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Review: Anomaly 2

May 15 // Allistair Pinsof
Anomaly 2 (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: 11 bit StudiosPublisher: 11 bit StudiosReleased: May 15, 2013MSRP: $14.99 I either love or hate tower defense games with very little room between the two extremes. The dividing factor is basically "action" or the lack thereof. Waiting for impending doom is boring, but I won’t notice if you give me sun drops or coins to collect. Anomaly is all about action, which is what made the original stand out. As the name suggests, it’s a strange amalgamation of genres and design that is hard to qualify.The fourteen levels of Anomaly 2 take place from within two viewpoints. Off the field, the game most closely resembles tower-defense as you plan actions on a map that displays enemy towers that will meet your troops. Since you are the creeps, not the towers, you can choose different routes and even loop back to the beginning (though there isn’t often a good reason to do this). You also buy a variety of vehicles that offer defense, support, offense, or produce buffs, like slowing enemies down or temporarily cloaking the squad.[embed]253711:48673:0[/embed] On the field, Anomaly plays more like an action game as you frantically acquire and apply support to your squad via area-of-effect abilities. Directing an EMP blast that temporarily disables a heavy damage tower is as essential to success as a well rounded squad. Anomaly 2 refines abilities, getting rid of the lackluster mist and bomb drop and adding in an EMP blast and power-up that concentrates fire on a single unit. The mix of slow paced strategic planning and fast-paced, click-happy action gives Anomaly a unique and engaging ebb-and-flow.Subtle refinements to user interface and unit design make Anomaly 2 a better game, but it’s the addition of alternate roles for units and the vastly improved graphics that make this sequel a noticeable step-up. Each unit in Anomaly 2 has an alternate form which is accessed with a double click. Most of these forms are similar to each other, such as the gatling gun assault unit morphing into a walking mech with flamethrowers. I never used the Hell Hound mech outside the tutorials, but I found myself constantly switching the forms of my missile unit -- one offers a deadly direct shot while the other has a wider range but weaker attack. Doubling units’ abilities adds a greater variety of tactical loadouts and makes the action a bit more frantic as constantly switching between forms becomes standard procedure.I played the first Anomaly on my Nexus 7, so I had a hard time adapting to the control of a commander unit present in Anomaly 2 (on PC). Using touch controls to trigger abilities feels intuitive, so it was a jarring experience to find myself using a mouse to direct an on-field commander who acted as the trigger and spawn point of abilities, instead of my finger tips. This may be old hat for those who played Anomaly on PC or console, but it bugged me, nonetheless. I often lost my commander’s position when combat got heated, got stuck on geometry, and wrestled with the camera until things clicked several missions in. If you have the patience, I’d recommend waiting for Anomaly 2 on tablet. Doing so, however, may detract from the great visuals. The scope and scale of Anomaly 2 is much greater than its predecessor, as it features cutscenes, narrative-driven missions, and detailed landscapes. Each of the game’s 14 missions introduces a new mechanic, squad unit, and/or enemy tower. Some of the missions, such as one where you need to defend a base located in the center of a map, aren’t much fun but at least all of them have their own unique look and objective. From Rio to Antarctica, the game looks fantastic even if the levels are all propping up a painfully written and acted story. Thankfully, the cutscenes and dialogues exchanges are brief but not brief enough for a title destined for mobile. While the greater scale makes for a more exciting visual experience, the increased size of the maps also highlights problems from the first Anomaly. Halfway through the game, I started to feel fatigued as I settled into using the same strategies. I also found myself -- as I so often did in the first -- putting myself into a corner by draining my abilities or health right before a checkpoint, forcing me to restart from the beginning. All of this makes me wish the game's levels were divided into smaller pieces. While the framework of Anomaly makes for some fun strategy, it also paves the way for some frustrating issues. Multiplayer is an interesting but overall lackluster addition to the series. With a scant five maps (four of which need to be unlocked through play), it doesn’t seem the developer is considering it more than an experiment. I have a hard time gauging the success of this experiment, however, since my time with it found me in a couple amateur matches. One player sets up towers (the game literally becomes tower defense), while the other directs a squad (identical to singleplayer). Finding the right build flow for the tower defense side is essential, as the offending squad can quickly decimate the buildings. At the same time, the tower defense side can build massive forces (through towers that acquire more building resources) that can be near impossible to combat if not wiped out first. Whether seasoned players will eventually discover a balance to multiplayer is an issue to be addressed after release, but I can say that, as an amateur, it’s not very fun or rewarding.Anomaly 2 builds upon the original in every way, leaving me to wonder if this is as good as the concept of a deconstructed tower defense game can get. Anomaly 2 is an immediate and exciting strategy game unlike any other, but over time the repetition and lack of depth leaves something to be desired. It’s a welcome distraction on a phone or tablet, but the limits of the game are quickly noticed when played in long bursts on PC. For fans of the first that looked past these shortcomings, Anomaly 2 is a bigger, smarter, and better looking game.
Anomaly 2 Review photo
Earth Offense Force
Don’t let the screenshots fool you: This isn’t the game you think it is. The first Anomaly was an unexpected sleeper hit that found a successful formula on flipping tower defense on its head by putting the playe...

