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

RESURRECTION

Welp, after an unexpectedly long absence I have once again returned to distress your eyes with more words on the world of gaming.

I hope you can all accept my apologies for being much more distant than I originally let on, but rest assured I have not achieved much else in the months since, bar finally completing Tony Hawks Pro Skater 3 100% with all characters on Playstation 1 – a grand achievement which I’m sure you can all recognise and acknowledge. Feel free to congratulate me in whichever ways you see fit.

Following this post, I will strive to maintain a semi-regular stream of reviews, news and plain old opinion, so your input and thoughts are welcome as ever in building the site and telling me why I’m wrong. In addition to that, please feel free to browse back through our archives and find our thoughts on the titles you love, hate, or maybe have yet to even discover at all!

As always, thank you for all your continued support to this humble blog – it is the fuel that drives this ship, no matter how many icebergs may spring up in its path.

-argzombies

Retro Rewind: Tomb Raider (1996)

I have always been, and probably always will be, a huge PlayStation gamer. However, my particular weapon of choice is the first and the original PlayStation (or PSX) – the world’s first 32-bit console, released in 1995. The range and depth of legendary games available for the system is unrivalled, in my opinion, and I have kept not only nearly all my games, but two working consoles, and I still source games second hand. Anyway, I digress.

This is the first in a series of reviews of those classic games. My first pick is a game that is dear to my heart – the original Tomb Raider.

Before the other games, the movies, the spin-offs, and the reboots, there was this game. I loved it when it came out and I still love it now. As a then ten-year-old girl, Lara was a likeable and relatable heroine at a time when not many of them were around. There have been many debates regarding Lara’s feminist status versus her sex appeal, but she was a strong and confident female protagonist, who just happened to have big boobs (that were later reduced). And sure, the game’s graphics may be completely laughable by today’s standards – consider the iconic T-Rex battle in the third level, The Lost Valley.

Here’s the original:

 

And here’s the 2008 remake:

But in my mind, the dated visuals don’t detract from the game at all. In fact, it’s part of its charm for me. The game is still completely immersive and sucks me right in. So what if the entire game is comprised of boxes and squares around Lara’s height? So what if the textures are tiled straight onto the grid, including the water? So what if Lara’s famous breasts are triangular and they can’t animate her long plait? It’s just polygons!

The environments are still lovingly detailed and lush. The sound design in this game is second to none – the music is used sparingly and in just the right places. The Jaws-like cellos that start off the action theme still never fail to scare the crap out of me. The effects, ambient sound and creature noises are bang on the money. And of course, there is the hauntingly beautiful main theme – hearing it in the pool rooms of City of Vilcabamba never fails to give me chills. The later games became much more action-focused – Lara gained many new abilities and even friends to help her along the way. I still prefer the puzzle-based gameplay, with hints of action every so often to wake you up. The joy in Tomb Raider for me is exploring the levels, soaking up the ambience, and trying not to break your neck doing a tricky jump. I take immense satisfaction in performing exactly the right series of manoeuvres, manipulating the environment to get where I need to go.

This game also has the best story of the lot: a mystical artefact from the lost continent of Atlantis and a fallen god revived in the modern day wreaking her revenge (spoilers!). Lara’s flashback to the destruction of Atlantis is still chilling to this day. The thing I love in this game is that it is genuinely scary in some parts – not just in an oh-my-god-there’s-a-Trex-kill-it sort of way, but in a shivery, skin-crawling way. The moving fleshy walls of Atlantis and the skinless enemies are truly disconcerting. And you can’t tell me you didn’t get vertigo the first time you saw St Francis’ Folly.

Of course, the game still has its flaws. The Save Crystal system implemented for the PSX is a huge pain in the arse, forcing you to save a limited amount of times in certain locations. Later games introduced more lenient systems. Sometimes the camera angles suck, especially if the game turns Lara’s head to look in a certain direction when you don’t want it to. And some levels are prohibitively dark, which was also solved by the introduction of flares in later games. The only ability that I miss in the first game is being able to roll in mid-air, which is very handy in the midst of combat.

Overall, this game is an absolute gem, and a wonderful introduction to the series. The other games are immensely good too, but this one is still my favourite and in my opinion, the most accessible (the opening levels of TRII and III are quite difficult for a novice – hell, even difficult for me!). The levels are mostly short and sharp, which doesn’t let the game get bogged down, and later levels are just difficult enough to enjoy without (much) frustration. I dig it out every so often for a run around, and it’s time for me to attempt another play-through – once I find my PSX memory card!

 

Tomb Raider is still available second hand for PSX (PS2 compatible), or for download from the PlayStation Network. It is also available for PC download, but you will need a DOS emulator.

