PS Vita Review: Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops

November 27, 2014 Leave a comment
This building is hideous. Take it down, boys!

This building is hideous. Take it down, boys!

By: Uma Smith

The number of games for mobile devices is continuing to increase at a steady pace. Depending on the degree of success, quite a few of these titles are leaking onto game consoles. Specifically, Tiny Troopers and Tiny Troopers 2 have been given the combo treatment with an offering to both the PlayStation 3 and Vita. Entitled Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops, it appears that this ambitious game is making a “joint” attempt to enter into another “battlefield” filled with even more gamers.

CONTROLS (4.5/5)

Joint Ops works splendidly whether on the home or portable console. The twin-stick arrangements make the controls and movement fluid and natural. You do have to utilize the front screen touch controls on the PlayStation Vita for navigating through menus and executing attacks involving grenades, rockets and air strikes. Such incorporation really makes use of the Vita’s features considering the convenience of switching between the analog sticks and the screen.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (3.5/5)

You are not going to be blown away from a game like Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops, graphically speaking. There aren’t any special lighting effects or explosions that will blow you away. In fact, occasionally the game will suffer a few frame rate skips if there is too much activity going on. Nonetheless, the incorporation of cartoon-style characters against the various backgrounds makes the visual presentation worthwhile. Furthermore, the audio effects add some humor to the whole experience. Even the screams of death will lead to a few chuckles.

GAMEPLAY (3.5/5)

Essentially, you’ll be controlling your tiny troopers to reach the extraction zone all while shooting down your enemies. Each campaign you engage in will consist of eight missions. These may include escort missions, protecting against huge incoming waves of enemies or traveling on an armored vehicle. As such, there are some elements of strategy as well as action during these types of gameplay.

An interesting inclusion is the zombie mode where your troopers must fight against a wave of zombie troopers while in an enclosed area. The last mission of the campaign involves getting to your destination before your time limit runs out. In this case, the change of pacing really enhances the degree of diversity that Tiny Troopers has to offer.

With almost 60 levels contained in this game, you get a lot of content. At first, Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops seems very easy and quick to complete for some of the missions. But later on, the battlefields increase in both size and difficulty along with larger numbers of enemies and additional objectives included in the mix. As such, they can take close to a half hour to complete.

As you traverse across the battlefield, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to run into items that will improve your troops. For instance, Intel drops unlock weapon and armor upgrades, which is something you should expect from a game like this. Additionally, there are medals that can revive one of your fallen troopers along with unlocking access to special forces that can be used in missions. Having these extra fighters, which can include medics and air strikes, adds a layer of involvement as you have to put some thought to your team before you begin your next mission.

It is a drag that Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops does not include a multiplayer mode as this type of game would be perfect to have a friend join in on the fun. At least there are online leaderboards to entice players to revisit completed missions in hopes of earning a higher score. On occasion, it can get pretty repetitive if you engage in the gameplay for a prolonged period of time. But ideally, this would be more suited to the PlayStation Vita for casual on-the-go sessions.

OVERALL (3.5/5)

For $7.99 at the PlayStation Store, Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops offers a good deal considering the cross-buy for both the PS3 and Vita versions. While this title is best suited for the portable console, there is enough content to keep you addicted to its action-packed goodness.

Xbox 360 Review: Digimon All-Star Rumble

November 26, 2014 Leave a comment
There's nothing smashing nor super at work here.

There’s nothing smashing nor super at work here.

By: Robert Snow

With all eyes on the release of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Bandai-Namco is swooping in and releasing Digimon All-Star Rumble, a four-player fighting game involving the characters from the original TV series, Digimon. So, is this a nice alternative for those that don’t have a Wii U? Let’s find out.

CONTROLS (3/5)

Character movement in the game is fluid and fast-paced. The attacks are mapped to the four face buttons while the only defensive button is the right bumper for blocking. Each character has specific attacks mapped to each of the four buttons ,which you can then combine to make combos tailored to that character. For your convenience you can access all the available combos in the move list from the pause menu.