Oh my word photo
Oh my word

Elmo takes a trip to Silent Hill

The hell that lies underneath Elmo's Letter Adventure
May 10
// Allistair Pinsof
What was the last game that scared you? Would you believe me if I told you Elmo's Letter Adventure was mine? The above video, captured and narrated by the hilarious guys at Vinesauce, shows off some eerie glitches discovered...
Virtual Reality photo
Virtual Reality

Half-Life 2 receives Oculus Rift support in latest patch

Now with even more terrifying headcrabs
May 10
// Allistair Pinsof
Oculus Rift promises a richer, more immersive game experience, so pairing it with the monumental Half-Life 2 is a no brainier, right? Valve's Joe Ludwig has done just that, adding Occulus Rift support to the game. The Oculus ...

Review: Game Dev Tycoon

May 10 // Allistair Pinsof
Game Dev Tycoon (PC, Mac)Developer: Greenheart GamesPublisher: Greenheart GamesReleased: April 28, 2013MSRP: $7.99 Game Dev Tycoon covers our gaming history from garage PC development to the PlaySystem 4, but the title itself owes much of its design, and lack of thoroughness, to Facebook and mobile gaming. From title to concept, it's impossible for the game to escape comparison to Kairosoft's Game Dev Story. Even in execution, the differences between the two don't become clear until a couple hours into Tycoon. Thankfully, these differences work in the title's favor, providing elegant and smart solutions to problems presented in Game Dev Story. As the title suggests, Game Dev Tycoon is a business simulation in the style of Microprose series like Railroad Tycoon and RollerCoaster Tycoon. The business you run is a game studio, so the scale is much smaller. Once you create an avatar, the game starts you off in a garage with a commercial PC in the '70s. Depending on the time frame you chose (which can go from 25 years to 35+), you will eventually end up developing games for next-gen consoles in a highrise if you found success throughout the years. [embed]253040:48604:0[/embed] Game Dev Tycoon does a great job of introducing new elements that keep each era of development as memorable as the offbeat hardware that we so often forget -- the Game Gears, cancelled Nintendo add-ons of yesteryear. Yet, these elements don't come quickly enough, making for a rather dry and monotonous early game. Game development is divided into several stages: funding/company management, development, and marketing. At the start, income will come primarily from contract work which will also net research points. Research can be invested in unlocking new game topics, technology, and leveling up staff's abilities. Development itself is divided into several stages. Once you have decided a name, topic, genre, and console platform, the player is prompted with three screens of development factors. Each screen has a slider with three different elements, for example world design, sound, and graphics. You can equalize all elements or focus on one. Only through gaming savvy (e.g., invest heavily in dialogue for RPG and adventure games) and trial-and-error will success be found. As the player goes from PC development to buying licenses to create games for Ninvento and Vega consoles, new challenges are introduced in the form of managing a staff, dedicating money to researching new technology, and following current market trends. The game even has its own E3 convention; the bigger your booth, the more hype you'll generate for your current project. Hype is an invaluable resource, even if the game doesn't do a good job of letting you know how much it will impact sales. Game Dev Tycoon does a poor job of surfacing any feedback to the player. There are no focus groups or beta testers, and the fake reviews offer little to no insight. Everything is good or bad. Why did my $10.5 million comedy action-RPG