Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Review: Monument Valley

I’m not actually sure how Monument Valley was made. It seems like it would take a very strange mode of non-euclidean thinking to design its levels and puzzles, not to mention programming the thing. Was it worth the effort? Well, it depends on what you hope to get out of it.

Monument Valley is a surreal puzzle game based around Escher-esque environments and manipulation of perspective. It’s hard to describe in words, but many of the environments that you’ll be traversing in Monument Valley are physical impossibilities, made “real” in the game only through the use of a fixed camera perspective.

Navigating these worlds is a surreal experience that never quite loses its novelty as the game goes on. It always feels just a little bit strange to see two platforms with a great apparent difference in height joined by a straight horizontal walkway. The visual design of the levels is beautiful, with classic optical illusions given new life simply by the fact that you’re walking through them. It forces you to think in ways that most puzzle games don’t. Where the fun in a game like Portal is in constantly seeing and discovering new ways to use an established and consistent mechanic, the fun in Monument Valley is in seeing what new way the game is going to break geometry this time. It stimulates a different part of the brain - one that doesn’t get a lot of attention from puzzle games.

Of course, because the rules in Monument Valley change with every level, puzzles are by necessity very easy. Ninety percent of the game can be completed simply by walking forward as far as possible, moving the terrain until it’s possible to keep moving forward, and repeating until finished. There are a few genuinely clever and engaging puzzles in Monument Valley, but the vast majority felt like simply going through the motions.

Still, despite the general ease of the puzzles, the game never failed to engage my interest. I said that what Monument Valley is worth depends on what you hope to get out of it, and this is what I mean. For someone looking for a good puzzle game experience, Monument Valley is unlikely to satisfy that itch, but if you’re looking for a surreal sightseeing tour of impossible geometry, then the puzzles do an excellent job of providing an excuse to traverse its bizarre yet beautiful architecture.

Find it on iOS | (Android version coming)

Released: 4/3/2014
Developer: ustwo

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Portable Platypus

Stay tuned for an upcoming web-comic by Jeremy Crisi depicting the adventures of a young boy and his handheld, the Portable Platypus, which transports him into the worlds of games wherein he must overcome obstacles and help the locals solve problems as he searches for the next magically immersive cartridge.

UPDATE: I just don't have the funds for this right now, so it's been put on the back-burner. You can help fund projects like this by becoming a patron of the site on Patreon.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Physical Club Nintendo rewards temporarily unavailable, bonus digital games added

Due to system updates, Club Nintendo members won't be able to redeem their coins for physical goods until May 13. In the meantime, they've doubled the selection of digital games. Aura Aura Climber, and Kirby's Pinball Land are now up for grabs on the 3DS for 100 and 150 coins respectively. On the non-handheld side of things Balloon Fight is yet again being offered on the Wii U for 200 coins (a bit steep if you ask me) as well as F-Zero X on Wii/U for for the same price.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review: Tiny Thief

Note: This review is based on the PC version of Tiny Thief available on Steam. I have, however, played the mobile version, and can say that the versions are not significantly different.

Stealing things in games is just plain fun. Thief: The Dark Project taught us that all the way back in 1998, and while there have been many stealth games since that offer experiences ranging from assassination to international espionage, it’s hard to beat the thrill of just sneaking through a place and swiping everything not nailed down. Tiny Thief from developer 5 Ants offers a surprisingly compelling pilfering experience with a charming aesthetic and some clever puzzles.

Tiny Thief blends the genres of stealth and point-and-click adventure games. Each level is a self-contained challenge where you, as the titular small burglar must acquire a certain treasure while avoiding detection. Every level has three stars to acquire, and finishing the level will only get you one. The other two are acquired by obtaining extra treasures from the level and finding the petite pilferer’s ferret companion, who is hiding in every level. Levels are set up adventure game style, which is to say that every puzzle has exactly one correct solution, and stealth mechanics are extremely rudimentary; if a guard is on the same horizontal plane as you and looking in your direction, he will see you unless you are hidden in certain specific hiding places. You must wait for them to turn their backs before venturing out to do your thieving.

