OXCGN’s Puzzle & Dragons Z and Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition Review


Puzzle & Dragons is a puzzle game with elements from RPGs and strategy games. It originally was released for smartphones and tablets but now Nintendo has bundled up two versions of the game – Puzzle & Dragons Z and Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition onto one DS card.

Puzzle & Dragons has you fighting monsters in various levels by matching orbs of the same colour. On your touch screen there’s a grid filled with orbs of which can be coloured either red, blue, green, pink, yellow or purple and if you can match three or more of these colours in a row you successfully attack your foes. Now it all sounds simple enough but there is a rich strategy to this puzzle formula that will have you mulling over battles always thinking about your next move.

Each colour represents an element and if you don’t have a monster in play that is of this element, matching those coloured orbs are useless. It does absolutely nothing. There also is the fact that certain elements are susceptible to particular elements and building up combos or clearing as many orbs as you can in one-turn raises the power you unleash against your opponents. Luckily the game warns you before you go into a fight about what elements will be in play so you can select your team and level up characters most useful for the next battle. There also are many, many different types of monsters that can evolve in different and unique ways and it can be quite a daunting task actually choosing who will fight with you.

Out of the two versions I enjoyed the Mario edition much more because it lets you go straight into the fight without churning through a tonne of stale dialogue and useless story bits and pieces that force you to yawn. The Mario edition just has you making your way across a map similar to other Super Mario Bros. games and clearing each bit until you defeat the boss. Also Peach has been kidnapped again because apparently this seems like the only motivation for Mario to actually go up against Bowser. Very creative…

Puzzle & Dragons Z takes more of a Pokemon approach to the story, having you start out as a beginner exploring and training your dragons to become the top dog. This version has more to do within the game’s world but it isn’t necessary and the Mario version does a fine job in just feeding you the gameplay.

Overall Puzzle & Dragons is a fun game and it can suck you up, making you go through each and every level trying to dominate your opponents but it is just a puzzle game that has a bit of a short lifespan. It’s great in short sessions – maybe if you catch public transport or need to unwind just before a class – but I doubt anyone will find that much enjoyment playing this for hours and hours in one sitting. Puzzle & Dragons works well on the platform and is a great game to kill time with.

TL;DR

Puzzle & Dragons Z and Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition is a puzzle game that has you matching orbs of the same colour into a line of three or more that in results makes your monster attack your foes. There are two versions of the puzzle game included in this pack and it has rich strategy and is great for short sessions.

Pros:

+ Rich strategy before and during the battles

+ Great fun in mini-sessions

+ Plenlty of monster to choose from

Cons:

– Short Life-span

Puzzle & Dragons Z has boring dialogue

7/10

This 3DS review was conducted by a physical copy provided by Nintendo Australia. 

OXCGN’s Batman: Arkham Knight Review


To say that I had high expectations for Batman: Arkham Knight would be an understatement. The Arkham series is one of my favourite franchises, and after having platinumed both Asylum and City (I would have platinumed Origins as well had there not been online trophies) I felt prepared to take on the Dark Knight’s final chapter. Arkham Knight is one of the prettiest, most enjoyable games to play that has thus far appeared on the next-gen consoles, and offers perhaps the tightest gameplay in a series renowned for exactly that. However, some odd story choices and lack of challenge maps hurt the overall product, as well as a number of audio and visual glitches that hampered my time with the game. I will note that I played the digital version of the game on PS4 which may have affected how the game plays when compared to the game reading from a physical disc – keep that in mind if you are considering downloading from the PlayStation Store. Since the game has been out for a week or so now, I am not going to shy away from spoilers when discussing story content, though I will relegate that section to the end of the review so that those who do not want anything spoiled for them can read my thoughts on the rest of the game. I will clearly mark when spoilers begin. That said, let’s dive in.

The Arkham series is known for it’s tight and fluid gameplay, and that legacy continues in Arkham Knight, with both Combat and Predator sections receiving just enough new kinks to totally change the experience while remaining incredibly familiar to anyone who has played the previous games. New gadgets, such as the ability to order guards to perform a specific action by mimicking the voice of their leader through a voice shifter, really change up the freedom of Predator encounters – though I still found myself relying on silent takedowns more than anything else.

