Monday, April 4, 2011

High Speed (NES)

I almost want to do a review of this YouTube review of 'High Speed' for the NES... Narrated by a young Ben Stein.



Ok, so anyway... I just received a copy of 'High Speed' for the NES via Goozex. I dug out my RetroStation and stuck it in.

I was first struck by the awesome soundtrack, and then derailed by the terrible graphics. I was wondering if maybe the cart was not pushed down all the way, but it turns out the graphics just suck.

ANYWAY...

So, I have never actually played a real life 'High Speed' pinball machine (HS being one of the best selling pins of all time, with something like 17,000+ cabinets in existence.), though I have played the sequel, The Getaway, many times. Either way, I was expecting a straight virtual representation of the actual pin a la the other Rare pinball NES game, Pin*Bot.

No dice. Mere seconds into my first game, I collected a helicopter. WHAT? Yeah, a flashing helicopter showed up on the screen, and when I hit it, it flew down to rest on the apron. Ok... then I noticed some water bubbling up on the left of the playfield... then a tumbleweed passing by. THEN, a freaking BOMB blew up one of my flippers! ie. shattered it to pieces. A new flipper was airlifted in and installed during gameplay. So, it's a mix of the actual High Speed game, with some videogame flair. Then it turns out that collecting items leads to minigames (as seen in the YouTube review I posted above).

Maybe this doesn't seem like a big deal, but I was weirded out enough to run over to the computer to type up this mini review. It's like a mix of a 'real' pin and 'Pinball Quest', the NES pinball RPG. Yes, I just wrote 'pinball RPG'... but that's a game for another entry...

So, I'm intrigued, and will play more. My only real knock on the game (the bad graphics are a slight ding) is that the ball stops during some text, thus throwing off your rhythm. Kinda like the spiral magnets on Twilight Zone. You think the ball is coming and you flip, only to have the ball come a split-second later and pass by your flipper.

Overall: A for effort, C+ for execution.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

nail'd Demo - Out Now on XBox Live



I'm a sucker for offroad games and breakneck racing titles. Pure, Burnout 3, Trials HD. I love to imagine myself blowing past trees and kicking up mud in my opponents faces while I sit in my recliner. As such, I've been really excited to try the latest over-the-top offroad racing game, nail'd. The advertising campaign for the game has been weak at best. Apparently, it was released last November! Anyway, the demo just hit Xbox Live yesterday.

So, I sat down, started my race, and within literal seconds I was already blowing doors at top speed... right out of the starting lanes... 'ok guys, we get it... let's ease in a little...' were my first thoughts. Too much too soon. After a few races, I became accustomed to the speed. There is no 0-60. There is only 60. And by 60 I mean 160. You're ALWAYS moving at top speed. Only once did I land on a ramp wrong and it slowed me a little.

nail'd feels a bit like the PS2 game 'Downhill Domination'. Crazy stuff going on around you at all times, way over-the-top with a spoonful of charm and a knowing wink.... 'THIS is what you REALLY want from a racing game...' Not a sim in the least. It also feels just a little... off. It feels like a semi-polished budget title. A decent budget title. Not much depth, but gorgeous tracks that are constantly changing, and branching out into dozens of shortcuts. nail's has a total focus on FUN. It also reminded me of the 'Flatout' games. Yeah, they're far-fetched, but you have a great time with it in short bursts.

It turns out that nail'd was released as a budget title at $50. It's currently about $33 new on Amazon.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Monster Mayhem - FREE (currently) - iPhone/iPod Touch



I swear I have been meaning to update this more often... promise... It wasn't until today though, when I gave a little game called 'Monster Mayhem' a spin, that I was inspired to write up a little review.

In a nutshell, 'Monster Mayhem' by Chillingo is 'Plants vs. Zombies', but with less plants, and touch screen weaponry. Basically, keep the incoming waves of monsters away from your property! The monsters filter in from the right side of the screen, with their goal on the left side.

You begin with a knife and revolver. The knife controls a la 'Fruit Ninja', while the firearms have a touch-screen shooting gallery feel to them. Each level is comprised of a half dozen stages or so, and each stage has a half dozen waves or so.

