Thank you Party Robot Studio for sending us your game!
Machine Gun Train Run's story is akin to your basic, run of the mill Chuck Norris movie. Gun toting Bad guys are wreaking havoc, so it's up to you and your two Arnold Schwarzenegger'd he-men to pump 'em full of lead. It's a simple but serviceable goal for Party Robots Studio's line 'em up, shoot 'em up game. Released in 2016, this one seeks a rip-roaring good time. Guys, I think this one's a'-call'n your name.
Machine Gun Train Run's structure consists chiefly of four levels centered around killing anything you see while riding a speeding train. If you know what guns do and that getting shot hurts, then congrats. You've already got a leg up on how to win. Earn points by landing your hits and don't get hit yourself. You've got three hearts in your life counter, but thankfully, you have unlimited lives and will respawn at your last checkpoint if you die. Unfortunately, you score drops back to zero whenever you do. You'll come across mini bosses on occasion, but you'll earn those checkpoints for beating them. Reach the locomotive's end, and the big bad boss will make the last effort to snuff you out. Obviously, this setup isn't unique in the slightest, but it provides what's needed for this game, which is fine by me.
Though basic in concept, the developers did put effort in keeping the gameplay fun. They offer two buff avatars to choose from, and each can get different upgrades. These limited power-ups can range from scatter shots to plasma bombs to even a flamethrower. Sure, they don't stack up to the zany awesomeness that is Ratchet and Clank's arsenal, but they're still satisfyingly effective. Over time, you may find you prefer one character's upgrades over the other's. Certain beef ups work well in differing situations, and that subtle strategic value was a good idea on the creator's part. Skill-wise, gameplay is pretty well balanced. On the easy end, your enemies are pathetically predictable. Their AI is nothing short of robotic. I figured out the final boss's shtick and hilariously beaned him because he refused to turn around as I shot his back into Swiss Cheese. However, as ineffectual as these twerps are as individuals, they can be a pain in teams. Trust me. It's best to annihilate threats as you go. If you rush ahead, you're gonna get crowded. I'm glad for that, because it saved the game from getting boring. The easy parts and hard parts do give it some sense of balance. This game could have been a lot better given more polishing, but it could have gone a lot worse.
For me, the controls were hit and miss. I had no controller, so I played using my keyboard. You move around and aim your gun by using the arrow keys, but you can only shoot your trusty 'Tommy' so long as you're holding 'X'. However, if you want to aim without moving around you must remember to hold 'C'. This tidbit about the control scheme often threw me for a loop. I died multiple times because I mixed up the buttons, but it's really nothing some time and practice couldn't fix. Unfortunately, my biggest gripe is that while your gun wielding is fast and responsive, you yourself are not. Should you encounter rapid fire or a shockwave stomping mech, your best hope is to jump with 'Z', but even then your lethargic hero is laughably slow. Unless you can predict certain attacks way ahead of time, you're likely not escaping without a scratch. Now, this issue didn't break the game for me. It just hampered it a little, but I would have really appreciated better mobility. (Perhaps a duck button, thank you very much?)
If I had to pick out the weakest thing in Machine Gun Train Run, it's the visuals. It's not bad, certainly not an abomination of art, but it's generic. You've got your faceless minions, your train, your backgrounds, but there's nothing special about them. I suppose some of the machinery was a little imaginative, but that's it. It doesn't help that the developers didn't work up a lot of variances either. Sure, the scenery changes between levels as do the train designs, but other than that, diversity comes solely through color swaps - a smart answer for '80s limited tech but cheap looking by modern standards. On the positive side, the designs are crisp, and though they obstructed my vision a few times, the explosions are well animated. I can't say much for the music either, because the designers used stock music that wasn't custom composed for the game. Save for the main menu's repetitious two measures of electric guitar, the tunes were quite catchy, but ultimately, the creative team only gets credit for having good taste. However, what does work in the presentation's favor is the atmosphere. Machine Gun Train Run knows it looks like a product of macho man tropes and wears its label with steroid pride. From its own premise, to the over the top gruff voice that announces handshakes, victories, and pausing (I laughed hard on that one), this game doesn't care if it's corny. It's so unapologetic about it; it's hilarious. I guess in retrospect, the unimpressive bits at least make up a good whole. (As for glitches, if you have the bare minimum requirements, you may encounter jumpiness at the least or complete crashes at the worst. Otherwise, you'll be fine.)
