Do you ever wonder what game characters do when their games aren't being played? Where do they go when the computer is turned off? Probably not – after all, when your game isn't running, the characters exist as little more than ones and zeroes on your hard drive.
Or at least that's what we're led to believe.... It seems that they really go to a warehouse where they relax until needed again. One of the ways they have to relax is by playing poker. Or at least that's the premise behind TellTale Games' "Poker Night at the Inventory." Eschewing their usual adventure game model, TellTale offers an amusing Texas Hold'em game featuring characters from four different video game franchises: Max, from the "Sam and Max" series; Strong Bad, from "Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People" and "Homestar Runner"; the Heavy from Team Fortress 2; and Tycho from Penny Arcade. The game is hosted by Winslow, who appeared in "Tales of Monkey Island."
The cost to buy into the game is $10,000, and players are eliminated after losing their money. The game follows the traditional rules of Texas Hold'em. Each player is dealt two cards, and then a round of betting takes place. After that, three cards are dealt into a community pool, and players attempt to mentally formulate a good poker hand by adding those three cards to the two they have in their hand. Another round of betting takes place, where players decide to raise the stakes or fold (get out of the round). After the betting is done, if there are any players left, another card is added to the communal pool, followed by another round of betting. A fifth card then joins the pool, followed by the final round of betting. The player with the best poker hand wins everything in the pot. However, most rounds don't make it that far, with most players folding well before that point. In this way, players can "bluff," or mislead the other players into thinking that their poker hand is better than others.
In "Poker Night at the Inventory," the player also can bluff in order to try to trick the computer-controlled opponents – and vice versa. The other characters in the game have different personalities and, surprisingly, different playstyles. Strong Bad tends to be an extremely aggressive player, while the Heavy is very defensive. Tycho tends to be cautious in his dealings. The most unpredictable would be Max, who can be a very good poker player... but only when he remembers that he's playing poker.
In addition to playing poker, the characters also tend to talk, argue and bicker. The majority of the humor in the game comes from this dialogue, as it seems that only Tycho is aware that he is a character in a video game (the others don't seem to realize this). All of the other characters act and respond entirely in character from whatever stories they come from. Unfortunately, the dialogue does get stale when played for too long. Fortunately, it's possible to turn off the dialogue – or reduce its frequency – if you choose.
The game has other limitations as well. For starters, it only offers one poker game. When compared to other card-game simulators, this is extremely disappointing. Not only that, you only have the option of playing against those four computer opponents. There is no multiplayer option, nor is there any method in changing who you will play against or the initial ante in. As you win games, you do have the option of changing the style of the cards or the setting and camera, but these are purely cosmetic differences with little to do with the gameplay.
As another hook in the game, it's possible to win items for Team Fortress 2 in the game. On occasion, one of the computer-controlled opponents will buy into the game with an item, rather than cash. By knocking out that character from the game, and then winning the game entirely, you can obtain the item. The winning object is purely cosmetic, though, and won't give you an additional edge in playing Team Fortress 2. I believe this option also is available only to those who play the game on Steam.
The game was released in 2010, and the graphics have aged well. Unfortunately, the game is not compatible with the most recent Mac operating systems – it crashes when the gameplay actually begins. Windows users shouldn't have much of a problem, though. The sound effects are decent, but the music is forgettable, and doesn't add anything to the game whatsoever.
One of the main moral concerns should be obvious – this is a game focused entirely on gambling. But in addition to that, there is often quite a bit of swearing from the dialogue – especially on Tycho's part. It's possible to turn off swearing, but the filter only blocks the strongest of the curse words. The game continues to let several "d*mns" and blaspheming through. Also, the Heavy will occasionally relate violent stories from his past, and Tycho will make a few references to bestiality which even disturb the sadistic lagomorph Max. Finally, some of the cards that can be unlocked can have some suggestive artwork.
All in all, "Poker Night at the Inventory" can be mildly entertaining, but it pales in comparison to other games of a similar genre. If you're a die-hard fan of one of the other games, or like the idea of having rare cosmetic items for your Team Fortress 2 characters, it might be worth your while to pick up the game. If you're looking for a good poker game or card simulator, though, you can bet there are nicer options out there.
Thank you Dreamatrix for giving us a copy of this game to review!
