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 ‘review’ Category
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%
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Townopolis by Lonely Troops is a simple and fun real estate strategy game (with some time management thrown in). The basic premise is that you are a home developer and must do your best in each scenario to build a residential neighborhood and satisfy the folks who live there. The game has simple point and click controls and a nice isometric viewpoint.
Pros: There are definitely some great strategic choices under the guise of this approachable casual building game. I really like how residents don’t like being near train tracks, industrial buildings, commercial strip centers etc. The gameplay is very approachable and easy to pick up and play. There’s an extensive tutorial that teaches you the ropes.
Cons: Gameplay is just point click over and over. It’s annoying to have to wait until you have enough money or material to do something else. There should be a mechanic to undo an errant click. Another design flaw is the fact that you cannot look up a building’s requirements without having an empty plot to highlight.
Pros: I love the Title Screen and all the GUI elements both in-game and on the title screen make the game very easy to navigate. It’s all nice, clean and standard issue.
Cons: Some of the people in the game just look creepy (look at the weirdo below) – I think a cartoon look may have worked better. There’s no real animation, special effects or wow factor. The most elaborate animation/effects you’ll get are some fireworks at level completion.
Cons: Music is incredibly repetitive. When each scenario is 10+ minutes, there needs to be more variety in the elevator music. Music/Audio as a whole is a little too thin … there could be more sound fx and music variety.
Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Pros: Despite the repetitive music, Townopolis is addictive. There are a ton of different buildings, licenses, upgrades, etc. You’ll find yourself replaying scenarios to get silver/gold stars or earn trophies by shooting for bonus objectives. Despite the simple click and casual friendly gameplay, Townopolis is actually challenging unlike so many other casual portal games. The difficulty really forces you to understand the complexities of designing your neighborhood. I forgot to mention the ability to design custom scenarios as well.
Cons: The repetitive music, inability to look up building requirements (and plan ahead) and other minor flaws detract from Townopolis and make longer play sessions tough without muting the audio.
Tilt: + 1.00%
Don’t just look at the score of this review and judge Townopolis. It’s a very addictive, methodical, and approachable strategy game. Yeah, the construction dude who gives you tips looks like a pedophile, but these types of games aren’t about fancy graphics or complex gameplay. If you can look past the minor flaws of the game, you’ll find a very deep real estate strategy game. Townopolis appears to be a typical casual game with shallow gameplay, but almost every level in the game throws something new at you.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.