Archive for November, 2008

Immortal Defense Review

November 19, 2008

Studio Eres’ Immortal Defense has one of the weirdest most preposterous stories I’ve come across in a videogame: You are a hero who has left their body – becoming some ethereal being in pathspace where you can blast space ships out of the sky with your emotions. This unique story embodies what indie games are about and solidifies itself with solid gameplay.

Gameplay: 9.5/10
Immortal Defense, in essence, is a tower defense game. You don’t build towers, but you do set emotion points which blast enemy orb-brains and other odd looking enemies. There are a ton of levels and a fantastic variety of “points” that keep things interesting and new throughout the game. I really like, that your cursor itself is a weapon and hovering it near any enemy will start it blasting – you can even charge up special attacks. This makes the levels feel a lot more arcadey and action oriented than simply building towers and watching them do all the work.

Despite the weird sci-fi premise, the story is very well written and touches on some pretty substantial themes. There’s too many metaphors in it to get into in a review, but trust me when I say that the text in this game is worth reading.

Graphics: 8.5/10
The graphics are definitely the weakest aspect of Immortal Defense. The biggest problem for me is the complete lack of variety when it comes to level appearance. Basically all the levels feature a dark spacey background with some white paths drawn on it. While this fits in with the story, I couldn’t help but wish for some abstract paintings, weird animated background or the like. The graphics themselves are all pretty simple. The special effects that permeate the entire gameplay space is what really saves the graphical experience of the game and makes it feel less cheap and more ethereal and supernatural.

Sound/Music: 9/10
The music is stellar and Walter Eres and Long Dao should be complemented for the soundtrack which really exemplifies the mood of the game and story. The sound effects are fine, but nothing really extraordinary. While the writing is superb, I do wish that Immortal Defense had voicework or a narrator for the story…maybe that’s greedy but it would’ve been sweet.

Lasting Appeal: 9/10
There are 10 difficulty levels and over 90 levels. More important is the fact that strategy is actually needed to plan and beat many of the later levels. Add to this a compelling… if completely out there story… and you have a game that certainly is worth it’s price tag.

Average: 90%
Tilt: +/- 0.00%

The bottom-line is that Immortal Defense is a very polished and unique tower-defense strategy game. The controls are intuitive and its easy to pick up and play. The supernatural / sci-fi story line may not be for everyone – but the game expertly weaves all of the elements: the story, gameplay, graphics and soundtrack into an artistic experience rather than just a game. The creativity and art that permeates through Immortal Defense is what makes it great- not the game itself.

Verdict: 90%

Project Aftermath Review

November 7, 2008

Upon first look at Project Aftermath, It’s hard to believe that the game was made by such a small team (3) of British Game Developers. The production value of the game is incredibly high and the download is enormous (over 200MB). But the high production of Project Aftermath is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I can’t imagine how Gamesfaction’s team of 3 produced the 3D graphics, and a game of this magnitude…it’s truly an achievement. On the other hand, all of the AAA production – the large download, 3D graphics, voice work, and real time strategy genre takes away from this game being “indie” and makes it feel like another big budget RTS. The shame of it all is that when you compare this game to big studio RTS games, the graphics and game aren’t quite so impressive. This dichotomy made it difficult to review Project Aftermath. Yes, it’s an Indie Game, but it doesn’t look or play like one.

Gameplay: 8/10
The game’s site describes Project Aftermath as an arcade Real Time Strategy game. Basically, what that means is you will not build any bases and collect a ton of resources in this game. The game is all about commanding “heroes.” The game’s heroes each have their own squad of troops, but the hero takes care of telling them what to do, so all you have to worry about is commanding your hero. The game has several different types of attacks and armor and a lot of the strategy in the game has to do with selecting the correct armor and weapon for the battle ahead. I really enjoyed the more action-oriented pace of this game, but the lack of base building mechanic does sort of make the game feel like it’s missing an essential RTS element. Then again, the hero concept and the lack of base building does make this game interesting and gives its gameplay a slight unique flare.

Graphics: 9/10
I have to admit that my PC struggled with this game. If not much was going on, it looked great, but the animation, camera, and effects were all choppy. My PC is fairly new (11 months old) but I don’t think my graphics card was up to snuff with the required/suggested video: GeForce 6 series, RADEON 9600, Intel GMA 950 or above, 1280×768 resolution or better. Again, this indie game resembles the major PC titles system requirements more than your typical casual or indie title. Based on the game’s videos, it seems like the animation & particle effects work. Just know that you need a decent computer…otherwise you’re left with one jerky action game.

Sound/Music: 10/10
The voice acting for this game is jaw-dropping. I simply could not believe the quality I was hearing. In fact after watching the first comic-strip story sequence and then hearing the voice work (and the sheer amount of voice work) I immediately went online to double check the size of the development team. The music, sound fx, and voice work is absolutely top-notch and is better than some fully priced console games out there.

