Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Some More Game Reviews from 2010

Gish (video game)Image via Wikipedia

Steambirds Demo 

Steambirds is a turn-based 2D air combat game where two sides plot their moves against each other trying to outmaneuver each other and kill each other using the guns and special abilities in their arsenal. It sounds boring, but it isn't, because the play mechanics is very simple to describe, but the tactics you can employ is quite varied. 

Basically, you draw this little arrow from your plane. The max reach of the arrow means that's as far as your plane can go for that turn. You an move the arrow to either side instead of straight ahead, and that will initiate a turn. You can also fly slower than max speed (may help you turn faster) by NOT moving the arrow to max available. Finally, each plane has 2 special abilities that can be used either every other turn or very third turn  (only one at a time). It is the combination makes it infinitely variable. 

The AI opponent is not that smart but when they come in a crowd it can be quite nasty, esp. if you want that 4-star (every plane unscratched) rating for all missions. 

The paid version just gotten an update to include hotseat (actually, pass-the-phone) multiplayer, so you can challenge your friend to a dogfight. 

Try the demo. It may be simple, but this game is fun. It's so much fun, I bought the full version.

Pros: very simple play mechanics, nice little graphical touches
Cons: missions are a bit limited, AI is a bit too simple-minded
Rating: 8 out of 10
Verdict: A fun little game that challenge your brain, not your fingers



Mad Maks (lite)

Mad Maks is basically "artillery" (or Scorched Earth and such) turned into a 3D real-time action game. I am not sure what to think about it. 

On one hand, I like the idea of someone taking chances with novel twist on an old idea. The artillery games have always been turn based and relies on accurate physics (trajectory, wind), special ammo (missile, bomb), strange terrain (randomly generated), and so on. Turning it into 3D action game is a bit interesting. On the other hand, I don't think this game mechanism works that well. 

You control this "Mak", which are like animated cartoony tank. You have 3 sets of controls, the control pad (up/down/left/right) to the left, a "side-strafe" left/right in the middle, and a big fire button to the right, along the bottom of the screen. You usuall get some sort of a briefing from this "senior tank" to go ahead and clean out some enemies, so you "drive" over there, and you start shooting at the enemies, who will shoot back or just try to ram you. 

How you shoot is simple: hold down the fire button, release to fire. The longer you hold, the further you will shoot. However, there is no "impact predictor" or aiming reticule, so you'll have to guesstimate the impact point. You are rewarded for direct hits as far from you as possible, but without reticule to aim at, it is just all based on chance. 

In practice, the gun never reaches far enough to make a good hit, and if you need to take a second shot your score is much lower. Yet the enemy circles, making it nearly impossible to time a good hit. 

Then when you have a tank to tank fight, it's even worse. Real tanks have turrets... these are like tank destroyers... only shoot straight ahead. Aiming is difficult, ranging is difficult, yet you are rewarded for first-shot kills. And "side-strafe" can only be used occasionally (to dodge shots)... In a tank?!?! 

Sorry, but this game mechanic just doesn't work for me. And the install size is quite large at 13 megs for a "demo". 

Pros: cute presentation, decent 3D graphics
Cons: impossible game mechanics
Rating: 6 out of 10
Verdict: real-time artillery game doesn't work when you don't have enough range to shoot!



Gish Reloaded

Gish was an adaptation / new chapter in the Gish series, which is a different sort of platformers. Gish is a huge living "tarball" and has the ability to transform his "skin" surface to different forms, like sticky to go up walls and ceilings, normal to "flow" into narrow spaces, and so on. 

The story is as whimsical as ever... the little Gishes (Daddy! Daddy!) have been kidnapped and Gish was summoned to see their mother by heading through a bunch of different levels filled with doors, switches, walls, and more. 

The game is free to download and play. Give it a try. 

Pros: cute story, interesting special abilities
Cons: platform puzzles are not that interesting
Rating: 7 out of 10
Verdict: alternate platformer may be appealing to some



Armored Defense Lite

Another variant of tower defense, this game gives you control over a valley with multiple paths that the enemy must come through, and you must defend with various types of turrets, like anti-tank, laser, missile, etc. Each can be upgraded to provide more firepower, improve range, and so on. 

What's special about this version is the map is actually quite a bit larger than your screen shots. You can "zoom out" and find the map is like 3 times longer than your screen. Use the zoom button to zoom out and click on any part to zoom back in. 

As in all tower defense, killing enemies is what makes you money, so you can buy more turrets and/or upgrades, and this game is no different. Other than the map trick, there really isn't anything new in this variant that is worth noting. 

Pros: decent graphics for a tower defense game, larger map
Cons: nothing really special about the rest of the game
Rating: 7 out of 10
Verdict: *yawn* another tower defense game... 


Can Knockdown

10 MB!? just for a game that knocks down cans? You have 5 balls, use the "flick' gesture and knock down as many cans as you can. It's free, and no ads, which is good. But 10 MB?!?!?


Astral Commander Lite

RTS, sort of a management. You have various "gatherers" on screen trying to mine the asteroid. Draw paths so they don't collide and still get the ore. On tougher levels, aliens will appear, then you have to shoot them, and they may be after your gatherers. Avoid getting your gatherers killed, and gather the maximum amount of ore in minimum amount of time. Sounds simple, but gets very complicated with multiple gatherers on screen. 


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