OXCGN’s RONIN Review – Kill Bill in a Motorcycle Helmet


Ronin is a 2D turn based game in which you take the persona of a motorcycle helmet wearing samurai set on a course to kill five targets who you’ve got bad blood with. With the ability to play each level either stealthily or gung-ho, Ronin is a challenging yet very fun game!

Screenshot 2015-07-03 22.00.25

Gameplay

Out of combat with enemies, the game isn’t turn based, with the player being able to move freely around the level and also is given the ability to stealth kill bodyguards – as long as you’re unnoticed. That being said, when you are in combat that is where the magic occurs. As it is turn based combat every movement or strategy you execute can change within a turn, moving to different locations or killing/stunning different enemies.

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The key to winning the battles you face is the jump arc. With the player given the ability to jump to an enemy and knock them down, thereby stunning them, this gives a new aspect to the game when dealing with multiple enemies. One feature that was really enjoyable about this aspect was how the environment around you interacts with your actions as well as the enemies. A good example of this is jumping at an enemy and they fly through a glass window and out to their death. By using little tricks like this as well as using one enemy to stun multiple enemies, it makes the game a little more ingenious, requiring thought for the best course of action every turn cycle.

Screenshot 2015-07-03 22.01.54

Another enjoyable aspect of the game is the skill points earned. With successful completion of all the objectives in a mission – civilians are alive, enemies are all dead and data is obtained/an enemy is killed, you obtain a skill point which are used for skills such as stunning multiple enemies or teleport attacks within game. These skills allow for more elaborate game play with your techniques in-game becoming more stealthy and complex.

Cons

At times whilst playing the game, it was a struggle to get the jump arc to correctly be followed, with the character not following the projected arc at times. Also the main point of the game is to not get hit, so if you get hit by one bullet, well then it’s game over.

TL;DR

Overall the game was highly enjoyable for what it is. I thoroughly enjoyed the mechanics as well as the little ‘hints’ put in-game such as “the jump arc isn’t really a jump arc” which did make for a laugh whilst playing.

7/10

Retro Review – Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines


As the first entry in Pyro Studio’s innovative Commandos series, Behind Enemy Lines redefined the possibilities of the strategy genre as it existed in 1998. No longer did strategy have to be about churning grunts and riflemen out of your barracks and throwing them like fodder at the enemy’s tanks. This is the thinking man’s tactical strategy game, one involving finesse and patience, where the loss of even a single unit spells defeat.

Just another day at the office.

Set amidst the endless gaming backdrop that is the Second World War, Commandos gives you control of a specialized squad of six commandos as they slip behind enemy lines (oh that’s why they called it that) in their attempt to sabotage the NAZI war machine.

Each from a different branch of the army, (green beret, marine, sapper, driver, sniper and spy) your commandos’ unique skills combine intricately with the varied level design and objectives to create hundreds of possible solutions to every mission. You’re given all the tools, and the game lets you figure out how best to go about it.

One mission might find you with your knife at the ready, silently crawling through the European snow towards an unsuspecting guard enjoying a casual cigarette, while the next finds you setting off a chain reaction of explosives in the African desert, and ramming a truck through a roadblock to your escape point. Your approach can be as methodical or as ham fisted as you like, as long as you get the job done. There is a scoring system in place but I find playing to satisfy yourself is always best.

C-C-C-COMBO!!!!!

Special mention also goes for the hand-drawn aesthetic of the game, which presents some of the most beautifully detailed environments in gaming. There are very few reused elements and every rock, brick and tree feels like its been built from the ground up and placed intentionally.

Commandos is not for players looking to get a quick fix and the learning curve is pretty steep. Getting to know the hotkeys is of course a massive help and makes reacting to screw-ups much easier.

DAM!
DAM!

WWII games are not as common these days as they used to be, but Commandos is the first one I can ever remember playing and definitely the one that gripped me the most. It spawned a genre that has been copied by the likes of Spellbound Entertainment’s Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive and Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood Forest and began a series that went from strength to strength, peaking at Commandos 2: Men of Courage, falling down a bit with Commandos 3: Destination Berlin, and then completely flying off the rails with Commandos: Strike Force.

Nazis: 0 Commandos: +-40... yes I counted.
Nazis: 0 Commandos: +-40… yes I counted.