The new fear-takedown mechanic is a massive addition, as you can instantly incapacitate between 3-5 guards (depending on how you have levelled up the skill) which can completely shift the balance of power in a room filled with armed enemies. It can be a bit difficult to activate, and alerts all other guards to your position. However, it balances the immediate threat with this new mechanic by overpowering the others Batman has at his disposal.

Combat is fantastic, with a multitude of new enemy types appearing for the first time in the series which totally change the balance of fights. Medics can revive fallen comrades, and can give other thugs an electric charge which makes them harmful to attack unless taken down in a specific way. Huge, bulking enemies laugh off your attacks, becoming imposing threats on the battlefield which beg to be defeated last, since they can only be attacked while leaving yourself open.

When a number of these new additions appears in a single fight, the combat becomes less about attacking everything until it is unconscious, and more about ‘which order do I need to defeat these guys in’. It’s an awesome addition, and one that left me defeated in a number of combat scenarios despite 3-starring every combat challenge in the previous games.

Yet, there is a third main pillar of gameplay introduced in Knight that doesn’t hold up nearly as well: The Batmobile.

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Over all, I think the way the Batmobile handles is totally awesome. Zipping through the dark, dank streets of Gotham in a jet black car-tank is something I wouldn’t trade for the world, but Rocksteady seemed to be a little overexcited by the car’s inclusion. There are an absurd amount of tank battle missions in the game, with most (if not all) of the large scale boss fights being some variation on Batmobile vs. Drone Tanks. It’s a shame, considering how good the boss fights have traditionally been in the previous games in the series, that they were done away with in this game. There are a few supervillains that appear who would have lent themselves to awesome one-on-one fist fights, but instead are relegated to stealth-tank fights (which barely makes sense in the first place). It’s a huge missed opportunity – both in that it forces the Batmobile on you and doesn’t capitalize on the strengths of the villains.

The PC version of Arkham Knight has received a lot of flack over the last week, with it launching in an almost unplayable state, and while the PS4 version is definitely head and shoulders above the PC version, I still managed to run into some problems. While soaring around the city, my audio would cut out unexpectedly for about a second, before coming back – not the end of the world, but frustrating. Then, during big tank battles with a lot of explosions and particles my frame rate would drop – again, frustrating considering how often tank battles would appear, but certainly not game breaking.

The biggest problem I ran into was a key character model simply not appearing in a scene it was supposed to be in. For a moment, I thought ‘is Batman going insane? Is he talking to nobody?’, but when a second character began responding to the invisible person I realized it was actually a bug. It has only happened once, and was only active for one scene (a pretty important and emotionally resonant scene, mind you), and afterward the character was visible and able to be interacted with, but it’s just a shame a little more polish time wasn’t taken as it could have completely transformed the game into something far better.

While we are still talking about gameplay, let’s discuss the amount of content that is in the game. The main story is pretty lengthy, and does some awesome things with Gotham City – over the course of the game you will see the skyline of Gotham change multiple times, which is an incredible feat considering the size of the map. There are, in total, 14 side quests – most of which require multiple steps, though some require only one interaction, and others may require over 10.

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Are the side quests as good as in previous games? Not really. There are a few stand outs, the quest to catch a serial killer at large probably being the best one in my opinion, but most of them feel like open-world filler. I would have preferred less ‘destroy the mines around Gotham’ style missions, and more ‘investigate this crime scene and track down the killer’ style quests. But to me, the most glaring omission is the overall lack of challenge map content. Asylum, City and Origins all launched with more challenge content than the last, yet Knight has launched with the least amount of the entire series. While I feel that there was potentially too much content in Origins, I think City had the most balanced amount of content you could realistically get through. Not only that, but each challenge could be undertaken by any unlocked character – also not true in Knight. Some characters can’t even be used in the challenge maps, despite being in the main game, which is incredibly strange and, in my opinion, a really stupid oversight.

Challenge Maps have been confirmed to be in the Season Pass, but really, it’s pretty unacceptable to be expected to pay extra to play as characters that appear in the main game. Red Hood and Harley Quinn, I would understand, as they are already DLC characters, but why aren’t there any challenges for Robin or Catwoman?The music in the game is incredible, as it has been in the preceding titles. The satisfying instrumental score that serves as the backdrop to the game’s predator encounters is beautifully realized, and always kicks in and fades out at the right moments. Audio glitches aside, the game sounds great, with many hilarious lines of dialogue from random thugs and some truly great voice acting by some of the main characters – I still think the Riddler is one of the best voiced characters in video games.And now, we come to the story. For those of you who still wish to remain unspoiled, feel free to scroll down past the text below: I’ll leave spoilers out of the final paragraph where I’ll post up my final thoughts. For those of you who have finished the game, or just don’t care, read on.

