shortgamereview.com http://shortgamereview.com Short Game Reviews Fri, 19 Sep 2014 15:00:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville (Early Access) http://shortgamereview.com/rebuild-3-gangs-of-deadsville-review/ http://shortgamereview.com/rebuild-3-gangs-of-deadsville-review/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 15:00:05 +0000 http://shortgamereview.com/?p=5135 Note: This game is in Early Access. This review may be revised to reflect changes to game content.
If you’ve played the previous Rebuild games, you’re in for a treat with Gangs of Deadsville. If you haven’t, this is a fantastic place to start. Described as “Sim City meets the Walking Dead”, you [...]

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Note: This game is in Early Access. This review may be revised to reflect changes to game content.

If you’ve played the previous Rebuild games, you’re in for a treat with Gangs of Deadsville. If you haven’t, this is a fantastic place to start. Described as “Sim City meets the Walking Dead”, you must lead your group of survivors to reclaim the city, all the while fending off starvation, zombies, uprisings and attacks from other factions, including cannibals and crazy priests.

Deadsville shares the same gameplay as its zombie apocalypse, city-building predecessors but is both deeper and easier to play. Despite the story’s grittiness, the graphics are bright and eye-catching, but somehow that’s fitting. Smooth, intuitive game mechanics allow you to easily place your survivors where their skills are best utilized; you can even stack and move them as a group. Clicking a tile displays its available missions, and upon selection, your survivors do your bidding. Deadsville can be played in turn-based or real-time modes (changeable during the game), although real-time works wonderfully to create a sense of urgency, especially if zombie attacks are imminent.

The changes to the game certainly enhance the world’s richness. Where you place guards now matters, and the changing color on the skull-and-crossbones “danger” icon helpfully indicates when you have done so effectively. The research tree is considerably detailed, although it’d help to make that accessible from the lab. Various human factions also exist, with distinct personalities and agendas. Your world can have rivers and coastlines, which afford some protection when you’re starting out.

But storytelling is where Deadsville really shines. Your actions have consequences far beyond their face value. Tough choices abound: if you spend time fighting zombies, will you produce enough food? Should you disregard morality to enjoy a traveling brothel? You literally choose your own adventure from a mind-bogglingly vast array of options. When each event has its own journal entry, and every survivor has their own backstory, it’s easy to become immersed in the world, and attached to its constituents.

Most impressively, the game is still only in Early Access. The full version promises additional modes, zombie types, and events. While there are a currently few bugs and the game’s difficulty seems spiky, Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville shows great promise as a tense, addictive game with a compelling story and fantastic replay value.

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Starion Tactics http://shortgamereview.com/starion-tactics-review/ http://shortgamereview.com/starion-tactics-review/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 15:00:24 +0000 http://shortgamereview.com/?p=5210 Starion Tactics offers an experience that strips out most of the tedium found in the 4X strategy formula. Unfortunately this may be a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. While faster paced and more combat oriented than a standard Civilization title, Starion Tactics doesn’t bring [...]

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Starion Tactics offers an experience that strips out most of the tedium found in the 4X strategy formula. Unfortunately this may be a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. While faster paced and more combat oriented than a standard Civilization title, Starion Tactics doesn’t bring enough to the table to draw you in.

Tactics plays out like a checkers match, except before much of the fun begins the pieces must be bought and built. In a turn by turn fashion each of the participants in a match scouts planets, collects resource (there’s only one) and builds units. Once a game gets going however, the tactical side of things opens some.

Combat is a mute note as ships are very generic, ranging from small fighter craft to larger cruisers with little separating one ship or faction from another. A solo match requires some forward thinking against AI, though it could hardly be called challenging. There is an option to use an added card system to spice up the otherwise straightforward experience.

Visually indistinct ship models, a limited crop of world types, and a static space sky box offer no memorable morsels to chew on. The in game UI is serviceable but often feels cluttered and it becomes difficult to track an armada as an empire’s planet count climbs past six. Starion Tactics has a one note music score, and one of two outcomes quickly come to pass: the music either fades into a dim dusty part of a players mind, or they mute the game.

With no narrative to speak of besides some window dressing background there’s little reason to devote much to this game, especially considering its $20 asking price. If Starion Tactics had released as a mobile title it might have been something to experience. As a standard PC title its a definite pass; unless you’re desperate for a space skinned checkers game this is it.

