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3:04 AM on 10.07.2013

Shadow Warrior 2013 Review

Iím not a terribly huge fan of first person shooters, but every so often a special exception comes along that I simply have to indulge. The new Shadow Warrior, developed by Flying Wild Hog, is one such exception, and for many good reasons (but not as many as there are Wang jokes, which is reason number one).



Shadow Warrior plays out through seventeen chapters. The majority of them consist of Lo Wang slaughtering his way through hapless demons with his wise cracking pal, Hoji. His quest is to obtain a powerful sword called the Nobitsura Kage, but it is also sought out by shadow beings and megalomaniacs. It might not be contender for video game narrative of the year, but I thought the tale of Shadow Warrior had some cool moments. Overall, itís a ludicrous, sword swinging action game.

The trail of guts spills through a beautiful range of settings. These stretch from lush Japanese gardens, to graveyards, industrial shipyards, frost-bitten mountaintops, and alternate worlds. Just for a bit of fun, there are plenty of barrels, glass cases, and cars for you to destroy. Some of these are useful for damaging enemies in battle, so you should keep an eye out for them. The other stuff is just for fun.



There is the occasional boss battle to break up the game. These pit Lo Wang in a show down against giant suits of demonic armour. Theyíre an absolute blast, but theyíre also a bit repetitive. The method of defeating them is the same for each; you shoot bit of their armour and then shot the weak points underneath them. Other major confrontations are rather disappointing. They end only with a short cut-scene where an epic battle could have been fought. One example is late in the game where I was sure an awesome swordsman duel was about to ignite, but it was over in a single cut-scene where the game did the attacking for me.

Shadow Warrior offers a small selection of weaponry for when you want to mix things up. What the game lacks in numbers, it makes up for with variation. Each weapon is unique from the others, and you get the fun of totting them all around at the same time. Weapons can be upgraded using the money Lo Wang picks up during his shenanigans. The prices vary, and weapons you obtain later on usually cost more. Most upgrades are simple increases on stats, such as fire rate and damage. The most interesting upgrades are the secondary fire mode that each weapon can use by pressing the right mouse button. These range from duel wielding PDWs, to guided rockets, and sticky bombs.

The flaw of Shadow Warriorís weaponry is that until you obtain the right upgrades they tend to be quite boring. Compared to the katana, the other weapons just donít have the same blood-pumping sensation at first. With upgrades taking time to acquire, it may mean that some weapons will fall by the wayside.

The katana is the crown jewel of Shadow Warrior. The greatest source of pleasure the game provides is in slicing through hordes of demons. When ammo is low the sword can always be counted on. Lo Wangís trusty blade is capable of using area of effect and ranged attacks. Enemies fall into bloody pieces as they get hacked apart. Itís gratuitously violent and unrealistic, but itís so awesome that just watching the mess unfold each battle is half the fun of the game. The katana is the glue that holds the gameís intense combat together.

Aside from money, Shadow Warrior offers karma which is used to buy skills. The katana attacks are the most attractive skills to unlock early, but outside them thereís a wide range of handy supplements. There are also ki crystals which buy powers. These include the vital healing and the power to suspend enemies in mid-air. The powers are activated using fighting game style button presses. This can often mean youíll fail to pull off the move when demons are swarming you.



Shadow Warrior offers a menagerie of monsters for Lo Wang to slice his way through. At first they come in simple melee and missile varieties, but the difficulty increases as new demons with special abilities Ė like shields and cloaking Ė start to appear. Battles will require different tactics depending on what kind of demons fill the horde. They certainly provide more of a gripping fight than gangs of funny talking non-Americans. Enemies have weak points which you can attack in order to put them down swiftly. While for early demons this involves trusty head shots, other enemy arenít so obvious. Some demons know to take a beating, and you can find yourself wasting a lot of ammo. This means youíll be falling back on the katana a lot.

Shadow Warrior scores you out of five for each battle. To get the higher scores you must slay the demons with a variety of combos. Getting good scores give you karma bonus which can go to purchasing new skills.

Unless you discover every secret, or get five stars from every fight, the likelihood is that you will not be able to unlock every upgrade. I actually donít mind this one bit. It makes picking upgrades feel like a real choice. I spent plenty of time in the menu genuinely asking myself whether I would get any use out of a certain power. Perfectionists however might find it irritating.

Shadow Warrior is a mostly linear game, but it does offer little detours to discover secrets. The sweetest thing of all is that beside the secrets that give money and karma there are little nods to unveil. It encourages players to search every blood-stained corner of the level in the hopes of finding something awesome.

Shadow Warrior is a bit of a rough blade though. There are a couple of frustrations to deal with. My biggest gripe is with the fall damage, which I felt was ridiculously overblown. There were times when Lo Wang would dash down a small incline and flat out die upon hitting the ground. Thatís with full health, mind you. For a game which feels old school in so many ways it does lack some vertical game-play, which would have added to the thrilling action. Instead however, I avoided jumping out of the fear Lo Wang might stumble and take damage, or worse.

Leading from this is the issue of the death pits. When itís obvious what will kill you, like chasms, thatís acceptable, but when jumping into innocent looking pools of water slaughters Lo Wang in an instant it becomes hard to forgive. With so many secrets in Shadow Warrior itís unfair to kill people for taking a peek in a place that to their eyes looked perfectly safe.



At the end of the day, these are minor niggles in Shadow Warriorís parade of carnage. Itís an action packed thrill ride from start to finish. Even though Shadow Warrior is unrefined around the edges its combat is sharp. If enjoying bloody destruction is immature, then I donít care much for growing up. If youíre interested in picking up this title you can buy it from the official website for $39.00, or from gog.com and steam for similar prices. If thereís one FPS you play this year, it should be this.


You can also read this on my personal blog.   read


10:54 AM on 09.23.2013

Golden Sun Retrospective

Note: this post may contain spoilers for Golden Sun and Golden Sun, the Lost Age.


This week instead of anything coherent I will grant you a lecture of personal history. Something close to my heart. Among one of my favourite games of all time. One thatís defined my views and tastes (whatever shallow tastes I have that is). Perhaps not a single day goes by where I do not devote at least one thought to this game ever since first playing it. Thereís hardly a thing I donít adore about it. Itís simply Golden Sun.

Recently I looked back on a birthday whose year has since been forgotten. Perhaps it was 2002, 2003, that time. Specifics are trifling. It was a pleasant spring day. After getting caught up in a massive traffic queue we turned back and were unable to visit the attraction that we had planned to see. I ended up throwing up in a shopping centre car park.

Iím sure that sounds all rather miserable and depressing to you. But nay, for was the birthday I remember most fondly, and a day that begin to define me and my interests in various way. Firstly, since then Iíve not paid so much as a fig for birthdays. Second Ė and more importantly Ė I was given something on this day. It was the greatest console ever made.

I speak of course of the Game Boy Advance. Among this treasure of pleasure were three games, only one of which I want to discuss. That was of course Golden Sun, one of the GBAís shiniest gems.

