By: Ted Chen
Cannon Brawl is an interesting fusion of a hybrid real-time strategy with elements of trajectory aiming synonymous of the Worms Armageddon series. Having played Worms and old-school Gunbound, I was rather intrigued by the notion of adding an RTS element to what would normally be seen as a tactical turn based game. To my surprise the amalgamation of said elements turned out to really add depth to the gameplay, and it speeds up the overall decision making process that turn-based games tend to disregard.
The controls use the WASD standard on a keyboard or the analog stick if you opt in with a controller. Both options can be key mapped to your personal comfort, but the in-game help text will continue to display the default buttons. The camera view is static to the game map, and there is no option or reason to change the view. Reinforcing the usual, the controls feel natural and provide a fluid experience.
Cannon Brawl is a stylized 2D game that focuses on light-hearted, cartoony sprites as the visual medium. With pleasant backdrops, the game provides a warm aesthetic that complements the overall light-heartedness. The settings option only provides the basic changes you’ve come to expect such as screen resolution and volume sliders for the sound.
The main music is something you would hear in a Smash Bros game and tantalizes you to queue up for a match. The in-game music, however, is a bit more subtle and unobtrusive to the myriad of actions that start to take precedence.
As soon as you enter the main screen, Cannon Brawl presents you with a few options for gameplay. Adventure mode is your basic storyline and tutorial to the game’s mechanics. The mode is worthwhile to complete as you will unlock the basic heroes and units needed for diversifying your future builds. The other modes consist of online multiplayer and battle against the AI. Within online multiplayer you can opt for ranked or unranked games with full leaderboard and level progression support.
Other noticeable features included in Cannon Brawl are public lobbies, chat rooms, a quest feature and an armory to expend your XP. The public and chat rooms are a way to find games or see what people are doing within the game. The quest feature is like many other games with daily quests except you receive new quests as soon as you finish the ones in your queue. Whenever you win games you receive XP that can be spent in the armory for new units and heroes.
Starting a game will bring you to a screen where you select your hero and slots for your building options. The main goal is to destroy the opponent’s castle by constructing buildings such as gold mines to accumulate gold and spend it on cannon towers to deal damage to enemy structures. Cannon Brawl takes place in real time and all decisions need to be made quickly as it can snowball against your favor if you stall for too long. All buildings have cool downs and attacking with them require trajectory aiming. In addition, upgrades can be applied to existing buildings to strengthen their longevity and usefulness on the field.
As far as the mechanics needed to excel in Cannon Brawl, the manual aiming isn’t as complex as it may seem. Unlike games such as Gunbound where there are wind coefficients that need to be factored into your shots, Cannon Brawl is just a matter of angle estimation of your arc radial, and it’s very forgiving to the player. Combine that with various AI difficulties that you can practice with and the mechanics will become second nature as you focus more on the tempo of the game.
Multiplayer is where you will most likely spend your time as there is no other end-game option. Your mileage will vary, but a leaderboard and an ever-changing meta with new units and heroes being added by the developers can potentially help keep the game fresh. A variety of maps are available for all modes initially, but a map editor would surely spice up and randomize the maps to keep them from becoming stale.
Cannon Brawl is a fast paced RTS/side-scroller hybrid that excels at providing a light-hearted experience that prioritizes fun over superfluous complexity. Multiplayer is entertaining enough; however, I don’t see the competitiveness on an e-sports level of following. The game is enjoyable for what it provides, yet, at the same time, you will wish there was more substance to keep you engaged long term.
Things have been crazy around here lately, but I managed to find enough time to put together this sweet giveaway. What’s up for grabs? Well, I’ve got a Season Pass for TellTale Games’ The Walking Dead Season 2 as well as codes to download Zen Studios’ The Walking Dead Pinball, and you get both! Available platforms are Xbox 360 and Steam (sorry, PS3). Let’s win!
HOW TO ENTER
To enter simply let us know who your favorite Walking Dead character is (TV show, game, comic, etc.) in the comments section below — please include your console of choice (XBLA or Steam). Also, if you’re on Twitter please include your @handle as well. If not, just make sure the email address you use when entering is valid.
