Thursday, 26 March 2015

Dragon Gun - Arcade

It has guns, and dragons. Ronsil would be proud.

It's an interesting idea, but given the fact that Dungeons and Dragons, Dungeon Magic and a whole other glut of "Dragon" based games came out around this time, it was only a matter of eventuality that someone did this in a board meeting. "How about... a gun game... wait for it... with DRAGONS" which was invariably met with rapturous applause and much cashbags of money heaped upon the little bastards head then with a quick return to reality for the rest us, this I think is how Dragon Gun was born.

You name it, and it'll come running to attack you.

And it's mad. I mean seriously mad in the way that when you stop and think about it, you realise why everything wants to kill you beyond the "Some git is trying to take over Fantasia... I mean the World". Yep this game is heavily rooted in the fantasy world so much so that I'm half expecting Luck Dragons and David Bowie dealing me "this little slice" of a piece of cake inside a Labyrinth.

It's an interesting take on the boss battle, actually being grabbed and attacked.

The plot in Dragon Gun is a simple affair, after all it's an arcade game so there's little point in doing anything convoluted, especially when you can just skip it and get back to shooting dragons. (And a whole host of other things) But for those that like to get their money's worth out of a game: Some Princess in a far away land (ooh) needs help after being attacked, a messenger from the dragons tells her to find two asshats that can fire the Dragon Gun (Name drops are great aren't they) and these people will be legendary enough to stop everything while blowing up most of the countryside with their god-like weaponry.

Do special, get dragon.

So you're either Twatty McJock or Dopey Doris in the quest to save the fantasy land from, some threat. Which, upon reflection, seems to be the BIGGEST case of mass parasites I've ever seen. Practically every enemy you fight has some sort of living critter in their body while they expel at high speed towards you, puking it up, arm-cannon-ing it at you or ass-blasting you with some living (or undead, we're not picky here) monstrosity that will damage your health. Seriously, some nit-shampoo and a worming drugs would solve this problem far quicker than a gun could. But wouldn't be as much fun.

Huge monsters will assault you at every turn.

So you've your character in Dragon Gun, you've a gun with infinite rounds but holding off the trigger charges up for a bigger shot, and a selection of Dragon Bombs that wipe out everything on screen or at least, cause heavy damage to the bosses and sub-bosses, and as an added bonus, if you run out of bombs, you get a weaker recharge blast that still destroys all projectiles and does minor damage to everything as well. You're quite well equipped in this game. But then so are the enemies, with worms, skulls, face-hugger looking things and god knows what else living in their bodies.

"Pull trigger to cap asshat" - a much better game.

Dragon Gun is an on-rails shooter, you don't choose where to go, you just follow the pre-set route and meet the boss at the end if you get that far. Which would be a shame if you didn't as the bosses are a rather colourful and lively bunch that range from Large Dragon, to flying centipede, Large Frog, running centipede with more parasites than one would care to think about, last boss and last boss 2 (back for revenge as per typical unimaginative game approach). While things to move at a quick pace, there's plenty to shoot at but thankfully not everything is capable of hurting you and there's a little mercy invincibility from one damage point to the next.

Look out, it's got a glimpse of plot here!

Graphically creative is an understatement for Dragon Gun, the variety and sheer scope of monsters is incredible. Yes you get your typical types with the dragons, lizards etc, but there's so many more monsters in the game which can be shot and killed in various ways. Heads get blown off only for the monster's JAWS to fly out and try one last bite, chests are shredded and limbs shot away, legs running off with the rest of the monster long since departed. Wyverns dying then returning as skeletal dragons to take more attempts and killing you. There's a high level of originality within the monster department here, it's a shame the backgrounds and scenery for the most part is either too pixelated or clearly a photograph, probably from New Zealand long before hobbits were filmed.

Insects, dragons, demons, dogs, this game has a LOT of things killing you.

