Super Mutant Alien Assault (PC) Early Access Preview

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.

          (Adjective)

  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.

When not writing previews as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.

 

Armello (PC) Review

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.

09/18/16 – The Usurpers Hero Pack (DLC) Review || Overall: Recommended

Released on August 30th, the Usurpers Pack DLC adds on four unique heroes into the Armello mix.  There are also an assortment of new buffs that are available for selection before entering a new game.  While new players may not necessarily understand the benefits the new heroes or buffs provide, know that it adds a new layer of strategy on top of the diversification of the hero roster.  The main addition, of course are the heroes:

Magna – a shieldmaiden.  My personal favorite of the four new heroes.  Can reflect attacks.

Sargon – a “veil gazer.”  The top card on the deck can be seen during draw card phase.

Ghor – Magic spent is more efficient on forest tiles, and can cast globally on any forest tile

Elyssia – Permanent fortification of settlements if a turn is ended on one.  Good for taking a defensive approach against your enemies.

If you are an avid fan of Armello, it will be worth the entry price to enjoy these new heroes.  On account that there are no new game modes in this DLC pack, there isn’t anything that will change your opinion of the game; in my view it is still a great time.  All of the new characters fit right in with the others and while a couple are plainly a better choice to pick, any of the new heroes hold a viable path to victory.

 

Quote #24153

“CHAAARRRRRGGGE! SMASH THEIR BALLS MORTAL STRIKE THEIR FORESKINS REND THIER BUM CRACK AND DUMP YOUR RAGE WITH WHIRLWIND POP YOUR TRINKET POP IT LIKE YOU POPED YOU COCK RECKLESSNESS AS YOU EXECUTE THOSE MOTHERFUCKERS RAVAGER THEIR DICK HOLES SWEEPING STRIKE BLADESTORM OFF THEIR… GENITAAAAAAAALLLLS….”

– Tactialxtent, in World of Warcraft

 

Puzzle Craft (iOS) Review

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 are 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.

 

Poker Live Omaha & Texas (iOS) Review

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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