Friday, June 29, 2018

Wreckfest Gameplay Review

I'm playing Wreckfest, an arcade racing game by Bugbear Entertainment and THQ Nordic.

The game features a lengthy multi-tiered career mode with lots of varied events at each level. In addition, there are single events and online racing. Money and experience points used to unlock and purchase new cars and parts can be earned in any game mode. The handling strikes a terrific balance between arcade and simulation: the vehicles require skill to drive but are more forgiving than more realistic simulations. Handling can also be tuned in a straightforward manner, making adjustments to the suspension, gear ratio, differential, and brake balance. Adjustable aids (anti-lock brakes, traction control, automatic gearbox) can also be utilized. The most noticeable feature of Wreckfest is the damage model: soft body damage looks fantastic, and raceways are typically littered with debris after every race. The smooth game engine runs very well and looks great. Very competent AI drivers put on a great race and will put you in the wall if given the chance, but will also make mistakes and wreck each other. Wreckfest is a fantastic arcade racing game that delivers enjoyable handling, challenging yet fallible computer opponents, solid online play, and varied racing modes on numerous tracks to go along with its detailed car damage.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Lumines Remastered Gameplay Review

I'm playing Lumines Remastered, a puzzle game by Resonair and Enhance.

New features are limited to shuffled mode and additional vibration settings, while online multiplayer has been removed. There are plentiful game modes included: the “normal” challenge mode with basic, shuffle, and endless options, a mode where you can choose the skins used, a seemingly pointless time-limited time attack mode, a very difficult puzzle mode where you have to create a shape within a time limit, a very difficult mission mode with specific objectives to accomplish within a time limit, a very difficult versus CPU mode, and local competitive multiplayer. The basic gameplay involves making squares of the same color by dropping and rotating blocks. As the timeline passes, blocks will disappear, and more blocks removed in the same sweep will increase the score. A “chain” block (with a cross on it) removes any adjacent blocks of the same color. The mechanics are easy to learn but hard to master, as the game is quite challenging across all modes. While this Remastered edition adds very little, Lumines is a very good, very challenging puzzle game.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Jurassic World Evolution Gameplay Review

I'm playing Jurassic World Evolution, a theme park management simulation by Frontier Developments.

The game takes place over five islands (plus a sixth sandbox location from the original Jurassic Park movie), each of which presents different challenges (storms, limited space, an initial deficit). Fulfilling contracts for the security, entertainment, and science branches grants extra cash and will also unlock story-based missions and other bonuses. However, completing too many contacts for a single branch will cause the other factions to sabotage your park. The interface provides a map with a list of all buildings and dinosaurs, plus management views for weather and transportation, but does not utilize enough hotkeys for buildings and requires too many clicks to reach some information (such as the genome library). Creating a dinosaur involves several steps: sending an expedition team to dig fossils, extracting DNA, and incubating the eggs. Dinosaurs are kept inside fenced enclosures, which much be stocked with food, water, and the correct balance of trees and grassland for the specific inhabitants. Each dinosaur has a detailed range of tolerable conditions, and will attack the fences if their comfort dips too low. The ranger station can take pictures of your creations or medicate sick animals, while the ACU helicopter will tranquilize and move problematic dinos. Both of these vehicles can be controlled directly, which is a fun prospect initially, but the novelty wears off and you’ll want to designate the tasks eventually. Guests do not have the level of detail that the dinosaurs do: simply place enough food, shopping, and hotel buildings (location doesn’t matter), and you’ll easily attain a maximum guest rating. Money is easy to come by as long as the dinosaurs aren’t running amok, which happens frequently once the game decides to increase the difficulty by causing dinosaurs that have all of their needs fulfilled to attack the park for no reason. In addition, most of the maps are very cramped and there is significant waiting for money to accumulate and tasks to finish (and no time acceleration to speed things up). Ultimately, Jurassic World Evolution has a wonderful setting and solid pedigree but is limited by tedious and repetitive gameplay.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Bus Simulator 18 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Bus Simulator 18, a bus driving simulation by stillalive studios and Astragon Entertainment.

