Autumn Dynasty Warlords Review

Feb 27, 2014

The sequel to the hit real-time strategy game Autumn Dynasty, Autumn Dynasty Warlords carries some great expectations on its shoulders. And it seems to meet them quite handily at first – but the deeper you dig into it, the more it becomes apparent that this game isn't quite ready for prime-time.

Autumn Dynasty Warlords is set in a fictionalized ancient China, in which you play as one of several regional warlords vying for control of the country. Each has his or her own particular strengths and weaknesses, plus a unique military unit and an officer who can be sent on special military or diplomatic missions. Beginning with a single province, you must build your armies, conquer neutral provinces, engage or defeat your fellow rulers, and ultimately declare yourself Grand Poobah of the Middle Kingdom.

Autumn Dynasty Warlords

Provincial management is very simple, as each province has just one city and their boundaries are preset. You can build various structures and upgrade them through five levels, but each city holds only a small number of buildings – sometimes as few as two or three – so you'll need to be careful about what you build. Military units can only be raised in provinces in which the city has an appropriate training facility, but population growth and tax income are best supported with "civilian" buildings. You'll also want to maintain high levels of order and alertness to keep your kingdom happy and prosperous by keeping a lid on bandits, placing sentries, and if you can afford the space, building constabularies and palaces.

Once created, armies can be moved in whole or in part from province to province and require no special facilities to maintain. You don't need to worry about feeding your people, either; farms encourage growth but your population is quite capable of taking care of itself, leaving you to handle the big decisions. The only resource you'll need to worry about is gold, required in abundant quantities to raise armies and upgrades your cities.

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Another Case Solved Review

Feb 27, 2014

Another Case Solved is the follow-up to developer Ars Thanea Games’ ridiculously engaging match-3-meets-city builder, Puzzle Craft.  Like its predecessor, Another Case Solved relies primarily on puzzle-matching objects that are used as building blocks for progress throughout the game.  Unlike Puzzle Craft, this progress is less cyclical and more monetary, wrapped in an economy that makes the noir-themed newcomer notably more challenging, but rarely malicious.  With a number of variations on gameplay packed alongside the primary puzzle boards, Another Case Solved manages to differentiate itself while still offering all the trappings that made Puzzle Craft compelling.

This time around, you are not the mayor of a fledgling village, but a newbie private detective in a Prohibition Era-styled city.  Sugar, not alcohol, is the banned substance and everyone from crooks to cops can be put on ice for having a sweet tooth.  You’ll occasionally run into cases involving sugar smugglers and donut blackmail, but as a no-name private eye, you’ll also take on work that requires chasing kittens and tracking down missing documents.

Another Case Solved

All of these assignments, no matter their gravity, follow a similar format split into two camps.  Minor cases you find in the daily newspaper are basic gigs that merely require you to play the match-3 portion of the game.  These can be played over and over and are used to earn cash (known as “detective bucks”) as well as credibility that unlocks more involved story missions.  The story missions, or major cases, are brought to you by characters in need and are the meat of Another Case Solved.  They not only present plot points involving recurring characters you’ll meet throughout other major assignments, but require you to complete four different types of puzzles in order to crack the case.

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Out There Review

Feb 27, 2014

It's three in the morning and I'm trying to get back to Earth as quickly as I can. My oxygen is in short supply, and soon I will suffocate if I don't find a planet with an adequate atmosphere to refill it. Speaking of supplies, I had to scrap half of my gear, including my radar, in order to get the parts necessary to repair my ship's hull after a near fatal encounter with space debris in the last star system. So without the aid of radar, I'm blindly flying to the closest system: the only system my remaining wisps of fuel would allow me to get to. I have no idea what awaits, but I'm hoping for a planet rich in oxygen, with friendly natives, and ample with the resources and fuel that I need to continue my journey.

In the deep space of Out There, luck, much like oxygen, is in short supply. I come out of my jump, just short of a black hole; a dead end. I don't have enough fuel for another jump, not that I have enough oxygen to live long enough to even attempt another jump. So, it looks like I won't be making it home.

Out There

Out There is an unfair and frustrating game. But it's also engaging and fun, at the same time. It is a game where players will curse their luck as often as they will praise it. Players opposed to gambling may be a bit turned away by Out There, as the game relies on luck pretty heavily. But then again, the life of a space explorer would more than likely heavily depend on luck. It's all part of the job.

In Out There, players take on the role of an astronaut in the 22nd Century who has just woken up from cryonic sleep to discover that his ship has totally gone off course. Now, with limited resources, the player must leapfrog from star system to star system, in an effort to get back to Earth safely. There are three main resources players must maintain in order to keep the mission going: fuel, oxygen, and hull integrity (iron). Fuel is used to jump to the star systems, travel to planets, and gather resources from the planets. Oxygen is used up gradually over time from doing just about everything, and the ship's hull will take damage from unstable planets as well as a seemingly infinite number of unlucky anomalies that players will undoubtedly encounter during their voyage home. Other resources in the form of elements can be collected and used for ship upgrades.