Retrospectively I wonder why I liked Golden Sun so much. On the surface the game is utterly clichť. Itís the sort of the game that The Last of Us scene kids snort at. So many of itís parts are tried and tested fantasy tropes that only a blindly nostalgic nerd could love. Itís battle system was nothing special and the mechanics were full of some of the old timey JRPG cogs that were perhaps best left behind.




Golden Sun also never made much of an effort to hide its puzzles with anything clever. Iíd call rather self aware and accepting of its natural as a game. Youíd walk into a room full of fallen logs and it was immediately obvious what the name of the game was. You had rolling to do. It was almost as much a puzzle game than it was a straight up JRPG. Few of its dungeons Ė if any Ė were just walk your way from A to B. All of them were stuffed with challenges, some of which could lead to optional secrets.

For itís time and platform Golden Sun was dead drop gorgeous. Itís visuals were colourful, detailed beyond belief, and seemed so advanced for a hand-held console. Best of all were the battle animations, those marvellous psynergy effects and summon sequences. The character designs tickled me in just the right places. Theyíre full of details, but not to the ridiculous heights of Final Fantasy. They fit into the pure fantasy world perfectly, and while others might see that as dull and generic I find them cosy and familiar in a pleasant way.



Speaking of the characters Iím very fond of how they were presented, despite the fact that the gameís story is told through what can be described as the most tedious slog through the bog of tiny text ever spawned. They had the frame work for me to understand their personalities and motivations, but the game didnít insist on throwing them into my face in a desperate attempt to convince me that the game was deep.

That trend of characterisation is one Iíve come to enjoy more than any other. It fuels the imagination and encourages me to reach my own conclusions about the characters.
It means I could interact with Golden Sun even after putting it down. These meta interactions are quickly becoming my key criteria in how much I enjoy a game. Without this element I doubt the game would have had any kind of enduring legacy in my mind. Some might sneer at the idea of fan-fiction or fan-speculation, but Iíll admit that I do get some enjoyment out of reading different interpretations of different characters. Itís fascinating to see someone put a spin on a character that I had never considered.

If you scratch the surface of Golden Sun and itís sequel, The Lost Age, you do find something more thought provoking that itís typical setting might lead one to believe. This is where I start having to put in some spoilers of course.

The setting of Golden Sun, Weyard, is caught up in a giant catch 22 in regards to alchemy. It was sealed away because itís abuse would lead to the destruction of the world, but unbeknownst to those who sealed it without alchemy the world will decay away anyway. This isnít caused by a villain, but rather itís just the state of the setting. Thereís little resolution for it either. The decision of the heroes seems to ďrelease alchemy and hope for the bestĒ. At the end when alchemy is freed thereís already someone waiting to gain itís full power for themselves.

The first game had itís share of hardships as well. The villains were always one step ahead of Isaac and even in the end they failed to stop them from lighting two of the elemental lighthouses even after beating them. Not the mention the fact the heroes get forced into a pact with the rather questionable Babi, whose only motive is to retain his longevity.

Those are grim things to consider, but the game never seems to dwell on it for too long. Golden Sunís tone is by no stretch grim-dark. Itís full serious optimism and moments of peace and joy. Despite the lingering troubles left over at the end Golden Sun concludes on a very happy note. It found a fine balance between leaving me something to think about yet making feel satisfied at the same time. Itís an attitude that I think would look rather refreshing today alongside the tide of brown misery, teenager style misanthropy and cynicism.

Golden Sun and its sequel is very subtle in how it presents the world. In the first part you play as Isaac, who is tasked with prevent the unleashing of alchemy. During his travels across the continent Angara you see a world that is peaceful without alchemy. Civilised towns with cultured people. We also see the problems caused by alchemy as a result of the psynergy crystals rained down from the Mt Aleph, such as how turns innocent animals into the raging beasts they encounter.

But in Golden Sun: the Lost Age you play as Felix, whose goal is to free alchemy. The world is presently rather differently as we see more than just Angara. We see a world full of long lost civilisations that have fallen into ruin. Felix visits various settlements that are sparsely populated and less advanced than those in Angara. Itís a world full of stagnation without alchemy. The contrast between the two games helps define the viewpoint of the two protagonists and the importance of their quest, even though theyíre opposites.



And so we come to the end of this ridiculous post which I wasted time writing and you wasted time reading. Itís rather relaxing to simply gush about a game sometimes. Golden Sun is far from perfect, but this emotion you humans call love is rather irrational. The Game Boy Advance was the first console I really owned in my own right and Golden Sun was the first game I ever own in my right. I think itís one of the games thatís had the most impact on my gaming sensibilities, for both better and worse. If nothing else it cemented my love for old school fantasy RPGs.


You can also read this on my personal blog.

(Images taken from Golden Sun Universe)   read


11:03 AM on 09.16.2013

Top 5 Final Boss Themes

Sorry, but thereíll be no game post this week. No particular excuse this time, but I do have something else up my sleeve. Again, itís a musical themed entry. I donít know why since I donít know anything about music, nor do I have any sort of talent with any kind of instrument or singing, or even good taste for that matter. However, some recent thoughts Iíve been having inspired to write this up. Today, I want to talk about final boss battles.

Call me a traditionalist Ė just not the Daily Mail reading type Ė but as far as Iím concerned a game doesnít really feel like a game unless itís got a final boss. Itís the climax of the game and everything before it should be there to pump you up for it. I feel the final boss vital part of game narrative that weíre slowly seeing less of as cinematic games and art games come more and more to the forefront. And of course, a final boss isnít a final boss without the right piece of music. These have helped provide some of the most memorable experiences in games that Iíve ever had.

With that in mind I proudly present my five favourite final boss tracks.

Thereís going to be a few ground rules, the first of which is that theyíre all from games that Iíve completed through the end, otherwise making a list would simply be too hard. Secondly, at the risk of sounding redundant, only final bosses count, not any other boss or ending sequence. Most importantly of course this is a subjective list and therefore mileage may vary.

And thus we move ontoÖ


Number Five: Ultimate Koopa
Game: Super Mario 64
Boss: Bowser



When I had a right proper think about what theme stuck with me this was one that emerged for some reason. Part of me canít really be surprised. I was a whelp when I got this game so of course it was bound to make an impression. And of course there is something right about Marioís first 3D game setting a fine standard. On the other hand itís ridiculously bombastic given the context. Itís a Mario game after all, not exactly high art, and even the fight itself is just a rehash of the previous two.
The song has a sweet build up, and it just sounds utterly evil. More evil than Bowser will ever be. I suppose at the end of the day Mario is as traditional as you can get. If it seems like Iím a tad miffed to be putting this here, then the answer is a resounding ďI donít knowĒ.