fail? Who knows. Sure, it's common sense not to make a sports-adventure hybrid or use outdated tech on modern consoles, but isn't it also common sense that delivering a timely sequel after a review said "Can't wait for the sequel" should be met with success? Though Game Dev Tycoon takes influence from our gaming history, its rules don't always follow our reality. This wouldn't be such a problem if it put any effort into conveying its special alternate reality. Instead, the player is left to stumble in the dark. Each of my successes felt like dumb luck or exploiting a known formula for success. Maybe I could run Ubisoft, after all? The sound and visuals are low-rent, leaning on social gaming gimmickry, like bubbles that pop with the frequency of popcorn as you earn design and technology points for your game in development. It all works, in the way that a manipulative Facebook game has proven to work, but it's hardly as inspired or charming as Game Dev Story's pixel art and SNES-era soundtrack. The best thing I can say is that the production elements neither get in the way or make much of an impression. Half of the fun, however, is in seeing the game's reinterpretation of popular game consoles and posters in the office reflecting the blockbuster games of the time. I only wish there was more of this type of stuff and opportunities to interact and customize your work space. When Game Dev Story introduced the idea of a game development sim to Japan in '97 and then the West in 2010, it was a novel concept that made overlooking its flaws easier. While Game Dev Tycoon is a superior experience with a better interface for its platform, it still suffers from the same pitfalls of monotony and lack of player feedback that Game Dev Story suffered from. While I appreciate the perspective Game Dev Tycoon has given me on game development, from indie studios in debt to huge studios juggling multiple projects, it was never the game's sim elements that had me returning. It offers a pleasant walk down memory lane of past consoles and technology, but that's about it.
Game Dev Tycoon review photo
Falls a bit short
In the virtual reviews from the virtual critics that judge your virtual game company's output in Game Dev Tycoon, depth is never a point of concern. Well, it is here. Everything in the eyes of Informed Gamer (and other fake m...

3D Realms photo
Lo Wang coming to get you, little snake coward!
First came Duke Nukem, then came Lo Wang, and now come the reboots. Flying Wild Hog, developer of Hard Reset, annouced it is making a reboot of Shadow Warrior, the offbeat, borderline offensive but all the way awesome Hong Ko...

Jerkin' photo

Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded gets lucky May 31 for $19.99

Good things come to those who bate
May 08
// Allistair Pinsof
Some perverts burn and fade away, but Casanova Larry Laffer lives on in Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded, a remake of the 1987 debut arriving May 31 on PC, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. Desktop platforms cost $19.99 while the mob...
Horror photo

John Carpenter wants to direct a Dead Space film

Could this be a Ghosts of Mars sequel???
May 08
// Allistair Pinsof
Sci-fi/horror mastermind John Carpenter (The Thing, Escape from New York ... uh, Ghosts of Mars?) told Game Informer that Dead Space would make for a great film and he'd make for a great person to direct it. "I maintain that ...
FIGHT! photo

Injustice added to EVO 2013's official lineup

A surprising but welcome late addition
May 08
// Allistair Pinsof
After fans of NetherRealm's Injustice made noise about it not being part of EVO 2013's eight-game lineup, the fighting game tournament will now feature the excellent DC Universe fighter, according to EVO lead organizer Joey &...
Fables photo

