Friday, 28 February 2014

TxK [PS Vita] Review

Where and when I discovered TxK [£5.49] escapes me, but it must've been through the power of the internet -that much is a given.

Only a couple of years ago, was I reintroduced to Jeff Minter's Gridrunner [£0.69] [Free] 
    I say reintroduced as the feeling of déjà vu experienced when playing, though on iOS, to this day makes me think that was not my first time. Be it by graphics, sounds or actual interaction, something said somewhere at some point ...we had met before -I deviate.

Anyway, luck had it, recently I bought a PlayStation Vita and stumbled upon the news of TxK. Again, not sure of how (My memory is terrible!) only the result of wanting to play, then share.
A 'neo-retro arcade-like tunnel shooter' hopefully sums up Llamasoft's latest release with some justice.
    If you would like to read up on its history and genesis, there is a long essay at Yak's dev blog available for your perusal [here.] 
    It's an interesting read and Jeff raises and surmises a genre brilliantly.
    A marriage between oldschool video game qualities and modern hardware capabilities both sates retro gamers' nostalgia while presenting classics to new generations. Ever evolving, yet preserving perhaps some of the most important bits from virtual days of old. Though this does not just apply to shooters either, RPGs, Platformers, whatever the type. If it existed, chances are it'll continue on, in some shape or form.

TxK is a prime example of the aforementioned, from its sights and sounds to its gameplay. That said, while remaining familiar, there's enough new, fun, beautiful and challenging differences for those who were lucky enough to have played its ancestor Tempest 2000 on the Atari Jaguar.

Before starting, I highly recommend you navigate to 'HOW TO PLAY' found in OPTIONS> GAME INFO  ,and learn the controls and basics.
    So the premise is simple, shoot all enemies that arrive on each surface, collect power-ups and don't get hit or caught!
    When the battlefield is clear or all hostiles reach the top, the surface explodes and you transition to the next level via a warp tunnel.
    Here, tilt the Vita gently and try to keep the soul-spark in the middle for score bonuses.
    On the first few levels is a temporary tutorial by way of labels enabled on many game elements.
    Some power-ups yield a warp triangle, collecting four of these takes you to a bonus round. You can't lose a life here so feel comfortably free to go for a high score.
    1UPs are also yours for intercepting, as too are consumable ammunition upgrades and points.
    Gathering power-ups as well gives you the ability to jump and supplies an AI Drone to fight alongside the player until the end of the current level. This is great and basically when you learn to team up with it, splits the work in half, plus the Drone can even come to your rescue!

    Jumping is useful if and when enemies reach the top as you can jump up above the surface and rain down shots on those below, clearing space giving room for manoeuvre. 
    If you have yet to acquire said ability and antagonists reach the top -don't panic! Shots are fired from the 'legs' of your ship and slowly strafing in their direction usually ends with them flipping on to your shots if timed right.
    Smart bombs, 'Supertappers' are also at your disposal. Tap the screen to detonate and destroy almost all enemy craft on the surface, in-turn scoring 2x for each blown-up. Be warned though, use them wisely as you only get one smart bomb per level. Sometimes it pays off to use them when jumping.

There are 100 levels to complete each with platforms and many different enemies exhibiting numerous behaviours.
    All these, rotating surfaces and the very clever and interesting difficulty spikes keep the journey fresh throughout.
    This applies to whether you are going for 100% completion, one of ten trophies present for your unlocking, or high scores on any of the leaderboards available.
    Of which there are three, each corresponding to their unique game mode: Pure, Survival and Classic.

Starting the game from level one puts you in Pure mode, Survival is what it is with no extra lives or bonus rounds and Classic lets you begin from any level up to the last attained with your Restart Best:

"Each time you start a level a record is made of your best ever lives and score at the start of that level.

You can subsequently begin at any level with the best ever number of lives you had at that point.

Upon completing the level you will then receive as a bonus the score you had when you set that best ever lives record."

Now onto TxK's controls: the left thumb-stick or d-pad moves your ship left or right, clockwise/ anti-(counter-) clockwise, 'X' burst fires, 'O' or tapping the screen detonates your smart bomb and 'R' (right bumper) makes your craft jump when enabled.
    I'm still finding myself switching between the left thumb-stick and d-pad depending on whether it is speed or accuracy I need respectively.
    It is sometimes best to just hold 'X' and move, though timing your movements, burst fire, jumping also may work better when playing strategically.
    All controls are extremely responsive for both styles of play.

Visually, TxK really pops on the OLED screen while also drawing you in.
    The vector graphics shift almost hypnotic, meanwhile the glowing particles nearly explode in your face like virtual confetti, all in colourful, luminous neon.
    Attention to detail is nice with approaching crafts in the distance and the glow from your ship's firing 'leg' passing as you switch direction. I like the way your ship's 'legs' move and surfaces rotate, not dissimilar to a spider on it's web -breathing life into linear.
    The background has not been forgotten either and it can altogether be quite disorientating, funny too as you learn your left from your right all over again. 

    Though not explicitly vivid the vision (along with the sound) of your ship being dragged to its unknown destiny is rather disturbing. Balancing this are the pretty comical text messages that appear from time to time. 

While they may not provide a massive amount of bass, clarity of the arcade-like sound effects, haunting voices and thumping soundtrack is crystal through your Vita's speakers.
    That said, if you would like a more intense experience then headphones only enhance and should be worn at all times.

The difficulty spikes I mentioned earlier also make this game accessible no matter what your skill level.
    As opposed to a more common gradual difficulty curve, you never know how the next level is going to play out -this adds spontaneity. It may take multiple tries blasting through one stage, whereas you might breeze through the next.
    It's challenging but beatable, fun and my favourite; suitable for quick attempts at besting your score or 100 level Pure marathon endeavours. 

TxK is another one of those experiences that magically emits conflicting vibes which instil contradicting emotions and reactions.
    While the game requires fast reactions, it also demands thought and precision -this conveys through to the player.
    Within the adrenalin, lies a zen-like state of mind.
    Amid the chaos, is focus and calm.

Whether you have played Tempest 2000 or not, if you're partial your arcade shooters you should definitely check out Llamasoft's first PlayStation Vita release. It is incredibly portable!

Presentation: 90%
Gameplay: 90%
Longevity: 90%
Innovation: 90%

Fantastic! 90%

Each session is a bit like a thrilling roller coaster ride!

Saturday, 15 February 2014

OlliOlli [PS Vita] Review

"After my initial several sessions the irony suddenly occurred to me that perhaps OlliOlli's most used control was one shared by the platform originally intended."

So like many iOS gamers, I had been disappointed over OlliOlli's skip-to-Vita exclusivity, but only until shortly after it was actually in my hands.
    Ok, the game technically would/ could have worked on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch -think Stickman Skater [£1.49] which uses virtual buttons with optional swipe controls for tricks also grinds. Later maybe controller support might be added?
    Even now I'd welcome a port if it was ever legally possible, but there's something about the feedback you get from physical buttons, thumb-sticks and bumpers. Maybe a bit of nostalgia, even sentimentality is involved too?
    Given this is the most fun I've had with a skateboarding release since Tony Hawk's Pro Skater on Sony's original PlayStation.

After my initial several sessions the irony suddenly occurred to me that perhaps OlliOlli's most used control was one shared by the platform originally intended.
    While at first the control scheme felt a little difficult to grasp, somewhat alien. (Though my only recent acquisition of this handheld gaming console should be mentioned then considered.)
    The one-more-go factor kicked in and it wasn't long before pulling off tricks, landings, grinds too almost became second nature. Not that I was suddenly pro, by any stretch of imagination, but progress was being made.
    Shortly after, I could only agree with the developers/ self publishers decision to take Sony up on their offer -OlliOlli is meant to be played on PS Vita, it just feels right.

A simple clear display, with only a few menus then handful of options make for one clean, easy to navigate user interface.
    Included is the Tricktionary, neatly listing all information needed to pull off every trick and grind with live animated figure references alongside.

The action takes place in a vibrant polished pixel foreground set upon an almost blurry lensed backdrop giving depth of field. Both scroll independently and ooze 2D retro 80s/ 90s style graphics, it's incredible to think all of it was hand-drawn.
    Animations are smooth as your ride, with no noticeable lag in frame rate.
    Sound effects are audibly satisfyingly authentic and bone-crunchingly accurate. This is in total contrast to the mostly chill albeit varied, always ambient soundtrack.

Post the excellent tutorials, you will find Career, within which there are five different stages each with their own unique levels and obstacles.
    These are also split into Amateur and Pro sessions, containing separate sets of Challenges.
    Then there's Spots Mode, each of which is unlocked when you finish a level. Here you have opportunities to chain massive combos over 50 different sections -beat the world and become King of the Spot.
    Next, Daily Grind, where again you can challenge players worldwide for the number one highest score, except here Spots are changed every 24 hours. Practise so much as you like, but you only get one shot.
    Last but by no means least, (or mean feat) - RAD Mode awaits. Available after you complete all 250 Challenges, anything other than a perfect grind and perfect landing this time results in a slam.

Of course slams are possible everywhere; mistiming tricks, misjudging gaps and obstacles, landing awkwardly even trying to skateboard on snow all can result in you losing points and having to restart the level or spot.
    Players are rewarded for skill, also risk-taking and tempted into chasing perhaps the most difficult part of this game, attaining those high scores. You do this accumulating massive points by chaining ludicrous combos before making a perfect landing in-turn banking your score. 
    Aside from RAD Mode you do not need to make perfect landings, but failing doing so appears to have a dramatic affect on points awarded.

"You will slam on your face." 
-Roll7 said, and you will but you'll get up and try again, many times.
  Funded by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) as part of Shahid Ahmad’s Strategic Content Drive, I'd like to quote him here by saying because it is "savagely addictive" -couldn't have put it better myself.

The game mechanics and control scheme are so fluid and responsive that any fails made feel down to yourself, but then so do the wins and the satisfaction felt more than makes up for the frustration endured.
    'X' is used to push, tap just twice, you're at full speed. Tapping the same button as you land stores points earned and scores a perfect landing. 
    Moving the left thumb-stick alone and in conjunction with your console's left and right bumpers executes tricks and grinds.
    There are over 120 to learn, then master within 100 deviously crafted environments.

In addition to all this content, 1 Gold, 3 Silver and 8 Bronze Trophies are also yours for the unlocking.

One of the great things I like about titles like this, is the fact you can jump in for five minutes, or spend an hour or so grinding away -literally.
    In my opinion this makes the perfect game type.

Roll7 have cleverly constructed an extremely challenging and seriously addictive skateboarding game, added a ridiculous amount of
replay value, then somehow managed to pack in all into just 225 megabytes.

OlliOlli is now available on the PlayStation Store for only [£7.99]
Treat yourself, treat your Vita!

Presentation: 85%
Gameplay: 90%
Longevity: 95%
Innovation: 90%

Fantastic! 90%

The sickest skateboarding game I've played in years!

10 Second Ninja [PC & Mac] News

Quite the contrast from his collaboration with NotQuiteReal as TheTallTrees -Castles in The Sky, last year.
    Little did I realise when GameDesignDan ever so kindly emailed me a code for the preview build of 10 Second Ninja, what was in store.

After around ten ...minutes? My initial thought was to just post an article exclaiming, "DAAAANNN!!!!!!!!"
in bold print along with a title, few screenshots and couple of links maybe.

To be fair though, that would have meant I had clearly forgotten about the brilliantly drawn then animated, but mostly impressively -lit, introduction stroke cut scene.
    Which came complete with borderline controversial theme, comical audio and witty subtitles.

So the story goes... You are The World's first Ninja, being the only thing that stands in his way. Robot Hitler and minions; Nazi robots from Space are out to get you!
    Thwart Robot Hitler's evil plans and destroy his automated autocracy in this blistering fast action-platformer.
    Oh, you have 10 seconds to take down all Nazi robots in your vicinity!
Did I mention it was blistering fast?
    How about the fact you can't even wall jump/ grind BECAUSE THAT WOULD JUST SLOW YOU DOWN -RIGHT?
    That and the actuality every millisecond counts makes all other video games in it's genre feel like My First Speedrun.

You do have a few Shurikens at one's disposal and only your very own ruddy Ninjatō! Just use them wisely and to your advantage, remember you're looking for the fastest kill route.

Your performance is rated using the three-star system and they are not very forthcoming with them either!
    Every single star scored will be well earned and upon level completion there is a handy pop-up that also shows how close you are to receiving your next one.

There will be 40 challenging levels in the final version, with leaderboards to climb and 30 achievements for unlocking.

From what I've seen, heard and played, level design is deceptively simple, it sounds a bit League of Evil -which isn't a bad thing! And, if I'm not moaning about the floaty jump mechanic hindering my performance, it's the restart button being too close to Z and X. 

Despite my initial horror, in all honestly it is rather fun and cut scenes alone worth any frustration endured. It's well written and I'm curious to see and play the rest. 

Ninjas are cool, Robot Hitler, his swastikas and Nazi robots be not -go get 'em, quickly!
    Oops -sorry, you'll have to wait until March the 5th but then... IT.IS.ON

Published by Mastertronic, 10 Second Ninja will be available for PC & Mac on Steam and if you pre order from GetGame you'll receive 25% discount off the already cheerful [$9.99]!

Boss fight!

 Update: 10 Second Ninja [£5.24*] launches with 25% sliced off!  Currently available on Steam for PC and  Mac. *SPECIAL PROMOTION! Offer ends 12 March 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Rambo The Video Game [News]

Rambo The Video Game Machine of War is coming to PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on the 21st of February!

Sly's thought provoking 2008 movie release -Rambo, brought Burma's brutal Burmese Military regime to the forefront of viewers minds, not only spreading awareness, but perhaps growing an ageing demographic of its original trilogy.

Based on Sylvester Stallone's first three films, Reef Entertainment's curiously anticipated stealth, action-adventure game will carry an PEGI 18 age certificate. This is promising with regards the fact it's likely The Video Game will stay true to Stallone's franchise and not be watered down for a younger audience.

Recreating authentic scenes, 'fixed perspective' is a common denominator shared across three play styles; first-person shooting, quick-time-event sequences and stealth infiltrations. The latter two of which look to be played in third-person.

There are at least six different environments to explore, plus we will be given choices of using lethal, or non-lethal force with Rambo's trademark bow and knife. Multiplayer has also been mentioned suggesting post story replay value while opening the doors for future DLC.

The success of movie tie-in/ based games has historically been proven unpredictable. As a fan of both, it's been some time since I've seen a Rambo title and for now at least -I'm excited!

Visit the official website to view trailers, all you need to know and find out how you can receive a Limited Edition Figure when pre ordering.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Dead Effect goes FTP with a monstrous update! [iOS] News

I've battled my way through countless story missions, also survived endless waves of zombies/ or undead since my review of InDev Brain and Bulkypix's Sci-Fi Horror FPS last October.
 "Screams quality!"
,I said in my review ,plus still, highly recommend you check it out whether you are re-downloading or downloading for the first time.

I've also died ...a lot ,and hope I am not about to again now this fantastic formerly paid game has gone free-to-play. 

First impressions are promising, advertisements are not apparent, though I'm sure you may know these can suddenly appear at a later date. New, is the 'store' where we can buy in-game currencies with real life money. This I am anticipating will be entirely optional, but enough about Dead Effect's change of sale and more of one monstrous update!

Here's what else is new in version 1.2:

§ Unique loot drop system
§ Choice of auto-aim and auto-fire with automatic reload
§ Set-up difficulty of zombies
§ Biohazard mode, survival enemy waves and unique mini bosses
§ 2 new mini bosses
§ Wagner boss
§ New achievements
§ New leaderboards
§ Daily objectives
§ Mini boss fights at the end of each level
§ Explosive grenade
§ Electric grenade
§ Trip mine
§ Crossbow with explosive ammunition
§ Chainsaw
§ Predator minigun
§ Electric bow
§ Future shotgun
§ Future assault rifle
§ Accelerated movement speed of main character
§ Supports MOGA controllers

So as you can see, there's plenty new on the menu to get your teeth into here -let's trust there's no bitter aftertaste!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Spell Quest: Grimm's Journey [iOS] Review

Looking to be like some games I've seen before but seldom played, I thought I'd finally check out what this mini sub-genre almost, was all about and 'word game' doesn't quite do it justice.

 You play the role of 'Grimm' on his wordly adventure through a world of monsters and treasure, this is your 'Journey'.

"Spell words to vanquish foes!"

Quite why Grimm is doing this, after some research appears nonsensical and has a certain Forrest Gump vibe to it -just because he can I guess? That said the ne'er elaborated 'story' still adds substance with the whys and wherefores soon drifting into oblivion.

So, the basic premise is split into two parts as said name suggests. First, you 'Spell' words -this is your attack per se, how you ultimately defeat enemies in your path and in-turn, progress. Then comes the 'Quest' part, of which there are currently fifty to fulfil. Examples include; "Use the letter 'Q' 2 times." and "Use 5 plague tiles."

Of course it's not quite so basic, as you may have guessed but, the game and play evolves at a timely pace rather than chucking all content in your face right away -which I liked. The learning curve is gradual, slowly you are introduced to new tiles and powers all with varying affects.
   Some will help, others hinder and finding out how they all work is part of the fun. Certain monsters also have different abilities to contend with, then aside from mentioning there are indeed the obligatory boss-fights I'll leave the rest to your discovery bearing the aforementioned in mind.

The control scheme consists only of simple taps. Tap to add or remove letters, use power ups, read stats and navigate.

It's a casual game with no timers and like 'Threes!' [£1.49] workaholics will probably feel a bit better when procrastinating as you're actually multitasking by learning at the same time. Your vocabulary may broaden and spelling improve.

Apt sound effects are accompanied by a catchy soundtrack, with cute visuals smoothly animating -sitting nicely behind a clear and neatly laid out user interface. Social network integration's present, as are Game Center leaderboards, 42 achievements, also all the options you could need.

Now I've come to learn 'freemium' is a rather grey area, there's the good, bad and downright ugly -all of which you don't have to play or pay for.
    In this case, so far no pay-walls or timers have detracted less existed.
    There may be some grinding involved en route, though it's unlikely to ever feel that way. Still, stages can be replayed and currencies accumulated should you reach a stopping point.
    I've yet to notice any advertisements and all I can say is I'm hoping players who continue to enjoy their free game here throw a few coins the developer's way via an in-app purchase or two if they can.
    Not only to support future updates, but as a thank you.

Pro-trip: The Gem Doubler is always a good buy.

Far as I can see Spell Quest: Grimm's Journey [Free] is an iTunes App Store debut release for Mark Smith and Bacon Bandit Games, a tasty one at that

- word!

Presentation: 85%
Gameplay: 85%
Longevity: 90%
Innovation: 80%

Great! 85%

Saturday, 8 February 2014

My Little Rescue Helicopter

is a new arcade game from Indie developer James 'Jayenkai' Gamble currently available for [Free] via gamejolt in your browser or/and iPad (HTML5) also as a download on Windows, Android, OUYA too.

Shoot enemy aeroplanes and rescue stranded friends by hovering your ladder over them screaming,
"Get in the chopper!"
Then avoid getting shot down before returning 'home' safe.
    These are the goals in this essentially endless flyer.

Targets have health bars to deplete and your standing is shown in numbers, if it reaches zero -game over.
    Uppermost, a radar almost spans the game window, giving the player a guide to bogey locations and drop off points.

Up, down, left and right arrow keys or mimicking virtual joystick movements manoeuvres your helicopter by way of desktop/browser otherwise iPad respectively. While holding space bar if not where you want to shoot on screen fires projectiles.
    Both control schemes work extremely well and there are even clever game mechanics usually only present with 3D helicopter games; your aircraft reacts accordingly to additional weight when carrying passengers, also bullet trajectory changes in relation of pitch. These simulations make things tricky at times providing challenge.

The sound effects do their job providing confirmation of hit detection also gun-firing, but it's the music -both original and catchy, though unfortunately absent (along with said sound effects) when playing on iPad that will get in your head.

Visually, My Little Rescue Helicopter is presented in simple 8-bit graphics reminiscent of something you may have played on an old Atari or Amstrad.

All-in-all an sagaciously made accessible, fun title with tasks to complete, three difficulty levels for mastering and high scores that beg beating -take a test flight.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

What's Free in February? [Highlights] News

Xbox Live Gold members have a fortnight to download Dead Island for free, then Toy Soldiers: Cold War will be available from the 16th through February 28th via Games with Gold. This is currently only available on Xbox 360 of course.

PlayStation Plus subscribers can get
Outlast for PlayStation 4, with Payday 2, Metro: Last Light and Remember me offered on PlayStation 3. Finally if you own a PSVita *Streetfighter X Tekken, also ModNation Racers: Road Trip are free this month. (*Dynasty Warriors Next in the UK)

Club Nintendo offerings consist of Mario Party 2 for the Wii's Virtual Console and Art Academy: First Semester as DSi Ware (3DS only.)

Customisable multiplayer shooter Loadout is now free to play on Steam.

Indie developer Jayenkai is now making OUYA titles as part of the 'AGameAWeek' schedule so be sure to check out his back catalogue and keep a look out for new releases at no charge.

FTP Only One is coming to iOS and Android any day now and while I could not find any newly released (this month) or upcoming February freebies for Windows Phone users, there's news! Flappy Bird will be arriving but, as yet no release date has been set.