Beatdown! Review

Beatdown! Review

Apr 23, 2015

You just might wanna give Noodlecake’s new joint Beatdown! a gander.

It comes to us in familiar beat-em up style: side-scrolling action with baddies piling in, mostly from the right, but quite willing to bend that rule in their quest to demolish our lone protagonist.

Our lone protagonist isn’t your regular psychotic rager pounding on folks for no reason; nah, this cat has backstory that brings to mind Enron-induced meltdowns and other sad situations: after several years of faithful service, our guy is let go. By email, no less.

They’ll get their collective comeuppance. Physically.

The game comes in two modes, and the one we spent the most time in was the leveled gameplay. In this, there are waves of suited thugs to get through, and this is accomplished by using the punch button to the bottom right. Also nestled to the right is a jump button, and the left part of the screen is a generous joystick that controls movement. As to be expected, the basic premise is to hit not avoid being hit in a continuous war of attrition. A lifebar at the top helps the player know how much vitality our protagonist has left; if these is completely depleted, he is felled, and the level is failed. Unfortunate, as subsequent levels are unlocked, this is never good.

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There are boss levels to enjoy as well; there are objects to destroy and even weapons to help with close action melees. There are a bunch of different characters to deal with, and some with special powers.

The other mode is a non-scrolling in version that pits our dude against waves of enemies. Not a lot horizontal movement, just a lot of contained action.

Action aside, I am not a big fan of the control options, and wish there were more actions to invoke. Still, for a new game in a well-traveled genre, it is quite enjoyable, especially in small morsels over time.

Anger Of Stick 4 Review

Anger Of Stick 4 Review

Apr 23, 2015

I’m pretty sure that some time ago, I’ve reviewed the original Anger Of Stick, and found it pretty exciting. It’s interesting, then, that I didn’t find Anger of Stick 4 that exciting. It’s a cool little game, but for its scope, it gets repetitive far too quickly, and grows pace far too slowly. Also, how many games can you release before you start actually making graphics not on a level of a 5-year old?

Anger Of Stick 4 doesn’t have anything resembling a story, or even an explanation to the stick’s anger issues. The player is dropped right into the middle of one white figure’s struggle against thousands of differently-colour-woah-ho-ho, wait a second there. I think I’ve found a message the developer might’ve not intended to make. Anyway, your stick-figure is punching, kicking, stabbing and otherwise destroying the endless murderous crowds that are sent to erase your figure from the face of the Earth. The enemies have different weapons and looks, range from common thugs to mutants and robots, and grow increasingly Anger Of Stick 4 2annoying to fight against, as you play. The starting hero equipped with nothing but his arms and legs, but that doesn’t stop him from kicking all kinds of stick ass. By clearing the levels and killing enemies, the player gets gold that can afterwards be spent on purchasing new heroes, or special abilities that can be equipped before the level.

Anger of Stick 4 looks alright, although the stick-figure fighting looks a bit dull nowadays. The problem is that the game is supposed to be a brawler, and it doesn’t really work as one. There’s a very limited number of combos and punches the character can do, and after playing for about half an hour, it starts to be pretty repetitive. My guess is that the author thought so too, that’s why there’s an auto-play button, which usefulness is actually a bit of a mystery for me.

So, in the end, Anger of Stick 4 is a mediocre free-to-play brawler that would work a lot better if it was more focused on the variety of player moves, rather than on the enemies and additional heroes. It’s not a bad game, and it’s great to kill about an hour, but it gets too repetitive and too irritating to play it for a long time.

DomiNations Review

DomiNations Review

Apr 22, 2015

DomiNations is a great example of how good game design can help support even the worst game genre there is. And I stand by my words, I still think free-to-play manager-type games are the worst game experiences there are, short of losing at russian roulette. While I can’t say that DomiNations does anything differently from the rest of the rabble, it looks merely like an irritating game, and not like a moldy carrot on a stick.

The game borrows heavily from both Civilization and Age of Empires, to the point where it’s basically both of those games, in their worst possible interpretations. Still, the worst interpretation of Age of Empires stands above most of the best manager simulators, which means that DomiNations is pretty interesting. The player has to manage his settlement, which operates on two primary resources: food and gold. They both can be obtained from the animals or structures around the player’s town, or from the enemy encampments, owned both by AI, and by the other players.

