Archive for the ‘Busy Gamer 5’ Category

Game Review: Bookworm for the Nintendo DSi

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Bookworm for the DSi scores a Busy Gamer 5

First Glance:
PopCap’s Bookworm in a portable format. Grab the dictionary and the thesaurus… The pocket versions.

The Short Story:
PopCap has a tendency to make games that I can waste countless hours on. This isn’t a complaint. I used to spend hours expanding my vocabulary on the free web version but now I can blow that time on the DSi and the latest rendition of one of PopCap’s flagship games.

The Score:
This is a no brainer. My DSi is with me on every Reckon Crew outing that involves travel and hotels… Which is most of them. The DSi version of Bookworm is as good as it gets for short or long sessions. Exiting to the menu, as with most PopCap games of late, saves your progress and lets you pick up where you left off. Ease of play, quick loads, and stat tracking earns Bookworm a bilio-tastic Busy Gamer 5.

Body of Review:
It’s safe to say I’m a puzzle fiend. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll keep saying it till someone tells me to shut up. That’s not an invitation… So take a puzzle game and let me flaunt my somewhat impressive vocabulary or at least my encyclopedic knowledge of word structures and I’ll bite every time. That’s why I was so pleased to see the Bookworm title make it onto my lastest favorite portable gaming device, my Nintendo DSi.

Curious about how many three letter words you've used? There's a stat for that...

If you’ve played any rendition of the Bookworm franchise, the controls are easy to pick up when the game starts… Touch the letter where you want to begin and then add on to it until you’re satisfied with your choice. As you use letter tiles, they are removed from the game board and new tiles fall in at the top of the screen. The surprisingly comprehensive in game dictionary tracks whether you’ve entered a valid word and then awards points based on the length of the word and any bonus tiles you might use. You can also shoot for the bonus words as you go to crank up your score.

As you score points, you are awarded levels and titles. With each new level comes the increased chance of a flaming word tile dropping onto the game board. Flaming tiles burn down through other letter tiles when they aren’t used and if they reach the bottom of the board, your game is over. This can add a bit of a panic when they drop into a section with no vowels but there is a scramble button you can use to help out a bit. Unfortunately, using the scramble button can produce more flaming tiles.

Rank up, show your friends you could have finished first in that 2nd grade spelling bee.

Scoring a particularly good word will result in the addition of bonus tiles, letters that can be used to increase the point value of any given word. You’ll be awarded a green, gold, or diamond tile based on the score of the previous word. Use them at any time, they don’t go away unless a flaming tile burns through them.

The only drawback of Bookworm for the DSi is that there is only one play mode. The mode available is untimed, scoring strictly on the words you spell. This can be dangerous as you can lose track of time if you get caught up in trying to spell out twelve letter words…

Bookworm tracks your stats so you can see what your longest or highest scoring word was or you can see how many three letter words you’ve created versus longer words. This allows you to mock your friends who play when you point out you actually were able to make a twelve letter word and they just burned through their entire repertoire of three letter words in the English language. And we all know I wouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to mock my friends…

Overall, the game is a great buy for only 500 points through the DSi’s online game store which also conveniently downloads and plays immediately on your device. The purchase was painless (aside from having to use the whole points thing, ugh) and once the download was done, I was playing in a matter of moments.

It’s a great value for the price, a great game to play when you have a few minutes, and it won’t ask you what “extraneous” means… HA!

Gritskrieg – End of Line

Game Review: Polar Panic

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
Polar Panic : Busy Gamer Rating 5

Polar Panic : Busy Gamer Rating 5

First Glance:
Cartoon-y, winter-y, arcade style puzzler. Kind of like trying to solve a puzzle while playing Pac Man.

The Short Story:
Polar Panic has you playing as a polar bear, trying to navigate through a world filled with ice block puzzles and the goons of an evil corporation on a quest to save your bear-napped family. Choose from Story Mode, Puzzle Mode, or Survivor Mode (which can be single or multi player)- whichever way you go, its going to involve sliding and smashing blocks of ice, smashing blocks of snow, and with the exception of puzzles mode, smashing goons. FYI- Those trappers might look kinda like Santa, but they’re only jolly after they bash your skull in.

The Score:
The phrase “it is what it is” comes to mind… Polar Panic is an arcade-style game, so it should be judged as such. But its not an arcade game so phenomenal that it would tempt hardcore gamers to get caught up in it. It fails to transcend its’ genre. That said, its not an absolutely awful game. I won’t pretend that I didn’t start to enjoy watching the swell of blood as I smashed an enemy with a block of ice.. but I didn’t start to enjoy the game until about an hour in. Up until then, the negative aspects of the game were more apparent to me. I give Polar Panic a Busy Gamer score of 5, with the caveat that you probably won’t want to play it for more than an hour a day anyway.

