Tuesday, December 23, 2014

WizardWizard Review

As a wizard myself I was easily drawn in by such a title as Wizard Wizard. Perhaps naturally I sought to play a game that hit so close to home, plus it was free! So giving this game a try I wasn't sure of exactly what to expect. For the past several weeks I have been playing games that people sent me and asked that I play; and now that it was up to me I really wasn't sure what I was in the mood for. In my First Look, I mistakenly called this one a rage platformer, and it isn't that at all, but I will
delve a little deeper into that one later on.

Wizard Wizard begins with an urgent atmosphere set up when the player discovers that a princess has been turned to stone by a mysterious man in red. Presumably he stole all your wizard spells as well since the only thing out of the ordinary I performed regularly was a double jump. While that does make the title seems a bit duplicitous, that isn't the shot at the game it sounds like. Actually quite the opposite. I am glad to say there in next to no combat in the game; and if there were, I am sure there would have been balancing issues with spells and enemy incorporation. I like the game in the simple state it is in now. Each level is a platforming path around obstacles, escalating in difficulty as levels progress, to obtain a key. The key opens a door behind which is hidden progress to the next level and so on. So far so normal but, I found it quite difficult to stop playing Wizard Wizard, and I think I figured out what Crateboy did to keep me so enthralled. I noticed so many elements drawn from the spirit of old school platformers, and the simple ideology only strengthened this connection; but this was achieved without sacrificing the precision of current generation gaming. Not to mention the nice nostalgic feel of the pixelated graphics tying it all together so nicely. The smooth gameplay coupled with a very nice soundtrack (that took me back to the Scott Pilgrim side scrolling beat em up) made for a very good time.

There are a lot of little touches to the game, in the things like what the NPC's say that give the game a sense of depth, but it is just a sense. The game is just as I said, a platformer, and it hits that mark with great poise; but there simply isn't that much to it. Again that isn't the cold discredit it may seem like. Mario is perhaps the most recognized gaming icon in the history of the media, but strip away the decades of built fame and there still isn't much there. I believe that is the beauty inherit in such games. They are easy to enjoy so long as the developer takes a solid no nonsense stance to their craft and does well to polish their creation, which is something Crateboy did beautifully.

At the end of the day Wizard Wizard is an excellent incarnation of the platformer, with acute attention to detail and tight platforming mechanics. For free I dare not ask for more than that, lest I sound greedy and pompous. I quite enjoyed playing through this one and I know you will to, so get out there and give it a go.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thoughts on Pokemon!

Giving thoughts on an entity like Pokemon at this point is the gaming journalism equivalent of cleaning a whale with a cotton swab. I admit the task ahead is a bit daunting; but as I watch the opening cinematic for the freshly released Pokemon Alpha Sapphire, I cannot help but think of just how far the game has come since I first turned on my Gameboy Color and began Pokemon Red. With this realization clinging to my thoughts, I can't think of a better opportunity to take a look back at one of Nintendo's most recognized titles.

In American the gaming sensation began on September 28th, 1998 with the dual release of Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue. The following year would yield Pokemon Yellow on October 18th, in what would become the trend of releasing each new generation of the game in couples, punctuated by a slightly updated rerelease of the title soon after. Up until recently this rerelease normally came as a one of; but Black 2 and White 2 sent that right out the window, though I would hardly call the step innovative. Honestly having the game released released this way meant that there was more for the single player to miss out on if no one with the corresponding copy happened to be around. Yet, I suppose it is incentive to get out there and make some friends.

For me it began on a birthday, mine specifically (I never received gifts on other people's birthday, though I am not sure why) and, to my excitement, I opened up a brand new Gameboy Color and Pokemon Red to go right along with it. My excitement was such that I can hardly remember anything else I had gotten that year, and I could hardly wait for the party to end so that everyone would go away and I could get to playing my game. Looking back now, there wasn't that much to do from a gameplay approach. Complete the PokeDex, become the league champion, and deal with whatever shenanigans that Team Rocket has brewing. In the next couple of generations, they didn't change much; only serving in little gimmicks at a time. My guess is they were testing the waters on what areas of gameplay could be expounded upon. Only in the recent games have we seen actual development in expanding what all there is to do in the games, and some things are starting to stick. There is character customization, additions like Super Training, and the Global Trade Network; all of which are allowing for much more time to be spent in game on matters beyond the PokeDex and the Elite Four.

While it's true that for over a decade GameFreak has been releasing, what is essentially, the same game again and again; I have to admit that the game feels fresher now than it ever has. It goes without saying that the only group that gives in to this game time and time again are the fans, and as a fan myself it shows that the fanbase is only growing. So the duo of GameFreak and Nintendo are obviously onto something. Although I am as invigorated about this play through as I was on my very first; I cannot help but think of more...

