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.

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The Agent Reviews a Game – Fastlane: Road To Revenge

“THIS ISN’T GTA. NO SIR. NOTHING LIKE IT. ROCKSTAR GAMES? WHO’RE THEY?”
Source: Google Play

Uuuuugh… This year was even worse than the last. It’s been a year of terrible politics, rising ignorance, and shifty practices in all of the most crucial parts of our lives. I mean, I know it’s unrealistic to expect the world to form a Xanadu Bureaucracy of the Seraphim Incorruptible, but we could at least TRY to be reasonable and work towards a mutual benefit.

Basically, what I’m getting at is that I need to beat up on an easy target to make myself feel better before we get to 2018. So, please forgive me as I continue my futile search for a REALLY good mobile game.

Fastlane: Road To Revenge can be easily summed as, “what if GTA was also The Fast and The Furious and we make it a top-down Shoot’em Up?” And honestly only the last third of that sentence has any appeal to me and was the only factor in me installing it on my phone (other than the fact that I was without my PC for a month and needed some form of entertainment).

Now that’s not to say the premise is wholly bad, merely that it’s shallow. This seems to be a running theme among mobile games; story and character development are tertiary to simplistic gameplay to entice potential players and *gag* microtransactions to line the dev teams pockets. There’s IS a good story to be told here about gang violence and the criminal underground told through the aesthetic of automotive culture. The problem is that it’s a story that’s been done before and the fact that it gets sidelined makes me think that the folks at Space Ape Games are well aware of that and just wanted to get it out the door ASAP.

But what about that gameplay though? Well, it plays well enough. As stated, it’s a top-down Shoot’em Up in the same vein as the old school arcade shooters I grew up with like Galaga1941, and one of my personal favorites Dragon Spirit. You hop into your ride and race through your rival’s streets shooting up enemy cars for cash to improve your car and take back your city. On paper, it sounds quite exciting. But in practice…

Well, first off, your movement is limited; your car seems to be fused to the bottom third of the screen. this wouldn’t be a problem normally as you would want to as far back as possible to give yourself ample time to dodge incoming attacks. But the screen is so small and the action moves so fast near the end of a level that you can’t react in time and you’ll have to start over from the beginning.

Now, you’d think that this would be mitigated somewhat by the use of that nifty health bar in the upper left corner of the screen, right? NOPE. That’s only for ramming other cars. Everything else – barriers and missiles – are a one-hit kill. Oh sure, regular bullets don’t insta-kill you. But they only seem to show up when you’re already dodging traffic and do so much damage at that point that they might as well be fatal.

The hell of it is that none of this would be a problem if I could just control myself properly. You swipe your finger to steer yourself around, but you expect that to mean that your vehicle tracks your fingers position on the screen. Again, NO. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve swiped my finger between incoming missiles or stopped going to one side only to STILL grind against a wall and got screwed and killed by terrible tracking.

The only way to survive the onslaught is to upgrade your car and power-ups. Granted most of the stuff can be bought with regular in-game cash – stronger guns, power-ups, armor, ETC., but better vehicles and spreadshot guns which you NEED to make any progress are locked behind a paywall. Oh, you could level grind for DAYS to try to get the gems to pay for them or sit through the “optional” ads that pop up EVERY TIME YOU DIE hoping to get some, but let’s be honest with ourselves – you’re expected to buy them directly and pay for the privilege of in-game progression.

This is easily the most frustrating game I’ve ever played on mobile. It’s a shame too because it could have been a fun time waster if nothing else. But between the weak story, unfair difficulty curve, janky controls, and money-grubbing tactics, this is a game I’ll be happy to leave behind. Thank god this was a free download or I might have actually gotten upset.

The Agent Reviews a Game: Ingress

 

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Choose your sides wisely, agents…
Source: JBTALKS.CC

 

I talk shop about games a lot here at the Archive and I’ve even reviewed a few, but this will be a first for me. Today, for the first time, we’ll be covering a mobile game.

I made brief mention of Ingress back in my April Fool’s recap, but I really wanted talk about it in detail because it does something that electronic games in my day never did – make the people playing them get outside and explore the world.

As mentioned previously, Ingress (literally meaning entrance for those who had to look it up in a thesaurus like me) is an Augmented Reality game (AR for short) that turns the world around you into the playing field.

There does exist a story in Ingress, but it’s one of the most unobtrusive plots I’ve encountered that one can take or leave at will since Team Fortress 2. The main framing device involves the discovery of “Exotic Matter” or XM that has been linked to a little known and unseen race called the Shapers. The discovery of these two has divided humanity (read: the players) into two factions of agents; the Enlightened who believe that XM and the Shapers can lead humanity into a new age of prosparity and enlightenment and the Resistance who fear a possible Shaper invasion and seek to stem of the flow of XM into the world.