The town managing part doesn’t really have any issues. There’s a lot to do, a lot to build, and if you’re not worried about DomiNations 3waiting for a while to complete the construction, the game is pretty fun. It even has a sense of completion as you pillage the barbarians on a simple mission sequence. I dare say, the battles are a little bit strategic in nature, as the player gets to choose whereto spawn his troops, after assessing the structure of the enemy encampment, and can even ever-so-slightly control them. Basically, DomiNations plays like a very bad real-time-strategy, but again, compared to its free-to-play contemporaries, it’s the bee’s knees.

My problem with the game lies in the option to pillage the towns, owned by other players. There’s a huge part of city construction, devoted to defenses of your city, which obviously means that the players that pay for the game’s resources, get to obliterate the free-to-play cities without any consequences, while not getting touched themselves. I haven’t personally been attacked, but I hope that the damage the enemy deals during his attacks, leaves a mark only on your resources, or the game is pretty damn unfair.

All in all, I gotta say that DomiNations is a rather compelling free-to-play manager, at least compared to the other sims that populate the genre. It’s not lazy, it actually requires some sort of player interaction, and the concept of raising a civilization from its cradle, however stolen, is still pretty intriguing. Oh, and it doesn’t have the obnoxious popping resources that clutter half the screen, which is a huge thing. So, if you’re a fan of this sort of thing, I say give DomiNations a try, it’s definitely one of the better ones.

The Mystery of Haunted Hollow Review

The Mystery of Haunted Hollow Review

Apr 22, 2015

The Mystery of Haunted Hollow is a bit cheaply-looking, but still pretty interesting puzzle game about a person that has to solve the puzzles scattered around, uncover a series of clues, and find out why the place he found himself in, is crawling with creepy ghosts.

The game starts with the main character seeing a ghost of a woman that drops a letter for him, which tells him to turn back, until it’s too late. Naturally, he’s going to completely ignore the warning and plunge right into an abandoned town, trying to understand why he’s being chased by a bunch of creepy-looking ghosts. The story is probably the best part of the game, as it ties well into the atmosphere, and while it isn’t very unique, or original, and you might even foresee how the game’s going to end, but it’s still a nice attempt at storytelling. The atmosphere is another cool thing. The game uses what seems like photoshopped images, and mostly takes place in some sorts of ruins or other long abandoned places, but it actually works really well, since, as a lot of horror junkies know, horror is dirty.

The gameplay consists of jumping between the scenes, finding all the necessary objects, and solve the puzzles to advance The Mystery of Haunted Hollow 4further. The really nice part about the objects is that it’s not that difficult to find them. There were a couple of places where I got stuck for a while, but I didn’t miss a single object I was supposed to find – on the contrary, sometimes I’ve searched through the whole town, only to understand that I already had everything I need. The only time that The Mystery of Haunted Hollow made me irritated was when I had to enter a code that I was sure was a plate number from a car I’ve found earlier, but that didn’t work. Turned out, that I was supposed to touch the number making the hero write it down beforehand. Otherwise, every time I got stuck, it was because I had to actually think for a while, to understand what I was supposed to do next.

Overall, I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed The Mystery of Haunted Hollow. It’s small, it’s a bit cheesy, and it doesn’t look like much, but it’s got that classic point-and-click feeling about it, and the creepy visuals that definitely come together to create a compelling experience.

Dream Catchers: Beginning Review

Dream Catchers: Beginning Review

Apr 21, 2015

I feel like it’s getting to a point where actually playing a G5 game won’t even be required to judge it properly. The sheer fact that a game was published G5 Entertainment means that it’s a hidden objects type game with cool, if somewhat blurry graphics, and weird story that doesn’t seem to support the gameplay in any way. Also, it’s not going to be far from the best hidden objects games out there, for whatever reason. You’d think that if a company published hundreds of similar games, they’d get to a point where making them good wouldn’t be an issue, yet here we are with Dream Catchers: Beginning.

Dream Catchers: Beginning tells a story of a person – it’s actually unclear about the gender or the looks of the protagonist, for whatever reason – whose sister, who was in a boarding school, stopped responding to his letters all of a sudden. When driving to the school, the protagonist’s car gets thrown off the road after he sees a shadow figure on the road, and the player finds himself in a dream-like place, being chased by a smoke figure. The story isn’t that unique, but it’s got some interesting turns, and it’s alright for a hidden objects game. Also, Dream Catchers: Beginning looks good, we can get that out of the way. The gameplay part. Though, is a bit of a mess.

