Extravaganza is a difficult word to spell.
It’s also that time of the summer again, when all those games your wallet couldn’t be bothered to look at twice go on sale for dirt cheap!
Farming simulator 2012? Buck ninety-nine! Trainspotting 101? Three bucks (With optional DLC for another dollar!)! Shoot-em-up 4: Revenge of the british guy from the second game? A pound and a half!
With that said, I was fortunate to come into money right around this time, so I can partake in the sale for once! Only, I’m not going to be reviewing full games until the aftermath.
Why, you ask? Because I can try before I buy!
Without further ado, here’s three game demos I recommend trying! (Click the picture for a link to the steam store page and the demo)
For the point-and-click enthusiast, we’ve got The Tiny Bang Story. Right off the bat, it’s a beautifully drawn game with music that’s fitting, and doesn’t get annoying. It gives you a little tutorial, gets you acquainted with the basics, then leaves you to solve your first puzzle. It took me twenty minutes to find five ladder rungs across 2 screens. Not because the game is cluttered, but because they all fit in so well with the background that it’s damn impossible to tell. That said, it’s not as annoying as you would think to be stuck looking for things across a few screens, because when you find them, you’ll get that little “Ooohhh!” moment that makes you smile, chuckle, and go “Clever”. Or you chuck your screen out the window because it was literally something you moused over four times while looking for it.
All in all, nice, artsy game, and a tiny bit frustrating, but in the “I’m going to get this done.” kind of way. Buy it on the cheap, five bucks or under.
Next up, a game for the dictator in all of us:
Tropico 3 is a civilaztion-building game that places you in the shoes of a Captain Ersatz of Fidel Castro on a tiny Caribbean island. The demo comes with a tutorial and a practice scenario for you to get your taste (Unlike the full version, which I ended up buying, the tutorial ends when you finish it, rather than letting you continue to muck about in beautiful wherever the hell the island is). It follows the usual rules of letting you plan your citizens needs, wants, and buildings, sandboxing you in until you fill the required goal. All in all, it’s fun, and it’s got a great sense of humor. Buy it at ten dollars or under.
And last, but not least, a game that lets you burninate the countryside AND the people:
The demo for Hoard is about as fun as it gets. It’s an arcade-style game where you play a dragon who ransacks the country for loot to build his hoard (Fun fact: Only male dragons build hoards. Shiny piles attract females). Along the way, you fight archers, knights, and other dragons, kidnap princesses, kill wizard-towers, and have a romping good time. The demo suffers from the problem of being too fun, and I’d rather just keep playing it than buy the full game. That said, the only reason I haven’t bought it is because I missed my chance and it went from three dollars to six. The full version contains multiplayer, more maps, and further customization of options. Buy it, but only if it goes on sale for under five bucks.
I think that’s how I’m going to rate games. Not with a score, but rather how much of its total asking price I think it’s worth. Seems like a good system.
After a few months hard labor, I finally have enough cash set aside to purchase an iPhone!
Well, not really. I bought a Ipod Touch, henceforth referred to as “Touchi”.
I’ve had a good week to sample a large variety of apps and games, and I’ve gotta say: It’s the most convenient platform.
That said, it’s not without its inconveniences. Let’s just start with the general stuff and then move on to game specific examples.
We’ll start with the pros. The screen is nice and big, it’s very responsive, and it feels nice when its clean (I have to keep a cloth handy at all times because my fingers always seem to be dirtying the thing up). On top of that, I am still finding new games for agreeable prices (Free) every day I use it. Furthermore, the device itself allows for playing your own music over a lot of games, which I just think is a good feature.
Those are the good features of the system’s gaming capabilities. For the non-gaming stuff, go somewhere else.
The general cons of the system are minimal, but enough to piss me off. The biggest issue I have is control. Now, for games where the controls are just tap here, or rub here, it’s great. It’s when they put a control pad on the screen that I get pissed off. It just doesn’t work. My fingers move, and without the physical touching of an actual button, I have no idea whether or not my next press will swing my sword, take a step, or do fuck all. Thankfully, very few games I’m interested in use this. However, there’s one, and we’ll get to it later.
Ads. Now, I don’t mind free games for the price of having an ad bar here or there, but Words With Friends (A scrabble-like app, with a free, ad-supported version, and a paid, adless version) commits a grievous sin. It pops up with an ad after EVERY MOVE. Now, this is okay, when you pop a move every five minutes or so. But when you and your friend are playing together, it is the word-game equivalent of reloading your gun and finding out that you have to click “Next” on a pop up to chamber up the next round.
The last thing that gets on my nerves is that every other game has its own game-account system. There’s gamecenter, which comes default on the app, and many games use it to keep track of scores, achievements, etc. I would be fine with that, were it the only one. Instead, every game I download wants to be the next Xbox live with their little friends system and achievement tracking. Only NOBODY’S GOING TO USE THAT SHIT. I skip it every time, and then I find out that some features are denied to me unless I sign up? And then every time I want to log into said feature, I need to re-enter my name and password? Come on! I’m sure this will probably fall under nitpicking, but still! If you’re going to do something like that, at least make it a one-and-done feature, like I make an account and then other games just see “Oh, this guy’s touch has an account with us!”.
