Opps.

It’s been a bit quiet around these parts again; that’s mostly due to personal commitments, but it’s also because of one particular black box…

my playstation 4

Ok, I know I said that I wasn’t going next gen for a while but I really couldn’t resist. I was in a position where, after I’d taken a look at the finances, I could actually manage to afford to get one. I figured that if I spent time saving up for one I’d end up spending the money I put aside each month on something else and never end up with one. So I took the chance and got one while I could, as an investment for the future.

Of course, peer pressure played a part to some degree as well. My friend at work got one back in January and was constantly saying how good his PS4 was and how I should get one. I’m not proud to say this influenced me somewhat, but don’t we all rely on the opinions of friends and family anyway? I was always going to get one so I suppose it was only a matter of time.

I know, I’m kidding myself, but I’m still happy with my purchase. Money still remains a problem though, as with the price of the games I can only afford to buy one every few months. I don’t really see that as a bad thing though. For one; there’s not a big library available at the moment and, two, I can spend more time with each game than I normally would. The problem I had with the Xbox 360 is that I bought so many games that I had trouble finishing games I already had before I was moving on to the next one. We’re still in the early days of the PS4 so I do understand that it’s not going to be like the latter days of the 360 yet, although it will come with time. Gone are the days when I can spend money on games all the time – especially with a wedding coming up – so I now have to choose the games I really want to play and hope that they’ve got enough longevity to keep me occupied for a while.

I’m also going to be borrowing games off friends, which is what I’ve done with the game I’m currently playing: Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. I only actually own one game at the moment (aside from the free PSN Plus games), Killzone Shadow Fall that game with the console, and that will probably remain the case until Watch Dogs comes out at the end of May. Killzone isn’t a game I would have bought myself, and it’s not really what I expect from a next gen game. Sure, it’s got a nice shiny layer of eye-catching graphics over the top of it, and it injects a bit of colour until the usual bleak grey battle-torn landscapes that make-up a Killzone game. But it’s the same point and shoot mechanic and it doesn’t add all that much to the formula. So when my friend offered to lend me AC4 I jumped at the chance.

Assassins-Creed-4-Black-Flag

I held off playing AC4 on last gen because I was always intending to get it for the PS4. At its heart it’s most definitely a last gen game, but the added shine and boost in graphical prowess makes for a damn good looking game on PS4. You can’t help but admire the way a setting sun reflects off the rolling Caribbean seas, and the way that luscious green bushes sway in the wind. Yeah, it’s not like swaying bushes is a new thing – but it just looks a damn sight better. Not that next gen is all about graphics, it will remain about gameplay and the added processing boost the new consoles give, but you still want to see a good looking game on your shiny new console.

I’m spending a great deal of time with AC4; collecting every little item on offer, doing every side mission and exploring the seas. It’s the best Assassin’s Creed since the second one, with the naval aspects making it a far better game than it would be without. I haven’t tried the multiplayer yet, and I don’t know if I will, but for now I’m thoroughly enjoying being a pirate.

Anyway, that’s enough about my PS4 for now. I’ll try and write here as much as possible, although it may end up being longer posts rather than lots of shorter ones. We’ll see.

Mobile Monday: Sound Ride

I know what you’re thinking. Another runner game on a mobile platform? Yawn! But, ladies and gentlemen, Sound Ride is a runner with a difference! I know you’ll roll your eyes too, as every developer who puts out a runner into an already saturated market will scream that their game is different simply because you control a crocodile instead of a guy on a jetpack. It won’t be long before we see a combination of crocodile and jetpack, and the gaming community will bow down to the ‘originality’ of such an idea.

Sound Ride

Or maybe not, but at least Sound Ride tries to do something more than simply a change of art style or characters. Sure, you can tick the box that has ‘colourful art style’ next to it, and you can tick the other that says ‘include anthropomorphic character’ too. But, when it comes to sound, Sound Ride definitely throws something a little unique into the ring. The excruciating difficulty is still very much there though, but it wouldn’t be a runner without a thousand deaths before teatime.

You control Kiwi, a small flightless bird who’s off on an adventure through a series of increasingly harder levels. So it’s not an endless runner, at least in the main portion of the game. Levels are hand-crafted; there’s no random generation at play here, at least until it comes to the Daily Challenge. The Daily Challenge is more like your endless runner as it challenges you to a new randomly generated level every single day; giving you 5 attempts to get the best score you can on an infinite run.

