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Slotpark (iOS) Review

October 4th, 2015 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer/Publisher: Funstage Games  || Overall:  8.5/10

Slotpark is a free casino app available in the German App Store.  Slotpark maintains the same user interface integrated across a wide variety of slots as players switch between them.  In the corners you’ll be shown your current Credit balance and your levels.  With each level, you gain an extra Credit bonus, as well as a timed bonus every 4 hours, which is standard across many casino apps.  The first few levels are quite easy to reach, so you’ll be earning a lot of bonus Credits as you start out.  This is a good way to allow you to get used to the game’s features and slots, and improves the accessibility to new players.

Slotpark currently includes 12 differently-themed slots, with more being added.  You’ll be able to switch between slots very easily by downloading a new slot.  Once you feel like changing, it is easy to go back to the Lobby and switch to another slot.

The slot selection is varied, and each theme can be fun depending on your personal preference.  5-Column games are what you’ll see mostly, but there are a couple of 3-Column games available.  The selection of slots include the following and more:

  • Lucky Lady’s Charm – lady/luck/magic themed
  • Queen of Hearts deluxe – castle/red heart theme
  • Book of Ra – Egypt themed
  • Pharaoh’s Tomb – also Egypt themed
  • Lord of the Ocean – Poseidon/water theme
  • Dolphin’s Pearl – water/pearl theme

It is very convenient to be able to switch between slots that are available via the Slotpark lobby.  If you are interested in trying out Slotpark, you can find it on the German App Store.  It is also available in the Austria, Switzerland, Romania, Turkey, French, Netherlands, and Greek App Stores.

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Rogue Continuum (PC) Early Access Preview

September 27th, 2015 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer: Rocktastic Games  | Publisher: Surprise Attack Games






Time is a valuable resource; luckily you’ll have plenty of it in Rouge Continuum. The newest incarnation in the rouge-like genre, Rogue Continuum has you die, die and die again all to stop the eventual destruction of Earth. The Earth has been destroyed and the survival of the human race is in peril as a small team of psychos take it upon themselves to go back in time and take the fight to the alien’s home world. Armed with plenty of weapons and a time machine that allows them to retry missions time and time again, the team looks to eradicate the alien menace before they can even reach Earth. Thankfully, with a good assortment of characters, varied enemies and a system that makes your character stronger with every death, it also might be a lot of fun to do so.

Rouge Continuum attempts to inject rouge-likes with a good bit of crazy to bring out the best in the genre. Already impressive, even in this Early Access build, there is a good bit of fun, variety and fast-pace zaniness. The basic set up is simple: maneuver through an enemy-filled stage, fight a few bosses and then make your way to the enemy-infested extraction point to finish the level. You get power ups along the way that upgrade your speed, attack, defense and weapons to make you stronger overall. More importantly, you acquire experience points that increase your character’s base stats and abilities. You’re allowed to keep any abilities or stats gained through experience points but must forfeit any abilities or upgrades picked up during the level when you die. This makes you steadily stronger at the start of every new life and eventually makes you strong enough to complete the level. This common repetition of fighting, dying and coming back stronger is the basic rhythm of this game.

Though the formula may sound a bit repetitive, Rogue Continuum does a fine job keeping it fresh and new. Having 4 vastly different characters, many enemy types, unique upgrades and various stages to enjoy, it is often a pleasant surprise to see how they all work. The playable characters deserve special note since they all play quite differently from each other; whether it is Smackdown Sam (yes, that’s his real name, isn’t it awesome?) with his run-and-gun style of combat, Ownage Olga’s (and yeah, they don’t really get much better than that first name) charge shot and dodge tactics, Rampage Rufus who is the only melee combatant in the game, or Destructobot who is quite literally a walking tank, each character plays wildly different from the other. Couple these characters with a game that doesn’t really care about the small things like “realism” or “making sense” and you have a fun time-waster. At one point in time, I was even able to mix elemental abilities to create a bullet that encased enemies in blocks of ice while setting them on fire. Rogue Continuum cares about that much.

Other than some balance issues between the weapons and characters, and the occasional pop-up of a bug or two, it’s really hard to fault Rogue Continuum, even at this stage of development. They could inject many things to make it better, but it would be more of a wish list than any actual detriment the game currently has this early in its Early Access cycle. And with the inclusion of online co-op on the way, they are already hitting one of the items on that personal wish list. Overall, they are off to a mighty fine start.

The flow of the game may be repetitive, but the variety of character, enemies and weapons really make Rogue Continuum stand out. Plus, the way it wholeheartedly embraces its unrealistic premise with equally unrealistic gameplay makes for a game that’s low on brain power but high on fun. Rogue Continuum is currently on Steam Early Access for $9.99, look for it today… or sometime yesterday.


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Gaminator (iOS) Review

September 27th, 2015 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer/Publisher: Greentube Alderney Ltd.  || Overall:  8.5/10

Gaminator is a free casino app available in various European App Stores.  Using the same user interface integrated across a multitude of slots, players are able to hop around between different themes as they see fit with ease.  When first booting up the game, you are presented with an easy-to-understand interface.  In the top corners you’ll be shown your current Credit balance and your levels, the most important pieces of information.  With each level, you gain an extra Credit bonus, as well as a timed bonus every 4 hours.  The first few levels are easy to attain, so you’ll be earning quite a bit of bonus Credits as you start out.  This is a good way to allow you to get used to the game’s features and slots, especially if this is your first casino game.

Gaminator currently includes 13 differently-themed slots, with more being added.  You’ll be able to quickly and easily switch between slots that you like without restrictions such as a level minimum.  Once you feel like changing, it is easy to go back to the Lobby and switch to another slot.

The slot selection is diverse, and each theme can be fun depending on your personal preference.  Most are 5-Column games with a couple of 3-Column games available.  The selection of slots include the following and more:

  • Lucky Lady’s Charm – lady/luck/magic themed
  • Book of Ra – Egypt themed
  • Columbus deluxe – based on Christopher Columbus
  • Ultra Hot Deluxe – 3-Column fruit theme
  • Lord of the Ocean – Poseidon/water theme

It is very convenient to be able to switch between slots that are available via the Gaminator lobby.  If you are interested in trying out Gaminator, you can find it on the Hungarian App Store.  It is also available on the Czech, Polish, Russian, and Slovakian App Stores.

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Assault Android Cactus (PC) Review

September 23rd, 2015 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer/Publisher: Witch Beam  || Overall: 9.0

There’s much to say about first impressions. They hold a strong sway in coloring our dispositions towards certain things, and are often easy to acquire but hard to forget. That’s why it is beneficial to give off the best impression of ourselves at first; it is often a deciding factor on jobs, friendships and romantic relationships. That being said… Calm the F’ down Witch Beam! Give yourselves room to grow! Come out with too strong of a first impression and it’ll be much harder to impress on your second, third and so forth attempt. In the music industry, this might result in an affliction called the “One Hit Wonder.”

And your fans will run, they’ll run so far away!!!
They’ll run, they’ll run all night and day!!!
You are not gonna get paid!!!

The first impression for rookie game developer Witch Beam, Assault Android Cactus is the first love child created by that three person team. Describing itself as a “Twin Stick Arena Shooter,” it is probably better described as the natural evolution of a Bullet Hell Shooter, and a very well regarded one at that. Already having made a good enough showing at a few expos to come out with an award or two, this long-in-development game has quite the reputation to live up to. But can Assault Android Cactus live up to all those high accola… oh, who am I kidding? If you read that first paragraph of flavor text you already have a good impression of what I think about this game.

As mentioned, Assault Android Cactus is the natural evolution of a Bullet Hell Shooter. The genre is usually characterized by the sheer amount of enemies and harmful projectiles that are present on screen, so much so, that they are often also called “Carpet Shooter.” The screen is often “carpeted” with enemies and projectiles that you must skillfully maneuver through while destroying any other living thing on screen. This also aptly describes this title’s core gameplay and is something that it does really well. Each level a familiar dance of dodging and shooting that the genre is known for. And while overwhelming at first, it strikes a near-perfect balance of those features. It’s often a great pleasure to start with a screen full of enemies only to surely wipe them out by level’s end.