Lasting Appeal: 7/10
There’s only 10 single player missions and no multiplayer. The story is interesting enough and presented in a really cool comic style, so you’ll want to play through it…but that’s all you get. The developer wants to make a stand-alone multiplayer game separate from this first entry. Multiplayer definitely would have boosted the longevity of the game, but while Project-Aftermath is short…it’s also only $20 but has the production value of $50+… so it’s a good value (even if multiplayer is another stand alone piece for $20 the game would be under other RTS games).

Average: 85.00%
Tilt: +/-0.00%

The fact that I’m comparing a 3 person team’s action RTS to the likes of Starcraft, Warcraft, Command & Conquer, etc. is quite an accomplishment for any Indie Studio. But when push came to shove, Project Aftermath just didn’t capture me. It’s a great game and quite a technical achievement, but it’s a little too much like a whittled down commercial studio RTS rather than an innovative and fresh gameplay experience. I don’t think the game does enough to capture non-RTS fans, but fans of the genre should rejoice because this indie title packs quite a punch.

Verdict: 85%

Multiwinia Review

November 5, 2008

By the time you read this Multiwinia will have been out for well over a month and, if the word coming out of developers Introversion is anything to go by, the game perhaps hasn’t done as well as they’d have liked so far. There’s a few reasons for this, the biggest being (and this is something that plagues any indie developer) that not many people have heard of it. This is a terrible shame because every game Introversion has produced has been by turns ingenious, engaging and entertaining. The conversion rate for Multiwinia (the number of people who play the demo and subsequently buy the game) is the highest that Introversion have ever had, so at the end of this review if my reservations (and there are a few) have put you off I’d still urge you to try the demo. You might find the game hooks you after all.

In a nutshell; Multiwinia takes the best bits of Introversion’s greatest hit Darwinia (namely the aesthetic, the sound design and the little green Darwinians) and straps them to the frame of a very basic multiplayer real-time strategy game.

Gameplay: 8/10

The core RTS mechanics of Multiwinia feel very stripped down. Your basic, and most plentiful, units are the Multiwinians. Descendants of the the Darwinians and now coming in a range of colours and delicious flavours, they’ve been kicking the hell out of each other since the end of the original game. They’re plentiful cannon fodder and can be group selected and commanded in large mobs or, if you nominate one of their number as an Officer, organised into rank and file to better concentrate their fire. They’re fragile beings, and an average game (which in my experience can be as quick as five minutes) will see you sending hundreds if not thousands to their pixelated demise.

There are several different game types and associated maps to keep things fresh, ranging from King of the Hill (control areas of the map to score points) to the delightful Rocket Riot, where your Multiwinians must protect, fuel and then launch a giant space rocket before the enemy team. Introversion have clearly gone to pains to provide as much variety as possible here, and that’s reflected in their choices of advanced units. Most games will see frequent, randomised crate drops that your Multiwinians can claim. These can contain bonus units such as Armours (troop transports), Squads (grenade launcher packing soldiers from Darwinia), and even the likes of a nuclear strike. There’s always the chance that a crate will be booby trapped, unleashing a Virus or deadly Ants instead of some thing you can point at the enemy.

A lot of the power-ups seem to deliberately unbalance the game, suggesting that Introversion were more keen to craft a fun experience rather than a rigidly tuned strategy game. It’s a decision that’s served Multiwinia well and offers plenty of opportunities for random mid-match hilarity. Matches, even between four players, are quick, manageable affairs and it’s not hard to imagine it becoming a popular lunch hour distraction. Losing shouldn’t worry players too much as there’s always a chance a well placed crate drop can turn the game on its head. Even if you’re knocked out early on, there’s a vengeance mode that gives you access to power ups you can deploy at regular intervals while spectating on the remainder of the game. Essentially, a chance to grief the bastard that knocked you out.

There are problems in how the game handles. Selecting groups of Multiwinians is done by clicking on the terrain and dragging the mouse outwards to create a kind of circular selection vortex. It feels completely counter intuitive to any regular RTS player who’s used to the traditional drag-box style. Even with the Officer feature you never have quite as much control over your Multiwinians as you would like. It’s a functional system that feels a tad awkward, and I suspect it’s exacerbated by the fact that we’ve never really seen a strategy game that handles like Multiwinia (except Darwinia of course). It’s just a bit different.

There’s a similar problem commanding the game’s special units. At its best, Multiwinia is a frenetic, frenzied experience. Battles can proceed at an extraordinarily fast pace and keeping on top of things can be quite a challenge. But when it comes to using Squads, for example, the game expects you to control the unit individually, meaning to get the most out of them you need to focus all your concentration on that one unit if you want to do anything effective with it. They won’t do anything useful if left to their own devices, and having to manage them like that can be distracting.

