Crazy Critter Dash, Frantic Running Fun!

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I am not a fan of mobile games, facebook games or in-app purchases.  I hate it when games make you pay money to progress or make you pay out the nose for inconsequential items that alter the look of the game.  Red Tentacle Studio’s Crazy Critter Dash, however, is reasonable and fun if a little frustrating.  I would recommend playing this game on a smaller mobile device, since iPads and tablets can pose some issues.

When you start up this game, you’ll see a little chubby hamster hanging out in his cage.  He looks a little bored and should probably be running on a wheel to keep in shape.  At the very least he should have a damn pull up bar; he is going to need every last ounce of pellet-powered hamster muscle to get him through this ordeal!  I mean look at him.  His cage doesn’t have paper in it, so he probably wallows in his own sewage, there is no wheel, so he must be bored.  Just look at that face.  Unexpressive, chewing on some object (there is no food dispenser, just a water bottle) and casting a disinterest look around his cage.  He even seems to roll his head in boredom since he realizes he’s been forgotten.  The reason these critters are crazy is likely due to hours of neglect by children who are off playing videogames.  Possibly ones about hamsters.  This little guy needs to escape.  Somehow, probably by throwing his corpulent form against the bars of his cage, he manages to slip his bonds and make haste for egress!  Onward Captain Snugglepants!  To glory!

Hit the dash button and it’s on.  Your hamster is just auto-running his chubby little ass off to the tune of something like the Benny Hill music.  It’s a great time… if you can figure out what is going on.  At the moment the game lacks a basic method of conveying the instructions, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.  My wife tried this game a couple times and gave up because the controls were too difficult for her to figure them out, but I stuck with the game for about 10 minutes and got the game down to where I was tearing it up.  Your hamster is constantly running, so this game requires some good reaction time.  Rock your device left and right and the hamster will veer left and right while running.  Swipe up and your hamster does a chubby hop that gets him belly-scrapingly over low obstacles.  To get under obstacles, like the fucking jack-in-the-box, you need only swipe down and your hamster reaches into his repertoir of action film moves he learned in hamster stunt-school, pulling a sideways slide under the oncoming obstacle.  See a turn coming up?  Before you hit the turn slide your finger left or right, depending on the desired direction, and the hamster turns.

Honestly, the controls are pretty simple, but without instructions you’ll find yourself back in the cage frequently.  Throughout the game you will have a number of other obstacles that you will have to overcome, as well.  If you hit something, you will probably roll it off.  Granted, plow into a fucking toy truck and you’ll be on your ass.  But blocks and marbles you can roll over once.  Do this and you tyrannical overlord, some fucking kid, starts following you, trying to grab you.  Eat enough critter food, though, and you will out run the hand.

Space-age critter, ready for take-off!

Space-age critter, ready for take-off!

Dodging through glue traps and under lego barricades, you come to realize something terrifying.  I think your owner is the toy psycho from Toy Story.  It makes sense when you come up to the spartan torture devices that he made out of a fucking erector set.  This kid is a lunatic and only bothers to pay attention to you when you escape, since he doesn’t want to have to clean up after you, but he’s happy to let you wallow in it.  I want the  rogue-like companion game to this one where you escape and sneak around the walls of the house leaving turds in this kid’s lunchables.

Should you meet the challenge, though, you will find yourself exploring a variety of treacherous boards to race along.  My favorite transition so far is the hamster-tube transition.  Get far enough on the first board and your hamster will have the opportunity to utilize another piece of his hamster stunt-school learning: the slow-motion sky-dive.  He pulls this shit without a parachute, too!  In case you missed that though, let me recap.  You find a tube, intentionally set by a larger being, which leads you out a fucking window!  You then freefall onto a pile of leaves below.  This kid is now a fucking lunatic.  Granted, you get to collect some food pellets mid-air, but that just means he tossed some food out the window after you in a moment of after-thought.  Real nice.  To get at those falling bits of food, you have to rock your screen similar to running.  This is where I really think having a smaller mobile device helps.  If you have a tablet then you feel like you are rotating this bulky, square steering wheel.  I always feel the urge to lean forward and look down at the little guy as he falls.  Helps the immersion.  Turn on a fan under your device to really get the full effect of being a tiny critter falling through the clear sky toward uncertain doom.

I would like to rebrand this game "furry action star escape"

From the specifically mowed path, I get the idea that the parents are complicit in the reign of the lunatic kid.

Being a free modern mobile game, there are some in-app purchases, and unlike other games that inspire baby-shaking murders, this one makes them optional.  On top of that, they are also reasonable.  Give them 0.99$ and you get 50,000 critter food.  To give you an idea, that will allow you to unlock the other two critters (a rat and a bunny) and have 20,000 critter food to spend on dress up, like a sombrero and bandolier or a space-exploration suit.  Also, BUNNY!  Now, you can also get the bunny and the rat without spending a dime, but if you have a “good run” like mine, you will get stuck in the yard and amass about 800 pellets max every time.  Not too bad, all told.  There is also a wide variety of costume sets that you can put on your critters to make them cute while they run.  They’re not cheap, but again, you can get what you need just by playing the game.  If you enjoy it as much as I did, you’ll end up getting a few thousand per play-session.

