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Review – Seasons After Fall (PC)

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This is one of those games I picked up on a bit of a whim. It’s appropriately tagged as a Metroidvania title, which is no doubt my favorite type of game. The promos also look quite gorgeous in their art style. Which is always a big draw. Other than that, I didn’t really quite know what to expect out of this game.

Fortunately, I was not disappointed. Though there was something that surprised me a bit. Mostly that there are no enemies in this game at all. It’s entirely platform and puzzle based. You just, keep on trying to progress the game. That doesn’t keep it from being enjoyable, but I didn’t really expect that. That couple with the fantastic painting like art style really push this more into being an artsy puzzle game.

The basic premise here, you play as a Fox spirit, working to aid another spirit in restoring the powers of the four seasonal spirits and areas. There is a central hub and 4 areas that branch from it, but you also will need to revisit each branch a few times to complete the overall story.

The gimmick of the game play loop is that as you progress, you unlock the ability to toggle the seasons of the area you are in. Which chances each zone and opens up new areas. For example, turning things to spring, can cause plants to grow or water to fill in areas. Changing things to Winter can create snow balls that you can climb, allowing for the ability to reach higher areas.

The plot itself is pretty interesting and has a nice little twist to it, though I have to say I kind of saw it coming, so it’s not that twisty. The animation is very smooth and the little fox bobs around nicely and believably. The graphics are where this game really shines though. The entire game looks like a very lush hand drawn world, though everything in it moves nice and smoothly, it’s like being in the actual environment.

The puzzles are also interesting, and changing between seasons to solve them can be tricky but is enjoyable. There is a lot of fun lore going on here with a sort of whimsical folklore feel to it, revolving around the different seasons.

Overall, it’s a very enjoyable title for anyone looking for some relaxing, platform puzzler style game play.

Review – Eufloria (PC)

Most real time strategy games involve military conflict of some sort.  It’s part of the genre really, one military force against another, at war, requiring the player to take strategic command.  Eufloria does an interesting job of almost breaking this mold.  Technically it’s still centering around a conflict, though instead of tanks and soldiers you fight with plant seeds. 

The conflict is certainly more peaceful when it involves plants.  The light graphics and airy music and sound effects make this a fairly relaxing and serine experience to play. 

The object is to control a region of planetoids before the opponent destroys your forces.  In order to control a planet you will have to sacrifice some of your seedlings to plant new trees, the trees will in turn spawn more seedlings over time.  Most of the trees will anyway, there are also defensive trees which will instead provide protection from enemy forces.  The planets themselves have different energy levels as well and will spawn faster or stronger seedlings depending on the planet’s attributes.

In the early stages it is fairly easy but over time the enemy colonies become more aggressive and will have better defenses.  The real key to combat is advantages in numbers, which means owning more planets.  Unfortunately, this is where the game play starts to fall apart.  Later stages become quickly and easily overwhelming, especially as the enemy starts deploying the large flower pods which can easily wipe out even a large army of seedlings with little to no effort.  Much of the play time involved is essentially just sitting and waiting for more seedlings to spawn.  When one of the notes in the update is “Updated the gameplay to be faster-paced and more interesting, with more strategic balance” you’ve got issues.  Thankfully they put some effort into correcting it.  Even so there is a LOT of “sit and wait” gameplay here, especially when you start facing defensive trees which will require large numbers of seed pods to overcome them.

Another minor issues I’ve had, the game doesn’t seem to always record progress made properly.  This admittedly may have been an error on my part though it was a bit frustrating when I found I had to replay the first ten or so levels after I’d already completed them.

