Unfinished Pixel’s first foray into the magical world of the Xbox One comes in the form of Spy Chameleon, an action-puzzler. You play as an undercover RGB agent whose goal is to complete each mission without being detected. As far as any story goes, that is pretty much it, but it doesn’t really take anything away from the game.
Spy Chameleon tasks you with completing 5 missions, each with 15 levels. Each level has 3 challenges to complete. A par time to beat, 10 flies to collect and finding all the ladybugs in that level (anywhere from 1 to 3 per level). There aren’t many levels where you will be able to complete all 3 challenges in 1 run, so you will be replaying levels a lot if you want to nab all the challenges.
During the missions, you will need to avoid detection from CCTV, Robot Sentries, Rats and others by using the environment as cover from their field of vision. To successfully navigate through each level you quite often need to make use of your camouflage ability. Each colour is represented by the corresponding colour on the controller so Y is Yellow, X is Blue etc, which works really well. For example, if there is a tin of green paint spilt on the floor you can use your green camouflage to disappear from the enemies field of vision.
Blending in like a pro.
Spy Chameleon does a great job at introducing you to new puzzle mechanics and I never really got bored of doing the same thing over and over because there was plenty of variety going on. The flip side of this though is the difficulty seemed to fluctuate throughout the missions due to the tutorial levels for each new mechanic being introduced.
I found a handful of levels really required pin point accuracy and timing to beat the par time, but for the most part you are given plenty of breathing room. For a puzzle game I would say the frustration level stays pretty low throughout, which was a nice change of pace for me.
Towards the end of the game and not exactly a challenge.
Unfortunately, not everything is as enjoyable as the puzzles in Spy Chameleon. A few nights back I was playing for about an hour and a half and progressed to level 58. When I came back the next day to carry on my progress I had been reset to level 8. None of my stats were saved and I had 40 levels to redo. I’m not 100% certain what caused the reset, but I have seen others mention it when putting their Xbox One in sleep mode. So anyone wanting to play Spy Chameleon, be aware that you could lose progress if you’re not careful.
Something I really like about Spy Chameleon is the achievement list. It’s pretty uncommon for an Indie Developer to include a good achievement list. You’ve got your standard game progression achievements, a handful of random tasks to do like annoying the same fish 25 times and some skill based ones too for completing all challenges on Hard mode and finishing all 75 levels in under 18 minutes (I’m currently at just over 20 minutes). The par time for level 18 is currently incorrect and although it can be done with the incorrect par time, the Developers are aware of the issue and a patch is in the works.
Spy Chameleon does a lot of things right. The controls are on point, the puzzles aren’t frustratingly difficult or fiddly and it was thoroughly enjoyable. The fluctuating difficulty did catch me off guard a few times but it’s not a deal breaker. Apart from the loss of progress, I had a blast playing Spy Chameleon and Unfinished Pixel got the pricing point spot on.
A digital copy of Spy Chameleon was provided by the Developer for the purpose of this review
Nero is Storm in a Teacup’s first game and they describe it as a first person puzzle / visual novel. Does Storm in a Teacup’s first outing hit all the right notes?
Right from the word go, you can tell this game is visually stunning. The colours are vibrant, the environment is enchanting and even the wildlife are beautiful in their own weird way. Even in the dullest areas of the game, there are still pockets of bright, neon colours, which really make the visuals pop. When I started up the game, watching the opening cut scene made me smile. I really thought I was in for something really special.
Truly stunning visuals.
That feeling soon dissipated when I got off the boat and began to control my character. I decided to look around at the amazing environment and my disappointment began. The frame rate seems extremely low especially when looking around with the right analogue stick. I started to move my character forward and the movement was unbearably slow. A few minutes went by whilst I was walking through the first little town area before a tip popped up on screen advising you can run with RB. Unfortunately, even with the aid of an unlimited run the pace was still too slow. You spend vast majorities of your time just “running” in between puzzles, so the game really could have done with some extra movement speed.
Other than running around you gain the ability to make these orbs of light which you can fire in front of you to unlock doors, activate switches etc and a little further on in game you gain another hooded figure who acts as your companion who you can direct to stand and move wherever you want them to, to help solve the puzzles.
During your time exploring you will need to look out for little picture frames which act as your collectibles in Nero. Each picture frame contains a fragment of a picture which symbolises the story being told for that particular area.
Something that Nero is brilliant at is telling a story. It isn’t full of plot twists or shock moments, but right from the beginning I was hooked. If you want to hear all of the story, then you’re going to have to complete all of the puzzles the game has to offer. Throughout the game you will encounter floating paragraphs which feed you bits of information filling in the story for you. After most puzzles are completed the Narrator will further expand on the story, making a great experience and one of the more original storytelling ideas.