Getting pellets also allows you the opportunity to increase the effect of in-game pick ups.  There are four different pick ups: slow, fast, shield and vacuum.  The slow upgrade makes it really easy to navigate the obstacles in the game.  Speed allows you to blow past everything at a high rate of speed, even allowing you to avoid traps without having to jump or slide.  The shield upgrade puts you in a little hamster ball.  This is really funny will give you an extra layer of protection against running into things.  Grab a vacuum pick-up and you will suck in all the pellets in sight.  Upgrading these makes them last longer, allowing you to get more of a benefit.  There is also a continue upgrade.  Want to avoid going back to the cage?  You can grab critter treats to get back on your feet, but if you don’t have enough treats, you won’t be able to continue.  Upgrade the continue to be able to continue dashing on with fewer treats with a minimum of 1.  There is also a meter upgrade, which makes food fill your power meter faster.  I am not sure what the meter does, but it has a shield on it, so I imagine it allows you to plow through obstacles without dodging, as long as it is full.  If you can’t seem to get treats, you can buy them. 0.99$ will get you 25 with 4.99$ getting you the maximum of 200.  Again, not a bad deal.  You can even watch some videos or like them on facebook or follow on twitter for more treats and pellets.  If all that isn’t enough for you, check out the leaderboards to find out how many people suck worse than you do.

Here I come to save the day!

Here I come to save the day!

Crazy Critter Dash is one of the better quality mobile games that I have seen out there.  It has a few tough spots, but if you can get past some basic issues, then you’ll really have fun with this game.  Hell, if you want to support the developers, throw a little money in and have a little extra fun!  It is a free fucking game, after all!  And you have options if you are stingy.

The thing that pisses me of the most about this title should be pretty fucking obvious by now.  That kid makes me want to break my fucking foot off in his ass!  Seriously!  Who lets their hamster run out a window?  This kid must be as fat and stupid as his pets if he really is just letting them expire in their little cages.  I hope his father comes home and gives him a few cracks with his belt!  Ain’t nothing wrong with a little discipline if he is keeping his child from becoming a sociopathic lunatic that tortures animals for fun.

Warlock: Master of the Arcane, Strategy Wiz

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I’m not sure if I ever said it, but I love strategy games.  Warlock: Master of the Arcane is a game that sticks out in my mind as a perfect example of the genre.  It takes after my all-time favorite strategy series, Civilization, and really gives fantasy gaming some serious respectability, rather than just another action-thrill ride through a well-known and profoundly over played fantasy series.  Lord of Magical Fashion Accessories aside, Warlock is a semi-serious game from a franchise known to do everything but act all self-important and serious.  This title in the Ardania franchise reminds you that, while you might be micro-managing the economics of an empire while keeping the ravenous hordes of enemies, ghouls and humans at bay, it’s ok to giggle a bit.

So part of the reason for posting this is I played this game a whole lot over the spring and finally realized the sequel came out.  Another title that suffers from lack of respect, this title received a 71 from Steam’s game critic system, the meta-critic.  I am at the point where I will tell you not to trust the meta-critic with this one.  Warlock is far above a number of other worse strategic titles.  So, Ardania is a realm comparable to that of Heroes of Might and Magic, considering how often the denizens are killing each other, but it is much more comedic.  MnM’s “anti-hero focused, villainy rises to power” game was a story about a demonically possessed man that convinces all his friends he is actually a good guy before killing their daughters and summoning his father, a demonic deity, to eat their souls: a demon-Jesus, hence it is called Dark Messiah: Might and Magic.  Ardania’s version of this was Impire: you are a the dark lord, evil mastermind of horribleness.  Trouble is, you were summoned by a schmuck, so you are a tiny imp.

To start Warlock, you get to configure the vast map on which you’ll play.  I am an obsessive lover of turn-based strategy games, so I always set the size up really high.  There are also the usual parameters to configure (number of foes, win conditions, difficulty) but the most interesting adjustable value is the number of alternate worlds.  Aside from the main map that you can play on, there will be a number of alternate worlds parallel to the primary one.  Now, as far as I’ve gotten (I’ve built a sprawling empire of monsters) I have yet to encounter the portals for this mechanic.  I know that I am worried about it, though.  Good chance that, knowing my luck, the first one I find will be the link to the dimension of darkness and evil shadows will pour out to consume our souls.

it's like a pretty steampunk butterfly of world-generating glee!

It’s like a big steampunk butterfly of world-generating glee!

Once you have you world set up, you pick you ruler and jump in!  One of the more disappointing elements of the game is that it has 3 playable races (4 with the DLC): humans, monsters, undead and Arethi elves.  Arethi elves are basically just emo elves.  Now the humans get the most gold production, monsters  have the best food production, while elves are good at all three (but not comparably so) and they have the best research.  I favored the monsters for two reasons, first being I like to eat and eating makes my army bigger.  I can always steal money from enemies.  My favorite element of the monsters is that they have the most variety to their army.  You start off getting ratmen and goblins and, for my character, you move into lizard people, the Koatl.  I can also get a giant fucking turtle as an ultimate unit!  It’s great!

The way city-building is almost exactly like Civilization.  You have a central city that grows in population and thereby grows in power.  Your capital will come to have a full-on bitchin’ castle at some point, which fires at nearby enemies.  You’ll construct buildings on the nearby land and assimilate resources necessary to fantasy empire-building: food, gold, mana and research.  Now, where this game differs is that research is not used for technology, but for magical spells.  Each spell has a supportive, offensive or strategic use of some kind.  Things like lightning strikes and fireballs are obvious, but things like water-walking and terrain-alteration is just interesting and useful, especially when turning farmlands into wasteland.  The final spell is the Unity spell.  Similar to the spell that hippies attempted o cast in th 1960s, the Unity spell makes everyone sit down and sing cumbaya and smoke pipe-weed, that shit’s for sissies.  It is much more fun to kill everyone and take over their shit.  Of course, if you take over their cities, you will have to contend with the lack of farmlands you caused without an ounce of forethought.  Another thing that was irritating about this is handicapped production on all fronts when controlling the city of an enemy race.  This seems a bit harsh, but if I, a human, was forced to rub elbows with goblins and ratmen, I would be irate and difficult to rule, too.  I am ruled by humans and I am already irate on a regular basis!