The game will put your timing and dexterity to the test; multiple times, before you nearly throw your phone down in frustration. It’s a series of spiky traps, tipping platforms, bouncy surfaces and mobile enemies. Take a jump a millisecond too early and you’re dead, so it’s one of those platformers that’s going to take a few tests before you get through each level. Thankfully there’s a checkpoint around the centre of each level, so you don’t have to do the whole bloody thing again. Although there is an incentive to get a perfect run in the form of coins and the games unique soundscape.

Sound Ride Daily Challenge

Collect pointy yellow icons (best description ever!!!) and the game will add another layer to the ongoing soundtrack. The tune builds up from simple beginnings to more complicated beats and rhythms that make you immediately want to download an album full of chiptunes to bop along to. You’ll make the already tough challenge of the game even harder simply so you can complete the tune and not have to put up with only hearing half of it.

The psychics can be a bit haphazard at times. There were a few instances when it wouldn’t play ball with the double jump – especially on those pesky tipping platforms. There were also a few occurrences when I thought I should be dead but I didn’t actually die, such as Kiwi actually hitting an object but not exploding like he should. When I’d previously attempted the section I’d hit the jump just before, yet still managed to smash into it and explode, but the other time I got through it alive even though I’d seemingly done exactly the same thing.

If you want some good tunes and challenging gameplay then Sound Ride fits that spot. You’re not going to adore it if runners have always been the last thing you want to play, but if you don’t mind the genre then this at least tries to mix it up a little.

Check out the official website for more and download on the iOS App Store here.

Kickstarter Watch: Ashen Rift: A Man and His Dog

ashen rift gif

There’s been a big upsurge in survival-orientated games set in post-apocalyptic landscapes lately; The Last of Us, Rust and Day-Z all share a theme in common – it’s often better to avoid a fight to live another day. Technically you could go in guns blazing, but unless you want to end up as a wet smear on an otherwise bleak landscape it’s probably best not to. Barry Michael Collins, the creator of Ashen Rift: A Man and His Dog, is aiming to incorporate this theme into his game too, but he’s thrown a dog into the mix too.

A first person survival horror taking place in a twisted and unstable post-apocalyptic rural USA landscape, Ashen Rift follows “a man and his dog Bounder on their journey to get to the source of the Earths dire situation”. What is this situation? That’s what you’re on your way to find out; starting 25 miles out from the ‘Rift’, the rumoured cause of the creation of a mostly lifeless landscape, to try and sort this mess out. The problem is that you’re not going to get there without a fight.

Although you might, because the developer has created a system where you can approach a danger in your own way. He wants the player to examine their personalities and see if they can resist the temptation to surrender to their bloodlust. He wants to move away from “the trigger-happy standards” that normally come bundled with your average FPS. Ammo and guns will be scarce in this desolate world, so you’ll have to find another way to survive hostile encounters. If that means you’ll be stealthily avoiding them altogether then so be it.

The danger comes in the form of ‘Feeder’s’. These twisted monstrosities are the sill-live husks of what used to be men; their sole aim is to devour you and everything left in the world. You can attack them with ranged and melee attacks, but it’s the other ways you can deal with them that are more intriguing. You can dynamically change a given situation through a number of ways; be it deforming the terrain, throwing rocks to distract enemies or even forcing rocks to fall down onto unsuspecting enemies below. There are multiple ways to attack each situation, alongside multiple paths through the game.

ashen rift bounder

Finally, there’s the dog. You can interact with Bounder through a circle menu, which gives you the ability to shout commands and alter his behaviour. He still has his own independent thoughts though; dynamically reacting to sights, sounds and smells that are engineered to get your attention.

Barry is obviously just one man, but he’s still managing to develop the game enough to give 5-6 hours of playtime. He says he’ll add more should he exceed his initial goal of $45,000. At the time of writing just $1,373 has been pledged, but with 33 days left there’s still a while to go yet.

So if you’re intrigued by what you’ve read here then head over to the Kickstarter page to learn more or pledge. You can also visit the games official site.

Got a game going on or currently on Kickstarter/Steam Greenlight that you want me to take a look at? Just contact me and I’ll be glad to learn more.

Browser Game: Only Human Can Cry

only human can cry

You can’t laugh. You can’t love. You can’t dance.

But they’re wrong. You can do all three of those things, and it’s time for you to prove them wrong.

