Showing posts with label strategy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label strategy. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rymden, Shadow Tag, Just A Cell

Today's three games are so wildly different from one another that the theme is difference. Yes, that's it. Difference.

Rymden


Perhaps the strangest space shooter I've ever played, Rymden is unabashedly Swedish. Pilot your crazy ship through increasingly difficult waves of space enemies, firing off special weapons and beating down bosses as you go. The game is littered with references to Sweden throughout, and, to people from North America (hi!), is probably impenetrably bizarre. Fun bizarre, but bizarre. A bit repetitive, but, frankly, that's what the creator was going for. Mission accomplished.

Shadow Tag


The simple act of going from your house to your car should not be anywhere as creepy as this. Shadow Tag has you navigating hedge mazes in the night, pursued by weird little children who 'only want to play with you'. Your only ally is your flashlight, and even it will go out after a while. Though not out-and-out scary, Shadow Tag IS quite unnerving - you're not fast, the children are annoyingly good at following you through the maze, and they'll talk to you while they hunt. Fuuuuuucked uuuuuuup. (And fantastic.)

Just A Cell


Eat. Evolve. Survive. Rhyme. These four things are important to a successful game of Just A Cell. Starting off as a single-cell organism you eat other creatures and steadily build your way up to the top of the food chain. A fun game, but two pieces of advice: a.) Stay away from the walls, you'll get killed by bigger creatures if you sit there blindly; and b.) DO NOT PLAY THIS IF YOU SUFFER FROM EPILEPSY. Seriously. There are a lot of flashing colours when you om another creature, especially in the later levels.

Next up: an entry I've been saving for close to two weeks, now, because I keep finding other games I want to review. Until then!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cloud Wars, Funkin' Defense, Echo Bullet

Today's Browser Rousers intake is somewhat cutesy, the third one aside - and even it can run the adorable gamut if your tastes are odd.

Cloud Wars


Ever wonder why clouds move around so much? It's simple - they're colour-coded in ways we cannot perceive from the ground, and that pisses them off. Wars happen when skin colours are different, y'know. Cloud Wars is all about controlling the most clouds, and you control them by sending smaller clouds out to take over enemy cumuli, rather like parasites. It's a simple game, perhaps not as nice as other games in the same genre, but I do like the upgrade system.

Funkin' Defense


The vile Gorliks seek to conquer your forest. YOUR FOREST. Put them down for good with a variety of towers, some items, and the power of funk. Funkin' Defense is kinda neat in that music helps determine the strength of your attacks, and you can change up that strength by changing up the music. There's less variety in that statement than it sounds, but it brings so variety to an otherwise par-for-the-course tower defense game.

Echo Bullet


No upgrades, no super-fancy graphics, no sprawling levels, just good old fashioned one-on-one bullet hell action. Your primary mission here is to avoid the countless waves of incoming enemy fire while firing back non-stop. This is an excellent game for practicing your bullet hell techniques. Players who get easily confused should probably look elsewhere.

And now, I hunger for food. I will continue to feed until Wednesday, when next we meet again. Ciao!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wilt: Exordium, Medieval Shark, Monster Saga

Introduction? Nay. Unnecessary. Off we go!

Wilt: Exordium


Jon, your daughter is in trouble. (Or is she your daughter?) Save her in a nightmarish landscape... or don't. Who knows exactly what's happening in this little game, as it's supposedly part of a larger adventure to come later in 2012. I enjoyed the experience overall, short though it may have been - but the programmers reeeeeeeally need to work on the controls. Precision jumping is a pain in the ass in Wilt.



Shark.

SHARK.

SHAAAAAAARK

I don't feel that any of these games need an explanation. It's more of the same silly, murderous fun. This time with a jester's hat.

Monster Saga


You are a child, blasted into a strange land full of monsters and dominated by a tyrant. Free the kingdom with your own band of mighty warriors! Or something!

I dunno. Monster Saga's got rather an oddly generic story. The visuals compensate for the narrative, however, and the game play is decently fun. Train monsters and send them out to battle other monsters. It's unfortunate that you have nooooo say at all in how the battles turn out once they've started, but it's not difficult to blaze through most of them with sufficient prep. A decent game, albeit glitchy and easy.

Prediction: next week will feature more Halloween games. I can sense this happening, somehow.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Nan Creatures Extended

I've had a few run-ins with browser games that call for real money of late, with varying levels of enjoyment. It usually depends on the amount of heckling on the part of the programmers: if they ask for money occasionally, and in a surreptitious manner, I don't really mind. As long as I can still play the game for free and not feel guilty, I might consider dropping some extra coin.