Welcome to my seat of ultimate powaaaahhh!

Welcome to my seat of ultimate powaaaahhh!

Some of the problems posed to you as a ruler come down to building a city in the right place.  While in normal strategy games you can build mostly everywhere with minor economic modifiers that might come to be frustrating.  Build a farm on the roiling lava plains and your building will cost you 3 gold per turn AND you’ll have 20% reduction in whatever that building produces.  So, generally, don’t fucking do it.  Also, should you decide that a burning plain with rivers of lava is an acceptable risk for military advance, your units will have to contend with a movement penalty and a 50% defense penalty.  Not worth the fucking trouble, unless you run your shit like Pickett.

Further features of this game involve a modest plethora of special resources, like donkeys and pumpkins.  I really enjoy the things that can be done with these, too.  I have my koatl houses that I build in swamps, a shrine of the rotten pumpkin, order of the stubborn knights and other things.  Stubborn knights are powerful and ride donkeys.  They are eternally stubborn and hold grudges as high as universal mandate.  As you play, you will notice the hordes of wild animals.  These serve function of barbarians from the Civ series.  They are random marauding groups of enemies that serve as something to kill besides other players.  There are also some special enemies in the water, like krakens, which will murder the fuck out of your ships until they’ve seen some battles.  They guard treasure troves that are well worth the fight, including items for your Lords.  These lords can be hired and deployed to deal massive damage or healing.  Employ them right and you will slaughter enemies by the droves, employ them poorly and they will be the funniest most expensive character bios you’ve ever forged an empire to buy.

One of my favorite features of this game are the missions.  Throughout the game you will be randomly assigned missions to kill neutral foes, AI foes or build things.  You might also get a mission from the gods to build a shrine in their honor, which can only be built on special holy sites.  This gets you sway with the god in question and, in turn, their favor will grant you special features.  I am currently struggling through the demands of a needy deity that wants me to want him.  He demands that I build a shrine to him on a holy site.  It’s a little annoying and I really want to make that god happy so he’ll give me shit, same way religion works in real-life.  Not open to the idea of pissing of deities with phenomenal cosmic power.

The go kill bears mission.  The pivotal moment in every epic story line.

The go kill bears mission. The pivotal moment in every epic story line.

 

In my opinion, this game was given no quarter by the meta-critics.  It is a stupendous game with some flaws that don’t ruin the fun parts.  Not to mention it is reasonably priced.  You can get Warlock Ultimate edition on Steam for 24.99$, which includes all the DLC with the core game.  You can also get the fucking entire Majesty collection for 69.99$.  I am pretty sure I own 90% of these games and I still want to buy it.

As it is with all things, there is something in this that pisses me off unnecessarily.  Anywhere you haven’t explored there are clouds.  CLOUDS MAN!  I fucking feel like there is a roving bands of stoned hippies just over each horizon, and, like all hippies, they break down camp whenever anyone that might spoil their convention of hallucinogenic enjoyment. Fucking hippies!  I wish I could march my fucking army down their throats and murder all of them with the rage of monstrous fury! Then subsequenly enslave a remaining few so our society would have a fresh supply of dubious plant-life to smoke recreationally in the states of Washington and Colorado.

Double-Up Discussion: Hover This, Rhombi

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It took me a few tries of playing this before I realized it was a Flappy Bird clone, just not exclusive to the iOS.  Granted, there are a few amusing elements that make this worth a download.  Of course, the gameplay is as simple as tapping the screen repeatedly.  You can play it on a bus, in a doctor’s office lobby, hell, you might even play in traffic, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  Enough fucking morons on the road without you flapping your bird in the middle of it all!

When you start this game up, you will notice that it has similar artwork to flappy bird, but instead of navigating a run of vaguely Nintendo-esque green pipes, you flap through blocks.  I am pretty sure you are flapping a box, though…. Yea, further research has revealed it’s a fucking box.  I am not sure if this was the intent or laziness of the developers, but you can certainly buy a new sprite for the “flapper” you control.  Ah, so it is more than just an epic heroic story about the box that taught itself to fly.  Here I was going to nominate this game for some dadaist art award.  Aside from a new flap to tap, you can also buy new blockers ( the obstacles you flap to avoid ).  In the default game, these are tall rectangular pillars that I thought represented the equilateral oppressors seeking to stop box-flight as part of their traditional beliefs.  But flappy box would not be contained!  His dreams would be fulfilled and everyone would learn the beauty and freedom of the skies!  Ok, so it looks like this was done to inspire you to buy shit from these people.  On the bright side, you can get a squid that flaps through some kind of cream-puff piles.

after almost twenty minutes of this game, I was hoping the vile was actually full of cyanide

after almost twenty minutes of this game, I was hoping the vile was actually full of cyanide

Don’t want to pay some in-app purchase shenanigans?  Yea, me neither.  So collect the flappies.  Little fuckers are basically coins that you can use as an alternative to real money.  Granted, 2000 flappies translates to $4.99 apparently.  I’m not sure where the third-world country of Flappidia is, but that shit is way over inflated.  Whatever, send some goddamn republicans their way.  That ought to fucking devalue their fucking coin a bit!

