Monday, March 31, 2014

Hive Gameplay Review

I'm playing Hive, a board game adaptation by BlueLine Game Studios.

The game features very adept AI in the single player mode; there is online play but no centrally-hosted PBEM option. The goal is to surround the opposing queen bee by placing various insects on the freeform game board and moving those pieces around. The interface should have included tooltips for identifying the pieces and describing their attributes. Pieces cannot be moved if they isolate other pieces, so most of the strategy involves “trapping” opposing bugs in their position. Ants can be moved any number of spaces around the outside of the hive, the beetle can climb on top of other bugs, the grasshopper can jump in a straight line, and the spider can move exactly three spaces. Hive is approachable, thanks to its limited roster of units and simplified rules, but still exhibits strategic depth and player flexibility. Featuring strong AI and a merely functional interface, Hive is a decent computer version of a solid board game.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Galactic Civilizations III Alpha Gameplay Preview

I'm playing the alpha of Galactic Civilizations III, a turn-based 4X space strategy game by Stardock Entertainment.

This very early alpha includes four races, small galaxies, multiplayer, colonization, a new ideology system, research, and conquest. The finished game will include eight races, multiple victory conditions, larger maps, diplomacy, ship design, real-time combat, and a single player campaign. Release is scheduled for sometime in 2015.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Franchise Hockey Manager 2014 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Franchise Hockey Manager 2014, a sports management simulation by Out of the Park Developments.

The game features a simulation of 23 major and minor hockey leagues from around the world, using opening day or recent rosters from the current season. You can also start a historic NHL season or customize a league. The interface has some inconsistencies, as the same action can be performed in some screens but not others. Simulating the entire world also takes a significant amount of time for each day, making the most developed mode almost unplayable. There is also no interaction during bland games that feature significant pauses every time something is added to the text play-by-play. The AI managers are passable and the simulation does produce plausible results. Franchise Hockey Manager may be a quality product in a couple of years, but this first iteration can't be recommended.

Monday, March 24, 2014

LUFTRAUSERS Gameplay Review

I'm playing LUFTRAUSERS, an arcade aerial shooter by Vlambeer and Devolver Digital.

The action-packed game offers three objectives to achieve each time you play; completing these goals will award new weapons, plane bodies, and engines with well-balanced attributes. Your rocket-equipped plane uses the arrow keys to move and “X” to shoot; stalling the plane is important in order to switch directions quickly. Levels are populated with a lot of enemies to dispose of, keeping the bedlam peaked. Smooth controls and constant chaos make LUFTRAUSERS a satisfying arcade shooter.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Horizon Gameplay Review

I'm playing Horizon, a turn-based 4X space strategy game by L3O Interactive and Iceberg Interactive.

A large selection of races are available to rule the galaxy with, all with special abilities and skills. Horizon can be played with either missions or a more open-ended game experience, and several routes to victory are possible. The cumbersome interface takes up too much room and fails to provide some useful information; issuing orders and navigating through known systems and planets can be a tiring process. Colonies can be improved in six areas through construction, and new ships can be designed and queued. Research is ongoing, though you can focus in a particular area, and typical diplomatic options are present. Turn-based combat never delivers tactical depth. Tedious mechanics and a lack of innovation makes Horizon an also-ran in the realm of 4X strategy.

Monday, March 17, 2014

PAC-MAN MUSEUM Gameplay Review

I'm playing PAC-MAN MUSEUM, an arcade game collection  by Namco Bandai Games.

The title features ten classic PAC-MAN titles in low-resolution and all capital letters: the original PAC-MAN, PAC-MANIA (an isometric game where you can jump over ghosts), PAC & PAL (where you collect cards to use items), PAC-LAND (a platform game), SUPER PAC-MAN (with the ability to smash through walls), PAC-ATTACK (a Tetris clone), PAC-MAN BATTLE ROYALE (a multiplayer game with no online play), PAC-MAN ARRANGEMENT (with items), PAC-MAN CHAMPIONSHIP EDITION (where pellet locations shift), and MS. PAC-MAN (for the ladies). While there certainly is a lot of PAC-MAN to PAC and/or MAN, only the most enthusiastic fan will find enough replay value to spend $20 on this compilation of simple, old games that are simply old.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Qvadriga Gameplay Review

I'm playing Qvadriga, a tactical chariot racing game by Turnopia and Matrix Games.

The game features single races and a campaign where you earn prize money that can be spent on rider, chariot, and horse upgrades, preparing you for more difficult races. Each race consists of three laps, and you can either give orders every ten seconds or in real-time. Orders consist of movement between lanes, acceleration or braking, whipping the horses for a burst of speed, stabilizing through the turns, watching for aggressive opponents, and damaging nearby chariots, horses, or riders. The AI offers a good opponent to race against, and there are meaningful tactical decisions to make during each event. Although it can get repetitive, Qvadriga offers a unique game idea and approachable gameplay.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tower of Guns Gameplay Review

I'm playing Tower of Guns, a roguelike first-person shooter by Terrible Posture Games.

The game takes a couple of cues from roguelikes: you are only given one life to traverse the game’s seven environments, and each layout is randomized. You goal is to reach the exit in each room and then take down the boss for each level. Tower of Guns has gun modifications to enhance your weapon that can be purchased at shops; you can also unlock perks and collect badges to give small bonuses. Items dropped by enemies can level up your gun, heal, or recharge items. The enemies are plentiful, and the features overall produce a challenging game.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Infested Planet Gameplay Review

I'm playing Infested Planet, a real-time strategy game by Rocket Bear Games.

The campaign features branching paths offering story, random, and timed missions of increasing difficulty. Cash earned by attempting and completing missions can be used to unlock new weapons and items. There are also randomly generated skirmish missions that can be further tweaked with custom sliders, and weekly challenges with online leaderboards. The objective is to destroy and capture alien hives. Troops will attack automatically, and you can easily issue “fire rockets” and “attack-move” orders to all of your units. Points are earned by destroying hives which can then be spent on different weapons, researched upgrades, or defensive structures. You never get enough points to afford everything and there are many upgrade options to choose from, so strategic variety remains high. Enemies come in various types, and the alien horde gains a randomized mutation bonus whenever a hive is captured. Overall, Infested Planet is a unique, well executed real-time strategy title with exceptional replay value.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Lock 'n Load: Heroes of Stalingrad Gameplay Review

I'm playing Lock 'n Load: Heroes of Stalingrad, a turn-based strategy game by Lock 'n Load Publishing and Matrix Games.

The game features two campaigns (one for the Germans, one for the Soviets) and over twenty standalone scenarios. Comprehensive tutorials makes learning the system easier. Multiplayer is not asynchronous like in some of Slitherine’s turn-based titles, but you can resume saved matches later if your opponent is online at the same time. The interface uses classic tabletop counters on a slightly animated map; an action bar gives you one-click access to all options. Units include leaders, infantry squads, support weapons, and vehicles. You are allowed to take actions in one hex at a time (leaders can active surrounding hexes, though), and (usually) one action per unit in the hex. Stacking units in a hex will improve the odds for an attack; dice rolls are used to determine victors in combat. Successful attacks will cause a morale drop, and shaken units must be rallied by leaders at the beginning of each turn. Proficient AI rounds out an attractive package. A combination of challenging scenarios, capable AI, and straightforward mechanics makes Lock 'n Load: Heroes of Stalingrad a notable turn-based wargame.