Frugal Gaming Review – Hero of Many

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Win or Lose, Sink or Swim

“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five-score years ago, a great Frog, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Underwater Equality Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of white tadpoles who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of bigotry.

But one hundred years later, the White Tadpole is still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the White Tadpole is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the White Tadpole lives under a lonely lilypad of poverty in the midst of a vast pond of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the White Tadpole is still languished in the corners of aquatic society and finds himself in exile in his own waters. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition”

Attributed to Kermit T Frog on 24th June 2013

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Play The Game, Fight The Fight

YOU THERE! stop playing with your tail! It will drop off if you carry on fiddling with it!

Right then lads, at ease.  For those of you new here, my name is Major Zitz, formerly of Battletoad Command.  It’s my job to get you sorry lot ready for the most important and desperate mission of this god forsaken war.  I won’t jelly coat it, it’s going to be rough.  For you veterans who have returned from the Ouya, IOS or Android theatres , I’ll be looking to you to take the lead and help these new recruits as we open a new front on Steam.

For the tadpoles, your insertion behind enemy lines will be via flying frog.  The currents are looking choppy, so if you end up scattered, hold up, hide and wait for your Frogspawn commander to find you.  Once you’re reunited with your unit and commander, follow instructions to the letter and protect them at all costs.  The black menace will be everywhere and you will be the only thing protecting  your commander.  I know you have a tendency to eat each other, but save it for your enemy.  Any incidents of white on white, and you’ll be court marshalled.

As for you Frogspawn, I need you calm and calculated. You will be the brains of this operation and its success rests roundly on your gelatinous mass.  Meeting up with your team of fellow poles is of vital importance.  You’ll be extremely vulnerable without them.  They’re an eager bunch, but they will need your guidance and self control.  You’ll have a long stream ahead of you to get to your final destination.  The currents with be perilous, and the black tadpole army won’t be your only obstacle. Your strength in numbers will help you, but at times discretion may well be the better part of valour, let’s not forget that the tadpole who runs away, turns into a frog another day.

The survival of our very species lies with you, the brave Tadpoles and Frogspawn of this unit.  Trust in each other and you will get through this.  Time is fun when you’re having flies and, if you complete your mission and make it back in one piece you’ll have all the flies you could possibly imagine.

“Even though large tracts of our pond and many old and famous streams have fallen, or may fall into the grip of the Black Tadpole and all the odious apparatus of Frog rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight on Ouya, we shall fight on the iPhone and iPad, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength on Android, we shall defend our lily pad, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on Windows, we shall fight on OS X , we shall fight in the Steam Store and in the iTunes chart , we shall fight in the Google play store; we shall never surrender.”

Attributed to Slippy Toad – First Pond Lord of the Admiralty  15th September 2015

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La La La La

Hero of Many, is a port of a mobile game that’s just been released on Steam.  It takes you on a epic aquatic journey through a dangerous world.  It plays brilliantly, looks absolutely beautiful and if you are anything like myself, you will lose hours to this game. The general and well founded dislike for mobile ports on PC could be well and truly banished if more games like this started making an appearance.

Exciting, challenging, thought provoking ( well to me at least, this review was going to be about sperm or immigration before I settled on tadpoles). The game is engaging and utterly enjoyable. Trickster Arts have taken an idea that’s so simple and executed it with aplomb.  I love it so much I’m now considering digging a pond in my back garden.

SCORE: 9/10

PC Version Reviewed

Hero of Many is now available on Steam and can be found HERE

It’s also available on iTunes, the Google Play store and OUYA

Developed and published by Trickster Arts

LYNE Review

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LYNE
Android / iOS / PC
Dev: Thomas Bowker

Gulp. We’re about to enter a difficult and disturbing world; one where many people step tentatively, get burned and then scurry back to the safety of their free-to-play security blanket.

Yes.

The world of indie-developed paid-for mobile gaming.

