Tag Archives: Strange Games

REVIEW: Avatar Laser Attack

Though they’ve since branched out to other consoles and ideas, Strange Games Studios has been at the ‘FPS XBLIG’ game for a long time. Running between paintball wars and zombies wave shooters, they’ve generally offered up basic but fun experiences, competent if ultimately same-y and rough around its gameplay edges. Avatar Laser Attack ($1.00) continues that trend unabated.

Avatar Laser Attack - Screen

Its setup comes with your standard FPS toppings; online deathmatches for up to 16 players1 on a single map, or offline play against the pathetically-easy AI2 for you solo artists. The arena itself— a ‘space station’— is passable but largely nondescript, a mix of interconnected hallways, kill rooms, and balconies. And crates. Lots and lots of crates. You’ll find the usual assortment of ammo boxes and health packs scattered around, as well as the occasional killstreak pickup in physical form.

Like previous Strange Games shooters (and a la Call of Duty), the killstreaks here run as a reward for netting a set number of kills without dying, starting with personal radar, then letting you dual-wield your current gun, and finally, making you temporarily invulnerable to enemy bullets. You can activate them at any time after earning them, giving you some control and strategy over how the battles play out.

Avatar Laser Attack - Screen2

The progression system wisely follows the FPS mold, gifting you XP for kills (and taunts, if you’re so inclined) to increase your level and gain access to additional weapons (think laserfied SMGs, assault rifles, and a rail gun) and perks (faster reloads, quicker weapon swaps, etc.). None of these guns or unlockable skills are particularly revolutionary or necessary to the end game, but they are a nice incentive to continue grinding. For a little while.

Avatar Laser Attack plays fine and controls well enough (switch your view from third-person to first-person in the options right away), though it’s nothing you haven’t seen and heard and played from this developer before. It’s fun for a few matches if you’ve got friends to invite, but alone (the way most people will probably play it), it just doesn’t have the staying power.

  1. Not gonna happen, because XBLIG. 
  2. Like ’75 kills and maybe one death’ type of pathetically-easy. That’s fine if you want to feel like a golden god, but not so much if you came looking for a challenging fight. 

REVIEW: Paintball Wars 2

The original Paintball War came out at (what I consider to be) a turning point for first-person shooters on XBLIG, a time of enlightenment when developers really started to hit the mark in terms of control and design. It’s no surprise that the FPS flood doors swung wide open soon after. Almost two years on, we now get a sequel to one of the first FPS1 games I covered. And… very little has changed. Paintball Wars 2 ($1.00) definitely follows the adage ‘If it ain’t broke, why fix it?’, dropping you and up to fifteen others into a colorful (and familiar) online deathmatch, featuring everyone’s favorite non-lethal2 weapon— the paintball gun.

Paintball Wars 2 - Screen

And to be honest, part of me would agree with that adage. Paintball Wars 2 retains the same setup as its predecessor, letting you paint your foes on a single, medium or large-sized (according to player vote) map. The action is fast-paced3 and fun, with constant ‘duels’ springing up, avatars jumping over hedges and / or searching for a moment of respite underneath a bridge. Ammunition is once again strategically-scarce, though refills litter the battlefield. The arena here doesn’t have as much verticality as in the previous game, as the wide open spaces favor confrontation over positioning. If anything, this limits ‘sniping’, forcing players into close quarters.

Similar to the mainstream AAA shooters, the game offers up a ridiculously large slate of unlockables, gained via kills and leveling. You can choose from a number of typical perks and additional weapons, and attachments for said guns. This includes more accurate barrels and scopes, and some superficial customization stuff like gun camo. All in all, you’ll have plenty of rewards to earn in continually playing. Killstreak cards are awarded for successive kills (or can be found in the environment), doling out temporary bonuses like invulnerability or dual wield.

Paintball Wars 2 - Screen2

Online play has the usual small hiccups here and there, but the games I found were relatively lag-free… when I found them, that is. The bright side? You aren’t exactly held captive by the whims of the XBLIG community. One of the biggest pluses of this series has been the addition of AI bots4 offline. ‘Single-player’ features its own unlockable ranks and perks, helping to supplement the online half of the game when other players can’t be found. It’s a nice idea to increase its function and longevity.

It’s just all so familiar, with developer Strange Games taking zero risks, nor applying any lessons it might’ve picked up since the original’s release. Granted, it’s not bad if you’re looking for some madcap fun; just don’t expect to be wowed or confronted with anything new. Consider Paintball Wars 2 more of an ‘add-on map’ than a legitimate step forward for the series.

  1. Well, I suppose it should be considered a hybrid FPS / third-person view, but it’s much, much easier to play entirely in first-person. Be sure to change that option immediately. 
  2. Ha, say that to my left leg, which got butchered in a ‘real’ paintball match last year. ‘Only stings for a second‘, they said. My bruises would say otherwise. 
  3. Think of the game’s ‘flow’ as somewhere between Call of Duty and Unreal Tournament
  4. Albeit laughably easy to kill. 

REVIEW: Zombie Defense Squad

When it comes to the Undead and first-person shooters, Strange Games has now hung its hat on a variety of poles, both figurative and literal. It was a club full of unfortunate strippers to start with, then they moved onto a more serious co-op affair. With the new, generic-sounding Zombie Defense Squad ($1.00), the focus once again is ‘zombie wave shooter’. This time out, its dead denizens are of an exaggerated, comical style, a la Stubbs the Zombie or Plants vs. Zombies.

Zombie Defense Squad - Screen

In sticking with the Stubbs’ theme, the large-ish map and assets mimic the classic, 50s / 60s slice of Americana; you know, when people were a lot nicer (or at least hid their insanity better), it was safe to leave your doors unlocked, and zombies weren’t yet a part of the culture or a semi-legitimate threat. Other than the trip down a retro suburban lane, though, it’s your typical shooter setup…

with some minor enhancements. While the zombies still come in waves for you (and up to three friends online) to mow down with your choice of significant firepower, your progress— and the end of the game— are predicated on you leveling up Call of Duty-style. You’ll gain some automatically-equipped perks as you go, giving you the usual bonuses like faster reloads, increased speed, etc. These modify your avatar ever so slightly, to even the odds at higher waves that increase the number of zombies you have to clear out.

Experience doubles as Money, which you can spend between rounds to buy one of the game’s numerous guns (Assault rifles, SMGs, all the way up to an RPG) and as much ammo as you can carry. The game ensures you’re never really light on cash, so it’s beneficial to buy the heavier weapons and keep them fully-loaded. With a secondary pistol and a few clips / health packs scattered around the map, there’s always some contingencies in place.

Zombie Defense Squad - Screen2

There isn’t much challenge or variety to the game, though, as the same few zombies repeat throughout, none of which switch up their attacks or pattern. Depending on your initial spawn point (it occasionally likes to pin you in a corner surrounded by foes), it’s simply a matter of ‘leading’ zombies around the neighborhood’s circular track. And with their complacency added to the been-there-done-that gameplay, it’s no wonder that the thrill is soon gone, making Zombie Defense Squad just another corpse to add to the burn pile.

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.