Tag Archives: Simulation

SG88 Robot Wars Header

Robot Wars: Arenas of Destruction (PC & PlayStation 2)

Developer(s) – Climax Development

Publisher(s) – Gamezlab & Vivendi Universal

Producer – Barry Simpson

Designer – Mark Davies

ELSPA – 11+

 

Released in the 4th quarter of 2001 shortly following the fourth season of the program, Robot Wars: Arenas of destruction was to a tirade of criticism with reviewers citing issues with the controls as well as the difficulty, with critics thinking the game was too easy. In my opinion, however, possibly due in some part to the fact that I was a huge fan of the show growing up, I spent a lot of time playing this game when I was a kid, since I found it to be a very enjoyable experience, and the truth is told, I think it still holds up to this day. There are elements to this game that have largely gone unappreciated that make this a far better game than what most people seem to think.

 

Graphics – 8/10

The game is based on the hit UK series Robot Wars, popularised from the late 90s to the early 2000s. As such, it features some of the best robots to have ever competed in the program, such as Razor, Hypnodisc, Cassius, and Firestorm II, as well including the infamous House robots like Sgt Bash, Shunt, Matilda, Dead Metal, and Sir Killalot. But perhaps more impressive than this is the game’s level design; as well as having the traditional Robot Wars arena included, there are several other areas around the world where tournaments are held that are designed very differently, and more elaborately in some cases, than the original Robot Wars arena. It’s. Quite impressive to me that the developers were able to pull this off despite the clear lack of source material that becomes apparent if you ever watch the show.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

The objective of the game is to build a robot using a preset amount of money and to enter the robot into Robot Wars tournaments in order to compete and earn more money to build and better robots out of tougher materials and customizing it with better weapons. The amount of variety in gameplay is extremely impressive for a licensed game, which back then was much more of a niche interest than what it is now with the standard for licensed having increased dramatically following the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum. But even before then, there were more than a few diamonds in the rough beforehand, such as the Disney games developed by Capcom, the Mickey Mouse Illusion series, the earlier Lego games, and in my opinion, this too. 

 

Controls – 8/10

As I alluded to before, one of the most common criticisms of this game was aimed at the control scheme; that movement is not as fluent as what it perhaps should’ve been. However, although it can be a bit of an unnecessary hindrance, the movement of a robot largely depends on what type of wheels it’s fitted with; which over time, becomes less and less of an issue as the player gets a feel for what axis are best to fit their robot with, and what type of tyre to use to give it better overall control. It poses somewhat of an issue because it can be annoying as the player just starts out, but to me, it is at least bearable to play until better wheels can be purchased. It’s not. It’s not the perfect control scheme, but one that does gradually get rectified. 

 

Lifespan – 6/10

To complete the entire circuit of tournaments in the game can take up to a few hours, dependent of course on the quality of the robot the player can create, as well as much damage the robot sustains (players also have to spend money repairing their robot as it takes damage). But regardless of that, there is a fair bit of replay value to be had; especially since not only can players make different types of robots using different frames for a completely different playthrough each time, but can also compete as the classic robots, as well as the house robots. 

 

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

The game will most definitely work better for people who watched the program and have come to like it, but this by no means doesn’t make the game any less enjoyable; another criticism I’ve read of this game is that it didn’t include the then-presenter of the program Craig Charles, with only commentator Jonathan Pierce featuring in the game, but to me, that’s far too much of a finite excuse to criticize the game. 

 

Originality – 7/10

There had been games like this made before, and games made like it since, but not as many as there have been a majority of other genres. It’s certainly a fairly unique concept, which to me, does warrant the further development that it did end up getting, with the follow-up to this game, Robot Wars: Extreme Destruction, generally considered to be better. But to me, this game would’ve served as more than an adequate jumping on point despite the amount of flack it got at the time and still does extremely well to stand out among other games of its kind. 

 

Happii

In summation, Robot Wars: Arenas of Destruction not only uses the license extremely well, but it adds to it greatly whilst appropriately celebrating it at the same time. I grew up with the show, with my dad even once taking me to a live show in Sheffield one time, but regardless of whether you may have been a fan of the show or not, this game is certainly worth playing through and totally undeserving of the negative response it received upon release. 

Score

47/60

7.5/10 (Good)

SG88 The Kingdom of Gardenia Header

Q&A With Little Ricebowl Games

Continuing on with my efforts to uncover new games coming out of the indie community, another Kickstarter project I came across this week was a simulator RPG named The Kingdom of Gardenia. Under development at Little Ricebowl games based in Birmingham, the game put the player in the shoes of Roman, a former soldier who has come to Gardenia looking for work. Stumbling across a job advert for a groundskeeper, Roman applies and the game begins. The player must plant flowers, hunt food, and interact with the townsfolk by catering to their needs in accordance with what their favorite flowers are and what food they like to eat. Along the way, the game’s main story also starts to unfold the further the player progresses, which is somewhat unusual for a simulator game. My first thoughts were that not only does it encompass elements from Stardew Valley (which was one of the developers principal sources of inspiration), but Dark Cloud also sprung to mind to a certain extent as not only does have an element of simulator games to it as a georama game, but it also has a rich story as an RPG.