Once again with the sounds, the music is overshadowed and drowned out by the explosions and screams of things dying, some monsters have some VERY human sounding screams while other sound effects sound like they're been taken from Alien 3 and Space Gun, I'm guessing someone sold a game engine at one point. Thankfully the music doesn't really add much to the game when you do hear it, so there's little missing when you don't hear what Dragon Gun is trying to pipe out through the speakers.

Even the bosses take quite the stab at the originality approach.

Overall it's a fun game, worth a few quick plays and if you're careful enough you can get quite far on just a credit or two but it's  not likely that you'll want to come back and play it again as there's no real variation in the game to want to see if things are different, however it is still enjoyable and at least with the relative ease of the game, you'll feel like you're getting good value for your cash.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Five Night's At Freddy's 3 - various

Fiiiive Niiiights Aaaaaat Freddy's.... Four calling birds, three french....etc

So we’re back, once again, to the highly popular and frequently shocking, suspense-filled and subtle undertones of child murder and mayhem that is, Five Nights At Freddy’s 3. We’ve had the first, as almost ground-breaking as the Slenderman games and such that prey upon shock scares and the feeling of helplessness compounded by the inability to run away. We’ve had FNAF 2 (Electric Boogaloo), where more robots attacked, a puppet on strings would assault us like Tim Burton’s vision of Pinocchio and now we have FNAF 3, which could be the final in the series, giving us just one robotic killer to worry about.

Nothing new there then.

It sounds like quite the downgrade doesn’t it. We’ve had the horror of 4 robots (plus a ghost), to 11 enemies and now we’re down to just one. But what a one it is as we’re lovingly guided through day one with no challenges whatsoever but some surfer-dude sounded colleague phones us on the first day to tell us that Freddy’s Pizza is now a horror attraction using bits and pieces collected over the last 30 years or so. Day One, being the gentle easing into the nightmare, has no challenges, no difficulties, no threats and lets us get on with learning the new system, the new map, where the cameras are and the fact that things are falling apart and the live feed might go down and need rebooting, the audio might need rebooting too and the ventilation system could cause suffocation.

This just in! Unnecessary pretext!

What this means is that your main weapons are VERY limited in stopping one killer robot, the ill-named Springtrap, which you learn as to why it’s so ill-fated when a friendly revisit from the very first phone-guy makes a call and explains what is so special about Springtrap as a robot. (Hint: You can wear it, but don’t breathe at the wrong time, else the mechanics activate while you’re inside… ok so that’s not so much a hint as a full explanation but oh well, just imagine a tiny violin playing a sad song for you). Much in the same way as the previous games, the robot will travel the area in search of the player and you’ve got to use your powers of weak video cameras to spot where it is, use the audio recordings of laughing children to encourage it to other places and make sure that it’s not in the ventilation ducts to bypass LARGE areas of the map.

It's not even 1am and everything has just gone pear-shaped.

Failure to secure your safety will likely have Springtrap popping along into your office to kill you in some horrifically gruesome fashion or another, either by walking in through the open door (bonus points if he’s stood OUTSIDE THE DOOR STARING IN!) or by using the ventilation system to pop out from behind where your camera system is. It’s a duel, one-on-one, against a literal killer robot and yourself. However, as the day’s progress, the vents need resetting regularly, the audio cuts out after repeated use and the video doesn’t last long before it needs a reboot. Each one of which takes many valuable, tense, nerve-wracking seconds before it can be used again and in doing so, blocks your view almost entirely, just enough for Mr Springtrap to sneak ever closer to your location.

This is Springtrap, he is coming to kill you.

As usual for this game series, there’s the secret backstory which can be found through hidden games that look like the old Atari 2600 series, which not only tell the story further of the purple man and the dead children murdered through the series, but of how Springtrap came to be and there’s the FURTHER mission of trying to liberate not only yourself from the events of the third game but to save the souls of those killed by the purple man back in the previous games that now form the very robots you had to defend against, Springtrap being the exception here, as he’s certainly not powered by a forsaken child (thank you Venture Brothers), but something far more sinister.

