XCOM: Enemy Within Review

XCOM: Enemy Within Review

Nov 25, 2014

XCOM: Enemy Within is a standalone expansion to the amazing 2013 game XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It is essentially the same game with a fair few new additions and some refinements that make it a better game.

XCOM: Enemy Within as said above is a lot like Enemy Unknown. It is an in depth turn based strategy game where players take control of XCOM, an anti extraterrestrial organization attempting to fend off a global alien invasion.

Screenshot_2014-11-20-16-40-34Players take control of recruitment, training and research and both air forces and ground forces when the need arises. XCOM couples base building and broad strategic choice with a turn based, squad based combat engine. Aliens completely outgun humanity at the beginning of the game, so developing XCOM’s technologies is a central part of the game. That is the super complex XCOM in a tenuous nutshell.

The main addition of Enemy Within is the Meld. These canisters of orange goop are the key to unlocking a number of powerful new abilities for soldiers. One use of Meld is to upgrade soldiers with genetic implants that can boost their stats or endow them with abilities, like buffing the whole squad after a kill.

The other path for Meld use is to construct a Cybernetics Lab that can transform soldiers into giant, armoured killing machines with heavy weapons.

Both of these are fun and let players boost their favorite soldiers in new and exciting ways. You can do things like have elite ocular enhanced snipers popping aliens or have a MEC lead the way, absorbing all incoming fire while shotgun-wielding pheromone releasing assault soldiers cover it.

There are new enemies like the new Seeker which can cloak itself and strangle soldiers, rendering them helpless unless it is killed or the soldier dies.

Screenshot_2014-11-20-06-46-51A great new addition is medals. Medals can be awarded to any soldier and function as combat buffs. These can do things like raise their stats by completing missions without soldier deaths or cause a soldier to never panic from allied causalities. This is a good idea and helps make soldiers feel even more like individuals.

The game looks about the same as it did before. There are a few new pieces of equipment and some nice new environments, but they are more of what you’d expect from XCOM. Of course Enemy Unknown was an excellent looking game so it’s not like this is a bad thing.

The sound is improved. There are new soldier acknowledgements, speech and new ambient sounds. Sometimes you’ll roll into a sector and hear a nice ambient saxophone playing in the service station as your soldiers trade fire with aliens and plasma bolts reduces parts of the building to rubble. Other than that, the game retains XCOM’s excellent weapon and environment sounds and disturbing alien sounds. Great stuff as always.

XCOM Enemy Within adds a lot of interesting feature to the still fantastic gameplay of the original Enemy Unknown. Players who played the original to death will still find fun in the new features, while strategy fans who missed the game the first time around will be in turn based heaven.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review

Jul 7, 2014

XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the legendary tactical shooter of yore has sure had a long time between drinks but at least this cracking, if highly challenging series of games has graced Android. Is the magic intact?

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is all about dealing with hostile aliens invading earth for unknown purposes. Working out just what they’re after is high on the agenda, but so is blasting ton of them into goo.

Screenshot_2014-07-04-21-53-41XCOM is divided into two parts. There is base management and combat. Base management involves building new facilities for X-COM’s secret underground base, researching new items and recruiting new soldiers. Bases require power plants, engineering areas to manufacture researched items and satellite arrays to detect aliens in flight and intercept them.

Combat takes place whenever an alien UFO is downed if the player chooses or when the aliens themselves decide to attack.

Combat in XCOM is gripping and strategic. It uses a tried and true turn based system. There is plenty of cover to hide behind and flanking and keeping your men in cover is essential to winning. Aliens are quite smart and don’t hesitate to cover each other and use grenades. Reaction shots a are huge part of X-COM. If an enemy is suddenly exposed due to moving or their cover being destroyed allies and enemies can fire at the exposed enemy, so cover fire can be very effective. There is also a morale system and too many deaths or some alien abilities can lead to soldiers running away or shooting their friends.

Like in the original XCOM: Enemy Unknown, soldiers that survive combat rank up and gain stats. They also gain a number of abilities and are assigned a class. Snipers for example can use a very powerful headshot skill to deal massive damage and can share sight with other squad members, while heavy machine gunners can suppress enemies and launch rockets. Abilities are vital to success in X-COM and picking the right ones so a squad works together adds a lot to the game.