In practice, Tiny Thief leans much more toward puzzle-based adventure game than true stealth game. The stealth largely exists as one omnipresent puzzle element that ties all of the other puzzles together, and to that end it works well. What might otherwise feel like a simple collection of puzzles is unified by the stealth element, and the game feels very cohesive as a result. Still, since the game is more focused on puzzles than stealth, it can get weary just sitting and waiting for a guard to turn his back when you’ve figured out the solution to the puzzle at hand.

The puzzles themselves are wonderfully put together. They’re mostly clever and intuitive, though a small few had me banging my head in frustration when I looked up the answer and found it to be something I never would have thought of. Still, such puzzles are the exception rather than the rule. Most feel clever and chaotically funny without being hard to follow. It helps that everything is context-based. If you can use an item you’ve picked up, then a bubble showing that item will appear when you stand next to the place you can use it. For this reason, puzzles definitely tend toward the easy side, but I found that I never really minded because of the level structure. Tricky puzzles make sense in a more traditional adventure game with large, explorable environments and contiguous gameplay, but in Tiny Thief, getting stuck on any given level would be frustrating. If you need some help on the puzzles, though, there’s a hint book available that has illustrations of the solutions. Delivery of hints might rub some people the wrong way, however, as hints are dispensed on a timer, with the option to purchase more for real money.
The clever puzzles and unifying stealth mechanic combine to give the game a surprisingly compelling feel. It feels good to guide your diminutive purloiner in outsmarting the dimwitted guards in every level. Sometimes, the puzzles get too contrived, and when that happens, it can pull you out of the experience, but it’s delightfully fun to sneak around a level, evading and playing tricks on the guards as you make your way to your eventual goal. Despite being light on stealth elements, Tiny Thief often does a good job of emulating the feeling of cleverness and superiority I get from good stealth games. “Look at those fools,” I find myself thinking. “They don’t have any idea what’s going on. I’ll just be taking that [insert valuable object] now, if you don’t mind.”

The game is also presented very well. The limited story is conveyed only through brief comic book style cutscenes at the beginning of every level, all completely wordless. The character design and animation are charming. It’s the little things that bring the miniature larcenist to life, like the way he plays with every item he picks up before stuffing it in his pocket. He'll toss a key in the air, put on a hat, or squeeze a rubber ducky. It doesn’t sound like much, but it adds a lot to the game’s charm. The music sets the tone well, being a good mix of subdued and whimsical, and it avoids being repetitive for the most part.
All in all, Tiny Thief does a lot of things right. More hardcore stealth and adventure aficionados may balk at its bare-bones stealth mechanics and simple puzzles, but the game has so much charm and character that even those players might be won over if they go in with the right mindset. The small, discrete levels are well suited to the mobile platform, and real frustrations are few and far between. I would solidly recommend Tiny Thief.

Tiny Thief currently has six chapters. The first three are available for free, with each subsequent chapter costing $1.99.

Get it on iOS | Android | (or PC if that's your thing)

Developer: 5 Ants
Publisher: Rovio Entertainment

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: Type:Rider

"Edutainment" is a term heard less the further away from the 80s we get with titles like Mario is Missing and Math Blaster remaining a distant, foggy memory. Though games like The Oregon Trail may still have a following thanks to pioneering the genre, educational software has comparatively fallen by the wayside. Though games like Frog Fractions have taken the concept and run screaming with it, the genre has seen few strides forward in the post-Number Munchers years.

Though the aforementioned Frog Fractions has shown us the weird, gelatinous places that educational software could be taken to, most edutainment games have found themselves happily regurgitating facts culled from textbooks. While one could argue that Frog Fractions doesn't count, it does show us promise for using games a tool for learning. And the possibilities are really quite astounding when you think about it.

Games have come a long way since the run and jump days of Super Mario Brothers. While the argument for games as art is still up for debate, the question whether games can be used to teach seems to say that they can. Games can be defined loosely as systems which offer binary win or fail states. Those states can be used to reward or punish.

