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 ‘PC Game’ Category
Space War Commander has retro/16-bit graphics and sound. It definitely looks like it belongs on the Sega Genesis… this is a good thing for nostalgics, but bad for most gamers of 2009. The vacant music and minimalist sound works for this space title, but the graphics and pixel art could be better. It doesn’t help that there is little to no animation in the game. Ships appear as icons in the galaxy and float from planet to planet. Battles consist of red dots flying between ships. The gameplay is definitely only for the strategy enthusiast. I found the menus overly cumbersome, but there’s certainly a lot of stats, ships, planets, etc. to track.
Space War Commander is certainly not for everyone. It’s a heavily stat-tracking and strategy focused game. The controls are simple enough to learn, but the menu system and overall presentation could use a lot of work. I think Space War Commander could be a success with the strategy crowd if a Graphic Designer were to update the visuals and improve the user interface. As it stands, it’s just not refined enough to compete in the commercial space.
Serpen’s Sector is a space sci-fi RPG by Metal Beetle. The game focuses on exploring the long abandoned Serpen’s Sector of space. Encounters and discoveries are randomized and each game is different and relatively short (you are given 200 days to explore as much as you can). The gameplay is very rudimentary and involves simply clicking your choices and navigating the map. The story and your space discoveries are all presented via text and static pictures. The graphics are all static and there is no real animation or action to keep you attention. The basic mechanics of this game are too simplistic and repetitive to warrant anyone getting involved in the story of this game. Luckily, Metal Beetle is planning on releasing the main game for free which is a wise choice. For those who really loved old text-based adventure games, keep a watch out for Serpen’s Sector. Other gamers will probably want to stay away.
Osmos, by Hemisphere Games, is nominated for 3 2009 IGF awards including the Seumas McNally Grand Prize Design. The game is an interesting fusion of asteroids and flOw. You control a little amoeba ball called a ‘mote’ that can thrust itself by firing some of its own mass in the opposite direction. Your objective is to absorb other motes…this is only possible if your mote is bigger than the other (a la flOw). The controls and thrust of the world are very similar to asteroids…once you start going one way, you won’t stop till you slow yourself down. The game offers a nice serene ambient soundtrack and dreamlike graphics. All in all it’s a well executed game that I think lacks the variety to take the grand prize. Still, the game is only in alpha and certainly one to watch.
Spooky Spirits is a puzzle game where you help a brother & sister team fight off ghosts and ghouls with your block building skills. While there is nothing spooky about the game, it does have a haunted house theme, trick-or-treat graphics and a ghost-busting story line to drive the missions.
Tilt: +/- 0.00%
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%
Enter the strange and wonderful worlds of Somersault and bounce your little companion “Bally” through hazard and hard times.
Somersault by Enter-Brain-Ment, is something I’d call “a diamond in the rough”. It’s one of those games that stands out just that bit more. It offers something most games in this day and age fail to deliver, originality. The objective of the game is to navigate your little companion “Bally” through each level by clicking and dragging a paddle by left clicking and literally bouncing your colourful little character through each environment.
The size of the paddle determines the amount of bounce and the projected rainbow which shows the path Bally will take. Each level is full of its different sort of hazards, may it be a blender, a persistent UFO or even a friendly bird pecking the inside of the tree as you navigate into its depths. Although entertaining, the game is not without fault. Playing Somersault with a track pad is almost impossible and the occasional slopes in frame rates really do beg the occasional cringe.
Although simple at most times Somersault gives way to some impressively beautiful scenery. Bally is simply, a ball with legs, bright and orange with a little cheerful hat. (Just think of an orange version of Mr. Potato head and you’ll have the gist of it.) The GUI/HUD are however, ugly at best. Despite the badly created 2D aspects of the game, the overall feel of Somersault isn’t lowered… much.
Sadly in the sound department the game doesn’t live up to much, with random little sound effects here, there and everywhere overall doesn’t help the game in anyway. The music is more ‘cutesy’ and has a nice calm feel to it as you traverse the game.
Lasting appeal 5/10
Somersault will take up a good proportion of your time if you can bare the first outing. With 21 levels to spend your time on and in most cases “force” your way through each level, you have to wonder “Do I really want to play this game again?” A decidedly average game overall and rough around the edges, its easy to see that Enter-Brain-Ment still have a fair bit to go, however props to the guys for pushing out this innovative little jewel.
Rough around the edges.
Frame-rate lets it down at points.