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Bang Man Now Available on Apple Devices! Yay!
News By Chris OToole at 13:43 on 13/01/2015 - 2 comments

Tags: BEST GAME EVER, Platform, Mobile, iOS, Addictive

Following its Android release late last month, iOS owners can now compete for title of ‘Best Banger’ in Bang Man! – the insanely difficult, minimalist platform game which has been keeping Android users entertained since release just before Christmas, and is now available in the App Store, for free here. 

The game sees players attempt to defend Earth from an infinite wave of alien scumbags, high above the planet. Players must use ammo dropped from above to destroy each alien – but every time they fire their gun, they will recoil by the number shown on the box they collected. Avoid aliens whilst without falling off the platform – one wrong move and it’s instant game over.

Once the mechanic clicks, Bang Man! proves deliciously compulsive – the instant restart offering some compensation for the (many) times players will die. The key to success is speed – aliens will speed up if not despatched quickly, so players must act immediately or face an even more difficult challenge as they compete to top the global leaderboard of ‘Best Bangers’.

Pocket Gamer described the Android release as a “ludicrously tough, super fast platform blaster” and that “it all gels together brilliantly to create a stripped back, intensely clever shooter that's far, far more than the sum of its parts.” It awarded the game an 8/10 score, bestowing it a Silver Award.

“I’ve been really enjoying the battles taking place at the top of the global leaderboard and I’m absolutely thrilled that iOS owners can now join in,” says Simon Byron, developer of Bang Man! “It’s tough, and certainly not for everyone – but those that it clicks will often begin playing for a few minutes, only to lose hours.”

Bang Man! has been designed and developed by Simon Byron, with graphics by Chris O’Toole and music by Mat Stevens. It is free to download and play, with one in-app purchase disabling the adverts.

The Android version is available here.

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Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front Review
Review By Clayton Clive at 09:41 on 23/09/2014 - 21 comments

Tags: Turn Based, Strategy, Slitherine Games, War, What is it Good For?

Battle Academy 2 throws you into command of either Axis or Allies during the largest military confrontation in history. Without much time in the academy. I didn't discover the broader original which took you as far as the African theatre of war, but I have always preferred the cold. 

Battle Academy 2 is a turn based strategy game with the balance of detail and depth to keep you buoyant, avoiding any chance of suffocation in complexity. It's crammed with enough units to make you feel like a spoilt child in a sweet shop. "All the panzers please sir! With a seasoning of flame panzers. And a side of Tiger tanks. Many thanks." These units main attributes are easy to ignore not seeming to have a major impact on battles, but they do have a secondary set of idiosyncrasies that have a more visible impact on the path of a battle. Such as being prone to bogging down, or being a smaller target. 

The tutorial will give you the basics of the UI and how combat works. Then it's a bit of trial and error as you now try to master the game. Of course there are 3 difficulty settings, the hardest being that there are no statistical advantages. All units are as is. I can see no other way to play. If you avoid all the obvious errors, like charging into an urban area with tanks and no support, or leaving infantry in the open is a ticket to die, you will realise you have an intense battle game with challenging AI where victory is usually just as close as defeat. 

Urban combat is an edge of your swivelling generals seat affair. Infantry units hidden within the buildings are impossible to see unless one of your units is adjacent, meaning you must painstakingly flush through the buildings with your troops whilst your tanks supply suppressing fire hoping to get lucky and take out a hidden target. Tanks also have a reduced line of sight, as you'd expect, so pushing through farmland with tanks is asking for trouble before you've even seen it. The AI has gently caressed me into a false sense of security to make that mistake before. They'll move in, take a few shots, move back, you will follow, and wham! Straight into a row of enemy tanks patiently waiting for you.

The four campaigns are varied and challenging, each mission is greeted by a short comic to set the scene. Reminiscent of the Commando comics of old without the occasional eccentric, cliché oozing fascism. I fell deeply in love with every one of these short strips. You could sink endless hours into the campaign missions quite happily but what really brings Battle Academy 2 alive is the skirmish system. Something I believe wasn't included in the original. You are able to set up your own skirmish with a system of sliders to decide if you battle in an urban area, farmland or wasteland. If it is snowy, army strength, map size, and more. The map is then generated brilliantly. These random maps do not prevent the AI from consistently challenging you to your limits with crafty placement of units and shrewd air attacks. 

