The Agent Reviews A Game: Hyper Heroes

Hurrah for generic title screens…
Source: Google Play

I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of more introspective philosophical pieces here lately. And while it’s good to do some soul searching every now and again, I’m sure you need a break from that as much as I do. So let’s get back to a topic I don’t touch as often as I used to; video games.

When I last reviewed a mobile game, I made it clear that I wasn’t sold on mobile games as a whole but remained hopeful that one could change my mood. I still feel that way, but I think that Hyper Heroes may have helped me to single out my issues with the mobile market. But first, let’s talk about the game.

Hyper Heroes markets itself as a, “marble-like RPG,” and that description seems to fit quite well. You select a team of up to four heroes and do battle with your standard high fantasy monsters by click-and-dragging to literally throw them at the baddies until they drop.

It’s marginally more complex than that description makes it seem. Obviously, there’s the RPG trope of level grinding (more on that later), physics-based tactics requiring you plot your angle of attack and memorize how far each hero can travel, and probably the best mechanic in the game; the various attack styles of the heroes.

There are three styles; bounce, penetrate and stick. Bounce will ricochet off enemies making for complex strikes, penetrate can move through enemy lines while dealing damage to reach priority targets, and stick with stop dead on the first enemy struck for precise setups – especially useful for tank characters to draw fire away from frail heroes.

There’s also a promotion system where, as heroes collect required gear, they can be promoted and gain up to four skills; a ‘Unique’ skill that can be activated after building up a rage meter, a ‘Combo’ skill that activated when another hero crosses over them in battle, a ‘Finish’ skill that triggers at the end of their turn, and a ‘Passive’ skill that grants general buffs consistently.

So, a lot of interesting stuff to work with. But, alas, there are some things in design that just irk me and that I can’t shake off whenever I notice them. And I think they may be a the root of why I haven’t embraced mobile gaming completely yet.

For example, it feels VERY cheaply made. I know that it’s a free-to-play game and I shouldn’t expect much from it, but I expect a level of quality even from budget titles. If you can’t afford to do something right, you find workarounds – not half-assed solutions. Case in point; the voice acting SUCKS. The actors are totally phoning it in for a paycheck and it’s painfully clear that most of them just aren’t comfortable speaking English. Those misdirected, disinterested squeals are an assault on my ears and my own enthusiasm – how can I care about the game if they don’t?

Secondly, the writing is distracting. It felt like the crew helming this project knew they couldn’t fit an epic story into a tiny mobile game, so they relied on humor… humor that tries insultingly hard to get me to laugh and fails miserably. the cringe-worthy comedy ranges from dated references (Seriously, Pyro Monk? A reference to Nelly’s “Hot In Herre” 15 years after the single dropped?), pervy non-jokes (Why is the cute deer-centaur druid asking me not to look at her tail?), and just generally bad writing decisions (I’m sure none of my fellow feminists will be bothered by the sexy female fire mage being called Flame Dame).

And finally, we have game mechanics designed to drain time and money. Remember when I said I’d discuss the level grinding? Well, the grind is so slow when simply battling monsters that you have to rely almost exclusively on EXP potions that you can either collect or – more unfairly – buy with real world cash. Now, I’m no stranger to in-game purchases, but they’re meant to sell convenience; not power. When I need to stock my kitchen with EXP potions and fill my wardrobe with rare gear just to have a fair shake in the PvP arena, there’s a balance problem.

The only alternative is to play every day to get the cumulative daily sign-in bonuses and I’ve only just started to learn how much I hate a game that tells me that I HAVE to play it. Once the game puts me on a schedule, it doesn’t feel like a game anymore; it feels like a second job. And unlike a real job, I don’t get sick days. Instead, I get punished by losing by benefits and have to start building them up again from square one… Oh, and I don’t get paid for coming in either.

Still, there is some merit to Hyper Heroes. There is a germ of a good idea in here and I’m hopeful that a more competent studio attempts something similar in the future. If you can get pass the uglier parts of the game, there’s a well-made puzzle-RPG with cute character designs and unique gameplay that can hold your interest.

The Agent Reviews A (Mobile) Game: Pokémon Duel

Nintendo’s still grabbing for a slice of the mobile pie.
Source: PokéCommunity Daily

So, last week’s gaming discussion was some dark and heavy stuff.  POPULAR dark and heavy stuff if the site statistics are to be believed (thank you all), but dark and heavy none-the-less. So let’s do something I haven’t done in some time – give a proper review of a game. Only this time, there’s a twist.

If I’m being completely honest with myself, I’ve never really taken mobile gaming all that seriously. I just never felt that my smartphone had the means to match my PC or consoles in the level of complex gameplay that I tend to demand. But, I heard some buzz surrounding Pokémon‘s newest foray into mobile gaming – most jeering from some especially negative people about how Nintendo was trying to recover after Pokémon Go failed (which it OBVIOUSLY DIDN’T). So, I decided to download my copy of Pokémon Duel so see what all the fuss was about.

