Archive for the ‘2 Hearts’ Category

Strawhat Samurai

Posted: June 27, 2012 in 2 Hearts
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Strawhat Samurai is a flash game available on Kongregate. Its a combat adventure game with a simple storyline. The basic idea is that two warlords are at war in Feudal Japan and you’ve been called in as a Samurai to fight the opposing army to distract them until your allies get there. The level select map is the path you’re following to get north and has some interesting, though simplistic mechanics to it. Such as being unable to go out on to the road until you’ve dealt with a watch tower.

In order to fight other warriors, you use the mouse to draw the line you’re cutting with your katana. You can click on a location to walk there, or slash through it to run there. The archery system is interesting in that the player can toggle their bow at any time that they have arrows, and arrows must be gathered in a level. This seems a little odd, but it works. Why don’t arrows I don’t use in one level carry over to the next? One thing I do approve of is that you can’t shoot while moving like in a lot of games. The levels can be very difficult and periodically made no sense. At one point, I found myself fighting a catapult and the game text said to “hit it back in the balls”. Hitting the catapult stones appeared to do nothing, particularly since they usually disappeared on impact and I couldn’t actually hit the catapult.

The game certainly has a very samurai movie feel to it, with all the running around and the lone good guy with just his sword. Even the background music embraces the feel. The art only adds to it. I wish that the game play and puzzle design could have lived up to the rest of the game. Overall, I was underwhelmed. Though I do approve of the archery system. I award Strawhat Samurai 2 out of 5 hearts.

If you’re interested in playing Strawhat Samurai, you can find it here.

Educational games are looking to be an important part of the future, particularly for topics like basic arithmetic which really just amount to a lot of repetition and memorization. In light of that, I went on the hunt for a math based game to review and I found Castle Quests at Multiplication.com. The basic idea of Multiplication.com is that it is a one stop shop for all your multiplication teaching and learning needs. It has flash cards, work sheets, tests and, most relevant to this blog, games. The games are all pretty simple, flash based games and I picked one with a theme I knew I would find interesting.

Castle Quests is a 3 level multiplication quiz game using a medieval theme. The very simple storyline follows the player as they start out trying to become a Page at the King’s court, then become a Squire and finally a Knight. This is done by proving your prowess at multiplying. The graphics are simple and friendly, giving a nice theme to the game to make it not just repetition of facts. I really like how the graphics have this simple cartoony feel that almost feel kid-created, even though they are way better than most young kids could draw.

The first level is just basic facts and everything remains stationary, but by the Squire level things have started to move around and part of the challenge is keeping track of where the answers have gone. While you are playing through, it keeps track of how many questions you have answered correctly and how many you have answered incorrectly and displays them in the banners hanging from the herald’s horn.

In case you were curious, the banners hanging from the horn are properly called “Trumpet banners”. I love it when things have simple names.

Wrong answers don’t halt play, but just replacing the number with a black X really isn’t enough feedback for a child playing this game. This is particularly true since you can continue to click on the X’s. Also, nothing stops the player from simply getting the answer through guessing and elimination. As an experiment, I did a play-through in which I purposefully made as many mistakes as I possibly could. As you can see in the picture below, I made a lot of mistakes.

Over 100 mistakes later, I still see this screen:

I guess the King really doesn’t want good Squires.

Over all, its just fact repetition with a story over it like a skin. The graphics and story are cute, but the player’s performance doesn’t actually affect the story. There is very little feedback for the user, and because they can guess until they get it right, they really aren’t learning. If you just want to practice facts until you have them right, then this is the game for you. If you actually need to learn them from the beginning, then this might not be the right choice. I award Castle Quests with a 2 hearts out of 5. I’m just really not impressed.

Star Wars The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels

Posted: January 4, 2012 in 2 Hearts
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Before I launch into this review, I should say that I’m generally not fond of the fighting game genre. I have a tendency to view them as victory through button mashing with no real skill or experience required. Moving on from there, I was not the primary player in our household this game was intended for. We actually rented this (despite its T for Teen rating) for my 9 year old brother. He’s a big Star Wars fan.