Body of Review:
I get excited about a game when I hear someone say “I usually don’t play (game genre here), but I really loved (game name here). Now I admit, I am not a huge fan of arcade games aside from those that trigger my nostalgia, and I tend to view puzzles more as an obstacle I have to get across to get to the next part of my game than the fun of the game. But I went at Polar Panic with an open mind, hoping I would find myself surprised at how addictive it was. It fell a bit short. When I brought in a second player (one who is more fond of puzzles than I) to help me test the multi player, his most memorable quote was actually, “Well, looks like that’s about it. Can we stop playing now?”

Click to see more articles by Rika Stead

So what was so unremarkable about the game? The controls largely consist of directionals and XXX..X..X…XXXXXXXXX… and the game itself is overly repetitive. The level of difficulty also seems arbitrary- some levels are so easy you think you’re playing a game for toddlers, but they may be preceded by a level that is so frustrating it really is “mind-numbing”, to quote the game’s own copy. The story is extremely childlike but not in an endearing way, and is more of an encumbrance to the game than anything. In puzzle mode, every puzzle you solve unlocks- surprise- another puzzle, which isn’t problematic in and of itself, but they could have thrown in some different sorts of rewards or different ways to unlock the rest of the puzzles to make it a bit more interesting. In story mode, the save system is such that one small mistake can set you back to repeat quite a bit of game play, and if you quit before you beat every level in the chapter, you have to start back at the chapter’s beginning. Which wouldn’t be so bad if the game weren’t already repetitive. Also, it seems as if the darts fired by the hunters behave a bit inconsistently, sometimes killing you when you think they are too far out and sometimes letting you escape by a very narrow margin.

(more…)

Game Review: Trine

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009
Trine: Busygamer Rating 5 of 5

Trine: Busygamer Rating 5 of 5

First Glance:
Platform your way through a pretty, 2D classic fantasy world, solving puzzles and alternating between three characters at will as you go. Find shiny green experience vials, fight undead, and conjure objects.

The Short Story:
The Trine is a mysterious artifact that has bound together the souls of three characters- a wizard, a thief, and a knight. The game follows the three on their quest to be free of the Trine and each other. Each character has unique abilities, and you can switch between them anytime you want. Puzzles that can be solved multiple ways make the game more creative, and the system of checkpoints and levels means that their isn’t a lot of redundant playing when you die, and its easy to play in short sessions. Gameplay is reminiscent of Tomb Raider at times, especially when playing as the thief, and sometimes echoes Prince of Persia, but with a fantasy flavoring to the world.

The Score:
The game play is fun, and since there isn’t a single “right way” to solve each puzzle, the game doesn’t get repetitive as puzzles sometimes can. It’s easy on the eyes, and the music and sound is also pleasant. The game is split into levels, and within each level are several checkpoints, which resurrect any dead characters and are the restart points in case you get your entire party killed. This keeps boring repeat play to a minimum – you don’t have to replay through a lot when you die, and what you do repeat, you don’t have to play exactly the same. The game is saved every time you complete a level, so you can easily play one level at a time if you wish. You can easily put it down for a week and pick it right back up – the nature of the game allows you to continue to enjoy it even if you do totally forget about one of your abilities. Trine scores a 5 on the Busy Gamer scale because it is certainly possible to enjoy and progress through at less than an hour spent each day. However, it is certainly enjoyable enough to play in longer sessions as well.

Trine Review by Rika Stead of the BG Crew

Trine Review by Rika Stead - Photo Jim Brown

Body of Review:
Progressing through Trine is dependent on the use of the three unique characters. You can switch between the three at will, and the feel of the game will depend on how you use these characters.

The wizard can conjure items such as boxes and planks- which follow the laws of gravity thanks to the life-like physics of the game. He can also magically move those objects around. He has no combat abilities, but in a pinch he can levitate an object and drop it on enemies.

The thief has a bow for combat and a grappling hook for climbing. She eventually gains abilities such as shooting multiple arrows and fire arrow, which can be sued both in combat and to light torches in certain levels. Her arrows can be aimed in any direction and fall when they reach the limits of their momentum.

The knight’s contribution is pretty much limited to combat. He can hack at enemies, throw items about, and block with his shield. His block is also occasionally useful for getting past swinging spike balls. He also contributes the occasional not-so-bright remark.

You navigate through the game using any combination of the character abilities you can think up. Many of the puzzles can be solved different ways, and you have the choice between overcoming a certain obstacle solely with a single player, or having them work together. For example, you can have the wizard conjure boxes and impale them on the spikes lining the walls of a chamber and then switch to the thief, who will climb up the boxes until she can reach a platform with her grappling hook and leap free.

One of the best features of Trine is the use of physics. Everything in the game will behave very much like a real object as it is moved around, hit, or thrown through the air. Also, any object you can interact with can be interacted with in any way. So instead of having a platform that drops when weight is put on it, or spikes that cause damage, you have a moving platform that can be propped up by the wizard’s conjured box and then have a plank rested on top of it and spikes that you can impale crates on and then safely climb on. But be careful- if you climb on your tower of plank on platform on box and you step off center, it may unbalance and topple the whole thing.