The main problem with Dream Catchers: Beginning, is that it’s trying too hard to not be a hidden objects game. It Dream Catchers 3contains less than a dozen actual screens, where the player needs to find a bunch of hidden objects – and for the most part, they aren’t actually hidden at all. The rest of the game is made up of a bunch of puzzles, and very lackluster attempts at puzzle game mechanics. This means that the player is sent on a wild goose chase, trying to find a whole bunch of random objects that are impossible to see, and the player doesn’t even know he needs, to fix/pass/complete some sorts of mechanisms or solve other problems. It’s basically the worst possible puzzle game, that consists largely of tapping on every pixel on the screen, as well as spamming the “hint” button just as it gets refilled – since completing the game without that is just impossible. I won’t give examples, but the “videogame logic” is left wild and loose in here.

Overall, I don’t think I’d recommend Dream Catchers: Beginning to anyone. It’s going to be really irritating and pointlessly complicated to a common gamer, since it’s made and priced for hardcore hidden-objects fans. But I’m pretty sure that those very fans are going to leave disappointed, as well. Just pick another game from the million others that G5 has cooked up, and don’t waste your $5 on this. It’s got a slightly interesting story, but that’s it.

King of Thieves Review

King of Thieves Review

Apr 21, 2015

It’s incredibly frustrating to see a game, think that it’s gonna be a great one, judging from the screenshots, and then find out that it’s utter crap. Oh, wait, that’s exactly why I have a job. Never mind, then.

King of Thieves is an arcade game that, halfway through development, decided that it doesn’t really want to be one, and changed itself into a free-to-play manager piece of garbage instead. The player plays as some Super Meatboy-like creature that, as we find out from the start, was once the King of Thieves, but was ousted by his (her?) arch-nemesis. Now the player has to steal his way through the endless missions, in order to get to the throne and steal it back. Also, some weird crap about stone idols and gems?

King of Thieves is basically divided into two parts. The first part is a standard casual arcade, where the player needsKing of Thieves 3 to jump around, evade the traps, and get to the treasure chest at the end. Come to think of it, it’s also a lot like Super Meatboy, except a lot slower and not entirely as exciting. The controls are boiled down to a simple button, making it even simpler than most infinite runners. The second part is a crappy excuse for a free-to-play manager, crossed with a simple level editor. Basically, the players have a supply of gems that can be multiplied, if left idling in a stone idol for some time. Don’t ask, I don’t have the slightest idea how that works. Anyway, other players can try to steal them, but to do that, they have to get past the traps the owner had set up. It’s not a bad idea in itself, but when put into a restrictive, time-consuming, weird, free-to-play environment, it all kinda falls apart – especially since it’s really unclear as to why exactly you should do any of this, if all you want is a simple arcade.

Overall, King of Thieves contains too many elements for such a simple core concept. If it was stripped of all free-to-play crap, then it could become a cool, simple dollar-worth arcade. However it’s not, so I’d much rather go play some of that, instead.

Puzzle House: Mystery Rising Review

Puzzle House: Mystery Rising Review

Apr 21, 2015

Puzzle House: Mystery Rising is a puzzle game about… I’m not exactly sure, what. In the great tradition of puzzle games – or quests, as they were known in them olden days – the story is a greater mystery than the game itself, and is virtually impossible to discern, even though the game is an hour long. Speaking of which, the game is incredibly short, and it’s may main issue with it. There are complete adventures that are offered for this price range, and Puzzle House, while being an interesting and well-executed game, isn’t offering a lot to cover its short length – especially considering that there’s going to be more of it later – I presume, and correct me if I’m wrong – for an additional price.

Gameplay-wise, Puzzle House: Mystery Rising is a classic first-person quest, and, besides smooth scene transitions, doesn’t really differ from the oldies, like Myst. You drag the finger around the screen to look around, and then tap on an object of interest to zoom in on it. Sometimes, you have to crank or drag something in-game, but it doesn’t really make a difference in the gameplay.

Spoiler alert, but Puzzle House: Mystery Rising doesn’t even get to the house in question. Instead, it contains the Puzzle House 2protagonist’s journey to find it. It’s hidden well, and to get to it, the player has to solve a whole lot of puzzles, which the game is pretty densely packed with. Although it’s very short, Puzzle House certainly requires a fair share of puzzles to solve. The puzzles aren’t that complex, but certainly require some thinking. To help with it, the player has a diary of someone who may have or may have not been abducted by aliens, and/or opened a secret to cross-reality movement. Or something. The diary is pretty criptic, but contains concrete clues about the puzzles, so don’t forget to check in with it, if it seems that you’re getting stuck.