Protip: When surrounded by enemies (aka in serious shit) using your
secondary fire gives you a short second of invulnerability.

Not content with merely giving Bullet Hell Shooters a 3D facelift, Assault Android Cactus also provide it own special innovations to make it pop out from all of the others. Unlike its 2D forefathers, the game takes an isometric view of the battlefield instead of a top-down approach. It is often a benefit since it gives you a clear perspective of the stage’s obstacles and the much needed cover that are spread throughout a level’s map. Also, unlike most in the genre, the game gives the player a full 360-degrees of shooting action allowing them to shoot up, down or any direction at will. A mechanic that comes in handy since the enemies can appear anywhere on the screen. They are no longer bound to coming in from the screens edges, and will often try to blindside you to tick away at the precious time you have left. That wasn’t a typo. In probably the most major departure from regular Bullet Hell Shooters, there is a slowly draining battery on top of the screen that serves as ticking time bomb for your own personal destruction. So instead of focusing solely on remaining unharmed, the player has to keep a constant pace of enemy death and destruction so that they can drop a battery pack to refill the battery bar on top. This makes Assault Android Cactus more of a struggle in time management than a simple task of survival set on a spaceship full of rogue robots.

The story in Assault Android Cactus is really nothing to write home about. Though the uninspired sci-fi tale of a few androids rescuing a spaceship from a robot uprising is easily offset by its cast of colorful characters. Each android in Assault Android Cactus has a clear and often charming persona that adds a layer of personality to the game. Taking into account their personal battle quips and that each character has different dialogue when meeting a boss, the characters would seem at home in any number of entertaining Saturday morning cartoon programs (if that were still a thing).  You’ll encounter characters like Cactus, who is a shoot-first-ask-questions-later sorta gal (android?) or the psychopathic man-child that is Starch and her freakin’ game-winning laser beam of death. In all, their different personalities are a fun addition to game’s solid gameplay and, thankfully, the differences don’t stop there.

Each character is great…

Just like their personalities, each android is outfitted with a different primary and secondary weapon. They often play off of each other to give each android a unique strategy for dealing with the rogue robot ruffians (alliteration!) that have taken over the spaceship. Whether it be Coral’s in-your-face style of combining a combat shotgun with a plasma shield that reflects projectiles and enemies, Shiitake’s slow-but-powerful railgun and mine combo, or Cactus’ middle-of-the-road style that combines an assault rifle with a flamethrower making her effective at any range, there’s plenty of fun in seeing what makes these combinations work. Thankfully, switching between these characters is also a very simple task thanks to the equally simple controls.

… except for Starch who is a cheating cheater who cheats.

You only really require two buttons and two analog sticks on a controller.  Your primary and secondary weapons are assigned to the two buttons, and the sticks control your movement and aiming. Playing with a keyboard and mouse isn’t that much harder since the WASD keys control your movement and your mouse controls the aim, leaving the left and right mouse buttons to control your primary and secondary weapons respectively. This all leads to a very intuitive set up that doesn’t really take all too long to get down and responds well on screen.

The graphics and music of Assault Android Cactus aren’t all that spectacular but are effective for this sort of game. There wasn’t any noticeable screen tear, or any noteworthy hiccups to complain about. The same could be said for the music, a nice and effective beat that compliments the game’s sci-fi setting to a decent degree. Though nothing truly spectacular can be said on both counts, by no means did they do a bad job on either front and that’s especially good to know considering that you’ll probably play this more than once.

There is a ton of replayability even after you have finished the single player campaign. The multiplayer is its own bag of awesome with an increase in both manpower and firepower on the enemy’s side. Once done with that, the game offers the usual-but-welcomed smatterings of game modes to keep you hooked, from the obligatory boss rush mode to the customary survival mode, the game even throws in a different daily challenge through their “Daily Drive” mode to keep things fresh. Though, the most interesting bit of extended play is in the several EX(tra) options that are available, each affecting the game in a major or minor way. Some are so game-changing that I don’t even want to spoil what they can do for you.

Everything I said about the game so far has been positive, but if I were being a little nitpicky sad-sack there are a few complaints. While playing in multiplayer the action can get so hectic that a player can be left off-screen during the chaos and left to the dangers of projectiles and enemies they cannot see. The isometric view of the camera can do a similar job by obscuring the view of your character around large enemies or objects. Lastly, multiplayer is only available via local co-op, meaning you can only enjoy the multiplayer with a group of IRL friends.

Despite that, IRL friends are useful for dealing with stuff like this.

So there it is. I only needed a single small paragraph to tell you what this game does wrong but it took me almost the whole review to tell you what this game does right. If that doesn’t show you how good of a first impression this game gave me, I don’t know what else will. The full version of Assault Android Cactus will be released the 23rd of September and deserves all of the praise it gets.



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Bell Fruit Casino App (iOS) Review

September 19th, 2015 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer: Greentube Alderney Ltd.  || Overall:  Good

Gambling with real money online has become more commonplace as it becomes more accessible.  Just like in a real casino, you may yearn for a little variety as you play one app and decide to go to another one.  In the UK App Store, an app named “Bell Fruit Casino App” is available for users to download, and includes the option to be able to integrate a multitude of different casino games using the same unified in-app log in and account structure to place bets in different games.

The game selection is quite vast and the themes are wide enough that you’ll be able to find something that you will enjoy playing.  There are also nice descriptions that explain rules and bonus games for each individual game.  There are several game types available, including Slots, Blackjack, and Roulette.  There are about 40 games supported in all.

The selection of slots is quite festive, include the following and more:

  • Cops ‘n’ Robbers – there are cops and there are robbers
  • Happy Fruits – the fruits, they are happy
  • Hoffmania – based on David Hasselhoff
  • Columbus deluxe – based on Christopher Columbus
  • Clockwork Oranges – based on oranges that have clocks in them
  • Spinderella – Based on Fairy Godmother/Cinderella
  • Volcanic Cash – prehistoric civilization theme, not unlike the Flintstones
  • Wizard of Odds – Wizard magic and medieval themed

While most, if not all, of these games are available singularly, it is convenient to be able to switch between apps that are all supported by the Bell Fruit Casino App hub.  If you are interested in trying out Bell Fruit Casino App, you can find it on the UK App Store.

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Super Mutant Alien Assault (PC) Early Access Preview

September 15th, 2015 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer: Cybernate | Publisher: Surprise Attack Games

Super Crate Box /soo-per kreyt boks/
          (Proper Noun)

  1. a retro style indie game known for it’s three major gameplay aspects: the item
    crates that appear throughout the level, one-room-per-stage level design and
    wave after wave of enemies are set upon the player.


  1. based on “Super Crate Box” and often sharing many similar designs.

There you go! I took that made up and somewhat redundant combination of words and defined it so you didn’t have too. You can thank me later.

Developed by Cybernate, published by Surprise Attack Games and in the very early part of its early access career, Super Mutant Alien Assault is a retro-style action game that sets to re-polish your 2D trigger finger and reacquaint you with your old jump-to-dodge tactics from days of video games past. Considering itself the “Citizen Kane” of Super Crate Box clones (this is about the point where you should be thanking me), it shares many similar designs with the old 2010 game, as well as, it’s own little spin on the little known sub-genre.

Playing the part of security droids burdened with protecting cryogenically frozen humans that have escaped a dying earth, you must defend against herds of aliens while wielding a varied and random assortment of weapons, explosives and special abilities. Along the way to extraterrestrial genocide, there is a simple but sometimes difficult objective that must be cleared. Whether it is transporting something from point A to point B, stopping a series of explosives set around the stage, or simple eradication of the alien menace, it usually requires a careful balance between killing and completing the objective. To add to your troubles, the radiation your ship is apparently leaking (which I’m sure passed the high standards of whatever safety commission was involved in designing these ships) makes the Aliens evolve into bigger and stronger versions of themselves every few seconds. So if you somehow complete the objective without destroying a single alien, you’d find yourself with a screen’s worth of aggressive and powerful aliens that must be destroyed before moving onto the next stage.