Foxy says "Boo" -The power of understatement

Fear not! Or fear more, depending on how you view this, but the original cast of the series are also in this game. We’ve got Chica, Freddy, Foxy, Balloon Boy, Mangle and the Marionette making (almost) guest appearances by explanation of the ventilation system causing “possible” hallucinations. By which I mean, in your quest to hunt down Springtrap on camera, you’ll be haunted by the aforementioned characters of the series in various ways, and in increasing frequency as the days go on. Balloon Boy will pop up on random cameras and then “jump” you, Foxy will just sit there until you look at him and then “jump” you, as will Chica, while Mangle will kill your sound system for a while, Freddy will also get in on the action and the Marionette will certainly demand a full focus of your time. All of which, helps Springtrap get ever closer to getting you in his clutches. It’s a strategy fest and you’ll HAVE to learn how to overcome the hallucinations before they happen if you want to spend the time focused on Springtrap.

Atari 2600 styled minigames, if you do well enough.

Combined with creepy ambient sounds and possibly the best designed map of the series with dank corridors that are (in-game at least) meant to be fear inducing as it’s supposed to be a horror attraction now (though not intentionally with a murderous rabbit robot sporting flesh and organs in places), the game is as gorgeous to see as it is nerve-wracking though in some of the cameras it gets very hard to see where Springtrap is unless he’s staring at the camera with his illuminated eyes. And although the same rules apply for the robots not moving when being watched and force static to flood the screen when they do relocate, what little animation is fluid and impressive to behold from Springtrap breaking into the room, to the hallucinations attacking you and even some of the more creepy background events.

Please note: Springtrap staring at the camera on the left.

Fans of the series may be disappointed to hear there’s no 4/20 mode, but with the original five nights concept, bonus 6th night “hard mode” and unlockables such as images, animations, all the jump scares, radar mode, fast night mode, aggressive mode (and it is… Springtrap effectively SPRINTS at you the whole time) and more; coupled with the hidden games and mini-games as well as the 3 star success (take a breath…) there’s plenty in this game combined with the background lore that will entertain fans and newcomers alike.

Not just one map, there's the vent system to worry about that Springtrap can use to get into your office.

That said, the game does have failings. Namely in that the suspense is almost removed in later days when you’re attacked very frequently by hallucinations that the actual final jump scare of Springtrap killing you is more welcomed than feared. The horror almost has become toned down to be simply annoying and borders on the fringe of being overkill at this point. Added to that, the initial concept of the game and the new mechanics may seem too far a stretch at this point that it’s been observed that many new players to the 3rd game despite being avid fans of the series’ earlier titles, found they had little clue as to how they were surviving the nights nor how to actively confront and halt Springtrap’s movements.

This is seriously the worst job to have. Ever. Turkey Husbandy would be better.

That said, I’ve enjoyed the series and feel that this is the perfect send-off for it, assuming that no more are made but I’ve no doubt that fan titles are being made or will be made that will piggyback on the success of this series, especially with such a huge and creative fan base that ranges from musical artists composing songs around the series, animations on YouTube and a flood of Let’s Play (read: scare ourselves shitless) videos of fans enjoying/enduring the game.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Five Nights At Freddy's 2 - multiple platforms

Yay, let's go back for more!

So it’s time to head back to the Five Nights At Freddy’s group, that happy and fun place where kids love the dancing animated robotic creatures and everyone else is mortified by the experience. Where pizza and parties are laid out and man-sized robotic animals are freely available to wander the hallways seeking out children to entertain and eyeing every adult with suspicion.

If you're seriously thinking of going back here, you NEED help.