But teaching in games needn't stem simply from the win/lose binary. There are plenty of games that don't adhere to gold stars or death animations. The SimCity series of games is able to use its game play to teach us about societies, be they of the and or tower variety. Games such as Freelancer have rudimentary economics systems built into them. Even Bioshock Infinite with its glowy-fingered shoot-outs is able to tell us something about America's history with racism and that it was bad.

Sadly, Type:Rider feels like a missed opportunity. Billed as "a game which aims to explore typography through an interactive and transmedia experience", Type:Rider certainly does nothing to endear itself to the "hardcore" gaming crowd. Or any crowd, really. But considering some of the best games of the past decade have come from the independent gaming world, it shouldn't be a surprise if it is worth your time.

The art of Type:Rider is exceptional. With each level based around typography and platforms, Cosmografik has done an excellent job of incorporating fonts into the game design. Each level is well thought out with some clever ways to traverse each stage. The first stage, for example, cleverly incorporates a printing press as a trap making it actually thematically relevant to the game. The music is also quite pleasant and matches the art nicely. It's quite soothing and makes for a somewhat relaxing experience.

Unfortunately, while the game is enjoyable, it doesn't engage as much as it could. While it begs the question what one could really do with typography, games like ASCIIvania have shown interesting if derivative ideas. Type:Rider doesn't necessarily need to reinvent the wheel, but it does feel like there was potential for so much more.

Though the game makes good use of its physics engine, it's all too often hampered by poor controls. Game objectives are direct enough - get to the end of the stage and collect the letters, the inertia causes your character to overshoot jumps and slide around platforms. While this doesn't make the game impossible, it does increase the difficulty unnecessarily. More often than not, the player will be forced to hammer on the space bar repeatedly just to avoid spikes or pits.

The game fails to challenge the player and while there is some incentive to collect pick-ups, the game play amounts to little more than head right to exit the stage. Arguably the same could be said for most platformers, the difference is in the subtleties. Victory is only sweet when you've had to work for it and it should be said there is little work to be had in Type:Rider.
While the game does feature a nice history of typography, it feels unnecessary and tacked on. It's there, but the game itself makes no effort to encourage you to read any of it. It sits on the other side of the game, tucked away in the corner mewling into the darkness. The concept is interesting enough, but it begs the question why include any of it at all when Wikipedia is but a browser click away.

All told, Type:Rider isn't necessarily an awful game. It's competently made with an excellent presentation. And for those interested in typography, it may be worth a look. It's just too bad that there wasn't more done with the concept.

Get it on Android | iOS | Steam
Developer: Cosmografik

Humble Mobile Bundle 5 goes live with puzzles, packing, and more

The latest mobile Android Humble Bundle has gone live with some sweet titles to enjoy on your Android device. Bag It! is a Tetris-esque grocery-themed puzzle game, R-Type II is classic space shooting action, and Aralon: Sword and Shadow looks like a wholesome RPG experience. As it goes, those three can be had for any price, but beating the average will also get you The Cave, The Room Two, Carcassonne and additional yet-to-be-revealed mystery games. 

As always, a customizable amount of your purchase goes toward the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child's Play charities.

UPDATE 4/22: R-Type, Enviro-Bear 2010, and Paper Monster have all been added for those who beat the average. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Review: Knights of Pen & Paper +1 Edition

Unquestionably, Knights Of Pen & Paper is one of the most popular RPGs in the mobile circuit. For the five of you who haven't played it, it's a game which attempts to crowbar tabletop role playing into your iPhone, which only makes less sense the more you think about it.

Much like Dungeons & Dragons, you play as a party of five adventurers who get into all sorts of quest doings. Killing this, going there, collect that. If you've ever played any sort of role playing game, you know exactly what to expect.

But Knights of Pen & Paper differs from the norm in that it is "the ultimate pen & paper RPG simulation experience." While it could be argued that Planescape: Torment or Baldur's Gate are actually the ultimate pen & paper RPG simulation experience, Knights of Pen & Paper certainly feels a lot closer to the tedium of sitting in your friend's mother's basement.

