Review by Meg
|The goal of Chains is to connect 3 or more bubbles of a matching color, a pretty typical puzzle game goal. Matching colors to pop bubbles is hardly new, but what separates Chains from Puzzle Bobble, Snood, Bejeweled or even bilging on Puzzle Pirates, is the special bubble physics of Chains. Falling bubbles interact with each other, bouncing or pushing each other into different places, so they’re not just falling into obvious spots. It’s simoultaneously relaxing to watch and more challenging to play.
Gameplay: The best games have simple rules and complex challenges. Chains has some of the simplest rules in puzzle games, just match three or more balls. You could explain the rules to a new player in a minute, but that doesn’t mean the game is easy or childish. There are endless ways to change and refine your strategy.
Each level of Chains presents a different challenge, like making the longest chain possible, racing the clock to get a certain number of bubbles cleared, and so forth. In Exact Change, bubbles of different sizes have weighted values, and players need to create a chain worth exactly the specified amount. In The Stream, bubbles are falling down a river and must be cleared quickly enough to keep the river from backing up. In Coathanger, bubbles fall onto a precariously balanced coathanger, spilling off the heavier side. Using that simple mechanic of clicking three or more bubbles to clear them, players have to adapt
Graphics: On Gravity, bubbles are attracted to a midscreen center of gravity, unless they collide with another bubble. This level is almost hypnotic. Overall, the bubble physics were amazing.
Each level consists of a dynamic pattern of bubbles in front of a
Sound/Music: Um… no. I shut the sound off pretty early on because
Lasting Appeal: With so many puzzle games, it’s hard for one to stand out. I think the variety of difficulty levels and different challenges makes it easy to find either a relaxing game for a quick break or a frustratingly difficult puzzle. You’ll be playing this at least until the next puzzle game comes along.
Check it out for a fun puzzle game… but don’t bother with the sound.
Archive for the ‘B-’ Category
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Verdict: Full of win, 85%
I’m not really sure if flOw is a video game, but it certainly is an experience. As a game, flOw lacks gameplay, complexity, and challenge, but it’s slogan is “…life could be simple.” That slogan really embodies what flOw is. flOw is an incredibly fresh and relaxing voyage into the depths of a simple oceanic world. The gameplay is simple, but the presentation, graphics and sound work incredibly well. As a game, the only real incentive to keep playing is to evolve your creature and unlock new creatures, but flOw is enjoyable beyond that. Just as a good album is great to pop in and relax to, flOw is a great thing to start up just to veg out on the couch and experience the “lights and sounds” if you will. For less than the price of a movie ticket ($8.99), you can experience flOw and this unique gaming experience really should not be missed. Congrats to thatgamecompany.
PixelJunk Monsters also went on sale at the Playstation Store for $4.99, but unfortunately I bought it right before the price cut. Fortunately, the game is very addictive and challenging. PixelJunk Monsters is an endearing tower defense game where your tiki man builds towers to defend his Tiki Jrs (or whatever they are). There are ground and air baddies and slow/fast monsters and all these factors make selecting the correct tower quite difficult. The game is incredibly challenging and requires some trial and error, but the game is so enjoyable to play I haven’t really minded replaying the levels. There’s always that sense that you can correct your mistakes and strategize your defenses better. The presentation is excellent and the sound/music is very unintrusive and quaint. The whole game comes off as a sort of fairy tale land which works very well and gives it that wholesome and enjoyable tone. For $5, you gotta buy this game. There’s even local co-op which is really well done.
Gameplay: 9/10 – Tower Defense done right – challenging, deep, but not too frustrating
Graphics: 8/10 – Simple clean 2d art looks great but definitely is not stressing the PS3’s hardware
Sound/Music: 9/10 – Music and Sound are the final touches that create the uplifting tone for the game
Lasting Appeal: 8/10 – Challenge and Co-op go along way in extending the lifespan of this game, but it doesn’t change the somewhat low level count.
Tilt: +/- 0.00%
If you love this game and need more levels there’s always the Encore Pack, but honestly I was happy paying $10 for this game and would be thrilled to pick it up for $5.
Let me start off by saying that Grubby Games has some of the absolute best kid’s games on the market. That’s not to say the appeal of Professor Fizzwizzle is only for kids, just that it has an excellent pace, graphics, sounds for kids, not to mention the problem-solving puzzles that make up the levels of the game. I must admit to using the “Solve Puzzle” feature on quite a few occasions myself. This feature is brilliant because at the moment a level gets frustrating and you feel it is impossible, you can simply pause and click for the solution. This definitely decreases the frustration factor and keeps you playing into the later levels. Prof. Fizzwizzle also keeps things interesting by adding new puzzle elements at a good pace from level to level. This keeps things from getting repetitive. In fact, my only major complaint with Prof. Fizzwizzle is that the gameplay is not for gamers. To the game’s defense, it was not designed to appeal to the hardcore 2D gamers of yesteryear, the graphics whores of today’s consoles, or the FPS/RTS pc crowd. This is a casual game, and if you take it as such, it is hard to find fault.