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The Last of Us: Left Behind http://shortgamereview.com/last-us-left-behind-review/ http://shortgamereview.com/last-us-left-behind-review/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 15:00:58 +0000 http://shortgamereview.com/?p=4972 I don’t buy much DLC, so when I say that this is the best DLC I’ve ever bought the statement might not carry much weight for people that buy them regularly. That being said, the quality of this add-on for PS3’s greatest game is absolutely superb. The content is fairly short for this price: I [...]

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I don’t buy much DLC, so when I say that this is the best DLC I’ve ever bought the statement might not carry much weight for people that buy them regularly. That being said, the quality of this add-on for PS3’s greatest game is absolutely superb. The content is fairly short for this price: I managed to finish it in one sitting of around two and a half hours. But this is all that costs the DLC a perfect ten out of ten score. Once you can get past the cost, it’s a breathtakingly wonderful couple of hours that fits the main game perfectly.

Set during and before the main game story, Left Behind shows a series of flashbacks that Ellie recalls while hunting for medical supplies to help Joel. Left Behind is a great filler between Autumn and Winter and would not be out of place in the main story. The combat sections in these parts are just as tense and exhilarating as the main game, giving us more of the amazing gameplay from arguably the best section of The Last of Us; hunting in the woods and escaping the cannibals as Ellie.

But it’s the flashbacks that are the main focus of Left Behind and where Naughty Dog once again flexes its story telling muscles. Telling the story of Ellie and her friend Riley gives some brilliant background to Ellie’s character and thanks to some wonderful set pieces and voice acting, the relationship between these two characters is depicted superbly.

Showing Ellie as a fun-loving teenage girl as opposed to a hardened survivor was a lovely change of pace, reminding you of how cruel Naughty Dog’s world is. As opposed to filling the flashbacks with combat, the majority of them were just Ellie and Riley hanging out, but combat scenes were just as tense as the rest of the game. My only real criticism is that there was a lack of closure with Riley at the end, which felt like it was missing a huge opportunity for a potentially heart-breaking scene.

Once you can get past these minor issues though, it’s adorable, tense, funny, frightening and just plain wonderful. If you’re on the fence about Left Behind, just go for it. You will not regret it; this is DLC the way it was meant to be.

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Trace Vector http://shortgamereview.com/trace-vector-review/ http://shortgamereview.com/trace-vector-review/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 15:00:35 +0000 http://shortgamereview.com/?p=5063 Trace Vector is described as a high speed action arcade game with puzzle elements. It also has vector style graphics, and is very easy to learn but difficult to master. The music has been described as electronica and certainly adds to the 80’s arcade feel of the game overall.
The object of the game [...]

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Trace Vector is described as a high speed action arcade game with puzzle elements. It also has vector style graphics, and is very easy to learn but difficult to master. The music has been described as electronica and certainly adds to the 80’s arcade feel of the game overall.

The object of the game is to race your ship through each geometric level grabbing all the fuel cells you can and dodging dead ends along the way. The controls feature just two buttons to determine the path your ship will follow, and one button to slow down time at the expense of fuel.

There is an adventure mode that takes you through the story with various stages containing six levels each. At the end of each stage the story is progressed through dialog between the pilot and ship’s computer. Crashing takes away a chunk of fuel and restarts you at the beginning of the level. When you run out of fuel the game is over and you have to start the stage over.

For those that rather just play to see how far they can get, there is an endless mode for just that purpose. In this mode things start off slow, but eventually the game will increase the speed drastically at points. In this mode the game is over when you crash or run out of fuel.

While playing this game, I found the music to be great without distracting from navigating. I did find Trace Vector to be very reminiscent of 80’s arcade games, which for me is good. The way the graphics and levels are, it becomes hard for me to play for more than an hour,  despite that I keep going back to the game to try and collect all the fuel from each level.

As for the endless mode, I haven’t played more than a handful of times because of how difficult it is for me right now. The first time I played, I was promptly sped into a dead-end from not knowing that the game was going to increase speed when it did.

The game is quite fun and sometimes I just sit and listen to the music. I look forward to seeing what other games are released from Vexel Games.

