Thursday, 28 August 2014

All Points Bulletin (Arcade)

Yeah Bob, before I fire your ass.




There was a time when running around, or driving for that matter, jumping out of cars and baseball-batting hookers wasn't considered the done thing in games with robbers and cops. Before it was cool to be the criminal, glorification of being a police officer was the in thing and few games managed to do it with a sense of humour as APB did.

You won, this is a rare sight later on.

APB stars you as Officer Bob, you're a cop on the beat in your lovely car on the job to bust punks, ticket asshats and make people who've broken down get tickets as well... Ok perhaps not the cop with the cleanest nose and interrogations are certainly more than you think they'd be. But you're the cop on the case, you get to travel the usual daily routine of driving around and ticketing perps before getting back to base. Every few days you'll be given a mission to take down a specific criminal which may or may not involve blowing up their car.

This guy is a dick. Arrest him.

You have the wheel, a pedal, a gun button and siren button. People won't commit crimes while the siren is off but when the siren is on you can bump, crash and do whatever you want. So you can't just leave it switched on the whole time. Each time you balls it up, you get a demerit and too many of those will get you sacked, aka game over. Fail to reach all your quota for the day and you'll get more demerits.

Suspect threw himself down the stairs 14 times.

The game plays quite fast, reaction times for turning corners and adjusting to changes in the level and layout can be difficult to make in time and usually you'll not get back to the HQ in time, but if you've met all your objectives then that won't matter. Interrogating a suspect involves you beating the shit out of them before the boss gets to the door and sees you before you get the confession out of the asshole. Later levels give you a gun to take down the more difficult and determined enemies (if you can buy it at the right place) while doughnuts will give you more time in a level. (Shouldn't they be taking away time while you eat them? I don't really know on this one.

Your new target, requires 2 hits.

There's a LOT behind this game, there's new criminals introduced every few levels and such, with new ways of combating them but the time limit is still very tight in getting to acquire all of your objectives AND bonuses AND not cause problems like crashing the car and screwing everything up while the siren is on, but while it's on the criminals won't commit the crimes that will gain you the points you need to progress. It's a little balance on things but it's done rather well.

Congrats, you fucked up.

Later levels ramp the difficulty up with having some oddly placed barriers and a whole host of different criminals to catch while also keeping an eye on the time and the fuel. That said it's never really an easy game and after about day 4 or so, the difficulty spikes and just keeps on spiking. Though it does strike me as amusing to see other cars on the road move aside when you slap the sirens on so the AI is rather impressive in that regard.

You REALLY fucked up.

The audio is rather impressive as the game has a lot of digitised speech. "Not you again" for when you're picking up hitch-hikers, "pull over, buddy" for some insults and others like "No way!" for stubborn asshats that won't get out the way. It adds to the experience but still leaves the game somewhat lacking with little in the way of a solid tune to accompany it.

No, you can't "take down her particulars".

It's a fun little spin every now and then but the way it's presented leaves a little to be desired and it soon becomes a coin-drainer for the credits.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Infinity Blade 3 (iOS)


Yes, I've been playing it quite a bit


It's an odd game given what it is and what it could have been but for what it IS as a game, Infinity Blade 3 could be a lot worse than it is. The highly touted and greatly promised 3rd game in the Infinity Blade series started off as THE killer app for the iPhone and iPad series, promising stunning graphics, fast gameplay and an in-depth and involving storyline. I'll be taking a look at the 3rd game, as I've not got the other 2 installed to review those ones, just yet.

Drops, rivulets, stunning looking game.

Some liken the game to Punch Out on the NES in terms of gameplay but I suppose you could say that if you say that slapping two slices of bread together and calling it a sandwich while placing those slices of bread next to a burger with lettuce, onions, beef patties, ketchup and ... I really should have had breakfast before writing this one. I lost that metaphor, but either way it's NOT the same game and NOT the same mechanics.

The story so far: Bear with me on this.


STATS AHOY!
Guy goes to avenge father, fights into castle, meets Godking and gets killed. Every 19 years, son of guy goes to castle to meet the same fate. Eventually someone kills the GodKing and takes from him the Infinity Blade, dying words are that "now they'll come for you", while ignoring side quests and bonuses. Which is game 1 in a nutshell.

I live... again...

Game 2 has guy now resurrecting and realising he's a deathless, meaning that if he dies he returns a little while later, turns out it's always been him just slowly resurrecting in the first game. Incidentally, SPOILERS BACK THERE and shut up. Guy then goes to find the Worker of Secrets who is believed to be the one to make a weapon that can kill the deathless. Guy kills lots of deathless, finds the Worker but needs to go back and kill the GodKing again and bring him to the Worker to switch places in the prison. Guy does so, Worker pulls a fast one and reveals that Guy put him there in the first place, now he'll take over the world.