Trine for PC by Southpeak Interactive

Trine for PC by Southpeak Interactive

There is no “linear frustration” with Trine- that irritating feeling when you know you need the key to open the gate, but you just can’t find the key. If the obvious plan doesn’t work for some reason, like if the character best suited to the puzzle is dead, you just find a different solution.

Experience is gained by finding green vials that are sometimes easily accessible freebies, and sometimes totally hidden from view. Some enemies also release experience upon death. Health and energy vials are also placed through out, although I found the energy vials to be more or less useless, as my characters were very rarely out of energy.

The characters improve through a skill point system as well as through abilities that can be found in chests. The skill point system is a bit lack luster, there really aren’t too many earth shattering decisions to make, its’ more of a system for doling out advancements at a restrained pace. The so-so skill system really affects the game so little though that it seems almost a waste of resources to have put it in. Finding the prizes in the chests is much more captivating than assigning skill points with few choices.

The strength of Trine is that its just easy to enjoy. Its a fun game, and it doesn’t put too many pains in the butt in the way of your enjoying it. It really has no nagging annoyances. The game play is entertaining and neither too easy or too hard, the graphics are pretty, and its not exactly like anything else you’ve played. Its a good game to get some gaming in in between work, obligations, and taking care of the kids if you’re the sort of gamer who likes to play but doesn’t have much time, but its also a good game to play to break up the seriousness of long MMO sessions and competitive gaming if you’re that kind of gamer as well.

Plants vs. Zombies

Monday, June 15th, 2009
Plants vs. Zombies: A Busy Gamer 5 of 5

Plants vs. Zombies: A Busy Gamer 5 of 5

First Glance:
A new take on the tower defense sub-genre, pitting some uncommon plants against brain hungry zombies.

The Short Story:
Grow a garden of destruction to fend off hordes of ghoulish undead. The further into the game you get, the more destructive the plant life becomes but the zombies are no slouches either. You’ll come up against some pretty unique, and tough, versions of the undead in PopCap’s Plants vs. Zombies.

The Score:
PopCap has always been good at creating addictive, easy to learn, Busy Gamer friendly games but I have to say that they’ve outdone themselves with Plants vs. Zombies. Quick rounds are easy to get in, it’s easy to learn as you play through the adventure mode, and exiting to the main menu at any time automatically saves the game for you allowing you to pick up wherever you left off last. Plants vs. Zombies earns itself a flowery, yet spooky, 5 on the Busy Gamer scale.

Body of review:
I’ve always had something of a soft spot for PopCap games. I can’t even count the number of hours I spent playing Bookworm, Chuzzle, or Peggle. But even with that soft spot, I would have to say I was caught off guard by the addictive nature of Plants vs. Zombies.

On the surface, it’s a “tower defense” game, a structured area where you have a limited amount of space to build your defenses to fend off the hordes of brain hungry zombies. Yeah, yeah, everybody is doing games with zombies, I know. Did I mention that the area you’re defending is your own yard and that you’re doing it with some capably destructive, and amusing, plant life? It all adds to this game’s allure and is only a part of what makes it unique.

You begin the game with a meager Peashooter, which will be the root, pardon the pun, of your defense as you start off. This plant… well, it shoots peas. At zombies. Make fun if you must but in the beginning, it’s this bad boy that keeps your brain in your head and the zombies off your lawn. As you progress through the levels, the “Bloom and Doom Seed Co.” provides you with a variety of plants, both defensive and offensive in nature. You could even say they were your “Shock and Lawn” weapon provider… Go ahead, I’ll let that one sink in for a while.

"Shock and Lawn"... Get it???

"Shock and Lawn"... Get it??? Never mind.

The resources you gather to grow your plants (sunlight, of course) can be obtained as it falls from the sky during the daylight levels but as night falls, you have to be sure to grow sunflowers or sun-shrooms (a night time version of the sunflower, try to keep up) to be sure to provide a steady supply of sun to fuel your plant growing needs. Due to the limited space on your lawn, you’ll often find yourself juggling between enough room for defenses and resource producing plants but that’s all part of the challenge.

You’ll defend the front lawn, the back lawn, and even your roof from the advancing horde in the adventure mode with each locale requiring a slightly different style of play. Your roof has to have planters for each plant you wish to grow which, strangely, consumes resources (read the description of the planter in the Almanac for a quick chuckle). And you’ll also defend the lawns through day and night cycles which will have you choosing between your day and night faring plants.

Shortly into your adventure, your virtual neighbor, “Crazy” Dave shows up to offer advice. Unfortunately, he’s crazy, willing to admit he’s crazy, and you have to wonder how much you can actually trust someone who wears a pot on his head. Fortunately, he proves to be much more useful as a merchant later on in the game.

Dave has...issues.