Pyro Studios has pretty much fallen off the radar since Strike Force, and have moved onto producing tablet and mobile games. They have however recently announced the development of a new commandos title for the tablet and mobile market, but I can’t help but think that Commandos has already seen its finest hour. A sad fact I realise with a heavy heart. The original titles are still available on Steam or GOG.com for a reasonable price and is well worth the investment for any tactical strategy enthusiast, they just don’t make them like this anymore.

For more retrogaming stuff check out Bitz ‘n Bytz, follow on Facebook or follow @aldeebob on Twitter.

Is the Current Offering in EA Access Worth Your Money?


I’ve begun a trial of EA Access, a subscription-based app that gives you a handful of games for free (all published by Electronic Arts of course) as well as a 10% discount when purchasing any EA game and a small amount of trials on games that have and haven’t been released.

Now the only thing that would have myself even consider paying a monthly fee is the free games because really, who wouldn’t want to download a bunch of titles whenever you want without leaving you couch or emptying your wallet?

Well sadly you might just be a tad disappointed.

The free games in the vault at the moment only amount to nine with over half of these being solely sport games. Sure you can chill out with the cartoony antics of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare or gun and run in the world of Battlefield 4 but if you, like myself, prefer to play in a fantasy world with quests and sword fights or explore fully developed narratives with a range of realistic characters then there is nothing available to satisfy those taste buds. The games offered are NBA Live 15, Madden NFL 15, UFC, FIFA 12, Madden NFL 25, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, Peggle 2, Need for Speed Rivals and Battlefield 4. Yeah, it’s not the most diverse choice…

EAAccess

Now I understand that this service is all very new and since it’s available just on next-gen there are strong limits to what can be free. I wouldn’t expect Dragon Age Inquisition to be there anytime soon (though that could be one way people would jump on the band wagon) but there needs to be more incentive to try this product because I honestly believe this could be where video games sales will evolve into.

Many gamers already have PS Plus and Xbox Gold subscriptions handing out free titles every month so why wouldn’t game companies start heading in the same direction? It’s a handy way to keep everything in the one place and it means games will never become unavailable, disappearing due to its age and rarity. EA have taken a strong step into the digital world and although this is complete unknown territory, it could be revolutionary for the gaming world.

Since this is only the first time I’ve used EA Access I’ll be bringing you an update to the (hopeful) changes that occur over the next twelve months.

Note: Our codes for EA Access was provided to us by Electronics Arts Australia

OXCGN’s Hand of Fate Review


Hand of Fate melds together the strategy of a role-playing game, the collection of a card game and the combat and action of a video game into a beautiful mold. These elements work in harmony creating an enriching and addictive experience that sadly transforms into a somewhat frustrating game.

The premise of this game is to defeat all twelve bosses on separate adventures, starting off with a clean slate each time. You’re given a set amount of resources and default weapons and armor that improve as you defeat the big bosses. When you enter each level cards are rearranged with different faces hidden under them. You step from card to card aiming for the pathways that lead to another formation of cards that eventually leads to the boss.

Each card has its own unique place where you might encounter ambushes, shops or events that proceed according to your decisions. These events are beautifully scripted and give a genuine RPG feeling to the game especially by how it’s conducted. Similar to rolling a die, you pick a card at random that tells you if you’ve failed or succeeded at your decision. This is fine the first couple times that you do it and it’s incredibly satisfying when you succeed, but this mechanic quickly gets repetitive because of the small variety of cards at your disposal.

HoF_Screen_Encounters

As you progress through each level, your character unlocks cards to add to your deck, which is customisable each time you start a new journey. You unlock shiny new armour and weapons, different types of enemies and new places to stumble upon that all feel too similar. You will always have multiples cards of the same type and be forced to visit the same areas again and again because sadly there aren’t enough cards to make each battle or choice fresh. Also since so many of these cards work through pure luck, it’s frustrating to die without using your actual skills.

Despite this the game’s combat is incredibly fun and when you get to participate in fights it’s exhilarating. You can counter, dodge roll, stun and attack your enemies during a battle in an enclosed arena. It’s always a mystery how many baddies you’ll be facing and if the environment will be hazardous as well. Most of the time traps will be your greatest foe, chipping away at your health as you try to hold back some skeleton or lizard creature. Some of the fights get quite hard, especially as you try to keep your eyes on every opponent, but the controls work smoothly giving you a chance to win each battle. The counter system is forgiving, executing your moves perfectly even if you press the button a bit too late.

