Tiny Tower isn’t a game you guys. IT ISN’T EVEN A GAME. Oh my god, what am I doing with my life?!
Developed by NimbleBit (those guys what brought you Pocket Frogs), Tiny Tower is an iOS “game” where–look, I’ll just let NimbleBit tell you:
“Tiny Tower lets you build a tiny tower and manage the businesses and bitizens that inhabit it!”
NEATO! I don’t know what a bitizen is, but that sounds pretty cool, I guess. Fun, yeah? Fun. And look, it’s got this sweet pixelated art-style that’s bound to seduce every old-school gamer reading this right here. I’m sure this might even be attractive to some of you young hipster gamers who weren’t even alive when pixels were a thing we had to deal with. “Hey, remember Pixels?! We do too! Remember Sim Tower? Sorta? Just a little bit? Yeah, us too. Well, take everything you loved/sorta-remember about Sim Tower and put it on your phone!”
Now take everything out of it that makes it a game! Continue reading
Gears of War 3 is the first real ending to a videogame trilogy that I’ve ever seen. So many videogame series call themselves trilogies, but when it comes time to actually say goodbye, most refuse to go. They start to pack up their things, begin to tie up their storylines, but then they smile and nod at you and whisper, “Wait, I can still suck more money out of you! Let’s not tie up everything, okay?” Gears doesn’t do this, either with its story or its gameplay. This is the end of the Gears of War trilogy, and it feels like an ending, and that is the highest praise that I can bestow on it.
The gameplay is tighter than it’s ever been. I played through the game solo, on hardcore difficulty, and it never felt unfair. Every time I died, I earned that death, by doing something really really stupid. Gears of War has always forged a constant push and pull between taking cover and running directly into battle, and sometimes taking cover for too long will let a Locust get the drop on you, and sometimes running into battle will get you blown to bits before you can chainsaw your foe in the face. Gears 3 does a better job than any shooter before it of making you feel responsible for your death, not by punishing you, but by never cheating you. In Gears 3, you earn your success, and you earn your failure, every time. Continue reading
Remember when the little yellow circle thing ate the little pellets and went waka-waka? Those were good Pac-Man times, right? Remember a bunch of years later when they added a phat techno beat and a timer and made it look like Geometry Wars? Those were good Pac-Man CE times too. Well, in the tradition of those times, if you’re smart enough to drop the 800 MS points today, then you’re going to have some good Pac-Man CE DX times as well.
The original Pac-Man Championship Edition took what the world loved about Pac-Man and made it relevant again. They kept the gameplay we knew and loved and turned everything on its head by adding a timer. This made the game less about staying alive and more about moving as quickly as possible to get a higher score than all of your friends.
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX takes the divergent path of the original CE further down the pellet-popping warp hole. What emerges on the other side has more maps, more modes, and more visual-style choices, all with the most rewarding ghost-gobbling I’ve ever experienced. And yes, Pac-Man now has bombs. Continue reading
Civilization V is not done yet. It’s good, and it could be great, but for now it is incomplete. Which is too bad, because although Civilization V is not profoundly different from Civilization IV, it is a solid step forward, fixing or improving upon many aspects of the previous Civilization games. Unfortunately, problems with the graphics and the user interface mar what should be a spectacular game.
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Many of the improvements to the game seem so natural, and so logical, that it’s amazing that they weren’t made earlier in the series’ run. The hexagonal tiles are easier to navigate than the old square ones, and result in more natural looking borders. The one-unit-per-tile rule gives battles more strategic depth, and allows you to more easily see the massive armies your opponents are building up on your border. Ranged units can, given suitable cover, be effective in actual battle, unlike the old Civilzation’s use for archers: Fortify ‘em in a city and forget ‘em. City-states add more ways to win, and more ways to hinder your opponents.
Well, Samus and I agree on one thing.
It’s a Metroid game developed by Team Ninja. When Nintendo dropped this (morph ball) bomb on us at E3 2009, I didn’t know what the guys who made “jubbling” a verb with their Dead or Alive fighting/volleyball games would do with our beloved Samus. Well, I’ve now played through Metroid: Other M in its entirety, and I can tell you this: they did too much to Samus.
The first thing I did when I sat down with Other M—besides removing the solid coat of dust from my Wii—the first thing I did—besides trying to find an option to crank my age up to 99—the first thing I did was sit through a long, melodramatic, boring, and unskippable opening cutscene. To the opening cutscene’s credit, it is the best cutscene in the game, but it’s also the cutscene that is there to train you, to let you know that “hey, there’s gonna be a lot of boring cutscenes.” It’s there to tell you that this isn’t the Metroid game you’re looking for. Continue reading
This is purely a review of the user interface for the PC version of Mass Effect 2. There are no spoilers.
