Game Review: Dark Slash

Dark SlashDeveloper: Veewo

Dark Slash falls squarely into the genre of slashers – think Fruit Ninja, with the exception that here the objects fight back. And it is an obvious and perfect use of the genre – instead of slashing fruit, spend your energy fighting baddies.

Controls are simple.  Your hero, the dark figure with the blue glowing blade, appears in the middle of an empty field.  Within seconds, shadowy figures begin to appear.  A tap will cause the hero to dash to the new location slashing with his blade, killing all enemies in his path.  A swipe will cause a quick move – though I strongly recommend attempting to make every move an attack.  The game’s fun is in its simplicity.  Kill bad guys before your own inevitable demise.

Dark Slash - Swarming EnemiesAt first the enemies will simply follow the hero around and get in the way.  However, as soon as enemies with blades and bows appear, change your attacks to take them out first.  Yellow blades will attack the hero and bows will shoot arrows that the hero can run into. Harder enemies appear and become quite impressive but no spoilers.  The game is unforgiving and the difficulty escalates quickly.  Each kill adds to the bar at the top of the screen to complete a round and with each round the difficulty only escalates that much more.  Think a frustration level only a bit below Flappy Bird (but with so much more gameplay and personality).

The hero’s attack is limited and a tap too far away will cause the hero to only move part way, possibly leaving you open to attack, especially once multiple blades begin spawning.  With practice, this can be taken into account but dying because an attack is not as strong as planned is very frustrating.  I would rather the hero be able to dash the full distance and let deaths be the player’s fault.

Dark SlashReplay value is very high; the game loads quickly and smoothly and there is very little to slow restarting a game after the inevitable end. Graphics are purposely dark in a fantastic 8-bit way but glowing blades and bows indicate who poses the greatest threat. This is a game that cannot be played in strong or glare-y lighting, darkness is better. Moody music (that is definitely better with head phones) adds well to the game’s eerie atmosphere.

Breakdown:

Graphics:  Fittingly dark graphics create atmosphere and challenges. Not very playable in sunlight.
Gameplay:  Simple and strategic – nice action-puzzle that requires fast reaction time.
User Interface: Few buttons though at times the use of symbols instead of labels is more confusing than helpful.
Usability: Quick loading and reloading makes this a game that’s easy to replay.

Final Thoughts: Dark Slash is a great next step for the slashing genre, one that actually manages to add some danger beyond random bombs.  Dark and moody but fast paced and difficult, great for those quick moments of escape or, even, longer moments of obsession.

Available on:
Android
iOS

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Crowdfunding Round-Up – May 17, 2014

Crowdfunding is here to stay and has proven itself as a viable and extremely useful method of funding the development of creative projects.  In an effort to cut through some of the noise, here is a list of some promising games in development looking for funding from the masses.

Will of Flame (IndieGoGo)
By: Noble Weapon Games

“Will of Flame is a frenetic 2D arcade shoot ‘em up with a scoring system that rewards the most spectacular and original kills.”

A bounty hunter is out for revenge and there is a nearly endless supply of ways to exact that dish best served cold. Will of Flame is a side scrolling, shooter currently campaigning on IndieGoGo. Based on the pictures, video, and (best of all!) the demo, the game looks beautiful in a cartoon-y, rather bloody way. Six different worlds and 21 levels; ten different guns and traps to be orchestrated into deadly works of art, which you are, of course rewarded for.

I love games that take simple mechanics and layer them to allow for deeper strategies. Checkout PunchQuest or Outwitters as examples. As such I will be keeping a keen eye on Will of Flame. Bonus points for it having a workable demo! The campaign has 19 days left to reach €38,000 in funding.

The Old City (Kickstarter)
By: Post Mod Softworks

“The Old City is a first person adventure game that deals with philosophical themes in an exploratory way.”

If you have ever played Myst and its sequels and loved them, The Old City will grab your attention as it did mine. This is a game about exploring a beautifully rendered world and putting together the pieces of story left behind. The game is more about philosophy than racking up kills. According to Kickstarter, most of the work is already done; the money being crowdfunded going towards the art and finishing the whole project. If the money is going toward art, I have to say I’m in because the world in the video is just beautiful.