You might be entirely comfortable with paying for random apps on your phone. Hell, maybe you’ve got money to throw around like so much wedding confetti, but I am always reticent to pay for games on my mobile devices. It’s pretty much thanks to Steam and Humble Bundle et al, who are constantly telling me I can have 2012’s blockbuster game I missed out on for £3.49. Kind of makes it difficult to justify spending a similar amount on some indie title that’s probably:

a) going to suck

b) only going to be played whilst I’m on the toilet

c) will probably control like ass and make me wish I’d just read the shampoo bottle instead

So when a game comes to my attention that doesn’t hit any of those categories it’s probably worth a second look, huh?

LYNE is one of those deceptively-simple-but-hard-as-balls games that cause great emotional tidal waves when playing. The slow, simmering creep of frustration followed by the joyful release of success – then back again. Your job is quite straightforward; simply join together shapes of the same colour using a line that you draw with your finger. The shapes are laid out on an easy to see grid and interspersed with octagonal intersections that need to be criss-crossed with lines a certain number of times to complete the level.

Sounds a lot more complicated than it is in practice.

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Successfully join all those squares and triangles together and you are rewarded with all the pieces turning white, disappearing and being replaced with another puzzle in the set.

LYNE’s puzzle sets contain 25 challenges in each and there are plenty of brain-teasers to keep you going – additionally there are daily challenges to puzzle through if you find yourself stuck on your current set.

The line drawing is satisfying and accurate but thankfully there is no punishment for drawing an incorrect line – you simply tap on the last shape you were happy with and start drawing again. The graphical assets are simplistic but wonderfully functional, you never become confused as all the lines and shapes are colour coded in clear, albeit soft, tones.

Those soft tones are replicated in the wonderful sound design of the game which provides a very placid backdrop to play the game against. It reminds me very much of the Hans Zimmer soundtrack to True Romance, which I’ve always considered to be beautiful. Apparently, the instrument used to play that song is called a Symphonic Marimba – I have no idea if it’s the same thing that made the in-game sounds but they certainly have the same ‘feel’.

Whether or not you’ll get much enjoyment from LYNE depends upon how much you enjoy puzzle games and how far you can cope with a little frustration when they get tough. What I can say without fear of subjectivity however is that LYNE definitely represents considered and well-crafted design in a video game. You feel when playing it that you are engaging with a polished piece of software that merits the small amount of money you paid to play it.

The final, and perhaps most overlooked pleasure that LYNE provides is something that is pointed out in some of the promotional material almost as a throwaway line – it reads:

Deceptively simple – connect the shapes – fill the board – lose yourself… in LYNE

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I think that concept of losing yourself is quite an interesting one. I think that LYNE must stimulate some very particular part of the brain whilst you play it and, whilst these are all geared towards solving the puzzle, the rest of my brain is slowly ticking away at other things. I can’t claim any great revelatory notions have come as result of playing the game but it certainly leaves me feeling rested if I don’t allow myself to get too bogged down with trying to beat a level that’s giving me trouble.

Like a lot of problems in life, give it a bit of time and bit of space the solution tends to present itself without too much fuss in the end.

Karlos Morale

8/10

LYNE is available now in most good app stores for £1.60

www.lynegame.com/

Review: Shin Megami Tensei (iOS)

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The Shin Megami Tensei series is one that has begun to receive a little bit more acclaim in more recent years, thanks in part to the success of Persona 4 Golden on the PS Vita and the release of entries into the franchise on Nintendo’s 3DS. Numerous entries however have eluded western shores for quite some time including the very first title.

First released onto the Super Famicom in 1992 and ported to a number of systems in Japan from the Mega CD to the Playstation, Gameboy Advance and more recently Playstation Network/Virtual Console releases. The title has finally made its way to western lands via the iOS format.