I really enjoyed reading these floating paragraphs.
The game is split into 4 different areas for you to explore and even with you searching high and low for every collectible and completing all the puzzles, you’ll be very lucky to get more than 3 hours worth of gameplay. Considering the current price, that does not equate to much bang for your buck.
As far as the achievements list goes, if you find all the collectibles and solve all the puzzles you will pretty much complete the list. The only exception being an achievement which requires you to play the Hospital level on a Thursday for a specific meal to show up in the canteen.
Nero shows a lot of promise. It’s storytelling was superb, the visuals were stunning especially considering this was a self-published first outing for Storm in a Teacup it is just a shame the gameplay couldn’t match those standards. It is too difficult to look past the annoyingly low frame rate and tedious gameplay. Add to that how short the game is and it leaves you feeling disappointed after expecting so much in the beginning.
Nero is definitely an experience worth playing through to experience the story, but if you need some satisfying gameplay, look elsewhere or wait for a price drop.
A digital copy of Nero was provided by the Developer for the purpose of this review
The Xbox One is a little light in the field of SHMUPS, which isn’t right. Everyone needs more SHMUPS in their gaming life, that’s just a fact. Project Root, Developed by Opqam is described as an open world, over-head shooter, with countless enemies swarming your ship in true SHMUP fashion.
In Project Root you play as pilot Lance Rockport piloting the F-72 Zonda, trying to overturn an evil doing energy company, Prometheus Corp. That is pretty much all I can tell you about the story. If there was any voice overs or some sort of cut scenes to watch, it would probably be a bit more engaging, but reading page after page of a conversation really isn’t my thing.
Wall after wall of text
During each mission you get little pop ups in the corner of the screen with an image of who is talking and tiny, tiny words…which you are supposed to read whilst keeping the enemy ships at bay. The one time I did stop to read what was going on, I died. Which sent me back to the beginning of the level, all my earned XP lost and 20+ minutes of tediously going from objective to objective to destroy this and that having to be done over again.
The enemies you face are split between different aircraft that spew tonnes of bullets and rockets at you from every direction and ground forces that pretty much do the same. There’s a cursor in front of your ship at all times showing you where your ground attacks will land, which helps gauge where you are aiming. I found myself just holding down the LT and RT (ground attack and normal attack) for the whole mission and doing a lot of spinning to hit the flying enemies that tend to circle you. To say I got a bit dizzy at times is an understatement. I don’t think I played it for more than 45 minutes at a time without needing a break.
The game is split into 8 missions of increasing difficulty and length. Each mission consists of several main objectives which are shown in the HUD at the top left and several secondary objectives. They will task you with finding out what strange signals are, destroying a certain building, going somewhere else, destroying another building, going somewhere else…you get my drift.
For each level you start with 2 lives. Sometimes enemies or building will leave behind an extra life for you when you destroy them, but it seems to be random. Like I mentioned above, if you lose all your lives, you lose all progress for that mission and have to start over. Towards the end of the game this can be extremely frustrating. I spent close to half an hour slowly plodding through a mission I had already failed once only to be killed right at the end. Granted, I’m not the greatest SHMUP gamer in the world but with the game being so tedious it is very difficult to want to go through the same mission all over again.
If you’re like me, you’ll be seeing this screen…a lot.
Your ship starts with hardly any speed, power or armour and is pretty much as useful as a paper airplane, but it can be upgraded. You can upgrade the ships speed, handling, standard and special weapons, airframe and defense. The only way to upgrade these attributes is with XP which is earned from completing missions. If you fail the mission, you lose all earned XP. Anything you can destroy has a potential to drop power-ups in the shape of Homing Missiles, Rocket Packs, Laser Beams and Disruptors (my personal favourite). Without the power-ups the game would be extremely difficult and keeping Disruptors available for the tougher enemies that fire a million and one bullets at you is certainly recommended.
The Disruptor at work.
My biggest gripe with Project Root is most definitely the invincible enemies that appear. On countless occasions I would be firing at a ship that would get stuck in a wall. Fair enough, that can happen sometimes, but you can’t hit said ship but they can hit you and if you need to destroy all enemies to continue on the mission, you have to restart because you can’t fire through mountains. If it happened once in a blue moon you could overlook it. But it doesn’t.
Regarding the achievements for Project Root, they are very straightforward. The majority of them will come for just completing the game. Although, you will have to play through all the missions 3 times (once on each difficulty) as for some strange reason, the achievements do not stack. All in all, if you can overcome the boredom and frustrating glitches the completion isn’t a difficult one.
