Batman: Arkham Origins Review

Batman: Arkham Origins Review

Jul 31, 2014

As Gotham City and the world at large looks towards the future and Batman: Arkham Knight, Android-centric gamers are only now getting a taste of what caped crusading in the early days of the Dark Knight’s career entail.

Batman: Arkham Origins, at its core, follows the template set by Infinity Blade. It’s a path taken by many a mobile title– including quite a few licensed ones, such as Man of Steel– but for the most part, Batman does it better than numerous others which have nipped at the popular title’s heels. It takes some of the key aspects of the console title of the same name– features such as story, setting, visuals, etc.– and grafts it onto a game more streamlined and arguably better suited for a mobile title.

As the recently-debuted Batman, players find themselves having caused a fair bit of trouble for one of Gotham City’s top crime bosses, the Black Skull. Black Skull is not terribly keen on this, and so he sets a massive bounty in the head of the Bat that draws in mercenaries from all over to take a stab– or various other kinds of lethal blows– at claiming the bounty. Among those the Dark Knight will contend with are the likes of the Electrocutioner, Copperhead, Bane, and Deathstroke the Terminator– as well as a number of random masked thugs here and there.

batmanarkhamorigins1The game is free-to-play, which of course means that while playing is free, investments are needed in order to secure more desirable components in a timely manner. Though you can slowly accumulate soft currency, hard currency (the most expensive option of which is over $100) is likely the only way that anyone will be dressing up in a variety of the Batsuits available (each with their own stats and bonuses) in a timely manner. Among others is the Beyond Batsuit, which makes the prospect mighty tempting.

One can also customize the Batman in a number of ways, from different tools to restore health or unleash a flurry of bats on an opponent to increasing the effectiveness of punches and strikes. Different stances are even available, for those who would rather focus more on defense than offense. Certain options, however, require leveling up to a certain degree before they become accessible.

As players progress, more missions open up for Batman to swoop in and put a stop to. They begin in the upper-west side, but soon spread to all four quadrants of the Gotham City map, and no sooner than one crime is foiled than another pops up, along with occasional ambushes by those hunting the Black Skull’s Bat-bounty. This is where Free-to-Play rears its ugly head, as Batman can only go for so long, as measured by his Stamina bar. When depleted, there are of course two options: Wait for the bars to replenish over time until the amount required for a mission has been refilled, or say “Screw the rules; I have money!” and just buy a second wind.

Batman: Arkham Origins looks good and sounds great, too, presumably sharing its voice acting with the console title as Not-Kevin Conroy does a good job as a younger Master Wayne. The music is quite nice and fitting, reminiscent of the kind of tunes one might associate with the classic Batman: The Animated Series or some of the World’s Greatest Detective’s higher points in cinema. The touch and swipe-based controls work well for the most part, though we did notice that Batman seems slower to guard than he is to strike, the problems with which should be obvious.

All told, if one considers themselves a fan of Batman, yet for whatever reason could or would not play the console version, the mobile version of the game is a pretty good alternative for those still wishing to experience the story.

Space Forest Dilemma Review

Space Forest Dilemma Review

Jul 29, 2014

As discussed previously, Space Forest Dilemma is an Android game which knows where its priorities are. Whereas the “game” in “video game” has been diluted to the point of implying little more than interactivity to go with its storytelling, Papquark clearly set out to make an actual game first and foremost.

The result is something almost more akin to an electronic board game like Simon than a Sonic, a Final Fantasy, or even an Angry Birds. There is something of a narrative– or at least an implied one, but it’s so minimalistic as to be almost inconsequential, save for talking first-time players through the tricks, traps, and nuances that they will be introduced to over the course of the game’s 100 levels.

Space Forest Dilemma‘s concept is as simple as its graphics: Each level presents a number of blocks marked with an arrow, and the goal is to tap each block so that it moves across the playing field to bounce off the other wall a few times without hitting anything. The inclusion of more blocks makes this more complicated, as players must time each just so that they are able to travel along their paths without hitting each Screenshot_2014-07-17-21-39-21other, back and forth until the number of bounces needed is satisfied. The addition of further obstacles and different blocks steps up the difficulty as one progresses, and while the premise remains simple, the complexity of the arrangements can lead to some real brain benders.