Overall, Puzzle House: Mystery Rising left a pleasant feeling, but it’s definitely either too expensive, or too short. Otherwise, if you’re okay with purchasing a game that is essentially a hook for the story yet untold, it’s certainly not a bad game to play.

Police Cars vs Street Racers Review

Police Cars vs Street Racers Review

Apr 20, 2015

The title just about says it all: Police Cars vs Street Racers.

The premise is simple: be a cop, catch the bad guys. The tools are pretty understandable, being a cop car and, well, the ability to control it in pursuit of rowdy street racers. The control set is fairly intuitive; there’s a bank of direction buttons to the bottom left, and brakes and accelerator virtual buttons to the right. Using these in conjunction controls the cruiser (with the added wrinkle that the foot brake creates negative acceleration). Additionally, there is a directional pad that can be used to direct the cop on his feet, as well as a door button.

The gameplay uses a cityscape as the main backdrop, and most of the action occurs round skyscrapers and nondescript structures. There is secondary traffic, but the action really centers around a police officer and someone to apprehend. To start off, our man in blue makes his way to the car, enters it, and uses the arrow guides to reach a green area, from where a mission of sorts.

From there, the level begins, usually involving a car bound perp, or, as occasionally occurs, a guy running on foot. The cop car is a great weapon, and basically the idea is to run the crook down; if they were in a car, ramming the car repeatedly in a war of attrition effects an arrest, and on foot, the police car can be the tool to slow down the suspect, but the cop has to get out to make the apprehension. In some cases, chasing the suspect on foot is needed.

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Successfully finishing missions yields cash which can be used to upgrade and/or improve the cars.

The controls do feel a bit wonky, and the solution mechanism feels a bit rudimentary; I do believe that there is room for a bit more depth. The graphics are spacey at times, but fairly usable.

When it’s all said and done, it’s a fun time waster, not overly violent, and great for a bit of atypical gaming.

Tap Tap Tap Review

Tap Tap Tap Review

Apr 20, 2015

Style over substance. Form or function. Here’s an idea, how about we have both. Tap Tap Tap is both a hugely stylish game and also a ton of fun.

Truth be told, it’s incredibly simple. A hot, phat or dope (depending on your preferred parlance) beat drops and it’s down to you to follow the rhythmic instructions. In time with the beat simple instructions will appear on the screen and it’s down to you to follow the instructions before they fade away.

As your score goes up the time it takes for the instructions to fade away decreases. This means keeping up with everything that’s going on, as you’d imagine, gets harder. Not only does the speed increase but the commands themselves get a little more complicated as ‘taps’ turn into ‘double-taps’ and ‘swipes’ make way for ‘drag and drops’.taptaptap1

There’s a slight issue here as there were a number of times I could have sworn I’d tapped a circle or swiped on a piece of text, but it didn’t register. This probably isn’t a real issue and is probably down to my own ineptitude. What is definitely a real issue is how the audio commands start to trip over themselves.

When there’s a whole load of instructions rapidly one after the other, the smooth flow of the music and the announcer’s voice doesn’t quite match up as well as it does when there’s fewer hurdles being thrown onto the screen. When the game’s at its most simple, it’s arguably at its best.

I’ve said the word ‘simple’ a number of times now, but I mean it as a sincere compliment. Tap Tap Tap takes no explaining, lays all of its cards on the table within about 2 minutes of play and yet it’s had me wanting to beat my high score all week long. Considering this is a free game, one that’s not trying to coerce you into in-app purchases, it’s hard to see why you wouldn’t give it a download and see for yourself what’s up, up, up with Tap Tap Tap.

A simple game that does one thing not just well but with tons of style too. Why haven’t you downloaded it yet? It won’t change your life but it’ll make your day a little more funky. Or cool. Or wicked. I don’t know what you kids are saying these days…


Angry Birds Stella POP! Review

Angry Birds Stella POP! Review

Apr 17, 2015

Angry Birds Stella POP!, eh? Alrighty.

If you’re casually wondering where Rovio is headed with this title, you’re probably not alone; this one manages to meld match-3, bubble popping and the familiar catapulted avians looking to get back at gruesomely smiling pigs and/or free cutesy animals. The methodology is fairly simple, and somewhat defined by its presentation.