Dave has...issues.

Many players will find that the first playthough of the adventure mode serves mostly as a tutorial. It’s the repeated playthroughs, the minigames, the puzzle modes, and the survival modes where the main challenges, and the true value of the game, lie. Beating each of the additional modes results in additional challenges which further increase the replay value of the game.

The Busy Gamer will have to be careful of this game. It’s easy to lose track of time as you grow your garden of doom. Minutes can turn into hours if you’re not careful as you try to beat just one more level. Fortunately, the very useful, very easy save feature makes it a snap to pick up where you left off. Need to be somewhere? No problem. Exit to the main menu and your game is automatically saved. Even if you play a different mode, you can pick right back up where you left off on the adventure mode you were playing until two in the morning.

I imagine there will be many out there who end up missing out on this game because the premise doesn’t sound attractive to them. Their loss. Created with a clever wit, addictive gameplay, and an attractive price tag, Plants vs. Zombies is easily one of the best games I have had the pleasure of sitting down with in a very long time.

Gritskrieg – End of Line

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009
Puzzle Quest: Galactrix for the DS

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix for the DS

First Glance:
The second entry in the Puzzle Quest franchise from Infinite Interactive but this time… in space!

The Short Story:
Travel around the galaxy chasing the big bad while fighting, mining, and gaining levels through the use of puzzles with mines, resources, and the usual gems. Another great entry using the Puzzle Quest equation.

The Score:
Short rounds are easy to get in and it’s portable if you want to pick it up on the Nintendo DS. Puzzle lovers be warned, however. If you’re out to explore, you may tire quickly of the random, timed puzzles you’ll need to beat in order to unlock other quadrants on the map. A solid puzzle game and the inclusion of multi-player combined with the ease of play, shallow learning curve, and good replay value earn Puzzle Quest: Galactrix a solid 5 on the Busy Gamer scale.

Body of review:
Infinite Interactive has found a niche for itself in the puzzle market. A few years back, they started it all with Puzzle Quest: Call of the Warlords which combined roleplaying and puzzle elements to provide an enjoyable experience. The roleplaying elements were in leveling and building your character all the while proceeding down a quest line which would eventually lead to the big showdown.

Building on that equation, Infinite Interactive has produced another gem with Galactrix. The basic elements remain the same; gain experience by performing missions, defeat enemies by matching tiles on a puzzle board, and follow the story line through to the end. A few basics have been changed from Call of the Warlords, however. The board is hexagonal which adds a new twist to the “match three” method made famous by CotW… Gems will move in the direction of your last move rather than falling straight down. This adds a new dimension to the puzzle solving which initially takes a little getting used to.

Hacking a Leapgate

Hacking a Leapgate

Another addition are the mining puzzles which allow you to gather resources which can be used to build new items for your ship or sell for credits at the various stations you’ll come across in your travels. There is an economy in play here with some stations offering considerably more for some resources and less for others. Gathering the “required” amount of resources while mining asteroids also results in significantly higher returns for your time so matching carefully is key when playing the mining puzzles.

You’ll quickly find that the ship you begin with is insufficient in regards to hauling cargo but fortunately, your hard earned credits can be exchanged for ships with larger holds allowing you to gather more resources on any given run. And, of course, you’ll come across other ships which may be interested in what you’re hauling… and willing to take it by force.

Combat is similar to CotW in that matching mines instead of skulls will result in damage to your opponent. Different technologies provide your ship with an interesting array of abilities, some defensive, some offensive, with the remainder providing bonuses to your attributes or different ways to clear large portions of the board.

To fully explore the universe, you’ll have to “hack” Leap Gates to travel from one quadrant to another. The puzzles you’ll have to complete for the hacks are timed and have a sequence of colored gems for you to match. As the puzzles are completely random, this can become a bit frustrating since you may have to attempt a puzzle several times before completing the hack. And once you’ve opened a gate, they can and will randomly shut down, forcing you to hack the Gate if you want to use it. A minor flaw in an otherwise outstanding game.

The story feels a bit lackluster when compared to Call of the Warlords and the characters you’ll meet a bit less fleshed out. A big bad escapes from a space station and you’re tasked with hunting it down and stopping it from destroying the universe. Been there, done that. Fortunately, the overall gameplay makes up for those shortcomings.

There’s a great idea at the core of Galactrix and while most of the differences between it and Call of the Warlords may seem superficial, they make for a completely different game. And, happily,  it’s one that the Busy Gamer can enjoy.

 

Gritskrieg – End of Line

Mevo and the Grooveriders

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
Say, isn't that Bill from Left 4 Dead? Why, yes it is.

Say, isn't that Bill from Left 4 Dead? Why, yes it is.

First Glance:
Clever, graphically pleasing, and a beat you can dance to.

