Tag Archives: $1.00

REVIEW: Avatar Honor and Duty

With all the recent focus on fictional wars set in the near and distant future, fighting with frighteningly impersonal technology through even more frightening dystopias that’ll depress anybody’s outlook on life, Strange GamesAvatar Honor and Duty ($1.00) recalls that Great War where we first learned to love shooting total strangers in the face from the comfort (and complete safety) of our bedrooms— World War II.

Avatar Honor and Duty - Screen

Set in a nameless European village that borrows its color scheme and style from the developer’s previous FPS, Paintball War, and starring everyone’s ridiculously-dressed avatars, AHAD (sounds like a type of disorder, I know) once again melds a condensed indie design with Call of Duty’s highly-addictive multiplayer component. The result is a fast-paced, fun shooter that almost makes you forget it’s a tad derivative.

The usual drill applies. Matches can involve up to 16 players in a free-for-all format. Guns (and their attachments) are walled behind preset level requirements that you unlock the more points (via kills) that you earn. You can equip two perks at a time, and they are similarly doled out as you progress, giving you specific bonuses and boosts to skills or your weaponry, like faster reloads and increased running stamina. AHAD‘s armory contains guns representative of the era, with a carbine rifle, machine gun, and sniper rifle among the lot.

Killstreaks return as well, offering you the standard assortment of rewards for achieving and maintaining a hot streak, like radar, dual-wield, and so on, with you able to call in an artillery strike at the last step. Should you survive that long. The map favors close-quarters fighting, with groups clustered near the open areas or alleys leading to them. It’s chaotic in a good way, though, forcing confrontation and keeping the playing field level, with no one player able to really dominate without drawing the attention of nearby shooters. That quickened pace suits the controls, which may take some getting used to, stressing run and gun over ‘stop and pop’ precision.

Avatar Honor and Duty - Screen2

The online code is generally reliable. Joining a match can prove difficult at times (and you can be dropped unceremoniously), but I had a mostly uneventful play experience in each of the matches I found, with only a few hints of lag or dreadfully-bad hit detection, which largely came in whenever multiple people joined or left the round. There is also some problems with combatants sinking into floors or glitching into walls. I have to mention it, but you should know that it’s a small issue in the grand scheme.

All in all, Avatar Honor and Duty is an easy recommendation to make for those constantly looking for a new indie FPS to gravitate towards. Despite the throwback to a technologically-simpler time, it can and will feel like any other generic first person shooter. Don’t expect a revolution in design. If you measure a game’s worth by the amount of fun it provides, though, you’ll find ample value here.

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REVIEW: Hurtle Turtle: Celebrations!

Happy Birthday Hurtle Turtle! I’m just passing along my good wishes to the birthday tortoise. So says Hurtle Turtle: Celebrations! ($1.00), Holmade Games’ third entry in the series, a simultaneous party and level pack for the endless runner ahead of a planned sequel coming later. So, not really a new entry, per se. That makes this version 1.3, or something.

Hurtle Turtle Celebrations - Screen

Why release a trio of holiday-themed levels now, when it could just as likely have been included in the first level pack, or the original game, or even held back to be included in the future sequel? I’m not sure. It’s not as if the ‘Endless Runner’ genre has much more room for originality or fresh mechanics. Front-loading an official sequel with extra stages right out of the gate seems like a better plan than charging separately for what amounts to more of the same.

To be fair, maybe you enjoy these types of games. Level pack or not, it should be judged by how it plays, not the surrounding story. Even by runner standards, though, Hurtle Turtle is completely safe. Its controls are simple, and it doesn’t ask much of you, only to slide up and down to avoid hazards and jump over any obstacles you can’t move out of the path of. Speed increases the higher the distance traveled, you can take four hits before you‘re shell-shocked, and… That’s it. No big fuss.

Celebrations! comes with three stages, the obligatory Halloween / Christmas levels, and a track featuring oversized gifts to trip you up. Festive indeed. There’s changing art to hop over, and the backgrounds scroll, though that’s the extent of the tricks in the game’s bag. Essentially, one run through the demo stage gives you all you need to know.

