Archive for the ‘A’ Category

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%

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Kudos 2 Review

October 20, 2008

Kudos 2 is the sequel to Positech Games life simulator game, Kudos (read the Kudos 1 review). The game puts you in control of making your character’s everyday decisions from their 20th birthday to their 30th. If you are familiar with Kudos, then you definitely know what to expect in the sequel. You start out as a waiter and make day to day decisions with the click of your mouse: pick your mode of transportation to work, decide to take night classes or go out drinking during the week, etc. Not much has changed since the first one except a significantly enhanced style and presentation.

Gameplay: 8/10
Pros: The same strategy gameplay from Kudos returns to Kudos 2. The game is very simple to play (but definitely hard to master) and surprisingly addictive. The new ability to customize your avatar really adds a lot to the experience.
Cons: Gameplay consists of clicking and navigating menus. The tutorial/instruction of the game is a little scant. Your friends are way too needy! and your never seem to have enough cash (OK maybe this simulator is hitting close to home).

Graphics: 10/10
Pros: I actually didn’t notice how much better the graphics were till I looked at screens between the two games. Kudos 1 had freaky blank-faced character models and a washed out and colorless presentation (I guess it took place in Seattle or London) whereas Kudos 2 has slick customizable characters, and vibrant menus and a colorful presentation.
Cons: An utter lack of animation permeates the sequel, but then again, animation isn’t really needed for this type of game.


Sound/Music: 9/10
Pros: Congratulations to Jesse Hopkins who does a great job with the music for this game. The music is very calming, laid back and subtle. The music does a fantastic job capturing the mood of the day and the atmosphere of the game. Sound is kept to simple clicks and what I would call “alert sounds” (i.e. dog barking, rain falling, character coughing) that help notify the player of their situation.
Cons: Nothing really to complain about…

Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Pros: The bright and upbeat music and improved graphics of this sequel make a huge difference in the amount of time that you can spend playing the game. It takes a decent amount of time to live your life from 20-30 in the game, but the character customization and sheer amount of choices, skills and statistics add a lot of replay value.
Cons: I’m really not sure if this is a game or a simulator/strategy game. In many ways it’s more similar to a board game with stat tracking character sheets than a video game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but also makes this game not suitable to everyone.

Average: 90.00%
Tilt: +/- 0.00%

Kudos 2 is a life simulator and that’s exactly what you get (and a vastly improved one at that) but if that explanation of the game alone makes you cringe than this game is absolutely not for you. It’s a very relaxing and enjoyable diversion where you can live a virtual life. The sheer amount of choice in this game is ridiculous. I do have a suggestion for Kudos 3. I think it would be fantastic if the game placed you in your senior year of high school rather than your 20s as a poor waiter. As an 18 year old, you would have high school friends, finish out your senior year of high school, apply and select a college (or start in the workforce), and continue to try and maintain long time friends as you move away from school into your 20s & 30s. This would break up the game and vary the virtual life experience a little more. All in all, I look forward to Kudos 3 and thoroughly enjoyed Kudos 2. The gameplay is only subtly changed, but the overall package is vastly improved.

Verdict: 90%

Band of Bugs Review

October 19, 2008

So Far Band of Bugs has been slammed by critics and has an average review score of 69/100. DO NOT be swayed by this without trying the game. The basic problem in a lot of these reviews is that they view Band of Bugs as too easy for tactic/strategy game fans and too hard for casual players. My problem with so many of the reviews is that they seem to be reviewing and critiquing the concept of Band of Bugs (create a simplistic and more casual tactics experience) than the actual game itself. Why such glowing reviews when Ninjabee simplified RTS genre in Outpost Kaloki? Aren’t RTS fans as hardcore and particular as Tactics/Strategy fans? Apparently not.

In the end, a review is just a person’s opinion. Typically, I think that all the critics reviews average out correctly, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Band of Bugs. At least, that’s not the direction the reviews are heading. I can only hope that I fairly review the game and voice some opinion or perspective that is worthwhile.

Graphics: 9/10
Pros: Phenomenal 2D art..Gigantic HD handdrawn depictions of all the bugs look great! 3D engine looks good for a Live release and all the different types of units and teams are easily discerned. The animation of all the critters is stellar.
Cons: The different color line shading does detract from the graphics somewhat…taking this option off is usually not worth doing in multiplayer, but it does improve the 3D graphics.

