Average User Score: 8.6May 29, 2015The Good: Riveting plot/premise, accessible to all ages; strong art direction; unprecedent use of dynamic music
The Bad: Tacky jumpingThe Good: Riveting plot/premise, accessible to all ages; strong art direction; unprecedent use of dynamic music
The Bad: Tacky jumping controls x unpredictable camera = leaps of faith; no checkpoints
Much like modern Pixar/Dreamworks animation movies de Blob has something for everyone. It may look/sound silly for a hasty observer, but adults can quickly relate to the INKT army and their Hitler-ish leader invading a colorful country to steal their colors--and pretty much their citizens' lives alongside it.
The setting allows CG movies to shine throughout the game, but not only that; from the stances of the heroes/enemies to the comics-alike loading screens everything in the game is permeated by an undeniably strong sense of place and character--merits of a cohese and thoughtful art direction.
Gameplay-wise de Blob offers city-sized playgrounds for a player willing to explore and make a mess out of them. The objective is to take paint back from evil robots spread around a given location and return the cities to their former glory--the more colorful the better. Once certain score thresholds are reached new areas will be unlocked until you can move on for good and call it a day--at least for story's sake, since you can always get back to a level in the free modes that start to become available as you advance in the main one.
Inside those levels allies will propose a decent variety of challenges--follow a trail within a time limit, paint a whole block a given color, smash a group of enemies or reclaiming a big landmark, for instance--that will mostly lead you naturally towards the aforementioned score thresholds; but the cities being so huge and so inviting to exploration only makes the lack of checkpoints a more evident problem, since at times you can even get past the 2-hour mark to get a level done.
Gameplay can also be hurt by the camera x jumping issue that plagues almost every 3D platformer since the genre's very beginnings. A homing button helps that a little but it can become a real pain in tricky sections or when you're doing timed objectives.
Goods and bads aside the game really sets itself apart of other peers--and pretty much any other game for that matter--in sound design. The music themes are vivid, the real-life band that executes 'em make them shine even brighter but it digs deeper in: dynamic sound design is simply unprecedent here. Each instrument is tied to a color; and for each theme (and each dynamic instrument) hundreds of improvisation cues were recorded. The in-game result is a delight: as you paint the landscape a choosen color the related musician "starts improvising" over the visual changes you're causing. As soon as you switch colors--or mix another to get a third one--the "musician" changes on the fly, lending the soundtrack a neverending row of possibilities and paying a proper tribute to how a funky/jazzy live band should always sound. The cover percentage of an area also tops new layers of music over the minimalistic arrangements that throw you into the level by the beginning, coming to a full bloom by the climax endings and creating yet another attachment with the presentation overall.
If judged by the tight platformers guide de Blob can't be taken too seriously; but maybe that's just the wrong way to look at it. It has much more to offer to be simplified by inadequate meters.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.5May 15, 2015A vanguard work of art still rooted in old videogame conventions.
The Good: Artstyle, cutscenes and music are phenomenal; sharp humor andA vanguard work of art still rooted in old videogame conventions.
The Good: Artstyle, cutscenes and music are phenomenal; sharp humor and smart twists
The Bad: Controls and physics doesn't match the game's difficulty
Raised upon a little physics proof-of-concept (called Tower of Goo, still available for download in the old 2D Boy's site) World of Goo was a major agent of the indie takeover 7 years ago. Much like many of its contemporaries it gets half the job astoundily well done--the artsy one--but doesn't quite nail the core gameplay content that smartly.
On the bright side there's plenty to be proud of: presentation overall is plain superb--both music and graphics are a testimony of a very cohesive art direction--and everything sums up nicely to serve the plot--or at least the philosophic dialogue it proposes if we can't agree it has a proper plot.
On the other hand the developers couldn't help restricting the player's resources as if it was a classic hardcore game. Physics here are way too loose to ask the player the precision and swiftness the levels so constantly demand, goo balls are often too limited in number and as they grow in variety it gets tougher to pick the right one from the crowd, and checkpoints (despite the smart "undo" concept) work poorly. (Using OCDs for triggering Achievements sits on top of that as well.)