Pros
- Excellent cartoony graphics, bright colors, clean animations... typical top notch Chillingo art style here.
- Steady learning/difficulty curve. Never too hard, but stays challenging.
- Weapon variety - grenades, flame throwers, knives, etc. All upgradeable and with different perks.
- The 'Monster Handbook' has a little 'trading card' that shows their different strengths and weaknesses, etc.
- Crystal integration.
- Did I mention it's FREE right now? A lite version is also available when the sale ends.

Cons
- When some monsters are defeated, they drop coins or ammo. You have to specifically touch these items to collect them, or they time-out and disappear fairly quickly. It would have been nice to collect them if your finger touches them, even if you are attacking at the same time.
- Crystal integration. Hopefully, they will add GameCenter support soon. With Plus+ and Openfeint and Crystal all providing similar services, I wish there were only one game in town for leaderboard and friend connectivity.

Overall: At the current price, it's a no-brainer. Great action, great humor, very well-polished title that can kill a few minutes or keep you in your seat for a few hours. I'll put a CAG value of $2.99 on it.

Grade: A

Monday, February 1, 2010

24 games - 1 afternoon


Alright, I just downloaded a backlog of 24 games from the Xbox Indie Games Creators Club. All are full versions, but not necessarily final builds.

In an effort to not spam my Twitter feed to death, I'm going to do a quick round up right here.

Let's begin...

1. Fish Listening to Radio - Cute, hand-drawn graphics and twee acoustic guitar music. Your fish must eat worms on hooks as they lower into the sea, and avoid the hooks as they rise from the water. You also must protect the radio at all costs (though inexplicably). Despite the fact that I suck horribly at the game (my high score is 520), its a cute game, and quite a bit of fun. I want to try the multiplayer as I think my wife may enjoy it.

2. Omoti - I downloaded this because the cover looks like the Japanese cover of 'Ico'. Ok... I have no idea what the hell is going on. The game just ended. I was looking at oranges and octopuses (octopai?), like I was selecting a character, but then it ended. Needless to say, the game is in japanese. Ok, so I was able to stack junk and if I stacked matching items, I received 5 points instead of the 1 point you get for stacking randomly. Pass...

3. Bacterio - So, it looks like a mix of Cubivore and Intelligent Cube. Your cube can eat other cubes, and the goal it to reach a blue cube within each small level. Fairly clever, with nice options and difficulty settings, but not enough to make me want to keep playing.

4. MatchingPair - The title says it all. Flip over cards to make matching sets. it's fun as a minigame in Super Mario Bros. to earn powerups, but it doesn't make for an exciting experience on its own.

5. Phono Alliance - More hand drawn animation. Kind of like a bad R. Crumb vibe. You play music in time with the beat to attack, defend or speed up. You are supposed to 'protect someone on each level', but the level just loops unless I attack the protected myself. Then a crazy butcher comes out an kills me. The instructions are misspelled, lengthy, and confusing.

6. Samurai vs. Zombie - Weird soundtrack. Everything from quiet acoustic jumbles to bad rap beats and modern techno pop. Cel shaded button masher that pits your player against a horde of zombies armed with only a samurai sword. A potential multiplayer hit, but a bit of a dud solo despite several gameplay options.

7. The Cruelest Day - A maniac has kidnapped you and put you in his basement. You have two minutes to escape each level. It's a platformer in the most basic sense. You jump from platform to platform, over a bunch of cobras that look like sliding turds, collecting jewels while you seek the exit. The entire time Buffalo Bill is standing at the top of dungeon singing an awful, looping, Nickleback-esque song about 'everyone dies'. I kind of like how the platforms are indistinguishable from the background, and there are some clever shortcuts. Not very compelling though. Oh, and the main character is a blur in a dress with two large round blurs on the chest area. A Code 4 error ended my game. The Cruelest Day indeed.