When in action it does not benefit you to jump because the characters barely have the ability to do so. This stunts the use of air combos, which are almost nonexistent anyway, and it also makes it difficult and awkward to traverse the various levels. Overall, the controls are overly simplistic, and there isn’t much depth to the combat system because of this.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4/5)

Each Digimon is beautifully designed and colorful. The visual effects that are created when fighting occurs are also colorful and vibrant. You can truly feel the effect of your attacks when you see the explosive melee strikes connect. These graphics help to immerse you in the heated battles between these unique characters

The audio is decent enough, but it takes a backseat when compared to the graphics. The background music is typical of any fighting game and is nothing special.

GAMEPLAY (3.75/5)

The basic back story of Digimon All-Star Rumble is that there is a tournament being held to find out who is the strongest Digimon in the land. You get to pick which Digimon you want to use and make turn them into a champion that ends up fighting the villain behind the tournament. There are only seven levels in the story each of which contains a Digimon boss battle.

The game is comprised of two game modes: story and battle. This makes the game awfully simplistic and short, providing you with only a few hours of gameplay before you get bored. You may complete the story with each character, but the roster is not terribly large, either. There are different game variants within the versus mode, but they are not too different from one another so there isn’t much variety contained in the gameplay.

For the few hours that the game is interesting there is some fun to be had in absolutely destroying the simple bosses in the story mode and experimenting with each character. That being said, it is hard to feel much of a sense of accomplishment when the game is generally easy and doesn’t offer a real challenge. The only even semi-difficult parts were beating the hordes of enemies in each level before the boss because the large enemies do a lot of damage to your health.

The computer A.I. is not very intelligent and can be easily broken. You can screw it up by running away and changing direction quickly at a distance. This causes the path finding for the A.I. to get messed up. You can easily beat any computer-controlled adversary by spamming the same ranged attacks because the computer will not change its tactics whatsoever. I did not get a chance to play against other humans because there is no online component to the game. Then again, online fighting would probably get boring fast as well because of the simplistic combat system.

OVERALL (3/5)

Despite some nice visual elements, Digimon All-Star Rumble is ultimately not intriguing or interesting enough to be worth more than a handful of hours of gameplay. It might offer some value to hardcore Digimon fans because of its great representation of the characters, but anyone outside that group is unlikely to find much here.

PSN Review: BlazeRush

November 25, 2014 Leave a comment
Let the metal hit the floor.

Let the metal hit the floor.

By: Ted Chow

2 Fast, 2 Furious with a touch of Death Race, BlazeRush is an over-the-top racer with plenty of weapons and awesome cars to leave your opponents in the dusk — or better yet, in pieces — as you grin evilly in delight. As a person that generally doesn’t find interest in racing games, BlazeRush is a rather satisfying dark horse as it hits that soft spot just right. If you enjoy carnage, mayhem and destruction, then this game will satiate that urge and then some.

CONTROLS (4/5)

The controls are pretty straightforward with three primary buttons of importance. The left analog stick is used to move your racer in the direction of the obstacle course. R2 is used to activate your boost and square is used to activate your weapons. The controls can’t be changed, but alternative buttons that are already mapped can accomplish the same commands.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4/5)

For the download size, the game provides a great deal of quality when it comes to the graphics. The racecars look like miniature toy cars except they are equipped with large boosters and a plethora of weapon attachments. The game gives off the air of you remote controlling these dangerous machines as you race along the track.

The racetracks themselves are diverse with a variety of environments and hazards to kill you. Explosions and other effects are reminiscent of watching a Michael Bays film as you spam missiles and boosters to cause complete havoc on the racetrack.

The sound also does a great job in rightfully capturing the chaos and keeping you in the mood to beat down your opponents.

GAMEPLAY (4/5)

BlazeRush comes in two flavors with either a campaign (called career mode) or drop in, drop out multiplayer. If you’re expecting anything out of the career mode, then you will probably be disappointed as it is solely there to get your feet wet with the basic gameplay. It does, however, offer you the incentive of unlocking all the racers in the game as well as other goodies such as achievements. It also eases the player into the different play modes as well as the variety of weapons that become available in your arsenal.

A couple of modes are available within BlazeRush, the most common being the standard laps around the track, albeit with complete carnage ensuing. Others consist of time trials, king of the hill where you try to stay first ahead of the other racers and a mode where a giant grinder plows through the track until only one racer remains. Points are accumulated until a certain threshold is reached to determine the victor of these matches.

Despite the low number of unique play instances, the game utilizes day/night versions, different planets and obstacles to provide a level of diversity in your sessions. Overall, the modes progressed well with only the grinder instance droning on far too long compared to the others.