As for free gameplay elements, your game looks like a sepia-toned screenshot of a similar flappy game rendered by a hipster via Instagram.  You can grab a ‘C’ coin and it will change the colors.  Just avoid the impending ‘8’ coin to keep from going back to hipster drab.  There is also a ‘V’ coin that lets you change to vector graphics and a shrink potion that reduces your size, cause sometimes wider isn’t better.  Then there is this random fucking power boost.  You hit this baby and all bets are fucking off.  Your little box goes kao ken x 100 and blasts through all the blockers.  heh heh, take that you fascist polylateral pricks!

Rhombi_app

The company behind this game, Mycaruba Studios, seems to have taken a name that is an anagram for Aycarumba! something that I thought Mexicans said all the time while eating tacos and wearing sombreros.  What?  I was a dumb kid that grew up watching culturally insensitive cartoons that literally cannot be fucking shown on t.v. anymore.  You know, Looney Toons.  Anyway, this game looks like it was made to torture anyone with tequila in their veins.  You are this little Rhomboid vessel with contrails streaming from your side-angles.

Somewhere in the ship is a gunner that is thoroughly bored with his life.  He refuses to aim or fire the weapons remotely fast, so, being the navigator and in control of the steering and thruster mechanisms, you are not going to go down without a fight.  Your job is to steer the ship around and hit the enemies with the immobile laser mechanism on the front.  Now, I designate this the front, because it points up at all times.  You steer the ship by touching the screen and dragging down, moving your finger left and right.  This is a little tough at first, but you get the hang of it.  Pull your finger down a ways, too, and you’ll have some, albeit frantically scant, time to react to enemies coming at you from behind.

Actually, I had a lot of fun with this game.  It gets me nostalgic for true retro games on my Commodore 64.  I say it is the enemy of tequila because that picnic blanket pattern changes colors, and when you get to higher speeds and start steering to dodge, it made me feel a little dizzy and nauseous sitting down.  Enemies are similar rhomboid shapes that will spin weirdly then dart after you.  Sometimes they’ll ride alongside you just to dip in toward you for the kill.  Zapping the little ones with your laser will blow them up, but the bigger ones take a couple hits.  Bastards.  I wish I had a screenshot to put up for this game, it actually is fun to play a little bit.  But what you see on the logo is pretty much it.  Just with more shapes and constant lasers.

The moral of this article is fuck in-app purchases.  I never understood them and while developers need to get paid, they don’t need to wring every last cent out of every player they can corral into tapping their shiny little icon on the Play Store or the App Store.  Fuck that stupid shit.  Both of these games are free to download on the Play Store.  Not sure about the App store, but probably.

Everyday Ghosts, Ambient Walkabout

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In the spirit of looking in on more interactive experiences, I was directed to this game by @DannyG1888.  Apparently over the past weekend, some Devs got together and decided to jam.  Everyday Ghosts is one of the 9 titles that came out of this one.  The event lasted the weekend between 35 indie developers working to create a little art for the interactive world.  You can download the full Ghost Wheel? Bundle here!  These games were also made in approximately 35 hours, so keep in mind they are not masterpieces of the art form, just worthy submissions with heart and sweat in them.

Everyday Ghosts was the brainchild of @DANNYG1888 and @IMPLODINGORACLE.  Your main character actually looks very similar to the avatar on Imploding Oracle’s twitter.  This was explained for me:

 

The character you play is someone I’ve been making little stories & adventures about for a long while.  I just think it’s neat to throw ’em into new scenarios.  There have been others and there will probably be more.

– Imploding Oracle, Everyday Ghosts

 

So the main character, a more trendy version of the lead singer from Gorrilaz (top right), is someone that we might expect to see again.  Who is the other character?  I thought it was a female, but according to the devs, the character is intentionally left androgynous

 

I really hadn’t assigned a gender properly to that character. I just made them pretty androgynous. Feel free to interpret that character however you feel.

– Imploding Oracle, Everyday Ghosts

 

The entire game is really more like a level from a larger title.  It is just a slow walk ( or a ninny-frolic if you mash the jump button ) through a haunted junkyard.  It makes a sort of sense that a junkyard would be haunted, since it is where items go to die.  Perhaps they could still cling to some element of those who owned it?  I believe an object can carry some element of an owner, and it doesn’t even need to be varnished with blood, like in the Red Violin.

When the game spools up you hear see only the title screen and then the roar of an engine.  Fading in slowly, the scene you are met with is that of your character at the entrance to a graveyard just after sunset, watching as his partner enters.  At first I thought this was a video, but I pushed a button and moved, so I went with it.

EG_start

a lovely ambiance

Personally, I think the androgynous partner looks like a female, so I will call them “she” for ease of typing.  So, following her into the graveyard you realized you can collect these floating spectral gears.  Upon obtaining them, you will start to see changes.  Around you a host of spirits begin to appear as you collect each one.  One of the baffling elements about this game is the dialogue.  Its tone rests somewhere between casual diffidence and outright aloofness.  Each spirit says something to somebody, but in the fashion common to spectres you will see them saying things to someone they think you are, rather than to you directly.  Each ghost, or group of ghosts, seems to focus on a snapshot in someone’s life.  Now, I highly fucking doubt all of these people died in a junkyard, unless it is the Bermuda junkyard, or something.  But face-melting physical anomalies aside, this interactive experience seems to hold a less sinister and more curious emotion.  Your character isn’t terrified, but rather perplexed by the ghostly visitors.  And just as they appear and deliver their quixotic dialogue, they recede suddenly into the ground.

so I sez to that guy, I sez, no you're a spectral image of your former self!

so I sez to the guy, I sez… No!  You’re a spectral image of your former self!

