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Multiplayer Game Reviews

February 27, 2011

A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda

Filed under: Action & Shooter, Paid, WindowsNina S. @ 05:24

Now, I’m not too fond of action games. I don’t know why, exactly, it’s not like I have anything against them, it’s more that I can rarely get sucked into them. I know there are plenty of action games with fantastic stories but I can never find one that is balanced in just the right way for me to actually care about the characters and want to kick ass. This previous assumption was not only blown away by A.R.E.S. : Extinction Agenda, it made me want to go back over the games that I’d already played and see if I missed anything.

My first impression of the game was a rather stunned “Wow!” I wasn’t expecting to be so pumped up from the short opening but I really was. The music choice was incredible (which remains a constant throughout the game) and the art works well. It’s a clean kind of gritty that makes me happy to be blowing crap up.

Now, in A.R.E.S., you’re playing as a special suited individual who is sent in to investigate the happenings of a ship that was taken over. There are hostages somewhere, an important Doctor in particular, that you have to save. Unfortunately, standing between you and the hostages are a number of rogue and dangerous machines. Your course of action? Blasting through them, naturally.

I was a little worried as I moved through the tutorial, as the instructions are written as much for an Xbox controller as a keyboard. I’ve found that when this is the case, there is sometimes something lacking in the keyboard version. Like they really want you to play it on the Xbox, but since you’re going to use a keyboard they kind of threw something together. That isn’t the case here, the keyboard instructions work just fine and the game runs smoothly without any weird finger stretches required.

The game also allows you to upgrade your guns and suit. You do so with the bits and pieces of the robots you destroy on your way through the game. I thought this was interesting, especially because you can also use these bits and pieces to make healing packs, which…you know, I kind of needed quite often.  I found myself really enjoying this game but I still have a bit of trouble remembering that fire is bad and I shouldn’t stand in it.

All in all, this game had me pumped. I was so freakin excited about shooting things that were shooting at me I literally ended up cheering by the time I killed the first boss. Well worth a look.

A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda

 ★★★★¾ 

 
Gameplay:★★★★★ 
Technical:★★★★½ 
Get ready for some ACTION!

Game: A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda| Developer: Extend Studio

February 26, 2011

Treadmillasaurus Rex

Filed under: Action & Shooter, Free, Puzzle & Casual, WindowsJosh @ 09:20

Spin time! Hooray! Wait, is that good?

If you could bring dinosaurs back from extinction, like in the film Jurassic Park, what would you do with them? If you said, “Put them on a treadmill, have a disco party, and add Wheel-of-Fortune-type mini-games,” then boy do I ever have a game for you.

Treadmillasaurs Rex is a game in which you play as the T-rex, pretty much the king of the dinosaurs. Awesome, right? Well… Not really, since this entire game is spent on a treadmill.

Personally, if I were a T-rex, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t stand for this kind of treatment. I mean, being forced to run on a treadmill while dodging spike balls and lasers really sounds pretty un-T-rex-like. I’d much rather be out trashing buildings and brawling with my mortal enemy the triceratops. Or maybe some velociraptors or something.

Spikes. The fastest way to re-extinct-ify the T-rex.

“But wait,” you say. “This isn’t just any old treadmill. It’s a party treadmill!”

True. I suppose Treadmillasaurus Rex features a party treadmill. And there is a Wheel-of-Awesome which spins every now and again. But that wheel is filled with some pretty nasty things. Some of the things listed on this wheel are “right laser” and “left laser,” which move the lasers that confine you even closer. And “wind” just causes there to be more resistance. Every once in a while, you power up with “party +1″ and “confetti +1,” but those things are hard to enjoy when you are running for your life. But at least you get to count the amount of calories this poor creature is burning. (Yes, this game actually makes me feel sorry for the T-rex, that poor old king of the terrible lizards.)

Quite frankly, Treadmillasaurus Rex was designed for one specific type of person. Fortunately, I’ve never met that type of person. That is to say, if you are a normal person who is into normal things, skip this game. If you have fun dressing up animals and forcing them into extremely strict workout regimens, you might actually get some satisfaction from this. You sick freak.

It's a calorie-burnin' party up in here!

Treadmillasaurus Rex

 ★★☆☆☆ 

Gameplay:★★☆☆☆ 
Technical:★★½☆☆ 
You managed to bring a T-rex back from extinction and this is what you do with it?