Number Four: Doom Dragon
Game: Golden Sun, The Lost Age
Boss: Doom Dragon



Doom Dragon was a pretty random for final boss, but it was an epic climax nonetheless. It was the end of the long journey in what stands as one of my favourite series of all time. Once the three-headed dragon is introduced little time is wasted Ė which is weird for Golden Sun Ė in getting into battle. It starts on a tense high and never really dies down again.

Iíll admit that itís not a particularly brilliant song, but given how I struggled with this battle the first time around this tune felt like it was blasting me down the whole time and making me want see that little dissolving effective on the boss happen just that bit more.

Number Three: Shoutoku Legend ~ True Administrator
Game: Touhou, Ten Desires
Boss: Toyosatomimi no Miko



Amusingly I suspect those familiar with the series might have sniffed out the reasons I limited this list to games Iíve beaten.

A final boss theme should be a lot of things. Tense, powerful, excitingÖ fabulous. At least thatís the way of this colourful bullet hell game. The bullets here in particular are majestic and the music reflects that perfectly. Itís by no means the hardest boss Iíve faced down, contrary to the reputation of this genre, but the visuals, the music, the constant need to keep focusing had such a beautiful impact. The regal feel of the song suits the character wonderfully. Much like the next entry for this list the song doesnít give the impression of danger, but instead it raises pure awe for me.

Naturally, for Touhou, a remixed version is a must, so here.

Number Two: Champion Battle
Game: Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal
Boss: Lance/Red



In all honesty Iíve never felt much for the champion themes in Pokemon, since most of them felt rather generic. This one however is the only tune that really captures the right mood for a champion battle. That goes for both fights it plays in. A good Pokemon game should always feel like a long journey, having started out with just a level 5 companion, and this song symbolises the nearing conclusion better than any of the others. In fact, it manages to do it twice. It also fits both battles so perfectly, having a calm sense of power and wisdom. Itís not a fight for oneís life against a villain, but a showdown between heroes.

Number One: Dancing Mad
Game: Final Fantasy VI
Boss: Kefka



Yeah, itís the hipsterís favourite Final Fantasy final boss theme, but since Iíve never finished VII this is going to have to take the spot. Firstly, itís a very long piece, if you include every part of it. The first three sections are haunting, dramatic, and orchestral, the top three requirements for pretentious video game music. Itís pompus like Ultimate Koopa, but more varied and much longer. It was also different from previous Final Fantasy final boss themes, which tended to be more adrenaline inducing. There are calm moments where I can take in the disturbing look of the hellish boss.

Then you move onto the final part the music takes a wacky turn. Itís awesome and radiates gloriously every insane fibre of Kefkaís being, which even gets topped off by getting to hear his iconic laughter. Itís absolutely twisted, but also catchy and just plain funky.


And there you have it. In reality I doubt it was a good idea to list them with numbers, because ultimately I felt it was rather arbitrary to order them. Also, Iím feeling rather lacking in satisfaction for this. Perhaps itís because there were too many candidates for me to choose from, but I couldnít be arsed to make a top ten.

And so Ė to redeem this nonsense Ė I turn to you, the humble internet dwelling folk for help. Simply put, whatíre your favourite final boss pieces?

Give in to your futile delusions and post in the comments!


You can also read this on my personal blog.   read


10:28 AM on 09.09.2013

Prison Architect Alpha Impressions

Prison Architect is a prison management game in development by Introversion Software. This is another game that does what it says on the tin and has you become the architect behind the prison. It's vital to note that this game is still in it's alpha stage, and is therefore incomplete. However, I had heard a good deal of buzz surrounding them so I decided to pick it up and give it a spin.

The goal of Prison Architect is simply to construct a working prison and maintain the lives of the criminal scum who come to dwell within. This results is a fascinating distinction against other god games. Instead of the people you're building for being innocent peasants you want to look after they could be called the enemy in Prison Architect. Give them an inch and they'll take a mile, through a tunnel and away to freedom.



Even if you just stick to the low risk prisoners you'll find them constantly trying to escape whenever they see a chance. They will dig tunnels during the night from their cells and smuggle contraband items. You can go days without any incidents, but the moment you drop your guard is the moment one of them tries their luck. You'll be left with a black mark on your prison's valuation for each dastardly villain who makes his getaway.

Managing your money can also be a tricky affair in Prison Architect. Once you've used up your grant money you have to balance your expenses with your income. Having more prisoners will increase your income, but you need to build cells to house them and hire more cooks to feed them. And you can't just take prisoners one at a time. If you choose to accept them they come in group of at least eight when you start out, and this can increase each day. This balance is complicated further by the fact that prisoners will eventually leave, whether they serve their time in full or make a risky escape. This ends up cutting a part of your funding.

Prison Architect does offer other methods to raise extra funds, which mostly includes sending your inmates to the workshop to produce license plates, but this requires you to balance your daily routine to make enough time for them to work. Of course, if you cut too much into their free time or dinner then they'll become very unhappy and start causing you more trouble.

The bureaucracy system allows you to research new technology and recruit new types of staff. It's not exactly the most complex tree seen in this kind of game, but recruiting certain staff requires you to meet a set of needs, such as most of them needing an office. The advancement won't really last long however, and a few days you'll have pretty much everything you need staff wise.

Once you've built the walls and doors you can use the rooms option to mark out the different areas of your prison. Each area has certain requirements which are listed in the tool-tips. If you mark out a room and it doesn't meet the checklist then a notice will appear in the middle, handily listing which requires it doesn't meet in red.

However, not all tool-tips provided by Prison Architect are as useful. This is particularly the case for the objects. There are many objects you can place which you might suspect will have a benefit but the game won't tell you right off the bat. While some of them are obvious to figure out, like beds and showers, others will leave you wondering how much you might actually need it or where it needs to be placed in the prison. When this cost money and time to install it can sometime feel like a wasted effort.



The introduction to Prison Architect is a powerful tutorial which puts you face to face with the worrying realities that running a prison will present while at the same time teaching you the very basics of how to play. I won't spoil exactly what it is because I think it's as important as any plot twist, even if is just in the first few minutes of the game. It's perhaps the most memorable tutorial I've played in a very long time. Certainly, it's one of those things I'll remember as being one of gaming's genuinely more mature moments.

Unfortunately, beyond that there are no missions yet and no other tutorials to teach you what everything else in the game does or how to take care of your prisoners. Naturally, this can only be blamed on the game being in alpha state, but that doesn't change the fact that you will find yourself tripping up and restarting a lot as you fiddle with things in game and slowly discover how to manage everything. If you're not into this style of trial and error learning then I would recommend holding off on this game until a later stage of development.

Despite Prison Architect's somewhat grim premise it does try to inject some humour here and there. This is mostly done through some of the profiles of the prison inmates you collect. If you pay a certain amount when buying Prison Architect you are given the chance to add your name in the game with a bio. I personally find it to be rather hit and miss at best. I can't say any of the ones I've seen so far struck me as particularly well written or amusing. While the idea of having prisoners named after real people is nice, I don't like the fact that almost all of them come with some ridiculous nickname. Having a sense of humour is a good thing for a game like this, but I just don't think it's pulling off just yet.