Gameplay: 8/10
Pros: Fully Featured game with an enjoyable campaign, a multitute of online modes, and a level editor. This is where Band of Bugs has really been critiqued and while I found the campaign somewhat easy, I was very entertained and it was all over too quickly. I was actually left with questions about Maal’s origin and hope that DLC will fill in these holes. The campaign dialogue is absolutely brilliant and quite witty and funny. While strategy/tactics fans may find the game easy or simplistic, the point of the game was to make this genre of games more approachable and casual. Outpost Kaloki certainly simplified RTS games, and I loved that it did (not being the biggest RTS fan) even though I struggle to beat certain levels. While I agree that Band of Bugs is no Tactics Ogre, Fire Emblem, etc. is it fair to compare it to these full retail games? I don’t think so…it would be like comparing Outpost Kaloki to Command & Conquer 3.
Cons: I did miss the rock-paper-scissors weapon element that is present in the fire emblems, but this game is supposed to be simplistic. I do agree with some of the other reviews about the RPG elements and stat-tracking. Adding in some character customization would have been great…from naming them, to picking 2-3 skills/abilities/spells. I think it could have been added while still staying simplistic and casual.

Sound/Music: 9/10
Pros: The bug voices/gibberish is absolutely great and works perfectly with the game’s sense of humor and tone. The sound FX as a whole are well thought out and distinctive to certain units, actions, etc. The Music is good and fits with the theme…
Cons: ..but some of the music misses and feels a little repetetive…ok only 1 particular song, but still a con.

Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Pros: I find it hard for anyone to argue over the feature set in this game. It offers a variety of multiplayer modes: Spider Hunter, Elimination, Capture, etc. both online and locally. There is also the great addition of a Level Editor plus a full 20 mission campaign story mode with additional stand alone missions. It’s a game chock-full-to the brim with features for $10.
Cons: My complaint is squarely on the online multiplayer… I have found it very hard to find ranked games and virtually all the games I have played have been Spider Hunter. I really love elimination and find a human opponent very fun to compete with online…so Band of Bug players stop playing Spider Hunter.

Average: 90.00%
Tilt: +2.00%

Don’t get me wrong, Band of Bugs has it’s issue and may not be a homerun for Strategy Fans, but it delivers on a ton of features. While RPG elements and custom Bug armies would have been great, this game’s purpose was to offer a simplified and more casual Tactics gameplay experience. Ninjabee certainly delivered on this goal and exceeded their previous titles in the story mode and dialogue category if you ask me. My biggest issue with the game is that I wanted more of the campaign, more Maal, and that I find it incredibly hard and time consuming to find online ranked elimination/capture matches. Everyone plays Spider Hunter! I don’t think I’ve mentioned that the turn system works FANTASTIC for online matches and keeps them action packed. Great design decision! All in all Band of Bugs offers a lot of game for $10. Perhaps the reason for all the low reviews is that people are comparing it to $50-60 titles, since the quality of the game and features resemble those full priced titles over the typical offerings of Xbox Live. Give Band of Bugs a chance, you probably will find yourself smiling and chuckling along with Maal and his gang.

Verdict: 92%

World of Goo Review

October 18, 2008

World of Goo is the first game from Indie Game Studio, 2D Boy. Founded by Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel, 2D Boy’s goal (according to their website) is to “make games that everyone can play, with gameplay nobody has seen before.” Well, they have certainly met this goal with World of Goo. World of Goo is hard to pigeon hole into one game genre. I guess if I had to label it I would describe it as a goo-construction physics puzzle action game. Basically, you drag and drop goo balls to build towers, bridges etc. towards a vacuum pipe that sucks up all the remaining goos. The game is definitely out there and utterly unique, but it’s also incredibly sublime.

Gameplay: 10/10
Pros: The gameplay is unlike any other game out there. It’s sort of like building with K’nex…except their goo balls with little personalities. Each level poses a brand new challenge and the game controls are pretty basic (drag & click). The game introduces new goos at a great pace which helps keep the puzzles and goo building fresh. There’s sort of a story and its interestingly told.
Cons: The game is over too fast, but great games always are. Large goo structures can be tricky to build and frustrating tip over…but the limited level skips are always enough to keep you moving along the campaign.

