Monday, August 22, 2016

CAPSULE REVIEW: TowerFall Ascension


TowerFall Ascension
Capsule Review!

Why you don't want an online mode in TowerFall

You can get TowerFall Ascension at http://www.towerfall-game.com/

Transcript:
TowerFall Ascension is a fast-paced, very precise 2D arena fighter based on shooting arrows and head-stomping. A few simple moves are combined to create a lot of strategic depth and a high skill ceiling. There are also a ton of modifiers and modes available for varied gameplay, such as giving everyone bomb arrows or even taking arrows away completely, and there's a co-op campaign as well that pits you against a variety of enemy types. The game is perfectly balanced, since all characters play identically, though this also means you can't pick a character to get good at and there aren't varied matchups. It feels good to play and especially to pull off skilled moves, but it's hard to enjoy alone, with single-player serving really only to practice the skills you'll then use in multiplayer, so it's worth noting that there's no online play, though there are good reasons - see Why you don't want an online mode in TowerFall.

Monday, August 15, 2016

CAPSULE REVIEW: Catherine


Catherine
Capsule Review!

You can get Catherine at https://www.amazon.com/Catherine-Playstation-3/dp/B004P7VGF2

Transcript:
Catherine is a game about a man going through a quarter-life crisis and, essentially, choosing between two women who represent commitment and freedom respectively. Gameplay alternates between the player character's nightmares, which are experienced as block-sliding climbing puzzles, and his waking life, experienced as adventure game-like sections with dialog and time-management choices and a pretty cool texting mechanic where you pick the mood of each sentence to send. The story features themes of maturity, fidelity, conformity, the need to move on and the fear of doing so. The game's atmosphere and visual design are great, but a lot of the rest of it feels clumsy. The middle of the story drags with the plot remaining static until you've climbed through enough levels. The implementation of the karma meter means choices matter both too much and too little, since you can't really change how most of the events play out, but you can easily be locked into endings that may have nothing to do with how you were trying to steer the story. Most frustratingly, the game doesn't end up having much of anything to say about the grown-up issues it raises - the endings tend to be wacky deus ex machinas that prevent the characters from having to deal with the consequences of their prior behavior. All in all, it feels like a missed opportunity and I would like to see a better attempt.

Monday, August 8, 2016

CAPSULE REVIEW: Broforce

Broforce
Capsule Review!

You can get Broforce at http://www.broforcegame.com/

Transcript:
Broforce is an over-the-top 2D pixel art shoot 'em up that affectionately parodies action movies and the war on terror. It's very chaotic, with terrain that can be destroyed by gunfire and explosives lying around that can result in screen-clearing chains of explosions at the drop of a hat. A single stray bullet can kill you, which is mostly okay as this just means you switch to the next randomly-selected bro, which adds enjoyably to the chaos since the bros are fun and varied and it's entertaining to figure out how to be effective with each bro's particular power set. The problem is that you have limited lives, and it can be frustrating to have to replay a level because of the game's unpredictable destruction or because you got stuck with a very limited bro who just wasn't useful for the situation. Regardless, the game is best enjoyed with a friend so you can laugh at the chaos and silliness together.

Monday, July 18, 2016

CAPSULE REVIEW: Clicker Heroes


Clicker Heroes
Capsule Review!

You can get Clicker Heroes at https://www.clickerheroes.com/

Transcript:
An idle game in which your stable of heroes kill monsters for gold. As I assume is true of most idle games, its structure is based on a series of concentric gameplay loops. First you're clicking monsters to kill them and collect gold, which you use to hire and upgrade heroes. The heroes make the monster loop faster, so after a while you stop focusing on individual monsters and instead use the constant flow of gold to manage your heroes, occasionally using their powers (which are on cooldowns of varying length) to make a lot of progress quickly. But despite being in the title, the heroes are just one of several loops - eventually you start "ascending", sacrificing your heroes to start over but collecting "hero souls" which you use to upgrade "ancients" that give you passive bonuses that make the hero loop faster. Then you start "transcending", sacrificing your ancients to start over but collecting "ancient souls" which you use to upgrade "outsiders" that give you passive bonuses that make the ancient loop faster. There are a couple of other mechanics, such as relics that are essentially another facet of the ancient loop and mercenaries which grant rewards on timers. And somewhat evilly, there are "guilds" that present a lightweight social obligation factor through daily "raids" that must be collaborated on to make any real progress. It can be satisfying, in a mindless way, to check in on your increasingly-huge numbers for a few minutes here and there. But ultimately, the game is a treadmill, doling out progression on longer and longer schedules. As such, the only way to win is not to play.

Monday, July 11, 2016

CAPSULE REVIEW: Race The Sun


Race The Sun
Capsule Review!

You can get Race The Sun at http://flippfly.com/racethesun/

Transcript:
Race The Sun is an endless runner with a compelling atmosphere. Deaths are slightly too spectacular and flow-disrupting, but the mission-based unlock system means they are also the only way to get access to new mechanics - despite the game's continual navel-gazing about the inevitability of failure, failure is the only way to progress. As a result, the pacing feels slow and oddly forced - rather than honing skill on a well-tuned challenge, it feels like running laps in an incomplete game in order to earn the next piece. For example, the first few runs are guaranteed to be cut short by running out of time when the sun sets, because you have to unlock the pickups that extend your time by raising the sun - after unlocking them, I never again lost due to running out of time. Some runs later, I crashed because I went through what was obviously a gateway - but I hadn't yet unlocked the gateway mechanic. If the game didn't force you to spend so much time on an incomplete version of itself and if it were a little harder to die, the core gameplay and aesthetics would be great at creating flow.