THE FINE PRINT
Winners will be selected on Thursday, October 2nd. All entries must be submitted by 4 PM EDT/1 PM PDT on Thursday. Please note that although anyone can enter you must either be following me on Twitter or submit a working email address to win.
By: Mike Chen
New-gen owners may have heard about CastleStorm from other platforms, and now they can experience it with CastleStorm: Definitive Edition. Even if you’re not a fan of tower defense games, it’s worth a look. While tower defense is a big part of the experience, there’s much more to this genre-busting title from Zen Studios.
Core CastleStorm gameplay takes place on a 2D plane similar to Worms or Angry Birds. There’s so much to do that the controller buttons are mostly used to navigate menus in real time. The face buttons select the main type of action (ballista — AKA your firing mechanism — spells, infantry) while the trigger buttons allow you to cycle through the different options for that action (e.g. type of ammo for the ballista).
At first, this can be confusing, and the game is smart in the tutorial levels by forcing you to focus on one or two actions at a time before giving you full reign. By the time you finish the tutorials and put in a good hour or so of game time, most of the menu switches will feel instinctual.
The ballista aim uses the left analog stick. This works in general but can feel loose at times. Using the directional pad allows you to move more incrementally, but this is often too slow to be effective, particularly against fast-moving enemies. If there’s one fault in the game, it would be this.
When you use magic to conjure a hero, the game turns into a 2D beat ‘em up a la old-school games like Ghosts n’ Goblins. This changes the pace of the round and gives more immediate gratification with hack n’ slash gameplay. For sword/melee play, things work well. However, the same aiming mechanic used by the ballista is also used by hero characters, which can create awkward switches while brawling. Use at your discretion.
The imaginary medieval world in CastleStorm: Definitive Edition is appropriately cartoony, with heroes, villains and monsters all looking at home in their exaggerated environment. Nothing here — from the characters to the lighting — will break ground, and it’s certainly not harnessing the full power of the PS4. It gets the job done, though, and meets the lighthearted and colorful vibe of the game. Similarly, the sound effects and limited dialogue are appropriate but not memorable.
CastleStorm’s gameplay can best be described as a mash-up between many genre leaders. Take the artillery gameplay of Worms, add in real-time tower-defense action like Dungeon Defenders, throw in the destructive physics of Angry Birds, and stick in a dash of 2D hack ‘n slash and you’ve got a little something for everyone.
What’s brilliant about CastleStorm is that while the emphasis on strategy shifts per round based on situation, it also gives you the freedom to use your preferred method. The result is fast paced and filled with tension while also providing plenty of “that was awesome!” moments thanks to ballista headshots and oh-so-perfect castle destruction.
Your challenge varies per round. Sometimes, it’s simply holding off the hoard of attackers. Then it’s to destroy the opposing fortress. Other times, it’s both simultaneously with other twists thrown in. The evolving campaign mode, combined with your ever-increasing arsenal of new tricks and weapon upgrades, means that you’ll almost always have something fresh to work with as you head to the finish of the (fairly thin) story of kings vs. vikings.
There’s also a castle-building component in between rounds. This allows for customization of both your castle and your castle properties: add in a kitchen to support more hungry infantry troops, bring in new quarters to open up new types of troops, etc.
Outside of the campaign, CastleStorm: Definitive Edition comes with various other single-player challenge modes as well as all existing DLC (From Outcast to Savior and The Warrior Queen) and some new exclusive content like battles and spells. Both online and local (split-screen) multiplayer are supported. Keep in mind that online play doesn’t utilize any campaign bonuses/upgrades you have earned as a means of balancing the competition.
By effortlessly mashing together several genres, CastleStorm: Definitive Edition creates a slick, addictive and fun experience that begs for “Just one more round!” time and again. Zen Studios may be known mostly for their pinball titles, but the success of CastleStorm is a true testament to their capabilities.