If put into one word, I’d say this game is hardbutfair. Though there is a spot of chance involved with the abilities, guns and explosives you have at any particular moment due to their random nature, I never thought the game treated me unfairly. The randomness, in fact, was part of the fun. Responding and adapting to my ever-changing assortment of explosives and guns forced me to think on my feet and change my strategy at a moment’s notice. Thankfully, the game had plenty of options even in this early version. From the standard to the bizarre, one moment you’ll find yourself gunning down the alien herd with a machine gun and double jump combination, and the next  having to use your explosive Pogo stick to “Mario” your way to victory by jumping on top of the aliens. Local multiplayer is also available and strikes the same strategy-changing beats, though it is a bit easier since you are allowed to revive a fallen comrade. Overall, even at an early stage, the game has the potential to be a challenging but fun game.

While fun, that’s not to say the game doesn’t have its hiccups. The game is still very early in its Early Access cycle and it shows. In particular, the game has a few bugs to iron out. Though, not always, if the game is left paused for a few moments it will freeze and then close itself. Another bug makes the game’s frame rate drop by half whenever a countdown is taking place. Super Mutant Alien Assault is also very short, packing only 9 regular stages, three boss stages and a few unlockables in this early build; it has very little content. Of course, this is all likely to change in the coming months and upon full release.

Much like the security droids in the game, the developers of Super Mutant Alien Assault have some bugs to work out before its full release, sometime later this year or early next year. Though if they do manage to eradicate the alien menace that makes the game buggy and add more content to it in the process, the game might keep its promise in being the “Citizen Kane” of Super Crate Box clones… whatever that means.


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Armello (PC) Review

September 12th, 2015 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer/Publisher: League of Geeks || Overall: 9.0/10

The Kingdom of Armello is in peril.  The unifying King of the diverse clans has gone mad and peace is decaying into war.  How to deal with the King and counteract the instability is the issue at hand as the fate of your home allegiance rests with you.  This is the scenario that the tabletop card-based strategy game Armello presents.

A very appealing art style is the first thing I noticed.  Armello is a beautiful game with charming characters and world-building card art that gives you glimpses into the society that exists in the Kingdom of Armello.  In the fantasy setting, animals are the primary characters, representing races and clans that rally against one another in the impending breakdown of society.  The main characters of the game are represented by (male and female) wolves, rats, rabbits, and bears, each with their unique buffs.  The art of the cards you eventually begin to play with show other types of animals like badgers, weasels, dogs, and the like, with a lion being the king.  A great amount of care is put into the art, and the animation each card has gives the game a lot of life.  The Day and Night cycle of turns also makes the world feel lived-in.  The soundtrack is very delightful and fits in perfectly with the game.

After a light and fun Prologue, you learn a bit about each of the major clans and the stake they have in the conflict.  The Prologue primarily focuses on teaching you about fundamentals of the information you see on screen, most of which is actually very simple.  Where the complexity enters is when all of the aspects integrate together.

There is a lot of terminology to learn, and how each individual thing affects you.  Gold, Prestige, Magic, Rot, Wits, Body, Fight, Spirit, and Action Points are the primary values you’ll need to be aware of.  Each of these are manipulated in a multitude of ways by yourself and enemies alike, and each are used for specific purposes.  Most are used as resources to be able to play cards, while Fight, Spirit, and Rot give you dice to roll while attacking — each have multiple uses and can be very powerful depending on your overall goal.

You’ll draw cards that layer on to the complexity of Armello.  Like many other card games, the order in which you play them matters a great deal.  You can also burn cards you don’t want to use to assure certain dice rolls, and at the beginning of your next turn you can pull cards up to your maximum.  Your maximum cards held is dictated by your Wits stat.  An example of a card is spending three Magic to give yourself a +1 Action Point buff for two turns.

Starting from your Clan Grounds, you’ll move your hero across the board with objectives in mind.  If you encounter a town, you’ll gain one Gold per turn as long as it is held under your banner.  If you run across a Stone Circle, you will heal one Body (the health stat), while entering a Swamp removes one Body.  Dungeons offer a chance to gain one of many possible rewards or spawns a Bane, which is a creature born of the Rot corruption plaguing Armello.  Your overall objectives come in a few forms.  A personalized objective, given as a quest, offers permanent buffs to your stats and a chance at obtaining a piece of equipment or another useful buff.  Using the board to your advantage is required to be able to accomplish the game-winning objectives.  Deaths will also occur over and over, and you’ll respawn at your Clan Grounds if you die or are killed.

To win the game, you are able to do a number of different things that everyone is competing for.  A Prestige win is considered a political win; killing other Heroes gains one Prestige, as well as completing quests.  At the end of a turn, the Prestige Leader gets to choose a King’s Declaration which is a per-turn decision that affects the game’s flow.  As the Prestige Leader, you can choose the one that is most convenient to you or will help you keep your Prestige Leader status.  Dying or killing the King’s Guard loses one Prestige, allowing others to catch up.  The Prestige win is a long-game win, as you’ll have to wait until the King expires from the Rot, which is typically at most ten full turns.  If any other objectives are completed before then, the Prestige win will be defeated.

Another way to win is by collecting Spirit Stones to hand over to the King to cure him of his Rot.  You can also gain as much Rot as you can so you can defeat the King in battle and rule the lands yourself as a corrupted king.  Gaining Rot can help you if you have more than your enemy, as during the attack phases you gain bonus dice to roll.  However, Rot can lead to Corruption and with it come instant death on Stone Circle plots.   As a result, you are unable to heal without using cards and Rot subtracts one health at the start of every turn if you have any.

A single game can last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on how slow plays are.  Tactics will shift several times during the game depending on others’ progress.  The game board’s setting always takes place at the foot of the King’s castle, and is shuffled at every new game, so the plots will be in different places each time.  As of now, there is also a “winter theme” of the board where snow covers the entire board, and it seems like other themes could eventually be developed.  While there are no alternate locations to play, they wouldn’t make much sense in the context of the existing story conflict unless something new were set up.  They could easily expand on the game with more cards, and extra story to set up new maps would also be a nice addition.  As you play the game you’ll unlock more pre-game perks which can customize your play style.  Finding all of the cards (there are around 130) is also very satisfying as you try to complete your card gallery.

While the story of Armello is interesting and there is a lot of world-building, it isn’t very deep.  The majority of the story comes in the Prologue you play to learn about the game, and whatever you can glean off of the quests.  There isn’t really a resolution to the story other than the eventual ending of the King’s corruption, by death or otherwise.  A single player mode is included in which you play with AI, but the game is clearly built for a multiplayer environment.  An online mulitplayer mode is available that allows you to jump right in and play with other people, as well as a Ranked mode due to be released with free patch v1.1.  An assortment of free and paid updates are planned for the game, so it will be interesting to see what comes about from the developers.

All in all, Armello is a diverse mash of several different objectives, quests, resources, and characters.  Using all of it to your advantage and learning the order in which you should play certain cards is very important to completing the objectives you have at hand.  People who enjoy tabletop board games will certainly enjoy this game and being able to play with their friends.  Armello is available on Steam and PS4 at $19.99.


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Puzzle Craft (iOS) Review

September 7th, 2015 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer: AT Games | Publisher: Chillingo Ltd || Overall: 9.5/10

Seldom do games made for a smart phone really impress me.  Puzzle Craft did.

Puzzle Craft is a charming, fun, and simple puzzle game that is the most fun I’ve had with any single phone game yet.  I originally downloaded and played the game to completion about a couple years ago, and introduced it to a some people.  Every now and then I hear about how those people still play it to this day, long after I uninstalled it.  I fully intended to review it, but I never got around to it.  I took pictures of my end progress, but somewhere along the way I forgot to do anything with those screenshots.

