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

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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

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

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

ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE, AND WHY IT’S JUST NOT ENOUGH

Ever since the release of Morrowind in 2002, I’ve been a truly devout follower of Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series, completely immersed within its intricate detail and complex story lines in which every small book, item, town or character can have a significant effect upon the way in which the game can be played. Each installment has revealed its own carefully crafted world, ripe with culture, politics, adventure and sweet rolls – Skyrim even introduced dragons, fully displaying the extent of Bethesda’s abilities and catapulting itself into the mainstream. However, with the announcement of a planned MMO for 2013 from Zenimax Online Studios, has the legend finally come to an end?

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

For me, The Elder Scrolls has always been about escapism: with each new character you are given absolute freedom to shape the future of Tamriel in whichever way you please, interacting however you feel fit and ultimately forming a bond with the many races that inhabit it, using a combination of different skills – which range from sneaking to destruction magic – to aid you. The addition of other players scares me, to say the least – no longer will this be my journey, but merely a fragment of something larger, louder and much more obnoxious, as Blizzard so perfectly demonstrated with its wide-spread release of World of Warcraft in 2004. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of ebay traders and exploiters, as any form of chat box will become swamped in spam and hopefuls looking for free handouts.

The sad reality is that, whilst The Elder Scrolls has been solely confined to single player in the past, this has also acted as a barrier against all the things which could potentially ruin the experience. The second everybody else has access into the game, all that atmosphere and immersion that has been so carefully put together will be lost.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

At the heart of the series, however, are its fans. Housing an extremely dedicated modding community, there are thousands of additions, fixes and complete recreations available for each game, at absolute zero cost. However, there won’t be any kind of opening or freedom of this kind with an MMO and a divide will quickly form: those willing to join up, and those opposed to this new restriction and breakaway from the style and formula that has shaped The Elder Scrolls since its conception. Some have even been working on their own multiplayer versions of Skyrim, with mods such as Skyrim Online already emerging for public use.

But, it’s not the lack of mods or the decline in quality that I fear the most – it’s the use of the map.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

With every new game, we have been granted a window into each diverse section of its world. From the grotty dungeons of 1994’s Arena, to the wind-swept mountains of Skyrim, Bethesda have gifted us with a stunning selection of vibrant, awe-inspiring landscapes and cities, tailored to each race and culture that inhabits them. Could so much detail and time be spent creating these areas in an MMO? Of course not. The very structure demands for repetition, respawned enemies and recyclable quests – otherwise no player could have an equal chance. To deny us that intricacy we have come to love and swear by would be a serious dismissal to those who have invested so much time and support into the series, immersed in each new scenario. I still want to see the barren stretches of Elsweyr, or the swamps of Black Marsh – these lands that we have so often read about in many a book, yet have always been so shrouded in mystery…

I know that Bethesda’s decision to condone and support the making of Elder Scrolls Online is in answer to years of requests from its fanbase, and it could quite possibly be a great success on release, but, for me, it will never truly fit into place as the logical next step for the series, nor will I consider it as such.

Whatever happens, just please let there be an Elder Scrolls VI – you owe that much to the people.

Some preview shots of Elder Scrolls Online:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Buy ES III Morrowind on Steam here

Buy ES IV Oblivion on Steam here

Buy ES V Skyrim on Steam here

Visit The Elder Scrolls website here