Graphics: 10/10
Pros: The art style is probably the best thing about the game. It is very odd…especially the cutscenes and some of the level pieces (Girl Goo Heads, Wacky Hands, Creepy Robot Heads, etc) but utterly charming. The game’s first chapter is very clean and colorful…but as the game progresses the art style starts permeating through and gets weirder and weirder along with the wacky story. All this oddity is a good thing though. The visuals never get boring and the presentation and execution is excellent.


Sound/Music: 10/10
Pros: The music perfectly fits the art style and mood, but what really makes the games auditory experience so excellent are the sound effects. Goo giggles, mumbles gibberish, inflates, etc. and the People of World of Goo speak emphatic gibberish as well…but all along the way convey emotion. That coupled with the sheer humor of the it all makes it incredibly enjoyable.


Lasting Appeal: 8/10
Pros: There are 5 Chapters and an Epilogue, with each world having a decent number of levels (~10) but when a game is this enjoyable and completely lacks tedium you always want more. The Global Ranking score system add replayability and the meta game of using extra goo to build the tallest tower also adds longevity to the title.
Cons: Ultimately the game can be beaten over a weekend and every level played.

Average: 95.00%
Tilt: +2.00%

What it comes down to is that World of Goo is one of the finest and most original games I have played in recent years. It may not be the longest experience, but much like XBLA’s Braid, Goo maintains an interest and high quality throughout every level of the game. The game is a fantastic experience that will be thoroughly enjoyed, but then you can move on. This approach to indie games is excellent because ultimately and indie studio cannot compete with the longevity of a commercial studio game. This is what they do best – Wow you with originality, art style and uniqueness and offer you a fantastic experience for the fraction of the price of a full scale commercial title. World of Goo is an exceptional game at an exceptional price. There’s really no excuse not to experience the creativity, art, and fun that permeates this game.

Verdict: 97%

Outpost Kaloki (X) Review

October 18, 2008

Let me start out by saying that I love this game. More power to Ninjabee(http://www.ninjabee.com/)! They have 2 of my favorite Xbox Live Arcade games and they’ve only made 2 games for the 360 so far (as far as I know). I don’t really know how to describe Outpost Kaloki X. It is part Real Time Strategy Game, part Action Game, and part Puzzler. It all winds together into a great package. Outpost Kaloki was originally available for PC and was heralded with critical acclaim. Only reason I didn’t get it for PC was because I figured Xbox version for $10 was better than PC version for $20. Yes, as surprising as it may be, I dont’ make the big bucks blogging and making Video Games- the 9-5 job is the one that provides me with food. Bottom line is that Outpost Kaloki is a very addicting and frantic Action/RTS game and an absolute must buy for Xbox 360 owners.

Gameplay: 9/10
Pros: Gameplay is way quicker and action packed than most RTS. You really have to build things in the right order, and be ready to increase power, alter settings, and build the next building just as you’ve earned the money to pay for it in order to beat the level and not run out of time. I can’t imagine successfully managing my space station in ther later levels at the faster gameplay speeds. (After Level 6 I pretty much stuck with Speed 1). This all adds up to there constantly being something to do or attend to as you reach for your goal. The Controls are spot on and make it easy to navigate to all your expansions. The game is simple enough to pick up and play, but is a lot more complicated than you think.
Cons: This game can be pretty hard. I have been playing the game a lot and am not that far in the campaign, but have had to consistently replay levels in order to complete them (but I immediately clicked retry and got right back into it!). The instructions on how to play could have been more in depth to help you understand the necessary intricacies of gameplay. A tad too hard.
Graphics: 9/10
Pros: The graphics are fully 3d and the engine runs incredibly fast and smooth. What’s even better is the variety of stations that each new level brings, from a crazy pink domed station to a giant oak tree! What’s more important is that each facility/expansion is easily identifiable so you can quickly sell and upgrade or change attributes. I also love the cartoony feel of the menus and cast of characters and aliens.
Cons: Graphics definitely lack the wow factor since this game just focuses on resource management. No real battles or crazy effects to speak of, but you do have to love the hustle and bustle of a successful space station and all the dollar bill and money indicators.
Sound/Music: 8/10
Pros: The simple clicks and beeps of the menus work well. The cha-ching of money is always nice. The music is very catchy…and I have found myself grooving to it when my station is doing well and I’m in the zone. The music really stands out…but
Cons: The music really stands out…but it can be repetitive.
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Pros: The main campaign scenarios feature over 20 levels, add to that several downloadable scenarios, different story lines, and modes and you have a hefty game with plenty of levels and fun to be had. I just glanced at the Ninjabee website and there is significant DLC.
Cons: If you don’t like the game you won’t want to take advantage of these ways to extend it. It would’ve been cool to see some sort of multiplayer or online aspect.