By: Jeff Cater
Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate marks the first appearance of the nefarious Orochi, the demon hellbent on consuming all and bending everyone to his will. So here he is, warping through dimensions of time and space (but mostly Asia), murdering heroes instrumental to past victories in order to make his move in the present and secure victory. You can’t let that happen, can you?
WO3 certainly doesn’t switch things up very much from its predecessors, but at least the small changes do more to enhance than to hinder. On the battlefield you have a few new options open to you. Empires players will recognize employing tactics, albeit not in the same manner. By pressing R1 you activate a character’s special technique, which falls into one of several categories — such as Wonder, Speed, Strength, Etc. Pressing Down on the D-Pad will bring out your two other characters so you can get a huge mob of swords flying around in a real hurry if need be. Other than that, the game is still a button mash; a very responsive button mash.
Although WO3 provides a wealth of new landscapes, many of them still have the flat, bland feel. The stages vary frequently, though you’ll revisit them, as you are not only covering periods of time but alternate dimensions as well. Character models look fantastic, but that serves to point out how lifeless the landscape still is. Even the lighting effects have gotten a lift, with the sun casting bleeding rays through the haze and blooming over the shoulder of your character if you trick the camera enough.
With the horsepower of the PlayStation 4, it’s a true shame that the landscapes still suffer from so much pop-in. There are still issues with the frame rate dipping as well, to which all I can really say is, “Damnit Tecmo, get it together!” In the long run, it is still a great game to watch with screen-clearing supers, character cutaways and heaps of bodies flying everywhere. It could just use a little more punch to it.
Your only audio options here are adjusting volumes and setting subtitles, which you will be thankful for unless you are able to speak and read Japanese, and sometimes even Cantonese. My best guess is that the voice acting is great: I do not understand what I am hearing, but the inflection and given text match well and are often delivered with enthusiasm. How lost would we be if a Warriors title didn’t have some butt-rock? Luckily, WO3 is filled with it and also some techno-esque tunes as well. As always, the music helps get you pumped to take out 3,000 warriors in minutes.
As the power of the demon Orochi grows, reality as we know it is in peril. Your task is to mend time and space, push back the demonic forces and set things back on their correct path. This, of course, entails beating loads of people up, but many of the missions are based around the Rescue/Escort theme.
If you haven’t grown weary of the series yet, this won’t be the one to do it to you. There are plenty of cameos from other Tecmo games to keep things a bit lively (Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden is probably one of the coolest things, ever). Once you believe your warriors are ready, you may go challenge Orochi’s Hydra at any time. Only by clearing the seven chapters of the story mode (and getting most of the 100-plus characters unlocked) will you actually stand a chance at that bastard.
Duel Mode has been installed in this version, which is three-on-three fight in an arena. These can be done against AI or an online opponent. Gauntlet mode is where you have to run stages against progressively tougher opponents in search of a teleporter that will take you to the next section, but it’s a pretty thin mode and doesn’t really add much to the overall experience of the game.
In the options I found a feature called “Online Invasions,” which was off by default, but I turned it on and found nobody invading me or anything so I’m truly not sure how that is supposed to work. You can also play online, but I was unable to connect to anyone. Probably release timing.
You can also customize the scenarios of levels by changing the enemies encountered, victory conditions, unit speech and several other options, but you cannot truly “edit” the level: you select a stage and modify encounters and triggers. You may also download other user-created levels, some of which I found to be extremely brutal.
Once their crew catches up with the tech I’m sure we will get a mind blowing Warriors title someday. Tecmo knows the series is great fun and a safe sale, so why not chuck a couple more dollars at the artists? Nonetheless, Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate is a strong buy for any series enthusiasts.
By: Casey Curran
One of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons is about Homer needing heart surgery, but he can only afford Dr. Nick Riviera. Dr. Nick knows less about heart surgery than Lisa, uses gloves he got with his toilet brush and realizes mid-surgery he still has his wristwatch on. I bring this up because Surgeon Simulator did a perfect job of putting me in his state of mind. I was clueless, I was clumsy, and my character wore a wristwatch on his right hand.