Screenshot_2014-07-04-21-45-13XCOM: Enemy Unknown revolves around research. From the word go humanity is completely outmatched by the aliens. Their conventional weapons are cutting edge, but compared to lasers and plasma rifles they might as well be firing pillows. Wiping out aliens and capturing them and splashing UFOs allows the player to research myriad different projects. There is, for example flight capable armor or heavy laser rifles. Flying laser snipers and stealth suit wearing shotgunners and more are possible.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown looks fantastic. Aliens look really menacing and environments look great without looking artificial. Soldiers vary nicely and some of the more high tech gear is really cool looking.

Compared to the console versions of XCOM, the Android version takes a graphical hit, but this is mostly limited to lower resolution textures.

The sound is incredibly well done as well. Aliens scream and moan disturbingly and weapons have all the bangs and cool sounding zaps expected of sci-fi weapons. The music is really good as well, particularly the music during actual combat.

X-COM: Enemy Unknown is a no brainer for any fan of tactical shooters. It is huge, deep and full of satisfying gameplay and for the price it is an absolute steal.

TowerMadness Review

TowerMadness Review

Dec 13, 2013

Tower Madness is a tower defence game that looks like a lot of things at the same time. Of course, it’s not exactly easy to stand out from as numerous crowd as tower defence, and it’s not like TowerMadness isn’t trying, but I still found myself drawing parallels to other similar games, and especially Fieldrunners, quite a bit. The story is laconic and ridiculous. Aliens need your sheep, all eight of them, and you need to stop them. The stopping power includes about a dozen different kinds of defences, all of which can be upgraded, and should probably be a lot more interesting to aliens in the first place. The aliens come in waves, being delivered by UFOs, and heading straight to the sheep’s pen, with their walking routes being marked by arrows. When the player places a tower in their way, the aliens find a new path, around it. Thus, playing with tower positions, the player eventually creates a corridor of death that can eradicate even the most resilient of otherworldly scum.

Speaking of aliens, they differ by their abilities and armour,TowerMadness 4 and while they can’t attack the towers, they still have several tricks up their intergalactic sleeves that could make them a challenging target. The towers also differ wildly. There are usual dps towers that can attack land, air, or both, there are towers that can boost other towers’ damage, stun enemies, or do some other nasties. The choice isn’t large, but it’s there. Although, when you unlock a lightning tower I call “Tesla’s revenge”, you’ll probably wonder why you even need other options.

Anyway, about the issues. This game looks bad. Not just bad, it’s on such a precise level of awkward/hilarious cheap 3D graphics and animations that I can’t actually believe it’s not a parody. Although complete 3D is impressive on some level, it shouldn’t look like it’s from over ten years ago. It should be noted that TowerMadness was originally released over four years ago, which makes the cost prohibitive compared to other games considering the lack of features to make it infinitely replayable, like editor features, or multiplayer. It’s just a tower defense game that’s a few years old.

Overall, I have really mixed feelings about TowerMadness. On one hand, it’s a sufficiently varied, completely debugged and optimized tower defence with a cartload of maps, honest 3D graphics, and a number of different, upgradeable towers. On the other hand, it’s an unoriginal, old, and pretty graphically lacking game for three bucks. So, take from it what you will. For me, I’ve actually enjoyed it, once I have accepted blocky, shaking aliens, strangely obsessed with livestock.

Enemy Strike Review

Enemy Strike Review

Mar 13, 2013

Enemy Strike is an interesting fixed FPS game from Killer Bean Studios.

I started out with 15,000 in currency with 10 gold bars and at Level 1 with regards to experience. For gameplay, I was shown a compact city grid with multiple types of flare-ups. There were target snipers, an area to survive, a defensive section and an eliminate area. Picking a section led me to its menu, which was a quick mission summary. I also had an opportunity to get equipment prior to starting. I liked the fact that the game forced me to give some thought to my acquisitions; do I splurge on armor, or do I look for raw firepower? Do I pick increased damage capabilities over increased rewards? There was an opportunity costs associated with each scenario.

The first fight scene I was involved in pitted me against some embedded snipers, which I had to neutralize. I quickly learned the ins and outs (crouching, firing and more. The game UI did a decent job of mimicking real military tactics; enemy combatants eagerly backed each other up and even performed what seemed to be flanking maneuvers on me. The shooting mechanism was fairly easy to understand, and the built-in sights helped with accuracy. Upon taking care of the waves of alien fighters, I was given my stats, as well as any rewards in gold, cash or experience points I had earned.

The other adventures matched this general pattern: I got my mission, had a chance to gear up for it, went out and performed said mission and reaped the rewards. I liked the creativity that showed in the diversity of the missions.

