Friday, January 27, 2012

The Friday Review: Orcs Must Die! (XBLA, PC)

Orcs Must Die!
review by Casey

Twisting the Tower Defense genre seems to be fairly popular these days and Robot Entertainments Orcs Must Die! is one of the latest to remind people why this genre is so awesome! Much like the game Dungeon Defenders you play the game in a 3rd person character mode choosing from several traps, abilities and weapons to destroy the Orcs trying to infiltrate your fortress. The premise is simple, but I think Orcs Must Die! really captures the charm and simplicity of the Tower Defense genre. There’s one way in and one way out, and it is up to you to keep as many of those nasty Orcs out of your tower as possible by setting up floor spikes, arrow walls, spring traps and several other creatively crafted defenses.


- The one thing I notice right off the bat is that this game is gorgeous. The art is great and it captures a unique cartoon style that feels similar to an animated film. The characters are vibrant, well designed, and well animated, especially the main character who, upon defeating a level, gives you a variety of “Touchdown” dances depending on how high you score. The illustrated cut scenes throughout the game, and the schematic breakdowns of the traps, weapons, and characters that appear during the loading screens, have a real cohesiveness that helps reinforce the art style.

- The game-play is incredibly tight and polished. Each level brings a unique challenge to the player and your progression allows you to unlock new abilities and new traps to choose from (6 weapons, 17 traps). With the option to upgrade your arsenal of traps and replay levels with those newly upgraded traps, you have the opportunity to battle for a higher score value, which gives a great replay value to the game.

- Last, but not least, the game is fun! There is an overall lighthearted theme to the massive amounts of chaos and destruction, which is both humorous and gratifying to the player. It also caters to different player types. You have the option to play at the lower level “Apprentice” if you are not a hardcore Tower Defense player, but for those who are, you are given the opportunity to play through the “War Mage” or Medium setting and unlock the “Nightmare” mode.  I myself have not yet unlocked the “Nightmare” mode, but I am still finding myself getting beat pretty hard at some of the higher levels in the game, so I doubt a harder difficulty will be somewhere I go next.


- Loading times in the game are painfully slow. You’ll see the little loading icon in the bottom of the screen struggling to indicate your games progress at every turn. Even when booting up the game I thought it froze it was moving so slow. Luckily, this does not affect the game-play in any way, so no slow downs during combat.

- Setting Traps is a little wonky due to the 3rd person controls. You have to use your character to aim were you want to set your traps on somewhat of an invisible grid layout in the game. Visually it looks cool because the character “summons” each trap, but often times you find yourself setting traps in oddly misaligned positions. Fortunately you can remove traps and reset them, but in a game where time affects your overall score this can get pretty frustrating.

- One-liners are abundant throughout the game, in fact you get one every time you lay a trap, and they get to be pretty ridiculous. They have their moments of humor, but often times you hear the same line over, and over, and it gets old quick. It would probably be better if the main hero had someone to talk to throughout the different stages, but he’s just bantering to himself annoyingly.

Final Words:
Orcs Must Die! is a great time and definitely appeals to the Tower Defense crowd, however there is enough 3rd person combat and humor in the game to attract even the most inexperienced strategist. I recommend that everyone should at least download the Demo and give this game a try. Also, I have recently discovered that there is a DLC pack that features five new fortresses, new traps, and weapons. I don’t buy DLC too often, but I am sure by the end of this game I might find myself looking for more Orcs to kill.

Orcs Must Die! by Robot Entertainment is available now on Xbox Live, Steam and OnLive.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Friday Review: From Dust (XBLA, PSN, PC)

From Dust
review by CJ

There is something uniquely charming about the tribal feel of From Dust, Ubisoft’s god game for XBLA and PC. As I look at the games art style, and beautifully rendered world, I really want to like it. Even while playing it, I really wanted to like it. On the surface it’s a great concept: be a kindly god-like being who helps the little people in their world survive by shaping the world to combat an assortment of natural disasters. Along the way you unlock additional powers by helping the people build villages and spread vegetation across the islands. I was expecting more out of the game than it offered, however. In the end it’s just a puzzle game.


- Beautiful. Seriously, this game looks good. The way water flows, lava bursts from volcanoes, and vegetation slowly spreads across the land, it is all very pleasing to the eye.

- Great controls. I always knew what a button was going to do, and never felt frustrated because of accidently doing something unintended. The way matter is released from the “Breath” is dependent on how far depressed the triggers are, and I felt as if the game could read my mind on how much I wanted to release, and how quickly.


- Bad camera! With two zoom options—too close or too far—I never felt like I was looking at the world from a comfortable distance.

- Misleading. I was expecting more control of and interaction with the villagers and their villages (such as in Black and White). The game gives you the ability to zoom in on individual people, see their name, gender, and capabilities, but gives you no reason to care. Villagers die, and die often. Then they are simply replaced without any real effort. Even if an entire village is destroyed it can be immediately rebuilt as long as you have 5 villagers left, either survivors or from another village. I was upset when I realized that the people and their villages are just a component of the puzzle.

- Extreme difficulties. Sometimes laughably (or boringly) easy, and other times frustratingly (or throw-your-controller-at-the-TV-and-boil-a-pot-o-tea-on-your-steaming-forehead) difficult.  