But eager to find out more about the game, I contacted the game’s core designer Paul Trochowski to get a clearer insight into the development of the game and what players can expect to see with the finished project. Here’s what Paul had to say about The Kingdom of Gardenia:

 

The Kingdom of Gardenia 1

What were the influences behind your game? 

I got the idea for the concept of the game after playing Stardew Valley a few years ago. I’m a huge fan of the game and I really liked the notification about the train passing through town, which you then run towards, to see if it drops any packages at the station. This got me thinking about having a train station as the focal point of the game and the player getting excited about who would be getting off the train each day.

Going back to my childhood days, I was first introduced to gaming with the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES. The art style and soundtrack were so iconic, and I loved the challenge of the boss battles with Bowser. I could never beat them as a child and I only properly beat the game recently when I played it on the Nintendo Switch! I’m working on a challenging boss battle for my game that will hopefully keep people coming back for the amazing satisfaction you can only get from beating a tough boss. There are also some adventure and puzzle-solving elements, inspired by games like A Link to the Past.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

I started out by learning how to make basic pixel art, I would sit with a mini laptop on my daily commute and draw NPCs, flowers, and trees, a little bit at a time, then carry on in my lunch breaks and after work. Over time I realized I had enough content to start thinking about learning how to code and making the NPCs move around with some basic AI. I don’t have a background as an artist or a computer scientist, so learning both areas was a huge uphill battle for me, but also amazingly satisfying when I started to see things come together.

The game is based around a day/night cycle and train schedule, this became really difficult to put together with the more NPCs I started to create, as I found they would clash at certain points that I hadn’t anticipated and I would have to go back a re-work huge sections of their paths/timings. Each new visitor to the kingdom is a huge amount of work, but I’m planning on adding more visitors over time via free content updates.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

I’m at around 80% completion at the moment. I had originally planned on completing the game by April, but unfortunately, I fell really ill with coronavirus and had to put the release back a few months. I’m running a Kickstarter project to help fund production costs and the release of the game.

The Kingdom of Gardenia 2

Made in GameMaker Studio 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

I would have to say putting in the sound effects, the game doesn’t really come to life until you start investing in some better quality sound effects and tweaking the settings to improve the audio. I still have a lot of work to do in this area but hearing footstep sounds change when the player moves from wood to the path to grass is really exciting for me.

Another exciting moment was when a colleague from work did some playtesting for me. Seeing someone new play the game for the first time was a great buzz, and I took away a lot of great ideas for how to improve the gameplay mechanics and things that were missing that the player needed to get accustomed to the world of the game, like adding in a compass! At one point I had a message in the game that tells the player to head east, but I hadn’t put in a compass yet!

 

Where did the inspiration come from where the soundtrack is concerned?

My favorite game soundtrack would have to be Undertale, Toby Fox is a musical genius, I’ve listened to that soundtrack so many times and I never get tired of it. I used to play guitar in a local indie band, we had some minor success and got some national radio play, but it didn’t quite work out. After leaving the band, I really missed creating music and was looking for another outlet to start recording again. You’ll hear a lot of guitar in the soundtrack, I’ve tried to work in some sounds inspired by some of my favorite guitar bands, like Thin Lizzy and The Strokes.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development? 

Solving coding problems! The soil tiles took me a long time to work out, all the possible iterations of what happens to the surrounding tiles when you dig holes in the ground was a challenge for me, but it felt great once I’d finally solved it.

I also came across a number of frame rate slow down issues with collision checking for the trees, I wanted all of the trees to turn semi-transparent when you walk behind them, so you can see where you’re going. Some of the trees in the game are really big and there were way too many collision checks going on, but I think I’ve fixed it now. Interestingly. they decided to avoid this problem entirely in the latest Animal Crossing game. I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about the camera angle issues of not being able to see behind trees!

  

The Kingdom of Gardenia 3

Made in GameMaker Studio 2

How well has the game been received so far? 

A lot of people have shown interest in the Kickstarter project and given some great positive feedback to images and posts about the game on Instagram and Twitter. We have a small following at the moment, but I’ve been really pleased to see that people are genuinely getting on board with the concept of the game and eager to find out more about the story and the world of the game.

There has been some feedback too from fellow developers, who have warned me against putting a game out with such a stripped back, retro art style, insisting that I get a designer in to improve the look of the game. My motivation for continuing with this art style, which I know is going to be an acquired taste, comes from the overwhelmingly positive reception that Undertale received, despite the minimalist look of the game. There is something unique about a game that has been made entirely by one person, I’d be worried that the character of the game would be too far from my original idea if I get someone else to re-work all of the sprites. 

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Initially, the game will be released on PC and then I’ll be looking at a Mac/Linux version before moving on to Switch. I might consider a mobile version after that, but porting to each new platform will bring significant challenges for me as a new developer, so I may need to get some outside help with this.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this? 

