Saturday, December 27, 2008

Warbears Adventures: An A.R. X-Mas

There's apparently a whole line of Warbears games, but this is the first that I've tried. Maybe I'm missing out on a whole bunch of backstory; I don't know, but fortunately it's not particularly relevant to this game. Anyway, Warbears Adventures is a pretty standard point-and-click adventure: you interact with various objects in your environment by clicking on them to solve puzzles.

Overall, Warbears Adventures is a pretty good story. There's probably more dialogue than in your typical point-and-click adventure, but the writing is pretty good (if not flawless) and generally pretty entertaining. The puzzles themselves are not very complex -- most of them are quite simple indeed -- so you shouldn't have too much difficulty getting through the game; there's also more thinking involved than looking around trying to find usable objects, which is usually the bane of this type of game, so that's a nice feature.

Graphically, Warbears Adventures has a very clean look; the art is definitely high-quality. The sounds work nicely, and the music isn't too bad -- it's good background music for this type of game. It's not a particularly long game, though (which means that the music doesn't have as much time to get really annoying); you can definitely get through the game pretty quickly, as none of the puzzles is too difficult. There's no save feature, so you'll want to play the game in one sitting, which fortunately is quite feasible.

Anyway, Warbears Adventures is a pretty average game for its genre: it's fun, and you should enjoy solving the puzzles, but it's not a huge challenge, nor will it take up a lot of your time. I had a fun time playing it, but it's really just the kind of thing that you only want to play once.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Super Stacker

Super Stacker is a very cute, but very simple, puzzle game with a clever design, but not quite enough challenge to make it a really interesting game. In Super Stacker, you're given a bunch of shapes, and a few shapes fixed on the screen. Your objective is to stack all of the given shapes (in the order that they're given to you) on the currently-existing shapes so that they make a stable stack. (Or at least mostly stable -- your stack needs to survive 10 seconds after the last block is stacked, so even if your stack isn't necessarily perfect, sometimes it only needs to be good enough.)

The game shows you the shapes to be stacked at the top of the screen, along with their relative sizes, so you can plan ahead, which is quite important. At the beginning of the game, you only have squares, but rectangles, triangles, and even circles will need to be incorporated into your stack as you pass through the 12 levels. There's no save feature, but all of the levels are pretty quick -- it shouldn't take you more than a couple of tries for any of them, except for the last level, which is a little annoying and not quite in the spirit of the rest of the game; it seems to require luck more than careful planning and positioning as in the rest of the levels.

Graphically, the game has a charming look (it also feels very Japanese; I don't know if that's accurate). Blocks which are resting stably will have content expressions on their faces, while blocks which are in danger of sliding off will look alarmed or horrified. There's not much in the way of sound effects, and the background music, while also rather charming, does get annoying eventually.

Overall, Super Stacker is a short game -- it will probably take you no more than 15 minutes, and it won't be a terribly difficult 15 minutes, either. While it's a cute concept, and not a badly-executed game, there's simply not quite enough puzzle in the game for it to really be engaging. It's fine if you just want to get a quick badge, but it's not a game you'll come back to again and again.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Synapsis is a pretty standard point-and-click adventure puzzle. You're thrown into -- well, it's not clear where it is exactly; a set of connected rooms -- and your job is to escape by solving a bunch of puzzles. As is standard for the genre, various interactable objects are scattered around the landscape, and you can click on them to do various, hopefully useful, things.

The puzzles are, to be honest, not the strong point of this game. There's too much time spent hunting for objects (some of which are really small and inconspicuous) and not enough time thinking about how to use those objects -- indeed, most of the time, when you acquire an object, its purpose is immediately apparent; there's only a few exceptions. As a result, the game ended up being a little disappointing on the intellectual front.

Graphically, though, the game is very impressive -- the graphics are excellent, and the rooms, though each quite distinct, fit together well to create an overall unusual, disorienting atmosphere. The sound effects are also a cut above what you'd see in your typical Flash game; they definitely add to the general environment. There's also some background music which remains very much in the background, so while it contributes a little bit to the overall atmosphere, it's not something you'll really notice strongly. (Well, with the exception of the jaunty music for the ending sequence, which is really quite baffling. Then again, the game description implies that this is the first in a series, so perhaps we'll learn more later.)

Overall, Synapsis is not an easy game (at least if you don't avail yourself of the walkthrough, as we didn't), and the lack of a save feature is slightly annoying, since you may be best off playing it in more than one session (though once you've figured something out, it's pretty quick to get back to that point), so it was definitely a feeling of accomplishment to finish it. Still, while this is one of the finest-crafted Flash games I've seen on Kongregate, I can't help but feel that a little sharper attention paid to the puzzles would have made this a much better game.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Achievement Unlocked

Somewhat like You Have To Burn The Rope (review here), Achievement Unlocked is less of a game itself and more of a commentary on gaming. Designed by the prolific jmtb02, in Achievement Unlocked, you're presented with a simple playfield; your character is an elephant recycled from Elephant Rave, and he's on a pretty average platformer-looking layout with moving platforms and spikes and so forth. However, there's no goal in the game -- well, no goal in the traditional sense. There are, though, 100 achievements for doing actions from the very simple to the somewhat more complicated.

Anyway, the game is self-consciously silly -- you start racking up achievements from the moment the game is loaded, many without you even having to do anything. The graphics and sounds are pretty simple, while the music is relentlessly cheerful; it gives the game a bit of a circus atmosphere. This is one of the few games where not telling you what the achievements are is defensible -- most of them are pretty easy to figure out from the title, but there are a few tricky ones. Since one of the achievements is to look at the included walkthrough, though, I didn't feel too bad about using it to get the couple I couldn't figure out on my own.

Overall, Achievement Unlocked is good for a silly bit of fun. In some sense, the game is successful, if its goal is to point out how silly achievements in games can be. On the other hand, the achievements in this game are more interesting, varied, and well-thought-out than those in many other games, so it is actually a bit of fun. Perhaps the one departure from realism is that none of the achievements is particularly long or tedious -- you can get all of them without working too hard in less than ten minutes. This perhaps makes the game less realistic, but it also means it can keep being fun. So perhaps in that aspect it's not successful. Still, you'll have fun playing it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Super Crazy Guitar Maniac Deluxe 3

When I first tried Super Crazy Guitar Maniac Deluxe 3, I was rapidly convinced that it was even more impossible than SCGMD2 (review here). However, once I finished SCGMD2, it was only a matter of time before I would feel compelled to finish the sequel as well, and so I put in a little more effort and finally emerged with another impossible badge. It's not substantially different from SCGMD2, but it's good fun. Anyway, if you're too lazy to read the SCGMD2 review, SCGMD3 is a pretty standard rhythm game: arrows and numbers come from the right side of the screen in time with the music, and you press them when they reach the target zone on the left. Your right hand handles the arrows, which you tap, while the left hand deals with the numbers, which are held for a given length of time.