Average: 90.00%
Tilt: +4.00%
I have to give a little extra to this title because last night everything just clicked and became uber fun. I finally advanced to a level with several options, tons of ships visiting my station, new upgrades, and not nearly enough time to get everything done. I failed the level twice, but then it all came together and money started pouring in as I frantically switched, repaired, and adjusted my expansions. With my continuing success came a joy and right before I finished the final objective, knowing my inevitable victory, I took a break from my feeble dancing attempts and yelled a resounding “Yes!” How many games can spur such a response? Not many…how many games can do it for $10? Even Less. Outpost Kaloki is a gem that I have to wholeheartedly recommend.
Verdict: 94%

Tribal Trouble Review

October 13, 2008

Tribal Trouble Website and Information

Download the Free Demo
Buy the Game NOW
Tribal Trouble is a Real Time Strategy game that pits Island Natives against the invading Vikings. There are the aforementioned 2 factions who each have 5 units and 3 buildings (which are equivalent). The scarce variety of units and buildings is really the only indication that this game is an Indie title since the graphics, gameplay, presentation, etc. are all well above and beyond what is typically seen in the Indie industry and is very comparable to big budget PC titles with immense development teams. Furthermore, the simplicity and focus on the units/buildings makes the game far more enjoyable to play and less daunting to approach. My least favorite thing about RTS games was the immense diversity and huge amount of time that had to be invested learning each unit and its strengths and weaknesses. I may be in the minority on this, but I really feel that with the immense RTS lineups, you really can only spend the time getting to know one game’s units, buildings, etc. Regardless, this game is really impressive in almost every aspect.

Gameplay: 9.5/10
Pros: All the typical RTS shortcut keys and functions are there (only streamlined) and the controls are instantly accessible. The best thing about Tribal Trouble though is the simple units mean that players don’t sit around and build massive bases and units and then just mass strike. There’s a lot more back and forth and time management is a bigger issue than in other Real Time Strategy games.
Cons: The simplicity of the units is nice, but I would have liked to see a couple more buildings and maybe an exclusive unit or a little more difference between the Native and Vikings.


Graphics: 10/10
Pros: I really can’t express how impressed I was with the graphics of this game. The game features a fully 3D world and camera which can rotate, pan, zoom, etc. You can zoom in right on the littlest Peon and see the very fluid animations up close. There’s a distinct look between the two factions and the menus and presentation are all top-notch
Cons: I guess the character models look a bit blocky up close and make you aware of the lack of polygons, but you can’t fault the game for that when there are hundreds of units waddling and running about.

Sound/Music: 8.5/10
Pros: The sound is perfectly adequate and solid and the musical scores are quite good.
Cons: I could’ve used more music (there are only about 4 musical scores).

Lasting Appeal: 9.5/10
Pros: Randomly generated island levels, online multiplayer, and 2 very fun campaign modes…there are plenty of modes and features to keep you playing.
Cons: The lack of units/buildings can wear thin and although it contributes to Tribal Trouble’s initial appeal, it also detracts from its depth.

Average: 93.75%
Tilt: + 0.25%

Tribal Trouble is great fun. I guess I haven’t mentioned the humor yet, which this game has in spades. The premise itself is humorous: Drunk Vikings get lost on an island and start fighting the natives. Tribal Trouble is $30 which is higher than the typical Indie title, but it is also of a much higher caliber. If you download the demo, you will immediately be impressed with Tribal Trouble’s graphics, presentation, and gameplay. Anyone who likes RTS games should buy it and anyone who has avoided them because of their vast learning curve should step up to the plate and play this more casual take on a hardcore genre that dominates the PC market. A must buy for everyone who enjoys PC games.