Beginning my research on this game, I made my own play file and started in. I was a bit horrified when I told it to play free play and then didn’t even give me the option of a tutorial. So there I am floundering my way through the character selection interface with no idea what I’m doing and no idea how the controls work. I then was launched into a fight against a Sith who was wielding not one but two lightsabers and I couldn’t even figure out which of the combination of buttons and frantic waving of the Wiimote was actually causing me to swing my lightsaber at her. The box says “Wield your Wiimote like a Lightsaber!”. I hate to say it, but I did no such thing. I wiggled it around and beat down some Sith. My little brother is quoted as saying “I don’t even know which one I am!” If that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with this game, then I don’t know what does.

There are three different play modes: campaign, free play and challenge. Campaign is the story line of the game. The storyline faithfully follows the Clone Wars movie, which is a definite plus when compared to a lot of movies turned video game. Free play is just that, a single match either between two players or one player and a computer controlled character. Each match is comprised by at least two parts, each a separate fight. A match is a best 2 out of 3 fight for victory. The same match style is used in the campaign mode, meaning that losing a single fight doesn’t keep you from moving forward. Challenge mode lets you pick a fight with one of the characters and keeps track of your performance so you can see how you’re improving.

The art style in Lightsaber Duels is exactly the same as in the Clone Wars animated episodes, making it a natural transition for the kids who have been watching it. Aside from the detail where the game is rated T for Teen and the show is watched by elementary schoolers everywhere.

For one last little nit-picky thing. When I was playing one of the challenges, it was me as Anakin Skywalker versus Obi-Wan. We’re going along fighting and the characters are randomly bantering like they do. Suddenly, Obi-Wan says something like “I’m glad Qui-Gon isn’t here to see you.” and the voice actor pronounces it “Ki-gon”. I’m sorry…what? You can’t pronounce Qui-Gon’s name? I’ve seen the movies all of once and I can pronounce it. You lose serious points for that.

In conclusion, the art, tone and game rating don’t jive. The controls are hard to use and silly. They made advertising claims on the package that contradict earlier press releases and the game itself. I don’t even know what to say. But I award The Clone Wars : Lightsaber Duels a grand total of 2 out of 5 hearts.

Burn the City

Posted: June 6, 2011 in 2 Hearts
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To start off, sorry for the long absence, I’ve been quite sick, but things are looking up now (yay for antibiotic awesomeness). For my return, I found an interesting little game. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it based on the name but well…you’ll see.

Okay, sometimes I see a game title and I can’t not play it. This was definitely one of those cases. The basic idea appears to be that you are a dragon (I’m guessing its a dragon anyway) and you’re trying to burn a city to the ground. Pretty simple, right? So you click on the dragon and drag to make the top of your projectile arc and then release. This launches a fireball at the buildings and over time they burn to the ground or you can launch more and knock them over. The feel of it screams to me that it wasn’t made to be played on a computer, however. And based on the fact that its available in the Android app store, it probably wasn’t. I was surprised, however, to see that it was only in the Android store and on Kongregate.

I didn’t find the game to play terribly well on the computer, but I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt since it was clearly designed for the Android. The graphics are really visually appealing. Game play is very simple, and somewhat reminiscent of Angry Birds. I really liked the fact that you could hit a building and cause weak spots and then attack those points to bring the buildings down faster. There are 30 levels of play in the Kongregate version. I’m not sure how many exist in the Android version. It has a nice little button in the bottom left hand corner of the screen that allows you to refocus on the dragon for your next launch.

Here are the problems I had with this game. The controls were difficult to use and laggy. It was clearly not meant to be used on this platform and I doubt much was done to port it. There was very little challenge since there is no limit to how many shots you can take. Sure, your score is higher if you complete the level faster, but that’s an incentive not an impediment. I don’t like puzzle games that can be beaten by brute force and trial and error.

Overall, I’m not really impressed. The name was exciting but the gameplay left me wanting more and not just because there were so few levels. It was laggy and not terribly interesting. The music was also pretty annoying. If you want to try playing it, I highly suggest mute if anyone else is around because they will not thank you for the music. I guess I just was hoping for more from a game with such an awesome title. So, Burn the City, I’m sad to say you get a 2 out of 5 hearts.