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Disco Zoo Review

Feb 26, 2014

In the world of free-to-play, popular game styles seem to come in waves. After FarmVille, every Facebook developer went through their farming phase. After Social City, every social gamemaker thought they could make the next SimCity-lite. And back in those early days – wedged somewhere between virtual pets and restaurant simulations, the social scene had a brief but noteworthy obsession with treasure hunts.

In a nutshell, games like Treasure Isle and Ruby Skies had players “exploring” a piece of land by clicking on different squares in an attempt to find all sorts of goodies. It was simple to the point of silliness, but it also managed to have that “just one more time” hook that only the most popular free-to-play games can muster.

Disco Zoo

Disco Zoo, the latest game from Tiny Tower creator Nimblebit and Milkbag Games – the new pairing of Owen Goss (Finger Tied) and Matt Rix (Trainyard) – feels a lot like those early free-to-play treasure hunts. And regardless of how that might read at first glance, I promise you – this is a very good thing.

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Bug Heroes 2 Review

Feb 24, 2014

Though most of us have no love for the roaches, spiders, and ants that occasionally move into our kitchens and make themselves at home, Bug Heroes 2 by Foursaken Media would have us believe these creepy critters look up to us as gods and providers. The game reasons that, if not for our crumbs, refuse, and spills, bugs would have naught with which to wage war on each other.

And if bugs didn't go to war, we'd be down one fantastic tower defense game. Bug Heroes 2 is charming, challenging, and stuffed full of cool ideas. Who knew it'd be so much fun to hang out with bugs?

Except for house centipedes. They can just…go…far away.

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Second Chance Heroes Review

Feb 21, 2014

Four score and seven million zombies ago, a high school teacher with a passion for history created a cloning machine in his garage to bring back some of the world’s greatest heroes for a second chance at providing salvation. Or so the famous speech goes. But you see, things have changed quite a bit since Abraham Lincoln and Cleopatra first went down in the history books, but luckily their reincarnated clones have a few special advantages like deadly melee weapons or magic powers on their side. While Second Chance Heroes doesn’t take itself too seriously in the story department, what it does take seriously are its fine-tuned gameplay and level designs, which work together to create one of the best mobile hack-n-slashers that we’ve seen in quite some time.

At its core, Second Chance Heroes is a blend of RPG and hack-n-slash gameplay with online co-op elements in the same vein as Diablo or Marvel Heroes. The basic idea is to make you way through each environment and kill anything and everything that gets in your path. Players move their characters with a virtual dual joystick control scheme: the left one for movement, and the right one to attack in any direction. Smaller hotkeys surrounding each joystick let you pull off special attacks and other bonuses, like a quick burst of speed. You’ll also be able to use one of the hotkeys to quickly switch between your two selected heroes at will, which I found to be an especially welcomed addition.

Second Chance Heroes

You’ll mostly be slaying zombies along your journey through this wacky apocalypse (who are rendered with funny and cartoonish lime-green skin), but it won’t be long before creatures like vampires and werewolves start entering the battle. The environments themselves are just as fun and interesting to explore. One of my personal favorites was actually the very first set of levels, appropriately titled “Mandatory Fun Time,” which finds players fighting through a blinking arcade, complete with breakable gumball machines and a massive disco floor.  Each level also has a handful of optional challenges for you to complete, such as getting through an area without anyone dying or finding hidden collectables, and this gives the game a little more of a purpose than just blindly chopping things up.

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Perloo Review

Feb 21, 2014

Perloo is the first game offering from design studio Perceptor, whose past work includes such creations as Crowdpilot, an app that allows you to crowdfund dates and other social interactions, and Your Name in Gum, a collaborative art site that provides exactly what it promises: your name in chewed up gum.  With these and other playful, admittedly odd creations under their belt, it’s little surprise that Perloo is a mysterious, lofty, and conflicting experience that borders more on art project than pastime distraction.

As a game, Perloo is the epitome of the abstract puzzler.  Its logical, geometric challenges are bookended by a live action narrative that provides no guidance or rules, but a serene, contemplative atmosphere.  A man finds a black triangle buried in the desert as a voice ponders, “Where do we find ourselves?” and other poetic musings.  Then you are suddenly starting at the title screen, the two “o”s of “Perloo” made of a black dot and white dot which drop off the word and are now floating alone in front of you.  The game has begun.

This is the first of Perloo’s eight separate puzzles, and as with every challenge in the game, you are given no direction or obvious goal.  You might try to tap the dots at first, drag them—nothing happens.  As your touch shakes the device and it moves slightly, you see the white dot also slide.  You’ve learned something, and now you can begin to move forward.