This game also includes two extra modes: Endurance and Speedrun. The first of these sees you shoot at shapes while surviving as long as you can. The difficulty you choose determines how fast the targets float in, and I consider this a nice feature. Speedrun, which you unlock by beating the main campaign, is also straightforward. Try to beat all levels as fast as possible with as few deaths as possible. The kicker about this though, if you remember what I said earlier, is that rushing ahead will allow the enemies to gang up on you. So yeah. Doing great at Speedrun is hard, but hey, offering a true challenge to whoever wants it is a great way to keep a game alive after the initial play through. I'd also like to mention that Machine Gun Train Run includes a bonus section to display the developer's concept art. It's always fun peeking behind the scenes. [There is a multiplayer mode, but I couldn't try it due to my lack of controllers.]
Okay. Time for the nitty gritty. If you're still reading this after all my talk about bullet pumping dudes, there are a few more ethical no-no's you should know. Firstly, the violence in this Bad guy hunting season leans upon the lighter variety for the most part. However, there are some enemies that will go out in a cartoony blood spray. It's nothing huge. The red doesn't stain or linger, but it does happen here. Secondly, one mission has you rescuing tankards full of beer, and lastly, you might have noticed I hadn't yet called the antagonists by name. That's because they're un-callable. The terrorist fodder you're mowing down refer to themselves as A.*.*.H.A.T.. Thus, it's no surprise that you're gonna be reading that little number several times. To add further language insult to injury, S****y Jim is your arch nemesis. Yeah, real classy right? I know some joke names fall flat, but those gags shouldn't even be running.
If it wasn't clear already, Machine Gun Train Run is exactly what it says on the tin. There's a train with missile launching brutes, and you get to be the dude with the bigger paddle: have fun. So parents, what you read is what you get. To the game's credit, I did indeed have fun with it. It's he-man silliness had me grinning, and its gameplay had the fundamentals to keep me entertained for short sessions. Now, it's clear that Party Robot Studio didn't reinvent the wheel in this shooter. It sure didn't have any 'wow' factor to it, but you know what? It was still enjoyable, and that's how a game should be. I definitely know lots of guys would be eating this thing up. However, I'm not enjoying myself too much to be ignorant of its moral issues. To be frank, I don't think kids should be trying it. If you're older, hungry to pop some cartridges, and possess the fortitude to shrug off inappropriate names, this arcade style, Rambo romp may be for you. Just be sure to handle it like any other gun - with care.
Thanks to astragon Entertainment GmbH for the review code!
Did you ever capture fireflies in jars when you were younger? Were you ever sad to see them go when you finally released them? Did you ever get the urge to chase them down to the ends of the earth, stuff them into a lantern, and use them to light your house? If so, Gravity Island may be your ticket to fulfilling that long-lost wish.
Gravity Island is a puzzle platformer centered on the simple premise of solving mazes while collecting Lumies. These little light-emitting creatures were the pets and lantern of the main character, a small white bear-like being named Shiro. When Shiro accidentally drops the lamp and all his Lumies fly away, he sets out to get them back.
Gravity Island’s main mechanic is, predictably, gravity. Every level will have blocks with arrows on them pointing in one of the four cardinal directions; touching these will shift gravity as indicated, allowing you to walk on the ceiling and walls. Each of the game’s four worlds introduce a new gameplay element, such as springs or transporters, for you to contend with alongside the gravity. While the path to the level exit might be rather simple, making it there with all three Lumies in tow can prove to be more strenuous.
The levels are generally well-designed, with your goals easy enough to plan out after some wandering. However, with no pause function and no way to see the entire level beyond what’s around Shiro, some later levels become less about planning and more about trial-and-error. Often, you will be presented with two or more paths, one leading to the exit and one to a Lumie, with no way to discern the two. If you happen to take the way to the exit, there’s a high possibility you will not be able to return to the junction, forcing a restart. In addition, while the game is usually decent in showing you obstacles like spikes on the road ahead, many of them are three or four gravity switches away. You’ll have to contend with the dangers immediately in front of you first, and then try to remember where the spikes were - while coming at them from a different angle. This leads to a lot of leaps of faith, cheap deaths, and otherwise needless restarts.
