Tag Archives: Gaming

REVIEW: Blue Beacon

Not to be confused with significantly-expired bacon that should be discarded (you know who you are), Blue Beacon ($1.00) should be a familiar romp for most: Mario‘s bread and butter platforming and mechanics, paired with sort of-Adventure Island‘s graphics. Actually, it’s ‘sort of’ on both counts, as though it borrows from popular and not-so popular titles alike, it doesn’t quite match up to them in its execution.

First, the setup. Our protagonist Sasha is on a mission to save the world. To do so, you’ll need to collect three ‘Discs of Power’, with each found at the end of a string of levels. That will entail the requisite running and jumping, plucking impossibly-suspended items in the sky, and using your head to bust through bricks to find crystals instead of coins (collecting 100 will earn you an extra life, of course).

Even the enemy foot soldiers are comfortable stand-ins / cheap knockoffs for the ‘goombas’ and hard-shelled ‘koopas’ from Mario‘s universe; you can stomp on one, and send the other careening into his friends for a tidy point combo. Taking on the abilities of animals (or insects, in this case) via powerups is also on loan from the plumber, granting you the innate skills of that particular bug. The Beetle suit allows you to burrow through enemies and bricks, accessing secret crystal caches, while the Butterfly and Grasshopper variants give you additional traversal options (flying short distances and jumping higher, respectively).

The suits are presented in sequence, with the levels generally well-designed to accentuating their strengths… and showcasing the game’s very slippery controls. Take note: Sasha will walk on a good four or five steps after you let go of the stick. Not the responsiveness you need in a platformer. If nothing else, the suits will come in handy as ‘extra health’, as taking damage from unintended mistakes will only return Sasha to default form, with the next hit proving fatal.

Blue Beacon - Screen

In that regard, Blue Beacon also goes a bit old school with its difficulty, giving you a limited number of lives to reach the end, with no continues or checkpoints for good behavior. The aforementioned crystal-collection is thus made all the more important, as is careful maneuvering and patience / restraint with the controls.

The end result is a short, potentially-frustrating, and pretty generic platformer; acceptable if you like those kinds of things, though it’s a pale copy when compared to its chief inspiration. Blue Beacon‘s challenge and hook of using ability suits might hold your interest at first, but if its parts don’t add up to much original fun in total, what’s the point of taking a sub-par journey? Play Mario instead.

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Review on Game Bias

REVIEW: Super Dungeon Quest

From a visual standpoint, and from reading its idea on paper, Super Dungeon Quest ($2.99) is the kind of game that appeals to me right away. It would probably appeal to most others, too. A straight-up dungeon hack & slash, with a hint of roguelike flavoring and a ton of lovely-looking sprites, several character classes to choose from, and some light RPG values that enable you to level up your stats as you go.

Super Dungeon Quest - Screen

So why then, after playing through the game’s randomized dungeons with two (of seven) different character classes, a fireball-slinging Wizard and a melee-focused Warrior, am I left with such an empty, repetitive feeling? To understand that, you have to first recognize the gameplay for what it is; a twin-stick shooter. Sure, you don’t use the right thumbstick, but attacks can be auto-aimed and spammed repeatedly. For the range-based Heroes in particular, like the aforementioned Wizard, and the Archer, Bomber, etc., the ‘shooter’ vibe is strong. Less so for the blade-wielding types, but each character has their own special attack / move that helps offset any shortcomings based on weapons.

It’s all faster-playing than you might think, with you twin-sticking your way through hundreds of blurred baddies and collecting gold on the way to each floor’s exit. Once you’ve battled through enough villains and found the key (you don’t necessarily have to kill everyone to find it, though you should; that extra gold you’ll farm is, well, golden), it’s rinse and repeat all the way to the skill bank, which allocates your typical boosts to health, attack power, mana, luck, etc, in exchange for gold. Said upgrades are basically interchangeable between the Heroes, as you’ll only ever need increased weapon power and health to breeze through the game on its normal setting.

Super Dungeon Quest - Screen2

And oh, what a breeze it is. There’s absolutely nothing else tying you to the game, as it is minus a story, bosses, or even an excuse for all the looting. Once you’ve traversed the entirely of the dungeon (fourteen floors = forty minutes, slightly longer on Hard), the game simply returns to the title screen after tallying your stats. There’s two alternative modes to try your luck at, both wave-based, and which play exactly the same as the main game— albeit in a single arena— with you again earning gold to spend on upgrades between rounds.

With none of your progress saved upon death (it’s a roguelike, natch) or success, and no leaderboards of any kind for the arenas, it’s all rendered moot in the end. Running through the dungeons once or twice is enough to get your fill, too, as each floor and character starts to feel the same as the last, with only the cosmetic side of it changing as you advance. It plays well-enough, and certainly looks great, but Super Dungeon Quest is just empty adventuring. 

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This review is also featured at Indiepitome

Review on Indie Gamer Chick

REVIEW: Color 2

Color 2 ($1.00) is a rather apt title for the game, when you get down to it. It’s about colors, natch. Four to be exact, corresponding to the face buttons of the Xbox controller. Also natch. It’s a sequel as well, the original Color coming about three years ago from the same developer. That would account for the ‘2’. So, that about solves the mystery. And if you are finding this opening to be bland and entirely forgettable… well, you’ve just played Color 2 without actually playing it.

Color 2 - Screen

That’s not meant to read like I’m unfairly dumping on the game, just more the inevitable result of a very basic and tired idea. Color 2 is color-matching, through and through. It is advertised as five different modes of doing so, but that’s a very loose (and very generous) definition of five separate minigames. For starters, they all involve swapping / mashing the button to correctly match the color / letter appearing on-screen. Variety is not something the game does well.

