It's hard to say what's good about Omegaland without spoiling some cool surprises. That's the thing about games that want to surprise you, right? So instead, I'm going to list some things. If you like these things, you might want to play Omegaland.
Shareware and Flash games created by enthusiastic amateurs, simple dialog written with care, finding secrets for their own sake, Knytt or similar exploration platformers, allegory, aesthetic playfulness.
Most of the negative reviews for Prototype 2 cover the major flaws in the PC port that make the game unplayable for many users. I was fortunate enough to never encounter any show-stopping bugs in my playthrough, so I'm here to let you know that this game isn't worth playing even if you can. It's not all bad, but as a whole it isn't worth your time.
First, the high point: movement. The protagonist, mad dad James Heller, is given a sci-fi viral infection that lets him leap stories into the air, run around on the sides of skyscrapers, and glide and dash through the air. It's a cool way to move around an open world, and it makes the obligatory checkpoint race activites a blast to play. The Prototype movement system is so fun and fluid that it was also a high point in Saints Row IV, which ripped it off wholesale and dropped it into a much better game.
Aside from the checkpoint races and a handful of chases, your movement powers are mostly used to get you from mission to mission. What you're actually doing in those missions is far less interesting than how you got there. Typically, you're either brawling or sneaking. Brawling is mashy and mindless, and on normal difficulty it's difficult to die. You unlock a handful of combat superpowers that function as weapons, but you'll probably spend most of your time with the same 2 equipped, once you find a pair you're comfortable with. You also have a ludicrously forgiving shield parry move that makes most of the stronger monsters trivial to kill.
Stealth is even sillier. Heller has a stealth consume move that lets him eliminate an enemy and steal his appearance. Stealth consume only works if your target isn't being watched by another enemy, but attempting it will never break stealth. So every sneaking mission in the game goes from the outside in, standing behind one enemy at a time waiting for a chance to stealth consume him, with absolutely no risk of failure.
Prototype 2 is written like a game plot neural net. Evil corporation, bio-weapons, ex-military gruff dude just wants to save his daughter, nothing new and all of it straight-faced and dour.
The final boss reaches for that "mirror match" magic, asking you to take down an nemesis with abilities similar to yours. A classic move that provides some of the most exciting moments in games like Devil May Cry, and it can even work in lesser games like Killer is Dead. Here, though, the fight is too stiff and scripted to give that kind of thrill.
In conclusion, Saints Row IV is good, go play that instead.
Posted November 30, 2017. Last edited November 30, 2017.
I sat down here to give Seraph a glowing review, but the more I consider it the less I like it.
Before I get into my complaints, let's hit on what Seraph does right: combat. Seraph's movement is fine-tuned, animation is fluid and snappy, your double-jump and dashes mesh with enemy attack timings to create a wonderful rhythm. Second-to-second combat in Seraph is a joy once it clicks. And since combat is the bulk of what you do, the game as a whole is fun. I had a great time for the length of a normal playthrough, which almost makes the flaws hurt more.
Seraph randomly generates its levels, shuffling around chunks of hallway and big rooms with platforms. Level chunks are simple and sparse, foregrounding the combat. Which makes the decision to go with procedural generation baffling: the experience of playing through any given level feels roughly the same, you run from arena to arena shooting demons. When the only player-perceived difference from level to level is what demons spawn and how many, procedural generation is wasted. It would have been better with hand-crafted levels, allowing the developers to create more focused designs without as many odd dead ends, perhaps leaving the generator for the challenge mode. I assume level generation was intended to increase replay value.
That's not the only poor decision made in service of replay. Seraph has an awkward, fiddly, grindy upgrade system. Level up, pick perks, drop shards into passive skills, grind components to upgrade weapons and active skills, all for the sake of small percentage buffs. I felt the need to engage with the upgrade system to keep pace with the increasing difficulty, but no upgrades felt impactful, and very little seemed to make new strategies available. The most substantial upgrades are those that unlock new active skills, but only two can be equipped at a time and at least in casual play the default pair seemed most useful. Experimenting with upgrading different weapons and active skills is extremely costly, so I stuck to what felt right early on. It's possible that the upgrade system becomes more interesting at a higher level of play, but in a casual first playthrough it was a chore that only served to restrict my options and waste my time. I'd have strongly preferred a simple automated level-up, if PC progression is even necessary for this style of game.
With all that said, I still must give Seraph a thumbs up. The core of its design is unique & exciting, and I had a good time from start to finish. I really just wish everything around the combat was better.
