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Review: Pizza Frenzy July 17, 2006

Posted by Jesse in : Game Reviews , add a comment

Game: Pizza Frenzy
Developer: Sprout Games
Version: This is a review of the full version of the game. (Speed mode.)
Recommendation: Try the demo

Back in college I worked as a pizza delivery guy. It was a fun job. You get to drive around all night, listening to music in the car, and deliver pizzas. And people are (almost) always happy to see you coming. I felt like Santa Claus. In Pizza Frenzy, you are in charge of the delivery crew for Stromboli Pizza, which is trying to revitalize the world’s interest in good pizza.

The gameplay is reletively simple, and if you’ve played games like Diner Dash then you’ll pick this up pretty quickly. You see a map which shows houses, pizza stores, and a police station. When you get a call for a pizza, you have to click on the order, then click on the appropriate pizza store. A little while later, a tip will appear at the house that placed the order, and you need to click on it to pick it up. The faster you take the order, the bigger tip you’ll receive.

The combo system in the game gives you extra points as well as upgrades. If you deliver five of the same type of pizza in a row, you get a frenzy. (Levels are Pizza Frenzy, Double Frenzy, Triple Frenzy, Super Frenzy, Mega Frenzy, and Ultra Frenzy.) As you score frenzies, you’ll be able to take multiple orders of the same type at once, though you’ll never be able to pick up order of different types at the same time.

You also need to watch out for a few different special customers. There are crooks, prank callers, and graffiti artists that you need to report to the police. If you deliver a pizza to them, you’ll be penalized. There are movie stars who give good tips, but are impatient. The gossips will get everyone to change their orders to the same thing so you get easy combos. Clowns will convince everyone to switch to a new pizza at random. Monks will meditate and slow time. Bankers will help you collect your tips.

Between towns, you’ll get the chance to score extra points in a bonus round. You’ll be shown a pizza, and you have to drop toppings on a new pizza to try to match it. You’ve got a time limit, so hurry!

What I liked:
The graphics are nice and clean. In other games of this type, I’ve had trouble distinguishing between background items, and things I needed to click on. There were no such problems here. The music was fun, and the voices and sound effects were well done. I liked the different types of customers, both helpers and hindrances. I really like the user interface.

What I disliked:
Click ambiguity. Sometimes when I go to click on an order or a tip, it’ll hit a different nearby item instead. It’s not a big problem, but you need to be careful where you click, and on some of the harder levels, you need to move really fast. The only other thing that bothered me is that it felt so similar at first to other games I’ve played before. The special customers help to differentiate it, and there were two other game modes that I didn’t get a chance to play. The developers are clearly very talented, and I really look forward to checking out their previous games and anything else they come up with, though.

Games it reminded me of:
I felt it had alot in common with games like Betty’s Beer Bar, Diner Dash, and Mystic Inn. If they’re all considered in the same game genre, then Pizza Frenzy is definitely my favorite of them.

Recommendations:
I probably wouldn’t have registered, but my wife had a blast playing it. I ended up playing it for several hours too, so the purchase was definitely worth it. Pizza Frenzy is a very well made fun game. So I’d really recommend giving the demo a try. The only problem is that you might get hungry for pizza. Don’t play it if you’re on a diet!

Review: DROD: King Dugan’s Dungeon July 7, 2006

Posted by Jesse in : Game Reviews , 1 comment so far

Game: DROD: King Dugan’s Dungeon
Developer: Caravel Games
Version: This is a review of the full version of the game.

I’m having a little difficulty classifying this game. Certainly, DROD (Deadly Rooms of Death) is a puzzle game. But when I’m waist deep in enemies that are out for my blood, and I’m swinging my sword around like a maniac, it definitely feels more like an action game.

You play as Beethro Budkin, and you’ve been sent by King Dugan to clean all of the vermin out of his dungeon “so that the prisoners can receive their torture in a clean and safe environment.” (Quote from The Story of Beethro.) Your only weapon in this mission is your sturdy sword. (You’ll run across some invisibility and mimic potions, but since they are room specific and you can’t carry them with you, you’d better get used to swinging that sword around.)

DROD is completely turn based. You take an action, then all of the enemies get an action. It looks like it all happens at once, but if there’s an enemy standing near you, you can turn to stab him before he gets a chance to get you. The actions you can take are: Move one square by using the number pad arrows, turn 45 degrees clockwise or counter-clockwise with the Q or W keys, or do nothing by pressing 5 on the number pad. Two more buttons are also important. If you press R you’ll restart the current level, and Backspace will undo your last move. It’s pretty simple, though from other games I’ve played I’m used to having my movement keys under my left hand, so sometimes I’ll get confused and turn when I meant to move diagonally and get myself killed.