Whenever I have a free hour I have been cramming in a quick skirmish on BA2, they're always varied, the combat has so many different outcomes the battles always feel fresh giving this game ultimate replayability. Sure this game lacks those graphics that are so wonderful it makes you believe in creation by design, but it is so rich in all other aspects of gameplay I haven't cared a bit. That can be tended to by the modding community if the lack of variety in buildings truly irks you anyway. Battle Academy 2 is a solid experience that I could easily recommend to anyone that enjoys a good turn-based strategy and a good place to start throwing those virtual dice if someone wanted a jumping on point.

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The Walking Dead Pinball FX2 Review
Review By Dean Bennett at 10:37 on 09/09/2014 - 0 comments

Tags: Pinball FX 2, Zen Pinball, The Walking Dead, Xbox One, PS4

Zen Studios have been remarkably smart with their choosing of IP to associate with their Pinball games, Pinball FX2 and Zen Pinball. Star Wars, The Marvel Pantheon and a dalliance with gaming brands such as Plants Vs. Zombies, Ms. Splosion Man and Streetfighter II. Here they make another astute choice working out a deal with Telltale Games to turn the hugely enjoyable ‘The Walking Dead’ episodic game into a Pinball table. 

On the face of it, there could be difficulties trying to turn a narrative based ‘choose your own adventure’ kind of game into a Pinball table, but Zen have mastered a basic template that has served them well in the past where key scenes or moments are turned into scoring modes and familiar locations are represented on the playfield. Here, each episode of Season one of The Walking Dead, has been turned into a specific scoring mode, and echoing the original episodes where you are asked to make decisions, do you save Duck or Shawn? Do you stay for the night, or go look for help in the day? This is managed through the video display and the flipper buttons. Ultimately these boil down to which ramps or orbits you are required to hit to get those numbers up, but as they frequently have done on their later tables, they add a few surprises and features that you couldn’t really find on a real table.

The table layout is an uncomplicated one. The lower playfield is free from clutter, and has the standard out lanes. There are no magna saves, nudge gates or swooping ramps. The upper playfield is busier but again has a clean placement, with ramps, an outer orbit, an inner orbit, and a sinkhole that when the correct conditions are met allows access to the episodes. Above the table there is a collection of rails that carry the ball from the ramps around the table and down to your flippers. These can be confusing, purposely so, but certainly not maddening. There is a raised mini-playfield at the back that serves as a place to smack Zombies in the face with a steel ball, build the jackpot and get points. This area has outward facing flippers, which can throw you a bit at first. There is also a de rigeur extra flipper in the upper right, which is perfectly placed to hit an animated walker that is trying to crawl out of a cellar. 

All of this adds up to a table that plays fairly easily and at reasonable speed. Watch out though for the initial skill shot that requires you to hit the right hand orbit with your left flipper. If you are heavy with the plunger, cheekily crafted to look like an axe, you will find the ball will travel to you at great speed. It’s pretty satisfying to hit that skill shot when the ball is just a blur.

It’s worth mentioning the amount of work that has gone into creating the environment around the actual playfield. The whole area around the table shows various locations such as the Motel, the Farm, and some of Macon. At the end of your game you get a panning shot across these scenes, this is reminiscent of the cinematic techniques used in the original game. It helps to strengthen the theme. The lower part below the flippers is a grassy area and here you will see large figures of Lee, Clementine and others appear as the episodes play out, and there is original audio dialogue to tie the whole experience together. Other notable extras are a video mode that plays out like the arcade game Silent Scope, with you picking off Zombies, and the table will turn to night at times, with a walkers head that will block required shots as it rolls across the playfield. The game has a dark palette of mostly brown, but this serves to enhance the oppressed and bleak nature of the subject matter. It also helps highlight the lit lanes, ramps, targets and orbits that you are asked to hit within the modes.