Graphics: 9/10

As I mentioned at the beginning, one of the best things about Darwinia was its aesthetic and Multiwinia looks almost identical to it, albeit with a few tweaks here and there. You might look at the screenshots and not be terribly impressed, but to accuse Multiwinia of lacking in terms of graphical power or fidelity is to miss the point. The look of the game is unique and the graphical design is damn near perfect in what it’s trying to visually represent, and because of that I don’t think it’s ever going to age. It’s got style and a great retro feel, and when the whole thing is in motion it can be astonishingly pretty.

Sound/Music: 9/10

There’s a very understated, unobtrusive score backing Multiwinia that you can’t really say too much about because… well, because you won’t really notice it. Unlike, say, Defcon (to pick a game not entirely at random), where the haunting music complemented the already thick layer of dread and desperation, there’s just too much flying around the Multiwinian battlefields for any music to make much of a noticeable impact.

The rest of the sound design is, like the visual style, pretty much spot on and there’s not much more to be said about it. What will probably strike you most are the horrible, high pitched death screams of the Multiwinians. They’re positively haunting.

Lasting Appeal: 8/10

This is a strange one to call. On the one hand, I think Multiwinia is perfect bite-sized gaming. Short, intense and very easy to dip in to. It’s about as far away from the usual RTS online slugging match as you could hope to get. But that might be a problem too. As a huge RTS fan (weened on C&C and it’s clones before becoming addicted to Company of Heroes back in the day) I found Multiwinia to be almost too much of a departure in some respects. It looks and feels so alien compared to what you expect an RTS to be that I can easily see how it would be off-putting to fans of the genre.

But that’s no reason to ignore it. Multiwinia is a great little game – very focused, very compact and very entertaining. It’s easy to grasp and has sufficient variety, and I suspect how it differentiates itself from the traditional RTS may end up being its greatest strength in the long run. It’s different enough to appeal well beyond the boundaries of the genre.

It’s currently ten dollars on Steam. If RTS is your thing, or even if you just enjoy new, weird, fun games to play with, then this one is a no-brainer.

Average: 85%
Tilt: –

Verdict: Full of win, 85%

Caster Preview

November 4, 2008

Caster is an upcoming 3rd person shooter action game from developer Mike Smith of Elecorn. The game controls like a first person shooter with the keyboard moving your character and the mouse handling all your aiming and shooting. The basic premise of the game is rid your world of the bug-like Phanx with your magical energy attacks.

The copy we played was a preview build for the Independent Game Festival. While the game’s 3D graphics are low-res, there’s definitely some impressive real time terrain deformation, particle effects, and lighting going on under the hood. The gameplay is also very playable with responsive controls and a good mission structure and upgrade/leveling system. What really impressed me though was the fantastic music that this game already has in place (and the fact that the game was programmed/animated by a 1 person studio).

Caster has the potential to be a very impressive game. The basic structure is in place, but the game needs a significant graphics upgrade. The level textures are horrendously low resolution and the main character needs some more polygons. If Elecorn takes the time to balance the difficulty, and give the graphics an overhaul, Caster could be an amazing indie game. The gameplay, speed, and action packed levels are already fun to play and the music definitely adds a lot to the game. With varied magical attacks, excellent music, great particle/lighting effects, a level-up system, and what looks to be a great game engine, Caster is poised to be a high octane action game. I only hope that a new coat of paint gets slapped on to improve the game’s 3d Graphics (the 2d Graphics are great).

Awesome Soccer Preview

November 3, 2008

Awesome Soccer by Red27 Studios is a no frills soccer (football) game that focuses on simple and deep gameplay. Awesome Soccer immediately reminds one of the classic Sensible World of Soccer. Awesome soccer has a simplified control system where you move with the keyboard and only have one button to execute all your passing, shooting, slide tackling, etc. There is also an aftertouch system that allows you to put “swerve” on your shots (another similarity to Sensible World of Soccer). Luckily for Awesome Soccer, it’s visuals are not a decade old. Awesome soccer has very fluid player sprites and large soccer photographs that display as menu backdrops. While Awesome Soccer shares its gameplay mechanics heavily with SWOS, it does have a lot more features, league options, strategy elements, management options etc. than the arcade sports game classic. If you were a fan of SWOS, Awesome Soccer will certainly give you a similar gaming experience while offering downloadable tournaments and other team, and league managment options. Don’t be fooled though, Awesome Soccer does not attempt to simulate the sport, but instead replicates classic arcade soccer gameplay. Scoring is much more prevalent, but isn’t that more fun anyways?

Thank You for Contacting Us

November 1, 2008

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