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Heroes and Legends: Conquerors of Kolhar http://shortgamereview.com/heroes-legends-conquerors-kolhar-review/ http://shortgamereview.com/heroes-legends-conquerors-kolhar-review/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 15:00:33 +0000 http://shortgamereview.com/?p=5029 Heroes and Legends: Conquerors of Kolhar by Cuve games is by no means an exciting reimagining of the fantasy roleplaying genre, it is, however, a fairly enjoyable, if at times tedious, strategy/action game that will easily fill up an afternoon but, for an asking price of £6.99, this is not an [...]

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Heroes and Legends: Conquerors of Kolhar by Cuve games is by no means an exciting reimagining of the fantasy roleplaying genre, it is, however, a fairly enjoyable, if at times tedious, strategy/action game that will easily fill up an afternoon but, for an asking price of £6.99, this is not an exceptionally good value proposition.

In Heroes and Legend: Conquerors of Kolhar you will spend the vast majority of your time in pitched three on three battles that take place in real time making tougher battles become frantic as you try to level up your character, keep them alive and manage loots while being assaulted by waves of generic fantasy enemies.

The loot and crafting systems add a lot to the game and getting new gear that make significant aesthetic changes to your characters were the main motivating factor in completing the non-story missions of the game, Battles, while fun and enjoyable at first, quickly drag with individual missions taking as long as 10 minutes and all of your characters dying means restarting long battles. Calling HaL: CoK a strategy game is a stretch of the word ‘strategy’. I found having a well leveled team with decent armor and a lot of health to be the most useful tactic over swapping your team around based on strengths and weaknesses.

The story of the game is not the most compelling and the characters all fit into age old archetypes, you get enough dialogue between battles to keep the story moving but I never found myself itching to find out what happens next, the writing overall is not terrible but it’s nothing amazing, much like the music which mediocre at best this however makes it a perfect game to play while listening to a podcast.

Overall this game is certainly enjoyable initially but it definitely began to drag out as I moved into my third hour of playing, the battles feel too long and the difficulty ramp is such that you need to complete extraneous side missions to level your characters up to the point they are not getting annihilated within the first three waves of any given battle, despite this I still found myself inexplicably drawn back to the game and found myself grinding through side missions to get better equipment and more abilities.

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King’s Bounty: Dark Side http://shortgamereview.com/kings-bounty-dark-side-review/ http://shortgamereview.com/kings-bounty-dark-side-review/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 15:00:48 +0000 http://shortgamereview.com/?p=5037 King’s Bounty: Dark Side is the latest entry in the seemingly endless King’s Bounty series of turn-based RPG/strategy games. In theory, it shakes up the formula by, for the first time, letting you play as the bad guys. In practice, it feels like a lazy retread of the same game developer 1C-SoftClub [...]

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King’s Bounty: Dark Side is the latest entry in the seemingly endless King’s Bounty series of turn-based RPG/strategy games. In theory, it shakes up the formula by, for the first time, letting you play as the bad guys. In practice, it feels like a lazy retread of the same game developer 1C-SoftClub have been milking for over half a decade.

Dark Side sees you playing either an Orc warrior, a seductive Demoness or a Vampire wizard, on a quest to restore the balance between Light and Dark. The story is embarrassingly awful, swinging regularly between half-baked exposition, overt sexism and baffling non-sequiturs in an attempt, seemingly, to be funny. In the first game, King’s Bounty: The Legend, there was a certain charm to the strangeness – here it just feels like a joke worn way too thin.

Admittedly significant blame for that must be placed at the feet of the shamefully shoddy translation from the game’s original Russian, which often leaves sentences unreadably mangled. Some words appear to have just been left in, untranslated, and the main menu even manages to get the game’s own title wrong, calling it King’s Bounty: The Dark Side.

Gameplay is largely the same as ever, with only a few minor iterations. You’re still taking on quests, looking for treasure and fighting monsters in hex-grid tactical battles. Indeed it still looks exactly the same, with no improvements to the graphics and a host of re-used six-year-old character models.

Perhaps as a concession to fans, who must by now be experts with these nearly unchanged systems, the game features frequent and frustrating difficulty spikes. Overcoming these challenges feel less like a matter of strategy, and more about finding an exploit or unintentionally powerful combination – or else just grinding weaker creatures for hours until you’ve improved sufficiently in level.

There’s nothing here for anyone who isn’t already a hardcore King’s Bounty devotee – and I suspect even they won’t consider this a high-point. Newcomers curious about the series will be better served by picking up the original King’s Bounty: The Legend.

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Enemy Mind http://shortgamereview.com/enemy-mind-review/ http://shortgamereview.com/enemy-mind-review/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 15:00:59 +0000 http://shortgamereview.com/?p=4988 Enemy Mind breathes new life into the shoot-em-up genre with a clever twist to the formula. In the midst of an intergalactic war between humans and squid-like aliens, you play a formless psychic entity capable of taking over ships from either side. In battle, you jump constantly between enemies, [...]

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Enemy Mind breathes new life into the shoot-em-up genre with a clever twist to the formula. In the midst of an intergalactic war between humans and squid-like aliens, you play a formless psychic entity capable of taking over ships from either side. In battle, you jump constantly between enemies, adapting quickly to the distinct weaponry and abilities of each vessel and then abandoning them as their health and ammo run out.

Gameplay is at once frantic and strategic – staying with any one ship for too long is suicide, so you’re always evaluating who your next host will be. Sometimes you need something small and fast; sometimes you need the biggest gun you can get. Later encounters become almost puzzle-like, forcing you to consider not only the ships you use, but how you’ll use their limited resources, and the order you’ll jump through them in. Despite your god-like power, it’s certainly not easy.

As with many games in this genre, Enemy Mind goes for a retro feel, with chunky pixel graphics and a catchy chiptune soundtrack. The story, however, isn’t the throwaway nonsense you’d expect. It’s a smart sci-fi tale, told subtly – in between levels, you dip into the memories of those you’ve possessed, allowing you to piece together the backstory of the war and your place in it without the game having to drown you in exposition.

Some will be disappointed, however, by Enemy Mind’s short length. At only two hours, it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome, but I feel it misses out on really exploring the possibilities of its central gimmick. There’s decent reason to replay at least, with high score leaderboards, and changes to the story depending on whether your playstyle favours human or alien ships.

Enemy Mind’s refreshing and original gameplay should appeal to hardcore fans of the genre and the totally uninitiated alike – but admittedly it would have been nice to see a little more meat on these bones.

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Amazing Princess Sarah http://shortgamereview.com/amazing-princess-sarah-review/ http://shortgamereview.com/amazing-princess-sarah-review/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 15:00:08 +0000 http://shortgamereview.com/?p=4961 Note: Since the original publication of this review, the developer has patched the physics for the Xbox version of the game. The content and score of this review have been updated to reflect that change.
Haruneko’s latest 2D platformer shows promise but ultimately fails to deliver a fun, playable [...]

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Note: Since the original publication of this review, the developer has patched the physics for the Xbox version of the game. The content and score of this review have been updated to reflect that change.

Haruneko’s latest 2D platformer shows promise but ultimately fails to deliver a fun, playable game. You play Sarah, charged with rescuing her father from the demonic Lilith. You trek through five pixel-art castles, defeat Lilith’s minions and fight some honestly bizarre bosses (Legs in thigh-high boots? Really?).

It’s exciting that the game has a female protagonist—indeed, a Princess—doing the rescuing, instead of being rescued. Additionally, Sarah’s got a useful skill: she lifts, bro. The game’s core mechanic is Sarah’s ability to pick up an enemy’s corpse and throw it at other enemies. Different corpses have different effects: firebrands launch flame waves, bombers explode, and so on.

The gameplay, however, is a slog-fest. You will die many, many times. Part of that is game design: taking damage knocks you off tiny footholds; invulnerability frames are so short that you can’t escape an enemy before you are hit again; enemies can shoot you through walls, but you can’t retaliate. In those respects, this game is brutally challenging.

But it’s also frustrating because the game controls are pointlessly unforgiving. Jumping requires extreme precision, which can be infuriating in sections where that’s all you can do. Additionally, edges on the graphics are unclean, so the visual edge of a block won’t always correspond to its real edge, which, in turn, results in premature death-by-plummeting.

Despite her (many) demises, Sarah levels up as she defeats enemies. For each level, she’ll gain two measly HP. This makes camping and grinding out levels an effective strategy, although, of course, that’s not fun.

Finally, while it doesn’t affect gameplay, all of the female characters in APS (even the non-human ones) have giant breasts for no discernible reason. The cover art deserves an eye-roll, at least. In fact, the graphics make it hard to take the game seriously. Since gameplay is also lackluster, I wonder, is there any selling point beyond boobage?