Genre boundaries are meant to be broken and there are more than enough first-person-shooters in existence already, kudos to PostMod for creating a different sort of game and I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting its arrival! The game has 11 more days to reach its goal of $40,000.

Once Upon a Runner (Kickstarter)
By: Salty Pepper Games

“A 2D side-scrolling, level based runner game that follows the story of a young fire mage as she explores 6 fairy tale worlds.”

Endless Runners usually have little to no story. After all, how can you when all you are doing is running?

Once Upon A Runner is looking to change that by incorporating the story of Ella, the fire mage, into the running. What impressed me was the hand drawn cartoons and the style of art work. Some serious care went into the development of this game and it shows. I love a good fairy tale , classic or modern, and Once Upon a Runner looks like it delivers. On top of that add some nice endless running features and I’m clearly hooked. Its no secret I love endless runners and adding to one is bound to catch my attention.

The game is nearly finished and the video lays out where the money is going. Before anyone gets upset over the money going towards admin fees, take a look at what licenses cost and think again. The demo is great fun and provides a clear proof of concept! Once Upon a Runner has 10 more days to raise the remainder of its $5,000 goal.

AxeThrower (Kickstarter)
By: Sneaky Mammoth

“Axethrower is a unique multiplayer game where you have to fight each other using a shared weapon.”

Everyone knows and loves the one screen rumble games – think Super Smash Bros or Toto Temple. But what if the only damage that could be done to other players was through the use of a single weapon which you had to vie for control of? This is the premise of AxeThrower and it is why it grabbed my immediate attention. Up to four players bounce around the screen fighting for control of the Axe which is then used to emaciate each other. Pretty simple at first but looks like a great twist on this classic party genre.

A great demo on the Kickstarter page is a bonus selling point as it shows that the game is coming along. Its goal of €40,000 may be a tad steep but it still has 12 days to go as of today.

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There are too many worthy games in development to count but the above is a short-list of games seeking the help of the masses. I personally look forward to play testing all of them and hope to see them succeed!

As always, comments are appreciated and welcome! Additionally, if you are seeking to crowdfund a game, clue us in and we’ll gladly check it out!

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Game Review: Heroes of Loot

Heroes of LootDeveloper: Orange Pixel

Heroes of Loot is a fast-paced dungeon crawler that distills the genre down to its core: collecting loot and killing baddies.

HoL is all about crawling dungeons. The fun, little bit of plot that sets the game involves a dungeon that needs some good stalwart heroes to spruce the place up and our band of heroes! The heroes bravely agree, as heroes will do, and the game begins.

One of the most interesting features of HoL is that it gets harder overall as you, the player, get better; i.e. starting a new game with a new character will not lower the overall difficulty of the dungeon in which you start. In the ongoing story, the dungeon master excitedly informs the heroes that their hard work has allowed her to gather stronger enemies! Hooray! This is a nice twist because it does become tedious to restart a game and have to grind through levels of rats before getting to interesting baddies.  Here, if you die, you can jump right back into a much more “interesting” dungeon.

HoL - Wizard Play is simple: control your character with the joystick on the left and attack, both long and short range, with the action button on the right. Controls are pretty responsive and the joystick provides a nice range of motion. On the other hand, it is very easy to accidentally move outside the space allotted to the joystick control which brings your hero to an abrupt, and possibly deadly, stop. Overall, the controls work well with practice and allow for a lot of mobility. Targeting is automatic as the hero races around the dungeon which is almost a necessity. Strategies such as strafing and duck-n-cover become necessary and would be impossible without good controls.

The Warrior in Action Four character classes are available from the start of the game: the warrior (barrels through enemies), the elf (long range attacks), the valkyrie (gains more experience), and the wizard (good with magic). While basic gameplay is fairly similar with all four, an overall strategy develops with the realization that the overall game levels with the player.

The game moves at a great pace. Dungeons levels are of a good size and packed with an assortment of enemies that get more complicated. In addition to the general goal of collecting as much of the plentiful loot as possible, side quests are given out by the dungeon mistress.

