Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Chicken Invaders 3 review

I thought that Chicken Invaders 3 was gonna be a boring game. How could you make a game about chickens in space? But I was surprised. The touch of humour and very polished graphics makes this game outstanding.

The controls are really easy to grasp. You control a ship's movement with the mouse. Left click fires bullets but be careful not to overpress it coz there is a heat gauge which temporarily makes the firing out of order until it cools down. This heat gauge is an important element not to make the game dead easy. Right click is for firing missiles which basically blows up everything on screen. You only will have a few of these and you earn them with the points you collect.

There is an element of a story. It's about some device made by chickens which seems like it's dangerous to mankind. I'm not going to spoil to story though. Download it and enjoy the game ;)

Each stage consists of 10 levels. Sometimes it reminded me of Space Invaders and sometimes of shoot'em ups like Xenon 2. It has powerups which can make your firepower really devastating. My favourite is the lightning bolt *grin*. Some levels have a safe area which is highlighted so you can stay in it and not get hit. Also sometimes it highlights a danger area which you should avoid. This really spoils a bit the fun from finding yourself the safe zones in the "difficult" levels.

At the end of each stage you have a boss which needs to a take a lot more damage than the small chickens.

The game also boasts some nice subtle effects and transitions. E.g. after killing the boss you will be warped to the next stage. Nice :)

It also has a map view to give you an indication of the progress of the game.

The simple but effective story telling, polished graphics, orchestrated music, starwars kinda intro, humour, and polished gameplay makes this game worth trying. Give it a try.

Download Chicken Invaders 3

Monday, March 26, 2007

Cradle of Rome review

Cradle of Rome is another puzzle game distributed by Big Fish Games.

In each level you have to destruct all the dark blu plaques in order to go to the next level. You destruct them by swapping a tile with and adjacent one to make it match with a 3+ tile row/column of the same type. It's easier playing it rather than trying to describe it :) When you destroy tiles, new ones will drop from the top, possibly causing random chain reactions.

Your side job is to collect as much money and resources from the level, so you can build your cradle of Rome. After each level you can upgrade your town and add buildings.

You also have to race against time to get the level done. Later on, a plaque needs to be destructed twice. From light blue, it gets to dark blue on the first destruction. Also you will be getting special one-time actions during the game when you destroy a certain amount of a specific tile. E.g. if you destruct a number of axe tiles, you will get a one time action to destroy a tile of your choice. The possible actions are found at the bottom of the screen, and when an action is available it is filled up with a colored graphic, ready to be used whenever you want.

Some tiles cannot be moved since they are chained. To unchain them you have to destroy a row or column of the same type of tile adjacent to it. The chain would then be removed, ready to be destroyed normally. If it's floating in the air like in the above screenshot, the tiles would start to fall down vertically, as if gravity is acting on them. The effect is more like when you have sand is falling in a sand-clock, i.e. in the above case you end up with a pyramid-like pile of tiles.

I don't know why you have to keep upgrading your town really. But it starts getting bigger and bigger after the first set of levels. It sort of keeps you hooked to see what the next upgrade will look like.

The graphics and backgrounds are polished. Even the music is good, starts with a tribal kinda music. Also for the beginners it gives hints when you are stuck. They hints are a minor highlight over the game board. To make your eyes focus on the area where you have to click next.
A tip I found helping me when I was playing it - work your way bottom up. I.e. start destroying the bottom plaques first. That would maximize the possible random chain reactions.

Download Cradle Dof Rome

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Plasma Pong review

Plasma Pong is simply awesome. I didn't think that someone could make such a cool version of Pong. Put fluid based simulation field in a Pong game and it creates a hell of a ride.

Every time you win the CPU, the speed is bumped up and the music BPM too. The music is a powerful track by E.S. Posthumus - Pompeii - and it really gives you an adrenaline shot as it gets faster and faster. Simply amazing. You have to try this out :)

Besides the usual pong controls, i.e. move your mouse to hit the ball and not let it pass, you can inject fluid in the field. It's like your blowing in the field simulation and creating currents to move the ball. You can even grab the ball by creating a vacuum and then exploding. Great effects and gameplay.

I got up to level 31 yaaaay. Lets see who will beat me.

Here's a movie on youtube to see it in action.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tasty Planet review

Tasty Planet distributed by Big Fish Games is about a creature born in a laboritory experiment gone wrong which can devour everything unless it is smaller than it. This game reminds me of Katamari but in 2d.