The game’s racecars and weapons are fun and satisfying to use without taking things all too seriously. Racecars come in different flavors from tank treads to hover cars, each with their advantages and disadvantages. Mass, acceleration and maneuverability are the primary stats that affect how your racecar fares in most situations. Weapons are over the top with pulsating lasers, saw guns and homing missiles to name a few. Boosters also come in a variety of flavors with slapping rockets jets to your car being one of my favorites.

The balance for the racecars and weapons seem fair as they are only available when you pick them up on the actual racetrack. Boosters are dropped behind the lead car so that cars in the back can rejoin the fray. Boosters and weapons can’t be hoarded and have to be used in order to pick up new booster and/or weapon crate. This encourages spamming your items to cause havoc for everyone. The only jarring concern is that too much action is taking place on the screen at once, and that can disorient the player to lose sight of his or her racecar in the midst of the onslaught.

Multiplayer is a fun ride with your standard four-player drop in, drop out being the norm. The players can vote for the racetrack they want to participate in as well as the type of drops available. The dynamics are different when racing real players to that of the computer AI. For example, real players can explore plenty more tactics against you such as spinning around and firing their weapons behind them.

Leaderboards are also set in place for those competitive enough to take on the best racers. Overall, multiplayer gives players plenty of twists and a showcase of ingenuity to keep them entertained.

OVERALL (4.25/5)

Without a doubt, BlazeRush is a thrill ride. Even in losing races, I was still having a good time watching all the destruction and smiling at my misplays. It is a shame that there aren’t as many players in multiplayer as there should be, but to those that are looking for an adrenaline rush, BlazeRush can help satisfy your destructive urges.

PS4 Review: Fluster Cluck

November 24, 2014 Leave a comment
How many clucks could a woodcluck cluck if a… wait, what?

How many clucks could a woodcluck cluck if a… wait, what?

By: Jeff Cater

The game Fluster Cluck attacks a relatively barren portion of territory on our current consoles: multiplayer games that can be done right at home with the people around you. The trick, however, might be getting anyone else to play with you at all. Lead your coop to victory, in your UFO, and try to keep your feathers on.

CONTROLS (2/5)

Ugh, what a mess. Button presses register spot on, but the analog stick controls feel sluggish and don’t do well at providing any feel of accuracy or true control over your “chikkin.” This would be completely fine playing strictly against other players with the same disadvantage, but the AI “chikkins” don’t seem to have any problem locking onto you and tracking you mercilessly until you’re a crispy order.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (2/5)

While the visuals are bright and vividly colored, the textures are quick to hurt the eyes. As you can see in the screenshot, the ground texture is looking like the Hulk’s back more than anything. The frame rate is just fine, as the engine isn’t pushing anything too technical. Everything from the low-poly environment to the low-poly characters feel like they could have been sharper or more vibrant; nothing feels as “charming” as I believe to be intended. The ship design and character animation is fun and lively, though, and the particle effects aren’t terrible. It’s just that they’re nothing we haven’t seen before, and definitely nothing we haven’t seen done better.

GAMEPLAY (2/5)

Playing Fluster Cluck is like trying to eat soup with a fork; sure, you’ll get some decent bits, but you’re largely missing out on what makes it soup. First off, the two gameplay modes available are pretty much identical. For a mode labeled “Co-op”, which is ripe for “coop” jokes, it shouldn’t be so easy for me to kill my partner.

This singlehandedly made playing this game with a friend a confusing pain. Trying to then explain to him that we need to kidnap the cows in order to save the “chikkins,” while accidentally fighting one another as we are both taken apart by the ruthless AI, leaves a lot to be desired in the “fun” zone.

You’re basically in a race against the match clock and your opponent, who is likely having an equally confusing time, to grab as many cows as you can to take them back to your “chikkinator.” The more cows, the better off your coop I suppose.

This is all well and good, but the gunplay being added in make it more of a chore to do anything except race towards a cow, snatch said cow, and try to make it back to base. By not shooting, you are likely to do better and achieve a higher score, as not as much time is wasted with flailing sprays of whatever weapon you’ve chosen to *maybe* use.