Puzzle Craft is the story of your people and your town that you create from scratch.  As you progress, you build out your town, hire more workers, earn gold, and endlessly match a variety of different resources.  As long as you meet a minimum match requirement (the base is three), you can string together as many other items along the way by drawing lines through them only once.  Being able to go in diagonal directions, you have to think outside the box and can get some long matches going.  With limited turns, it is very important to try and maximize each turn you take as it costs resources or Gold to do so again.

There are only two locations to play the matching game — the farm and the mine.  The farm requires only 30 Gold to begin farming.  The mine requires 100 Gold, but you can also use the resources you gather from the farm matching game to begin a mine matching game.  Eventually you gain enough resources to progress your town and gain experience by matching.  Some buildings allow you to gather new resources, use new tools, and eventually new obstacles present themselves within the unique matching games.  The game slowly ramps up in complexity and difficulty to keep things fresh.  You’ll need to learn how to use tools to elongate your turns and set up big matches — it is very important to learn how to maximize your earnings as furthering your buildings and experience will require pulling out every trick you can muster.  Unfortunately, when doing long matches, your finger can also get in the way of seeing what direction you want to go — it can be a bit cumbersome at times to figure out the best path as a result.  I suppose this could be part of the challenge, but I doubt it was designed with that intention in mind.

One of the most satisfying things about Puzzle Craft, is that everything you do adds toward your progression.  As you learn tricks on how to be efficient when farming and mining, you’ll be able to quickly get ahead of the game and build a lot of buildings fast.  A nice part of the building process is you are given the freedom to choose which plots buildings can go, which allows you to customize your town.  Some buildings can only be used in one location, however.

Buildings are very important and offer rewards on cooldown.  Depending on the building it might offer you tools, resources, gold, or simply be part of the cosmetic look of your town after its initial benefit is earned.  You might have learned that it is very annoying to have to try and tap anything on the very sides of your phone, especially if you have a case protecting it.  Unless you know what buildings do what, you have to take a chance that you might place a building in an inconvenient location for your finger to tap.  Sometimes buildings are placed behind other buildings and you end up tapping the wrong one and you are put into a different menu, away from the town, then must try again and be more precise in your tapping.  Considering all of those bonuses are endless and only require time before they are replenished, you deal with it, but it would be nice if there was some sort of catch-all button, as once you build out your town to capacity, it can be a chore to click 50 things every time you start it up after a few hours.  It would have been nice if there was a way to move buildings around, but there is no option to do so.

Gold is essentially the primary resource in the game, and with gold you can buy or do practically anything.  When you grind your resources in the farm/mine, you can sell extra resources for gold at the Market.  Gold is the limiting factor of the game, and if you had a lot of it, the game’s challenge would go away.  Initially when I started playing there was no way to buy gold, but with an update sometime last year (shortly before I uninstalled it) they added an option to buy.  If you play enough, you’ll have as much gold as you could ever desire, so the impetus to buy is pretty low.  Considering once you get to the end you can Reset the game to the beginning and start anew, I’m not entirely sure what happens to the gold you might have bought.  You can look at this more as a “cheat” rather than something that allows you to play longer.  I did get a bit disappointed when that was added, but it didn’t take away anything from the core gameplay, so it is easily overlooked.

Workers are also a nice cosmetic addition, walking through your town when hired.  As you hire more workers, they benefit you in specific ways and you can become more efficient.  You can only hire up to five of each worker, so you have to plan for which workers will benefit you the most at the time of your progression.  They cost resources, so you may have to decide between a worker and a building at times.

The art style really grows on you, and as you get used to it you see the charming aspects it has to offer.  The animals and the vegetables have a lot of character to them, and the workers and buildings all fit in and have unique art.  There are lots of colors and you really feel like you’re in a old time utopia town making your denizens happy with your progression.  The music isn’t terrible, either, and the sound effects also add a bit of fun as the chickens cluck, pigs oink, and the cows moo when you match them.  Different tools also have different sound effects and the dynamite can be satisfying along with its visual action.

Late in the game, you are able to open treasure chests which offer nice bonuses.  To open treasure chests you have to meet the requirements of the treasure map, which may be something like matching 14 grass.  To open the chest at this point, you need to drag your finger through 14 grasses before ending up on the chest.  There are also different levels of chests, and they may require more rare resources being matched to have them open.  This adds a challenge to the game in its later stages, but also can mean nice rewards.  There also items to collect that appear in your archaeology hut, and once a collection is complete, you gain a permanent buff.

While there is a long end game to play once you’ve completed your village, it can become old fast as it is very grindy.  The exciting part of the game is building up your town and making more buildings.  Once the game changes its focus to completing treasure chests and defeating enemies, it becomes a little frustrating at times and not as light-feeling as it is when you initially start the game.  Fortunately you are able to reset the game and start from scratch, so you are able to play as you see fit.  If you are really good, you’ll have so many tools you don’t know what to do with them.  Tools can be frustrating to use over and over as it takes two clicks to use them, and if you have 80 of them to use as extra, you’re going to have to click 160 times to use them all.  Some tools become redundant and obsolete as you progress, but you are still stuck with them as the only way to get rid of them is to use them.

Puzzle Craft deserves a lot of attention.  It is such a great smart phone game to play, and without being pestered to buy in-app credits every ten seconds, you really feel like the purpose of the game was to have fun rather than sell you endless amounts of digital goods or peddle ads to you all of the time.  A rare thing to see in games, nowadays.


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Poker Live Omaha & Texas (iOS) Review

September 7th, 2015 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer/Publisher: AbZorba Games || Overall: 8.0/10

A part of the AbZorba Games’ casino line-up, Poker Live Omaha & Texas for the iOS is essentially the same user interface as the previously reviewed BlackJack Live Casino.  Many familiar aspects are present, and it won’t take you long to get used to the differences if you have experience with any of their other apps, like I did before playing it.  Poker Live Omaha & Texas shares the amusing avatar system, and has the same social-network-of-sorts functionality that is included in the previous title I reviewed.

Uniformity across titles is the basis, and many of the same comments I made about the game’s functionality and social network would just be reiterated for this title, so the best thing to do is to focus on the game of Poker itself as it is presented in Poker Live Omaha & Texas.  As an aside, I did include the avatar pictures in the screenshot gallery from the previous game, as they are identical.

The benefit to having two or more of the titles from AbZorba installed on your phone grants greater daily bonuses to earn.  You gain a bonus for each title, which understandably entices you to have all of AbZorba’s games installed on your phone at the same time.  If you enjoy their games, it’s not a bad bonus to have, as it’s not really difficult to obtain.

Unlike Black Jack where you play against the dealer primarily, you are playing against other players.  Calling bets and raising each other to the point they either fold or lose all of their money.  The competitive aspect can be a big draw for some who like that, and not to mention it is Poker, after all.

Texas Hold’em and Omaha are represented in the game.  Unlike in Black Jack, you’ll kind of need to hit the ground running to make sure you don’t play awfully, since you are competing against other players out for your sweet chips.  You’ll also have to take risks to get ahead, and that doesn’t always pay off.  It is smarter to play the lower limit tables initially since you only start with about 30K chips.  Sitting at a table that meets your betting position is important to the longevity of your play.  You may also benefit more from going head-to-head rather than being at a full table.  It all depends on the amount of chips you have, the limits of the table, and the balances of everyone else at the table.  You can, of course, buy more chips to limit the guesswork here or to replenish your credits if you are run ragged, otherwise you’ll have to wait for the bonuses to add up before playing again.

The game-specific user interface allows you to pre-play your hand in a certain number of ways to get the game moving faster.  If you know you are most likely going to win a hand because you have a 4-of-a-kind, you can click the “call any” bet.  You may also just want to wait until it is your turn to do a proper raise, though.  You can also tell the game to check/fold so when it hits your turn you automatically check or fold depending on if someone bet in that round.  I always like to maintain full control over my hands, so I seldom used those functions.  It might be more useful on tables that have people taking a long time to play, however.

There’s not much point to explaining the rules of Texas Hold’em and Omaha, as these are popular games you can look up on any number of sites.  The Poker Live Omaha & Texas app on the iOS store can be a fine choice if you are looking for one of these apps, and along with the other apps in their offering, the bonuses end up being worthwhile.