The in-app purchasing system was designed well; it’s actually one that I wouldn’t mind spending cash on. Still, it was possible to play without in my estimation, and the game had different ways to earn bonuses, like using social networking and interacting with Tapjoy.

The coloration was intense, and reflected urban areas quite well. The aliens retained humanoid shapes, which was fairly unique. I thought the animations could have been smoother, but the different backgrounds were nice to look at. I think I would also have liked the ability to move, at least in places.

All in all though, it was a fun game well worth the time spent playing.

Cows Vs. Aliens Review

Cows Vs. Aliens Review

Sep 9, 2011

Throughout the ages there have been countless rivalries documented and romanticized as tales told and passed down from generation to generation. David versus Goliath, the Montegues versus the Capulets, the Hatfields versus the McCoys, Republicans versus Democrats, Coke versus Pepsi, Pirates versus Ninjas, so on and so forth. But the one rivalry seldom heard about is the one of Cows versus Aliens. Finally, one developer brave enough to turn their powerful, amazing story into a game is XMG Studio with the game Cows Vs. Aliens.

Cows Vs. Aliens is simple enough, in concept. You’re constantly herding a steady stream of cows into a barn to protect them from incoming alien ships. As cows appear in the pasture, you just use your thumbs to push them along, ushering them towards the open doors while keeping the aliens at bay by shoving them off the edges of the cliff. The game ends when you either run out of time or allow an alien ship to slip by and into the barn.

While the core gameplay is simple, there’s a little more nuance to the game in the form of dozens of challenges to be met that earn you “milk points” which you can use to buy new stages, upgrades and other items. The addition of special cows with abilities to extend time, provide huge bonuses or eliminate aliens do help to keep the game interesting, but there still isn’t a lot of depth to it. The very arcade-like gameplay is rather shallow and sees you repeating the same stage again and again as you attempt to meet each challenge.

Conversely, if you don’t mind spending real money, you can completely circumvent many of the very difficult challenges by simply buying all the milk points you need. Seeing as how the game, itself, is free, this might not be such a bad option. In fact, depending on how adept you are, spending money on milk points might be the only way you can get enough to actually buy anything. Again, some of the challenges are very, very difficult to pass, and they earn so few points that you might never pass enough of them to afford the items you want.

One of the most frustrating things about Cows Vs Aliens is that the touch controls aren’t as good as they could be. I’ve noticed that the game doesn’t always register touches, making a difficult game even harder. It’s unfortunate as the game is a lot fun due to the arcade-like experience of racking up points and competing with friends over OpenFeint.

Sporting some rather high production values, the cute graphics and interesting concept make it seem like this game has a lot more to offer than it actually does. However, the shallow gameplay and multiple flaws tell a slightly different story. If you’re a fan of short, simple arcade games, you’ll probably enjoy this very much. If you’re looking for a deeper gameplay experience, however, this might not be enough to hold your attention.

Retro Cosmos Review

Retro Cosmos Review

May 9, 2011

The old school has found a comfortable, well furnished home in the snug confines of your pocket. You need only take a cursory glance at the Android Market to find remakes, re-imaginings and re-inventions of all the games the kids were playing twenty or thirty years ago. It should come as no surprise when I tell you that Retro Cosmos is, to all intents and purposes, a simplified touch screen version of Space Invaders.

Maybe simplified is the wrong term – changed around a bit might be more accurate. Whereas in Taito’s classic arcade game you had scenery to hide behind, you’re afforded no such luxury here. You are, however, able to move forwards and backwards on the screen – gamers in the late seventies could only dream about such a revolution.

The rest of the game plays out in decidedly familiar fashion – waves of enemies swoop down the screen towards you, firing pixel sized bullets, and you have to shoot them before they destroy you. Some of the alien craft carry power ups that they drop when destroyed, which give you extra lives and more powerful weapons.

It would be easy to dismiss Retro Cosmos as another in the swathe of old fashioned blasters that litter app stores around the world, but you’d be doing the game a great disservice. It may not win any awards for originality, but what it does, it does remarkably well. The touch screen controls – you guide the ship with your finger and it fires automatically – work fantastically, and the sense of accomplishment you get after completing a wave is almost palpable.

Retro Cosmos is by no means a perfect game, the collision detection is a little off and sometimes it’s quite bland to look at, but that shouldn’t detract from just how enjoyable it is. It’ll never win any game of the year awards, nor will it win any prizes for style or innovation, but it is a lot of fun and sometimes, that’s all you really want.