Mad Max opens with as direct a setup as you could hope for: bad guys stole Max's car, he meets a fanatical mechanic building a bigger badder car, and they agree to work together to build the biggest baddest car and kick the bad guys butts. There's the hook of the game, and its biggest strength: putting together your very own rad wasteland death machine is super compelling. You're never far from the next substantial upgrade to your Magnum Opus, as it's called, which pulls you along through a typical array of Open World Action Game Activities.
With the exception of a handful of story missions and odd jobs for some of the less evil warlords, those activities are mostly what you'll be doing for your 20-plus hours in Mad Max's gorgeously rendered wasteland. And really, you'll mostly be clearing camps. There are nominally a few varieties of camp, but they mostly boil down to tearing down the camp's outer defenses from your car, then running in and punching a lot of dudes. Melee combat in Mad Max is a simplified version of the standard design from games like the Batman Arkham series or Shadow of Mordor. The simplification is justified by Max's character: he doesn't go in for a bunch of fancy flipping around when he can just punch a dude real hard. Some fine animation work reinforces this, making fights look weighty and brutal. Even so, such a simple combat system in such a long game gets repetitive by the end.
Up to this point, Mad Max would get a marginal recommendation: it goes cheap on sales, get it then if you're into the genre and setting. What tips the scale is the hard dive it takes near the end, so I need to talk vaguely of spoiler things. The rest of this paragraph has vague spoilers about the last part of the game. So Max is near his goal. He's visited every major landmark on the map, the Magnum Opus is nearing its full power, it just needs the Gastown V8 engine that Max has been working towards for the entire game. He starts what looks like the final mission, and it's a doozy: 3 boss fights in a row, all brand new, not the one that had been copy-pasted a half-dozen times previously. There's drama, and excitement, and Max escapes with his V8, but somehow the game isn't finished. Characters that had barely appeared up to this point are suddenly central to the plot. There's a whole end-game set of missions where people do stupid things, fights and locations you'd just seen are re-used, characters die for no good reason, and it all wraps up in one of the limpest final battles ever seen in a game developed by an otherwise-competent studio. Then, hilariously, the game defuses any potential emotion it had been trying to evoke with a text box saying "here's sandbox mode, everyone's alive again, nothing that just happened matters."
I have to give Mad Max a thumbs down, which I hate doing because there's so much good in it. The wasteland is one of the most beautiful in video games, and it's so cool making your Magnum Opus incrementally more awesome. But hoo boy, that ending drags everything down. I'll update my marginal recommendation: if you're into the genre and setting, get it cheap, then stop playing immediately after that one big fight in Gastown, you'll know it when you get there. Pretend that's the ending and you'll have a far better time.
Posted March 26, 2017. Last edited March 26, 2017.
DROD is the best-kept secret in the world of indie games, despite the efforts of its fans. Descended from the line of tile puzzlers like Sokoban and Chip's Challenge, it combines simple turn-based core mechanics with a rich, varied, and elegant set of puzzle elements to build puzzles that will make your head spin but are just so rewarding to solve.
Gunthro and the Epic Blunder is the fourth of the five main DROD games to date, but it's by far the best place to jump in. It smoothly introduces the basics of DROD play - move and swing your sword to slay every monster in the room - before delving into deeper exploration of the more complex mechanics and challenging enemies. Most areas of the game both teach and test understanding of a specific puzzle element, like the wraithwing that attacks in swarms and flees when alone, the serpent that's immune to your sword but will die if it's trapped, or the golem that reshapes the puzzle as you play by leaving a pile of rocks where it dies. By the end, all the elements are combined into puzzles tricky enough to test even veterans of the series.
Even after you've reached the end of the game, DROD has more to offer. Finding and clearing the extra-devious secret rooms unlocks a difficult bonus area. The challenge system goes beyond your everyday achievements, asking you to devise alternate solutions to specific rooms with demanding requirements like not turning your sword or slaying a specific monster in a low number of turns. You can play for score, optimizing your solutions to clear each room in as few turns as possible. And you can play any of the hundreds of custom level sets developed by the community over more than a decade.
I've spent hundreds of hours playing the DROD games. I've worked out puzzle solutions while cooking, walking my dog and even in my sleep. I started drinking an extra cup of coffee daily to help me with The City Beneath. DROD may not be for everyone, but if it clicks for you, it might be your new favorite game. Every fan of puzzle games needs to try DROD.
