Tag Archives: Sick Kreations

REVIEW: ApocZ

Though I haven’t played it, DayZ has been an enlightening watch on the various YouTubes and Twitches dedicated to it’s unique brand of zombie slaying. Or should I say human slaying? The zombies have pretty much been forgotten, and instead, it’s the human versus human fight that’s been the primary antagonism. Often hilarious (and always sad), it’s been interesting to watch players team up and kill weaker players, loot their corpses, and have a terrific laugh about it (no wonder I’ve lost faith in Humanity). That social experiment now comes to XBLIG as ApocZ ($1.00).

Visually, the game is a stunner. Developer Sick Kreations has always been able to craft superb-looking XBLIGs with their custom engine, and ApocZ is no exception. Excellent shadowing that changes with the day / night cycle, rippling water, and a large, impressive world of various buildings and houses (purely for a pretty show; you can’t enter most). Oh, also a couple thousand zombies, set in four square miles of the Black Sea area in Ukraine. And in light of the recent events there, a zombie apocalypse is probably the last thing they need.

The theme is survival. Much like DayZ… No, exactly like DayZ, the game drops you into the world equipped with the bare minimum (in ApocZ, it’s the clothes on your back, an axe, and a flashlight). From there, it’s on you to combat the dead while foraging for survival gear and weapons. It’s more than just finding a gun, too; it’s the necessities. You’ll have to monitor your food and water, and, if you find yourself in a scrape, you’ll have to patch yourself up to avoid bleeding out.

And with both supplies and zombies clustered around the buildings and houses, you won’t have much of a choice but to get in there and fight. You’ll start small and underpowered, but you can eventually build up to bigger and better, finding guns at abandoned military barracks, backpacks to carry more gear in, even a car / truck to drive between the towns, provided you can find the tires and the fuel to get them up and running.

ApocZ - Screen

Zombies have violated the Ukraine’s territorial integrity. 

Like any end-of-world scenario, there is a finite amount of ammunition, guns, and supplies available on the map. Offline, you won’t face any competition, but if you’re online, and on a full server (up to 16 players), some ‘sacrifices’ will have to be made. And by ‘sacrifices’, I mean many people will die in the rat race towards the rifles. If you’ve jumped into a world, and see dozens of axes and flashlights just laying in the streets, it’s safe to say you’ve joined the wrong party. ApocZ is a game best enjoyed with friends, not randoms, if for no other reason than to have somebody watching your back.

Be forewarned: even with friends and optimal conditions, the online portion isn’t perfect. Though the majority of the initial launch issues have been sorted out, connections and syncing with other players can still be sketchy. Plenty of games I joined saw players popping in and out, zombies just standing around without attacking, floating / disappearing supplies, etc. The developers are keen to work out those issues, though, and along with the budget price tag, it’s hard to find enough viable reasons this wouldn’t be an immediate buy for most.

That puts this game almost on the same level with DayZ— a form of acceptable murder, more about the ‘survival of the fittest’ than a zombie game with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Something you can join in, have fun with, and repeat as desired. ApocZ might not be as involved or offer as large a world as its inspiration, but it’s a very solid alternative for console gamers looking to get in on the action.

.

This review is also featured at Indiepitome

Advertisements

REVIEW: Toy Plane

Taking a break from their usual fare of zombies, aliens, and other FPS combinations thereof, Sick Kreations is mixing things up and looking to expand its fanbase. With a bright palette, cutesy settings, and nary a corpse or gun in sight, Toy Plane (80 MSP) is assembled and visually-geared with younger players in mind.

True to the developer’s style, it’s a good-looking game. Yet under the ‘kiddie’ trappings lies a rather ‘adult’ difficulty, especially on the higher settings, ensuring that anyone can step in and find a reasonable challenge. Toy Plane mimics the simplistic control scheme of other arcade flight games, using one button to increase the height of your aircraft, and releasing it to descend. Generally, hold a steady path. Avoid miscellaneous barriers and the stage boundaries. There is literally nothing else to it.

Each difficulty setting (which determines how many hits your plane can take before crashing) has its own hub, and amateur aviators can test out their star-collecting, ring-dashing skills over six stages in three different environments. Though you can technically complete any level by reaching the finish line, progress is only allowed once you’ve acquired all of the goodies in one continuous flight.

Toy Plane - Screen

Somebody’s creepy neighbor went through a lot of trouble to construct a tiny airplane obstacle course.

