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Just a Linux geek with a love for creative, witty, or just plain fun games... when I'm not too busy programming or reading.

RSS Reviews  (0 - 10 of 15)
8

Bean's Quest

Game review

Ok, ultra-condensed review to fit the character limit.

First, problems:

1. Desura can't install the Linux version game due to server-side corruption. (However, manual install via tarball works)

2. People with non-widescreen screens (eg. my 1280x1024 LCD) must run windowed and manually pick a 16:9 resolution like 1280x720 or it'll crop rather than letterboxing.

3. While I recognize that some parts are meant to be pixellated, it's also obvious that some show scaling artifacts at the now-modest resolution of 1280x720. (For example, the text and character's outline in the title screen.)

Annoying, but not critical.

Gameplay:

I love the intro. It's cute, it's funny, it's basically the Mario story but that's unimportant.

I love the atmosphere. The music and and graphical design (with smiling clouds as moving platforms) make this the cheeriest game I've ever played. (Given the springboard design, probably takes influences from Sonic the Hedgehog.)

The title/menu screen music should run longer before it loops. It gets old too quickly.

The visuals have a bit of the overdone "smartphone-ness", but it's good enough to make everything ELSE feel like imitators.

I like puns and general silliness, so I like the villain stealing cute axolotls who say "thanxolotl!" when rescued.

The playable pseudo-level behind the level select is a nice little touch.

Having collectable gems lower resolution than everything else doesn't work. It's jarring. (Especially with the springboards for contrast.)

The controls are good but the difficulty curve on the collectables is a mess. (eg. Level 1 is fine, Level 2 and 3 are "try again from start" hell, then it gets easy again.)

All in all, fun but gives players a poor first impression. (The weird difficulty curve and things like the "can't try again without restarting" gem-collecting jump in Level 2 make it feel like a casual smartphone platformer as designed by someone whose only point of reference for difficulty is Super Meat Boy.)

8

Thomas Was Alone

Game review may contain spoilers

Elegant visual styling, engaging puzzle platforming, nice music, and story and characterization that's simple yet effective... but then the storytelling seems to fall apart at the end, leaving it feeling anticlimactic.

(After all the time spent getting to know Thomas and friends, their self-sacrifice felt anti-climactic and the last act with the new characters felt flat and very poorly planned.)Elegant visual styling, engaging puzzle platforming, nice music, and story and characterization that's simple yet effective... but then the storytelling seems to fall apart at the end, leaving it feeling anticlimactic.

(After all the time spent getting to know Thomas and friends, their self-sacrifice felt anti-climactic and the last act with the new characters felt flat and very poorly planned.)Elegant visual styling, engaging puzzle platforming, nice music, and story and characterization that's simple yet effective... but then the storytelling seems to fall apart at the end, leaving it feeling anticlimactic.

(After all the time spent getting to know Thomas and friends, their self-sacrifice felt anti-climactic and the last act with the new characters felt flat and very poorly planned.)

10

OpenTTD

Game review

A beautiful re-creation and superset of Transport Tycoon Deluxe. If you liked Minecraft for adding a challenge to LEGO™, you'll love OpenTTD for doing the same for your model train set.

In fact, after spending a day and a half doing nothing but this, I had to force myself to abandon it. If you're into simulation games, this will take over your life.

Not only is everything about OpenTTD beautifully polished and tuned, it includes a built-in manager/downloader for mods, graphics sets, and the like.

So, what's the gameplay like? I suppose the simplest way to describe this game is to say that there are two classes of large-scale city simulation games which have grown very successful:

The first is zoning sims like SimCity and, in some ways, SimTower where you actually lay out a city/tower/etc. These are fun but, as one person jokingly commented, "not even civil engineers do it for fun."

The second is infrastructure simulations like Transport Tycoon and A-Train where you don't directly control the cities. Instead, you provide essential services to connect supply and demand and the cities grow and change in response.

