The Agent Reviews A Game: Hungry Dragon

Live every fantasy fan’s dream; roleplay as Smaug.
Source: Ubisoft

So a lot of my essays lately have been focused on LGBTQ+ – specifically transgender – issues due to their impact on my life. However, I realize that some people might need a break from the heavy topics and just have some fun. So, let’s get back into one of my increasingly favorite topics; mobile games.

In my side mission to find entertaining distractions that I can play anywhere I damn-well please (a big deal in previous months with no reliable Wi-Fi of my own), I’ve developed a sort of affection for fun and simple little games on my phone. And they don’t get much more simple and fun for me than Hungry Dragon.

Yes, from the company that gave us Rayman and Assassin’s Creed comes a manic mobile game with a simple premise; You dragon, they crunchy. EAT. THEY. ASS.

I was immediately grabbed by the visuals. A lot of mobile games claim to have great graphics, but they lack the charm that Hungry Dragon has. All of the detailed texturing means nothing if the design is uninspired. And luckily for this game, the dragons are given so much personally and variety ranging from genuinely intimidating to cartoonishly wicked that almost everyone will have their own favorite.

As for the gameplay, it’s a simple endurance game. You fly around the world eating anything you can fit in your gob – humans, livestock, goblins, OTHER DRAGONS, etc. – while dodging hazards like hunters, mines, and larger predators. Eat enough at once and you breathe a massive gout of flame that makes quick work of everything in your path. Keep eating and avoid starvation for as long as you can to get cool loot.

And the loot is indeed cool. You’ll end up unlocking pets that give stat bonuses, costumes that change how each dragon plays, and larger dragons that grant access to different pray and new areas of the world. Again, there’s enough variety and the designs are inspired enough that you’ll quickly find your favorites.

One of the things I appreciate most about this game though is it’s one of only, if not THE only mobile game I’ve played that doesn’t harass you to play it on its schedule. I’ve railed in the past about my disdain for games that force daily login goals just to keep players and how they make a simple game feel more like work. There’s no sign of that in Hungry Dragon. All you ever get is the occasional notification that an egg you’ve been incubating is ready to hatch. It makes for a much more casual, laid-back game perfect to unwind to after a long day.

While this is easily one of my favorite mobile games at the time, I have my qualms with it. For one, the graphic intensity of the game does tax my phone slightly resulting in some minor loss in frame rate. It’s not enough to ruin gameplay, but it does break the immersion for me. What’s more, I feel the lack of a competitive multiplayer mode is a bit of a missed opportunity. Games like Agar.io proved that people quite enjoy the concept of a player-eat-player competitive game.

Other than those minor points, however, this is a solid mobile game that I have yet to find myself leaving. It’s relaxed, it looks amazing, and it’s just silly fun to inhale an entire village only to find your controls have suddenly been reversed because you accidentally got tipsy on the town drunk. Download this game – you will not regret it.

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The Agent Reviews a Game: Space Shooter: Galaxy Attack

This blank, boring promo offend ALL of my senses as a graphic designer. But as for the game…
Source: Google Play

Well, color me surprised. Here I am, hunting for the ONE good mobile I can enjoy, and it was hiding right in front of me.

In my defense, everything about Space Shooter: Galaxy Attack screamed, “don’t play this; it’s garbage and we REALLY didn’t care about it beyond a paycheck.” Every piece of promotional material attached to this game is some of the most bland-looking, generic marketing wank I’ve ever seen. Even the title is so generic, I had to review and analyze screenshots like they were courtroom evidence just to make sure I wasn’t looking at footage from a different, equally generic looking game.

That said, when I actually got to playing it, I was surprised at how well it held up.

As the title ham-fistedly tells us, Space Shooter: Galaxy Attack is a space-themed shooter. You may recall my frothing at the mouth rage towards the last mobile shooter I played. Well, I was able to detect a trace of enjoyability through my fury-blurred vision and decided to look for other shooters to try in the hope that they would correct the mistakes of Fastlane. And, for the most part, Space Shooter nailed it.

