Sunday, May 27, 2007

Review: Puzzle Quest (PSP/DS)

Puzzle Quest is, at first glance, a carbon copy of Bejeweled or Zoo Keeper, but with a classic RPG twist to set it aside from those titles. You're presented with an 8x8 grid of pieces. By swapping one piece with another and lining up columns of three (or more) identical colours, you receive colour-coded mana, gold, experience points or inflict harm upon your opponent. You'll travel about an inviting overworld map, dotted with castles, villages, lairs and strongholds, taking on quests and fighting monsters. You'll receive new weapons, equipment, and spells. Sounds like fun, right?

It is. But the core mechanics of the gameplay are, in a sense,
too static and haphazard. While you often need think several steps ahead every time you move a piece, there's no doubt you'll wonder whether the AI is cheating. And, to be fair, the problem is that luck and randomness are inevitable factors of each battle. The DS is naturally immediate in its control scheme, although the graphics aren't as crisp and clear as they are on the PSP, and there are barely any flashy special effects. Both, but especially the PSP, has problems with the screen freezing up at times, requiring you to replay your opponent once again.

Puzzle Quest is challenging, and it soon gets repetitive. Personally, I get the feeling it is a one trick pony at heart, and that assumption is reinforced when you consider the static setting of the challenges, which de facto can't offer much
variation or surprises. Still, it has a certain depth - although you're not exactly urged into exploring it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Download of the week: Battle for Wesnoth (MAC/PC)

Seems some of our visitors are using MacOSX, meaning they can't enjoy any of the games we recommend, with a few exceptions. And, since I don't want this site to be a complete waste of time for Mac users, I've decided to try and publish some Mac-friendly games. Battle for Wesnoth owes a lot to Heroes of Might and Magic as well as Warlords II. It's been in development for some time now and the result is a sophisticated, turn-based strategy battle scenario game taking place in a fantasy world amongst heroes and fantastic creatures. I'm not being sarcastic or anything -
it's actually quite good. Help yourself. Especially if you're using a Mac.

Download the demo for
Windows (60 MB), or for MacOSX (80 MB).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Download of the week: Ninja Loves Pirate (PC)

And, now that we have looked into games featuring zombies and ninjas in recent posts, what does that leave us? Pirates, of course! Or, even better, all three combined:
Ninja Loves Pirate
. In this game, developed by Swedish studio Muskedunder, you get the chance to chop zombies into pieces playing as either a ninja or a pirate. Enjoy!

Visit this page to download the demo (28 MB).

Internet game of the week: Ninja Rinseout (Flash)

Since we've already covered zombies in the Flash-section, we might as well publish something about ninjas, too. Ninja games seldom makes much of an effort to capture that sinister feeling of rooftop sneaking, shuriken slinging and ninjatō slicing, but
Ninja Rinseout actually comes close, using simple, yet effective means. Like ninjas do.

Click here to play Ninja Rinseout.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Download of the week: Qui'Ifon (PC)

Qui'Ifon is a work in progress, but it's so charming I decided to recommend the pre-Alpha version anyway. According to its author, ultim8p00, it was inspired by Cave Story and features some really nice pixel touches. The controls are slightly more advanced than your average pixel game, and makes for a more satisfying experience.

Visit this page for instructions and a download link. Via Independent Gaming.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Review: Star Fox Command (DS)

What the hell is this? I know it's a bit late to review Star Fox Command, but it drives me absolutely insane. There's no holding back this time.

Star Fox Command has a solid presentation and nice graphics, similar to Metroid Prime Hunters (which is overrated, but few dare admit it). However, when playing flight simulators, draw distance is important. Scenery and textures are really impressive in this game, but object pop-up ruins the whole experience. Your only friend is the radar, since most enemies don't show up on-screen until you're flying past them. If you're lucky enough to spot an enemy in the distance, the ship you're controlling is right in the middle of the screen, effectively blocking your line of sight. Thus, combat tend to get confusing when there are red dots all over the radar screen but no enemies on the actual game screen.

The turn-based strategic map mode of the game (it's in the title: Star Fox
Command), where you draw routes with the stylus, is well implemented but often a matter of frustrating trial and error. All in all, I really dislike Star Fox Command. Oh, I almost forgot: Everything is a race against the clock. Each mission has a given number of seconds, steadily running out. While time trials can be fun and challenging, they often become stressful and, in essence, distracting and frustrating. What I do enjoy about this game is flying through hoops, the gibberish generator and the talking toad Slippy.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Internet game of the week: The Last Stand (Flash)

I'm going to keep this brief and to the point: The Last Stand (by Con Artists) is about defending your perimeter against oncoming hordes of zombies, surviving the night, using the precious hours of daylight to scavenge for weapons, finding survivors and patching up ye old barricade. It's simple. Shoot the zombies. Preferably in head.

Follow this link to play The Last Stand.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

2nd Download of the week: Which Way Is Up? (PC)

I never get tired of good platformers. This little gem of a game is called Which Way Is Up? and was developed by Finnish team Puskutraktori.
A traditional 2D platformer at heart, it has a slight rotational twist to the gameplay. Help a mysterious salesman named Guy find his way out of a labyrinth of dangers and bad dialogue. This is just a beta (version 0.6.5), but it plays well. It's an excellent work of simplicity: use the arrow keys to move around and hit the z-button to jump, find the keys and avoid the enemies

Download Which Way Is Up? (3.7 MB) by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Retro game of the week: Master of Magic (PC)

I actually wasted a few days of my life playing this game about two years ago, when I had nothing better to do. Master of Magic was released in 1995 by Simtex/MicroProse and plays like a cross between Civilization and Warlords II. You choose a wizard, pick a race (High Elves, Gnomes, you know,
generic fantasy) and guide them to world domination by building cities, raising armies and eradicating the other wizards.
Each race has its own selection of units and buildings. The Civ aspect comes into play when you research new spells (instead of
new technologies) and upgrade your cities as new buildings becomes available. The spells you can cast are plentiful and varied - there are area effect spells, summoning spells, elemental magic, and so on.

What blew me away about this game
(almost twelve years ago, mind you) was its turn-based combat. Detailed and challenging, it took the Warlords characteristic and gave it an in-depth visual presentation. Another aspect about Master of Magic which resembles Warlords II is the presence of heroes and magical items. Late in the game heroes become very powerful, to the point where no army can defeat them. This is also the weak point of the game: balance. However, Master of Magic offers deep gameplay and variation, which is why you should try it.

Here's the direct link for downloading Master of Magic. You'll need DOSBox to run it.
There's also an Master of Magic clone for Windows XP available here, although flawed.

Internet game of the week: Meteor Busters (Flash)

I know I've been posting lots of retro pixel shooters lately, but you'll
probably appreciate Meteor Busters (from studio Dot-Invasion) anyway. This one is slower that the other (rather manic) shooters mentioned earlier, so if you were stressed out by them, try this one instead. One nice thing about Meteor Busters is that the sprites are all done in the same green/grey palette, giving it a pleasant Gameboy feel. Besides the retro look, everything is crisp and professional, with parallax scrolling and what not...

Follow this link to play Meteor Busters.