Moebius: Empire Rising Review: An adventure worthy of the name Jane Jensen

Apr 15, 2014

Moebius: Empire Rising has an impressive adventure game pedigree thanks to creator Jane Jensen’s genre-defining work at Sierra, and on the Gabriel Knight series specifically.  Her commitment to quality writing, characters, and plot in each Gabriel Knight entry opened the point-and-click adventure up to explorations of deeper, more mature subjects that have persevered through modern entries like those from Wadjet Eye.  Moebius maintains this focus on writing and story, playing out like a page-turner mystery that also happens to be filled with ingenious puzzles and challenges.

The story revolves around our protagonist, Malachi Rector, a world-renowned genius who utilizes his photographic memory and knowledge of history to appraise priceless antiques and expose fakes.  We learn early on that this is no desk job: Malachi travels the globe to meet the needs of his clients and has been sent to the hospital by some who have received less savory appraisals. 

Moebius: Empire Rising

At the start of Moebius, Malachi is approached by a government agency, FITA, to investigate the death of a young woman in Venice.  He is not expected to solve the murder, but simply research the woman’s life and use his talents to decide if her biography parallels that of anyone in history.  Of course, this unique assignment becomes the gateway to a much larger mystery and conspiracy that ensnares Malachi and the player for seven chapters.

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Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff Review: Simpsons did it (better)

Apr 15, 2014

The Simpsons: Tapped Out was released for iOS in the first quarter of spring 2012, and later on Android in 2013. Not only has the Springfield-themed city-building game remained a consistently popular download since its launch dates, but it's also one of the top-monetizing free games on the App Store and Google Play.

So it's not at all surprising that TinyCo looked over in EA's direction and said, "Say - look at what they're doing!" before taking pictures and frantically scribbling on a pad of paper. What is surprising is that it's taken this long for a Simpsons-style mobile game to get wrapped up in a Family Guy skin and slapped on the digital market.

Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff

Sadly, the wait hasn't been worth it. With its aggressive panhandling for in-app purchases, long wait times, and (mostly) flat jokes, playing Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff is as sad as watching Rupert the teddy bear grow soggy in a torrential rainstorm.

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Evolution: Battle for Utopia Review: Variety is the spice of life

Apr 11, 2014

In my time spent sampling the many, many freemium flavors on the App Store I feel like I’ve gotten familiar with just about everything that’s out there. And yet here I find myself somewhat smitten with Evolution: Battle for Utopia - a game that doesn’t so much reinvent the wheel as it tries to be a whole bunch of different wheels all at once. The weird thing is it actually kind of works.

Evolution: Battle for Utopia

While on a mission to colonize the planet Utopia, the Commander and his crew are shot down while landing and their escape pods scatter them across the land. A land filled with all sorts of very large and aggressive animals, nomadic scavengers, and plenty of other nasty hazards. The Commander will have to fight his way through hordes of enemies in order to reunite his crew, begin terraforming the planet, and start restoring order. And that’s all within the first thirty minutes or so.

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The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3 - A Crooked Mile Review: Building a Mystery

Apr 11, 2014

The first two episodes of The Wolf Among Us got me thinking about how interactive media can transcend games. After all, Telltale’s take on the world of Fables plays more like an interactive film than a traditional point-click-adventure.

With episode three, a new thought dawned on me: as much as Telltale’s approach to the medium can reinvent the way we tell stories, The Wolf Among Us is an equally brilliant example of how well suited this new form of storytelling is to mysteries.

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3 - A Crooked Mile

Picking up where the cliffhanger in Episode 2: Smoke and Mirrors left off, my initial thoughts weren’t of what’s next, but what came before. I found myself piecing together the bits and pieces of information I’d been fed, weighing them against the narrative, and starting to draw my own conclusions. Do I think their suspect is the guilty party? Why or why not? What evidence have I been shown to support it? And if I don’t think they are, what do the clues that have been revealed tell me about who the real killer might be?

It’s the digital equivalent of an Agatha Christie novel.

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Trials Frontier Review: A fantastic ride with frustrating free-to-play elements

Apr 10, 2014

The world wrapped around Trials Frontier is full of dust, rocks, and rust. Only the bravest, hardiest souls are capable of taming the land from the backs of their bikes. They ride hard while their motors rasp through the shimmering heat. They leap for glory, pop wheelies for justice…

…and then are forced to sit on the sidelines while their depleted fuel stocks slowly refill. They tap their feet and check their watch while an instrumental rendition of "Spanish Flea" pipes from the background.

Trials Frontier

Trials Frontier from RedLynx and Ubisoft is a mobile iteration of the Trials biking series. There was some worry about what that would entail, and it turns out said worries aren't totally unjustified. Trials Frontier has an intriguing setting, a good sense of humor and lots of stunt bike action, but its free-to-play trappings are sure to turn off hardcore fans of the Trials games.

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Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Vengeance Review: Warhammer? More like Snorehammer

Apr 8, 2014

Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Vengeance is something called a "lane strategy game," and yes, that's "lane," not "lame," although truth be told... well, never mind. I don't want to spoil any surprises, and it's not an awful game by any stretch. It's just not very good, as either a strategy game or a Warhammer title.