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SPOILERS BELOW

I think, when compared to Arkham City, Knight’s story stands out in some ways as far better, and in some ways as far worse. The fact that it is centered mainly on 3 villains, with the occasional appearance by another being a short diversion, or serving to more fully flesh out those main 3, is a welcome change as it allows you to really focus your efforts on defeating these enemies and makes the main narrative thread far easier to follow.

This main story thread is certainly the most ambitious Rocksteady has attempted, particularly the areas where Gotham is bathed in fear gas, and you view it from both above and below the noxious cloud. This moment is amazing, as it shows you how serious Scarecrow is in his mission, when compared to the villains of the previous games who never really achieved anything quite as horrible. I found the ending that, essentially, all the mental and physical issues that Batman had been struggling through the entire game suddenly don’t matter and he can just will his way through them to be pretty disappointing. I’d just spent 20 hours watching Batman, little by little, eroded away in front of me, so for him to just decide that everything he feared no longer scared him was a bit of a cop out.

Moving on, the moment Barbara Gordon was killed off had a huge amount of emotional weight. Seeing Batman kneeling down before her corpse was striking, and set the tone for what I thought was to be a far more brutal game going forward. Instead, the story backpedals on this move a few hours later, showing that even in a self-contained comic book universe main characters will never die: Except for Joker, of course.

I can’t stress how great it was that Joker didn’t get magically revived somehow, though the concept that his blood is somehow infecting a few people – Batman included – slowly turning them into him is one of the goofier things I’ve ever seen. Some cool scenes came out of it, but ultimately it was a pretty stupid idea.

Where I believe the game has it’s biggest story misstep, however, is with the side quests. Considering there are so many opportunities to tell interesting stories about the other villains of Gotham who have apparently joined forces against the Batman (I can’t remember a single moment where this alliance was important or noticeable in the game), it is disappointing how the majority of these side missions play out. Most of them have to be unlocked organically across the city as you play, a great idea in theory that gets bogged down with you, realizing how hard it is to find a single building with a flaming bat atop it, or a random murder victim crucified on the side of a different one.

Penguin and Two Face have pretty meaty side quests, with one focusing on combat and the other stealth, but for some reason these super villains never collaborate. Why couldn’t there have been one side quest, where each stage jumps from combat to predator, and you are hunting down the united criminals and dealing with their combined forces? Instead, you get to hear them have a few lines of dialogue together after you’ve already brought them both to the GCPD, which essentially amounts too saying ‘I never should have trusted you’ to one another for the rest of time. A wasted opportunity, yes, but that is nothing compared to how disappointing Hush is.

In City, Hush was easily the most interesting part of the entire game: A maniacal serial killer who has stolen Bruce Wayne’s face in order to enact some kind of revenge against him? Awesome. Waiting years to find out what kind of huge plan he had in store was excruciating, and that it turned out to be ‘walk into Wayne Enterprises, beat up the CEO and take him hostage while trying to rob them’ is just… what? For someone who, in the comics, was a criminal mastermind to have a one part quest where you literally talk to him, and hit a single QTE was a terrible choice by Rocksteady, in my opinion.

One last thing: The Arkham Knight’s identity is telegraphed for hours before the reveal, which was a let down for me. I think Jason Todd is an awesome character, and would have been fine with the Knight being him, if only he didn’t take off his mask and then whine for the entirety of his ‘boss fight’, only to change his mind and not want to kill Batman anymore after an entire game where that is all he will talk about. Comic-book logic, I guess, but there are so many ways this character could have been handled better.

END OF SPOILERS

In the end, I really want to like Arkham Knight more than I do. It brings a lot of new things to the Arkhamverse, which is great, even when some of them don’t work 100% of the time. The overuse of tank battles in lieu of actual fist fights is frustrating, especially considering how polished the combat and predator sections of the game are. The lack of challenge maps sting right now, and I think it’s unfair to ask people to pay extra for something that has been a series staple until now.

