Tag Archives: Mayan Calendar Goes Bye-Bye

REVIEW: 2012

I really should have seen this coming, another game cashing in on all the apocalyptic and Mayan hysteria, with the usually-can’t-miss addition of zombies, in 2012 (240 MSP). And no, faithful reader, this isn’t the puzzler I played earlier in the month. This 2012 is a completely different entity, blending Legend of Zelda-style overworld exploration and dungeon crawling in an occasionally effective, often obscure, manner.

Frank Mors is a disillusioned archaeologist that finds himself at ground zero (Guatemala) on December 21st for the Mayan zombie apocalypse, cut off from the rest of whatever civilization is left by the plodding undead. Dragged back to town, both the residents and stranded tourists bestow Frank with savior-status and ask him to single-handedly solve the mystery of what’s happened, take down a cult, and save everyone he comes across in the zombie-infested countryside. No sweat.

And Frank is a ladies man, or so we’re to believe, as all of the women he rescues are eager to ‘repay’ him. Pro tip: Archaeology is where it’s at, fellas, the panties drop almost instantaneously. Joking aside, progression is sometimes vague, and the quests are anything but clear-cut. Take the first one, which asks you to find a missing girl (there’s a lot of that to come). The game says to head North, but North is vague and quite a bit of ground to cover. If I hadn’t wandered into a temple and stumbled onto the girl about to be sacrificed, I’d have looked in vain forever. Exploration is nice, dumb luck isn’t.

But my bigger question to the developer is, how do you manage to make a game where you’re shooting zombies this boring? That I’d run out on the undead, not from fear or moral ambiguity, but boredom? Even a reasonably-written design document could have allotted more sense than to drop dozens of recurring enemies on each screen that slowly box you in, then laugh in your face at three shotgun blasts per zombie. Math time! Say I encounter 300 zombies between any one temple dungeon and the town, which could easily be the truth. Am I really going to enjoy slow-firing a 1000+ rounds? Not likely. Even after you get a machine gun, they’re still sponges and combat becomes this little circular dance you have to perform every few seconds.

Ladies, feel free to swoon while I dispatch these zombies and fanatical cult types. We can talk repayment later.’

The game world is huge. There’s plenty to see, and ancillary side quests are available, but they too, fall prey to bouts of wandering. Pay attention to the starter conversations, kids, as they’re usually your first and last mention of an important location or element in your mission. Your journal (somewhat) tracks the current main event, and the helpful mini-map fills in as you explore, but more should have been done to prevent the inevitable head-scratching.

That’s not to say that the core game is rotten in 2012, it just needs weapon / enemy balancing and the occasional hint or objective marker. I like the basic idea. It’s got a little bit of everything. As it’s put together currently, though, it’s a diluted sort of fun that’s a tad more trouble than its $3 worth; not broken, but not quite how you want your zombie apocalypse about the Mayan apocalypse to play out.

REVIEW: Twenty Twelve

December 21, 2012 has a large portion of the planet on edge, what with doomsday cults predicting all manner of plagues, magnetic pole reversals, certain elements of my family wishing to arm themselves and go renegade (sadly true), the list goes on. I for one think it’s a bit of an overreaction. Then again, I know exactly where I’ll be on the big day; hundreds of feet below the Earth, reflecting on subterranean living in my luxury apartment, watching the John Cusack movie and smiling like a man that’s just dodged a Mayan bullet. That’s my thing. I’m sure everything’ll be fine for the rest of you, though. Bring a towel and don’t panic.

Twenty Twelve (80 MSP) and Sugar Pill Studios aren’t taking any chances, however, getting their game out well before the apocalypse, to properly enjoy the success now and tell us all they told us so later. The game finds Mayan debunker Serena Silva (think Dora the Explorer for XBLIG) hot on the trail of yet another Mayan temple to disprove, her progress slowed by the nefarious Dolores (not the usual name you think of for a villain) and her robotic creations.

That premise makes way for the game’s moveable puzzle pieces. The Mayans apparently built charmed trash cans (read: stone spirits) before the world snuffed them out, ingenious group that they were, even though they failed to share that secret as well. Called tun-ways by the game, these little guys respond only to certain rings and outfits (peacock feathers?) that Serena finds while exploring.

Each room in the game is a puzzle onto itself, with various tun-way (good and bad) presenting themselves as ‘keys’ to unlocking the next door. This can be as simple as having them pull a lever or hitting a floor switch in sequence, or, with later models, jumping gaps, chasing down evil tun-way like dogs, and severing floors to create entirely new paths. While there’s just one solution to each room, the getting there is fun and does allow for some improvisation.

Stopping at that, this would have been an easy title to push. All is not well in Twenty Twelve, though. For the most part, advancement is linear and a non-issue. This is a puzzler. Once you collect a powerup that controls a different color of tun-way, though, the game abandons its linearity, leaving it up to you to find the next set of puzzle rooms. Even with a sort of ‘central hub’ and plaques by each door cluing you in, the game should have opted for more deliberate text or indicators.

And a word to the wise; if you do find yourself lost and / or backtracking, careful with the ‘skip room’ feature. This caused a few Code 4s for me, including one right near the end that permanently barricaded the exits, unable to skip or retrace steps due to the auto-save.

You’d think having the power to control stone creatures would come with a cooler outfit.

Ultimately I’m still recommending Twenty Twelve, despite my time with it being a mixed bag. On the one side, excellent puzzles with interesting, proactive solutions, and adorable tun-ways doing my bidding. A strong showing. Then the opposite; vague explanations, confusing stage progression, and game-killing glitches that I know others won’t be as quick to forgive.

The Code 4s I experienced (six in all) may have been headaches, but weren’t catastrophic to my fun. The glitch that locked away the ending and potential Mayan Truth from me? A bit more severe. The developer has been kind enough to look into the issue, but I’m not starting over. Looks like I’m waiting for Decemeber 21st with the rest of you.