May 13, 2013
The next to last game my friend and I played was Cannon Golf. It was probably my favorite game of the show as I really dug the learning curve and the responsiveness of the balls. Attempting to make it to the hole in as few strokes as possible was the name of the game and this was made difficult by the various obstacles on each stage. However, at players’ disposal were three different types of balls; a normal one, one with inverse gravity, and a third that would stick to surfaces.
I remember discussing with Kevin Meier, one of the game’s designers, the efforts he went through to have the balls react realistically when hitting walls. From what I could tell, his work was a success. The only thing I noticed was that sometimes, when my ball looked like it was in the hole, the game wouldn’t recognize this and I’d have to take an additional stroke or two so that was always a bummer. Still, I dug the succinct stages and the puzzle-like nature of the game and it held my interest for the entirety of the demo.
April 21, 2013
The Room is a puzzle game in the strictest sense. Players need not worry themselves with anything but solving puzzles. In each of the four stages, players are plopped down in front of a box composed of many mechanical locks. It is usually these, and other mechanical objects on the boxes that represent puzzles. Figuring out how they operated was the main brain drain.
Unlike Mansion of Hidden Souls and Juggernaut, I felt like The Room did a better job of implementing puzzles. The former games were puzzle games yes, but they placed more emphasis on exploring an environment, finding items, and making a connection as to where they needed to be used. This game’s puzzles are more self-contained in part because there’s no environment exploration. The boxes need to be scoured for clues, I mean scoured, but there’s no other exploration. The puzzles in the game were serious thinkers though.
With four brief stages, it only took me a few bedtime sessions to complete, most of the time though, I was staring at my tablet deep in thought trying to work a puzzle out. If not that scenario, then I was inspecting every inch of the larger box trying to figure out what to work on next. There’s a faint amount of narrative in the form of notes from a researcher friend, but it’s supplementary. They enhanced the mystery surrounding why the player is doing what they’re doing, but the puzzles were the motivation, at least for me.
This was the first output of Fireproof Games, a British studio made up of seasoned designers and I thought it was a mature experience among the cartoonish chaff that populates mobile platforms. The Room is available on Android and iOS devices for $1.99.
July 23, 2012
Relying on a sense of absurdity that’s in line with the bulk of their releases regardless of medium, Adult Swim Games’ Monsters Ate My Condo is a fast-paced puzzle game that’s worth a look. The game was developed by PikPok, a developer of smartphone and tablet games, and originally released onto Apple’s App Store in 2011. It was just recently released for Android devices.
As they fell from the heavens, I had to match three or more of the same colored condos to remove them from the growing, ever toppling tower of condos. I had to manage the increasing amount of condos and prevent the tower from falling over while appeasing the monsters on either side of it. If need be, I could swipe condos to monsters to make room and try to get a combo, but if I fed a monster too many condos of an opposing color, I ran the risk of upsetting the monster too much, at which point it’d break and destroy the tower, ending the game.
Besides just appeasing the monsters, I could utilize their special abilities in an effort to increase my score. Along with the special abilities of the monsters, I could try and create chains of combos to reach for a high score. When I created a chain, special blocks of bronze, silver, gold, and eventually diamond constructions remained, that when matched, produced big points. Although my management of the tower and the monsters was my focus, scoring big points was the name of the game.
In both the endless mode and the time attack mode, scoring as many points as possible was the goal. My management of the tower and the monsters became tougher the longer a session would go on. As my high score climbed, so too did the tower; it’d be able to hold more condos and the condos began coming in more colors and types. The longer a gameplay session lasted, the more ridiculous it became. The screen was full of nonsense in line with the Japanese monster movie vibe along with point totals and multipliers that were constantly flying around.
Monsters Ate My Condo is a visually striking game that was quick to captivate and worth every bit of the dollar it costs.
May 11, 2012
Released as a pack-in for Tiger’s Game.com, Lights Out is one of the only games worth playing on the system, not that it’s so great that it’s worth tracking a Game.com down.
The objective of Lights Out is to rid a 5×5 grid of any panels that are lit utilizing the Game.com’s touch screen. The game has two modes although they’re not really that different. The difference stems from the method grids are completed. Players can choose to solve puzzles by only turning lights off, or by flipping any of the panels.
It’s simple to understand and it’s pretty fun. Lights Out is the type of game I could imagine playing for a few minutes before bed for many nights. It’s not worth tacking down a Game.com to play, but Lights Out is the probably most fun you’ll have on the system.