First screens and details on Telltale's Wolf Among Us

Move over Walking Dead, there's a new Wolf in town
May 07
// Allistair Pinsof
Telltale is developing The Wolf Among Us with the weight of the most critically acclaimed game of 2012 on its shoulders, but it's starting to look like the studio may have another ace up its sleeve. Game Informer's interview ...
Square Enix photo
Square Enix

Kingdom Hearts HD comes to PS3 on September 10

Pre-orders come with 24-page art book
May 07
// Allistair Pinsof
Publisher Square Enix revealed today that Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX will arrive on PlayStation 3 on September 10, filling the need for Kingdom Hearts and awesomely bad game titles in one swoop. Pre-orders will be treated to...

Shoot monkey, get happy in GUN_MONKEYS

A 2D arena shooter from the developers of Time Gentlemen, Please
May 07
// Allistair Pinsof
Indie developer Size Five Games continues to make its transition from adventure titles to action games with the upcoming release of GUN_MONKEYS: a 2D deathmatch shooter that its creator describes as "2D Unreal Tournament mee...
Assassin's Creed photo
Patrice Désilets: "I intend to fight Ubisoft"
[Update: Assassin's Creed creative director Patrice Désilets has responded to his departure from Ubisoft, calling it a "baseless" termination. Here's what he told Polygon: "Contrary to any statements made earlier today...

So nasty! photo
So nasty!

Like gross stuff? This new Last of Us clip should satisfy

This is why you need to wash your hands after handling mushrooms
May 06
// Allistair Pinsof
I'd tell you everything this new behind the scenes clip of The Last of Us contains but I had to shut it off halfway through. The enemies -- the focus of the clip -- freak me out too much, which is to say that fungi freaks me...
Cancelled photo

Get sad: Over an hour of Star Wars Battlefront 3 footage

More gameplay of cancelled 2008 game
May 06
// Allistair Pinsof
Free Radical's Star Wars Battlefront sequel has made many appearances on various streams and video hosting channels since cancellation in 2008, but this weekend saw one of the most generous videos: an hour-long playthrough o...
Lust the dust photo
Lust the dust

Doritos Crash Course 2 arrives on XBLA this Wednesday

This is the moment we've been waiting for
May 06
// Allistair Pinsof
Minecraft. Call of Duty. Doritos Crash Course. These are the games that have defined our console generation and, at long last, we will reenter the magnificent world of Doritos-flavored platforming with Doritos Crash Course 2,...

Plants vs. Zombies 2 gets July release and new subtitle

May 06 // Allistair Pinsof
PopCap photo
Don't most decent videogames have a sequel out by now?
PopCap beat us to the punch by relabeling its game Plants Vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time within a new teaser trailer that also reveals the game's July release. This trailer was announced on the official Plants vs. Zombies Fa...

Angry Birds photo
Angry Birds

Apple counts down to 50 billion downloads, lists top apps

Them birds are still so darn angry
May 03
// Allistair Pinsof
It's a monumental weekend for Apple, which is days (hours? minutes?) away from 50 billion downloads. It's not hard to think back to a time when the App store seemed insignificant, but looking at Apple's published lists of the...
Star Wars photo
Star Wars

Pinball FX 2 comes to Steam on May 10

No balls of steel required
May 03
// Allistair Pinsof
Outside the dedicated and nebulously legal emulation scene, PC hasn't received much virtual pinball love lately despite being its birthplace. Zen Studios is changing this by bringing Pinball FX 2 to Steam on May 10. The titl...
Nintendo photo
Wii U Mario will be released by October
A source told CVG that Wii U releases are slim this spring due to an initiative at Nintendo to stop most first-party releases until the summer patch is out, which will further improve the system. This follows April's patch wh...

