Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lantern Forge Gameplay Review

I'm playing Lantern Forge, a sandbox survival game by Hearthfire Studios.

A procedurally-generated map can be explored for resources and enemies; experience gained over time (especially through combat) can be used to upgrade character stats and earn new abilities. The control scheme relies on left-clicking for both movement and interaction, a very clumsy and inefficient method. Movement also brings about pathfinding issues, with the character becoming stuck on objects if the waypoint is positioned in most locations. Tools also don’t last for very long, requiring constant re-crafting of items, and it’s difficult to find key ingredients in the game world. The crafting grid does show possible items based on things in the inventory, which is handy. Eating food and sleeping is required to keep the character in tip-top shape. Homes, farms, and animals can also be managed. The game also features a  very minor penalty for death. An incredibly awkward control scheme, pathfinding issues, tool limitations, and specific crafting requirements limit the potential of Lantern Forge.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Outpost Gameplay Review

I'm playing Outpost, a colony survival management game by Highland Gaming.

Stranded in the arctic, the commander must lead his team of engineers and survive the dangerous nights in the Great White North. Supplies must be carried to the power core, where they are used to power radios (to call in mining equipment and make money for upgrades), heaters, the infirmary, and the canteen. Wildlife can be killed for food, medicine, and supplies as well. The interface doesn’t allow quick access to the engineers (either through a master list or box-selecting), a notable hinderance as the game moves at a quick pace. The commander can be controlled directly, using the WASD keys to move and the mouse to aim and shoot. Outpost is very difficult, with multiple things to manage (engineers, power, monsters) simultaneously. Outpost offers an intriguing mix of management and survival in an overly challenging environment.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

World’s Fastest Pizza Gameplay Review

I'm playing World’s Fastest Pizza, a top-down delivery action game by Oscar Britain.

The goal is to deliver pizza as fast as possible. Only given one life, which may be ended by gunfire, great white sharks, or a number of other calamities, the fast pace of the game and randomized delivery locations on the handful of maps keeps the action intense. Powerups allow for higher movement speed or slowing down time, and additional items can be purchased using money earned from successful deliveries. For $2, the frantic pace and silly gameplay of World’s Fastest Pizza has an acceptable taste.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ground Pounders Gameplay Review

I'm playing Ground Pounders, a turn-based strategy game by Kerberos Productions.

Featuring two campaigns concerning two of the races from the Sword of the Stars universe, the game also features a skirmish mode against the AI on ten maps, comprehensive tutorials, and asynchronous multiplayer where Steam will let you know when it’s your turn. The interface is designed with mobile devices in mind (lacking tool-tips and displaying at a fixed, windowed resolution). Cards drawn from a custom deck can grant improved or special abilities during gameplay. Action takes place over several phases: units are placed, cards are discarded, supply lines are determined, units are given improved attack ratings by distributing ice rolls, and, finally, movement and combat. Infantry, armored, artillery, and air units can have special attributes, like engineering or transportation. Ground Pounders uses supplies, unit control zones, terrain modifiers, fog of war, reaction fire, and support fire during each scenario. Detailed combat results are somewhat randomized, and the AI is good at picking out favorable combat matchups. Ground Pounders is a mix of some advanced strategy features with approachable sensibilities that would have benefited from more varied, or randomized, scenario design.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Battle Fleet 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Battle Fleet 2, a turn-based naval strategy game by Capital j Media.

Featuring cross-platform (Windows, Macintosh, Android, and iOS) multiplayer, this top-down World War II game has a campaign where you must capture all territories on the map by moving ships one zone per turn. Prestige points earned from your captured territories can be spent on new ships with customizable weapon layouts. Although you cannot attack from multiple zones simultaneously and there is no indication of unmoved ships, the campaign mode can be entertaining. Battleships, carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and frigates take to the high seas equipped with standard artillery, anti-air weapons, and torpedoes. Battle Fleet 2 uses angles and power adjustments to fire the weapons, producing tense gameplay reminiscent of Scorched Earth or Worms. Location-specific damage, airstrikes, fog of war, and strategic command cards round out the turn-based battle features. The AI is woefully passive on the campaign map, but does put up a decent fight in the battles, although it handles terrain poorly. Battle Fleet 2 is a light, but satisfying, game with some thought-provoking gameplay.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Real Boxing Gameplay Review

I'm playing Real Boxing, a boxing game by Vivid Games.