Pokemon Snap is now a dusty old gem, but a gem it remains (not to mention it is my favorite Pokemon title). I wonder if they could incorporate collectible photo albums into these core games in a way; perhaps to reward exploration with something a bit newer than the traditional TM find. All this could culminate with hidden photo opportunities you catch on film being collected in a museum of some description, with a wondrous reward for completion. This is only one of many possibilities and just a thought, and it my or may not work; but it would be a powerful addition to the game mechanics as they are and I feel that this is what I hunger for.

Maybe I am asking too much. The franchise seems to be doing just fine, and the fandom has never been bigger or more connected. I am enjoying my game very much, I can't shake the feeling that I am dancing to the same song again and again. Believe me, that isn't the criticism that it sounds like; but it is my honest worry, and Nintendo seems to have a habit of reviving old properties to put on yet another show every couple of years. So long as they keep them coming with new ideas and presentations, then I suppose I am just barking at nothing. If you are a fan of the series or not, Pokemon looks to be in it to stay and I for one am not disappointed. As I have said I am playing through this new reboot with the childlike joy I felt at that birthday all those years ago (which was more years ago than I would care to mention), albeit with a more refined expectation.

Love it or hate it, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! That's all for now so we'll catch ya next time.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bit.Saw Review

This week we were approached with another game to play through and review; and I must confess that I am liking that trend. Though before I get to feeling too self important, let me jump on the spikes up front and say this week it's a rage platformer. That's right! Bit.Saw is of the devilish sort that brings out the worst and most hilarious reactions in a gamer. Brought to us by Shubshub, and available in itch.io for a humble $1 USD; it isn't too complex but many of the good ones never are. With such a modest price tag and 24 computer smashing levels, it's pretty hard to overlook.

Personally, I have an odd relationship with rage platformers and their ilk Having played a good many of the titles in this sub genre of one of the oldest gaming styles out there, I'm not sure of what exactly I get out of them; besides fury so pure and burning hot that I can loosely be described as a solar entity, and paroxysms of indescribable joy when I finally complete a level. I believe it is this very mystery wherein lies the subtle elegance of the rage platformers; which seem so simple on screen, but add up to more in spite of their nature. Bit.Saw slides right in there with Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV; with a much more apparent inspiration from the later, owing to the simple visual style and the ability to flip gravity along a single axis.

The visuals of the game are not explosive. In fact, I believe the entire thing could have been played on a Gameboy Color; though as we have discussed with games like this visuals aren't the point. As is the case in many things, less can be more. In this game I think the basic look of it serves to accentuate some smooth platforming and gives clear indicators of where is safe, and where is not.

When speaking of things like "safety" in games like this, I feel it is important to note that it is a relative term. Each hazard is innocuous all on its own, but each level is of course, designed with your insanity in mind. As we have mentioned above, that is simply part of the charm of games like this and Bit.Saw is certainly no let down in that department; but I fear I am starting to just ramble.

To put a bow on this one, I'm giving this one the recommendation for one simple reason. It was fun! Fun for an incredibly low investment I might add. So go ahead and treat yourself to this one, if you think you can handle it.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Castle Review

About a week ago we were approached by someone from Snails Animation. They told us about their new game, Castle; and asked if we wanted to do a review. I always look for more reasons to play and having someone offer up such a creative little gem as Castle was a real treat. Upon looking over their website, I learned Snails Animation deals mostly in Flash games for your browser and Castle is their very first game for PC Download, which makes it a bit more impressive that Castle is such a nice piece of work. Before I start to prattle about the developers, let's move onto their game.

Castle is pretty straight forward from the beginning and Snails Animation really shows off a bit with some clean and color animation. The clip shows a king in his morning routine jumping at the opportunity to get his very own castle. From there is a brief tutorial screen explaining the mechanics of the game and off you go to level one to begin your time as a castle construction contractor. The game operates in a similar fashion to a claw machine; but rather than pick things up from a jumble of stuffed animals or the like, you are placing castle pieces in the appropriate spots in the correct order. Early on it is fairly simple to do. They give you a silhouette of the castle that is to be and all of the pieces scroll overhead. Drag and drop the piece you want to the column you want and you have got the hang of it. It sounds overly simple until you've considered the later portion of the game, when you will have to place down innumerable amounts of castle sections into the slots of the wackiest building designs; all while defending your castle from many unique threats. If you don't believe me, get yourself to level ten and get back with me.

The threats themselves offer little challenge. Each one prevents progress in a specific way and you have a number of items by which you may prevent them from doing so, or repair the damage they cause. The challenge appears when several of these enemies are plaguing you at once, and you are trying to build into a complicated and expansive castle design. Top this off with a deceptive time limit, and you'll find the challenge you are looking for. If you are the type of gaming legend that requires more (and you know I do) there is a King Mode available for the mighty few who complete the normal mode, and a Defend the Castle Mode that I used to exact my boiling vengeance on the enemies that harassed me in my play through.

The game doesn't offer much in the way of extras, but I don't really think is needs to. There are character descriptions and trophies for reaching certain milestones; both offer the title a little depth for a little reading and a sense of accomplishment. Though to be perfectly honest by the time I hit level sixteen, building the castle at all was its own reward.