Multiplayer photo

NPD Study: 72 percent of gamers play online

Up by 5-percent from last year
May 03
// Allistair Pinsof
I hope you like Tomb Raider's forced multiplayer, because NPD's latest study provides more coal to big publishers's firery intiative to have multiplayer in more games. NPD polled 8,800 US gamers, discovering that 72 percent p...
FREE! photo

MoshiMoshi teaches kids about meth, death, and shooting

If only my elementary school teachers taught me these valuable lessons
May 02
// Allistair Pinsof
Colorful, ecstatic, and utterly bizarre, free indie shooter MoshiMoshi may be the oddest game you play today. Conceived at a Braingale game jam, MoshiMoshi is a brief but fun twinstick-style shooter with gaudy visuals and an...
Kojima photo

Zone of the Enders HD frame rate patch coming to PS3

Only announced for Japan, at the moment
May 02
// Allistair Pinsof
Not all platform releases are born equal. PlayStation 3 owners got the short end of the stick with the release of Zone of the Enders HD Collection. While the game played favorably on Xbox 360, the game's frame rate took a ser...
Yippe! photo

Game & Wario comes to Wii U on June 23 for $39.99

Europe release: June 28
May 02
// Allistair Pinsof
Game & Wario arrives in North America on June 23 and then Europe on June 28. It comes with a budget price of $39.99. I'll bite my tongue and hold back any Wii U gaming drought comments, because Game & Wario is finally...
Super Mario World photo
Super Mario World

Mario invades the world of Metal Slug, chaos ensues

Now you're playing with power
May 02
// Allistair Pinsof
With the growing trend of videogame crossovers by fans, it was only a matter of time before Super Mario World mashed with Metal Slug. Restylzed in Metal Slug's Neo-Geo asthetic, Mario roams the recognizable levels of the arc...
Hey, sissies! photo
Hey, sissies!

SiSSYFiGHT 2000 aims to return, takes to Kickstarter

Seeks free, open source rerelease
May 02
// Allistair Pinsof
Hey, sissypants! If you had one more wrinkle, you'd be a prune! You're so dumb you stole cookies from a free cookie stand! You smell like a can of fish left in a hot car for a month! OK, so I'm not so great at berating peopl...
Gearbox photo

Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina DLC announced (Update)

Gearbox's Anthony Burch's tweet confirms title
May 02
// Allistair Pinsof
[Update: Gearbox has cleared us to share with you the following, in light of today's leak. Borderlands 2's Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep DLC, which follows Tiny Tina who is running a role-playing tabletop game, will come...
Kickstarter photo

Calling all Metroidvania fans: Check out Valdis Story

Latest update adds A.I. teammates
May 02
// Allistair Pinsof
It's hard to keep track of all the Kickstarters out there, but I regret not reporting on Valdis Story: Abyssal City because it's shaping up nicely. A year after Kickstarter funding ended, we now have more footage of the Metr...
Shmups photo

Dreamcast shooter Sturmwind released, 16 years later

Sturmwind and Ghost Blade keep console's shooter legacy alive
May 02
// Allistair Pinsof
Shooters, SHMUPS, STGs. Call them what you want, but let's agree we don't have enough of them these days. Indie developers are changing that and are doing it on an unexpected platform: SEGA's Dreamcast. The latest two shoot-...
Tech photo

Fallout fans: Build your own functional PIP-Boy today!

*Assuming you are much smarter than me
May 01
// Allistair Pinsof
In the age of the iPhone, the benefits of an armband computer that weighs you down is ludicrous. Nevertheless, Fallout's PIP-Boy 3000 is among the most wanted fictional tech toys among game enthusiasts. Hell, even the milita...
Cyberjunk photo

Shadowrun Returns now available for pre-purchase on Steam

Also, new video shows Matrix realm
May 01
// Allistair Pinsof
Cyberpunk role-playing game Shadowrun Returns is now available for pre-purchase on Steam. $17.99 for the standard version or $31.49 for the deluxe version, which includes a soundtrack and an eBook (PDF) that contains short s...

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