However, there is a lot to like in this game, and after a few patches it’ll probably be even better. The combat is tight, soaring through Gotham feels fantastic, and hunting down criminals from atop a gargoyle is still one of my favourite things to do. It’s just a shame that between those parts there are many, many tank missions.

7/10

Note: Arkham Knight was reviewed based on a PSN code supplied by Warner Brothers

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.

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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

OXCGN’s Project Cars Review


Project Cars is the ultimate racing-simulator for the current generation. It’s racing expectations hit you in the face from the moment you ‘press start’. And it is definitely not a game for everyone.

From the very beginning Project Cars feels like it assumes players come from an automotive background and would know their way around its complex menu’s. The lack of explanation provided in some areas can offer a confusing experience. I’m afraid that many people may form their own opinion on Slightly Mad Studios game before they have even pulled the right trigger to accelerate.

Take Career mode for example, players are immediately given access to the entire range of career modes on offer, from Go-Karting to Formula One, the freedom here is greatly appreciated.

However, many players will be completely lost as to where they want to begin, because Project Cars’ menus can explain things very poorly. The career modes offer no explanation besides a small logo/graphic of the type of race they will be involved in, so hopefully you can decipher them.

Once you think you have it right and press that A button – you’re locked into that Career type. No back button to change your mind.

But the good news is that you can run multiple careers at the same time. The downside is you’ll need to fill out your driver profile details for every time you want to investigate a new career mode. This may get quite tiring if you’re a naive car gamer just looking to find a race with a Nissan GTR.

Did I say Nissan GTR? Sorry, it doesn’t exist in the world of Project Cars. Nor do many other popular brands that you would imagine would exist in racing games of today. No Lamborghini, no Ferrari, no Subaru and no Nissan are just examples off the top of my head.

I feel this is a huge deal breaker for any car enthusiasts wanting to race in a similar car that they own in real life.

One great piece of news for Australia is the Bathurst track is featured here, but don’t expect any Australian cars. I image the latter part just caused you to slide your Forza disc back into your disc tray. By the time you make it into your first race hopefully you’ve left all your Forza knowledge locked up outside. Forget it all. Project Cars is a true test of skill, and by far it is the most unforgiving and raw racing experiences on the current generation consoles so far.

Project Cars is like learning to play an instrument, it’s a frustrating test of willpower until one day when you just pick it up and it just works. Along the way you will get penalised for touching the grass, love tapping other cars and just general loss of control. The game offers an insane level of customisation for your driver preference. From its difficulty, to tuning your car, to even the location of everything on your heads up display. For those true racing-sim fans – paradise. But everyone else, I must ask, how long do you want to be in menu’s compared to actually driving the cars?

There is so much driver preference customisation you may feel disadvantaged by just wanting to come home from a long days work and have a few quick races before dinner.

Forgetting Career mode, I found a much more enjoyable experience simply using the quick race feature found from the home screen. Simply pick any car and any track and off you go. I felt this was a great way to experience all that the game offered and was a much quicker learning process than from career mode.

In the brief time I’ve spent in multiplayer a large portion was waiting for matchmaking to work. Finding a specific game type with a similar class of car was a test of patience.  After waiting for 10+ minutes I finally was placed in a match that was already in progress and lasted 30 seconds before ending.

After that test, I used the quick match option featured from the home screen. Which was not quick at all, but substantially shorter than the earlier 10 minute wait. The result was a race against a completely random collection cars and classes. Was it a race? not really, in fact it was more of a test of who could stay on the track for the longest.

Multiplayer is a testament to the difficulty of this game. Forget the battle to the podium simply trying to reach 1 lap with no major incident is hard, whether your fault or not someone will stack and crash into you. In fact in one match, I had a player stack their car right at the pit lane exit and every player crashed one after another.

If you’re the type of enthusiast who hears the title ‘Project Cars’ and thinks of Dad working on his rusty 69′ Camaro for years until it’s restored to glory. Think again. In fact there is really no vehicle customisation available in the game at all, the cars are all already at ‘race spec’. If that type of project is your thing then walk away right now.

Graphically the cars look fantastic and very realistic, the amount of different camera angles to choose from is appreciated and really suggests they have thought about exactly what this niche group of gamers would want. Slow the car’s down and look at the environments and perhaps they’re a bit blurry but who cares you’re supposed to be going fast!

