Game of the Week: Halloween Edition

Well the pumpkins are carved, the little ghouls have been fed, and the costume stores are closing up shop and selling costumes for a DOLLAR! [ Thanks Wal-Mart! 🙂 ] – and thus marks the end of Halloween. It was good while it lasted, but now November’s here and I’ve got to look forward towards a mouth full of turkey and a wallet that will soon be emptied by holiday shopping.

         Games don’t care about holidays though. They’re like superheroes. They work 24/7.

This is why this week I’m devoting an entire Game of the Week to Halloween!

Here are two games that will certainly have you addicted to bumps in the night!

1. Monster Park – Kiwi

Now folks who follow this blog probably know my taste in games by now. I’m pretty much opposed to any game that has me farming/collecting anything besides Pokemon. It is my deepest regret [ and overwhelming joy ] to tell you all that I was introduced to Monster Park by Kiwi. Things have never been the same since. Now, what is Monster Park?

Here’s a brief overview for your viewing pleasure:

It’s designed for mobile devices and I have to say it’s a joyful, easy, light-hearted experience. The game breaks down your Monster Park into tasks which are fairly simple to accomplish. The game mechanics are simple with one touch interface via touch screens. This game is so unassumingly addictive because of how easy it is to get started, but once you’re a few monsters in – it’s hard to stop. The biggest downside to this game is wait time, but that’s a bonus with mobile titles. You may have to wait 24 – 48 hrs for a project to finish, but – hey, at least you can play any time.

I’m a Monster! Rawr!

Pros:

  • Art is comical, enjoyable, and child friendly for all ages to enjoy.
  • Color scheme seems to be colorblind friendly, though some monsters are harder to distinguish, due to pallets and housing backgrounds.
  • Simple touch screen mechanics make the game limited mobility friendly.
  • Special mythical creatures, and holiday events add specialized achievements
  • Audio isn’t important, or required, to play this game. Plus for deaf players.

Cons:

  • Wait times can be horrendous for certain tasks [ Game Room/Some Hatching
  • Music track can tend to get repetitive after a time, if playing continuously.
  • Breeding based on randomized algorithm. No guarantees that you’ll breed X over Y. [ i.e.: Expect to be disappointed sometimes if you don’t get what you’re after.]
  • Purchasing Mythic creatures seems to be too expensive for players to achieve

Monster Park uses a Free-to-Play method of game design – so, if you’re into collection games, and want something fun to do this fall besides eat the rest of your kids Halloween stash pick this game up! It’s available on all Android mobile devices! You’ll be dying to play it more and more as you gain levels!

2. They Took Our Candy – Level 1 Wizards

I love the retro gaming era. I know I wasn’t born till the later of it, but I can’t help but find myself falling in love with pixel art and any game associated with it. That’s why when I saw this game,  I just knew I had to write about it. They Took Our Candy by Level 1 Wizards is a heartwarming, nostalgic montage to the days of our youth.

Zombies take our brains… but Aliens want our SUGAR!

 

Oh, and did I mention that you play as a group of trick-or-treaters bent on saving the universe from alien invaders who want to take your candy? It must have slipped my mind! If you like this concept though, then you’ll love They Took Our Candy this Halloween season! Grab up your goodie bags and set your fazers to KILL – in this retro-modern alien blaster!

For Reese! For Hershey’s! FOR SUGAR HIGHS EVERYWHERE!

Here’s a brief look at the game and it’s content:

Pros:

  • Game is set to auto-fire. Excellent for limited mobility gamers
  • Game increases slowly in difficulty and allows time for upgrades
  • Games color scheme is vibrant and varied enough for colorblind.
  • Game doesn’t require audio to play. Visual cues easy for deaf to use.
  • Game adds additional challenges via Survival Mode

Cons:

  • Game doesn’t have an WASD function. Left-handed gamers will have trouble.
  • Game enemies can become increasingly overwhelming in certain levels.
  • Game only allows access to new characters/new strategies after certain XP is hit.
  • Games soundtrack, while awesome, can become repetitive after a few sessions.

Overall the game focuses on being quite an accessible game, and makes for a joyous Halloween treat this year. You can stop in and play this wonderful creation over at Kongregate.com today. I would love to see a mobile version of this produced, because I think nothing would be better than blasting aliens for candy while I’m filling up with my morning coffee.

Thanks Level 1 Wizards for an exceptional Halloween treat that everyone can enjoy!

So there you have it folks! Now pig out on candy, while it’s still around. Grab your mobile or computer devices and enjoy these little indie chunks of heaven. Share them with your friends and make the sugar high monstrous addiction come to LIFE! Muhahaha – I mean…

Happy Halloween and enjoy your Fall season!