Overall, Castle is quite entertaining and I gladly give it a shiny new recommendation fresh out of the box. It only costs you a meager five bucks and offers way more than your money's worth in terms of content and challenge. Along with giving me hours of fun, I was left with a hatred for chickens. A hatred so deep that if put into words I may face serious litigation. I'd love to see if the game could be released on tablets. The format fits perfectly and I can see the game getting excellent exposure in such a medium. Give it a go, and don't forget to greenlight this title for Steam!

Eufloria Review.

        Eufloria, where shall I begin? I've seen it described in a number of places as "your standard RTS"; yet I fail to see anything standard about it, as it is quite distantly removed from Star Craft and the number of other games we have come to associate with the genre. Don't let that dissuade you from giving this one a go though, they have taken RTS by the wheel and gone in an interesting direction.

The mechanics are essentially the same as you may expect of an RTS, the developers choosing to stick to the going formula apart from some interesting stylistic choices ; and things are kept pretty simple, so interacting with the game is reasonably intuitive. You've got your minions, a role which is played by seedlings in this incarnation, and you move from one asteroid belt to the next colonizing the otherwise barren rocks and growing trees on them. Trees with which you spawn more seedlings and thus the cycle goes on. Though in many cases these asteroids are already host to your enemy and the right to colonize them yourself is a hard earned reward. Early on in my play through I made the mistake of underestimating the opponent and was overwhelmed rather quickly. I learned a few good lessons, that I won't spoil for you, as I progressed through larger and more challenging maps; and I must say I never knew intergalactic gardening could be quite this treacherous.

The visuals in Eufloria are very dynamic and at first glance are quite breathtaking. No effort was spared into making the game look wonderful start to finish; and it's very nice to see such crisp and colorful imagery in Indie Games. It shows that someone took a lot of time and quite a bit of pride in their work, so well done. Another interesting thing that the visuals brought to light is some pretty stellar programming. Understand that I was playing Eufloria on a rather old laptop, and running it on moderate graphic settings never caused any sort of distortion or FPS drop. For those of you who know all too well what I am talking about, this is certainly a positive thing to understate it a bit.

In my experience, I really only ever notice music in a game if it is quite good or quite bad. Otherwise it just fits in and passes by as ambiance, going largely unnoticed. I am glad to say that in the case of Eufloria, I noticed some very very good music. I was a little iffy when I saw that there a bundle offering the game + soundtrack, which is pretty bold move and show confidence in the game's music. However, once I got into the game, all doubts were stilled by a delightfully trippy groove underlit by a hip hop beat that just didn't stop. I know music like this isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it struck a chord with me (no pun intended). In my opinion it is definitely worth the additional five bucks to enjoy the soundtrack with your purchase.

Finally a word on a subject I normally like to discuss up front. The storytelling is perhaps the factor in this game that surprised me the most. The story itself is original enough, rife with nebulous enemies about whom I was learning more little by little; but the delivery was sublime. Just enough new information at any one time to keep me playing to learn more. I can't say it is in the ring with James Joyce's Ulysses, but it was devilishly compelling all the same; enough to keep me playing for quite a while on any given evening.

I suppose it's just about time I put some kind of score on this one and wrapped things up. Problem is, I don't really see much good in numerical scores; but if you must have something, go with this: Outstanding recommendation and Gold Star/10. I had a ton of fun and feel it was more than worth the investment, so give it a go!


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Unity3D Visual Scripting with Mecanim

As the indie game development scene grows more and more inexperienced programmers come in and try to grab ahold of the ropes, learning the engine, scripting languages, animation, and so on. Most of the aspiring game developers usually start out as artists who have no idea where to start when it comes to programming. I believe this is the reason that many cheap visual scripters have been showing up. Aside from speeding up production and making communication between programmers a little cleaner, it allows the ignorant enthusiast to ease them self into the practice of game programming.

This article is to demonstrate how to use Unity's animation system double as a visual scripter.

Although we will still be making a script, it only consist of three functions, and the longest one is only three lines of code. In this 2D project I created a turret that I want to start firing when the player reaches a certain distance from the turret. You could also use triggers, raycasts, etc, but for this tutorial I chose the simplest possible.

Let us begin with just hanging up our variables. Our Lazer Turret will create a GameObject of our lazer that already has a script on it. All the lazer's script does is have it use a "Move Towards" command to make it more and a script on it that handles the health and damage items of the project (that is not for this tutorial.)

Now lets set up our Start Function. Here we assign what the target will be, which I want to be the Player. I use "FindGameObjectWithTag" because it is just more general, so in case I have multiple characters that have different names this line will always find who it needs to. And also here we create link our public variable to the speed in which the Animator plays. This will become clear in a moment.

Now, our Update Function, which updates every frame. The first line is in case the script was not able to access the target at the start of the level. This might happen if you spawn your character into the scene instead of placing it in through the editor. Next, I assign my float value distance to the amount of distance the player is from the turret. Then I pass that variable into the Parameter in the Animator named "Distance."

