Tag Archives: Xbox 360

REVIEW: Chompy Chomp Chomp

“Build me a better Pac-Man!” I shouted, to anyone that would listen. I did this at my most desperate hour and at the top of a hill overlooking the sleeping city, as this was how I’d seen it done successfully in the last act of rom-com movies, so it had to work. Not that Pac-Man needs my dramatics or an update; turning on one’s enemies and devouring them whole is still one of the eternal ideas of gaming. If it ain’t broke, why the hell is the plumber here don’t fix it, and Chompy Chomp Chomp (80 MSP) only tweaks that formula, for the better.

Due to impeccable timing (and perhaps destiny), this review is coming fresh off an update to the game that adds some sought-after bits and fixes some flaws, including A.I. re-balancing and the option to toggle on / off powerups. The most noticeable and welcome of the update gifts is the now few seconds of invulnerability after respawn (thank you, Utopian World of Sandwiches, and also for that sweet moniker).

The idea: four Chompys enter an arena… and four Chompys leave. What? It’s family-friendly. Each of you represents a color, and a target shadow below you indicates whom to chomp. What follows is mostly-controlled chaos, rainbow-colored Chompy binge-eating, timed or by score limit. During the battle, offensive and defensive options pop up on the board, as well as fruit / score multipliers (vital to victory, trust me) and poison to slow you down or reverse controls (grrrrr). After some time, you get a warning tick down, followed by a color switch, and everyone gets a new target. Cue more fun.

It’s all at once parts of Pac-Man and Assassin’s Creed‘s multiplayer, with you and others cat-and-mousing it across various stage boards (with three variations apiece), powerups often determining whether you’re lunch or wearing the leader’s crown. Initially it’s frantic and a bit confusing, but after a few primer rounds, you’ll find it’s incredibly simple (the best arcade-likes usually are) and addicting, even offline versus bots. Though I’d imagine the real mileage will come from breaking this out amongst friends or against online competition. I can’t vouch for online (didn’t find any matches) but two-player local did the trick just as well, if not better (you can’t slap people over Xbox Live).

What it lacks in variety, it makes up for in pick-up-and-playability. Also, while just clean aesthetics and gorgeous menus won’t bring the boys to the yard, they do accent the level of polish present throughout CCC, and are deserving of a mention.

There wasn’t a single time I didn’t panic when my would-be assassin was closing in, controller shaking at the inevitability, nor any round I played that I wasn’t smiling or thoroughly enjoyingChompy Chomp Chomp is an absolute blast to sample, a sublime arcade experience that really shines once four people get together, locally or via the wonderment that is the internets. Congrats to ‘Sandwiches and welcome to the leaderboard, guys and gal.

REVIEW: Pig & Bullet

It’s not often that I’m filled with such disdain for myself that I question the decisions I make as if I’m a second party outside of my body that’s trusted to be objective. Spending a dollar on a game and losing isn’t grounds for reevaluating self-worth. With most dire muck, there’s still a crumb of entertainment to be nibbled. But every once in a while, a title comes along that utterly underwhelms and comes back to haunt my digital wallet almost instantaneously. Pig & Bullet (80 MSP) is that ghost today.

Placed in the hooves of a slaloming pig, the game has you avoiding a literal bullet hell and snatching turnip multipliers to run up the score in each wave. IKA mode requires the opposite, with you collecting bullets on a blue / red rotation, while the third, ‘Masow’ mode, is a sped-up version of collection with random bullet trains (ha! get it!?) roaring past. Yes, it’s the stuff that flash games are made of, translated to XBLIG as a spruced up but simple arcade thrill.

Just make bacon out of this and do us all a favor.

The problem is there’s just not enough content here, and it wears out fast. If your game is going the arcade / score-running route, it helps with longevity to push competition in the form of online scores. Unfortunately that’s easier said than done within the XBLIG framework (understandable), but local leaderboards should be the minimal entry fee. Pig & Bullet only keeps track of your current session. No unlockables, no extras, and very little replayability.

