Scribblenauts Remix Review

Scribblenauts Remix Review

Jul 9, 2013

Anyone who has ever owned a Nintendo DS may well have come across Scribblenauts. Essentially it’s a puzzle game set in a 2D platformer style world where the player has to solve various objectives- be it getting past a locked gate or chopping down a tree- to receive a star and advance to the next level.

What makes it unique is that it’s possible to create just about any object to complete the goals. Simply tap the keyboard icon and type out a word and it will appear on the screen ready to use- just as long as it’s a noun and isn’t anything objectionable or trademarked. Even better it’s possible to add adjectives, so rather than merely creating a giraffe it’s possible to conjure up a ‘tiny, angry giraffe’.
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Scribblenauts Remix plays in exactly the same manner as the original DS games and in fact having played the original games I’d seen much of what Scribblenauts Remix has to offer already, as it consists of 40 old levels and just 10 new ones.

Re-used content aside it’s a sublime experience. Being able to create almost anything is hugely liberating and fun, while having a touchscreen keyboard actually makes it a lot quicker to type things out than in the DS versions. The other controls are slick and more or less perfect as well. Press against the right edge of the screen to move right and the left edge to move left. Maxwell (the player character) will automatically climb up ledges and swim across water so things are kept simple. Once an object or creature has been created simply tapping and dragging it is all that’s necessary to use it or equip it.

It all works brilliantly well and it looks great too. The levels are also surprisingly varied, with goals such as causing the extinction of the dinosaurs without resorting to weapons or meteors. The flip side is that as it’s possible to create just about anything it’s also very easy. Occasionally it’s necessary to think outside the box but normally almost any level can be completed with ease- and often in dozens of different ways.

Thankfully the real fun doesn’t come from the challenge; it comes from experimenting and messing around. It’s basically like having a bottomless toy box. For example I found myself wondering who would win in a fight between a fire breathing lion and a mutated T-Rex, so I created them and found out (it was the T-Rex). It’s a cliché but the only real limit to the fun was my imagination- and I suppose the small scale of the levels. The re-used levels are a shame but for anyone who has never played Scribblenauts this is pretty much essential- particularly at the low price of just $0.99.

bit Dungeon Review

bit Dungeon Review

Jun 4, 2013

I wanted to love bit Dungeon. A fast paced, 16-bit, rogue-like RPG, what’s not to like? Well, not much initially. The game dropped me straight into a randomized dungeon and I had to progress through it, clearing rooms of enemies and finding new loot until I reached the boss. After defeating him I went on to a new dungeon, with different enemies and better loot and it went on like that.

The graphics are great (if you’re not sick to death of 16-bit style games), the music and sound effects are suitably retro and there’s a good amount of variety in the enemies and the dungeons.

The controls are slick too, simply tap somewhere to move there or tap on an enemy to attack them, that’s about it. It’s really addictive in the early stages and it features perma-death (in other words, dying means starting the whole game again) so defeating a boss feels like a real achievement.

But bit Dungeon isn’t without its flaws. When I said that it dropped me straight into a dungeon I really meant it, there’s no story, beyond a vague mention on the Google Play page that the main character is trying to save his wife. The description on Google Play is also the only place where there’s any explanation of how to play. I missed that when I first started and was left guessing.
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There’s no character creation or choice of class either. The main character is always a warrior and while leveling up presents players with a choice of attributes to improve, the only options are ‘attack’, ‘critical’ or ‘health’, so there’s not really any scope to specialize in a different area, making subsequent playthroughs feel similar.

There is magic in the game, but only one spell can be had at once and the game seems to randomly choose a new one at the beginning of each dungeon, so it’s not possible to really play as a mage.

The game becomes quite repetitive too, with only one character to control and only two attacks (hitting things with a weapon or firing a spell) there’s not much tactical depth and while the dungeons look good they’re all laid out in roughly the same way- a 3×3 grid of rooms with randomly positioned doors linking them up. Every single room has enemies in it and they need to be defeated to advance. It goes on like that until the player dies or gives up.

Even the draw of shinier and better loot begins to dull after a while, particularly since the game doesn’t let me horde it to sell on later. It’s only possible to carry things that are equipped, so for example getting a new sword meant ditching that trusty axe that saved my skin more than once.