Okay, now that I’ve vented, let’s talk games.
First, the big one. Everyone’s talking about Angry Birds. Why? It doesn’t seem like something that would warrant the raving that it gets from an outside perspective, right? Well let me ask you something. You ever spend a couple hours playing a random browser game just because it was there and you were bored? That’s Angry Birds. You factor in portability, and the fact that more games come out every couple months, and you’ve got a recipe for success at ninety-nine cents a pop.
It’s your standard physics-catapult-tower-knock-down game, and there really isn’t much to say about it, other than you’ll understand why everyone keeps playing it once you play it for yourself.
Next is a bunch of games by a particular company. Optime Software seems to like making simple games that everyone plays, all for free. I originally downloaded a Sudoku app from them, and I spent a good couple hours messing with it before I decided to check out “Other Games” from the menu. Hoo boy. They have all the games I like to play. You have your few standard board games, chess, checkers, four-in-a-row. Games you play with someone else (I discovered their handiness when waiting with a family member for another family member). Then you have pen-and-paper games, like tic-tac-toe (Naughts and Crosses, for the only British member of our audience, you know who you are), box-in (At least that’s what I called it, they called it dots. Kudos, because I love this game.), hangman, too. They have hearts and war (Another kudos for that), some card games, and then a few other games you’ll have played elsewhere. Frankly, their games are free, mostly ad-free, and they’re the games you’ll play when you’ve got a bored sibling handy, or if you ever burn yourself out on everything else. So I recommend their lineup.
Next is a game I’ve only just started playing, but I love it to bits because it was exactly what I was expecting. WildFrontier is an RPG, and RPGs on the app store are a very mixed bag. I can never tell whether I’m getting a mobile MMO, a final fantasy knockoff, or some town-building sim when I see “Role Playing Game” in the description. This little game was what I wanted, and what I got was a mishmash of Zelda and your typical single-player MMORPG (Complete with little townsfolk and their golden “!”s). You run around on a field, swing your sword, kill bad guys, grab their innards (I haven’t seen an inventory limit yet), and return their bits to people for rewards. It’s short, fun, and you can pick it up and put it down at any time, really. One gripe about it, though. In-app purchases. I came across a store in it, and it sells things you NEED, like swords, and first-aid-kits, and they didn’t really appear to be high-class, either. But they were charging NINETY NINE BLOODY CENTS for each item! When I can buy a whole damn game with that kind of money, it boggles the mind how they can get away with it!
Other than that, there are a few physics puzzlers, a tilt-maze that kept me amused for an hour, lots of remade flash games, and tap tap tappity tap taps galore.
Let me say this. If you’ve been putting off your purchase of an iPhone or iPod Touch for reasons that you think you won’t use it a lot outside of music, put those fears out of your head. There is and will always be a handful of apps for you to amuse yourself with for hours on end. Enjoy.
(Now where’s my money, Steve Jobs?)
Usually, when I see a developer trying to go “Retro” they’ll
A) Make their games simple but obscenely hard
B) Go 8 or 16 bit with the graphics and sound
C) Give it a coin-op style overlay.
They really don’t capture the heart of being “Old-School” with most of these. Sure, titles like Megaman 10 can run right up with the best of them for being called Old School, but there’s just something always missing for me.
Usually, it’s that “I CAN do this” feeling, despite extreme odds. I find a lot of devs forgetting that when they start to tone up the difficulty.
Ninja Senki is a game that’s stylized somewhere between Mario and Megaman, with Ninja Gaiden overlay. It captures the heart of D-Pad + AB-Select-Start retro feel. You have move buttons, jump, and shoot. Your arsenal of moves consists of a double jump (That works unlimited times on water, and you WILL use this on water.) and a “Throw Shuriken” button.
Nowhere does anything feel cheap or unnaturally difficult. If you die, you have only yourself and your quicksave-coddled skills to blame. If you die too much, you go back to the start of the scene. If you die WAY too much, you go back to the start of the game. You get the feel for the levels just soon enough to beat them, and move on to the next one. The movement is tight, and the enemies are simple but challenging.
The lives system only sits and makes sure you’re still playing. You can only take 5 hits before dying, which is the right number to me. It will be lenient and start you at the beginning of the current area for single deaths, current scene for game overs, and even then, it will deduct 100 points from your score to drive you back to the start of the level from ninja-hell or wherever you go. And your score does NOT go up rapidly. Most enemies are only worth 5-20 points, and they WILL kill you.
The story, thin as it may be, is the kind that you read in the instruction booklet and are treated to simple cutscenes for. Your girlfriend is dead. A ninja did it. A ninja will kill the other ninja. You are the ninja who will kill the ninja who killed your girlfriend. And even then that’s just getting needlessly complicated.
This game has pure, old-school charm, and while it will frustrate you (Especially when you realize that you CANNOT close it, or you will lose your current progress), it feels rewarding to beat. Like so many old NES titles, it will bring you back to basics. And make you feel like you’ve never played a game before.