I figured out pretty quick that this game was, in essence, a jambalaya of old ideas mixed with some spice to freshen it up a bit. It involves collecting  Pokémon figures to build your team (similar to Pokémon Rumble), collecting cards to power them up during matches (taken from the Pokémon Trading Card Game), and battle involves spinning a disk to randomly select the actions of your Pokémon (ala the justly forgotten and much-maligned Pokémon Battling Coin Game).

But repurposing and reworking the old has always been Nintendo’s bread and butter. Hell, it’s part of their business philosophy that’s kept them going for so long. So, how do they make it work? By turning Pokémon from a tactical turn-based RPG to a strategic battlefield control simulation with RPG elements.

Every match has you square off against an opponent with a set of Pokémon figures and Plates (the aforementioned cards) with the goal of getting one of your figures into their goal point. This makes the game more focused on proper figure selection and placement rather than just smashing them together until one falls down. In fact, if you’re especially skilled, you can win a match without even getting into a battle once. And if your opponent can easily overpower in one-on-one battle, you can always surround an enemy figure with yours and force them off the field.

As for the RPG elements, victories will net you in-game cash, new figures/plates, and experience boosts to use on your Pokémon. Every time one levels up, you can extend a section of their battle disk increasing the chance of landing on attacks you want and reducing the likelihood of a miss. This level up mechanic, while functional, seems a bit too simple. That said, it’s absolutely necessary to reduce the likelihood that two players with the same Pokémon figure will play the exact same and create an asymmetrically balanced game.

If I have any major complaints, it’s that the lack of variety in maps was annoying. I would have liked to see boards with different branching paths and shapes that force the players to rethink on the fly with every random match. But no; we just get the same square layout with different colored floors.

Overall, I can see why those turned off by Pokémon Go might be drawn to Pokémon Duel. It addresses a lot of the complaints people had such as the inability to play with friends (which was the whole point of the original games) and the lack of focus on combat. While I’m still not sold on mobile games over my PC and consoles, this is one I’m going to keep handy to keep my mind sharp and help me unwind after a long night at work.

 

How To Get the Most Enjoyment Out Of Pokémon GO

Trainers can now live the dream.
Source: Game Rant

So, like every nerd in America that grew up with it and has been asking for it since the invention of augmented reality gaming, I freaked out when Pokémon GO finally went live in the U.S. In fact, I’m literally writing this after an hour long hike through my neighborhood to get a feel for the new world (thanks for contributing to my fitness regiment, by the way).

However, I’ve already started to see some complaints on the horizon; ones that aren’t entirely the fault of the game.

So, in an attempt to help future trainers and speaking as a veteran of Niantic Inc.’s last AR explore-a-thon – Ingress, here are some tips to keep you safe and happy on your new Pokémon adventure.

Tip #1: DON’T train and drive

Shame on you all; you aren’t even wearing seat belts.
Source: AlphaXXI @ DeviantArt

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it was a HUGE problem back in my Ingress days. People would hack and attack portals while behind the wheel and stare at their phones instead of watching the road. And I foresee similar problems here.

Fortunately, the way Pokémon GO incorporates your phone’s camera makes the most important aspects of being a Pokémon Master impossible to do from a car anyway. You need to be able to look around freely to see wild Pokémon and line up your throws (yes, you have to aim your Pokéballs in this game).

Still, that isn’t much consolation from people who ignore the next item on the list.

Tip #2: While you’re at it, don’t train and WALK

Now imagine if it really WAS a tanker truck.
Source: Mike-Dragon @ DeviantArt

I realize this may seem counter-intuitive to some, but let me explain.

There have been complaints of people staring intently at their phones while walking and not seeing the oncoming car as they cross the street BEFORE Pokémon GO showed up (thanks for that one, texting and social media). Now we ALREADY have reports of that happening with Pokémon GO.

My advice; make use of the game’s vibrate function to give a tactile alert when a wild Pokémon shows up. Or, better yet, invest in a half-way decent pair of earbuds and listen for the sound of them leaping out of the tall grass.

Speaking of things to invest in…

Tip #3: Get a power bank

No, not THAT kind of bank…
Source: pokemonbank.com

This is something everyone with a smartphone should have anyway for emergencies, but it’s nigh crucial to get the most out of Pokémon GO.

Like IngressPokémon GO uses your GPS to track where you are in relation to key in-game locations –  gyms and Pokéstops in this case. The problem is that your GPS is a MASSIVE power draw. That, combined with the power needed to run the game, ensured that my battery was half-dead by the time I finished my aforementioned morning hunt.

To that end, you should have a portable power bank handy to keep you in the game if you intend on any extended trips. To help you out, here’s a fine article on Digital Trends to aid you in shopping around. Personally, I’m fond of the EasyAcc solar power bank.

Tip #4: Don’t forget to take a break

The benefits of TM44.
Source: fishki.net

We gamers are used to being told to peel ourselves away from marathons of our favorite games to stave off the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. But even a physically active game like Pokémon GO requires you to not over-do it.

While it’s good to get out and exercise (believe it or not, PokéFitness is a thing), It’s a good idea to take at least 2 minutes to catch your breath for every 10 minutes of moderate to strenuous work. Also, keep a bottle handy for water or a hydration pack if you’re CRAZY dedicated to your jog.

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.