After wandering the junkyard a bit, you can leave.  Honestly, it is possible to leave at any time, but it is more interesting to walk around and chat with the locals a bit first.  Sometimes subtly lachrymose, other times bizarre and funny, these spirits definitely leave you scratching your head.  If you are wondering when the music discussion will come up, it won’t.  The only sound that accompanies you through your exploration of this junkyard is the howl of the wind, which deepens the deathly feel of the game.  This title is a free play and a good introduction to those who want to experience the more artistic side of games.  I wouldn’t really classify it as a game, since it really is just a short interactive experience that leaves you wondering who these two main characters are.  Personally, I hope to find the characters from  popping up again soon, like Waldo in a sea of faces.  There are a couple more game-like pieces that came out of this event as well.  Download Everyday Ghosts and 8 others from the Ghost Wheel? Game Jam!  Why wait?  It’s fucking free!

AntiHero, Sprinting Preview

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I have been playing a lot of platformers lately, so I got myself a Dualshock 4 controller in anticipation of one day being able to afford a PS4!  For now, I will settle for using one on my PC.  And today it really paid off.  Today I was able to burn through the Anti-Hero demo a couple times and get associated with this upcoming indie title.

Anti-Hero is a fast-paced puzzle platformer that takes you across the universe.  The main character is some sort of spaceman with interesting powers.  Now they aren’t terribly amazing, so don’t get all amped up for some crazy fucking ideas that will rend the universe itself, but the way the mechanics of the game are woven together provides a fun and challenging game that gets me excited to wear in my new gamepad.

First among the mechanics employed by Anti-Hero is the wall-run.  Apparently this space wanderer character is from a distant place where they still have ninjas, because he can run straight up a fucking wall.  As of right now there is even a tutorial that lets you practice wall running.  You run at a wall (moving forward while pressing L1 for me ) then press the jump button (X in my case) twice in order to start running up it.  Simple enough, but as high school does not offer extensive preparation for the real world, so, too, the tutorial is just child’s play compared to some of the wall-run challenges offered by the game even as early as the introductory level.  Now, don’t get it twisted: this mechanic has been woven into the game well.  It feels right, it isn’t terribly hard, but the game doesn’t hand you anything.  After speaking with Matt Lewis, an Artist and Animator on the project, I have a firmer idea on the thought going into the mechanic.

 

We do think about how the player is going to react to situations like wall-running.  People have said “it’s too punishing, I need check points.”  We respond, “The level takes 60 seconds to run through and you want a check point?”  That’s what I thought, wall running shouldn’t be an automatic thing; it should require timing and skill.  The idea was that we didn’t want sticky walls.  We want wall running to be a platform challenge, just like clearing a gap or timing platforms.

– Matt Lewis, Artist and Animator, Couch Fort Gamez

 

Paul DiDomenico, Lead Developer at Couch Fort, also had his own thoughts regarding difficulty of the gameplay:

 

There are too many follow missions these days.  Personally, I want kids to hate me like I hate whoever programmed Mega Man 7

– Paul DiDomenico, Lead Developer, Couch Fort Gamez

 

So the developers don’t want anything to be too easy, so the game feels satisfying with objectives and challenges that are fun and attainable.  But how attainable is wall running?  Well, I am glad I played it with the gamepad.  Despite my preference for my PC gaming input apparatus, the gamepad made the entire mechanic smooth and intuitive to get your hands around.  It is kind of like every other PC platformer in that it should have a warning label: DO NOT TRY THIS AT ASDF!  What is unique about this mechanic is the way it is presented in the demo.  There is a section of it where you have to wall jump up a mine shaft.  Everything about the mine is well-crafted, too.  You are running up a couple walls and jumping back and forth between them in time to catch the other side and keep running.  It takes some practice, but if you get it right, you can end up running up higher than your goal and coming back down to reach the objective.

Seriously, don't try this on any non-controller device

Just.. a little… further!

Another mechanic in the game that adds to the momentum of gameplay is the slide.  Pressing a certain key on the gamepad ( O for me ) triggers a slide, and when executed in certain locations you can slide even further.  Various obstacles throughout the level make you slide on your side for a good distance.  This results in a platformer with a speed and synergy that gets you moving fast and keeps you on your toes.  You want to maintain the momentum you feel with the main character, and it is definitely going to be a good title for speed-runners.

Through the game, you will also be tasked with some fairly simple puzzles.  These include throwing an object through a hovering hoop to unlock a door.  Throwing is accomplished with the left stick, and the character thrusts out his hand like a damn jedi.  You then control the object as it flies through the air.  Since this is a preview, you might have guessed the game is in early development.  The objects, for now, are blue cubes.  As you might expect, the game rapidly builds on the throwing mechanic by immediately having you take an object, throw it through a hoop and over an obstacle, while you slide underneath and catch it to continue the trajectory through to another hoop, which then opens a door.  If it touches the ground, the door doesn’t open.  It sounds like a bitch, but the way the game plays, it is very doable and very satisfying when you complete it.  I have replayed the demo 5 times just to be like, “hell, yea, just another space traveler doing some wicked slam dunks, comin’ through here.”  Using this ability also helps you kill your foes as early in the game you notice the blue cubes just chilling there.  You can take these babies and lob them at your foes, but many times I used them too hard and they landed in a bottomless pit.  Weaponizable objects are best used as “magic bullets” than dumb-fire missiles, swinging them through the air and guiding them closely.  Now, in a game driven toward momentum, this takes you out of the speed a bit, so the best way to just get through it is to watch your foes’ movements and run past them.