TL;DR

Project Car’s is a raw racing-simulator experience. And expect just that. This game is for the niche that have been dying for a true  racing simulator. If you can overlook the lack of vehicle-customisation and lack of cars on offer there may be a home here to truly test your skills. If you have the patience and invest the time you will find a considerably strong racing-sim that I’m sure will grow stronger as the months go by.

Project Cars is available now on Xbox One, PS4, and coming soon to Wii U and PC.

Pros:

  • Ultra Realistic Racing
  • Realistic Physics
  • Graphics
  • Niche game many have been wanting

Cons:

  • Ultra Realistic Racing
  • Lack of cars to choose
  • Matchmaking needs improvement.

For the casual racing gamers:

6/10

For the racing simulator fans:

8.5/10

Retro Review – Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis


Allow me to digress a little here before beginning my review. Disney’s 2012 procurement of Star Wars and everything Lucas related came as something of a double edged sword. Whilst I am indeed giddy as a schoolgirl over the prospect of more Star Wars, I think there can be no greater crime to the gaming community at large than the incorporation of Lucasarts into the unstoppable juggernaut that is the Disney corporation.

Upon gaining control of the studio, Disney saw fit to halt production on all current Lucasarts projects and lay off most of the staff.  Whilst one could argue that Lucasarts’ performance in their later years was perhaps a little lacking, it’s a tough pill to swallow that the developer we all know and love will most likely forever cease to be.

Ugh.
Ugh.

The upside to this however is that Lucasarts can now assume the mantle of legend for the genius pioneering developer they were, a title to which one need look no further than 1992’s Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.

Developed using Lucasarts’ signature SCUMM engine, Fate of Atlantis is a point-and-click adventure that puts you in control of the eponymous Doctor Jones as he seeks to find the lost city of Atlantis. Set in 1939, shortly before the beginning of World War 2, Indy must solve the mysteries of the lost city, always one step ahead of the meddlesome Nazis who want to harness Atlantis’ orichalcum, a metallic energy source upon which the city was built. Along the way Indy is occasionally joined by psychic and fellow academic Sophia Hapgood who fills the position of obligatory female sidekick off whom Indy can bounce zingers and good ol’ fashioned 1930s innuendo.

*sigh* "I miss shortround"
*sigh* “I miss short round”

Whilst much of the gameplay is typical point-and-click fare, what sets Fate of Atlantis apart from most others in the genre is a set of three story paths, namely the Fists Path, Team Path and Wits Path. Presented to the player early on in the game, each path gives a unique way to play, altering the story and puzzles slightly. The Fists and Wits path feature Indy journeying mainly on his own, relying on his fists and his wits respectively to get through the various challenges. The Team Path on the other hand focuses on utilising the teamwork of Sophia and Indiana. Each path has its own pros and cons and some locations and characters in one path won’t feature in another, giving the game a depth of replayability.

ZING!
ZING!

Rereleased as a CD-ROM version in 1993 with full voice acting and remastered audio, Fate of Atlantis packs that same classic Lucasarts humour made so famous by the likes of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle. There is something charming and pleasantly calming about listening to Indy and Sophia have at each other throughout the game and the classic Indiana Jones soundtrack is nostalgia inducing all on its own.

Whilst some of the puzzles may require the use of a walkthrough for most modern time-starved gamers, most of them are manageable and will leave you feeling smart in spite of the randomness of some of the tasks. If there is one large gripe I have with Fate of Atlantis, it’s the backtracking and overall grim aesthetic of the last portion of the game which may put off many players. God knows I struggled with it and I’m a die-hard fan.

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Setting an ancient death robot on a Nazi, classic Indy.

As for the setting, the turn of the 20th century was a time in which the world was opening up in new and exciting ways. Indiana Jones as a character personifies and celebrates this time of great adventure in the world as much as the likes of Ernest Hemingway or T.E. Lawrence. Perhaps it is that in him which attracts so many fans to the character.

So there I was in Algeria with a whip, a dame, and a gob of half chewed gum.
So there I was in Algeria with a whip, a dame, and a gob of half chewed gum.

Earning several game of the year awards, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is the epitome of the click-and-play genre, and a product of a golden age in game design, a pioneering time in which the possibilities of games as a storytelling medium were just starting to take shape.