The Short Story:
Developed and published by Red Rocket Games, Mevo and the Grooveriders is a rhythm based game that uses two keys to control your character as he dances his way through progressively more difficult levels. Simple in its presentation, “MatG” is the type of game that could potentially keep you in front of your computer for hours on end but has the potential to deliver enjoyable sessions with very little time investment. In other words, if you like rhythm games and you’re a Busy Gamer, you might want to give “MatG” a spin.

The Score:
For $9.99 on Steam, you’d be hard pressed to find a game with higher replay value, a lower learning curve, and the kind of funk Mevo and the Grooveriders delivers. Good beats, graphically pleasing, and with just the right amount of difficulty for a Busy Gamer, Mevo and the Grooveriders scores a 5 on the Busy Gamer scale.

Body of review:
At first, I was skeptical of another rhythm based game. I’ve watched people devote hours to learning how to play songs on Guitar Hero on Expert level and to be honest, if I were going to spend that kind of time, I’d rather learn to play the song for real. On the flip side of that coin, my gamer desire to win pushes me to play songs over and over to try and get the best score I can. So the quandary, as a Busy Gamer, is to find that balance of time investment and feeling like I’m accomplishing something. On most rhythm based games, this means playing on Medium.

Not so for Mevo and the Grooveriders. Simply put, there’s a certain charm to the game in its simple presentation. With only two keys to worry about which means you can focus on getting better at the levels without breaking your pinkie finger. Addictive gameplay and high replay value also ensures that you’ll keep coming back for more.

Shakin' the booty to the music.

Shakin' the booty to the music.

You begin the game as Mevo, a one eyed dancing fool who is trying to rescue his friends from an enemy known as Silence. A quick tutorial gives you the basic workings of the game before you set out on your journey through musical landscapes. The simple controls don’t require much in the way of a learning curve. Your dance steps are performed by hitting the left shift key for left pointing arrows and the right shift key for the right pointing arrows. Hitting the “steps” in time produces music and drum beats that blend with the funky background music while missing one completely may result in discordant notes.

A life gauge at the top of the screen is exactly what it seems. Missing notes will cause you to take damage, some moreso than others, while hitting notes increases your score. Sounds easy with only the two keys, doesn’t it?  At first, it is but as the levels progress, the difficulty of the notes increases as well. You may be required to hit two notes at the same time, sustain a note while hitting the other key, or pressing the keys in rapid succession to keep the beat.

Each level also comes with different goals with three goals for each level. Silver may require you to score a certain amount while gold may have you try to miss very few notes with platinum being even more difficult than the prior two. While you may see a goal asking you to score a certain amount of points, it is entirely possible that the next goal will be something completely different.

Dress it up before you mess it up.

Dress it up before you mess it up.

A character selection screen allows you to “dress” up your character with different outfits as well as choosing different dance styles. Each outfit grants different power ups. For instance, one outfit may allow you to enter an “Auto Pilot” mode where your character will automatically hit notes for a short period of time. Another will allow you to score higher combos, combos being the means by which you will create higher scores. Each outfit has its benefits so there will be reason for frequent outfit changes based on the level you are playing and which goal you are attempting.

While the graphics are simple, they are by no means underdone. Each level you play presents new obstacles and new backgrounds. Mevo’s dance moves are fluid as he grooves his way through graphically pleasing levels. However, admiring the art too closely may find you missing too many steps, quickly bringing your game to an end.

Bottom line is that if you enjoy rhythm games and need a quick fix, Mevo and the Grooveriders is the way to go.

Gritskrieg – End of Line

Defense Grid: The Awakening

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

 

Defense Grid: The Awakening - Busy Gamer Rating 5

Defense Grid: The Awakening - Busy Gamer Rating 5

First Glance:
A mix of strategy and resource management with a dash of puzzle thrown in all wrapped up in a very good looking package.

The Short Story:
Hidden Path delivers on the promises they made at PAX. This game is addictive, fun, and easy on the eyes and ears. There’s very little here not to like. And the bonus for the Busy Gamer is that it won’t eat up your whole day.

The Score:
Having had the opportunity to sample Defense Grid: The Awakening at PAX, I was happy to see that not much about the game changed my initial impressions of it. DG:TA’s controls are easy to learn and easy to remember, long absences won’t mean having to learn everything from scratch, the graphics are very well done as is the sound. All of this and a nice low price tag ($14.99 via Steam at the moment) earns DG:TA a solid 5 on the Busy Gamer scale.
 
Body of review:
When someone mentions an RTS, you’ll more than likely hear me groan. It isn’t that I don’t like the RTS genre, just the opposite, I love it. But most of the time, an RTS has a steep learning curve and hefty time requirements to be able to succeed at, or even enjoy, it. Not so for Defense Grid: The Awakening. Hidden Path has managed to take the best parts of an RTS, mix in some puzzle aspects, and offer up a very decent title.