Making a game can at times feel like you’re hitting your head against a brick wall. You will come across design or coding problems that you feel like you’re never going to get past. But stick with it, come back to it the next day, and the next – don’t listen to people who tell you it’s not worth all the effort, there’s nothing more satisfying than solving problems that you previously thought were impossible. And when you’ve got something you’re happy with, which you’re ready to share with people, it’s a great buzz to find out that there are people out there who like your work and want to follow the project.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

You can check out my project on Kickstarter: 

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kingdomofgardenia/the-kingdom-of-gardenia

You can also follow the progress of the game through these links:

Website: www.kingdomofgardenia.com 

Twitter: @LittleRice_bowl

Instagram: @LittleRice_bowl

Facebook: @kingdomofgardenia

Youtube: Little Ricebowl

 

Do you have anything else to add?

I would ask people to please check out the Kickstarter page for The Kingdom of Gardenia and back the project if you like what you see. I’ll be working hard to finish the game and spread the word over the next few months. Thanks so much to everyone who’s supported the project so far!

 

Made in GameMaker Studio 2

As always, I’d like to thank Paul for sharing his insight into this wonderful-looking game and hope you guys will check out the Kickstarter project as well as Paul’s additional links to more information about the game as development progresses. The Kingdom of Gardenia looks to be a particularly promising game in my opinion and I can’t wait to see what the finished will have to offer players. I’d also like to wish Paul and Little Ricebowl Games the best of luck with the project. 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Dusk Tactics Header

Q&A With Louis Agoglia

Whilst scouting for new, upcoming indie titles last week, I came across a promising-looking game called Dusk Tactics, Heavily influenced by the Tactics Ogre series, Dusk Tactics is a 2D isometric tactical RPG reliant on player’s skill to customize characters with unique weapons and abilities, as well as employing different job classics to suit different foes throughout the game. Conceived initially back in 2011, the project is wonderfully varied and ambitious in scope to the extent that I wanted to learn about the project. I, therefore, got in touch with the game’s creator, Louis Agoglia to ask him for some details regarding the developmental process and what players can expect from the final game. Here’s what Louis Agoglia had to say about Dusk Tactics:

 

Dusk Tactics 1

What were the influences behind your game?

The main influence behind Dusk Tactics are games like Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, Tactics Ogre: Knights of Lodis, and the Final Fantasy Tactics/Advance series. I’d say the entire genre could be considered an influence as I’ve played hundreds of tactics/strategy (SRPG) games over the years.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

It’s been long! This project started with me doing research, taking notes, and writing down ideas as far back as 2011 with coding beginning in early 2018. One decision I made was to create my own engine, so my development process has been somewhat longer. I felt that since this is my “dream project” I wanted to have full control over the execution. I had a certain vision that benefited from creating a custom engine including how the story was told, which led to the creation of a “cutscene engine”. When I went public with the project toward the end of last year (2019) the reception was beyond anything I could have imagined, and that alone has fostered a positive feedback loop of sorts.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

That’s a tough one, I had a certain schedule in place and then 2020 happened and I think it sort of shook a lot of people up. Right now the engine is pretty much complete, with the ‘game’ itself being in the early stages of development. I am working on a closed alpha demo, the release of which I am hoping to get out sometime this year. As for the finished product, I want to be realistic about it, so I have to say my current goal is for a 2022 release window. A lot of the work that still needs to get done consists of art and sound/music assets, both of which I currently have people working on and both of which will take a good amount of time, but while they’re being created I hope to have the majority of the game finished. Overall percentage-wise I’d say I’m near 60% when discussing the entire project.

 

Dusk Tactics 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

Getting to see some of the ideas I’ve had for a tactics game since 2011 sort of coming to life is probably the best part of the process. I wrote so much in the early years, pages, and pages of notes that covered various ideas and mechanics as well as a background for the story/lore. If I didn’t have such a strong background in gaming, this project might have become more of a book as I’ve always enjoyed writing. All in all, the game will be very rich in lore and story and will have some pretty neat (hopefully balanced) mechanics that both borrow from older games and add a little innovation here and there. Specifically, seeing two characters I created, Alton and Emma, start off as basic ideas and turn into fleshed-out characters was really awesome. Both the 2D portraits and the sprites were done extremely well and I look forward to seeing them in the many scenes I have planned for the story!

 

Have many of the developers you have interacted with across social media offered advice in regards to the development of Dusk Tactics?

In terms of art, @jmitchell1628 and @nixpixgames were extremely helpful, the latter of which I will continue to work with. When I wrote about some technical issues a few months ago, many people were eager to lend a hand and some went even further, such as @retromatn (who is also working on a tactics RPG!) who actually created a sample program to detail his ideas!

Early on, I happened upon a game in development, Lawmage Academy, and beyond being a great game in and of itself, the developer @LawmageA is an overall amazing person. Following them early on helped me learn a lot about how to use social media the right way and also what to expect from various events like releasing a demo or going to your first convention! It helped to have someone just talking about their experiences!