Game: Treadmillasaurus Rex| Developer: Armor Games

February 24, 2011

Hacker Evolution

Filed under: Paid, Simulation, WindowsNina S. @ 08:01

I played Hacker Evolution for a few long, painful hours.

The game is a simulation of hacking. That’s pretty straight forward. I don’t think it was made to be easy, and it’s not. You have to remember a number of commands, which isn’t all that difficult, especially if you do what I did and just keep a list scribbled out on the desk next to you. Your mission is to stop some kind of global computer meltdown. I believe it’s a kind of Skynet problem, but honestly, even after the second hour I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. You hack into ATMs and the like in order to get money and upgrade your tech, which allows you to hack deeper without getting your Trace too high.

Now, I’m not a hacker. That much is obvious. Most days I can barely figure out how to install complex systems. It’s pretty sad, all in all, but I’m comfortable with my level of computer knowledge or lack there of. At the same time…I saw the Matrix. I thought Swordfish was an awesome movie, and so when I saw a game that promised to let me “learn” to be a hacker for a little bit, I was beyond excited. What I didn’t take into consideration was that hacking isn’t a game. It’s a skill that is developed slowly and carefully, one that is dangerous and not always rewarding. And that is exactly what this game is like.

Hacker Evolution looks good. It is a very pretty game, especially considering the fact that you’re staring at text for most of the time. Still, the color options are harsh on the eyes. Again, this isn’t something I would have nitpicked on, but when the entire game is all about staring at the screen and trying to remember a bunch of codes, it’s a bit of a problem. The music audio in the game isn’t anything too ear-catching, but I suppose it’s not supposed to be. You need to focus in order to be a hacker, after all.

The game allows you to make your own levels. This is usually a good thing, and can really take a fantastic game and stretch all that hot, gooey goodness to the max. Unfortunately, if you  have a lukewarm game play to begin with it just kind of…limps along.

This was a complex, interesting game but I wouldn’t recommend it, per say. It’s a good way to burn out a few hours, but it felt more like work and less like fun.

Hacker Evolution

 ★★☆☆☆ 

 
Gameplay:★★☆☆☆ 
Technical:★★☆☆☆ 
The truth about life as a hacker.

Game: Hacker Evolution | Developer: Exosyphen Studios

February 23, 2011

ImmorTall

Filed under: Free, Puzzle & Casual, WindowsJosh @ 06:02

Guide the humans through this war-torn landscape.

Giving a numbered rating to a game like ImmorTall is always difficult. ImmorTall contains almost no gameplay, yet is still a beautiful piece of art with a deep message and a poignant story. On the one hand, this game knows exactly what it wants to do and simply does it brilliantly. On the other hand, besides the fact that players have very limited control over one of the characters, this is really just a flash movie that plays out in a matter of minutes. Yet those few minutes are incredibly powerful. If I give this game high marks, readers might be disappointed when the game ends so quickly. But a low score really would undermine the emotional impact this game actually has. A medium score would suggest that ImmorTall is mediocre, which simply is not true.

So ultimately, I decided to judge this game based on how well it presents itself. The silhouette-based visual style looks great, and the wide aspect ratio sets up the perfect frame for the details. The music completes this scene, meshing wonderfully with the look and the story of the game. I decided to give ImmorTall some high marks, with a low score in the ”gameplay” category. That seems fair to me.

A crashed alien pod. How interesting...

The story in ImmorTall is intriguing. Players take command of a tiny alien who has crash landed on Earth. This little guy is given some food and grows pretty tall, also becoming invincible. Or so it seems. The alien meets some some humans that treat him kindly, and when war comes to the home of these people, the alien protects them by standing in front of the bullets.

The story is brief but asks some serious questions about humanity and war. Sure, we love to glorify warfare in video games, but this video game challenges that. What is the point of all this fighting? Who are the real winners and losers in this war? Sure, these questions are hardly new, but the video game is a rare medium to ask them.

ImmorTall is painfully short and offers very little control or in-game rewards, yet packs an emotional wallop and a gorgeously simplistic visual style. You don’t really play ImmorTall so much as you experience it. True enjoyment comes from sitting back and soaking it in, pondering its message long after the game is finished.

Bottom line: go play ImmorTall. It’s only a few minutes in length, so making time for this one shouldn’t be a problem.

"He seems friendly enough. Feed him an apple!"

ImmorTall

 ★★★★☆ 

Gameplay:★★☆☆☆ 
Technical:★★★★★ 
A story about an alien and his new human friends.