It’s a very simple concept. You build towers to defend your base from invading alien baddies. The towers are stationary so the twist is to try and funnel the baddies into your “killing path”. Essentially, the bad guys take the shortest clear path they can find to your energy cores (the source of your power, a factor in your resources and the bad guys’ goal) so building your towers to block access to certain points allows you to set their path. But block it to where they can’t reach it and they’ll walk right past your long line of towers to the shortest path they can find to reach the cores. Lose all of your cores and the level is over. So you want to make them hard to reach but not impossible otherwise all the hard work you’ve done setting up the perfect death maze will go to waste.

The towers are varied and have three different power levels that become accessible as you fight your way through the levels. Different towers are better in some situations than others. The Inferno tower, for instance, is great for setting fire to large groups of the smaller aliens where as it doesn’t do well in terms of range or against the bigger, tougher aliens. The Cannon tower hits much harder but can only fire on a single target at any time and the range doesn’t allow it to fire on targets that are too close. A mixture of the different towers is required and that’s where another aspect of strategy comes into play.

Resources are handled differently than other RTS games. You’ll begin a level with enough resources to build a small amount of towers at which point the only way to generate more income is for your towers to destroy some enemies. Once you’ve banked some resources, they will generate “interest” based on how many cores you have left. You’ll have to juggle between generating resources from the interest and building bigger, meaner towers to tear down the aliens more efficiently. No little miners running around in this game.

After beating a level, you have the option to move on to the next level or try again. Achieving higher scores on a level will unlock different “modes”. For instance, my score on one level unlocked a 10k resources mode where you have 10k to begin but don’t generate additional resources no matter what you do. It certainly generates a number of different ways for you to play, not to mention increasing the overall playability of the game.

While the levels can take a bit of experimenting to determine the best way to defend your base, you can spend as little as ten to fifteen minutes on a single level allowing the Busy Gamer to enjoy as short, or long, of a session as desired. And the online leader board keeps track of how well one is doing against the world at large assuring that you’ll always try just a little harder to get that high score.

This one scores high on the value charts, my friends. I would recommend picking it up if you haven’t already. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Crashers to school before they make it to my cores.

 

Gritskrieg – End of Line

On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness, Epi I

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008
On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness, Epi I - Busy Gamer Rating 5

On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness, Epi I - Busy Gamer Rating 5

First Glance:
An RPG type game based on the humor of the infamous Penny Arcade strip. Sounds line fun!

The Short Story:
The humor and dialogue is exactly what you’ve come to expect from Penny Arcade and that’s a good thing. The graphics also do a good job of capturing the art style of the strip, another good thing. Aside from the narrator, there’s very little voice acting to be had here but all in all, it’s a solid game.

The Score:
Weighing in at a lean 5-8 total hours of play time for a single run through, one would think there’s not a lot of meat to be had here. To a degree, it’s true. Replay value is a bit on the low side since you’re limited to three characters in your party and four areas throughout the game. But throw in the humor and artwork of one of the most popular comics on the web, a solid storyline, and an overall well programmed game and you have the makings of a Busy Gamer 5.

Body of review:
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a diehard Penny Arcade fan. I haven’t been around since the strip began but from the first day I stumbled into the insanity of the strip, I’ve been a fan. I read the strip (mostly faithfully) three times a week. This does not make me a raving “fanboi”,however.

In fact, I was hesitant to download this offering from the twisted minds of Jerry “Tycho” Holkins and Mike “Gabe” Krahulik, the creators of the Penny Arcade strip, from the X-Box Live Marketplace to my 360. The first prohibitive hurdle was the price… It hit the streets with a twenty dollar price tag. The next objection I had was that it was on X-Box Live Marketplace, where one must purchase points in odd increments to purchase goods that leave one with odd amounts of points useless for anything else but to collect dust. But that’s a topic for another article unto itself.

But the previews I had seen looked good and the strip itself has never failed to amuse me, so I took a chance… I’m glad I did.

While “On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness, Episode One” could technically be classified as an RPG, there are other aspects to the game that keep it more action oriented. You create your digital self within New Arcadia but you never manipulate stats. Your weapon of choice is a rake (yes, you read that right, a rake) which you are allowed to upgrade a grand total of three times, one of those times being necessary to beat the game. You can also choose what to say to the people you meet along the
way which may affect what is said back to you but doesn’t affect the overall outcome of the conversations. For the most part, that’swhere the RPG aspects end. You don’t manipulate your stats or change your equipment, just converse, swat things with your rake, and laugh as thestory unfolds.

The party you eventually find yourself in consists of yourself, Gabe, and Tycho. There’ s an “initiative roll” at the beginning of each combat between the members of your party and your enemies. The highest roll gets to attack first while a natural 20 also grants a bonus to that combatant.

Combat is handled essentially on three tiers of attack types; skipping one tier allows the timer for the next tier to continue building up. The first, and fastest, is items. These “attacks” include bandaging yourself or a party member, special distraction items, buff and debuff items, or even bombs. The second is your standard attack. It doesn’t do much damage most of the time but when you’re facing off against weak enemies, it’s usually the best way to go. The third tier is the special attack. This is the most devastating, and most involved, of the three tiers.

