Posts Tagged ‘arcade’

As noted last time, I had a secondary backlog to deal with in this Operation: Backlog project; my collection of Humble Bundles that I’ve gathered over the years.  It turns out that there were about 60 games I had tucked away in their system that hadn’t been added to my Steam list.  So, I went through and bulked up my library.  There are a few that were part of these bundles that were included, but that I’ll never play, like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Penumbra Overture (I very strongly dislike horror games, but hey, if that’s your thing, they do show up in bundles here and there), but there are still more than a few that will get the 15-minute treatment as I’ve done before.


I’m going through my Steam list alphabetically, picking up games I own but haven’t played to see what’s there.  15 minutes each is all I’m budgeting, but I reserve the right to get sucked into a cool game.  Some I’ve played already, though, so I’ll mention them in passing here and there, giving them a rating like the other games.

I’ll be giving each of these Backlog games a rating of sorts, as follows:  Regret (uninstall and forget), Remember (uninstall but wish for more time), Revisit (leave installed for later) and Recommend (wish for more time to play this right now).  This is a squishy continuum of sorts, and deliberately imprecise.  This isn’t an in depth survey-and-review, it’s Spring Cleaning of my video game backlog.


Since I’m dealing with a new influx of games, I’ve gone back to pick up the ones I skipped over in the alphabetical list.  First up is Air Conflicts: Pacific Carriers.

I’m just not a flight sim fan.  I’d rather play something like Privateer or Freelancer, out in space with a bit of whimsy.  Air Conflicts is a historical combat flight simulator built around carriers in the Pacific theater, specifically in the second World War.  You can fly for Japan or the U.S., piloting planes that look decent over terrain and ships that look decent.  I have little idea whether or not they are meticulously accurate to real history, but the visuals look good overall.


The play is what I’d consider to be an “arcadey” combat flight sim.  It’s not a cartoony flight game like Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (we’ll get to that later) or Pilotwings (those were the days), but it’s not really trying to be a hardcore simulation of flying these planes.  I’m OK with that, since flying real planes can be a very complex procedure sometimes, from what I understand.


Just speaking to how fun the game is on its own, though, flying around is fun enough, though I’m just not very good at the combat portion.  Controls are decent if a bit “floaty” and imprecise.  Stuff blows up nicely.  The sounds serve their purpose well.  There are different options to play, from a campaign to Instant Battle, which was nice to just jump into.

I don’t have any big complaints other than just the simple fact that this isn’t my sort of game.  It’s not a bad game, it’s just one that I have no interest in playing again.  I’d be the sort that just flies around the arena, looking for screenshot opportunities.  I just don’t follow orders well, and I’d get tired of being shot at.


I’d say I Regret this game, but really, it’s not something I paid much for, since it was part of a bundle.  I had a bit of fun with it, but it’s not one I’ll play again.  If arcadey flight sim WW2 games are your thing, it should be good.


Then, in a significant shift, I tried And Yet It Moves.  I used my XBox 360 controller for this one.  It’s a quirky platformer which lets you rotate the world.  This relatively simple concept changes a lot of how you move through the world, and I find that I’m rather fond of the twist.  The controller makes it easier to sort the controls intuitively, which is important.


The visuals are unique and consistent, though it’s not quite the sort of style I’m really fond of.  Still, I give them credit for staying true to their vision and really embracing their design.


Controls are decent (though the character feels a little floaty and doesn’t jump all that high), platforming around is good fun, and learning how to handle the world (and your character’s motion) is a nice change from something like Braid, which, for all its time-bending gameplay, is still relatively static.


I give this one a Revisit rating because I probably won’t play much of it, since Dust fills my platformer impulse at the moment, but AYIM is a solid little game.  If you’re into platformers with some thoughtful design, it’s a good one to check out.



Anomaly 2 is the next game I tried.  I have the first one around here somewhere, probably from a non-Humble bundle, but now I can’t find it.  I’ll just pretend that the two are more or less designed similarly, and hope that’s right.  “More of the same, but better” isn’t a bad thing, and Anomaly 2 should offer at least some idea of what both titles have to offer.  They are “tower offense” games, where you’re not controlling the towers to defend against enemies as in tower defense games (GemCraft, Defense Grid, etc.), you’re assaulting the bad guy towers with your squad and commander.


That’s enough to Recommend the game if you’re a fan of tower defense games.  If you’re just looking into the game with no particular interest in the genre, know that it looks really good, controls are excellent, and the core design is solid.  Your commander usually has to stick with your squad, escorting them through hot zones and making the most of their abilities to finish missions, though you can wander off if you consider the reward to be worth the risk.


