're a bunch of tight-fisted douchebags. We want as much bang for as little buck as humanly possible. In this case, though... sneaking money requirements in... it left a bad taste in my mouth. Especially since Battle Panic doesn't strike me as quite fun enough, or robust enough, to waste actual money on. Not when I could play a similar game elsewhere for free.


Battle Panic is a fun game, and anyone who just wants to test the thing can see every level on Normal. It's a piece of cake gettin' through them all. I won't be purchasing extra gold to secure my settlements, however, and I doubt many other players will either.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Zombie Tormentor

Zombies. They will, in most any case, make a game better, simply through their inclusion. Hell, any PRODUCT, period, is enhanced by zombies.

That used to be true. Now...? No... no, there's zombie oversaturation now, and (for me at least) a zombie needs a purpose. No purpose, no zombie. Hence, Zombie Tormentor is off to a bad start.


You, presumably, are a jerk with a) a love of traps, and b) way too many zombies on your hands. You put 'em together, and voila! Instant amusement through, you guessed it, zombie torture. Suspend zombies from chains, cut the chains to drive them into spiked balls, and ultimately guide the zombies into a massive buzz saw at the bottom of the screen.

So, in short, this game is a Cut the Rope clone. Which is fine; every browser game is, to an extent, a clone of something else. But Zombie Tormentor comes too close to the original, and the whole zombie tormenting concept doesn't make a lot of sense. Are zombies tormented by bodily pain? Probably not. Why can't these zombies get up and walk away if they fall to the ground unharmed? Shrug. Why couldn't the zombie receive some, ANY, kind of substitute? Is there a reason zombies MUST be used?

Not really. I'm probably over-analyzing this for no reason, but here's my point: the zombie is just a ragdoll. It could've been anything. Hence, a little boring. If you're gonna use a zombie, give it more zombie-ish traits.

Whew. I'll stop ranting about that now.

EDIT - I totally just got that it's Justin Bieber. I thought that zombie looked familiar. Gotta admit, knowing that doesn't bring any more to the table. Why does Bieber have to be a zombie, exactly?


Zombie Tormentor, being a Cut the Rope clone, relies exclusively on the mouse. Click and drag to cut through chains, or just click to activate one of a series of tools or traps, depending on the level.

My beef in this ain't with the mouse. It's the physics. The zombie is a twitchy little bugger, unwilling and unable to stay still. If plain bad luck determines that he twists the wrong way as he's falling, you'll probably have to start the level over again. His ever-flailing nature also makes it difficult to click the zombie: expect to accidentally sever chains whenever you want to, say, return the zombie's gravity to normal. (Yes, that does happen.)


Ragdoll bleh. The optical wonder that is the buzz saw aside (I'm always drawn to spinning objects - they're like a personal lava lamp), Zombie Tormentor doesn't look so great. Everything's rehashed and basic. Could we at least get a few different flavours of zombie between levels?


Very few sound effects and only one song. The horn and woodwind players have come to town, and they ain't leavin'. I can appreciate the Benny Hill-esque nature of the tune, but I really don't wanna listen to it for an entire game.

Challenge Rating

Zombie Tormentor has some excellent puzzles, but not many. For every one truly innovative stumper there are two or three levels that seem kinda meh by comparison. The more worthy challenges are, predictably, closer to the end. The zombie's twitchy-factor always plays a role in level completion, more so than I'd like to ever experience again. STOP MOVING, YOU LITTLE BASTARD.

(On the plus side, however, the zombie CAN be counted on to twitch his way across the screen to the buzz saw, assuming you missed a drop... and also assuming that he's facing the right direction.)


Very, very average, with a slight lean towards bad. There's a base for a good game here, but Zombie Tormentor needs a lot of work.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Sands of the Coliseum

Ahh, the Roman coliseum. Home of the manliest of men... and, in this case, manliest of women... the world has ever known. Glory and honour abounded, yessir! Not a wanton waste of life involved in the coliseum whatsoever - particularly if your coliseum happens to be digital.


Sand of the Coliseum is an RPG. You, presumably, play the role of a Roman noble who happens to enjoy making money from gladiatorial fights. You create an initial slave, you equip him, you send him into battle, you see how that goes. If it goes well, you earn money, additional equipment, and the cheers of the crowds. Once you have enough money you can purchase additional slaves (to a maximum of three at a time) and wage prolonged team battles, often to the death. Do so in every city on the map and you become the top contender in the gladiator world.

