A NEW CHAPTER

Hello, World!

You will notice a couple of changes being made to PlayOnThis over the next few weeks, especially so in the addition of 2 new categories: ‘Updates‘, which will allow us to communicate what the hell we’re doing, and ‘Opinion‘, which will open the door to a whole new form of writing! Furthermore, we are collecting more writers and enthusiasts to feed your hunger for the world of gaming – so if you’ve become bored of my inane ramblings, there is going to be a selection of more intelligent people to get your fix from.

As PlayOnThis has focused primarily in simple reviews and the odd bits of news, you will now be receiving much more experience, perception and opinion on certain aspects of games, genres and whatever else is deemed relevant. Of course, this will put more focus onto the category system itself – I recommend you have a browse through it to find the posts tailored to your interests!

Feedback and suggestions about the site, or the writing, are all very, very welcome. If you have an idea for a post – or indeed a criticism – please feel free to leave us a comment, or directly send me an email to the address in the sidebar. If you’re feeling very generous, you could even show your appreciation by ‘liking’ the posts you enjoy and sharing us with your friends!

As always, we are extremely grateful to all of you who take the time to read our humble writings, so thank you for your precious attention – it really means a lot.

Yours sincerely,

argzombies, court jester. 
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DEADLY DUNGEONS

If you have read through my older posts, you will already know that I am a big fan of dungeon crawlers and fantasy games in general. What I didn’t have, however, was one that I could keep in my pocket!

Deadly Dungeons, developed by code_zombie for Android devices, is a very well designed RPG, set within an underground labyrinth. Having been split from your party, the player must fight for survival, exploring a variety of dungeons for a way out. As your character progresses, however, you are lead to a  ‘confrontation with an ancient evil, and a descent to hell itself’, battling a variety of monsters and beasts en route.

The first thing that really struck me with this game was its size: this is not your average, quick phone game – in fact, it could even comfortably sit as a full desktop release. A lot of time and effort has certainly been invested into Deadly Dungeons, boasting random generation for its levels, as well as a variety of skills and spells to learn and upgrade. As with all games of its type, there is a functional levelling system that allows you to focus on a certain class, or indeed create a character who is balanced in melee, ranged and magic attacks. Numerous item drops and discoverable loot are also very welcome additions to the title, allowing for old equipment – such as weapons, armour, amulets and potions – to be traded with Zebo, the in-game merchant.

Fighting is conducted by tapping the weapon/item symbols when an enemy is in your path, with different aspects to consider: axes are slower hitting, for example, so must be combined with evasive movement if the creatures have a strong attack. It is also important to note that the game moves in real time, so keep an eye on where each beast is inside a room, because you can very quickly become encircled and trapped without realising it. Keys can be found throughout the game – or from Zebo, allowing you to open locked chambers for additional exploring (with a chance of the key breaking on use). A criticism I could make about this game, however, is that shields do not seem to have much use in battle and only really serve as amping your overall defence. A very small issue, but noticeable – especially so when it can be used as a physical weapon alongside your primary.

Overall, Deadly Dungeons is a really great addition to any gamer’s phone and includes a range of difficulties (from casual to permadeath hardcore) as well as a number of character images for you to choose in the style of Neverwinter Nights. For only £0.99, this is a true bargain that should not be passed over lightly.

Buy it from Google Play here

Visit the website here

PLAGUE INC.

What’s the difference between plagiarism and a tribute to a game? Plague Inc. is a game that was recently released in the iOS store, much to the discontent of some people. Why? Because it is nothing but a rip off from an older flash game, Pandemic 2. However, people might have been too quick to judge… or not.

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 The concept is simple: create and improve a disease, with one goal in mind: Wipe out humanity from the face of earth. By infecting more people, you get “DNA” points which you can then use to purchase new symptoms, transmissions and abilities. The symptoms allow your disease to become deadly, whilst the latter help your disease infect new people.

 Although it adds new features such as DNA “bubbles” that appear on the map every once in a while (giving you the option to pop them for extra point), more types of diseases, a “Cure” meter, different difficulties and the ability to choose the country to start in (which should always be Madagascar) the game feels exactly like Pandemic. With no real innovation in terms of gameplay, it really makes the purchase questionable.

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 The different types of diseases. Pandemic only had three, so this is a plus.

 One thing that goes in favor of this game is that it gives you the ability to play mobile, and since Pandemic is a Flash game you can’t really play it outside of home or work.