Project Root had me excited. SHMUPS are fast, fun and exciting games to play that keep you on the edge of your seat trying to keep up with the frenetic gameplay. Unfortunately Project Root just doesn’t deliver. It’s slow paced, no checkpoint gameplay left me bored and uninterested. Add into the mix the poorly executed XP system and the glitches giving enemies invincibility and it leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4, PS3, PC, Wii U, 3DS, PS Vita
Yacht Club Games
Yacht Club Games
Shovel Knight is a 2-D side scrolling platformer with an 8-bit visual style developed by Indie Developers Yacht Club Games. You play as Shovel Knight, a courageous, heroic Knight on a quest to stop the evil Enchantress and save his soul mate Shield Knight. Throughout the epic quest, you have to fight your way through the Knights of The Order of No Quarter, with each Knight having a unique style of attack for you to deal with.
One of Mole Knight’s more annoying attacks
Shovel Knights main weapon is obviously his Shovel Blade. You can use it to dig up treasure, pogo stick it to break blocks, damage enemies or even get to a higher ledge as well as swinging it for a normal melee attack.
As you progress further into the game you get to meet an interesting guy called Chester. He’s a shop owner of sorts and can provide you with Relics to enhance your capabilities, be it a fire rod that shoots balls of fire or the mobile gear to use as a ride on for spikes and running over enemies. Every use of a relic does take magic points though (which can be upgraded for a price, along with your HP), so you need to use them wisely.
Treasure plays a huge part in the game. Pretty much everything (with the exception of a couple of HP upgrades) is bought using treasure you pick up along the way, so you need to make sure you keep an eye out for those gems. Along with Relics there are also some Shovel Blade and Armour upgrades which can be bought for a pretty penny to further enhance Shovel Knights abilities.
Each level consists of several checkpoints, which if you so choose, you can break for extra treasure. If you decide to do this, the checkpoint is no longer valid and should you die in the level, you go back to the beginning or the last checkpoint you left unscathed. When you die during a level, and you will die…a lot, you’ll leave behind three bags of treasure (a percentage of your current treasure on hand) which can be picked back up on your way through the level. If you’re particularly bad at a certain part of the level you can quickly lose a fair chunk of your savings if you aren’t able to grab up your dropped treasure.
At the end of every level you get a boss fight. This is where this game truly shines. Each boss fight is unique. To win, you have to approach each one with a different strategy from the one before. When I first started playing Shovel Knight I would get so overwhelmed by the difficulty of the bosses, but with some practice I figured out the patterns and took advantage of them. Because they are so well done, you get a sense of accomplishment for beating the level bosses, especially if you don’t die.
Even though the game doesn’t have graphics that blow you away, there is a real charm about the 8-bit style they went with. The colours are vibrant and the environments sets the scene perfectly for each stage. Yacht Club Games also did a great job on the soundtrack. Did you ever play Super Mario on the SNES or Sonic on the Genesis for a few hours and then find yourself humming the soundtrack? This is how it goes with Shovel Knight, at least for me it did.
After you beat each level you go back to the world map which is quite reminiscent of the map from Super Mario Bros 3. You have flashing Q’s representing levels you have yet to conquer and Shovel Knights face on the levels you have cleared. Also on the world map you have access to two towns where you go to buy your upgrades. Along your way through the game you will encounter travellers that move around your map (again, just like in super mario bros 3), that serve as boss fights that reward you with extra treasure should you defeat them.
Takes me back to my childhood seeing a map like this!
Something which is hard to get away from is the sheer frustration that can build up with some of the enemies, especially later on in the game. In one of the later levels there are these flying green guys that have a fan on their back and their sole purpose is to make your life hell. They tend to turn up just when you are jumping over a gap, so you jump, they fly over to you and push you back…right into the pit you were skillfully avoiding. If you are like me and you play it over and over, you will learn the pattern of the enemies and they won’t bother you as much because you expect them, but still, very frustrating.
Onto the achievements! Shovel Knight can be really stingy with the points. I’ve clocked up about 27 hours worth of gameplay and I am currently sitting at 590GS for the game. There are a lot of zero point achievements which are off set by bigger valued achievements for the more end game ones like completing it without dying. You’ll have to clock in a finished time of less than one hour thirty to nab the speed run achievement and play through without buying anything too, so completionists, beware.
When you beat the game you get the option to start a new game plus which sets you at the beginning of the game with all your upgrades and gear intact and the enemies doing more damage. This really adds replayability to a game that can be cleared in about an hour and twenty minutes if you know what you are doing.
I’m most certainly all for Indie Developers. I’ve lost count how many times I have sprung to the defence of the vast quantity of Indie games being released on the Xbox One only to fall on deaf ears. Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion, I get that. What we have in Shovel Knight is a prime example of why Indie Developers should be given the opportunity to showcase their work on the Xbox One.