I consider myself very lucky that I witnessed the creation of @IndieWorldOrder which is an amazing group of developers, content creators, artists, etc who have come together to help one another out! Without people like @ancalabro and @labsskull, I doubt I would have as much exposure as I have had, it really helps out when you have people who are truly passionate about game development. I’ve worked on a side project with @bluegoogames in which we created a “twitter follower” horse race. Stuff like this really helps with project burnout and it was a lot of fun! You can see it here, also feel free to join!: 

http://www.nicmar.nu/race/?race=2

 

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What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

It would probably be the scale of the project. While I’m only in my third year of development, the thought of another two years is pretty overwhelming, but it is my dream project so I’m also trying to enjoy the process for what it is! Bigger challenges would be the overall “how will I balance this?” question which tends to pop up a lot. I know I’m going to spend a lot of time after I am “done” so to speak, balancing game mechanics and various Jobs, skills, items, etc. It’s pretty daunting, haha.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

I’ll feel more confident about this when I have a playable demo out, but so far what I have experienced is way beyond my expectations. As a huge fan of the tactics genre, I felt I kind of had an idea of what people wanted, but I never expected it to be this popular! I honestly hope it holds up when people get their hands on it, and if anything I feel like I have an obligation to make sure it does!

 

Have there been very many ideas considered for the game and have since been scrapped?

Early on I had a bad case of feature creep, where I really had some grand designs for the game that over time would be tested by the reality of the situation. At one point I had plans for around 100 Jobs or Classes and I even had the name of the game being “Hundred Tactics”. This would make for a pretty crazy issue of balancing, let alone design and depth! One of my favorite parts of RPGs, in general, is the Job/Class system so it was very important to me to have it be something at the forefront and while it is, I have since lowered the number of Jobs to a more manageable amount at ~30.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

First and foremost the game will be released on PC. Windows, Linux, and Mac releases will be the main focus at the beginning. I would love to see Dusk Tactics on consoles, and I may leave that up to a stretch goal in fundraising. Since the game is coded in Java it will take some work to get it up and running on consoles like the Switch (easily my #1 choice) so it will depend on having the funds necessary to either do it myself (most likely) or farm it out.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

For those who have yet to decide whether or not to pursue game development, there’s only one reality: you won’t get anything done without starting! It’s not easy, but if you are really interested in it, then you need to take that first step! Technically you should start small to increase your chances of completing the project. I only had a few projects before this one ranging from very small arcade-style mobile apps to some FOSS (Free Open Source Software) role-playing games I worked on. Working on open source projects early on was a great way to learn how to work on a schedule, work with a team, using project management software, and more. I feel like there’s a lot of information online that should suffice when it comes to preparing yourself to start a project. While it’s important to plan things out as best you can, remember you can’t plan everything. If it’s a medium to large-sized project and you’re a solo dev, then I can say the best thing is to get into a schedule and keep track of things like burnout and feature creep. The former happens to everyone and sometimes requires taking breaks while the latter brings up the need for a well-designed plan for what you want to accomplish!

 

Where on the Internet can people find you? 

The project’s main website:

http://dusktactics.com 

It is a major source of information about Dusk Tactics, however, I tend to update more frequently on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/dusktactics

There is a forum: 

http://dusktactics.com/bb/

It will be used more in the future to conduct closed alpha testing and I would like to post more frequent updates to it.

 

Do you have anything else to add?

One thing I was very wary of at first was social media. I didn’t have much experience with it as I never really got involved with Twitter outside of game development. There’s a lot to learn, but the biggest takeaway is that I wouldn’t be where I am today without it! Promoting your project is something I am still learning about and it’s an area where a lot of developers including myself sometimes feel like we are in over our heads. A fellow game dev @bluegoogames created this video that honestly details a lot of what it takes to get a good following behind your project: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEmuwU0UhU8&t=3s

With that being said I want to thank Scouse Gamer 88 so much for the opportunity and for the great questions!!

 

I would also like to thank Louis for taking the time out to answers the questions I had about Dusk Tactics and wish him the best of luck with the title. A new tactical RPG would be a breath of fresh air for the industry as the genre has remained somewhat dormant over the eighth generation of gaming, and I feel the release of a game Dusk Tactics would be an ideal catalyst to revive the genre and perhaps even take it to new heights of popularity.

Again, you can follow the links left by Louise to track the development of the game and hope you guys enjoy playing it upon release. But in the meantime, I hope you guys had as much reading about Dusk Tactics as I did covering it.

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

SG88 Reus Header

Reus (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Abbey Games

Publisher(s) – Abbey Games

Designer(s) – Adriaan Jansens, Dennis Pullens & Nick Witsel

Programmer(s) – Bas Zalmstra, Maarten Wiedenhof, Manuel Kerssemakers, Dennis Pullens, Tim de Jager & Jacco Krijnen

PEGI – 7

 

Developed and self-published by indie developers Abbey Games, Reus is a unique type of real-time strategy game, whereby the player must create a world and influence the populace to maintain as peaceful a civilization as possible. Overall, I was extremely impressed with how original this game is, and I would recommend it to any fan of the strategy genre who may be wanting a much different experience than what they may normally be used to.

 

Graphics – 7/10

Making use of hand-drawn 2D graphics, I really like the conceptual design of this game. It gives it a deceptively innocent look about it, when in fact, it can become a wonderfully hectic challenge to maintain civility among the world’s people, and provide resources as and when they’re needed, and not overdo it in any way. The game’s soundtrack can also add to this depth in deception, as it sounds very peaceful against a potential foreground of problems that must be solved.