Power Move!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THIS game, guy (who realises he was another guy beforehand but had a case of explosive amnesia) seeks to find the Worker of Secrets and kill him before he burns the world from space. Yes we really upped the ante in this one, while teaming up with another deathless and seeking for a weapon that will kill the Worker of Secrets, who happens to be immune to his own weapons. Makes sense really, why make a weapon that could be used against you?

He's big, he's ugly, he's going to hurt you a lot if you let him.

With this in mind, cue fights against ninjas, knights, walking tanks, mutants, dragons (yes, BIG ONES at that), various plot based bosses, arenas and online modes with ClashMobs to level up your characters and weapons. Yep, there's a grind fest in this game.

Steals items, sells them back to you, but can sell you unique things too.

The game is nothing but stylish. Set in a possible future with slight steampunk/medieval settings and a touch of magic thrown into the mix, you guide Siris (The Guy) and Isis through multiple gorgeous levels and have them duelling with various enemies to gain levels, which can be used to boost your Health, Attack, Shield/Blocking and Magic powers. Once you progress far enough you'll unlock a gem cutter who can create extra boosts with gems you've collected that can really ramp your weapons and stats up but only if your equipment has the right shaped slot for them, otherwise that +10 mace will have to be swapped out for the +8 cabbage on a rope to use your +2 magic and many, many, higher numbers involved later. Further progression gives you an armourer who will upgrade armour that has been maxed out in exp which can be worn again for more exp.

"...On the third day, ride out to the sun..."

The levelling system is a little odd. You don't gain exp PERSONALLY (though you do) you gain it by the experience gained by the equipment. Weapons, shields, armours and magic rings all have an exp limit, they gain it through the fights you win and for each exp point THEY gain, you gain as a level progression. But once they're maxed out, you have to change weapons (or sooner) to continue levelling up. Once they're maxed out, you can have them upgraded with the armourer and then start over to boost your level even further. For every level up you attain, you get 2 stat points to increase and for every item that maxes out, you get another stat point.

Gotcha!

Sounds complicated but you steadily learn that having maxed out items will not progress you. Each time you beat a level (or have to replay it if you lose to the boss) your "Awakening" increases which means the enemies will get harder. Eventually you'll hit a brick wall if you're not increasing stats and boosting equipment, but you can roll back the difficulties by 1 or 10 levels if you wish, but that means less exp after each fight. It's an odd mechanic but thankfully stops the issue in earlier games where people would not be able to progress because of under-levelled characters.

HA! Easy! Full magic and power move = WIN!

There's side quests too, the mission involving dragons that randomly turn up and cause an epically scripted series of Quick time events, bonus items and missions against key recurring characters that seek "GLORY IN TH FIELD OF COMBAT" or just want to fight you for your weapon, but you can win theirs too, or going toe to toe with your former persona.

Vore fans have problems here, they tend to get eaten whole, a lot.

Combat within the game stems from swiping to strike, tapping to stab (where necessary) and using the buttons at the left, middle and right to either dodge or block depending upon the weapon you hold. Sword and shield has 2 dodges and block but can't block every attack, heavy weapons have 3 blocks (no dodges) but you CAN block every attack if you time it right and dual wielding gives you full dodges no blocks so you can avoid every attack. Survive enough of a flurry of attacks and you'll tire the enemy out which gives you the chance to attack back and score combos, repeat until someone's dead. Super moves and Magic steadily charge through the fight until you use them, magic's ranging from elemental damage, shielding, health restoration and such, while the super move gives you an instant free combo followed by a free flowing combo until the enemy recovers.

Great Parry! Much Skill! Doge!!1!one!

There is a HUGE amount to do in this game, if you like the tactician method of fighting and countering moves and like the grinding, you'll find there's a wealth of things to do in this game. Side quests and missions are a little disappointing in that once you've done them, that's it. Dragons don't return even in the "newgame+" modes and for the truly hardcore there's the Deathless Mode which has other weapons you can't normally find but if you die there, whatever killed you KEEPS your stuff until you go back and beat them!

Siris looking suitably badass here.