In true Rovio fashion, there is an emphasis on expressive graphics and vivid coloration, with leafy themes and smooth animations. Unlike the traditional Angry Birds games, this one is oriented in portrait, such that a player is projecting from the “bottom” upwards, and the device sides serve as rebounding walls. It is an inventive-looking game that is in parts familiar and relatively fresh, and generally keeps the player’s attention at the start.

The basic premise of the leveled gameplay calls for launching bubbles into a maze of bubbles that pop2generally suspend a dastardly pig or two in airborne safety, or are restraining compatriots. The color of the bubbles vary, and the idea is to pop pockets of bubbles by making contact with a like-colored projectile. “Three” is the magic number here, and when enough restraining bubbles are done away with, whatever is suspended drops, which is pretty much the object of the game.

The game has an arcade feel; there are power-up birdy projectiles that can be activated by streaks, and different aspects to the gameplay (like a limited amount of projectiles, or variations in the puzzle structure) that add to the potential for fun. There is a tweaked, fillable version of the renown three-star grading system too, so that a player can look to repeat levels in the quest for absolute perfection.

Failure has costs, as there is a set number of lives, and this all but boils down to an energy requirement. This can be overcome with time or real money.

It plays well, and is helped by the fact that it is simple. There is a lot of variation within the same system, and it all ties together nicely. As with most Angry Birds games, said simplicity might also be a drawback, but the game works.

Apocalypse Runner Review

Apocalypse Runner Review

Apr 14, 2015

Running away from danger is a fundamental human right, and in many ways, Apocalypse Runner, a 2D atmospheric runner, promotes this right. For the good of all.

Looks-wise, it’s a simple affair, with subtle darkness as the general motif. Even in the simple graphics, the developer is able to convey lightheartedness, and it works.

The gameplay is simple here; our protagonist runner is lollygagging along his way, when a sudden gaggle of evidently spooked birds gives him the only warning of an imminent danger. Hot on the heels of the birds is what can charitably be described as an uncontrolled tsunami. Running right-ward is the the only way to survive, and the ultimate goal is to avoid being swept away by the tidal wave.

The running area has gaps created by “natural” growths, creating holes that need to be jumped across to continue moving; this is probably the main element. The developer does a good job of tweaking it within that paradigm; as a run continues, the running area becomes a bit more treacherous, forcing the player to have to jump up to reach a cliff, or down. Such variations can wreak havoc on timing. Then, there are the secondary obstacles, like the well-known rotating blades and even rocks. Running into one of these pretty much ends the run. There are goodies to collect too, though focusing too hard on the gems can be foolhardy. Enough gems can open up powerups.

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Jumping is effected by tapping anywhere on the screen; double tapping creates a double jump. These have to be harnessed well, because an errant jump can have unpredictable (and non-optimal) results. As distance is accumulated, the obstacles start to come quick and often, and then the game starts to get a twitch-reaction feel. The quick pace is a great touch.

There isn’t a ton of variation, but it should be commended for taking an easy road and looking to do it well. It’s an enjoyable romp with a clear premium implementation that, well, works.

Razor Crazy Cart: U Drift Review

Razor Crazy Cart: U Drift Review

Apr 13, 2015

In real life, racing in carts on the streets is probably not the best idea. Tempting, but foolish.

Cool. That’s why we have games like Razor Crazy Cart: U Drift.

If one is familiar with infinite runners, this game will feel right as pie. Based on the real life riding toy it derives its name from, this incorporates the almost standard three lane system, and, as to be expected, the main element has to with the numerous obstacles one has to avoid so as to travel as far as possible. In this game, the traveler is decked out in a cart, and it does cool things like drifting when manipulated at the right time.

Further to the travel way, it starts out fairly straight, but curves do appear over time, and more raz2intricate bends appear as progress is made. Early on, the pacing is manageable, but again, as progress is made, the game goes faster. To avoid obstacles — stuff like cones and tire stacks — the player uses swipes to make the cart go left or right on the fly, as well as a special spin move that deflects small obstacles.

There are a bunch of things to collect as well. Most obvious are red coins. Then there are powerups like coin magnets and shields that can enhance a run. Of course, there is an opportunity cost to collecting these goodies, as they are generally placed in such a way that tests the players reflexes. As with just about everything else, this element ratchets up the longer one races, such that it becomes a challenging, arcade-like experience that requires twitch responses to do well in.

When it’s all said and done, the came is easy to understand and enjoy. It brings in a familiar real life object and ties into a fun game with universal elements and a simple upgrade and leaderboard system.

Can’t go wrong with that.