The aesthetics of the game are great. The music of the game is fun and doom inspiring. The visual style of the game is 16 bit throwback and looks beautiful on the mobile screen. Graphics are clear and it is easy to distinguish your character from the hordes.

Breakdown:

Graphics: Classic 16 bit graphics look good on small screens. Heroes are nicely differentiated and stand out nicely.
Gameplay: Fast paced, almost frantic at times, dungeon crawling with room for strategy and deeper gameplay.
User Interface: Good, responsive controls but the joystick could be more clearly defined or just given a larger space.
Usability: Very quick load time, no connectivity needed and clean menus means that this game can be picked up quickly and played for a long time.

Final Thoughts: Fun, simple dungeon crawler with the nice touch that the game itself grows steadily harder with the player rather than the character.

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Crowdfunding Round-Up: March 1, 2014

Crowdfunding is here to stay and has proven itself as a viable and extremely useful method of funding the development of creative projects.  In an effort to cut through some of the noise, here is a list of some promising games in development looking for funding from the masses.

In the Running

Super Chibi Knight
by: Nick Pasto (and Daughter)

Super Chibi Knight aims to be a 2-D RPG platformer in the vein of classic games like Mario and Duck Tales. Apart from the wonderful story of the creator, Nick Pasto, developing the game with his 8 year old daughter, the classic style and the clearly self-aware, tongue-in-cheek humor immediately drew me to this game. As of now, the game is slightly over $1,000 short of its modest goal but it has 22 days to go.

Sweet Escape: A Game to Set Candy Free
by: Victory Square Games

Sweet Escape is a puzzler based around saving as much candy from the nefarious Evil King as possible. Do not play or watch this game if you have an aversion to watching candy get destroyed in some pretty fascinating ways. If not, then watch away! The variety of candy and, thus, solution types and the demo of this game solidified my belief in it. This game still has a bit over $11,000 to go with only 5 days left so jump on over and check it out.

Treachery in Beatdown City
by: Shawn Alexander Allen

Growing up, one of my favorite games was Battle Toads. TiBC is a clear and loving ode to brawlers which seeks to bring some RPG elements into the mix. In the right hands, this is a fantastic combination! The team has clearly put a lot of love into improving the basic mechanisms of the brawler genre and have created a game that is constantly throwing new punches your way. This game has a long way to go towards its $50,000 goal, as of this writing it is resting at $12,476 with 13 days to go.

Mage Rage
by: Team Stallion
Mage Rage will be a first person, puzzler platformer that requires the player to balance enhanced magical powers with the inebriation necessary to gain such powers! The game is set in a universe where the consumption of alcohol by mages increases their powers, thus, the player must deal with the effects of intoxication while guiding the mage through puzzles. This game also offers a playable demo and a multitude of Let’s Play videos. This game is currently over $8,000 away from its goal of $10,000 but it has 29 days to go. Plenty of time to check it out!

Funded

Darkest Dungeon
by: Red Hook Studios
Darkest Dungeon explores the psychological effects of dungeon hunting that is often overlooked and blatantly ignored. In this dark, gothic RPG, battles, events and the dark monotony of travailing through endless dungeons eats away at the characters in the party, requiring the player to monitor their mental health as well as their basic attributes. Personally, I love the artwork of this game and the variety of playable characters before even getting to the very interesting twist on the classic dungeon crawler! This game is funded but still has 12 more days to reach the multitude of stretch goals.

Game Developerz – The Games Industry Card Game
by: Onion Squire
This card/board game is a delightful ode to the difficulties and joys of developing games. As a game developer, each player is tasked with building a team, putting together a game and competing for glory. The artwork for the game looks amazing with a clear love of the subject matter. The game is funded and highly rated by those who have played it. There remain 34 days to jump on board!

Star Crawlers
by: Juggernaut Games
Star Crawlers is a sci-fi, RPG dungeon crawler that boast procedurally generated levels, fantastic art work, a narrative (and responsive) AI and a detailed universe. The game makers clearly love this genre (as do I) and have already seemingly created quite a few new additions to this familiar scenario, my current favorite being the Cyber Ninja. This game is past its $65,000 goal with 12 days left to go.