The game sometimes try to make up for those frustration moments by offering alternate paths in the maps but they're often useless since it eventually forces you to get back to the avoided levels before allowing you to progress anyway.
World of Goo weights in the "games as art" debate but does so by improving the usual external assets related to that instead of improving interactivity--the main feature that makes the medium unique for exploring new forms of art.… Expand
Average User Score: tbdDec 23, 2014Artistically interesting, not so well-executed.
The good: Charming, elegant presentation. The bad: Poor structure and interface. In aArtistically interesting, not so well-executed.
The good: Charming, elegant presentation.
The bad: Poor structure and interface.
In a distant future Earth’s resources are scarce. Humanity trusts a biomechanical device the task of exploring ocean’s depths looking for a newly discovered energy source dubbed Gaia.
Abyss brings a nice premise for a mobile/handheld quick exploration game, and its presentation delivers it: the one-eyed, angled (like those deep sea fishes) alienish probe is charming, the environment is beautiful and the sound design is inventive and fitting overall.
What keeps it from being essential is how it’s structured.
Each level has 6 Gaia pieces scattered all around, and gathering every single one is mandatory to finish it; the problem is the game never informs you that, so one may bump a “Mission Failed” message when reaching the level’s exit a few times before realizing what should be done. Also, the fact that a single touch in the environment walls can kill you together with the lack of checkpoints or the simple ability to beat the level and get back to complete it later can sum up for some frustrating moments.
Other than that the interface works poorly: the touch screen—which could be used for unfolding a map, for instance—barely shows the amount of Gaia collected coupled with a chronometer used for score purposes, while even entering your initials in the board feels clumsy.
Abyss clearly had some nice art direction behind it but could have been executed better.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.2Feb 3, 2014Some limitations prevent it from being a killer addiction, but Picross 3D is well-executed and long-lasting enough to keep you coming back forSome limitations prevent it from being a killer addiction, but Picross 3D is well-executed and long-lasting enough to keep you coming back for more.
The Good: Absurd amount of content; good for short bursts; near perfect controls
The Bad: At times predictable, at others deceptive
Picross is a Sudoku that awards you with a picture in the end of the problem--actually solving a problem means to reveal a pic--and that description alone should be enough to explain how addicting the thing can be (or at least how it has been for years with all the several Japanese iterations Nintendo has released since Mario's Picross in the early 90s). But Picross 3D is the first one to give a conceptual step ahead, and a potentially problematic one: expanding the regular X/Y axes to a 3D cube. How does it fare?
In the most worrisome field--the controls--it fares quite well. The scheme of moving the cube freely through the touch screen and locking it in the pickaxe/brush modes with the D-pad is elegant and intuitive. In the presentation side things have gone well too, with sound and visual effects merging nicely for creating a believable "palpable" feeling--the same goes for 3D animations of the objects revealed at the end of each level. (The lack of Nintendo IPs stuff is unexplainable and unforgivable though.)
The problems in Picross 3D lie in two fronts, one inherent to the proposition other put there by the developers: symmetry of the objects and deliberately hidden clues.
First of all, objects tend to have symmetric sides. Movement tricks aside, it's hard to imagine a man, truck or fruit without symmetries--and that would lend an involuntary repetitiveness component to the puzzles. Well, the solution found was not to show numeric hints for every line of a given block (like it used to be in 2D puzzles). That certainly did a good job on balancing the difficulty back but the price paid for it was, at several points, to restrain the solutions to a single way of doing it--which is much less desirable than the search for more imaginative items or ways to present them.
