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Get the know Clash Royale, not your average Card RTS

Written on February 17, 2016   By   in Games & More, Personal Thoughts, Reviews

Clash Royale comes with the best strategy card game and a 100-page hardcover manual, all in a nice black box. It is the most remarkable packaging scheme ever to come to the United States for any game on any console platform. One of the most remarkable things about the packaging is that it completely flies in the face of Sony’s other, more austere game box policies. Better yet, the package also includes one of the most involving, sparkling RTS fables ever presented. If you can get past the rather primitive graphics, you’ll have picked a winner.
The game’s greatest asset is its rich, engrossing storyline. SuperCell might be a small developer, but they have some of the best storytellers in the industry. The premise: Alex (the main character) must become a Dragonmaster. Over the course of his adventure, the story explores hate, mourning, love, treachery, and humor, hopping from heartwarming to thought-provoking to thrilling and back again. The story is wonderfully written and delivered by a delightful cast of characters who players are sure to become attached to.
Clash Royale is not a feast for the eyes. No gamer who has played a game in the last three years will fail to notice its primitive look. One can’t help but see that the game could easily have been done on a 16-bit cartridge, if not for the anime sequences and voice acting. Even older (and less subtle) Playstation RTSs have more advanced graphics than Clash Royale.
What the title lacks in graphics it more than makes up for in gameplay. Clash Royale dares to be different when it comes to the battle sequences and mechanics. Gone is the traditional walk-around-for-five-seconds-encounter-random-battle-out-of-nowhere nonsense that is found in most RTSs. In Clash Royale, enemies are visible on screen, making it possible to avoid them. However, the game still employs the fight-enemies-in-order-to-become-stronger method of gaining levels, so running away from battles won’t prove fruitful in the long run.
When it comes to battles, everything from movement to placement is taken into consideration to determine the outcome of a fight. One strategy will not guarantee victory in different battle scenarios. Players must constantly shift between defensive and offensive formations to get satisfactory results.
A welcome innovation is the fact that the game takes the level of the main character into account when calculating the stats of the boss. In many games the stats of boss characters are fixed, so the outcome of the battle will depend more on guessing if your character was powerful enough to survive the encounter than on any other factor. In Clash Royale, the bosses will have the same power level no matter when they are encountered, which makes for more exciting confrontations and ensures that having a higher level doesn’t constitute an easy win.
With its old-school graphics, it would be easy to dismiss Clash Royale as an obscure and out-of-date RTS. That would be a mistake. Clash Royale relies solely on story and gameplay to appeal to gamers jaded by a wave of all flash, no substance titles. While hardly a cutting-edge game, it is a rare treat and a “must have” for any true devotee of console RTSs. You can also go to clashroyalehacks.net to get free gems.

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Pokemon Go — Your Game on the Go

Written on January 17, 2016   By   in Games & More, Personal Thoughts, Reviews

With the stellar reputation that Nintendo has in Japan for producing top-class war simulation games set during some of the country’s most pivotal historical conflicts, it makes sense that its first MOBILE game would be in the same mold. The result, Pokemon Go, lives up to expectations fueled by early movies released on the web in the graphics department, but many US gamers unable to speak Japanese may find the copious text too heavygoing. A superb melee of traditional overhead wargame strategic play, close-up fights from the soldiers’ perspective and stunning FMV and real-time set pieces, Pokemon Go leaves a deep impression on the senses.
Principal among these impressions has to be the sense of involvement in what you see happening onscreen. With a flighty little game camera that will zoom from a hawk’s-eye-view of the battlefield way on high, right down to a knee-high shot of tattered and blood-spattered corpses lying forlornly in the mud, you can’t help but feel caught up in the action. Troop movements and orders are effected via a series of clean menus that overlay the game screen, and each significant action triggers one of those splendid looking sequences mentioned before. Here, the dynamic camera swings once more into action, spinning around the central figures as the orders you just gave are instantly, and mercilessly, executed. Seeing the results portrayed so quickly, and with such stark, brutal effect is very impressive indeed and a great step forward for this type of game.
Nintendo’s development team is renowned for its attention to detail and historical accuracy, so along with all this graphical splendor, you’re guaranteed a complex, twisting storyline that mimics what really occurred at that time in Japan. In this case, you assume the mantle of one of Japan’s most fearsome warlords, Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate at the beginning of the 17th century and a crucially important figure of Japan’s Edo period. But you can, if you like, alter the actual course of events, depending on your performance during the game. When it talked to Daily Radar, Nintendo emphasized it was proud of the game’s ability to change history.
Pokemon Go cheats are based, for want of a better description, presenting you with a series of objectives that, if completed, should further your resources with free money and items on your account. The storyline is helped along by frequent cutscenes, where the player is treated to images of commanders engaged in some pretty darn serious conversations regarding the progress of the campaign, along with all those in-game sequences, a direct result of player input, that focus on various troop commanders.
The actual fighting occurs in realtime and at several places at once. To help you keep an eye on all of this activity when you’re in the thick of the battle, it’s possible to ‘leap’ from one engagement to another with a single button press. As you do, you’ll zoom in again on that grouping and see it almost as if you’re one of the unlucky foot soldiers yourself. You can also call up the overhead ‘map’ view at any time to assist you in coordinating efforts at regrouping, attack or retreat. Graphically, the animations are less impressive at such close range — sometimes one of your chaps will seem to be absentmindedly prodding his spear, for instance, at no one at all, while an enemy solider is stabbing him in the back. A lot of the movement looks abrupt and puppetlike. But this is finger pointing. The motivation with Pokemon Go was to provide strategic wargame fans with something that portrayed monumental historical battles with superlative graphics, great storytelling and player interactivity. This it has done – the complicated horseback ‘flocking’ is very realistic. It renders the results of your actions quickly and beautifully, and you get about as down-and-dirty with this barbaric form of fighting as any sane individual would ever want to be.