There are too many worthy games in development to count but the above is a short-list of games seeking the help of the masses. I personally look forward to play testing all of them and hope to see them succeed!

As always, comments are appreciated and welcome! Additionally, if you are seeking to crowdfund a game, clue us in and we’ll gladly check it out!

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Mobile Game Review – Zombie Volcano

Zombie Volcano - nocanwinDeveloper: NoCanWin (Jared Bailey)

Zombie Volcano is a simple game with a simple goal that brought a large smile to my (possibly simple) face.

A Halloween adaptation of NoCanWin’s Baby Lava Bounce, Zombie Volcano brings the undead element to the party. Apparently, when the undead fall into volcanos, they become quite bouncy, as long as they remain on fire, of course.

ZV is an endless “bouncing” game in which the player strives to keep the zombie on fire and moving for as long as possible. Starting out in a volcano, the player must give the zombie as much of an initial push as possible. Once the zombie is bouncing along anything that stands in its way can be used as fuel – from palm trees to satellites – giving the zombie just a bit more fuel to keep on burning. Once the zombie’s flame has been doused and all momentum lost, its game over.

There is also a bit of Tiny Wings mixed into the strategy. Fuel rests on the top of each island peak, but landing on the ascending side of a mountain can give a much needed acceleration upwards. A certain strategy develops as the game progresses between seeking momentum or fuel. Time spent in the air is time traveling forward but it is also time burning fuel. The higher the zombie travels the more distance it can traverse but the harder it becomes to aim for the fuel below.

In order to protect the zombie, “offerings” may be used. Established before each round, the zombie collects the offerings for protection from the water (an obvious one), a boost to speed from the wind, or a boost to flame from fire. There is little explanation for these tools but a little experimentation in the game itself makes their uses clear. I must admit that I remain somewhat in the dark as to how the game determines the offerings for each new round, although extras may be added by the player.

The game does offer two IAP’s which I wish would be more clearly marked. They are on the offering page with no explanation that they may involve real money until the App Store pops up and asks for a password. Given the growing scrutiny towards virtual, in-game purchases it would be wise to mark these purchases better to avoid irate players later down the line.

Zombie Volcano is a one touch game that inspires continual replays. Its goofy premise, sound effects, retro 8-bit graphics and overly-dramatic music (In the Hall of the Mountain King is more than a juxtaposition) just add to the fun.

Breakdown:
Graphics: Simple, retro and clear – the game still manages to throw some visual gags into the mix.
Gameplay: Very simple, one-touch with definite reflex based strategy required. Very re-playable.
User Interface: Simple with only a few buttons but rather unclear beyond the play button.
Usability: Very good loading time with no appreciable lag. Good for subway gaming.

Final Thoughts: For the $.99 price, Zombie Volcano is a silly and mildly addicting endless bouncer that provides a nice change of pace.

This game is available on:
iOS

Google Play

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Game Review: Puzzle Craft

Puzzle Craft - At GamesDeveloper: At Games

Publisher: Chillingo

With all the recent buzz about Dungeon Keeper‘s F2P mechanism, I thought this to be a great moment to review one of my personal favorite development sim games, PuzzleCraft.

On the surface, Puzzle Craft looks like one of the many “build-a-city” /”manage resources” games that litter the app store.  The premise is a tad thin: you are settling a new area and it is up to you to build your little settlement from a one building road stop to the thriving medieval metropolis that it is capable of.  But it is around that point that the similarities begin to fall away.

The biggest difference between Puzzle Craft and many of its ilk is that you are responsible for gathering your own resources.  Instead of hiring workers and waiting for them to gather up a certain amount of resources or perform a certain task before plodding forward, the onus is on the player.  Once a farm has been  built, it is up to the player to gather resources to build further. Farming itself (and, later, mining) is a connect-three-or-more mini game where new resources fall down from the top of the screen as resources of the same kind are matched.  Rarer and better resources are obtained by matching a certain number of resources together.  As the village prospers and the player’s level increases, new buildings and specialized villagers may be brought into the town to lower the requisite matches needed to get rarer items, to get rarer items to appear on their own, or to simply make tools to assist in the gathering of supplies.