In Mini Ludum Dare 29 entry Only Human Can Cry it’s up to you, a robotic triacontagon shape (actually I didn’t count the sides, so that’s just a guess!) that desperately wants to be human. Enter each shop and you’re told you can’t do something. How do you prove you can? By solving CAPTCHA’s.

Yes, that’s those annoying security checks that websites employ to make sure you’re human…

Hey, wait a sec! I think I’ve figured out what’s going on here, although it’s not like it took a lot of thought. Anyway, I’ll leave that up to you.

Solving them is as simple as typing them out as you normally do; however, you’ve only got so much time to get them right and a mistake will cost you.

The art is beautiful, especially for such a short game made in such a short amount of time, and while it’s not going to be the most enlightening experience you have all year it’s still a fulfilling way to spend a few minutes.

You can play Only Human Can Cry here.

Browser Game: Flocky Birds

Flocky Birds

I didn’t really get the whole Flappy Bird craze. Of course I played it, who didn’t? But it was a game that stayed on my iPhone for a whole 10 minutes until I decided it was pointless and deleted it. One of the reasons is because I royally sucked at it, but it’s also because I didn’t want to dedicate my time to something that would end up causing a situation where my phone shattered into a million pieces.

So, when I came across Flocky Birds, I was in two minds about whether to play it or not. Thankfully though I quickly discovered that it has a bit more substance than the game that inspired its creation. It’s not as frustrating either. Actually, scratch that as it bloody well is once you get past the first couple of stages.

Flocky Birds 2

Like Flappy Bird you control a bird. Now that I’ve pointed out the blindly obvious I’ll move on to the difference. Across the level – shaped with the now familiar Mario-inspired green pipes that people accused creator Dong Nguyen of ripping off – there are eggs that will hatch new birds to join your flock. While you’re only tapping on key to keep your bird afloat, the task becomes a lot harder when you’re trying to stop two birds from splatting into the ground. The bottom bird is pink, so the two are constantly flashing between blue and pink – something that’s quite hard to get used to and leads to more deaths than a Miley Cyrus concert.

If you manage to clear each stage with at least one of the goals accomplished (time, amount of birds survived and amount of coins collected), and do that twice, then you can unlock a hidden stage. It’s going to be a frustrating ride getting to the point though; especially as you’ve got monkeys throwing bananas, clouds firing lightning bolts and suspiciously familiar plants popping out of green pipes all blocking your way.

It’s far better than Flappy Bird, both aesthetically and gameplay wise, but that was never going to be hard. On the other hand, there are also some far more terrible clones out there in the wild and this is definitely not one of those. It’s still frustrating as hell to play, but at least you’ll be playing a clone that’s had some heart put into it.

Play Flocky Birds here.

(Via IndieGames.com)

Mobile Monday: Tiny Goalie and Another Case Solved

Welcome to the first Mobile Monday!

Each week I’ll take a look at the games I’ve been playing on my mobile devices. These games will be both new and old, although I’ll try my best to make them relatively new.

This week both games are pretty new; Tiny Goalie and Another Case Solved. On other weeks I’ll probably cover more than two games, although with the amount I managed to write about these two it might be better sticking to two so I don’t end up writing thousands of words. Or I could just start editing myself, but I know what I’m like when I get carried out.

Anyway, here you go. Please let me know what you think of the games in the comments.

Tiny Goalie

Tiny Goalie 1

Tiny Goalie is one of those games that you pick up with the full intention of playing it for about 5 minutes. It’s pick-up-and-play for the Dentist office or the queue for the bank, which is of course perfect for mobile. Except it isn’t that, is it? Because once you pick it up it sucks you in with that ‘just one more go’ principle that a lot of these simple 5 minute games tend to end up being. Before you know it you’ve sucked your entire battery away. Bugger!

The concept is simple. You’re a goalkeeper and you have to stop footballs from going in the back of the net. Easy, right? Well, as the goalkeeper of English Championship side Yeovil will no doubt tell you, the job of a goalie isn’t so simple. The balls come flying at you after your initial warm-up, and you have to frantically slide your finger across the screen to move your pixelated keeper across what now seems like a wide chasm of a net.

Tiny Goalie 2

The more balls you save, the more your multiplier builds up. However, miss one and you’re done for. There’s no second chances here, and to make it even harder you also have to avoid the water bottles that the players will sling towards you randomly.