OpenTTD (being a Transport Tycoon clone) belongs to this second class. Meet demand by road, sea, and air, buy out your competitors (if you didn't turn them off), and have a jolly good time in the currency and locale of your choice.

Speaking of which, the advanced options let you tweak EVERYTHING and there are four modes to the level generator, each with unique challenges.

There are only two excusable caveats stemming from its origins as an open-source remake of the Transport Tycoon Deluxe engine:

1. While not as bad as some real "read the manual" games from the 90s, this is definitely a game where you'll probably want to skim through the tutorial before you'll be able to reliably get your transport empire to turn a profit.

2. Due to the bitmap fonts and pixel-based GUI, the game isn't as comfortable as it could be in windowed mode on a big screen

8

Atom Zombie Smasher

Game review

A very addictive little game.

I'm not exactly the target audience for games with difficulty curves like this but, thanks to the built-in option to configure custom game modes, I was able to enjoy it nonetheless. (Big thanks for that feature)

The art style and music in the menus and the story, simple as it is, are entertaining but I didn't really find them to be very significant. I just want to play it and, as a contrast, the lack of music during actual gameplay really works to set the mood and focus your mind on the sound effects.

As for in-game graphics, this is one of those games like Minecraft where "simple" does not mean "lazy". This game has an art style and a lot of work went into making it fun.

The gameplay is satisfying. Not only is it responsive, but the combination of units you can order around, barricades you place before you start, and explosives you place before but choose to detonate during a game really makes for levels where you feel that, massive swarms of zombies aside, you're in control.

...and the Linux version just worked on my PC. That's always a big plus.

The only thing I wish it had was a mode where nightfall didn't bring overwhelming hordes. Having the option to focus on extermination rather than desperate evacuation would make for a nice alternative game mode and would definitely increase replayability.

9

Waking Mars

Game review - 3 agree

I haven't finished the game yet, but here's my impression so far:

If you liked Aquaria, you'll probably like Waking Mars too. Both games combine:
1. Metroidvania-style non-linear worlds
2. Movement not centered around jumping or climbing (swimming in Aquaria's case, Jetpack here.)
3. Skills other than simply attacking enemies. (though Aquaria could learn a thing or two from Waking Mars about how attacking isn't a necessary game mechanic.)
4. Beautiful art and sound design.
5. A vibrant, creative setting with an engaging mystery to it.

Now, of course, this is a bit of a fragile situation since the reveal to the mystery in Waking Mars could send everything crashing down. Hopefully it won't and my rating will remain unchanged.

I do suspect it'll prove a little too short to earn 10 out of 10 though. (Aquaria, by contrast, wasn't too short but the pacing was off so it still felt like it started rushing to wrap the story just as it should've been at the half-way point.)

As for implementation details, Waking Mars definitely has a superior "teleportation" system to prevent backtracking from being a hassle. However, it could learn a thing or two from Aquaria about letting users place custom "point of interest" markets on the map so they don't have to keep notes separately.

(In a game where you have to backtrack once you get new abilities, an automapper with annotation support is a must.)

All in all, probably a solid 9 out of 10.

1

Super Office Stress

Game review

Literally unplayable. The Linux version freezes at startup (waiting forever with a blank window) if the user has chosen to abstain from installing PulseAudio.

(Which can't be THAT rare, given how prone PulseAudio is to bad interactions with Wine.)

9

Rico - A Tale Of Two Brothers

Game review

While I haven't yet had time to beat it, what I have seen so far is a delightful little retro platformer.

The graphics feel polished and satisfying despite their simplistic style, the animations are well chosen and satisfying, the sound effects feel good, the controls are smooth and responsive, new mechanics keep getting introduced as you play along (and, unlike in Braid, you're actually given time to savor them), and the music is catchy.

The pause between reaching the end of the level and diamond-wiping to the next one could be reduced a bit and the music can get a bit repetitive, given that there are only two tracks, but those are both excusable, given that it's still in alpha. (Heck, aside from the lack of content, this feels more mature than a lot of beta releases I've played.)