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BlackJack Live Casino (iOS) Review

August 29th, 2015 Posted in Game Reviews, Games 1 Comment »

Developer/Publisher: AbZorba Games || Overall: 8.0/10

Black Jack is your classic old-time casino game.  Counting cards, hitting at the right time, and making sure your six-shooter is at the ready just in case someone thinks you’re cheating.  Nowadays, it’s not so dangerous as Black Jack is now available on smart phones.  You can play it on the go, in your home, or on the can.  It would be hard playing in all three of those situations at the same time, but at least you have your gun in case anything unexpected happens…. like… umm… a jet fighter dog-fighting with your flying house that is powered only by the propulsion of toilet water?

Anywho, that’s enough of that.

BlackJack Live Casino for the iOS is one such Black Jack gaming app available.  While it’s a pretty normal casino app, it offers a few standard features to extend your play time such as buying more Credits (to play the actual Black Jack game) and a higher-tier currency known as Diamonds (for bonus games and customizing your avatar), and the usual time-based free bonuses for returning.  There is also a leveling system that automatically awards you Credits at each level up through play.

When using Credits to play Black Jack (which is arguably the whole point of BlackJack Live Casino), you can join a table and start playing against a dealer.  You can have up to four players (including yourself) at a table, going through the regular flow of Black Jack.  The game can be a bit social as you can chat with other players while playing, and you’ll watch each player take their turn against the dealer.  Unfortunately, you have to wait one by one, instead of everyone taking their turn at the same time.  This can make you feel impatient and not exactly make you want to join a table that is full as a result, since the games will take a little longer.  If people are talking, it can help with socialization as people have some extra time to type.

The game can be welcoming to players of all skill levels, but I think that the game would be useful to learn the ins-and-outs if you are just starting to learn Black Jack in general.  The user interface is pretty friendly and helps you out by automatically awarding you when you attain a Black Jack and automatically standing when you hit 21.  Lesser games would allow you to “mess up” and hit again to bust, so it is a nice feature to have included in the game.  There is a help menu that will explain Black Jack’s rules and as you play you’ll basically learn the flow of repeated plays.  The text can be a bit small at times, as well.

A funny aspect of the game, though I’m not sure how much it actually affects the gameplay, is that you or the other people at the table (including the dealer) can draw identical cards.  One game I drew two Five of Diamonds in the same play and although the game “shuffles” the cards after a certain amount of time, I’m unsure if this means they combined multiple decks or what.  This basically makes any inclination to “card count” pointless, if you were able to.  There are a couple of bonus games outside of the Black Jack game that requires Diamonds.  Diamonds are attained by purchase primarily, and you earn a lot more Credits with these bonus games.

What is possibly the most “interesting” feature is the Avatar system.  I was thoroughly amused by the amount of random items and costumes your avatars are able to wear, including sexy Santa, a mummy, a spy, a matador, a Texan waitress, etc.  Imagining all of these random people sitting around a table playing Black Jack is a bit fun to think about.  The avatar gallery provides an alternate use for your Diamonds and if you don’t want to use a preset avatar (known as a “Hero”) you can customize your avatar to your liking using a smattering of all of the pieces available.  When other players click to view your profile, they will be able to see your avatar as well as your other stats related to your career in the game.

Another funny aspect of the game is the “Cocktail” feature.  You are able to buy gifts/items/drinks for other people you are sitting at a table with, presumably for the times you want to impress people or something.  There are a few funny items in there, such as developer-branded French Fries, sunglasses, a hamburger, and other random things.  There appears to be a seasonal store that changes up depending on the time of year, as it currently has summery items available.

As far as free casino games go, BlackJack Live Casino is about all you can ask for in a Black Jack game.  A few tweaks here and there and I wouldn’t have anything to point out to complain about.  Black Jack can be fun for a round of hands every now and then and BlackJack Live Casino is a worthwhile option.

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Dungeon League (PC) Early Access Preview

August 10th, 2015 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer: Achebit | Publisher: Surprise Attack Games

Ever think of taking a cooperative game like Gauntlet and turning it on its head to make a competitive party game out of it? Taking fantasy classics like the warrior, cleric, wizard and… um… unicorn and putting them against the dungeon and each other? Then having them compete in various game modes that support fast and furious gameplay for the sole purpose of bragging rights? Nah… neither did I, but the guys at Surprise Attack Games and Achebit thought it would be a good idea so here I am to talk about it.

Dungeon League is a competitive party game that uses fantasy tropes to paint onto a foundation of competitive gameplay tropes to come out with a game that is shiny and new. Reminiscent of classic dungeon crawlers like Gauntlet, it takes those basic 8-bit designs and turns them into a party game where you’ll face the dungeon and each other in an assortment of competitive game modes. Add to that an assortment of varied classes, quick leveling and gameplay that supports it, you come out with basic building blocks that this game is built upon.

Still in a very early build and only about an hour’s worth of content to play through, I did enjoy the bit of multiplayer madness that the game delivered. Featuring matches that only last a couple minutes at a time, the game thrusts the players into one familiar competitive objective after the next with only a bit of downtime in between. Throwing you into a randomized assortment of objective-based gameplay like deathmatch, king of the hill, capture the flag and many more, the game seems to thrive on a fast and frantic play-style meant to push the players to complete the objectives as quickly as possible. After each round, the players are then tasked with using the bit of downtime to level up their character by way of an experience and gold system that allows them to upgrade special moves and buy items to create a beefier and stronger character for their next objective. All of this comes together into a quirky party game that could be enjoyable with friends.

The problem with friends, though, is that they have to be there to enjoy them (or they don’t exist to begin with but let’s not digress into my own personal problems) and, unfortunately, that’s not always the easiest to have around. The currently-available Tournament mode, and one of the future game types requires at least two players and with no online option to speak of, it means you’d have to gather a real life party to be able to properly enjoy half of the games types for some local play. While not too much of a major issue, it still presents a problem for those that prefer to play with friends online and for those that have no real friends (cries). On another note, while the game has some personality when dealing with the in-game vendor and trainer, that same personality seems missing in the monsters you encounter in matches. It is mostly a mix of generic monsters you’d find in most media based on a fantasy setting.

While not spectacular, Dungeon League has some potential. With a helping of two cooperative game modes and another competitive game mode on the way, the game plans to add variety to your dungeon crawling fun. Gauntlet (I see what you did there) mode provides a cooperative experience where up to 4 players will traverse a monster infested dungeon on a quest to defeat the Dungeon Master. In other cooperative fare, Survival modes pits the player and others against an endless stream of monsters all for the purpose of seeing how long they’ll last against the countless waves. Lastly, Dungeon Ball seems to be the last competitive offering to round out the game, where two teams are tasked with destroying each other, upgrading their minions and ultimately getting their ball to the end zone.

With a promise of other game types and an already fun early build, Dungeon League might warrant a look upon full release in 2016.  In the end, it might just be a game worth gathering friends around.

Dungeon League is available now on Steam Early Access.


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PixelJunk: Nom Nom Galaxy (PC) Review

August 3rd, 2015 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer: Q-Games/Double Eleven | Publisher: Q-Games || Overall: 9.0/10

Walk the aisles of your normal, ideal, grocery store.  Rows full of food line the aisles begging for your grubby little hands to take them and put them in your shopping cart.  But does any food really speak to your soul as well as soup?  Canned soup is one of the most important pieces of human culture, after all.

…Yet have you ever really thought about where your soup comes from?

Do you perhaps think that the planet of Alteria in the galaxy of Soupcon Valley would produce your favorite can of Green Sun Chowder made from Sunblossom and Greenstalk?  Or do you think the civil war and strife of the robots on Nozesi fuel the good time tastes of the delightful Split Sea Soup and/or Filet of Fission?

PixelJunk: Nom Nom Galaxy makes you ask these questions and more.  Well, actually none of that matters because the name of the game is business and market share.  The real test comes in beating your enemy’s robot workers into eternal jobless poverty by creating an efficient soup factory that satisfies the needs of the universe.

