Thursday, 29 January 2015

Sharknado: The Game - iOS

Pay to not play as much.

While I'm a fan of the "Forever Runner" series of games, made more popular and famous by the game Canabalt, it's not really the first game to do that kind of approach. Having played a lot of arcade games, the first ones were along the lines of trying to keep going for as long as possible to get the highest score possible, it seems the Forever Runner games are taking that quick, pick-up-and-play approach to instant gaming, further helped by titles like Flappy Birds for the side-scrolling variety of play and then there's the 3D versions with games like Temple Run and now, Sharknado: The Game.

Play from the start or spend chum in boosting to level 2, 5 and 9 respectively.
From the off, we're establishing that this is the game, not the film on which the game is based, and as such we don't get to see Tara Reid trying to avoid sharks by screaming loudly and being all breasty about it. Neither do we see a multitude of people having their heads taken off by projectile sharks launched from the circulation and upward draft of high speed air currents. What we do get however is a Forever Runner game where we try to avoid obstacles, attack sharks, go surfing and ultimately kill a tornado while riding a shark and carrying a chainsaw.

So at least some of the original film's artistic license with physics, remains.

Get coin, avoid shark, pick up Razzie.

The controls are simple enough, swipe left and right to change your "lane" as you travel into the screen, rather than tilting it, so it's more keeping in line with the Despicable Me: Minions game, while swiping up will make our hero jump and swiping down will make our hero slide. However, each round of the game is split into three sections. The first involves running down a street towards the Sharknado while avoiding barricades, vehicles and various sharks, the second has our hero surfing up a torrent of water while sharks swim towards him and lastly the final section is our hero riding a shark, while holding a chainsaw, surfing it THROUGH the Sharknado itself while cutting up enough sharks to kill the entire Sharknado.

And then it's back to the start but harder and faster.

Tyre Iron does some damage.

For the sheer audacity alone, it's funny the first few times. After that it becomes par for the course and we get to focus on the other mechanics behind the game. Coins, weapons and chum. Coins are often found amongst the level and usually in places where you have to negotiate around some risky little problems but all coins that are collected are stored and can be spent on things like the weapons. The weapons allow our hero to basically be immune to sharks (and nothing else...) in that he clobbers the shark into a bloody pulp and the weapon weakens a little each time. Once it's used up, the sharks must be dodged again. It does give you a little breathing space however. Lastly there's the chum, which lets you retry levels without restarting and can also boost your starting level to a later one. Chum being earned by killing lots of sharks and each successful defeat of a Sharknado multiplies up the score.

The "Boss" so to speak, killing it from the inside.

It can be a fun forever runner if you want to try it out, the music and audio are clearly tongue in cheek when the starting lyrics for the 2nd round are "Go go go go, Sharknado, runaway from the Sharknado" and sung in a rather kitschy style, you can't help but chuckle at the game. But then perhaps that's the problem, we're more laughing at the game and its source material than laughing with the game despite that the game is clearly making fun of the films, it's falling short of being enjoyable in the long term. But, it's worth giving it a try if only to see yourself killing a tornado full of sharks with a chainsaw.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Troddlers - SNES (and other formats)

It's the title, run now and don't come back, thank me for it later.

Take the idea of lemmings, you know, those blue-bodied, green-haired suicidal little beasts that mindlessly run back and forth along levels until you build them, block them, blow them up and cause little fireworks. Now remove ALL the functionality from them and make them run up walls and across the ceiling like they've got the stickiest shoes in existence. Still with me? NOW, put in a playable character that can make blocks appear and disappear and you've basically got Troddlers.

No foes... I can't die sooner rather than later.

Troddlers, the "fun" game of block building where 1-2 players get to help guide the haplessly little minions from starting point to ending point by building and placing blocks strategically so that the little pets can happily and mindlessly make their way to the goal and thus, you can beat the level. Unless of course you've also got to collect specific items during the level.

More walking than the Lord Of The Rings films.

While doing this, you have to get your character around the same level while using the SAME blocks in a mash-up of puzzler and platformer. So not only are you guiding the Troddlers into the exit, you also have to make your own stairwells and platforms in order to get to be in the key places that will allow the Troddlers to meander their way to the objective. Now do we start to see where this is going wrong?

It only LOOKS interesting.

Throw in a bad, unresponsive and reliable control system and you've got the recipe for a thunderclade shitstorm of frustration. If only it was that bad. Troddlers can be minded up, burned up, tripped, flipped, crushed (and in some cases they HAVE to be) and so on that you need to prevent their demise through strategic placing of blocks. You also need to make sure YOU don't die from enemies and more.

New sprites, same dull gameplay.

To add more chaos, there's zombie Troddlers that can kill the real ones and SOMETIMES (depends on the level) hurt you upon contact, while some enemies will injure you and others will kill or make things more awkward for the Troddlers. The rules are fairly inconsistent on this one.

