Tom vs. The Armies of Hell (PC) Review

Developer: Darkmire Entertainment | Publisher: Burgoon Entertainment || Overall: 8.5

Every now and then a game supersedes its intent to be “simply” a game, and illuminates itself as more of a personal sarcastic journal of one person’s journey through life.  While Tom vs. The Armies of Hell is a well-designed, fun, twin-stick shooter with the sensibilities of a traditional 3rd person action beat-em-up game, it’s biting cynicism and lighthearted humor are by far its most shining aspect.  I thoroughly enjoyed this game, and the only thing holding it back were its annoying bugs.

Through six levels, you’ll take control of normal office employee “Tom” as he deals with a situation gone awry at his office.  While workplace violence is something to be mindful of, workplace-sinking-into-Hell might not be.  The beginning of the game, which is also the game’s story trailer (as seen below), is actually quite hilarious and really sets the mood for what’s to come.  While the cinematics and character portraits have a “Flash movie” art style to them, the in-game characters replicate their animated counterparts quite well, keeping a cartoonish look through most of the enemy designs that are quite unique.

The comedic point of the adventure really comes with using a normal everyday white dude who has a white collar job going around and killing hordes of demons with a gun that is powered by souls.  You’ll be accompanied by Hell’s seeming-antagonist Beezle and Tom has no choice but to do what he says since he can’t go anywhere else (much like his normal office job).  Tom vs. The Armies of Hell is full of ironic situations and comparisons to the real world like this, and is also full of inside jokes.  The game became an outlet for the developer to unleash his experiences onto the world, and due to the comedic execution of the writing, it is all very funny.  There is only voice acting during the cinematics, and not during the actual gameplay, however.

Tom vs. The Armies of Hell is actually quite difficult at times.  If you aren’t lucky or don’t figure out the exact way to beat a boss, you’ll be attempting it over and over until you do.  I personally encountered some game-breaking bugs that forced me to either restart the level or restart the game.  It extended the play time considerably for me, but it was usually not that difficult to get back to where I was considering I knew how to kill the bosses up to that point.  Enemy layouts are also randomized, but you’ll usually see the same ones pop up in particular places.  There was only one or two times where the set of enemies spawning made it a lot harder than the second time through where the more annoying enemies didn’t spawn.  Health is hard to come by, even on the easiest difficulty.  I didn’t see much nominal difference between Normal and Easy, but the game was difficult enough on Easy for me.  The last boss of the game can also be pretty cheap, and depending on if you have any upgrades available you’ll be in for a lot of “learning.”

Because the game is so short (I’d say max four hours without bugs ruining your day), you don’t earn many permanent upgrades like you may in a longer-form game.  Temporary upgrades are found in chests and are an assortment of buffs, like bigger ammo capacity, more damage, armor, etc; these are lost on death/respawn.  The one permanent upgrade is found on the second level where you are able to store a second type of ammo to switch to.  Your main modes of attack are your gun and your demon arm given to you by Beezle.  You’ll have to capture souls released by enemies with your gun and you’ll gain a limited amount of ammo to use that type.  The gun ammo is quite diverse, including but not limited to a rapid fire gun, shotgun, flamethrower, frost, penetrating plasma, lightning, and the most unique being a radioactive explodey-laser.  The demon arm is used for melee and as you hit more enemies, you’ll juice up your Energy bar.  Holding the melee button after a combo will unleash a large hit, expending your Energy, and is your best way to kill enemies fast at the risk of getting hit.  Finding purple demon shards (the game pretty much blatantly tells you it is demon’s fecal matter) will allow you to transform into a Demon and beat the crap out of everything around you while regaining health for the duration.  Energy drops and health drops are also common sights, but Health drops are quite a bit rarer.

While the game wasn’t super difficult, it can be a bit of a challenge.  The bugs are also strange; it feels like the game “forgets” to allow any Health drops at times, or a wall that stays up until you kill all enemies still stays up after you kill all enemies.  If you somehow manage to bug the game out in a different way, you’ll also have to restart the level.  For some reason when I continue a game from one of my older saves it doesn’t let me continue to any levels.  This is quite possibly the worst thing that can happen as you’ll have to restart the whole game again if you don’t play in one go.  While the developer appears to be quashing as many bugs as he can, this is an unfortunate side effect of a game that only has one person behind it.

Taking into account that Tom vs. The Armies of Hell is made by one person, the game is quite a marvel.  The art is great, the gameplay is decent-to-good throughout, and the bosses/enemies are designed well and are diverse.  The story is really funny and all of it makes for a quick, enjoyable experience.

 

Infinium Strike (PC) Review

Developer: Codex Worlds | Publisher: 1C Company || Overall: 6.0

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Freedom Strike. Its continuing mission: to not really explore anything, to seek out the Wrog, and to boldly blow the buh-Jesus out of them.

What do you get when you combine Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, and a tower defense game?  Infinium Strike ::echo::.  Infinium Strike sounds like one of those random cool names you’d expect a sci-fi game to be.  One part “Infinity” and the other part “-ium.”  Don’t ask me what an Infinium is, but its the resource you gather in the game.  Thinking about it, I’m not entirely sure why the game isn’t just called Freedom Strike, since that’s the name of the ship you actually commandeer.  Freedom Strike’s goal is to hunt down a bio-mechanical race of aliens that have all but pushed back human civilization and space exploration back to its last line of defense.  Freedom Strike dives right into the thick of it and seems to be a magnet for humongous portals that the Wrog come through in endless droves.  That’s your cue to start lasering everything you can see.

Infinium Strike’s hook is its 360 degree tower defense layout.  Albeit, very unique from a tower defense standpoint where enemies typically follow a predetermined path and get laid into by tactfully-placed towers, enemies in Infinium Strike just barrel towards your ship and try to blow it up.  You have four platforms to build towers on, each with a limited amount of spots.  Depending on the enemies that spawn you’ll have to be aware of what sort of towers should be placed in each quadrant.  Each tower has the capability of shooting things within a certain range, known as Sectors.  There are three sectors total, and each tower can shoot one, two, or all three sectors in different combinations.  Some enemies will start way back in Sector 3 and make their way to Sector 1, while others always stay in Sector 3.  There are about as many different combos of enemies as there are towers to build, and if they begin to overwhelm your defenses, you’ll begin to lose Shield and Armor.  When Armor gets down to zero, you’ve lost.

Infinium Strike’s unique feature is also its greatest flaw.  Once you have to maintain all four quadrants there can be way too many things happening at the same time.  Monitoring one or two quadrants is not that challenging but when all four begin to have enemies spawning like crazy you’re going to be going a little bit out of your mind.  You will suddenly realize your Shield is taking a pounding because Quandrant 2 didn’t have enough towers that shot into Sectors 2 and 3, while Quadrant 1 has enough for all Sectors, but not for shooting projectiles… etc etc.  Its very hard to keep track of your capabilities due to the fact there are four different tower defense games going on and none of the platforms help each other while they are idle.

