Mar 20, 2012

Humble Bundle 2

Just a quick note that there's a Humble Bundle 2 out now. The games aren't as familiar to me as the first bundle, but it looks like a great deal just like the first go around. The games are Canabalt, Zen Bound 2, Cogs, Avadon, and (with donation of over $6.30 now) Swords & Soldiers. Read all about it at

Mar 7, 2012

Dungeon Village

Edit: I can't seem to upload images into the blogger right now so sorry about the lack of visual appeal today...

I reviewed Kairosoft's Game Developers Story many months ago and it left me feeling flat despite the widely acclaimed praise the game seems to garner. Even my favorite blogger seems to be gaga over these games. I skipped their other fifty releases, but the idea of building a village that acts as a safe haven for weary adventurers intrigued me. Was there something I was missing?

Dungeon Village pits you as the Supreme Being overseeing the development of a remote town in the wilderness where beasts run rampant and weary adventurers seek the comfort of  a cozy inn or a place to restock on supplies. You start with a small town that has an Inn and a Weapon shop along with a small amount of gold in its treasury. The game's built in tutorial walks you smoothly through the construction of your first building and does a fantastic job of explaining the game in a nice, progressive manner. As you play you'll learn about attracting adventurers to your town, improving its appeal to attract even more adventurers, about dungeons and quests, and be faced with the usual dilemma of how to best manage your money to grow your village.

Graphically Dungeon Village pretty much looks like all of the other Kairosoft games. Teeny weenie little people march around, slightly larger buildings get plopped down with infinitesimally small signs with which to disambiguate them, tiny monsters gather outside the village's gates, and holes pop up in the ground (dungeons) for your friendly neighborhood adventurers to explore. All the while, a nice audio accompaniment plays along to keep you in the spirit of city building making the game's graphics good, but familiar. Controls entirely rely on familiar touch screen dragging and dropping or navigating through pop-up menus.

Dungeon Village's theme brought me back to my SimCity days given that instead of building a software company now I'm building a village. I loved SimCity when I was first exposed to it. There was a powerful feeling in having absolute control over building a thriving metropolis and it also providing a bit of an educational experience in the challenges town planners face. Dungeon Village also brought me back to a statistics class from my college days where we learned the various models for generating a seemingly random (but not) formula for customer arrivals. So do I like this game? No, I don't.

First, I understand that I'm almost alone in the feeling that these games seem to play me versus me playing them. Ok, I can choose where a building goes and such, but I feel far more like I'm waiting for the game to deliver population to me or tell me there's a new dungeon or for any number of things to happen. I'm just waiting on that formula from stats class to kick in a deliver something to me doorstep. If you enjoy these kinds of games then strike me review from your memory and this will probably be right up your alley. I don't get much pleasure from games like this and wish I could have my $5 back.

Second, I'm pretty sure Kairosoft doesn't develop these using traditional programming techniques. By now based on the rate at which they crank out these games I'm certain that they must use the Kairo Games Construction Set to plop out the same old stuff with a new theme. Hey, here's a game about building an amusement park and here's a game about building an oil company. Fifty games later people still haven't tired from the same old formula? Let's change the graphics tile set and the text strings and now we're building a zoo. Yes, I over simplify as there's quite a difference between layout out a village and deciding where to invest money in a game company, but I don't over simplify by as much as I should have to. Consequently, I don't think these games are worth $5 each, but so long as people will pay it then I don't fault them for charging it. Maybe one day they'll release their Kairo Games Construction Set...

In conclusion, I am more confident than ever in a 3/5 star review for this game not only based on my own lack of interest in the game, but also based on how it really doesn't break new ground. I am only glad that I have skipped the other countless iterations of this stuff and how that they don't introduce the 'Roman Village' game which would be another theme that might sucker me back in for another look. I have had some ask why I haven't reviewed Grand Prix Story or Pocket League Story or Epic Astro Story or ... it's because they are all the same game in a different package. And yeah, I'd love to hear some constructive reasons that people disagree with me on this and find this and/or each of their other games surprisingly unique and enjoyable.

Mar 2, 2012

Pinball Arcade

Pinball Arcade arrived in both the Apple AppStore and Android Market within days of one another to great fanfare. Pinball aficionados appreciate a pinball simulation that attempts to bring every nuance of the great classic tables into the modern age... not to mention into one's pocket. How do these games stand up in their purely digital transformation? Let's check it out...

First off, Pinball Arcade is a free* download. Pay extra special attention to that asterisk because it means this is hardly free. This is actually a trial version of four pinball tables which is clearly stated in the description although the description lacks on the definition of trial. Trial here means 'score limited'... play until you score a predetermined number of points. Personally I find that to be very fair as it gives you plenty of taste for how well these games play, but I also think the name of this app needs to be changed to 'Pinball Arcade Trial'.