I knew my years of slip 'n' slide practice would come in handy some day!

I knew my years of slip ‘n’ slide practice would come in handy some day!

 

Some other elements that I enjoyed were the scenery layering.  Although the level platforms cut a bit suddenly in some places, overall the way the foreground reaches back into the background is great.  That is then layered with various elements that move naturally.  It is not like playing in a diorama but it feels like you are just on a hill in a busy forest-bedecked town. One point of this game that still feels a bit rough is the music.  The music in the trailer on the site is pretty exciting, but that in the game is comparatively overworldy.  It can be best described as platformer jive and it gets you rolling with the game, but it just feels like it should be in a version of this game retailed by Old Navy.  A game this fast-paced featuring a space traveler might feature something a little more techno-sprinter and a little less polo shirt overworld.

Finally, the storyline, though largely conceptual, also has a number of fantastic elements to it.  In the title screen you see a balloon that is rocketing out of the atmosphere to scintillate gently in the starlight.  Paul DiDomenico, the Lead Developer at Couch Fort, revealed to me that this symbolizes a key theme in this game’s golden heart: a child’s wish, which thrusts him into the heart of the story.

 

The idea is that a true wish from the heart can hold great power, and that power always draws more power.  It comes from a place of light and innocence, but it is coveted by those who wouldn’t use it for the like.

– Paul DiDomenico, Lead Developer, Couch Fort Gamez

 

So right off the bat, I get the sense this game will have some serious feels.  But in a brilliant manner of true “yin and yang”, the main character, our space traveler, has a story that is dark and sad.

 

Eons ago his home world was at the brink of destruction.  He and a small council performed an ancient and forbidden ritual as a final effort to save their planet and species.  This effort, though bestowing upon them incredible abilities, ultimately failed and left them with the curse of immortality.  They have since wandered the cosmos decaying until they are mere husks of their former selves, unable to die.  Then, suddenly, one by one, they begin to disappear until only our main character remains, which is where his story and the child’s meet and our game begins.

-Paul DiDomenica, Lead Developer, Couch Fort Gamez

 

I am not sure about you guys, but this game looks and sounds like a lot of fun.  Though it is in its early stages, the amount of heart and work being poured into it makes me optimistic about the final product.  Through everything I have come to understand about Antihero, the only thing that get me feeling frustrated is that it will be some time before this title is finished.  Keep this title in the back of your minds, though.  This is a first look into what is going on with Couch Fort Gamez inaugural title.  Let’s wish them luck and get them the support they need and deserve!  Check out their site and keep an eye out for Antihero.

Keep an eye out to find out more about Antihero and learn what the devs have in store for our main characters!

Keep an eye out to find out more about Antihero and learn what the devs have in store for our main characters!

Plague Inc: Evolved, Eradicate Humanity!

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So I wiped out 99% of humanity today and still fucking lost!  Plague Inc: Evolved is a game for the strategic mastermind in all of us.  Take control of an infectious disease, evolve and kill everyone ever known by everyone you’ve ever known.

This title starts out simple enough, but gives you an idea of the scope you are dealing with in order to get there.  Initially you can only control a bacteria, but later organisms include prions, viruses, nano-viruses parasites fungi and some things I have never fucking heard of.  You then name your virus.  In prior Plague Inc titles (previously known as Pandemic) I always named my disease something insidious sounding like Writhing Death or The Manacles.  I lost every time.  So one day I made a disease named Booty Shoe out of denominational ennui.  Booty shoe eradicated the world population.  So this one got to be Nut Slipper.  I started Nut Slipper out in Indonesia, and altogether solid start location for any disease.  It has ports for oceanic export, planes for aerial export and it’s a warm, moist climate, which puts it two evolutions away from stepping out into the greater world.  Plague Inc seems to have 3 phases of play.  It’s not actually a part of the game, but the way the flow of the game seems to develop.  I call these phases initial spawn, transmission and eradication.  In initial spawn, you get DNA points for evolution from a few gameplay milestones in the beginning.  This is where your disease starts in its natal region and starts to breed.  When you spread out little by little to people in your starting country, Indonesia in this case, you’ll see little red and orange bubbles appear.  Pop these for the DNA points to evolve your disease.

Exponential infection rates and the game gets excited over a few thousand? Psh.

Thousands of nuts are apparently warm and cozy. Why is this bad?

In Plague Inc, you don’t order your little bacteria where you want them.  Consider the game a simulation of the spread of a potential disease.  Your disease will spread on its own in an organic fashion across the various methods.  You control the disease by mutating it, granting it new characteristics along the way.  These characteristics fall into three categories: transmission, abilities and symptoms.  Transmission is how the disease is carried from one host to another.  These can be things like livestock, insects, air, water etc.  Being in Indonesia, I evolved air and water right away.  Now, the game also made it so that transmission via water would be hard off the bat for my disease.  Something about sanitizing boats.  But evolving that water transmission negated the effect.  Nothing would stop Nut Slipper from sailing the seven seas!  This brings us to where you are spreading to every country in the transmission phase.  You get DNA points for spreading to new countries and infecting large portions of the population.  People don’t need to know you are around yet, but you get the DNA points for infections.