A large part of the challenge in a tower defense game usually comes in placement of towers, which can inspire you to replay or retry learning what you failed at.  Infinium Strike unfortunately rips out a large part of what makes tower defense fun by only having about eight spots in a horizontal line.  Most of the towers you’re going to want to rely on are laser-based, since they are the cheapest to place and upgrade, which lessens variety.  Towers upgrade their damage only by paying an increasingly exorbitant cost, but while you may opt to do that, you have to upgrade your base several times to get some vital buffs that allow you to live longer when the going gets tough.  Upgrading your base is kind of a no-brainer but at the same time you’re going to have to spend millions of Infinium to get it to its max level.

A fun mechanic that helps you reinforce one of your quadrants temporarily is the use of your drone Fleet.  There are three types of drones to use, all doing different things, and have a life span of about 30 seconds unless you upgrade.  You can summon a few here and there, but they cost a portion of a bar that maxes out at 250; the bar recharges at one unit per second.  Using your Fleet effectively is a must as you’ll always have at least one quadrant being overrun and you want to make sure they are all in a manageable state as much as possible.

Unfortunately despite turning the genre around on its head a bit, Infinium Strike is dull.  The actual action of things blowing up isn’t very satisfying and kind of gets downgraded to a fireworks show.  The graphics are fine, but the alien designs aren’t that great.  The ship you are in charge of is an okay design but the tower defense platforms are kind of an eye-sore on the design of the thing.  It could remind you of the ship Battlestar Galactica, but only if they glued some rectangular boards on top of it.  Through the 10 missions, you’ll be treated to a little Captain’s log voice over that gives more info about the Wrog (the aliens) and the conflict that is going on between them and humanity.  There are also different difficulty levels and extra objectives to meet if you are particularly inclined to complete them.  Another itchy point is that despite going through the motions of upgrading your base over and over and building towers, you always start the next mission with nothing.  There is no explanation about why you lost all of the progress you made in developing your ship in the last fight.  Considering there is no meta game where you are upgrading your ship through the campaign, it of course makes sense gameplay-wise why you start with a clean slate each mission.

Infinium Strike doesn’t have a whole lot going for it.  Other than its interesting tower defense scenario and a light sci-fi story to go along with it, there won’t be much enjoyment to find in the dredges of space.  I guess we know now why the Wrog want to destroy all of humanity, and its because one of them played Infinium Strike.

 

Defect: Spaceship Destruction Kit (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Three Phase Interactive || Overall: 6.0

Occasionally a game comes along that reminds me of something that I used to do as a kid.  I was very much into building my own custom LEGO spaceships or random things and having them fly around and shoot at each other, making up a story in my head about all of the cool shit that was “actually” happening.  Indeed, I was just waving plastic around in the air and making noises, but it was fun to me, dammit!  Defect: Spaceship Destruction Kit harks back to my earlier days, giving you a litany of neat spaceship parts to assemble and construct, then take it out for a spin through the universe.

The concept is great.  The shipbuilding is fun.  The game design is okay.  The controls, though… holy shit are they frustrating.  When you get out of the shipbuilding menu and into an actual mission, you’re going to be fighting against the user interface as much as you do enemies.  The game controls exactly as you would expect an Asteroids-floaty-space-combat game to be, and that’s not an especially great thing.  Because there are some micromanaging aspects in the arcade gameplay, it is hard to be able to control your ship during intense action as well as make use of the “Direct Control” options.

Your crew will automatically use weapons, but they don’t hit your target very often.  When you put weapons under “Direct Control” your weapons are a lot more effective, but it becomes painfully obvious that it’s a lot harder to kill anything than it should be, especially at the beginning of the campaign.  Your projectiles usually don’t have a very long range, or are slow-moving and dissipate before they hit the moving target (these are alleviated as you progress).  It would be a lot more satisfying if anywhere near half of the shots you are shooting hit something, but in my experience it was more like 25% unless I was right on their ass.  Considering your ships start with awful engines and awful maneuverability, that wasn’t very often.  You can also use Direct Control to buff another piece of your ship and also to repair them as they take damage.  There are plenty of weapons that will one-shot you, so you’ll have to be careful.  A major impact on your performance is how well you execute building a ship that is able to move fast, have enough weaponry, and have enough armor to accomplish the task at hand.  Not an easy feat, typically.

After the first couple of missions, I hit a wall in the difficulty level, mostly because of the controls.  It became frustrating for me to constantly fail despite designing all sorts of ships and doing all sorts of tactics.  Another grating thing on my patience was that the whole level had to load again for each retry, after booting you to the mission select screen.  Considering the game starts you out quite under-powered, your enemies seem to be a lot harder than they should be, and the missions don’t seem to ramp up in difficulty in a consistent manner.  I started out on “Normal” difficulty and once I hit the wall, I knocked it down to “Easy.”  Unfortunately, there was no tangible difference between Normal and Easy that I could see.  After getting through the first few missions, about six different ones become available for play and go into different branching paths for a total of 50 missions.  The mission variety is not too bad, but tend to boil down to “kill the enemies,” and rightfully so.  You are able to replay older missions so you can unlock more parts, but at the same time you don’t want to be stuck in a grind instead of doing new missions — especially since new missions grant you the most new parts.  Not to mention, doing an old mission isn’t an assured win by any means.  To top it all off the camera constantly zooms in and out; this removes you from the action and being left with not knowing who or what is being shot at.  Getting disoriented from the seemingly-random zooms is another obstacle in and of itself.

After defeating a mission, your ship will always be stolen away from you by mutineers.  At the end of the next mission, you’ll fight that ship in a duel.  This is a sort of clever progression mechanic as it forces you to at least have to build a “better” ship than your last and you can’t always rely on your older designs as they use lesser equipment.  The double meaning of “Defect” becomes quite amusing as you have to fix the defects (flaws) in your ships, and your ship ends up being your enemy when your crew stages a defection by mutiny.  As an Easter Egg of sorts, a fun homage to David Bowie is one of the mutineer character designs.

Since the game forces you to constantly design new ships after they are stolen, it is a great way to put focus back on the ship building.  Even though your ship designs are saved, you’ll typically unlock something new after each completed mission, so you’ll want to mess around with the new things you got or try to make something completely different.  Missions usually demand a unique ship configuration, anyhow.

There is a great variety in ship building even from the start.  Your main limiter in building is Power Level, which is dictated by the Power Core you have.  You earn better Cores as you complete missions, and as you have more Power, you are able to have more Crew.  Most pieces require Power Level+Crew, but since Power converts into crew, you’ll eventually hit a point where you can’t add anything more to your ship due to your initial Power Level.  As you equip stronger propulsion engines you’ll need to balance them out with Stability, which forces you to mess around with different combinations of wings and rockets.