In the comments section of both games, there is a perpetually running flamefest on whether SCGMD2 or 3 is harder and/or better. Like most Internet arguments, this is terribly stupid; the two games are, like I said, not terribly different; each is hard in its own way. To quickly run down the differences, the SCGMD3 interface is slightly different -- there's now four rows, so each arrow has its own row. This is nice. There are now four hold keys (which are 1-4 instead of ASD by default, although you can also use ASDF if you prefer), which doesn't really make a substantial difference. However, the four hold keys now appear on the rows, like the arrows, rather than between, like in SCGMD2. This means that the arrows sometimes lie on top of the hold bar, which makes it a little harder to read. This is kind of annoying. The interface now shows you how many correct and wrong notes you've hit so far, which is useful when you're going for a perfect. The biggest difference, though, is in the songs. SCGMD3 has a total of 14 songs, and there's no division between amateur and pro any more. The songs themselves are longer -- they're mostly in the 2-4 minute range, which inherently makes them harder. Some of the songs have up to 700 keypresses, which means that even if you have a 99.9% chance of getting any one key right, you still have less than a 50% chance of finishing the song perfectly. So simply from the length, the SCGMD3 songs are more difficult, especially since a lot of the songs have their hardest parts towards the end, which can be really annoying when you screw up after three minutes of perfect play. However, the keying seems to be a little bit easier -- the harder songs, especially, derive their difficulty more from having tricky rhythms than simply throwing a bunch of keys at you. As a result, while the songs can be difficult at first, you can get a lot better with practice faster than in SCGMD2 in general.

As for the quality of the songs, there are more real songs and fewer instrumentals than in SCGMD2. The songs are generally decent, if not great, although the vocals on the songs with vocals are uniformly pretty bad. (Which is not to say that all of the songs with vocals are bad -- indeed, some of them have quite interesting guitar parts -- it's just that the singing is quite mediocre.) The graphics are still very similar -- the crazy stickman is back, although now he floats horizontally when you reach the highest score multiplier; he's also now somewhat better animated, in that you can see him pluck the strings. The game also gives you some aural feedback when you hit a wrong note (which often had the effect of disconcerting me into missing the next few notes too). And, of course, the lag problems are about the same -- I thought that SCGMD3 was maybe a little better on this score, but I was really having trouble with one song (despite having chat muted), and then I switched to another mostly-empty room and immediately got perfect on that song and several others, so it seems that it can still be a big influence on whether you get perfect on a song.

Overall, SCGMD3 is, like SCGMD2, a pretty fun game. If I had to take a side on whether it was harder than its predecessor, I would have to conclude it's slightly easier, but that may just be a reflection of my skillset; I can pick up tricky rhythms more easily than quick key sequences. It is still by no means an easy game; the long songs, especially, you'll have to play through more than a couple of times when you're trying to perfect them. While none of the songs is an instant classic, none of them is terrible, either, and they're generally well chosen and the keying is interesting. If you like rhythm games, it's worth trying it out.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kingdom of the Wind

Kingdom of the Wind is another game by Rudy Sudarto, the designer behind Epic War (review here), and apparently he decided it was a successful enough formula that he didn't need to change it very much, because Kingdom of the Wind is a very similar game. Frankly, I disagree with this -- by the end of the game, the formula here will feel very stale indeed, and it could really use a change of pace to make the game more interesting.

Anyway, so you have a floating castle you need to defend from a relentless enemy. You have mana, which you use to buy units. Your mana regenerates gradually over time, and killing enemy units also gives you more mana. In addition to units, you can spend money on upgrading your units' abilities, or on increasing your mana pool and regeneration rate. Unlike your typical game of this genre, there's no enemy side to destroy; rather, you just have to survive each level for a given amount of time. Usually, though, you reach a point of equilibrium at which you can easily survive indefinitely before you reach the end of the level, so there's often some twiddling of thumbs while you wait for the timer to finish. At the end of a level, you get XP for enemies defeated and units created which you can then use to buy various upgrades and unlock new units; unlike the similar upgrades you can buy in battle, these are permanent.

Like many games of this genre, one of the more annoying features is that you often spend a lot of time simply waiting for your mana to accumulate. (Unlike Epic War, there aren't even any arrows for you to shoot.) The behavior of the units is also not entirely understandable -- while I am glad to see a game of this type where the units don't simply advance in a line (the battlefield is pleasingly two-dimensional), sometimes your units will hang back towards your castle and sometimes your units will venture far forward to attack, and often what they do is the opposite of what you want them to do, and it's hard to tell why exactly they're doing one thing and not the other. (In the later levels, I found myself relying more heavily on turrets simply because I could count on them not to wander off.) One particularly unforgiveable design flaw is that buying the increased initial mana upgrade is actually harmful -- it means you'll have to pay more for every increase in the mana pool (and hence mana regeneration), which is really, really annoying.

The game is pretty tricky in the initial levels -- I died more than a couple of times in the first few levels -- but once you get the hang of the strategy, and have purchased some of the basic upgrades, the game becomes noticeably easier, so the last few levels are not particularly interesting. Fortunately, there's only eight levels in all, so the game doesn't take too long, but there's even still a lot of dead time toward the end of the game. The graphics are OK -- each unit is pretty nice-looking, but they're pretty small, and there's not anything in the way of attack animations; they just shoot colored balls at each other. The music is, much like Epic War, kind of stirring in a fantasy movie kind of way, but does get repetitive. The sound effects are pretty poor; they're just generic zapping noises and don't add very much to the game.

Overall, Kingdom of the Wind really needs something new to be an interesting game. It's not too long, so if you're just in it for the points (or challenge), it's not too bad, as long as you don't buy the increased initial mana upgrade, but the design is simply not interesting enough to make it an engaging game.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Super Crazy Guitar Maniac Deluxe 2

Those of you who know me know that I have a pretty strong compulsion to finish games, and the Kongregate badges only aggravate that compulsion. However, there are times when even I can resist this compulsion -- when I look at the game and decide that the ratio of effort to fun is simply too high for me to want to finish it. (Obvious examples, for instance, include Ring Pass Not and Papa's Pizzeria.) When I first tried Super Crazy Guitar Maniac Deluxe 2, I figured that it would fall into this category. It's not that I don't enjoy games of this type, but I'm just not very good at them, so I didn't think I would be able to finish it in any reasonable amount of time. So I made a fair amount of progress and put it aside without any intentions to finish. Well, a few months later, I decided to try it out again, picked up some more perfects, and, well, then I just had to finish it. So now I'm in possession of another impossible badge. Yay?

Anyway, SCGMD2 is a pretty typical rhythm game -- if you've played DDR, Guitar Hero, or something of that ilk, you'll find it pretty familiar. Notes come from the right side of the screen, and you have to press them when they reach the line at the left. The notes come in two forms: arrows, which are tapped (presumably by your right hand), and letters, which are held for a given duration (presumably by your left hand). There's no close in SCGMD2; either you get the note, or you don't. (The target area has a nonzero width, so there is some tolerance.) Getting many notes in a row increases your score multiplier, while missing a note decreases it. (Playing a wrong note doesn't decrease your multiplier, but does cost you points.) The interface is divided into two rows; up and right arrows appear on the top row, and down and left arrows appear on the bottom row, while the three different hold letters appear on the lines above, below, and between the rows. This allows for all of the keystrokes to be in a relatively compact space.

There's a total of eight amateur and ten pro songs, although some songs have both an amateur and a pro version, so there's actually only 14 different songs. Nearly all of the songs are instrumental -- in fact, there's only two songs with vocals (and, to be honest, the quality of the vocals ranges from mediocre to pretty awful, so I don't really mind their absence in the rest). They don't have the quality of songs you'd see in a Rock Band, being amateur music but most of them are pretty decent, although there are a couple of clunkers. There's kind of a large number of Nintendo remixes; while I like the music, of course, I can't help but feel that this is a little bit overdone -- overall, I found myself preferring the original tracks. The keying is generally pretty solid -- most of the time it feels well-matched to the music, although there are definitely times when it seems like the flow of the keys doesn't quite match the flow of the music. The songs range from about a minute to about two minutes, which is a good choice of lengths -- after all, there's nothing more frustrating than getting nearly all the way through a song and then screwing it up right near the end, and the short song lengths mean that no song is too tedious.

The graphics are pretty basic -- the interface is just arrows and letters, although you have a wide selection of guitars, which produce various effects when you hit a note. There's also a stickman playing at the bottom of the screen who gets more and more animated as you get better (when you're at the highest multiplier level, he's playing the guitar on fire), which is a cute little addition, if distracting. There's also an announcer who announces things like "You rock!" at opportune times, which I guess adds a bit to the game.

Now, for the one big problem, which I'm not sure whether to blame on the game or the Kongregate chat system. You see, when someone says something in the chat, it often causes the game (whatever it may be) to lag for a split second. For the vast majority of games, this doesn't matter, or is a minor inconvenience. In SCGMD2, it is death -- the lag is pretty much always enough to cause you to miss a keystroke (and if it's bad enough, it can even cause the arrows to bunch up downstream, which can confuse the heck out of you). You pretty much either have to mute the chat or play at some time like 3 am when no one is actually in chat. Even if you have the chat muted, the chat pane will occasionally update the list of people in the room and cause you to lag. It's really, really frustrating. It's my guess that there's plenty of blame to go around -- the Kongregate chat system doesn't always seem like the soundest, and I suspect it could probably be optimized, but I've played plenty of twitch-heavy games on Kongregate and this definitely seems to suffer the worst, so I wonder if there's not bad programming on both ends.

Overall, SCGMD2 is not an easy game. There are apparently people who find this kind of game a piece of cake, but I'm not one of them. (I do notice, however, that my performance varies substantially with the time of day -- there are definitely times when I'm better than others.) In order to get all the perfects, I had to put in a fair amount of practice; certainly less practice than I would have to if I were playing on a real guitar, which is slightly more complicated than four arrow keys and three letters, but definitely a nontrivial amount of time. Although, I suppose, if your goal is just to get the other badges, that can definitely be done in a more reasonable amount of time. Anyway, whether you like it really depends on how you feel about the genre. If you enjoy this kind of game, you'll find SCGMD2 a fine example of the genre; if you can't stand rhythm games, SCGMD2 isn't really the type of game that'll convert you. Still, I'd have to say I had fun despite the lag occasionally driving me crazy.

(A tip: If you're trying to get all perfects, you'll probably find Run 'n' Gun really, really annoying. For those sequences of left-right-left-right-etc., I kept trying to play them as eight notes and failing. I found that it's much easier to treat it as four pairs: in each pair, hit left-right in succession as quickly as you can, and aim to place the left on each beat. This allowed me to get through those segments much, much more reliably. Actually, the tolerance on the notes is such that you can actually hit left and right at the same time and still have them register, which is a lot easier on your hand, but it requires much more precision timing, so I would recommend the first method.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Casual Gameplay Escape

This review is going to be rather tricky to write, because Casual Gameplay Escape is one of those puzzle games where much of the puzzle is in figuring out what the actual puzzle is, so I'll try to write this without giving too much away.

In Casual Gameplay Escape, it's just you, a room, and eight puzzles. You're tossed into the room with extremely little in the way of introduction or explanation. Solving all eight puzzles will allow you to escape the room and win the game. Each of the eight puzzles is straightforward enough once you figure out the rules and objective, but since these are not given to you, figuring them out requires some clever logic and experimentation. (Indeed, a couple of the puzzles I'm still not quite precisely sure of the rules, but we figured them out well enough to make our way to the solution.)

Anyway, the quality of the puzzles is obviously the main yardstick for whether this is a good game or not, and the puzzles here are generally solid. Each of them requires a completely different way of thinking, and none of them is either too easy or too difficult. (Though the solution to one puzzle was perhaps slightly unfairly tricky.) The interface is pretty simple -- you don't need to do much maneuvering between the puzzles, though it's still a little more complex than just "select a puzzle and do it".

Graphically, the game is of high quality; both the drawings and the animation are solid. In the background is not quite music, rather just a loop of atmospheric sounds which lend a vaguely creepy air to the proceedings; it's effective atmosphere, at least. The sounds get a little repetitive, especially that one clunk that you get when you're clicking something (you'll see what I mean soon enough).

Overall, I'd say Casual Gameplay Escape is an excellent game. It kind of makes me sad that walkthroughs for this type of game are so easily available, because really the challenge is in figuring out everything yourself (which we did). It'll make you think, but in a good way. Give it a try.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Factory Balls 2

Factory Balls 2 is, as you might be able to guess, a sequel to Factory Balls (review here). It's basically the same game, with a few welcome improvements, so I probably won't have too much to say.

As in the original, the basic task is to perform a series of transformations on a ball to get it to look like a given target. This most often consists of painting the ball, often after applying some kind of mask so that only part of the ball is painted, but there's still a fair number of operations available, some of them old (like that thing that I still haven't quite figured out what it is) and some new (you can now make Chia pet-like balls in some of the levels). None of the puzzles is particularly difficult, but a few may stump you for several minutes.

The game now has a total of 30 levels, and automatically saves your progress so you don't have to play it all in one sitting. Another welcome addition is the elimination of the lives system from the original -- now, if you run low on balls, balls that you toss into the recycle bin are actually recycled, so you don't need to worry about failing two-thirds of the way through. This was one of the more annoying features of the original, so I'm glad to see it gone. The graphics, sound, and music are all the same as in the original -- serviceable, if not great. (Although I notice this time around it's much more annoying in my headphones. I guess they accentuate the bass.) One small interface complaint, though, is that there are several operations that you'll often need to use several times in a row, and having to drag the ball to that circle five or six times in a row is a little tedious. If you could just click on the circle instead, it would be vastly simpler.

Anyway, there are some good puzzles in Factory Balls 2, and it's eliminated the things that annoyed me most about the original, so give it a try. You'll definitely appreciate the cleverness in some of the puzzles, and you'll definitely have to think at least a little bit, but it won't leave you frustrated.

Monday, December 15, 2008


So, way back in the third week of my writing these reviews, I mentioned that I was skipping Areas because I hadn't yet finished it. Little did I know that it would be more than six months before I finally did finish it. This is, as you can guess, not quite an endorsement of the game. It's a neat idea, but it drags on interminably, and the last several levels are annoyingly difficult, and not in a good way. So I played a bunch of levels, liked it, then got stuck and lost interest, and it was a while before I finally came back.

Part of the charm of Areas is figuring out how the game works, so this review is unfortunately going to be mildly spoilery; I'll try to keep it to a minimum. In fact, the game doesn't have any words at all -- the (minimal) help is entirely visual. Anyway, Areas is a shooter without clicking: your ship fires shots in the direction of the pointer when the pointer is close to the ship, and moves to the pointer when the pointer is far away. You fight in a circular arena, and your enemies are white circles which gradually grow. Shooting the enemy circles will cause them to shrink, and if you're persistent enough, eventually you'll destroy them. If you're crushed between the enemy circles, then you die; the goal for a level is simply to survive for a given amount of time. When an enemy circle is destroyed, it usually leaves behind a circular area (I don't know whether these or the enemy circles themselves are the areas that the title refers to). These have generally beneficial effects; most of them, when you stand inside them, will power up your shot in some way (triple shot, bigger shot, explosive shot, etc.), while some of them you shoot into to trigger some ability (repelling enemy circles, activating a laser, etc.). Needless to say, clever use of these powerups is pretty much critical to beating all but the simplest levels.

Now, the first problem with Areas is that there's 74 levels. That's simply way too long. The game could easily be 30 levels without losing anything except quite a bit of frustration and annoyance. Because the game has such a large number of levels, and because it likes to introduce a new powerup every couple of levels, the powerups, after a while, begin to suffer the same problem as Mega Man enemies: either they become completely ridiculous, or else they're just a slight variation on something that you've already seen before. There's only so much you can do. But what's really aggravating about the later levels is how random they are. The first problem you see right off the bat -- because the later levels get so large, you pretty much have to pick a direction to go in and hope you stumble across an enemy circle. If you happen to pick the wrong direction, then it's easy for an unseen circle to grow so large by the time you discover it that you're already doomed. Even if you happen to pick the right direction, there's often enough randomness in what powerups you can get on a given level (and enough variance in their quality) that if you happen to get a sucky powerup, you're also pretty much screwed. As a result, a fair number of the levels, including the last several, are far more about luck than skill, which is really no fun at all.

The graphics are pretty basic, as you might expect from the given theme, although the game does do a good job of distinguishing the different powerup areas. There's no sound, just kind of creepy background music, which is kind of endearing for a little while but eventually begins to decrease your sanity. The game generally runs smoothly, but often when a lot of the more complicated powerups are on the screen it can lag pretty badly.

Overall, if Areas were 30 levels, I'd be writing about how it's a nice variation on the standard shooter formula and manages to be a very interesting game despite its simplicity. At its current length, though, all those warm feelings generated by the beginning of the game evaporate into annoyance and frustration by the end of the game -- it just adds too much randomness to the basic formula. I suppose, then, I would recommend that you play this, but please, don't try to play the whole way through! It's an odd recommendation, but I think the best one in this case.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Majesty of Colors

The Majesty of Colors is almost more art project than game. As a game, it's very simple, but it's beautifully done and will engage you with its interesting, if brief, story in a way that most Flash games don't.

In the game, you play a sea monster-like creature experiencing an awakening and its first encounter with humans. The controls are very simple -- just click on something to interact with or move it. The game is nonlinear; depending on whether you are friendly or hostile towards the humans at your various opportunities, you can end up in one of five different endings. The game, however, is very short -- you have only a few decisions to make over the course of the game, and can easily play through once in just a few minutes. Finding all of the endings might be a bit trickier, but it's not particularly difficult.

The graphics are in the retro-pixelated style that seems to be in vogue at the moment. To be honest, I don't think this adds particularly much to the game in this case; it just seems to be kind of a fad. The sounds are simple, but they add a kind of nice atmosphere; there's no background music, though. The writing is good, perhaps even a little unnecessarily florid (I think this is the first time I've seen the word "squamous" not describing a cell), but it complements the story well.

Overall, The Majesty of Colors is too short and simple to be a great game viewed as simply a game, but as a short story it's kind of a fun read. It's a nice, quiet, contemplative alternative to your typical frenzied Flash game.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Sproing is a game from the older days of Kongregate. It's got a cute little concept, but it's not very well polished, and probably today it wouldn't even get a badge. Actually, I'm going to take a minute to talk about this. When I first started playing on Kongregate, it seemed like it was in the middle of a transition. Games still got badges whenever the Kongregate staff got around to adding them, so while there were still the weekly challenges, badges could be added at any time, and the weekly challenges would as often go to a game that already had badges as one that was just getting badges. Furthermore, pretty much any game which was decent and had a functioning API would get badges eventually. Now, however, it seems like new badges are almost always awarded in conjunction with a challenge. So even though the challenges are biweekly now, a game has to be more than just decent to get badges -- there are plenty of good, interesting games which just don't quite manage to beat out the games selected for challenges and never get badges or have to wait a very long time for badges. I'm not sure I like this new system -- obviously, I'm glad for Kongregate's generally higher quality, but it also seems like a lot of interesting but not so well-crafted ideas can get lost in the shuffle, efforts like Buried Treasure Week notwithstanding.

(Of course, in the time between when I started this post and when I finished, Kongregate added badges not associated with a challenge to three more games. They'd done this once since the beginning of November, with Meat Boy, and all of a sudden they do this at precisely the wrong time for my rant. Bah.)

Anyway, so, Sproing. In Sproing, you control a small ball with a larger ball attached to it by a spring, which you can swing around, much like Elastic (review here). The playfield contains green balls, which you are trying to destroy, and non-green balls, which will hurt you on contact. To destroy the green balls, swing your ball into them. It has to be at a relatively high velocity; otherwise, the green ball will bounce off in a different direction. The game contains 30 levels; most of the levels just contain different formations of green balls and enemy balls, but every sixth level is a boss. The bosses shoot at you, and you have to hit them multiple times to destroy them; because you still have to whack them, it's extremely difficult to defeat the bosses without taking some damage in the process. Various helpful items also occasionally drift onto the playfield. You only have one life, but you do get health-replenishment items from time to time.

The graphics are very simple -- just colored circles, basically. The sound effects are OK; the music is, not to put too fine a point on it, awful -- it's terrible and repetitive. The level design is pretty solid; each level has its own little quirks. One peculiar thing is that in order to get the hard badge, you don't have to actually beat the game, just reach level 30. I thought this was a bug when I first got the badge, and so I went ahead and beat the game (which was actually much harder than just reaching level 30, since it's quite difficult), and then I read the badge text more carefully and discovered that, in fact, it was not a bug. Still, I was kind of glad to have beaten the game.

Anyway, Sproing is the kind of game that probably wouldn't get recognized by Kongregate today. It is very simple in its presentation, and it's not a particularly complicated or sophisticated game. Still, it isn't a bad way to spend a few minutes; while I wouldn't call it a great game, it's a solid gameplay idea. While I wouldn't say that everyone should be forced to play the game, it would be nice if there were a way to give games like this a little bit more attention.

Friday, December 12, 2008


At first glance, SeppuKuties looks a lot like have cute creatures trying to get from point A to point B, and sometimes, some of them may perish; indeed, sometimes some of them need to perish for the greater good. Sounds pretty similar, right? But, in fact, SeppuKuties is pretty much an entirely different game. It's another game by Antony Lavelle (creator of the SHIFT series, as well as Shore Siege -- oh, and I recently discovered that he's also behind the IndestructoTank series, which I was completely unaware of before), and has many of the hallmarks of his games -- it's a clever concept, it's entertaining without being too long, and the level design is solid.

So the basic premise is that you are a band of ragtag but adorable creatures forced by deforestation and other nasty things to traverse a series of hazardous levels in order to reach Paradise Meadows. In each level, your goal is to reach the Golden Acorn. The action is pretty standard platforming fare -- jump across pits of spikes and lava, collect keys to open doors, that kind of thing -- but the twist is that your characters occasionally have no choice but to meet their demise. When one of your band perishes, you start with another animal, who can pick up where your last one left off. Sometimes you'll have to sacrifice yourself to get important items (e.g., bravely leaping into lava to get a key), while sometimes your corpse can serve as a useful stepping-stone for your comrades. However, your band only starts out with 30 animals, and it only gets smaller as you progress through the levels, so you can't be too reckless in throwing your creatures' lives away.

Anyway, that's about all there is. There's five worlds, each with four levels, and one final level. In each level, you're graded by how many deaths you suffer (compared to a par), and how many acorns scattered around the level you can collect. If your goal is to just beat the game, then this is pretty easy, but getting a high grade on all the levels or beating the game with only a few deaths are more difficult tasks that can keep you occupied for a while.

Overall, the level design is very sharp; there's lots of clever puzzles, and the levels do a good job of being relatively easy if you're willing to sacrifice a lot of cute, cuddly, adorable creatures, but much harder if you're trying to save as many animals as possible. The physics is pretty good, although occasionally it does seem to be a little loose; this doesn't really harm the gameplay (and indeed may help), so it's forgivable. The graphics are pretty good -- they're nicely decorated for a basic 2D platformer, and the animals are cute (maybe a little too cute, even...). The sound effects are pretty basic, but the music is very nice, and gets bonus points for there being a different theme for each of the five worlds, so you don't get completely sick of it. Yay!

Anyway, SeppuKuties is, overall, quite a bit of fun to play. It's a clever concept, and a well-implemented one. Like SHIFT, it does a good job of making you wish there were a few more levels you could play (unlike the scores of Kongregate games that make me wish there were fewer levels I had to play), and while it's not too difficult by itself, it offers enough added challenge to make you feel it's not a complete pushover. It's not a long game, but you should enjoy playing it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Nodes is a pretty uninspired puzzle game. Well, it's actually not a bad idea, but the implementation is pretty poor. With better level design and some less annoying features, it could be a decent game, but as it is, it's not so great. And, just for the record, I played the game (and developed these opinions) before noticing that it's by the same developer as Draw-Play 2 (review here), which might explain it. It's nowhere near as unpleasant as Draw-Play 2, fortunately, but it does have some of the same problems.

Anyway, the premise of the game is very simple. You have some red nodes, and lasers connecting the nodes. There are also some circles on the board (which the game also calls "nodes" sometime, confusingly enough, so I'll just call them "circles"). Your object is to position the nodes so that the lasers light up all of the circles. Some levels feature nodes which can't be moved, but generally you can move everything freely.

The fundamental problem with Nodes is that the puzzles just aren't very interesting. There's nothing which requires a lot of cleverness, or particularly careful thinking, or indeed is very difficult at all -- if one of the puzzles takes you longer than a minute, you're probably doing something horribly wrong. The game doesn't have a save feature, annoyingly, so you'll have to complete all 20 levels in one go, but fortunately this still won't take you very long. There's also a normal and a hard mode; the only difference that I can see in the hard mode is that you have a time limit of 60 seconds for each level, which, as I mentioned earlier, shouldn't be a problem. Fortunately, you only have to do normal mode to get the badge.

The graphics are OK, but nothing special. The music is really quite irritating; it's maybe a 20-second loop at most, and it's a very annoying 20 seconds. The sound effects also kind of grate. Overall, with better design Nodes could be a decent game, but as it is, it's just not particularly much fun to play.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mud and Blood 2

Mud and Blood 2 is one of the more polarizing games on Kongregate that I've seen. When it first came out, it was wildly popular despite not having badges, and when it finally did get badges, it got another wave of popularity that seemed to last much longer than your typical new-challenge-game popularity. (Admittedly, this impression may be enhanced by the game that it lends itself very well to talking in chat while you're playing it, since there's plenty of waiting time.) Despite all of that, though, it's still not very highly rated on Kongregate, and it's not hard to see why: while it's initially a very interesting and entertaining game, eventually the flaws in the game become clear.

Anyway, MaB2 is, in many ways, a pretty typical action strategy game. Your object is to prevent the Germans from making it from the top of the screen to the bottom of the screen; as time goes on, you get Tactical Points, which you can spend acquiring new units, building fortifications or other structures, ordering various forms of support, or upgrading your existing units. Your object is to hold out as long as possible against increasingly difficult waves; once a certain number of Germans have broken through your position, you have been overrun and are defeated. You can move units from one place to another just by clicking, but your units are often not always willing to follow your orders immediately; they're often pinned down or already engaging a target and won't want to move.

The first thing you notice about MaB2 is that there are a lot of options. There's 15 different unit types and a whole bunch more upgrades, structures, and support you have available, and every single one of them has a button on the main screen. This is really quite overwhelming to the newbie -- it would make a lot more sense to organize the options a bit better. For instance, the upgrade buttons probably would be better attached to a unit, rather than with the rest of the buttons, and some way to dim or hide buttons which represent options not currently available to you would also be a good idea. However, to the game's credit, it does a generally good job balancing units -- while some units are obviously not quite as good as others, there are apparently many viable strategies; some people swear by spec ops, others by snipers, and so forth, so it's good that there are many different ways to do well. (There are also, as you might expect, many different ways to get yourself completely killed.) However, even after you've played the game for a while (I played long enough to get the badges, which was pretty long, but there are many people who have tried to get all of the ribbons in the game, which requires a lot of effort), you may find that there are just certain options that you end up never using.

Despite the range of tactical options (or perhaps because of the range; it does make it a lot easier to end up with a poor strategy, after all), MaB2 is a very challenging game. (Actually, the more I think about it, the more likely I think it is that the range of options makes the game more difficult. The game doesn't always do a good job elucidating the strengths and weaknesses of your various choices, so you don't always know whether your Tactical Points have been well-spent until you actually send the unit in, and if it turns out that they weren't, you're often in deep trouble.) Even when you have what you think is a pretty good defense set up, oftentimes you just can't get enough firepower to kill all the Germans before some of them sneak through your lines. And it's not infrequent that they'll simply overrun you before you can get a good defense set up. This is not helped by the fact that there seems to be a large amount of randomness in the waves -- while generally they're pretty predictable, you also get "boss waves" from time to time which can be quite unpredictable, and quite devastating if they come at the wrong time. There's also a lot of waiting in the game -- since you accumulate Tactical Points relatively slowly, you'll often find yourself waiting to get that one last TP so you can get the one unit you desperately need (often, only to find that it's a little too late).

The graphics are pretty good, though relatively small. There's a wide range of sounds in the game, although they don't quite all fit together perfectly and sometimes they can get a bit repetitive. Still, they don't do a bad job. There's not continuous background music, but there are occasional musical cues at the beginning of levels and when boss waves arrive. The game is also subject to change -- for instance, when I first tried the game, there was no way to tell how many waves you had survived, but a wave counter was added a few days after the badges were added. This is good, but apparently also new units are occasionally added, which kind of bugs me; I believe that games should be (relatively) static once they've been released. Bug fixes or balance fixes are fine, of course, but major changes like this don't seem quite right.

Overall, while there's a lot of interesting things about MaB2, eventually the negatives begin to win out. You end up waiting too long to get TPs, which means that you just don't have too much to do; no matter how well set up your defense is, a lucky enemy shot can do a lot of damage; and sometimes, your guys just won't shoot at the enemies enough to prevent them from successfully crossing your lines. It's an entertaining game to play for a while, but ultimately it ends up being a little too frustrating to enjoy completely.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Rage 3

Rage 3 is a pretty straightforward stick figure beat-'em-up, which is apparently a pretty popular genre on Kongregate. Fortunately, it's significantly better than the last game of that type that I played, Thing-Thing 2 (review here), but it's still not the world's most exciting formula.

So, you're a stick figure, and you're angry at other stick figures, for some unspecified reason. You go around and beat them up with either a variety of melee weapons (mostly variations on a sword) or a variety of guns (which I ended up almost never using, because I didn't need to). As you beat people up, your rage meter fills; once it reaches 100, you can unleash various rage attacks. That's pretty much it. Defeated enemies drop brightly-colored spheres which can recover your health or increase your XP; as you level up, your rage power gains more abilities.

In Adventure mode, you progress through four different levels, featuring the obligatory keys, locked gates, more weapons to collect, and so forth; at the end of the level, you fight a relatively simple boss. The locks and keys tend to slow down the pace of the game -- the first time through, there's plenty of enemies to beat up, but when you're crossing the level a second time in search of a key (or after having obtained the key), there's not much to do, which makes the level kind of boring. It would be much more interesting if there weren't these dead spots. The game is thoughtful enough to tell you what a key does when you pick it up, so at least you know where to go. However, a truly terrible design element is the presence of gates that you have to be a certain level to pass -- this requires you to do some mindless grinding in order to beat the game, which is not what I'm looking for in a fast-paced beat-'em-up! There's also Arcade mode, which is just a never-ending succession of enemies, which is a good place to level up if you need to but not really exciting beyond that. Oddly, the game doesn't autosave; you have to go back to the main menu and choose to save yourself in order to save your progress, which I'm sure can be quite annoying if you forget (fortunately, I didn't).

The animation is not bad; it's smooth, and there's a fair amount of variation, but pretty simplistic -- for instance, when you're fighting an enemy at close quarters, there's no change in the moves that you use. The graphics are, well, stick figures, though the various maces, swords, and other weapons are lovingly rendered. The sounds are pretty much your standard assortment of hitting noises. The music is not terribly exciting, but it's a good background which adds a bit to the game without being horribly repetitive.

The game is extremely easy -- at least, if you're playing on the easy difficulty level, which is apparently the default, as I discovered halfway through. By then, I didn't really want to bother trying at a higher difficulty, so I finished the game without any major difficulty. I'm not a big fan of games not asking you for the difficulty, so I was a little annoyed by this decision. Overall, Rage 3 isn't a bad game if you're just looking for some mindless bashing/stabbing/shooting action, but don't expect very much more than that. It's good for a few minutes of silly fun, but isn't the kind of game you'll want to play again and again.

Monday, December 08, 2008


Dreams is a simple spot-the-differences game, which managed to catch my eye when it appeared in the Hot New Games area on the Kongregate front page as something interesting but simple to do, so I gave it a try despite it not having any badges, and indeed it delivered. As you might expect, it's not terribly different from the other difference games I've mentioned, 5 Differences and 6 Differences (reviewed here and here), but it's still fun to play.

In each level, you have to find six differences, although there are occasionally (perhaps always, I didn't notice) more than those six to be found. Like 5 Differences, the differences are not always the same each time you play, so the game does hold some replay value. Each panel is hand-drawn, and the art is quite lovely. The differences are generally somewhat more conspicuous than in the other games mentioned, so you won't find it to be a terribly challenging game; there aren't any of those horribly frustrating moments where you get stuck on the last difference and just can't find it. The game keeps score, and deducts points for an incorrect click, so wildly clicking is not recommended (and, fortunately, not necessary). One nice interface touch is that, when your pointer is in one panel, there's a circle over the corresponding point on the other panel, to make it easier to tell if there really is a difference or not. I believe there are ten levels in all, although I may have miscounted. The sound effects are not bad, although simple, and the background music is very pleasant and soothing.

Overall, don't expect too much from Dreams; it's not particularly complicated or long. But it is very nicely done, and should be a fun little diversion for a few minutes.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


Sorry about the shouting, it won't happen again. Anyway, Save Puggolon is the last Shootorial game (hooray!), and this one is the special Greg's Pick. As you might have noticed from Buried Treasure Week, Greg's tastes often run to the eclectic, and Save Puggolon is no exception. As far as the gameplay goes, it's not too much different from the Shootorial (with a few additions), but there's a lot of art happening which makes this a distinctive game.

Anyway, you're fighting to save Puggolon (as was hopefully obvious from the title), which is apparently some kind of pug-filled planet or something. The plot isn't really that well fleshed out. There is an ending, which I appreciate in a game like this, but to be honest I didn't really find it worth the bother to play all the way to the ending, so I can't really comment on it. The gameplay, as I mentioned, is pretty much the basic Shootorial gameplay -- enemies come from the right, you shoot them, there are powerups, they shoot you, you have a finite amount of health, bosses and subbosses come by from time to time. The pace is definitely better set than the basic Shootorial, though. Unlike the basic Shootorial, the game is divided into levels, and sometimes at the end of a level you have a choice of two levels to proceed to for your next.

The art is pretty crazy, as you'll see when you play it, but definitely high quality. The sound effects are pretty poor -- only a small blip when you destroy an enemy, but the music is quite impressive; the game designer apparently created it (as well as the art) himself, which is no mean feat. It's pleasantly hypnotic, although it does get a little repetitive after a while. In a pleasant surprise, everything in the game is correctly spelled and uses correct grammar. The interface makes a baffling decision in the difficulty select screen, though -- even though the "easy" and "hero" areas look like buttons, you actually have to fly your ship there, which is quite counterintuitive. Big arrows saying "fly here for easy difficulty!" would be much more useful. (I didn't really try the hero difficulty, so I didn't get a chance to experience the achievements the game offers.)

Anyway, while the basic gameplay is perhaps somewhat more interesting than the straight-up Shootorial, it's still not really interesting enough to carry the game on its own. The style, though, is pretty impressive. Combining the designer's artistic abilities with a somewhat less played-out gameplay idea could result in some really good games, however.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Gravity Master

Today brings us to the next Shootorial contest winner, Gravity Master. Well, actually, Gravity Master wasn't really a winner -- it was disqualified for not being based on the Shootorial (and rightly so; it has pretty much nothing in common), but awarded a special Honorable Mention anyway for being quite a neat game. And indeed, there is an interesting concept there. It needs a little more fleshing out to be a really good game, but this is precisely the kind of game that I hope to see more of in Flash -- a really clever idea, simply and cleanly implemented.

The basic premise of Gravity Master (which more accurately should be called Gravity User, but that sounds considerably less cool) is very simple. You have a ball, and one or more tokens to collect. How do you get the ball to the tokens? Well, you use the mouse to draw shapes which you drop on the ball to nudge it in the correct direction. Naturally, as the game progresses, you have to do more complicated things with your shapes -- you can use them as ramps, bridges, or even drop them onto the other side of a see-saw to launch your ball.

Sounds like a neat idea, right? Well, I'll be honest -- I only completed six out of the 24 levels, because it does get a little frustrating at times. (I know, normally I try to complete the whole game before writing a review. These Shootorial contest games don't have real badges, though, only dinky little 5-point challenges, so the incentive to play the game for much longer isn't really there. And given that none of the Shootorial games is particularly great, that's not much of a loss. This is definitely the best of the bunch, though.) Dropping a shape on the ball is easy enough, but precisely placing shapes to use as ramps is often quite difficult, and getting the ball over even the smallest of bumps can often be an annoyingly tricky task.

The graphics are extremely basic, and there aren't any sound effects, though the background music is pleasantly soothing. Although simple, the interface does offer you everything you would want to do -- destroying shapes and restarting the level (both things you want to do often) are quite easily accomplished. (Though I didn't notice the return to menu button in the corner my first time through -- that could definitely use an improvement to its conspicuousness.) It does seem a little odd that blocks that fall off the bottom of the screen have "fallen into hell", though.

Overall, Gravity Master is a cute little game with a clever idea. It's still not quite ready for prime time, but it definitely has the most promise among games I've seen in this Shootorial contest. A little work on the puzzles (or perhaps the engine) to remove the more annoying parts of the game would make this an excellent puzzle challenge.