Now one of the things that you get concerned about really fast is how well your disease spreads to other countries.  Does it like the climate?  How rapidly does it spread? Do they use class 3 or 4 antibiotics?  All legitimate concerns.  It used to be that getting your disease into Madagascar was a sure-fire win, but now fully infecting Greenland, Canada and other cold-climate countries is the true challenge.  Your disease will spread the slowest in these locations and if you get lethal too soon, you’ll kill the hosts before they can spread it to other people.  That is a no-go.

Only fifty-one percent of the world population is dead!? Time to step up my game.

Only fifty-one percent of the world population is dead!? Time to step up my game.

Once you have enough people eating, drinking and breathing in your disease it’s time to start the extinction of humanity!  This is my favorite part because once people start dying the music, which has sinister techno-ambiance, goes from ominous to downright fucking creepy.  It starts off with the EKG heart monitor noises woven into it just below audibility and the moves on to include some kind of sirens.  I think they might be the noise that ambulances make in countries not mine.  Ours are pretty obnoxious.  Either way, it moves on to people hacking and coughing and children singing ring around the rosey.  Awesome, ambient and creepy as fuck.

Now the extinction of humanity won’t be reached by making your disease resistant and transmissible alone, and this is where it gets tough.  In the eradication phase you get DNA points for wiping out populations and destabilizing governments.  Symptoms are the method for reaching these goals.  If you take symptoms too early in the transmission phase, your disease will be detected and cured fairly rapidly.  Take symptoms too late and you will not have enough points to develop the truly lethal symptoms.  Occasionally you will spawn random symptoms, but the game can be paused in order to devolve those and earn some DNA points.  With your bacteria, you want to aim for 70% – 79% of global infection to start taking symptoms, and when you take them take them fucking hard.  When I pump up the symptoms I will take them 3 – 4 at a time and let them go.  People start dropping dead faster than the game even knows how to react, and by the time the first death hits the news, hundreds of thousands are lying in their living rooms clinging fecklessly to their last breaths.  Even with Nut Slipper taking the world by storm, I was still greeted with this fucking screen at the end.

ninety-nine point nine percent of the world is dead and it is not considered a goddamn victory

ninety-nine point nine percent of the world is dead and it is not considered a goddamn victory

I am only partially joking about that, too.  I wiped out 99.9% of humanity and it was still not considered a fucking victory!  To give you an idea, the people who survived lived in Greenland, Canada, Italy and Sweden.  Everyone else in the entire fucking world was dead.  My problem was that I took symptoms around 65% world infection and killed all my hosts too fast.  I have no fucking clue how Italy, of all goddamn places, fucking survived, either.  I guess they didn’t go to the Olympics in London that year…   Granted none of them survived unscathed, but they survived.  One of the more fun features of this game is how you can make spectacular effects occur, like projectile vomiting, by combining various symptoms.  Projectile vomiting occurs when you have coughing and vomiting at the same time.  Once you have started to wipe out the population of planet Earth, people will start to do research in an attempt to survive.  This is signified by a blue plane that flies around.  You can slow them down by clicking little blue bubbles, too, but the best part is when you stop research by killing everyone in a country.  Then the country just goes dark as everyone slowly collapses.  This game is a tough one, but rewarding for the strategic enthusiast.  It can be gotten for 14.99$ on Steam and.. wait this is early access?  Well for an early access game, this one sure is well done.  Worth the money, in my honest opinion.  It also feels like one of those games that some people think might save the world by thinking about how to solve realistic problems, except in this one you are the problem.

Of all the things this game does right, there is one thing that still haunts my dreams.  The children.  When you start to go nuclear, as stated, you hear a group of grade-school children singing Ring around the Rosey.  I swear to fucking god this is the creepiest thing I have ever fucking heard in ever.  It is like the children of the corn, or some shit.  The music is fucking awesome, mind you.  That just enhances how creepy the children are.  They are like the fucking harbingers of the goddamn apocalypse!  I will be waking up in a cold sweat singing ring around the rosey tonight, I just know it.

 

Estudio Antropo, True Next-Gen Gaming

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Remember is Shadowrun how your characters had 2 different versions of the matrix to deal with?  Yea, sure, one was the Virtual Reality (VR) realm where hackers reign as gods, clad in icons to resemble all the deities of old as their meat body lays somewhere on a bed or floor neglected by the free-roaming mind.  The other was called Augmented Reality (AR) and it is where you find the visual interfaces that allowed you to see what specials and sales stores have going that day by looking at the logo through the right pair of glasses.  Nintendo was the first to really take advantage of this when they came out with the 3DS and its aptly named VR cards, which revealed a variety of simple, fun AR games that had my wife and I battling over who was the better virtual fisherman.  These cards were cards you lay on a table and then look at with your 3DS in AR mode.  Characters would then pop out of the cards or games would form out of the table.  It was fucking awesome.  Then there was this company that fucking decided to make a pair of computerized glasses, which hold the potential to plaster gaming all over the world.  There is another company, however, whose scope is more ambitious than just playing with cards and more exciting than karate chopping at the air or shouting virtual “clay pigeons” to pieces with your fucking thu’um.