There's an attempt to integrate the d20 system by way of dice rolls. For example, in dungeons when resting the game will roll, and depending on that outcome, you'll be allowed to rest or have to fight. While occasionally frustrating, it certainly adds a nice element of tension to the game.

It could be said that Knights of Pen & Paper certainly doesn't go far enough in the direction of table top gaming. Despite the inclusion of pony-tailed dungeon master (who you have the option of swapping out as the game progresses), the game certainly feels much more reminiscent of the filthy JRPG world with its colorful retro-pixel graphics currently plaguing the landscape of the indie games market. Though, I wouldn't be able to tell you how it compares to a real game of Dungeons & Dragons considering I bathe myself on a regular basis.

Combat is fun and efficient with a surprising amount of depth. Though the game lacks character creation, you have plenty of spells and skills to take advantage of thanks to a wide range of classes. Paladins, mages, knights, bards, there are plenty to play as. Each have their own traits and you're free to swap characters out at taverns which is helpful if you're interested in prolonging your game as long as possible.

And prolong your game you will. With a wide array of dungeons to traverse, the game is far more involved than one would expect. While the story isn't anything new, it is much more engaging than most of what's available for mobile devices. Though, that isn't saying much considering the competition.

Though, the story is the least important part of the game. While there is a main quest to finish, you aren't required to pay attention to it. Which is good because while it isn't awful, it certainly isn't Tolstoy. But no one plays RPGs for the stories and thankfully if you are so inclined, you can simply click through it.

Best of all, the game features little to no random battles. That's not to say that they aren't there, but they're only in very specific parts of the game. Typically when you're resting in a dungeon or during a quest. Most grinding - and there is plenty of grinding - will be done at your leisure.

Admittedly, Knights of Pen & Paper probably won't be for everyone. While the game makes a great attempt to bring classical RPG mechanics into a new setting, fans of the d20 system may be left feeling underwhelmed by the simple story and game play. Though there is plenty of fun to be had for those looking for a less involved alternative to Final Fantasy.

Get it on Android | iOS

Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Behold Studios

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The latest Club Nintendo rewards have been posted

This month's Club Nintendo digital rewards have been revealed. Art Academy: First Semester, a digital drawing application, has been offered a couple of other times in recent memory, while Trajectile, a variation on the classic Arkanoid formula, looks to be a relatively fresh pick. They'll run you 200 coins a piece, and it goes without saying that anyone who hasn't played the masterpiece that is Super Mario World should spend their 200 coins on that.

A new physical reward was added during the last batch. Though it is currently out of stock, the incredibly cool Yoshi's Island 3DS shirt can be had for 800 coins.

A Summary of the Super Smash Bros. Direct

The latest Nintendo Direct has revealed quite a bit about the latest Super Smash Bros. installments, including, finally, a release window. The 3DS version is set to be released this summer, while the WiiU counterpart will be dropping this winter.

Now we know when to expect it, but we also have a better idea of what to expect. Nothing will ever hold a candle to the unreachable-by-human-fingers skill ceiling in Melee, but many have been worried we would be getting something along the lines of Brawl, a game that wrenched the community in two due to Sakurai's deliberate attempts to arbitrarily create a playing field in which everyone had an equal chance at victory, regardless of skill. This never works, obviously, and thankfully there's no tripping in the latest installment. The game also appears to be faster paced than the previous installment. It would appear Sakurai has learned something from the community's reaction (and modifications) to Brawl.

This is further evidenced by the fact that there are two distinct online modes when playing with strangers: For Fun and For Glory. For fun will pit the player against 3 others in a free-for-all match with a random stage and all items turned on. For Glory on the other hand is a definite tongue-in-cheek nod to the competitive community which limits the stage to Final Destination, removes items from the equation, and allows 1v1 matches. To keep things varied, every stage has a Final Destination mode wherein any extra platforms or stage hazards are removed, leaving a solitary base platform to fight to the death. It should be noted that the competitive scene plays on many more stages than just FD, but it's a running joke that the only true way to play is Fox vs Fox on Final Destination with no items. There are no restrictions when playing with friends.