Next we have our Function Shoot Lazer. Here all we do is create our lazer bullet prefab. We have no conditions scripted into the script, all we are doing through out the script is collecting data. Mecanim is going to actualize it for us.

I also have this function that literally is just a place holder.

 Here is our Animator Controller with two animations in it: Idle and Shoot. You can see in the bottom left corner the Parameter "Distance." I you remember, in our Update function. We wrote a line that passed info through to the animator. That value was the distance that the player was from the turret.

Here out animation has no keyframes aside from the Animation Events which call the functions fro our LazerFire Script. To add these just right click in the top, grey area in the time line and select "Add Animation Event" then choose the one you wish to call. I call the ShootLazer Function near the end to enact that function. Some times when animations blend into each other the function could be skipped if it is at the end of the animation, so I used the PlaceHolder Function to make the animation longer to avoid this problem.

 So our information from the script we made a transition from Idle to Shoot that happens only when the value of distance is less than three. For transitioning back to Idle we use the same information just reverse it from "lesser than" to "greater than."

 Here is our inspector where we can change all the needed information. Before I wrap up, I want to re address a particular line of code.

anim.speed = fireRate;

This line changes the speed of the entire Animator Controller, not just one animation. Keep that in mind. If you want to change the speed of a certain specific animation, there are a couple of ways to do so which you can find in the Scripting Reference on unity's website.

Although we still did dive into some script, we used very basic coding to create a very customizable object. Mecanim can be used for easing many more processes and can be used to create very elaborate event systems without having to type much code or having to send message after message through out your scripts.

If this tutorial was helpful, or any other we have created, please visit support.TakeThisStudios.com where you can get access to much more information and get ahold of any Game Assets you require. Such as this source files for this tutorial. If you like the efforts we try to achieve, then please consider donating some pocket change to help further our goal of providing resources and asset for developers.

If you ever wish to see more, then just visit our Official Site!

Thank you very much!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Unity Character Controller C# (Tutorial)

The most basic and needed asset for any game, in which you control an avatar, is a script to control your character. In this tutorial I will demonstrate and explain how to build a character controller.

There are a few thing that you want to decide before you start working on your script. What kind of movements will I need? Can it run, jump, attack?

In this tutorial the controller I will create will allow the player to walk, run, jump, bounce, and attack, all while playing in a sidescroling environment. This script communicates with Unity's built in animation tool "Mechanim." The player gameobject requires a collider, rigidbody, and an animator.

Terms Used Frequently:
public - can be accessed from other scripts and can be edited in the inspector.
float - Number variable that allows decimals. Ex 1.251 or 576.6574893.
bool - A value that only holds true or false.
LayerMask - a type that you can assign particular layers to in Unity.
Transform - represents a specific point in 3D or 2D space.
GameObject - pretty simple.

 This is what your Script will start with. Make sure that your script's file name is the same as the "public class" name.

As our first variable, lets make a Boolean value. We want to make this so that in the situation where we want to make the player unable to control the avatar, say for a cut scene or on death, we need this here so we can do so.

Here are the variables that we will need for movement. You can change these at any time here in the script or in Unity's inspector.

The running variable does not control anything in the script, however, we use it to communicate with the Animator. Same with the xSpeed. I will explain those later.

We start the player off with grounded being false because I have the player slightly above the ground at the start of the level. If you try to place it on the ground to start in the editor, you risk clipping issues and the player falling straight through.

The Transform groundCheck is an empty GameObject that is in the avatar's hierarchy. Place it near the feet, or where ever the player would touch the ground. the float groundRadius is the range it takes from the groundCheck to detect ground. The LayerMask whatIsGround is the layer(s) that we declare as ground to detect.

The floats and bools after are not set at a certain value in the script because they require so much tweaking, so I set them in the editor. the bool jumped is used later when checking if the player is off the ground because it jumped or if it fell. Then I am sure you understand the bounce stuff is kind of the same.

My player uses fireballs as his attack. This tutorial does not show how to perform the attack, that will be another tutorial, however, this does give the very basic setup for it.

As stated, you will need an Animator component. Here the Animator anim is set up also where the variables are placed. Now when we want to do something with the animator we only have to use anim to call it.

In the start function we want the script to recognize that the anim is in fact the Animator. You could just make the anim public and drag and drop the GameObject in the inspector, but this way my object's inspector is clearer.

Most of our script will be housed in the FixedUpdate function. This function is best for working with physics (which is how we will move our character) because unlike the Update function, FixedUpdate does not update every frame, it refreshes at a steady pace regardless of the frame rate.

The first line is used to set the rotation of our character. The angle variable is the key to which way our character is facing. With using Vector.up unity will set the rotation based off of the "up" axis. In this case it is the -y.

In the second line we make the float value move equivalent to the Input value of the axis labeled "Horizontal". In the Project Settings > Input I made my "Horizontal Axis" based off of the joystick X-axis. So now, whenever the player moves the joystick along the x-axis, we will return an input value of -1 to 1. This will be used to tell Unity which direction to apply force to.

xSpeed is equal to the amount of velocity the player is moving along the -x axis. The xSpeed and running variable are used for Animation purposes. When animation your player for movement, you do not want the movement input joystick to tell the animator to play the walking animation. Instead it is best to see if the player is actually moving. This way when you run into a wall and stop moving, your character will not be playing the walking animation.