Unleashing the special attacks of your party members involves, depending on which character it is, mashing one button repeatedly to build up attack strength, repeating a “Simon Says” pattern, or timing a button push to coincide with markers. There’s also a team up option which allows all characters who have the Special Attack timer filled to team up for an attack. These party attacks aren’t just devastating, they’re humorous as well.

Along with the illustrious gruesome twosome of Penny Arcade, you will also pick up three “special friends” who can only be called to attack every so often but who can quickly change the course of a battle. The three friends cannot be attacked or damaged at any time so in this respect, they’re more like special attacks than anything else. Once their timer fills, they’re ready to go.

The storyline is classic Penny Arcade humor and will have your party facing off against killer mimes, angry animated trash cans, and violent hobos. There’s also the Fruit… ahem, Fornicators… tiny robots with a fruit fetish who do very naughty things to very defenseless fruit. As I said, classic Penny Arcade humor. Fans of the strip will be delighted to see that the wordplay present between Gabe and Tycho has translated seamlessly to their digital counterparts. Of course, being able to add my two cents to the fray, scripted or no, was also very enjoyable.

Replay value may be a bit low for some who merely want to play the story through once and then wait for the next episode. Personally, there are some achievements I haven’t unlocked yet and I enjoyed it enough that I will be playing through a second time.

All in all, this is a solid offering from the gentle folk of Penny Arcade and I look forward to seeing what the next episodes bring forth from the hellish depths of their creative minds.

-Gritskrieg End of Line

Call of Duty 4

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Call of Duty 4 - Busy Gamer Rating 5

Call of Duty 4 - Busy Gamer Rating 5


First Glance:
The latest release in the Call of Duty franchise, Modern Warfare lets you see some of the most sophisticated weaponry on the planet… And then you get to use it to put the beat down on the “bad” guys.

The Short Story:
With a short, intense single player campaign and a robust multiplayer offering, the latest CoD4 has a lot to offer the Busy Gamer. Realistic weapon sounds, high tech weaponry, and a storyline that beats out the other shooters, this is a top notch game all around.

The Score:
A very solid 5. The single player campaign makes you feel like you’re part of the story and the multiplayer is unique with its leveling system. The only downside of the multiplayer is that you’re going to feel like a beginner when you jump in no matter how good you do at the single player mode.

Body of review:
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare would be a solid first person shooter even without the story line. The story unfolds as you swap between the roles of a British Special Air Service sergeant and a member of the USMC Force Recon. While the story itself is somewhat cliché, bad guys still launch codes for nuclear weapons and attempt to launch them, the integration of the characters and the player make for a unique, and very potent, experience. As you play through the levels, you begin to be immersed in
both your character and the battlefield.

There are several points through the game where you will switch roles and you’ll even play through a flashback of the commander your SAS character serves under. You’ll fight your way through ruined city blocks in an unspecified Middle Eastern country and fight your way through a Russian village. The landscapes are varied and beautifully rendered by CoD4 and each battlefield presents new obstacles to
overcome as well as new tactics to survive enemy attacks.

At one point during the game, the player assumes the role of a gunner aboard an AC-130 gunship. It’s a potent experience and as you level enemies, buildings, and the landscape with the weaponry aboard the gunship, you may even find yourself feeling sorry for the enemies who are desperately trying to avoid the death you are raining down on them.

The sound effects and voice acting in this game are wonderfully done. The weapons you use each have their own distinct feel to them, from the “spit-hiss” of a silenced pistol to the thunder of the .50 caliber sniper rifle. Add to this mix the very well written and performed soundtrack and the immersion is complete. It’s hard not to feel like you’re playing a role in a very well written movie.

The multiplayer component of the game is yet another achievement for this game. Matches can range from free for all, every man for himself matches to team based death matches. There are objective based matches as well such as Search and Destroy where one team defends objectives while the other attempts to blow them up. The action is fast paced… and a bit rough when you first start out.

The weapons you have access to when you first begin are limited as the multiplayer mode is based on a level system. You gain levels by gaining experience through the various matches and as you level up, you gain access to more powerful weaponry.

The levels don’t determine what weapons you can use within a match, fortunately, so there is always the chance that you can switch out your weapons with something your enemy dropped. At the beginning of a new round or if you’re killed and forced to respawn, your weapons are reset to whatever you had when you started the match.

There are five “class” slots you can customize, choosing what weaponry you want in your inventory as you begin a match, along with several perks you can choose to help you on the battlefield. As with the weaponry, new perks can be unlocked with levels, which will make gaining those levels all the more worth the time spent.

On both the single player and the multiplayer modes, the Busy Gamer will find that 30 minutes will be more than sufficient to enjoy the game. And the control scheme is such that you can spend a good deal of time away from the game without having to relearn the whole thing from scratch. You can meet with friends online and party up in the lobby so you don’t have to go it alone in the various multiplayer maps.