Good Knight, I've had enough.

But let's not stop there, you can also have multiple blocks! Standard blocks for walking and moving, ice blocks to reduce traction and stop Troddlers walking up (or down) them, Mines for blowing things up (including Troddlers), Arrow blocks that flip Troddlers through the block. Bouncers to stop Troddlers from dying upon falling too far, and finally Slowdown blocks that do exactly what it says on the tin. In truth, most of these are just annoying and make the level more awkward than it already is.

It took 9 minutes to get here.

The game isn't without merit, I just don't know where to find it. But having said that it has a fair charm to it with the graphics and the levels at least look unique enough from Space levels to Pyramids and such, but the block structure and mechanics leaves you realising that this is just a grid game and soon you don't even see the aesthetics, just where blocks go, can't go and what to do. It loses its charm rather quickly.

There's fire, but it can't get to you, how disappointing.

The music however is decent enough with some rather chirpy and catchy little tunes that sadly become dull and repetitive when you're playing on levels for 10 minutes at a time because one little Troddler is insistent upon walking ALL THE WAY AROUND THE LEVEL because you didn't quite get to the one point you needed to be in, in time. The sound effects however are dull, uninspired and rather bland.

The most accurate depiction of this game. It'll send you to sleep.

It's not a great game, it's dull, slow paced and too unforgiving and awkward with the controls for it to be any real fun and once you've seen a few levels, you've effectively realised all that is on off and can happily switch it off, blend the cartridge and go play something more fun, like in traffic.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Rogue Legacy - Steam

So it begins, a legacy of dead characters.

The king was murdered; the betrayer stands within the castle and rules in his place, he is your ancestor. Something it keeping him alive and while he lives, the injustice remains rife. You attempt to right the wrongs that have been made to set order and balance back on the path of righteousness. The loss is more personal, your father went into the castle to resolve this issue and was never seen again, now it’s your turn as you leave your children behind and head to the traitor’s keep. Charon, agent of death stands before you and relieves you of your worldly possessions as you enter with but your armour and weapons and inside you step to continue the Rogue Legacy.

The only stable room in the set up

This is the gist of the game without giving too much away at first. It’s a platformer rogue-like and the rogue-like element here is that the cast you enter changes its layout each time (unless... you unlock the ability to keep it), and each entry into the castle will cost you your remaining cash but all cash found in the castle is kept for buying upgrades, armours, runes (empowering modifications) and the such. Within the castle lies a wealth of traps, monsters, mini-bosses, 4 main bosses and then finally (if you get this far) the last boss and a definitely final boss if we’re talking tropes at this point.

Select your sprog to go and die for your cause.

Much like games like Infinity Blade, we’re talking about generational progression. Your character, of whichever background (more about that in a moment) will be killed and stored in the gallery for all time. When you start hitting around the 40 lives lost mark, you begin to realise there’s quite an enormity behind losing. Not unlike the original Cannon Fodder which had tombstones for every single person lost in combat that would soon litter the level select screen.

Looks a bit crap, but later the castle will be quite a size with all unlocked items accessible

Each time you begin an attempt on the castle, you get to pick from one of three offspring of the previous attempt. Or basically a randomly generated set of characters which includes their classification, perks and demerits. Ranging from having Barbarians that have slim builds and more likely to be knocked back on a hit, to ninjas that don’t activate spikes because they lack a pulse in their limbs (it makes sense in context) to Paladins that are colour-blind, or longsighted (around you is blurring) short-sighted (around you is NOT blurry) to not being able to see incoming projectiles from off-screen and so on. It gives a very large pool of variation which can include being gay (a fan of the man/woman depending upon your gender and then makes one wonder how there’s a next generation... but I digress). This also includes the spell you will be taking with you ranging from throwing axes, knives, fireball walls, bouncing balls, homing attacks and more.

You died. And there's all the people you killed. Also, this one suffered coprolalia

As said, it’s a platform game, levels are randomly generated and each castle layout has the objective of killing 4 bosses and then the final boss to beat the castle before New Game+ is activated. The problem is you will die, a lot, and as a rogue-like you need to accept that fact and realise it is part of the game mechanic. Dying will return you to the HQ where you keep your cash from that run and can spend it on upgrades to stats, abilities, classes of characters, how much money Charon takes from you, unlocking new helpers that will give you new abilities and improving battle %’s for things like critical hits (if your particular class CAN do critical hits... Hokage, looking at you).

New equipment? Costs money. New runes? Costs money. Pattern much? Costs Money...

Graphically, the game is a strong call back to less serious looking platformers with plenty of cartoony styled graphics and animations (seriously, I love the hero’s running animation), monsters are sufficiently detailed with bosses really taking the biscuit on account of their size while scenery and backgrounds are lavished with those cute little nods and tips of detail that really bring the whole package together.

Spikes, Skeletons and monsters, oh my!