Game: ImmorTall | Developer: Pixelante

February 22, 2011

Don’t Be Nervous Talking to Girls

Filed under: Paid, Simulation, XBoxNina S. @ 06:20

Don’t Be Nervous Talking to Girls….this game isn’t as old as the ones I wanted to review for this set but honestly I had to give it a try. I was not expecting it to be helpful when it comes to conversation but I was expecting it to be mildly funny and something that was worth the dollar to waste my time one. Honestly, I was looking for something closer to a dating sim. Yeah, I mean the kind they have in Japan but the U.S.A. is filled with too many prudes and rules to release here. Even so, I was a little disappointed by the lack of…sense making.

Now, before I go further, I think it is only fair to tell you what this game is not. I have seen people playing it and expecting it to be an actual “this is how you go about talking to girls” lesson. It is not like that, it is a video game first of all, and second of all, all girls are different. Sorry to break it to you, gentlemen, but the only way to learn to speak to us is to do it. You might strike out your first couple of times and no one likes rejection, but eventually you will get the swing of it. Just be yourself (yeah, I said that crap. It is cheesy but it is true. Any girl who wants a fake version of you is obviously not, what you want in the first place) and you will find girls that are right for your type of personality.


Going back to the game: it is also not a game about skill. Some of the time, you can go with an answer that is completely right. I mean, right for the typical girl. The obvious answer, the polite, respectful, sweet answer might get you bear maced in the face in this game. There is not any method to the madness that I can see; maybe the girl you are trying to pick up in this game is just flippin’ insane. That seems likely.

Lack of sense making and humor aside the game does have an interesting idea. In which when you give an answer a real girl will respond to it. I liked the little clips of response even if she decided to call the cops on me for little reason. The ultimate goal here is to get this girls number, though she is kind of a jerk so I cannot imagine why any person would work so hard to get to know her. The game is not just two option questions, either. You will have to memorize phone numbers (I suggest writing it down), do math questions, and apparently learn to read the mind of a psycho.

Overall, I think this game could have benefited from a writer. If it had one, I think it could have benefited from a female, not trying to be a comical writer. The game misses the mark on “funny” and just drops into “annoyingly random” quickly. The only thing it is getting an A for is effort.

Don’t Be Nervous Talking to Girls

 ★★½☆☆ 

Gameplay:★★☆☆☆ 
Technical:★★★☆☆ 
Lessons in speaking to crazy girls!

Game: Don’t Be Nervous Talking to Girls | Developer: Silver Dollar Games 1

February 21, 2011

Zombie Minesweeper

Filed under: Adventure & RPG, Free, Puzzle & Casual, WindowsJosh @ 06:10

These bunnies bite.

If you are anything like me and love a good puzzle game, then it’s probably fair to say you’ve played Minesweeper. And if you haven’t, you should definitely check it out. It’s a neat little game that comes pre-installed on most Windows systems and features an almost Tetris-like addictive style of gameplay.

So how could you possibly improve on this classic desktop game? You add zombies.

Zombie Minesweeper places a frightened girl smack dab in the middle of a minefield and then throws hordes of zombies at her. Players must steer her to safety. In the classic Minesweeper tradition, you are guided by numbers on the ground that let you know how many mines are nearby. In order to understand how the numbers work, you must think of the ground as a series of tiles. Each number tells you how many tiles touching the numbered tile contain mines. Confusing? Fire up your own Minesweeper game and play a few rounds. It will all make sense.

One strange thing I noticed about this game is that instead of human zombies, Zombie Minesweeper contains animal zombies. There are snails, rabbits, and even bears in zombie form, all trying to feast on this poor little girl’s brains. Even more random: zombie mushrooms.

Oh my gosh, this looks like the end.

There are powerups scattered about each field, each adding its own strategic twist on the game. Mine detectors let you expose large areas at once, and are best put to use in those situations where you aren’t exactly sure where the next mine is located. There are bombs and shotgun shells that allow you to fight back, but quantities are very limited. You must choose wisely when to shoot and when to run.

For those of you who like options, there are two different gameplay modes. Speed play is much heavier on zombies and powerups, with a few mines to mess things up for you. Puzzle play has a lot more mines, but fewer zombies and powerups.

Picking the music for this game must have been hard. Puzzle games tend to work the best with somewhat soothing tunes that help you think, while running from zombies generally calls for something more adrenaline-pumping. Zombie Minesweeper uses a track that is the perfect mix of the two worlds. This ditty has a slower tempo and some very puzzle-enhancing bells, while it is backed with a distorted electric guitar. I was very impressed with how absolutely perfect this music was for this game.