Getting down to the essential basics of the game, the robots need soup and you are making the soup, delivering it to the hungry patrons via rockets.  Finding material that is usable for cooking across sprawling sandboxes, you are equipped with your buzzsaw which cuts through and helps you gather many of the things you’ll need.  You’ll also be punching a lot of things.  On the factory production side, you’ll have to maintain, defend, and build out a soup factory that is as efficient as possible.  Robot workers can be hired to assist you in this pursuit, and their operation is a small callback to the logic of Lemmings.  What this ends up being is an interesting mix of game genres in a sci-fi setting with some sparse story to set up the scenarios each planet presents.

What I mostly enjoyed about Nom Nom Galaxy is that it is a sandbox game with a clear objective at hand.  As far as the sandbox genre goes, Starbound is the only other game I’ve played with any large amount of time, which is built mostly on a free-form playstyle that centers on improving your crafting and character’s gear.  Nom Nom Galaxy distinguishes itself from this by giving you developer-designed planets full of ingredients to exploit to the best of your ability, earning upgrades after beating a planet.  The factory’s efficiency becomes a main focus of the gameplay as a result — which can be detrimental to the exploration aspect the game provides, as it essentially becomes the opposite of business efficiency.

As you make your way through the planets, each will provide an upgrade or new thing to buy to change up the gameplay a bit.  Eventually you hit a point, about midway through the game, where scenarios start to take place and you’re no longer able to use defense towers, robot workers, or other things you’ve grown accustom to using.   As the existing system can be a bit complex to learn and understand the controls/logic of the game, the pace is set about right.  Enhancements such as, and being able to use, a double jump or a rocket boost changes the way you play entirely.

Ingredients are varied and many have specialties about them.  There’s about 20 unique ingredients which can be combined with each other, resulting in 400 recipes.  Some ingredients are special and take a long time to find/grow, some you have to kill mobs for, and others are common and plantable.  It’s always fun to find something new in the game and seeing what will result when you combine two different ingredients can be satisfying.

When you combine ingredients, a Soup Can pops out of the Soup Machine.  You take the Soup Can into the Soup Rocket, and the rocket delivers the payload which affects your market share by a base of 5%.  Depending on the market trends that pop up every now and then, the game influences you to try and find different ingredients, or stop using one that might be a commonly used on in all of your Soup Machines, forcing you to change your focus.

A good 20 hours or so of gameplay got me within range of the last three stages of the “Conquest” mode.  Unfortunately Nom Nom Galaxy didn’t live up to the same perfection in its difficulty as PixelJunks Monsters did, and I had a relatively easy time getting through it as I mastered the game’s logic.  Half of the levels in the Conquest Mode are used to introduce you to the gameplay itself, and the latter half tests you to master it to only some unique challenge.  Each planet introduced something new, but the core gameplay being so complex brings down the experience a bit, I fear.  We spend too much time “learning how to play” that when we finally get around to unlocking everything substantial and playing “for realisies” you only have a couple of planets left and the last level of the game, which will require you to use everything at your disposal.

Each planet has the option for endless play, only after you attain 100% market share.  You are also able to continue building your factory as it was or start from scratch in this “S.O.O.P Simulator” mode.  While the planets will always be the same, they offer enough variety and quantity to not have to worry too much about that.  Though since there is no meta game, you are working on each planet on an individual basis.  There is also a mode called Galactic Challenges which take a unique approach to the games formula and pretty much anything seems to go here.  You could be racing from point A to point B or trying to sell as much soup in 10 minutes as you can.  Challenges expire after about 36 hours, and you compete against all other players here, either at the same time, or asynchronously via global rankings.  You can also “Quick Join” and matchmake with another player, however the capability did not seem to be enabled in the review build before release.  I assume there could be some sort of generation for planets in this mode but I can’t be sure.

A lot of the aspects of the baked-in challenge actually disincentivizes you from exploring.  You’ll be dealing with maintaining the workflow of the factory, depending on its need to rely on you to acquire/scout for ingredients.  You are also equipped with an Oxygen tank which limits the distance you can go without finding a source of oxygen or heading back to base.  You’ll also be called back to base when your rival sends monsters to disrupt and destroy your base.  You can automate the defenses a bit by loading it with laser guns and missiles, but you’ll still need to make sure you are there to pick up any of the stragglers and repair buildings.  If at any point your Office is destroyed, you automatically lose the game.

At the end of each day, the game pauses for “Break Time” and saves your current progress.  During Break Time you’ll be shown informative stats, graphs, and how much money you earned.  An added layer of planning is involved as any ingredients that are not currently inside Soup Machines or planted will disappear.  When planting items, it will expand your potential to increase your output substantially, but only if you plan correctly.  Personally I felt like it made the game a lot easier to have the capability to grow your own ingredients since you could plant a lot of the same common ingredients over and over in each level and usually the AI competitor would not match very well in a challenge as long as you had a good production going.  Progression to new zones is limited by recipes you discover, so there is an incentive to experiment, but not much since it was easy to meet those expectations and I never really had to replay anything unless I fucked up severely or neglected my base on purpose.

Sound and visuals is also another high point.  There is a lot of insanity going on initially.  It will take a while for you to understand what is going on, but the art is fantastic and intricate.  The robots are uniquely designed and I loved discovering something new, or going to the next planet to see the theme.  Sound is also well done for the most part, but there was a surprising lack of music.  PixelJunk Monsters and PixelJunk Eden had great soundtracks, but Nom Nom Galaxy seems to take its cues from PixelJunk Shooter with a minimalist approach to music and sound, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just different.  Monsters is probably one of my favorite soundtracks ever, so it was a bit disappointing to not have another great soundtrack to listen to.

As a big fan of the PixelJunk series I was completely satisfied with this entry.  While it breaks the mold of “simplicity” all of the other games established within their own genres, Nom Nom Galaxy files down several different genres into core tenants that work together in an interesting fashion.  The game is very ambitious and I enjoyed the humor quite a bit.  Replayability might be Nom Nom Galaxy’s biggest fault, but there is certainly plenty to do and you can keep doing it for pretty much as long as you like.  There just becomes a point where you kind of “get it” and in this case I don’t see myself coming back to visit it very often like I do with PixelJunk Monsters.  It is, however, a lot easier to play the game for very long sessions.


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Slots – Pharaoh’s Fire (iOS) Review

July 30th, 2015 Posted in Game Reviews, Games 2 Comments »

Developer/Publisher: Cervo Media GmbH || Overall: 8.0/10

Hardware Used: iPhone 5 with iOS 6

Reviewing sequels to games you enjoy tend to be a typical thing when you are a reviewer.  It’s easy to sit there and write out how everything in the sequel is the same, but better in so many ways, and even pull from your previous review for inspiration.  In this case, Slots – Pharaoh’s Fire is the sequel to a previously reviewed title, Slots – Pharaoh’s Way; it essentially boils down to this: it is a slots game that is a sequel to a slots game and it is still… a slots game.

In my previous review I went through the ethics and personal feelings I had with the business model this slots game (now series) presents itself with.  The structure is very much the same in Pharaoh’s Fire as it was in Pharaoh’s Way, and really all that you’ll initially see (if you are moving from the previous game to this) is that you are resetting back to zero.  Pharaoh’s Way is an endlessly-updated grind to the next slot, and Pharaoh’s Fire is not much different.  There’s no point, really, in talking about what is the same, but it’s an opportunity to talk about what IS different.

It is an interesting observation that many of the improvements I had suggested in my previous review seems to actually have come to pass — namely in more significant time-based rewards and an interesting meta game which rewards you as you play.

Free bonus credits are earned by increment of four hours as Pharaoh’s Way had done and still seem to scale higher as you progress — you also get a “special bonus” on every fourth redemption, which is a unique bonus game.  The “Money Rain” bonuses (credits you earn as a bonus to leveling up) that occur also scale higher along with your level.  Another vital, new, free bonus happens now in the form of a Return Bonus independent of your hourly bonus — if you visit every day your rewards slightly increase as each day goes on.