If you have played any of Zen Studios work before then you can rank this table up there with their better efforts. It is clear that they have honed their table designs over the years, and this latest addition is a very worthy one. It is one that will reward you with high scores and a play time devoid of ‘cheating’ balls that fly down the flipper gap, or bounce agonizingly down the out lanes. The game can handle a good nudge in those moments so don’t be afraid to do so to keep your ball alive. This is a great choice of table to start your Pinball collection, and pretty much a must-have if you are already an aficionado. You don’t need to have played the episodic game to enjoy your time, but you give a knowing smile when you recognize the homage to certain moments if you have. It’s worth noting that on the Pinball FX2 menu on Xbox One, the game sits on its own page, which implies that further seasons are a possibility.  If the quality of this table is anything to go by, then bring on the Zombie Apocalypse!

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80 Days Review
Review By Syrok at 19:41 on 31/07/2014 - 0 comments

Tags: 80 Days, inkle Studios, iOS, iPhone, iPad

As the name suggests, inkle Studios’ 80 Days is an adaption of Jule Verne’s ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’. Best described as an adventure game that sits somewhere between a text adventure and a visual novel. The game casts you in the role Passepartout, Phileas Fogg’s valet. It is your mission to find a route that will take you around the world in 80 days or less. 

Every journey starts out in London with you packing your luggage with items that will help you on your journey and a small amount of money to buy tickets or additional items. Once you are done packing it’s time to set out on your journey. You can follow the route described in the novel, or you could take an entirely different route.

While you are traveling you need to keep an eye on your funds and the well-being of Fogg. You can earn more money by buying items in one of the 144 cities and selling them in another city for a healthy profit. The game will tell you where certain items will be valuable, so you might want to plan your journey accordingly. Alternatively you can also borrow money from the banks you’ll find in most cities, this however will take time. Time you might not have.

Some of the items you buy can also make the journey easier for Fogg. For instance, before boarding the Trans-Siberian Railway you might want to pick up a suitable coat and headgear. Once the time comes to cross the Pacific you can trade them in for for other items that will make the sea-journey more bearable. If Fogg’s health deteriorates too much you’ll be forced to wait a few days until he is fit enough for the next stage of your journey. 

80 Days is very much focused on telling you a story and letting you shape the tale in some small ways, as such there is no real fail state. Even if your journey takes longer than the titular 80 days it will not punish you for taking your time. 

While you are traveling from one city to another you will run into various characters, some of whom you might recognize from the novel, and become a witness to events shaping the world this game is set in. You can participate in some of these events and change their course by selecting different actions and dialogue options. Depending on the choices you make new routes will be revealed to you and items will be added to your luggage. Not all events are positive. Some might merely delay you for a few days, others will throw you widely off course forcing you to come up with a new route. 

If you are taking the same route in several play-throughs you are likely to notice that in some cases the choices you make have little influence on your progression. However, this is mitigated by the fact than you can make different stops and take different routes around the world every time you start a new playthrough. 

Playing through the game multiple times is certainly recommended. Not just to beat your fastest time around the globe but also to experience the world the developers have created for this game. While the novel is more or less rooted in the real world, 80 Days is set in an alternate universe where history has run a different course, and it very much feels like Captain Nemo has been in charge of developing all sorts of means of transportation. For example, the very first train you’ll take from London to Paris is in fact no ordinary train, but a train that can run underwater. Airships and submarines are common and you’ll encounter robots around every corner. 

Unfortunately, there are still a couple of bugs that occasionally rear their ugly heads and may, in the worst case scenario, prevent you from completing your journey or, less frustratingly, make you listen to repeated lines of dialogue. These bugs are fairly rare now and should not deter you from giving the game a go. All in all, 80 Days is a very enjoyable game that thanks to very good writing manages to re-tell the story of the original novel in brand new and interesting ways.

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Big Business Deluxe Hits Windows 8
News By Chris OToole at 17:58 on 21/07/2014 - 0 comments

Tags: Windows 8, Big Business, Sim, City

Game Insight have just announced that a new version of its successful Big Business Deluxe strategy game has been chucked on to all Windows 8 devices and is available for free download in the Windows Store as of today.