So you control this little guy with the mouse and try not to touch anything bigger than you. As you eat more stuff you get bigger. To pass a level you have to grow to some size although there are other levels where you have to find objects (like puzzle pieces) and go through a maze, eating up stuff as you go a long, so you end up eating the maze itself. Cool.

The controls are very easy, just move the mouse, and the creature will start moving in the direction you want to. There is an element of acceleration and deceleration, so when you stop moving the mouse, it won't stop abrubtly. To stop it immediately you have to move the mouse in the opposite direction. It feels quite natural after a few moments playing the game.

On the heads-up-display(HUD) it shows you the current size of the creature you're controlling, what you just ate and also the closest biggest thing you can eat.

The game is quite easy at first but gets more difficult since you also have to race against time. Also some levels, like in the ocean, if you touch something bigger than you, you die instantly and have to restart the level. Some tips: stay away from the edges, and stay away from objects bigger than you... ughh I'm starting to hate dolphins :)

Tasty Planet is accompanied by a comic strip to guide you from one set of stages to the next. You start from the lab, then you're flushed out, you find yourself on a picnic table, in the ocean, etc. The doc and his assistant in the comic strip give a nice break until you rest your arm from all the mouse hovering you have done in the previous stages.

The graphics are not extraordinary however the gameplay is great and that is what is important ;). When you reach the final moments of a level where you can eat everyting in your way, it gives you a feeling of power *grin*. Some idea of combos would have made the game more fun to play, like for example eating a number of objects in a very short time, or eating a number of objects of the same type. Maybe they will make Tasty Planet 2 someday :D. Meanwhile try this one out.

Download Tasty Planet

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Stand O' Food review

Another day, another game review. This time it's Stand O'Food, distributed by Big Fish Games. The concept of the game is pretty easy to grasp but will get really hectic when you get into it.

You have a number of customers that come to your restaurant and you have to make the burger they want. And you achieve this by grabbing burger parts in the right order. These burger parts are found in several queues behind the bench, so you may have to think fast from which queue you should take the next burger part. You may also use your immagination to add some sauces, etc to get some more points from the customers. Don't let them wait much though because you will get less money or they can even get out of your restaurant.

After each level you are offerred to upgrade the restaurant. For example you can buy sauces that you can put on their burgers. There are some sandwich recipes that are given in the tutorial (i.e. if you leave the tutorial text turned on). You can also buy extra plates where you can temporarily deposit burger parts until you really need them. Or you could upgrade your jukebox so that if some customers are getting pissed off at your slowness, you can play the jukebox to calm them down a bit.

During the game there are some pickups. Well not really pickups, but surprise bonuses which are given when you server a customer. E.g. there is this picker which will help you jump to the burger part that you really want to make the burger your customers want. You simply point and click on the part you want and jump the queue. Pretty useful when you have lots of customers waiting getting angry :)

The game also has an element of a map but it's not really interactive. You don't get to choose where to go. It's like a progress indicator.

I must say that at first I didn't like the game much. It felt like it wasn't gonna give me the fun factor I was looking for but I was wrong. Maybe the isometic/Lego kinda graphics put me off at first, but it really gives that toyish look which blends well with the rest of the game. Get your fingers clicking and give this game a try :)

Download Stand O'Food

Boom Voyage review

I got to play another Breakout clone from Big Fish Games, this time Boom Voyage. This game is a 3d version of the classic breakout where now you also have height added to the whole story. When you destroy a block, the other blocks on top of it will fall down. It has some physics simulation in the game, and so you can cause a bit of a cool scenario where you see a chain reaction of blocks falling and toppling over other structures.

Each level is basically a temple and you guessed it, you have to destroy all the blocks that make up the temple by bouncing the ball around with your paddle. It has some cool powerups but nothing special. I like the nuke though. They have another cool pickup which is automatically spawned when you have the last small bits lying around in the level. It's called Alien Attack and when you pick it up they will clear for you the final pieces to save you some precious time and get on with destroying the next temple :D

Also each set of levels has a theme, e.g. it starts with Egypt, then it continues on what appeared to be in the Roman era, etc.

The game is a bit slow for my tastes so to give myself a challenge I ended up eating the negative powerups too, like speeding up the ball and making the paddle smaller.