Despite still being a foetus of a game, Prison Architect has some awesome potential. The alpha gives the impression of a very strong title. However, unless you're seriously interested in picking up this unique management game I'm not going to recommend it out of hand. If you are serious about playing this game then you can pick it up from the official website for a base price of $30, which is not what I would call cheap for an alpha product. You can also buy on Steam. You can purchase special packs for more if you want to support the developers of Prison Architect even further.


You can also read this on my personal blog.   read


10:47 AM on 09.02.2013

Race the Sun Impressions

Race is the Sun is the recently released high speed score attack game by developers Flippfly. On the surface Race the Sun is a very simple game, featuring minimalistic controls and rules. Thanks to its procedurally generated tracks and potential for play made content however, this game has been stretched out into something a whole lot more than first meets the eye.



The goal of Race the Sun is to keep your ship running for as long as possible, trying to keep the sun over the horizon. The ship is solar powered, so if the sun goes down or you get caught up in the shadows for too long you power down and thus ends your run. The game has a cool downward spiral effect to it. If you bump into something you slow down and the sun goes down slightly. When that happens the shadows stretch further outwards and become a greater problem for you to consider.

Along the way you can increase your score by collecting as many of the blue pyramids, known as tris, as possible. You can also collect vital power ups on track. These include a speed booster which help keep the sun high in the sky, and a jump which you can of course use to give obstacles the slip and get tris which are floating in mid-air.

The main track in Race the Sun changes everyday and is shared across all players with an internet connection, meaning you can compare yourself to everyone else on the leader board once you've crashed on it.

The tracks are divided into numbered regions, each getting progressively harder. The first region will be full of static objects that are easy to avoid. The next region will usually bring in towers that case longer shadows, and the regions after that will bring in moving hazards and more.

One noticeable thing about the courses in Race the Sun is not just that they are long, but they also have a lot of breadth. You're free to move as far left or right as you want, and doing so can lead you to discovering a nice little path through the course whether it be full of power ups, or provide a safe way around an obstacle that was proving troublesome. This means that tracks can offer some variation every now and then if you choose to pursue it.

The biggest problem that sticks out about the courses in Race the Sun is the repetition. You'll end up seeing the same set up over and over on different tracks. This is to be expected I guess, given the nature and length of the courses, but when I see the same set-up of mountains with the same collectables lined in the same order it does feel rather bothersome. Perhaps one positive of this is that the patterns do make good for those looking to get high on the leader board. A good player can familiarise himself with the different set-ups and blitz the courses.



Another thorny issue that might effect one's enjoyment of Race the Sun is the unlock system. When you start the game you have virtually nothing, and all the power ups, modifications, and extras have to be unlocked by accomplishing various feats within the track and level up. Some are obviously fine by me, like completing three regions without any collisions. This makes sense since it's offering the upgrades as a reward for playing the game well. At first it has the feeling of being a nice little tutorial, giving you tips on how to use the items and upgrades.

However, other goals seem rather arbitrary and counter-intuitive, such as the goal of having eight collisions, or only moving right for one region. I don't like having to go out of my way to play the game badly or in some nonsensical manner just to unlock the upgrades and power ups which I feel are essential to being successful in Race the Sun. At later stages it stops feeling like a little tutorial and more like it's there just to drag out the game for as long as possible.

I find this irritating because Race the Sun is the sort of game that is perhaps best enjoyed in small bursts rather than long play sessions. You go in and give the daily course a few runs and then come back the next day for a bit. The unlock system means that instead you have to devote yourself to pointless tasks in order to progress.

The aesthetics of Race the Sun are very clean cut and simple, if not slightly bland at times. Everything has a grey, steel appearance, watched over by the changing colours of the sky. While they're not exactly exciting or mind blowing they do a good job of making everything clear when you're racing across the track. Player made maps are allowed to experiment with a bit more various, adding colour to some of the obstacles and even adding some more surreal touches to the skyline.

As well as the default modes and daily tracks you can also play a selection of player made maps. These can offer up some strange situations, like racing through a forest of cubist bunnies. Race the Sun comes packaged with the Simplex World Creator which they claim can allow you to create exciting new game modes or modify existing ones.



Finally, Race the Sun features an asynchronous co-op system which allows you to play relay races with your friends or just people online. Once your run as ended, you are given the option to share it online via a link. Someone can take that link and use it to start off again from where you ended. This can be done to a maximum of four times, at which point a combined score to be listed on a scoreboard. I think it's an simple and non-intrusive way of adding a social element to the game.

Race the Sun is definitely a fun title, especially for anyone who enjoys challenging themselves to keep doing better. Once you get through some of its obtuse objects and unlock the things that matter you'll find yourself shot with the need for perfection. The game isn't exactly offering the world, but at the low price of $10.00 it's a cheap deal for something with the potential of much more content in the future with its openness to player creativity. If this peaks your enthusasim you can check out their official website where you can purchase the game for $10.00.


You can also read this on my personal blog.   read


9:50 AM on 08.23.2013

Goldeneye Orchestral Cover Album

Sad to say there will be no game impressions or review from me this week. It was a case of depressed Monday, busy Tuesday, exhausted Wednesday, couldnít be arsed Thursday, write this up desperately Friday. Hopefully next week Iíll be back on track. In the meantime there is one little thing I want to promote related to Goldeneye which might interest nostalgia addled buffoons like myself.



Iím certain many here will be familiar with the Nintendo 64′s Goldeneye. Well now thereís a rather nice orchestral cover album produced by Rich Douglas, a composer who is currently working on games like Lifeless Planet and Shadowgate 25th Anniversary. Itís pay what you want with a minimum price of $10.00. For that you get fifteen tracks remastered from Goldeneye with a duration of just over forty minutes.

Staying true the originals the album retains the cold, industrial feel of the soundtrack, with the old exciting Bond theme mixed in for good measure. It features some of my personal favourites, including the Runway and Depot themes as well as some tracks I get the feel other remixes perhaps leave by the wayside.

Perhaps my only criticism of this is that there was some tracks that I would have wanted to see which were absent, such as the Cradle mission. At the end of the day thatís just a nitpick of whatís a fine album. What has been included is simply magificent.

You can pick up this cover album from Loudr.fm here. Iíll remind you that itís pay as you want for a minimum price of $10.00. All of itís worth your time. Heck, if not for the soundtrack of the recently released Touhou 14 this cover album would have been the only music I listened to this week.

You can also read this on my personal blog.

(Image provided by http://www.loudr.fm/release/goldeneye-n64-orchestrated/S7vvd)   read


10:35 AM on 08.12.2013

Kerbal Space Program Impressions

Kerbal Space Program is a game in which you manage a space program in the hopes of completing the fevered dream of space conquest. While the game is incomplete Ė having only its sandbox mode currently Ė the developers, Squad, are promising a host of updates. I decided to purchase it and see what it was all about, only to discover something wondrous.

