Sunday, 28 April 2013

Rogue's Tale Review

Rogue's Tale by is a brutal, addictive and highly punishing rogue-like game. When I say brutal I really mean it. However, it is brutal in a nurturing kind of way. It shows you what to do then throws hordes of monsters at you ask as "Why did you just die, you fool?". I'm not alway sure whether Rogue's Tale thinks I can win against the odds by doing something different, or just enjoys watching me die after moving two spaces and die to what at first seems like a fairly harmless rat. Despite being cruelly treated and dying more than 100 times, why am I compelled to keep trying?

The main reason is that against all the odds I really want to win. Maybe this is just my own stubborn streak, but I really think that the game hold a great deal of content just waiting to be unlocked. If I have to go through several hundred lives, by gosh I am going to see that content.

Initially in Rogue's Tale you choose your starting stats in: strength, agility, stamina and charisma is going to be. These stats can then be upgrade when your character levels up. On top of this, every 3 levels your character gains it learns a trait by using specific objects in the game. These objects range from magic stones (which allows you to advance magically), to a campfire (that makes you more like a warrior). However, choose wisely as you cannot change this decision and can only have a certain number of traits. Once you unlock traits in a specific category such as literacy, you unlock an achievement that allows further characters to "inherit" this ability. This means that even if your hero dies you can (if you managed to progress far enough), retain some of what you battled your way through hordes of deadly enemies to gain. Rogue's Tale interesting way of linking your previous heroes to your current hero is a novel and interesting idea. The only hardship being that it is difficult to progress far enough to gain these benefits. Although, once you do it makes progression easier and enhances the chance you will live long enough to unlock further "heritage" skills.

Rogue's Tale is technically turn based with each decision, movement and attack taking a turn. Your total number of turns and a range of other statistics are provided upon your death, alongside your overall score and a short sentence that basically tells you how good/rubbish you did. When attacking and performing other interactions the game rolls two virtual six sided dice. Everything decision within Rogue's Tale is decided on the roll of a dice. This retro system works great but does mean that early and low levels monster can kill you easily because they were lucky enough to roll a six.

There are so many different types of weapons, skills and abilities in Rogue's Tale that you can play your character however you wish. Although, I have found that I need a shield. Most of my early deaths have been the result of being poorly equipped. This can leave you at the whimsy of a game that may not want to give you any armour at all. In this case you are either very lucky and find enough gold to purchase something from the shop or a merchant, or you die to one thing or another.

The main shop in the game stocks a vast range of items that steadily increase in price and power. You can also enchant, remove curses and identify items in order increase the benefits from equipping them. The main shop is directly up the stairs in which you start the game on. This can mean unless you find a merchant several floors down, you can end up having to run all the way back to make room for new items. However, it can make the whole game feel more like an adventure since dungeons don't, or shouldn't, have conveniently placed shops. On the flip side of this it can be very annoying having to run all the way back. However, I have rarely survived long enough for this to be an issue. Yet I keep playing. Curious, no?

Despite Rogue's Tale and it's rabid difficulty, it is highly addictive and has a "Oh, just one more character" feel that many games lack. This combines well with the heritage of certain traits making further character more powerful and more likely to live longer. A great blend of exploration, item collection and character development makes Rogue's Tale nothing short of brilliant. I must admit that the difficulty will turn off many people. Many people will struggle to progress and will feel it has nothing to offer since the game is so unforgiving. However, the game won't let them actually reach a point where they can see what the game offers, but it has a lot to offer the right person.

Score: 80/100

General Information

Game Name - Rogue's Tale
Developer -
Genre - Action, Adventure, RPG, Rogue-like
Bundle - Indie Bundle - The Hellish Dungeons Bundle

Castle Dracula Review

Castle Dracula by Gondefire Productions Inc is a point and click horror game where our hero, Luke, is off to save his wife, Grace, and unborn child from Dracula in his castle. Hence the name. Along the way he will face many trails and enemies that will try to stop him. Where as many point and click games punish you getting something wrong with "I can use that here" or "Please try again", Castle Dracula just kills you. Turned left instead of right? Well now, your dead. Chose the wrong lever? You guessed it, you're dead. It is pretty brutal. The game does steadily teach you through the trail and error, be careful or I will kill you a lot.

A pretty basic set up of husband tries to rescue wife with a rather simple if unusual interface. In Castle Dracula you switch between 3 clicking modes: move, use item or interact with and pick up. This can mean a lot of clicking on and off different modes. It can be rather tedious. When you combine this with a bug that makes items you are trying drag for an interaction stop mid-screen, then you have a game that can be a chore to play through.

The overall game is fairly short and it is likely only to stump people who just haven't seen where an item is to pick up. You can only hold 5 items at once but that isn't a problem because you never need to have any more than that. The puzzles are fairly obvious and straight forward, use the item you just found on the boss/room you just found to progress. Even the boss fights are nothing all that exciting. Merely drag an item onto them and they will die. A bit disappointing.