The only thing I didn’t like about this game was that it only contains eight levels: four in each mode. But the fact that the mine placement is randomly generated each round keeps these levels feeling fresh for a very long time.

Zombie Minesweeper is so addictive that it made me forget about the pizza I was cooking. Kitchen fire aside, I freakin’ love this game.

This glowing flower is pretty much the only thing on this field not trying to kill you.

Zombie Minesweeper

 ★★★★½ 

Gameplay:★★★★½ 
Technical:★★★★½ 
The addictive puzzle gameplay of Minesweeper… with zombies.

Game: Zombie Minesweeper | Developer: Frogtoss

February 19, 2011

Tommy Tronic

Filed under: Action & Shooter, Adventure & RPG, Other, Paid, WindowsNina S. @ 09:31

Tommy Tonic was a rather cute game. It was one of those that kind of screamed Indie Game, all the while charming you subtly with its simplicity. It was not fantastic but on the same note, it was not horrible either. It is listed as a Family game and I am not sure how much I agree with that but it did have more positive points than negative ones, so I guess all in all it was a good time. At least I do not feel like I wasted my money.

To begin with, the theme song for Tommy Tonic is…well, cute. I do not want to overuse that word but I feel like that is exactly what I am going to do for this review. The song was cute, the art style was cute, even the darn dog you are supposed to be looking for is cute. It is a cute game and that earns it at least a few points in my book.

The game is a platformer, which I will be the first to admit is not really my usual choice. They are games that are primarily built on the laws of physics and I am a bit of a rager when I have to watch my character repeatedly fail to hit a ledge. At any rate, this game did not help that rage in the least bit.

After a few minutes of rearranging my controls, I quickly found that Tommy Tonic is not terribly sensitive in the controls. I found myself subjected to a definitely slide factor and invisible moon boots. This would have been fine; I am more than willing to compromise with my buttons in order to stay on a ledge. However, when you add these problems to an overly responsive directional change it can get a little frustrating.

That complaint aside (I realize it is a rather big one, especially for this kind of game but go with me on this) this game was not terrible. The voice acting was hit and miss but when it did hit it was rather well done. I enjoyed listening to Tommy and for the most part was not annoyed by the various quests and requests standing in between my lost puppy and me.

Lastly, the story is all right. Nothing fancy but nothing awful here. Overall, this game was just rather…”eh.” It was not bad, it was not good; it was just there. I got it while it was on sale for five bucks, which seemed about right. Granted, it is usually ten and I do not know how pleased I would have been if I had paid all that but as is I am not complaining. It is in my pile of “games I’ll consider playing if I’m really, really bored”…but I probably will not bother.

Tommy Tronic

 ★★☆☆☆ 

 
Gameplay:★★☆☆☆ 
Technical:★★☆☆☆ 
So-so.

Game: Tommy Tronic | Developer: Oasis Games

February 18, 2011

The Unfair Platformer

Filed under: Adventure & RPG, Arcade & Retro, Free, WindowsJosh @ 05:35

All veteran gamers should know by now that this sign is a lie.

We don’t like to admit it, but I think gamers actually enjoy being lied to by our games. This may explain the success of games that mess with our heads like Portal does.

The Unfair Platformer is a game that lies a lot. There are signs scattered about that will often mislead you, but not all the time. In fact, I actually died quite a few times by deliberately disobeying the instructions on these signs. Besides the lying signs, there are blocks that disappear when you try to walk on them, other blocks that appear when you least expect it, and spikes that pop out of the ground if you get too close. Expect to find yourself jumping only to be blocked by an obstacle you didn’t see, falling through trapdoors, and getting impaled by spikes in the places you most expect to be safe.

This game will frustrate you. It’s perfect for those looking for a challenge.

If you get tired of dying at the hands of the completely unfair level designs, you are given the option to off yourself. How nice.

The graphics are nothing to marvel at; there isn’t a whole lot of detail or style. I’m not even sure if the protagonist is male or female, in fact.

And the music is ripped off from Sonic the Hedgehog. No, it’s not a track that sounds similar to the music from Sonic, it actually is the music from Sonic. And it plays on an endless loop, so it will get annoying. Since the music was blatantly stolen, it seems strange to me that the game only uses one song. If stealing one song is okay, why not rip off some more to make the game feel less repetitive?