Even though this is a rather large design flaw, it amounts to only a minor annoyance most of the time, as each level is short – most come in at under a minute, and a very rare few will take over two. The controls are near-perfect as well, both in responsiveness and layout: Shiro moves exactly as you command using the arrow keys and spacebar (or analog stick and A button on an Xbox controller), making the simple acts of running and jumping quite satisfying. With the level reset button on the enter key (or Y button) and easily accessible at all times, even repeated failures won't keep you out of the game for long.
While these easy restarts do wonders for the game’s flow, they also highlight its longevity issues. Level difficulty is sporadic, with difficult levels occasionally followed by mindlessly easy ones, but completing the game with every lumie will only take around two hours. Though it tries to add some replayability by displaying the time it takes to beat a level, this doesn’t seem to be saved anywhere in-game – you’ll have to write your times down yourself if you’re aiming to beat them later. The responsive controls do make speedrunning a rather enjoyable affair, but the fun is entirely self-made in this case.
Presentation-wise, Gravity Island is solid throughout. The levels themselves are rather samey, but the backgrounds are colorful and pleasant to look at – though spikes will occasionally blend in with the scenery. Shiro’s animations are a bit awkward, but competent enough. The tutorials are presented in cute sketches of Shiro performing the indicated action, adding to the game’s lighthearted atmosphere. The music is decent sounding but ultimately forgettable, being comprised of generic children’s cartoon-styled tracks, though the song for the final level stands out from the pack in a good way. The game is marred by some technical issues, however, most notably a rare instance of Shiro sliding through walls upon changing gravity – which can be manipulated to your benefit sometimes. Also, the Steam achievements will randomly fail to activate; according to them, I managed to complete the game without ever learning how to jump.
Morality-wise, there’s only one real problem of note. Shiro can die if he lands on spikes or burns up in an explosion or fire arrow. The latter has him fall into a pile of ash with cartoonish googly eyes, but the spikes burst him and have his ghostly angel begin flying in whatever direction is currently up. This is especially jarring, as the tutorial sketch just shows Shiro sitting down and crying after hitting spikes; the startling popping noise and rather macabre aftermath in-game came as quite the surprise, especially with an otherwise innocuous experience. Even if Shiro does come right back upon restart, it’s enough to potentially give some parents a pause before proffering the game to younger children.
Overall, Gravity Island is a game with undeniable charm and solid gameplay, but lacks content; some, maybe even most, gamers could easily beat the whole game in one quick sitting. For those with little time for anything but a quick play session, however, it might be worth taking a look at when a sale rolls around. There’s also a version for Apple devices that is apparently free with some ads, which might be the better choice for playing on the go. Whatever direction you decide to go with this game, it’s at least worth a look.
Thanks to Black Shell Games for the review code!
As video gaming continues its forceful push into the digital realm, one big flaw has begun to rear its ugly head. In the past, games came on physical media exclusively, and thus will always exist barring an intentionally targeted destruction (see: Too Human). A working Commodore 64 will still play working Commodore 64 games, no matter how rare they are nowadays. As games become a purely online media, however, the risk exists that something will happen, whether accidental or purposeful, to erase a game from existence. This review will cover one of these unfortunate casualties of the digital age: Spheria.
Spheria was a physics-based arcade game wherein you roll a ball through an obstacle course, powering up engines by lingering long enough on their squares in order to unlock the exit. Hampering your progress were varying obstacles, such as conveyor belts, ice tiles, and black smoke that obscured your vision. Each of the game’s levels had two main objectives: beat a time limit for gold, silver, bronze, or no medals; and smash most or all of the stage’s destructible walls; these could, and occasionally had to, be done in separate runs.
With most of your barriers coming from control-altering tiles, it’s a good thing that the game had solid controls. The ball rolls about as well as you’d expect: a little tough to get going and harder to stop, but otherwise responsive to directional changes. You had a choice between three balls: a standard one, a “bug ball” that went significantly faster (and thus was significantly harder to stop), and a wrecking ball that was slow but smashed walls in one hit. Obviously, the bug ball was for putting up quick times and the wrecking ball was for breaking stuff; sadly, the standard ball, with no special abilities or benefits, was mostly useless.
Despite the low number of levels – twenty-six, including the six tutorial ones – Spheria made it last by being quite difficult. Though it seems like a paradox, the ball being hard to control made for a fair challenge: the tiles all acted the same in every level, so you knew what to expect outside of a level’s layout and optimal path. Reaching the gold medal times required quite a few restarts for many stages, but there was always a sense of improvement. In addition, the game encouraged its players to replay each level for better times through an online leaderboard. Later, the developers released “surviviball” mode, which tasked you with beating the twenty main levels in one life, but with infinite boost and free in-level ball switching. The personal progression of skill, along with the at times brutal but always fair difficulty, gave the game more longevity that it seemed at first.