If you are interested in playing Burn the City, you can find it on Kongregate here.

Robin Hood

Posted: April 1, 2011 in 2 Hearts
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Robin Hood by Legacy Interactive is a point and click adventure telling the story of Robin Hood, the Merry Men and Maid Marien as they rob from the rich, give to the poor and try and get back King Richard the Lionheart. This happens through a combination of puzzle games, dialogue and mostly find the hidden object puzzles. I’m under the impression that that particular genre must be painfully easy to program, given the sheer number of them out there.

I played through the entire demo and I have to say, I’m not impressed. They dumbed down the story, and inserted puzzles arbitrarily to make it a game. The puzzles are all the type I’d expect to find in Highlights magazine and at about that difficulty. They’re billing it as a kid’s game, but I don’t honestly think this is going to keep the attention of any child. Especially not a child actually capable of reading the dialogue and instructions.
I will give them this, though, the art is really really nice to look at. The music is also soothing, though it repeats just a bit too often. It hits that point where you can feel the repeat and it becomes jarring. The art is mostly realistic and looks almost hand painted, which is really nice. I really enjoyed just looking through the worlds as I was playing.

The major thing that I didn’t like was the overall feel that the game gave me. I love the story of Robin of Locksley and I felt like this was honestly a less compelling, less interesting, less intelligent telling than the Disney version which involved small, furry animals.

That’s right, Marian, you heard me. Disney told it better with furry animals. Now stop looking so gratified. Its hard to do it worse than a $7 hidden object puzzle with a random story tacked on. It probably would have been better with animation on the dialogue scenes, or maybe some voice over. If there were voice overs for the characters, I’d be more willing to buy that its a kid’s game, but as it is, not only do I refuse to believe that a kid would bother to read the dialogue and be able to read it all, but Will Scarlett swore and I’m only an hour in. Sure, “damnit” isn’t the worst swear ever and I’m sure they’ve heard it, but you don’t bill a game as kid friendly and throw in something like that randomly. Being as how this is a random internet based game company, they didn’t get their game rated by the ESRB and there’s nothing on their site to show that the game contains swears. It doesn’t even have violence, other than the constant references to the gallows, at least not as far as I’ve gotten.

Wow…I ranted. Ok, anyway. I didn’t really like this game. It felt like I was trying to read a badly abridged book but someone kept throwing puzzles at me. If I told the puzzles to go away, they would with no penalty, which in a way just made it all worse. Sure, you can’t really change the story of Robin Hood…but at the same time, now I have no emotional involvement at all. So why exactly am I trying to find stray fish?


In conclusion, this is a beautiful environment to go searching for objects, but I have no idea why I’m doing it. There’s nothing that makes me want to keep going. To be perfectly honest, they drained the joy out of hearing the story. The controls are simple to use and friendly, but there’s no reason to play on an emotional level. I award this game with a 2 out of 5 hearts. They were saved by their art team on this one.

If you’re interested in checking this game out, you can find it at Legacy Interactive’s website here for $7 or play the free demo.

Dungeon Blaster

Posted: March 11, 2011 in 2 Hearts
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I guess the theme for the week is Rogue-Like. Today’s game is Dungeon Blaster which is available on Kongregate. The basic idea of this is that yet again, you’re wandering around in a dungeon with no backstory. In the words of my friend’s little brother, “My parents were killed by Storm Troopers and I can’t remember my last name.” Alright, so I’m wandering around in this dungeon and I have no weapons. Wait, what? I have no weapons? Oh, but I can cast firebolt and frostbolt. Ok, so I’m a badly trained wizard and I’m wandering around in a dungeon. Would you look at that, it’s almost like I have a backstory!

So moving on, the graphics are pretty much mediocre. They look like the standard stuff I get in an engine’s world editor. I’m pretty sure I did a project for school with pretty much the same walls. I’m trying to figure out if they custom modeled the title screen or if that’s a stock font. I like it, either way. The one thing I love is the minimap in the HUD. It dynamically fills itself in as I’m exploring. I’d say without a doubt that this is the best feature of the entire game.