Nan Creatures Extended - and I presume the 'extended' just includes more creatures and levels - is another but subtle when asking for money. It is so NOT subtle that it's annoying.


Concept

If Nan Creatures has a story, I can't find it. The point is this: you are part of a glorified cock fight, populated by giant creatures whose sole purpose in life is to beat the shit out of each other. Sound familiar? Been done a billion times by now, and with no story to back up the action Nan Creatures is also pretty boring.

This, uh, 'concept' boils down to an RPG system. A maximum of three creatures on either side of the battle lines form up and attack each other. Take out the opposite three monsters in each level and you can move on to the next. Huzzah.

In theory, not horrible. Basic, but not horrible. My primary concern throughout the game was how damned often you're hounded for money. Not that it's quite so overt, but every time you beat a level you're 'recommended' to register on the Nan Games site. Not only that, you're 'recommended' twice after each battle. AND WHENEVER YOU TRY TO UP YOUR MONSTERS' STATS. Jesus, ENOUGH WITH THE MESSAGES.

Sorry. A bit worked up. Needless to say, there is no subtlety here.


Graphics

Meh. Pretty bland. The monsters don't stand out in any way. Even the god of the monsters (I'm assuming it's a god, anyway) looks rather unremarkable.

Also? When you switch between worlds? Try creating a new arena to fight in. Yeesh.

Sound

HERE'S where Nan Creatures stands out from other games. I LOVE the music. Everything is done in rumbling, operatic fashion, which, despite doubtlessly being synthetic, works very well. I'd love to hear the battle music used in some OTHER game. Thumbs up. Buuuuuut, of course, the music is used over and over and OVER again, so even the good stuff is stale after about half an hour.

The sound effects themselves are unremarkable, save for one: the death grunt. EVERY DAMNED MONSTER sounds like some weird surfer dude when they die. What the hell? Couldn't have worked up some artificial roars instead?


Challenge Rating

Nan Creatures is not overtly difficult. It's more plodding than it is tough: most battles can take upwards of ten to fifteen minutes to complete, as enemies will heal faster than you can deal damage. It also takes a hellishly long time to increase your team's level... which I expect is mitigated somewhat if you register. Oh, joy.

My biggest beef came with the move sets. Unlike other RPGs, Nan Creatures uses a rotating set of moves for each creature. Use up one move and another comes in to take its place. Quite often the result of this is a monster that has nothing useful in its repertoire during a given turn. And, sure, you CAN rearrange your moves for maximum potency, but it's an annoying process.


Conclusion?

I didn't finish Nan Creatures. I didn't even come close. I will admit this. It strips all of the soul out of RPGs and replaces it with pure, dull grinding. Extended or not, this game ain't very good.

PLAY NAN CREATURES EXTENDED

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dicewars

I was, like so many kids of my age, under the delusional impression that Risk is a fun game in my early years. I would sit down with my brother and dad and start up a new game, wide-eyed and spirited... only to hate the whole experience several hours later, because it was STILL GOING. I began to envy those players who had been killed early, as they could at least go do something else.

Dicewars is a little like Risk. Except worse. Consequently, it's a game I will still play from time to time, but I'll never really enjoy the bastard.



Concept

As I've more or less suggested, Dicewars is similar to Risk. You begin play on a randomly-generated field of coloured territories, alongside a variety of other players. Your goal is to conquer every country on the board by driving out the opposition. You attack adjacent territories with your dice, you spread your influence, you gain more troops at the end of your turn. Move on to the next player.

Yep. Risk. No cards, no redeployment, no Australia to save your ass... but... Risk. The only difference is the amount of time spent playing, as you can usually complete a game of Dicewars in less than twenty minutes.



Controls

Click.

Graphics

Dicewars was programmed in the very early 21st century, so its lackluster graphics can be excused. There's nothing that stands out about the aesthetics.

My complaint? You can't change your army's colour. You're always purple. whyyyyy



Sound

The sound of rolling fascinates me.

Challenge Rating

Here we go. The actual content of the review. Is Dicewars challenging?

Yes. Yes it is. In the same way Risk is. You're never really fighting other armies in Dicewars. Instead, you're fighting luck itself. Every strategic decision or brazen maneuver comes down to one thing: a random number generator. If you're lucky, you'll do well. If you're not, you'll die.

Most often, you'll die.

