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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yet More Game Reviews from 2010

Image representing Skies of Glory as depicted ...Image via CrunchBase
Skies of Glory

A cousin to Winds of Steel, SoG is also a flight sim for Android that lets you pilot a WW2 plane in the skies in a fictional conflict. Its graphics are arguable better than Winds of Steel. Think of it as the European theater (US and UK vs. Germany) counterpart to the Winds of Steel (which primarily deals with the Pacific theater, i.e. US vs. Japan)

The graphics are quite good. The ground is phenomenal as you CAN literally fly between the hills if you wish. You can engage temporary "boost" for a short burst of airspeed, but otherwise the planes follows slightly simplified laws of physics... You can stall the plane if you pitch up too much. Unfortunately, no artificial horizon is available so you can't really tell your "attitude" (and I don't mean mood). 

Controls are quite responsive, as you need to use the accelerameter to control the plane. There are also "pedals" on screen for yaws (rudder turns). 

You can choose from multiple viewpoints... 3rd person, cockpit, and other camera views are available. However, some of the buttons are positively tiny. 

The enemies are an additional problem. The brackets / crosshair are positively TINY, and have horrible contrast against the ground and sky. The air targets have a yellow bracket, which is virtually invisible against the blue sky. The ground targets' orange brackets are almost invisible against the brown earth. 

Furthermore, the plane's twitchiness makes aiming your cannons quite difficult. The gun doesn't aim itself... you have to manually adjust the plane to shoot, and your machine guns and cannons can "overheat", thus stopping you from just holding the trigger down to hope for a lucky hit. 

There is no "bombs" so ground attack is gun only, and since your targets are so tiny (and there's no airbrakes that I can see) shooting stuff on the ground is VERY difficult. Lining up requires almost a miracle. 

The game has two modes in the demo: dogfight (quick battle), and campaign, where you are asked to perform multiple missions (fly here, fly there, shoot enemies...)  The paid version promises WiFi multiplayer battles. 

All in all, Skies of Glory is a great little game, but it seems to have shrunk a bit TOO small to be really playable on Android. 

8 out of 10

Star Traders

Star Traders was inspired by "Space Traders", a Palm OS game (which was in turn inspired by Elite, a very old and classic space game). Basically, you play a space captain with a ship trying to make your riches in space fighting, trading, smuggling, bounty-hunting, pirating, and so on, performing missions for the various factions and great houses. It seems to drew a lot of inspiration from Dune (great houses and spice). 

The basic premise is simple, but the actual execution is quite complex. You have various attributes as a captain, which can be enhanced by various equipment (cost $$$). You earn money by performing contracts (missions) and/or trading/pirating/bounty-hunting, while trying not to lose money / ship / life. 

Graphics are not bad, but the play mechanics are a bit weird. The space travel portion requires you to tap the arrow next to the ship to move to another sector. That is somewhat tedious as little happens in space. 

On the other hand, the game is quite complex. Rumors spread in "spice halls" (i.e. bars) 

It can be thought of as "Pirates!" in space. 

Worth a try, but the pacing can be a bit slow for some. 

Angry Birds Seasons

Is there any reason to actually "explain" Angry Birds, the game everybody's playing? Angry Birds Seasons is basically a special version of Angry Birds for the 25 days leading up to Christmas, plus a set of levels for Halloween that was previously unreleased. 

Game mechanics is exactly the same: you slingshot various birds against the "castle" the pigs built. 

Astral Commander

An interesting RTS variant, this game basically have you control little "collectors" so they can run over randomly appearing "ores", and shoot at enemies if they appear. Sounds easy, but can be complicated when more than a few collectors appear on screen. 

You are rated for efficiency, as every loss of a collector (due to collision or enemy action) has a penalty on your score, while efficient operation (collecting multiple ore deposits in a single pass) is rewarded as "combos". 

If hostile aliens does appear, your collectors will open fire once you designate the alien as a target (by clicking on the alien). Different aliens will do different things. The flying saucer will shoot sort of a death ray if you stay in its shadow, while others simply act as "roadblocks" (so don't hit it!)

With two types of collectors (different capacity of ore and different speeds), random location for the ores, and random entry of new collectors, and of course, random enemies, the game can get quite interesting. 

There seem to be about 25 levels available in the full version along with a "survival" mode. Your score determines your level of success for each mission: gold, silver, or bronze? To score gold, you need to be very efficient: every collector must exit the level "full", scored combos, and have no losses. 

The game in actual play is like a frenzy of drawing one path after another, changing paths, avoiding collisions, and when enemy appear, mad clicking, esp. when more than a few units arrive on screen. 

All in all the game seems to be a fun little "RTS" utilizing the touch interface pretty efficiently as you struggle to keep the collectors from hitting each other, collect the ores, and in general keep them safe. Give it a try. The levels you got with the lite version should keep you busy for a while and let you decide whether it's worth keeping or not. 
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