Saturday, September 24, 2016

Steam Look - Zenith

I posted a review of the recently-released Action RPG known as Zenith.

You can read it on Cubed3.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Steam Look - Copy Kitty

Wrote up a little something about the Degica / Nuclear Strawberry action-platformer Copy Kitty. Check it out on Cubed3.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Xbox One Look - Dear Esther

This is another game review for Cubed3. Dear Esther is a really intriguing exploration game, and the just-released console port is great. Read the full review here.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

WiiU Look - Run Run and Die

I've started writing for the website cubed3.com. My first review has been published, and it's the WiiU downloadable game Run Run and Die.

AA Look - Sand Scorpion

For those of you visiting this blog for the first time, the AA in the title stands for Arcade Appreciation. Arcade games are awesome, and there are a ton of them that never really get any love. Sand Scorpion? It deserves zero love. At best, I can muster up some slight apathy towards it, but most of the time it just fills me with hate.

What we have here is another STG that's loaded with bad ideas. Although, I won't discount the possibility that maybe the ideas were sound, but the implementation was just...balls. Yep, barely into the second paragraph, and I'm already referencing genitalia. What else can I say? This game is a joke. There are three main-weapons that can be picked up. However, if you grab the green one, you're in for a bad time. If you grab the red one? You'll have better luck surviving, if you put down the controller, and walk away. If you grab any weapon besides the blue one, then it's a life-costing mistake.

Sand Scorpion has destructible bullets. This was done with the intention of padding out boss-fights, I won't accept any other answer. These bullets are surprisingly durable, and will block shots meant for the boss that's firing them. After a long enough time, you're bound to get impatient, and then a little sloppy. This game also has the always-lovely enemies that fly in from behind. Why? Because of course it does.

Then there's the slowdown, which is some of the worst I've seen in an arcade shooter. At least the average Cave release has an excuse for everything moving at the speed of crawl. Sure, having the slowdown is helpful, but it seems more a result of bad programming than anything else. It's not really the game-changer that it could be, because the most devastating deaths, are going to come from collisions, or that one stray bullet.

Above all else, this is a shooter that really isn't all that challenging, but you simply aren't allowed to die. It's Darius 2 all over again. Look, all I'm saying is that if a game is going to give players a stock of lives, let alone extends/hidden 1ups, then allow them to be used. If you want players to beat the game without dying, give them an incentive, like a bonus trillion points or whatever. If you die in the second half of this game, you're finished. The enemy forces become overwhelming after a certain point, and your piddly level 1 cannons, they aren't going to make a difference. The bombs are generous, but dropping one has a slight delay to it (like Raiden or Twin Cobra). Sometimes you can grab an "S" power-up when you die, but all it adds is one level to your main-weapon and some missiles.

Sometimes I make the mistake of writing about a game, shortly after playing it. If I'm feeling especially heated, then I might find myself unfairly piling on the criticisms. The thing is, every time I think about this game, I get a little pissed off. A random person could hand me $10 million in cash, but if somebody in the vicinity just happens to say Sand Scorpion, then it's going to ruin my day.

AA Look - Final Star Force

Okay so this game, Final Star Force, I don't understand the deal with it. Things just sort of happen, and then it ends. Usually I use the intro part of the review to ask inane questions such as: "If this is the Final Star Force, then where's the First or Second Star Force?" Instead, I simply don't care. This is a nonsense shmup. There are several stages, each capped with a boss, but it's not their bullets that kill you, it's the stupidity of it all.

Death is just a much a part of STGs as yin is to yang. Before you succeed, you have to fail, sometimes constantly. With enough persistence and skill, you reach beyond your limits, and achieve greatness. Final Star Force is a really easy game, so clearing it isn't satisfying. However, you're still guaranteed to die several times, just because of ridiculous crap.