No bosses or other gameplay mechanics are introduced. Collecting all six of the coins in the previous levels will unlock a space-themed bonus stage that is more ‘thank you’ than additional challenge. The one-life ‘Endurance’ mode will likely prove to be more of a timesink, as there is a certain satisfaction (and leaderboard) for trying to best your previous distance traveled.

There isn’t much left to tell. No broken wings or propellers present. It’s not doing anything terribly exciting or novel either, but Toy Plane does appeal to a broad enough market that someone somewhere at some age can squeeze an hour’s worth of entertainment from it.

REVIEW: Aliens vs. Romans

Good news for anyone that had grown tired of my incessant whining (borderline, and besides, I call it ‘artistic longing’), Aliens vs. Romans (80 MSP) made its late April launch and has been in the hands of a patient indie crowd for just under a week. So, after a pair of so-so, tide-me-over side projects and a handful of trailers that were set to stunning, is Aliens vs. Romans as groundbreaking as it claims?

Yes and no. The game attempts to rewrite history by providing an alternate ending to the fall of the Roman Empire— Aliens did it. Awkwardly-somersaulting aliens with energy-based weaponry, to be exact. To take the republic back, you’ll need to commandeer said guns (and try some others that are graciously beamed down to you) in order to forcefully evict said extraterrestrials. Set in our hero Jonas’ hometown of Coloseo, you’ll fight wave after wave of enemies in a mid-sized arena with decent cover and vantage points.

Trailers and screenshots make it plainly evident, but I’ll go ahead and still state the obvious: Aliens vs. Romans is a beautiful game, right up there with Shark Attack Deathmatch in terms of XBLIGs that can match the visual fidelity of Arcade or even Retail games. So, ‘groundbreaking’ as far as looks, yes. If you’re not a shallow ass, though, you’ll know that you should never date a game based on appearance, as it’s what’s on the inside, the personality, that you should praise and pay attention to.

In this regard, A vs. R isn’t bad either. There’s only so many ways to dress up a wave shooter, and this game tries on every dress in the store. Your ultimate goal is to take down the mothership terrorizing your town. In the interim, you have your prototypical numbered rounds, where you’ll simply gun down every alien, sure, but these are bookended by other wave types that inject some needed variety. This includes ‘Predator’ battles (cloaked foes), ‘Turret’ waves (stationary guns that pack a punch), and ‘Dropship’ segments (lock-on missiles are your friend), all while working with new weapons (a shotgun type, scoped varieties (including thermal vision), and a grenade launcher) that are doled out over the course of the fight.

Aliens vs Romans - Screen

Hate to see you go, love to watch you blow up.

While the controls, AI, and weapon variety are solid, Player Health can be an issue, particularly against the stationary turrets and mothership / dropship missiles, which can end your life in one volley. Yes, to be fair, health regenerates. You can earn extra lives, too, and it’s not like the game is unconquerable in its current form, though the absence of a continue option or saved progress might impede some players. It’s on the short side in content, as well. The lack of additional modes, scoring, and / or an unlimited run means A vs. R is limited. You can bring down the mothership in roughly 35-40 minutes (about 15 waves), with only a hint at future trouble (i.e., the obligatory sequel setup) for your reward.

Aliens vs. Romans does a great job in remixing the bored-to-death formula of most wave shooters, but it still falls victim to the same genre faults of repetition and subsequent tedium. It’s a good trade for a dollar, just a superficial joy, with no incentive to return to it once you’ve cleared it. To put it another way, Sick Kreations’ alternate Rome is a beautiful place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.

REVIEW: The Keep: Zombie Horde

I have to think by now Sick Kreations is gaslighting us all. I’ve run two different articles previewing the gorgeous Aliens Vs. Romans, certain it’s the next release from the studio (hell, there’s even a fresh trailer for the game), only to be shown I’m full of it. First, there was the unnecessary End of Days-themed zombie shooter, and now that’s been followed by yet another wave shooter featuring undead, The Keep: Zombie Horde (80 MSP). This one seems to be co-developed, but… I’m audibly sighing right now. One of these days, A vs. R, I swear I’ll see you. I mean, the trailer says April. It has to happen, right?

