Archive for February, 2009

Underworlds

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Underworlds

This is a Diablo clone and a pretty decent one, at that; dungeons, quests, stat increases, skill upgrades, vendors, monsters, min-maxing lewt, and a storyline (although predictable) are all there. The game artwork is done by the dewd that worked on the Ultima games. Would you believe that the banner in the screenshot above actually waves in the breeze? Not really sure why it would…but still! The controls aren’t perfect, though. The faux D-Pad sometimes feels unresponsive, based on where your thumb is, and it is placed adjacent to the health globe, which means you’ll be glugging 40g potions accidentally. I used the option to remove the D-pad completely and use touch controls instead, which I’m glad was included, but this control method is not perfect either. The item game has been quite compelling so far, as I find myself closely inspecting each new item to see if I can squeeze an additional 1% benefit out of it. There are tons of seemingly meaningful affixes that would allow you to get the character build you want (that, coupled with the stats and skills decisions). Speaking of skills, each of your chosen skills shows up on your action bar and different points and highlight when they become available and simply tapping one will activate it. Pretty slick.

Update: Even though Dungeon Hunter may have usurped the Diablo clone throne, the team at Pixel Mine didn’t give up. Instead, they added an entirely new chapter, FREE of charge. I have yet to play through it, but I thought it was worth mentioning, because it adds significantly to amount of content in the game.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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9 Innings: Pro Baseball 2009

Friday, February 27th, 2009

9 Innings: Pro Baseball 2009

First off, I’m a big fan of Baseball Superstars ’09; super-deformed players like the old skool SNK title (which was better), killer rpg-like career mode, quick auto-inning feature, and wacky special characters. 9 Innings is not that game, but it’s great in an entirely different way; it is a much better simulation of of the sport of baseball. The pitching interface uses a streamlined golf-swing type meter, in which timing a scaling UI element dictates the success of the pitch. I do miss the obvious speed differentiation in the cartoony BS ’09, but it wouldn’t make sense in a more realistic game like 9 Innings. The field play is far superior and the scale and camera angle make it feel more like you are there. Revisiting the BS field felt like BS, compared to 9 Innings. The game modes include Season, Tournament, and Homerun Mode (see Homerun Battle 3D, by the same company, for a fully realized online version of this). Be forewarned, Just Like Real Baseball™, a game takes forever to play through. Any self-respecting Baseball fan should own both, in my opinion.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Assassin’s Creed – Altaïr’s Chronicles

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Assassin's Creed - Altaïr's Chronicles

Everyone is already familiar with the franchise, I’m sure, so I won’t go into details. This is a port of a DS game I haven’t played, but I’ve read this is better at a third of the cost, but still suffers from some of the faults. The game is comparable to Heroes of Sparta, in many ways; polished graphics, decent controls, but lacking in some key ways. It has a ton of voice-acting, but the protagonist is particularly annoying. The movement is fluid and the controls are generally good, but become very frustrating in certain instances. The camera is fixed and this results in all sorts of jump distance and destination problems (the level design really should have accounted for this).

The gameplay is part stealth, part platformer, and part combat, (which is just okay; simple combos and a counter mechanic). You collect powerups to increase either your movement or sword skills. You open up new techniques over time, such as wall scaling. Navigating each of the 9 cities is a non-issue, due to a giant green arrow directing your path…lame. As compared to the Xbox360/PS3 versions, it adds some ill-conceived mini-games that are just horrible; a ridiculous pickpocket minigame that is like playing the Operation boardgame with mittens on and some other mini-game that looked like I was massaging some dewds back. Eww…not kewl.

Update: I ended up not finishing this game, due to many of the issues described above and lowered my rating by half a star (and even that may be generous).

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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Zombie Pub Crawl

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Zombie Pub Crawl

What’s better than killin’ zombies…? Killin’ zombies with a giant freakin’ tank!!! The idea is genius. IRL, a Zombie Pub Crawl is hordes of people stumbling from bar to bar at 3am, getting tanked . A British bloke spun this idea into a funny game in which your mates move from pub to pub, with zombies pouring out from everywhere, so they must be protected by your tank, either by plowing the zombies over or shooting them. With your left thumb you guide your tank and with your right thumb you reposition the target that directs your pub-goers. Since you move your mates with one thumb and your zombie-crushing tank with the other, it can give you that “pat your head, while rubbing your tummy” problem where it’s hard to keep the two actions separate. The result of this is usually that your tank-thumb slides off the controls, which makes the game feel unresponsive, but technically it’s “your fault”. This may or may not be an issue for others. Another issue is that tapping the screen kills zombies with tank fire, but also directs your pub-goers…not good. Oftentimes, instead of killing a zombie, you send your defenseless and drunken mates into the zombie’s waiting maw.