Big Business Deluxe is a globally popular city building strategy game that emphasizes an economic component. You'll have the task of building your own business empire from the ground up in order to become a real industrial tycoon. Donald trump better watch out.

In order to achieve success, you will need to develop production, build factories and business centers, hospitals and restaurants, create an entertainment industry and purchase and sell important resources. Over time, a small village will turn into a modern metropolis with a developed infrastructure. Seems like it might be a great way to scratch that Sim City itch whilst out and about.

Big Business Deluxe has attracted more than 12 million players from around the world. The game was previously released for Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

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Deadpool Marvel Pinball Review
Review By Chris OToole at 16:36 on 02/07/2014 - 0 comments

Tags: Marvel, Pinball, Deadpool, Zen Studios

Deadpool you fannies! It's Deadpool, the one and only Merc with A Mouth(tm), you know that guy in the red costume with the fucked up face who's always breaking the fourth wall and shit. Of course this is the comics version of Deadpool we are talking about, not the version of the character from Wolverine: Origins which totally missed the point and was a load of old horse plop.

Zen Studios have done the greatest thing they could have done for this Deadpool table. They've only gone and hired Nolan North to voice it. He did such a perfect job in Activision's Deadpool game he was the only logical choice, and he sure knocks it out of the park on this table, commenting on you sucking, there being a pinball table in pinball table and tons more on the fly remarks. It's all rated teen though so he has a bitch about that too.

Truth be told I pretty much hated this table when I first started playing it, it's really fast and compact and Deadpool annoyed me by prancing about and being a tool after every lost ball, of which there was many. After some continued play things get easier, you learn to activate you kickbacks first thing, and the ball save is pretty easy to trigger. Also in a first for one of Zen's Marvel Pinball tables you can pick the difficulty of the missions you choose so you can choose to go all or nothing if you are having a particularly good session, it's all about the score remember. Oh and if you hold the flipper buttons down you can skip the Deadpool farting about bits when you lose a ball, thanks Zen!

I was all ready to give this table a middling review, but when it clicks, it clicks good. So I'm all addicted again and I have dishes to do, but I'll have to have one more game just to make sure. It's a slow burner but more than worth the couple of quid it costs. Bloody Zen Studios and their stupidly addictive games.

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Space Run Review
Review By Chris OToole at 17:52 on 18/06/2014 - 0 comments

Tags: Grid Defence, Strategy, Real Time, Spaceships, Steam

In Space Run you take on the role of the guy with the manliest name in the Universe, Buck Mann, a space transporter extroadinaire. You are tasked with running cargo across the vastness of space for five different companies, aided only by your trusty and sarcastic AI. You'll also have to keep a beady eye out for pirates, meteor storms and other hazards that can stop you delivering on time, because as we all know, in the courier business time is money.

What this all boils down to is a hex based tower defence affair, but one pulled off with aplomb and a level of polish which makes a nonsense of Space Run's indie game roots. In fact Space Run's static in game artwork deserves praise in particular, and would not be lost in the pages of the Galaxy's greatest comic, 2000AD. Voice acting is also of a high standard, but that being so you'll want to punch some of the characters square in the balls for being overly sarcastic arseholes.

Now not being the brightest spark I usually run a mile from this type of game, I don't mind watching others play them, but I tend to get overly fraught, make mistakes and throw my hands up in the air. Space Run is different, it eases you in gently and then tightens its vagina so you can't escape. So yeah, it's addictive. Cough.

At the start of each mission you'll be presented with a different hex layout representing your ship and it's up to you exactly where you place your cargo and engines. Sometimes this cargo will have special requirements, for example tourists need a power supply or they'll run out of air and expire, so you will have to plan accordingly.

Once underway you can start to build and place your defences as you go, with handy icons on the screen telling you what is coming up and where it is going to come from, so you'll have a little time to think about how you are going to tackle that asteroid storm or pirate cruiser. Helpfully when things are destroyed they drop currency which can be used to build even more goodies for your ship, shields, boosters, power stations, missiles and more. You can also beef up your shit by buying upgrades between missions at the space station garage . These follow the usual rules of upping your damage and providing more protective shields, but some of them are more tactical such as the perk which allows you ten seconds of rapid fire. That can be a God send in a tight spot. 