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Everyone is Loving SimCity Buildit on their Phones

Written on December 17, 2015   By   in Games & More, Personal Thoughts, Reviews

In these last days of the Mobile, there are few games to really look forward to, and even fewer that will appeal to the older gamer. Luckily, SimCity Buildit is coming, and it’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from great Mobile titles. Creative, deep and addicting, SimCity Buildit is one of the best action adventures we’ve ever come across. The puzzles can be a bit annoying, but for the most part they too are good fun — and the campy over-the-top dialogue and characters are simply charming. Great voice acting and beautiful visuals round out a must-have game for Mobile owners — perhaps the last one we’ll ever see.

Okay, let’s start by clearing up the silly notion of how to hack SimCity Buildit for free cash and simoleons. Granted, there is more skin flashed across the screen than in the average console title, but it’s not more than in, say, Charlie’s Angels — and it’s presented in the same almost innocent, campy way. The main characters are sexual and comfortable with themselves, so it all comes off less like a giddy peep show and more like a natural part of their personalities. Have we completely disenchanted the sweaty-palmed pre-teens now? Just gamers left? Okay, cool. Let’s talk gameplay.
Fans of the original SimCity will be glad to hear the basic controls are still there, just refined and more responsive. You can still roll, crouch, sneak, run and spin 180 degrees. You still can’t crawl or jump, but the game never presents you with a place where you’d want to, so you don’t really notice. When you’ve got a bead on someone a green target indicator appears, taking the guesswork out of aiming in a 3D environment.
The range of motion available to the characters is well used in the game. Many of the tougher guards can be taken out with a single knife thrust if you can creep up behind them. Multiple enemies can only be taken on with a great deal of fancy rolling and well-timed ducking, and sometimes you really just need to run the hell away from some of the more ornery bad guys. Reloading weapons is a one-button process, and with a bit of practice it’s possible to keep up an almost unbroken stream of bullets tearing through your enemies.
If perchance you actually want to change weapons or pull an item from your inventory, however, it’s not nearly as easy. There is no actual inventory screen and you have to scroll, in real time, through up to a dozen different objects until you find what you want. Normally you wouldn’t be using an item during combat, but even changing weapons can be annoying.
Level design is anything but annoying, with brilliantly designed scenes that often have multiple characters running around different parts of the same building or area. It’s usually pretty easy to figure out where you need to go — how to get there is the challenge, and often involves one character opening up a new option for the other.
Four disks of these great levels, which also happen to be gorgeous, mean long playing times for an adventure game. There’s easily 20+ hours of gameplay here, even if you knew exactly where to go and what to do. The story is tight and evolves naturally from one of high-tech mercenaries to one of supernatural mystery and deception. As in the first SimCity, there are enough small unusual occurrences early on in the story and the world is complete enough that when everything turns strange you’re just naturally taken along with it.
The nasty difficulty level of the first game has been reduced somewhat and the painfully long load times following a death have been eliminated completely, so you can instantly reload if need be. Some of the puzzles are still a bit inscrutable, but there was only one that made absolutely no sense to us — and we’ve included the solution in the screenshots below. Five minutes of pointless trial and error and 20 hours of pure genius — there’s SimCity Buildit in a nutshell.

