August 21, 2017

Mountain

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Be a God! Well, not much of a god. Be a minor deity of a pet floating space mountain with very little you can do! That is a more accurate description for Mountain. Or perhaps it should just be called an ambient experience instead of a game?

After a short bit of drawing (presumably to seed the random number generator) the player can view their new mountain, and that is largely the game. You don’t do much, mainly watch your mountain as it slow rotates through space, suffering various impacts and storms. I like the honesty on the controls option screen, “No Controls”. Not quite true, players can control the camera and make musical notes by hitting certain keys (supposedly certain tunes initiate events). Otherwise you just watch. Luckily it is quite pretty, often with Turneresque lighting. Perhaps it is a comment on “what is a game?” Or maybe just a pet rock project. Mildly entertaining, for a little bit.

Mountain is US$0.99 on the Steam store for PC, Mac and Linux. It has been bundled.


August 20, 2017

Dungetris

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What is a more natural fit than a cross between Tetris and a dungeon crawler? Err, everything probably. However, Dungetris shows the concept can work… up to a point. This game is a good start, but lacks polish, leaving the player badly exposed to the random number generator.

In Dungetris the player explores a castle in traditional rogue-like style. The originality comes from how that castle is constructed. It is built up from room blocks dropping down onto the current setup. These randomly selected blocks can be repositioned (but not rotated) by the player before dropping. Once dropped they become part of the structure. Sometimes they block paths through to other rooms, or sometimes open up previously blocked paths. Each new block may contain monsters or treasure or other things and you can see these before deciding where to place it. I love the ingenuity of this game mechanic, and it is the best part of the game.

The problem is that the game is extremely random. The castle layout rapidly becomes a mess, and the mission goals often require luck that certain blocks or items drop. Early levels last about 5 minutes, but a later mission keep going for over 40 minutes without a single one of the required 15 specific monsters dropping – very annoying! A nice (and surprising) idea, let down by huge over reliance on the random number generator. In the end I just gave up after deciding it was more a game of luck, than skill.

Dungetris is US$14.99 on the Steam store for PC only.


August 19, 2017

Hot Tin Roof

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Hot Tin Roof is a charming little detective platform game, but lacks polish and feels unfinished. Do you have what it takes to play?

This is a gentle game about a detective investigating a crime with her talking cat in a noir’ish setting. The story advances through dialogue or shooting things, but not necessarily with bullets. Your gun is full of possibilities depending on the type of bullet, for example shooting bubbles that make visible previously hidden items. Mostly the game is point & click and choosing dialogue options, although there are also some platforming sections. The game has a blockish block art style which works acceptably, but feels unfinished. As does many other parts of the game, despite being released months ago. Controls are problematic; save points sporadic; and, it is never particularly hard. Still this is a cute game.

Hot Tin Roof is US$14.99 on the Steam store for PC, Mac and Linux. It has been bundled.


August 18, 2017

Tropico 5

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Why do all those tinpot dictators have weird notions and do strange things. Perhaps you can do better in Tropico 5, a city management game set on a tropical island. The player is dictator of the all they survey, which considering most gamers was going to happen anyway.

Tropico is a series of city management games set on tropical islands (not sure exactly where, probability the Caribbean). In this fifth edition (and the first I’ve played) you start during colonial times and go beyond the present day as technology improves. Gameplay is fairly standard for the genre: set policies and create buildings. It is a mix of strategy and city organisation – you need to keep people happy, build the economy, research science and (unusually for the genre) create a tourist industry. The player is (probably) the island’s dictator, a nice comment on the way players normally act in such games. The game plays to the theme in a lighthearted manner. Attempts at humour start well, but becomes repetitive.

The campaign is 16 missions, each building from the last. Although there is a clever reset half-way through, so that all the player’s improved game knowledge can be put to good use in building up again better from the beginning. Graphics are good and you can zoom in very close. The simulation models works fine, no obvious flaws, but then I found the game very easy. I only failed one mission once in normal mode, everything else I cruised through without serious impediment. It says something about the game that I didn’t mind the lack of challenge, the game was still very enjoyable and worthwhile.

Tropico 5 is US$24.99 on the Steam store for PC, Mac and Linux. It has been bundled.


May 10, 2017

Magic Duels

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With the latest regular update its time to remind myself about Magic Duels, the online version of the tabletop game Magic the Gathering. Does the venerable game translate well? Maybe not.

The tabletop card game Magic has existed for over 20 years and I have played it for a decent amount of that time. Recently I started playing the online computer version Magic Duels, but am less than impressed when comparing it to other computer card games such as Hearthstone or Duelyst. It has all the standard parts of Magic, well-designed and balanced card mechanics, collecting cards, designing decks, duelling real opponents in what can be exciting and close matches. However, instants slow down the game as the computer pauses for possible interrupts (either too fast or too slow depending your plans, or lack thereof) and mana problems are endemic so many games are not competitive. Notably these parts of Magic have been skipped by more recent computer card games to great effect. The game has a slight pay-to-win issue, although mainly for new players trying to collect the increasing backlog of cards. Older players can keep up through regular play and quests to get everything without paying real money. Also there are no draft games (my personal favourite) and opponents have a tendency to quit early if the match goes against them. Overall, Magic Duels is an acceptable translation of the tabletop game, but there are many better, similar online CCG’s available now that have improved the basic formula – try them instead, unless you particularly want Magic (in which case why read this review?).

Magic Duels is out free on the Steam store for PC only. It contains micro-transactions.