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Review: Kingdom Elemental January 3, 2007

Posted by Jesse in : Game Reviews , 5 comments

Game: Kingdom Elemental
Developer: Chronic Logic
Version: This is a review of the full version of the game.
Recommendation: Try it

I bought this game without playing the demo. I almost never do that. But it’s from Chronic Logic (the makers of the fantastic Gish), who I trust to show me a good time, and it was getting all kinds of acclaim, including placing well in a couple of GameTunnel’s Best of 2007 categories. I don’t regret that purchase for a second. This is a fun game.

It’s like a cross beween Starcraft and Master of Defense. (Which are both games I’m glad that I own.) You start each level with a limited budget, which you can spend on placing some units onto a battlefield. Then, when you’re ready, you signal the start of the round, and then you have to face off against several waves of enemies with the units you hired.

The units types are pretty diverse, and once you get the hang of controlling them, the game feels like playing a massively multiplayer roleplaying game, but now you got to control the entire group. You’ve got your “tank” unit, the warrior, who can’t do much damage, but can sure take a pounding, and can taunt the enemies to keep them away from your weaker units. There’s the archer, who conversely does tons of damage, but can’t take much of a hit at all. Priests can heal your other units, and if you upgrade them, can bring your units back to life after they die. Druids can give a couple of major buffs to one unit, and bards give minor buffs to everyone. Necromancers instill fear into an enemy, sending them fleeing, as well as summoning a warrior skeleton from fallen foes. My favorite class is the ridiculously powerful, but incredibly expensive wizards, who can pull meteors down onto the enemies heads, summon pets that do incredible damage, and can create a magic shield around any unit, making them virtually invincible. (There are a couple of other units, but these are my favorites.)

Since there are so many different types of units, there are alot of different ways to play the game. You can build a balanced team, putting your warrior types up front, with healers nearby, with a couple of damage dealers in the back. You could go completely aggressive, with all heavy hitters, and try to take the enemies down before they get you. You could be conservative, and use enough healers to keep all of your units alive. You can try to outmaneuver the enemies with your fast moving units, while plinking them down slowly. There’s lots of options, and I love that.

One complaint I’ve read a few times is that the game is too difficult, even on easy. I disagree, but I think that’s because I understood what the developers were going for. You need to find the perfect strategy for every difficult battle. Just throwing out a few warriors, archers, and priests isn’t going to be enough to win every battle. But I love working on perfecting a strategy, and recognize that it’s not for everyone.

I recommend you go grab the demo. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Gameplay movie (from YouTube):

Review: Mr. Robot January 2, 2007

Posted by Jesse in : Game Reviews , 4 comments

Game: Mr. Robot
Developer: Moonpod Games
Version: This is a review of the full version of the game.
Recommendation: Buy this game without delay!

This is a game I’ve been waiting a long time to play. On October 18, 2005 the guys from Moonpod started started posting development information into their dev journal on gamedev.net. (It’s over here if you’d like to read it.) From the moment I saw those first concept sketches and screenshots, I’ve been really excited to get my hands on this game. And now I have it!

The game was released upon the world in late December 2006, which sadly was too late to make it into the running for any of the end of the year game awards, which is a shame, because the game is fantastic. Without a doubt, this is the best indie game I’ve ever played, and I’d be willing to put it on the same level with some of the big budget non-indie games I played this year. Really, I’m not kidding. But I guess I should stop gushing about how much I liked it, and actually tell you about the game.

In Mr. Robot, you play as Asimov, a small, friendly, hard-working maintenance bot. He’s eager to impress his boss so that he can be promoted into a more specialized job, and gain the respect of his peer robots. (Such as Zelda, who Asimov might have a bit of a crush on, the strong bully Samson, and the brooding super-intelligent Raistlin.) But not long after Asimov is activated and begins getting to work, some strange things start happening.

On the starship Eidolon, which is where the game takes place, everything is controlled by a main computer program called HEL. The main job of HEL and all of the worker robots on board the ship is to protect the safety of the passengers and crew, who are all spending the long trip in stasis pods. When HEL starts issuing orders that don’t make alot of sense, and it’s discovered that some of the humans on board might be in danger, it falls to Asimov and his friends to figure out what’s going on.

Mr. Robot has two gameplay modes. In the first, and the one you’ll probably spend the most time in, you control Asimov by arrow keys and two action keys. (Control and Shift, by default.) In this mode, the game is very much like a platformer with puzzles. Asimov doesn’t have any weapons to defend himself, so you’ll have to be careful to stay away from other robots. (Most of which are electified and will damage Asimov if they touch him.) Most of the puzzles involve figuring out how to get across a room full of dangerous objects and other robots. Sometimes this is as simple as pushing boxes around so that you can jump onto platforms, and sometimes you’ll have to improvise, like standing on top of another robot’s head (the only part that’s not electrified) and riding him around.

The second gameplay mode is called Ghost Hack. A ghost in Mr. Robot just refers to a computer program that can be used to hack into another computer system. The robots in Mr. Robot each have one installed, and at the beginning of the game you’ll just have access to Asimov’s. But you’ll get more as the game goes on. In Ghost Hack your ghosts are very similar to characters in a computer roleplaying game. You can equip each one with different weapons and armor. And each one has different skills, similar to the spells you might find in an rpg like Final Fantasy. Zelda is really good at healing, Raistlin is good at damaging, Asimov is more well rounded, and the big brutes like Samson don’t have any at all.

The game also comes with a level editor. While I haven’t had a chance to play with it, and therefore can’t tell you anything about it, I’m hopeful that after the game has been out awhile, there will be a nice set of user created adventures, similar to what you can find for Neverwinter Nights. That would be super sweet.

I recommend you go grab the demo right now. Make sure you have plenty of free time, though. I couldn’t put it down until I’d finished it.

Here’s the trailer, which was posted to YouTube: