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Dungeons of Dredmor

Full Review

Dungeons of Dredmor Cover_0Riding on the excitement of The Binding of Isaac, I decided to dive right into another roguelike, this time from indie developer Gaslamp Games. But unlike Binding of Isaac, Dungeons of Dredmor is a more traditional, turn-based dungeon crawler, complete with character classes, skill trees, item forging, and the hack and slash-style fun one would expect from classic franchises like Diablo or Baldur’s Gate. Well, maybe not that traditional. Dungeons of Dredmor is perhaps best described as a spoof of classic computer roll-playing games; nothing takes itself seriously...

Three other writers here posted their impressions of Dungeons of Dredmor last week in our new series: Indie Impression. You may consider these my extended impression that turned into a complete review.

Super Meat Boy

Indie Impression

Super Meat boy CoverOur second Indie Impression is of Super Meat Boy, the 2010 platformer from Team Meat. Known for its sadistic level design and smooth gameplay, Super Meat Boy has grown into a huge hit that's spread beyond the indie community, selling more than one million copies across all PC platforms and Xbox Live Arcade. We've got four impressions for that range from a few minutes to completing the game 100%, which is pretty much exactly how I envisioned this column working out. Greg was going to provide impressions also, but decided that since he ended up beating the game in about a week, he's going to provide a full review in the coming days.

The Binding of Isaac

Full Review

Binding of Isaac CoverFollowing in the wake of the widely popular Super Meat Boy, Edmund McMillen’s latest entry, The Binding of Isaac, takes its name and narrative from a story in the Book of Genesis. In that tale, Abraham is called to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a proof of his devotion to God. Isaac is bound by his father and placed upon an altar on top of Mount Moriah, where an angel appears to stop Abraham just before the slaughter.

The Binding of Isaac has players taking control of the titular character, whose mother is called to kill her son as a sacrifice to God. In this story, however, there is no angel to stop the fanatic parent; it’s up to Isaac to survive, fleeing the clutches of his murderous mother in the basement of their house.

The artwork and style are synonymous with that of McMillen’s other works, such as Super Meat Boy and Gish (both of whom make cameo appearances), but, taking a break from platforming, level design and gameplay share similarities with The Legend of Zelda. The interface also shares a resemblance. However, unlike the series from which it seemingly draws inspiration, The Binding of Isaac features fully randomized levels, items, enemies, and even bosses. Another key feature is the aspect of permanent death. You have one and only one life to clear the dungeon-like levels and defeat the final boss, which serves to make The Binding of Isaac a very challenging and nerve-racking experience.

Airport Mania 2: Wild Trips

Full Review

Airport Mania 2 CoverWikipedia says Airport Mania 2: Wild Trips' genre is "Click Management", which sounds like the category Microsoft Excel would also be filed under. But trust me, Airport Mania 2 is infinitely more fun. In the same vein as Diner Dash, Sally Spa, and all the hundreds of other click management, strategy, time management clones out there, the goal is to efficiently do something with limited resources. But Airport Mania 2 stands above the rest with high polish and attractive graphics.

Developed by Reflex Entertainment and South Wind Games, the original Airport Mania: First Flight, was a mild success for Windows and OSX in 2008. Re-released on nearly every portable platform since then (including DSiWare), they've slowly been building their airport simulator empire. Airport Mania 2, released earlier this year, is an upgrade of the original but still carries all the charm.

Airport Mania 2 is less of an airport simulator and more of an air-traffic control strategy game. Let's take a quick look at the Android version released a few weeks ago.

Dragon Age II

Full Review

Dragon age 2 CoverI was a bit worried going into my playthrough of Dragon Age 2. The first screenshots revealed a depressingly gray world with curiously pointy polygons, and reader reviews of the game blasted it for a variety of reasons. But my first hour review of the title cemented me firmly in the “I’m going to enjoy this game” category, and 40 hours later I emerged with some sore fingers and a smile on my face.

It’s understandable why some gamers didn’t enjoy Dragon Age 2, in some ways it’s quite a departure from the stable, Western RPG tropes that Dragon Age: Origins employed, but deep down, it really is the first game’s sequel. Some aspects have been streamlined, for better and worse, but I always felt like I was in the Dragon Age universe I spent 50 hours in last time around.

Dragon Age 2 was released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, and OSX. I played a used copy on the Xbox 360, meaning I didn’t have access to any downloadable content that was provided for first-time buyers.

Best in Show

Preview

Best in Show CoverA few weeks ago I found myself addicted to a little iOS game called Turtle Fly. The idea is as simple as the title: you fly a turtle like you’re launching a rocket into space, avoiding obstacles until you run out of fuel or health. Sounds like a typical mobile game, right? Worth about five minutes of your time and then deleted? Well, toss in a shop and RPG elements and all of a sudden we have a real, solid game on our hands that will suck hours away at a time.

I’m not going to argue that adding RPG-like elements to every genre will make it better - would Tetris be improved with hit points? - but sometimes the right amount of stats and level-up progression injected into the right part of the game will give it the boost it so desperately needs.