Estudio Antropo said “That’s fucking neat and all guys, but what about the goddamn devices the entire society has already invested in?”  Not a direct quote, but one I like to imagine coming out of someone’s mouth.  These guys have developed a game for the boARd format, a Kurzor S.R.O. concept, that allows you to use your mobile devices to play board games.  Now, the trailers for this only show people with their iPads all spooled up and ready to go, but, the game is also scheduled to release with an Android element, as well.  I don’t see it being long before Andriod and iOS players can huddle around the same boARd to play a rousing game of Monopoly, or something.  Estudio Antropo currently have a kickstarter campaign up that ends August 1st.  If anything in this article excites you nearly as much as it fucking excites me, go there and throw some money in!

cartoneros-logo-01-long

 

Check my cardboard swagger.

Check that cardboard swagger

First among the titles that will pioneer the fourth fucking dimension is Cartoneros.  This title is one that has a kind of general appeal that plays out really cool.  Not to mention, even those hippies with their goddamn iPads will love the concept.  Cartoneros takes place in a world where people throw away vast amounts of fucking cardboard.  EVERYTHING is cardboard, including your characters.  Your characters then go out on their mission to clean up the world! Aw, yay!  That is so special!  Yippee! Love is magical!  They then proceed to battle over resources like the humans that undoubtedly spawned them and battle to the death over cardboard.  So yes, good intentions do pave the road to good gameplay.

In this tactical strategy, you control a small team of Cartoneros, these little guys that collect the cardboard detritus of the world.  Each of your cartoneros has strength and weaknesses, too, so it is not all cut and dry combat.  In your mad dash for sustaining cardboard, you will battle with other players.  Now, this carboard you collect isn’t really something you’ll use in-game to pump your cartoneros up, but between plays is when it comes in handy.  As you await your next round of play against your mortal foes (apparently your mom and little sister) you use the cardboard to beef up your cartoneros.  You will even be able to shape the gaming environment by building maps, characters, weapons, monsters and robots!  Its developers liken it to a combination of DoTA and XCOM.  Granted, if you spend your cardboard too frivolously, you will not have enough resources to maintain a competitive  team.  This honestly looks like it could turn into a fucking sport.

Adorable cardboard characters butchering each other with their cardboard shotguns. Isn't that nice!

Adorable cardboard characters butchering each other with their cardboard shotguns. Isn’t that nice!

Each game of Cartoneros will include 1 – 8 players, and the game style will change depending on the teams.  If everyone is on the same team, the game is more like an RPG with players working together to fight monsters and get cardboard.  If you split the players apart, it becomes a DoTA, XCOM fusion-style tactical strategy game.  Monsters in this game fall in three categories.  Little ones that flee, big ones that attack your characters and huge ones that make you crap your cardboard trousers.  Each monster will have special abilities that can be obtained by killing the monsters and eating its heart like a ancient n0rse warrior.  I might have made up that last part about eating its heart, but you really can get the powers of your foes for a limited period by destroying them.  Apparently there are some really neat features to the game structure, as well, allowing you to create your own game.  Maps can be created by arranging terrain on the board, missions can be created by designating objectives and stories created by linking maps.  The game is going to be tough, too; if you lose characters weapons, tools etc. in-game they are gone forever.  You’ll have to be careful how you spend your cardboard between games, but careful planning will pay off big-time in the long run.  You can read about Cartoneros in greater detail on its Kickstarter page.

espio_logo

Does cartoneros sound too much like something that the family will enjoy and won’t be badass enough for your group of awesome buddies that only opt for the finest and most edgy of tabletop games?  The guys backing cartoneros are also developing Espionag3: Berlin Files.  If cartoneros’ strategic gameplay and winsome visuals don’t excite you, the dark world of spies and intrigue laid out in Espionag3: Berlin Files should.

It’s another strategic game where you control a network of spies and battle against your friends.  Berlin files looks really fun and with pitched gun battles and tailing missions, this game looks awesome.  I don’t fucking care what language the goddamn screenshots are in!  The players take up the role of secret government agents in Berlin, who have discovered that the mafia has moved in and are expanding rapidly.  It is up to players to utilize their stealthy spy tactics to overcome and eliminate their mafia enemies.  This gaming format has a lot of possibilities, from the simple and fun ideas to adult level games providing intrigue and excitement.  I could see a game like this taking place in 1930’s New York with players controlling a mafia family and vying for control of the illegal liquor trade.  Want a historical piece?  What if someone developed a game where half the players are the French Resistance fighters and the others are Nazis, and the players duke it out for control of Paris?  See, only limited by your imagination.

On any city street in Berlin...

On any city street in Berlin…

So why does this concept excite me and why should it excite you too?  Do you like tabletop games?  Anyone who has ever played Shadowrun, Dungeons and Dragons or Warhammer and any other such related games should be able to see the potential this poses for awesomeness.  This format could easily be built upon by major developers to create a DnD game that works with ipads, android phones etc. so that you can sit down with your gaming crew and play some serious tabletop games.  You could have endless customization options for your Warhammer armies, all explained at your fingertips by the software of the game.  Terrain customization for Warhammer, DnD and Shadowrun games would be that much more detailed and the worlds you play in would, literally, just be a game screen away.  You would be able to almost touch them.  Super-nerdy niche games not your style?  This format could be used to give standard boardgames the modern update off of console systems they so desperately crave.  Instead of buying the whole box and all the pieces getting scattered by a rampaging dog, you could just play care-free on a paper-board!  Granted, the animals might poke holes in the paper boARd, but it saves you a hell of a lot more time searching for tiny houses.  Those fuckers are a bitch to step on at night, too.  So support Cartoneros on kickstarter up through August 1st!  It could really be the update of next-gen gaming that would really make people feel like they are living in the future!