Still, even with those limitations Picross 3D ultimately does a good job in fulfilling its goal: to provide a nice casual distraction to have on the go (being on a portable device and all) while offering a more than decent value for those who invest their money on it.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.9Nov 4, 2013The Good: Presentation is a technical achievement; cute, lovely characters
The Bad: Dragging; uneven difficulty; shallow Built upon theThe Good: Presentation is a technical achievement; cute, lovely characters
The Bad: Dragging; uneven difficulty; shallow
Built upon the lore of the cult Action-RPG Okami (PS2, Wii), Okamiden develops the original's story from the point it was left in the first title while trying to appeal to a broader audience by introducing Amaterasu's son--a cute puppy called Chibiterasu--in the leading role for this sequel.
From a technical standpoint--which seemed to be what worried Okami fans most in a portable cramming--there's nothing to yell at. Nippon still looks gorgeous and even the sometimes oversized pixels make it for a crisp, beautiful presentation. The same can be said about the expanded soundtrack, which sounds as epic as ever.
But unfortunately when it comes to content Okamiden fails to capture the grandeur of the original installment.
The game takes you by the hand in so many ways that' it's hard not to state it was dumbed down. Predictable puzzles, prayers evolving your powers automatically, the very combat... Even the poor (or lazy?) decision of making it controlled by the D-Pad (instead of a more intuitive touch-only scheme like in the DS Zeldas) produces another step down: the camera compelling you to where you should go next.
Chibi partnering a variety of companions throughout the adventure does help to freshen the experience and show the intended protagonist's fragility, but in the long run much of the plot and dialogue is plain dragging for the sake of it. What would be an otherwise charming cast of characters can grow annoying and tiring after some time.
That aforementioned overall mood/pace twist could have made it for a perfect kids-friendly first RPG... But the overly complex boss battles create difficulty spikes that can get in the way and turn beginners down.
Okamiden would fare better if it was conceived as a spin-off, or at least as a more compact title. As a main entry with the responsibility to carry the name on it just feels expendable.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.6Sep 12, 2013"ReBirth" is an overstatement.
The Good: Online leaderbords The Bad: Expensive; lazy Released as part of a Konami rehash series"ReBirth" is an overstatement.
The Good: Online leaderbords
The Bad: Expensive; lazy
Released as part of a Konami rehash series developed exclusively for the WiiWare service, Gradius ReBirth–as the title states–intends to update the franchise for modern gamers while keeping its oldschool, hardcore appeal. Unfortunately it ultimately fails in both fronts.
In one hand that modernization never quite happens. The gameplay structure–even if it's a good one for sure, a classic side-scrolling shooter plus the customizable power-up tree that made the series remarkable–remains unchanged even in the slightest; which means you'll need to beat it in one seat for a lack of restore points/save states/whatever, for instance–simply unacceptable for a 20XX release.
On the other hand the design is too lazy to deliver it to a desirable hardcore audience. Most levels are recycled from MSX previous entries and in fact they were even dumbed down with artificial, cheap difficulty. Bosses are too easy, pre-bosses sections are too annoying and the game as a whole is too short. The retro presentation could have been a great feature in itself if the result wasn't just plain ugly. (Take a look at a cutscene screenshot if you don't believe me.)
Of course, the score attack mode with its online leaderboards and an unlockable hard mode can add some value for more passionate players, but it's still a too-shallow revolution to care for.
The way it is Gradius ReBirth can't even stand toe-to-toe with the original NES Gradius available at the Virtual Console service; or the SNES installment, Gradius III all the same. And having both for a better price tag doesn't help either.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.2Aug 3, 2013Gorgeous and charming as it looks, And Yet It Moves is all about gimmickry.
The Good: Sharp, beautiful art style; interesting concept. TheGorgeous and charming as it looks, And Yet It Moves is all about gimmickry.
The Good: Sharp, beautiful art style; interesting concept.
The Bad: Uninspired, repetitive and not that well executed.
The premise behind And Yet It Moves is an interesting one: rotating a paper collage world around a also-paper character (instead of simply controlling the character directly) until he finds his place back in the landscape by the end of each level. And that premise is beautifully presented with a vivid, almost tactile environment that easily catches your eye from the very beginning. So what's wrong with AYIM?