Surgeon Simulator has a horribly unintuitive control scheme. The left stick very imprecisely controls where your arm moves while either the right stick or motion sensor controls your hand’s positioning. These alone were enough to frustrate at every turn as I was constantly knocking over things I needed to pick up, never once getting used to them.
L2, meanwhile, controls elevation. Rather than have your pressure on the trigger control the elevation, however, it’s the amount of time you hold the trigger that does so. This makes any elevation besides the highest and lowest incredibly difficult to reach, which the game strangely asks you to do at times. R1 controls half your fingers while R2 controls the other half, though only holding both lets you control them all at once. I do not know anyone who uses their fingers this way, which again underscores how bizarre these controls are.
I would like to say that Surgeon Simulator makes me feel drunk, but I cannot. When I am drunk, I have some control over where I move an arm. I may knock over a glass, but not everything it hovers near like this game. When I am drunk, I can wrap my fingers around objects to grab them fairly easily. Here, I cannot. This game feels more like what I imagine it is like to be on Quaaludes as seen in The Wolf of Wall Street.
The only point in Surgeon Simulator’s favor is that I can tell what everything is. I can tell one tool apart from another and one organ from another. The graphics themselves look very cheap, more like a shovelware Wii title than a PS4 game. Even for a budget game, this looks bad. Even worse is that the game goes for a mostly cartoony look, which contrasts horribly with the blood and organs in the game.
Upon starting the game, I was greeted with the following: “Perform a heart transplant.” No instructions, no hints on what tools to use. It just told me to perform heart surgery. I had no clue how to get through the bones and take out the current heart without killing my patient.
I feel like I should not even say anything else. A game advertised to the general public is unplayable unless you have gone to medical school. No instructions, not even a hint. There’s not holding the player’s hand and then there’s just being lazy. The game assumes you went to medical school, and you need this education to get through it. Even if you have gone through, good luck with the game’s broken controls.
Busted controls and levels that are unplayable to everyone except doctors add up to an awful experience. I try to see the good in everything I play. After all, these are video games. They are meant to be fun and provide enjoyment. But there is no enjoyment to be found here. Surgeon Simulator is the worst game I have ever reviewed.
By: Ted Chow
Iron Fisticle is a retro, top-down shooter reminiscent of games such as The Binding of Isaac. Fast paced and addicting, the game pays homage to the classic arcade days where you had a stack of quarters piled up ready to one-up your high score. If you’re looking for a new indie title that will give you some time to kill and provide some casual old-school fun, Iron Fisticle may be just the game for you.
The controls are unique for this game in that you can play either on an arcade stick, controller or a keyboard. The settings are configurable in the menu to whatever key bindings you prefer. Overall, the character’s movement felt pretty fluid and natural to basic command inputs.
The game brings back the retro feel of past arcade games by going with an 8-bit pixel art style. With 60 frames per second, Iron Fisticle plays rather smooth with no hiccups or screen tearing. The game does have a fixed camera angle, however, and the resolution is limited to full screen or windows mode. The addition of an 8-bit arcade soundtrack is appropriate as it brought home that sense of nostalgia.
Iron Fisticle is primarily a single-player arcade game with only local multiplayer available where you and a friend can play on the same screen. It is suggested that if you do play with a second player, arcade sticks or controllers are probably the best option to enjoy the co-op.
The layout of the maps is similar to games such as The Binding of Isaac, where you travel from zone to zone attempting to reach the boss of the particular floor you are on. The zones are varied and random in nature with environmental obstacles such as traps to impede your ability to navigate the zone.
Occasionally, you will come upon zones where you must complete a particular goal to move on. Essentially, your main goal is to reach the boss unscathed and continue as deep as you can with the one life given. When you finally do die you’re brought to an end score where you are ranked against other players based on the points you’ve accumulated.
Your character is a knight that somewhat reassembles the knight from Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts — it’s more noticeable when you pick up new weapons to mow down your enemies. As your knight moves around the zone, you will encounter an increasing number of enemies ranging from zombies to tougher, evasive monsters such as spell casters. Your dancing skills will be tested as you try to elude enemies across the zone while you whittle them down. You finish the zone when you collect the key to open up the passage to the next area.