Even so, the game could get old the more you play it. With only a half-dozen or so obstacles, there were limited surprises to change up the gameplay, even your first time through the stages. There was little reason to use anything but the bug ball after you completed the wall smashing task in each level, as neither the standard nor wrecking balls offered much to help you speed through the game. The worst example came from one of the mid-game levels, which had an objective to destroy seven walls – but only five in the stage were breakable, rendering the challenge impossible.
The art style was decent enough, with competent if visually uninteresting graphics. The music consisted of two tracks, neither of which were memorable. In a vacuum, the sound effects did their roles well, but in-game they tended to get repetitive; the conveyor tiles were especially guilty, as they played a constant “wub” noise while you were on them – and some stages were comprised of almost nothing but conveyors. Also, every so often an object would completely vanish from sight after a level restart, only to pop back into existence upon contact. Still, it’s hard to fault any of this, as they all did their basic job of being respectable without being distracting; you were coming for the gameplay, or you weren’t coming at all.
The biggest, most egregious flaw, however, is the only one able to be talked about in the present tense: the game doesn’t exist anymore. The news tab on Steam has its final entry in November of 2016, but going to the store page redirects you to Steam’s homepage. There’s barely any information to be found online, either, outside of some basic details on the developer's Spanish website. Whatever the reason, Spheria is gone, and potentially for good.
In the end, the only conclusion to draw on Spheria is one of abject finality: good or bad, the game cannot be played without having bought or been gifted it beforehand. Perhaps in the future, the game will return, either through the developers themselves or by someone grabbing the assets, launching Unity, and recreating it themselves. For now, though, we have no choice to but keep rolling along without it.
Remember to support your local game stores and their physical media, and always ask for the source code of online-only games just in case.
*Advertising disclosure* Though Black Shell Media is an advertising partner, this review is not influenced by that relationship.
Thank you Black Shell Media for sending an Early Access review code.
Card Games are a big thing for me. Before the boom that was Hearthstone I always loved card games yet had no one to play with. I hoped and hoped someone would make an online card game that would keep a high player base, yet poor service with overly expensive card packs usually turned me away. After Hearthstone, a revival in the idea of digital Trading Card Games happened. Hearthstone has a lot of promising competition - sadly Card Quest poses no threat to any card game right now.
Card Quest is a single player TCG that allows you to play as a Rogue, Wizard or Warrior. You have a choice of a storyline to save a city from the undead or climbing a dwarven mountain to slay a dragon. Your skills come from the cards you play. They are separated into attack and defense cards. Each card has a special effect if you play cards back to back called chains. As you progress through each battle you move from room to room to a boss battle. As you level up your individual characters you gain more health and ability power. Leveling up and defeating bosses will also unlock new equipment. If you lose at any point in the game you will have to start from the beginning. Even if you defeat one boss and move to a new section of the story, you will start all the way at the beginning.
The biggest problem with this game is the influence of RNG. As a reminder this is a slang term that stands for random number generator. A lot of gamers use this term for things you can't control in your game. Your deck is dependent on the equipment your class picks so you won't have much in the way of strategic customization. The cards seem to revolve around control, rush or tempo decks. You can and will lose due to not getting the cards you need. This is why the perma death in this game can be a problem. Even if you get stronger, every game you lose to luck will make the repeated grind increasingly frustrating. As much as I wanted to enjoy the game for its unique angle I found it was very easy to get bored.
Visuals on the enemies are fine yet the card art is rather boring. The cards are not memorable in any way, shape, or form. The actual effects of cards are pretty boring as well. Most card effects and chain effects either consist of generating resources, making the card cheaper to play or drawing more cards. Even though you travel to new locations you have only black backgrounds behind the enemies.
Keep in mind this game is in a very early state. A lot might change and I do have hope for this title. Single player card games are harder to make than competitive games, and I would not want to see the developers give up. As of now they are very active on Steam community forums and do seem like they are ready to work hard to make this game a wonderful product. The soundtrack of the game is mediocre. It's not bad yet is nothing that will sell you on the game or turn you from it.