Verdict: 94%

Tribal Trouble Website and Information
Download the Free Demo
Buy the Game NOW

PixelJunk Eden Review

October 13, 2008

PixelJunk Eden continues the tradition started by Monsters of great games in small packages. The gameplay of this game is so simple. In Eden, you jump from plant to plant and can swing on a silk line. Your objective is to collect Spectra but they only way you can reach these is by collecting pollen and growing your garden. You do this by hitting pollen pods to blast pollen everywhere, collect the pollen, and jump in a seed. The Graphics and Sound are fantastic in this game. They work really well together and really create an innovative and original experience on top of core gameplay that has been around since the NES (I’m talking bionic commando & Mario Here). Eden really seems like it might be repetitive after playing the first 3 gardens, but as you advance further, the gardens all start introducing new obstacles and challenges (portals, launch flowers, gravity changing levels). Basically, Eden really sucks you in right as you are getting bored and tired of it. The only really negative thing I can say about Eden is that it is a bit excessive to force the player to play each garden 5 times to collect the 5 spectra. I would’ve liked a lot more relaxed system that ended the level when you collected all 5 or when time ran out. This way, in the first few easy levels you could beat them in 1-3 playthroughs rather than the required 5. This fact was most evident in the first few gardens, since this mechanic works better in the later more complex levels. All in all, Eden is one of the most refreshing Downloadable Games I have ever played. It’s not for everyone, but if the surreal atmosphere and unique look doesn’t bother you, you definitely should give the demo a try.

Gameplay: 9/10 – The gameplay is simple, challenging, and enjoyable.

Graphics: 9/10 – I love the simple vector graphics and look of this game. I do wish the early levels weren’t as monochromatic though.

Music/Sound: 10/10 – The music and sound design is definitely the highlight of the package and brings the tone and atmosphere of the game together so it all works.

Lasting Appeal: 8/10 – Multiplayer is welcome and really changes the feel and challenge of the game. The later gardens really challenge you and are very unique. This drives you to keep collecting spectra to unlock even more unique and fun gardens.

Average: 90.00%
Tilt: +/- 0.00%

Verdict: 90%

Castle Crashers Review

October 13, 2008

Castle Crashers finally arrived in late August and has been surrounded by controversy. First, there was the alleged rumored price of $22.50 that caused the internet to erupt in outrage…no worries though, the game is only $15. Then there were the 2 heinous bugs that caused the Behemoth’s devlog and Castle Crashers site to crash. I have actually suffered both bugs…. 1 bug being that I cannot play online at all and the other being that my Level 28 knight, unlockables, and save file were erased on me right when I got to the Marsh level. Despite these bugs, I’m still a huge fan of Castle Crashers and have happily surpassed the point of first game erasure.

Castle Crashers exudes tremendous personality. Dan Paladin’s hand drawn graphics are superb and there is a ton of humor and extra animation work that create mostly great moments (thief washing scrubbing clothes in the river, Ice/Barbarian Boss taking the time to laugh at you, Barbarian punching knocked down gray knight) and some not so funny ones (Thieves Forest animal crapping is just too much…Owl ok…deer & bear excessive). The sheer amount of work, animations, characters, levels, etc that went into this game is incredibly commendable.

Let’s get to the particulars. I’ve already talked about the great graphics and animations, the story is thin… 4 knights have their 4 chicks stolen, but all the animated sequences (there’s no dialogue) put together an interesting, if shallow story. The music is very catchy especially the shop theme and suits the eccentricity and theme of the title very well. The gameplay recreates the arcade co-op beat-em-up gameplay perfectly. It’s instantly playable, and the leveling system gives the game depth. Leveling up unlocks deeper combos and magic abilities. There’s also an immense amount of content to unlock from weapons, animal orbs, secret characters, etc.

It is a very big letdown that Online has been completely unplayable (I got about 30 secs of all you can quaff online once) but the Behemoth has assured its fans that a title update and downloadable content is on the way. I have played the game splitscreen and it is way more fun with a friend, even if a little less challenging. The major negatives for me have been the bugs (erasing my save was especially infuriating) and the annoying enemies that stand off the stage and shoot projectiles at you. All in all though this game is superb, utterly unique, and a must buy on XBLA. Hopefully, the online issues will be fixed and we’ll all be questing online in the coming weeks.

Orange Knight Rules!

Gameplay: 9/10
Graphics: 10/10
Sound/Music: 9/10
Lasting Appeal 9.5/10

Average: 93.75%
Tilt: -0.75% (sorry gotta take some off for the bugs)

Verdict: 93%