Defect also looks great; the enemy spaceships are unique and quite inspired in their designs.  While many pieces of ships are obviously influenced by popular media, the combination of them all together make for some interesting sights.  As you progress and acquire larger Power Cores, you’ll be able to build larger ships.  The graphics in general are pretty good and the sound effects aren’t annoying either.  The ship building user interface is also pretty simple to understand and nothing hinders that experience.  You are allowed to save up to 499 designs and share them with friends, which is also cool.  Using a controller during missions is an option, but most of the game requires a mouse/keyboard, so there isn’t much impetus to use one.

Despite all of the good things I have to say about the game, justifying giving it a low score really comes down to me not being able to derive much enjoyment from the actual usage of the ships I was making.  The controls aren’t intuitive, which leads to the levels being too difficult which leads to the game simply becoming a frustrating experience.  I can’t in good conscience recommend this game to anyone unless you’re great with floaty-space arcade games.  It may be entirely possible that none of the defects (pun!) of the game make no impact on your enjoyment, as it is essentially Asteroids on steroids with ship-building.  And much like no longer playing with LEGO spaceships in the air pretending they shoot lasers, I’ve given up on what could have been.

 

8DAYS (PC) Review

Developer: Santa Clara Games | Publisher: Badland Games || Overall: 8.5

8DAYS is an indie twin-stick shooter from two-man team Santa Clara Games.  Drawing heavily from the contemporary example of Hotline Miami, you’ll even see influence from Metal Gear and traditional “shmups” in this genre cocktail.  The action is spread out over five Chapters, each with a satisfying length and unique theme.

The scenario for the characters you play, known as Lola “Wasp” Cruz and Mike “Ghost” Doe, starts with them working for a Private Military Corporation known as G.O.D. Inc. (Gold, Oil, Diamonds Inc.).  This PMC is apparently the most successful in the world and has its fingers in many political pies — being hired when shit goes down.  For example, the first Chapter has to do with stopping a rice embargo, and the second with a nuclear plant being taken over by Eco-terrorists.  Each Chapter starts with a little vignette to set up the specific mission at hand, and off you go.  The game has tongue-in-cheek humor, considering that the rice embargo is only a problem because the affluent want their daily sushi; another example being the sewers of the nuclear plant have tentacle monsters swimming around in green water, a sharp contrast from the “grounded” first chapter.  The nuclear plant is also occupied by droves of robots that use pistols/rifles/flamethrowers, and then in the middle somewhere you fight some strange mechanical/biological creature that barfs on you as one of his attacks.  It would seem all of these experiments would be a bit much for an energy production facility owned by a utility company.  You also see random “civilians” just moseying about as you have firefights and they tend to get killed in the crossfire or run around and make strange noises.

Normal gameplay consists of strategically taking down enemies before they kill you and getting to the next area.  While there isn’t a requirement to kill everything, if you trip an alarm or are seen by them, they will engage and have the possibility of flanking you.  Deaths will restart you at the very beginning of the area, and some of them can be a bit large.  There are usually multiple paths or strategies to take when completing an area, so if one way doesn’t work, you can try another.  Stealth is also an accessible strategy if you have a melee weapon, as there are a lot of places to hide while enemies patrol around.  Some situations require a gunfight, but as long as you kill whoever is engaged with you, you won’t run the risk of drawing more enemies into the fight.  Bullets are very large and also move slower than you might expect them to depending on the weapon, so it can either be a boon or frustration in that regard.  Co-Op is also available, with a friend being able to jump in at anytime during play.

At certain points through a Chapter you’ll encounter a boss, which breaks up the methodical think-before-you-leap gameplay and works in a traditional shmup-style fight.  As with many things in the game, they take the opportunity to be referential — the final boss of the first Chapter is a Rambo-look-a-like with a machine gun, knife, and red bandana.  You’ll also encounter some other Easter Eggs, such as a “V Has Come To” scribbled on the wall and a party with Metal Gear Solid characters (which is oddly appropriate for me since I’ve been playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain for the past month and a half).

Weaponry is varied, and in the initial stages you’ll mostly encounter rifles, shotguns, and SMGs.  You will also see a lot of melee weapons, and as you get further along rocket launchers, silenced pistols, flamethrowers, and EMP bombs become available.  Sometimes destroying certain types of boxes/crates produce ammo, otherwise you’ll be scavenging from your enemies.  Reloading is clip-based, meaning if you manually reload before completely emptying your clip, you will lose the ammo you had remaining.  This might be a bit annoying considering the game let’s you reload even when you have a full clip, so you can easily waste bullets if you aren’t careful; you aren’t allowed to pick up a clip you threw away.  You are only able to keep two weapons at a time, so if you wanted to hang onto a melee weapon you may be exchanging guns quite a bit.

Considering the game can be very challenging, the amount of playtime would potentially vary for you.  Each Chapter kept me going for about an hour, and I died a lot on the way, having to retry over and over.  When done with a Chapter, you’re treated with a little resolution to the problem you solved and then go right into the next scenario.  Chapters are able to be replayed if you so desire, but will only fully unlock in the menu when you finish the level — if you are in the middle of the stage and start a new game you’ll lose all progress and start from the very beginning again.  When you get a Game Over, it is unfortunately very easy to accidentally select “Retry Mission” instead of just “Retry.”  There is no confirmation after accidentally selecting “Retry Mission” and you can lose all progress with no way to go back… admittedly, I learned that the hard way.  There is also no difference in the gameplay between the two characters you can choose, but I personally preferred the character design of “Wasp” over “Ghost.”

The art style is a purposeful throwback to the 8-bit days, though it has a lot more detail to its art than you may normally see when you think “8-bit.”  There is some gruesome death, such as decapitations and gore, and there are also depictions of torture and tons of previously-killed bodies are strewn about levels, which all enhance the violent atmosphere.  The little intro movies to each Chapter are pretty neat, but aren’t too long.  Other stylistic parts of the game also round out the unique feeling of the art and grows on you as you pay closer attention to the detail and are eventually exposed to the variety of locales each Chapter offers.  The music is also a high point, but dips in and out, crossfading with “battle music” every time you start an encounter with an enemy.  This takes away from the enjoyment of the main stage track since you’ll be constantly going in and out of two different songs, but it isn’t disjointed enough where its awful, just a questionable decision in the sound design.

If you’re in the mood for a side-scrolling shmup, 8DAYS is a challenging and satisfying experience.  Defeating each area rewards you with a feeling of accomplishment — earning your wins little by little and progressing you to a new challenge.  8DAYS will be available July 22nd on Steam.