Novel enough concept, I suppose. I haven't seen a ton of coliseum-based games before. Sands of the Coliseum could reeeeeally stand to have some kind of story, however, as it's just battle after battle after battle. Heavy repetition, not a lot of variety.


You have a mouse. Use it.


Sands of the Coliseum looks pretty decent. It utilizes ragdoll characters for the fights, and unlike ragdolls in other games, these ones are tight and controlled. Their limbs don't fly willy-nilly in all directions when you get into a fight. Their features aren't terribly detailed, but I'll forgive that simply because the range of outfits you get changes their appearance all the time. Each new coliseum also sports a different look, which I much appreciated, as these games sometimes rehash the same background over and over.

Also: blood. Lots and lots and LOTS of blood. As soon as you chew through someone's armour they'll begin to bleed copiously. Put on enough pressure and you'll lop off arms, legs, even heads. Sands of the Coliseum is not for the squeamish, though the somewhat impassive faces of the gladiators sucks away some of the game's cringe factor.


Though each coliseum has its own music (I think, anyway - I honestly couldn't get through the whole game), the tracks are a little repetitive for my tastes. You hear them too often before you can go on to something new, and what you get isn't exactly addictive. Most of what I heard was rock/metal music, appropriate for big-times battles, but not necessarily for a Roman setting. Shrug?

The music didn't bother me much. What REALLY irked me were the sound effects, specifically the game's battle scream. It happens often, sounds like a woman even if it's coming from a man, and it's BLOODY IRRITATING. Like, vuvuzela irritating. Sound effects got drowned out in a hurry.

Challenge Rating

This is not a reeeeeally difficult game. Like most RPGs, it's a matter of levels. Get stronger than your opponent, and outfit yourself with some decent equipment, and you'll win most of your battles. The body parts battle system makes this even easier to accomplish, as you can simply take out the legs of most opponents and then sit back as they helplessly bleed to death. You're also allowed to choose the ultimate fate of your opponents (live or die) at the end of a successful battle, which I thought was a nice touch.

That said, Sands of the Coliseum has some issues on the challenge front:

- YOU MISS WAY TOO OFTEN. When the game assures you that you have an eighty percent chance of hitting, you shouldn't be missing once out of every two or three attacks.

- The AIs are STUPID. Leave your combatants to their own devices and they'll form absolutely no viable strategies. Concentrated fire on a single body part? Better take everyone off auto battle.

- The game is sloooow. The biggest challenge in Sands of the Coliseum is not getting tired of the constant, unending, monotonous battles. I like the combat system well enough, but not enough to want to chip through the greaves of thousands of gladiators to reach the end of the game.

Overall? If you have the patience? This game is an excellent time-waster. I'm absolutely certain that most players will get bored long before they hit the end, however.


Yep, you can play Sands of the Coliseum against your friends. I didn't, as I doubt any of 'em will want to play, but if you can convince a couple to join up... I'm sure it's probably more fun.



Sands of the Coliseum is a good base game that will appeal to players who love to level grind, because that's essentially all it is. No story, no exploration, just customization and battling. And there's nothing wrong with that! I'm cool with grinding. Just... not THIS much.

I also noticed that Sands of the Coliseum is very much geared towards sucking money out of its players. Why waste long hours earning up tons of gold when you can buy 10,000 pieces for a couple bucks? Or wait patiently for blacksmithing materials to show up why you can purchase 'em online? Both are fair ideas, and I hope the developers get their money back from players.

I, ah, just don't ANTICIPATE they will.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tiny Dream

I love dreams. That may be a byproduct of my love of sleep, true, but dreams fascinate me. They're so wonderfully random, yet pointed towards purpose, that I'll take as many dreams as I can get in a lifetime.

Perhaps not if they're like Tiny Dream, however. I really don't wanna face an upside-down reality where I am a blob.


Yep. You are a blob. You're dropped onto a seemingly alien planet (I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be a dreamscape, but it comes off as other worldly instead) and left to fend for yourself. You can chat with NPCs, hop along platforms, collect items, unlock locks, that sorta thing.

