Posts by: Sean Clancy

Review: Evolution: Battle for Utopia

Are those healing grenades? Those look like healing grenades. Healing grenades *is* a damn promising start.

How exactly does the “healing grenade” work? A gaming mystery.

When we talk about currency, we’re really talking about time. People spend time doing things. If you spend time engaged in “work,” you’re allowed to exchange a few semi-abstract timeness units in for slips of paper, or coins, which you can in turn spend to take up someone else’s time—say, having your oil changed, or getting a turducken cooked properly. Not everyone agrees this is the best arrangement, but many do, and at worst you could say this system has always pretty much worked for those latter people. Evolution: Battle for Utopia must be on the bleeding edge of capitalism then (as its name would suggest), seeing as it has at least four or five different kinds of scrip.

There’s a green battery-looking thing, a red rock thing, and an odd DVD-looking thing which makes a 1990′s dial-up tone whenever you pick it up—super great, that. Battle for Utopia wants to treat these currencies more like resources, in keeping with its near-RTS (also near-shooter) aspirations, muddling the line somewhat between a “resource”—something with value in and of itself, like oil or food or a satisfying game mechanic—and a currency which, again, is really just your time. In fact its main resource as a digital entertainment product is in blurring the notion between something earned, within the game’s economy, and something spent, outside of it.

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Review: Clarc

My only defense is an "L" box pointing the wrong way.

My only defense is an “L” box pointing the wrong way.

Life is complicated. Especially if you’re a robot, and not even technically alive. (Or strictly technically alive, maybe.)

You see, there’s this one room. You—that’s the little yellow astromech-looking fella—enter on one side, and you have to get across. There are three pressure plates here, and two boxes in the room. In a side room there’s a third and, hey, that gate opens up when you place one of the boxes in this room on a pad. So, great.

Thing is, there’s also a tankbot in this room, trapped—for now—by the same shipping crates you need to shuffle about in order to escape. The “catch” (that’s one thing this robot is just beginning to learn about life—there’s always a catch) is that from the moment you enter you’re playing a game of keep-away with this bastard, on top of your game of box-shuffling.

Whew. What kids will go through for the affection of big pink ballistic missiles.

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Review: Braveland

Ah, yes, who can forget The Battle of A Handful of Rock Piles. They still teach that one in [LOCAL MILITARY ACADEMY].

Ah, yes, who can forget The Battle of A Handful of Rock Piles. They still teach that one in [LOCAL MILITARY ACADEMY].

Braveland has a lot going for it, on paper. It’s all “hex-based squad tactics” and “sweeping epic,” “branching paths” and “leveling,” “gear” and “statistics,” “special abilities” and “kind of looking like Cyanide & Happiness.” That’s great (except the last bit). Given all that, if I were to tell you this is yet another game of archers and mages in the back, hitty-stabby fellas up front, and one where that strategy is the strategy 90 percent of the time, you wouldn’t necessarily be put off, right? Classics are classic for a reason.

The question isn’t whether or not Braveland sports these elements—it does. But to what degree? I’m almost certainly paraphrasing someone brighter than I when I say this, but: in order to design a game that feels big, that comes off as truly epic or expansive, you have to create things that players could very well never encounter, mechanics they might never engage with, routes–literal and figurative– they might never travel. Braveland… well, Braveland might be a touch too thrifty for that.

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Review: Surgeon Simulator

The most important surgery is the surgery to resect Bob's memories of all those botched surgeries.

The most important surgery is the surgery to resect Bob’s memories of all those botched surgeries.

Surgeon Simulator on iOS is like an ultra-violent version of The Producers.

The challenge is thus: how do you take a PC title where unresponsive controls are the whole point, and translate it to a touch device while preserving just the right amount of… wrong, and exactly the wrong amount of right? And how do you make those right-wrong and wrong-right controls bad (that is, good) in a manner unique to touch screens, and how can you ensure that new, good (that is, bad) control scheme is off in a fun, chaotic way, and not just… off. Gods above, what if someone were to actually complete a kidney transplant without spilling half the patient’s body ketchup onto the operating table?

This is the conundrum situated at the–hopefully still beating–heart of Surgeon Simulator. Here’s to failure.

