10,000,000

‘Action’, ‘RPG’ and ‘Indie’ are three genres you have probably seen banded about a little too much recently – and there is no exception in the case of EightyEight Games’ debut PC port, 10,000,000, which washed upon our digital shores earlier this year.

Taking note of its iOS origins, I plunged into 10,000,000 with grave expectations of disappointment. “Just another failed crossover”, I began to tell myself as I flicked between screenshot after screenshot of crudely pixelated dungeons and monsters, “There is no way I am about to earn my money’s worth of enjoyment”. Well, uh, it would seem I was wrong. 8 hours overall playtime wrong, in fact.

A very simple game with little need for instruction, 10,000,000 actually does manage to work on a number of levels above its classification. On one hand you have the blatant RPG elements of grinding for experience and upgrades, the other a basic three-in-a-row matching puzzle, which earns the resource for the former. So, where does all this elusive ‘Action’ fit in, I hear you cry? Running atop it all is your tiny, fedora-equipped self, forming what is essentially a progress bar rife with chests to plunder and a variety of monsters to swing at. Whenever an obstacle is in your path, the correct tiles must be matched in order to continue, i.e. swords and staffs will deal damage, whilst keys unlock. Bearing in mind that your enemies are as eager for you to fail as you are to succeed, gameplay quickly becomes fast-paced and intense as that back wall – your only form of death – edges ever nearer.

Of course, there are a number of items to collect along your journey (food, for instance, gives you a little bump forward, allowing for last minute recuperation), however the main goal lies in the game’s title: 10,000,000 points must be achieved in order to gain your freedom. The developers’ original intentions aside, this is where we begin to break the fourth wall a little, and it certainly wasn’t hard to see links between our protagonist’s endless struggle and my own in playing this title. With every attempt I grew both stronger and more confident, all the while pushing for a higher score; that one step closer to victory.

It is important to note here that 10,000,000 carries the high addiction rate of most successful mobile titles and, already being a big fan of similar puzzle classic, Bejeweled, it certainly captivated my attention for the time that it lasted. This is a game that is very comfortable within its genre and will by no means make any move on trying to change that. All in all, a fun, challenging title that is extremely humble in both its motives and its pricing – worth checking out for any lover of its ilk.

Visit EightyEight’s website here

Buy it on Steam here

Buy it for iOS here

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THE AGONY AND ECSTASY OF MINECRAFT

For the past couple of months, Minecraft has very slowly crept up on me. Favourite Internet communities were doing hilarious Let’s Play videos, new memes were born, and everyone was fascinated by this unlimited virtual Lego set. The limit was your imagination, and having to contend with deadly enemies determined to not only kill you but destroy your creations like a jealous younger sibling brought that extra tension that was irresistible to gamers. And the best thing is – in multiplayer you can still go smash your elder brother’s perfect castle into bits, it just takes a bit longer.

When I went to my local geek con in mid-June, one of the most popular pieces of merchandise was the square cardboard Creeper head, the swirl of greens and faint grin easily seen across the crowded convention centre. Minecraft had arrived, and it was making pixels cool again.

My husband caved first. I would sit at my desk in our shared office, while I heard the sounds of him picking at dirt blocks, the sickening crack of falling too far, the popping of lava, blobbing in water, and a few quiet shrieks and profanities as a Creeper lolloped dangerously close. He showed me videos of people’s amazing creations: the 1:1 scale model of the Enterprise D; a relatively-dimensional TARDIS; TNT explosions so huge the game can’t render them; huge troll faces on grass plains; and buildings literally touching the top of the world. I resisted for a while. But, eventually, it got me.

I played my husband’s copy of the game while he was at work. In hindsight, it’s a good idea that I don’t have my own copy. I was immediately sucked in. Armed with a cup of tea, and the Minecraft wiki in the background, I set to work.