The bool running is used when we want to pass info to the Animator, telling it whether we are running or not running.

Still in the FixedUpdate function, I have these lines of code so that I can tell my animator to perform certain things. This is not a tutorial for Unity's Mechanim, you can find that elsewhere.

All of these are fairly simple to understand. I'll explain the first one and then you should be able to comprehend the rest.

If float move is greater than 0.1 (which would happen if the player moved the Horizontal Joystick along the positive -x axis) and if the player is not running (that's what "!" means if it is in front of a Boolean) and the player can be controlled, then we will apply velocity to the gameObjects rigidbody.

In the Vector3, the values inside the "()" are the x, y, and z axis. When working with a Vector3, you do not always have to include the -z axis. In this situation, we are applying force along the -x axis based on the value of float move. We do not wish to apply force along the -y axis so we just type "rigidbody.velocity.y" meaning that whatever amount of velocity it has in this frame, it will continue to have.

When my character moves along the positive -x, he is facing right so I need to make him face right which would put him at 90 degrees along the -y axis. And since I am moving without running, I put the bool running to false.

Now translate that logic to figure out the others.

Here we can give the player the ability to jump and bounce off of objects or enemies.
If the player is grounded (which we will determine later), then the bool jumped equals false.
If the player is grounded and the player presses the button that we assigned for "Jump" (Project Settings > Input) and if the player canControl, then we will apply force. Just like how we applied the movement force with the Vector3, we can do the same here with a Vector2(x,y).
So we apply force with 0 along the -x, and then we use the equation jumpForce *(times) 100. You can tweak this however you want using the inspector to set the float jumpForce. You do not even have to multiply by 100, I only do so to keep my inspector value cleaner.
Then we set the bool jumped to true. We will use this to tell our animator that we have jumped and not fallen.
The bounce brick of logic will make sense after I show you the way we are going to check for grounding.

As I said, this tutorial does not show how to make an attack, there are too many different kinds and ways to do them to explain here. This piece of code checks if the player has hit the attack button and if the player is in the process of attacking or not.

Now we can get to checking if the player is on the ground. We made several variables and components at the beginning of the script:
  • bool grounded
  • Transform groundCheck
  • float groundRadius
  • LayerMask whatIsGround

This line of code is placed in the Update function, which updates every frame. It could reside in the FixedUpdate, although I ran into many bugs with it not detecting my player touching the ground quick enough which messed with my ability to jump again.

The bool grounded is equal to a specific condition. Physics.CheckSphere is the ability to create a sphere from a particular position and gather information with what it touches.

Physics.CheckSphere (where to check from, how far to check, what layermask);

So as long as the CheckSphere that originates from the Transform of the empty GameObject that I placed in the hierarchy touches objects that are under the layers I decide in Unity's inspector, the player will be considered grounded.

These functions are here in case I want to send a message from one script to this one to declare the player as controllable or not.


I hope that this helped at least a few people.  If you are new to programming or to Unity, it maybe wise to read over it again to make sure it sticks.

Source File Here

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ghost in the Machine (Indie Game)

Disclaimer: These reviews are the opinions of the author and do not reflect the opinions or values of Take This Studios LLC.
Ghost in the Machine is a retro game for the modern era. A 2D platformer that is heavy on the platforming. Available for PC, Mac, and Linux on itch.io for $5.00.

Your avatar looks as though he is the spawn of ancient 80's program and the Nintendo Gameboy. In the year 20XX the player has become trapped in a factory decades old, and I am pretty sure that the factory manufactures death. As you play though the platform heavy, spike stabbing, weight crushing levels you pick up special wrenches with the mysterious power to reveal why exactly you are trapped in this factory.

Although this could seem like the typical pixel platformer, it surely should not be treated as such. The art for the game, like I typed about the avatar, is a tasteful reflection to much older systems and the game mechanics a reflection of that as well. However, even though the art mimics ancient technology, it feels completely modern as if it were targeted to a much younger audience just like it is for the OG's (Original Gamers). Also, the controls may be simplistic, the level design is flawless and shows that the designers paid much attention to detail.
The engine was also built from the ground up so that the creators could make sure that their product was exactly what they envisioned, which is always worthy of recognition.

 Overall Rating:
My rating system works a little differently. I do not go with the "Star System" nor "1 through 10". I rate games based off of the price point and what I think the game is worth compared to it.
Replay Value
$5.00 I would say that the replay value is there for the right price. Collecting the secret items and making it to the end of the level is not something done lightly.
$5.00 The gameplay is well worth the listed value. It plays fluidly and is a great new age, retro experience.
Target Audience
$5.00 They hit it spot on with their audience. It is perfect for retro lovers. The controls are so easy for anyone to pick up and it is challenging enough to keep the hardcore gamer enthralled.
$10.00 A great crisp experience with the art style. The music is what really brings it all together. Completely synthesized using old handheld game sounds. Fantastic!
$6.25 I would say that the creators are giving a very modest price at $5.00. This Is worth the buy!