December 21, 2011
Blue Toad Murder Files in its entirety consists of six episodic downloads wherein one to four players assumes the role of a detective and solves crimes. The first episode, Little Riddle’s Deadly Dilemma is available for free on the PlayStation Network and my friend and I recently played through it.
Developed and published by UK based Relentless Software, Blue Toad Murder Files is a departure from what they’re known for: the Buzz! series. At the same time, they’ve used their experience and crafted a game that is fun with friends, cooperatively or competitively.
Set in a picturesque British village with banal villagers who talk in a nearly foreign tongue, to me (an American) Blue Toad Murder Files seems as British as it gets. But that’s part of the game’s charm. When it comes to detectives, Sherlock Holmes and the work of Agatha Christie are forefront in my mind, never mind that Hercule Poirot is Belgian…
Anyways, my friend and I soon witnessed the mayor of Little Riddle get shot and we began questioning the villagers attempting to find the culprit. Nearly every time we talked with someone they had a puzzle for us. We were supposed to solve these ourselves but we worked cooperatively. The puzzles reminded me of the ones I saw in Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Puzzles didn’t fall into one category and for all twelve of them we were asked to do something different. The difficulty was well paced and we had fun attempting to get the gold medal on each one.
Blue Toad Murder Files: Little Riddle’s Deadly Dilemma couldn’t be tackled in a free fashion; it was a guided adventure that gave us all the information it had and then tasked us with putting it all together and coming to a conclusion. I loved the setting and the character’s and dug the variety of the puzzles. It took us about an hour to play through and I suspect we might play through the rest. If that’s the case, expect another write-up over the game in full.
December 6, 2011
Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits. It’s a game about digging to the bottom of sometimes infinite voids, and while it isn’t packed with enough content to fill the void left by major releases, its fast-paced gameplay and moments of surviving by just an inch are apt enough to fill the void in between other things.
Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits is an action/puzzle game for the Nintendo DS. It was developed and published by Namco and released on November 30, 2004, about a week after the DS was released.
A spiritual successor of sorts to the arcade game Dig Dug, my objective was to dig deep. I had to dig through rocks shaped like squares and composed of different colors. I needed to be careful so the rocks wouldn’t drop on me while also keeping an eye out for oxygen tanks as I had a limited supply of oxygen. The gameplay was easy to grasp, tough to master, and fast-paced; I found it very fun.
Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits is light on content. There are three single player modes and they’re just slightly different from each other. Mission driller is the primary mode; here I was tasked to dig through increasingly deeper stages and was rewarded with minimal amounts of conversation and unlockable characters. In pressure driller mode I had to escape an enormous driller while also attacking it with ammunition I had to pick up and then fire at it. The third single player mode was a time attack mode where I had to complete stages as quickly as possible.
The game also has multiplayer, but it requires each person to have a copy of the game so that was out of the question for me. Its gameplay is easy to grasp and it can get frantic so I would’ve liked the option for single-cart multiplayer to try it out, but it’s not present.
The single player modes were challenging. It was easy for me to complete the early levels in the modes, but I needed to evolve my techniques to make headway, something I had a hard time doing. I gather the ideal way to play Mr. Driller is to zigzag through the stages. Doing this makes it easier to gather pickups and prevents rocks from falling onto my character as they would join with rocks of the same color or get caught on other rocks. I had to train myself to dig horizontal when my inclination was to dig vertical.
I liked Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits’ gameplay. It was simple and fast-paced, but it became very challenging. I was able to complete the game, but I found little reason to play afterwards. I could play as other characters and get different conversations, but that wasn’t that appealing. I did find the gameplay enticing enough to play post completion just competing for higher scores however. It’s fun while it lasts and it’s fun to play afterwards for small chunks of time and with complete copies selling for five bucks on the internet that sounds like a good deal.
December 2, 2011
Q: What is Juggernaut?
A: Juggernaut is a first-person adventure game where the primary mechanic is solving puzzles. A great shorthand reference would be the popular game Myst, a less ideal one would be either Mansion of Hidden Souls or The Mansion of Hidden Souls, two similar games that I wrote about earlier in the year. Juggernaut was released on the Playstation in 1999, many years after any of these games.
Q: What is Juggernaut about?
A: The protagonist’s girlfriend has become possessed by an evil spirit (presumably the devil) and a priest has notified the protagonist that the exorcism he performed was ineffective. Telling the protagonist that his love for her is the greatest chance of removing the evil, he sends him into her body to rid her of the evil.