SUMMARY:  I feel like From Dust is a tech demo. The game does some really amazing things, and does them really well. The sad thing is that the best part of the game was the final level, where it gives you full power to create the world in what ever image you can imagine, including placing springs, vegetation, volcanoes, mountains, etc. The extremely sad thing is that you can’t do anything with it. I’m not one to spoil endings, but if you’re going to play this game you may want to know this before it happens to you. If you don't want to know, skip ahead to the safe zone. SPOILER ALERT: at the end of the last level, after you have spent however much time you want tweaking your world to be just the way you want it, everything gets destroyed, without warning, and without any way of saving it. I was outraged. SAFE TO READ NOW: I would have loved to been able to share my creations with friends, or create puzzles for them to complete. This is one game that’s going down in my book as “full of untapped potential”.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Choose the Next Keflings DLC - Vote NOW!

Voting is LIVE!!! Head over to PlayXBLA to cast your vote for the DLC you want us to make (and win a chance to be Kefling-ized!)

You can vote once per day, so keep coming back for more votes and more chances to win!

Monday, January 09, 2012

You Choose the DLC!

NinjaBee is super excited to announce their new DLC for A World of Keflings!

Trouble is, we don't know what it is! We need you to help us decide. This week Play XBLA will be unveiling three (not 1, not 2, but 3!) different DLC concepts, and next week the voters will decide which one gets made.


For next week only, each person will be allowed to vote once a day for the DLC of their choice, and for each vote cast you will get entered into a chance to win your likeness "Kefling-ized" as an in-game character!

Operators (myself) are standing by to post the different themes as they are announced Monday, Wednesday, and Friday this week. Enjoy!

Friday, January 06, 2012

The Friday Review: Rock of Ages (XBLA, PSN, PC)

Rock of Ages
 -review by Tesh

One part Monty Python, one part Marble Madness, one part Monkeyball, one part Skee-ball, garnished with light Tower Defense seasoning, Rock of Ages is... weird.  It's a good weird, but it's still... weird.  It's an innovative little beastie, well worth spending some time with; especially if your dream game involves crushing things with giant rocks.  Breaking stuff never gets old.  Funny how we're wired that way.

The Good:
  • You control a big boulder and smash stuff along a zany obstacle-ridden path, ultimately crushing your opponent in person after leveling their fort door.  You crush stuff.  With a big rock.  It's not subtle, but it's fun.
  • Controls are surprisingly tight for driving a big slab of stone.  The titular rock handily ignores many Newtonian rules of rock-rolling and it's relatively easy to roll back uphill if you happened to miss something.
  • Winning seems to hinge on solid steering, good timing, and smart defenses.  I like that all are important, though I'll readily concede that's a matter of taste.
  • Sounds are solid.  The whimsical music feels appropriate and the characters, for all their simplicity, work well.  Smashing stuff and sending bystanders screaming is satisfying.
  • 300, Castlevania, Greek legends, great art and artists... nothing is sacred, and the Greek ancestry of this game runs deep.  It's funny in a twisted sort of way, but never really mean.
  • Falling off of the track doesn't hurt, it just costs time.  Smart call, that.
  • There are shortcuts in some levels that make exploration rewarding.  Sometimes they make it too easy to win, but sometimes that's exactly what you're looking for.
  • Varied alternate boulders make for some fun experimentation.
  • The game's demo is good for getting a feel for the core mechanics.

The Bad:
  • Most forts will take three hits.  It would have been nice to have a bit more variety or fudge room, especially in harder levels... but on the other hand, that does mean bouts are relatively quick.
  • Spatial awareness and camera control are very important.  The automatic camera is decent, but it may take time to get used to controlling the camera and finding your way around some of the occasionally large and convoluted maps.  Thankfully you can invert the camera controls, if you're so inclined, and there are helpful signs to suggest a route to the enemy.
  • Lack of good feedback on the defensive part of the game.  You need to build structures to trip up the other player, but it's not terribly clear how well they actually work, or when they will actually be functional.  You'll get used to it, but that comes with time, not explicit instruction.
  • Those fun alternate boulders typically aren't even necessary, and are too easily broken.
  • The game's demo doesn't really hint at the crazy level design that shows up later.  Don't expect the whole game to be as straightforward as the demo.
The Ugly:
  • Count Vlad Dracula and the personification of Plague.  Blame that on the Medieval artists, though.  The bosses are creepy, too.  On the plus side, that makes smashing them more satisfying.

Fudge or Chitlins?
On the whole I heartily recommend Rock of Ages.  As always there are a few things I'd have done differently (especially feedback in the defensive part of the game), and the humor is a bit juvenile, but the game is original and fun enough for me to have thoroughly enjoyed it.  It tests skills I'm fond of (spatial awareness, planning, exploration, steering) and gives enough control and short enough play sessions that it always feels like I can conquer a level if I play well.  It feels fair, like failures are my fault, not that of bad game design.  That's a Good Thing, and Rock of Ages is a great game.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Happy Holidays!

We hope you all had a great time with the holidays these past couple weeks. The Friday Review will continue again this week, and for those of you who may have missed out on the mystery, check out for some fun clues!

Hint #1
Hint #2
Hint Hint & Hint #3
Hint #4
Hint #5
Hint #6
Hint #7
It all begins to come together...