I find this mechanism to be a delightful change of pace from most development sim games that rely on the forced waits to encourage players to make hard currency purchases to speed development up.  While Puzzle Craft does offer the purchase of in-game gold for real-life-currency (RLC?), frankly, I have never felt the need or nudging to purchase any which in turn creates a desire to make purchases to support the game.

In addition to a clever combination of a match-three game and a development sim, Puzzle Craft has fun, cartoon-y graphics, a fun if sedate sound track and a fun, subtle sense of humor.

Breakdown:
Graphics:  Fun, simple graphics that make the game clear and easy to pick up.
Gameplay:  Very fun development sim game that replaces forced waits with a new mini-game.
User Interface: Main village becomes a bit cluttered at higher levels but easy to navigate and clear when playing the match-three.
Usability: Pretty good loading time with no appreciable lags in game.  No pop-up ads is a refreshing change of pace.

Final Thoughts:  Puzzle Craft is a great development sim game that allows the player to build a thriving metropolis at their own pace, filling in the resource gathering moments with a well-done mini game.  If you are tired of the ongoing F2P anger, I certainly recommend Puzzle Craft to calm the nerves!

This game is available on:
iOS
Google Play

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Mobile Game Review: Outwitters

Outwitters IconDeveloper: One Man Left

Outwitters is a turn-based, strategy board game that mixes deep strategy with its own sense of style.

The best way to introduce Outwitters that I can think of comes with a high bit of praise. Basically, think chess. Like the ancient board game with its finite set of pieces, each with their own limited abilities, Outwitters equips each player with a small army and a limited ability to create more soldiers according to strategy. These limitations are why the game is both easy to learn (finite number of pieces) and hard to master (so many different possible strategies).

Upon starting a new match, the player is presented with the option of choosing which army s/he will fight with. The game currently offers four different armies: the Scallywags, the Veggienauts, the Adorables, and the Feedback. Each army has five of the same units and one unit unique to that army, which I will let you discover on your own. The five basic units: the runner, soldier, medic, sniper, and heavy have nicely balanced abilities and costs and will be the main thrust of your army.

The object of the game is to move your army into position to attack and destroy your opponent’s base. Every turn, the player is given a base amount of “wits” to build new soldiers with, move, and attack. Special spaces provide for more wits when controlled at the beginning of a turn. Spawn spaces are where “wits” may be used to make new soldiers. As stated, this is a fairly simple game to pick up, but like chess the fun is in outsmarting your opponent.

The game provides the Scallywag army and a set number of boards with the free download of the game. Additional armies, boards, and bases can be purchased piecemeal or in marked down combos. The game may be happily played with the Scallywags and many competitive players use that army. Thus, the game may be fully played and enjoyed freely. However, the various armies (and their unique units) add a lot to the game play and the variety of boards adds some nice twists to strategies. The most common purchase is the “All Teams Pack” which costs $3.99 and grants the player access to all four armies and some corresponding boards.

Outwitters has a large and vibrant community and a nice ranking system that ensures you play opponents at a similar level. There are multiple skill tiers and a player will be informed of their fluctuating ranking. A major plus to Outwitters is the character of the community. After playing many, many matches I have yet to come across any other player who is not at least polite and many are very encouraging and helpful, even to newbies.

Breakdown:
Graphics: Very fun, cartoon style graphics enliven and make each army and character unique. Nothing worse than getting clobbered by an army called the Adorables!
Gameplay: Simple and finite pieces add up to a complex and layered strategy game.
User Interface: Very simple to navigate and all available purchases clearly labeled in dollars.
Usability: Decent loading time from tap to open and, also, within game, from menu to match.

Final Thoughts: Outwitters is definitely one of the best strategy games on iOS and has an unwavering place among my favorite games.

This game is available on:
iOS (Free – offers IAP)

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