Take a look at the screenshots used in this review. The only thing that really changes from game to game is your ‘form’; sometimes you’re a block at the bottom of the screen, other times you’re a block going around in a circle, and in one instance, you’re a cannon. A few of these ‘minigames’ seem to have been carried over from the first game, too, so it’s not as if entirely new ways to ‘color-match’ have been created for this reprise.

Color 2 - Screen2

The modes do come tinged with either an ‘arcade’  or ‘survival’ setting. Other than determining when your ‘health’ is replenished for missing / incorrectly matching the colors, though, it’s not much of a modifier. As a bonus, you can compare stats between the various modes, and earn medals for meeting certain criteria while playing. Neither does much for extending the life of the game. At most, you’ll sample each of the game types once and never feel the need to return to it.

Its intentions might be harmless, but Color 2 is an ideal example of a unneeded sequel. Three years on, we get the same idea with slightly spruced-up visuals, an added minigame or two, and the rest just carried over from the original. Pass.

 

REVIEW: Claw Machine Arcade

I like to think of myself as a nice guy. A chivalrous sort with a charitable soul, my witty observational humor ready to go at a moment’s notice. But some days I don’t know, man. There’s a darker side of me that I don’t like to speak about, and Claw Machine Arcade ($1.00) may finally be what it takes for me to drag this skeleton out of the closet (with a handful of credits and a claw, of course) and into the harsh light of reality.

Claw Machine Arcade - Screen

You see, when I was younger, frequenting the local arcades and wasting numerous hard-earned allowances to try out non-existent fatalities in Mortal Kombat (no fancy internet to separate truth from the lies in them days), I had a strange gift. Not for picking winning stocks, betting on underdog horses, or counting cards at Blackjack, but for getting stupid, cheap toys out of the arcade’s ubiquitous claw machine.

That gift didn’t happen without some help, watching from afar as others failed based on my advice, using their tokens (and their hope) as my pawns to move the pieces just right, so that the next play, I’d be in position to nab the prize. Was that fair? No. Certainly not. Was it smart? You bet it was, and time after time, token after token, I’d snag whatever stuffed animal or worthless trinket I was after, watching my newly-acquired wealth spill over the sides of the wall and into my morally-bankrupt hands.

I was King of the Claw in my youth, a tiny Daniel Plainview drinking people’s milkshakes, but Claw Machine Arcade may finally be the revenge I was destined to receive in adulthood, its prizes squirming and shooting away just beyond my reach, laughing at me as the soccer balls and spaceships wiggled out of the claw’s deathgrip and tumbled back into the mix, just short of the wall that would have set them free.

Claw Machine Arcade - Screen2

Of course, this is intentional in some spots. While the default machine is a walk in the park, allowing you to scoop up multiple toys and teddies with ease, the ‘Fish’ and ‘Space’ cabinets up the ante, adding moving parts (live fish, natch) and hazards that are aces at maneuvering out of your way no matter how accurate you are. Other tricks, like miniature black holes, actually attract the surrounding prizes. With options to change the claw type, the amount of tokens, adjust the timer, etc., each machine can be tinkered with to an extent, making it more, or less of, a challenge, and instead a ‘just for fun’ thing.

Funny, anecdotal stories aside, Claw Machine Arcade is exactly what it claims to be, no better and no worse than that. There’s no real depth to it beyond the luck of the draw, nor is the content anything mind-blowing, but as a throwaway party game or a nostalgic journey through childhood guilt, it may hold something worthwhile for some of us.

REVIEW: E.Y.E.R.I.S.

In the interest of fairness, E.Y.E.R.I.S. ($1.00) is technically available to all without an Xbox. Its origins as a browser game isn’t surprising, given the simplified design and control, and the Xbox version looks nearly identical. It’s plenty odd, to boot, starting with the giant eyeball in the middle of the screen (and the obvious play on the word ‘iris’). It’s also a bit of an existential thinker, which makes it a perfect fit for the oddballs on XBLIG.

What to expect.

To an extent, E.Y.E.R.I.S. is a kind-of Rorschach test within an otherwise basic twin-stick shooter, asking you your opinion about a set of melancholic questions or statements between each stage. You’re given a handful of entirely-visual choices to choose from before moving forward, each thus affecting the gameplay in subtle ways, sometimes immediate, sometimes delayed or not as obvious.

There’s no written explanation to rely on, and no right or wrong way to play the game, although certain ‘answers’ you pick definitely have an impact on how easy, or how hard, the game will go after you. This can affect your type of ‘bullets’ used, the firing rate, or your ‘health’ and the rate at which it recovers… if it does as all.

E.Y.E.R.I.S. - Screen

This is your choice of ‘bullets’.

That sliding bar of difficulty, represented by swarms of various ‘bugs’ and exploding projectiles, can be off-putting to some, although I enjoyed figuring out the different methods and effects in each round of answers (you can sort of infer what some images entail). You only get a set number of lives (3) in each playthrough, but it’s not terribly long to reach your previous point once you’ve gained some insight.

Depending on your choices (and skill), the game can be over very quickly (15 mins.) or it can beat you to a bloody pulp. You can tell the truth, or you can lie to yourself and see the differences. The gameplay may not ultimately be as sophisticated as its intentions, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t like E.Y.E.R.I.S. It’s the kind of offbeat stuff I look for in games, and worth your time to play something from a different perspective.

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Review on Indie Gamer Chick