I really wanted to build my base in a snowy tundra, and I spawned on a beach. I wandered for an in-game time of three days, until I finally found the perfect spot. I had water, lava, a view of the sunrise, and plenty of sheep. I built an awesome log cabin out of spruce, with a bed, coloured wool rugs, paintings, bookshelves, and a sign. (It’s very telling that even though I had nothing else in the house, I had three bookshelves.) I had a natural mine nearby, in which I got ridiculously lost a couple of times. I planted flowers outside, and watched the snow falling on the roof. It was awesome.

The one thing I didn’t realise was that to spawn in your bed, you had to sleep in it. Whoops.

I proceeded to die in the most spectacularly faily way – I found a hole in the ground, and went to see how deep it was and went too far. Seriously.

I respawned on the beach where I started, to my surprise. I tried desperately to remember which way I walked, by the landscapes I went through. I wandered around for days, following the sun in every direction. I was going in circles. I discovered a closer and bigger snowy tundra to my spawn point, which was annoying fact number 1. Eventually, I accepted annoying fact number 2: I was hopelessly lost, and there was no way I could find my house again. Annoying fact number 3: I’m usually a pretty good navigator, but I’d done the stereotypical female thing of having a terrible sense of direction in a pixellated world. My husband delighted in making gentle fun of me, even when I distinctly remember him effing and blinding because he once got stupidly lost in his own mine.

I exited to the title screen, and restarted the game. With a heavy and shamed heart, I proceeded to delete my game and start over again.

I found another tundra. I rebuilt my cabin, bigger and better with my increased knowledge. I found a much better mine with more minerals, including my much-wanted and elusive lapis (which I used to make a blue rug under my bed). I had more sugar cane, which satisfied my insatiable need for paper. I had all the sheep I could shear. I built a boat and went across the ocean looking for squid. I slept in my bed. This game was ten times better than my previous attempt, but the magic was gone.

My house is built. I have my sign, my paintings, my books, my brightly coloured floor. I’m coming up against the same problem that I had with Lego when I was a child – there’s so much to build, so much I could do, that I don’t know what to do next.

So, I’m interested in what you guys have gotten up to in Minecraft and maybe get some inspiration for things to build. What cool stuff have you made? Have you lost your house like I did? Have you used a pressure plate in devious ways? Have you toiled away for hours only to have a Creeper explode in the middle of your work? Let us know!

Minecraft is available for PC, Mac, Xbox 360 (through Xbox Live Arcade), Android, and iOS. You can buy it here.

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.

DRAGONVALE

Back in 2006, I saw the trailer for Viva Piñata for the first time. The first thing that came to my mind was, what the hell? Three years later, my friend lent me Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise for the DS. And I absolutely loved it! I then proceeded to play both Xbox versions, and 100% one of them.

But now, Backflip Studios has released a game that surprised me in a way that no iOS game has. I first started DragonVale a few weeks back, I played the tutorial and I was done with it. But two days later, while I was bored and had nothing to do (like usually) I whipped out my iPod and loaded the game and damn, I was hooked.

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But what makes it so damn addictive? I believe it is it’s simplicity. The concept of the game is very basic, you have a “garden” and you have some dragons. But then, you can breed those dragons, and you have a ton of different types of them, such as Mountain, Sun, Cold, etc. They will then generate money for you, which you can use to improve your island so you get more visitors, buy new species, harvest food, and more.

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Don’t worry, the dragons won’t stay all cute for ever. They actually do get badass.

Remember the old ninja saying that patience is a virtue? This game will test you on this to the maximum. Sometimes, when you breed your precious pets, you’ll have to wait 12 hours for them to finish breeding, and then another 6 hours for the egg to hatch. Although this might sound discouraging, it’s actually really great, since you can do other things meanwhile. Also, some dragons will generate money so fast that you’ll have to keep checking back constantly. Oh, and I’ll let you in on a little secret. While I was writing this, every time I finished a paragraph I’d go back into the game for a few minutes. Tee hee!

There are 30 levels, and you’re gonna have a fun, yet tough, time getting there (I’ve been playing this game for about 20 hours total and I’m still at 12). There are over 60 variations of dragons, with the developers constantly updating the catalog. Sometimes they’ll even release holiday specials, such as the Love dragon or the Firework dragon!