Even though Shovel Knight is a short lived experience, I enjoyed every minute of it and I played through it again and again and again…and I still want to go back for more. There are moments of sheer frustration, but Shovel Knight has too much to offer to walk away from it. There’s even a secret boss level where you fight against the three Battletoads! If you enjoy platformers and you haven’t already played Shovel Knight, do yourself a favour and right that wrong.
Platformers never cease to entertain me. I have played so many throughout my gaming life and yet every time a new one comes along it fills me with anticipation and excitement. Aaru’s Awakening was next in line to satiate my need for platforming goodness.
Coming from a small team of 8 based in Iceland making up Lumenox Games, Aaru’s Awakening is set many, many years ago. The Earth was plagued with War between four brothers. Dawn, Day, Dusk and Night. In order to reach peace the four brothers made a deal to each rule the Earth for equal amounts of time. One of the brothers, Dawn, decides to keep hold of his champion from the War and awaken him. Enter Aaru.
Playing as Aaru (pronounced ‘Ah-roo’) you are tasked by Dawn to travel through his brothers domains to stop a dark force that is coming from Night’s domain, but something doesn’t seem right. Each domain consists of four platforming levels and a boss level.
Whilst controlling Aaru, you can jump, dash and teleport to make your way across the treacherous lands of each domain. Your ability to dash after jumping can break through brittle rocks and you can use the teleport ability by firing little yellow orbs to destroy enemies or get through obstacles that would otherwise kill you. Once an orb has been fired with the RT button (default layout) you can then press the RB button to teleport to where the orb is.
The teleport orb can also be fired at different rates of speed dependant on how long you hold down the LT button, and I would say you probably need to get used to using different firing speeds to get to the end of the game.
For some reason the trigger and bumper buttons are the only buttons used for jumping and teleporting. This makes the controls feel awkward and unnatural. Personally I would much prefer the A button to be doing my jumping. Although there is an option to remap your controls, you can only switch around between the bumper and trigger buttons which is a real shame.
Each level is timed and upon completion you will be awarded with a bronze, silver or gold medal based on your completion time. It makes no difference to your score how many times you die.
The first few levels are very manageable and I found myself breezing through them first time with a gold time. By the time I got to the second domain I was beginning to struggle to keep those gold times. With a bit of practice though, I was able to nail the gold times down. This is where frustration can certainly set in. Doing the same level over and over trying to better your time to a gold standard can become tedious, but you get a nice sense of accomplishment when you finally achieve a gold time.
2nd in the World? I’ll take that!
The story is beautifully written. I am often guilty of skipping cut scenes or if they cannot be skipped, doing something else to pass the time. Each part of the story is told over mainly static images that are truly stunning. The Narrator’s voice is quite enchanting and as the story progressed I found myself wanting to progress through the game further to find out the truth.
After completing the game you unlock Hardcore mode. It is appropriately named. To complete Hardcore mode you have to finish the entire game without dying once. I don’t think I completed more than 3 or 4 levels without dying a handful of times so Hardcore mode is very much out of reach for me and the majority of gamers out there.
You can get the full 1000 gamerscore by finishing each level with a gold time. However, four achievements each for 0 gamerscore require you to complete each domain on hardcore, so completionists beware.
Although Aaru’s Awakening is a truly beautiful game, with a solid story to boot, the gameplay outside of Hardcore mode only lasts a few hours and the controls can be a bit awkward at times. If you can look passed how short the game is, there is a lot of fun to be had with Aaru’s Awakening.
A code for the game was provided by the Publisher for the purpose of this review.
Tower of Guns is a manic Roguelike First Person Shooter. The object of the game is to clear out the ever changing stages in the tower and defeat the bosses, (which happen to be MASSIVE guns) on that floor to move up the tower. With it being a Roguelike game, each floor layout is randomly generated along with the enemies that spawn each time you play, so the amount of replayability in this game is fantastic.
There are a slew of menacing enemies/guns to defeat as you fight your way through the floors on your way to the top of the tower. Making things more difficult is the obscene amount of projectiles being fired at you by the countless enemies. But don’t get me wrong, that isn’t a negative at all.
There are three game modes on offer, Normal, Endless and Dice mode. Normal mode serves as your introduction to the game with a little narrative and has a clear goal in mind. Endless mode gives you as many floors as you can handle, just keep going until you die. Finally Dice mode is basically anything goes. Each time you enter a room you’ll get a little message on screen telling you the mod for that room for example, bad loot. Literally anything goes here and this is where the most fun can be had.
When you first start the game you are given two guns to choose from, the Peas-n-carrots Pistol and the Portable Pizza Oven. It actually tells you to choose a better gun under the write up for the Peas-n-carrots Pistol it’s that bad. Along with choosing your gun you get to pick a perk to take with you. These range from ‘Bluegrass’ which starts you off with a Triple Jump to ‘Tooyoungtodie’ which turns the difficulty down and your damage, armour, loot and XP up. Personally, I struggled hugely with the difficulty (which is a recurring theme for me) so the ‘tooyoungtodie’ perk was a godsend!