Also, while playing the game you really do realize that the developers of Pandemic should just sue them. No real effort was made into changing the game, it seriously is just an illegal port. Sure, renaming the Evolution points into DNA points is a great difference, you geniuses.

The real question is: Should you buy this? No, you shouldn’t. Although it’s $0.99, a very reasonable price, you could just go play Pandemic 2 for free on your computer. And even the original is not that great of a game. There is simply too much waiting around, even with the speeding up function. And while Plague Inc. tries to fix this by introducing these bubbles, the controls are so clunky that it’s really hard to burst them in time. Long story short, save yourself $0.99 and spend it in something else.

BOTANICULA

If I could only use one word to describe this game, it would simply be ‘beautiful’. Other terms could also be ‘clever’, ‘challenging’, ‘funny’ and ‘personal’ – but, especially ‘unique’. Botanicula, the newest development from Amanita Design (best known for their award winning Machinarium), is truly one of a kind in both its emotional value and its ingenuity.

A true point and click adventure, you are given control of 5 little bugs on a journey to save their home from an invasion of parasitic spiders which are, very literally, sucking the colour and life out of the world around them. Instantly you are treated to a vibrant range of personalities and worlds to explore, solving various puzzles in order to progress to the next steps of our tiny heroes’ story. Yes, as is with most games in its genre – and most games in general, mind – this is essentially a long series of item quests, leaving you to seek out a multitude of hidden objects and solutions scattered around the environment. However, there is a brilliant sense of depth and personality within this title, and I found myself wandering through each stage with a childlike sense of awe and curiosity, prodding each little detail with my cursor and grinning madly at the effect it would cause. For me, Botanicula brought to life a deep feeling of discovery and innocence; a tiny window into an organic, surreal world, inhabited by an encyclopedia of strange and wonderful beasts that populate each leaf, branch or tunnel along the way.

Although only taking about 3 hours to complete in full, Botanicula does require a serious level of care and observation. With each creature you discover, an animated card is placed within your inventory, not only allowing you to relive your experiences with the more memorable ones, but also in an attempt to actually find them all – a challenge which is not easily completed, especially so in a single playthrough.

What this game really offers is an adventure through the imagination; a brilliant blend of art and logic that does not disappoint at any point during its progression. Whilst the puzzles certainly push you to the limit of lateral thinking, I quickly found myself emotionally attached to my insect friends, guiding them in each step of the way. At one point during play, one of the characters was very suddenly eaten by another creature, leaving me in a complete state of shock and horror! It was  only when he was spat out again a few minutes later did I restore any sense of calm, but I was honestly shaken at the core – just for the sake of these 5 tiny beings.

All in all, I highly recommend Botanicula for the level of escapism it provides, as well as the full extent of which creativity, humour and personality have been invested so entirely. It has certainly been a long time since I have ever been so deeply involved within a game and I absolutely enjoyed every second that I was allowed to experience this intricate universe that Amanita Design have so perfectly created. A genuine 10/10.

Buy it from Steam here

Visit the website here

STEAM GREENLIGHT – THE NEW PLATFORM FOR INDIE DEVELOPERS?

Valve sure has been busy recently, what with the highly anticipated release of Source Filmmaker (click here), working to provide a secure Linux service and, of course, the irresistible siren that is the Steam Summer Sale (it just takes your wallet and stamps all your money into the ground – like a school bully, except you’re actually really pleased about it). However, all of those could be completely individual, standalone posts – what I’m really here to talk about is Steam Greenlight.

In the past, if a small developer wanted their game to be sold on Steam, they’d have to fill out an application form (like this one) and wait about for that all important ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ – but, all that is about to change. Steam Greenlight intends to switch all that responsibility to us, the community, in a fancy new voting system which, I imagine, will borrow heavily from its well received Workshop success. Indie developers will now be able to submit their games/demos/screenshots at any stage of production, allowing for voters to pick and choose who they would like to see in the marketplace. This, of course, is a brilliant change to the old system and really creates a lot more opportunity for any upcoming or existing projects to become accessible to a much wider audience – around 40 million, in fact.

Greenlight’s development is an honest reveal of what Steam has always been about – acknowledging the shifting interests within games and allowing for companies, big or small, to be a part of it. Other portals, such as Indievania (click here), will be able to merge and advertise to the masses what they have to offer. However, with any form of freedom, issues will arise.