We Ness mains have yet to see our telekinetic killing machine return to the battlefield, but I don't think we need to worry. After all, he's been in every game so far and Earthbound was just released for the WiiU. Leaving him out of the fray would be crazy, right? RIGHT?! SOMEBODY COMFORT ME. Ahem... In the meantime, we can take comfort in the fact that Zero Suit Samus, Shiek, and Charizard are returning. While these were previously different forms of a single character selection, they are now completely separate characters. A welcome change considering that Zelda and Shiek each get a new move to replace their down-b special, and it makes counter-picking in a competitive setting less risky as you won't have to worry about the unexpected Zelda main wrecking your face with her magically charged heels. Yoshi is also returning, this time sporting an upright stance and a boost in power. 

Until now, Little Mac, Rosalina, Villager, and Wii Fit Trainer were the only new characters announced. We had little other than screenshots and short clips to gauge their abilities, but the latest Nintendo Direct reveals to us their entire move-set and general strengths and weaknesses. Little Mac, for example, is a monster on the ground but vastly underpowered when it comes to aerial combat. Now we have a new fighter to fawn over: Greninja. This water type ninja frog looks as if it'll be a very formidable opponent. Dare I say, top tier? Keeping with the Pokemon X and Y theme, Mega Evolutions have been introduced for Charizard and Lucario, though it's not yet clear how they will be activated.

Exclusive to the 3DS version is an entire new mode called Smash Run, which drops players into an enormous dungeon with the express goal of powering up before they duke it out. With 5 minutes on the clock, you'll have to roam around, defeating a variety of randomly selected enemies to collect various icons that power up speed, attack, special moves, projectiles, and defense. It isn't clear why it's exclusive to the 3DS version, but perhaps it's a replacement for the various custom modes found in previous titles (lightning, giant, etc.) and therefore a way to keep the game small enough for a 3DS cartridge.

The last major change comes in the form of custom move sets. This makes me a little wary, as if done improperly it could really throw off the balance of the competitive landscape. All the video reveals is that certain moves like Mario's neutral b and DK's side b can have their speed adjusted, with the move's power inversely correlating.

That's the meat of it. There are some nitty-gritty details I didn't feel the need to drill down to here, so feel free to watch the video below for yourself. Shortly after the game's release Portable Platypus will be hosting a tournament. There will likely be a first-place prize of some sort, nothing huge. Items will be allowed for this tournament to celebrate the game in its entirety and to level the playing field a bit. After that, you can expect nothing less than hardcore skill-based matches on neutral stages.

Review: Ravensword: Shadowlands

Ravensword: Shadowlands is a Western style role playing game in the vein of The Elder Scrolls only not quite as good. Similar to its console brethren, it offers large sweeping vistas which you will soon discover are not quite as sweeping as you were led to believe just moments before. Though this is unsurprising given that this is a mobile game and we should be thankful for whatever we can get that isn't Fruit Ninja.

After you hit the start button, the game plops you sword and shield in hand to fight some monsters. Here you learn the basic mechanics of the game: move around and attack. You can also block with a shield, which is nice, if entirely unnecessary. You do battle with a few somethings before stumbling onto a bigger something before an even bigger something comes along to kill everyone. Except for you of course.

But before you have a chance to say "well that was pointless", you wake up in bed, recovering from your injuries. Yes. That old chestnut of RPG game design. Here you get to access the character creation screen, because apparently the monster in the previous section has stomped your face off entirely.

You then learn that as the sole survivor of the attack - rather than having excellent health insurance - you are in fact the only one able to stop the inevitable destruction of the entire planet. Why you and not someone else is not really all that clear. It's probably due to your ability to take numerous arrows to the chest as Ravensword has decided to wave the "high fantasy" flag.

And as is the case you'll have many high fantasy creatures to kill in your pursuit to save the world. Skeletons, orcs, goblin ice giants, giant spiders and fucking dinosaurs. Because as we all know the only thing that would have improved The Lord of The Rings is if Frodo rode into Mordor on the back of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Combat is enjoyable if repetitive. Much like The Elder Scrolls games, it is handled in similar fashion to most first person games. You aim where you want your weapons to hit and then you press the button to attack. You have your typical swords, maces, bows, crossbows & hammers along with runes which allow for magical attacks. Though they aren't as effective as one might hope and more often than not will still have you reaching for your gun. Yes, there are also guns in the game.