The only thing extra I wish for this game is that it could come to the Nintendo 3DS. I would love to play this when about and about. To mention one more thing, the creator is planning on releasing a level editor so that players can make their own levels and share them with each other. Can't wait for that feature.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Paper Runner (Indie Game)

Disclaimer: These reviews are the opinions of the author and do not reflect the opinions or values of Take This Studios LLC.
Paper runner is vibrant 2D sidescrolling runner game available for free on the Windows 8.1 Store.  It was created using the Construct 2 Engine, a software targeted largely at game artist more so than hard coding school programmers even though it is expandable with writing code in JavaScript.

The art for this game is whimsical and adorably child like. You play as the imaginary stick figure stick figure that exists in every school-goer's notebook who roams around the treacherous forest fighting monsters and trekking villainous terrain dotted with sharpened pencils and paper punchers. The music for the game generates an atmosphere that presents an environment for creative flow.

I brought up Construct 2 Engine for a reason. That engine, as well as several other similar tools are starting to allow Game artist who may not have the opportunity to develop programming skills to jump in on the game making arena. These packages and tools become invaluable to the Game Dev scene as a whole. The reason being is that  the more artist that become active in game development, the more unique art styles we can really see make an impact. With that being the case, the indie crowd can really begin to have a much stronger voice on the gaming market.

As stated, this game is free for the Windows Store, so if you have a 8.1 PC, go download this game and give it a whirl for sure.

Windows Store Link

Saturday, October 11, 2014

SinaRun 2 (Indie Game)

Disclaimer: These reviews are the opinions of the author and do not reflect the opinions or values of Take This Studios LLC.

SinaRun 2, created by Princesseuh, is…well… a 3D platformer in its purest form. That might sound like it is the embodiment of what Indie game is about, but it also could mean a lack of innovation. While judging this, I ran into a lot of grey area. It is available on Itch for $1.99 USD.

The creator uses this as the opening line to the sales pitch: "
SinaRun 2 is a minimalist 3D platform/racing/runner game."

 SinaRun 2 definitely is a challenging and engaging race to the finishes using very strategic jump timing and anticipation of the velocity at which you move. Many a time I started out dying after the first jump. With no exaggeration, it look me 48 deaths to beat the first level. It is an amazingly addictive game! Every level is worth playing again even if you have beat it. There is no one path to finish and each course provides a "Dev Time" to try to beat.

As a runner/3D Platformer, this game has hit it spot on. However, as far as the description of a minimalist art style, I have to say that said description is being too generous. Minimalism is a legitimate form of art that actually consists of many different elements and it by no means should be called "basic" art. This games art style is basic, not minimalist. It would actually be more accurately stated as having a lack of art.
This is my main problem with the game: Indie games will not betaken seriously on the gaming market until these things happen: (1)Indie Games that charge should show clear and distinct uniqueness from AAA titles that makes them desirable. This uniqueness could be accomplished by creating a (or many) gameplay mechanic(s) that make the experience stand out. (2) Indie games that charge, especially with small teams, have the chance to develop an art style that is unlike any other. Even if the gameplay is a typical experience, the art can make a player perceive it in an entirely new fashion.

SinaRun 2 is not a unique experience per se, and it has no art in it. Not to be harsh, but it seams as if it could be completed in a few days max. All of the objects in the level are basic geometrical volumes, so level creation (not design) would have taken no more than an hour for each level (which there are only five of). The movement uses the basic in-engine physics (looks like Unity) and a basic Character controller script (perhaps Unity's Built-in Controller). Then throw some in-engine fog and then different ambient light colors and the game is finished.

Since I have now torn it down, let me try to build it back up. The creator does promise additional content in the future such as more levels, game modes, and general content. So perhaps this game could get the polishing it needs to make it a title worthy or charge. And to say again, it is very addictive and engaging.
Overall Rating:
My rating system works a little differently. I do not go with the "Star System" nor "1 through 10". I rate games based off of the price point and what I think the game is worth compared to it.

Replay Value
$0.50 It is replay-able in many ways, however, there are only 5 levels to chose from.
$0.50 The game play is pretty fluid for what you are playing, however you can not control your avatar with a joystick which is actually more important that you would think, since you move and accelerate your movements at such a fast pace. And there are no unique features about the gameplay. (There is a multiplayer option for the game, however, I could not use it, whether it is lack of community or the feature is broken)
Target Audience
$0.50 The target demographic for this title is unsure. In my opinion, the game is too casual for what most people would spend their time with on their PC. If this were for mobile then the audience would make much more sense and would be much more enjoyable.
$0.00 Like I said before, there is no art.
$0.38 Is the pricing I would suggest.