 

Super Mutant Alien Assault (PC) Review

Developer: Cybernate | Publisher: Surprise Attack Games || Overall: 8.5/10

Super Mutant Alien Assault (SMAA) bears no shame in calling itself a clone of “Super Crate Box.”  Fortunately for SMAA, I never heard of (nor played) the game it is a clone of, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt when it says that’s what it is.  Now, aside from the gasping in the back corners of the room by those who cannot fathom that someone does not know the “smash hit” Super Crate Box, I say nay nay, good sir.  I heard of it now, and Super Mutant Alien Assault appeals to me on its face much more than whatever that other thing is.  Plus, I like clones because it reminds me of one of my favorite Schwarzenegger movies, The 6th Day.

“You should clone yourself.  So you can go fuck yourself.” (Paraphrased quote from The 6th Day)

SMAA is a platforming shooter that constrains you in one small level.  Each level contains a particular objective that must be completed before proceeding to the next, along the way massacring as many aliens as you need to.  SMAA, at its core, rides on the “roguelite” wave, but only wades in just a bit.  Power-ups are collected, but don’t endlessly stack — you have a limited amount of slots available for special abilities, weapons, and defenses.  Your character isn’t going to get crazy combinations of power-ups, but most of what you use will be swapped for something else that drops.  This forces you to work on a constantly changing strategy throughout your gameplay, rather than sticking with “what works” for as long as you can.  On top of it all, health can be very hard to come by, which makes the game quite a bit unforgiving.  Friendly-fire is also a thing here, so you’ll have to be careful where you chuck your explosives, just in case it bounces back in your general direction.

Level designs and objectives are randomized, but there is a set amount of maps that cycle within each “Galaxy,” which is a set of four levels.  There are no procedurally-generated maps, and objectives will only appear on particular levels designed for that objective.  This doesn’t detract from the enjoyment but it can get a bit stale depending on how long you decide to play in one go.  Objectives include moving an item from Point A to Point B or releasing a build-up of pressure on multiple points on the map.  It is important to get the objective done as fast as possible, as enemies will gain strength the longer you stay in a level.  A level will always require you to clear whatever enemies remain once the objective is fulfilled, so the path of least resistance will not be rewarded in the slightest.

Game unlocks occur as you complete more levels.  Each time you clear a stage you gain a token that sets you along the path to the next automatic unlock.  As you unlock more weaponry/items you’ll also unlock more enemies to have fun with — although this seems more like a punishment when it happens.  It would have been nicer to see enemies unlocked in a different progression, such as number of enemies killed or if a particular boss was cleared.

“Kinda takes the fun out of living, doesn’t it?”

When you actually get into the gameplay it can be quite frantic and most of it is satisfying.  Each level is equipped with its own configuration of Weapon/Explosive vending machines that randomly equip you with one of the weapons you have unlocked so far.  Explosions are by far the most fulfilling thing about the game and it’s a lot of fun to be able to blow the aliens up with a well-timed grenade or cluster bomb.  Some of the normal weaponry is not as exciting, such as the dual submachine guns and the AK47, but the minigun, sniper rifle, and grenade launcher are fun to wield.  My favorite by far is the pogo stick that explodes things you jump on top of — it would have been great if this was more the kind of thing you saw in the game, but instead it is the outlier.  Your weaponry/explosives all have a set number of charges, so you’ll be needing to re-equip yourself as soon as you use up your ammo, which means you’ll get a random item and change your strategy to effectively use your new combination.  Each level also grants you new power-ups in crates to fill out your other ability slots, such as Special Abilities and Defenses.

Special Abilities are fun to use and varied, despite the fact they aren’t able to be used that much due to needing to collect Special Ammo.  Special Ammo drops when you defeat empowered monsters that stick around for a while on the map, and you have to run over the green squares that are dropped before they expire.  This may not always be possible.  Special Abilities and Defenses (that are free to use) include but are not limited to a pillar of energy, pushbacks, running fast, and bullet time.  Defenses don’t damage enemies, but not all Special Abilities deal damage either.

The art is nice and attention is paid to the aliens and levels.  The art style reminds me of old Windows 3.1-era games (not that far removed from DOS games) with a 90’s retro-futuristic design.  The game also runs like a dream 95% of the time, except when you enter hyperdrive when that objective comes around.  The frame lag is helped if you turn off the Screen Shake in the options, but is still apparent even after turning it off — I’m unsure if this is actually intended or not, though, since it “snaps out” of the frame lag as soon as you exit the hyperdrive sequence.  It unfortunately gets pretty annoying when you experience it for the umpteenth time.   The music is all high-energy EDM/Dubstep/electro music and depending on your personal tastes may either be enjoyable or create misery.  It all matches the tempo of the game, but I was somewhere in the middle of the scale with the arrangement.  After about an hour of gameplay, I muted the music and opted for some of my own with the sound effects still on top.

“Doesn’t anybody die any more?”

The game feels a bit bare-bones when you realize that the progression is tied to unlocking weapons through a small number of levels.  Three Galaxies of four levels account for a total of twelve stages, each Galaxy cycling from its own small pool of levels/unlocked bosses.  By design, you’ll be retrying the game over and over since death is inevitable.  Each Galaxy has their own color scheme and set of levels to cycle through, and the game lets you begin on either of the three galaxies you like once you’ve beaten the previous boss level.  To unlock a higher difficulty level you have to start from the first Galaxy and go all the way to the last without dying — which can be quite a task depending on your skills.  Familiarizing yourself with the levels that cycle within a chosen Galaxy is the only way you’ll be able to get through it all in one go.

Super Mutant Alien Assault essentially appeals to those who look for a challenge in their games.  A lot of gameplay comes from perfecting your skills and attempting to get through as many levels as possible before dying and resetting.  The assortment of weapons are fun, keep you on your toes, and as you unlock more powerful weapons and abilities, you’re bound to get further at some point.  However, the biggest buff isn’t a tangible item in the game, it’s your own perseverance to try again and again and again and again….

Super Mutant Alien Assault is available now on Steam for $7.99, currently discounted by 20% from $9.99.

 

Squacklecast Episode 30 – “Dawn of 30s”

This entry is part 30 of 31 in the series The Squacklecast

Episode 30 is here!  And I made a new song!  Maybe??  I don’t know what it’s going to sound like as I’m typing this, so maybe you’ll like it.

For the first hour or so we catch up about what we’ve been watching (like Daredevil) and a couple of other events.  I talk about how I was able to kill 3 crickets within 30 seconds or so.  We talk primarily about two things, Screening Room which a service that would allow you to watch new movies “day of” in the home.

and for the second hour or so…BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE.

We both saw it so we talk about what we liked, what we didn’t like, etc.  There are spoilers, just in case you are worried.

The whole podcast is the longest we’ve ever done, it seems.  We figured if you’re going to bother listening, you’ll just listen to the whole thing.

 

Quote #24535

“According to some lady named Jessica who has an office literally in the middle of a train station with no walls around her, we have won a $50,000 home makeover (cool!!) and a 7 day trip to any location in the United States (wow!!).