There are a total of 8 guns and 11 perks to unlock by doing various tasks whilst playing, my favourite gun being the Kegerator, because who doesn’t like shooting Unicorn Vomit at enemies?
These Unicorns must have had one really dodgy curry last night to be puking purple…
When your life is depleted it’s game over. You go back to the main menu and start all the way from the bottom again. This is where frustration can set in especially if you have 3 or 4 runs of bad luck in the tower. To keep things fresh and fair, at the beginning of every fifth attempt to climb the tower you are greeted with a floor with a plethora of goodies to make your ascend more manageable.
Enemies drop loot in the form of gold coins, xp to level up your guns damage etc and yellow balls of energy to fill up your item meter. In most secret areas you either find large gold coins or a capsule to buy badges or items from and that is where I feel Tower of Guns really shines.
Some rooms can have upwards of 4 secrets to find, either behind hollow walls, up high on a ledge requiring multiple jumps or even under lava pits. I found myself searching each room top to bottom long after killing off all the enemies to find all the secrets each room has to offer only to get to the stats screen for that floor to discover I only found 50% of the secrets. There’s even an adorable thank you message in one of the secret rooms.
Awwwwwww….the heart melts.
The only real downsides are the lack of any type of multiplayer and not much story to go on at all. This game would be an absolute blast both locally and online. Although most games need a decent story, I can’t really say it makes a difference here. The game is so fun and addicting, you feel engaged in the experience without a story to get your teeth sunk into.
Moving on to the achievements the list is made of 12 achievements, all of which are easily obtainable with a little bit of practice for all skill levels. You’ll need to complete 100 runs through the tower in any mode and unlock all guns and perks. All the miscellaneous achievements will most likely be grabbed whilst unlocking the guns and perks. All in all, a pretty straightforward list.
After my time with Tower of Guns, I really am struggling to find anything inherently wrong with it. Yes, it could do with some aspect of a multiplayer and the story is non-existent but it’s fun, engaging and whilst frustrating at times, it gives you that little bit of a helping hand to get your luck going in the right direction. With the endless and dice modes, you have hours and hours of bullet dodging, quadruple jumping carnage. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and after I unlock my final gun I have no doubt I’ll be coming back from time to time just for the fun of it.
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4 & Wii U (release date TBC)
Endless runners have become quite popular over the last few years, especially in the mobile gaming airspace and rightfully so. They are nearly always easy to pick up and play and you often find yourself having one more go. Does Infinity Runner translate to next-gen consoles?
First off, it isn’t actually an endless runner in the sense that the story mode has a clear beginning and end to each ‘sector’, but there is an Infinite mode where you can endlessly run to your hearts content, more on that in a bit.
Infinity Runner is a first person runner that puts you in the shoes of an unnamed prisoner trying to escape from the ship ‘Infinity’ with the help of a woman called Riley. She explains very little and gets you running through the ship looking for a way out, fighting through enemies and avoiding obstacles whilst running to your objective.
You use the right stick to turn around corners, the left stick to move from side to side to avoid obstacles and collect data packets and LT and RT to slide and jump respectively. For some reason, the controls took a lot of getting used to, especially jumping and sliding. Unfortunately there are no options to change the default controller layout.
When running through the levels you will come across enemies which can only be defeated by following the QTE’s. If you are too slow or you press the wrong button you die. This can get particularly frustrating towards the end of the story mode due to a large QTE on the final level. The QTE’s just seem unnecessary and mess with the flow of the runner gameplay. If you lose all of your lives you need to restart the level.
There are two main modes in Infinity Runner, Story and Arcade. The story really did not interest me at all. I really tried to engage but it was just too bland. You, the prisoner are being helped by some woman you don’t know called Riley who is very reluctant to give you any other info other than to run. She does spoon feed you bits of info about your special ability but it can all be worked out from what is happening on screen anyway. In this mode you run through fixed levels, which you will need to know inside out if you want to grab all the achievements.
After playing through the story and being very underwhelmed, I decided to give Infinity a shot which is the main Arcade mode, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I spent about an hour just playing infinity mode getting my total distance and score up for the related achievements and the time flew by. Another great addition to Arcade modes is you can turn off the fights which I would highly recommend doing, unless you enjoy QTE’s.
During my time running through corridor after corridor and needlessly entering QTE’s whilst playing through the story mode, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated by some of the obstacles put in front of me. There are several that just don’t give you a clear path under or over, so you inevitably choose wrong and lose a life which can be very frustrating.