Graphically, this is one of the most impressive games I've seen on the iOS systems and really should be a benchmark for future games if it isn't used as an industry standard already. Though you will need to have the latest iOS appliances to get the benefits, i.e. iPhone 4 will not see the extra effects that iPhone 5S can see, likewise between iPad 1 - 3 and beyond. But it's playable, still looks good but not great with older gear. But that's the limitation of hardware and not a fault with the game per se.
The music is stunning, from slow ambient background noises and deep base notes to the faster, more frantic fight music's (of which there are many) culminating in multiple tracks per fight depending upon how damaged the enemy is. For fans of the series, it shows that the makers ChAIR have really pulled out the stops on this title and with regular (read: Daily) bonus online challenges for more cash, chips and loot, there's almost ALWAYS something to come back for and play.

The state of play, missions and bonus quests to be done. Avoid the one at the top...

The downside is that soon it does become repetitive and eventually you WILL run out of things to do, but it's more than likely you'll have had more than enough of the game before you reach that point. I can't really recommend this higher. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Bubble Witch 2 (iOS)

ADVENTURE!!! No, it's bubbles.

There's something about King that means their games are the equivalent of gaming cocaine. Whatever it is that there company agenda is, I hope it's not sinister as their approach to integrate themselves into items and devices has gotten themselves a potential method of taking over the planet. Not through violence but by distracting everyone with brightly coloured games that are a piece of piss of to start playing but quickly becomes a nightmare in trying to master and progress beyond a certain point. Bubble Witch 2 is no different.

What type of tree was that?

Bubble Witch 2 is a bubble popper game which was made popular by the game series Bust A Move, where you have a selection of brightly coloured balls in an arena and get to fire upwards into that arena, more balls to try and pop the balls that are there, by colliding balls of the same colour together in sets of 3 or higher. That's basically it. You can bank shots off the sides, slip them between other bubbles and use special bubbles if you need which can count as blank bubbles that connect and cause an instant correct colour to align. Failure to hit the right bubble will cause that bubble to be "stuck" and the game carries on until you run out of bubbles or achieve the objective.

You WON! Everything falls and gains points.

Thankfully in Bubble Witch 2, there's multiple objectives to be met from "Free the Ghost" Where there's a single ghost block in the middle surrounded by bubbles, all you've got to do is break the 6 bubbles surrounding it to free the ghost, within a very tight limit of bubbles. Other modes include "Get to the top" where you just get 6 bubbles removed from the uppermost line of the field, and "Free the Animals" where you've got to release multiple bubbles that have animals trapped in them. At the time of playing, I've yet to encounter more modes but there could be future levels and updates.

...So here's a witch in a fashion crisis

The first levels ease you in gradually, showing you the ropes and making it almost impossible to lose unless you're going WAY out of your way to deliberately scupper yourself, though if you've got yourself linked into Face book you can also compete with other like-minded 'socialites' for the best score though most will just be glad to have gotten through the level by that point. You can also donate gifts of lives and such for the other players or if they ask for it, tickets to get through to the next set of levels. Thankfully even nobby-no-mates can progress as once you hit the end of a level and win, you automatically go through after a day of waiting. Or pay...

Lesson 2: Grandma and sucking eggs.

Yes it's a freemium game. You can pay for bonus time, bonus balls, extra moves and special and almost anything else you can think of save from actually BEATING the level itself. With enough cash you can pass most things but the challenge is to get through the game without paying a penny. Which makes the harder levels even harder. It becomes a point that you're going to NEED to be lucky to make much progress in the harder levels as you'll be stripped down to the bare minimum of balls needed to beat a level and THEN you better hope it's the right sequence of ball colours. Thankfully, removal of ALL of a colour negates any more from turning up, even if they're already in the "Next to play" position.

Lots of levels, you likely won't see them all.

The game is banking of frustration to make money. "I just nearly beat this level and need one more bubble that's red to beat this, I'll pay for the 5 more bubbles" no reds show up. Or it will after 15 bubbles, you've no real control on that front. It makes a nice change though to see that there's no block on people progressing and nor is there a compulsory purchase, but the structure and difficulty means that you will feel very pressured by the game to buy things you don't really want to. Be careful as well when playing as the game gives you a small amount of in-game cash and there's no "Are you sure?" if you go to spend it, it will just take it on the first button press.

Multiple ball types keep the variation going

The game looks lovely, but then it should do given the simplicity of the underlying engine, the company has made a living out of looking nice and accessible and once again, they've done it here too. Bright, colourful and pleasantly appealing to the eye for almost all ages. A solid core of a puzzle game with just enough unique things to separate it from the others but having said that, I'd personally prefer to see Bub and Bob on either side of the bubble cannon and fight it out with Baron Von Blubba once again.

...someone kill the writer.

It's nice and it'll make them a fortune, but it's the same structure used once again. I suppose if it works, there's no need to fix it.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Silent Hill: The Escape (iOS)


Possibly time for the brown trousers.