The new indie title, Best in Show, is attempting to do just that, with solitaire. Here’s my preview of the soon to be released, canine-themed, solitaire card game with RPG elements.

Plants vs. Zombies

Full Review

Plants vs Zombies CoverPlants vs. Zombies is a game I've been eyeing for a while.  It regularly tempted me at $10 Steam with even cheaper sale prices.  This summer's sale finally put me over the edge.  Every so often you need some good tower defense action, and PvZ seemed like a unique yet highly praised take on the genre.  Its cartoonish, Popcap/flash feel and simple five-lane setup makes things perfect for beginners.  And it has enjoyed massive success over a huge variety of platforms.  Originating on PC, PvZ has since expanded to every modern platform imaginable, both traditional and mobile.  Popcap is undeniably a casual gaming powerhouse.  The Bejeweled and Feeding Frenzy creators certainly know how to make products and pricing that clicks with the average consumer.  They've been so successful that EA recently purchased the company for ~$750 million.

For the most part, PvZ exemplifies this success.  It creates a casual-friendly atmosphere with calculated progressive learning combined with enough longevity and a tad of optional difficulty to round out the complete package.  The game starts slowly, at first holding your hand with only a couple plant options (towers) available to defend your house from a weak zombie horde on a completely barren level.  With only five lanes to defend, beginners will learn quickly what it takes to operate.  In case they make mistakes, the game includes a get-out-of-jail-free card, in the form of zombie-clearing machines that activate and clear the lane should a zombie make it past the plants.  For a while, the game introduces a new plant on almost every level, encouraging the player to try them out and discover what they're worth.  Soon enough, juggling several plant types on more obnoxious levels will be a requirement.

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

Full Review

Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition CoverI first played The Secret of Monkey Island about 20 years ago. This was an era of launching games from DOS, Commander Keen, and wheel spinning copy protection. I played the game with my cousin, who would frequently lose the Dial-a-Pirate code wheel forcing us to wildly guess at the game’s opening question.

The Special Edition released in 2009 thankfully does not have any code wheels (or even worse: always-on internet connection), but does feature completely redone high resolution art, a full voice cast, and the same brand of humor fans of the game know and love.

I’m personally a huge fan of the Monkey Island series, with the second holding a very special place in my heart and the third (gasp!) being my favorite. And while I beat the original when I was younger, I never held a lot of nostalgia for it, so this review is actually coming from a fan of the series who likes the first one the least in the trilogy And no, there is no fourth game.

Paul Eastwood originally reviewed the Special Edition two years ago when it was new, I finally got around to beating it this weekend after having it sit in my Steam library since release. Here is my review of The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition.

Minecraft

First Hour Review

Minecraft CoverInitially, Humble Indie Bundle 3 was only five videogames for whatever price you deemed worthy: Crayon Physics Deluxe, Cogs, VVVVVV, And Yet It Moves, and Hammerfight. After a day or two, a free pass for Markus “Notch” Persson's Minecraft was added, allowing HIB3 buyers to play the blocks-laden indie game until August 14, 2011. This might have had something to do with the fact that Notch was/is one of the top contributors to the cause, dropping well over $4,000 for a handful of games he surely already owns. But it's easy to figure out why he'd support indie games like so, and giving the wary a free looksie into his own thriving title is a smart decision.

For some time now, I've been interested in Minecraft. Take note that I did not say interested in playing Minecraft, as the two statements are actually very different. Just interested. From the outside, it looks like a creative, germinal, easy-to-play game that is just asking you to open it up and go nuts. Plus, y'know, I grew up on Lego blocks. It's just plain ol' nature here, stacking and breaking blocks galore and building crazy fortresses loaded from ceiling to cellar with booby-traps. However, Minecraft could also share the same problems many other open-world games have, where there is ultimately little purpose.

At E3 2011, it was announced that Minecraft was coming to the Xbox 360, my preferred gaming console. For now, I'll be giving the game a swing on my Macbook, and hopefully it can handle everything. It's struggled to run other games from Humble Indie Bundle 3 (and previous iterations). I am and always will be a console gamer though so if I do enjoy my time here, I'll more than likely download it from Xbox Live Arcade whenever it becomes available.

Dragon Age II

First Hour Review

Dragon age 2 CoverI enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins quite a bit, but it was a rocky ride to get going. Origins has a lot of stats, a lot of skill trees, and what I found to be a somewhat confusing array of attributes to put points into. When I heard that Dragon Age II was being developed to address many of those aspects of the game, plus a complete overhaul of the dialog system to make it similar to Mass Effect, I was pretty excited.

When Dragon Age II was released, it was met with a Spore-like backlash that railed against everything even semi-related to the game. Gamers lamented the Mass Effectification of their beloved hardcore RPG (which I seemed to deem a compliment reading from afar), and while the professional reviews of the game were lower than Origins but still highly respectable, a seemingly large group of gamers tossed goose eggs at it.

I’ve always been in the play-it-myself group of gamers. I can understand some of the spite, but forming an opinion before you even play the game usually makes one look foolish (and heck, I often look foolish after just an hour!).

Here’s my first hour review of Dragon Age II, released by BioWare in March, 2011.

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