Archive for August, 2012

10000000 is a million times better

, | Games

The nifty but terminally fidgety 10000000 just got an update. This match-3 plus free-runner plus RPG plus high score chase for the iPhone had an issue of the tiles not clicking into place very effectively, which is a horrible thing to happen in a game you play against a relentless clock. But I’m happy to discover that the latest update fixes that admirably. I’ve been able to play with nary a hitch lining up the tiles I want, unlocking doors, zapping ninjas, swording skeletons, and gathering wood without having to fight the interface.

Finding those tiles is another matter entirely, but that’s a me problem and not a 10000000 problem.

Cancer just the beginning for Spec Ops: The Line

, | Games

Here’s how the internet works. Someone writes an article. A popular aggregate then plucks an incendiary quote from the article. At which point guys like me blog about the incendiary quote in lieu of reading or actually discussing the article.

But in this case, I’m not even going to get that far. In this case, I’m done with the whole affair after seeing a single word. It all started when Polygon sat down with the developers of Spec Ops: The Line for a long talk about all sorts of things. Then VG247 latched onto the term “cancerous growth”, which lead designer Cory Davis used to describe Spec Ops’ multiplayer, developed by a separate studio. He was frustrated with what he felt was a waste of resources for a game he designed primarily as a single-player experience.

But Davis wasn’t content with “cancerous growth”. He further noted, “The multiplayer game’s tone is entirely different, the game mechanics were raped to make it happen, and it was a waste of money.”

No, Mr. Davis, the game mechanics weren’t raped. Compromised, botched, bungled, fumbled, or even fucked up. But they were not raped. That word means something else. Now go sit in the corner with Missouri’s Republican Representative until you learn to talk like an adult.

The Phoenix Wright meme machine coming to iPads

, | Games

This fall, Capcom will publish the first three Phoenix Wrights on the iPad as a single game. Well, it’s technically a single game. You download it to play the first two chapters for free and then you have to buy each full game separately. You also get this bonus feature:

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy HD will also come with the “Everyone Object” mode (at no additional cost) to help players communicate their displeasure of everyday situations with the help of popular Ace Attorney characters and sayings. With a simple touch of a button, the phrases, “Objection!”, “Hold it!”, and “Take that!” can be emailed to friends or tweeted along with an animated image.

You know it’s a Capcom release when they have to explain they’re not going to charge extra for something.

Guild Wars 2’s half successful launch

, | Games

As an online game that you jump into to play simultaneously with a bunch of other people, the launch of Guild Wars 2 was remarkably successful. But as a game with the name “guild” in the title, the launch of Guild Wars 2 was an unmitigated disaster. I guess you could say they got it half right.

After the jump, belonging to clubs that wouldn’t have you as a member Continue reading →

August 27: wallet threat level pigskin

, | Features

Madden NFL 13 (pictured) is out this week. Nothing but net!

Guild Wars 2 is technically out this week, but any real Guild Wars aficionado has been playing since Friday night. Can Sony interest you in PS3 collections of the God of War, Infamous, and Ratchet & Clank series? Paradox is releasing an RTS called Starvoid, which I honestly thought was about a very hungry creature. It wasn’t until I was actually typing the word just now that I thought, “Oh, star and void…”. I would have gone with Voidstar.

Seven hours of Guild Wars 2 heaven

, | Games

It wouldn’t be a launch without a catastrophic failure and a lack of communication from the developers. But for most of Guild Wars 2’s first evening, ArenaNet decided to play it a little differently. The game launched exactly at the announced time, it was easy to get onto servers that weren’t listed as full, and the game ran smoothly for the most part. Other than being dropped a few times, which just meant quickly logging back on to find my character patiently waiting in the same place, the Guild Wars 2’s launch was a thing of beauty for how utterly unremarkable it was. It was the sort of launch that didn’t even seem like a launch. And you almost never see a launch like that.

For about seven hours, anyway.

At about 4am Saturday morning, the game basically shut down. The only error message implied that it was my router’s fault that I couldn’t get online. For a couple of hours, the only server status message from ArenaNet was that they were experiencing heavy volume and they are “monitoring the situation”. Now I can’t even get to the launcher.

But boy was it nice while it lasted. At a certain point, there was just too much to do, too many things to see, too many things to progress, too many places to go. I had to get away. So I ducked into the world vs. world to wander around and see what I could do as a solo player. Not much, of course. But I ran across someone else who had the same idea. We dove into the ocean to enlist the help of some little fish people. They’re like a cross between a seal and an otter and a Gungan. If you grind a bit for them, driving evil sea snakes out of their temple and gathering pearls, they’ll waddle out of the water. On land, they can summon a storm that heals your faction and randomly throws lightning bolts at enemy factions. Unfortunately, Guild Wars 2 shut down before I could see them in action. They better still be there when I get back.