The music is select of a nice set of compositions, depending upon which area of the castle you’re in or if you find a juke box, there’s nothing overbearing or underwhelming and everything plods along at an agreeable pace while stopping short of becoming that ear-tick where you end up humming the same few bars over and over. It’s sufficient and fits the bill with some interesting use of instrumentals within the pieces themselves. The sound effects are diverse enough with your character having multiple sounds for being injured; spells and attacks use diverse effects to accompany their use.

Some of the locations are rather otherworldly, that's a huge moon too.

Overall it’s a fun game with a lot of replay factor though the random number generator can really stitch you up if you’re unlucky and have to play through multiple, horribly and awkwardly laid-out rooms. Sometimes you’ll die in the first few levels, other times you’ll die after a few bosses are beaten, but the random generation and the upgrading mechanic will keep players playing this for a long time. But not as long as it could have been, eventually there will be a point where insufficient progression will be made, where it’s impossible to continue on with the game and there’s nothing left to attain or unlock and then it’ll wither away because everything’s been done and there’s too much focused direction for the player to hold onto, the game being more rogue-like than rogue leaves it satisfying for a while but eventually unfulfilling.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Five Nights At Freddy's 2 - Steam

Boo... Scared already.

So we're back for another round of pizza-bear induced atmospheric horror with inevitable time limit countdowns as we play another hapless guard running the night shift in a building filled with homicidal animatronics creatures. From the first impression, it's a step up from the original game but carries over quite a few of the original elements.

Ooh some context! What indeed could go wrong?

What's returning? Well the original cast returns including the phone calling individual from the first game (voice by the creator so why not?) As well as the idea of a limited level of power, cameras installed in strategically helpful places save for them actually being no help to you at this location in time aside to give you an idea as to what's coming close and what will soon be ripping you apart.

All in place and all ready, the fun will begin shortly.

What's new? There's a LOT more different enemies to fend off. You've the original 4 (5... if you get that far) Freddy the Bear, Bonnie the Bunnie (with no face and looks even more horrific as a result), Foxy (with his own set of rules again) and Chika the du- chic- bird looking one. While now we've also to contend with new Freddy Bear, new Bonnie Bunny, new gender switched Foxy, a puppet/marionette (this one will be a REAL bastard), new Chica, golden Freddy and a non-attacking kid with a balloon that does kill your ability to use lights.

Are you in there? Don't move, you're being inspected.

So we've a new set of mechanics to learn. There's no doors to hide behind or lock, so you will HAVE to keep a watch on the cameras but this time they don't use your power. You will have to shine your torch down the main corridor to stop various bot attacks (which the balloon kid WILL ruin if you let him) and you've got to listen for approaches from the main ventilation panels leading into the room. You also have an empty puppet head of Freddy to wear that will stop the enemies from attacking you, as the game explains, they'll think you're one of them. Except for Foxy who doesn't buy your bullshit and the marionette who has a very different agenda.

Additional views and scenes build in a slightly abstract form of plot and explanation.

So you're thinking, "I'll just wear the head and leave it at that" Well, no. Foxy for a start doesn't care if you're wearing it or not and can only be stopped by shining a torch on him when he begins his unavoidable attack. The marionette on the other hand lives in another room entirely and is lulled to sleep by a windup music box that stops him from coming out. If it winds down fully and you don't restart the music, you WILL be caught by the quite creepy looking little git.

The old group are still here. Despite their look, they're still active in there.

But is there a point to this, is there a plot? If you listen to the phone calls at the start of each day, you can steadily piece together an idea that this is a new location (relatively new... bear that in mind) and that you're here but there were problems before hand. You've got to do X, Y and Z to stop the machines from running around and doing all sorts of nastiness to you. Despite that, this game brings to the forefront another claustrophobic atmosphere that is so thick you could cut it with a spoon.

And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.

As the night progresses, the ambience increases, the attempts by the machines to "visit" you increases in severity while the timer left on the windup box gets shorter with each passing night, making you switch to the camera more often and leave yourself open to more vulnerable incidents. It becomes soon a routine of near obsessive, compulsive disorder level. You'll scan the vents, check the light down the hall, then rush to the camera to check JUST on the marionette and rewind the timer before slipping quickly back to check on vents and hallways once again. At which point, you're not interested in the game anymore and just trying to beat it and unlock the extra modes.

You may not see it as often, but you'll love this screen.

The sounds and graphics are impressive to the point where we appreciate the time spent on making the graphics but it's the same system as it was before, we don't see anything moving until it attacks and everything "blink shifts" from place to place either when you're not watching or in the one micro frame of gameplay when your light isn't on them. The ambient noises and effects act as clues but the haunting background clashes of sounds (for want of a better phrase) build towards a crescendo as the game approaches that all important 6am time. It's fun for a while but eventually you're just repeating patterns to avoid the sudden kill animations and even those aren't that shocking this time around.

Over, is the game.