I realize how difficult it must be to maintain some semblance of originality while being wholly derivative, but simply adding random features to your game does not equal originality. I get that we're in a land of fiction and make-believe, but even within that land, there is an accepted continuity. While it's okay to mess around with that continuity, random re-appropriation breaks the immersion.

We've already accepted that we're in a land of dwarves and elves. We've already accepted we're going to see medieval England dressed up in a certain set of cliches, particularly when the game itself seems pretty adamant about sticking to it. It doesn't make much sense to use dinosaurs when there are perfectly good fantasy lizards stalking around in the form of dragons. Though it isn't game breaking, it does feel immeasurably stupid. Like suggesting Raging Bull be shot in 3D.

But back to the combat, there is some depth requiring a bit more strategy when one would expect at first. Melee weapons draw from your energy pool which also happens to be your mana pool. Ranged weapons on the other hand require no energy. They do have painfully long reload times in comparison to swords, however unlike melee weapons, you will never be flailing around an area waiting for your energy to regenerate just so you can fight back.

Playing with ranged weapons is surprisingly far more enjoyable than one might be led to believe, particularly the bow & arrow which acts as a bow & arrow would. While not every shot needs to be carefully considered, there is some strategy to be had. Your arrow's trajectory must be taken into account if you expect to live long enough to throw the Ring of Power into Mount Doom or whatever it is you're supposed to be doing.

And then there's hunting which is almost more enjoyable than the whole of the game. While each section has plenty of animals to hunt, only certain sections have animals which you can hunt for food. Fortunately, they are rather plentiful and are mercifully easy to take down. Except for the boars who will kill you with the slightest provocation.

While not mandatory, without food you will begin to go hungry. Though you apparently won't die even if you're starving, the hungrier you are, the less your health and energy is able to regenerate. This wouldn't be an issue except the game does nothing to tell you this, happily letting you sell off your food for handfuls of lock picks that you will never, ever use.

Thankfully though, much like the prophesied hero everyone keeps telling you that you are, you are exceedingly difficult to kill. That is at least until you reach the Mountains of Madness where you will proceed to die multiple times because you forgot to murder enough woodland creatures in the last section to level up. It's a good thing that encounters aren't difficult in the least and leveling up is insultingly easy.

While I certainly wouldn't call Ravensword: Shadowlands a terrible game in the least, it does certainly highlight a lot of issues that mobile gaming suffers from. As a mobile game, it stands alone and really represents what gaming on Android & iOS devices could very well look like in the future. It shows quite a lot of potential for the platform and dare I say is rather enjoyable.

But as it stands, it's a mobile game that desperately wants to be a PC game. And as a PC game it simply doesn't hold up. Unlike Fallout or Skyrim, the game does very little to draw you into its world. And now that the game is playable on the PC, its shortcomings are even more glaring. Given the glowing reviews on the iOS & Android Marketplace, one's perspective on the game really changes with regards to the hardware you happen to be playing it on. I can only imagine how good reviews would be had it been running on the Atari Jaguar.

Still, for RPG fans looking for something with more meat than the typical mobile outing, Ravensword: Shadowlands is definitely worth a look.

Get it for Android | iOS
Developer: Crescent Moon Games

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Gamebuino is a handheld for gamers and devs alike

Until now, there have been very few handheld platforms for independent developers to play around with. Between the approval processes and purchasing of dev kits, there are too many barriers for a large segment of programmers that are either unwilling or unable to invest up front to get their games out on Nintendo, Sony, or mobile platforms. Sure, there are homebrew workarounds, but that requires a level of knowledge that deters many out of fear of bricking their hardware, no matter how small the risk of that actually happening is. The PC is a fine place to share your games, but being able to carry around a device with your own creation in your pocket, ready to share at a moment's notice, has undeniable appeal. When someone in the waiting room or subway asks you what you're playing, you can respond with a cool "Oh, this game? Just something I threw together."