Castle Dracula looks gorgeous. The artwork of all the characters heroes and villains is brilliant and its sullen and tense soundtrack will make you feel like something is about to jump out on you. The voice acting on the whole is good even if there are a few cheesey lines. The game does a really good job of making you feel like you are part of a gothic epic through it's visuals and audio.

Unfortunately for Castle Dracula it has a pretty poor story, puzzles and overall game interaction. It's great looks and sounds do compensate a bit but not enough. The initial build up is lost when you defeat various monsters rather easily and even if you do die an awful lot, all the game does is restart you back on the screen you left. There aren't any consequences for dying aside from making you wait to be alive again.

If Castle Dracula didn't have such an awkward interface that wasn't so bugged, then it would have made the game much more enjoyable. The potential for a sequel could see all of this rectified. But, for the moment Castle Dracula is a fairly mediocre horror point and click game that does however, look and sound brilliant.

Score: 65/100

General Information

Game Name - Castle Dracula
Developer - Gondefire
Genre - Point and Click, Horror
Bundle - Indie Bundle - Point and Click DARK Bundle

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Monsters! Review

Monsters! by QuadraTronGames is a twin stick shooter with a twist, the more you shoot the more you are killing yourself. Unusual concept for a genre that has built a reputation for shooting everything like crazy. For those of you that don't know what a twin stick shooter is, it is a top down shooter where you move with either the left analogue stick or WASD and shoot in different directions thanks to the right stick or up, down, left and right arrows. Basically you just run around a shoot everything till the level is emptied of enemies and move onto the next level. Monsters! is a good example of this.

Through having out ammo and health being the same thing, Monsters! makes you consider your strategy for defeating a level. Where is gams gone by I would just whizz across the screen shooting everything in range, in Monsters! I carefully place shots and dash to regain health/ammo. Crashing into enemies or being hit by one of their projectiles means a loss of health/ammo. Care must be taken but not taking down enough enemies can easily lead to being overwhelmed.

When you kill an enemy it drops a coloured heart. Each one gives our magician (he looks like a magician anyway) a different power. There are six different types of hearts and six (including basic attack) powers to use. These range from a homing attack to rapid fire to a triple fire ability. Each one has its bonuses and draw back. Take the rapid fire for example, great for designating loads of enemies really fast but it uses up a lot,of your health/ammo making it a double edged sword. Collecting a new power up will overwrite the previous one, this includes picking up basic heart so you go back to your standard attack. This adds another layer of strategy worth considering, how do you balance collecting health/ammo with using the various powers available to you?

Each level consists of various waves of enemies and once they are all defeated you continue to the next and more difficult level. The next enemy wave flashes on screen where they are going to appear and they will often appear before you have really begun to clear the previous wave. This can lead to the screen feeling very cramped and you facing overwhelming odds. As you complete each level the enemies change, growing more powerful through the use of projectiles and greater numbers. The difficulty really does stack up but it leaves you wanting to try again once you die.

Monsters! has some great pixel graphics and the various enemies definitely look like monsters. Are you progress through the game the enemies change and grown more insidious looking. This combine with a stellar soundtrack results in a game that feels engaging and will kick you in the face if you go a bit too trigger happy.

Monsters! Is now fully released and was still in development when put in the Alpha Fundle Bundle by Indie Bundle. This review is for the full game and while it is a great game there are a few things I would have liked to have seen in the full release. Firstly, multiplayer. A game like Monsters! with its tense monster dodging and ammo conservation could have done brilliantly with some kind of Co-Op. Being able to shoot my way through wave after wave and level after level of baddies with a buddy would really increase the playtime and overall enjoyment of the game. Maybe something to consider in the future. Secondly, I'm not a really wanting a huge epic but a bit of context and back story about who I'm playing as and why I'm mashing my way through legions of nasties would be nice. Finally, I could not get my wired controller to work without mapping it with 3rd party software. I hardly ever actually use my wired controller for games but in occasion I do and Monsters! seemed like a good game for me to give it a go on. Apart from these fairly minor points Monsters! is a great game and addition to a genre that was in need of spicing up and Monsters! certainly provides that.

With its sick difficulty, more tactics than some strategy games and an endless horde to fight through, Monsters! is sure to keep you busy trying to beat that high score for a long time.

Score - 85/100

General Information

Game Name - Monster!
Developer - QuadraTronGames
Genre - Twin Stick Shooter
Bundle - Indie Bundle - Alpha Fundle Bundle

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Cognition Episode 1 The Hangman Review

Cognition Episode 1 The Hangman is a point and click mystery thriller by Phoenix Online Studios. As in classic point and click style you interact with objects and solve puzzles to continue the storyline. In Cognition you play as Erica Reed an FBI agent who has the knack for seeing the past and working out how s crime unfolded. You can activate Erica's 'intuition' with the push of a button and it lets you interact with objects in a different way and find new clues for the case. With a great fully voiced cast of characters, and intriguing plot, atmospheric music and some darn good graphics and artwork my 'intuition' tells me that this might be a game series to keep an eye on.

The story begins with Erica trying to save her brother from a fiendish serial killer that targets twins. This introduces us to Erica's cognition ability and how to use items. Towards the end of this sequence (I won't give anything away just play it) you have larger puzzle to work out. This introduction, it must be said, is fantastic. It has great pacing, voice acting and the puzzles are logical and fun to work out.