Even though the music is stolen and the visuals are bland, The Unfair Platformer is still pretty addictive. Completing a level gives you such a feeling of accomplishment that you won’t hesitate to begin the next stage. After dying 50+ times, you’ll tell yourself you’ll be done as soon as you actually finish the level, and of course you wind up starting the next one regardless.

Sure, games like Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV are difficult. But to some extent, they play by the rules. The Unfair Platformer takes delight in forcing you to make decisions that quickly lead to your untimely death. Play it only if you enjoy very difficult games.

It's nice to know I'm not the only one to have been smashed by this large boulder.

The Unfair Platformer

 ★★★☆☆ 

Gameplay:★★½☆☆ 
Technical:★★★★☆ 
A platformer that doesn’t like to play fair.

Game: The Unfair Platformer| Developer: Eggys Games

February 16, 2011

Bit. TRIP BEAT

Filed under: Action & Shooter, Arcade & Retro, Other, Paid, WindowsNina S. @ 06:00

I am finding that more and more I like games that are built on the idea of rhythm. After Audio Surf, I have been looking into games that are not just tools for making your own music, but games that are run on that kind of idea. That you should be able to incorporate your own style and choices of music into your gaming experience. I am sure it is obvious why but I just feel like, though major companies are not picking it up yet, this is the next step in big games. It is a kind of customization that goes further than just picking what color hair or which set of features you want with your adventure. It is about adding something that is uniquely you to a pastime. That is why I was so excited when I found the rhythm game called BIT.TRIP Beat.

Now, while I believe that the aforementioned perk is important I also understand that in order to be a good game it has to stand on its own. That means that no matter how much rhythm you put into a game, if it sucks it sucks. Luckily, for me, BIT.TRIP Beat was just as fun in practice as it was in theory.

In case the title does not give it away, the game is another one of those throwback games. It incorporates a lot of the older game aspects and puts a modern twist on old ideas. I, Personally, am thrilled by most of these efforts and this game was no different. The Bit style of artwork is fun and encouraging. The game is classified as “casual” and “action” on Steam but I am going to go ahead and include “arcade” with my own review, just because it has that kind of classic feel to it.

The game is not just that, though. It is a bunch of pretty colors and fantastic sounds, but on top of that, it has more substance. It is filled with classic style boss battles. In addition, it has a few rather intense cut scenes, which I was not expecting at all when I picked this one up.

Overall, this is a game that goes above and beyond my expectations. It is sophisticated in a very laid-back kind of way, presenting itself as one thing and then wowing you with a completely different charm than you ever expected. It takes greatness and tacks onto it. This is a real crowd pleaser.

P.S. I just wanted to add that I didn’t realize that this company also does quite a few other games that I didn’t realize were…Indie. I’m not sure if this company still counts as an Indie developer with that kind of resume, but they’re worth checking out, still. Very impressive work.

Bit. TRIP BEAT

 ★★★★★ 

Gameplay:★★★★★ 
Technical:★★★★★ 
I love it when a good game comes together.

Game: Bit. TRIP BEAT | Developer: Aksys Games

February 15, 2011

Moby Dick – The Video Game

Filed under: Action & Shooter, Adventure & RPG, Arcade & Retro, WindowsJosh @ 07:19

Sure, you begin the game as a harmless little guy...

Moby Dick – The Video Game is based off the famous novel by Herman Melville. Sort of. Okay, just barely. There is a big white whale, but I guess the similarities end there.

The premise is that you take control of a whale and wreak havoc on sailors. When you begin the game, you are quite small. You’ll have difficulties rocking even the weakest boats. As you eat sailors and fish, your maximum health will increase, and so will your size. And with your size comes the ability to jump higher out of the water, so ultimately you’ll be able to snack on seagulls. And even aliens!

The control scheme is deliciously simple. Just move your mouse in the direction you want your whale to move, and left click if you want to boost. You’ll want to be careful with the boost, though, because you can only use it when your boost meter is full.

Besides the boost meter, there are three bars you will want to keep your eyes on. First is the health meter, which lets you know the percentage of health you have left. (Your maximum health is constantly increasing, but the size of the health bar itself doesn’t grow.) Second there is air bar, since whales are air-breathing mammals. (Yes, it’s science.) Last is the hunger meter, letting you keep tabs on the whale’s appetite. The hunger bar and the air bar are both constantly draining. Refill the air bar by popping your head above the surface, and refill your hunger bar by eating things. If either the air bar or the hunger bar drains completely, your health bar will start draining and you’ll get a warning on the screen. Once your health is completely gone, the game ends and your score is added up. Oh, and there are quite a few achievements to unlock, so you’ll have to play quite a few rounds before earning all of them.