The Keep - Screen

Back on topic, though, The Keep follows the well-tread wave sho— such-and-such (I’m tired of writing it out), route with almost no deviation. You’re a guy (part of the Citizen Protection Force, short for ‘because you need the work’), shooting zombies and protecting civilians flocking to your ‘castle’, presumably the last safe haven. You earn money based on how many of those people survive, which you then spend on guns (standard assortment, including RPGs and grenades) and ammunition during the interlude between jobs. Every other wave, you’ll get a bonus stage where you’ll take control of a machine gun and mow down the brain-dead multitudes. The more undead you take down here, the more survivors you’ll have the chance to save next round.

Though much like End of Days: Survivor, The Keep believes you can’t have too much of a good thing (i.e. zombies), and it’s wrong. The game adopts and doctors the seventh rule of Fight Club for itself; waves will go on as long as they have to, which is probably much longer than you’ll want (I am Jack’s irrepressible boredom). If a steady rotation of 5+ minute rounds, spent locked in a box picking off zombies, listening to the same artificially-tense music clip on a loop sounds like fun to you, then you’re The Keep’s target audience, and extremely easy to please.

The Keep - Screen2

Mo’ survivors means mo’ money means longer waves means mo’ problems.

Even the handgun, the quintessential starting gun for virtually every shooter, is nerfed for The Keep. Rather than supply you with unlimited rounds, as most games do, you’ll have to ration shots and purchase ammo after each wave. Problem is, with the waves lasting so long in between those store visits, you can find yourself shooting blanks if you’re not a shrewd planner. It’s easier said, but do keep plenty of bullets in reserve. For the bigger guns, too, expect to pay even more for the ammo. The game leaves you an out— a knife for melee attacks, but again, you probably don’t want to spend several minutes waiting for, and stabbing, every zombie that clambers up your castle wall.

I hate to be the bearer of bad reviews, but once again, the developer(s) has(have) released a competent but entirely unnecessary wave shooter with The Keep, one with almost no reason to spend meaningful time with, other than to test fire all the guns just to say you did. Not a terrible game, but let’s hope that the studio’s schedule between now and Aliens Vs. Romans is completely clear.

REVIEW: End of Days: Survivor

In the recent spate of zombie wave shooters to be released, which has seen five games built around the concept in less than two weeks, Sick Kreations‘ End of Days: Survivor (80 MSP) still manages to be more of a surprise and anomaly than the others. Up until now, I’d been previewing Aliens Vs. Romans (also from Sick Kreations), what I had thought to be their next project. And though this game might be meant as a tide-you-over until Aliens Vs. Romans (itself poised to be a wave shooter), it instead runs the risk of souring some gamers’ expectations.

End of Days Survivor - Screen

Both zombies and wave shooters have seen their worth stretched before, but Survivor is a case of recycled materials. It takes the map from the developer’s previous effort, Infected Vs. Mercs, and drops two of the larger aspects that made that game a fun and replayable shooter; online play and leaderboards. It does feature a host of score-based unlockable weapons (that are all curiously light on ammo and capacity), though in substituting the undead, it finds itself sandwiched between doing too little and just enough, satisfying the trendy crowd with the fatal expense of ditching key components.

The game runs a total length of 20 waves, but it’s the bonus rounds that hit every three waves that are easily the most enjoyable points in the game. You’re handed a grenade launcher with unlimited ammo, each shot of which sends the zombies flying in all directions. The round doesn’t end until the timer runs out or you die. It’s fast and fun, and should have been the kind of quickened, arcade gameplay the rest of the waves strived for. Alas, it’s not to be.

End of Days Survivor - Screen2

It doesn’t help that the zombies skip out on intelligence and run en masse to your gun, relying on their numbers and you catching an odd corner or dead end to provide challenge. Failure doesn’t mean failure, either. If you die, you simply pick up where you left off, no penalty. In fact, the biggest challenge in End of Days: Survivor is simply to survive the boredom that sets in, as outside of the bonus rounds or unlocking a new gun, each wave plays out the same, with you running around, refilling ammo far too often, and shooting one nondescript zombie after another.

The helicopter sequence at the end is a just reward, but as a wave shooter, End of Days: Survivor loses the player’s interest far too quickly. Once you all unlock the guns (twenty minutes or so), they remain accessible for that playthrough, eliminating goals and turning wave progression into a lifeless chore. Coming on the heels of so many others, which sees those games doing the same thing but better in certain instances, it fails to impress. All of its parts are in working order, and the developers do weaponry particularly better than most, but I’ll admit my anticipation for Aliens Vs. Romans had dulled a bit. This should have been an add-on to the existing game. Try harder, guys.