Next, note that this app doesn't actually contain ANY pinball tables... it's another market (and based on its huge file size is also the engine under which these simulations run) in which you still have to download the pinball machines. Each machines costs, by app standards, a rather steep $3 or for $10 you can have all four tables that are currently available.

qrcodeHow does it play? It plays well. These pinball machines offer substantial depth and the game itself even provides some basic history on each game. I won't delve into the details of pinball as the game itself is pretty basic... keep the ball in play with flippers positioned at the bottom and elsewhere within the playing field. Advanced pinball games such as these also offer a variety of targets and goals based on the table. Graphically these games are beautiful although I'm sure the real deal is far superior to a digital recreation, and each table's audio is faithfully recreated although that was probably digital in the first place. There is one graphical issue I have with these games and that's that the ball appears to 'ghost' when travelling as it travels at faster speeds. There are points where it just appears downright flickery and where I'd swear it just went through my flipper only to clearly register as a hit based on the ball's new trajectory. My other issue is that sometimes the ball disappears from view when inside some simulated pinball contraption and while that does happen on a real pinball table depending on its design I can a) move my head around when I'm playing on a real table to change my view and b) I personally find it annoying when I can't see my principal focus for the game.

How does Pinball Arcade compare to other pinball games? Actually I went back and viewed some older reviews I had written... most notably this one where I review five different pinball games and I'm stunned that I haven't yet covered my favorite pinball title for Android: Pinball HD for Tegra. Pinball HD features 3 tables which are reasonably intricate and play very smoothly... quite a bit smoother than Pinball Arcade. Unfortunately, it's only for Tegra devices whereas Pinball Arcade supports a wider range of hardware.

In summary, I don't think this is the best pinball available, but it's still quite good. $3 per table is high, but not out of the question and is probably a deal if you're really into any of these tables. I'd be far more attracted to this as a casual purchase if $3 included the four tables and then they had me buy others as desired, but I'm also not knocking the price. For the casual player, however, I think there are better and cheaper casual options. I give this a 3.5/5, but with the caveat that if any or all of these tables appeal to you then it's probably worth another star to you. At any rate... it doesn't hurt to check out this Pinball Arcade Demo.

Mar 1, 2012

World of Goo

World of Goo is another hit game that recently made the jump to Android much like Osmos did and at roughly the same time. It's another level based pseudo puzzle game with excellent execution. It currently has a 4.9 rating on the Android Market and it deserves that rating. If you aren't familiar with this game yet then read on... otherwise feel free to jump right into downloading and playing it.

World of Goo pits you with the goal of getting your little goo droplets from here to there in a 'bridge building' manner. In essence you'll be dragging droplets to new spots on the screen and a pair of lines will follow you to show the connection you're about to build. Move too far away and you won't be able to make the connection. As the name of the game states, you are building with a somewhat flexible goo substance so don't expect rock hard connections, but rather connections that flop back and forth as you work to build up and across to the giant pipe in the sky.

Graphically the game is good and the audio is nicely integrated to make for a smooth game play experience. The touch controls work well with the occasionally irritation of too many little goo balls being too close together so it can be hard to single out just one when there are different types of balls in later levels... a minor irritation. Likewise, an errant tap here or there can result in a connection being deleting and your whole structure tumbling back to the ground. Be careful out there! The neat thing about this game is the variety present in the many levels meaning that each level is typically a leap and bound beyond the previous one offering up a new challenge versus being another variant on a theme. This game keeps you guessing and thinking...

qrcodeThe game also includes 'hints' along the way to attempt to provide some guidance as to what to do next. For example, an early level features balloon goo droplets in that they move back and forth like the black goo, but can be dragged into position and act as balloons. It took me a couple minutes to piece together what the sign painter was trying to say as the level was quite different from those preceding it and the progression found in most puzzle games. The feeling of frustration set in initially as did the equal and opposite feeling of accomplishment once I figured it out. The game also plays very much like an open sandbox where I'm sure there's not just one path to victory.

In addition to the many levels the game includes which are divided amongst several nicely themed chapters there's also an ongoing competition to build the tallest tower although that might not be obvious at first. As you play the game you'll have a goal of saving a number of goo drops and often you'll exceed that goal. Each of those extra droplets goes to your 'goo bank' which you can use in an effort to build the tallest structure which is ranked on a global leader board.

As stated in the first paragraph, this is a great, great game! It's premium priced at $5, but that price is fully justified, but it gets better... they even have a free demo containing the first chapter's worth of levels to get you started before you plunk down your cash. There's no reason not to try it... and then buy it. 5/5 stars.