This may change, but currently, there are only three missions, all on the same street, that scale in difficulty to fill out the rest of the game. On the upside, the theme is great, the graphics are really good, and it’s fun. Primarily because there are a few interesting mechanics to balance and decisions to make; whether to steamroller zombies to save ammo and when, keeping an eye on your stragglers as they pass close to pub doors, while maintaining your main pack up front, and fighting your way back after losing some pub-goers. There are upgrade choices, but you’re too retarded to breathe if you don’t choose larger area-of-effect damage. I’m a big fan of the game, but it just doesn’t seem to have enough content and it may need some tuning. I’m glad I bought it, though, because I think the basic framework is interesting enough to look forward to future content and updates.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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Yummy Yummy Cooking Jam

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Yummy Yummy Cooking Jam

A time-management game like Burger Island, but much better, much cuter, and with much more depth. There are four different restaurant types; hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, and Tex-Mex ,each with their own ingredients and preparation methods. The gameplay consists of taking orders and then putting the right ingredients together, in the right order, and handing it to the proper patron. You have to cook the food first, oftentimes using gesture motions for chopping veggies and rolling a burrito, for instance, which adds a lot to the game. What really sets this game apart for me, though, is the charm. As you can see, it has an adorable and quirky Japanese art style. The Vikings giggle like little girls when you serve them a Coke, the little pig-tailed, vampire girls burp like truck drivers after their meal, and space aliens like mustard on their dogs. 48 levels of onion-eatin’ alien goodness.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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Ignite

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Ignite

Having beta-tested this title, I can say that it has promise. Over the course of 30 levels, you will witness outstanding background artwork, a brilliant jump arc mechanic that I predict will be “adopted” by other designers, and a clever theme/mechanic, in which a little fire dewd must use the wooden platforms he jumps on to fuel his progress. The puzzles and pacing are a bit flat right now, so it gets a bit monotonous, and falling to your death repeatedly can be frustrating, but I like it anyway.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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International Snooker

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

International Snooker

I’m a big fan of Snooker and this game is a really good mobile version. The rules are easy; just alternate potting reds and colors. You just have to learn the point values. The control mechanism is really nice; swipe left and right to align shot, but where you place your finger vertically dictates the aiming granularity. Even for that control innovation alone, I would recommend this title. Swiping up and down controls the camera angle, all the way to top-view. This game edges out Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker as my favorite Snooker app, although that game is worth a look too.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Age of Curling

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Age of Curling

Wow, how could a developer do so well on so many things and overlook such a fundamental part of every game; sound. The game has no sound! well, I guess it has some sound, but not where you need it; when the rock hits the ice, when the rock is sliding, or crowd cheers for a great shot. Apparently, their sound budget only accounted for the “rock hits rock” sound which they do have. The reason I’m harping on this is that everything else, gameplay included, is so money.

As you can see, they present a top-view of the ice and the 3D shot view, which is brilliant. You set the curl of the stone and the power and let it rip. You want your rocks to be on target, while blocking your opponent. After you throw your rock, you can swipe in front of it to broom its path (this fine-tunes the shot direction), which is brilliant.

As the name implies, the game takes place in a number of venues and time periods that one can assume have some historical significance for the sport; a weathered castle in 1780′s Scotland, a textile factory in 1920′s Winnepeg (presented entirely in black & white) , an outdoor match in Venice, among others. Whether you are a die-hard curling fan or you simply watch it when the Olympics rolls around, this title should satiate the urge to play it on the go. The game receives high marks for presentation, theme, and gameplay, but unfortunately, the lack of sound in some key areas prevents this from becoming a classic curling app, if there is such a thing.

Update: I’ve kept a close eye on further development on this title and, while they were able to update it to include “rounder stones”, they still have not addressed my primary concern, sound. Down half a point.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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