The KICKER is the landscape itself. As you move through Tiny Dream's handful of areas, the screen rotates like so:

The controls don't rotate correspondingly, however, and you're left to puzzle out regular movement in bizarre situations. Not totally original, but nifty.

And that... is... Tiny Dream. In a nutshell. Collect items, solve a puzzle (yeah, it's really just one) and... win? I won't spoil the ending, as it IS kinda neat, but the game's a little threadbare. It was created as part of limited-time Ludum Dare 23 project, so expansiveness shouldn't be expected.


Tiny Dream is nice and smooth, for a platformer. The controls manage to translate very nicely when you get into different viewpoints of the land. Aside from my own brain flip-flopping about, I had little to no trouble guiding my blob.


Tiny Dream is fairly minimalist. There's not a hell of a lot going on here. I didn't mind the graphics at all - the red and blue lights were surprisingly effective, though maybe I'm just a simpleton for coloured lights - but I'm sure more could be done to spruce up the game.


Tiny Dream's a silent experience, save for one big sound effect at the end (no spoilers) and a dreamy, wistful, melancholy tune that plays throughout. Normally it would get old, but Tiny Dream doesn't last long enough for that to happen.

Challenge Rating

Tiny Dream requires only a modicum of brain power to solve. The primary puzzle is a liiiiittle bit of a poser, but any player should be able to figure it out within a few minutes. Beyond that, the only challenge lies in wrestling with the controls.


Tiny Dream is what you'd expect of a game made in a short period of time. It's inventive and has some neat ideas, but it also doesn't stand out a hell of a lot. Don't expect to get a lot of replay outta this sucker.


Monday, May 21, 2012


In all my time playing indie games for Browser Rousers, I have never needed more than two to three hours to completely sweep through a game. The average browser game takes about twenty to thirty minutes to finish, while the long ones may overstep an hour. The longest one thus far, Pestilence Z, ate up approximately three and a half hours.

Tonight, there is a new reigning champion: Paladog. Good lord, this is a robust game.


Paladog's story is mired in a poor translation, so what I'm about to say may be inaccurate. AS FAR AS I CAN TELL, Paladog is the story of Earth after the destruction of mankind: 'critters', aka animals, have risen up and taken our place in a psuedo-Medieval world, and they're battling demons for control of the planet. Leading the charge is the brave Paladog, paladin and dog in one furry container.


Okay. I really don't get the story. It's weird, it doesn't make a ton of sense, aaaaaand it's badly written. C'mon, guys, you NEED a naturalized writer to hash out this stuff before you stick it in a game. The end result smacks of sloppiness. Either create a passable, edited story, or eliminate the story altogether.

(I know, I shouldn't bitch so much about a free game. Still, it's not THAT hard to find someone to edit your script.)

Plot aside, Paladog is an odd hybrid game. On one end it's an RPG: you level up Paladog by killing enemies, buying new equipment and assigning new abilities. On the other, it's a side-scrolling strategic tower defense game, as you can summon other critters to fight off bad guys for you in a series of increasingly-difficult levels. Very odd idea, and, overall, extremely successful.


Paladog provides a couple different ways for controlling your character. Paladog can be guided with A and D or with arrow keys, while his various powers are used with J, K, and L. The number keys at the top send out supporting units. And, as the game often points out, you can use the mouse to execute commands. It's an accommodating setup, and appreciated for varying control styles.

Also? The game controls just fine. No problems.


I won't mince words. Paladog looks wonderful. It's more than I'd expect, graphically, for the average browser-based game. The menus are fantastic, the sprites wonderfully diverse, and the cutscene art? Like the shot above? Dayum. Magnifique. My only complaint is with Paladog himself, for though he LOOKS fine, he's also completely lacking in personality. Couldn't his idling sprite do something every now and then?

The quality of the art aside, what astounded me most about Paladog was the lack of slowdown. There can be a looooot of units on the screen at one time, yet the game almost never suffers from lag. That's an incredible accomplishment for a Flash game.


Meh. S'fine. Paladog suffers from a common indie ailment: not enough tracks. So while what's in the game doesn't bother me at first, it's so stale after the first hour... and as far as I've seen, the battle track nnnnnnnever changes... sigh.