The user interface for Mass Effect 2 is a bit like living life with a little Regis Philbin on your shoulder. You want to cook eggs? Little Regis yells into your ear “Are you sure you want eggs?” You say yes. He yells “You mean yes, you want eggs?” You reply that yes, you want eggs. Then you open the refrigerator. You put the eggs on the counter, grab two, and before cracking them, Little Regis screams directly at your head “Are you sure you want two eggs?” You sigh, mumble that yes, you want two eggs, and for one brief instant you feel sympathy for Kathy Lee Gifford.
Mass Effect 2 is an exceptional game. The graphics are clear, the story continues to be compelling, and the squad combat has been improved significantly over the last game. What I am going to complain about here are very minor issues, but they’re minor issues that repeat throughout the game.
Click, select. Click, select. Click, select.
There are a lot of menus in this game. Since time immemorial (aka around 1983), the mouse has functioned in essentially the same way when selecting menu items. You either click once on the item to select it, or click twice. Mass Effect 2, however, decided to go a third, decidedly shitty, route: after you click on the menu item, you then have to click another item, elsewhere on the screen, to actually select it. Continue reading
I hold a special place in my heart for Final Fantasy III. (Attention nerds! When I say Final Fantasy III, I mean the game that was released in America as Final Fantasy III, and released in Japan as Final Fantasy VI. For clarity’s sake, I will simply call it Final Fantasy III, because that’s what it says on the title screen, and I’m reviewing the original, Super Nintendo American version. So chill out, nerds, and go lecture someone about the correct meaning of the phrase “first Star Wards movie” or “first year of the millennium.”) I inevitably compare all other Final Fantasy games I play to FFIII, and when they come up short I sit back in my rocking chair, take a puff on my corn cob pipe, and declare “You know in MY day, when we played Final Fantasy III…”
Which is why I decided to replay it. Or rather, re-replay (I had played it a couple times as a kid, and once as a freshman in college. Remember: life is precious, and you must never waste a single second.) I wanted to know how much of the game still held up after all these years of “advances” in the Final Fantasy series (notice how I put advances in quotation marks, to imply that later games aren’t as good? I’m really fucking insufferable, ain’t I?), and how much of the game I was simply viewing through the hazy, rose-colored glasses of nostalgia.
You know, maybe it's just me, but I somehow forgot that at one point, outside of Doma Castle, Kefka gets a double-handjob and then laughs.
The final verdict: half of the game is as good as I remember it, and the other half is much, much worse.
Naming a game after a made-up acronym for a made-up soldier in a made-up war seems like a bad idea, but that’s exactly where we get the title Halo 3: ODST, which stands for Orbital Drop Something Trooper. I’m not saying that they should have called this Halo 4, because it’s clearly not, but initials don’t really make me want to play a game, ever. The fact that this conversation happened
Girlfriend: “What you playing?”
Me: “The new Halo.”
Girlfriend: “Oh, Halo: ODST?”
is not a testament to its stellar title, but more a warning that my girlfriend, bless her, is actually retaining the ridiculous game nonsense that I’m constantly spewing at her. So, if I could go back in time and suggest a better title? Halo 3: More Halo 3. Here’s my review.
Defense Grid: The Awakening is a tower defense game. I’ve been playing a lot of tower defense games lately, because they require little time investment. I can start, play a level or two, and then go do something else. I was a huge fan of Rampart back in the day, and within the last year or so I’ve played a fair amount Desktop Tower Defense and Gemcraft. The idea is pretty simple: there’s a playing field, either with a pre-set maze or a canvas to be divided and sub-divided into a maze. Enemies come at you, and you keep building and upgrading towers to shoot them down. They are games of delegating. You do not shoot monsters. The towers shoot the monsters. Who built the towers? Well, you did, but you can not be blamed for the monsters’ deaths, can you? No, because they knew the towers were there. They knew the towers were there. Why did they still attack? It’s not my fault they’re all dead! I swear, I just built towers with guns, how was I to know they were being used to shoot at waves of monsters? HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW???
Where was I? Ah yes, washing my hands. But I digress.
Defense Grid follows the typical tower defense pattern to a T. It’s well designed, the mazes are fun, and there’s the usual variety of towers. The enemies, part of some weird alien race, attack your base to steal one of the 20 power cores it contains. Once an enemy grabs a power core, the alien carries it off, unless your towers manage to kill the alien. When you kill an alien holding a power core, your power core slowly floats back to your base, unless another enemy happens to grab it along the way. This adds an excellent twist to the usual “kill them before they make it to the other side” dynamic. Alien grabs core. You kill alien. Another, fresh alien grabs the core. Hopefully, you kill that one too, and your core floats safely back the base. Otherwise you watch as a series of weak aliens manage to relay your power core off the map. Lose all your power cores and you have to replay the level. Continue reading