The music is a pirate-themed accordion tune, which fits the atmosphere of the game brilliantly. And the quaint graphics are a nice touch.

If you need to do a book report on Moby Dick, Moby Dick – The Video Game is probably not going to help you out much. But if you want to eat sailors and sink ships, then this game is the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

...But you will eventually grow large enough to destroy entire ships!

Moby Dick – The Video Game

 ★★★★☆ 

Gameplay:★★★★☆ 
Technical:★★★★☆ 
A sailor-eating adventure that is just barely based off the classic Herman Melville novel.

Game: Moby Dick – The Video Game | Developer: Camaleonyco, Sballteam, and SMilesInDaHat

February 14, 2011

Itzabitza

Filed under: Education, Girl's Choice, Other, Paid, WindowsNina S. @ 06:18

This might be a strange title to review on this website because it is not really meant for adults. I mean, I played it for a while and I was generally impressed by the ingenuity of the game, but let us be honest here. It is a game that, from what I understand, is primarily purchased for children between five and eleven. Still, I am going to review it because it was fun. Do not judge me, review readers! The game was adorable and fun, like watching Blue’s Clues at three in the morning because I cannot sleep. Yes, I do realize after the first clue that Blue wants a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with her glass of milk but that does not mean it is not entertaining to watch Steve stumble around.

Anyhow, there are plenty of reasons that I liked this game. For the sole purpose of not seeming like a complete weirdo, I did play it with one of my friends children. She is three, so I was afraid the game would go over her head but I am constantly amazed at how smart children are. The game itself is set up so simply and vibrantly that it is easy enough for a three year old not only to follow it, but also to enjoy it.

The coolest feature about this game is that you get to draw with it. For instance, you are asked to draw a house. Now, that seems simple enough, you sketch a quick house and voila! It is on your screen. Not only that but it is not just a copy and pasted version of what you have done. The characters in the game actually change to interact with your drawings. Therefore, if you draw a tiny car the character will shrink in order to fit into it. Isn’t that awesome?

The game is not all fun and games, though (haha, see what I did there?!). It is also a great learning tool. After a few wonderful hours of playtime -which is a miracle in it of itself, since the only way you can usually get this little girl to sit down for an entire hour is to tape her to the chair. I watched in wide-eyed wonder as this girl slowly began to point out the right answers.

I suppose that ultimately this really is a children’s game. Still, I am going to call it a family game. It really is fun to watch the kids get a little brighter as they shout and point. This game makes drawing a joy.

Itzabitza

 ★★★★★ 

 
Gameplay:★★★★★ 
Technical:★★★★★ 
Fun for the whole family…for real, this time.

Game: Itzabitza | Developer: Sabi Games

February 13, 2011

Poker Night at the Inventory

Filed under: Macintosh, Other, Paid, Puzzle & Casual, Simulation, WindowsJosh @ 07:23

These are your opponents.

Say that someone asked you, “Would you want to sit down for some poker at a very exclusive club with Max from Sam & Max, Strong Bad from Homestar Runner, The Heavy Weapons Guy from Team Fortress 2, and Tycho Brahe from the Penny Arcade webcomic?” If your response was an enthusiastic “Yes!” then I have some good news for you.

Poker Night at the Inventory is a game that allows you to do just that. It begins with you buying into a high-stakes game of Texas Hold ‘Em, and doesn’t end until you either bust out or manage to win the whole shebang.

The characters’ poker playing styles tend to match their personalities. Max and Strong Bad are erratic, and commonly make huge bets for no apparent reason. Tycho often plays too conservatively, with a tendency to fold instead of placing risky bets. The Heavy Weapons Guy, or “the Heavy,” is much harder to read. Sometimes he’ll play aggressively, going all in with only a royal high card, yet other times he’ll fold when he has a fairly decent hand. I can’t tell if he doesn’t know what he’s doing, or if it’s some elaborate card shark fake-out. Looking at the guy, I would say the former, but considering the fact that he so often wins, I think he’s actually onto something.

Let's just say that Max is the wild card.

I’ve played plenty of poker games in my life, both real and video game versions, and I’ve noticed that on medium, I tend to wind up with an unrealistic amount of good hands. I’ve played straights and flushes more times than I can count, and full houses tend to pop up pretty regularly. In the early rounds of the game, I tend to win a lot. But hard difficulty is an entirely different experience. Hard feels a lot more like your opponents are actually thinking about what they’re doing, and you won’t be blessed with such “golden hands” all the time.