It’s not a bad game and for a while it’s really good fun, but with no real sense of change or progress the fun slowly slips away. Perhaps there’s a final boss and an ending where the silent protagonist is reunited with his wife, but if there is I haven’t found it, death always finds me first.

Elements Battle Review

Elements Battle Review

May 17, 2013

I can’t say that I expected much from Elements Battle. The name is about as unimaginative as it gets, the art looked pretty but uninspired and to top it off it’s freemium, which is a business model that I’ve never been entirely comfortable with.

As it turns out though Elements Battle is substantially better than I expected. The core game is a lot like Puzzle Quest. The bulk of it is a series of puzzle battles on a grid where three or more identical symbols must be matched each turn. Those symbols correspond to elemental spells which get fired at an opponent once enough of them have been matched. The opponent does the same and the winner is the one with health left at the end.

Outside of battles there are some basic RPG mechanics with quests to complete (though they all boil down to battles too), levels to gain and a store used to purchase additional spells and equipment.

elements battle2Battles require energy to fight and that energy goes down after every battle (though it gradually goes back up again too if the game isn’t played for a while). Spells also need replenishing periodically and they won’t recharge on their own. Both energy and spells can be bought using in game currency, which in itself can either be earned from completing quests or bought with real money.

New players are given enough energy and money to play Elements Battle for quite a while. If played a lot eventually the freemium side will rear its ugly head and a point will come where it’s necessary to either spend real money or wait a while to keep playing, but it’s not as stingy as many freemium games as it gives players enough gold and loot for winning battles and completing quests that I never felt like I really needed to spend money to keep going.

Elements Battle controls well, there’s loads of content and there are even player versus player battles, though it’s not possible to communicate with other players, so it’s not that much different to battling the AI.

So far so good, but while there’s certainly a lot of game here it quickly starts to feel a bit repetitive, as it’s almost all battles and much of the time it’s necessary to fight the same or similar battles multiple times over to grind for quests or loot.

The battles themselves could be better too, as there’s a time limit of around seven seconds each turn, which I didn’t find was long enough to really think about a strategy. I’d have liked to be able to decide which elements to focus on or try and set up chain reactions by making additional matches from symbols that fall into the space cleared when a match is made, but generally there’s no time for that and often I found that I’d just have to go for the first match I could see.

Played in short bursts Elements Battle is good fun and won’t be too money hungry, but longer play sessions become repetitive and dull.

Worms 2: Armageddon Review

Worms 2: Armageddon Review

May 13, 2013

The Worms series was a definite favorite of mine growing up. I dabbled with the first game in the series but it was Worms 2 that I really took to and from there I never looked back.

Aside from an ill-advised foray into 3D the mechanics of the series haven’t really changed over the years and it’s still just as enjoyable now as it ever was. At its core Worms 2: Armageddon is a turn based strategy game, but it stands out from other games in the genre in two key ways. Firstly, it’s 2D and secondly it’s got a playful sense of humor that will regularly leave you grinning.

There are various game modes such as ‘Forts’ which gives each team a base and ‘Sudden Death’ which causes water to rise every turn, drowning any worms that get caught in it, but essentially each mode boils down to eliminating all of the opposing players with the wealth of weapons and utilities at your disposal. These cover everything from self explanatory things like shotguns and bazookas to more unusual gear like ninja ropes for clambering around the destructible scenery and the Holy Hand Grenade, which is a tremendously powerful grenade- the detonation of which is accompanied by a chorus of hallelujahs.

Worms 2 Armageddon4The mechanics are certainly solid but Team 17 has packed in a lot of content to flesh it out. There’s a single player campaign mode with dozens of increasingly challenging levels, both online and offline multi-player and one-off matches against the computer. You can even create your own teams (complete with a choice of hats, voices, names and more) and change the rules and weapon availability to create custom game modes.

Basically this is just as fun and feature packed as Worms has ever been. Unfortunately it’s not all good news though, as the transition to touch screens has hampered the controls a little. Generally it controls okay but when using a ninja rope, jet pack or anything else that required dexterity and precision I found myself wishing for a keyboard and mouse. Especially as a single mistake caused by the imprecise controls can sometimes cost you an entire match, which is more than a little frustrating.

Worms 2: Armageddon is still a lot of fun and it’s great having Worms on the move, but the inferior controls mean that the PC and console versions are a better bet.