Story wise, it’s another Five Nights At Freddy’s with NEW looking robots and the old ones too. (I’ll stick with this to avoid spoilers before anyone starts telling me otherwise...). We’ve Bonnie Bunny, Chica the Duck/Chicken/Poultry who seems really intent on giving us a cupcake. Freddy himself returns as does the fan-favourite (most terrifying) Foxy the Pirate. While we’re also met with lovely new versions of Freddy, Bonnie, Chica PLUS new robots in the form of Balloon Boy, Mangle and the Marionette.

So you’re now looking at 11 possible opponents, including the rather special, Golden Freddy.

No doors, but you have a torch... Just give me the tank and flamethrower.

You’re the night guard once again (a different one, which becomes apparent later on), and you’re tasked with looking after the establishment while the robots casually go wandering around here and there. To help you with this problem, you’re given full power access to the camera system, torch with VERY limited battery life (no Duracell here!) and no doors. Your main defence here in this case is the ability to shine the light at the freely roaming robots that might pause them, or cause them to reset, but also a large head from one of the suits. So if one of the animatronics walks into the office, you can slap on the head and pretend to be one of them. Unless it’s Foxy or the Marionette...

Mask down; I'm safe. Unless Foxy wants in or the Marionette is loose.

To stop you from just leaving the hat on, there’s the case of Foxy and his ability to completely IGNORE your hat/mask and just launches himself at you if you ever miss him winding up for an attack at the end of the corridor. The other big issue that stops you from just slapping masks on and off and flicking the light on an off periodically, is the Marionette. Which cannot be stopped from an attack, doesn’t get blinded by lights and doesn’t care if you’re wearing the mask or not. So we need to switch the camera on and head over to the Marionette’s area and remotely wind up a music box that will placate it. (To the tune of My Grandfather’s Clock, no less...)

The new crew! Despite the overhaul on looks, still rather off-putting.

Initially the game starts off filled with intrigue, the phone-guy is back and talking to us once again despite what happened on day 4 of the previous game and until you find out WHY this is the case, fans will overlook this apparent continuity flaw for the time being.  The cameras give partial glimpses into each of the rooms and from each a small story is told and listed. From identifying the origins to the odd circumstances in the game that leave us with man-sized robots that have a link to the local face-recognition database for identifying ‘predators’. If you stop long enough in the game to consider this, you start to worry what kind of world/environment are we in where pseudo-murderous robots in a pizza shop need access to that level of security.

They use the air-vents too.

Despite the subtext and plot, the game itself is about working out which robot is advancing, how to stop it and where to find out the next threat is going to be coming from. As such, it is VERY easy to be killed on the first day by several different robots and of course, the Marionette. As such, once you recognise the routes and journeys that the robots take, you’ll eventually devolve your exploration down to a very simple method of checking the vents, listening for movement, flashing the light down the corridor and then cranking up the music before “...the old, man, died” starts to play. Eventually something WILL meander into the room and you’ll slap the mask down (hopefully) in time to leave them confused enough to leave and hopefully not get attacked by Foxy in the ever-close window of opportunity one has to flash a light on and stop his One Hit Knock Out attack (though in truth many of the others do this too, but Foxy gives you NO chance beyond that light flash).

You'll cheer louder than the kids do when this happens.

Suspense in the game so thick you can cut it with a 2 by 4, or just batter it about a bit, while the game itself can very quickly engage and then utterly terrify players with the jump scares, suspenseful moments of being inspected by the robots and hoping beyond hope that the cute looking robot (or not so cute if you refer to the ORIGINAL set of robots), doesn’t rip your mask off beyond ending your brief stint into the game. For some, this kind of suspense is too much and in a similar vein to Alien Isolation, there’s little you can do to defend yourself but at least you can fight back in Alien Isolation. In this case, you’re stuck with the idea and notion that you’re simply waiting, defending against the inevitable hordes of robotic horrors until you reach and surpass the 5 days and emerge victorious from the whole ordeal. But then again, much like the first one, why doesn’t someone just quit? Perhaps it’s because quitting and not earning is less preferable to being hunted down by psychotic robots? But it’s all part of speculation that could infer facts about the background and origins, not that you’ll have much time to contemplate them while Bonnie is sticking his face into your own and remains undecided as to whether you’re the threat or not that it thinks you might be.