Generally the game is a fun departure from the traditional strategy game.  The design is simple though definitely more complex than it seems on the surface.  It is hindered somewhat buy it’s slowish pacing but it’s still a pretty enjoyable experience.  My recommendation however would still be to look for it on some sort of sale as the base price of $15 is a little high for what you get

Review – Dino D-Day (PC)

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So I was pretty excited over Dino D-Day when it was first announced.  The idea seemed goofy and it was accompanied by a campy campaign of fake WWII posters about Dinosaurs.  Plus, few games let you really play as Dinosaurs that I can think of.  Actually the only one I can think of is Jurassic Park on the Genesis, which was pretty awesome to play as the Velociraptor.  This was back in the days when Velociraptors looked like bad ass mini T-Rexes and not this modern day “They have feathers and look like Dinosaur Chickens” bull crap. 


dday01 Anyway, the game seemed interesting enough that I picked it up when it was released.  I may have even pre ordered it.  I played it a few times and unfortunately… I got bored.  Playing as the dinosaurs wasn’t nearly as exciting as it could be.  The raptors are tiny, the big Anklyosaur looking tank is slow and the other guys are just boring.  The 3rd person view makes aiming iffy and the controls were kind of confusing too which didn’t help.  They also seemed to die pretty easily for a thick skinned giant killer lizard.

Aside from the Dinosaurs, you had some human soldiers to play as, and it was essentially a slightly bland looking Day of Defeat clone.

The creators have done some patching to try to fix some of the issues but it also suffered from another major issue, one that tends to fluctuate over time.  There’s no servers.  Dino D-Day is an online only Multiplayer game.  There are supposedly plans for a single player campaign or some sort but they have not come to fruition yet.  Due to it’s lackluster gameplay, the few servers the game had dwindled quickly.  This is of course a death nail for this sort of game, no servers means you can’t even play it.

HitlerRapter_web Fortunately the developers still seem to have hope for a revival.  There are still patches and any time the game is on sale for cheap there is a related spike in interest by the game playing community.  Personally I think even a weak Single Player campaign would help the game immensely, running around slaughtering idiot computer soldiers as a Velociraptor could be a lot of fun.  They could even beef up the stats for Single player to make the gameplay more action filled instead of a constant die easily and respawn fest that it is.

I guess the bottom line is, the IDEA is neat.  And the developers seem to really want to make it neat, so if you can manage to get it for fairly cheap and want to support the idea and maybe get the benefits later, then go for it.  But if you’re looking for an immediate awesome payoff you may end up disappointed.

Review – Scoregasm (PC)

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Charlie’s Games | 10.07.2011

Hey look, another indie game pretty twin stick shooter full of neon lights and fast paced action.  Scoregasm was included in the Indie Royale Difficult Bundle a few weeks ago, notable because it allowed gamers to get the game for Steam before it’s been officially released for Steam.  The game still isn’t available on Steam, nor does it have a store page yet.

2011-12-01_00001 It’s still available elsewhere, just not on Steam.  It’s made by the same guy who made Bullet Candy.

The gameplay is pretty straight forward, fly your ship around and shoot in different directions destroying hordes of enemies.  It’s similar to Beat Hazard or Geometry Wars, or even, Asteroids.  You do have the limitation of your movements being trapped within a small confined area.  The game’s main draw is it’s progression system.  The more enemies you shoot in a row without dying, the larger the combo you build up.  Depending on the size of your combo you will unlock different stages to move on to.  The fun part is, you can choose which stage to go to next.  Each one is labeled by it’s difficulty so if you’re wanting to try something easier for a bit, you can pick the Easier stage, if you suddenly have a desire to challenge yourself, you can slip into a much more difficult stage, assuming you managed to unlock the higher difficulty.

2011-12-01_00004 This does lead to the game’s only real flaw, if you break your combo at all, there is a good chance you won’t unlock anything.  The goals tend to be high enough that when your combo breaks and drops to zero, there probably aren’t even going to be enough enemies to make the stage goal combo.  The stages are quick though so replaying them isn’t too hard.

It’s a good game all around, and certainly a fun game of it’s genre.  The progression system is definitely pretty unique which helps make the game more enjoyable.  It’s still probably mostly a game for bullet hell fans, which is a bit of a niche genre.