Spaceforce: Rogue Universe was first released in 2007 to a mixed reception. A few critics praised its unique blending of space simulation gameplay with RPG elements. However, most reviewers pointed out its laundry list of flaws. Now, eight years later, Dreamatrix has re-released this title in HD, and the results are disappointing.
Our story begins when Jim Anderson's father is killed in battle against Union Forces, a coalition of humans opposed to the Earth Defense Force. Flash forward, Jim is all grown up and estranged from his sister, Jax Anderson, whom he swore to protect. In wanting to protect her, he has joined the EDF and is ready to take his final exam to be a pilot. Oh and by the way, at some point, Jax was kidnapped. Confused? Good. Because the story never gets any clearer or more meaningful.
The game has two modes: story and freeplay. In story mode, players will assume the role of Jim Anderson, intrepid pilot, as he searches the galaxy to rescue his sister through a loosely connected narrative driven along by vacuous characters and anemic dialogue. Making matters worse, while there are a massive number of quests, they are so shallow and generic that they quickly become repetitive - 'hey buddy, go here and kill x-number of pirates,' or 'hey guy, go there and activate this satellite,' or 'hey friend, go and destroy these bad guys' space station.' On and on it goes until you groan when yet another cutscene starts, wherein the camera will rotate around some poorly rendered ships while you listen to phoned-in dialogue by voice actors who sound bored.
Far less painful is free play mode. In fact I would daresay that it can be fun at times. Here, players will create a character and select their ship, portrait, and profession. The various choices offer differing starting stats such as tougher shields or larger cargo capacity. Players will also select a faction to initially align themselves with, which will affect their starting point and enemies. This is where Rogue Universe is almost decent, allowing a player to painstakingly blaze his own trail across the galaxy.
Despite free play mode being far more enjoyable than the story, both modes are plagued by a number of core issues. These are so numerous that to list them all, let alone describe them, would more than double the length of this review. Therefore, I will briefly focus upon what I see as the game's biggest problems.
First of all are the graphics. The game looks no better than it did eight years ago, regardless of being in 'HD.' Next is sound. While not terrible, the sound effects are quite generic, and the techno/electronica soundtrack is uninspiring. Third is the game's lack of tutorials. Aside from an inadequate series of vague messages (along the lines of: 'use boost to go faster'), there is no actual in-game instruction, tutorial missions, nor even a digital manual. For any simulation game, it is simply unacceptable for a player to be forced to comb the internet looking for basic instructions because the game does not provide them. Compounding this near criminal oversight: in order to adjust or even reference the controls a player must exit to the main menu.
The final problem I'll mention lay in the over-hyped RPG elements. They are so shallow that it would be better if they were simply not present, since they add nothing but disappointment. To illustrate this point, the game is advertised as including deep, complex diplomacy. While the story includes a few diplomatic decisions, the reality is that diplomacy is little more than your standing with the different factions populating the galaxy. Its effects boil down to who is more willing to attack you without provocation, or let you trade in their regions. In fact, the most effectual way to increase your standing is to simply buy a faction's friendship by paying them tribute. Such superficiality is rampant in almost every aspect of this game. None of these much-lauded elements are ever fleshed out enough to make them more than 'just sorta there.' This is a tragedy given the potential impact things like diplomacy or crafting could have had. Even more tragic is the fact that these problems were more than sufficiently pointed-out in 2007, as most reviews from that time bear witness. This means that in eight years the developers have done nothing to improve a game that was only mediocre when it was first released.
On the morality front, there is 'mild' cursing used throughout with words like h**l. There are also references to various narcotics, most frequently seen as trade items. Overall, the violence is minimal with space ships being blown to smithereens. However, when your own ship is destroyed, you very briefly see your pilot's upper and lower halves amongst the wreckage but without any blood or gore present.
Long story short, Spaceforce: Rogue Universe is a game that wasn't very good in 2007 and is downright bad in 2015. From a lackluster story to underwhelming gameplay, a poor interface to subpar graphics, this game manages to be a disappointment in almost every category. I truly wish I could end this on a good note, to say that despite its issues this game possessed some kind of redeeming feature - a 'diamond in the rough' as it were. However, regardless of the fact that this game can deliver moments of enjoyment, these instances are too few and far-between to ignore its mountain of glaring problems.