The game is fun, and has the potential to be great even. Make a few textures or find an artist to collaborate with for a small fee or small percentage and that would bump up the value right there. Add about 15 more levels and bring it to mobile devices and the game would totally be worth the $1.99, actually even more than that. Best of luck!

Purchase Page

Friday, October 10, 2014

Velocibox (Indie Game)

Disclaimer: These reviews are the opinions of the author and do not reflect the opinions or values of Take This Studios LLC.
"Velocibox is a twitch-heavy action game crafted for the hardcore audience." That is what there Itch page uses as it opening line of description, and it sure is accurate. Although it falls under a common play style in the arcade genre, it feels completely unique and new to the gaming scene.

What is it?
You play a Mr. Cube, or whatever you choose to name your avatar, an you are constantly falling or running down an enormously long hallway avoiding the obstacles on the walls, ceiling, etc. While doing so you collect little item that are placed in the midst of the obstacles. These little guys are the root to the high score system. Like I said, it falls under a very common play style, however, keep reading to see why it is also a very unique game that is worth you playing time.

Unlike other high score game, this is not tailored to the casual player. After the tutorial level, it becomes very difficult to keep up with the pace of the game. Mr. cube moves about extremely fast down this hallway and it becomes very hard to anticipate your next move. Another distinguishing element is the lack of ability to acquire muscle memory for each level. Every time you die, which is close to around a thousand times, the level regenerates it obstacles and point pick up thingies in completely random places and patterns. This game will definitely keep your mind scattered and will make you hate your fingers for not having the god like ability to react before your brain does.

I am a sucker for minimalist art styles and this game does an amazing job a providing a visually appealing game. Now just because I say minimalist, that does not mean I am saying basic. Everything is very crisp, vibrant, and full on HD which is nicely complemented with awesome, trippy, modern looking screen FXs.

This game goes for 5.00 on Itch.io. Even though I find this game to be quite enjoyable, I am uncertain I could recommend this game to everyone with the price point it is at. It is not a game for everyone and that, I am sure, is a driving factor for the price point. With a game of this genre to be so challenging, you have a small market of Indie Gamers. However, I would suggest to everyone to download the free demo to make sure you like it, and that you will not bash your face into your keyboard from furry.


Overall Rating:
My rating system works a little differently. I do not go with the "Star System" or "1 through 10". I rate games based off of the price point and what I think the game is worth compared to it.

Replay Value
 $5.00 Being a High score game, you never truly beat it until you have satisfied yourself or are on top of the leaderboard
$3.00 It is "too" challenging of gameplay for some to experience the entire game. Improvements would be to add some difficulty setting to try to help newer players.
Target Audience
$5.00 Being a game with a very select audience, and advertising it as such really helps redeem the difficulty problem.
$5.00 The style is very consistent and through out and you can definitely see that a lot of creative work when into making the visual aspects of the game great.
4.6 is a pricing I would suggest. The full price is $5.00. So, not too shabby at all!

The fact the creators offer a free demo really shows their confidence in their product. I would love to see this game ported over to the three Mobile Platforms. If I could see this on my phone, I would buy it in a heart beat.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Surviving the Surprise 3DS Artillery from Best Buy.
Well, If you weren't prepared for the BOGO (buy one get one) promotion at Best Buy then you must have been away from the internet for the week leading up to it. Most likely you are screwed.
However, I will try to piece together a guide for both Noob and Veteran 3DS owners to be able to finish up their catalog. This is the BOGO Wasteland Survival Guide!

Chapter 1: Finding Food at the Super Duper Mart
Finding 3DS Games at Best Buy!
There is a basic rule to getting your way as a retail employee. You are never wrong. Complain intelligently enough and loud enough and you will win. This may be your tactic at a Wal-Mart or Target, but let's save it for later. Best Buy for the most part is better to deal with than these stores. Besides, if you waited until after 2a.m. Sunday morning to order your games, it's your own fault. Nintendo fanboys are a rabid beast.
BestBuy.com updates every minute. Be persistent and check in any spare time you have. Pro Tip 1: Already have the 2 (or 4 or 6 or 8) games you want in your cart awaiting checkout so when their stock is updated it is a quick and easy process. Also don't trust the internet....
except me, you can trust me. The Big Blue website often lies about stock a store has so don't get your hopes up, call them. Also, even if the store does have it available for purchase, the website may tell you it's unavailable as to allow the crazy people who go outside to shop a fighting chance of stumbling on the deal.
Now, on from the dotcom. In store they of course may have offered to order you products or get a transfer before. This doesn't apply here. It won't be possible for them to order it the normal way. You must request something else. Much like the hidden menu of Starbucks, this other way of ordering isn't commonly known to customers. A few Best Buy stores have posted it on their websites which is the only reason why I am going to share. It is called Express Lane.
Not AN express lane, but The Express Lane. It's a 3rd option for ordering and much like the Alaskan Pipelines it is a valuable resource that, if harnessed properly, can help everyone greatly. Protip 2: You can even call the store and have them expresslane the games for you if you don't mind giving out debit card info over the phone.