The controls are AMAZINGLY responsive. My main problem with  Fastlane was that it didn’t actually track your finger which led to a lot of easily avoidable deaths. Space Shooter wins by default by having your ship lock to where ever you tap your finger, allowing for tight maneuvers and rapid response to threats.

And by god are their threats to be had. This game is just shy of a Touhou Project level bullet hell shooter – especially when you get to the boss fights and SUPER ESPECIALLY in Boss Fight Mode when they get amped up to eleven.

Oh yeah, there are multiple modes to play. There’s a ‘story mode’ (in the loosest sense as there is no plot) with three difficulty levels -Normal, Elite and Veteran. Boss Fight Mode has you rechallenging the bosses in the story with new ridiculous firing patterns that put your skills to the test, the Arena and Trial Modes give you a chance at snagging glory on a global leaderboard, and Endless Mode gives you a chance to grind some coin out of the alien menace to upgrade your ships.

Honestly, speaking of Endless Mode, that may be my only hang up with this game so far. Endless mode is WAY too easy. With a fully powered-up ship, I can cruise through over 200 waves while barely even touching the screen to steer. It’s pretty obvious that it exists only for level grinding.

Really, the thing you’re going to want to play this game for is the PvP. Yeah, this has a competitive multiplayer mode where you and a friendly rando from around world race against the clock to snatch the highest score. I thought it was totally mindless at first, but there’s actually a fair amount of strategy involved. What the fastest way to clear this wave to pull ahead of your opponent? Do you stick with your favorite ship to clear waves faster or grab the ship change power-up for a quick point boost?

As for the ads and pay-to-win shenaniganry I railed against in my Fastlane review, they are all completely optional here. Yes, there are buttons urging you to buy other games everytime you die, but they’re incorporated into the game over screen directly so as to be as unintrusive as possible. And if there ARE long video ads to watch, the game gives you the option to ignore them if the promise of extra coins or reviving your ship doesn’t appeal to you. Even the prices in the in-game store were more than fair; the starter pack is a steal at 99 cents.

This isn’t the sort of game that will hold me for long periods of time and it doesn’t compare to the big budget or even indie PC games I prefer to spend my time on. That said, I can’t state enough just how amazed I was that this seemingly hokey game that looked like it was made just to rake in a quick buck turned out so good. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good mobile game to hold you on a long road trip or waiting room visit.

I guess the lesson to be learned here is that the ol’ chestnut of ‘less is more’ really does hold true in the mobile gaming market.

The Agent Reviews Thor: Ragnarok – A Good Movie, Just Not The One We Wanted

To think, I almost had as much fun watching this as Thor did in this shot.
Source: Disney Video

So, I saw Thor: Ragnarok a while back but didn’t give an in-depth commentary on it because I wanted to connect with friends and peers that saw it in order to see if they noticed anything I missed. And in a truly rare moment whenever a discussion turns to film, we seem to agree for the most part; it was a good movie – amazing even. Unfortunately, for those dedicated to the heaps of lore that Marvel has been building up for decades, it didn’t resemble anything we wanted. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. We should discuss the actual film first.

Oh, and obviously, this is a very recent film so expect spoilers from here on in.