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The game puts the player in control of four ancient gods, who must be used to create different forms of terrain across the planet to allow for the development of civilization and its expansion. The more food and gold mines the people are able to utilize, the more prosperous it’ll be, but more prosperous societies may become greedy and complacent, and be the subject of envy amongst other civilizations that may exist across the world, thereby increasing the risk of conflict between them, and affecting the level of peace throughout the land. Though it may not be the first game to introduce mechanics of the same ilk, as it does draw inspiration from strategy games such as Empire Earth and Sid Meier’s Civilization, it does it in a very different way to either of the aforementioned and provides a challenge unlike any other.

 

Controls – 10/10

As a strategy game, it is inevitably best played on PC, as it can be quicker to issue commands to the gods and carry out tasks as and when required through the use of hotkeys. But on consoles, it’s not unplayable; it’s still quite easy to get to grips with the controls, and the overall gameplay system. In fact, it can arguably be seen as a greater challenge playing a game like this on consoles. I felt the same way when I played Tropico 5 on PlayStation 4, and Reus is no exception in my opinion.

 

Originality – 9/10

To put it simply, I’ve never seen or played a game like this before. Its 2D graphic design and unique way of playing make it stand out from every other strategy game ever developed. It gives testament to how willing and capable indie developers are of creating new concepts for games of pre-existing genres. There’s been Don’t Starve, Five Nights at Freddy’s, and Super Meat Boy to name but a few, and Reus is every bit as innovative as those examples in my opinion.

 

Happii

Overall, Reus is an enjoyable and insanely unique gaming experience that comes highly recommended by me. As a fan of strategy games, I had a lot of fun playing this title, and I’ve no doubt that other strategy game fans will feel a very similar way about it.

Score

33/10

8/10 (Very Good)

SG88 Tomodachi Life Header

Tomodachi Life (3DS)

Developer(s) – Nintendo SPD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

PEGI – 3

 

Dabbling into the life simulation genre (something relatively rare for Nintendo), Tomodachi Life challengers gamers to create their own world and inhabit it with a populace, who must be kept happy and kept on track to do such things as stay full, stay fashionable, realize their ambitions and find true love. Even though this game was hyped up something fierce, and Nintendo even went so far as to upset an entire community by not including the option to pursue same-sex relationships in the game (something I won’t condone in the slightest), I wasn’t particularly impressed with it.

 

Graphics – 4/10

Whilst most games that feature the miis as central characters don’t necessarily have much in terms of concept going for them, it seems to me like Tomodachi Life borrows elements from the likes of Wii Fit and Wii Sports Resort. And to me, the idea of a game having adopted elements from already generic-looking games doesn’t really bode well. The small pluses are that the game is well polished enough and the amounts of different foods and clothes offer a small level of variety in terms of visual presentation, but I don’t think anywhere near enough was added to keep it fresh.

 

Gameplay – 4/10

I think the same thing can be said for the game’s play too; a small amount of variety, but not enough to keep players wanting to play. I’d played this game all week, and found it to become very repetitive very quickly. There is some value to playing it in that the characters can be made to say some funny things depending on their mood, and I did like the brief interspersions of turn-based RPG combat that can be experienced once the island’s fairground is unlocked, but other than that, I didn’t really find any deeper substance than that in terms of gameplay.

 

Controls – 10/10

As a simple, and at least relaxing life simulator experience, on a globally familiar handheld console, there was never going to be any kind of problem with the game’s control scheme, as this kind of games had been developed and published by other many times prior to the release of Tomodachi Life. I look at this game as basically being a glorified version of the Tamagotchi, and in all honesty, I found them harder to cope with back when they were the in things than I do this.

 

Lifespan – 10/10

Since there is no fixed lifespan, there is no worry about players having to worry about making conventional progress, and this is a game that can simply be picked up and played as and when. However, I think that without a great level of depth in gameplay, it’s somewhat safe for me to assume that there could be many players out there who would play the game for a couple of hours at a time for a few days, and then simply not touch it ever again, because, in that time, they will most probably have experienced most of what the game has to offer.

 

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

Though there is no preset story, and only a basic premise behind Tomodachi Life, whereby different people’s lives can be led, that’s what makes the game unique in a sense. A lot of different stories concerning a massive variety of different characters can be told in a small amount of time, and there aren’t many games I think of off the top of my head, which incorporates such a system. The game also has a varied and sometimes wonderfully weird sense of humor to it as well, which I think adds a small level of artistic expression to the overall experience.

 

Originality – 3/10

The problem is that the system whereby the game’s story is encompassed is about the only original things this game has going for it in my opinion. There’s nothing overly unique about the gameplay, and though Nintendo may be relatively new to the life simulation genre, I would have thought they would be capable of bringing something new to the table to break the mold of previous games in the same category. I was excited about the release of this game after watching various trailers for it, but I now believe I was misled into thinking that this game could have been more than what it turned out to be.

 

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Niiutral

In summation, although certain aspects of Tomodachi Life save it from being a terrible title, I still feel that it’s a gaming experience unworthy of Nintendo. They have developed some of the greatest and most legendary video games to have been put out to retail, but I don’t feel that this stands out as one of the greater titles in their library by any means.

