Thursday, 28 November 2013

Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back - Snow Go + Hang Eight

So, err, seven months ago I started this....I've been, like, super busy (he lied). Let's forget about all that for now and head right into part two of my adventures to finally beat the first ever Playstation game I ever played: Crash Bandicoot 2.

We had just found the first crystal for Cortex. Now it was time for...

Level 2 - Snow Go

I must say, I was very surprised when I found out that "Snow Go" did not turn out to be a volcano level. Still, right off the bat the level throws in something new - the Nitro crate. Unlike the TNT crate - Nitro's blow up instantly. Don't touch them.

Ice physics make their introduction to the series. It's same as any other game - as soon as you touch ice you lose a little bit of control as Crash continues sliding in a certain direction. It's not too annoying in this level, thankfully.

Like the previous game, there will be side-scrolling sections within the actual levels. And much like the previous game, half the enemies are just innocent animals doing their own thing - like this penguin. It just walks back and forth - spins in place, then starts walking again.

They can be annoying little buggers in small spaces though and have caused more than a couple of deaths in the past.

Anyone who kills these fellas will not receive my "Seal of approval". They also just go back and forth. Easy enough to ignore. Just beyond that is a pillar that will close as you walk past it. Unless you dawdle, you shouldn't get caught in it.

These ones, on the other hand, are timed. Much like a great philosopher once said "All you need is a little patience". And who would dare argue with Axl Rose?

That's really about it for the level - it's otherwise a bog standard level. Unlike...

Level 3 - Hang Eight

Honestly, I thought the original Hang trilogy was good but I wasn't fan of Hang's 4-7. So how does Hang Eight compare?

Well it's a water level - similar to levels seen in  the original game. Here we can see a piranha having a jolly good time, but remember this advice: "Always avoid partying piranahas!". 

This is a Venus Fly Trap (apparently). We see it as a oversized monstrous plant - it sees us as a marsupial snack. Spin into it before it eats you.

What's this?

AAAAND WE'RE OFF! Crash Bandicoot making his first appearance in the Aboriginal Extreme Sports Tournament and he is off to a great start! He successfully avoids the first set of mines...

...and he's careful not to get caught in the whirlpools. Get too close to them and you'll be sucked in to a dark void never to be seen again. Crash is on course for a great position as long as he doesn't...crash.

We're onto the foot section of the course and now Crash must jump on the Hippo to get to the other side.

He picks up the crystal! Just two more Hippos to jump on and then...

YES! He's back on the jetski! And he's found the boost button! That is a face of a bandicoot who is loving life right now!

But sadly all good things have to come to an how well did Crash do in his first round?

He seems happy enough! 

But what did the judges think...?

Cortex: "Three crystals? Not bad. I see you are getting the hang of it. I need to conserve power. I will communicate with you again after you retrieve the fifth crystal."

Next time: We retrieve the fifth crystal. YEAH!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Quick Review: NarcoGuerra (GameTheNews)

I study Journalism at uni. So naturally the thought of blending journalism and gaming together is incredibly intriguing to me. That is exactly what GameTheNews does - using its games as a platform to teach players a little something about the real world. NarcoGuerra aims to educate us about the war on drugs that is ongoing right now in Mexico. So just how successful was GameTheNews in their mission?

I'll start by explaining the game. We play as the Chief of Police - apparently our jurisdiction is all of Mexico - as we try to force the various drug cartels out of existence.

The police controlled regions are in blue. Any other colour represent another cartel. The number in each region specifies how much units are currently situated there. There are two stages of play - the first is the Support Stage. The menu on the right shows what you can do in this stage - (from top to bottom) Recruit more units, transfer units to another region, Internal Affairs (which will lower corruption in the force) and Intel which you can use on any cartel region with a question mark.

The Attack Phase is where you unleash your attacks. You click on one of your regions which will inform you of where you can attack. Once you've chose your target, just click it and then a battle will commence.

This is what a battle looks like. Three units from the attacker against up to two units from the defender. The attacks are decided by dice rolls - which leads me to my first issue with the game. Battles are luck-based. Whoever rolls the highest wins, unless it's a draw in which case the defence wins. I'm not a big fan of games in which luck is the major obstacle to success - though I can understand that this game is clearly influenced by board games such as Risk so perhaps board game fans could forgive them a little more for this.

Once your attack phase is over it's time for the Cartel to do their thing. They will recruit units and attack other regions just like anyone else. This represents the very real violence that happens in the Mexican Drug Wars - at least 60,000 people have died since December 2006 when the military joined in an attempt to break up the major cartels.