Gastrogamer – Insert Coin to Replay

I’m… BACK!

[ Insert Coin NOW! ]

Gastrogamer took a bit of a fall hibernation due to increased schoolwork, but Full Sail has been good to me lately and I’ve quite enjoyed the course work over the last few months. Now, with Fall in my sights, and a slew of holiday gaming sales on the rise – I’m sort of amped up on an endorphin high with the excitement of getting my hands on some of the newest games hitting the market.

I’ve got everything from web-based indie games, to AAA blockbusters to cover, but I plan on doing it in a timely fashion. Here’s what I’ve got on my schedule in the next coming month:

  • Indie Game Coverage Galore
  • Assassin’s Creed III Review
  • Amazing Spiderman Review
  • Holiday Gaming List
  • More Inspirational Gamers
  • Wreck It Ralph! Review
  • A Tabletop Discussion: DnD and Pathfinder
  • Personal Game Development News

So, stick with me folks, and I assure you I’ll continue to provide you with continuous game info, accessibility, and discussion as we head towards the holiday seasons!

Game of the Week: Super Adventure Pals

*dusts off the old manuscript*

Oh gosh, how long have you folks been sitting here without a good game to get your hands on? Well, for the record, I just want to apologize for that. It’s summer, and despite popular belief, I am not a vampire who writes game blogs every day. I like to feel the warmth of the sun on my pixelated skin tone. Well now I’m back, and I’m rolling up my sleeve to deliver a pretty awesome game from developers, Jay Armstrong and Julian Wilton, called Super Adventure Pals.

Now close your eyes and picture this:

You are a young boy. You have a pet giraffe and a pet rock. You’re having a peaceful picnic in the forest, when out of nowhere an evil villain STEALS your PET ROCK! Now it is up to you to save your pet rock [ and vicariously your village ] from the likes of evil genius mastermind: Mr. B. You’re an action hero. A superhero – oh, and did I mention he has a giraffe?! YES. He does. Save the rock, get the girl, and save the town in this adorably addictive Action/Platform/RPG.

‘This picnic ROCKS Giraffe!” “Murrrruuu!”

If the concept is hilarious to you, well then all that’s holding you back from seeing this gem is playing it. In light of this though, I suppose we should be talking about accessibility. OK! Armstrong and Wilton did a lot of small tweaks to the game’s overall design which I feel really make this game enjoyable and I hope you do too – so here goes nothing folks! Hoo!

Pros:

  • Optional control scheme at the start of the game. Left and Right handed schemes.
  • All text/dialogue is written out or symbolic. No audio is necessary to complete levels.
  • Color scheme and art animations are clear and sharp enough to be distinguishable.
  • Simple gameplay makes the platforming enjoyable and the quests engaging.
  • A humorous storyline combined with a plethora of levels to play through makes S.A.P. a joyful and unique platforming experience.
  • Health kits are automatically used making traveling and healing simple.
  • 75 levels, 4 bosses, and 3 towns full of content gives this game quality time.

This level feels so slow – oh. It must be the sloths!

Cons:

  • The text is only available in English, so international gamers may have issues if they’re not proficient in reading English.
  • The control schemes may be simplistic, but they often times require both hands.
  • Motion-impaired gamers may have difficulty with the platforming in further levels.
  • The game doesn’t have a mouse-only option for movement, so one-handed gamers will have extreme difficulty in accomplishing levels.

“Muhahahaha! ALL YOUR ROCKS ARE MINE!”

Overall, while the game has challenging platforming that may make some gamers frustrated, the appeal of the quirky artwork, humorous storyline and engaging levels makes Super Adventure Pals a definite ‘must see‘. Save your pet rock, ride your giraffe, save the world from evil masterminds! Armstrong and Wilton have done an impressive job with this game and I tip my hat to their genius Flash designs. You can play Super Adventure Pals NOW on Kongregate. It’s an accessible little blast of challenging fun and one of the best I’ve seen Armstrong release!

Way to go gentlemen! Now, if you’ll excuse me – I have a giraffe waiting to fight aggressive sloth monsters. He gets cranky when I don’t feed him.

E3 Impressions: The Unfinished Swan

Imagine this:

You’re a young boy tossed into a world that’s devoid of color. You’ve found yourself chasing after this white swan in this white devoid environment. You find yourself having to navigate your way and feel your way around by creating silhouettes via splashing black paint on the blank canvas environments. You’re thrown into a kingdom you don’t know anything about, with puzzles and a journey ahead of you that you can’t possibly predict.

If just on this premise alone you’ve become intrigued by this concept, then you’re probably going to be a huge fan of Giant Sparrow’s IP:

The Unfinished Swan.

I would love to finish this storybook!

Developed originally by Creative Director, Ian Dallas, the game started off as merely a grad student experiment. Four years later Giant Sparrow has come together via Sony Santa Monica to produce this marvelous, ethereal looking journey for gamers. I can’t even express how excited I am for this game, but what you should know is that it is a PSN Exclusive at this time. The game will also be compatible for Playstation Move and basic Dual-shock controller functionality. Now why is this game so amazing to me? Well I’ve thought about it for a while and I think I’ve come up with a solution.

The Unfinished Swan is a tale all it’s own, and it gives gamers a brand new experience I’ve never witnessed in games. I’ve seen other games before that have experimented with paint physics [ Epic Mickey comes to mind ] but never have I seen such a lush and innovative take on the genre. The first person perspective gives players a sensation that I don’t think any game in recent years has given to players. There’s a sense of adventure, mystery, and intrigue for players as they blindly have to feel and craft their way around the vast blank canvas. I truly believe that this game will not only captivate people with it’s simple narrative, but also the gameplay seems extremely accessible.

Sure a game where you play as a boy splashing paint around trying to apprehend a swan doesn’t sound like much at first glance, but when you factor in the puzzle mechanics and story driven gameplay you truly see something far greater. Dallas and his team have managed to take a monochromatic color scheme and make it into something fantastic. I loved watching as the paint splatters coated each new object, and how it felt to discover if an object moved, or if a door would open. The Unfinished Swan has so much potential for greatness, that it’s definitely one I’m going to put on my Must Play for 2012.

This is gorgeous. Simple, but one of the most gorgeous ascetics I’ve seen!

Here’s what I’m seeing so far:

  • The Unfinished Swan seems to have very little dialog, and when it does there’s text associated with it.
  • The monochromatic/soft color scheme seems perfectly suited to fit any gamer.
  • Colored markers have been placed throughout to provide gamers with long term goals.
  • Control mechanics seem simplistic and easy to use [ would love to try this first hand. ]
  • There seem to be multiple chapters within the game, some with color and some devoid.
  • Dallas mentioned something about enemies within the game. I would love to see some form of combat or puzzle solving involving enemies.
  • There also seems to be environmental puzzles which seem to make a player feel like a part of the creation of the world as they navigate through it. I think this is a fantastic idea.
  • Audio cues seem to pop up when a player completely coats a silhouette. Could this actually allow blind players to play the game? A thought perhaps.

Overall The Unfinished Swan seems to be a vast transition and stray from the norm of the market right now. It’s for this reason alone that it’s grasped me so veraciously. Giant Sparrow seems to be onto something that may very well change the way I look at Move technology entirely. I can’t wait to get my hands on the full experience some time soon, and you can bet when I do I’ll let you all know how my quest for The Unfinished Swan goes!

Till then, I’ll just have to keep exploring visible kingdoms I suppose…

Game of the Week: The Man Who Sold The World

Today I’m feeling a bit retro – how retro? Let’s just say, “David Bowie 80’s” retro. I woke up this morning and checked on one of my favorite little indie game developers that are based right up here in the Northwest. [ Woo for hometown gaming! ] If any of you were lucky enough to stumble upon I Saw Her Standing There…, well then you’ll know why I love Krang Games. They have a distinct retro-simplistic art style to many of their games. Narratives and stories seem to drive every fabric of their games, and I’ve had a blast playing all of them.

It’s that time again! – The Interstellar DATING GAME!

Krang Games is owned and operated by developer Nick Yonge, and I have to say his games have definitely helped inspire me to try my hand at flash game development. Now, why am I in a retro mood this morning? Well it’s because Yonge [ and the rest of Krang Games ] have come out with the newest game in their vintage flash line: The Man Who Sold The World. It’s a interactive narrative/platforming game that was inspired by David Bowie’s music. How cool is that? The game is rather short [ 4 levels ] but the platforming can be challenging, so don’t take this simplistic design lightly. The object seems to be to collect as many of the glowing orbs in the levels as you can find. How did this play out? Well let’s get to the accessibility shall we?

If the world was in the palm of your hand – what would you choose?

