Tag Archives: Xbox

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.

Advertisements

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.

.

Review on Indie Gamer Chick

REVIEW: Quinbu

Poor Quinbu (the robot-person). He gets himself his own game, Quinbu ($1.00), which is kinda cool, but with self-titled games comes great responsibility. Not only does the chap potentially inherit an entire race to rule over, one that happens to be at perpetual war with an evil rival race, but he also has to live up to the mighty legacy of his father before him.

Quinbu - Screen

Of course, the bar for becoming leader of this civilization isn’t set too high. Quinbu has no arms and no legs (he’s like a rocket with impeccable balance), so basically, any old human with full-on appendages could step up and ‘Fight Club’ their way to clan leadership. Not that this group believes in that sort of thing. A fierce warrior has no place here. You see, in order for Quinbu to ascend to the throne and become the leader his robot-people hope he can be, he needs to do something far more challenging, far more inspiringHe needs to collect loose change.

To test his skills, various arenas full of coins and ramps have been set up on the planet, with locked gates requiring a certain amount of currency to be deposited before you can proceed. There is some strategy involved in the fetching, as Quinbu’s fuel can only carry him so far before stalling out. Stages naturally have a limited amount of refuel containers, forcing you to chart the most economical path to victory. To help, a trio of camera angles allows you to spot the tinier nooks and hidden coin caches (most of which you’ll need).

Quinbu - Screen2

‘Cash rules everything around me.’

Quinbu isn’t the most agile or graceful fellow, though, sliding to a stop and turning like a stiffened tank. Later levels (twelve in all) mix in boost ramps and walled-off rooms, adding to the trouble of traversal; you’ll have to be lined up just right in some instances. And as a sort of side annoyance objective, there’s a hidden part for Quinbu’s ship in each stage that must be collected. In doing so, he can presumably rebuild his ride and escape this world of floating money posthaste.

Unfortunately, the idea and its minimal tricks lose their appeal just as fast, and Quinbu‘s slick controls (the slippery kind, not the ‘implication of cool’ kind) and shallow pursuits don’t hold up over the length of a full game. I feel bad the little dude has a full plate to deal with, but never has becoming a leader been so… meh, so boring.

REVIEW: Proxy Blade Zero

It’s been almost two years since I first saw Proxy Blade Zero ($2.99). That was for the 2012 Dream.Build.Play competition, and it was minus the supplemental ‘Zero’ back then. On the surface level at least, this version appears to be nearly identical to that build; it was always pretty to look at. Despite the sparse environments and esoteric combat the trailer showed, I had it pegged as a game to watch.

The final release proves a lot of my initial assumptions true, and that’s both good and bad news. Proxy Blade Zero places you in the role of a sort of Space Samurai, tasked with taking down interstellar criminal boss types. You know, the kind with their own space stations and robotic armies and stuff. Levels consist of multiple battles, with you then finding a key or throwing a switch (or switches) to unlock a door and advance. Minus some brief commentary on your mission, story and exploration take a backseat.

Combat is the absolute core of the game, the Alpha and Omega. Everything else is merely window dressing, as both you and your enemies are poised for equal battle within a series of checks and balances. In simpler terms, you must play defense as much as you play offense. Much like the fighting in games like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, PBZ‘s parry and dodge system is more than just a friendly suggestion; it’s life and death. And while the combat here is not as stylish or varied as it is in those other games, you can look like a badass when you pull off an impressive string of moves and combos.

Your attacks come in a few different flavors, standard and charged, using your boost not just as a means of traversal and escape, but as a way to land heavier hits and combat threats more efficiently. Doing so builds your power gauge, which in turn increases the speed and damage of your attacks. This proves to be an important counter in the larger arena fights, as some enemies come shielded and employ deadlier moves.

Proxy Blade Zero - Screen

This reliance on balanced combat is fun, and makes sense…. but only when you’re matched up against equal odds. In group battles of say, four or more, the balance shifts too heavily to the enemy’s side. Taking on multiple foes in a system that is primarily designed for one-on-one fights naturally leads to some unfair deaths. Dodging, parrying, and attacking is harder to do when you are simultaneously avoiding thrown mines and / or laser shots from distant targets.

Melee attacks from heavier enemies can be hard to gauge, as well, throwing off your timing. Misjudge an opening, or block too late, and you can doom an entire fight. To be more fair, or perhaps being aware of this occasional imbalance, the game features very-forgiving checkpoints, meaning you won’t always have to replay multiple fights to reach your previous point. Even with that considered, be prepared to die often.

Proxy Blade Zero is exactly what I thought it was two years ago; a great-looking game with an awesome aesthetic (and soundtrack), coupled together with a layered (but flawed) combat system that pleases as much as it frustrates. Though it’s open to anyone, it’s probably best enjoyed by hardcore players that find games like Ninja Gaiden to be too easy. For the rest of us, it may be asking too much.

REVIEW: Bot Stoppers

It’s not the first, and it certainly won’t be the last. With Bot Stoppers ($1.00), developer Pow Studios has created what, in a lot of ways, is the calling card of indie development. An established genre or idea, on a smaller scale (but with a few twists), that’s been given enough attention and layers of paint on its surface for all to see that, clearly, the developers are passionate about the project. Ditto for the outcome, which sees those very good intentions lead to somewhat uneven results.

The game itself is a robotic beat ’em up, familiar to anyone that’s played a side-scrolling brawler from the late-80s onward. I only reference that because the formula hasn’t changed much since then. Bad guys playing the evil ‘Yang’ to your badass ‘Yin’ mosey onto the screen, you pummel them, you advance to the right and repeat as needed. This isn’t a criticism, either, just how it’s sort of always been done. It’s left up to developers to make that idea intriguing over the length of the game.

And Pow Studios does an admirable job there. Between turning your enemies into rusting scrap heaps using a shit-ton (note: not an actual term for gauging weight or quantity) of punches and short combos, it injects some RPG-like progression into the mix, giving you a choice between a pair of unique upgrades at preset stopping points within the levels. These can vary from the offensive (a screen-wide shockwave, for instance) to the more defensive (a healing move based on the number of foes you tag).

All of these skills cost energy, natch, which regenerates over time and can also be upgraded with points earned during your dueling. Along with the usual staples of increased health and damage, the game gives you ample control over your character’s build and how he evolves. Though the most endearing part of Bot Stoppers is its animation and art, with the combined visuals taking on a sort of ‘Saturday Morning Cartoon’ style that exudes a certain undeniable charm. If only that charm could distract you from its other shortcomings.

Bot Stoppers - Screen

The Terminator makes a cameo.

While the controls are otherwise adequate, their responsiveness feels a little off, making it harder to counter attacks with any consistency. Given that enemies can effectively gang up on you and damage you mid-animation, blocking sort of feels moot anyway. During busier scenes, with foes capable of temporarily ‘stunning’ you in place, you might as well button-mash and hope for the best. It’s also a shorter journey than you might expect. The game features only two extended levels, which adds up to about forty minutes, give or take.

You could always play through it again, to choose the opposite upgrade powers and test them out, but that’s not much incentive when the battles inherently get repetitive. That leaves Bot Stoppers stranded somewhere in the middle, an interesting design that feels light in comparison to other brawlers. Fun while it lasts, a very nice-looking but sample-sized serving that could have done better as part of a larger experience.