The level designs are pretty detailed although they do suffer from the sci-fi effect of being a bit dull and dark due to the nature of the game which at first you don’t really notice, but the more you play, the more you see the same grey corridor…
Haven’t I seen this place before?
Infinity Runner does a great job at increasing the difficulty of the levels. As an example on easy you have moving arrows showing you which way the corridor is turning, on medium such luxuries do not exist. Also, during certain areas of some levels the lights will be knocked off and you just have the emergency lines on the walls to find your way.
Regarding the achievements, there is quite a mixed bag. You’ll obtain the majority of them just by running through the story mode and others will come with more invested time like running for 400,000 metres. The real killer in the list is for getting the Maximum Wolf Level. To do so you need to finish the story mode on Hard without dying on any of the levels. This is not one for the faint hearted I can assure you.
All in all, Infinity Runner is a decent outing for Wales Interactive on the Xbox One. Although it does have its glaring faults, I think there is enough fun to be had with this title to warrant a purchase, and the asking price for it is spot on.
Defense Grid 2 is a tower defense style strategy game in the same vein as its predecessor, Defense Grid: The Awakening. The aim of the game is to stop aliens from invading your base and stealing your precious power cores by placing upgradeable towers on the map. If you lose all of them it is game over. The great thing about Defense Grid is how it differs from other tower defense games I have played. When an alien steals a power core it isn’t gone until said alien leaves the map with it. So you can scramble and kill the retreating aliens with added towers if need be whilst they try and escape the map. I found that I was killing the majority of aliens whilst escaping.
At the start of each mission you are given a set amount of resources to spend on buying towers. You get to choose from 9 different towers ranging from guns to missiles and lasers, along with a booster tower which increases the effectiveness of any tower you place on top of it. Each tower can be upgraded a maximum of two times. All of which will cost you more resources which will consistently replenish throughout the mission. You also get extra resources as a wave end bonus at the end of certain waves. As you progress through the missions, you can be randomly rewarded with tower augmentations which you can equip to your towers (one at a time) to increase their power or add abilities such as targeting the most powerful enemy first. Defense Grid 2 does a great job of incorporating the different towers as you progress through the missions so you are not bombarded with too many options from the word go.
Along with being able to place towers on the map, you also have a special ability to use which is determined by which Command Team you choose to take with you on the mission. After using all abilities in different situations, I never really used them again as there was no need for it. Maybe if I was competent enough to play through it on a harder difficulty level (yes, I am a strategy baby, so I played it on Easy…but I’m World number 1 on mission 11!) the special abilities would have played a larger part in my strategies.
Yeah, proud of that. Leaderboards are a prominent feature and in each mission your score is racing against your friend with the closest score.
At the end of each mission, based on your performance you can receive a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal. I can’t give you the requirements for scoring well in the game as I have received Gold medals with only one power core remaining, all power cores remaining and using all resources or hardly spending any at all. So it is a bit confusing how consistently get high scores.
The missions in this game are not short by any means. With some missions having 100 waves of aliens, you will notice that they can take up quite a significant chunk of time. But with the RB button, you can speed the game up. If it wasn’t for this feature I can honestly say I would have been bored out of my mind within the first few missions. The default speed the aliens attack is mind numbingly slow. I would have preferred it if there was a slow down button with the sped up game play being the default. I only ever played on the default speed at the beginning of each mission to set my initial towers and if all my power cores had been stolen. The other quite nifty feature is the ability to revert to your last checkpoint by pressing LB. In too deep with wave 48 of 50 and wished you had a set of concussion towers next to the base? Tap that LB button and go back in time unpunished. I didn’t actually use this feature much, mostly due to the fact I was playing on Easy, but I can see how this feature can be indispensable for strategists playing on the higher difficulties.
Speaking of the difficulty level, as I mentioned above, I played through the campaign on Easy after dabbling with the Normal difficulty and having my rear handed to me on a plate several times over. I have no idea how anyone can complete the game on Hard, never mind the highest difficulty, Elite. With that being said, Easy was just too easy. Unless there was more than one core to defend, I could literally use exactly the same defense layout on each mission. It didn’t even seem to matter what towers I used either. I managed to get gold ratings on every mission I played whilst grinding out some of the achievements for placing 100 of each tower.
Including the prologue, there are 21 missions to go through in the single player portion of the game. Each mission begins with a wall of text for you to read which gives you the outline of the story, which is bland at best. Not really worth mentioning to be honest. Each Command Team you encounter has their own dialogue and whilst some of the dialogue can be quite amusing, they don’t really add anything to the story at all. Although 21 missions doesn’t sound like much, each mission has plenty of different challenge modes to choose from, really adding a huge amount of replayability to the game. Each challenge mode has certain rule changes for example, in ‘Out of Bullets’ you are tasked with defending your base without the use of Gun or Cannon towers.