Every interaction with Perloo progresses this way, and each puzzle forces you to start anew.  Your first task on any puzzle is to figure out its mechanics: the white circle moves, but the next puzzle has multiple moving parts.  Another features a partially vanishing grid of squares.  Yet another contains two triangles, one of which rotates slowly to stimulus but appears to do little else.  Nothing is obvious at first or even third glance, and deducing how the onscreen objects work creates the same furrowed brow warmth as an obtuse math puzzle or brain teaser.

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Deadman's Cross Review

Feb 21, 2014

Collectible Card Games can be tough to balance, mechanically. If things are too easy, players will get bored. If it takes too long to accomplish goals or build up a formidable deck, they’ll get frustrated. Deadman’s Cross seems to be trying to hit that sweet spot somewhere in the middle, but ultimately it misses the mark. And in many ways, it’s basically just Guardian Cross with zombies.

You assume the role of a run-of-the-mill survivor during the zombie apocalypse – one who follows the government’s instructions of staying indoors a little too closely. After three months of isolation (three months!), you finally decide to step outside. Of course the world is a wreck. Zombies, referred to as “Deadmen,” are roaming around everywhere and society pretty much doesn’t exist anymore. At least not in the same way that it used to. The only way to survive in this world is to pick up a gun and start blasting… and then recruit the defeated Deadmen as your own personal army. I swear I’m not making this up.

Deadman's Cross

Your time playing Deadman’s Cross will mostly be spent by completing jobs in order to progress and earn special items. Jobs are mostly split between wandering through hallways, hunting Deadmen to add to your collection, and having card duels with anything that moves. There’s also an arena where you can indirectly battle against other players’ Deadmen in an attempt to earn even more fantastic prizes.

Deadman’s Cross is, as I’ve mentioned, incredibly similar to Square Enix’s previously released Guardian Cross, but many of those similarities are actually its biggest strengths. Managing your horde is pretty simple and painless. You can feed unneeded Deadmen to more powerful ones in order to level them up, and it doesn’t take long before you’ll have a sizable force at your disposal.

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Card Wars - Adventure Time Review

Feb 20, 2014

On the list of animated shows I’m glad my daughter likes so I have a plausible reason to watch more of them myself, Adventure Time is right at the top (Littlest Pet Shop, in contrast, is last). So it’s with great delight that I report that Card Wars – Adventure Time does right by the show and is better than most mobile card battle games, held back only a bit by its unnecessary two-pronged monetization.

Fans of the series probably already know that Card Wars is a real thing in Finn and Jake’s universe, kind of their own version of games like Magic: The Gathering. What you play in the mobile game is pretty darn faithful to what we’ve seen on screen, right down to some of the creatures and buildings, as well as “flooping the pig” — flooping being this game’s version of tapping to activate a card’s special ability.

Card Wars - Adventure Time

The biggest difference is that Card Wars – Adventure Time doesn’t take that long to figure out, despite Jake’s warning that there are lots of rules. Each battle has a setup phase that has each player lay out four landscapes on his or her side of the board. Creatures can only be played into their corresponding landscape, except for rainbow cards that can be played anywhere.

Only one creature can be played at a time into each of the four lanes. All of them have varying mana costs to play, plus values for attack and defense. The other types of cards are buildings, which buff the creatures in their lanes, and spells, which have a variety of effects. The Volcano, for instance, wipes out everything in its lane on both sides of the board.

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Tengami Review

Feb 20, 2014

I am excited about Tengami. Not because it's a particularly great game, but because it's a remarkable multimedia experience. At its core, it's a point-and-click adventure set in ancient Japan. But it's the rendering of the game world as a gloriously detailed virtual pop-up book, with scene transitions presented as turning pages that reveal a delicate, brilliantly beautiful two-dimensional realm, which makes it both unique and memorable.

Everything in Tengami is rendered in 2D, even your avatar – a characteristic that becomes evident when he moves and reveals that he has no physical depth. There's no inventory, no attributes or skills, and no equipment or upgrades to make him more powerful; he simply walks and sails from place to place at your direction, and occasionally picks up a single item or interacts with a puzzle. It's a slow-paced journey through changing seasons, designed to give you time to really take in and appreciate the artistry of the environments. The music is every bit as good, and while the sound effects are relatively sparse, the first time I heard a wolf howling in the twilight my skin positively tingled.

The controls are simple and intuitive, requiring only that you double-tap to walk to a spot on the screen and drag left or right to turn a page or pull a tab. Hotspots and area exits are well-marked, so there's never any question of where you need to go or what you can interact with.

There are sometimes questions about what exactly you need to do, however. Tengami has relatively few puzzle areas, but when you encounter one it gives no indication of how to proceed. Midway through the game I spent a considerable amount of time struggling with a group of bells on a pagoda, only to discover that I was stuck because I hadn't gone to another area first and collected a particular item. The puzzle itself was actually quite simple, but it was a frustrating moment because I had no idea why I was unable to make progress. (In fact, it was only with the aid of another reviewer that I figured out where I'd gone wrong.)

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