on Saturday, December 25, 2010
Remember your horrible childhood? Remember how you were constantly abused by your whore of a mother, the one who constantly told you how much of a disappointment you were to her, and that you were a worthless individual since you were crippled and blind? If so, K.O.L.M.(the acronym is a secret) will bring back every childhood memory you could ask for.

As for the gameplay, its typical metroidvania fare. Collect shit, go to new area, collect shit, return to old area, rinse and repeat 50 times, beat game. The real draw here is the story, which is pretty much takes GLADoS, gives her a child, and then beats all of the subtlety out of her as she derides her child for being a disappointing wwalking for about 75% of the game. The platforming is slow and repetitive, and requires no more than a speck of ingenuity to figure out, but the real downer is all the required backtracking. Yes, its a staple of every metroidvania game, but the difference between backtracking in a game like zero mission compared to K.O.L.M. is that not only were there new hidden areas in zero mission, but they also held rewards, which made backtracking an adventure instead of a chore.

Ultimately, the game's weakness is that it has no real strength. The story has ben rehashed dozens of times, the gameplay is neither challenging or or fun, and one's time would probably be better spent playing other games that do both platforming and narrative better, such as Company of Myself.


on Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Endeavor is a platformer in which you play a dwarf on a quest to obtain a secret treasure which each of his ancestors have tried to get, and failed. Naturally, things don't go as planned and you end up in purgatory just in time to be caught between a fight between a god and a demon, or so it seems. The game has three story routes, and the endgame of the story surprised me quite a bit.

As far as graphics go, the games sprites and layouts mostly do the job, with one notable exception, albeit a major one. The main character is composed of about 15 pixels, and doesn't appear to be anything resembling a dwarf. I never would've guessed I was a dwarf without being told multiple times. The rest of the pixel work is quite nice though, it all fits and whatnot.

The actual game play consists of a lot of jumping, falling, rinsing and repeating. The is also a water section somewhere in there, but other than that, its just a lot of bouncing. If you are the type who loves hidden collectibles, there are tons of stamina improving berries scattered across the landscape.

I found that the story was far and away the main reason I kept playing the game. Collecting all the energy orbs for the god, building my stamina, finally getting to find out the secret of the treasure that my family searched for, it was all very well done and vaguely lovcraftian nearing the end. The morality system involving the demon ruler was nice too, and killing the innocents actually offered a great reward in stamina, if you so chose to do so.

I can't really say much more about the game without giving away the plot, but its definitely worth playing if you want a minimalistic story based game.

Cat Astro Phi

on Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Cat Astro Phi is a retro top down adventure game and asteroid shooter. The game emulates the style of the classic Game Boy games, from the four colors, to the classic midi music, to the outer GUI shell of a pixelated game boy mock-up. The story is ever-present, and some of the dialogue presents itself as both a satire and an homage to the games it emulates.

The game consists of two game types, a sidescrolling asteroid shooting game and an top down game not unlike the original legend of Zelda. I honestly didn't care much for the asteroids mode, but its thankfully short and you can purposely fail it if you wish. The main game involves finding your lost cat, and collecting 10 power cells to repair your ship. Each of the three levels includes simple puzzles involving bombs, boxes, keys and three types of guns. Its simple, but its fun as hell, and the game only gets better as it goes on.

The graphic art is nicely done, the animations are simple, but they work. Like the old gameboy, it only uses 4 colors, but nothing is muddled or hard to make out. The explosion sprites are a bit of an exception, as they seem to blend horribly with all the other ground textures.

I went into this game expecting a mediocre and tedious little town down shooter, and was pleasantly surprised. The writing is well done, the art design is iconic, and the game is a tad short of the perfect length. The only real problem with the game is the poorly done asteroids mode, but even that is more bland than it is bad.

Monster Slayers

on Sunday, December 19, 2010
Monster slayers is a party based RPG about a group of adventurers who do the bidding of the ghost of the kingdom's king, who dies during the prologue. You start with one hero in your party, but the number will likely expand to five as the tutorial progresses. There are four basic unit types, each with 5 unique advanced classes. Like Dungeon Developer, it was created by Nerdook.

The most important part of the game it probably one you won't spend too much time on, that being the party screen. Here you hire warriors, change and upgrade your units, and equip your units with hats. The hats are the only form of equipment in the game, providing minor general stat bonuses to hp, max damage, or armor level. Every unit has the ability to upgrade and advance in class, but  each new class tier must be unlocked via the main storyline.

The game has four main types of game play modes, all of which are nearly identical. The Main story shows mini  cutscenes and sends you on a bunch of random and increasingly difficult missions that generally end with some type of boss. Bounty hunting is a mode in which you slay a stronger version of a previously defeated boss. Quests are side missions which involve a variety of tasks, but it really always has the same goal. Whether you are taking a caravan across the map, killing everything on the map, delivering an item on the other side of the map, or what have you, you are always simply walking forward, attacking, rinse, repeat. This holds true for the fourth game type, by it is still by far my favorite, the multiplayer challenge mode.