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OXCGN’s Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark Review


Now I could begin this review going on about what Schrödinger’s Cat is and how it reflects the chaotic nature of this game but I’m definitely not a science person and any definitions of the theory screws around with my brain. It also is unnecessary knowledge (as is anything else to do with science) that doesn’t affect your gameplay experience besides missing a couple jokes, so if you are an arts student like me there’s no need to panic. You can play this game and try to find enjoyment in this simplistic, repetitive, and mostly boring puzzle platformer.

The game begins with just an ordinary day at The Particle Zoo. The many zookeepers are exchanging their morning greetings when a CODE HEISENBERG roars around the building. The zoo has gone AWOL with nasty particles set loose by some mysterious shadowed figure and it’s Schrödinger’s Cat’s job to return the particles back to their cages. Schrödinger’s Cat can’t do this alone though so he collects Quarks to do his bidding.

There are four types of Quarks – red, blue, yellow and green – and they all have unique abilities combined together in a group of three. Yellow quarks can make you fly, red produces jumping platforms, green lets you roll around in green goo without receiving damage and blue breaks down the floors below you. These quarks can also be combined together to create up to fourteen abilities, all unique and essential for different situations.

Using these quarks you navigate across the rooms as you hit down the bad guys, overcome obstacles and collect charm quarks, a special type of quark used to progress the story. The quarks are an interesting game mechanic that works quite fluently whilst you travel across the levels. It becomes second nature knowing exactly what combinations create what and it works well in chase sequences where you only have a couple seconds to use up your quarks and avoid death.

The world you explore is bright and colourful but uses only a minute colour palate that makes each room feel like it’s the same thing over and over again… of which it kind of is. The puzzles aren’t very challenging and you will see yourself using the same combination of quarks to get over the same obstacle that will lead you to the next area that disappointingly is the exact copy. This is what perplexes me because one of the appealing factors of the game is that you can replay the whole thing and the levels will be regenerated with completely different structures. Why would you have this feature if there’s not enough variety within one playthrough?

The humour – yet another selling point – falls flat the majority of the time. Of the science jokes I did understand, I just sat there staring at the screen bewildered by how simple you would have to be to laugh at that. They also try to use Schrödinger’s Cat as comic relief with his (un)witty lines and one-liners that caused me to mute the television. I don’t ever want to hear that voice yell out “Slabam!!” again.

There also were some technical issues with the game, in particular with its inability to register that I was punching an opponent. There were times it would take ten or more tries to land one simple hit on them and in many situations it ended with an unnecessary death.

Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark lost me in every way and in the end it just wasn’t fun. Shotty level design, boring landscape and its failing jokes all resulted in an unpolished and unspectacular game.

TL;DR

Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark is a puzzle platformer that has simple solutions that become overused. The levels all feel similar which is disappointing because it uses a great mechanic, combining quarks together to gain new abilities, that didn’t reach its potential. The humour is stale and overall it’s not an enjoyable experience.

Pros:

  • Combining Quarks is an interesting mechanic

Cons:

  • Bad jokes
  • Repetitive levels and puzzles
  • Boring level design and art

5.5/10

This PlayStation 4 review copy was conducted by a digital download code provided by Surprise Attack. 

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.

OXCGN’s Indie Kickstarter Review : Herald


I was recently sent a demo from the Dutch indie game company, Wispfire, on a game they’re Kickstarting called Herald. The basic synopsis given to me at the start was that the game mixes “Downton Abbey with visual novels and story-driven adventure games“. Well, that’s certainly a very nice way of putting it.  Considering my love of Downton Abbey and my super love for visual novels, I am totally in.

Herald_poster_web
Gorgeous artwork and interesting character design

Furthermore, the story, like many new indie games do, explores issues on identity, racism and class, all set in a period where colonialism was more or less the name of the game. Being a sucker to most things nautical, and historical, I was definitely intrigued by this adventure.

The demo starts with our main character, Devan Rensburg, speaking to a character called The Rani about his journals aboard the ship, the Herald. The demo enters gameplay with Devan recounting one particular story in which he was told that there was a pistol missing aboard the ship and he was tasked to locate it and find the perpetrator of the theft.