8. Masters of Belial - I don't know what its about yet, but the title is kind of awesome. Hot pirate chick... looks promising. Ok... taking forever to load with bad Celtic looping audio. Alright, so this is a multiplayer arena game. It looks Diablo-esque, decent graphics, you run around with a group of people and try to kill the leader of the opposing team while collecting treasure and attacking minions. The enemies are alright, the 'creeper' (ie. giant hand) is kind of cool. So, now some dude is talking like Jack Black over the bad Celtic music about lore and ancient realms and whatnot. Time to move on...

9. Kong360 Gorilla Warfare - This one gets big points on the box art and name alone, but let's see how it plays. Very cool! Like a cel shaded Ikaruga Warriors or Assault Heroes, or a top down Serious Sam game, but with monkeys. Looks to be a multiplayer combat game, single player vs. bots. The weapons are fun, the graphics are nice, the controls are fluid... the only bad part is that the bots are kicking my ass!

10. Zulu Hour - Shoot 'Em Up with a story. Weapons are waaay underpowered. Competent, but boring.

11. Avatar Plays Basketball - I throw de ball 8 times. I make de 1 basket. I never play de game again. Terrible. I do dig the incredibly over dramatic soundtrack however.

12. Yet Another Zombie Defense - The title pretty well says it all, except that these zombies aren't after brains! No, they prefer to go right after any fences you put up and focus on destroying those. Not bad, but Smash TV and iDracula did it much much much better. At least this guy knows what he's got, and knows his market given the Marilyn Manson soundtrack.

13. Word Duelist - Like Boggle, but faster paced, with changing objectives and including almost only words you've never heard of. I think there was some Portuguese in there as well. Early build I think, because even when I was losing, I won. What's a Peipald?

14. Hang 'Em High A Hangman Game - How you screw up a Hangman game? You don't. It's a decent, if unspectacular Hangman game with varying difficulties. My only knock is that it doesn't display the letters you've missed.

15. Avatar Avenue - Like a Mii parade, but from a distance, and without using any of your avatars. Just generic avatars. Maybe that's because it's in beta, but I can't imagine it would pull your friends avatars if no 'official' xbox games do that. I could be wrong. It literally advertises itself as 'a complete waste of 80 points'. No more glowing review could be made.

16. Demo Durb - Demolition Derby! Pleasepleasepleaseplease be fun. Gah! Code 4!

17. Rate My Avatar - Done and done. Might be decent if my friends played it. Or if anyone actually cared what their avatars looked like.

18. Pwned - Chess on the 360. Multiplayer only, and I do not have multiple players who know how to play chess locally. No online matches found.

19. ToyBorgs - Multiplayer only deathmatch sidescroller with toy robots... would have been a great title for this game.

20. Murder on Snake Road - Silver. Dollar. Games. If you're familiar with Xbox Indie Games, you know this 'developer' and need not read any further. It took one, ten minute playthrough to beat the game. It's a murder mystery where someone feeds you clues and you move the suspects around the crime scene, trying to pinpoint the killer. Fun for highschoolers who want a pretty girl to 'talk' to them, but the mystery falls flat.

21. ItsSayOnSet - 'Traditional' Japanese game kind of like 'Rock/Paper/Scissors'. You guess how many thumbs will be raised from a group of eight hands. If you are the first to guess correctly twice, you win. Actually, pretty fun! Very well done game, as far as features and graphics go. I'm trying to figure out how this would be played in real life... like... do you write down the number of thumbs as your guess before each round or what?

22. ToyBox Racing - Race little cars around tracks made of toys. This one is from some local boys. Cel shaded graphics, decent controls, boring gameplay. Did anyone else play 'Toy Commander'? That game was awesome! The bar was set pretty high... TEN YEARS AGO. I demand a good toy game to be made ASAP. I guess Katamari is close enough.

23. Boom Chick Chick - Silver Dollar strikes again! This time it's a zombie defense game where you fight multicolored meatballs against a terrible metal soundtrack. Oddly compelling, but maybe I'm just getting worn out on Indie Games.

24. Party Boat - The title screen hasn't even shown up and I'm already in love. I just named my ship the SS Boner. Hop Aboard the SS Boner, Gals! I see boobies and some guy just said 'a slap in the nuts'. My love is true. He now said 'I love the titties!'. I'm now smuggling guns to Cuba! This cruise ship sim is the bees knees! A swingers party on the C deck, and clothing is contraband on the A deck. I vow to never cease playing this, the greatest Indie game of all time!