At the end of some turns there are these reports. Some are story based - such as updates on the elections that take place every five turns.

Some are random reports that can have benefits - such as a cash boost or a boost to attack power - or have a negative impact as shown in the image. We can even get optional missions for some extra cash.

As mentioned, every five turns there is an election. Herrera starts the game in charge and is in full support of the war on drugs. Moralas would rather reduce the street price of drugs by legalising them. You can pledge money to either candidate which will sway the votes.

So, the question remains...was GameTheNews successful in blending news with games? To be honest - yes! Yes they were. The game, although not to my particular tastes, is rather fun - though brutally hard in my experience (which again can be pinned on the fact I don't normally play games like this). The main success of the game however came after I stopped playing. The first thing I did was to look up more information about the war on drugs in Mexico - it will also be the first thing I do once I finish writing this review. GameTheNews apparently mirrored real life events within the story and random events in the game and I'm interested to see the parallels.

It's definitely a unique way of delivering the news. Would I recommend to everyone? Nope. If you are interested in world events, journalism or even just want a fun Risk-style game to play - then this would be a game you'd be interested in.

NarcoGuerra is available on both iOS and Android devices (for 69p) as well as a few digital distributors (cheapest I see is Gamersgate where it's 59p). If you are reading this before the 27th of November 2013 - NarcoGuerra is also available in the current Indie Royale bundle.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Quick Indie Game Review: Gravi (Hashbang Games)

Quick Indie Game reviews are when I play an indie game, usually one that's part of a bundle of some sort, for roughly an hour and decide if it's worth playing on or not.
With that said let's look at...
Gravi is a fun game. I could end the review there but that'd be rather lazy on my part so let me tell you more about it. You play a little blue orb who has the ability to move right AND the ability to move left. Oh it can also shoot balls of gravitational energy which Gravi will be pulled towards if he is close enough. It's a physics based puzzle platformer but it is incredible easy to pick up and play...

...but not quite as easy to succeed in. There is a reason there is a deaths counter - as you get further into the game it starts to get very hard. It definitely takes some inspiration from Super Meat Boy - difficult but mostly fair. It's trial and error gameplay, but it treats death as no more than a minor inconvenience - you respawn again in no time at all - so it at least has realism on it's side.

Expect to be burned, electrocuted and impaled on spikes many, many times on your journey. There is a collectable to attain in every level if you want to give yourself an extra challenge. 

The second chapter introduces these gravity pipes - they really do not want to be your friend as they are quite happy to send you straight into all sorts of traps.

At the end of the level you get this screen telling you how well you've done, or in this case, to allow the death counter to mock you with how badly you (or I...) did.
In 45 minutes I managed to get to level 20 - which is the halfway point in the game - there are 40 levels. It is an "Early Release" though, so more features will be added in the future.
Some features have already been added, such as achievements, which are always nice.
So...will I be playing on? Most definitely. This is a fun, challenging puzzle platformer - the levels are short enough that you can pick-up and play if you don't have a lot of spare time. It is clear a lot of effort went into its visuals and the soundtrack is very good too.

If you like the sound of this game then you can pick it up in the Indie Royale's 'Sigma Bundle' for as little as £3.63 (for this and at least six other games), or your region's equivalent price. If the bundle is finished then you can get it off Steam for £6.99 or $9.99.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Quick Review: Chirac

Chirac was a game developed in 48 hours for the 'Art Game Weekend' in France. You play as a six-legged goat - yes, that old cliché again - who has to eat, chew, repel and doom its way to victory. The whole game takes no more than two minutes to complete, it's free and completely browser based - in fact it's right here!

This is all the story you get. It's all you need.

There are four levels: Eat - where you have to run around and eat the various human/horse hybrids that you see. Chew - where you...chew. Repel has you swatting away flying beasties with your tail. Doom - where you have to mash a certain section of your keyboard (though it's not designed with QWERTY in mind, just a heads up).

This is the Chew level. Much like in real life you use one side of the keyboard to control one side of your teeth.

So why am I bothering to talk about Chirac - a game that is so short that I could have played it three times in the time it's taken me to write this so far. Well I'll tell you why - because it's awesome. The graphics are absolutely wonderful - very colourful and cartoony. The music is a fast-paced, thumping tune that matches what it going on-screen perfectly.

Well...I'm not sure ANYTHING could match what is going on-screen right now...

If you're going to play any free browser-based French art game made in 48 hours that only takes about a minute to play today, make sure it's Chirac. It's an...experience, to say the least.