Once we have finished the introduction, the games jumps ahead a few years to another murder case for our heroin. Erica struggles to control here special 'Cognitive' powers but you still end up using them throughout the game. This does, however, add an emotional backdrop and while she is a badass, it makes her feel more human. Erica is a great character, the only issue is that some of her supporting cast can be wafer thin. However, on the whole the character list has some interesting and likeable people, but some are just...well annoyingly boring. This first episode is though here to introduce the characters, the world and all of Erica's abilities.

While being a well animated and drawn cast. I have to flag up again that the supporting characters are so generic. The lab guys is a massive techie, the receptionist basically just eye candy and her partner REALLY likes donuts. Overall I feel that the cast of characters could have been made to feel more alive and less stereotypical. Take for example Erica's well built character with an interesting backstory and she actually feels alive and brilliantly flawed rather than some of her supporting friends. Cognition is at its best when don't have to interact with this thinly spread cast but are doing some great deceive work instead and Erica really has all the tools she needs when it comes to solving crimes.

While Erica's powers are frequently used they do not take anything away from the puzzles or flow of the story by 'giving you the answers'. Her powers, are in fact, a great way that Cognition sets itself aside from other detective adventure games and the game is better for them.

There is a great hint system through the method of text messaging. This works really well and keeps the hints within the world rather than some all knowing force giving you hints out of nowhere. It is instead through Erica's mobile. Far more plausible. I would be surprised if you needed to use the hints very much though. Even people who haven't played many point and click adventure games should have no trouble picking up Cognition and playing it through without getting stumped. That isn't to say it is too easy, but instead nicely accessible.

Cognition has lots of puzzles, big and small. For the most part they make sense and fit into the flow of the story and game, but at times that can feel a tad superfluous. It can feel a bit like you are just doing a puzzle so the game can try and make you feel involved or simply because it feels like throwing another puzzle at you. As I said before these are not difficult puzzles I just question how relevant they are sometimes.

I can only say good things about the soundtrack to Cognition. It really outstanding and really helps the game to shine. Atmosphere created by the music enhances all the dark and tense moments and it really helps to build suspense through the game. Top notch soundtrack.

There aren't many bugs in the game that I found, but one major one that kept happening was that it kept freezing. This might be mid puzzle or conversation and was very annoying especially if I hadn't saved in a while. It was a quite game breaking (literally) but only seemed to happen in the first few hours of the game.

Overall Cognition Episode 1 The Hangman is a great start to the series and leaves us on a fantastic cliff hanger that should leave everyone unable to wait to play Episode 2. While does have its moments where I wonder about some choices, mainly the supporting characters, it mo than makes up for it with a great main character and an intriguing plot and masterful soundtrack.

Score - 80/100

General Information

Game Name - Cognition Episode 1 The Hangman
Developer - Phoenix Online Studios
Genre - Point and Click, Adventure
Release date - 17 Jan 2013
Bundle - Indie Bundle - Point and Click Dak Bundle

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

I Get This Call Every Day Review

I Get This Call Every Day (from now on known as IGTCED) lets you point ad click your way through the job of a customer service call centre employee. IGTCED has you answering a call and choosing how it is owing to be handled. This ranges from politeness to the annoyance as you deal with an irritating caller. As the games says itself you can either lose politely or spectacularly. That statement is no truer than in IGTCED. The odds really are stacked against our poor office work as he tries to help the caller and keep his job at the same time.

IGTCED can be easily played in one sitting and it can be a short sitting depending upon your responses to the caller. However, even if you try to satisfy the caller you can still end up getting fired for one reason or another. I have only made it through to the end without getting fired once and that was a mission in itself.

Call centres must get a real range of people phoning up but I would hate to deal with people like the caller in IGTCED. Especially if I had management that was liable to fire me over the smallest detail. However, I must admit I agree with the decision to for myself sometimes. If I was the boss I would fire somebody who was rude to callers. I do get what our lovely developer David S Gallant is getting at and the game really convey the hopeless soul destroying nature a job like that can be. Then again it led to the creation of this quirky little game to maybe not all bad.

IGTCED is quite addictive. Even though a single play through can last a few minutes it makes you want to try again and try different answers. The music really adds to the experience and the soundtrack really adds to the ambience of the game. However, when it comes down to it I don't feel very good by play it. It's a bit depressing and maybe that is intentional. It the music really reflects the tone of the game in that sense.

The graphics are as basic as they get and yet they work. You don't need HD 3D graphics when you have some great voice acting (in some cases, don't get me wrong there). The graphics themselves reflect once again the overall tone in the game which to be franks is 'depression'. I Get This Call Every Day is an interesting game but not one to be played when trying to cheer yourself up. It is, however, an usual and unique experience but it is just too damn gloomy for me.

Score - 70/100

General Information

Game Name - I Get This Call Every Day
Developer - David S Gallant
Genre -Point and Click
Release date - 28 Dec 2012
Bundle - Bundle In A Box