A meta game has been introduced in this title that revolves around collecting relic pieces, signified by a moving piece that represents your progress through leveling.  As you complete the relics you gain a large payout of credits.  Whereas before you would attain this payout at a certain increment of levels, the progression is “broken up” and given a visual representation to tell you that you are almost at the next milestone.  This is a welcome change as it gives the feeling of an adventure and collecting relic pieces to add to your overall collection — of which there are many relics to collect.  Your piece moves every 1/3 increment of a level and you gain a relic piece at every two levels.

Included with the meta game is also a bonus chance to earn credits within that meta game progression.  A chest moves every five turns (slot plays) within your progression path, and if it appears on top of your moving piece, you get into one of the bonus games unique to this chest.  One is a spinning wheel that lands on a number and the other I encountered was a “Risk to Double” game – you roll a number and risk it (to double it) by choosing heads/tails.  If you lose in the Risk to Double game, you get a consolation prize regardless, but it is usually going to be a paltry amount.  It is pretty much the same idea as the bonus card game that you get access to on regular slot wins.  The bonus card game is still essentially useless, and the same rules apply as in the previous game.  Because they are essentially the same game, I am lead to think that the Risk to Double just isn’t worth the risk.

There is more diversity in the initial few slots, and it is seemingly less reliant on the “Pharaoh’s” theme, unlike the first game.  The second slot level you are all of a sudden in the African safari with elephants and shit.  What happened to the God damn pyramids and whipping slaves?!  I want some more Anubis and King Tut shit before I start traveling all over the world.  Every 10 levels unlocks a new slot and this time around there are no numbers showing how many diamonds you earned so it’s not as easy to tell what your progress is other than a visual bar.  I assume that they’ve reigned in the required amount of diamonds to make it more linear rather than it’s exponential growth that occurred in the last game, but it isn’t easy to tell.

Buying credits still seems like something predatory, but there can be plenty in-game to at least make you feel like you are earning credits with the extra bonuses and the new meta game portion.  Where the ethics get involved here, is that the game has to feel rewarding to keep you hooked, but they can’t be too rewarding since they want to sell credits. It’s a very fine balancing act that appears to sometimes rig the bonus games to not be very rewarding all of the time. For example, a risk/reward game that stops between a large number and a small number will seemingly skew towards the small number more often than not. Even the “meta chest” game is privy to this, despite being essentially an added system for overall bonuses.  There are lots of added bonus games involved with the title, but none are overly rewarding, which takes a little bit of the excitement out of hitting one of them.

As someone who grinded quite a few million diamonds in the previous iteration, it feels a bit daunting to get into and start yet another slots game (with essentially the same progression system) from scratch.  Personally, it feels like there should either have been some sort of credit sharing between the two games, or Pharaoh’s Way upgraded with the additions they made for Pharaoh’s Fire.  Business-wise, I completely understand why you would want your players to experience a full reset — the grind is necessarily subject to becoming hooked as you gain levels with more regularity at the lower levels and hitting level 243 might not mean anything anymore.

There are some graphical enhancements (addition of more 3D graphics/animations is the biggest difference) and some sound “additions” that are a bit corny as some deep-voiced European-sounding dude (read: not Egyptian) is one(?) of the performers.  As always, I turned my sound off within ten minutes of booting up the game, so it didn’t matter to me.

Is the game good?  Sure.  It’s not any better or worse than the previous game, really.  A lot of the additions I proposed were actually included and its made the game a better package, however the intent of the game is to make money at the end of the day and they can’t go too crazy with the fun.  For the benefit of the series, it would be interesting to see a different progression system than grinding diamonds and levels to unlock more slots.  For a more in-depth look at all of the basic functions of the game, please check out my previous review as almost all of it is relevant for this game.

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Lost Dimension (PS3) Review

July 27th, 2015 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer: Lancarse | Publisher: ATLUS || Overall: 8.5

Telepathy, telekinesis and psychometry are pretty legit. Pryokinesis, cyrokinesis and healing are stretching things a bit but are acceptable. Though, I absolutely refuse to believe that super-strength and teleportation are proper manifestations of psychic force. Super-strength is the supernatural ability to exceed the physical limits of natural strength and thus is regulated to the body and not the mind where psychic abilities dwell. Teleportation is the ability to instantaneously move from place to place without any of the travel in between and is centered on spatial manipulation rather than the power of the mind. Psychic sympathizers would have you believe that just because they could involve a conscious effort that they must be placed under the oppressive umbrella of a psychic power. Nay! Rise up against these ability oppressors and embrace superpower diversity!

“Behold! The world’s greatest psychics!” – Ability Oppressors

Well, that’s enough of that…

Developed by Lancarse, and published by ATLUS, Lost Dimension is a Strategy Role-Playing game (SRPG) that borrows various ideas to give you a game about a group of psychics climbing an enigmatic tower. Shades of video games like Dangan Ronpa, Valkyria Chronicles and Persona, as well as other media like A Certain Magical Index (To Aru Majutsu no Index), Tokyo ESP, Arkham Horror and more are used to make the psychic SRPG soup that is this game. Though, what really sets Lost Dimension apart is a traitor mechanic that has you offing a member of your party at each floor. It all combines to make quite the familiar product with a diversifying gimmick that captures the attention.

School Girl
Also includes elements that will interest the school girl
fetishist out there…

At first glance Lost Dimension looks like a rather by the numbers SRPG. A simple romp where you’ll move characters across a map and eventually level your way to the top of the tower, but with the borrowing Lost Dimension does from other games it proves to play better than it looks. Much like Valkryia Chronicles, the movement is freeform instead of grid based. This usually translates to the characters having a full circle of movement and is especially useful when characters have movement abilities, like teleportation, that lets them completely bypass some obstacles on the map. Borrowing an aspect from Fire Emblem, the game’s Assist attacks reward good positioning by giving inactive units a chance to do a follow-up attack if they are close by. While this all usually plays out rather fluidly, the occasional mid-attack load screen does disrupt the flow. Though despite the minor inconvenience, both of these aspects give the game charm where there otherwise wouldn’t be any.

The story won’t get any awards but fits as an acceptable excuse for the game to play out. Thrown right into the story with very little frame of reference, you find yourself as confused as Sho who just so happens to have amnesia like the rest of his group (and every other protagonist from a JRPG). The group tasked with 13 days to climb a mysterious tower and stop a dangerous terrorist from ending the world, the most aptly named final boss in video game history, The End, thrust them into a malicious game where their trust will be tested and their allies will be killed by their own hands.

Evil Dude
He also forces them to wear skinny jeans and listen to the
bad poetry he wrote.

The characters, on the other hand, help to make the story stand out a bit more. In a Persona-like fashion, Sho can speak to his teammates between missions to build bonds of trust with them. Small conversations eventually lead to more meaningful talks as Sho’s teammates reveal their history, concerns and even their motivations. This not only fleshes out the character, but can give you different and more impactful dialogue during certain scenes. Also, the character designs deserve some note, they’re all reminiscent of a style found in 90’s anime as opposed to a more modern approach, which some might say is “Da bomb!”

Box Art
The only way for this to be more 90’s is if this was brought to you by the
same company that brought you LA Gears.

In terms of strategy, it never really evolves past taking advantage of the Assist attacks mechanic to add on extra damage. On the other hand, I did find that the difficulty increased at a fair and steady rate. In particular, the Berserk mechanic grew increasingly difficult to control and proved to be quite the double-edged sword. Much like in Arkham Horror, each character is outfitted with a Sanity meter that decreases with every special move and attack they receive, and unlike it, once depleted causes the character to go Berserk and out of control. Now other than the obvious detriment of having a character go out of control and attack both ally and foe alike, the mechanic can also turn the character into quite the heavy hitter. Time and again, I’d send a character far and away from his allies and deep into enemy territory to purposefully deplete their sanity and then immediately hit with another attack for about 2x or 3x the usual rate. Of course, if I didn’t position them wisely, my characters would be given the same treatment. Though, it was a shame that you couldn’t use the mechanic to figure out the traitor.

LD Screens (8)
See those bright blue letters over the character’s face?
They mean you’re playing the game right.