Don't get me wrong! There's a modicum of strategy involved. It's unwise to spread yourself too thin, for example, and it's good to avoid being caught in the middle of three or four warring factions. Proper land management is key. If you don't get the right rolls, though, or if the computer doesn't place your additional armies on BORDER STATES rather than in the bank ranks where they're useless, you're toast.

Also? It is possible to die on the first turn, before you've had a chance to do anything. Random chance. What an arse.

Dicewars would be less annoying if it introduced some additional mechanics. Powers, or surprise additional armies, or the ability to place your OWN BLOODY TROOPS, or... something. I don't know. This game is all about basic, random chance, though, and given its advanced age I doubt any such overhauls are on the drawing board.



Conclusion?

Fuck pink. It wins too often.

I'm not a big fan of Dicewars. But I'll keep playing, because I still like to win. I like the look of a single, unified continent, flying tall and proud under the epic colour purple.

I couldn't beat the random number generator today, though, so I can provide no such glorious screenshot. Balls.

PLAY DICEWARS

Monday, June 11, 2012

King's Game

Though it wasn't the first game of its kind, Angry Birds was probably the spark that set the tumbling-buildings-game-world afire. Since it appeared on the indie scene a number of similar clones followed in Angry Birds' wake, one of the latest being medieval-themed King's Game.

Lamely-named? Perhaps. Lame as a result, though? Nope.



Concept

King's Game is a tale of war. You, the red king, have decided to wage a series of offensive campaigns (or possibly defensive? BOTH SIDES HAVE BUILDINGS) against enemy forces. Sometimes you're doing this to rescue your overly-copious stock of captured fair maidens, but most of the time you just don't like the other side. Let the slaughter begin!

Story? Meh. Barely exists. Game play? Angry Birds clone, but a mutant of the familiar format. King's Game has the same objective as usual: knock down enemy structures with a minimum of projectiles, taking out their troops in the process. The rub HERE is, if you don't knock the enemy down in the first turn, the vile king on the opposite side of the field gets to fire back.

Even worse, he gets the same craaaaaazy ammunition as you. Gasp.

Controls

Point, click, drag, release. All you need is a mouse. King's Game is a little more difficult to aim than some other games, as it only shows you the trajectory and power of your last shot, but you'll get used to the mechanic - and the heavier gravity - in a flash.



Graphics

Simple, goofy-lookin' characters abound in King's Game. Clean, neat… perhaps a little too buxom in the case of the women (bras don't exist in this world?)… overall unremarkable. The game zooms in and out as you aim your projectiles, and the graphics get a liiiiiiittle jaggy at the normal viewing range. Unfortunate.

Sound

Standard medieval combat themes for background tunes. Nothing magnificent or original. The game's true audio brilliance lies in the little characters themselves, boasting adorably mischievous little squeaks and squawks in victory and defeat alike.



Challenge Rating

Despite returning enemy fire, King's Game isn’t tough to beat. In order to maximize your score you need to earn crowns, and earning a crown usually requires beating an enemy with a handful shots. With some fidgeting and a bit of luck, this is an easy objective on most levels - especially when you earn an upgrade that gives you an extra shot before the enemy fires back. As of this writing there appears to be an extra set of stages under development, so perhaps the challenge will be expanded. As it stands now, though, the enemy often won't get a shot off before you beat the level. Kinda puts a damper on the extra mechanic.

One thing about the level layout struck me as rather odd, however. The levels are grouped into three categories: basic, rescue, and rush. The first has you crumbling towers, the second requires you to kill all the enemies without killing fair maidens, and the third dispenses with the fair maidens and returns to the original format - though you more or less MUST kill the enemy in one hit to earn a crown. No leeway.

Why's this troublesome? Er… the rush levels are a hell of a lot easier than the rescue levels. I'm not entirely sure what happened there, but, some shuffling might be in order.



Conclusion?

King's Game is fun. It's not perfect, but it also doesn't have any debilitating flaws. It should eat up an hour or two of your time, and is enjoyable enough to replay.

PLAY KING'S GAME

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.


Concept

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?


Controls

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.


Graphics

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.

Sound

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.


Conclusion?

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.

PLAY BATTLE PANIC

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.


Concept

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.


Controls

You have a mouse. Use it.

Graphics

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.


Sound

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.


Multiplayer!

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.

Probably.

Conclusion?

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.

PLAY SANDS OF THE COLISEUM

Monday, May 21, 2012

Paladog

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.



