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Gunman Clive - iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OS, 3DS (April 3, 2012)

by Sam Derboo - August 17, 2013

Logo

Admittedly, the most prominent feature of Gunman Clive is its visual design. Dedicated to the sepia-tinted image of a Wild West "Wanted" poster, the game simply looks classy. Enemies are kept in prominent signal colors, while traps and background elements are much more subdued. All this is complemented with a vintage movie grain filter.

Due to its setting and side-scrolling action, Gunman Clive is immediately evocative of the Konami arcade classic Sunset Riders, but it is actually closer to Mega Man - much closer than it lets on in the beginning. Clive has similar limitations as the blue robot, so he can only ever shoot forward, although his weapons are dropped more conventionally by regular enemies. For most of the game there is only a spread shot a gun that shoots big explosive shells, although some more out-there firearms await towards the end.

The enemy gallery seems rather tame at first. The army of cowboys is only mixed up by some seemingly harmless animals, but as soon as the former start using ducks for airborne attacks, it becomes clear that things aren't as normal as they seem. Then a locomotive turns into a steampunk mecha and attacks Clive, followed by a Bionic Commando tribute boss, and things get out of hand, fast. Before long, Clive finds himself in outer space, trying to rescue the kidnapped barmaid from aliens.

Gunman Clive lasts only 20 short stages, but it sure strives to get the most of its length. Every other stage introduces some new main hazard. Many are lifted straight from Mega Man, like moving ladders, disappearing platforms and even the sparks from Elec Man's stage. Some of the more mechanized enemies also seem vaguely familiar. Later levels rely on physics-based platforming challenges like in the more recent Mario games, from seesaws to rotating blocks and rolling boulders. The obligatory (thankfully short) minecart stage isn't missing either, and finally Clive mounts a rocket for an insane shoot-'em-up level. When dying, Clive can try again an infinite amount of times, but he has to restart from the beginning of the stage each time. Since a level rarely takes longer than two minutes to complete, that's not too bad, although towards the end some annoying instant-kill situations just before the finish line make it seem worse. Still, the game is not very hard, and it's easy to finish it within one afternoon.

Once completed, there is not much incentive to go at it again - at least not in the original versions, as the 3DS download has been expanded somewhat. Aside from a useless but neat level map, the game now has three difficulty levels and a second playable character. Apparently in reaction to the recent sexism in games debate, the resolute barmaid Ms. Johnson can set out to rescue Clive instead. She can float for a bit in mid-air similar to Princess Peach and has a silly walking animation due to her skirt, but otherwise plays the same as Clive. The same cannot be said about the hidden third character - a completely helpless duck.

Gunman Clive (3DS)

Homepage

Quick Info:

Developer:

Hörberg Productions

Designer:

Bertil Hörberg

Genre:

Platforming

Theme:

Unique Visuals
Wild West

Type:

Commercial


Gunman Clive (Windows)

Gunman Clive (Windows)

Gunman Clive (Windows)

Gunman Clive (Windows)

Gunman Clive (Windows)


Droidscape: Basilica - iOS (2013)

by Kurt Kalata - September 3, 2013

Logo

Droidscape: Basilica is an interesting action-puzzler combo. Developed by Kyttaro Games for iOS platforms, the goal is to guide a bipedal robot, known as the Bishop-7, through a series to obstacles, collect keys to open doors, and reach the exit.

Each stage is divided into two parts. In the first part, time is frozen, and you need to draw a path around the stage by dragging the Bishop, which indicates the route that it will follow. The enemies all traverse set patterns, so it's a matter of studying where they move and how to avoid them. Your bot also only has so much energy, so your path has to be efficient, or at least be able to make it to recharge stations, on the longer levels.

In the second part, you take control of the droid itself via a slider, as it walks along its preset path. It can trudge forwards and backwards, and as well as change speeds. This is the "action" part, since you need to time your movements to avoid the enemies. If your device supports it, you can use headtracking to control the droid as well. It's important to remember that you can't change your path once you've started to walk around. If you need to redraw it - and you probably will for most of the puzzles - you need to restart the stage from scratch.

It's a great concept, and it works well most of the time, but it's occasionally hamstrung by imprecise controls. When playing on a iPod/iPhone, it can be difficult to precisely draw the paths you need to weave in and out of danger. Even when you do, there are paths that seem like they should work, but are doomed to failure due to flaky hit detection. A grid-based movement system for the droid would've worked to help guidance and movement more consistent. Still, these scenarios just require some creative workarounds.

The game constantly challenges you to optimize both your path drawing and your speed, and additionally rewards you for picking up optional bonus items along the way. Your ranking will net you coins, which can then to be used to skip levels and other assorted things. You can buy more coins as an in-app purchase, but it's never necessary. For the base price of $1.99, there are 60 levels, with more promised on the way, making for a meaty amount of content.