Chapter 2: Contract Radiation Sickness
Price Matching the Best Buy Ad with Target!
There are 2 types of Targets (No, not regular and super) There is the Target who are glad they are not Wal-Mart and appreciate all who think so as well. There's also the Target who thinks the name should be pronounced with a French twist and that built in Starbucks makes them a superior and high class alternative to their competition (the same hated competition who doesn't lose customer data)
If you go to Target #1 then congratulations! They probably won't grill you about the stock of the item at Best Buy and why you didn't go there instead and finally finish up their verbal annoyances with some b.s. about not needing to price match a BOGO deal. I just described Target #2 if you didn't catch that. You probably already know which Target you have. Feel free to avoid them if you know you have a Target where the last T is silent.

Chapter 3: Traversing a Mine Field
Wal-Mart Thinks Ad is Spelled "P-R-I-C-E"!
I you are reading this on your phone. First off, I'm sorry. I'm a poor writer and Gifs are the makeup I use to doll up this horrible blog. Second, you WIN! Because here is a link to Wal-Marts COPORATE Ad Match Policy: http://corporate.walmart.com/ad-match-guarantee which states that they specifically match BOGOs! Anyone who misses out on the BOGO can just bug their local Wal-Mart. Do not take NO for an Answer! Pro Tip3: I gave you the intelligence needed, now you bring the loudness! Customer is Always Right! Without YOU they wouldn't be here!
 Thank you to the vault dweller who gathered the information. That was for the Veterans who got lazy or were unaware because their internet broke. Now for the Noobs. This BOGO sale may have pushed you into buying a 3DS for the first time (or again for those of you broke, lost or *gulp* traded one in during a time of financial troubles)  New purchasers can read the rest if they would like. If you already know what games you want....

Book 2 The Sequel: Deciding What to Purchase
So you haven't owned a 3DS before? You're purchasing a gift? You've been out of the game for a while and are trying to get back in? We are here to help. We are the internet. Don't fear us, just because we are many. Look around the internet. Do you see what I see? Friendliness?
Opinions. Lots of them. About everything. On Twitter. Reddit. Facebook. Best Buy's Own Website. Nintendo's website. Here. If you are purchasing a 3DS and need a guiding light, it's easy to find one, and a million more just like it until you're going in circles.
Let's look at it slowly. First. Buy the Mario & Luigi special edition 3DS XL at Best Buy which is on sale. It's $169.99 and comes with a fantastic first party title which sells for $39.99 and has atleast 40 hours of content. That's just a good deal. Don't skip on it, even if you don't like the silver color. You can always just buy a case.
Second. Utilize the BOGO now to build a library at great price. Pro Tip 4: IF a Best Buy location has the games in stock and they DO NOT have to be ordered then you can use price matching as well as the BOGO deal. Price Match Amazon for most games and save almost $10 on some titles. It does work, as long as the games are bought physically in the store. I have a few formulas if you are willing to get 4 games. These will help with gift giving or just making up your mind depending on play style.

Well Rounded: Mario Golf World Tour (Amazon match 27.13) + Disney Magical World (Amazon match 26.15) + Bravely Default (Amazon Match 33.63) + Zelda LBW (Amazon match 33.88) =
Nintendo Lover: Zelda LBW (Amazon match 33.88) + Kirby Triple Deluxe (Amazon Match 29.80) + Yoshi's New Island (Amazon Match 34.06) + Pokémon X or Y (Amazon Match 33.58 or 31.83) =
Share With A Friend: 2 copies of Tomodachi Life (Amazon Match 33.19 each) + Mario Party Island Tour (Amazon Match 29.45) + Kirby Triple Deluxe (Amazon Match 29.80) = $66.38
(Pro Tip 5: this grouping is intended for both parties to experience the crazy that is Tomodachi, while the other two games have AWESOME multiplayer modes which feature download play. Download play means there only needs to be ONE copy of the game for all 4 players to play. That's Right, one person has the game and their 3 friends who don't have it can still play.)
Time Suckers: Tomodachi Life (Amazon Match 33.19) + Bravely Default (Amazon match 33.63) + Pokémon X or Y (Amazon match 33.58 or 31.83) + Zelda LBW (Amazon match 33.88) = $67.51
Now these are all suggested groupings of games to give you a total of 4 (or 5 if you bought a 3DSXL Mario/Luigi bundle) Feel free to ignore the suggestions. I did. These are just for the lost people. My list would be Tomodachi Life, Kirby, Yoshi, and Bravely Default.
That's all I can really offer for anyone who needs help buying their new system. If you read this whole mess, congratulations. You win the knowledge of one person's opinion. and only his opinion. Good Luck this week. May the force be with you, always
and as always.....
......p.s. Take This Studios is about to start Twitching, Reviewing, and Debating. First will come the reviews. If you know of a game you would like to see and read about then let us know! Indie Games, Obscure games, AAA games. We would rather it be on Nintendo platforms or PC but any suggestions are welcome! We are a company built of fans and built from the internet. We need your help to succeed in anything, thank you.