Well, unfortunately there's enough to break the spell. The game suffers from some repetitive level design, and even when new mechanics are added they aren't always well implemented: some, like the springboard, simply doesn't feel right; others, like using fire, aren't clear enough.
Also, the paper guy is way too fragile--presumable, but much more than any other paper object around him--and he can't stand the slightest change of mind by the player without being squished (that's the sound he makes dying) by gravity. Aside being sluggish, which just adds to the feeling he ultimately denies any dynamics such a core mechanic could suggest.
Even laying a bit on the short side (it can be beaten in less than 3 hours) AYIM can be a dragging experience due to the aforementioned issues. In a way the meat of the game defeats the purpose of some interesting alternative playmodes like Speed Run, Time Trial and Limited Rotations.
Wrapping it up with a reference to indie darlings, And Yet It Moves is a Samorost that demands some platforming precision it wasn't built for in the first place.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.3Jul 31, 2013The Good: Clever, remarkable levels.
The Bad: The difficulty bar is high because of cheap controls/physics/graphics issues, not for itsThe Good: Clever, remarkable levels.
The Bad: The difficulty bar is high because of cheap controls/physics/graphics issues, not for its clever, remarkable levels...
Praised as an indie darling and the tip of the spear regarding some 'Hardcore Renaissance' in old-school games Meat Boy is interesting enough to get some attention and set itself apart from a million other hardcore-oldschool-2Dplat-Flash-free-indie games out there.
Starting with the game's qualities, first and most important: level design. As you run-and-jump through the levels trying to reach your kidnapped beloved one you'll notice that there's no need for real living menaces when the environment itself can be your worst enemy. Cogs working as meat grinders, spikes, crumbling walls/ceilings/floors, mechanized rocket launchers strategically placed, auto-scrolling screens... The list goes on. When you reach a salt factory in chapter 2 you'll even start avoiding the walls! But despite being harsh the environments will leave a good impression since they're tough as much as sharp (no pun intended) and memorable.
Talking about chapters, the way the levels were organized must be mentioned as a quality as well: knowing the toughness the players will face along their path the developers decided to allow you to move towards the next pack of levels if you beat at least 3/5 of them. Leaving some painful levels behind and choosing where to put your efforts (just like the campaign mode in Guitar Hero series, for instance) is a nice touch to keep non-superhuman players hooked and wanting to see how the next chapter/environment will turn to be.
Sadly, the princess will always be in another castle... :P But that's part of the charm of the game. Aside some funny characters as Meat Boy (you), Bandage Girl (your girlfriend) and Dr. Fetus (your archrival)--which makes me wonder how the developers managed to convert some plain square figures into charming characters--there are a couple old-school references to make a cranky old gamer like me happy. MB stands for Meat Boy as for Mario Bros. not by chance; the chapters and the "your princess is in another castle" scheme were borrowed from the right source. Also, the opening cut-scene is a blatant reference to Ghosts'N Goblins, a devilish--literally--old-school hardcore game--which is fitting.
Presentation wise Meat Boy has a lot of personality attached to it. As stated before the characters are cool, the soundtrack is another great work from Danny B (Canabalt, Gravity Hook) and the backgrounds look beautiful, despite making your character disappear from you sight in desperate moments because of some poor contrast... Which leads me to the game's letdowns.
Well, Meat Boy is meant to be hardcore above anything else--and sure it is. But unfortunately I must point that it was achieved through some artificially forced difficulty. I won't say the controls are awful; they work the way they're MEANT to, and they mean to cheat you. I can forgive Meat Boy for being slippery like if it was a soap cube since it squishes blood everywhere as he walks; but I can't overlook how the physics can be unnecessarily unforgiving when you jump. Your jump starts heavy but suddenly you'll soar over the entire screen just to die in the next lava cascade... This issue is bad to the point you'll still find yourself struggling to master the controls even after reaching the last chapter, with dozens of beaten levels in your background already. That can feel really disappointing because the level design alone could easily suffice to challenge the player in a smart way--and problems regarding jumps can kill (literally once again) a platformer, of course.
