Friday, March 23, 2012

Ninja Lightning Pack!

Usually a ninja strikes in silence from the shadows, but sometimes it uses lightning.
That's right, lightning. is hosting a sale of 5 NinjaBee games on PC: Ancients of Ooga, Cloning Clyde, A Kingdom for Keflings, Outpost Kaloki, and Band of Bugs!

The quicker you jump in and purchase, the cheaper you can get the bundle. Or, if you're feeling generous, pay extra, which knocks down the current price for others. This deal is only going to last for the next 100 hours, so you gotta be quick to catch the lightning!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Friday Review: Serious Sam 3 BFE (PC)

Serious Sam 3: BFE
review by Stevil

Take the story, character development, and tactical cover mechanics in today's shooters and throw them on the ground, you're an adult!
What you have left is a challenging first-person shooter experience in its purest form.

This game is all about the combat. If you are looking for an epic story to go along with the explosions then look elsewhere. While a game that's light on story may cause more elitist gamers to jerk their noses up in disgust so violently they barrel roll off the sofa, I'm fine with minimal story as long as it sufficiently explains character motivations and the context of events. In Serious Sam 3 the story goes something like "Aliens are bad, we need to kill a lot of them."

Frantic battles against truly absurd numbers of bad guys are where this game really shines. Single levels can contain 1000+ enemies and they enjoy attacking suddenly, from more than one direction, and in massive waves. The fact that enemies are pouring in from all directions really keeps you on your toes and encourages a running gun battle through the large and very well designed levels. Enemies come in many shapes and sizes, as well as unique behaviors and inherent weaknesses that can be exploited. While there are some great new monsters, fans of the franchise will recognize many a familiar face among the hordes—such as the nimble and deadly Kleer Skeletons, as well as different varieties of the heavy-weapon toting Biomechanoids.

Each enemy type is best defeated by combinations of different tactics and weapons and you can expect to find many different enemy types in each battle. Battles are dynamic and your already slim chances for survival are maximized when using the right tool for the job, much like a muscle bound Bob Villa spreading intergalactic justice one smoking barrel at a time.

One of the areas Serious Sam 3 really shines is in the large selection of weapons it offers, 13 to be exact. Each weapon plays well, has its own feel, and covers a unique area in which it excels. Earlier I mentioned that using the best weapon for the job is your best bet for making it out alive; however it is still very possible to stick with just the one or two weapons that strike a resonance with your inner Chuck Norris and survive. I had a great time taking on some of the biggest and baddest enemies in the game with my sledgehammer, just to see if I could, and if I played my cards right I usually could. Very challenging but also very satisfying.

Serious Sam 3 runs on Croteam's new Serious engine and on higher settings it does look pretty; although at times I felt like the lighting could get a little weird (too much/little light intensity and some other very minor issues). The environments are detailed and well rendered as are the enemies. Be sure you're hardware is up to the task—those sweet graphics are going to tax your system. There are engines out there that are superior, however I think the Serious engine has potential and look forward to seeing it developed further.

 I would recommend this game to anyone looking for a solid, fast-paced shooter. It delivers in all of the important areas and it delivers on them well. I would also recommend playing with a friend,
CO-OP is an absolute blast. Seriously!

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Friday Review: X-Com: UFO Defense (PC)

X-Com: UFO Defense
-review by CJ

Why am I reviewing an 18 year old game? Because if you haven't played it yet, you should. Considering that it is an 18 year old PC game, there's a very good chance you haven't. Even if you aren't normally a fan of the tactical turn-based strategy RPG horror shooter genre... Oh wait...that's not a genre. It's a game called X-Com: UFO Defense. Mixing a bunch of genres can be risky, like when you throw a bunch of vegetables and stuff into your juicer in hopes of downing your daily dose of "healthy" as quickly as possible, but end up creating a sickly brown liquid that may or may not actually be edible anymore. However, X-Com is more like a well concocted blend of ingredients that you might not think work together, but then when you try it you just can't get enough. Like cinnamon on chocolate ice cream (seriously). Ok, so what is it? X-Com is, at its heart-of-hearts, a turn-based strategy game. You move your men around a map trying to find sneaky aliens and kill them before they kill you. Between combat scenarios you research new tech, expand your base, build new bases to increase your global coverage, and basically wait in fear of the next announcement of "UFO detected". Now let's get right down to what you can expect to find.


-Complex yet simple. There's a lot going on in X-Com, but the game mechanics are simple enough that even without any guiding hand (see CONS), you can figure it out. Even though there's a lot to do, it doesn't feel overwhelming.

-Emotional. It may be just me, but every time I hear an alien shot I tense up. I watch with horror as it hits one of my soldiers, ending their lives forever. Or sigh in relief as it passes them by, a near miss.  The mortality of your soldiers makes you care about them, especially when they've survived three missions, have been promoted to Captain, and are the best shot in your army.