I'm going to be honest up-front: I only had the willpower to play the first half of Tyler. Going by the Steam achievement stats, less than a fifth of players who start Tyler even get that far. Besides, the game's issues are in its core design, so I can't imagine it takes a turn in the back half that could redeem it.
Tyler's central puzzle design might be familiar to you from popular mobile games like Flow Free. You've got a grid with color-coded pairs of nodes, and your goal is to connect each pair of nodes, ensuring that each square in the grid contains a node or part of a line.
So far so good. That might be a little thin, so Tyler dumps a bunch of extra stuff on top, extraneous mechanics that don't directly interact with the core puzzle design. The problem is that none of the stuff makes the puzzles more interesting or is worthwhile in its own right, it only makes the game irritating to play.
The first stuff: when you create a path between nodes, those cells rise from the ground. A completed level forms a staircase to a key that takes you to the next level. This is because of...
The second stuff: every few seconds, bombs will drop onto the level. If it explodes before you run over and whack it, it will destroy any adjacent paths you've made and potentially disrupting your staircase climb to the end of the level. This is nonsense. This is nothing but busy work, constantly interrupting your path-making to run across the stage and whack bombs. It's not a puzzle element, it's not engaging arcade gameplay, it's not even difficult, it's just an annoying interruption. But before you even start making paths, you need to deal with...
The third stuff: at the start of each level, obstacles are scattered over the grid. Before you can make paths through those squares, you need to remove them with weapons. This could have been an interesting puzzle element, perhaps with a resource management component: find the path that allows you to collect all the ammo necessary to remove all the obstacles. But you don't have ammo, and the weapon you need is always available. All you do is walk up to each obstacle in turn, select the correct weapon for that type of obstacle (machine gun for rocks, flamethrower for ice, etc) and hold down the fire button for a couple seconds. Again, it's pointless busy work.
There's a bit more stuff, like levels where some cells are inaccessible until you pull a lever, and gadgets that can help with the various inconveniences but run on a cooldown, but that's the bulk of the game. Playing Tyler is like playing a simple game on your smartphone while the most persistent mosquito on the planet lands somewhere on your body every few seconds.
I can be shallow sometimes. Luxor Evolved first got my attention with its unusual retro vector look, imitating arcade classics like Asteroids, Tempest, and Black Widow. Earlier Luxor games had an offputting sort of Egypt kitsch, but Evolved nicely ties the scarabs and pyramids into stylish, colorful vectors.
It's not entirely skin deep, either. Evolved still follows the basic Luxor design, with the player shooting colored marbles from the bottom of the screen at a train of marbles twisting across the screen, trying to match them three or more at a time before they can reach their destination. But the tempo of play is dramatically faster than other games in the genre, power-ups have more dramatic effects, and visual effects are exaggerated, all helping to create a genuine feel of arcade mayhem.
The bosses have a clever design that creates tension by forcing the player to manage matches in several places at once. Secret levels are cute homages to arcade games from the early 80s. It even encourages a one-credit clear by disabling high scores if you choose to continue after losing your last life.
Luxor Evolved is certainly a casual matching game in genre, but it's got enough arcade trappings that it might grab you where similar games failed. Check it out.
Sideway New York is a basic platformer with a hip-hop theme. Its gimmick is that you're a piece of living graffiti painted onto a building, which is visually cool but only occasionally affects gameplay. One way it's used is that the direction of gravity on the surface of a roof is decided by the direction the player entered the roof. This property could have been used to create some clever puzzles or mazes, but it never was.
The player starts the game with limited movement abilities, which makes the first few levels boring. Judging from the Steam achievements, about 40% of players got bored and quit between the first level and the first boss. Things pick up later on as the game introduces some standard abilities like double-jump, gliding, and swinging from grapple points, which allowed the designers to create more interesting and challenging platforming.
A hip-hop soundtrack is provided by Mr. Lif, courtesy of Skullcandy. (Skullcandy branding is all over this game, making it feel like an advergame.) The few tracks included quickly got repetitive, leading me to turn it off entirely in favor of my own collection.
Much of Sideway feels off. Hitboxes seem to extend beyond their sprites. Jumping from a swing isn't based on momentum, instead giving a fixed vertical boost. Combat is simple button-mashing, and the game would be improved by its removal.
Sideway is a short game, and I doubt the promised sequel will ever exist. So while it's not fun, at least there's not much of it.