First off, let's look at dodging. Normally it's an essential tool in order to survive 2D shooters. In Final Star Force, it's kind-of helpful, but you're probably better off just throwing out a bomb. Even something as simple as a five-bullet "wave" pattern is cause for alarm. If you focus on dodging, you might collide into another enemy. Besides, this game doles bombs out at a constant rate. It's so ridiculous that if I play another shmup after this game, I toss around bombs like I'm expecting to get more within the next second. Granted, you get points for grabbing them, when you have a full-stock, but you won't miss a mere 2000 points.

Enemies appear in standard formations, and generally don't change too much, over the course of the game. It's a good idea to memorize their behavior - a better idea is to ignore this game entirely - and focus on destroying them quickly. However, it's much more of a hassle to memorize what enemies appear when. Typically what happens is that you don't know what to expect, so you get blindsided by an enemy appearing from the corners. Even your awesome weapons can miss one or two tiny enemies.

Recovering from a death isn't too bad, in terms of the actual game. The default cannon (which you should almost never have) is awful, and its bomb isn't much good outside of escaping bad situations, but you can get a power-up after a brief moment. However, you as a person are less likely to recover, simply because the death was to something dumb. I don't know whether it can be attributed to the massive slowdown during bosses, auto-fire, or the weather in Ohio, but this game will eat your bomb inputs. I've had to button-mash just to guarantee the bomb will come out, and it's frustrating as all hell.

The difficulty of this game is very inconsistent. A lot can go wrong over the course of each stage, thanks to a combination of fast moving enemies, and their hard to gauge appearances. The bosses on the other hand are large, slow, cause absurd amounts of slowdown, and can be pitifully easy, or completely dumb. The third-to-last boss has a first "form" where four large foes drown the screen in bullets. If you don't have a couple bombs here, you're probably doomed. However, the second "form" of this boss is probably easier than the first boss. The second-to-last boss does nothing but fire a huge circle of bullets every few seconds. The final boss is a laugh, as long as you don't get trapped by its fire. There's another boss (I forget which), that drops its bottom half after being dealt so much damage, this can kill.

When you die in this game, you're probably not going to think "I've got to do better." You'll probably just think (or yell) "Bullshit!" That's how this game beats you. It can't really do it with enemies or bullets, so it sits and waits for opportunities. All Final Star Force needs is 3-5 moments to dick you over, and then it wins. I wouldn't bother with giving it the satisfaction.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

AA Look - Storm Blade

Picture the blandest arcade imaginable. It would have a boring title like Coin-up Games or Pixels. Nestled in-between classics such as Alleyway Battler and Ninja Stab, there would be Storm Blade. This is one of those games that is equal parts decent and forgettable. It has all of the necessary elements that make up a 2D shootemup, and doesn't make any attempt to wear out its welcome. It's also very shallow and not all that challenging.

The world is being threatened by nuclear weapons, so four nations come together to save the day. Everything from the plot to the level-design & bullet patterns are reminiscent of Aero Fighters. Unfortunately, the cast of this game isn't nearly as charming. There are four pilots to choose from, but they're a bunch of dorks that make goofy anime faces. It's hard to choose the best pilot, since they all seem equally overpowered, but Lucky should be everyone's favorite. No, not because he's flying for the USA. Lucky just happens to be the perfect name for making hilarious puns.

"Better Luck next time." "It was all Luck." "I'm feeling Lucky." "They were Lucky that I'm...oh..nevermind"

Anyway, there are six stages of vertically-scrolling action. The average play-through should take about 11 minutes. That's a little short for the genre, and other games tend to have more depth to them. Storm Blade offers bonus points for not using bombs, and destroying every enemy in the stage, but it's nothing out of the ordinary. To some gamers, that's a plus, especially if they're tired of memorizing complex scoring systems, while navigating a sea of neon-pink death. Although, there is a second loop, so that's something to look forward to.

There's not much else to say about this game. Expert STG-players will probably 1CC this game the very first time they play it. They'll say something like "Well, it wasn't horrible.", which is liable to be the extent of their thoughts on the game. This is not a game that will stick around for too long in somebody's memory. It's a shmup that serves a purpose. If someone time-traveled back to 1996, and they visited a movie theater, they'd probably play this game, while waiting for the flick to start.