So, the film shockingly starts with Thor AVERTING the titular Ragnarok of the title by faining capture at the hands of the fire giant Surtur and locking his crown in the vaults of Asgard so no one else can use it to threaten his home. Upon returning, he finds his father Odin acting strangely hedonistic and correctly deduces what we already knew from Thor: The Dark World; Loki has banished Odin, taken his form, and is unjustly ruling in his stead. After forcing him to bring him to his exiled father back on Earth, Thor and Loki learn from Odin during his final moments that his disowned and forgotten daughter Hela, goddess of death is returning with the intent of using Asgard as her starting point to conquer the remaining realms. After, easily crushing Mjolnir in her hands, Thor and Loki attempt to escape on the Bifrost. But Hela follows and casts them both out into space while she makes her way to Asgard. Thor finds himself on the planet Sakarr and is forced to fight in arena battles for the amusement of a being known as The Grandmaster (yes, I thought they recast Jeff Goldblum as The Collector as well; Turns out they’re brothers – not that the movie explains that). The majority of the movie then consists of Thor gathering a small force to return to Asgard consisting of Loki, The Hulk (who crashed on Sakarr after the events of Avengers 2: Age of Ultron and has been stuck in Hulk form for the entire two years since), and a former valkyrie of Asgard living in self-imposed exile while occasionally cutting back to Hela to see what sort of hell she’s unleashing on everyone.

Did that seem like a lot? Well, that’s the first major problem with the film; much like how Sakarr is a dumping ground for cosmic debris, the first act is treated as a dumping ground for information to catch us up and understand everything that’s happening. After that, the second act pulls the drag chute for a bit to give us some good character moments, but it was a lot to sift through to get to that point.

But one of the major complaints I keep hearing from people- and I admittedly understand their frustration with – was the focus on humor over action and drama. It just doesn’t FEEL like any of the Thor movies leading up to it. The movies often bordered on Shaksperian at times (appropriate for a character whose dialog in the comics was full of thee’s and thou’s). On the surface, it almost feels like it’s trying to follow in Guardians of the Galaxy‘s footsteps to the detriment of a passable drama.

However, there are a number of ways I can justify this.

Firstly, I insist that, despite the title telling me otherwise, this is not Thor’s movie – at least not entirely. It’s much more geared toward The Hulk. One of the things that shocked me in the trailers was how they actually gave character development to Hulk. And I stress Hulk, NOT Bruce Banner. This is the first film where it honestly felt like they were two people living in the same head just as the comics intended them to be. As such, humor was needed because there are only two appropriate actions to take when Thor and Hulk share a spotlight: brutal fisticuffs or hilariously unexpected witty dialog from two of the biggest meatheads in the Marvel canon.

As for claims that the humor ruins Thor’s character, I have two rebuttals. For one, I feel this is something that has been building up for some time now. Much like how Odin grew to have an affinity for Earth in his exile, Thor loves Earth and it’s people. He’s been spending much more time with them than anyone else. So it makes sense that he might start emulating some of our characteristics such as our sense of humor.

For two, and please note that this is purely fan-speculation on my part, I don’t see the movie as ruining Thor’s character; I see it as ENDING his character. Think about it; he’s the king of Asgard now without Odin presiding. He needs to give up the superhero business and apply what he’s learned – including lightheartedness from his time with humans – to being a leader. It makes sense that the movie would want him to go out on a happier note in spite of everything falling apart around him. Plus, don’t forget that Avengers 3: Infinity War is coming up fast. In the comics, EVERYONE DIES. I doubt that will happen in the movies, but they likely will make most or all of the current Avengers inadequate. This means we’ll need some new Avengers to replace them. And that means we might be seeing the start of Jane Foster as the next Thor.

Besides, on its own merits, the movie is fun enough where, until I was forced to overthink it for review purposes, I could easily forget the continuity questions and focus on the chuckles. Jeff Goldblum is amazing as a sleazy, egomaniac (as always) and the minor characters are some of the best aspects of the film. Everyone seems to gravitate towards the stone man Korg with his lovable and friendly demeanor juxtaposing his rough exterior. But I’m all about The Grandmaster’s comedically serious, kill-crazy, right-hand woman Topaz who I can only describe as, “Miss Trunchbull in space.”

Overall, if you’re going into this movie expecting it to be exactly like the comics, you’ll be brutally disappointed. You’ll enjoy it much more if you just learn to appreciate the humor of the situation like the characters do.