OVERALL (2/5)

Fluster Cluck isn’t a sad attempt, it’s actually a very good stab in the direction of highly accessible and fast-paced couch co-op, but it just feels like the game didn’t quite come together as intended. I’d love for a version of this to hit the market with refined controls and more peripheral modes of play, but the game in its current state is difficult to recommend to anyone.

PSN Review: Snark Busters: High Society

November 21, 2014 Leave a comment
Wall-e can fly??

Wall-e can fly??

By: Matthew Striplen

Ever wanted to break with convention and rescue a dude in distress? Well, then step into the shoes of the female protagonist in Snark Busters: High Society as she endeavors to clear her true love’s name after a dastardly villain tarnishes it.

CONTROLS (5/5)

Although the controls are very simple, Snark Busters’ are an improvement over Alawar’s previous title. The only major functions in the game are pointing and clicking, which might sound simple enough. However, the player can carry up to two items at any time. To better facilitate usage of these items, Snark Busters provides shortcuts, whereas its predecessor did not. This further streamlines the gameplay by eliminating the need to scroll all the way back to the inventory circles each time the player wants to select an inventory item. Overall, the controls are smooth, intuitive, and easy to use.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4/5)

Snark Busters‘ graphics remind me of looking at picture books when I was little. Everything is bright, colorful and detailed. Although almost every environment is a still image, the vibrancy of the illustrations is enough to hold my interest. I particularly liked the style used in cut scenes, where each moving figure looks like a paper cutout. This animation style can sometimes look stilted, but the designers execute it well.

The sound is very basic, consisting mostly of ambient, soothing tones, which I found aided my search focus. While scarce, the voice acting tends to be a little campy, which lends itself well to the outlandish world and young target audience. Some lines can be overly cringe-worthy though, and the character’s lip flaps seldom match the actual voices.

GAMEPLAY (3.5/5)

Like the I Spy book series? Yes? Then you’ll probably like Snark Busters, as they share the same premise: find stuff hidden in the picture. This game takes it a step further by having the player collect items to either create or repair something else. A handful of puzzles also present themselves at various points in the game, though none of them are particularly challenging.

If you’re feeling stuck, the player can always use a hint. Depending on which mode is being played, Regular or Expert, the hint meter takes a different amount of time to refill. Obviously, Expert mode takes a bit longer.

That being said, there are no consequences for using the hint meter, other than waiting. As someone will little self-control, resisting the urge to use it at the slightest sign of difficulty was a far greater challenge than the puzzles themselves. When solving puzzles in either mode, the hint transforms into a skip button, which auto-solves the problem.

There’s only one other difference between the two modes: Expert does not highlight interactive hotspots, making each item search a bit trickier.

Unfortunately, the story is not the most compelling component of the game. It’s essentially a gender swapped damsel in distress scenario. In this case, the protagonist’s boyfriend has been falsely accused of stealing a powerful baroness’ locket, and it’s up to you to prove his innocence.

This includes breaking and entering into the baroness’s home and safe, yet somehow she avoids all legal repercussions from that… anyway, I digress. Additionally, there’s very little reference to the actual Snark and the club dedicated to busting it, and the little information that does exist served only to confuse me.

As stated, the main premise of this game is to collect hidden objects to complete or create larger items and puzzles. When these are selected, they display their needed parts. When picking up a component, one of two things will happen. If it is usable in the current room, which is generally the case, the corresponding device or puzzle will display its incomplete component list.

Removing this function would have given an additional layer of gameplay by forcing the player to further investigate the environment. These components can sometimes be in close proximity to an incomplete device, which led to me inadvertently opening the menus more than I would’ve liked.

My favorite aspect of the game is the concept of the mirror worlds. Each mirror serves as a portal to a parallel universe, where “everything is the same, but different.” Silly description aside, these alternate worlds allow for the designers to really go outside the box with puzzle creation. For instance, the regular world might have a beautiful flowering plant hiding objects, while the mirror version might transform the flowers into dangerous man-eating carnivorous plants!

Snark Busters: High Society is a relatively short title for older players; probably around 3-4 hours, but it will probably provide more entertainment for younger children. As an older player, the game was never particularly challenging for me, even on Expert mode. Due to the inherent nature of the genre to which Snark Busters belongs, it provides little to no replay value.