Monday, July 4, 2016

CAPSULE REVIEW: Lumines


Lumines
Capsule Review!

You can get Lumines at http://store.steampowered.com/app/11900/ or on the PlayStation, XBox, or iOS stores.

Transcript:
Lumines is a falling-block puzzle game where you must group like-colored blocks into rectangles to clear them away. Every so often you switch to a new song and corresponding visual skin, and the speed of the song determines the speed at which blocks are cleared away. Slower songs make it easier to rack up large combos, but also leave more time for the board to overfill and end the game. The puzzle gameplay is fairly straightforward and can actually be solved deterministically - once you know how to play, you can do so indefinitely until the blocks fall too fast for your reflexes to keep up. At that point, all that's really left is the atmosphere created by the songs and skins, which vary in different Lumines games and may or may not be to your liking.

Monday, June 27, 2016

CAPSULE REVIEW: Little Inferno


Little Inferno
Capsule Review!

You can get Little Inferno at http://tomorrowcorporation.com/littleinferno

Transcript:
Little Inferno is a satirical game where you burn things to get money to buy more things to burn. It's a send-up of games that use compulsion loops and energy mechanics to keep players playing and paying, illustrating the unhealthy cyclic nature of the behavior they incentivize. It's implied that children are rewarded for burning things in order to keep them warm since there's a bit of an ice age setting in - but that this ice age is due to all the smoke in the atmosphere from everyone burning things. The interactions of the burning objects are entertaining and fire is pretty, but it's mostly a message game. After a few hours, there are some big surprises when it's time to deliver the moral, which is that you should break out of these loops and go do constructive things in the real world. For the right audience, this game is a wake-up call. For others, it's just a diversion.

Monday, June 20, 2016

CAPSULE REVIEW: Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald


Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald
Capsule Review!

You can get Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald at https://crowscrowscrows.itch.io/dr-langeskov-the-tiger-and-the-terribly-cursed-emerald-a-whirlwind-heist or http://store.steampowered.com/app/409160/

Transcript:
Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist is a short exploration game that playfully deconstructs narrative power-fantasy games by casting them as elaborate stage productions and putting you backstage in one. Both the scale and the humor are magnified by the game leaving a lot to your imagination, keeping up a frantic pace during which a lot goes hilariously wrong, and setting up a few gags that pay off later leading up to an ironic ending. Don't bother with a second playthrough or with any of the things around the game - the achievements, patch notes, and a lot of things people say about the game online are all lies.

Monday, May 30, 2016

CAPSULE REVIEW: To Be Or Not To Be


To Be Or Not To Be
Capsule Review!

You can get To Be Or Not To Be at http://gamebookadventures.com/gamebooks/to-be-or-not-to-be/

Transcript:
To Be Or Not To Be is Shakespeare's Hamlet as a comedic choose-your-own-adventure. The text is clever and fun to read, as to be expected of writer Ryan North. I really enjoyed my first playthrough, where I chose the Shakespeare-official options to familiarize myself with the normal story. I wasn't able to stick with the game much longer after that, though, because the UX is inexplicably bad for repeat plays. Most visual novels have this stuff down but for some reason this game's engine doesn't use any of the standard assists - it doesn't mark which options you've already chosen, and you can't fast-forward through stuff you've already seen. That means too much time spent sitting through boring stuff and not enough time spent reading hilarious and awesome new stuff. You can also just buy this as a straight-up book, which might be better since you can flip around more easily.

Friday, May 27, 2016

CAPSULE REVIEW: Splatoon


Splatoon
Capsule Review!

You can get Splatoon at http://splatoon.nintendo.com/buy/

Transcript:
Splatoon is a colorful third-person shooter with a strong and consistent punk aesthetic. The main draw of the game is the online arena-based competitive multiplayer which tasks you with painting the area with your team's color of ink and only incidentally with shooting up the opposing team members. Since you're essentially using water guns with fairly short range, combat is kinetic and intimate. There's a lot of clever and satisfying synergy in the mechanics: your score is determined by how much territory you cover in your own ink, but that ink also allows you to hide, travel faster, and restock your ammo. But there's an extended progression system that means you're never playing on a level field and it's ages before you can customize your outfit and loadout to any significant degree. Plus it features the usual frustrations of online multiplayer - you can get booted if the Wii U decides your connection isn't good enough, you spend a lot of time in the lobby waiting for enough players, and even when everything works your experience depends on the behavior of random strangers (and it always sucks to lose a match because you had an idler on your team). Bot matches would have gone a long way to rescue it, but are not available. There is a single-player mode, but it's totally separate - the progression is disconnected, you can't customize your character, and it's a much more Mario-like series of levels that uses a ton of mechanics not found in the multiplayer. There are a couple of arena levels that are a blast, but they are few and far between. All in all, I love the game's world, but this is not quite the game I want to play in it. For now, I'm just hoping for spinoff titles.