Q: Wait, what!?
A: Yes, that’s only the beginning to the surreal adventure that plays out in Juggernaut. Inside the girlfriend’s body my friend and I did not find organs and blood but instead a mansion; perhaps a nod to the Mansion games?
Q: Okay, but why a mansion?
A: Well I suppose it could be a metaphor for something. Maybe it symbolizes her soul with the rooms inside representing specific chapters of her life, maybe not though. Functionally it provides a great backdrop for a single environment that requires a lot of exploration and houses many puzzles.
Q: You’ve mentioned puzzles, but what’s gameplay like besides them, what do you do?
A: My friend and I controlled the protagonist and explored the mansion and other environments. We’d explore until we couldn’t progress any farther, usually because of puzzles, although I use that term lightly. Most puzzles seemed to revolve around finding an item and making the connection as to what it’s used for. There were puzzles that required my friend and me to get scratch paper out and think something through, but for the most part making connections was the name of the game.
Q: So it’s a puzzle game and the puzzles aren’t that great, why should I even care about Juggernaut?
A: That’s a great point actually. My friend and I felt the same way until we encountered an evil microcosm, what we were attempting to rid the girlfriend’s body of. The evil microcosms were one-off stories that featured unique plots, characters, and environments. The stories and dialogue in the microcosms were absurd! Definitely some of the weirdest stuff I’ve encountered in a video game.
There were eight microcosms in all. Two of them took place in the future, entirely on the internet via virtual reality. Two of them took place in an isolated prison. One of these featured a spy who yelled out karate moves before he attacked people, like “karate correspondence manual page 12, flying kangaroo”. It ended in a goofy/creepy five minute conversation with another character that had my friend and me laughing, and confused. Two took place on tropical islands and they also resulted in confusion. The last two took place in woods and they dealt with a ghost shaman from Africa and a killer who slashed out eyes. I’m only scratching the surface of what makes these storylines strange by the way, just know the plots develop strangely and the dialogue is detailed
Q: After everything you did was the ending satisfying?
A: Yes, actually. What was more satisfying was the epilogue though. It added another puzzle and a lot of exposition from the girlfriend’s perspective, plus, a twist.
Q: Who made Juggernaut?
A: I’m unclear on that. There are two Japanese companies attached to Juggernaut, Will and TonkinHouse. From what I’ve gathered Will developed it and Tonkin House published it in Japan. Jaleco published it in America. Remember, it came out on the PlayStation in 1999.
Q: So should I play it?
A: Nah. The gameplay was slow and it takes a long place to get somewhere. There was an interesting mechanic in the mansion of having to switch bodies to access specific rooms but this was time consuming. Juggernaut is a pretty ugly game even considering how old it is but I liked the soundtrack, it wasn’t overbearing, it was moody, and set the tone well. It was fun solving puzzles and experiencing the oddities with a friend and the microcosms were surreal, but you can probably YouTube that stuff.
October 19, 2011
A self-described action/puzzle video game, StarDrone was released last week on PlayStation Network. StarDrone was developed in Ukraine by Beatshapers and published by TastyPlay.com. I don’t think the game is worth the eight dollar asking price; then again, you can download it on the PC for three dollars.
StarDrone presented ten stages for me to play through in the demo. I controlled an orb that floated through space randomly but I could “attach” myself to other orbs’ gravity and propel myself in other directions by circling them and letting go.
Set on top of a backdrop of stars, each stage was a confined area that was full of orbs and collectibles. My objective varied between the stages, but they all revolved around collecting something. I navigated around each stage collecting what I needed to and it was pretty easy, although my feats were never good enough to be granted anything better than a silver medal. Towards the end I was introduced to enemies and walls with spikes. The enemies weren’t troublesome, but the spikes turned one stage in particular into a challenging test of timing.
I wasn’t too impressed with StarDrone. The stage design was interesting; I didn’t feel like I was traveling the same path twice, then again, collecting objects didn’t present much of a challenge and I found the game boring. StarDrone supports the PlayStation Move so that’s cool I guess, but I’m indifferent about the game.
October 4, 2011
Rochard is a recently released platformer that includes puzzle solving revolving around gravity. With the aid of his G-Lifter, John Rochard can pick up and shoot objects. As John Rochard I was also able to affect the level of gravity around me, utilizing low gravity for many things. I played the demo for Rochard and got a feeling for the game’s story and gameplay.