Scoregasm is available on the Scoregasm Website.

Review – Runaway: A Road Adventure (PC)

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Péndulo Studios, S.L. | August 28, 2003

So Adventure Games are a bit different than your other game genres.  You often can’t lose and the emphasis is more on the narrative than the “gameplay”.  It’s much closer to being like an interactive novel.  That said, the story can make or break an adventure game easily.  I’ve done a bit of history already here on my plans for upping my intake of Adventure Games.  No need to cover that ground again.  Runaway was the first title I chose in this push, it’s a title I’ve been sitting on for a fairly long time in my queue of games and I like the 3D cartoon style graphics it presents.

ScreenShot080 I’ll also preface this by mentioning I used a walkthrough to get through this game.  I am a bit of a novice when it comes to this sort of game, though I hope some of the problems I encountered in this title are not the “norm”.  i get the whole idea of searching the scene for objects and examining them, collecting clues and useful trinkets.  I also get the idea of having to sometimes get creative with items.  My issue with how this is handled though are with some of the mechanics more than anything.  There are several points where you talk to a person or give them an item, and your next step is to leave the area, then come back to talk to the same person again.  Personally, this feels a bit counter intuitive.  You successfully complete a step, you’re unlikely to put redoing that step very high on your list of “where to check next”.  This could easily lead to some wasted effort looking for clues and feels very much like an excuse for the game to reload a scene or dialogue set more than a need of the plot.  It’s a very computer logic reason more than a story plot reason.  The game is also inconsistent with this as occasionally you are told “come back in an hour” and the game goes through this action of leaving and returning for you.

ScreenShot070I also had some issues with item detection when scanning some scenes.  The one that really sticks out is finding a key near a train locomotive.  I knew the key was supposed to be there via the walkthrough, I even knew where it was supposed to be in the scene, but I still had trouble finding it and it didn’t show up on the ground visibly.

Also there are a few fairly annoying leaps of logic that one must take to get past certain obstacles.   This leads to a bit more trial an error methodology than figuring out where to go based on clues.  For example the idea of making bullets out of lipstick tubes is a little bit of a stretch.

ScreenShot114 Fortunately, the storyline is pretty good.  There are surprisingly few holes and conveniences in the plot and it’s interesting enough to keep the player interested.  The basic premise is, Brian, the character you control, accidentally hits Gina with his car as she is running from some Mob guys.  Brian feels responsible and gets tangled up in Gina’s affairs as they trace down the secret to an old crucifix Gina has.  Secrets are revealed as Brian and Gina get closer to the truth and must work to thwart the Mob goons hot on their trail.  It closes out nicely as a stand alone plot but could easily lead to the plot of the second game of the series.  I am looking forward to playing the second game as well though I’ll be holding off on that for a bit. 

ScreenShot106 The presentation is also great as well, though there is one major flaw which I’ll get to.  The graphics are nice and decently animated.  I do have some issues with the inconsistent feel during some of the later cut scenes where they seem to have used a few mixed techniques to make the scenes.  The shadow technique actually makes the 3D models look particularly terrible.  Everything is fully voice acted as well, and it’s done very well, which helps hold the story together all around.  My chief complaint is in the cut scenes and their length.  If you’re playing this game, make sure you block out some time because you’ll often encounter cut scenes without any warning and there are several which last an upwards of 20 minutes.  These tend to occur between chapters but I think there may have been one in the middle of one of the later chapters.

I also am giving some of my general difficulty with the game mechanics some benefit of the doubt in that I am not excessively familiar with this genre of game.  Runaway feels like it is a bit more of an advanced title.  I found it to be very enjoyable and look forward to the second game, which i hope may not have quite so many of the logic flaws and lengthy cut scenes.  It’s probably not a good title to pick up as an entry level title to the Adventure Gaming genre however.