The idea of Kerbal Space Program is simple enough. You build rockets and then use them explore space, performing various operations and missions. The game offers a wide variety of different types of junk to send up, including probes, satellites, and even space stations and little green men. Putting it all into motion however takes a lot of thought, or just plenty of mucking around.



Learning how to operate ships in Kerbal Space Program can pose quite a challenge, and will likely by your first obstacle to outer space adventures. The game does offer up some small tutorials on how to pull off the basics. There are also some scenarios you can start up to get some experience in the advanced tasks of the game. More importantly the game also comes with some pre-made rockets that you can load up and use so you can get to grips handling something well designed, or you just look at for inspiration. That said, overall I don't feel the game does that good a job in showing new players the ropes, especially when there's a lot of terminology to learn.

My first couple of hours in Kerbal Space Program were spent in the assembly area building constructing the most ludicrous rockets I could conjure in my mind. Having no idea on how half of the pieces worked I found that most of my constructs ended up exploding in some spectacular fashion. I went for the Jeremy Clarkson philosophy of engineering of more power being best and tried to attach solid fuel rockets to everything all the time. Then I added more rockets to those rockets. It was fun to watch a stupidly over designed contraption fall apart in a ball of fire before it even left the landing pad. Even when ships did take off they would often have an unplanned disassembly in mid-air. Detaching parts would break another vital part and the entire thing would spin out of control.

Kerbal Space Program has nice sense of humour in general. It never shies away from making the little green Kerbals the butt-monkeys. Even so, I did grow attached to them, and even felt upset whenever one of my mishaps ended badly for them. The descriptions of all the rocket parts have a light-hearted and silly flavour to them as well.

But what's Kerbal Space Program like when you start going beyond dead end rockets only ever destined to barely best anything North Korea employ. Once I started figuring out the different parts and how stages worked I was able to start getting rockets into outer space and the game began evoking some very different emotions. The first time I was able to put a probe in orbit of the sun (never mind the fact that I was aiming for a Kerbin orbit) it was very enriching an rewarding experience. Hours of trial and error had finally come together to put something I had made into the heavens. I stared at my creation as it floated with the sun the far distance. It was beautiful.

Once you've learnt how to get something into orbit Kerbal Space Program will have you working on grander projects. Soon you'll be wanting to land something on the Mun. Performing these tasks requires a lot of planning, good building, and some improvisation from time to time if things start getting messy. The end result a game that feels very gratifying. The size of the game accommodates the exploration of far out planets in the solar system, so there's no shortage of goals to aim for.



Once you're done creating ridiculous rockets to launch satellites into space you can go into the hanger and construct space planes as well. Then, instead of watching your creation exploding on the launchpad you can crash them on the runway as you try to take off. The building here is basically the same as the rockets. What did bother me here was the lack of visual customisation. It's no big deal, but having something other than a white ship would have been sweet. That said, there is a modding community for this game, so there're endless possibilities.

The construction stage is fairly easy to get the hang of besides one issue I'll be covering soon. You drag and drop the parts which then snap together. A handy symmetry tool exists to help make sure your rocket remains well balanced. The different ďstagesĒ can be easily edited on the right hand side, and can even he changed during the launch phase.

One irritating thing in Kerbal Space Program is that the building can feel awfully fiddly at times, especially when you're trying make something complex. The piece snapping usually works smoothly, but sometimes you'll be trying to get one part to connect to another only to have it try to connect to everything else instead. Trying to use the symmetry options can result in one side being approved by the other not, which can sometimes be fixed by wriggling the part around. However, these are minor annoyances, and overall they don't interfere much with the process of building stuff.

On a ground level there's nothing particularly impressive about Kerbal Space Program on an aesthetical level. The terrain is very simplistic and low fidelity. It's only when you reach upper atmosphere and the vastness of outer space that the grand scale of the game starts to make an impact. It's soothing to watch things drift in orbit and watch the sun on the horizon. The music is your typical relaxing affair. Perfect for drifting endlessly to, but nothing to write home about.

One more thing worth noting is the low pace of the game. While Kerbal Space Program does allow you to speed up time once your ship is high enough the game on a whole is steady. It makes sense, considering the delicate nature of what you're controlling, but this is perhaps not a game for people who don't have much time to spare.



In the end there's too much to say about Kerbal Space Program. The most important thing for me is that it's perhaps one of the most engrossing games I've played in many years. Out of all the games I've written about this is the only one that's had been playing at every available opportunity. At $23.00 it's not what I'd call a bargain for an unfinished game, but it was worth the price as far as I'm concerned. You can visit the official website for more information or to buy it. The game is also available from Steam. I highly recommend giving Kerbal Space Program a try, for a very unique and rewarding game.   read


12:27 PM on 08.06.2013

Impressions of InFlux

InFlux is a puzzle platforming game developed by a small group going by the name Impromptu Games, an indie development team based in Australia. InFlux invites you to explore a deserted landscape, solving puzzles in an abstract world. The game is advertised as very relaxing and mind-bending, but does it meet up to expectation in a genre already saturated with an excellent array of titles?



In InFlux you take control of a ball from outer space. You roll around what looks like a volcanic island in search of puzzles to solve. These puzzles take place in two realms, one set on the island and another in a succession of glass houses apparently floating around in space. The game's light on story to the point of having virtually none at all. At least there's no interruption to the game-play. The ball has various powers, including the ability to attract and repel certain objects as well as a speed boost which slows time down as you charge it.

Puzzles in the outdoor areas usually involve navigating the terrain and using the attraction power to find and carry a bunch of floating lights in order to open the way to the next self contained puzzles. These areas are mostly linear, but do sometimes have branching paths. Indoor puzzles mostly require you to use the magnetic powers to guide another ball through a maze, pressing buttons that tilt the room or manipulate some part of it.

The description I read for InFlux made a bit of a hoopla over the environments, but I was quite underwhelmed by them. While they're by no means offensive or bad they don't exactly capture my imagination either. When I started out on the beach I had high hopes for the relaxing aesthetic, and I suppose that's what the game gave me for a while, but I found myself wishing it had wowed me a bit more. When I moved into the forest I could not help notice how outdated the trees seemed to look. I came across torches and huts, but they did not serve any purpose and most of them were just duplicates of one model. I will compliment the range of different areas in this short game and how it transitions between them however.



The self contained puzzle areas have a more clean and clinical appearance, but ultimately feel rather dull and repetitive. Some of the effects, like the lights coming out of the ball, are nice, but don't really make this game especially nice to look at.
What was alarming however is despite this game not being visually impressive it stuttered a lot while moving around the different sections. In a game which has an emphasis on moving around this is a severe problem. I would occasionally find myself losing control whenever the game caused me a stutter while it was loading. Even when on lower settings I constantly saw the little loading circle turning in the bottom corner.