As an iOS game, it may (and I’m stressing ‘may’ in case you couldn’t tell) work as an on-the-go cheap fix. On XBLIG (and as on iOS) though, your dollar can get you so much more. I also question the critical praise used for P & B. Kotaku’s take was favorable, fine, but the Edge Magazine snippet is taken out of context. In terms of fun, I ask simply, where, and at what point? Every one of the game’s four ‘modes’ is only a slight (and mostly visual) variation from the last. The only thing worth a damn here is the soundtrack by Rama Amoeba (Japanese glam rock!) and Yasushi Kaminishi, formerly of Capcom.

For a title that started its life as a free browser game, you’d think the ‘improvements’ added to this release would go far enough to dispel the sense you’re still playing a browser game. They don’t, and your dollar can’t be returned. If you’re the type that must see for yourself (curiosity and all), click the marketplace link above and give Pig & Bullet its eight minutes. That’s all it deserves.

REVIEW: Monster King

Monster King (80 MSP) marks the second JRPG I’m playing in as many weeks, Mortal Legacies (review) being the other. In a quick vote between the two titles, Monster King is the superior, though when taken against the whole of the indie RPG catalog, it falls somewhat short.

As the eponymous hero, you’re told that monsters have besieged the lands of… somewhere. It’s never elaborated upon. You don’t get a proper name or any speaking lines. You’re just told to fight. It doesn’t matter if you’re personable, as you’re not accepting sidekick applications. The whole setup is bare-bones. In every way, you’re lone wolfing it in MK

Combat is of course turned-based, via the typical menu selections; Attack & Magic, use a potion, flee a battle. In a nice gesture, you automatically equip the best weapon and armor for the job, and shops in the various towns will only sell to you if its beneficial for you (a completely foreign concept in our reality). Exploration is minimal. Outside of potions or new weapons / armor found in scattered chests, there’s not much to see. Mostly you fight random battles in the field, covering ground until you reach a bridge or bottleneck, at which point you’ll take on a boss for the right to pass, then repeat. So long as you’re well-leveled, battles are fast, if uneventful, though there is an interesting wrinkle.

As in Meat Loaf?

MK subscribes to the theory that ‘Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good monster at your side’, enabling you to first weaken and then add the game’s monsters to your armament, Persona / Pokemon style. The idea works well in practice too, adding a degree of experimentation to fights despite the expected ‘try fire vs. ice, etc.’ checkmates. Given the high cost of some magic, it’s an effective option once you’ve learned each monster’s weakness. And though you’re not rewarded with anything for doing so, there is a strange sense of accomplishment once you’ve captured the lot of them.

And that roster of creatures is diverse, if nothing else. Psychic rats. Brains in jars. There’s a Tree Killer (doesn’t kill trees, oddly) that is timber with an uzi, and a Not Ready, which looks like a pixel Quagmire (maybe it’s the prominent jawline). That’s worth a chuckle, though some of them are duds (Snowman, blah. Hover Dude, really?).

In terms of excitement there isn’t much, a few hours of old-school monster-slaying, but I found it charming. Grinding out progression, one character level and one stat increase at a time, evoked Dragon Quest for me (the first monster, Sludge, is an easy stand-in for a Slime). Nostalgia is a factor, sure, and it’s an innocuous RPG without much of a story (till the very end), but it moves swiftly and doesn’t overstay its welcome.

REVIEW: Apple Jack 2

Hey… wait a minute. I know you, don’t I? Sure I do. Little green guy, apple for a head? Yeah, you’re Apple Jack! No, no you wouldn’t remember me. See, I’ve haven’t played you before, but I heard about you, buddy. One side says they love you, the other claims you’re a pain in the ass punishformer, foe to— What’s that, Jack? I got you all wrong? You’re a whole new man, er… whole new fruit? Oh, so you’re Apple Jack 2 (80 MSP), and you’re here to erase some of those ill feelings left behind by your predecessor?

Alright, I’ll bite. The sequel has Jack ditching his clothes / office job and setting off for the beach, jumping, rolling, and wall-kicking his way through colorful locales collecting coin and fruit, and dispatching the eclectic enemy cast. Jack squares off against pandas, pigs in tutus, floating eyeballs, laser-shooting owls, and washing machines… Moving on. In keeping with the ‘popular plumber’ motif, you are able to mount, capture, and toss foes a la Super Mario 2. 