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Three static stages and three candles on a metaphorical birthday cake aren’t enough to justify Hurtle Turtle: Celebrations!’s price. I can appreciate its past, and I do wish the little guy the best in his future endeavors (part two is tentatively scheduled for later this Fall), though this pat-myself-on-the-shell congratulatory release is nothing more than a cheap cash-in.

REVIEW: Paper Galactica

Of all the trends I’ve noticed in indie gaming, whether it be the shoehorning of zombies into every available game type, or avatars for everybody, the one that fascinates me the most is the idea of ‘paper games’. I use ‘fascination’ here to mean ‘odd’, as other than going for a visual edge in design, I have no clue who is behind the phase or who is clamoring for all these paper-based games to be made. Paper Galactica ($1.00), you intrigue me.

Paper Galactica - Screen

And I use ‘intrigue’ here to mean ‘baffle’. Paper Galactica is a Frankenstein of several classic shooters where your ship moves only horizontally at the bottom of the screen. I use ‘classic’ here to mean ’simple’, as outside of the distinction of appearing on paper, it plays exactly in that classic sense; no frills, no new wrinkles.

Enemies drop down, singly and in packs, in numbers sufficient for the challenge. Nothing taxing, though the size of your ship means you’ll have to keep on the move to avoid fire. There’s your typical allotment of powerup shots (triple, quadruple, missiles, mines, etc.) and score bonuses, and a handful of boss fights that differ only in appearance.

The whole thing is dreadfully underwhelming, phasers set to stale just a few minutes after you start. Waves go on for too long, the enemy art is bland. With no additional modes, no extras (more ‘paper’ choices doesn’t count), and no fun, this game equals no sale.

Paper Galactica - Screen2

There’s nothing to recommend here. Unless you’re a fetus, it’s impossible to get excited by a game you’ve undoubtedly played a hundred times over in some form or another. Paper Galactica may move the action over to a ‘sheet of paper’, though developer 3T Games should’ve just saved some digital trees and recycled the idea at conception. And I use ‘recycled’ here to mean ‘destroyed.’

REVIEW: X-Orbtek II

If you were to grade on visuals alone, X-Orbtek II ($1.00) wouldn’t impress anyone. You could plug it into a ColecoVision or an Atari and never guess it had traveled there from the year 2013. As a sequel to a PC / Android-only original, it’s going to have to rely on its existing fanbase (which there is) or hope for some extremely curious onlookers to wander into the marketplace description. Even with that, it’s going to be a tough sell.

Simple shapes and simpler gameplay about sums it up. On the outside, it looks like a standardized twin-stick shooter. To an extent, it is, though combat is not the focus nor its strong point (and was missing entirely from the original). Orb collection is the idea, with the cheap thrill of chasing highscores (locally) meant to keep you engaged.

Continually spawning as you set about picking them up, the orbs are typically sandwiched between hazards, giving it a timed puzzle / navigational mechanic that’s not usually found in the genre. They shrink and eventually disappear into the ether the longer they’re left on the playing field. You’re not required to collect every orb that hatches, but failing to keep at least one on the grid will result in a game over.

Enemies are introduced slowly, functioning alongside the asteroids mostly as roadblocks to your goal, though there are a few types that will chase you down and / or return fire. Ammo is sparse, and there’s a set number of hits you can take. Randomized powerups will refill your stock of both, along with a few others, like a temporary burst to speed, or resetting the orbs to allow you more time to collect.

X-Orbtek II - Screen

The original’s gameplay survives for X-Orbtek II, in the form of Classic mode, which keeps everything listed above, and subtracts the combat. Survival mode works the same as the main setting, only with one life to live. All three can be further refined in Custom mode, which lets you take the various pieces and mix them as you wish, with a selection of music tracks, backgrounds (some locked behind highscore plateaus), and rule sets. Nothing too impressive, even if it does grant some variety.

Local multiplayer (up to four) is possible, and mildly enticing for players with access to extra controllers and friends. Regrettably, though, there just isn’t enough happening in X-Orbtek II to make it worth anyone’s while. Tight controls and some moderate customization can’t dismiss the fact that there’s much better already on the marketplace, which renders this ‘kinda twin-stick shooter, kinda not’ sequel obsolete from the start.