Pros: Puzzles can be very challenging and continually add new elements or twists on old elements to keep things fresh. A plethora of modes and types of puzzles.
Cons: Actual Gameplay is simplistic. You use the arrow keys to move the professor around and that’s really it, besides the occasional power-up. Perfect for casual gamers, but not for me.
Pros: Graphics are clean, simple, and perfectly themed for the game. Animations are REALLY good.
Cons: Lack of WOW factor. More game objects animated as well as the Professor!
Pros: Music is perfect, catchy and subdued. The last thing you want is some crazy rock music while you are trying to solve a puzzle. Sound is unintrusive as well.
Cons: Sound/Music are not show stealers, but they are not meant to be, especially in a game like this.
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Pros: Tons of different levels, modes, and sets of puzzles. If you get tired with the included puzzles there is a level editor and a ton of downloadable levels on Grubby Games’ website.
Cons: What more could you ask for?
Grubby Games knows the casual market. Professor Fizzwizzle has won tons of critical acclaim, awards, etc. and I’m sure has sold tons of copies as well. It understands exactly the type of people that enjoy and buy these types of games and offers a huge repetoire of levels and features for them. Console gamers, PC gamers, and old school gamers alike could enjoy this game…will they shell out the cash to buy it…I doubt it….but the casual gamer will and will love that they did. Rarely have I seen a casual game that is 1: an Original Idea 2: not some sort of match 3 or bejeweled clone 4: more than a simple click here/there game…ahem…cake mania and diner dash and 5: actually worth $20. What does Professor Fizzwizzle really do best? It offers you a tremendous value at $20, because of the number of levels, downloadable levels, and ability to make your own levels. If you enjoy this game, you will not stop playing it due to a lack of features…that’s for sure.
If you are interested in Professor Fizzwizzle and would like to support us and Grubby Games you can:
Super Jazzman is a real homage to the classic 2D Adventure games popularized on the PC in the late 80s and throughout the 90s. It offers a great adventure experience if that’s a genre you enjoy and have missed, but has a few flaws that keep it from greatness. In the end though, if you like adventure games and feel the need for one and a charming one at that, then Jazzman is for you.
Pros: The same mind bending puzzles and click interface make it into Jazzman. Click to use, look at, move, etc. standard move set/controls in a game genre long forgotten. Anyone remember Lost Secret of the Rainforest?…just checking
Cons: The excitement of these games is never in the gameplay, but rather figuring out what to do. There’s also no replay value in these adventures since once you figure it all out and get the story, you’re ready to move on since figuring out the mystery and what to do next is the whole point of the game.
Pros: The graphics are well animated and have excellent sprite and pixel work…\
Cons: …the problem is that the game window is incredibly small…like 320 x 200 pixels or something. It’s really hard to see the object you need to pick up when it’s a whole 10 pixels.
Pros: The sounds are all done really well and fit the mood of the music. I love the walking echo.
Cons: There’s not really any music and the sounds are somewhat minimal. It is nice to not have elevator music repeating over and over as you are trying to figure out where Jazzman should fly to next.
Lasting Appeal: 8/10
Pros: This is hard one for me to judge since I haven’t played the whole adventure, but so far it’s been a charming story that works well.
Cons: As stated earlier, the nature of these games is the initial puzzle solving and figuring out the story. Like most books, you’ll read it (or in this case: play it through) once and be done with it.
Tilt: +/- 0.00%
For my little closing, I would like to point out that Herculean Effort is very paranoid about piracy. Super Jazzman has the most ridiculous protection I have ever gone through with an Indie Game. Even after downloading the full version, getting a password to unzip it and install it. You still have to put in a code when it boots up and then it’s only registered on one computer. A little overzealous if you ask me, but again it doesn’t really effect gameplay. I just thought it was an interesting factoid.
Braid is a very commendable and entralling independent game by Jonathan Blow. First let me start off by saying that screenshots do not do this game justice. While the game is not pushing the graphical power of the Xbox, David Hellman’s art for the game is simply fantastic. The game has a unique water color look to it and the swirling colors and especially the parralax backgrounds can astonish and fit perfectly into this surreal sort of fairy tale. The story of braid is interesting and has a pretty good twist of an ending. It’s certainly one of the best XBLA stories out there. Since it’s all presented in text form, it does lose something that other full priced games have. Let’s get to it though, the best thing about Braid is the gameplay. It is a puzzle platform game revolving around time manipulation. This time manipulation reduces frustration (since if you die, you just rewind) and changes in each world keeping things very fresh.
Braid is doing everything right so far, but it does stumble. Braid is incredibly short and has little in the way of replay value (a speed achievement). While the shortness is refreshing (I really like that I’ve beaten the game, enjoyed it, experienced it and can now move on), 1 more world of puzzles with 1 more mechanic would have gone a long way to flesh out the package. The game is about $5 more expensive than a lot of the other XBLA games out there, but let’s be honest, this game deserves to have you $15 and was made by an indie studio rather than Capcom or some other uber developer. Still, I can see people’s complaints about price (as spoiled as they are) especially with the brevity of the game. My only other complaint about the game is the lack of different enemies/hazards (c’mon 2 enemies?) and a lack of graphical diversity (the opening stage looks to cool! why are all the levels sprawling green hills?).