So, then you find these treasure chests. Now, there’s no apparent inventory, except for that chalice that I have 1 of down in the bottom corner there. So, I have no idea what kind of treasure I’m finding or why. The complete lack of any sort of explanation of the game is leaving me mystified. Also, I’m not sure if this is a glitch or not, but periodically I’ll go to open a chest, and I have keys but the chest just won’t open. I don’t know if there are specific keys that I need or I have to kill a certain number of monsters or what. All the keys look the same, and they stack in my inventory, so I really don’t understand.

Alright, this monster thing is going to probably give me nightmares. Its like being attacked by the bastard child of a cyclops and a yellow smiley face, only someone painted it pink, possibly to make it more nightmarish. I’m pretty sure it lives under my bed and tries to eat my feet when they hang over the edge. There’s another monster too, one that killed me repeatedly during my first few plays because I didn’t know it existed. I was too busy running from Mr Smiley over there to notice the SHADOW on the ceiling that was slowly killing me. With the entire screen being dark except for around the player, you’ll never notice the shadows until its too late….or until they’ve killed you a good few times.

The controls are simple, pretty much the standard stuff. WASD to move, 1 and 2 to restore health and mana, space to open doors and chests, mouse to cast spells. There’s experience levels and attributes to make you a better poorly equipped adventurer, but that’s about it.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not a fan. I also don’t know how I feel about their total random use of the pentagram. Its like they went ‘oh man occult symbol!’ and just threw it in. The graphics are pretty much boring, the lighting is too dark, and the whole game feels you’re the worst adventurer ever. I mean, seriously, I don’t even have a dagger. I don’t know why I’m gathering things, or even what I’m gathering. Is there a big bad guy? I don’t know! I have no idea what I’m doing in this dungeon. I love the minimap though. That minimap was amazing. Over all, I award Dungeon Blaster 2 out of 5 hearts. Better luck next time, guys.

If you’d like to play Dungeon Blaster, you can find it here.

Swap!

Posted: December 7, 2010 in 2 Hearts
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Swap! is a card game that I picked up in a dollar store. Its a 2-10 person game for ages 7 and up. The basic idea is similar to Uno: get all the cards out of your hand. Only the rules are crazy. So, there are a few types of cards: colors, swap, super swap, switch color and slap. Here’s where things get weird. So, about that swap card. It lets you swap hands with another player and the rules say this can be done at any time. That wasn’t any time on your turn, no that was at any time like…ever. So there I am, playing Swap! with some of my friends and its my turn…and one of my friends plays a swap on me. Why yes, it is this absurd. So, next up. The slap card means what it says. Slap the discard pile. The last person to slap draws a card from the hand of the person who played it. Fairly simple. Now get this: if someone slaps at the wrong time, make up a punishment for them. So that’s going to be pretty tame normally, right? But we’re college students. This just begs to become a drinking game or a stripping game. The super swap is decidedly tame compared to the rest of these. Its basic function is that the person who plays it picks a direction to rotate the hands in. There are also optional rules to instead leave the cards in place and swap seats on any type of swap card. I think that would also change the turn order. Interesting little twist. Then you combine this with the fact that swap cards can be played at any time and now you can steal someone’s turn. This rapidly becomes a surprisingly complex strategy game considering that its for ages 7 and up.

The cards are pretty simple artistically. I was amused when I looked at one of the blank color cards. They’re literally the same background all the other cards have, only they’re just a color. The colors are bright and distinct and the action cards clearly say which card they are without leaving any possibility for confusion. For all that the cards are nice and easy to understand, the rules are anything but. I’ve never seen a game with so many variant rules right in the main game instructions itself. Some of them are also really weird, like that whole thing where swap cards can be played at literally any time. This makes the game become extremely confusing after a rapid round of swaps where you sit there going “Who’s turn is it? I have no idea.”

For a dollar store game, Swap! is pretty decent. In the grander scheme though, the rules are ambiguous and while a group that doesn’t really get into the specifics of the rules and just plays how they think it should go will probably have fun, a group of college students who except a higher level of gaming experience will rip it to shreds and be baffled by what’s left. In light of that, I feel that 2 out of 5 hearts is the appropriate score for Swap! I enjoyed this game, but it was way too confusing and we were making an awful lot of house rules for a little card game.