Something else that bothered me to no end about InFlux was how the movement felt. In one word it's sluggish. When I'm inching up a small incline that's not brain-bending puzzle action or anything fascinating, that's just the game being tedious and slow. The boost felt hard to use and I'll even admit that the movement made me a bit motion sick after a while (which put a wrench in the whole relaxation angle of the game). The movement of other objects is no better. In the self contained puzzles where I had to drag a ball from one place to another what kept me in these areas was not he challenge of the puzzle but rather the fact the ball I had to drag would fall off a ledge and I would have to expend greater effort to recover it. Again, not exactly warping my perception of reality.

In fact, none of InFlux's puzzles felt really interesting. The outdoor areas boiled down to ďfind the little lights and shift some boulders out of your wayĒ, and the self contained puzzled are ďGuide a ball from one place to anotherĒ with a few switches that flip the room on its side. Now, the relative simplicity of the puzzles would not bother me but InFlux is rather boring. If you're going to be a one trick pony of a game then you at least need your trick to be entertaining. InFlux isn't it's sad to say.

On top of the dull puzzles, InFlux also feels like it lacks character and atmosphere. I feel the game is trying to go for the artistic angle, but it fails to impress. Strange things happen during the ball's busy adventure, things involving a whale for some reason. There's little context for what's going on though. InFlux never got a big reaction from me. The end result is that this game is lacking anything special. It's not mind-bending like Antichamber, it doesn't have the M.C. Escher visuals of The Bridge, nor the humour of Portal.



It feels like the Dear Esther of puzzle games. I suppose the fact that InFlux has actual game-play means it one-ups that sight seeing tour, but I feel many of the same issues still apply. I don't want to use the word pretentious, but this game feels like it's trying too hard to be ďartisticĒ and as a result is lacking in other area, such as diversity and fun. Perhaps if it were not for my own feeble vulnerability to motion sickness then I could have experienced the more relaxing side of the game, but you're going to have to read elsewhere for comments on that.

Ultimately, InFlux fails to make a strong impression on me and therefore I just can't give it an solid recommendation. It's not really bad, but there's nothing that stands out about it either. Even if you're the kind of person who really enjoys puzzle games then there's no shortage of great titles out there for you. If you're in serious need of another puzzle platformer then you can pick this game up from gog.com for the price of $9.99. InFlux also has a Steam Greenlight page where you can vote for it to be on Steam. You can check out the official Impromptu Games website for more information.   read


1:19 PM on 07.29.2013

Shantae Review

Shantae was a platformer originally released for the Game Boy Color in 2002 which has now found its way onto the 3DS e-shop for download. Developed by WayForward Technologies the game see you take the role of Shantae, a half genie who must stop the villainous pirate, Risky Boots (yes, that's her name). This a great chance to take a look at the old platforming games of yesteryear.



The game starts off when Scuttle Town, which Shantae has taken it upon herself to defend, is attacked by a crew of pirates led by Risky Boots, who are out to steal a prototype steam engine created by an inventor called Mimic. The pirates make their escape and it's up to Shantae to track them down before they can it working and weaponise it. The game clearly doesn't take story too seriously, and it doesn't take long to get into action thankfully. The goal is collect four magic stones that Risky is after to power the steam engine. These stones are locked away in four dungeons. In order to open the dungeons Shantae has the speak to an NPC in a nearby town.

Shantae's powers come from her dancing. In each dungeon she learns a special dance which will let her transform into different animals, including a monkey, an elephant, a spider, and for some reason a harpy. Each form has different abilities and weakness. For example, being a monkey lets Shantae wall jump and cling to vertical surfaces, but she cannot attack in this form.

When you enter dancing mode you have to use the D-pad and the A and B buttons in simple rhythms to change forms. Dancing does not pause the game so it is very easy to be interrupted if enemies are still around.

Shantae can upgrade herself in other ways, such as using purchased items. These can offer a limit number of ranged attacks or healing items along with some other goodies. She can also increase her health by finding special hearts that are hidden in the different sections.

Each dungeon has a unique set of puzzles which Shantae must solve in order to navigate her way through. Moving through the dungeons also requires you to find keys and open doors, so while they may appear open you will find you must backtrack to the find the path containing the key before taking the other routes. They also have an ending boss, usually taking the form of a giant monster which requires you to hit a weak spot. In good fashion the bosses require you to use whatever animal transformation Shantae earned in the dungeon to avoid attacks or damage the boss. The final boss also provided surprisingly memorable and cool.



The game has plenty of challenge. Enemies come in spades and even though you start out with three hearts you will be attacked a lot. That said, the puzzles don't take a tremendous amount of effort to solve. The hardest part of the dungeon is simply finding your way around and avoiding spike pits.

The world in Shantae is all connected rather than being in separate levels. After leaving Scuttle Town you can head either left or right, jumping over obstacles and battling enemies by whipping her hair. There are also secrets to discover in all the different overworld sections which can be reached once she's acquired certain powers. It's by no means open world however, as progressing requires you to obtain new abilities.

This leads onto the frustrations I had with the game, which was the backtracking. In many cases I don't mind too much of this. In Metroidvania games the power ups you acquire mean that backtracking doesn't take a great deal of time once you've already explored an area. To do a comparison, in a side scrolling Metroid game falling into lava damages your health, but it doesn't kill you instantly. Once you get the gravity suit you don't have to worry about it any more. In Shantae if you fall into a pit you die instantly and you get sent back to the start of the section. This is case no matter how much you upgrade Shantae.

Eventually, she acquires ways of bypassing the long treks by finding squids. Once you find four you can take them to a warp squid hut in each town and learn a dance that teleports you to that town. However, you have to find four for each town, and most are found in dungeons. This means that fast travelling feels very limited and comes too late.

In linear platformers this is not a problem because once you complete a level you can put it behind you. In Shantae save spots are few and far between and if you get a game over you don't just return to the start of the section, but you go back to the last save point you used. What I'm ultimately saying is you should get used to seeing the same areas a lot.

To move onto something more positive, I did enjoy the colourful nature of the levels and characters. The game has that carefree old school platform feeling to it. Each dungeon and most of the surface sections have their own unique style. The world even has a day and night cycle, which does cause some enemies to change their tactics in battle. Sadly, the music does not share the same diversity, with all the surface areas sharing the same few tracks, though they do change with the day and night cycle.

Enemy variety is staggering. Each section has its own unique enemies with different methods of attack, including moles you jump into the air with spears to black slime creatures who dart across the screen. The downside of this is that each section only has two or three different enemies, sometimes even just one. This results in some sections feeling repetitive, especially when you to go through them multiple times.



Shantae is a challenging, old school platformer with plenty of charm, but with a few frustrations including from some of its design decisions. It has a whiff that old Nintendo Hard about it. For the price of $4.99/£4.49 it's a good addition to the collection of old timey games available for the 3DS. Anyone looking for a good 2D platformer should take a look at this. You can visit the official WayForward website for more information.