Shin Megami Tensei is an RPG in which you, the hero, must traverse dungeons with a party of up to five others fighting monsters and unraveling the various mysteries. It is set in what was back then modern day Tokyo, in the year 199X and Demons have found their way onto Earth. As the hero you have a few tricks up your sleeve including being able to converse with and even recruit the demons to fight for you via the Devil Summoning Programming you acquire in the early stages of the game.

The first question many will ask when it comes to the game is how does it handle on the iOS format? The answer is incredibly well. However there are a few oddities that may take people some getting used to. First of all to explain how the game works, it is a port from previous versions, not a remake or re-mastered edition, what you see on screen is what those who played on the Famicom, GBA, etc would have played. This means you don’t get fancy touch controls or improvements to the graphics, the game is also controlled via a virtual gamepad, but due to the nature of the game it works because you don’t really require any sort of advanced controls.

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There are two modes in which to play, portrait and landscape. My personal preference was portrait as I felt the virtual gamepad looked better in that mode, but it really makes no difference. This is manually set however and not automatically set based on how you are holding your device at the time.

This is where we come to one of the games problems, because this is a direct port of a game made in 1992 we lack a lot of the modern and more user friendly ideas games have today. There is no lengthy tutorial explaining what to do, there are no direction arrows or indicators telling where to go and no proper explanation of controls. There is however a link in game to a website which acts as a user-guide for the title. The major problem with this however is not everyone who uses a tablet or android device uses it in proximity of Wi-Fi nor do they always have 3G/4G enabled devices. What this means is should you download the game and decide to head out for a journey and play it along the way you’re unable to access any proper sort of help for it unless you’re able to get an internet connection.

It’s a minor problem considering the amount of public Wi-Fi available to us all now, the option for tethering on phones, but it is still a possible issue and the decision to make the manual hosted online rather than downloaded along with the game is a somewhat perplexing one.

With this issue aside the game handles fine on the iOS format, it feels natural, nothing feels lost in the transition.

When compared to contemporary titles Shin Megami Tensei feels fairly unique. There are two methods of play, an overworld in which you traverse the city of Tokyo and the dungeon mode in which you traverse dungeons in first person but experience random turn-based battles. The closest modern game I can think of that matches the style, at least as far as the dungeons go would be Legend of Grimrock or Might & Magic X, but even those two have very differing ways of play. Due to this being a game from 1992, it does show its age significantly but it has a particular charm to it and the dungeons do still manage to create a sense of atmosphere. The battles however leave a bit more to be desired, again due to the age of the game there is little going on in a battle beyond your enemy appearing, choosing an attack and so on. There is minimal animation and screen effects but the sprites are nicely drawn and again have this unique style that I’ve only seen in Shin Megami Tensei games.

Unfortunately another significant detail that makes the game show its age is that it can be a bit of a grind-fest at times. There is a difficulty curve here with some of the bosses and of course players will have to do their fair share of grinding, even on the earlier dungeons.

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As mentioned the battle system is a mostly turn-based affair but it offers a good amount of flexibility in how you attack even by today’s standards. You can naturally just attack if you desire, you can use magic or guns to attack your enemies or you can make use of the Demon summoning system that the game offers. With this you can recruit demon’s into your party and have them fight for you, or you can negotiate with demons in order to gain resources for your weapons or future summoning. As has become a staple of the SMT games you are not limited to just recruiting and summoning but also a flexible fusing system is offered allowing you to fuse two weaker demons to create a new one.

Another interesting aspect is the ability to shape your characters when they level up. Instead of automatically assigning points you do it manually, meaning you can have some characters focused on particular styles of play, and create your own classes as it were.

When it comes to re-releases such as these there are usually a number of concerns. Has the game aged well or is it only worth checking out for historical/nostalgic purposes? Does its mechanics hold up well today?  Aside from the obvious graphical ageing, Shin Megami Tensei is a game that has held up well and is well worth playing. While some features may have aged not so well it remains a top RPG and is worth your money and iOS device space.

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Formats: iOS
Price: £3.99
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus