Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Golf Club Closed Beta Gameplay Preview

I'm playing the closed beta of The Golf Club, a golf simulation by HB Studios.

The game features a powerful course creator capable of procedurally generating plausible courses in a matter of seconds. You can change global settings for altering an entire course or tweak options for individual holes, or start a new course from scratch, adding new holes one at a time. Courses can be uploaded to the central server, where they are played by others and voted upon; the efforts of human golfers are shown as ghost balls on the courses as you play. While there is stroke, match, and four ball play right now, tours and tournaments will be added before release so you can link several courses together in a playoff-like system. The game currently uses the gamepad as the only control scheme: you aim using the left stick and swing using the right stick. A decent enough (as good as can be expected using a gamepad instead of a mouse and keyboard) interface allows you to plan your shots. The Golf Club is planned for release this year.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

NASCAR ‘14 Gameplay Review

I'm playing NASCAR ‘14, a stock car racing simulation by Eutechnyx and Deep Silver.

The career mode remains the same (starting with a poor car that can be improved with good finishes for sponsors), although upgrades are now in a research and development tree that will unlock different quality levels of parts (engine, chassis, body, suspension, brakes) that you can combine for race-specific car designs. The game includes the 2014 Sprint Cup drivers and the new Chase rules format. The intriguing highlight race event scenarios now cost $5/month for new 2014 content as the season progresses; they were free updates last year. Online play now features a server browser and leagues for sixteen drivers. Races have a green flag restart zone for the leader, and you can spin the tires easily during a restart. The AI drivers are outrageously aggressive, but also drastically slow down on occasion for no apparent reason. Your computerized opponents also (still) exhibit poor pitting strategy; the shortcomings with the AI almost make the single player modes unplayable. Minor issues return from last year’s version as well: there is no direct control during yellow flags and pit stops, you will always pit in the first stall, and any amount of damage can be repaired in four seconds on pit road. You can actually wreck out of a race this time around (your engine will eventually catch on fire), but only with multiple, high speed collisions. Fans of stock car games would hope that all of the issues of last year’s version would have been ironed out in a full-priced sequel, but NASCAR ‘14 remains a decent simulation with terrible AI and other problems that discerning drivers will find fault with.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Drunken Robot Pornography Gameplay Review

I'm playing Drunken Robot Pornography, a first-person shooter by Dejobaan Games.

The story offers a series of over fifty very challenging levels where you have to defeat immense titans across the city. You can also create and share custom titans and arenas. Equipped with a jetpack, most of the levels involve multiple platforms and enemies that can spawn from any direction. More advanced, stackable weapons and temporary power-ups can be collected around each level, necessary aids when dealing with the large bosses. Those looking for a formidable three-dimensional first-person shooter will certainly find one in Drunken Robot Pornography.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Retrobooster Gameplay Review

I'm playing Retrobooster, a flying arcade shooter by Really Slick.

There are over thirty levels that can be played cooperatively or competitively with others on the same computer. The insanely challenging control scheme offers thrust forwards and backwards plus rotation as you repeatedly crash into the cave walls and other objects. Your ship can utilize primary and secondary weapons and shields to dispose of the varied enemies; the handy aiming laser makes shooting easier. Bonus points are also awarded for rescuing civilians. If you can overcome the controls, Retrobooster offers a pleasing amount of content through the level design and variety.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Probably Archery Gameplay Review

I'm playing Probably Archery, an awkward first person shooter by South East Games.

The game features a training mode and a nice variety of single-player skill games. In addition, there are two online modes where you can compete against other players. The controls use the mouse in conjunction with holding down keys to manipulate the wrist, elbow, and shoulder of either arm, while the mouse buttons are used to grab and load arrows. Although the game becomes easier once the commands are mastered and lacks replay value, Probably Archery is effective in achieving its goal: applying a cumbersome control scheme to a skill-based shooter.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Prison Architect Early Access Alpha Preview

I'm playing the early access alpha of Prison Architect, a jail management simulation by Introversion Software.

The game allows you to place a wide variety of different buildings to run your prison (administrative offices, power generators, storage) or attend to the needs of your inmates (cell, kitchen, yard, shower, infirmary, laundry, visitation, workshop). Your staff consists of the warden, who researches new technologies, and support personnel that provide security, cook meals, clean, and provide medical care. Detailed reports are available covering your staff, prisoners, jobs, needs, the daily schedule, grants, finances, and contraband, providing important information as you attempt to neutralize violent inmates and catch potential escapees.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nidhogg Gameplay Review

I'm playing Nidhogg, a side-scrolling action game by Messhof.

The goal is to reach the end of the level by repeatedly killing your opponent. The hilariously inconsistent AI and potentially laggy online play are no substitutes for local human opponents. Local tournaments can involve up to eight players and use optional rules to alter the gameplay. Through the simple control scheme, you can fence, adjust your sword height to disarm your opponent, dive kick, duck, sweep legs, and throw swords. The gameplay ranges from careful, methodical swordplay to chaotic running, jumping, and blocking as the foes fight back and forth across each level. While Nidhogg is humorously fun with multiple players on the same computer, the single player and online modes are both lacking.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire Gameplay Review

I'm playing Gridiron Solitaire, a card-based sports game by Bill and Eli Productions.

Starting a new league allows you to select from a roster of teams with different ratings that affect in-game events. An offseason free agency period allows you to increase (or decrease) these ratings through player acquisition. The offense must gain forty yards each set of downs. The first step is to select a run or pass play: guessing correctly on offense nets an additional card slot, while guessing correctly on defense limits the maximum number of yards the computer can gain during the down. The AI does an acceptable job picking “run” or “pass” based on the current game situation. The basic mechanic is matching cards: you must match two oppositely-colored cards that are one numeral different. Doing so on offense will gain four more yards on a running play or eight more yards (after two successful matches) on a passing play. If you are on defense, getting a match decreases the number of yards the AI gains by two. You can end the play at any time once you run out of matches and accept the current result, or resort to the big play, which either grants an additional card to match or spawns an event (like a turnover or big pass). The card matching mechanic lacks strategy and relies on luck, although this is slightly mitigated by the tactical use of big plays. An alternative to more traditional American football, Gridiron Solitaire’s reliance on luck over strategy obscures a unique approach to the game.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Starpoint Gemini 2 Early Access Alpha Preview

I'm playing the early access alpha of Starpoint Gemini 2, a role-playing action space adventure by Little Green Men Games and Iceberg Interactive.

This sequel adds 3-D combat, randomized missions, and a continuous dynamic world to the role-playing upgrades, trading, ship management, and tactical combat of the original.

Monday, February 03, 2014

rymdkapsel Gameplay Review

I'm playing rymdkapsel, a space station management simulation by grapefrukt games.

On a non-randomized map, you place Tetris-like rooms connected by corridors that produce resources, provide housing, or defend against waves of invaders. Your minions automatically do their assigned tasks (construction, engineering, food service, defense) and lie down when idle. The key to the initially slow-paced game is optimizing task assignments and placing rooms efficiently. While you can prioritize room construction, placing too many rooms at once will spread your resources too thin and crash your economy. Overall, rymdkapsel is a thoughtful, challenging management game with an effective minimalist design but reduced replay value.