Score

41/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)

SG88 Theme Hospital Header

Theme Hospital (PC, PlayStation & PlayStation Network)

Developer(s) – Bullfrog Studios & Krisalis Software

Publisher(s) – EA

PEGI – 12

 

Theme Hospital is a simulator game, whereby the player must manage various hospitals by researching breakthrough medical advances, employing competent and committed staff, and of course, successfully treating as many patients as possible. The game is notable for it’s immersing gameplay and twisted sense of humor. If history has gone a different way, that humor may be seen as even darker by others, as the fictional and comedic diseases used in the game, such as Discrete Itching and Chronic Nosehair were put in to replace the originally planned inclusion of real-life illnesses into the game. While that does add some controversy, it was thankfully nevertheless tailored to be much more light-hearted and comedic, and most importantly, gameplay came first.

 

Graphics – 5/10

While comic relief is added in the game’s graphics through some of the comedic looks of some of the patients with ridiculous diseases, such as Bloaty Head, there was never going to be much else in terms of concept in a hospital simulator game. There are a few full-motion videos adding a bit more to the game’s comedic value as well as the darker aspect of its humor, but other than these small elements, there’s not much else to look at, unfortunately.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

Theme Hospital was one of the most addictive games I ever played growing up, and that level of addiction still holds up to this day the way I see it. I remember it was one of the first games that made me understand how something that could be seen as being mundane and repetitive in real life can be made to seem extremely entertaining. There have been many other games come and gone that have tried to replicate that feeling with the same level of success; indeed most recently, I’ve been playing the game Papers Please, which could easily fall under this category, but very few have succeeded on the same level as this game.

 

Controls – 10/10

The simulation and real-time strategy gaming genre had been long since perfected prior to the release of Theme Hospital, and so it was unlikely to begin with that there would be any problems with the game’s control scheme, and so there isn’t. Theme Hospital, though relatively difficult to master, is simple to get to grips with.

 

Lifespan – 3/10

The biggest issue I have with this game, however, is that there is a fixed lifespan, making the game very short-lived for one in its genre. The game’s main mode can be complete in less than six hours, and for a game that can be made to last an infinite amount of time, that’s almost unforgivable. Unlike Rollercoaster Tycoon, there doesn’t exist any kind of endless mode, whereby players can just build and maintain a hospital, and stick to it; they simply have to meet all the hospital’s requirements, and then move on the next until the game is complete. That, in turn, also affects the gameplay, as this makes it a lot less satisfying to play than it easily could have been.

 

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

Theme Hospital doesn’t have any kind of established story or even much in the way of a basic premise; but nor did it need anything like that to be any more enjoyable. The only element of the story is in the game’s humor, which can make the ambiance of the game both funny and taboo at the same time, but otherwise, there isn’t much else to talk about in terms of the story. There’s no need for the game to lose marks for not having something that it didn’t necessarily have to have.

 

Originality – 8/10

Simulator games had been around for some time prior to this, but this game was in a class of its own. It garnished a great level of popularity among players and is still unlike anything I’ve ever played since. It was instrumental in shaping a lot of my own personal viewpoints about gaming, and it’s my hope that more titles like this come along in the near future, with the same, or an even greater level of originality attached to it.

 

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Overall, whilst it hasn’t stood the test of time, as well as other games of the 90s, have, Theme Hospital is still fairly addictive and fun to play, and its dark and twisted humor and a great level of uniqueness have made it a cult classic, and I would still recommend it to anyone reading who hasn’t tried it yet.

Score

45/60

7.5/10 (Good)

SG88 The Stanley Parable Header

The Stanley Parable (PC)

Developer(s) – Davey Wreden & Galactic Café

Rating – N/A (Profanity & mature themes)

 

The Stanley Parable has developed about three years ago, as an attempt by its creator, Davey Wreden to go against the kind of narratives typically found in video game stories; and my goodness, he accomplished that. It’s unlike any other interactive story I’ve ever experienced, in that it’s a lot interesting and open-ended. Though I wish a bit more could have been added in terms of gameplay to keep it a little bit more interesting.

 

Graphics – 6/10

Though the visuals can indeed seem extremely generic and dull at first, as the game progresses, they become thoroughly more varied and engrossing; taking place in factories, lush fields, and even Matrix-style computer rooms depending on which direction the player takes. The fact that there are so many places to go throughout the course of the game in itself makes for a fairly wide degree of visual diversity for a game that takes place mainly in an office building.

 

Gameplay – 4/10

The game takes on a first-person mode, but only containing a handful of things to do in-game. There are no enemies to fight or puzzles to solve; only the facility to go off in multiple directions, thus effecting what ending the player is treated to. As I said, I wish the developer had added at least a little bit more to make the gameplay that bit more enjoyable, but ultimately, it feels more like watching a film, unfortunately. It’s impossible for me to fully appreciate games that are made solely for the sake of art, and having next to no basis in viable gameplay.

 

Controls – 10/10

As a first-person with next to no other functions apart from walking, turning, and interacting with certain objects and buttons, there was hardly anything the developer could have gotten wrong during the making, and so there aren’t any problems to address; so there is this positive to deduce, at least. If there had been any issues with the controls, then it would have inevitably led to me having major issues with this game.

 

Lifespan – 6/10

It will take roughly 10 hours for players to take each individual route and witness each individual ending since there are a fair few to discover; the only basis in gameplay this title truly has in my opinion.