I'll give it a 9.0 out of 10 for now and adjust my rating (if necessary) as I play through further. (I'm saving a 0.5 for more music and another 0.5 because so many really nice little retro games could be so much more with a level editor. For example, Alter Ego.)

8

Snorms

Game review - 1 agree

The music's forgettable, but doesn't get on my nerves, so I can excuse that. Also, it may be my monitor, but some of the levels I've played so far are too dark.

That aside, the art style is simple yet enjoyable, the gameplay is fun, and there's a level editor, so it's fun despite its flaws. The only major thing it's missing is a multiplayer mode. THAT would really make it a long-lasting purchase.

I've found I need to switch between diagonal movement (the default) and isometric movement on occasion, but that's just a matter of pressing F6. (Diagonal movement is most comfortable, isometric movement is much better for not falling off ledges.)

The ability to gain mines which will earn you money even when you ARE re-playing an old level really appeals to my desire for "play it however you want" games and to the thread of "grinding nut" in me. Some kind of stats view showing what levels I haven't completed and how (boxes found, secrets found, etc.) would be nice though.

As far as weapons go, I haven't got many yet, but I love how the shotgun is implemented (an actual spray of weaker shots gives me a distance/accuracy/damage trade-off that I can easily understand and wholeheartedly accept).

I'll adjust my rating as I play through the game but, so far, here are the flaws I've noticed:

1. Press escape to pause, forget, click "Exit". It won't ask if you really want to lose unsaved progress.

2. English is the author's second language and it shows in the use of "propeller" rather than "propellant" in the weapon upgrade dialog.

Like I said, fun but it has a few flaws to fix. A solid 7.8 out of 10.

8

AlterEgo

Game review

I'm about half-way through and, so far, I like it.

It's a clever concept, the puzzles are well thought out, the art style is coherent and has character and, though the music doesn't grip me the way some chiptunes do, it's OK.

I only see two things that would make it better:

1. Even if only for grins and giggles, I'd like to play a mode where you get unlimited swaps, making it less puzzle and more platformer. (Imagine if Lode Runner only let you drill a limited number of holes for the mad monks to fall into)

2. A level editor. (Obviously, only for the platforms which support it. I can imagine a level editor which generates a new NES ROM, but I'd never expect to see it... except maybe as a dare or a personal challenge.)

3

Hack, Slash, Loot

Game review - 4 agree

First, let me be clear that I got this game when I bought an IndieRoyale bundle for some of the other games in it. I'm not "butthurt" because I wasted my money. That aside, let's review.

I mostly like to explore but I'm also generally OK with well-balanced roguelikes which lack an exploration mode... but this is neither. I've never gotten past the first few rooms without dying.

...which brings me to the next problem. The documentation is terrible. The built-in "online help" button doesn't work and the "how to play" link on the website is pretty much just a glorified keyboard reference and overview of what the different in-game icons mean... plus a link saying "see forums for more help". (I was looking for the apparently nonexistant "regain health so you can survive beyond the third room" mechanic)

When installed on Linux, it's installed non-executable, so Desura silently fails to start it unless you go into the install directory and explicitly set the binary as executable.

The game claims to default to using ALSA, but I use ALSA dmix for my audio support (PulseAudio is too buggy) and, out of 75 games and at least a dozen more applications, only Voxatron joins it in silence.

The keyboard interface is poor. Even reading the reference and experimenting, I couldn't figure out how to preview a dropped piece of equipment. I will admit that the mouse interface is very nicely polished, but that's overshadowed by the other flaws.

For example, there's no inventory, so I can't save items for later without leaving them lying on the ground and, according to the forums, you have to do that AND avoid killing some of the monsters if you want to have enough health to survive the later levels.

If you want a nice, simplified roguelike which is available on all platforms, download Brogue (free, textual but uses unicode and colors beautifully). If you want a fun, graphical rogue-like which is available on all platforms, buy Dungeons of Dredmor.

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