Before you enter these battles, you must be aware of how much health you have, what blessings you’ve received and most importantly, how much food you have left. Each time you step onto a new card, you lose one bit of food and if you reach zero, you’ll loose 10 points of health every turn. If you end up loosing all your health, it’s game over and you must start the journey to the boss all over again.

HofScreenDealer

The design of the game is brilliant with the must stunning backgrounds, enemies and a decent soundtrack. I must also add that I did have some technical issues with the game freezing after defeating bosses that annoyingly deleted my progress.

Hand of Fate merges some really strong ideas together and despite its flaws I enjoyed this greatly. If you forget how it mostly determines your characters fate by luck, you’ll have a great time trying to build up your character and defeat all the bosses. For an indie title it is well worth the money and the developers have definitely done a brilliant job.

TL;DR

Hand of Fate combines the combat from video games with a role-playing card game in a perfect blend. You go on adventures multiple times to defeat bosses whilst surviving attacks. A lot of your progress in this game will be determined by luck, which is vexing. It still is a fun game to play and as you build you card deck and defeat your foes you will be extremely satisfied adventuring till the end.

Pros:

+ Concept is executed brilliantly

+ Fun combat

+ Beautiful design

Cons:

– Based too much on luck

– Technical issues

7.5/10

This Xbox One review copy was conducted by a digital download code provided by Xbox Australia. 

Kirby’s Deluxe eShop Releases: Are They Worth Your Money?


I’ve had the opportunity, over the last few days, to play through two Nintendo 3DS eShop titles that came out recently: Kirby Fighters Deluxe, and Dedede’s Drum Dash Deluxe. Both are short, fun experiences centred in the Kirby universe that cater to a handheld game’s strengths – that is: A game that is immediately accessible, fun to play, and works well when played in short bursts. But, do these games have enough substance to warrant a purchase? That all depends on what you like.

Kirby Fighters Deluxe can best be described as ‘Smash Bros. Lite’, in that it plays almost identically to Smash. However, there are a few changes that affect the overall experience dramatically, some for better, and some for worse. For example, replacing the Smash Bros. trademark percentage based damage system is a more traditional life meter which is depleted as you are attacked, ensuring that matches do not run on too long, as can be an issue in Smash if you are having a hard time taking out a particularly tricky enemy and are nearing your bus stop.

In my time playing the game, each time I played through the single player portion (Which is very similar to the ‘classic’ mode in Smash, in that you choose your ‘character’ and face off against varying combinations of enemies until reaching the final boss) my play through lasted well short of 10 minutes, my best time being just under 5. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, for a handheld game – but I wonder how much enjoyment someone can get out of a game that could theoretically be 100% in a few hours.
There is a multiplayer portion which is locked to Local/Download Play, which meant I was unfortunately unable to try it out. If it is anything like the 4 player matches in the single player, however, I imagine it would be quite fun – though after one or two matches I suspect your group would want to transition to Smash for a more robust experience.

The biggest problem, however, is that there is only one playable character: Kirby. Replacing multiple characters are several ‘copy’ versions of Kirby, such as the swordsman version which looks as though Kirby copied Link’s abilities, or a Hammer version which appears to take after King Dedede. While each version plays differently enough, they all handle in the same, floaty way, leading to short battles that still manage to feel slow and weighed down. Kirby is a fun character when contrasted to someone like Greninja, but when fighting multiple Kirbys the entire match grinds to a standstill.

Dedede’s Drum Dash Deluxe, however, doesn’t hold a major comparison to another title on the system. You play as King Dedede, everyone’s favourite hammer welding penguin, and bounce across the stage to the beat of the background music. By pressing A with the beat of the drum’s main beat, you allow Dedede to jump higher off of the drums that support the stage, allowing him to reach higher coins and rack up a higher score. If you hit A on the off beat, Dedede will clap, or interact with objects in the environment, also adding to your score. The game becomes quite tricky, with drums that move out of the way while you are falling toward them, spiked pits, and enemies will block your path if you are at a certain jump height, ensuring you must always be looking ahead and deciding which jump to make.