Hello Foxy...

It all depends on whether you appreciate the scare factors and the fear effects that will determine if this game will be successful for yourself. If you like being terrified and scared of being stalked, live in London, or play this game. If you don’t, then it becomes a very time-based puzzle game with loud noises and sudden changes of images when you fail to hit the pre-requisite conditions to move onto the next level. Personally however, I’ve enjoyed every minute of Five Nights At Freddy’s 2 and gleefully look forward to giving the 3rd game a run for its money.

Expect this, a lot.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Sniper Assassin: Shoot to Kill - iPhone

Starts off well, goes down hill quickly.

Through casually looking at and checking over the apps within the store, I happened upon this little game, which I thought I'd give a try. Thinking it'd be something along the lines of Sniper Scope on the arcades or one of those pseudo-Duck Hunt games harkening back to the days of the NES, or perhaps a reimagining of an original game along the lines of Operation Wow (a.k.a, let's cartoonise Operation Wolf). Instead I got something a little more impressive and a little cynical on the whole social commentary.

The BEST rifle, for more cash than a AAA game title these days...

The plot, you're a sniper and you're given contracts from city to city that you need to fulfil. These contracts tend to be specific to an area and more often than not, will require you to take aim into the city and shoot someone. Sometimes the mission will require you to shoot down several targets, or blow up a helicopter and such.

The detail and levelling aspect brings something novel to the game, boredom.

The layout of each mission takes place within a 3D modelled city and your location can be from alleyways to rooftops and usually a long way away from the action. Using your phone, you turn and tilt the phone until you're aiming at what you want, using the slider on the left you can use the zoom function but this takes you off aim for a moment while you do it (unless very careful) and tapping the screen anywhere will take the shot. A final shot/successful shot will be mapped out in a rather impressive bullet time akin almost to the Sniper Elite games, minus the skeleton structure showing. Head shots score more points than other shots and taking too long on a mission will inevitably fail it (or missing if it's a hostage mission).

Ingame cash, for outgame cash, to upgrade a gun to shoot things. This is apparently "fun".

However, each mission requires Energy, Energy that refills over time, or can be purchased. Here's where the nasty little monster of Pay to Keep Playing comes in. On top of this, to really push the money front out, each mission has prerequisites in the form of Accuracy, Zoom, Power and Stability which can all be upgraded for your particular weapon. You can use the money you earn from missions to upgrade the weapons or take one-off missions to add further supplement of funds, but these cost Energy. Or buy more coins.

You too can BUY this GUN! For more money than a real gun costs...

Yep, now we're getting bogged down in the gameplay. Later missions and special missions will require the use of more energy and some of the missions will be increasingly awkward to complete. Such as suicide bombers that MUST be taken out with a head shot. Phone bombers that won't be identified until they pull out a mobile phone. Other maps will set you up to fail and not until you fail the mission that the "helpful" guide will tell you what trap you just fell into.

So many missions, but you'll run out of energy way before you do anything.

The game is fully geared up for the long haul of burning your cash away. New weapons cost a fortune by comparison and later upgrades take additional time to be "delivered" while the option to spend a specific in-game currency is dropped in too! The gameplay is interesting to the point that some missions require some observation, thinking, planning, taking into account bullet drop over distance and then again, there's the money issue that royally takes lets the game shove you over a barrel so it can be ram overpriced costs up your arse sideways while laughing at your feeble attempts to pay up. 

Whoo, it's like The Matrix all over again.

Or, just don't pay and play every day or so. Sadly, this game effectively forces casual play as a difficulty spike, a nice idea but very poorly executed for the sake of pay-to-play functions.