The sprites consist of stop-motion animated models, which looks incredibly cool. Given that the backgrounds are standard sci-fi grays and browns, it's not exactly a pretty game, but it is a distinct one, which the developers have dubbed "electropunk". There's quite a bit of backstory too, which is a nice touch, and the spacey music is quite catchy, especially the arranged versions of the theme music which plays during the action phases. Overall, it's a solid brainteaser, and well worth grabbing.

iTunes

Quick Info:

Developer:

Kyttaro Games

Genre:

Puzzle

Theme:

Player Character: Robot
Lost in Space

Type:

Commercial


Droidscape: Basilica

Droidscape: Basilica


Cogs - Windows, iOS, Mac OS, Android (April 14, 2009)

by Sam Derboo - August 18, 2013

Logo

Sliding tile puzzles are the most clichéd type of mini game, with pipeline puzzles following as a close second. But what if you combined the two in one package and actually made them interesting? This must have been what the creators of Cogs asked themselves. Nomen est omen here, as you don't just slide tiles around the same 8-tile board to reinstate a boring picture, but instead build awesome machines that mostly consist of cogwheels.

Well, at least half of them consist of cogwheels, the other half being made up by the aforementioned pipes. The puzzles start out simple - move the tiles around until you connect the motor with the trigger with a constant line of cogwheels or funnel gas through a working line of pipes. But the machines soon grow more complex, with puzzles over several interconnected surfaces, sometimes you even need to coordinate two sides of one plate. Sometimes the cogs come with nubs that ring different bells, which then have to be timed to play a short tune, which sounds easy but turns out really tricky when differently shaped nubs come into play. And all that comes before multi-leveled cogs and multi-colored gases are introduced. Only the big segmented cogwheels are almost like the traditional sliding puzzles, in that there is a precise order they have to be put in, but your efforts to put them back together are hampered with by some mean obstacles.

Cogs is full of such neat elements and clever ideas that it easily overcomes the seemingly tired concept. But the mechanics are only part of the appeal: The contraptions are a steampunk fan's dream come true, and range from a jack-in-a-box to a rocket whose engines all have to be fuelled at the same time. The most fun part is to see how it all makes sense - for a two-wheeled tank, for example, you have to connect the gears for each wheel, and the pipe to fuel its flame thrower cannon. Some are more abstract constructions that don't "serve a purpose" other than playing their tunes and blowing up balloons, though. The whole interface is designed in the same wood-and-brass style as the machines.

By default, Cogs is played in Inventor Mode, in which you can concentrate on simply solving the puzzle, and you are awarded stars for meeting certain time and move limits. But you can also take on the machines with a severe time- or move limit in Challenge Mode. Even though many of the machines are simplified here, the limit usually requires maximum efficiency, and you probably won't solve them all on one sitting. It's amazing to see how much one can get out of such pedestrian core mechanics. If you really hate sliding tile and pipeline puzzles, Cogs will probably not convert you, but if you like them in theory and are simply bored by the always same setups, then this may be perfect for you.

Homepage

Quick Info:

Developer:

Lazy 8 Studios

Genre:

Puzzle

Theme:

Physics
Steampunk

Type:

Commercial


Cogs (Windows)

Cogs (Windows)


Parameters - Browser

by Xerxes - November 4th, 2013

Parameters by NekoGames (AKA Yoshio Ishii) is a Flash-based JRPG built from nothing but boxes and numbers. You could start playing it right now and finish in 30 to 40 minutes. Please do so. Then ask yourself: Is Parameters a withering criticism of that JRPGs, or a minimalist monument to that genre's greatness? One could spend more time pondering that than actually playing the game.

If you're even aware of this website, you already know the backstory. JRPGs, once the cause of celebration of console-dorks, are now a guilty pleasure at best. Even the genre's diehard, 3DS-toting fans will sheepishly admit there's something a little unsatisfying about a game where the only way to lose is to give up out of boredom. Grind for experience or gold until you can go fight the X or buy a Y. It's not particularly different from work, except the paychecks are fake.

Parameters boils the JRPG down to box-clicking. The game world fits on a single screen, a static grid of about 120 boxes of various sizes. Orange boxes have hit points assigned to them. Those are monsters. Other boxes have a percentage value. Those are quests. Stores are just boxes with weapon icons in them.

The game could be more accurately called "Stats." You fight monsters by repeatedly clicking an orange box until one of you runs out of hit points. Your LIFE stat - and the monsters' - regenerates at a speed dictated by the RCV (recovery) stat. If you lose, it's because your ATK, DEF, and/or LIFE wasn't high enough. Fighting the same orange box again will have exactly the same outcome unless you first raise your stats by completing quests, fighting weaker orange boxes, and/or spending money on stat-upgrades. Toward the end of the game (the 30 minute mark for most players) stronger orange boxes will throw your RCV stat into the mix, since the only way to defeat these "bosses" is to regain your LIFE and ATK faster than they do. That's about it.

The end result is a short and disturbing game. Disturbing because, despite being intentionally and blatantly tedious, it's also addictive and fun. Millions of years of evolution have programed our brains to crave incremental achievement and reward. So long as the next goal is within our grasp, we feel compelled to keep moving. Like all games, Parameters is jerking off our primal, hardwired addiction to visible progress. Unlike other games, Parameters is honest about it.

But then, it is fun isn't it? A lot of much more complicated games aren't, you know. Although Parameters is brutally upfront about the crude, grind-till-you-win ethos of all JRPGs, the fact that it remains fun shows there is some craft to the genre that separates good from bad. What that craft is, I couldn't tell you. Once the dopamine has seeped into your prefrontal cortex, does it really matter how it got there?

Homepage

Quick Info:

Developer:

Neko Games

Genre:

JRPG

Theme:

Satire

Type:

Free


Parameters

Parameters


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