In the end Meat Boy is a compelling hardcore-oldschool-2Dplat-Flash-free-indie game (did I mention you can search the stages for band-aids to unlock characters and a secret ending?) but it could be much more than that if the developers didn't resort to cheap deaths to make it 'hardcore' for the sake of it.
[just in case you're thinking I dislike the game because I suck at it take a look at my 'impossible badge' at Kongregate... … Expand
Average User Score: 7.4Jun 5, 2013A True Eastern Lost Gem, Rondo of Blood Is the Most Expansive and Accessible Old-School Castlevania.
The Good: Top notch presentation, bothA True Eastern Lost Gem, Rondo of Blood Is the Most Expansive and Accessible Old-School Castlevania.
The Good: Top notch presentation, both graphics and sound wise; multiple routes, bosses and secrets; well-balanced difficulty; save feature.
The Bad: Nintendo didn't care for English subtitles even if it's a first-time Western release.
One of the most grateful surprises to hit Wii's Virtual Console service, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood used to be a missing link for fans of the early years of the series--before the successful twist towards a "Metroid" gameplay style in Symphony of the Night (PSOne). Playing it now (almost 20 years later) is a delight not only for nostalgia sake; the game feels fresh as if it was another "new retro" release.
In one hand it encompasses the former iterations so well that everything seems to fit together perfectly--like the boatman from Simon's Quest making more sense with the alternate routes feature taken from Dracula's Curse, for instance; in the other it develops new concepts that ultimately make it a more robust action game: weapons special moves that consume more hearts to deal broader damage, a double jump effective for dodging attacks, the possibility of buying videos that teach you how to face bosses, saving the game...
Monsters design is another thing that deserves to be noticed here as well. Even in the cases that enemies are less intricate than older predecessors they at least shine for their style--and it can be surprising to realize how much late "Metroid-vania" titles owe this one in the matter.
Add to that a considerable improvement in the series presentation--long voiced cutscenes, pristine music--and a more accessible difficulty level (while still posing a decent challenge) and we (arguably) have the definitive old-school Castlevania game. Or, at least, the best entry for newcomers who want to know what Castlevania was all about in its early years.… Expand
Average User Score: tbdFeb 23, 2013I Must Run! is a not-so-elegant Canabalt rip-off.
The Good: Nice diversion to have on the go. The Bad: Unimaginative, unpolished, overlyI Must Run! is a not-so-elegant Canabalt rip-off.
The Good: Nice diversion to have on the go.
The Bad: Unimaginative, unpolished, overly punishing.
Since Canabalt took the world by storm in 2009 it seems that we just can't have enough endless runners. The simple yet addictive formula mislead developers into a serial cloning process as they intend to run (pun intended) the Easy-cash GP. (Take my serial puns for payment, guys. -.-)
What those guys don't really get is: Canabalt is awesome because it's special. It was never easy (from Pong on) to achieve a perfectly balanced arcade gameplay from a classic risk/reward perspective; but among other big boys in the genre (maybe even in a Pac Man or a Donkey Kong level) Canabalt goes there to the point of (arguably) being a piece of interactive art.
That elegance is what I Must Run! lacks so badly. The random levels generator is too clumsy to keep things going at an acceptable pace; the double jump is there just to minimize the former problem; and the absence of checkpoints in the overly-lenghty levels attests its "hardcore" intents by the wrong means of cheap tactics.
Even the variety in the gameplay (you can also slide and punch objects while running) and environments falls short due to a messy visual presentation--once again, that worked in Canabalt because it has "style" written all over it.
For a cheap (literally speaking, no pun intended this time) little game it delivers some quick fun to have on the go. But you surely can do better with the same amount of money at Nintendo eShop... Or for free with the original Canabalt in any browser.… Expand