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Their designs are just awesome.

The bad thing about this game is, you probably won’t be patient enough. For example, right now I have to wait 8 hours for my dragons to finish breeding, and though I have much to do in those 8 hours, I keep going back to the game and expecting them to be done, with no results. Although there are methods of skipping these waits, you basically have to pay for in-game stuff and I don’t really like that.

Another fun thing about the game is going into your friends’ garden, and instantly thinking: “I want my island to be much more badass than this!”. The social aspect of the game really adds some competition.

Do you think the game sounds cool? Then head on over to the App Store and download it, for free!

DELVER

Still very much so in alpha development, Chad Cuddigan’s Delver is a Minecraft-esque roguelike that has a huge amount of potential for the future. Currently running on both Windows and Android, the beauty within this release is its simplicity, applying very minimal, easy to learn controls through each level of its descending dungeons.

Atmosphere is definitely a key feature within Delver – often leading you through dark, claustrophobic tunnels, each holding a selection of unforgiving beasts and baddies intent on your demise. At this stage there are only three varieties of weapons: daggers, swords and wands – however, that isn’t such an issue, with each holding its own power, ability and design. Wands are the only ranged weapon currently implemented, but hold a lot more effectiveness than the average blade, allowing you to take out oncoming enemies from any distance in a satisfying explosion of pixel blood. Each wand has a limited number of charges, however, and so must be used sparingly in combat. Armour throughout the game also relies on much the same principle as the weapons, increasing in defence depending on its style and class.

There is a colourful selection of potions to be found, however it would seem that all but one heal your character – despite each description declaring an unknown effect. This has no real downside on gameplay, but it would be nice to see a bit more variety in how each colour corresponds to your character – especially if there were overall attack/defence stats included. Each potion could perhaps carry its own positive/negative effects, allowing for you to focus more heavily on a certain style of play – for example, using speed and attack, but lacking in defence.

Another feature that I would love to see included would be durability. With a lot of low grade armour and weapons scattered about each level, it seems a little bit of a waste to ignore a use for them. If each weapon, in the same sense as the wands, had a certain number of uses – or hits, in the case of armour – there would most certainly be a much more increased sense of difficulty and desperation – especially on the lower levels, where gameplay can be pretty comfortable at this current stage of development.

All in all, I highly recommend trying Delver out – It’s a nicely made, fun little game that takes little knowledge or computer power to run and I will most definitely be following with each future update.

Download Delver for PC here

Buy Delver for Android here

Follow Delver‘s development blog here

GURK II

I had to make a long journey by train the other day, so the first thing I did was scour the Android Market for a suitable travel companion. What I discovered therein was too good to not share…

Larva Lamp’s Gurk II is an extremely simple 8 bit rpg, with full levelling and a variety of spells, weapons and armour to loot along the way. Despite being far more finished than it’s predecessor, Gurk, both are great examples of how less is more; hours of entertainment can be found within this very cheap, very cool little game.

Following in the footsteps of the classic RPG titles, Gurk II is turn based, allowing for random monster attacks and battle tactics, as you choose which strategies and paths to take. Also included are stat rolls for characters, boats, summoning and advanced spells – a whole lot more features than other games of this size on the Android Market.

The main downfalls within Gurk II lie in its resolution. As the images above show, the actual play screen is really not that big, meaning that only tablet users will ever really experience the game at a normal ratio – however, this isn’t a massive issue and I found I could play quite comfortably after the first few minutes.

But, be warned – this game is challenging, and an understanding of its mechanics will be needed if you want to progress at a good rate. In my first attempt, I found my players slaughtered constantly, ever pitted against larger and larger swarms of higher powered enemies. It was in my second try, though, that I began to pay attention to the items and potions and their effects, where I instantly found myself playing at a much better standard with no deaths recorded so far.

Overall, Gurk II is a great game with a lot of content. I highly recommend purchasing this – or its free prequel, Gurk – as it will kill the boredom of any RPG fan.

Get Gurk for free from Google Play here

Buy Gurk II from Google Play here

Visit developer Lava Lamp’s website here