The main character, Devan, is quite well fleshed out. His short but detailed bio tells us that he is of mixed race heritage and he is also the steward aboard the ship. He is curious about his mixed race origins as he was raised in the west but has a whole unknown history laying in wait for him in the east. This brief introduction to Devan tells me enough about his likely struggles as he wrestles with his loyalty to the his western overlords and possible resentment against them for the treatment he gets for being of mixed race.

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The gameplay in the demo is styled in the basic point and click adventure template. The graphic layout of the scene allows you to explore story points and move around the area whilst clicking on specific items. Oftentimes I found it hard to move around, Devan would only move to certain areas and thus, change the camera angle only if you clicked on something specific. Sometimes the thing you needed to click on was off camera and it could take someone a while to know how to change the view.

Everything you clicked on had some sort of narrative which could be expanded on later (or was kept in your notes separately). After clicking on a wardrobe which held nothing of interest, Devan still wondered what manner of skeletons were hidden in there. It was a nice touch as it made every movement relevant and the scripting of Devan’s internal monologue left a few hints that this could be an item that might be used later. Who knows though, maybe I was reading too much into things.

After reading all the relevant dialog boxes and material, I found where the pistol was and who had stolen it, presenting me with a dilemma where my choices would affect the outcome of the game.

Another thing I found buggy was that you really had to click in and out of dialog boxes quite a lot.  After reading you had to manually close each dialog box by clicking on the close button. This means a lot of clicking. After having mentioned this to Wispfire, they had told they were looking at quicker and innovative ways to click in and out of objects and dialog boxes more efficiently.

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The thief’s motivations could resonate in a way with Devan’s own motivations, touching slightly on racial biases as well as the importance of carrying out one’s duty.

The demo is surprisingly short, and does not give us the chance to properly resolve it outside of making an important choice.  I suppose this teases us enough to wonder what the repercussions of our decision will play out.

For a short demo, I was immensely pleased with what I saw. Above all things, the graphics are utterly luscious. The game design is quite luxurious and while the 3d graphics are still relatively simple, it doesn’t take away from the detail in the graphic rendering of items and background. The small character animations are lovely to look at.  Oftentimes, Devan cycles through different facial expressions as you point and click around the room, showing at least that the character is not static to the things he interacts with.

Finally, the fictional world the game is set in the fictional Western Protectorate, which could be considered an analogue to many European colonial powers of the 15th to 19th centuries.  The Eastern colonies, whose names more or less speak for themselves, are where Devan’s interests lie, as he yearns to learn of the lush jungles of his homeland, which certainly hint at countries like India, the Caribbean or the Philippines. While all these locations seem fictional, there is a strong feeling that the Herald is modelled on the many trading companies of the time, like the Dutch Indies or West Indies Companies. It doesn’t have that Pirates of the Caribbean feel, but it still has the feel of brass buttons and powdered wigs for sure.

Nonetheless, this is only a demo and from the sounds of it, there is yet a bit more to tweak and fix before the Kickstarter finishes up.

Having previously reviewed a documentary on the rise of indie games, Herald sits comfortably in there as an example of the innovative and creative ways games can explore new themes and human issues as well as revive and innovate on old gaming style of play. Likewise, indie games are certainly the new frontier for finding interestingly designed main characters who fit outside the ”spacemarine/sportsbro/sexy-spy-action-lady/beefybrute/mysterious-but-not-actually-that-stealthy-when-you-think-about-it-ninja/unshaven-tall-brooding-dark-haired-guy-with-guns’ stereotype.

rooster
Another gorgeous sample of the of the quality of the artwork. However, it would be cool if you could unlock a headless chicken as a playable character.

Perhaps its my own bias towards seeing diversity of character design, but meeting someone as interesting as Devan has definitely sparked my own interest in this game. Never mind that I love point and click adventure games. And I like period and historical pieces (for example: I stared at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem in Assassins Creed for a good 10 minutes and took at least 30 screenshots, like a friggin tourist). Likewise, the demo has already walked away with some prizes for best graphics and best narrative at the Amsterdam Casual Connect Forum of 2015.

All in all, I’m quite keen to see Herald fully developed. It’s a simple game with a not so simple storyline. The graphics are amazing and beautifully rendered and add an extra touch of interactivity to the point and click genre. Seeing all these new up and coming indie games is genuinely exciting since they’re adding a little spice to the life of gaming.

For more information on the game and kickstarter, click here.

Media note: All provided media and images are copyright and belong to Wispfire.