OVERALL (3.5/5)

Snark Busters: High Society is a definite step up from the previous game I reviewed from Alawar Entertainment, Sacra Terra: Kiss of Death, most notably the controls and graphic design. As stated, I particularly enjoyed the interpretations of the mirror universe as being similar but supernatural. If you know a young gamer, or are a young gamer, Snark Busters: High Society would be a nice purchase.

Throwback Thursday: Win How To Survive: Storm Warning Edition on XB1 or PS4!

November 20, 2014 78 comments

Survive SWEAfter taking a week off to regroup, we’re back with codes to download 505 Games’ How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition for Xbox One or PlayStation 4. With Thanksgiving next week we’re going to let this contest run longer than usual — no new contest on Thanksgiving Day — so get your entry in and then enjoy a happy and safe holiday!

HOW TO ENTER

To enter, simply let us know which video game you’re most thankful for in the comments section below. Please include your console choice and, if you’re on Twitter, your @handle as well. If not, just make sure the email address you use when entering is valid.

Sample Comment
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
@SoMuchHALO
PS4

THE FINE PRINT

Winners will be selected on Tuesday, December 2nd. All entries must be submitted by 4 PM EDT/1 PM PDT on Tuesday. Please note that although anyone can enter you must either be following me on Twitter or submit a working email address to win.

Good luck!

PS Vita Review: Senran Kagura Bon Appétit!

November 20, 2014 Leave a comment
This sundae will do more than hurt your teeth.

This sundae will do more than hurt your teeth.

By: Uma Smith

It appears that the antics and mature material of Senran Kagura are not going to rest. As such, we have another PlayStation Vita title called Senran Kagura Bon Appétit!, offering the same degree of “uniqueness” and fan service. Rather than exchanging attacks with weapons, the female characters will be using the powers of spatulas and other implements of cooking all while dressed in somewhat inappropriate attire. How fitting for women to be subjected to this type of predicament…

CONTROLS (4.25/5)

Senran Kagura Bon Appétit! will have you pressing specific buttons in tandem with the game’s music in an effort to get your character to prepare various dishes. Specifically, two horizontal tracks near the bottom of the screen will appear with the buttons that need to pressed. Although there isn’t much depth  or intuition, the controls are quite responsive, which is vital since timing is of the essence if you want to proceed further in this game.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (3.5/5)

On the PlayStation Vita screen, Senran Kagura Bon Appétit! appears splendid with its color arrangement and anime-style approach. On the other hand, the visuals don’t pack a whole lot of punch with the limited effects and animations. Furthermore, a significant number of players (particularly the females) could be turned off by all the suggestive “outfits” on these characters.

Although the music is diverse, the resulting audio loses its inspiration quickly. But then again, what would you expect from a Vita title where cooking is the main “dish”?

GAMEPLAY (2.75/5)

Here in Senran Kagura Bon Appétit!, the all-female shinobi students from opposing schools are in competition to gain a ninja scroll that grants the winner a wish. In particular, they will have to put their culinary skills to the test to see who will earn that right to receive that prize. As stated earlier, the game plays out like that of a rhythm-based genre where you press buttons in accordance to the beat of the music.

You’ll engage in a battle within each round, which consists of three stages. Between stages, Hanzo, who is the master, will give his evaluation and judge dishes you’ve prepared to determine the winner. As a result, the loser’s clothes will magically disappear with an explosion effect. And if you had a perfect round, your opponent will be completely “clothes-less” and instead have her body covered with chocolate and whipped cream (Editor’s Note: Why didn’t I review this?!?!).

Without being biased, I can see how this could possibly entice male gamers to persist further. At the same time, Senran Kagura Bon Appétit! does get very repetitive and laborious. Other than pressing buttons accordingly, there’s no real challenge or variety whatsoever. To rub salt to wound, the game can seem very confusing with all the figures that make appearances on screen even though they don’t seem to have any relevant purpose whatsoever.

This brings me to the conclusion that the sole purpose here is to offer eye candy rather than quality gameplay. But even so, this type of content can only go so far before it loses its novelty effect. The story behind the characters are kind of weak while the humor really steps beyond the cheesy factor.

OVERALL (2.75/5)

Senran Kagura Bon Appétit! is certainly inappropriate for younger audiences, but it’s also unsuitable for almost everyone looking for some fun quality rhythm-based gameplay. However, those who are desperate for additional fan service to bring along with the Vita may have an appreciation for this.

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