Thank you Major Games for sending us this game to review!
As a kid I enjoyed playing on classic gaming systems like the Atari 2600 (later upgraded to a 7800) and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It wasn't until after I got married that I owned my first Super Nintendo (SNES) and Gameboy Advance. I never owned the original monochrome Gameboy, but my husband brought one into our marriage. BiT Evolution brings back many fond memories of those gaming systems and pays homage to many popular games in that era including Pong, Castlevania, Kid Icarus, Sonic, and Pokémon.
BiT starts off as an Atari 2600 esque sphere that can bounce on some enemies, but not all of them. His goal in each level is to collect the twenty pixels scattered within and make it to the end in one piece. There is no death in this game but if BiT touches a deadly foe, he is sent to the code realm where he must find a portal to get back to the main world. Trips to the code realm are required if you want to collect the pixels within it. If BiT is touched by an enemy or their laser beams in the code realm, he will be sent back to the beginning of the level or at the check point if he has gotten far enough to trigger it. By exiting out properly in a portal he is usually taken further ahead in the main world.
In order to unlock the next area, the previous levels and maps have to be completed. At the end of each era awaits a mighty boss that has to be defeated with resourcefulness instead of strength. Steam Achievements are unlocked for each conquered foe. There are fourteen achievements in total and seven trading cards as well.
BiT Evolution has sixty levels that get gradually harder as the game progresses. The Gameboy levels are in black and white and BiT sprouts some legs, but is still defenseless. In the NES area, BiT has both arms and legs and in the Sonic inspired levels, he has the ability to transform into a rolling armadillo and can throw objects at enemies. No matter what era BiT is in, the basic sound effects and chip tunes music bring back pleasant and nostalgic memories.
I would like to say that I have completed the game, but that is not the case and this is because of two reasons. The later levels in the NES era are brutally difficult and can only be played in small doses for me. My kids have enjoyed playing the Atari levels, but I don't think they'll have the patience for the NES ones. The invincible enemy patterns and sticky/spike traps are just too much at times. To add insult to injury there's a game breaking bug that prevents further progress on my current level. I have notified the developers who were quick to address other issues users have reported. Perhaps I'll pick up this game again after the issues are resolved.
Despite its flaws BiT Evolution is a family friendly game that can re-kindle many fond memories for classic video game enthusiasts. The asking price is a reasonable $9.99 and had a 15% off launch sale. If you see it on sale on Steam, it's worth checking out. I'm confident that the devs will patch the issue I have experienced by the time it goes on sale again.
Jets 'n' Guns Gold is a game in which you fly an airborne vehicle, or “jet”, and destroy enemies with a variety of projectile weapons, otherwise known as “guns”. It's not exactly high art, but it is a very good video game. An expanded re-release of the original Jets 'n' Guns, which was first released in 2004, the game is a fairly traditional side scrolling space shooter, and makes few deviations from the expected formula.
The stand out feature of Jets 'n' Guns is its ship customization system. Before every mission, the player is able to spend their hard earned money (gained by shooting down enemies), on a bewildering array of weapons and upgrades. Each weapon has its own attack pattern, damage rating, and rate of fire, and all can be upgraded at the cost of even more money. Beware though, for using more powerful weapons can cause your ship to overheat, requiring a brief cool-down period before it can resume firing. Ship upgrades have a variety of effects, allowing the player to slow down time, hack into enemy devices, or eject from their ruined ship in a tiny jet-pack to make a last dash for the finish line. With enough money, it's even possible to choose from a selection of new ships, which vary in armour, speed, and, most crucially, weapon slots, which are split between front and rear gun mounts, bomb bays, and missile launchers. All these options might seem intimidating at first glance, but fortunately items can be sold for the same price they were bought at, meaning that players are free to experiment until they find a set-up that’s right for them.