She works for a company named Direct Buy and I saved her phone number in the phone (under the name “Scammer”) in case we get another call from her company.  I asked her for a web site and what her full name was but she hung up on me 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁  I am sure she will call back because this random selection process that she had told us about sounds like an amazingly legitimate prize.”

– davepoobond, e-mailing his co-workers after receiving a phone call from a scammer

 

Deadly Tower of Monsters, The (PC) Review

Developer: ACE Team | Publisher: Atlus USA || Overall: 8.5

B-Movie science fiction is always characterized by its low-budget charm.  You could see right through the awful costumes, terrible props, and strings the monsters would hang off from — all of which added to the fun.  The Deadly Tower of Monsters seeks to recapture this aesthetic of effects supplanted by computer graphics… by replicating them with computer graphics.

ACE Team, the developer of The Deadly Tower of Monsters, did an amazing job in recreating the B-Movie feel as you play, keeping it interesting throughout.  The set up for the story begins as if you are watching the “movie” on DVD with commentary by the belligerent director, Dan Smith.  As you defeat stop-motion monsters, while completing missions across the sprawling tower, Dan Smith will acknowledge and give background on certain aspects of the production — breaking the fourth/”fifth” wall, reminding you that you are “watching a movie” while playing the game, or rather listening in on the recording session for said commentary.  There are a lot of layers here.

Though the game is not usually laugh-out-loud funny (there are a few great jokes), it is entirely tongue-in-cheek.  Throughout, they introduce new elements that kept me consistently amused.  The attention to detail adds to the goal of being a successful B-Movie homage and the commentary track spreads a layer of cynicism about the film industry on top.  It is important to listen to the commentary while you play, as it is an integral part of the story, and the uniqueness of the game.  Your typical gaming tropes are also explained away using movie tropes, such as blaming watching deleted scenes for when you die and the director “intentionally” wanting the actor to stand still for five minutes “because it is artistic” if you decide to idle for a while.  Some of these tropes are less clever than others, but the narrative essentially includes all of your deaths and “mistakes” as part of the experience.

The visuals and art style are very important to the successful execution of the B-movie homage.  A stop-motion frame-rate effect is used on many of the monsters and is one of the best effects used.  Since most of the game runs at a higher-frame rate than an actual movie would, the most “filmic” part of the game comes with the stop-motion effect and serves to distinguish it from the rest of the “movie” quite well.  Homage is paid to practically every genre of classical sci-fi, with obvious references to Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and others including dinosaurs, bugs, an evil scientist, giant robots, clones, and a galactic emperor among a wide range of other characters and monsters.

The level design of the tower is essentially a humongous and vertically sprawling 3D platforming level.  You will go for what seems like miles in mostly one direction: up.  While the prevailing theme is space technology, on the ground-level you will encounter things like mutant insects and dinosaurs.  As you climb, the tower is very elaborate and changes themes more meticulously within science fiction.  You will encounter aliens, disembodied brains, space slugs, and other fun monsters.  All parts of the tower are fluidly accessible, and there are no loading screens unless you warp around to checkpoints.

The tower is used to the game’s advantage occasionally.  You are usually tasked with shooting enemies from below in reverse-Space-Invaders style.  At any time you can be knocked off the tower, sending you into a free-fall towards the bottom; mistiming your platforming will also have the same result.  To counteract the annoyance of having to re-scale the tower you can easily warp to any checkpoint, or use an “Air Teleport” button that is available if you haven’t landed on another platform yet.  You also take fall-damage and have a very low amount of jetpack fuel to adjust and break your fall.  Unfortunately, you are not allowed to control the camera very much, which can be annoying at times, but it wouldn’t make sense in the context of watching a movie to be able to switch an angle at any time.  On the plus side, the platforming is designed well enough where this isn’t usually an issue.  For similar reasons, the game is very linear and there isn’t as much exploring to do as you might expect in a 3D platformer.

Combat gameplay is fun and light, and the weapon variety is also great.  Enemies and weapons alike keep the “B-Movie” aesthetic, where you can plainly see re-purposed household items or other everyday items, such as a vacuum cleaner or a puppy, being used as space-age weaponry and monsters.  As you have access to three different characters, their real difference comes in their special abilities.  Dick Starspeed is able to use landmines, Scarlet Nova has a running speed ability, and The Robot is able to use a time vortex ability.  All of the characters will gain more unique abilities you can use during combat and only cost a time-based cooldown, whereas your energy weapons deplete from an energy bar.

Upgrading weaponry, skills, switching characters, and other gameplay systems are accessed via in-game computer consoles.  While they show up often enough, it can detract from the “joy” of playing around with the progression systems and possibly even the “movie” aesthetic.  The systems aren’t very complicated, but it is sort of questionable why they give you 16 different weapons, but only allow you to have access to four at any given time before switching around at a console.  It would have felt better to be able to switch out weaponry through a pause menu (a prop closet?) since in-game consoles aren’t necessarily used in an intriguing gameplay fashion other than to be more props to put in the levels.  The in-game consoles bring up a game-based UI regardless, so the argument for being immersive doesn’t hold very much weight.  It might have also been more convenient to halve the variety of weapons and allow you to use them at all times; instead I just keep four random weapons and rarely trade them out.  Despite that, the variety of weaponry is still a nice part of the game.

Difficulty and challenges in the game are not too bad.  If you die, checkpoints are usually pretty close to where you could possibly die.  That isn’t to say you don’t need to play smart (as health is hard to come by), but the only real punishment for dying is wasting time.  Puzzles aren’t too trying on the intelligence and there’s only a few situations where you need to use one of your special abilities to get items or into certain areas.  There are also miscellaneous missions that aren’t easily earned on your first trek up and will require you to backtrack certain parts of the tower to complete.  One fun side-quest is jumping off the tower and skydiving into floating hoops, using the tower’s height to the game’s advantage.  The game can be pretty short as well, but its nice to be able to get through a whole game in a couple of days.

If you are a fan of classic film and games, you will get a blast out of The Deadly Tower of Monsters.  Even if you aren’t knowledgeable about older sci-fi film, it is a light, fun, and short game that is visually pleasing and humorous.  It is available now on Steam at a sale price of $9.89, and regularly priced at $14.99.

 

Squacklecast Episode 29 – “Air Bag Recall Beyond Darkness Awakens”

This entry is part 29 of 31 in the series The Squacklecast

Hey everyone!  Sorry for the long break, but we’re finally back with a new Squacklecast.

This time we talk a little bit about the reason behind using aliases on the web site as well as the inspiration/explanation behind the current theme song for the 3rd set of Squacklecasts.  I’ll be debuting a new song for the 4th set (Episodes 30 through 39) with Episode 30.

With David Bowie‘s passing this month, we go into David Bowie‘s career and what movies/music we personally have interest in when it comes to him.