It’s a simple little game, but it’s one of those that has you itching to play simply to beat your previous score.

Tiny Goalie on the App Store.

Tiny Goalie on Google Play.

Another Case Solved

 

Another Case Solved 1

Another Case Solved didn’t turn out to be the detective experience that I was hoping for, but that doesn’t mean it was awful either. A game by Chillingo is always going to be a bit suspicious because of the use of timers and in-app purchases; both of which appear in this game. Still, I found out that they’re not as bad as some other games can be in their use of two pretty annoying yet common occurrences in the App Store.

Anyway, enough raging about the watering down of games for now. For at least a paragraph anyway. Another Case Solved takes place during a Sugar Prohibition – an amusing little nod towards the 1920’s alcohol prohibition that swept across the USA. You play a private detective, and the game immediately gives you the chance to edit your appearance. There’s not an awful lot available to you from the start, with the rest available only when you’ve earned enough cash to purchase them. The same goes for the items you can buy for your office, although timers sneak their way in here as new products take real time to deliver.

Ok, so we didn’t actually manage to get through one paragraph without mentioning timers or IAP, but it’s hard dammit! Let’s just forget it ever happened and move on.

Another Case Solved 2

You soon get your first case; finding a lost cat. The dialogue is lightly amusing, and it shows that Chillingo have at least put some effort into crafting text that’s actually worth reading. When the case begins I expected to be searching an environment for clues, but that’s not the case at all. Instead you’re presented with a board that’s peppered with icons. It turns out this game is a bit like those match three or more games, with more icons dropping down as you wipe them off the board. To be fair though, there is a bit more to it than that.

A trail at the top of the screen will give you an idea about what icon you need to collect. For example, walking towards the next witness will require you to collect so many footprints. Interviewing witnesses requires speech bubbles and so on. You’ll collect evidence upon successfully wiping out the right amount of icons, which will eventually lead to completion of the case.

Don’t worry, it does get more complicated than that. Later cases will only allow you to make so many moves (Candy Crush anyone?). They’ll also be expansions to the case, such as trying to find a specific person. Here you get to ask a few questions to try and find the correct person. Questions such as ‘what’s their gender?’ and ‘are they tall or short?’ allows you to eliminate people that don’t fit the answer from the screen. Yep, it’s pretty much Guess Who?

Another Case Solved 3

There’s also a mini-game that has you finding a specific location on a city map, with clues given leading you along a ‘hot or cold’ trail for you to successfully determine which building is the right one.

After each case you receive stars that allow you to level up and gain new skills. Couple that with collecting candy (can be used to speed up delivery of things, amongst other uses) and money for more things to buy that should be familiar to anyone who’s ever played a free-to-play iPhone game. Minor cases must be taken on to get to the big cases and progress the story, a story that I’ll have to keep playing to see if it gets intriguing enough to invest your time in.

It’s no Ace Attorney, but it’s at least worth a try.

Another Case Solved on the App Store.

I’ve Gone Self-Hosted

Despite not updating this blog as much as I want to, I’ve still decided to make the switch to self-hosted WordPress. I was getting a bit fed-up with Blogger and it was putting me off posting here, so I’m hoping that this change will spur me on to produce more content.

So, at the moment things might be a little screwy around here while I tweak the design. I’m not sure I’m sticking with this theme, but I wanted something that at least didn’t look too broken at the moment. The old URL’s for posts are broken too (it has .html on the end whereas the new ones don’t. They work if you take the .html away), but I’m not really sure what to do about that as a lot of this stuff is going way over my head.

I’ll be working on the site over the week so I probably won’t have much time for meaningful content, but when I do get around to it I’m hoping that I can settle into a regular pattern of producing content. Until then, please bear with me. Thanks!

Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away Recreated in Minecraft

A few months ago Film 4 had a Studio Ghibli week-long marathon. Having watched Spirited Away a couple of years ago I decided it was time to swim in the rest of these charming Japanese animated worlds. They’ve been sitting on my Virgin Tivo box for a while now and I’ve been slowly getting through them – the last one being the delightful Kiki’s Delivery Service – but Spirited Away remains my firm favourite.

So that’s why it was exciting to see that someone has gone through the trouble of recreating the world of Spirited Away inside that ever-surprising world of Minecraft. We’ve had impressive recreations before, of course, but there’s definitely been an incredible amount of care attention put into it by a diehard fan. Everything from the market where Chihrio’s parents turn into pigs, to the giant Yubaba’s bathhouse has been painstakingly crafted from Minecraft’s pixelated resources.