Concept

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.

Yeah.

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.


Controls

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.


Graphics

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.

Sound

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!


Conclusion?

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.

PLAY PALADOG

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.


Concept

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.


Controls

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.

Graphics

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.


Sound

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?

Conclusion?

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.

PLAY BOOMTOWN

Monday, April 30, 2012

Pestilence Z

I've been waiting, for a long time, for a good zombie-based RPG to come out. Zombie games are typically shooters or survival horror deals - for obvious reasons - and the genre could use some branching.

As far as I can remember, Pestilence Z is the first zombie RPG I've ever played. (Feel free to argue that if you've read the archives. I honestly can't remember.) First GOOD one? Ehhh... that's debatable. Pestilence Z ain't bad, but it could use some work.


Concept

Pestilence Z is like any zombie movie. You're a survivor in the midst of a zombie outbreak. Time to   escape your home and fight your way through massive mobs of the undead. There's a bit of a plot involved, mainly in getting to the home of a doctor who may be linked to the outbreak (read: probably), but for the most part it's an out-and-out survival-fest.

One with surprisingly high numbers of zombie fatalities. Run away? Meh. You're a one-man-woman-whatever wrecking machine.

As the screencap above hints, you can choose to be one of three people: a sexy nurse, a high school jock, or an army vet. (I, naturally, chose the nurse.) Each has different starting stats, skill progressions and specialties, and each appears differently in cut scenes. Consequently, each play through IS a fair bit different from the last, though the main goal is, as always, to blow the shite out of zombies.

And how do you do that? Via turn-based, strategic combat. The game is laid out in a series of grids, allowing you to move only a few spaces each turn before the zombies get to move. Once you get caught in battle with zombies (which can be done from a distance or at close range), you duke it out in long- or short-ranged combat with a variety of weapons. As is typical with RPGs, new weapons are scattered all over the place, and skills earned while leveling make killing zombies a little easier.

Yep. Pestilence Z is a bonafide zombie RPG. One that could use some spell checking, true, but a zombie RPG nevertheless.


Controls

As far as I can tell, you can't play Pestilence Z without a mouse. There are tons of menus, and you have to click on the map to make your character move. That said, many of the in- and out of-combat actions have hot keys that greatly speed up game play. Entire battles can be waged without touching the mouse.  Be careful using these keys, as it's easy to accidentally hit the wrong one. 

The primary issue as far as control is concerned lays in the turn-based nature of Pestilence Z. When you're on the map, it's a very slow game. Your character can only move two squares at a time when there are zombies about, which means there's a hell of a walk from one side of the screen to the next. This isn't so bad when the zombies ALSO move towards you, but there always seems to be one or two on each screen who refuse to budge. Either you hoof it to them or you tolerate a long, annoying search when looking for items in boxes or shelves or whatnot.


Graphics

It's hard to classify Pestilence Z's visuals, because they're both 'good' and 'meh' at the same time. Everything is clean and identifiable, there's a lot of variety in the surrounding environments, and the artwork is many steps above other browser-based games. I give extra points to the menu symbols, which are all easy to identify thanks to efficiently-drawn symbols.

And the meh? Again, it's a matter of speed. Everything looks and feels sluggish. There's no sense of urgency in this zombie apocalypse. The zombies never feel alive, which is an odd thing to say about the undead. Even your survivor seems detached from the whole scenario. I know RPGs can be slow, but this... this needs a few jolts of excitement.

Also? More variety. Seeing the same six or seven zombies over and over and over is so damn blech.


Sound

Pestilence Z is, by far, weakest in the sound department. There's a tiny handful of subdued songs, none of which real capture the flavour of the end of the world, and almost no sound effects. No groans, no fleshy thumps of a bat, no crazed screams... the best you'll ever get is the rat-a-tat-tat of a gun. The outbreak is devoid of menace without sound.

Challenge Rating

Because it has four different difficulty levels, Pestilence Z's challenge rating can fluctuate. I played it on Normal and it was fairly easy, with lots of findable weapons, med kits, ammunition and armour. That doubtless changes on more fiendish play-throughs, granting the game more replay value. Expect to take at least a couple hours for each complete circuit of the game.

Problem is, most run-of-the-mill RPG players probably won't replay Pestilence Z. The combat system is way too tedious and repetitive to maintain much interest, regardless of a different character choice. Movement alone will keep me from touching Pestilence Z again, or at least not for a long time - and if I DO replay it, I'll focus all of my efforts on head shots and one-hit-kills. They speed up the game significantly.