Though the game can rack your brain, it remains rather low pressure. There are no time limits, nor are players afforded a limited cache of lives to burn through. Just wait, try, and try again as necessary while a rather soothing soundtrack persists throughout the program.

If there is a (rather subjective) downside, it’s that some puzzles can feel rather brutal in their difficulty. While that may be desirable for some, others may feel turned off by it. On the plus side, players are not forced to play the game sequentially, meaning that they are not locked into the current level or previous ones until it is completed. If someone wants to skip a level, they are more than free to, whether they just want to bypass a particularly challenging level or just feel that the early goings are altogether too simple to complete. And for what it’s worth, the controls are easy to use and as simple as the graphics; any failures fall on the shoulders of the player, rather than the game.

Space Forest Dilemma harkens back to a very early, very simple, and still very enjoyable time in video gaming’s history, but does so with a modern flourish, thanks to the advances in graphics, sound, and of course, touchscreen technology. Playing it leads to a largely enjoyable time (if occasionally frustrating, albeit in a good way), and whether or not it reaches the heights of an Arkanoid or a Tetris, it should at the very least find an audience among the fans of such games as those.

Godzilla – Smash3 Review

Godzilla – Smash3 Review

Jul 23, 2014

What does one get when you cross the King of the Monsters with a match-3 game? A pretty good game, actually.

When it comes to Godzilla, the first thing to come to mind is probably not a puzzle game. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what Rogue Play, Inc. has come up with as the free-to-play tie-in to the 2014 summer Godzilla movie.

In Godzilla – Smash3, players more or less adopt the role of Godzilla himself (off to the sideline, Aaron Taylor-Johnson) as he emerges from the murky depths of the Pacific and makes his way towards land to lay the king of all smackdowns as only he can. Players will instead target different enemies, which range from the various units of military resistance to larger battles against other monsters, and Screenshot_2014-07-15-06-10-20rather than control Godzilla directly, the key is to draw a continuous line between as many colored icons on the bottom portion of the screen as possible. When that’s done, Godzilla then beats the selected target(s) as appropriate at the top of the screen.

Of course, there is some nuance to it, and options grow as the game progresses. The key element are the blue, yellow, and orange icons, which range from the weakest attacks to the strongest, respectively, and as one might expect, blue icons are far more commonplace and tend to be easier to link than yellow and especially orange. Fortunately, players can take their time figuring out the best way to line things up, and once they do, the selected icons are cleared from the screen, dropping in more as Godzilla claws, bites, and otherwise shows those silly humans who is boss.

Other options come up along the way, including heart icons which allow Godzilla to regenerate health between rounds, special blue icons which help to charge up an attack with Godzilla’s signature atomic breath, and “explosive” icons, which clear away columns and rows of icons when included in a selected line. This results in an added layer of strategy, as players must choose which icons to focus on at which time, rather than just whatever is easiest or seemingly the most powerful at a given moment.

One definite plus for Godzilla – Smash3 is that it looks and sounds great. The music and roars immediately evoke the proper mood and tone one would expect from one of his many films. Meanwhile, Godzilla himself looks awesome. The developers seemingly knew what the player was more likely to be focusing on, and made sure the visuals counted where they were most important. Some of the other enemies and backgrounds may not look quite as good, but they do the job well enough should one take their eyes off the big guy for a moment.

If there’s one grievance I can point out with this free-to-play game, it’s one aspect of the leveling system. As players progress, they earn points to level up different icons to do more damage, etc. Unfortunately, it’s possible to sink those points into an area that can’t be used until a certain level is reached; one would think this is where the “reset” option for getting those points back and reallocating them would be handy, but to use it costs 99 cents a pop. That’s just cheap, and I don’t mean the price.

The game isn’t especially deep, but then, aside from serving as a warning against using/abusing nuclear energy, the movies aren’t terribly deep, either. And just as one can sit back and enjoy a classic Godzilla movie for the giant monster carnage it provides on screen, so too does Godzilla – Smash3 provide a similar pleasure as much of the joy can be derived from sitting back and watching Godzilla tear it up after performing a successful chain combo, only to do it again and again over the course of his journey.