The Gamebuino is a handheld based on the open-source Arduino platform which aims to remove the barriers between independent developers and the portable gaming space, and it has buttons! There's no getting around learning to code, but the included C++ libraries make it a much less daunting task than starting from scratch. By default it's a bare-bones kit to give the most people the opportunity to get on board, but it's unique in that it supports any 12C module, making accelerometers, gyroscopes, and wireless communicators a few examples of possible augmentations. It also features a 24-hour battery life and a backlight which adjusts based on lighting conditions, but by far the most impressive feature is the ability to daisy chain up to 128 of the devices together for multiplayer. 

Gamebuino is a project based in France and has already been funded four times over on IndieGoGo with 20 days still remaining on the campaign. For 35 euros (~$50) they promise a Gamebuino in your hands for July of this year. Those willing to wait can get one for a cheaper price once the project is officially launched and mass-produced. 

Gamebuino IndieGoGo

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Review: Inflation RPG

Inflation RPG is the latest release from Japanese developer Tatsuki who is previously known for such mobile classics as クッキー大量破壊!!! and level gauge, both of which have been described by the developer as "exhilarating" and "appealing to the gut", respectively. Stomach issues aside, Inflation RPG has less to do with bloating and more to do with a somewhat satirical take on role-playing conventions. Though Inflation RPG is mindless and shallow, it still manages to entertain.

As the typical anime hero, it is your job to do battle with all sorts of creatures both mythical and not. Enemy types are surprisingly varied with multiple types in each area. Still, it will take you quite some time to see them all. This is due to the game's central mechanic which, depending on your point of view, may be considered a drawback.

Each time you start a new game, you are given a total of 30 battles to fight. This may seem counter-intuitive, considering how nearly every RPG seems to expect a commitment of 60 hours. And you may very well spend just that long playing Inflation RPG altogether, as each individual game lasts around 5 minutes, making for an excellent pick-up-and-play experience.

Despite calling itself a role playing game, it is that in name only. There is absolutely no story and combat lacks any depth whatsoever. Success is entirely determined based on your stats which you should be upgrading after every battle if you hope to get anywhere in the game. Worse, after each time you die, your stats are reset to zero and you lose all money you've gained during a session. This is balanced out by allowing you to permanently keep your weapons so it isn't as much of a hindrance as it may feel at first.

Random encounters are also handled uniquely, most similarly to games like Dragon Quest 7 and Chrono Trigger. While you aren't able to see your enemies, there is a progress bar which displays how likely you are to encounter a monster, filling up as you traverse the landscape. While monster characters displayed on screen would be preferable, it is still nice to have some idea when the next encounter is going to happen.

With only 30 battles to fight, the player is required to think strategically in order to optimize each play through. While most RPGs would have you fighting low-level enemies for hours just to reach the next level, Inflation RPG can have you reaching anywhere from 12 to 120 levels per fight. If you have any hope of reaching those higher level bosses, strategic grinding is a must. And yes, there are bosses. Although fights with them are the same as other encounters, winning a battle with them does score you a few extra battle points which is helpful when trying to obtain higher level equipment.

While it may have art reminiscent of the classic Nintendo-era Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest series, it's really best to think of Inflation RPG in more modern terms. The gameplay has far more to do with obtaining upgrades, making it much more similar to games such as Achievement Unlocked & Diablo. While this style of game is admittedly not for everyone, it does make for a fun way to pass the time as long as you don't mind being a filthy casual.

Download for Android | iOS

Developer: Tatsuki
Publisher: Tatsuki

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Build bridges and kill trolls in Humble PC and Android 9

The latest pack of games brought to us by the folks at Humble Bundle has something for everyone. Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror will satisfy that old-school point-and-click craving while Type: Rider will school you on the history of font. Maybe you want to test your understanding of physics with Bridge Builder, or just kill some trolls in Ravensword: Shadowland. These four titles can be had for at least a buck, but beating the average will also get you Kingdom Rush, Knights of Pen and Paper +1 Edition, and the yet-to-be-revealed mystery games.