It's no secret that I love the Silent Hill series, except for maybe Homecoming and possibly Silent Hill 4: The room. So I was rather surprised when I hadn't heard of Silent Hill: The Escape which sits on iOS machines and retails in around £1.49 mark, so I was a little apprehensive on the grounds that the rest of the games I'd bought for about £20 and wondered how this was going to factor up to the plot intensive, atmospheric games that had only so much explained and the rest had to be deduced and worked out for oneself (Especially the first game, mmmm.... Silent Hill 1 on PSX...). Which left me with mixed feelings for this one.

Certainly not an advocate of the "Do No Harm" idea.

You are Captain NobbyNobody, a generic human who somehow wakes up in the worst place imaginable, a lift. (Elevator I suppose to some) Upon awakening you realise you have with you a 5 shot revolver, a lead pipe and a torch. You will now navigate ten different and increasingly more complex mazes on the quest to find the key and then find the exit while being stalked and hunted down by various denizens of the Silent Hill world. While trying to remember who you are. I always find that odd at times, "I don't know who I am, but I know how to load, aim and fire a gun at key critical points in monsters to kill them more effectively and the idea of wandering around a haunted place doesn't upset me in the slightest" is a weird stance to take for someone with no personal memory.

Here's the plot.

Ok, so the plot is out of the window on this one. That's the extent of it and if you beat the game you unlock other characters with which to run through the game in various fashions of comedy that make sense only if you a) Know Silent Hill and b) Got several of the UFO/Comedy endings for the game series. Those in the know, understand when I say "Mira" and those who don't should doggone look it up!

Reload time, steady hand now!

Game play uses the tilt within the iOS systems to be able to aim your targeting reticule while the movement and turning is done by placing your finger upon the screen and stroking in the appropriate direction, effectively making a directional pad appear under your finger when you press down upon it. Tapping the revolver icon in the corner will let you reload but you'll need a steady hand to be able to slam all 5 rounds in otherwise you'll end up with far fewer and less shots before needing to reload again, and a steady hand is far from your concern when ANY monster is bearing down upon you. For you are also, Captain One Hit Wonder! Master of dying at the brush of a feather from anything more dangerous than an ant.

Thankfully, this time I have the key.

Enemies are fairly varied within the game, from faceless nurses that meander about and take 1-2 shots depending if you hit the critical points. Wheelchairs that trundle along and can catch someone unawares as they're low down on the visual plane. Hanging flesh things (I forget the name, might as well be called Dave) that encourage the player to aim upwards and the more demanding enemies later on that have psychic shields and take 5+ shots before being downed. Not that there's an abundance of ammo lying around either, you've got 25 shots and that's it.

It could be around the next corner.

What this game does have, if you let it draw you in (and it will if you stick at it) is atmosphere. Ignoring the simple maps that lack stairs and walls bending at anything other than 90degree angles as if we stole the Wolfenstein 3D engine (it's not, I know, but might as well be), the graphics and ambient music build up to a rather claustrophobic fear, especially when considering that the game is entirely in first person so no more peeking around corners. What doesn't help is the "Danger" heart beat that pounds when something is close but not what it is nor where it is, just that it's close. This could be on the other side of a wall and no ACTUAL threat but you won't know that. Late levels also include grates across various walkways that don't show up as dead-ends so relying solely upon the compass and small localised map isn't always advised.

At least I'm accurate.

Another interesting touch to the game is that the torch will dim and eventually fade, meaning the game does have a time limit on how long you can spend wandering each maze though there are also batteries that refuel this torch and your sole means of observing whatever it is that's coming at you otherwise it's wandering in the dark time and that's going to get real deadly, real fast.

Batteries, pretty much a first for Silent Hill games.

It's certainly different and as a game, it's not really a Silent Hill game aside from having a few featured enemies and the name Silent Hill plastered across it, but it's certainly worth the asking price for what is an experimental twist upon the horror franchise that goes fairly well if you let it get to you. It's almost minimalist in its approach to the idea of horror that what you can't see is what's the most terrifying and seeing the danger icon blinking but not being able to see the enemy or know whether it's around the next corner or the one after is certainly of that ilk. Once you start backtracking and waiting while turning to the sides to see if something is sneaking up on you, then it's worked and you're caught by the atmosphere.

Sadly I mistimed the photo, but it's the key.

Though don't play it on a bus. Unless it's late at night, you're the last one on the bus and the lights suddenly go off and you realise the bus driver isn't there anymore. Though but that point you're already in Silent Hill, grab a torch.