But playing poker isn’t really what this game is about. It’s really more of an excuse to hang out with all of these guys in one place. They constantly chatter back and forth and make comments on the way the game is progressing. In fact, it’s easy to get caught up in conversation and completely forget about the poker.

As an additional incentive to download this inexpensive title, you can play for bonuses that actually transfer to exclusive in-game items in Team Fortress 2.

Poker Night at the Inventory doesn’t really offer anything new other than the chance to hang out with some oddball video game (and comic strip) characters for a while, but it still manages to be a pretty enjoyable experience. It’s well worth the small price tag, especially if you own Team Fortress 2.

I can't tell if the Heavy is terrible at poker, or incredibly good at it.

Poker Night at the Inventory

 ★★★¾☆ 

Gameplay:★★★½☆ 
Technical:★★★★☆ 
A game of poker against some celebrities of the video game scene.

Game: Poker Night at the Inventory | Developer: Telltale Games

February 12, 2011

Grotesque Tactics: Evil Heroes

Filed under: Adventure & RPG, Other, Paid, WindowsNina S. @ 08:23

Grotesque Tactics: Evil Heroes is one of those games where I have had friends tell me it was either unbelievably good or unbelievably awful. After playing it, I can see where both sides are coming from. It is like going to see Drag Me To Hell without knowing it was supposed to be comedy/horror (which I happened to actually do). You are expecting one thing and all you are stuck with is the vast annoyance of having the person behind you cracking up over what you assume is supposed to be a dreadfully scary moment. The point is, do not go into Grotesque Tactics: Evil Heroes expecting anything special. It is a parody RPG and by that standard, it does pretty well.

The game is very pretty. There is a lot of scenery to explore and cute little details that really suck you into the world. The opening music was not jarring and for the most part, I feel like the creators did a good job with the overall ambience of the game. Some of the sound effects are obviously for dramatic affect (keeping with the satire aspect of the game) but they do not seem out of place in the fully fleshed out world.

The story is mildly funny, though there isn’t much by way of the usual RPG wiggle room that you expect when you sign up to play one. This is not a particularly bad thing, but after playing Disgaea or Agarest War, you are not going to be too thrilled with the lack of options here. You cannot really customize your character, which takes away from the whole RPG thing, but I suppose it’s not really a deal breaker.

While I was a little disappointed at the lack of customization, I will say that Grotesque Tactics: Evil Heroes did not shirk on the battle system. It is easy to navigate and though it is typical, it was still very well done. I play a decent amount of these games but still was not bored or anything, so that is a good sign.

Overall, I think that this was a good game. Laggy by nice. It accomplished the goal it set out for, which was to be amusing. It is a great game for anyone who wants a good laugh and to be sucked into a world where an emo suicidal guy gets the chance to be a hero. And who doesn’t want that?

Grotesque Tactics: Evil Heroes

 ★★★☆☆ 

 
Gameplay:★★★☆☆ 
Technical:★★★☆☆ 
Satire RPG for you to love! Get it fresh!

Game: Grotesque Tactics: Evil Heroes | Developer: Silent Dreams

February 11, 2011

Civilization V

Filed under: Linux, Macintosh, Paid, Strategy, WindowsHeath @ 05:08

Go West!

Civilization V

I assume that if you are reading this, you were like me and spent the better part of you childhood hunched in front of the computer, basking in the blue glow while your armies poured onto your rivals’ continents. Yes, Civ II was a glorious game. Civilization V, the most recent iteration, is not quite as glorious, but is still awesome.

Gameplay

In the Civilization games you pilot your rag tag group of settlers into a full fledged, well, civilization. You build cities, research science and, if the mood strikes you, go all Genghis Khan on your enemies.

Civ V has really diverged from its predecessors. For the first part, it is done in hexagons now, rather than squares. You really have to think out your movements and it is way, way more costly to ‘go around’ a unit. On top of that, or maybe, because of that, you are only allowed 1 unit per hex. So, in the past, you could just pile all your armies onto one square and blast into places. No longer. This obviously aids the defense. On top of that, you can now get ranged units (that are actually useful).

Pew Pew Pew!

If you remember religion, from Civ IV, that’s no longer there. You have to deal with your city states, which is kind of annoying. In fact, the biggest difference between this version of Civilization and the others is that war and warmaking plays a significantly lesser role than nearly every other aspect of the game.