Pros:

  • Few controls – makes for simplistic gameplay and easy functionality.
  • All dialog is text-based, which is perfect for deaf gamers.
  • Soundtrack is ambient and unique, though can be a bit repetitive.
  • A & D keys and Arrow keys are both available for users, allowing for one-handed players to play [ left or right handed ]
  • Game has decent pacing, making this game a labor of love, rather than a laborious struggle for gamers. 
  • Game has no penalty system, so if you make mistakes it’s easy to continue and try again.
  • The narrative plot is strong, intriguing, and fun. It will keep you guessing as you go forth.

In The Jungle, the mighty Jungle, The Man He Sleeps Tonight!

Cons:

  • Game almost requires two hands, due to requirement of Spacebar for jump action. [ One-handed is possible, though harder. ]
  • The games color scheme is, for the most part, accessible. Some sections and colors, however, may be troublesome for colorblind.
  • Precision gaming is pretty key to succeed, due some difficult platform sections.
  • Game has a chapter function on Main Menu, but no way to jump to new chapters unless you earn them.
  • I wish there was Skip function. I failed certain sections quite a few times due to jump spacing.

Overall, the game was a joy to play. There may have been moments of frustration due to difficulty with the keyboard based controls, but I enjoyed my time with Krang Games new sci-fi retro narrative. It’s definitely one of those few delights I get from the vast array of internet gaming fodder. If you’d like to play it as well, you can jump into the sci-fi fun over on Kongregate.

The game hasn’t been played much, which is why I’m happy to be reviewing it. Give it some love, maybe some stardust, you know – whatever you feel like! I hope this game keeps you searching through the stars and soaring into the realm of 8-bit retro games!

In closing though, I’ll leave you with two things to Bowie this post up a bit:

and for a little light humor on the subject, one of my favorite beloved comedy bands:

The Flight of the Conchords

E3 Impressions: Assassin’s Creed III

The Assassin’s Creed series has been a staple of my gaming library for at least 6 years now. I’ve followed Desmond from his first days in the Animus, and I’ve travelled through time to some of my favorite eras in history: Jerusalem, Renaissance Italy, and the Byzantine Empire. I’ve seen it all and I’ve enjoyed every conspiracy driven minute of the Assassin’s journey, and now Ubisoft is bringing my much loved franchise to an era that I can’t get enough of. Assassin’s Creed III will bring the boats back around, setting sail for a story centered in Colonial America.

“It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.” – George Washington

With a new addition to Assassin’s series comes a brand new assassin to embody. The game will continue following the story of Desmond, but this time his ancestry takes him neck deep within the Revolutionary War. You’ll get the opportunity to strap on the white cowl as you play as Connor, a half-Native American/half-English assassin, who becomes a silent voice for liberty above the tyranny of the British soldiers. Now from what I’ve seen, this game has everything I could ever ask for when considering what I would want out of a 18th century experience.

It would be incredibly easy to go into a in-depth, multi-paragraphed dissertation on all of the ways Ubisoft has altered the newest addition to their Assassin’s series. I, however, will try and remain completely objective and refrain from my fan-boy obsessions with the time period and characters to give you a detailed and unbiased multi-platform examination of the game. Here goes:

  • In past Assassin’s Creed games the game has had some linearity to it, but it felt like an open world experience. In AC III Ubisoft truly revamps the open world experience for the game. I always found that in past iterations of the Assassin’s series that, while the environments looked beautiful, they lacked environmental climate changes. In AC III Ubisoft has seen the need for environmental experiences. Players can now experience the weight of walking through thick tufts of snow, crunching over mounds of dried leaves, and even fighting off generated wildlife that roams the wood.

The most epic game of “Hide and Seek” ever.

  • In AC III there seems to be far more open ended fun to be had. The quest systems seem to be more ‘in the moment’ and even if they’re similar in some fashion [ and by this I’m referring to the fetch quests, assassinations, etc. eventually they felt very similar in scheme after a couple of attempts.] Ubisoft seems to want to change that with letting you feel as though each mini-quest is as important as the main story scheme. Interact with historical figures and feel like a meaningful part of the Revolution Era. I’m sort of loving this, and I can’t wait to see what that means for further gameplay.
  • It seems as though your main enemy in this game is, of course, the Templars. The Templars seem to be mostly associated with the British soldiers, but that’s not saying there probably won’t be some traitors within American ranks either [ I’m actually kind of hoping for that! ] Ubisoft really focused on being authentic though, because if you watch the gameplay scenarios, the soldiers only shoot once before they have to ambush you with bayonets.
  • This is going to give a lot of variation to the new gameplay mechanics, and with some of the new moves that seem to be showing – I think this will be one of the most versatile combat systems we’ve seen out of the Assassin’s series. The movement and dodge mechanics seem to have new animations and provide the player with a brand new experience that makes every combat scenario a unique experience. I can’t wait to kill off Templar goons, string them up, use them as bullet shields, etc. Oh, and let’s not forget that there’s actually going to be naval ship battles too – which blows me away! No pun intended!
  • The game has multiplayer of course, and though I haven’t seen much of it. It looks like they’ve made the system easier to deal with and more accommodating to the user. I was unfortunately disappointed by the Revelations revamp and how difficult the system was to handle. I preferred the interface they incorporated in Brotherhood, but it seems as though the interface for AC III seems far more fitting to the user.
  • The game is going to be released multi platform as always, but what makes AC III so intriguing for me is that it’s going to be coming out for Wii U, PS3, 360 and PC. I’m intrigued by the possibility of AC III on the Wii U. Will you be able to use the second screen function as a far more visible HUD, inventory screen, etc. How will the touch screen be implemented? This also brings to mind the 360 Smart Glass. How will Smart Glass help AC III differ on their system in comparison to if I bought it for PS3?