Alan Becker, the creator, says he’s only 80% done with the recreation so you can expect more to come from the blocky duplicate of Hayao Miyazaki’s 12-year old creation. Here’s the first part of the tour, with the rest and plenty more screenshots posted over on Alan’s dedicated website.

 

Browser Game: Navigate your way through a deadly maze in Mazing

I ended up playing Mazing far longer than I expected, but despite the time I put in I just couldn’t get past a certain point. It’s a fun game, but it’s a tough cookie to crack. On the latter levels your reaction times are crucial, to the point where pausing for even a second can mean instant death.

So I better tell you what the game is all about. The objective is to escape from a maze, but to do so you have to find the key to a locked door. Unfortunately you’re not alone in the maze, and the little critter wandering around will do his best Speedy Gonzalez impression and launch himself at you. Thankfully you can jump over the walls of the maze to escape, but this neat little trick can’t be abused and will require a few seconds to recharge after use. It’s not so bad when you’re only sharing the maze with one enemy, but with another added with each randomly generated maze it quickly becomes hard. Once I spawned into a level right next to an enemy. A quicker player may have been able to quickly jump over the wall, but in the second it took me to register what I was seeing I was already dead.

In fact, it’s so hard that even the developer of the game can’t get past level 11. I managed to reach level 6, and my rubbish progress is recorded on the leader boards when you inevitably snuff it. Can you beat the developer? Give him a tweet if you do!

Play Mazing here.

Kickstarter Watch: Tales From The Strange Universe

I used to play quite a lot of the type of MMO browser-based games that have you creating a character/empire/company/etc. and have you logging in multiple times a day to check on your little baby. I got majorly sucked into Tribal Wars to the point where it was taking up so much of my time that it was become more of a chore than actually fun, which is problem I have with a lot of MMO’s. I think the answer, if you’re going to play any of these games, is something like Urban Dead that limits the amount of interactions you can do per day. Other games, such as the space-based Neptune’s Pride, will give you new resources only once per day you’re not spending too much time coming back to do things (the problem I always had with Tribal Wars). In fact, Neptune’s Pride is the one game that I can compare today’s Kickstarter Watch, Tales from the Strange Universe, to quite easily.

In Tales from the Strange Universe you’ll be employing your strategic wits to conquer the galaxy. You choose from one of six different species, pick a galaxy and jump in to compete against other players. It’s a combination of forward-thinking and using your diplomatic skills to form alliances with other players, or stabbing them in the back when it suits you. From past experience in these games the social side can get pretty brutal. One minute someone you consider an ally is helping you crush a nearby opponent and the next minute he’s sneaked in around the back of your empire while the majority of your forces are preoccupied with another war. Be prepared to have a thick skin, or end up crying in the corner and begging for your mum!

The game will have over 60 technologies that do things like upgrade your ships or the planets you hold. You will have to build up your industry and train your military while setting your sights on which stars and planets to conquer. The aforementioned alliances play a big part in this, but you can also trade resources and share star systems with other players.

The developers, Really Big Spiders, say that each galaxy lasts about 3-6 weeks, but you can play more than one at the same time if you wish too. The best part is that everyone starts on equal-footing and nobody has a competitive advantage. There are no ‘pay-to-win’ aspects that can plague similar games, although the game does have a monetary system. Players need to purchase tokens at $1.90 each, and each week of gameplay will cost 1 token, working out at $7.60 a month. You may balk at having to pay to play, but the upside is that every player has invested money so you’re unlikely to play games with idle players (which is a big problem in Neptune’s Pride, where on average I found that only about 40% of the starting players actually end up continuing the game).

Aesthetically Neptune’s Pride looks a lot better. These types of browser-games don’t need to look amazing as it’s more about looking at statistics and maps than any fancy graphics, but it’s still nice to get a clean presentable looking layout. The artwork could definitely do with an overhaul, although the upside is it’s designed to work on any browser (mobile included) without being burdened down any cumbersome plugins.

At the moment the game is holding a decent $2,945 pledged out of the $8,000 they’re hoping to get. The campaign still has 26 days to go, but if you like the look of the game then why not throw them a few dollars? You can even try the game out for yourself now as it’s already in beta.

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