The controls are dandy, there’s a high amount of polish to the game, and plenty of clever puzzles / solutions. Here’s the but. It’s still hard as hell, and wears its punishformer badge prominently. AJ2’s saving grace this go around is its ‘rewind time’ feature, which redeems your last six seconds in the event of a mistake, preventing many a disaster while causing a few more. It’s not foolproof; you can easily rewind out of trouble and into new trouble, and it does need to recharge after each use. That said, I was grateful for it more often than not.

Big Pandas need loving too.

Nine times out of ten you’ll be threading the needle. You will die, like, a whole lot, though your frustration level versus the Coldplay-esque soundtrack surprisingly offsets some of that anger. It also helps that the objectives (and challenge) change with each level. Sometimes you’ll only need to reach the exit, while other stages require you to terminate all enemies, occasionally adding color-coded smashing that requires a bit more finesse. The constant switching allows your nerves to reset before being tested again.

Punishformers are an evolution of the old guard, cartridge platformers that didn’t have the benefit of a spacious blu-ray or DLC, that relied on difficulty to increase playtime / money’s worth. Games like Apple Jack 2 have their supporters (like this guy) and detractors the same as any other genre. What’s not one man’s cup of tea is another’s gravy train… or something like that. I’m not usually a fan, but I have no objections to its style of play. Seeing 30 of its 60+ stages, I enjoyed my time with AJ2, and it’s competent enough that I’d recommend it, latter half unseen. If you’re going to throw near-impossible platforming bits at your audience, where repetition and skill will eventually win the day, you’re going to need controls and level designs that are fair and (mostly) above reproach. Apple Jack‘s are.

REVIEW: Mortal Legacies

Despite the allure of the bigger-budgeted, Hollywood-visuals RPGs, there’s plenty of market space left for independent role-players to set up pixelized shop. The Breath of Death / Cthulhu one-two, EvilQuest, and the upcoming Penny Arcade 3 are all good examples of indie development gone right. And while they can’t ever hope to match the look and scope of a retail release, I’m here to say they can beat the big guys at their own game, with quirky, original stories and / or characters that strike some chord with the player. It’s all about ideas.

Mortal Legacies‘ (80 MSP) box art (looks a bit like Desmond from Assassin’s Creed, doesn’t it?) seems to tease a darker, more modern take on old school turn-based JRPGs, though the truth is much duller. Assuming the role of blue-haired Valloc, you’re given a fateful directive (from your Mom, of all people), to explore the land of Elisia in search of the King’s lost crown and prevent the shadow from engulfing the world. Not that the world much pleads its case for salvation. It’s as bland as they come, and nobody has much to say to about it. From townspeople to party members, a sentence’s worth of exposition about does it. All the castle’s guards communicate via the Skyrim meme, which has seen enough use but to me never gets old.

What does get old is the combat. I realize the turn-based system is inherent to retro role-players, but here the random battles tend to come back to back a little too frequently, and you’ll constantly buff and restock those allies in your group with spells / attacks that hit multiple enemies, just to get the damn battle over with rather than necessity.

Casting Devastating Blow? Yeah, to Fun.

The game is too linear and too short to set up a decent plot or characters, with party members that fill every RPG support role stereotype (mage, rogue, priest), and have zero personality, backstory, or reason to be there. Same too for the quests and objectives. It’s all stuff you’ve seen / done previously (pirates, bandits, oh my).

You also level up at an incredible clip; on medium difficulty, it’s nearly every other fight. I’m sure good intentions were there (making it easier to pick up and play, and thus, more enjoyable), but the lack of proper balance favors the player in almost every battle, leaving the endgame devoid of any challenge or joy. The game’s brevity (hour+) is therefore a blessing. Beating the game unlocks a new mode that turns Valloc into a demon (no explanation given, and the narrative doesn’t change). With the weapon and armor you’re able to then equip, you’re over-powered from the start, which just highlights the game’s balance problems even more.

There’s no need to go on. With the absolute barest of character-building and story-telling frameworks in place, a cumbersome inventory, and frequent, protracted fights, it’s no surprise that Mortal Legacies is a completely skippable experience.