Space Run developers Passtech Games and Focus Home Interactive have really mixed up the increasingly stale defence grid staple, polished it to within an inch of its life and has amazingly produced a strategy game I not only enjoy, but really love. I've even gone back and done earlier missions with my new unlocks. I really do enjoy playing it that much.

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Qvadriga PC Review
Review By Clayton Clive at 12:29 on 16/06/2014 - 1 comment

Tags: Matrix Games, Strategy, Racing, Roman, Chariots

I am Claytonius Maximus chariot team manager. I have travelled from Italy all across the Roman Empire, tasting beautiful victories and brutal defeats... Okay, okay, I'm not. But at least in Qvadriga I am. Qvadriga is a strategy with hints of management and simulation, racing game new to Steam that gives you the opportunity to play out the merciless world of chariot racing in your own home and soon on your iOS and Android devices.

When you start the game you can choose to read through a very wordy tutorial, skimming it can give you all the basics you'll need and it also explains to you a few Latin words you'll come across in the game. I didn't have the patience to read it all, and I don't expect many others to. We just want to get stuck in with the racing! Other than the tutorials the menus are not cluttered, there isn't too much information, they feel easy on the eye and are very simple to navigate your way through.

So... Lets race! That's what this game is all about. You can choose either a single race or a campaign, there are 5 factions to represent, all with slightly varying perks. You also have a wonderful luxury in this game with your ability to choose turn-based, known as 'static', or you can choose 'dynamic' which is real time gameplay. I gave both styles a go but dynamic really brings the races to life. Either way you've time to think before you choose your next move, but dynamic keeps the race constant without pauses and at a pace that will keep you interested, it's easy to look away from a turn-based game to do other things, like sip your tea or watch the World Cup, but you cannot take your eyes off dynamic play. 

When starting up a campaign after finding my preferred gameplay style the hardest decision was choosing a name for my team. I needed something that sounds Latin, powerful, triumphant. I chose Parma... Mmm. You can begin in any of the 7 regions of the empire and in total there are 43 city circuses to play through. The circuses vary in size and design depending on your location and are displayed in a top down view when racing. The graphics are nostalgic and very reminiscent of the Close Combat series.  They aren't the prettiest, everything is static except from the racers and lap and position indicators. The circuses are detailed though, with the occasional crucified Christian on display in the centre. I don't think looks are everything anyway, I'm not shallow.

Every city has different benefits too, such as cheaper veterinary care or if you are in a city with more than one circus such as Rome; travel between them is free. But you need to build up the fame and rake in the denarius if you want to travel anywhere. And that's not as easy as you think. You've maintenance costs, you'll need to pay those doctors and vets fees, you'll need to repair your chariots. And sooner or later everything you own will need replacing. Chariots will be lost. Horses will be whipped to the point of death.  Drivers know as aurigae may be brutally crushed under the feet of horses. Don't get attached to anything. Nothing lasts long in Chariot racing. You may also start feeling confident and place bets on your team to win. But a race can be lost in that first corner. Too fast on your approach and you will flip. You can then command your driver to endure or try and escape to the side of the track. He won't last long being dragged by the horses, especially if there is debris ahead and if the escape isn't timed right he will be crushed, becoming nothing more than a splatter of bloody pixels. If over-whipping doesn't kill your horses you can pick up too much speed and your cheaper chariots can fall apart beneath you. And every time I play I cannot help but feel a pang of guilt when I see a dead horse on the track, it is not forgotten how brutal this sport was. However I feel nothing for making Atticus my star racer get dragged the final lap just to grab the consolation prize of simply finishing the race. Then selling him and hiring a replacement because it was cheaper than the medical bills. This is a brutal sport. And it will get dirty. Your rivals will crash into you and damage your chariot or even lacerate you or your horses with their whips, they also sometimes pull into your lane ahead of you so you go crashing into their rear. There are so many variables it's impossible to ever be confident you will win a race. I have failed to finish close to 50% of races I have entered. Every race is a new challenge and before each race a random event will affect it in some way.