The graphics are not so sharp, even the text is a bit blocky. This could be coming from the textures being a bit too small, but maybe its because they wanted to limit the game to a 10meg download. Nevertheless, the breakout gameplay is there.

If you're a Breakout freak, I'd suggest to try it out. The physics give the game a nice touch.

Download Boom Voyage

Virtual Villagers: Lost Children review

Ok, I'm not a fan of life simulations, you know the kinds of Sim City, the Sims, etc yachhh. But I said let me try Virtual Villagers - The Lost Children out what the heck. And I confirm that I still don't like this genre. I know most of you out there like these types of games so be my guest and try it. I'm just gonna rant away.

From what I've seen the game is pretty polished and if you re-start the game the events that occur won't be the same. How do I know? Well... for starters I didn't know that the game was real-time, i.e. while I wasn't playing the game, the game would still know that I have neglected the villagers from food etc. When I relogged in the game after a day, I found 3 people from my village dead so I couldn't do anything. So I had to re-start the game campaign (after I dug a grave for the villagers ofcourse).

The game says there are puzzles during the game but I really didn't have the time to invest on such a game to get to the puzzles. I'd rather play a 5min game to take a break and that's it, rather than having to check out the villagers to see how they're doing. I've got more important commitments in my real life than checking how the virtual villagers are doing.

Although the default setting for the game is real-time you can set it half-speed(who would do this?) or double speed but it may still be really slow still. They should have had another setting x100 speed :). To build a hut it took the little guy ages. After 10min it was still at 1 percent. Argh!! It's a game! Why should it take so long to build something?

Also the start of the game is really slow to my liking. In order to do anything you have to research it. So you grab people and stick them near the research bench. At first they wouldn't want to, but apparently with some persistance they get good at it.

Also those random events that took away all your food pissed me off. It would tell you that some savage boy has come to your village. You tell the game to chase him off? And he would still steal the food. Huh?? So I just gave up on this game.

If you don't have a lot of patience and don't like life simulation games, don't try this out. Otherwise be my guest and download it. It still is a polished game if you like this game genre ... tribal music, tropical graphics, cartoony look and feel. But the game is just not my type :)

Download Virtual Villagers - The Lost Children

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Peggle Deluxe review

Peggle is a very cool game. Developed by PopCap and distributed by BigFishGames. It's like an evolution on Breakout where instead of having a paddle to at the bottom and you bounce a ball around to break bricks, you basically shoot a ball as a projectile from the top and to pass a level you have to hit all the orange pegs/bricks with just 10 balls. At the bottom of the screen you have a big container going left to right, and if the ball falls in this container, you don't loose the ball you have just shot.

You only shoot one ball at a time, and you then see how the gravity together with some physics will effect the ball to hit the pegs making the level. When the ball goes to the bottom of the screen, the pegs/bricks that you hit are cleared from the screen.

When you're going to hit the last orange peg/brick the game zooms in the action and goes slow motion. Very nice effect. Sometimes you can miss it and you will hear a sigh from a crowd, but if you hit it, it's a feast of eye candy. The ball leaves a colorful trail, a rainbow with cycling colors is splashed on the screen and some powerful classic music (which I believe is used in the eurovision transmission starting theme song) is played. Fireworks are also sent off when the ball deposits itself at the bottom of the screen where an extra bonus is given depending where the ball falls, the middle giving the highest points.

Besides the orange targets and blue pegs (which are just obstacles in the level), there are also green objects which when hit will give you a special power-up depending on the current stage you are in. Examples of power-ups are
  • trajectory prediction so you will see where the ball will go after the first bounce,
  • multiball where the ball is split into two balls (image in the effect if you hit multiple green objects)
  • container extension where the container at the bottom will expand so you don't loose the ball so easily

Later on you will also have moving objects rather static on the screen. There is a nice touch to the controls where you can fastforward a bit the time. So if you have a rotating set of objects, and you want to wait for the objects to get in the right position, you can right click your mouse and you fastforward time. Nice :)

The game is very polished. It is colorful and good for all ages. Very addictive too. My girlfriend didn't want to stop playing it :). The music and sound effects are also excellent. The backgrounds are just right, they give enough color to the level but not distracting - they keep the focus on the objects you should be targeting by not being high-contrast images. I suggest you give it a spin ;)

Download Peggle Deluxe