Wednesday, March 27, 2013

BIT.TRIP Presents... Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien Gameplay Review

Challenging levels are presented in a linear order, although some branching options are available. A midway checkpoint alleviates some tedium in repeating sections of each level. In addition to simply progressing through the game, you can aim for high scores while unlocking retro challenges, keys, outfits, and characters. The controls are designed for the gamepad; while the character always moves at a fixed speed, you can jump, slide, spring, kick, block, loop, or dance. More advanced combinations are introduced slowly, such as gliding, slide-kicking, and slide-jumping. While the difficulty is quite high, the game never seems unfair (just unforgiving). The slick, colorful graphics and catchy soundtrack work well with the approachable theme. While the layouts can be frustrating, BIT.TRIP Presents... Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien offers fluid gameplay and a memorable presentation for fans of the genre.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Shattered Haven Gameplay Review

I'm playing Shattered Haven, an environmental puzzle game by Arcen Games.

The game features nearly one hundred short puzzles that are linked through a story that takes place on a hostile overworld map. The puzzles advance in real-time once you start moving, and progress is saved between missions. Shattered Haven can be played cooperatively on the same machine, and there is a level editor that lets you access any of the game’s content or create your own. The default controls utilize a gamepad or the keyboard, with the arrow keys for movement and the ASDF keys to use four items; limiting direct access to only four items at a time requires tedious switching during combat. The inventory list also lacks tool-tips for the tiny icons, so differentiating between various items can be difficult. There are many items to pick up and use in each puzzle design, mostly consisting of weapons and tools; you can also pick up money to spend at shops (on upgrades or health) and items to increase your score. The enemies consist of zombie-like Grays and various animals that exhibit pattern-like behavior, accentuating the puzzle elements of the game. While most of the solutions are intuitive within the rules of Shattered Haven, they can be inflexible as well. Still, fans of this style of puzzle gaming will find some intricate, clever designs for the genre.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Arma 3 Alpha Preview

I'm playing the alpha of Arma 3, a military shooter by Bohemia Interactive.

This early version of the game has four short missions covering infantry and vehicle operations, plus online multiplayer and a functional editor to create custom content. The graphics of Arma 3 are improved over its predecessor but run at seemingly the same performance level. The HUD has been cleaned up a bit (although the obtuse command controls remain), and the sound design features less robotic voice work. The controls have also been streamlined, utilizing more intuitive keys for each action. One highlight: you can now incrementally adjust your pose (the height of your stance) to make it easier to hide behind objects. Movement in Arma 3 feels more authentic thanks to the improvements in the control scheme. The beta is scheduled to be released this summer, with the full game following in Q3 2013.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Showdown Effect Gameplay Review

I'm playing The Showdown Effect, an online side-scrolling action game by Arrowhead Game Studios and Paradox Interactive.

The game pits adversaries against each other in four free-for-all and team-based modes (although ranked games are limited to deathmatch only). The map designs offer multiple paths and levels for more varied encounters. The Showdown Effect has a well-executed and memorable theme (80’s and 90’s action movies), mostly accomplished through the sound design. Each character get a primary weapon, secondary weapon, and special ability, and experience points can unlock cheaply-priced new weapon classes (pistols, knives, RPGs) and expensive outfits and weapon skins. The control scheme allows for dodge rolls, sliding, swinging, wall climbs, and diving at enemies. You must aim over a target to register a hit, and melee weapons can block bullets and are great for close-quarters combat; additional melee weapons can also be picked up in each level. The game has a very fast pace, action-packed with friendly team kills and lots of frantic combat. The combat is balanced well, as each weapon has an appropriate situation and one particular item isn’t overpowered. However, other than the theme, The Showdown Effect doesn’t add anything too memorable or innovative to the online action game, although the low price tag may make the game enticing to the action fan.

Friday, March 08, 2013

StarDrive Beta Preview

I'm playing the beta of StarDrive, a 4X space strategy game by Zero Sum Games and Iceberg Interactive.

The game is in real-time, but features five-second “turns” when resources and production are processed. You can customize your race or pick from some pre-designed templates. The game has a focus on optional, helpful automation: units can be assigned orders (defend, transport goods or colonists, explore) and will carry them out without additional intervention. Designing a fleet will automatically queue up ships for that blueprint, and designating a planet for colonization will also construct a colony ship if needed. Resources (food and production) can be shipped between planets using freighters, and AI colonial governors can be given general directives (such as develop industry or research) to reduce tedious management of large empires. Designing ships involves placing various modules onto a ship hull, and combat destroys individual parts based on the location of the damage. StarDrive also has ground combat (which can be automated, if desired), and you can take direct control (using the WASD keys) of individual spacecraft. Diplomatic options are very basic (for now?), but you can assign agents to steal resources or sabotage the enemy. A beta for the game is now available on Steam for those who pre-order.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Dollar Dash Gameplay Review

I'm playing Dollar Dash, a top-down competitive arcade game by Candygun and Kalypso Media.

The primary game mode involves four players gathering money, frequently shooting their competitors, and transporting it to a storage location; there is also deathmatch and tag. Finding a game is easy thanks to quick match and server browser options, and bots can replace human players if none are available. Games take place across more than ten maps, and bot difficulty, winning score, and available weapons can be customized. Money earned during games is spent on upgrades, perks, and cosmetic items like hats. While you cannot reconfigure the keyboard control scheme, Dollar Dash gives you several options for each action. Mouse aiming makes landing shots easier, although fast movement speed reduces accuracy. Your character can carry one offensive weapon, one defensive item, and one power up at a time; pickups regenerate quickly. Dollar Dash features quick games with a fast pace that almost always turn into utter chaos. It’s hard to keep track of what’s happening, and it’s way too easy to steal money, resulting in a lot of unfair exchanges and frustrating gameplay. You can successfully camp near the collection point and benefit from the hard work of other players. The AI bots play the game well, providing a viable offline option if human opponents can’t be found. Overall, the confusingly rapid speed and frequent random luck of Dollar Dash make it a less appealing multiplayer title.