 

Storyline – 8/10

The story of The Stanley Parable is most definitely the greatest aspect of this game; no matter how confusing it may be to people after a while. It follows an ordinary many called Stanley, who is guided by the player through a series of different paths leading to different places with a plethora of different events unfolding; all the while being narrated by British actor Kevin Brighting. Aside from the surrealist goings-on that happens throughout the course of each playthrough, Brighting does provide an extremely good narration, and at times also even brings an element of dark humor, as well as breakings of the fourth wall.

 

Originality – 7/10

Though this game does have of the most unique stories ever told in a video game (indeed, one to go against other video game narratives by design), the gameplay remains largely unoriginal, and consequently, I can’t call it the overly unique game that many other critics have taken to calling it. It’s all very well and good to have such a strange story add to the game’s charm, but for me, the most important aspect in any game is the gameplay, and unfortunately, this title comes up short in that respect.

 

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Niiutral

To summarize The Stanley Parable is indeed an extremely strange game with an interesting story. However, for all the room there is in the game’s environment, it seems criminal to me of the developers to not add any more basis in gameplay than what there ended up being.

Score

41/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)

Scouse Gamer 88 The Escapists Header

The Escapists (Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Team17

PEGI – 7

 

Different from anything Team17 has ever done before, I found myself fascinated with what The Escapists had to offer in terms of gameplay, but was disappointed to find how short a time one playthrough can be made to last. Set in prison that the player must escape from with the aid of the other inmates, it also delivers an unusually light-hearted and comedic portrayal of prison life.

 

Graphics – 7/10

The visuals are extremely reminiscent of games in the 16-bit era such as EarthBound or any of the original Pokémon games. Whilst it could be viewed as a step back from the more modernized visuals from Worms Revolution or even Flockers to a certain extent, they still work fairly well to portray the aforementioned light-heartedness of the game’s overall atmosphere, and in turn, Team17’s subtly warped sense of humor.

 

Gameplay – 7/10

Overall, as well as being particularly different from most top-down 16-bit games of the way back when it’s also extremely satisfying to play for how short a time it can be completed in. There are quite a lot of side quests to do in between other missions allocated by other inmates. There is also quite a strong Minecraft influence throughout, as crafting items from collectibles is integral to the ultimate objective of the game, which is to escape the prison.

 

Controls – 10/10

As Team17 has worked with PC hardware since their founding, there is and never should have been any issues with the game’s control scheme; especially not with a game like this, since from what I can gather, must be one of the easiest control schemes to work on.

 

Lifespan – 4.5/10

As I mentioned earlier, for how much substance there is in gameplay, it is disappointing to think that one playthrough of this game can take an average of 7 hours to finish. I personally hate it when a game’s lifespan outlasts its gameplay value. I encountered this many times throughout the seventh generation, with the release of such games as Batman: Arkham AsylumDeus Ex: Human Revolution; and South Park: The Stick of Truth. Considering that this game would also have taken considerably less time and effort to develop than any of the aforementioned examples, it just makes it that much more unforgivable.

 

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

Again, in lieu of the tradition set by the developers, The Escapists doesn’t have a fixed story, but only a basic premise, whereby the player character, pre-selected by the player before the start of the game, must find a way to escape the prison in which the game is set in. Though I think it would have at least been interesting to have some kind of back story added to it to again possibly add even more to the game’s comedic element, I was happy to see that the game wasn’t at least marred down by any attempt to create any kind of singular narrative.

 

Originality – 7/10

Though there have been countless top-down RPGs over the years, from Pokémon to EarthBound to Final Fantasy to Chronicles of a Dark Lord, there is something about The Escapists that does set it apart from the rest. It differs in a negative way, in how short a time it lasts compared to most others, but in a positive way in that the gameplay and the objectives involved are drastically different, and don’t feel quite as repetitive without not being addictive at the same time.

 

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To summarize, The Escapists is a pretty good game but could have done with lasting so much longer than it did. I feel that out of all the games that Team17 have made, whereby lifespan is largely non-applicable, I can’t help but feel that if the same had been applied to this title, in the form of some kind of endless mode perhaps, then it could have ended up being something particularly special.

Score

45.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Scouse Gamer 88 Race The Sun Header

Race the Sun (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Flippfly

PEGI – 3

 

First appearing as a Kickstarter project, and having a budget of merely $20,000 attached to it, Race the sun is an endless runner game with a strong element of the Star Fox series attached to it, but like it, providing gamers with infinite replayability and a decent amount of challenge. Though I did find a couple of faults with the title, I did also find it to be pretty entertaining, and I would recommend it to any fan of the series looking for a new test.

 

Graphics – 7/10

For the small budget that this game had attached to it, the visuals were fairly well handled, and the limited textural detail allows for it to run pretty smoothly on consoles, with a sharp 60 fps frame rate. The best-looking element in the game is the sunset in the distance throughout each run of the game. It’s vibrant and captivating as well as pretty realistic. The biggest complaint I have is that not much more time seems to have spent by the developers thinking a little bit more about the conceptual design of the game since the surrounding scenery is largely bland for the most part.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

Though the main objective is to simply last as long in each run as possible, whilst collecting power-ups on the way to keep the sun from setting, along with items collected to increase the high score and maximum points multiplier, each run is kept fresh by giving players side missions, involving the fulfillment of certain criteria, which in turn, unlocks upgrades for the player’s ship, such as increased magnetic attraction to items or sharper turning. Despite the repetition, the game has the ability to keep players entertained for an extraordinarily long time and become extremely satisfying once the player has mastered the game’s basic mechanics.