Lost Cities finds a perfect home

, | Game reviews

Boardgame designer Reiner Knizia seems to slap random themes onto whatever mechanics he dreams up. An auction game? Ancient Egyptian dynasties! Matching tiles? The rise of Mesopotamian civilization! Warring cubes, obelisks, and beans fighting for control of hexes? Feudal Japan! Stratego with special abilities? The Lord of the Rings, naturally.

But Lost Cities, his mathy two-player card game, has uniquely intertwined theme and mechanics. The theme is sending out expeditions to find lost cities in remote lands. The mechanics are the calculus of risk/reward, measured against card draws and whatever the other player is doing. Where will you search? How much will you invest? Does the other player know something you don’t? It’s a canny mix of calculation, randomness, and even a touch of psychology.

After the jump, guess what platform it’s on now? Continue reading →

San Juan is a nice iOS port, shame about the game

, | Game reviews

One of the great things about all these board games being ported over to the iOS is that you can see with fresh eyes how well games have held up. Or haven’t held up, in some cases. San Juan, for instance. It’s a card-based lightweight version of Puerto Rico, a classic board game. Both games share the same 17th century Caribbean motif and the same gimmick of players taking turns selecting roles. But whereas Puerto Rico is still a lean mean resource management Euro-machine, San Juan is a relic of the days before games like Race to the Galaxy, Dominion, and Ascension. I have no idea why anyone would still play it.

But don’t necessarily hold that against Ravensburger’s competent iOS port. It’s a convenient and effective way to get your San Juan on in under ten minutes. It’s a bit surprising that Ravensburger so rotely ported it from the card game, especially given how they completely revamped the playing pieces for their iPad version of Puerto Rico. No such thing happens with San Juan, which is just a straight-up reproduction of the card game, right down to the artwork on the roles. This means you have to learn which card art means which purple building. Is that an archive or a poor house? Better tap on it to find out. Or not, since the game so conveniently flags everything you can do when you can do it. It’s particularly helpful how cards light up when their abilities kick in, and how the little tags representing resources are visible in the corner when the rest of the card is obscured.

Maybe San Juan is too simple not to do well, but Ravensburger has done well with their just-the-cards-ma’am approach. Cards are constantly moving around the screen to show who’s doing what. You literally finger through your fanned out cards when you refer to them. The discard pile is a little messy.

The AI is fine, which is again probably a matter of the game being too simple to not do well. But a central fact about San Juan is that you’re playing against the shuffle more than you’re playing against the other players. If you’re willing to draw out a ten-minute solitaire game into however long your asynchronous matches take, San Juan has multiplayer support. And even if you’re not into multiplayer, it has a nifty take on leaderboards. Gamecenter tracks the points you’ve earned across all your matches and compares your total to your friends’ totals. You may not be better than them at San Juan, but you can beat them by just playing more.

3 stars

Is Thirty Flights of Loving the best five-minute game since Gravity Bone?

, | Games

If you’re interested in level design, theme parks and casinos are great teachers.

Brendon Chung’s commentary mode in Thirty Flights of Loving includes comments like the above quote, a slower look at some of the game’s dizzying edits, and even deleted scenes, such as an earlier incarnation of Anita’s sharpshooter skill that didn’t fit the character. That picture up there tells you all you need to know about Anita, except for the part about her being a confectioner. Don’t worry, it all makes as much sense as it needs to.

Thirty Flights of Loving is Chung’s sequel to Gravity Bone. These aren’t games, and they’re not even stories. They’re snatches of interactive imagery stitched together in the Quake engine, more a series of feelings and images than anything else, cinematic poems about adventure, love, and betrayal. Thirty Flights of Loving is currently available on Steam and it includes Gravity Bone.

Darksiders II shows you the loot

, | Game reviews

The basic design of Darksiders II was pretty well established in the first game. Some hearty God of War combat, some grimly McFarlanesque exaggerated World of Warcraft graphic novel graphics, and gameplay progression in the vein of classic Zeldas and Metroids. Darksiders II is more and slightly better of this, but that’s not all you get! A new “just add Diablo” approach lends it that sheen of sequel newness.

After the jump, can I interest you in a cheap pair of Bitter Punishing Scythes of the Whirlwind? Continue reading →

Bug Princess 2 reigns supreme among iPad shooters

, | Game reviews

It’s pretty exciting to discover a new genre, which is what I’ve spent the last few weeks doing with iPad shooters (shmups, bullet hells, STGs, danmakus, or whatever you’d like to call them). It’s something else entirely to discover what may very well be the finest instance of that new genre. The act of playing Bug Princess 2 is the act of gradually realizing, “Ah, so this is why these games are a big deal…”

After the jump, if you get just one iPad shmup… Continue reading →

Even ancient Chinese games aren’t safe

, | Features

I recently played a few games of Fly or Die Go, an online go server running a client you can download as a free Chrome app, possibly also available on other platforms. You log into a lobby with a bunch of other players, and can challenge or be challenged to go games on various size boards, from 9×9 up to the conventional 19×19. There’s not a whole lot of chatter, games are fast, but mostly people use common courtesy in playing the game.

After the jump, I played a game with a monster. Continue reading →