Challenge Rating

Paladog is more an endurance trial than it is difficult. The strategy is somewhat threadbare; in most cases the important thing is to have more powerful units than the enemy. That means a lot of grinding to empower both Paladog and his many, MANY buddies.

In both cases, it takes a while. A long while. So long that, uh, I've been playing for two and a half hours... and I'm about one fourth of the way through the game.

Paladog is a major time eater, long story short. Expect to play this one in several-evening intervals, as it's one of the few browser games where a save file is truly necessary. And this is only speaking from the experience of playing the Normal difficulty!


I can see Paladog annoying some players. It's long, somewhat repetitive, and linguistically challenged. Obsessive levelers (like myself) should love the challenge it brings to the table, though, and given that Paladog's powers and potential items are fairly diverse it has a good amount of replay value.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Oh, My Candy!

When I was young, I regularly brought hamsters home from school. My Grade 6 homeroom class sported a bunch of the little buggers, and they had to go with SOMEONE for weekends and holidays.

Not once, while taking care of them, did any hamster request a candy. Nor did their emotionless little eyes ever show untoward desire for sweets I may have eaten in their presence. Thus it must be that the main star of Oh, My Candy!, a voracious (and possibly diabetic) hamster, is a freak amongst his kind.He's certainly something of an outcast in the puzzling genre.


Oh, My Candy! is a feeding-frenzy of teensy proportions. The hamster wants candy, he NEEDs candy, and you've gotta get it to him by guiding giant-sized sweeties into his gullet. You do this with three tools:

- A tiny, guidable paw item, which allows you to push objects
- The aforementioned objects, which can be knocked about or otherwise used to create paths for the candies
- Your brainpower

Simple enough. Get the candies to the hamster without losing any to the game's copious bottomless pits. Sounds simple, generally is.


The majority of Oh, My Candy! relies on mouse-manipulation. Once you've touched the tiny paw item present in every stage, you can move it about with the mouse to manipulate the environment. This kinda works, though the paw tends to get caught on blockades. It also flies wildly out of control if you dare to go even slightly beyond the edge of the Flash window.

Don't go beyond the edge of the Flash window.


The visuals are probably Oh, My Candy!'s strongest suit. It's a very pretty game, sporting the same level of polish as any paid-for mobile adventure. The hamster could use more personality beyond gleefully happy and heartbroken, but it's a short enough experience that this won't matter much. Overall, highly satisfying.


For such a short game, Oh, My Candy! has a surprising number of tracks, which tend to alternate from level to level. None of 'em are compelling or memorable, but not being stuck with the same tune for every stage is good.

Challenge Rating

Here's where Oh, My Candy! starts to fall apart. Puzzle games, even the beginner ones, should be challenging. Oh, My Candy!... is not.

Like, at all.

There are a few levels that could be considered road bumps, a few brain-teasers that require a bit more effort than the norm. On average, though, Oh, My Candy! is WAY too easy. The last level of the game is almost a joke, considering it's much easier than, say, the five or six levels that preceded it.

That's not the big problem here, though. No, the BIG problem is the cheating factor. It's usually simple to bypass a level's intended solution by simply balancing the candies on top of your paw tool. Get one nice and even, then slowly float it to the hamster for consumption. No need for all the little mind-benders in the way. Why bother with roadblocks for stopping the paw tool when they're not effective?


At twenty-five levels long... which I completed in just over ten minutes, yeesh... Oh, My Candy! is not that satisfying a game. Only absolute beginners in the puzzling realm will find it challenging. It's worth playing, but it'll probably be forgotten in a hurry.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Boss Slayer

Boss Slayer is my kinda game for one reason, and one reason alone: I like fighting bosses. I LOVE fighting bosses. I love it so much that I generally play video games TO fight the bosses. The legwork in-between? Eh, just an annoying warmup.

Boss Slayer disposes with all that irritating middle stuff. It's just bosses. And, thus, it's pretty good. Not amazing, but good.


If only other games were so straight to the point. Summary: ten evil alien warships have arrived at Earth. Objective: blow 'em up in twelve days, before Earth is destroyed. Huzzah! Plot's done.

Boss Slayer is a vertical shoot-em-up (shmup). More than that, though, it's part of the 'bullet hell' sub genre, and for good reason: every screen is absolutely teeming with incoming enemy gunfire. It's a more forgiving game in that you get a lot more health than the average shmup, but the bullets... the bullets are still a sight to behold when they start flying. Frightening.