The Prestige is the most notable acting performance to me, other than knowing he was in Labyrinth.  Music was obviously a big part of our exposure.

davidbowieprestige

The Man Who Fell to Earth is the movie Billy referenced to.  The Hunger, as well.

Red Dawn has been stuck on my desk for like six months.  I never seem to have “time” to sit and watch a movie for 2 hours because there’s so many other things to do (like this).

Netflix DVD was on its way to being called Qwikster at some point.  We talk about the effects of the movie/TV show streaming on small rental stores.

Fierce Creatures was the most recent “rare” DVD I’ve had to get from Netflix because it was a very long wait.

I finished Quantum Leap last month, and I’m still watching Gotham, but its on break.  They announced plans for a possible spin-off in the future.

The new Star Trek series speculation.  What we think it’ll be like and what we hope for.  Battlestar Galactica discussion.

…and Star Wars discussion   What else did you expect?  The Force Awakens was released since last podcast, and we talk about why Star Wars has become such a big cultural relevance.

starwarsforceawakensreyfinn

A deeper Star Trek movie discussion commences after.

Other random movie stuff, like Die Hard, Terminator: Genisys, etc.

We go into a longer discussion of Terminator: Gensisys and talk about how laser weapons, time travel, and killer robots are much more believable than one billion pre-orders of an operating system.  Also, the movie seemed to be trolling people after the third time travel jump.  They also turned Terminators into metal zombies.  It was basically one big cartoon of a movie.

It’s a lot easier to remember what you didn’t talk about when you do more than one podcast every 3 months.

See ya guys next time!

 

Rolls of Justice

INT. Apartment-type room.

PORTER RODELL fumbles around with the camera as he sets it up.

PORTER
Fucking tripod, I don’t understand this shit.

Porter leaves the camera alone and walks back a little bit.

PORTER
Okay I’ve had enough of this shit man. Nick and his supertanker of an ass seemingly use up all the toilet paper in the house, constantly. That shit is expensive. And he’s a fucking—

The video cuts, and in Porter’s place we see NICK STALWHART, Porter’s roommate.

NICK
I’d just like to say that Porter has got it all wrong. I don’t know what Porter uses all of his toilet paper on, he still smells like he doesn’t wipe his ass.

PORTER (Off-screen)
2 squares bitch! That’s all you need! 3-ply Quilted goodness filleting my taint!

NICK
Man, you’re gross!

Video cuts again and Nick and Porter are in front of the camera.

NICK
Alright, let it be known that starting today, we will monitor both of our toilet paper usage on video.

PORTER
And we’ll finally prove that you’re trying to destroy our toilet with your massive shits.

NICK
Man, shut up!

PORTER
You’re always in there for thirty minutes, at least!

NICK
I like to watch videos.

PORTER
What the fuck?

Nick stands up and turns off the camera while Porter looks at him in astonishment.

Cut to Nick holding the camera and recording two new rolls of toilet paper. Nick’s name is on one roll and Porter’s is on the other.

NICK
To test our hypothesis, we have two new rolls of toilet paper. All previous rolls of toilet paper have been burned as to prevent any cheating. These rolls will be used until gone. When one is used up all the way, we will compare to the other roll to see how much is left.

Nick moves the camera to look at Porter.

NICK
Say hi to the camera Porter!

PORTER
Man, FUCK YOU!

PORTER smacks NICK but you only see PORTER’s hand go off-screen.

Cut to Porter holding the camera and walking around the house to a closed door.

PORTER
The time is now 7:05 pm. Nick has been in here since six FORTY FIVE.

NICK (Behind door)
HEY! What the hell are you doing out there Porter?

PORTER
Nothing Nick! Nothing at all!

NICK (Behind door)
You’re a fucking liar!

PORTER
HEY FUCK YOU

NICK
EAT ME!

PORTER
OH YOU SON OF A BITCH

PORTER fumbles with the camera and it turns off.

Cut to Nick holding the camera and looking down at the rolls of toilet paper.

NICK
After one day, we are about even. For reference we have another new roll of toilet paper.  About 1/8 of an inch has been used off each of the respective rolls.

PORTER
Respective? I hate that word! Why do you use it? You’re such a lamer!

NICK
It’s not lame to be sophisticated!

PORTER
And it’s sophisticated to have a good vocabulary?

NICK
Actually, yes.

PORTER
Then I’m glad I’m not sophisticated because I don’t want to be a sour gummy bear!

NICK
A what?

PORTER
That’s my word for being the ultimate form of stupid! See, I can be sophisticated too, with my extreme mastery of the English language!

NICK
Fucking Porter.

Cut to Nick holding the camera.

NICK
There has to be some way of disproving Porter’s 2-Square Law. It’s impractical, and I know he’s lying. I must go to the source. I have been able to trap a flush of Porter’s… “business” by rigging the plumbing to dump into a basket outside. As I do not want to get the camera dirty, I will investigate and report back in due time.

Cut to Nick gasping.

NICK
Oh god, I dug through his shit for like 20 minutes. I couldn’t find ANY toilet paper at ALL. I am now of the persuasion that this man does not use any toilet paper at all! No wonder he always smells like fecal matter!

Cut to Nick holding the camera as he goes toward Porter on the couch.

NICK
Ah-ha! There you are! You’re a goddamn louse – a cheater at the very least!

PORTER
What the fuck are you talking about?

NICK
You sick fuck! I trapped one of your toilet flushes in a basket outside. There was no toilet paper at all!

PORTER
Wh-wh-what the fuck did you just say?

NICK
YOU DON’T USE TP!

PORTER (breaking down)
I-i-its true…I don’t use toilet paper at all. I’m allergic to it, my legs chafe after I use it. I have to…use my hands!

NICK
WHAT THE FUCK!

PORTER
But it was to my benefit! I would have won this raspberry-filled chocolate of a contest!

NICK
But wait a second, that doesn’t make any sense. If you don’t use toilet paper, then how come your toilet paper roll has been steadily decreasing?

PORTER (shrugging)
I dunno…

NICK
There is a saboteur in our midst! There is only one person that can be behind it! Or two.

Camera style changes from this point on. Becomes more like a normal movie.

Nick and Porter walk slowly to a closed door with no lights on behind it.

Nick and Porter look at each other. Nick gulps and then knocks on the door. As he knocks on the door, the door creaks open, obviously not shut all the way. The room is dark.

NICK
Um…hey uhh…Alan? Are you…are you there?

PORTER (whispering)
He’s not here let’s go, let’s just drop it.

NICK
Shut up! I heard something!

A growling noise is heard.

ALAN
Grrrrrrr…

Nick and Porter take a step back.

ALAN
Who the FUCK is that?

NICK
Ummm hey Alan, it’s Nick!

PORTER
And Porter!

ALAN
I know who it is! What the fuck do you want, you dweebs?

NICK
Uh well…Alan I was wondering…

PORTER
We were wondering if you knew how much we owe you for electricity!