Borderlands 2

Pandora. A world taken over by Handsome Jack, The owner of the Hyperion Corporation.

ImageImage

You are a Vault Hunter, come to Pandora to find, well, The Vault. But so is Handsome Jack. It is up to you to stop him.

Borderlands 2 is, of course, the sequel to the 2009 game Borderlands, developed by Gearbox Software and produced by 2K Games.

ImageImage

Like the first game, there are different classes that you can play.  They all have their own special skills that you can upgrade as you wish. First there’s Axton, The Commando. Like Roland, from the first game, Axton throws out a large Sabre Turret, which is like having another soldier on the field, and if you beef it up right it will do all the fighting for you. Second we have Maya, the Siren. If you played as Lilith in the first game you’ll remember her ability Phasewalk, well it turns out all sirens have a different ability. Maya’s is Phaselock. Phaselock gives you the ability to hold your enemy in midair giving you time to reload, deal with other enemies, or focus on them. Maya is known as the healer in Borderlands 2 whereas in the first one it was Roland, but if you level up her skills just right her Phaselock can be one of the deadliest weapons in the game. Next there is Salvador, the Gunzerker. In Borderlands there was Brick the Berzerker who when Berzerking, would use his fists to pound his enemies. Well when Gunzerking Salvador can dual wield ANY TWO GUNS. Yes, that means you could dual wield a rocket launcher and a shotgun if you wanted. That is definitely not one little man you want to piss off. Then we have Zer0, the Assassain. This is one of the newest classes to the game. There was Mordecai, who was the Hunter in Borderlands but they are nothing alike. Zer0 has the ability to send out a hologram of himself (Yes it still does damage to enemies) so that he becomes invisibile and can do damage to his foes without being seen. This is a more difficult charachter to master and most people that play as Zer0 don’t exactly understand how to use him but when played correctly he can be one of the strongest characters in the game. And last we have Gaige, the Mechromancer. The newest edition to Pandora. Gaige is a tech wiz, and she has the ability to summon a bot named Death Trap. No matter what tree you decide to level up Gaige and Death Trap are unstoppable.

ImageImage

One thing that was taken from the first game was the importance of loot. Loot is one of the most important parts of game. The higher the level the better the loot. The more people you play with (up to 4) the harder the game the better the loot. There are numerous factors that affect the level of loot you get. Never just look over anything because even if you can’t and/or don’t want to use it doesn’t mean you can’t sell it! Money is also a big deal. Never hesitate to open anything either…there is always some kind of goody hiding inside!

Image

Borderlands was definitely a different style game when it was released in 2009 and of course like all games it had its bugs and glitches but somehow Gearbox managed to fix them, all of them. I have only noticed one glitch in one area and its because the graphics can get incredibly intense. Other then that I haven’t noticed anything wrong with the game and neither has anyone I have talked to about it. Also unlike the first one, Gearbox has given Pandora a complete makeover. Pandora has become a more colorful planet. In the first one Pandora was a very dry, desolate place so very bland colors were used. Once the Vault was opened in the first one an element called Eriduim was being found all over and Pandora became a more beautiful planet.

Image

Also something new that Gearbox integrated into Borderlands 2 was character customization. Sure in the first one you can choose from a basic color palet but in Borderlands 2 you can unlock new heads and skins for your characher. All you need is a customization station and your character can be whoever you want them to be.

Image

Overall Gearbox Software did an amazing job with Borderlands 2. Be careful when you enter the Caustic Caverns because the game will be a bit glitchy but not enough to cause problems. I highly reccomend you give the game a chance. Revisit Pandora, find old friends, meet new ones, and above all save Pandora from Handsome Jack.

MISTS OF PANDARIA

Last tuesday, Blizzard released World of Warcraft’s latest expansion: Mists of Pandaria. Featuring a new race (Pandaren), a level 90 cap, new dungeons, raids and battleground, this new expansion had me hooked ever since it was announced.

I’ll try to keep this as (major) spoiler free as possible, but read at your own discretion. Also, keep in mind that this is a lot of content to go through, so it’ll take me a while before I finish  the other parts of this review. Make sure to check back every day to see the new updates. Beware, really long review incoming.