Bottom line is that this game is not for everybody, but is a very delightful and engaging little title. It is a very unique game that is definitely worth your time and money. I downloaded the trial game and unlocked the full version before I was even finished with the trial. Give it a try, support an indie game developer, and discover the clever story twist.
Lasting Appeal: 6/10
Tilt: + 4.50%
Mr. Robot immediately impresses with its visual style and presentation. The dialogue is witty and funny, and the different robots even exude personality. It’s a more traditional style RPG and the battles are nothing to rave about, but the room puzzles are fun and all in all Mr. Robot is a solid package.
Pros: The game is very well-tuned and tweaked and all the menus etc. are easy to navigate. The buttons are simple: Action and Jump and the game is instantly playable. The game offers a pretty engaging and enjoying little story and the RPG battles are more traditional, but succinct and fun.
Cons: The isometric view makes moving around Mr. Robot a little awkward. I found the Mouse control to be very poor and clunky and switched to the keyboard to move around and jump, etc. In my opinion, the other weakpoint of the gameplay is the generic, traditional RPG battles, though I have to admit they are well spread out.
Pros: Definitely one of the strongest aspects of this title, the graphics are great and have a nice 3D feel to them. I am especially fond of all the robot animations which are incredibly fluid. The robots really come to life.
Cons: The battles take place in cyber space which apparently doesn’t look as good as real space. The textures, spaceship look gets repetitive.
Pros: No complaints…it all fits within the genre and game
Cons: I would’ve loved to see some voice work because the dialogue is already really funny and witty and could’ve really excelled and amplified the experience if the personalities could’ve come through more with different voices. It’s understandable that an Indie studio doesn’t contract such work though.
Lasting Appeal: 8/10
Pros: I have to admit that I don’t like Mr. Robot as much as Moonpod’s first title, Starscape, but Mr. Robot is a very refined and delightful title. The story is stronger than Starscape’s and the writing is really topnotch.
Cons: It’s an RPG and I’m not sure if you’ll want to play the story over an over again since the battles, I found to be somewhat tedious and too “old school.” It lacks the inventive real time engines of the newer RPGs like Final Fantasy X, Grandia, etc.
Indie RPGs are very difficult to execute and even harder to execute well. The scope of Mr. Robot is perfect: it takes place on a massive ship- with a finite area and sectors to cover. The thing that really keeps you playing Mr. Robot is the writing and personalities of all the robots. They really are all quite charming. This game is simply charming, and while it’s $5 more than most Indie Titles, the production values, graphics, presentation, etc. all make it an understandable increase in price and quality.
Dodge that Anvil borrows a lot from classic Looney Tunes: the main character is a rabbit and falling anvils are one of the most deadly and threatening objects to said rabbit. Unlike many of the shoddy Looney Tunes games out there, Dodge that Anvil does a great job instantly pulling you into a cartoon world. You’ll smile from the gameplay, world, characters, and antics in this title. This is an excellent little title, with a simple premise: grab/harvest carrots while dodging anvils, but ultimately a deep gaming experience thanks to armor vests, hardhats, jumbo veggies, flippers, etc. I should also mention that the game won the AdultSwim Award at the 2006 IGF, and was a finalist for the best web browser game so Congrats to RabidLab on that. Onto the scoring breakdown:
Pros: Very easy to pick up and play controls and game mechanics. There is lots of depth with purchasable gadgets, exploding beach balls, veggie bombs, etc.
Cons: Not a fan of the auto-jump feature and thought the mouse movement could be touchy.
Pros: Instantly appealing with a very clean and perfectly themed 3-D engine and landscape. The 2-D rabbit character works really well in keeping the Cartoon feel alive in a sleek 3D landscape. The menus, presentation, and tutorial screens are absolutely phenomenal…Presentation pushes this score up a notch
Cons: More animations for our lovable rabbit hero would’ve brought him to life more. Game as a whole lacks graphic variety after awhile (I’m reaching for critiques I know).
Pros: Cartoony to the max sounds enhance the Looney Tunes Feel. The game features music…
Cons: but the music isn’t very good, memorable, or even very loud. The Sound/Music department is probably the weakest part of the package, but for me it’s also the least important department, so no worries.
Lasting Appeal: 8.5/10
Pros: The story is delightful and engaging and as you progress more and more things become available- this spurs you to keep playing. As season’s pass on, you have the ability to play levels again for high scores, perfect harvests, etc.
Cons: Like most platformers, there is an end to the story and when that’s over, you have to really want to play the game on a new difficulty in order to get much replay value out of the title. That’s really just a fact of most platformers rather than a bash on this one.
This game is instantly appealing and offers approachable gameplay to almost every game skill level. Everyone should click HERE to play the browser game and check out RabidLab’s website. You can also download the DEMO here and of course BUY the game if you enjoy it as much as I do.