There is no longer technology trading. You actually have to deal with your opponents.

Technical

This game takes way less time to complete than the previous versions. Why? You aren’t moving as many units around. Unfortunately, this makes the learning curve slightly higher than for other games. In fact, it may even be harder for previous Civ players to get the hang of the new one.

Multiplayer

Because the movement of units is not really as important, the AI is very centered. I’ve only played 1 multiplayer game, and it was WAY more fun than against AI (unfortunately). You have to co-operate or you’re simply not going to get anywhere. Note that a United Nations win is, without a doubt, impossible if you are playing against real people.

Final Verdict

This game takes up a ton of space, both physically on your computer and emotionally in your head, but it is well worth it. Enjoy taking over the world.

Civilization V

 ★★★★★ 

Gameplay:★★★★★ 
Technical:★★★★★ 
Multiplayer:★★★★★ 
Take over the world!!!!

Game: Civilization V | Developer: Firaxis

February 10, 2011

Path of Honor: Chapter 1

Filed under: Action & Shooter, Adventure & RPG, Free, WindowsJosh @ 05:14

At first, this looks like a pretty traditional 16-bit RPG.

Path of Honor: Chapter 1 looks like a pretty standard old school RPG. But it’s not.

Sure, the quaint 16-bit graphics and top-down view make us think we’re about to experience something we might have seen on Super NES back in the day. You will run around exploring and talking to villagers. And then you get your first taste of combat. No one can blame you for expecting traditional turn-based combat, with menus and magic and all that. Instead, all of a sudden this turns into a top-down shooter. Instead of swords and staffs, you have very modern weaponry. There is the Glock, the Desert Eagle, the AK47, and quite a few more guns that would probably be more at home in Counter-Strike than in an ARPG. Eventually, you can even purchase a plasma gun.

While the aesthetics are a great tribute to the golden age of the RPG, Path of Honor makes a lot of mistakes in delivering a solid RPG experience, and most of these could have been easily corrected.

First of all, one of the reasons we love old school RPGs so much is that they have great stories. Path of Honor has almost no plot line. You start out in your house, where you pick up your father’s guns. When you get bored of talking with your family, you venture out into the overworld. You meet a band of rebels who want to recruit you to defeat an evil emperor or something. Why? Simply because he’s evil. We don’t know if he’s a war-monger, or if he burns villages or robs his people with excessive taxes. Apparently this band of rebels thinks he’s evil and that’s all the reason we need to join the effort in fighting him off. Eventually, you’ll learn that he has kidnapped a king, but this is long after you’ve already agreed to join the fight against him.

There is definitely some mischief brewing here.

And there is no character development. We never get much information about who anyone is, just stock dialogue that seems like it wasn’t given very much thought. Having more exchange between the protagonist and his family in the beginning would have helped to establish a better idea about who this character is and would get players a little more emotionally involved.

The quest system could use some work. When you talk to a NPC that gives you a quest, your quest bar lights up. Often, you won’t even know what your objective is until you check your quest log. And this log isn’t very intuitive. Quests will always be listed in the order that you got them, from first to last. So in order to see your current objectives, you’ll have to page through all your completed quests. These should have been put in order from newest to oldest, and incomplete quests should always be auto-sorted to the top of the list.

There doesn’t seem to be much variation in the enemies you fight. Everything is  a zombie, or a zombie dog, or a zombie chicken. Yeah, zombies are cool, but could we fight something more RPG-ish, like knights and dragons and salamanders? Even a floating eyeball or two would be a welcome site.

Despite all its flaws, Path of Honor is actually pretty fun. While the combat system will probably make you say “WTF?” it’s still a lot of fun to blast things with modern weapons.

Path of Honor is an action RPG that never really makes its mind about what it wants to be. Is it an RPG? A shooter? Is the environment more modern or medieval? How realistic is this world? Who are all these characters? Why should we care? The game never figures any of this out. Regardless, there is still something charming about Path of Honor. If following chapters can address some of the flaws in Chapter 1, there’s the potential for a decent RPG experience.

This is the weirdest combat I've ever seen in an RPG.

Path of Honor: Chapter 1

 ★★½☆☆ 

Gameplay:★★★☆☆ 
Technical:★★☆☆☆ 
An action RPG that isn’t quite sure what it’s trying to accomplish.

Game: Path of Honor: Chapter 1 | Developer: Matakukos

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