All this combined gives the gameplay that time gobbling addictiveness all great strategy games should have. You find yourself saying 'just one more race... just one more race...' and 7 races later when you've lost all your money you finally quit. It's perfectly set up to be a brilliant game on handheld devices that I can just imagine playing on the train or at boring family events. There are no flaws I can pick out with this game. I love it. The only thing I'd really like to see would be an online campaign, that would make things really interesting. Now I must go, I'm racing for the Emperor at Circus Maximus. Don't want to let him down.

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Cloud Raiders Lands on Multiple Platforms Today
News By Chris OToole at 13:34 on 16/05/2014 - 0 comments

Tags: Cloud Raiders, PVP, Cross Platform, Strategy, iOS

Game Insight would like you to know that their epic action strategy game Cloud Raiders is now available in the Apple App Store. You users of iOS-based mobile devices can download the game and challenge the horrible creatures of the flying islands and that most dangerous of foes, real life human opponents. Cloud Raiders is designed by the innoWate studio, the creator of the popular My Country series, and is now available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Facebook all over the world.

Cloud Raiders hopes to take strategy games to the next level with its action-packed battles in the sky. Players can build fearsome sky fortresses bristling with cannons, traps, and even magical defenses to protect themselves from roving bands of sky buccaneers and fire-breathing dragons, as well as from raiding parties sent by other players in player-versus-player (PvP) sorties. 

Cloud Raiders is also a cross-platform game, which means that a player can start the game on one mobile device, switch to another platform and all the game progress will be saved, which is pretty darn handy if you want a quick blast on Facebook while you are in work. Not that I'd condone such a thing.

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Nightmares from the Deep: The Siren’s Call – iOS Review
Review By Drew Bower at 21:22 on 11/01/2014 - 1 comment

Tags: G5 Entertainment, Artifex Mundi, Hidden Object, Puzzle, Casual

It feels almost wrong to feel excited about yet another hidden object puzzle adventure game, but this was the case for Nightmares from the Deep: The Siren’s Call. Well, I say excited... more like a mild tingling, but still, it was something.

The reason for being optimistic is down to it being the sequel to a genuinely entertaining game and from developers with a track record of other above average titles.

There is a distinct feeling of déjà vu upon playing as the storyline follows a very similar path. You play as Sarah Black, curator of a naval museum who upon receiving and opening a mysterious package finds her museum breached by a ghostly pirate ship and its crew. The mysterious object is snatched away and so begins the adventure to retrieve it.

The game world centres on an ancient fishing village inhabited by strange fish-headed freaks. The environment is full of broken ships with plenty of devastation all around. Because of the rather dreary surroundings, the scenery is quite dark and bleak with just odd flashes of brighter colours. They are nicely drawn though with bags of detail as you would expect, but the darkness and lack of colour does start to drag.

You get used to seeing by-the-numbers hidden object scenes in these games, so it’s nice to see a little bit of inventiveness being shown here. Hidden object scenes come in three flavours: Traditional list-based shopping; finding objects from a smaller picture icon and most interestingly of all, a version where you string together a number of single objects in order find others and continue the sequence.

The puzzles too show just a little bit of extra thought has gone into them – not much, but even a little is worth noting in this genre!

Also worth noting is that on the whole, things progress fairly swiftly. If you find a useful item, chances are you will be using it to progress pretty quickly. This is also helped by the use of quick warping via the map to areas that are highlighted as having an action available. This feature depends on the difficulty level selected, but it’s certainly recommended so as to avoid tireless back tracking.

The mythical pirate theme is carried out brilliantly, with one or two creepy moments to encounter. As mentioned previously, it makes for a rather dark adventure but also a very atmospheric one.

I suppose the question is, does this sequel improve on the first game? I would suggest not, but then again you can’t blame Artifex Mundi for sticking to the adage if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. What they have delivered is a very solid and above average example of the genre that fans will enjoy.

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