In the multiplayer mode, you select any team you want from someone else, and fight against them. The star raking shows the general ability level of the enemy team, but the value doesn't exactly always rule king. At star level 25 my team was able to successfully kill a star level 40 team, though just barely. Multiplayer battles are a fun pseudo pvp game type.

I really liked this game, and the pvp can add some additional fun to the game after it's ended, but a few design choices annoy me. Certain class branches are absolutely useless, notably anything to do with building damage. Buildings are rare, and usually the class upgrade choices are either take a unit that fires twice as many shots, or a unit that does double damage to buildings alone. Even if 50% of enemies were buildings, the building destroyers would never be the right choice, because two arrows is just as good as one double damage arrow. Another problem, which I hold it has in common with Dungeon Developer, is that you really dont have any control over the game. Being able to do something simple like set formations for your units would've made it so much better than just telling them to move forward, back up, attack, and defend as a group.

Great Dungeon in the Sky

on Saturday, December 18, 2010
Great Dungeon in the sky is another one of those dungeon crawling games with a twist (I seriously think straightforward dungeon crawling games are outnumbered by their meta companions at this point), where you take control of an 8 bit character, and crawl through dungeons killing other 8 bit characters using one to three special powers. The shining features and core of the game is the fact that when you kill a monster it gets added to your list of characters you can play as. This means that while you may start out as a bland warrior, if you manage to kill a cat or an astronaut, you will gain the ability to play as either a cat or astronaut.

The amount of characters in the game is incredible, and while many feel exactly the same (gender swaps, race swaps for the same class), no character plays like a cube, or an angel for example. You start out with a mere 32 characters unlocked, but all in all there are well over 300 characters.
                                                     Manticores, now with 50% more stealth!

The characters themselves don't really matter much, its just a graphic. The skills and traits are what really make them unique. There are over 200 unique skills, each assigned to between 1-10 characters, and each character in turn, can have up to 3 skills. There are skills to speed you up, make explosions, shoot guns, create ropes, turn invisible, jump high, summon an ally, cast spells and generally anything you could think possible. The most notable flaw in this system is that every skill has a cool down timer, and that every skill shares the same cool down time bar. This means that a lot of the more interesting attacks are worthless, because in the time it would take for a spell like blind to cool down, you could have swung 5 times and killed the monster. Other than that minor flaw, the skill system is quite impressive.

The main goal of the game is to slay four dragons, then fight the final boss, which is a lot easier than it sounds. In fact, you'll probably spend more time dicking around with characters like the red cube and the cucco than you will actually doing the quest. Collecting the characters in a pokemon-esque manner is more of the point of the game though, as the main quest is easily doable in about 15 minutes. There is a benefit to doing the main quest though, because every time it's completed you get one free monster unlock, which is nice as about half of the monsters aren't prone to spawning often, while others like goblins occur about every other level.

Great Dungeon in the Sky is a short and cute game where you try to kill everything in sight just for the purposes of seeing what it does, and really, what more could in want in a game?

Dungeon Developer

on Friday, December 17, 2010
Dungeon developer is a dungeon crawling game, with a twist. You play as the owner of a small town with a large dungeon below it. Your mission is to dig down and build the dungeon for random adventurers to explore and loot. On the 15th and final level, you must kill a dragon in order to beat the game. The game in and of itself is incredibly easy, the difficulty comes in when the game tries to pressure you to complete it in under 25 days for a platinum medal, or 35 days for a gold. While I missed platinum, I managed to secure gold with a days days to spare, and there really isnt much challenge involved once you understand all the of the mechanics.

The game is rather novel in that rather than playing some evil dungeon master, or a group of brave heroes in a dungeon, you essentially play a merchant who wishes to milk both the dungeon and the heroes of every last cent you can. You dig the dungeon, resulting in the heroes killing the monsters for gold which you get a fraction of, and the monsters damage the players, who pay you for healing services. Your ultimate goal is to have the heroes hurt, but not dead, and killing as many things as possible so they can level up, dive deeper, and bring you more money and items to sell back to them. So long as you aren't racing the clock, you can sit back, and make whatever crazy dungeon you want, and watch as the number of heroes multiplies until its a mad dash of every hero trying to get a kill before the three others behind him can.

There are five classes, four of them having their own unique attribute, but surprisingly, they are all built for the same type of self reliant one on one combat. Sure the cleric heals himself every once in a while, and the mage does higher damage, but all of the classes except the rogue are essentially the same thing with minor tweaks. The rogue gets two interesting feats that the other four lack, as he can both disarm traps on contact, and automatically score random criticals. Overall, I think a more cooperative, party type system where every class has a group benefit would have made the game a lot more interesting.

The main thing that bugs me about this game is how little you actually play or decide the outcome of what happens. You make the paths and choose the items, sure, but you don't choose which hero types visit, which path any one of them goes down, who takes lead and nabs 75% of the experience, whether or not the hero should stop fighting with a sliver of health left, or anything of the sort. If the random number generator decides that the lead rogue is going to head down the straight and narrow path to the next floor while the three people behind him are going to take the alternative path while all the traps, there really isn't a whole lot you can do. Its kind of like playing texas hold 'em, skilled play does help quite a bit, but luck always rules the day.