"Lane strategy games," as far as I can tell, are those in which enemy forces approach one another on a battlefield composed of – you guessed it – lanes, meeting and clashing in a kind of a "Showdown at the O.K. Bowling Alley." Plants vs. Zombies is probably the best-known (and quite possibly the only known) example of the genre, and it's the game that most quickly springs to mind as a comparison. Sadly, that's not because Storm of Vengeance shares that game's wit, artistry or excitement – it doesn't. The resemblance is purely mechanical and, as I soon discovered, somewhat superficial.

Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Vengeance

Rather than an attack-and-defend scenario, in this game the player and the AI-controlled enemy send forces against each other, one side representing the Dark Angel Space Marines and the other the Ork Waaagh!, each occupying opposite ends of a battlefield composed of five lanes. Units are created by collecting and spending resources – Redemption for the Space Marines, Teef for the Orks – and can be immediately sent on their way or stored, in very limited numbers, for later use.

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Monument Valley Review: A beautiful journey through an impossible world

Apr 7, 2014

Monument Valley is a work of art.  Its intricate, delicately crafted levels are masterpieces that exceed their M.C. Escher inspirations.  Where Escher designed 2D representations of impossible-yet-operational architecture, Monument Valley opens that idea up to a 3D world that must withstand scrutiny from every angle as well as direct manipulation by the viewer.  Paths that appear elevated and inaccessible from one direction become stepping stones when rotated.  Supporting archways are actually stairs once flipped.  Every part of the towering structures fit together like crisp, fresh out of the box jigsaw pieces, and yet they can be turned and twisted to create dozens of new pictures that are just as unified and smooth.

Monument Valley

Your interaction with these impossible structures is twofold: at times, you will manipulate them directly, turning cranks or sliding pieces of the architecture to achieve tactile, immediate changes.  Other restructurings require characters within the towers themselves to step on buttons to elicit responses, ranging from doors opening to entire sections of the world moving.  All of these actions have one goal: get our protagonist, Ida, to the platform at the end of the stage.

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Chaos Fighters Review: Lots of chaos, little fighting

Apr 4, 2014

Considering that we live in a time of virtually non-stop sensory overload, Chaos Fighters is a mobile RPG that’s well suited for right now. Coco Entertainment has managed to craft a game where your anime-styled fighters always has something to do – and so will you, thanks to its dizzying array of ways to power up your characters. It’s stylish, to be sure, but there’s a lack of steak beneath the sizzle that keeps it from achieving its full potential.

Fans of JRPG humor and character designs will best appreciate the game’s opening, which explains why there’s chaos to be fought, and the scantily clad female assistant who guides you through your first steps into combat and character progression. As it turns out, the latter is considerably more involved than the former.

Chaos Fighters

More precisely, combat in Chaos Fighters is a spectator sport. The preparation is everything, from choosing your fighters mix of skills from a selection that grows as he or she levels up, to making sure your gear is upgraded and as maxed out on stats as possible. Once the battles start, there’s nothing you can do to influence the outcome, as the AI plays both sides according to the percentage chances that special abilities will activate and the attributes and stats that govern their basic attacks.

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Fairway Solitaire Blast Review: The best in solitaire is back

Apr 3, 2014

There was a time – let’s call it “the nineties” – when Solitaire was seemed like the most popular PC game of all. Not because people loved it, mind you, but because it was free and came bundled with Windows. Still though, people grew to love it. As a classic card game that we’re all familiar with, the “just one more game” pull of solitaire has always been hard to avoid.

Fairway Solitaire Blast

Despite its popularity, solitaire went years before it got a truly decent upgrade. Plenty of gamemakers had tried, mind you, but it took Big Fish Games to really hit on a winning formula. Combining elements of golf and cards, the original Fairway Solitaire debuted back in 2007 and has since been followed by a litany of releases. You probably know it best by its second iteration, which became something of a cult classic after its port to mobile devices back in 2012. If you’ve played either of these, there’s a good chance that you already know that Big Fish + solitaire is a winning combination.

Fairway Solitaire Blast is the latest release in the franchise, and the first that’s built from the ground up with mobile gamers in mind. In fact, at the time of this writing, it’s a mobile exclusive.

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Heroine's Quest Review: Relive your Quest for Glory days

Apr 2, 2014

There’s a simple test to decide if Heroine’s Quest is right for you.  If you played, enjoyed, and pined for more Quest for Glory games, you’ve passed the test.  You should be playing Heroine’s Quest right now.  As a spiritual successor and homage to Sierra’s RPG-slash-adventure series, Crystal Shard’s modern installment feels right at home amidst its inspirations, and could easily slip into a library of their ranks unnoticed.  It brings with it a full-sized world and story, updated gameplay (a point-and-click engine, not the original text parser), and plenty of charm and tongue-in-cheek humor that would have matched wits with Sierra back in the day.

Heroine's Quest

Gamers unfamiliar with Quest for Glory may need a bit more direction in their decision tree.  Although Quest for Glory and Heroine’s Quest look like standard point-and-click adventure games at first glance, this is far from the truth.  They are role-playing games, with random encounters, battles, side quests, armor, and skills to contend with.  Your Heroine will fight trolls, level up, grow hungry, agree to help villagers, sometimes fail to help villagers, and explore a large, open world.  Point-and-click adventuring still comes into play, though, and there is plenty of item collecting, puzzle solving, and dialogue-branching throughout the game’s more active—and open-ended—quests.

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