General Fletcher showing off some of his British wit.
Something I noticed that Hidden Path Entertainment should really be commended for is the inclusion of a community suggested game type. In the first 7 missions there is a challenge mode called ‘Fully Loaded’ which gives you all tower types to beat that mission and they have even credited the community member for the suggestion which I think is a really nice touch.
Although I found the story uneventful, the levels couldn’t be more opposite. Yes, the levels look unappealing to me and they look very similar, but each one plays very differently. Some levels have you defending one base with a myriad of options as to where to put your towers, as well as several paths for the aliens to attack your base. In those instances you have to block off the paths with towers to funnel the aliens towards the path you want them to take. Others have you defending two bases with several paths where aliens could attack from or a set path with limited options as to where to put down your defenses. On top of this variation, some later levels change their structure by adding sections of the map for the aliens to divert across.
If you find yourself overwhelmed in a certain area, you can buy extra sections of the map by using the command shuttle to sway the tide in your favor.
Speaking of the many game modes, Defense Grid 2 comes with three multiplayer modes. The first one is DG Fighter where you compete against another player and any aliens you defeat will appear on their side of the map and vice versa. The second is Co-op Doubles which has two players working together on a single map. Lastly there is DG Coordinated Defense which has you and another player attacking the same aliens on the same map but you each get allocated positions for your towers to be placed. I cannot really give much of an opinion on these modes because I was unable to find a match. Whilst searching for a match you can continue playing missions on single player if you wish, which is something more games should definitely incorporate.
Even though Defense Grid 2 has an immense amount of replayability, the high price tag that comes with it will probably make a lot of gamers that aren’t already a fan of Defense Grid to go get their fix elsewhere until it either appears on sale or as a free download as part of Games With Gold. Although I do feel the price point is a bit lofty, if you enjoy Tower Defense games you will not be left disappointed. That there, is the problem. Unless the price decreases, Defense Grid 2 is only really going to appeal to that niche audience in my opinion.
Onto my favorite part of every game…the achievements. Defense Grid 2 boasts a huge list of achievements, 65 to be exact. Ranging from placing 100 of each tower to defeating 50,000 aliens and the humdinger of them all, achieving 100 Gold Medals across any mission. You get 21 Gold Medals from the story mode, the rest are going to be obtained from completing all the different types of challenge modes for the missions. There are plenty to choose from but it is a bit of a grind. I’m sitting at just under 40 right now and took a break from it. But I am looking forward to picking it back up in a few days to get the remaining 60ish. All in all it is a good list with a variety of tasks you need to perform. Just a little note, any achievements that you should unlock during a mission will not unlock until after the mission is complete, so don’t panic!
Overall, Defense Grid 2 is a fantastic addition to the Tower Defense genre with spectacular level designs that will really get you thinking about where to put your defenses. Although the story is severely lacking, the sheer amount of different game modes available more than makes up for it. The only real sticking point is the price.
KickBeat is ZEN Studios’ take on a music and rhythm game played with a controller that has a combat twist. Unlike other music and rhythm games where you have arrows or different colored dots flying at you, KickBeat replaces those mundane items with circling enemies. Enemies that want to cause you great pain.
The objective of the game is to counter the enemies attacks, in rhythm to the music, using the A, B, X, and Y buttons as they attack you. When countering enemies you are rewarded with ‘chi’, which will fill your chi meter below your feet. Collecting enough will allow you to activate your special power which will double your score for your counters, just like star power in the Guitar Hero games. If you fail to counter an enemy you get hit and lose some health. If your health fully depletes, you fail the track and have to start over. Each track is graded out of 5 stars dependent on your score with elusive red stars to be earned in the higher difficulties for near perfect runs.
There are four main types of enemies; Orange enemies – they attack one at a time, Blue enemies – they attack in quick succession, Red enemies – attack simultaneously and Yellow enemies – linked together, you need to press and hold the required button when the first enemy attacks, then release the button when the second enemy attacks.
Some enemies will have a bonus or power-up above their heads when they attack you. To collect them, you need to double tap the button they attack you on, which will actually be incorporated into the rhythm of the track. There are two types of bonuses; a multiplier bonus and a score bonus. The multiplier bonus when collected, increases your multiplier and the score bonus adds 500 points to your score.
As for the power-ups, there are four different types, a health boost, a chi boost, a shield and a shockwave. The health boost replenishes some of your health, and the chi boost does the same for your special. The shield will protect you from incoming attacks for a short period of time and the shockwave destroys all enemies that are circling you getting ready to attack. I only ever used them if I got hit and struggled to find the rhythm again. If you pick up a shield of shockwave power-up whilst already holding one, the one you are holding will be removed and the new one will take its place but it isn’t much of an issue because they pretty much give you the same amount of time to recover your rhythm.