Oh, and one major problem for an RPG: though Pestilence Z allows for game saving, once you refresh the screen the save game disappears. No saving in cache. Thumbs down.

Conclusion?

This game doesn't knock the zombie genre out of the ballpark, nor does it grant much innovation to RPGs in general. Hell, it didn't even seem that strategic to me, despite the grid system. Pestilence Z IS still a decent game, however, and level-grinding fanatics will probably enjoy the pace.    
 
PLAY PESTILENCE Z

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Kill the Heroes

It's nice to see the bad guys get more of a spotlight in recent fiction. Yes, it's fun to uphold truth, justice and the American way and all that nonsense, but it's ALSO fun to trash the truth, thwart justice and spit on the American way.

(No offense, American readers. I'M not doing the spitting.)

Thus it is that Kill the Heroes, which is VERY aptly named, came into being. Guess what you wind up doing?


Concept

Kill the Heroes begins as an amnesiac awakens in a high-tech facility. Groggy and disoriented, he finds and dons a rather villainous-looking outfit that he assumes is his own. Soon after a bevy of heavily-armed heroes try to infiltrate the facility and kill him. Cue a tower defense game! You must defend Mastermind, who just wants to be left alone!

... and possibly to kill people! There's always a chance.

Kill the Heroes has a surprisingly well-developed storyline for a Flash game. Not in the sense that it's terribly deep or complex, but that it's consistent. Every level is introduced with some dialogue, used primarily to showcase new weapons or abilities, and there is some interaction between characters that's occasionally funny. My favourite part of the story bits by FAR were the captions on the 'Next Message' buttons, which were usually sarcastic and/or remarkably apathetic to Mastermind's plight.

Plot aside, Kill the Heroes is a tower defense game with a twist. The heroes walk along a set track in a pre-determined pattern. You must set up defensive turrets, drones and traps to kill them. Their destination is Mastermind, the bulbous-brained fellow at the top of this screenshot:


Mastermind can shoot back and take a decent amount of damage, but leaving him exposed is a bad idea. Thus the game also includes a set of teleporters which, at the cost of a bit of money, allow Mastermind to zip from place to place in a hurry. The end result is as much a tower defense game as it is a quasi-shooter. Interesting combination, and fun to play.


Controls

Got a mouse? You're set. Click on stuff. The menus are unobtrusive and respond to clicks, so controls should seldom ever be an issue. I played the whole thing on a laptop trackpad without difficulty.

Graphics

Kill the Heroes is kinda fifty-fifty on graphics:

- The characters are nifty. They don't move a hell of a lot, but I liked the chibi look. Mastermind himself is just about the goddamn weirdest-looking villain I've ever seen, and as a comic book fan, that's saying a lot.

- The backgrounds and environments are boring. The tracks all look the same. I don't know that variation would be appropriate to an industrial setting, but... bleh...

Final say? It looks okay. Not spectacular, not offensive. It's easy to keep characters and defenses sorted, which is probably the most important thing for tower defense.


Sound

The oratorical offering of this game is kinda bleh. There's one track throughout the majority of the game, a 'let's go kick some ass' tune that gets old after a while. Variety would be nice, but this is a free game so I won't complain too much, yadda yadda.

Challenge Rating

Kill the Heroes manages to hit a nice little difficulty sweet spot that's too high in some other tower defense games. It's challenging, but not impossibly so: the defenses and money provided are usually just enough to get you through a level with three stars. What's better, the game doesn't typically force you to use gadgets you'd rather avoid. All of them are useful throughout Kill the Heroes. And if you don't like how you upgraded your weaponry? No prob, you can reset your purchases.

That said, I found that upgrades made the game a little too easy. It's not that hard to earn stars for upgrades, and those upgrades - along with some proper placement - can shred enemies. The teleporter exacerbates this ease: for a rather paltry sum Mastermind can jump out of danger with little to no effort at all. In many cases it's just a matter of idly watching the heroes run the circuit, then hopping to another teleporter whenever they get too close. Whittle whittle whittle, success. Perhaps a cooldown time on the teleporter and applying upgrades would notch up the challenge?


Conclusion?

I think I may actually have pointed out more flaws than high points, so believe me when I contradict myself: Kill the Heroes is a lot of fun. Every level presents a new challenge... literally... and playing through the story is neither a chore nor ragequit-worthy. I recommend giving this villainous little game a chance.

PLAY KILL THE HEROES