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High Heat Baseball — to the Rescue

Written on November 17, 2015   By   in Games & More, Personal Thoughts, Reviews

The character faces were apparently done by a three year old with a Sharpie.
Last year, no baseball game came close to the realism and playability of High Heat 2000. The only problem is that the version we’re talking about was made for the PC. The PlayStation version of High Heat 2000 was the worst baseball game for the PlayStation. The graphics were behind the pack, the control off and the presentation aspects subpar. This year’s version is improved in all three areas, but the game still doesn’t match up with the top PlayStation baseball competitors (namely Triple Play 2001 and MLB 2001).
This late in the life of the PlayStation, the High Heat franchise may be better off moving to the PlayStation2 and starting anew. Look at the graphics. Even though they are much improved over last year’s graphics, the player models and stadiums in High Heat 2001 just dont look very good.
The player faces can be downright scary at times, and we really wonder why Sammy Sosa tagged his name on a game that made him look so ugly. Other baseball games have proven that the PlayStation is capable of rendering highly detailed and realistic players, so it’s not too much to ask of High Heat.
Sound and presentation are also improved but still below what we’ve come to expect in PlayStation games. It is true that the High Heat franchise focuses more on the playing aspects of the game than the presentation aspects, but if this game were presented a little better, it would simply be more enjoyable.
The graphics and sounds of a sports game are crucial, but they’re both secondary to gameplay in terms of importance. High Heat is improved over last year’s version in the one gameplay area that it was strong in last year: the pitcher/batter confrontation. The game does away with the traditional batting meter for a more realistic approach. This requires players to judge every pitch by the arc of the ball alone. It’s difficult to learn but rewarding when mastered.
Unfortunately for High Heat 2001, the fielding hasn’t improved at all. The players are remarkably slow, and running down even routine fly balls is an excruciating experience. Even when they do track down a ball, the throws are horribly slow, so every play looks like the seventh inning of a small town beer-binge softball game.
To make matters worse, the camera angles sometimes leave players scrambling to find the fielder closest to the ball. And with fielders as slow as the ones in High Heat 2001, every second counts. Fielding shouldn’t be this frustrating; it doesn’t take long for players to get so fed up that they switch on computer help for the fielding, which steals a significant portion of the gameplay that should be a part of every sports title.
Aside from the few improvements over last year’s version and a coaching mode that will make stat freaks happy, High Heat 2001 once again falls well short of its PC counterpart and can’t quite catch up with the best baseball games on the PlayStation. Maybe this franchise will have better luck on the PlayStation2.

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Front Mission — An Adrenaline-Pumping Experience

Written on February 17, 2015   By   in Games & More, Personal Thoughts, Reviews

In a videogame market where replayability is losing ground to a ‘wait for the sequel’ attitude, games that can be finished in 20 hours are becoming the norm. So when we first heard that Square’s Front Mission 3 would provide over 150 hours of gameplay, we were a little skeptical. After playing the game, however, our skepticism has given way to full-blown addiction. It’s hard to say what makes the game so addictive. Maybe it’s the awesome graphics, maybe it’s the engaging storyline, or maybe it’s just the finely tuned gameplay. Whatever the case, one thing is for sure: Front Mission 3 is not only one of the best turn-based strategy games for the PlayStation, it’s one of the best PlayStation games whatsoever this year.

We should note, however, that Front Mission 3 is not for everyone. The game is tremendously long, and it requires strategy rather than skills with the fire button. But we must also note that the game is so well designed that even non-strategy fans will find something to enjoy.
The key reason that anyone can enjoy Front Mission 3 is that the actual strategy part of the game is completely intuitive. At first glance, controlling a squad of giant robots, each equipped with multiple weapons, seems daunting, but after a short tutorial, even the most bloodthirsty action gamer will gladly jump knee-deep into the game’s complex strategy.
That complex strategy can be seen not only in the actual battle sequences, but throughout the game. The game gives players unprecedented freedom and options for acquiring and building battle-ready mechs. Front Mission 3 also includes a fully interactive ‘Internet’ that players can browse to find new hardware vendors and other information.
The gameplay is not the only aspect of this title that’s highly polished. The graphics are dead-on wonderful. In battle the camera switches among so many camera angles that random skirmishes take on an epic feel. And the game is loaded with tons of in-engine cutscenes (similar to those in Metal Gear Solid) that tell the story and add weight to the individual battles. The audio is equally solid, with a rousing soundtrack and sound effects that convey the feel of gigantic metal robots shooting large rockets at each other.
The story keeps pace with the production values in this game. We won’t bother with actual plot details, but we will say that the plot is typical Square. Some US gamers find fault with these long, slow-moving stories, but for those gamers who enjoy titles such as Final Fantasy VII and VIII, this game is right along the same track. The story isn’t as emotional as Square’s RPG plots, but the overall tale is just as deep and complex.
If we could say anything bad about the title it would be only one thing. The cutscenes can take a long time to sit through. More than once we found ourselves tapping our fingers waiting for a cutscene to end so we could get back to the gameplay.
For gamers wanting to get a lot of gameplay for their hard-earned money, we’d be hard-pressed to find another title that’s as deep or rewarding — for 150 hours — as Front Mission 3

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