Fighting the enemies is pretty straightforward. Move or turn so that your sword, which is always in front of you, is sticking into the square an enemy is in, and they die. Since you get to move first, and an enemy will never willingly walk into your sword, there is a good amount of strategy to discover. When I first started playing, I’d try to get all of the enemies into a straight line, and then rush forward through them all. If an enemy ever snuck around behind me or came at me from the side, I was toast. Now I’m dancing around like Errol Flynn.

But the game’s not just about combat. In fact, while killing all of the monsters is your main goal, you’re going to spend a significant amount of your time hitting switches to open doors, or trying to find your way across a room where the floor crumbles under your feet while leaving yourself a patch back out.

What I liked:
As you might have guessed, I really like the combat mechanism. I also like the puzzles. Sometimes they’re tricky enough that I’m ready to pull my hair out. But that just makes it all that more rewarding when I finally solve it. The music is really nice. Good enough in fact that there was a strong demand for a CD Soundtrack which you can order from the Caravel website. That’s pretty cool if you ask me.

What I disliked:
I really dislike the image of Beethro at the top left of the interface. And it’s not just that he’s ugly, which is true, but it’s that I don’t like that drawing very much. (That’s the only bit of art I didn’t care for, though.) I’d like to see a little bit more in the way of in game tutorials. I enjoyed discovering the joys of combat on my own (which is why I didn’t give much strategy above) but there are some things that I’d like a bit more info on. For example, even after a couple of levels of fighting rooms full of wraithwings, I’m still not sure about how they act. Sometimes I’ll be totally exposed and about to die and they’ll run away, and other times I’m toast. (I’m sure they follow some rules, I just don’t fully understand them yet.)

Games it reminded me of:
The combat (at first) feels slightly like The Legend of Zelda, with the way your sword is always out in front of you, but once I got better at it, the combat feels more like a turn based role playing game mixed with chess. There are puzzle aspects that are sort of like other games, but when you add in the mimic potions, I don’t think I’ve played anything quite like it before.

Recommendations:
I played the demo all the way through and then quite gladly bought the full version. I’ll most likely grab the next DROD game (Journey to the Rooted Hold) as well when I finish all of the King Dugan’s Dungeon levels. I highly recommend this game to anyone who likes puzzles and a little strategy in their combat. Plus the demo is nice and long. There’s no reason not to at least give it a try.

Review: Fruity Garden July 3, 2006

Posted by Jesse in : Game Reviews , add a comment

Game: Fruity Garden
Developer: BondarchukV
Version: This is a review of the demo version of the game.

Fruity Garden is a cute game. You play the part of Anna Maria, whose Granny has given her a Fruity Garden of her very own to take care of.

The gameplay is pretty simple. You start out with one fruit tree, and all you have to do is wait for fruit to grow and become ripe (it will shake when it’s ripe) and then you click on it. If you don’t get to them in time, fruit will fall from the tree. If a piece of fruit hits the ground, a caterpillar will start climbing the tree. This will cost you points, so it’s best not to let the fruit hit the ground. As you progress, you will get additional trees to take care of, and birds will start swooping down to take your fruit away. If you move your mouse cursor over them, you can shoot at them with a slingshot. A direct hit will turn them away, and they’ll drop any fruit they picked up. Sometimes when you click a ripe fruit or shoot a bird, you will get a bonus, which is either extra points or powerups. They’ll bounce around the screen, and you just have to click on them to collect them.

What I liked:
The graphics are bright and cute. I can definitely see them appealing to a younger audience. (Which I assume is the target.) The music is also well made, and I imagine a younger audience would be drawn to it. There’s a simple in-game tutorial system, where a fullscreen dialog pops up and you are given advice or instructions. Fruity Garden should be good for developing a child’s hand-eye coordination.

What I disliked:
The difficulty ramps up rather quickly. I was only through a dozen or so levels, and I was having difficulty pulling out perfect scores, and I’m an experienced adult gamer. I imagine that would mean it would be quite difficult for a younger child to succeed at all. (Note: Since my original draft of this review, the developer has posted a comment on the Indiegamer Forums that he will take a look at the easy mode difficulty level. Once taken care of, that will help the game alot, in my opinion.)

Games it reminded me of:
The first game that comes to mind is the carnival classic game of Whac-A-Mole. Take a hammer, and smack every single mechanical animal that dares to stick his head up. Also, there’s an element of Duck Hunt going on when the birds start trying to steal the fruit. (That gives me an idea. Replace the mouse targeting with Duck Hunt style mechanics, and I could easily see this game doing well in a kids arcade or a bowling alley.)

Recommendations:
If you’re an adult gamer, it seems pretty obvious that this game isn’t for you. However, if you’ve got a young child who would like play video games with you, I this is worth a try. There’s a 40 minute trial demo, and that should be enough to see if your child is interested.