The story begins with the Sphere of Music being stolen by Mr Halisi, the owner of Radio Earth. His sole intention being complete control over all music. Master Fu, the guardian of the Sphere of Music tasks Lee with finding Mr Halisi and reclaiming the Sphere of Music so the World can once again listen to music. So Lee travels the world in search for the Sphere of Music and encounters countless enemies trying to stop him in his tracks.
The story is split into two parts. Part one, you play as Lee and part two you play as Mei, Master Fu’s Granddaughter. The last track of each venue is a boss battle, but it is essentially the same game play, just with different things attacking you.
After each venue which consists of up to four tracks to fight through, you are presented with some beautifully hand-drawn cut scenes. The voice acting throughout the cut scenes are pretty good all in all and I found myself laughing at a couple of the jokes too (my favorite being the Justin Beiber dig in the cut scene below).
With the game having 24 tracks, running anywhere between two and a half minutes and six minutes, you are looking at Lee’s story taking you roughly two hours. Mei’s story will take exactly the same amount of time, and this is where I was disappointed.
Although the story line is slightly different for Mei, and the cut scenes are different, the game play is identical. You play through exactly the same venues with exactly the same songs, just with a different character stood in the middle of the arena. I personally would have preferred the two story lines to have 12 songs in each so you didn’t have to essentially play through the same track list twice.
This leads me to the greatest part of the game in my opinion. The track list. I was absolutely blown away by the tracks. Each track just got better and better and I found myself looking forward to the next track just as much as playing the game itself. These are the tracks included in the game:
Pendulum – Self vs. Self, Propane Nightmares (Celldweller Remix)
Celldweller – Switchback, I Can’t Wait
Marilyn Manson – The Beautiful People
Shen Yi – War Dance
POD – Boom
Papa Roach – Last Resort
Blue Stahli – Takedown, Scrape, Ultranumb
Southpaw Swagger – It’s Showtime
Pre-Fight Hype – It’s Goin Down
Voicians – Fighters, The Construct
Rob Zombie – Scum of the Earth
Styles Beyond – Nine Thou
Pre-Fight Hype & Southpaw Swagger – Tug-O-War
enV – Destination, RPM, Vee, Shakestopper, OCP, Bloom
I did however find that there were some instances where no matter how hard I tried to keep to the beat, the enemies attacks didn’t seem to match up to the beat of the track. This wasn’t during every track and it wasn’t consistent throughout any track, so I may have just struggled to keep to the beat.
Other than story mode, KickBeat offers a survival mode, a freeplay mode and a split screen mode.
In survival mode, you play through track after track until you lose all of your health. I can’t actually say whether or not your health regenerates after finishing a song because no matter how hard I tried, I was unable to finish the first song and there is no way to alter the difficulty of survival mode.
In freeplay mode, you can make a playlist of any songs you want and just play through them. Nothing fancy, but pretty much every rhythm game has this mode.
The game has four different difficulty levels and if, like me, you aren’t a rhythm guru, I would strongly suggest starting out on Normal difficulty, which is the lowest difficulty. I even found the first two or three songs even on Normal difficulty to be too much. Surprisingly though, things got a lot easier as the story progressed. I think the rhythm was a lot more prominent and easier to follow in the later songs. On the higher difficulties, I really struggled, regardless of the song and I’ve only managed to finish one song on Master difficulty which is the highest difficulty level. The level of difficulty is extremely daunting, especially for newcomers to this genre, but when you do finish a track and you get rewarded with five stars, you get a massive sense of accomplishment, regardless of what difficulty level you are playing on.
With the game being so difficult, you need to make sure you can play it with no distractions. If you cannot hear the music it is near impossible to stay alive, let alone finish with a half decent score. This leads me to my biggest gripe with this game. If you pause it mid track there is no countdown when you unpause it. You might as well restart the track if you have to pause the game because it is pretty much impossible to carry on without a countdown.
Onto the achievements. What can I say? there are at least 14 achievements that will be difficult to near impossible to obtain. The game is no joke. You need to five star all songs on Master difficulty. If you can do that, you have a fighting chance, but it gets even harder. They expect you to only get perfect hits on a Master difficulty song and complete 18 songs in survival mode. Scary stuff for completionists.
All in all, KickBeat is a great Rhythm game with a unique twist. The track list is probably one of the best track lists for a game I have played and although the learning curve is steep and the story is a bit short and repetitive, it is a great buy for $9.99. If you are a completionist, I would stay well away from this one unless you have crazy rhythm skills. I have already resigned this one to forever be incomplete on my tag.