But only at first. Boss Slayer is unique in that you gather money with each progression through the bosses. Gather enough and you can purchase upgrades for your ship after you die. These upgrades make your ship substantially tougher... not to mention crazy on the firepower. Bosses that caused you some trouble at first will die before they're fully on the screen by the end of the game. Plow through all ten bosses in one go and you win.

Simple? Yeah, a little. In this case, however, I don't think expanding the concept would help much. It's a neat idea, even if the result is a game that won't last terribly long. The fact that it measures the amount of days you took to kill all ten bosses will probably appeal to competitive gamers who want to get a lower number than everyone else. (If somebody ever manages to do it in one day, they are certifiably insane.)


Boss Slayer's ship fires constantly and automatically, so all you need to do is worry about steering. The game allows you to pick between mouse or arrows at the beginning: I tried out both, and though they're about even, I still prefer arrows. Either way, the controls are tight.


The visuals won't blow anyone out of the water. Though they have some neat designs, the ships in Boss Slayer look a liiiiittle too simplistic. Some more detail would be appreciated. Nothing about the aesthetics should offend anyone, though, and once the bosses start firing you won't care what they look like anyway.


Two songs: rapid action and between-mission, quasi elevator music. The midi nature of the tracks is a nice throwback to the retro titles upon which this game is built, but they're otherwise unremarkable.

Challenge Rating

The name 'bullet hell' is somewhat misleading in the case of Boss Slayer. It's not that difficult to beat all ten bosses before the twelve days are up: their firing patterns are more simplistic than they look, so long as you don't move overly much, and your ship becomes SO STRONG that slaughter is inevitable. Don't go too crazy and you shouldn't have a rough time of it.

... unless, of course, you decide not to upgrade your ship to maximum. I personally think that's a BAD idea, but... some people are mad like that...


Boss Slayer probably won't last much longer than ten or fifteen minutes for the average player, but they'll be a fun few minutes. This goes highly recommended to shmup fans.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Fancy Wizard

Wizards don't get much love in video games when it comes to durability. They're almost always depicted as limp, fragile things who will crumble under the slightest bit of pressure. The nameless protagonist of Fancy Wizard ain't no exception to this rule, sadly - so why burden him with a host of other problems? Doesn't he have it rough enough already?


Fancy Wizard (what a weird name that is) tells the mute tale of a wizard in red, who, out in the countryside, wants to get home. Or somewhere else. It's not really specified. Point is, he's going somewhere, and other people don't appreciate that none.

His solution? Use his magic to circumvent danger. This particular wizard, less destructive than his kin, can create puppets that will move according to his own movements. He can then send those puppets into danger, or to hit switches, that will allow him to proceed through a variety of puzzling levels. Get through 'em all and, I dunno, he lives to fight another day. Make sense? I should think so.


Fancy Wizard is a combination of mouse movement and arrow keys. The keys move your wizard and any conjured dolls, and the mouse allows you to create dolls within the wizard's aura, as well as freeze any dolls (or the wizard himself) in place to prevent movement. Sounds good.

... but it's not. Not always, anyway. Fancy Wizard's controls are very loose: your characters slide whenever they move, as though the greenery is actually cleverly-disguised ice. This is a PAIN IN THE ASS for the game's copious platforming sections, particularly when you need to jump the wizard on top of one of his creations. Can't everybody just stay put?


I like the background in Fancy Wizard. The idea of a dancing castle appeals to me on some bizarre level that I dare not question. The rest, though... it's so... uninspired. Everything looks the same from one level to the next, and the characters are the ultimate in generic. No personality = completely unmemorable.


Tedious, semi-jaunty song, from one end of the game to the other. And a few bland sound effects. I give it a big shrug.

Challenge Rating

"Ahh, but is it difficult?" you say. "Aesthetics are secondary when the puzzles are awesome." Well, sadly, they ain't. In addition to the rest of the problems, Fancy Wizard is also quite easy. One clever stumper near the end aside, the solutions to the puzzles are all fairly obvious from the get-go - it's just a matter of wrangling your characters into executing the solution. The ability to freeze your characters, including the wizard, is too powerful.

What really annoyed me about Fancy Wizard was the tutorial. The game is only eighteen levels long, yet the tutorial lasted for six. That leaves only twelve stages of legitimate, unguided puzzles to complete. Why not compress the tutorial into two or three stages? Why drag it out so much? The game takes, like, ten minutes to beat, which shouldn't be the case for a strong puzzler. Thumbs down.


Fancy Wizard fails to impress. The idea of a self-replicating wizard isn't bad, but the execution of that idea falls short of expectations. Tighten up the controls, polish the graphics, make some trickier puzzles. Otherwise, this wizard ain't ever gonna be fancy.

One other thing: that name is terrible.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Boom Town

Mining games are growing ever more popular, and for some weird reason I'm happy that they are. They have little purpose beyond mindless expansion and upgrading, and they're seldom challenging at all - but, yeah, I like the things. Consequently, I like Boom Town. Let's just get that outta the way right now.


Boom Town is a wild-west-gold-rush-meets-the-modern-age kinda game. You play as a mining company that's set on collecting gold ore from a mountain range. Doing so allows you to build up a store of cash for upgrading your mining vehicle and buying more explosives. Money also allows you to buy buildings, which will attract settlers and, ultimately, more money.

End result? You have a digging game, minus the digging (it's a bird's eye view map rather than a layered map), plus a SimCity Lite venture tacked on the side. Neither part of the game is particularly tricky, but smashed together they create a fairly engrossing experience.


Most of Boom Town requires a mouse. Easy enough to manage. Whenever you want to steer your vehicle you have to use the arrow keys, however, and this mode is... perfectly fine. It can be tricky squeezing the bulky dump truck between obstacles, but this is a very minor complaint.


Boom Town's visuals are equal parts excellent and meh. The menus of the game are all quite engaging: each option has its own little picture, some of which are animated, and all of which are nicely detailed and vibrant.

The map is much less exciting, unfortunately, and the buildings that spring up in your burgeoning community never quite come to life like a real town. SimCity Lite, yes, but without any of the feeling of population. Naturally-emerging roads and tiny people wandering around would really spruce up the map.


Boom Town relies on one track, constantly repeated, for its background music. That one track almost manages to save the audio portion of this review, as it's lively, mildly addictive, and perfectly suited to the setting. Buuuuuut, given that Boom Town can take a couple hours to fully play, it gets old.

Challenge Rating

The only true way to fail Boom Town is to not invest any money in a town. The moment you set down any sort of tavern you'll begin earning money, and you can then use that money to buy explosives. Even poor explosive placement will still usually yield enough cash to buy more explosives. Long story short, Boom Town is not a game for players who want an extreme challenge. It's a relaxing upgrade-fest that's unlikely to REALLY go wrong at any point.

There. That right there. That's the most dire warning you're ever likely to get. And it's no big deal. Shrug?


Boom Town ain't bad. Good tune, decent graphics, good concept. The ingredients won't enthrall players forever, but the overall package should prove an more-than-adequate time waster. This is a good game for playing in front of the TV or while watching a movie.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Take Care of the Trees

I have been known to review the occasional artsy game on here. Opinion on their worth seems to be split: some people find 'em to be interesting and thought-provoking, and others seem to think art as a game is a waste of time. There is merit in both arguments, though I lend more to the former. I enjoy art games...

... so long as they are somewhat game-like. Take Care of the Trees... not so much on the gaming.


You are a man. You live in the wilderness with your brother. One day, the brother goes into town to fetch a new axe, leaving you behind to watch the house. That's boring, however, and you decide to go looking for your bro... only to find... well, bad things.

Very bad things.

I can't say a hell of a lot more, because another sentence would probably ruin the rest of the story. And that's all this 'game' really has going for it: a short, weird, not-totally-logical story. And while it's true that art doesn't always HAVE to be logical, it might help in this case.

So what's the game part? I dunno. You move around and interact with things. You can cut down trees, if you like, and despite what the name of the game implies nothing bad happens if you slice them all to pieces. Shrug?


Arrow keys. They are responsive. Moving on...


As is pretty dang common with browser games, Take Care of the Trees resembles an SNES-era game, specifically an RPG. That said, it's slightly below that level, as none of the characters really have animations that bring them to life. There's no expressiveness, and thus little of interest in the visuals.


The one element that stood out in this game is the sound. It's quite good. There's only one REAL song, but it's fantasy-country-catchy. There's also a smattering of voice work involved, and though it's largely inconsequential the extra work does benefit Take Care of the Trees.

Challenge Rating

If you lose at Take Care of the Trees, your browser crashed. That's the only way to explain failure here. This is fairly typical of artistic games, as they're often not meant to be challenging in the traditional sense.

Problem is, Take Care of the Trees doesn't include something to take the place of challenge. There's no depth. No potential for extra endings, no major interactions, no hidden plot explanations, no... nothing, really. The logical flow of the story is quite lacking. There's potential here, but what currently exists just doesn't work.


This isn't really a game. It's a semi-interactive movie with an unexplained plot. I'd say pass and play something else, but Take Care of the Trees only takes about five minutes to play, so... why not?


Monday, May 7, 2012

Nano Kingdoms

Browser-based RTS games are slowly becoming an enjoyable alternative to full on, company-backed titles of the same genre. It'll be a while before I can play something like Starcraft from my browser, true, but there are good steps in the right direction.

Does Nano Kingdoms go down the proper path? Yes. Kinda. More or less.


Long ago, in the distant world of Nano Kingdom (shocking!), a father and a son are caught in the midst of a disagreement. Unfortunately, said father and said son are the king and a prince of a powerful nation - and the son's decision to turn to evil has drawn the realm's many heroes to his side. The only hero left, a brave paladin, must set out and beat the various generals back onto the side of good, and then do the same to the evil Alexander.

Truth be told, Nano Kingdoms has a really weird plot. I'm not at all sure WHY some of the heroes swapped sides, when the son is plainly as evil as evil can be. What's more, there's a plot twist right at the end that jumps out with very little foreshadowing or explanation. Very awkward, very... meh. It probably doesn't help that most of the tale is told in stunted, grammatically-incorrect English. Hire an editor, y'all! It would polish your game so much!

(I can help! I do editings!)

Anyway. Story aside, Nano Kingdoms is an RTS. Two castles, yours and your opponent's, are set up on opposite sides of a flat field. As resources pile in your base you need to upgrade buildings and send out troops to defend your fortifications and flatten those of your foe. Reduce the opposite stronghold's HP to zero and you win. Have that happen to you... well, guess what happens.

That's not all, however. Each time you complete a stage (save for the last two) your opponent becomes a selectable hero, each with two magical powers to aid your troops. This lends some diversity to battle, and can vastly change dire situations for the better. Nothing new to an RTS, but special powers are always fun, right?


Huzzah for a mouse!

The only comment I can offer on the control front is the ease of sending out troops. Whenever you want to keep them reined in, click the Shield (defense) button. If you want an attack, click the Sword. Very simple to manage, and ideal for a browser game.


Nano Kingdom's visuals are perhaps its strongest element. Despite being such a small game, it offers a neat range of art, from nifty battlegrounds to stylish character art to good cut scene offerings. The special combat moves are particularly cool, and really spruce up each battle. The sprites could use more detail, but overdoing them might also slow down the game, so... shrug? Nano Kingdom is miraculously un-laggy for an RTS, so there's probably a reason for little detail.


Epic marchiiiiiing

Nano Kingdoms has good enough music, but, like so many browser games, it relies overly much on a very small handful of tunes. Even though the game doesn't last a really long time, the music grows stale in a hurry.

Challenge Rating

Nano Kingdoms is not hard. It's not EASY, but it's not hard. Your special powers are often game-breakers, turning somewhat challenging battles into utter routs. And while it's true that your foes ALSO have powers, they'll seldom use them as often as you'll use yours. Overwhelming magical force always wins the day. The only truly difficult battle is the very last one. (If you can't beat it, try using the elf. His speed spell propelled me to a six-ish minute victory.)

I'm fine with the difficulty level. What I'd rather see is a longer game. Nano Kingdoms takes about half an hour to beat, which is pretty fast for even a browser-based RTS. It was clearly designed with a sequel in mind, perhaps to the detriment of this first game.


Fun. Not amazing, but fun. Nano Kingdoms is a good time-waster, and it's got enough enjoyment packed into its guts for one or two playthroughs. Add more levels and it might just be a keeper.