In your endless dungeon delving you will come across plenty of power-ups to help combat the forces of evil. Some of these power-ups are temporary weapons that can help turn the tide, while others increase your stats such as maximum health or movement speed.
On occasion, you will come across a shop where you can purchase upgrades that are either effective until you die or become a permanent buff that carries over even when you log out of the game. If you ever feel like you want to start over with a clean slate, you can always erase your permanent buffs by selecting an option in the settings menu.
Every now and then you will collect letters that spell bonus and, as the name applies, brings you to a bonus level. The level itself plays homage to Super Mario Bros. as you side scroll from left to right collecting coins while avoiding obstacles and enemies that reassemble those in a Mario game.
With re-playable floors, a multitude of weapons and achievements to unlock, and items to transcribe into your ledger, Iron Fisticle has great replay value whenever you feel the urge to dungeon dive.
Iron Fisticle is a fast-paced arcade shooter that will bring back nostalgic memories of playing in an arcade. The throwback and homage to games such as Mario really shows the developer’s passion for providing an accurate experience to games we have grown up to love. While I do question the longevity of the game after the initial appeal, Iron Fisticle is, nonetheless, a fun game to play in burst intervals whenever you have some time to spare.
By: Uma Smith
Released by Mass Creation, Run Like Hell! sprints its way over to the PlayStation Vita in hopes of giving the infinite runner gameplay that attempts to be as challenging as… well, hell. The question is if there’s enough endurance in this downloadable title to give players a “run” for their money.
Run Like Hell! plays out pretty much like Temple Run. But in this case, your character is constantly running towards the right side of the screen in a 2D fashion. Still, you’ll just be in charge of the jump and slide all to avoid the incoming obstacles. On top of that, there is the shoulder buttons that allow you to control sprinting.
From all this, Run Like Hell! is extremely simple in terms of controls, but that doesn’t mean the game is light on difficulty. Keep in mind that you need to ensure that you don’t slow down since you are being chased by a savage tribe, but, at the same time, you need to dodge the obstacles.
That being said, the levels you “run” into pretty much stay the same throughout. So pretty quickly, it can feel repetitive. A few power-ups are available to be picked up during your level run, which gives a little flavor to the gameplay.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much variety to really spice things up. Mainly, there is adrenaline throughout the level that’ll allow you to speed up with a simple press of the d-pad. Additionally, when challenging players, there is lightning strike as well as the fog that can be used to slow down your pursuers.
In terms of its appearance, the graphics are presented artistically with smooth and fluid animations. Meanwhile, Run Like Hell! offers effective audio effects, although it’s not exactly going to be a home run in terms of leaving a lasting impression.
Run Like Hell! has a couple of modes for you to engage its gameplay in. The arcade mode is your typical endless running experience where you’ll put your skills to the test to see how long you can last. In addition, the story mode gives you 30 levels across different locations.
In this situation, however, it turns out to be monotonous, despite the few cut scenes featured in this game. All these do is just indicate that you’re moving on to another area. The story mode takes a couple hours to complete, which is really short but appropriate for casual plays.
In terms of unlockables, Run Like Hell! has character skins as well as adrenaline boosts that can be purchased by collecting coins. One of the ways to do this is to engage in the arcade mode, thereby potentially encouraging players to revisit these levels. Another way is to directly purchase coins through the PlayStation Store. Either way, it’s a very familiar formula adopted by many endless runner titles. And because of that, there really isn’t much to make Run Like Hell! unique in this respect.
Thankfully, there is the online mode that allows you to participate in a variety of races, be it one-on-one, four-player challenge, or even an eight-player knockout tournament. This is where Run Like Hell! has some excitement included in its content. Unfortunately, this may not be enough to keep this Vita game alive in the players’ hearts.
Run Like Hell! isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re not receptive to such a simplified yet challenging type of gameplay. This particular PlayStation Vita title is appropriate for casual plays and therefore would be recommended if this is the type of game you’re into. If not, then run like… well, you know.