The Gameplay is simple enough; after choosing a side as either Enlightened or Resistance, you must use your GPS-enabled mobile device with the aid of an AI companion to seek out portals where XM is entering the world and claim them for you team. This is done by hacking portals to receive items including resonators to claim portals, resonator mods to reinforce captured portals, XMP (Exotic Matter Pulse) Bursters to attack and destroy enemy resonators and mods, and portal keys that you need in order to link multiple controlled portals together to form control fields.

In order to find portals, you have to explore the world around you. Portals can be anywhere but are most commonly seen at monuments, memorials, parks, and various other places where tourists or recreational groups may be expected to gather. Once you are in range (roughly 35 meters), you can interact with the portal as you need.

I have very few qualms with the game overall. It’s addicting, it forces me out of the house to walk and get fresh air, and it helped me to discover a lot of interesting places that I never notices before. I’ve also been quick to make new friends on both sides (cooperation between factions to build neutral zones and set rules of engagement is surprisingly common).

If I had to criticize anything, which I do for the sake of this article, it’s that the leveling system creates a significant divide among players. Those just starting out will struggle to find any portals they can claim from opposing factions as the more powerful resonators and XMP’s are only available to higher lever players.

On the other hand this does encourage cooperation with other players. By connecting with local players in my region, I was able to coordinate an item drop to restock my supplies and reinforce portals that I lacked gear for at the time.

Overall, if you’re looking for an excuse to get out of the house, I’d happily recommend Ingress. It’s free for Android and Apple devices and easy to get into. Just be prepared to occasionally pull your hair out when you finish securing your neighborhood only to have someone take down that one portal that brings down the entire field you established.

Back to the Binding: Thoughts on The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Long time readers of my gaming articles will know that I am a huge fan of The Binding of Isaac. So after roughly a month of playing the newest installment, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, I feel I’m ready to discuss it in a public forum.

The game is essentially unchanged in terms of story; you still play as Isaac attempting to escape the wrath of his insane mother who is hallucinating that God is demanding that she sacrifice him to prove her devotion. But enough gameplay and graphical elements have changed to justify making this a stand-alone game rather then a DLC.

Rebirth is shaping up to be one of my favorite games of the last decade. But I feel the important thing to ask here isn’t if Rebirth is better then the original, but how it changes from the original.

Well, there have been a lot of major changes as well as some superficial ones, Including…

New Items

Rebirth has teased a slew of new items that fans have been giddy to play around with.

My personal favorite of the new items so far is The Ludovico Technique – a reference to the film/novel A Clockwork Orange – which grants the user a single remote control shot. This is useful against larger, slower moving enemies with more health as you can float the shot over them for multiple hits.

Also new to the items are the runes, a set of magical stones that occupy the same item slot as pills and cards and provide some of the most powerful one-time-only effects in the game such as removing curses or destroying all breakable objects in the room.

And with all of these new items come new item synergies. Remember how I said I love The Ludovico Technique? Well, try pairing it up with my favorite item from the last game, Brimstone, to create a remote controlled ring of bloody, boiling death.

New Characters

All of the original cast of playable characters have returned in Rebirth, but they’ve brought four new friends with them that add new strategies to gameplay.

First is Lazarus who, despite having some of the most pitiful starting stats, is useful as a high- risk character. If he dies, he will live up to his namesake and respawn with a single heart of health. In addition, he gains the Anemic effect that leaves a trail of damaging blood on the ground.

Next is my personal favorite of the new batch, Azazel whose terrible range, luck and health stats are made up for by starting with the power of flight, a short-range Brimstone laser, and the highest starting damage output in the game.

Third up is the fascinating Eden. Eden can only be played if you have an Eden token which can only be obtained by defeating Mom’s Heart. What makes Eden so interesting is the fact that his stats and starting items are completely randomized; making for challengingly unpredictable runs.

Finally comes The Lost, arguably the most high risk/high reward character in the game. The Lost LITERALLY has no health and can’t gain more (though respawning items still work with him), meaning that he will die with one touch. However, he starts with the power of flight and can take deals in the Devil Room for free.

Oh, and while they technically don’t count as characters, it is worth noting that there is a multiplayer option where player two can control one of a multitude of “babies” to assist Isaac.

New Crew

Where as the original game was a comparatively small operation with only a handful of people working on it, Rebirth benefits from having the backing of the larger Nicalis Inc. behind it, even going so far as to get 1001 Spikes producer, writer, and designer Tyrone Rodriguez to assist creator Edmond McMillen in art and design.

As a result, the art is shockingly beautiful. Lighting effects from fire and lasers (especially in darkened rooms) add to the creepy atmosphere – assisted by Jon Evans’ and Matthias Bossi’s haunting musical score.

The cutscenes combine McMillen’s trademark darkly comedic art style with fluid animation that trumps the original in almost every way. Also, the new cutscenes get much creepier (the ‘Rubber Cement’ ending freaks me out every time).

Final Thoughts

While I normally dislike re-releasing a game like this, Rebirth does enough to change it up to justify it’s existence. It adds new strategies and tactics, reworks the original’s art and atmosphere to be truly terror inspiring and is an all-around solid performance.