You won't have many problems in the way of morality with this game. When you strike foes you'll see some pixelated blood. You'll also have some occult themes including raising the dead and using elemental magic but it doesn't seem to play a heavy focus in the game's story. I'd recommend this game for anyone over the age of 13.
Card Quest may not pose any threats in any markets yet. However it seems the developers are not quite done on the quest of polishing this game. Good luck, WinterSpring Games.
Thank you iEntertainment Network for sending us a copy of this game to review!
M4 Tank Brigade is a World War II tank combat simulator. You control the tactical side by moving and positioning your units on the map. You can also switch to first person and manually drive a tank around. Additionally at your disposal are air strikes and artillery barrages that you can call forth from the map. The game allows you to play as both Axis and Allied forces through various campaigns and locales. There's also an online mode where you can play in campaigns with and against other people; there's also a leaderboard. M4 Tank Brigade is currently in Early Access and available on Steam.
The first thing I noticed about this game is the insanely in-depth options menu. I was most blown away by the sound options. It seems like there's a slider for every individual sound in the game. There are also more control settings then I think I've ever seen in a video game before. I only used keyboard and mouse, and I didn't have any control issues. For all these options they also have a brief explanation of every setting, which is something I wish more games did.
It's a shame the actual graphics and sounds are of such poor quality. All the models have a minimal polygon count, the textures are extremely low resolution, and the ground textures look stretched. There's very little in the way of color in this game. They put a lot of effort into making tons of historically accurate vehicles, but they all look ugly. There are very few buildings with collision, yet the tanks are programmed (poorly) to drive around them. So you end up watching your tanks zigzagging through a small town while clipping through every other building. The sound quality isn't much better: nearly every sound effect has a crackling sound and there's no music worth mentioning. The only voice acting exists in the tutorial, and it is laughably terrible.
The crux of the gameplay is in the tactical map.The tactical map shows the entire battlefield including the units you control as well as any enemy units you are in line of sight with. From this map you can control all the tanks in your unit and position them as you see fit. It updates in real time as you move your troops around and enemies come in sight. Besides using the map, you can individually drive and shoot with any tank you want. The gameplay is overall solid but not nearly as strategic as the game suggests. Most of the time I simply took the high ground and was able to defeat the enemy tanks, even on the hardest difficulty. The campaign, while lengthy, offers very little diversity of missions. Your only objectives are to assault or defend a circular portion of the map.
All the game's features are explained in the tutorial but it is surprisingly hard to find. When you start the game there's an option for New User Interface and Classic Interface with New User Interface set as default. Swapping between the two options appears to do nothing. So I left it on New User Interface, and went into the Campaign; there I stumbled through the first few missions. It was only later when I decided to investigate Classic Interface again that I discovered what it does. When Classic is selected, the Campaign list will display the tutorial at the top. When New User Interface is selected the tutorial is hidden from the campaign. I have no idea why this feature was implemented this way; it seems completely backwards. I would recommend playing the tutorial before doing other missions because it does explain the controls and features fairly well. Do know that it also suffers from extremely cheesy voice acting.
There is an online option for this game. In fact, on the Steam page, it implies that eventually, after enough features are added, the online would cost money. Don't worry though, I don't see that ever happening. I logged into the online mode and was initially surprised by the activity. At the time of writing this review, there are seven other people online, which is both surprising and extremely sad. There are currently three battles available, an "Easy Target Practice" and two timed campaigns. I was able to join only one of the campaigns, but never ran into another person.
This game is still in Early Access and I don't think that will ever change. It was brought onto Steam in August, 2015 and the last updated is from November, 2015. I'm going to make the bold assertion that this game has been abandoned. In fact the first two posts on the Steam discussion page for this game both ask about updates and wonder if the game has been abandoned. I checked out iEntertainment Network's website and social media pages, and it looks like they have completely moved on from this game. All their posts are about newer titles. As a result, I simply cannot recommend an abandoned game, even to those who love its particular genre. Games like this are why Steam Early Access has such a bad reputation.
This is the kind of niche game I would usually recommend to fans of the genre. Sure the graphics and sounds are bad but the gameplay is decent, and there's a lot of content to go through. The only moral warnings are the tank-on-tank violence and the ability to pick Nazi forces. There's no story though, and you can exclusively play allied forces if you want. With that said, because the developer promised future updates and completely abandoned the game I cannot recommend this to anyone. Steam Early Access has gotten a terrible reputation for being a wasteland of garbage, and this game is one of many reasons why.