NICK
No, actually, Alan…

PORTER
Shut up, I don’t want to ask him anymore!

Alan peers out through the cracks of the door.

ALAN
What……is it……!?

NICK
Well, you see Alan, Porter and I, you see…

ALAN
That’s the most intelligent thing you’ve said.  “I see.” — I DO see. I see two stupid mother fuckers wasting my god damn time. Do you know how that makes me feel?

PORTER
HAVE YOU BEEN STEALING MY TOILET PAPER??

ALAN
Oh God. What the hell is this shit?

PORTER
Have you been stealing my toilet paper?

ALAN
………YES, its true! Oh I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. I only put up this macho man appearance so that you would be scared to ask me about your toilet paper disappearing.

Alan opens the door wide and grovels at Porter and Nick’s feet.

ALAN
I’m soooo sorry…I can’t make excuses for what I’ve done in the past. The only thing I ask of you is to please not punish me too badly for what I’ve done!

NICK
I don’t believe this.

PORTER
Me neither.

ALAN
Its not like you’re using it anyway, I figured what would be the problem, you know. I wish I could scoop it all out with my hands but I’m not that kind of person. I’m not, however much I try. I come from the slums of Burbank, you know? We don’t have luxuries like Toilet Paper or CD players or air for that matter!

NICK (whispering to Porter)
What the fuck is he talking about?

PORTER (whispering back)
I don’t know, I thought he was your friend?

NICK (whispering)
He is, but we grew up in Anaheim…

Porter shrugs.

ALAN
And then there was the time I went to the bowling alley and played Revolution X until my ears bled from too much Aerosmith.

Nick picks up Alan and shoves him back into his dark room.

NICK
That’s why we don’t give you any light bulbs Alan! I’m afraid of what you might do if you could actually see what’s around you!

PORTER
That kid’s fucked up.

NICK
It’s not like Alan to make decisions on his own. He was put up to it by someone else…

Nick and Porter appear in front of another door.

NICK
I’m sure he was the one that made Alan steal our toilet paper.

PORTER
Are you sure you want to confront him? It’s only been 7 days since he’s tried to foul up our Cranium game.

NICK
Cranium is a different matter. This is Toilet Paper!

Nick and Porter enter the room without knocking and are face-to-face with their enemy.

NICK
Nathaniel.

A sinister-looking man stands in front of his window, facing Nick and Porter.

NATHANIEL
The infamous Nick and Porter. Your shenanigans have become tiresome in this household. I have brought it upon myself to bring you down.

PORTER
Downstairs?

NATHANIEL
No.

NICK
But we’re upstairs.

NATHANIEL
Shut up.

PORTER
I don’t get it. This is kinda Almond Joy-ish.

NATHANIEL
Almond Joy what?

PORTER
Perplexing.

NATHANIEL
What the fuck are you talking about?

PORTER
Almond Joy-ish. It means perplexing.

NATHANIEL
What the fuck?

NICK
A myriad of vehement staplers are on their way to crush your impotent dreams of grandeur, Nathaniel!

NATHANIEL
Ok, I’m so fucking lost right now.  You two are fucking idiots. Just leave my room. I’ll give you the rent check later.

Cut to Nick and Porter outside Nathaniel’s room and the door shuts behind them.

NICK
Well, that was easy.

PORTER
Milky Way.

NICK
Would you stop that shit?

PORTER
I can’t, it’s the different things I call my creations as I scoop my ass.

NICK
Oh god.

NATHANIEL (off screen)
WHY IS THERE A BASKET OF SHIT UNDER MY WINDOW OH GOD IT SMELLS SO BAD!! I’LL GET YOU NICK AND PORTER!

NARRATOR
And the conspiracy to bring down the emperors of 307A had been demolished. Nick and Porter went on to become CEOs of AIG and Lehman Brothers at the same time, while Alan became CEO of Washington Mutual. Nathaniel stayed at home with his mom after college and worked at the local bookstore until he was forty as a cashier. Being fuddled by Nick and Porter had taken its toll on him and he lost all reason for living. He now has 50 max-level characters on World of Warcraft and sells gold to friends around town.

Moral of the story is: If you shit in a toilet, wipe up.

 

GameTwist Slots (iOS) Review

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

GameTwist Slots is a slot game available on the iOS store.  If you want a no-fuss, varied slot experience, this may very well be up your alley.

Including 22 slots in all, you’ll start with 5000 credits and free reign on any of the slots you want to play.  As there is no progression system in the game, you won’t be met with any locks on any of the content.  Slots are easily downloadable at your discretion and you can select your favorites.  When you select a favorite, they will appear in their own tab where you can quickly select it as soon as you start the app.

Each slot has their own bonus games and art.  There are also special animated squares, depending on the slot’s theme, and many refer to something in popular culture, while others are more of a traditional slot theme.

Some of the slots available are:

  • Book of Ra Deluxe
  • Lucky Lady’s Charm
  • Sizzling Hot
  • Golden Ark
  • Gorilla
  • Royal Fruits
  • African Simba
  • Marilyn: Red Carpet
  • Wild! Roaring Forties

If you’re interested in slots games, GameTwist Slots has a great variety to add to your collection.

App Store Badge

 

 

Happy Fruits – Pub Slot (iOS) Review

Developer/Publisher: Mazooma Interactive Games || Overall:  8.5/10

Happy Fruits – Pub Slot is a fruit-themed slots game available on iOS.  As a single-themed slot, the experience revolves solely around the theme of smiling, jumping, happy fruit.  With some interesting bonus games, this slots game is one of the better slots games available.

As everything is Happy and Fruit themed, even the standard 10, J, Q, K, A letters are animated and smiling.  They represent different types of fruit, such as the Green J fruit, the Blue K fruit, and my favorite, the purple Q fruit.  They look so delicious, you’ll want to eat them!

Similar to other slots games, you’ll unlock features as you play.  Each level allows you to bet at a higher cap, and at level 5, Auto Play is unlocked.  You get bonus credits every level and as a timed bonus every four hours.  You start out with 2500 credits which can easily get you a few levels up just by itself.  Each bet will add XP to your player level, so higher bets will get you levels faster.

There are also several interesting bonuses.  The largest bonus is the three progressive jackpots that slowly grow as you play.  The pick-a-win multiplier, in which you choose one of three possible bonuses, multiply your bet by the one that is chosen.  The most frequent one I encountered was the Crazy Streak spin bonus in which you will be taken to a 3-slot game that rolls slots automatically.  When you gain three of a certain fruit in each of the allocated spaces respectively, you’ll attain the bonus that fruit type is assigned.  Once you get the killer tomatoes that require the bonus game to end, the rolls will stop and you’ll receive the payout.  This bonus game is pretty fun as you’ll see things slowly fill in and as you progress in levels you’ll be able to last longer against the tomatoes on average.