John is an astro-miner for Skyrig Corporation. He leads an unproductive team, the least productive within the company in fact. The demo opened up with John returning to his team. This intro video featured a cool bluesy song while John was flying back. The soundtrack was actually composed by Markus “Captain” Kaarlonen, which if you’re like me doesn’t ring a bell, but he is a member of the popular Finnish rock band Poets of the Fall.
Once he landed, I gained control of him. I could only walk to the left and the right meaning Rochard is a strictly side-scrolling game. However the areas I played through had a lot of depth; everything looked nice too. The character’s were cartoon-like and the garments they wore, like the stages, had depth; I could notice John’s vest rising over the rest of his clothes. The dialogue was funny; it garnered a chuckle from me whenever John first ran into enemies. Another star to add to Rochard’s credits is Jon St. John providing John’s voice. Jon St. John is probably best known for being the voice of Duke Nukem.
During the demo the crew made a great discovery, one that pleased Skyrig’s president very much. The demo never told me what I had found, but I suspect it’s related to ancient aliens as per the game’s website. The following day, a group of bandits breaks in and begins wreaking havoc. But John wasn’t defenseless.
John has a G-Lifter and this factored into everything I did. Using the G-Lifter was simple. After picking up an object, it stayed in my G-Lifter’s beam. I could aim with the right analog stick and a series of arrows would appear showing me the trajectory my object would travel.
By picking up crates I could use them as a shield and a weapon against my foes. More importantly, I needed the G-Lifter to solve a handful of physics-based puzzles. Tying into many of the puzzles was John’s ability to trigger low gravity. About halfway through the demo I reached a gravity generator, once I fixed it I could trigger low gravity whenever I wanted by pressing L1 or L2, I forget. I had to manipulate gravity from here on out and I came across at least one puzzle that had me stumped for a couple of minutes.
The story seemed lighthearted and the graphics were pleasing. The gameplay is where Rochard shined though. The mechanics were simple to grasp and fun to implement in the puzzles. I hope the difficulty amps up slightly over the course of the game. But for ten bucks it seems like a good deal. Rochard is the first game developed by Finnish game developer Recoil Games. It was released on PlayStation Network last week, published by Sony Online Entertainment.
September 30, 2011
Before they were known for the Disgaea series, Nippon Ichi Software developed a puzzle video game for the PlayStation back in 1996. Jigsaw Madness was published in the USA by budget publisher XS Games in 2002 and when I say it’s a puzzle game, I literally mean you put together jigsaw puzzles.
In regular old jigsaw mode I tried completing puzzles as fast as I could, with the help of up to three other players, if I had a multi-tap… and three other people who wanted to play a jigsaw video game. There were plenty of puzzles, 150 to be exact so should someone be seriously interested in this game, there’s ample content. Most of the puzzles I played seemed fitting with the theme of puzzle design: they had a lot of colors and plenty of objects.
Besides the puzzle itself, I had many options that affected the difficulty of the puzzles. Most importantly I could decide on how many pieces that puzzle should be comprised of: 24 pieces, 96 pieces, or 150 pieces; naturally the more pieces, the longer the puzzle took. I could also choose whether the pieces were in the correct position or if I had to rotate them. Another option that amped up the difficulty was if I wanted to view the puzzle piece outlines on the uncompleted puzzle.
The reason I pulled this game off the shelf however was to try it out with a friend; but I couldn’t find two others or a multi-tap, dang. We played a handful of rounds of the game’s competitive multiplayer. There are two modes and they’re only available for two players. In the first mode we tried to complete three puzzles faster than our opponent, simple enough. The second mode was a little more challenging; we attempted to capture more puzzle pieces than the other guy. To capture pieces we had to surround them, and the results from this mode were always up in the air until the end.
One very cool thing about the multiplayer was the items we could use. With each puzzle piece we placed correctly, we’d fill up a bar on the screen. As it filled up more items became available to use. There were a few dastardly items too. Reversing our opponent’s controls, speeding up their controls, blacking out the images on the pieces; depending on which side of the item we were on, it was frustrating or hilarious.
I’m not really sure what the appeal of a jigsaw video game is (or was) but for what it’s worth, Jigsaw Madness is a good game. There’s plenty of content there for those who are interested, but playing with a friend is where it’s at. Whether you’re working together or against each other, it’s a unique video game experience.