Every floor up the tower, Lost Dimension tasks you with voting for who the traitor is among your ranks and “erasing” them from the party. If the traitor is found, they’ll be eliminated. If not, an innocent teammate will be killed instead and the traitor will then betray you some time later. Usually there are three suspects every floor with a single traitor between them that you will fish out by way of an after-battle cutscene where the main character, Sho, will read the thoughts of his teammates. Then through a mixture of careful positioning and a Vision Point system that allows Sho to dive into the minds of his teammates to discover their true intention, the traitor can be exposed. Once armed with that knowledge, Sho is able to sway his teammates by way of simple dialogue choices at the end of every encounter. Overall, being the games defining gimmick, I didn’t find it exactly inspired but still enjoyable. It gave the game an almost Dangan Ronpa-esque feel to it whenever it came time for a judgment.

Suspicions (1)
…or all of you could be innocent, regardless prepare to
have your privacy invaded!

Though an interesting gimmick, the fact that the traitor is chosen at random (except on the first floor during the first playthrough) still means the party will lose a playable character at random. This can be a bit disheartening, considering that every character plays completely different from the other. Still, Lost Dimension does it’s damndest to soften the blow. Even if a character isn’t used in battle, they get about 80% of the battle exp and, when erased, leave behind an equippable item containing their abilities for someone else to enjoy. The equipment also proves useful in unlocking combination abilities that tend to be quite powerful. Still, random is unpredictable, so your favorite character might get “erased” or you might end up with a rather sexist play-through like I did, where the game killed off all of the women to turn it from an ensemble piece to what I pretended was a buddy cop film with way less cops and way more buddies.

LD Screens (1)
“I’m taking away your badge, Sho!’
“I didn’t want to be a psychic cop anyways!”

With the Playstation 3 now at the end of its lifespan, I found the graphics in Lost Dimension acceptable for a budget RPG. My only real complaint is that the “budget” part of the game showed during a few of the special attacks, some of them having rather big build-ups only to finish lackluster. The music was a slight step above the graphics with mysterious melodies that complemented the environment and narrative. Overall it is a pretty standard job on both fronts. The same could be said for the Vita version that has an expected reduction in graphical quality and frame rate.

Speaking of the Vita, I found the battles in the game to be much shorter than is usual for the genre. Unlike battle-heavy games like Fire Emblem and Project X Zone, the encounters only last for about 15 to 30 minutes, making it perfect for gaming on the go. Adding to that, Lost Dimension is also compatible with PlayStation TV which should make all five of you that bought both systems rather happy.

Lost Dimension was enjoyable, even if it was marred by the mid-attack load times and attacks that seemed to reflect the game’s budget price. Overall, it’s a mixture of several fun elements that make it a fun game. The borrowing it does from games like Dangan Ronpa, Valkyria Chronicles and Persona as well as other media like A Certain Magical Index (To Aru Majutsu no Index), Tokyo ESP and Arkham Horror elevate the game up to a higher bar than one may initially expect. And if you understood all of those references, you should definitely give me your number ‘cause I think we should marry.


A reviewable copy of Lost Dimension was provided to Squackle.


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+1-1 (+4 rating, 4 votes)

Fort Meow (PC) Review

June 30th, 2015 Posted in Game Reviews, Games No Comments »

Developer: Upper Class Walrus | Publisher: Surprise Attack Games || Overall: 7.5


The question is as old as time itself: Which four-legged beast makes the better domesticated pet? A dog or a cat? The dog, known for its obedience and loyalty, is commonly known to be “man’s best friend.” On the other hand, cats are known for their independence and for being the little super-villains of the household, which makes them the favorite animal of the internet. Though, thanks to Fort Meow, I now know the answer to this conundrum is dog. It’s definitely dog.

Grumpy Cat
Don’t give me that face.

Fort Meow is a physics-based strategy game that involves building forts, cats and bad adult supervision. Playing as young Nia (I see what you did there…), you find yourself at your grandparents’ place only to find them missing. After not calling your parents, and instead rummaging around the attic (like any good horror movie character), the only clue to their whereabouts seems to be hidden somewhere in your grandfather’s journal. The game then tasks you with building fort after fort with household items to defend yourself against a constant onslaught of cats that want to distract you from reading the journal and discovering their nefarious schemes. Along the way, you encounter your grandfather’s flying robot to help you further explore the house and eventually stop the Catpocalypse… Which all seems like a pretty complicated setup for a tower defense puzzle game about evil cats.


Despite the silly and complicated set up, the game itself is actually quite fun. Fort Meow switches between a tower defense and exploration portions and both do well to make the game enjoyable. The tower defense portion of the game is much like Angry Birds, but in reverse. Instead of trying to destroy buildings and those inside of it, you take the role of the person inside of the fort who must build one strong enough to prevent any cat from forcing their way inside. Though, like any good game, the premise may be simple but it still manages to challenge the player. Constantly, I’d find my forts barely surviving and on the verge of collapse. Plus the time mechanic, which serves as a sort of cost for the items in your fort, is an effective way to limit your resources enough to make your forts strong but nowhere near impregnable. Lastly, while the gameplay in Fort Meow is mostly solid, the “physics” that the game mentions as a selling point don’t always play out as planned and would probably leave Einstein scratching his head in confusion.

E=What the heck is that?!

The exploration portion of the game may be a smaller part but it still manages to do a good job at integrating your expanding amount of fort pieces into the overall plot as you unlock every room in your grandparents’ house. While a few of the items you pick up are simply roadblocks that attempt to withstand the flying cats, others are roadblocks that have rather interesting gimmicks to them. From lamps that halve damage, to boxes that capture kitties and fortify themselves in the process, and even objects that attempt to shoot the felines out of the air, the game offers you a wide assortment of items to build your fort around. Unfortunately, the same amount of imagination wasn’t put into the puzzles used to unlock more rooms in the house. Simply being notes that you unlock with gameplay, they tell you exactly how to solve the uninspired “puzzles” in the game. This makes unlocking more rooms into a meaningless “Where’s Waldo” exercise instead of a fun brain teaser.

Vampire 2
Like other evil creatures, light weakens cats.

On a more positive note, the art style in the game is a treat. Fort Meow uses simple and cartoon-like animation during its cut scenes, a comic style for the dialogue and storybook like drawings during the actual game to great effect. These styles mix well with the story and the atmosphere of the game. To a similar degree, the melody and sound effects are used to a comparable effect.


Regrettably, the game does have its downfalls. First, the game is short, coming in at around 2 or 3 hours of content and offering no replayable features such as challenge stages or a “new game plus.” This lack of replayability is a shame even with the small price tag attached to it. I would definitely pay a few more dollars for several extra hours of gameplay.


I’d gladly pay a few more dollars to dick around and make more fort
monstrosities like this one.

Another of the game’s undoings is the fact that luck plays a moderate part on whether or not your fort will withstand the cat’s flinging themselves against it. Enough times for me to notice, I would use the same fort in the same stage and each time things would play out differently. Whether it would topple over to one side, stand firm but eventually fall under the cat’s assault, or even withstand the full brunt of the cat’s attack seemed to be random and completely arbitrary according to the game’s whims, which took me a bit out of the whole process.


Charting this last bit of negative input on a mostly fun game as personal preference, I feel that the PC port would be inferior to the iPad version. This game seems like a fun portable companion to help offset any boredom while outside or while looking to kill some time before whatever activities the day has in store. Plus, playing it in short spurts while outside, as opposed to a sit down session at the computer, would probably make the game seem a bit longer in comparison.

On the IPad, you could also play it while making
bad decisions like this cat here.

Don’t get me wrong, though. While Fort Meow has its hiccups I did still find my time with the game enjoyable. The only real decision to make is if these hiccups are enough to dissuade you from buying the game at the low 8 dollar price tag. If the game has anything else going for it, Fort Meow gives me another good reason why I prefer dogs over those evil cats.

A reviewable copy of Fort Meow was provided to Squackle.


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+1-1 (+1 rating, 1 votes)

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