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Review: Mines of Mars

"Hmm. I see now how the mining lamp works against me, insofar as stealth is concerned."

“Hmm. I see now how the mining lamp works against me, insofar as stealth is concerned.”

It’s deadly hot down in the tunnels, but that’s okay, because they strapped a thing to your chest which makes it cold.

You’re a miner. Your day starts when you step into the portal on the Martian surface, and step out at a cavernous steel enclosure deep underground, one of the many subterranean safe-zones carved into the red rock. The worst part of your day is when you hop down your own fresh-dug shaft and fall, fall, fall for what seems like ages before you hit the floor of your current dig site with a resigned thud, the auto-stabilizer in your jetpack having slowed you.

The best part of your day is when you fly back up this shaft like that rocketeer from The Rocketeer (which is an oldie you probably saw on holotape, or something), fast and light and, for a moment, it almost seems like you could crash through the cave ceiling and burst out somewhere, anywhere, else. Maybe the place where the water comes from, the streams that turn into small waterfalls which support alien life even here, miles separated from the sun.

But, you can’t. You can’t dig up, you see. So you step back into the portal, and out onto the surface with its empty shops and empty streets, populated by a few small, chittering robots that only pay attention to you when you plink at them with your pistol. When you come back up it’s light out, sometimes, and sometimes it’s night.

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Confirmed: The Inner World is beatable (probably)

That's the face of "reserved optimism."

That’s the face of “reserved optimism.”

Owen asked me to have a look at how The Inner World is holding up since the adventure game received a much-needed patch the other day. A good three months after its release, and nearly two since I weighed in on the bug-ridden iOS port of Studio Fizbin’s acclaimed PC adventure game, and I can now safely say that I’ve completed The Inner World, and that the game seems to be in a state where, well, it’s actually possible to finish it at all. “Most likely” possible, that is.

Bear in mind this is device specific (I’m on a 3rd-gen iPad), and that while the game is certainly in a better state than when first released, it’s still not bug free. I encountered a few more conversation-breaking hangups while working to reach the conclusion of this fine, fine tale, mostly when I made the innocent mistake of trying to activate something from the inventory while a character was talking. (Gods forbid!) Still, nothing that a quick reload—helped by The Inner World’s generous auto-saves—couldn’t fix.

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Review: Tengami

So. It would seem this lighthouse is important. Probably.

So. It would seem this lighthouse is important. Probably.

Playing Tengami makes one realize just how seldom it is that a game shoots for tone above anything else. Sure, other titles might evoke certain moods in turn, favoring one particular vibe over another in the course of a six-to-eight-hour experience; horror games come to mind. But few are as consistent, and as unwilling to sideline the “feel” of a place in exchange for “game-ness,” as this digital pop-up-book themed around traditional Japanese artwork. It’s a calm, introspective game, and one that’s less concerned with stumping the player than it is with imparting itself to them. Many of Tengami’s “puzzles” could just as easily be called “attractions”, and the game’s cleverness stems out of a holistic desire to have its storybook world fully realized by a curious hand.

All things to keep in mind when you’re dropping f-bombs at a magical floating cherry blossom, and at all things—animate or otherwise—that would keep you from obtaining such magical floating cherry blossoms. So okay, there are a few real stumpers here.

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Review: Toast Time

"The Persistence of Margarine," --Salivate Daíly

“The Persistence of Margarine,” –Salivate Daíly

Some—and this could depend on the day of the week—consider the sight and sound of two fresh slices of bread popping golden-brown out of the toaster one of the sweetest things one can wake-up to. To others, those carb wedges might as well be two grainy tombstones ready to accept the lukewarm butter-substitute slabs presaging a day’s inevitable failures. Mornings suck sometimes, is the thing here.

Toast Time feels like a game by and for that former sort of person. To the grumblers and serial breakfast-skippers of the world, it says “Hey, what if we were to shoot that piping hot bread-product right at the extra-dimensional goblinses trying to spoil your day?” And “Hey, what if that toaster had a big ol’ smirk on his face, and could fly around your kitchen. And maybe he should wear a Santa hat.” Also: “Hey, are baguettes explo- WOAH.”

Toast Time, if I’m honest, may have had a bit too much coffee.

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