For Liberty and Justice For All

I’m hoping the new gameplay and environmental elements of AC III will bring Connor’s story to life in the greatest way possible. I’m hoping with new technology and new ways to interact with the AC universe that Assassin’s Creed III will be one of my most loved and cherished games. I will be on pins and needles waiting to see how this game unfolds, but it’s shaping up to be one of the most epic adventures that Ubisoft has ever unveiled.

Thanks guys for giving this designer something to truly swoon over both from a gamer perspective and from a tech junkie’s anticipation! The game’s slated for October 2012 – so get ready folks! The Revolution is coming!

E3 Impressions: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Now, for those of you who don’t know, I am sort of a huge Hayao Miyazaki fan. Studio Ghibli has helped to release some of my most cherished childhood memories via their films.  So imagine my surprise a few months ago when I found out that I would finally get a chance to play a GAME designed by the great Miyazaki himself?! Yep! You heard me right!

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

A GAME BY MIYAZAKI?! TAKE MY MONEY NOW PLEASE!!

Now I know this game has been floating about already, so why in the world is this E3 news? Well, the game has already had booming popularity in Japan, and a few months ago they announced that Studio Ghibli and Level 5 were going to be working on bringing Ni No Kuni state-side! So yes – all of this work simply for an English dubbed version you say? Well, I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am and why this forgoes almost everything else I’ve seen from E3 thus far!

The game looks beautiful and it’s done in full cell-shade artwork. They also seem to have put movie-style cutscenes into the game. This decision gave the designers a way to make the game look like a genuine movie quality piece of Miyazaki’s work. It’s a brand new story too, which I’m so excited about. It’ll be the first time that I’ll actually have an opportunity to play an interactive role in a Miyazaki piece of work. I’ve always loved movies like My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away, etc.

All I will say about this movie is: Cat Bus for the win!

Would you like one lump of sugar or two No Face?

One of my FAVORITE Miyazaki films! I could watch this for days!

You name it, they were a part of my life, and to know that the start of 2013 I’ll be able to participate in one directly is a true blessing I can’t wait to experience! Level 5 is famous for their RPG designs, and so it’s to be expected that they’d use similar methods to design Ni No Kuni. If you’ve ever played White Knight Chronicles – you’ll definitely see notes of that game in Ni No Kuni. The main map motions, etc. but what I love the most is that it seems as though Level 5 is trying to make the game play out a bit like a Miyazaki version of Pokemon!

You start playing the game as the main character, Oliver, on his quest to be a master magician and save his mother’s soul from this other world called Ni No Kuni. In the game you’ll encounter spirit creatures, which you can collect [ Does this NOT sound like Pokemon, Folklore, etc. – either way I’m intrigued.] to help you fight off later monsters and bosses.

How beautiful! New characters to start loving!

The game isn’t turned based though, so it’s all action based and oriented. The HUD displays look simple and easy to navigate, and it seems as though controlling your creatures is simple as well. I’m truly looking forward to seeing this game and it’s touch towards accessibility. It may be a huge hit in Japan already, but I can bet that Ni No Kuni will sell out quickly in the States too!

Does this not scream vintage games like Pokemon, Chrono Trigger, etc.?!

My words don’t do the game justice though, so I’m simply going to stop. Just take a look at the game for now, and see what Miyazaki and Level 5 have given us humble citizens to look forward to on January 22nd, 2013! So far all I see that it’s getting released for is PS3 and Nintendo DS [ in Japan only ] Here’s to Studio Ghibli and their shining gem of interactive artwork! Can’t wait!