Friday, February 24, 2012

The Friday Review: Bug Village (iPhone, Android, W7 phone)

Buggin out...
 -review by TRON

I was introduced to Bug Village while strolling through the office minding my own business. Two coworkers were hovering over their Android devices discussing what appeared to be a living, colorful, miniature city.  When I took a closer gander at the pint sized colony, it was indeed a small insectopia teaming with life.

Bug Village is a quest filled town builder with a back yard, down to earth feel. The game centers around building colonies of small structures made from a variety of natural objects. The structures attract new insects to the village, and these new residents can gather resources to increase the size of, or customize the colony. The game is full of quests that give the player extra resources and experience for completing. The experience accumulates into levels that raise the maximum number of structures that can be built in the colony.

Brass Tacks:

The Nifty:

+5 Customization - With a wide assortment of dwellings and decorations the user has plenty of objects available to make their very own unique playing experience. The dwellings that the player has access to can be upgraded to add a new visual spin on the structure, on top of adding additional functionality. The decorations come in a wide variety from fences, chairs, tables, lights to landscape changes like pots. With so many objects to choose from the visual combinations are endless.

+4 User Interface - The game's User Interface reads like a mid-summer night's dream, guiding the player with ease through menus and options. The icons for each section are polished and well thought out. The sliding menus when selecting a structure, decoration, or food item, glide sleekly from selection to selection with ease. The game does an excellent job symbolizing the action that will be performed with each UI element.

+4 Graphics - The graphics seemed to fit the game style and feel really well. The cartoon, bubbly characterization kept the game visually interesting and enchanting. With a wide assortment of structures, decorations, and food items, the game did an awesome job tyng all of these objects into the theme. The game ran smoothly on my Samsung Galaxy S with silky camera movements and animations.

The Cruddy:

The game is based in real time, which can lead to a lot of waiting around for things to do or happen. The player can purchase or perform tasks for coins to make tasks instant but that pulls the player out of the game. The player can purchase acorns, the main currency of the game, to build objects but they are limited by what is currently unlocked.

The player is not really able to get ingrained in the game due to the short play times. This issue is caused by the slow and sometimes painful progression of the real time system. The issue is further compounded by the way structures and decorations are unlocked through quests. The player can unlock the structures and decorations by using coins, but I think this destroys the gaming experience.

Bug Village was a lot of fun to play. With so many objects available to customize my micro village I will continue to play for some time. The game is great for people who do not have a lot of time to spend playing a game in long spurts.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Friday Review: SPAZ (PC)

Space Pirates and Zombies
review by Peter

Space Pirates and Zombies calls up memories of games like Star Control. You explore a procedurally generated galaxy filled with life, blasting anything you want into floating debris. It strikes a good balance between tactical and arcade game play, and does a magnificent job of presenting a galaxy that feels alive. One example of this is the completely random content in systems without specific missions or events. Sometimes you will warp in and find an asteroid field littered with resources, other times you will warp into the midst of battle. Life goes on even when you aren't present to observe it.

You start with a very small fleet of ships and a quest to reach the center of the galaxy. You directly control your ships one at a time, but can give very basic commands to the other ships in your fleet. Ultimately, battles will hinge on your skills as a pilot more than as a commander. You have what amounts to two forms of currency, rez and goons, which you can collect from missions for the various factions and characters you meet throughout the game. You can also do things like hanging around hotels or mining outposts, and scavenge what you need. The flexibility in resource collection is pretty nice. A lot of the time I would just run blockades guarding the warp gates in the general direction I wanted to go and pick up what I needed as I went. You will meet only a few factions in the game, but they are not in communication with each other, so souring the relation with a faction in your current system will not affect relations in any other system. The disconnect between the various systems in the galaxy feels very contrived at times, but it allows you more tactical freedom.

The physics are surprisingly detailed. Projectiles will glance off your ship at high angles. Explosions will push you around. The weightlessness of space is portrayed well.

The story is a little thin, but it's mostly a vehicle to keep pushing you through the game, so it's a minor annoyance. The voice acting by Totalbiscuit was fun. I have seen people complain that it is bland, but, considering the game's universe, I feel it adds to the atmosphere of the game perfectly.

The graphics are not ground breaking by any means, but there is great attention to detail, and the amount of ambiance floating behind you is incredible.

The humor is a constant treat. The random broadcasts; the quips of "rescued" goons in space; the description of ships and modules; and even the holiday mods the developer's created, all add to the fun and quirky feel.

With 33 ships to collect and 70 unique components to add to them, there is endless variability in what ships you can design. You can hunt down specific technologies to make an agile brawler, or a clunky ranged missile launcher. It's all up to you. There is a definite feeling of grinding for resources and technology, but if you are like me you won't notice too often. After all, there's nothing more satisfying than punching through an enemy fleet with a ship custom fitted to you, and with a new galaxy generated for each play through replay value will not be an issue.