Different units and layouts mean finding ways to stay on your toes and keep on top of the tactical situation.  It can get a little twitchy at times, but it rewards fast thinking and situational awareness rather than just reflex tests, and I appreciate that.  I find that I don’t mind needing to execute fast controls at times if I have enough time to anticipate them well, and Anomaly 2 works well for that.


One quirk is that each unit can “morph” between two different forms.  They have different abilities, like the first unit which changes from a tank with a killer cannon into a two-armed flamethrower “urban warfare” unit that can target multiple foes.  Juggling the morph states gives your six-unit squad more flexibility and keeps things from getting too repetitive.


It’s a game that is great for fans of the tower defense genre, and I think it would be good even if you’re new to the genre.  I really like the time I spent with it, about 25 minutes, and would someday like to play more.  The game eases you into its design and has multiple difficulty settings for a variety of players.  It’s easily one of the better games I’ve played in this project.



Aquaria was up next.  I’m pretty sure I have this at least three times from different bundles.  It’s a pretty game with a good sense of style, good voice work, good music and decent controls.


It’s really nice to be able to just swim in any direction, though Naija doesn’t turn as quickly as I’d like.  She feels a little… floaty… which is odd, perhaps, for a mermaid, but still, moving her around is nicely freeform, just a bit imprecise and sluggish feeling.  She has the ability to sing songs that help her in what I assume are various ways.  The only one she starts with is Shield, which didn’t actually seem to shield all that much.


The reviews I’ve read of this bill it as a Metroidvania game, and it does feel a bit like Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (another such game, and a good one).  It’s really, really slow to start off, though.  It’s rather fond of its narration, but I just wanted to get on with the game.  Metroid Prime spoiled me on that, I guess.  There’s a good Reddit thread on it over here.


Perhaps it gets better and more interesting down the line, and a slow start does fit the ambient lackadaisical sort of mood they seem to want to evoke, it’s just… it doesn’t show all that well in the first 15 minutes.  If that was all I played, I’d have to give it a Regret rating.  As it is, I played for about 25 minutes, and eventually found a sort of “combat flashforward preview” thing which hinted that the game might get more interesting, so I’ll Remember it and move on.

This game, more than others I’ve played in this project so far, seems to suffer the most from a slow start.  It was easier to get away with this in days long past, but in today’s more saturated market with more ADHD customers (and/or just time-starved like me), your game has to make an accurate and good impression as soon as possible.  It’s just not as likely that customers are going to play for 3 hours before your game gets good.  We don’t have time for that.  Get to the point, developers!  Even if it’s a tease like Metroid Prime, where you’re given lots of toys to play with up front, but then you lose them and have to find them again, players will know in short order what the game has to offer later, all within a few minutes.  Even the super-dense Endless Legend makes a quick good impression, and they have more depth and play options to get through.


Atom Zombie Smasher isn’t a game I’d buy on its own, but since it came with a bundle, I figured I’d give it a shot.  It’s… not a typical zombie game.  It’s more of a Real Time Strategy game with minimalistic visuals.  That’s not a bad thing in itself, and it certainly cuts down on the cliche gore that zombies usually show off.  You try to protect little yellow dots (humans) from little pink dots (zombies) in a city, using a variety of weapons from your “eye in the sky” tactical view.


It could really be about any two groups of things where one tries to escape the other.  The theme isn’t strong, but that’s OK.  The gameplay is solid, and that’s more important to me anyway.  The art style, simple as it is, is consistent and clear.


That yellow dot on the right is not going to come to a good end.


Send in a chopper to save yellow dots, protect them with green dots (soldiers who fire on pink dots within range/sight), maybe use some land mines or artillery (remember that explosives can open new avenues for pink dots), and maybe even some pink-proof barriers.


Those land mines leveled buildings that could have kept the pink dots controlled a bit.


It’s a solid game, one I’ll Remember.  If you’re into RTS or zombie games, it’s worth picking up and playing for a while.


aaaaand that’s it for this time.  I’m still not through the secondary backlog, but should get through it next time.

Thanks again for stopping by, and here’s hoping you have time to dig through your list.  There are a LOT of great games out there, and tons of good ones.  It’s a good time to be a gamer.

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I like music.  I like games.  Intersections of the two make me happy.