Of course, it doesn't matter how customized your ship is if it isn't actually fun to use, and thankfully Jets 'N' Guns does not disappoint on this front. The game boasts an impressive forty-three missions, each of which sees your lone fighter blasting through hordes of enemy ships and ground troops, as well as space debris, walls, and a few more exotic threats. The majority of the missions simply require your ship to make it from one end to the other in one piece, but a few have other objectives, such as destroying specific targets or finding a certain number of items. Several missions also end with battles against a level boss, which will typically have more health and more complex attack patterns than regular enemies. Most stages are both rather lengthy and quite difficult, at least for those not well versed in scrolling shooters, but thankfully mid mission checkpoints are present to keep frustration at bay. Even so, the game sometimes feels more sadistic than genuinely challenging, and is prone to sudden difficulty spikes which come with very little warning. It is perhaps fortunate that Jets 'n' Guns eschews the one-hit-deaths favoured by some in this genre, instead providing a health bar which gives a small degree of leeway for mistakes.
The story is a small step above the usual standard of “aliens are invading, go kill them”, but clearly isn't the game's focus. The evil alien dictator Xoxx has kidnapped the galaxy's top scientist and stolen his universe destroying quantum cannon, and it's up to the player, as a nameless former soldier turned mercenary, to stop him. Under the orders of his commanding officer Colonel Troubleman, the hero must travel the galaxy finding clues and battling Xoxx's forces in a race to find the cannon before it's too late. This rather basic plot is enlivened with plenty of tongue-in-cheek, if not entirely family friendly, humour. For example, Colonel Troubleman's ship is named the USS [i]Impotence[/i], and one series of missions sees the player travelling to the legendary “Einhoff Beer Empire”, where they must do battle with flying beer bottles and other alcohol themed enemies. On the whole, the story won't win any awards, but it gives some welcome context to the action, and should provide at least a few laughs.
The game offers three different control schemes, one using a game-pad, one for mouse and keyboard, and one with just the keyboard. All offer smooth, responsive controls, though the number of functions involved can make finding the right key on the keyboard somewhat awkward, particularly during intense moments. All three control schemes can be customised, so players should be able to quickly settle on a comfortable set-up.
Graphically, the game is passable, though not particularly inspired. Sprites for both the player and the enemies are typically large and stand out clearly, with the enemies showing an impressive variety of designs. However, some smaller objects, such as enemy infantry and projectiles, can get lost in the chaos of ships and bullets, which can result in a few unfair deaths. Environments and backgrounds are serviceable but bland, covering the expected space battles, futuristic cities, asteroid fields and research labs, with very few standing out from the crowd.
The soundtrack, on the other hand, is top notch. Performed by Swedish metal band Machinae Supremacy, it features a mix of electric guitar riffs and synthetic beats, and is the perfect background music for the game's fast-paced destruction. The only issue is that it can be somewhat repetitive, and with only around an hour of music to cover roughly ten hours of game play, you'll be listening to the same tracks quite a lot. Still, it's hard to complain when those tracks are of such high quality, and metal fans would be well advised to check out the game for the soundtrack alone.
Morally, the game contains nothing too severe, but is best avoided by those who prefer "clean" games, and is definitely not suitable for children. Violence is constant, against men, machines, and aliens, though gore and bloodshed are largely absent. Mild swearing, sexual jokes, and references to alcohol are scattered liberally throughout the game, though nudity and actual sex are absent. As a science fiction game, it entirely lacks magic or occult references, and shows government and military authority figures in a generally positive light. Immoral actions are occasionally necessary, such as when the player is required to steal a high-tech ship in order to progress.
In conclusion, Jets 'N' Guns Gold is an excellent game, providing a lengthy and fun experience backed by an exceptional soundtrack. A few minor issues with difficulty aside, it's accessible enough to be a good entry point for newbies to the genre, while its large number of customization options should provide plenty of depth for veterans. Anyone who isn't concerned by it's moral issues should definitely give it a try.
Thank you Digital Dreams Entertainment for giving us a copy of this game to review!
Hey you! Yes, you! DynoCorps cordially invites you to live out your childhood fantasies of hunting dinosaurs! Journey to their exclusive chain of beautiful islands where you can marvel in wonder at the towering beauty, and behemoth grace of these majestic creatures, before shooting them in the face! Yeehaw! And if killing such magnificent animals is unacceptable to you, no sweat! You won't have to plague your conscience, spending sleepless nights in agony over taking the life of that t-rex which was hungrily chasing you! DynoCorps has your bleeding heart covered with optional tranquilizer ammunition. Now, the whole family can enjoy dino hunting without the psychological scarring and years of therapy from young Maggie killing her childhood hero Littlefoot! But be warned brave adventurer: for here a predator can quickly become the prey.
Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter Reborn is an open-ended, 3-D hunting game wherein you pursue the biggest big game of all time. Progress is made by killing, or tranquilizing, various dinos. Each 'trophy' is graded by the animal's size, the distance you shot them from, and how many shots you needed to take the creature down. Based on its grade, the player is awarded points and gems which are used for in-game purchases. Also, trophies can be displayed in the 'Trophy Room,' where you can bask in the glow of your mad hunting skills.
The game is immersive, and contains an attention to detail that is rarely seen nowadays. Players will stalk through a sun-lit jungle full of buzzing insects, or creep about a fog-filled forest in search of their quarry. Both the dinosaurs and terrain are pleasing to the eye. Foliage, bony plates, and scaly skin have an appearance that belies the game's fifteen dollar price tag. Especially neat are all the clever little details: such as καρχαρο (Greek for 'sharp') appropriately written upon the sniper rifle. However, attention to detail can be a two-edged sword. As such there are a tiny number of other details which are tragically missing: such as a muzzle flash and smoke, resulting from the same sniper rifle being fired.
PGraphics aside, the game's sound effects will have you swatting at flies which sound as if they're right beside you. The roars of the various dinos are convincing, and manage to give the player a sense of danger as you creep toward your target. The music isn't bad at all. As a matter of fact, it's a good blend of calm and tense melodies, which fit their immediate context.
The A.I. is smarter than that of most hunting games, though not substantially so. But it is good enough to see many behaviors that you could expect and some you won't. So while the crack of a gunshot will often send the animals fleeing, there will be times, especially with carnivores, that a dinosaur will feign retreat, disappearing into the brush, only to circle around and attack you from an unexpected angle, leaving the player just enough time to mutter "clever girl!" before being devoured.
Thankfully, DynoCorps is aware of the danger and does not expect you to take down a three-ton stegosaurus with sticks and harsh language. As such, they provide a limited choice of weapons such as a near-silent crossbow, or the thundering sniper rifle aptly named "sharp." Unfortunately, to date, there are only four weapon choices. Speaking of limited selection, there are only six types of dinosaurs from which you are able to collect a trophy. Additionally, while each map is large and well designed, there are only a handful of them.
In contrast however, there is a good selection of equipment and upgrades available. Players also carry a 'gadget.' This small device has all the functions absolutely vital to a successful hunt: GPS, wind direction, and even a built-in rangefinder; it is also the means by which a player can call a 'retriever bot.' These drone-like aircraft are used to carry away a hunter's trophies. They are also used to transport the hunter out of the field with the 'evacuate' command. This can be especially handy when being pursued by an angry t-rex!
Despite everything it does right, I did find a couple bugs. The first is that collision detection in the game leaves something to be desired. While not game breaking, it is immersion breaking to watch as a dino goes around a couple of large trees only to walk straight through a boulder. Secondly, there are times when the evacuate function doesn't work on a particular map. This means that when it's time for you to leave, rather than seeing the bot fly in, like normal, you are unceremoniously dropped to the main menu. While you keep your freshly gained score and gems, your new trophies are gone. This bug can be especially annoying after bagging a particularly impressive animal. And giddy with excitement, you go to your trophy room to find that it's not there for you to admire.
Moral warnings for this game are virtually non-existent. There is no foul language, or sexuality, and the blood is minimal - even for a hunting game! There is also no magic. Nor are there any authority issues present. A dinosaur may or may not bellow as it dies, but the body will display no wounds, and there will not be a blood puddle beneath it. There is a blood trail mechanic, for tracking a wounded animal, but even this is low key. If the player is killed, the screen goes red as the camera focuses upon the dino without showing any blood or gore.
Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter Reborn is a clean and immersive game. Simply put, it's a lot of fun! Its gameplay is solid, and more-than capable of providing many hours of enjoyment. While it has a few problems, none of them are so major as to ruin what is an overall good experience. In an age when most triple-A games are unfinished, buggy nightmares at release, Digital Dreams Entertainment has proven that you don't need a half-billion dollar budget, nor a sixty dollar price tag to make a good game. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a trophy room to fill.