While fun, Dedede’s Drum Dash Deluxe also suffers from the same problem as Kirby Fighters Deluxe in that there is not much content available. There are 7 stages, with a rise in the difficulty as you progress, followed by 7 ‘secret’ harder versions of the same levels. Some of them get very tricky, with spiked hoops you must jump through, and the concentration it takes to hit every off beat while also maintaining an optimal run through a stage is difficult to maintain, but once I’d played through them I never felt compelled to return and attempt to beat my score. This kind of game works well on a handheld, with easy, enjoyable gameplay that can be picked up easily, however, I don’t feel like it has enough hooks to actually keep you playing.

Overall, I think both games are pretty good, and worth your time if you are interested, but are vastly overshadowed by the breadth of amazing titles on the system already: Both 3DS exclusive games and older virtual console games that can be cheaper than the AU$9.10 that is being asked for each of these. While I had a fun couple hours with these games, I can’t see myself putting much more time into them: There is simply too much else to play.

OXCGN’s Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Review


This was the first time I’ve ever played a Geometry Wars game, and at first, it was a very hate-hate relationship. I couldn’t stand playing it more than a couple minutes at a time, and felt like it was a repetitive journey with the same music pounding in your ears and the same enemies coming at you at every turn, but there was point when I began to understand the complexity of the game – the thought put behind every level and how this simple arcade shooter requires more than just mindless playing.

In ‘Adventure Mode’ you progress through each level aiming to acquire up to three stars per stage: each level has its own unique aim, whether it is to gain as many points as you can in a couple minutes, navigate through multiple gates or survive waves of enemies with only one life. It’s always a mystery to see what level is next, and whenever you get familiar with one certain mode the game messes with you, chucking you in a completely new challenge – and every time you will strive to complete it. The game forces you to improve your skills as after a certain number of levels you will have to unlock the boss battle with a certain amount of stars – the game doesn’t let you just waltz around each level achieving the bare minimum of one star, you will have to replay and perfect each level if you have any chance of progressing.

GeoWars3_Screens_Opal_Boss2_01

Each level has a variety of enemies, all represented by a colour and shape: for example green shapes will move erratically around you, blocking your every direction whilst large pink shapes will move quite slowly towards you. As you progress through this game you quickly learn all these enemy types and it’s essential to pay attention to this because this game gets hard very quickly.

I can’t deny that there were a couple of raging moments where I hurled somewhat abusive language to the screen. This game is tough but it always dawns on you that if you die, it is your entire fault. There is a certain pattern to each level, power-ups to help guide you and plenty of abilities at your exposal. If you die you always know that you made the wrong turn or equipped the wrong weapon or power-up for this level.

Geometry _Wars_3_Dimensions_Screenshot_1

Included in the game is local and online multiplayer, which I was unable to test. There is also ‘classic mode’ where you build your score playing endless runners of level types found in ‘adventure mode’. These weren’t as fun as the main mode, but they still had that great addictive gameplay.

Geometry Wars 3: Reloaded is an addictive and carefully thought out game that will nag at you whenever your console is turned off. It has smart level design and has enough modes, level types and enemies to keep it feeling fresh. If you’re looking for a simple game just to pass the time I would recommend giving this game a spin with its fast paced, exciting shooting levels.

GeoWars3_Screens_Co_Op_01

Pros:

+ Carefully thought out level design

+ Variety of levels and opponents

+Colourful art design

Cons:

– Initially feels repetitive (especially the music)

– Somewhat frustrating

TL;DR

Geometry Wars 3: Reloaded is an arcade shooter that is packed with challenge in neon-splashed levels. It has a great variety of level types, enemies and power-ups keeping the simple shooter fresh and exciting. Although it gets very hard very quickly, you will continue to trek on through the game building up your skills and achieving the highest scores you can muster.

7/10

This Xbox One review copy was conducted by a digital download code provided by Xbox Australia 

OXCGN’s Sunset Overdrive Weapon Pack Review


Now if you don’t already know about the awesomeness of Sunset Overdrive you should check out our review here. Basically in the game you have an arsenal of wicked guns to shoot at robots, thugs and mutants in a paint-splashed world whilst grinding and jumping across the world Tony Hawk style. It’s pretty amazing and now the latest DLC has been released showing off four new weapons.