All-in-all, its a fun game, and a good game to play if you happen to be busy doing something else simultaneously. You can set your equips, add whats needs to be added to your dungeon, and do something else while it play itself for a couple minutes.

Spikes Tend to Kill You

At least in video games they do, anyways. Spikes Tend to Kill you is an extremely difficult platformer by noxious hamster. The setup is simple enough, you are but a lowly square, who wants to get from one side of the room to the other. However, the spikes and shooters littered about the levels are there to put a stop to all your advancement nonsense, and about 95% of the time, they are the winners.

Its definitely got some great level design, all the levels are made to fit perfectly with the jump speed, height, and player speed. Although every level is linear, figuring out and beating the gimmicks in each level still presents some challenge. The game seems to have an obsession with pixel perfect jump accuracy and timing down to the milliseconds in the later levels, with spikes scattered in a formation that only barely gives you enough lateral and longitudinal leeway to survive, and unlike a game like I wanna be the guy, these spikes actually have a Square hitbox, so the empty space around a spike isn't exactly safe either. The shooters are far worse than the spikes though, as the shooter puzzles tend to involve you first figuring out the exact pattern in which you are supposed to take, then failing 20 times because you were a few milliseconds off. If you like games like super meat boy, give up robot, and I wanna be the guy, I'm sure you can wrangle some excitement out of this game.

That's not to say that the game isn't without its problems. A huge element of almost every masochism game like this is that of the stick and carrot. This game has hundreds of sticks, but no carrot. No story to be seen, no promise of a reward, no working towards rescuing a princess who seems to get captured every 5 minutes, not even a death counter, just spikes, shooters, and a midi file that gets grating after about 15 minutes. On the technical side, this game eats up 120% core usage and doubles my ram usage for firefox, which is pretty bad for a flash game. Another notable problem is that about every 30-90 seconds, the game will freeze up on you and ignore input for about 3 seconds. If you were standing still during this time, you continue standing still, if you were moving, you continue moving that direction until the lock up has dissipated. As bad as it sounds, it doesn't effect game play much, but when it does, it can be rage inducing.

All in all its a pretty good game design-wise, its just a shame the author didn't bother to at least attempt tack on a story, or some type of goal above getting to the next room.

Stick RPG 2

on Thursday, December 16, 2010
Remember playing that old game, "Stick RPG", a few years ago? It was a short, simple little game consisted mostly of grinding one's stats until you could meet a benchmark for a promotion of some type, which then allotted you more money to buy things with which further helped your stats and the loop continued so on for about 4 hours, and then you had pretty much maxed everything there was to max out. Something about the game kept you playing, despite the fact that it was merely a game about watching numbers go up, and reading a new line of dialogue once every 15 minutes. Xgen Studios Stick RPG 2 takes the same exact game play and greatly expands on it, offering a huge amount of jobs, three city blocks, and quite a few new random type events that seldom happened in the first game. In essence, its much, much more of the same.

The Highlights

The first thing you'll notice about the game, it that there is a lot of stuff. three over world maps,  two casinos, six food shops, two gyms, three bars, two general stores, and over ten different employers man that there is a lot to do in this game, and the side quests are quite involved. The stats system works well, given that the main focus of every stat is now the same, that being job advancement, and the three best jobs in the game all require at least one of the three stats, as well as a particular karma rating.

The dialogue is interesting, and while you wont want to read the stat gain screen message 50 times in a row, you will want to read it at least once. There are cute little Easter eggs scattered throughout the game, and many of these actually can serve the purpose of advancing the plot. The game also has added a couple more RPG elements. The background trait you take at the beginning of the game can help quite a bit, and it's a nice feature for any RPG. The banking with compounded daily interest is still there but it seems a lot less efficient than the previous game. The days are much longer, and the general interest build is down, meaning living purely off your bank account is harder.

The Downsides

First and foremost, from a technical standpoint, this game is prone to crashing, and hogs CPU resources like very few other flash games can. I'd recommend saving at the end of each day, because the game crashed on me four times in my six hours of playing it, and three other times I was forced to reload the game, as the game trapped me in a dialogue I couldn't escape. It shouldn't cause too much of a problem if you remember to save frequently, but if you don't, going back 7+ days can really suck.

As for the storyline, its about 5 minutes long, and pops up out one of many random fetch quest the game invites you to partake in. The fact that the game has three different endings is interesting, but the fact that you essentially choose your own ending blindly with no way of viewing the others kind of bites. In order to see the other two endings, you have to go through the gauntlet of light saber and electro shock using enemies, which really gets to be grating by the third time.

Overall, its a very fun waste of time, and its a great sandbox rpg with lots of little hidden secrets, it's just a shame that the story was done as it was, and it'd would've also been nice if there was some way to fight enemies more than once.