The game features a career mode where you pick a boxer and enter progressively harder round-robin tournaments. Timing mini-games in the gym (or cold, hard cash) are used to increase strength, stamina, or speed. Quick matches and online play are also available. Real Boxing supports several control options to throw punches: cumbersome keyboard input, or buttons or the right analog stick on a gamepad. Stamina prevents you from punching too often, and two knockdowns when your health reaches zero usually results in a knockout. You can block punches or tap the same button to dodge and counter a blow. Clinching (hugging) an opponent to recover health wastes an incredible amount of time with its stalemating button-mashing mini-game. While the AI fighters are challenging opponents, the repetitive commentary and knockout-heavy results inhibit realism. While the button-mashing mini-games and other assorted oddities of Real Boxing prevent it from being the world champion, the fan-friendly price does make it a contender.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Z Gameplay Review

I'm playing Z, a real-time strategy game by The Bitmap Brothers, TickTock Games,  and Kavcom.

This reissue of the classic game from 1996 offers absolutely no enhancements: low-resolution graphics (720p), no windowed mode, and no multiplayer make the game feel incredibly old. The campaign consists of 20 levels where you must capture territory and eventually the enemy base. The huge mini-map (thanks to the low resolution), while useful, takes up a large portion of the screen. Right-click commands are removed entirely, so selecting units and issuing movement commands are commonly confused. The game also does not support the mouse-wheel, there are no tool-tips of any kind, and there are no construction queues for buildings. Infantry and vehicle units will attack nearby enemies automatically. The pace is extremely slow with tedious unit movement and production rates. Pathfinding issues are also present, with units moving into buildings or forgetting orders. This terrible, money-grabbing edition of Z is outclassed by free, open-source tributes to the original game.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Deadstone Gameplay Review

I'm playing Deadstone, a top-down action game by Timeslip Softworks.

Featuring local two-player cooperative play, the action-oriented title involves defending a Martian colony against countless shuffling foes. The control scheme is conventional for a top-down game, and the minimap is useful in spotting enemies that are off-screen. Between missions, stats can be upgraded and perks can be earned from XP earned during each patrol; in addition, weapons and items can be purchased. Deadstone also allows you to place defensive mines and turrets on the barren landscape before a patrol begins. While pistols have unlimited bullets, rifles, shotguns, and other weapons have distressingly limited ammunition. A lot of time is spent reloading the weapons, and careful ammo management is a key to survival. The enemies are stereotypically slow, dumb zombie-like creatures, with the occasional exception. The methodical pace and repetitive action of Deadstone lessens the appeal of this top-down action game.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Instant Dungeon! Gameplay Review

I'm playing Instant Dungeon!, a dungeon exploration game by with the love studios and Flying Interactive.

The game combines a couple of ideas from roguelike games, randomly generated levels and permadeath, with puzzle-like enemy avoidance and maze exploration. There are five game modes that add extra lives, a practice mode, boss-only battles, more difficult levels, or quest-based progression to the formula. The objective in each level is to find the key and the exit; coins are used to keep score. Your character can only equip and use one one-use item at a time, which increases the tension when enemies lie between you and the nearest sword, shield, or magic scroll. Instant Dunegon! definitely offers $2 worth of entertainment thanks to its multiple game modes, use of maze and puzzle elements, and incorporation of roguelike mechanics.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Contraption Maker Gameplay Review

I'm playing Contraption Maker, a physics-based puzzle game by Spotkin.