-Mystery. Never knowing what lays beyond the ramp of your dropship at the beginning of each mission makes each battle feel like a new experience. What enemies will I be facing? How many? Where are they? Each map is procedurally generated, and when and where UFO's appear is random as well. Besides that, you never know what's happening just out of range of your base's sensors. As I guard Africa, is Europe being invaded?

-Great environment. The quiet, creepy music, the fog of war, the empty farm houses and fields of wheat, the creak of a door opening when all you can see is a screen that says "Hidden Movement" during the alien's turn...this is what an alien invasion should be like! Few gaming experiences are equal to your first encounter with extra-terrestrial life in X-Com.

-Many, many more! Seriously, it's $5 on Steam ($2.50 at time of writing, yay sales!). Just try it.


-No help. I don't mean in the game, I mean about the game. If you're downloading the game it's not likely to come with a manual (my Steam version didn't). A nice F1 screen that told you what all the different buttons did would be a great start. An explanation about how research and manufacturing work would be awesome. These are things you can figure out on your own, but by the time you do you will probably want to start a new game, so that you can take advantage of all your new found knowledge from the beginning.

-Possibly impossible. After dozens of hours of playing, you may find yourself between a rock and a hard place. Money is running out, and alien forces are becoming increasingly overwhelming. This can happen from just plain laziness, of course, in which case it's your own fault, but even if you are being careful, the randomness of the game can put you in these positions while you remain ignorant, until it's too late to fix. Although this is rare, when it happens it is extremely frustrating.

SUMMARY: X-Com: UFO Defense is a unique game that every gamer should play at least once. I have played it multiple times, and still find myself enjoying it whenever I pick it back up. Although there is a new version coming out later this year (by a studio I trust with such a mission, and that I'm very excited for), I can't imagine it ever fully replacing the original.

Friday, March 02, 2012

The Friday Review: Puddle (XBLA, PSN, PC)

Puddle (demo)
review by CJ

Well, so far we've given you mostly great games to look up, but this time I've got beef. Actually, I like beef, so I'll call it turkey. It may look like chicken, but don't be fooled! Puddle is about guiding liquids through a maze of obstacles by tilting the map left and right, and letting gravity do the rest of the work; however I sense a far more nefarious purpose lurking within those seemingly harmless, oozing liquids.

"Reviewing a demo?" you say. "Is that fair?" you ask. Yes. In this "Golden Age" of gaming, there is so much good content being released on nearly a weekly basis, that I simply don't have time to play every good game that comes along, let alone the bad ones. I believe this is why demos are so necessary, as it allows the consumer to decide for themselves which games are worth their time. I didn't even finish Puddle's demo. I mention that I played only the demo as a disclaimer. I suppose it's possible that the worst levels were put into the demo to display the ultimate level of difficulty the game eventually achieves, but since it was a demo, I expect that it is a representation of the majority of the game's levels, rather than the exceptions. Now let's get down to the bottom of this gooey mess.


- Puzzles. It claims to be a puzzle game, and it delivers. If you love puzzles, are a glutton for punishment, and have so much time on your hands that you are sick of all the great games flooding the market, this may be enough reason for you to try out Puddle.


- Trial, error, and luck. If you like to solve puzzles through logic and quick reflexes, play something else. When your options are pull the left trigger or the right trigger, there's not a whole lot of thinking going on. Most of the puzzles are solved through endless repetition until you get a favorable result; which is an unknown variable. A single lost drop early on may mean not having enough liquid to survive later down the line.

- Long and complicated. Other than the early learning levels, you aren't going to pass on the first try, as you can never tell what's coming, and more often than not a single miss-tilt, even for just a moment, can mean sudden, or eventual death. At times I found myself plodding along, as slow and carefully as I could, so that nothing could surprise me, just to find that what I needed was some serious speed and momentum, and that it was my caution that killed me.

- Start over. No checkpoints. This may not be unusual for puzzle games, but for me this was the breaking point. Nothing is worse than finally getting to the end of the level, after twenty tries, just to be taken out by the final obstacle, and having to start all over from the beginning again, taking another ten tries to get to the end again, just to have a second chance at figuring out how to get through to the end. And it may take five tries on that final puzzle before you get by.

- Impossible. Seriously. There were a couple levels of the demo that I just gave up on (one before I could even get anywhere significant) because of how ridiculous the difficulty was. Mostly this is because of the above mentioned problems, but even without them, there were some obstacles which I simply could not get past.

SUMMARY:  I'd rather have an anvil dropped on my head than play Puddle again. It would be less painful. Maybe I'm just not cut out for this level of difficulty, but I don't know anyone who would rather get angry at a game than enjoy it.