A good chunk of my musical library is game music.  I’m a fan of AudioSurf, a slick little “sound rider” game that can be played as a relaxing cruise through my favorite music or a skill-testing scramble.  Lately, though, maybe because I’ve had a lack of vitamin BSU in my gaming diet (Blow Stuff Up), I’ve really been enjoying Symphony.

Symphony takes your music library (or the one they provide) and asks you to clean out corruption in it, imposed by a malevolent digital entity of some sort.  You fly a ship with four cannons (you wind up with a variety of weapons that you can slot in), reacting to the algorithms that the game uses to make bad guys based on your music.  It’s a delightfully flexible system, with no two songs really playing quite the same way (and each song plays differently for each difficulty level).  The story and character are just kinda… there.  Not bad, just not all that compelling.  I’m not convinced you really need a reason to play a game that’s this simple at its core; just go blow stuff up and have a blast doing it.

The TRON-flavored visuals are excellent, if a bit overwhelming before you get used to filtering the visual chaff.  It’s really satisfying to upgrade your guns a few times, maybe angling them or using a spread cannon or shotgun, and throwing up a huge swath of happy, glowing death, blasting a swarm of bad guys into note-shaped shrapnel.

Most importantly, though, blowing stuff up is glorious fun.  For me, the visuals and story can make or break a game, but only at the margins.  The gameplay is what really matters, and Symphony is simply fun to play.  Set your cannons to autofire (holding down the mouse button for constant fire is a good recipe for carpal tunnel, so autofire is the way to go), and you can just concentrate on flying.  Or maybe try out a Subwoofer weapon that only fires according to the music (where a subwoofer would be used, of course, nicely demonstrated in the game’s trailer).  Or how about a Crescendo weapon, a “charge and release” sort of weapon, or a Missile Rack that functions much the same way, offering devastating firepower in a narrow arc.  Perhaps it’s best to put in that Shotgun or Spread Cannon and just dominate the play field.  Maybe even use that Dual Cannon that fires behind you for those sneaky bad guys that push you out of the “bottom of the screen pocket” that lower difficulty levels allow.

Speaking of difficulty, it’s also a forgiving game.  It presumes that you want to actually play through your whole song, so while your ship may be destroyed, you just respawn after a few seconds.  Your ship can also be partially destroyed, and picking up the “Inspiration” that bad guys drop repairs your ship.  So you can wind up with just one cannon as your wings get clipped, but you can get back in the game after you destroy some bad guys and pick up their offerings.  Of course, your score suffers if you do completely crash, both with a straight score penalty and with missed opportunities to score while you’re regenerating, but there doesn’t seem  to be a penalty just for ship damage that subsequently gets repaired.

Here’s a quick video that I found online that goes over some of the basics.  I kind wish I could make a video, but that’s way down the priority list.

There are some fun “progression/collection” mechanics that unlock the variety of weapons and let you upgrade them, and player-selected difficulty levels which unlock as you play through your library.  This incentivizes playing through different songs, as there is the occasional rare variant of a weapon that packs more punch.  I do wish there were more weapons that did different things, and more that interacted with the music itself, but the dozen or so weapons in the game do provide a good mix of attack options without becoming overwhelming, and simplicity in game design isn’t really a bad thing.

…there’s room for a sequel, that’s all I’m saying.

In the meantime, though, Symphony is a sweet game that even stole some time I might have been playing Torchlight 2, the other game I was really happy to pick up in the Black Friday sales.  I got Symphony at GoG.com’s “five for $10” sale, along with the Blackwell Bundle, Botanicula, Resonance and Unmechanical.  …as if my game backlog wasn’t full already.  Still, for $20 I picked up 9 games that I’m really looking forward to playing.  I’ve dabbled with all of them except for the Blackwell games, and so far, I’m happy with them all… though Symphony is the one I keep coming back to.  Yes, yes, Torchlight 2 is a gem, packed with vitamin KSALI (Kill Stuff And Loot It), but it’s more involved.  With my rather constrained game play time of late, the quick play of Symphony really fits the bill.  I’d love to just settle into some marathon sessions of Torchlight 2 or Guild Wars 2, or even Tactics Ogre for the PSP that I got for my birthday, but my schedule is… squirrely.

At least there’s plenty of good gaming in the wings, when I can get to it.

Oh, and just because I wanted to get these out there while I’m thinking about them, I ran into some pretty crazy photographs lately.  Some very cool stuff can be done with very high speed photography and water, as Tim Tadder illustrates with these shots:

Water Wigs

Fish Heads

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