 

Controls – 10/10

At first, I did think that the turning mechanics were far too stiff and that such a drawback was largely unnecessary. But once I acquired the turn upgrade, and when I realized that it was all part of the challenge, I quickly changed my perception o the game overall. There are no other issues with the controls to address and this is a huge part of why it can become so incredibly satisfying to play.

 

Originality – 6/10

The worst aspect of the game is how little it is able to stand out among even games of its own genre. With Star Fox, for example, there are quite a lot of cultural references in its conceptual design, which were inspired largely by Japanese mythology. But with Race the Sun, the only cultural references that can be found are in the various different taglines that appear before the start of each run; one of which being “do a barrel roll”, referencing Star Fox itself. The gameplay does have a little bit of originality about it, but it’s easy to put this down to the developer’s limited budget, and they wanted to concentrate mostly on gameplay, which I am in favor of, so I don’t think it should lose out on too many points in this category.

 

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Overall, despite its lack of conceptual design, Race the Sun is a pretty fun and addictive game to play. To me, it is a fairly good example of how a developer’s imagination can play a bigger role in a video game than however much it may have cost to make it.

Score

31/40

7.5/10 (Good)

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Proteus (PC, PlayStation 3 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Curve Studios

Designer(s) – Ed Key & David Kanaga

PEGI – 3

 

Recently made free to play to PlayStation Plus subscribers, Proteus is a game, which simply has players waling around an open world and not doing much of anything else. To me, it is an awful wretched game, whereby it’s biggest and most interesting talking point is in its development history; like many other games of its kind. Originally, Proteus was intended to be an RPG in the same ilk as Skyrim or Oblivion, but when the developers realized the extent of the work, which would have to been put into it to make that happen, they instead decided to make a game, which was in their own words “non-traditional and non-violent”. Even Sony insisted that more content be added to the final product before they ported it to PlayStation consoles, but the lead developer, Ed Key, admitted that he and the creators never attempted to steer the direction of the development of these features, adding only a minor facility to the PlayStation Vita port of the game. To me, Ed Key has made Proteus sound like the most half-hearted video game ever developed, and it was certainly made apparent to me whilst playing.

 

Graphics – 6/10

One of the few aspects I can give at least a small amount of credit for is its visual style. The scenery is made heavy use of pixel art and makes for a few things in the game to marvel at; though not a lot. There have been many more indie games that I have played and reviewed this year that have stood out to a much greater extent than this; games like Don’t Starve and Chronicles of a Dark Lord. There was much more thought put into the visual concepts of those two games than there was in this, and by that token alone, make this game pale in comparison; although the soundtrack to this game is also pretty relaxing and well done as well.

 

Gameplay – 0/10

As I stated before, Proteus is a game whereby there are no objectives or things to do but to walk around a randomly generated in-game open world. I’m all for open worlds in video gaming, but not empty ones void of things to do. It’s because of this that I even hesitate to call Proteus a video game. Some people have gone so far as to label it an anti-game, which many actually consider being controversial, but to the people who have coined that term, I say good call. The game makes for no entertainment as well as no replay value, and it’s a wonder to me why the developers ever bothered to release it at all.

 

Controls – 4/10

Though there aren’t a lot of faults with the game’s control scheme, the fact of the matter is there wasn’t a lot for the developers to get wrong, as the game makes use of only a few buttons on the controller. Aside from the movement being pretty stiff, the fact that there’s nothing to do in the game warrants little use for most buttons, which certainly by today’s standards is embarrassing.

 

Lifespan – 2/10

To complete the game’s one arbitrary objective of changing through seasons in quick succession before the credits roll will take about 40 minutes. But beyond that, the game will only last about as long as the player’s interest, which shouldn’t be any longer. My own personal interest didn’t even last long enough for me to want to finish it. The game can be finished multiple times in quick succession, but I only consider that to be part of the problem.

 

Storyline – 0/10

Not only does this game not have any kind of narrative attached to it, but there’s nothing in the way of a basic premise either. Nor did I find any kind of abstract or elaborate story elements open to any kind of interpretation whatsoever. It’s a shame that developers couldn’t even be bothered to add some kind of premise to the game to make it even vaguely more interesting than it turned out to be.

 

Originality – 0/10

This game is also in no way, shape, or form unique. Though the developers called this a non-traditional game, it doesn’t establish any warranted new video game traditions or break any boundaries of any kind. It lacks everything that a gamer would want in a game and introduces nothing new that a gamer may want to see in one.

 

Furiious

Furiious

In summation, Proteus is a catastrophic excuse for a piece of software that shouldn’t really be considered a video game; easily the worst game I’ve played throughout 2014. Even by the lead developer’s own admission, it’s a title that turned out to be less than what he initially wanted it to be. So in effect, it’s unfinished work, and credit should never be given for incomplete work.

Score

12/60

2/10 (Terrible)