(Images provided by http://www.wayforward.com/shantae/)

You can also read this on my personal blog, Electronic Philistine.   read


11:42 AM on 07.22.2013

Having a Blast with Kokuga

Kokuga is a shoot 'em up game that was released for the Nintendo 3DS e-shop during June for the US and July for Europe. The game was developed by G.rev and Hiroshi Iuchi, who was also responsible for the shooter game Ikaruga. Kokuga sees you command a single tank against swarms of enemies, dodging bullets and blasting back enemies in typical shooter fashion.

Kokuga is not exactly story heavy. It revolves around a war between nation A and nation I. Yes, you read correctly. The story never really appears except in the pieces of pre mission text you get before the three ďfinalĒ missions.



The stage selection menu in Kokuga is set out in a triangle. At first you can choose any of the missions except the final three which stand at the corners. However, once you complete one mission you are then locked into only being able to pick from any of the ones adjacent to it. This means you essentially have to work your way around the triangle, reaching and completing each final stage. There is no saving either, so if you have to complete the game in one sitting or start over. Each mission except the final ones has three difficulty levels and a boss mode.

Increasing the difficulty in Kokuga results in enemies taking more damage. It's easy to understand. An enemy who took one shot to kill will now take two and so on. This does not apply for the smallest of enemies, who always take one shot. Some weak enemies will also get replaced by stronger ones, but there's never anything too drastic.

Most of the missions play out in the same fashion. You move through the map, weaving between enemy bullets and shooting them back. At the end of each mission there is usually a powerful boss who can be quite challenging for the unprepared. Each mission might have emphasis certain kinds of enemies or might have a gimmick attached to it, but for the most part the same kind of careful strategies will serve you well through out the entire game. Some however do mix things up. One mission involved having to fight four bosses for example, and another was set out like a vertical shump.

Enemies tend to come in three varieties. Firstly you have turrets which don't move and can only shoot at certain angles. Next up you have tanks that are large, slow moving enemies. Finally you have small enemies of average speed. Among these you also have various different shot types, ranging from easy to avoid single and duel shots to homing shots and laser cannons that can shred your tank if they so much as touch it. One issue that detracts slightly from the difficulty of the game is how enemy bullets tend to have a very limited travel distance before disappearing. Most enemies can be comfortably beaten by just staying out of their range, and most move too slowly compared to your tank to pose any danger.

Enemies tend to pose the most danger when they appear in large numbers. I usually only found myself getting hit when there was a large number of bullets to keep track of at the same time.

The visual design of the levels in Kokuga feels like it's severely lacking. With the exception of the final three the missions all use the same grid effect combined with a coloured border (green, orange, or red depending on difficulty) and grey blocks. You might see a slightly different background underneath the grid, but I hardly noticed these when I was concentrating on playing.

That said the design of Kokuga does at least convey the military and futuristic warfare setting of the game.



On the bottom screen you can select various power up cards to aid you battle. These include new shot types which can drastically increase your damage output to defensive measures such as stealth and forcefields. For the most part, at least on normal difficulty, these power ups are best saved for the boss fights. You only have four out at a time and the order they are presented to you is random, meaning you might have to waste a few cards in order to get to the one you're looking for. For me this was only really an issue whenever I wanted to get access to the card that restored the shield. Some shot types also felt far more useful than others. The double shot could hardly compare to the power of the laser or the radial laser.


[i]
Kokuga[/i] has a rather slow paced feel to it compared to other shooters. This is no more apparent, and irritating, when it comes to moving the turret. This is done by pressing the L or R buttons on the 3DS to move it around 360 degrees. It was frustrating when I needed to turn it to face the opposite way, which felt like it could not come soon enough. This was especially the case when it came to quite a few of the boss battles. Some of the bosses move surprisingly swiftly across the battlefield and have specific weak points that must be targeted. The slowness of the turret combined with the slight lack of precision meant that tackling these bosses without the use of the special weapons was a serious pain.

Lastly, Kokuga also features local and download play multiplayer options, allowing up to four people to play co-op.

Kokuga can feel fairly challenging at times, but it also seems rather repetitive. It's a fun game to pass the time. It's an enjoyable bite sized title for someone looking for a slower paced shoot 'em up game for the 3DS. However, at $14.99 and £13.49 I can't say it's an absolute bargain. For more information and screenshots you can visit the official website.

You can also view this post on my personal blog.

(Images taken from http://www.nintendo.com)   read


11:19 AM on 07.15.2013

Cube World Alpha Impressions

[i]
[/i]

Cube World is a game that I've expressed an interest with in the past, and with the recently released public alpha I decided to pay my first visit to this voxel based exploration RPG and write up about it. For those who aren't aware of it, Cube World is being developed by Wolfram ďWollayĒ von Funck and Sarah ďPixxieĒ von Funck from German. The game takes inspiration from the likes of Minecraft, Zelda, Diablo, and much more.

Please note that Cube World is still in early alpha, and therefore far from finished. Just keep that in mind when I go through my thoughts and criticisms.

I went into the character editor and made myself a gruff, old, human warrior with a beard and created my first world (which basically involves putting in a seed number). The character customisation is pretty satisfying, with eight races to choose from including humans, elves, frogmen, and undead. There's a good range of hairs and faces to pick along with almost any hair colour imaginable. It's also interesting how the characters and the worlds are separate, meaning you can play different characters in different lands if you so desire. You even keep levels and items as you move between them.



The combat in Cube World from what I experienced as a warrior is very simplistic and some might find it lacking in depth. It consists of performing ordinary attacks until the MP character was full, which you could then use perform a special attack depending on what weapon you are using, such as a spinning attack if you're wielding two swords or a power block if you're using a shield. As you level up you can acquire special skills that can stun and do extra damage to enemies. One example is a jumping attacking that allows you to slam down on a group of enemies and knock them down. These skills have recharge times, but no indication as to how long they are on the actual skill bar. The controls for fighting, which I do not believe can be rebound currently, have a few quirks. Most frustratingly is having to roll by clicking the mouse wheel. It just feels like the wrong place to put that functionality and it caused me not to utilise the move to any great degree.

Levelling up in Cube World is perhaps the most tedious part of the game. Some enemies give as little as one experience for their defeat, which makes taking on some mobs feel very unrewarding. Even when I moved onto tougher groups it still felt like trying to strength up my character was taking forever. It risks sullying the exploration aspect of Cube World and turn it into an MMO grind.

This feeling also extends to Cube World's crafting system. While it's by no means a bad thing on its own, combined with the grinding nature of the combat it does feel a bit too familiar to an MMO. Most of time was spent harvesting heartflowers which I could then take back to the city and make some potions with when crafted with some flasks of water. Various metals can also be collected and used the forge new weapons and armours, making Cube World's crafting more like Terraria than Minecraft. However, rather than just making items as soon as you have the right equipment and materials, some require you to purchase formulas in order to learn, giving more purpose to the money you find from slaying mobs.