Amazing Princess Sarah has the potential to be a fantastic old-school platformer, but in spite of its interesting core mechanic, it is effectively a long, arbitrarily difficult jumping puzzle. The game regrettably suffers from design issues and pedantic controls which- if addressed - could result in an enjoyable game that still remains a challenge for its player.

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The Room Two http://shortgamereview.com/room-two-review/ http://shortgamereview.com/room-two-review/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 15:00:02 +0000 http://shortgamereview.com/?p=4071 The Room Two is a beautifully crafted 3D game with a relatively simple premise: solve the puzzles to escape the room. The story continues on from its predecessor (aptly named The Room), where you are tracking down the discoverer of the “Null” element. However, The Room Two is considerably larger [...]

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The Room Two is a beautifully crafted 3D game with a relatively simple premise: solve the puzzles to escape the room. The story continues on from its predecessor (aptly named The Room), where you are tracking down the discoverer of the “Null” element. However, The Room Two is considerably larger than the original: the puzzles are trickier and require more parts; you can move between sections of a room and each level is in a different location, with an ancient temple, a ship’s cabin and an extremely creepy séance room, to name a few.

There is such a richness to this game. The detail to wood grain and worn brass, for example, is extraordinary and does much to make you forget that you’re just poking at an iPad. There are also items that don’t impact on gameplay but add to the overall feel of the game. For example, the séance level has sepia photographs with the faces scratched out, but look different when viewed through the mysterious Null lens. The music is subtle, but works to produce a sense of unease. If you’re playing this alone at night, it can get pretty eerie.

As far as mechanics go, this game really takes advantage of its touchscreen capabilities. You swipe to open a drawer, turn a key, and double-tap to zoom in. Precision is essential to the game: if you misclick, you might miss an essential piece. Looking at objects from all angles is vital to progressing, and you really do feel clever when you solve a part of the puzzle.

Storywise, The Room Two comes up a bit short. You know that solving puzzles will bring you closer to unleashing terrors of Lovecraftian proportions, but it’s never explained why you’re trapped in the room. Additionally, games in this genre have diminishing replayability value. Once you know (and remember) how to solve the puzzles, it becomes less immersive and fun. However, given the intricacies of the challenges, and how beautifully realistic the game is, it’s still worth unraveling its mysteries a second time.

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Five Nights at Freddy’s http://shortgamereview.com/five-nights-freddys-review/ http://shortgamereview.com/five-nights-freddys-review/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 14:52:10 +0000 http://shortgamereview.com/?p=4943 Five Nights at Freddy’s is an indie survival horror game that puts you in the role of the recently hired night-shift security guard of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. The main feature of the restaurant is a band of robot mascots entertaining the children during daytime. At night they switch into free-roam [...]

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Five Nights at Freddy’s is an indie survival horror game that puts you in the role of the recently hired night-shift security guard of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. The main feature of the restaurant is a band of robot mascots entertaining the children during daytime. At night they switch into free-roam mode which makes them behave quite differently…

You have to survive five nights (12 AM – 6 AM) while these animatronic monsters are coming for you (two “bonus levels” can be also unlocked). You won’t find the usual hide-and-seek mechanics of the survival horror genre here. The minimalistic controls only let you close the doors or switch on the lights on either side of your office and you may check out the security camera screens. All of these activities drain power and you have limited battery life so you have to find the balance between stopping the mascots from getting you and dying in the darkness after you have wasted all the juice.

Let me warn you: this game is quite unforgiving! Enemies have their own behavior pattern which is randomized every time. They also become faster and more aggressive as you progress in the story. They will jam your doors, disable cameras, run into your office or sneak inside before you lock yourself in. While the game builds heavily on jumpscares it’s not easy getting used to and still makes you panic in no time. You are desperately trying to manage your resources and avoid a screeching animal attacking your face but the power’s at 20% and there are still three more hours to go…

The rudimentary graphics mostly consist of still images except for the attack scenes but the clever use of noises (e.g. footsteps, the robots groaning, humming or playing music) makes the fact that the mascots only move when you aren’t looking really unnerving.

While the source of danger is revealed immediately there’s also a hidden, much darker lore in the game which can be pieced together from the phone calls you get from another employee and newspaper clippings appearing on walls. Still, it leaves many questions unanswered which is a great idea. If you like psychological horror and don’t mind dying more than a hundred times, get this game!

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