The game takes place in a single town of relatively small size (it only takes a couple of minutes to drive from one end to the other). Money earned by driving routes can be used to purchase new buses and hire employees to drive routes for you. Or, you can go online and drive for other users’ companies, a neat feature. The driving is faithful: if all of the realism options are turned on, you must unlock the doors, turn on the ignition, turn on all of the lights, and put the bus into drive before each excursion. Speed limit signs are rare, and European priority roads take some acclimation for an American used to traffic lights and 4-way stops. The AI traffic will yield if you signal to merge back in from a stop, and they seem to give right-of-way as well. In addition to opening the doors for customers, you must give change to people whom purchase tickets (an enjoyable aspect of the game). You may also have to clean up garbage or tell riders to turn their hippie music down. Conversations between passengers repeat themselves quickly. Despite the limited driving area, Bus Simulator 18 is an effective game highlighted by solid driving and online multiplayer.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Flashing Lights Early Access Gameplay Preview

I'm playing the early access version of Flashing Lights, an emergency services simulation by Nils Jakrins' Team and Excalibur Games.

Taking place in a fairly sizable open world, the game can be played alone or cooperatively online. Three different occupations can be chosen: police, fireman, or EMT. Currently, missions are limited: the police can only ram a target car (in addition to issuing parking tickets), firemen can put out blazes or rescue people trapped in vehicles, and medics inspect victims and transport them to the hospital. Hopefully, additional content and improvements will be added to Flashing Lights during development, as the potential is there for an enjoyable cooperative game.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Antigraviator Gameplay Review

I'm playing Antigraviator, an arcade racing game by Cybernetic Walrus and Iceberg Interactive.

The game features a single player campaign where money earned during each race can be used to unlock new parts. However, you must place first to unlock the next set of races, which is a very tough proposition. Additionally, there is local split-screen multiplayer, online multiplayer with rankings and leaderboards, and single races against the AI. Beyond traditional lap-based events, there are "deathraces" where last place is eliminated each circuit, and a "countdown" mode where passing through checkpoints adds time. There are only 12 different tracks in four settings, but the tracks don't impact the racing too much. Controls are typical, with air braking to get around tight turns and collecting pickups for boost. Antigraviator advertises "no speed limit", but there is clearly a top speed as the car slows down after boosting. Traps (missiles, ice, mines, et cetera) are available at various locations around each track (indicated on the map). The first person to smash the B button gets to use it immediately, which is a terrible game mechanic devoid of strategy: there is no saving traps for just the right moment. Racing favors being in the lead too much (as you can collect the boost pickups first and widen your lead), and the AI racers stick to the racing line and slam into each other and you continually. Antigraviator has the potential to be a compelling arcade racer, but its lack of tactics in using traps and favoritism towards being in the lead places it off the podium.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Football, Tactics & Glory Gameplay Review

I'm playing Football, Tactics & Glory, a turn-based sports strategy game by Creoteam.

The game features a single player campaign mode where you lead a team from the amateurs to the premier league, signing new players and upgrading facilities along the way. There is also hotseat and online multiplayer, but no single games against the AI. There is good mod support with Steam Workshop integration. Players have four stats (accuracy, passing, defense, and control) that determine how high their random dice rolls go; skills are also available to use during games in special situations. Players gain experience during matches that can be used to unlock new classes (sweeper, full back) with additional game attributes. Each match is turn-based: a team gets three moves before control is passed to the opponent. Players can move, dribble, pass, shoot, hold the ball (which increases control), tackle, press (to make it easier for a second player to tackle), swap positions, cross, or break in. Free kicks, corner kicks, and penalty kicks allow for limited player positioning before the play starts. A lot of the game’s strategy involves initial placement of players on the field, and then using their abilities to move the ball into the net. This results in a lot of formation changes and counters to those changes during the course of a game, at least when humans are involved: while the AI is good at the game, it never alters its formation during a match, causing a successful plan to be able to be repeated. Two things prevent Football, Tactics & Glory from being a great game: the lack of single games against the AI, and the static formation usage by the computer opponent.