Happy Fruits – Pub Slot is an interesting slots game that has a unique bonus game and theme to offer to players.  If you are interested in trying out the game, it is available on the App Store.

App Store Badge

 

 

PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate (PC) Review

Developer: Q-Games/Double Eleven | Publisher: Q-Games || Overall: 9.5/10

Q-Games’ PixelJunk series has become one of my favorites over the past few years. Starting with one of my all-time favorite games, PixelJunk Monsters, any time a new PixelJunk game gets announced it has gotten my attention. A couple of years ago I had purchased PixelJunk Shooter on Steam and fell in love with the blending of puzzles with twin-stick shooter gameplay. While I was never a big fan of twin-stick shooters by themselves, PixelJunk Shooter elevates the genre to a new height by integrating fast-paced, unique, and well-designed puzzles. PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate, released in October, carries over all of PixelJunk Shooter 1 and includes PixelJunk Shooter 2, which continues the game in new and challenging ways.

The general goal of PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate is to complete stages by collecting diamonds and scientists. Each “episode” is segmented into five different stages, and each stage is divided into a certain amount of “scenes.” Each full stage probably can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes depending on your ability to figure out puzzles. In most scenes, a lot of trial and error may occur, and you’ll have to memorize the order in which you do actions to succeed. This feeds into the idea that you want to be able to perfect your run through the scene to collect all of the diamonds, all of the scientists alive, getting out of the scene without dying yourself and in the quickest way possible. There is one boss per episode with six episodes total. Shooter 1 is the first three episodes, while Shooter 2 is the second three. Shooter 2 continues right where the first left off in terms of the story.

Most of the gameplay revolves around the liquid elemental aspects of puzzles. You’ll see lots of different types of liquid as you venture deep through the planet, all of which do various things to you and with each other when they interact. While you don’t have a health bar, per se, you have a “Heat Gauge.” The Heat Gauge hitting its max will spell your end, but you’ll be able to skate by as long as it doesn’t hit 100%, and even then if you somehow land in water you might recover. Your Heat Gauge will increase when you use special-fire missiles, get hit by enemy fire, or get close to Lava. You’ll be able to cool down by submersing yourself in Water, and while in water you are able to infinitely spam your missiles. Water and Lava, are the primary elements you’ll encounter in the game, and when they interact, it creates rock that you can blast through with your lasers. You won’t be able to swim through Lava usually, so that is one of the many kinds of simple puzzles you’ll see in the game. Where it gets complicated is when you should do these things and how they affect other parts of your current puzzle, and this kind of decision making is integral to the experience of the game. You’ll also be able to use “Suits” in certain scenes where they are available, which will change the rules in how you interact with these elements in unique ways. This keeps the gameplay fresh and varied. Each Episode ends with an exciting boss battle that primarily focuses on combat rather than puzzles, but you’ll still have to remember what you’ve learned, as they do usually use the elements you have become familiar with.

At first I was worried I wouldn’t be able to carry over my progress from the previous game. I had practically completed the whole game at this point, but hadn’t gotten to the end. Fortunately, you can load a save from PixelJunk Shooter 1 if you have it already on Steam. This allows you to continue right from where you may have left off. Those of us who had played the first game will notice immediately that there have been various UI improvements and a simpler way of knowing you’ve collected one of the objectives in each of the scenes. This helps when you inevitably have to go back and replay stages you didn’t do too well on. Also, diamonds you’ve already collected do not appear anymore, as opposed to the previously where you had to collect a total number larger than you had before so that it would count as more diamonds. This makes it easier to collect diamonds and doesn’t require you to memorize where all of them are across the whole stage.

A new art style known as the “Ultimate” art style is the default in this version of the game. The art has been upgraded to give it a more 3D look and benefit from effects such as lighting. The “Classic” art style is still available, which has a more hand-drawn, flat 2D look. While I personally prefer the Classic art style, the Ultimate art style still keeps the general charm of the art and looks pretty neat. I found myself actually playing in the Ultimate art style after a little while to benefit from the extra effects they added in. As a result of this newer art style it does seem to have upped the minimum requirements of your PC a bit. Music has an upbeat/jazzy/electronic feel and fits in very well. Music is always one of the strong points of PixelJunk, and this game is no exception. Music will also fade out as you get closer to a boss, to give it a feeling as if something big looms near (and it usually does).

Overall, it seems like there is about 20 hours’ worth of gameplay on your first play-through. To get perfect scores on each level, it will probably take you a lot longer since you’ll most likely miss a lot on the first time through. You’ll probably be forced to replay previous levels if you don’t have enough diamonds to unlock the next stage, so it won’t really be something you’ll avoid completely, anyway. There is also a sense of accomplishment in completing a whole stage perfectly. There is also enough variety that going back and replaying a stage won’t feel cumbersome.

As far as alternate game modes go, there is a local co-op mode and an online multiplayer mode. The online multiplayer is based more on competitively completing objectives and unlocking gear as you progress. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be very popular, so it is hard to find anyone to play with in the League mode. However, you can play online with a friend who owns the game, so this mode isn’t completely a loss. I don’t put much stake in requiring a multiplayer mode for my games so it is easy for me to ignore it. It was disappointing to not be able to try it out at least a couple of times, though.

Shooter’s formula is simple yet the design is complex and multilayered. You’ll be forced to master the basic formula, and then be challenged when the rules change and the formula gets thrown out the window. Some levels are fast paced, while others focus more on puzzles, and yet others focus on defeating enemies. PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate is one of my most favorite games in the past few years, and is highly recommended.  It is available now on Steam.

 

Roulette Live Casino (iOS) Review

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

Part of the AbZorba suite of casino games, Roulette Live Casino is available for the iOS.  A simple, easy to play Roulette game using the AbZorba Avatar system, Roulette Live Casino is a perfect way for a beginner to understand the basics of the table game.

Once you sit at a table, it is easy to bet on the spots you for the next spin.  While Inside Betting on numbers directly will pay out the most, they are the least likely to hit.  Most of your bets should be spread out, and on the category-type Outside Bets, such as Black, Red, 1st 12, 2nd 12, etc.  There is a Help option that teaches these terms and how they are related to their payouts, so you’ll be able to know what you’re betting on.

The game will allow you to play with other people and you can see what bets other people do.  No one competes with each other, but you may be motivated to try and get a better total win than others on the table, or engage with them socially.  The options to place bets are simple taps with your finger, and you can also easily wipe your bets or place the same bets again with the on-screen commands.  There is a timer in the bottom corner that will inform you how much time you have for the current bet.

Roulette Live Casino also utilizes the same Avatar system as their other games, and you can make some fun custom combinations as well as opt to buying a “Hero” with Diamonds.  Chips are earned through regular play.  In-app Purchases are available for both currencies.

Roulette Live Casino is a nice roulette game for your iOS devices and if you are interested in learning the ropes of roulette.

App Store Badge