There’s a lot to like here as a Busy Gamer so you could do much, much worse than to pick up this game if you’re an FPS fan. So go pick up a copy… We’ll snipe… er, see you online.

Grits – End of Line

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Super Smash Bro. Brawl - Busy Gamer Rating 5

Super Smash Bro. Brawl - Busy Gamer Rating 5


First Glance:
What’s better than playing as your favorite Nintendo characters? Watching them beat the living hell out of each other! The final installment of the Super Smash Bros. series brings on new features and an incredible cast!

The Short Story:
Classic Multiplayer Fighter game complete with an Epic Adventure mode and an amazing soundtrack that includes original compositions from over 30 composers!

The Score:
This game deserved a BusyGamer 5 when it was announced at E3 2005! Anyone can tell you who Super Mario and his friends are! Nintendo has done right by the gamer world by holding onto the classic characters that we hold most dear to our hearts:

Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Kirby and the rest of the gang whom have all been there from the beginning!

So why really a 5? Because we love seeing these guys party, play golf, tennis, baseball and other misc. sports together… BUT DO WE ALWAYS HAVE TO GET ALONG? Not any more!

This time around however, Similar to what SSBB’s predecessor MELEE, had to offer comes a HUGE adventure mode called “The SubSpace Emmisary” This is what’s going to take a lot of time to complete. A friend and I went to the midnight release of this title and started up the SubSpace Emmisary instantly for four straight hours… Only to find that when we saved our progress at the end of the night, we had only completed 25% of the adventure!!!

Body of Review:
The “Brawl to End Them All” is what they called it. The Classic Multiplayer battles commence once again in living rooms worldwide and this time, you don’t even have to be in the same living room. Not being the Wii’s FIRST Online game, SSBB’s online play becomes hastily addicting. With over 30 of Nintendo’s hottest selling characters to choose from including 9 New Comers and 16 Unlockable Characters, the ways to completely dominate the competition are endless.

With the game being on the Wii console itself also comes the new revolutionary way of using the Wii-Remote to control your characters. Now, your’s truly feels more comfortable with the old school feeling of a controller and the programmers accommodated to that as well by enabling players to use not just the Wii-Remote, but also the Wii Classic Controller & the GameCube controller!

The adventure contains very well constructed cut scenes and is the easiest way to unlock all of the playable characters in the game. However, probably the least favorable part in the game is when Nintendo brings back that classic reminiscence of Mega Man X and Kirby’s Adventures where you must go through EVERY boss battle not once… but twice (once during the regular game, and again right before the last boss)! Sure, it adds to the story line… But it makes the game that much more time-consuming when you just wanna pummel the last boss already!

The 2-time boss battles aren’t the only reminiscent part about those classic Kirby games as the Co-Op option is also available to those wishing to tag along with a partner. The 2nd player partner, can fall off the maps and respawn instantly, warp to the 1st player if they get too far ahead, but cannot enter doorways or be the one who leads the way. They must do their best to protect the first player because if he dies, it’s back to the beginning of the level with the both of ya!

The multiplayer mode reintroduces you to the classic SSB battles and this time includes new challenges on new maps (even some old)! Undoubtedly, the coolest new feature is that of the SMASH BALL!

Not only do your favorite characters have their special moves that you’ve seen in the other two games, but now they each get their own SIGNATURE MOVE! Some of these include 1 hit KO’s while other’s induce great amounts of damage to your opponents! This may take you back to those days of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters game on the Super Nintendo, where once you’ve taken a certain amount of damage that charges your signature move, you unleash it on your foe. In SSBB, obtaining the Smash Ball instantly grants you this ability. The catch? The Smash Ball appears randomly throughout the battle and once it does, all hell breaks loose!

You, along with your opponents have completely ditched the fact that you’re fighting each other and are now fighting even your teammates FFA style to get your hands on the ball. Finally, after the ball takes enough damage, the player who lands the last hit to it is granted their FINAL SMASH power! The character starts to glow and the screen darkens as you unleash your biggest hit to everyone around you, 99% of the time guaranteeing you major KO points!

Other older features also make their way back into the game, such as the Item Switch. This features allows you to toggle the various items that show up in battles… You can have SMASH BALL ONLY games!

One final new feature that I also found very intriguing was the Masterpieces feature. In here you’ll find short demos of games that featured all of the Super Smash Bros. Veterans including Super Mario Bros. Legend of Zelda, Starfox 64 and many more!

All of these features in this incredible game make it worth anyone’s time. If I could, I’d break the system and give it a 6! Nintendo’s Wii, had been waiting on a game like this no doubt and the wait (even though extended more than once) certainly payed off. I would recommend this to any gamer who likes to hang out with friends and just go to town on the battle field! Even if the work schedules a little tight, it’s a game worth waiting to play when you get home.










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