New Race: Pandaren:

 Image

Let me just start off by saying that the new starting zone is amazing. Set on the Wandering Isle, which is literally an enormous tortoise, the player is tasked with finding out what’s wrong, since the Isle has been moving erratically lately, causing some problems for the inhabitants. Pandaren players have seven classes to choose from: Monk, Warrior, Hunter, Rogue, Priest, Shaman and Mage. It’s too bad they can’t be Death Knight, but I guess it would be against canon if they could. They start out as a Neutral race, and don’t get to choose a faction until they’re level 11. What is most important is that it’s not a dull zone. The lore of the place keeps you interested for the time you’re there, as well as the beautiful environments surrounding you. Although it’s certainly a fun starting zone, it’s definitely not the best, but it’s up there.

New Zones and Quests:

Image

I still remember my first couple of days playing WoW, some years back. When I created my first character, a Night Elf hunter, I was immediately blown away by my surroundings. The vibrant colors astonished and enticed me. Blizzard has managed to recreate this feeling. As soon as I stepped into Pandaria, I was amazed by the style of the place. And to top it off, the game’s soundtrack fits perfectly into the theme. So if you’re going to play, crank up the volume and listen carefully, it’s well worth it.

What really surprised me was the amount of in-engine cutscenes included in this expansion. Wrath had a couple, Wrathgate and Fall of the Lich King for example, but Mists has tons of them. About a third of the quest chains end in a Cinematic, and so far, I have counted at least 10 different ones. And let’s be honest, Wrath Gate didn’t look all that good, but these ones blew my mind and gave me shivers.

Image

Image

Blizzard has introduced a new type of quests that I loved. They’re basically flashback quests, telling you the story of something that’s happened within the story whilst you weren’t there (instead of one character missing and only a couple of text lines to explain what happened). You are given control of a different character, and the person in question usually narrates what happens while you’re playing it. It’s pretty fun and innovative.

Overall, Blizzard has stepped up their quests. Back in the old days of WoW, 40 out 50 quests would be “Kill X of Y” or “Collect X of Y by killing Z” but now there are many different types of quests. Sure, you still get some of those quests, but there are many quests with fun objectives such as: Help a pandaren farm, kick some critters (literally), the aforementioned flashback quests, and much more. Levelling doesn’t feel like much of a grind now.

Image

Another neat touch on Blizzard’s part is that when you have a quest that asks you to kill a semi-boss enemy, it doesn’t matter if there is someone else already fighting it, you can still jump in mid-fight and get the recognition of killing it. This way, you don’t have to wait for the other player to kill it for respawns, and you can work in a team without being in a party. For instance, I was once tasked with killing an evil witch, so I ran up to her and saw a fellow Druid already fighting her, and he was obviously struggling. So I joined the fight, healed him and suddenly two Hordes come up, and they start helping us out too. Of course, once we killed the witch we started fighting between us, but still, the brief alliance was a fun thing to watch.

Some of the zones are more light hearted than others, and some don’t even affect the main story. For example, within Jade Forest most of the story is set, but once you go into Valley of the Four Winds, you have a moment to take your mind off the main conflict. Still, all of the new zones are gorgeous and worthwhile.

What made the original World of Warcraft great was the ever existing threat of war: Horde vs Alliance. Yet in previous expansions, this was lost, because for the most part of them, heroes of the factions were basically banded together for their mutual benefit, for example, killing the Lich King or Deathwing. But in Mists of Pandaria this is completely different. The expansion itself starts with conflict, and the discovery of this new continent is also a consequence of the war. Throughout the whole expansion you’re reminded that not only you’re exploring a new continent, but also fighting a war against the opposing faction.

 

IT’S HERE: STEAM GREENLIGHT HAS LANDED

So, you might remember me jabbering on about something called Steam Greenlight last month – well, it’s finally here!

Nicely embedded within Steam’s new ‘Community’ feature, you can now vote for your favourite games and in-development projects to be placed directly into the Store, bypassing those long Valve decisions and bringing the power directly to the consumer.

As of this time, Steam Greenlight is running off a rating system that considers up and down votes on an overall total (for example, Dino Run SE, a personal favourite of mine, has a calculated 1% of ratings so far towards its final goal), meaning that developers are going to be heavily relying on the community for any chance of progress – obviously flaunting the features of Steam’s new ‘Game Hubs’ and sharing system.

With 492 games currently taking part, it’s very exciting to see such a chance for indie developers on a mainstream platform – my only worry being, however, that it is essentially a popularity vote. Flashy graphics, or big online communities do not necessarily make one game better than another, so I sincerely hope that people are going into Greenlight without the intention of knocking out their chosen title’s competition (that down vote button is awfully big).

All in all, it should be interesting to see how smoothly the system runs over the next few weeks, and which games manage to find their way to the top of the pile! I recommend giving Greenlight a browse – a couple of clicks of your mouse could be securing the fate of Steam’s next big hit.

 

Visit Steam Greenlight here, or through your Steam Community section.