The game features 141 official puzzles, plus tons more created by the community using the editor. Cooperative multiplayer is also available. Taking inspiration from The Incredible Machine, Contraption Maker features a large assortment of balls, walls, gears, fans, conveyor belts, ropes, scissors, buckets, balloons, lightbulbs, flashlights, candles, rockets, lasers, mirrors, animals, dynamite, bombs, and whistles to make each puzzle go. While most puzzles usually only have one or two solutions, the sheer volume of parts, coupled with the ability to skip past any level, keeps the frustration level down. While it is not as open-ended as I would have liked, Contraption Maker is a worthy update to The Incredible Machine.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Battleplan: American Civil War Gameplay Review

During linear ten-mission campaigns and very fast-paced single quick battles, three objective locations must be captured. The interface has numerous issues: selection and movement orders are commonly confused, vague unit portraits don’t easily identify unit type, units will build extraneous time-consuming pontoon bridges immediately adjacent to existing fords or bridges (especially when issued group-move orders across a river), there is no indication when valuable reinforcements arrive, and tool-tips are non-existent. Basic unit types (infantry, cavalry, and artillery), along with a commander unit and supply wagon, are available. Unit experience, morale, exhaustion, and leader aggressiveness can impact their performance and actions during battle. Movement orders are done by selecting a unit and dragging out a path with the mouse; units will attack automatically. Orders travel from the commander to units by courier and may be refused or delayed. Commanders can also rally nearby units, artillery units are affected by the wind and terrain, and idle forces can create temporary defenses. Alternating between active and passive, the AI noticeably waits for pre-scripted events to coordinate an attack. A budget-priced light wargame designed with tablets in mind, Battleplan: American Civil War has some advanced concepts at a heightened pace, but spotty AI and a troublesome interface.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Rodina Gameplay Review

I'm playing Rodina, a space exploration adventure game by Elliptic Games.

Procedurally generated asteroids and planets can be explored to collect weapon ammunition and upgrades to your ship. The ship can be walked around in first-person view, and the design can be altered to your liking. Ship-to-ship combat in space against simple AI opponents is possible, and fires must be put out after intense combat. Future plans include the ability to board enemy ships, access ship systems, and explore and fight on the surface of planets. Despite the incomplete feel the game has now, future development looks bright in the worlds of Rodina.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Pro Cycling Manager 2014 / Le Tour de France 2014 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Pro Cycling Manager / Le Tour de France 2014, a bicycling management simulation by Cyanide Studio and Focus Home Interactive.

The game involves riders and events from across the globe for the current year. In the career mode, one real or custom team is managed by adjusting the staff, fitness and training schedule, yearly rider objectives, sponsor objectives, equipment research and development goals, rider transfers, and scouting. Single multi-race tours, individual stages, classic races, track events, and multiplayer are also available. The 3D races play out much the same as before, although consecutive orders (what to do after the current order is completed) and automated race tactics are new features. Other than those two new features, the interface is the identical to the one used the past several years, allowing for adjustments to rider effort level and orders like attacking, defending, maintaining position, or fetching water. The AI is good enough and the races play out plausibly. Pro Cycling Manager 2014 continues the sports game tradition of releasing a full-priced edition every year with minimal changes.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Shattered Planet Gameplay Review

I'm playing Shattered Planet, a planet exploration roguelike by Kitfox Games.

Featuring randomly generated maps to explore and permadeath (items are lost but stats are not), the game has several classes with varied starting abilities and skill levels (damage, dodge, and health) that can be increased with scrap metal. You can use the other resource, crystals, to forge new helmets and weapons, spawn a pet companion, or purchase single-use items. The polished interface shows nearby loot and enemy locations. An ever-growing blight keeps you moving towards the teleporter at the end of each level, and events keep things dynamic. A good variety of enemies, along with lots of items to discover, round out this pleasing roguelike.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Cult of the Wind Gameplay Review

I'm playing Cult of the Wind, an online human dogfighting shooter by North of Earth.

The online-only game features people running around pretending to be airplanes. A level editor and Steam Workshop support is included to expand the game’s content. The faster a player moves, the more damage is caused, an innovative feature that prevents camping and sniping; fuel and ammunition are also limited. Colored kits containing fuel, health, ammunition, upgrades, and weapons are scattered around each level. Cult of the Wind offers a couple of unique ideas, and a distinctive setting, to the shooter genre.