***

In summary:

- Party Boat is the greatest game of all time.
- Fish Listening to Radio, Kong360 Gorilla Warfare, Bacterio and ItsSayOnSet are all pretty decent.
- 80% of Xbox Indie Games are crap. Edit: I only downloaded games that I thought looked decent or interesting. There are over 700 Indie games. I've played over 100, about a dozen of those were ok or good. So that puts the percentage... at like 95% of Xbox Indie games are crap.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tobe's Vertical Adventure - 240 Points - Xbox Indie Game

The rundown from Xbox.com:
Tobe's Vertical Adventure is a classic 2D platformer, where players join Tobe on his quest for the treasure of King Garuza. Play the game in single or co-op modes through hours of platforming fun, in 16 levels, on 4 unique islands! Get ready for Tobe, the little guy with the big head, big adventure!


Pros
- Very polished design and great 'pixel-y' graphics
- Clever level design - the levels change within themselves. You make your way down, then they change as you make your way back up.
- Cute cutscenes
- Multiple save slots
- More than just jumping - you've got a balloon (ie. parachute) and a hook ladder (ie. chain) that you can use beyond just jumping. You can also sprint and roll.
- Collectibles! You can save chickens and collect items for bonuses.

Cons
- Awkward controls on account of...
- Reliance on the awful Xbox 360 D-Pad

Really, thats the biggest bummer, but it's a deal-breaker for me personally. I was eager to jump into the great looking levels, but found myself missing easy jumps because of the mushy D-pad. I'm not generally one to bash that D-pad, but it really hurts an otherwise interesting game.

Overall: A nice title that just made one (unforgivable) wrong turn.
C

Click here to add the trial version to your queue.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Green Island - 80 points - Xbox Indie Game




The rundown from Xbox.com:
Name:GREEN ISLAND,Genre:ACTION,A BUTTON:The bubble is shot.,B BUTTON:Jump, Y BUTTON:Menu,Copyright 2009 Alpha Secret Base. All Rights Reserved.


Pros:
- Clever puzzle design with action elements
- TONS of options (stage select, replay, 16bit-era options screen with sound tests, language selection, tutorial, time attack, etc.)
- Lots of levels
- Great colors with decent 16bit-era graphics
- A lot of content for only 80 points
- Constantly challenging with a comfortable learning curve

Cons:
- Incredibly messy, text-heavy interface
- Several elements are lost in translation
- Annoying, generic lo-fi soundtrack
- Bizarre, tacked-on back story involving a quest for a pumpkin pie recipe

Overall: Very solid puzzler. A must-buy at 80 pts for puzzle fans.
A-

Click here to add trial version to your download queue.
This review was based on the trial version of 'Green Island'.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Bailout! - 80 points - Xbox Indie Game



The rundown from Xbox.com:
When the rich get poor they get a Bailout! Collect as much money as possible as it falls from the sky while avoiding suicidal stockbrokers. Don't forget to kick the homeless before they steal your free government money and use it for medical treatment. Get a job, hippies!


Pros:

- Great '8 bit' soundtrack
- Great '8 bit' graphics
- Humorous 'tongue-in-cheek' premise
- Money looks like tacos and cannonballs.
- Thorough, but easy to understand instructional guide.
- Decent amount of depth in the form of purchasable upgrades to your wallet, etc. and a timed 'sprint' button to grab money, or dodge danger.
- 'Classic' gameplay - dodge the falling objects while collecting other objects. Simple and fun premise that has stood the test of time.
- At only 80 pts ($1), it knows it's a quick diversion.

Cons:

- Difficult demo. I had to restart it several times because it boots you after two lives. Gamers with less diligence might just give up.
- Not THAT much depth. You're just running around, chasing a high score overall.
- No leaderboard to compare with friends or other XBL users.

Overall:
B-

Click here to add trial version to your download queue.
This review was based on the trial version of 'Bailout!'
EDIT: The lack of a leaderboard is a restriction of XBN publishing, not of the game developer. It's still something that would add to the game however!