Duplicates, false submissions and the possibility of virus-laden software may be found within the flood of new applications – or, as Rock, Paper, Shotgun pointed out, ‘a billion joke listings for Half-Life 2: Episode 3 will instantaneously appear’ (article here), which obviously brings to mind the question of ‘how will Greenlight be moderated?’. I emailed Valve with questions concerning this, however have had no response as of yet – I guess we’ll all have to wait and see for ourselves.

Steam Greenlight is intended for release in August this year.

Visit the Steam Greenlight page here

Catch the Steam Summer Sale here

TITAN ATTACKS

Proudly declaring itself as ‘the best Space Invaders tribute ever’, Puppy Games’ Titan Attacks does not fall short of any expectations – in fact, it goes quite a bit beyond…

Combining the classic format with a fresh, new selection of upgrades and enemies, you must fight your way from Earth to TItan itself to save your beloved planet from hundreds of waves of relentless aliens. In other words, expect a bad case of carpal tunnel by the end of this, because you’re going to be jabbing that fire button with the rage of the old Gods.

Amongst the usual upgrades (health, power, etc.) there are also additional guns that can be added to your tank – not forgetting an absolute wealth of achievements that will keep even the most casual gamer fixed. Titan Attacks‘s biggest selling point, however, is its charm: each ship and parachuting alien (which are, quite frankly, adorable) is memorable and lovingly rendered in a smooth, retro style and there is most certainly a cheerful sense of humour running throughout each level, as well as its menus – I literally felt saddened every time one of my newly-disarmed prisoners was struck by a stray bullet, letting out a little squeal of pain.

Puppy Games have definitely made a number of good choices throughout this release, especially so in how the player is rewarded for what they do correctly – or where, indeed, they fail. Completing levels without damage will increase a multiplier on your score, but one mistake will promptly put you back to the start, creating a healthy divide between the competitive and casual reaches of the highscores. Furthermore, the game automatically saves your progress and allows you to jump back into each stage with your previous points and upgrades. Throughout each level there are a couple of bonus Challenge Modes which can only be described as ‘living up to their name’.

Overall, this is a brilliant, little game which holds attraction to any arcade lover of any age or skill level. The final stages are impossibly hard, but the ability to replay certainly replaces any frustration with a sense of satisfaction that has placed Titan Attacks as a very strong competitor within its field – certainly worth trying out for yourself.

Buy it from Steam here

Try it or Buy it from Puppy Games’ website here

VVVVVV

Officially released in 2010, Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV is an intelligently designed, 2D puzzle platformer that relies on your quick reactions and logic to explore and progress through a multitude of challenging levels. As Captain Viridian, it is your duty to relocate your missing crew members and fix your  spaceship after being thrown into an alternate dimension.

This is an incredibly simple game in theory – only relying on the use of the arrow keys, an action button and Enter – however, you must rely on your ability to flip vertically (i.e. walking on the ceiling) to navigate the ‘landscape’. This may seem an easy concept at first, but I guarantee that this game can – and will – make even the most hardcore gamer break down and cry with despair.

It is hard to explain what VVVVVV really contains behind its colourful, 2D exterior – think Super Meat Boy with less blood and more pixels, I would suppose – however, the main contrast lies in control sensitivity: whereas the former is famous for its incredibly tight movement response, VVVVVV is maybe a little bit too loose, resulting in many a frustrating death as your character oversteps a platform or slides into a spike. This system almost punishes you into learning how confident or cautious you can be within each area and rarely will you pass through flawlessly without having seen the layout before.

Despite its difficulty – which cheerfully ranges from casual to suicidal, VVVVVV rewards you with a huge amount of satisfaction for every small victory you achieve through its long, winding corridors and twisted, gravity-defying mazes. The graphics are refreshing and interesting (I could even say ‘cute’) and there is a constant atmosphere of light-hearted humour and positivity running throughout. Using numerous checkpoints and discovering larger teleporters within the map, it is easy to flick back and forth to explore, as well as to find the ‘artifacts’ strewn across each area – collecting set amounts will unlock different songs to listen to whilst playing.

Overall, this is a great game with a variety of different challenge modes and community created puzzles, which will definitely keep you entertained and forced to really apply logic and strategy within each section. I highly recommend VVVVVV to anybody who is looking for a higher difficulty and a fresh new take on gaming – a great addition to any collection, for a very low price.

Visit the website here (Nintendo 3DS downloads included)

Buy it from Steam here