Rage Bomb

The Rage Bomb fires a projectile that releases a red cloud causing your enemies to get a tad mad. Instead of targeting you, they will use their rage against all your foes and, for an epic ending, explode as they are killed. There is a intense feeling of satisfaction as you hit one of the larger enemies and see it demolish your foes before your eyes. Sadly it has a very low capacity for ammo which stops the gun being the “I win” weapon of choice. This gun is highly effective and fun and who doesn’t like creating a mini army of your own out on the battlefield?

8/10

Plague Bomb

This weapon is pretty self-explanatory; it is bomb that releases a gas cloud that makes enemies sick. The infected vomit all over the place and just like the Rage Bomb victims, explode as they die but they’ll spread the disease as they perish. It’s an effective gun and it’s great seeing the illness spread across all your enemies as you shoot around the place. It does it’s job well but shooting out bombs can be a bit tiresome at times. I prefer the fast pace of a machine gun but by using your amps effectively this gun could be one of the best, creating many status effects against your opponents.

7/10

Shield Buddy

Shield Buddy is the most passive of the bunch; activating a shield when in use and deploying bombs. With this supercharged shield you can go up to enemies are melee the life out of them but I’d have to say it’s really boring. There’s something super fun about grinding your way everywhere with huge explosions and this weapon seems to go against that. The game encourages you at every turn to speed across the map as you fight through hoards of enemies but this gun just slows you down. Using it is just bums you out and it’s one of the worst weapons in the game.

2/10

Multi-lock Rocket Launcher

From this weapon pack, this was by far my favourite gun as you get to shoot out a ton of rockets at a multitude of enemies. It’s just fun seeing tons of bullets shoot out of one gun at once and rocket launchers will always be epic, mini or not. It’s just as effective as the Roman Candle, my absolute favourite weapon of the game, and it looks pretty sick which totally goes with my characters funky costumes.

9/10

This Xbox One review copy was conducted by a digital download code provided by Xbox. 

Love Indie Gaming? ‘Grab It’ is the App for you


 

New Digital Magazine Showcases the Best in Indie Gaming!

Grab It“, a new digital magazine from Chris Stead, was designed to shine a light on the creative and innovative work being done in indie and mobile game development circles.

The idea behind the app is to help gamers to find exciting indie and mobile games they may have missed or never come across normally, but also, as the audience grows, to help developers get their games recognised in the wider media. Chris, coming from over 17 years of industry experience, has created a real good thing here. After reading through it myself I found the design is quite intuitive, really well made for the iPad format. Similarly the features and reviews are all quite well put together, with clever and interesting writing.

The official details for the magazine, including pricing and the goals are outlined in the press release below;

Old Mate Media today announces version 1.0 of ‘Grab It’, a ground-breaking game discovery App, featuring coverage of over 40 games, each with their own purchase links and many with developer interviews and videos. Available on the App Store for only $4.49, it is jammed with over 15-hours of content, featuring 14 exclusive interviews, 22 detailed reviews, 5 huge features and plenty more. Grab It offers iPad owners an alternate way to find great new games while also giving the best independent developers another avenue to get their game noticed. We guarantee, you’ve never experienced anything like Grab It before.

Grab It leverages the interactivity of a touch screen App while also providing compelling content to delve deeper into mobile gaming, finding undiscovered gems and talking to the creative minds behind them. Coupled with videos, animations and a bevy of interactive elements, the App is almost a game unto itself. All games mentioned in Grab It are accompanied by a button which sends the reader directly to that game on the App Store. The potential for smaller developers to get their games to an audience is massive within Grab It, the type of media coverage usually only reserved for triple-A blockbuster console titles.

With an established audience, Grab It has the potential to become a powerful tool for both large and small developers to get their games noticed. Within the App, out of the 40 games featured, there is guaranteed to be quite a few where the content will inspire the reader to pick up and try the game. This is why it was created, to help promote and nurture the independent gaming scene and with your help, it can fulfil that purpose.

At the moment only the first issue has been released and Chris has started the “Get Grab It to 5000” initiative to determine the validity and financial stability of continued magazine production. If the magazine can sell 5000 copies production can and will go ahead on this very worthwhile publication. As an added incentive, Grab it magazine will be giving away titles featured in the magazine to people who share and promote the magazine on the home page every day!

The magazine is a bargain for the price, full of high quality design and writing, if you check it out be sure to share it with friends and associates to make sure Grab It goes ahead!  The Grab It app is now available to buy on the app store today for iPads, costing $4.49.