Hang gliders and boats can be purchased in Cube World to further exploration. Having these kind of optional travelling methods is seriously cool, but there is one elephant in the room in regards to them. At first the ten silver for the hang glider seemed like it would take a while to get, but it did not. Good right? Afraid not. The problem is that using the item also requires me to get the skill to use it by levelling up and finding a trainer, which I have already explained is a painfully long process. Having the hang glider in my inventory but not being able to use it is really unpleasant.


At this point I decided to blow caution to the wind and simply do what I wanted to do in this game in the first place. I headed out for some exploration. Cube World's procedurally generated worlds have roads in them, which meant I had a good route to follow at the start. When I reached the end of the road however I simply wandered off in any random direction.

The worlds in Cube World are separated into different regions that generate when you enter them. Each region seems to have its own city where you can do some crafting and trading. Various named landmarks and areas will be dotted around the regions such as forests, lakes, etc. These labelled areas will have a concentration of certain kinds of tougher enemies. During my play sessions I wandered into a forest full of lizardmen. An objective for the area also came up which involved defeating their leader, who turned out to be a giant lizardman. Naturally I was immediately crushed when I tried to take him.

The strength of enemies in Cube World can vary rather dramatically. It is not uncommon to find weaklings and mighty bulls who hit like trucks in the same patch. Even more unusual was the surprising power of certain enemies. This is no more apparent than when I came face to face with the deadly, deadly squirrel. The first time I encountered one of these vicious little buggers it went straight for me and showed no mercy. I barely won with my life intact. Finally, it is worth noting that if an enemy defeats you they recover their health, meaning you can't keep trying to beat on them in the hopes they'll break down eventually.


Right now, Cube World is offering some wonderful exploration, but the worlds feel rather empty beyond the endless mobs to fight. It is worth noting that the price of getting into the game during alpha will be cheaper than when it goes into beta, currently at around $14. There's potential waiting to fill these worlds. However, unless you're seriously interested in the what the project might have to offer, or you just want to buy in at the cheaper alpha price, then I would advise caution about buying. It's a very sweet Ė but far from complete Ė game. If you're interested you should check out the developer's website.

You can also read this on my personal blog.   read


11:39 AM on 07.08.2013

Going Overboard with Capsized

Capsized is a 2d action platformer from Alientrap where you must guide a space traveler across the alien world he has crash landed on. Stunning level aesthetics, hordes of aliens to fend off, and puzzles to solve using a grappling hook, Capsized offers a whole lot of sci-fi shooting action in a short, cheap game.



The story of Capsized is told silently through still images before each mission. Your character and the rest of his crew become stranded on an alien planet and the game follows your quest to find the crew and send a signal for help. While at first it seems there is nothing but wildlife you soon start to encounter the armed and dangerous natives. Each loading screen gives you a few images to explain what it is your character us trying to accomplish or what obstacle is in their way. Beyond that however there's nothing much to the plot.

Capsized's campaign features twelve different missions, many of which have different objectives. However, these objectives feels very repetitive and similar to simple fetch quests. These normally involve you doing the same thing several times in different locations on the map, from destroying certain statues to rescuing crew mates. While enemies are often difficult to tackle you'll find that completing the actual objectives rarely provides much of a challenge. At the most some might require you to do a lot of dragging stuff around with the gravity hook.

Capsized has very free feeling movement. This is complimented by the addition of both a gravity hook and a jetpack, though the latter has limited fuel supply. Many of the puzzles in the game require you not only to transport yourself using the gravity hook but also to drag other objects to and fro using it. These tasks however can prove frustrating as it is easy to detach from whatever it is you might be trying to carry. Certain energy orbs some objects demand you use have a tendency to bounce erratically when they hit a surface. On a more amusing note objects that you drag with the gravity hook can also be hurled at enemies and used to squash them, allowing you to use the many bits of junk littered around to your advantage.



The default controls in Capsized can be a little bit confusing to players who are used to different set ups. The thing that kept catching me out was using 'W' to jump, which often led me to accidentally jumping a lot. I would recommend rebinding the keys to whatever feels more comfortable for you. The floaty nature of the games movement and controls can take some getting used to as well, but it fits in with the sci-fi genre, giving the feeling of lower gravity.

The visual elements of Capsized appear to be a double-edged sword. The levels are pretty stunning, with vibrant greens and a strange spores all over the place. The game has a truly alien vibe to it, giving you the impression of being trapped in unfamiliar lands. There is a beautiful combination of alien worlds and tribal imagery in the different set pieces. The enemies are well designed, from little floating pests to absolutely gigantic monstrosities. Everything's well animated and fits into the world wonderfully. There is a small variety of different environments, including darkened ruins, lush valleys, and even floating platforms that bob up and down when you land on them.

However, the issue that I've taken up with Capsized is that the game can feel rather cluttered and unclear. Sometimes I came across moving creatures that looked like they might be enemies, only to find that when I shot at them they were in the background. Some enemies would blend in a bit too well into the scenery and would catch me as I was focusing on something else. Another thing that irritated me was that enemies were often able to shoot me while they were off screen.



The shooting is relatively simple. Just move the mouse in the right direction and fire. There are plenty of different weapons to choice from and each one has a section functionality by using the right mouse button. However, everything outside of your default laser has limited ammo, so being wasteful with the extra weapons can lead to punishment when you encounter tougher enemies. This made fighting feel more challenging as I was always trying to balance staying alive with saving my better weapons.

While the variety of creatures you meet at the start is lacking, things get more complicated once you start encountering the natives. They use different weapons and tactics. Some are shielded and some can fly. After the midway point you'll start to fight some boss like enemies who have special abilities, including teleportation the power to send your own bullets back at you. These fights provide some impressive challenge, even on the easier difficulties. However, you often up having the battle them at the same time as other enemies or in awkward parts of the map. This can lead to some frustration and the sense that sometimes the game is being unfair.

Speaking of which, one piece of advice I would give to players is to turn off auto-switch in the options menu. This feature forces you to change weapons whenever you acquire a new one. It's a common occurrence that can cause you to end up using the wrong weapon at the worst possible moments. Being made to swap for the rocket launcher when you're fighting an enemy who's right up in your face will lead to you knocking off a chunk of your own health.

Capsized comes with an arcade mode which offers such challenges like time trials, survival missions, and matches against bot opponents using the same kind of weapons you can use. These might provide extended entertainment for a short while, but I don't see them offering anything that is particularly more enjoyable than the campaign. Missions also contain secret tokens for you to collect, offering up some extra challenge in exploring the levels carefully.

Capsized is a beautiful looking game with moments of intense shooting action. However, it also feels lacking in terms of missions with simple mechanics. Anyone looking for a short sci-fi platformer might want to pay a look at this game. The game can be purchased from Steam at $9.99 or £5.99. You can also check out Capsized's website for more information and screenshots.

(Images taken from http://www.capsizedgame.com/)

You can also view this post on my personal blog.   read





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