Friday, December 05, 2008

First, an announcement: I've added tags to the posts. Each post is tagged with Kongregate, the game name, and then a general tag with the category. Most of the tags should be pretty obvious (e.g. "turn-based strategy"), though a few perhaps require further explanation. I use "survival shooter" to refer to the particular subset of shooters where you have to defend yourself and/or a target from unending waves of enemies, and often have breaks between waves to buy upgrades and various more powerful weapons. I also had a tough time coming up with a good term for games which I could call real-time strategy if that term weren't already used for a much more specific genre -- in the end, I settled on "action strategy", which is not an ideal term, but it was the best I could do. My definition of "puzzle" is also much more restrictive than Kongregate's -- any game which requires a high degree of dexterity (e.g., colorfill) doesn't count as a puzzle game in my classification. I also ended up with "action" as an extremely broad catchall category (including most shooters not classified in the "survival shooter" category) -- maybe I should subdivide it further at some point.

Anyway, on to today's game:

G-Virus: Episode I

G-Virus is the third-place entry in the Shootorial contest, and by this point, I'm getting very glad there are only five winners overall, since I'm getting pretty bored with these games. G-Virus is basically exactly the same game as the Shootorial except with nicer graphics and a few minor gameplay changes, but certainly nothing to make it interesting enough for me to want to play it for any length of time.

So, the biologically problematic premise of G-Virus is that you're a virus fighting your way through a body. But you're a good virus (hence the G, apparently), destroying other viruses and rescuing cells. You shoot at the other viruses, which shoot at you; from time to time there's a really big enemy virus. There's an extremely unintuitive health bar at the top, and you can recover health by picking up red blood cells from destroyed enemy viruses (like I said, biologically problematic). The game doesn't have levels per se, but there is a progress bar indicating your progress through the level, and when it fills your firepower is increased.

Anyway, the game is pretty difficult, so I only got through a level and a half or so (not helped by the enemies that can shoot you from offscreen), but I really didn't see any need to keep playing, because there just wasn't much interesting about the gameplay. The graphics are colorful and cartoony (why do all of the viruses and cells have eyes, exactly?), the sound effects are pretty basic, and the background music is not very good -- it's not even really music so much as background sound effects. The English is also terrible -- clearly this is yet another game written by a non-native English speaker who didn't think it would be a good idea to have a native English speaker at least look at the game before releasing it. This is kind of frustrating.

Overall, G-Virus is simply not an interesting game. I suppose it does a good job on incrementally improving on the Shootorial, but the Shootorial isn't an interesting game (nor is it really designed to be; it's just a way to teach you to use Flash). I was kind of disappointed by the results, but maybe in retrospect I shouldn't have been, since after all the contest was for beginning programmers, and if you're supposed to model your game on a very elementary shooter, you're going to end up with a bunch of elementary shooters.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Today brings us to the second-place winner in the Shootorial contest, Elastic. As you can probably guess, Elastic is also a shooter, but unlike River Raid, it introduces a couple of new ideas to the basic shooter formula. The game is not very polished, but I think in this case I'd rather take a somewhat buggy but novel idea. (OK, I know there are bunches of people in the comments pointing out that this idea has been done before. But this is the first that I, and I suspect most of the people who've played the game, have seen of it.)

In Elastic, your vehicle is, well, a little glowing ball. It doesn't actually do anything by itself, though (except get killed and pick up the occasional extra life) -- you also have a large hammer, which swings around your vehicle as you move. (This is kind of tricky to describe, but you'll see what I mean if you give it a try.) You also have two special abilities, one which fires a laser in the current direction from your vehicle to the hammer, and one which holds the hammer in its current position (which is very useful in conjunction with the first ability). There are two types of enemies, one of which can be smashed by the hammer but not lasered, and one which can be lasered but not smashed by the hammer, so you'll have to be constantly changing tactics, which gets kind of annoying. In a given level, you can only let a certain number of enemies go by before you lose, so you do have to engage most targets. I found myself not swinging the hammer very much, but generally just setting it in front of the enemies, locking it there, and then letting the enemies run into it while I lasered the other enemies.

As I said, the game has a few bug issues. The introductory text at the beginning promises that you can play five levels and get a reward (which I assumed was some kind of boss fight), but I reached level 7 without anything particularly interesting happening. There was also one point where the background merrily scrolled itself off the screen, leaving just gray behind (c'mon, that was like one of the first things they covered in the Shootorial!). Still, there aren't any showstoppers that I noticed, and the game's interface, while pretty basic, seems to function fine.

The graphics are pretty basic -- your ship looks kind of pretty, but the bacgkround is quite bland and the explosions are downright ugly. The sounds are nothing special. The background music is kind of peacefully soothing, and is a very nice addition to the game -- it blends nicely enough into the background that you don't mind its being continuously repeated, which is nice.

Overall, Elastic deserves credit for its basic gameplay concept, but it doesn't really add very much to that concept -- once you've gotten through the tutorial, it's just the same thing again and again, except with more enemies. As a result, it doesn't really hold its value very well; I got pretty bored with it after a few levels and didn't really see the need to play very much more. Still, I can easily imagine this idea being turned into a more interesting game. It at least has potential.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

River Raid

So a while ago, Kongregate had a very clever idea: have a series of tutorials to teach people how to program Flash. The tutorial featured a very simple shooter (called the "Shootorial"), and the tutorials stepped you through the basics of creating it -- first the simple things, how to make a ship and move it around, and then how to make that ship shoot, and then how to make those shots collide with enemies, and then a few additional features, like power-ups and bosses. Anyway, you get the idea, and like I said, it's very clever, because the more Flash programmers out there, the better for Kongregate.

Accompanying the tutorials was a contest -- you had to make your own game based on the Shootorial (which means, apparently, that it had to be some kind of shooter) and there were various cash prizes for the winners. Which brings us to today's game, River Raid, which captured first place in this contest. To give people an incentive to try out the contest winners, Kongregate created some points challenges (no badges, though), so, being the type of person that responds to incentives like these, I decided to give it a try.

As you might be able to guess from the preceding, River Raid is a pretty basic shooter. It is apparently a remake of an old Atari 2600 game by the same name, and it feels very much like an Atari 2600 game -- very low-resolution graphics, and pretty simple and unvaried gameplay. You control some kind of attack aircraft flying along a river filled with enemy ships, helicopters, and balloons; even though you're flying, leaving the river will cause you to crash. Naturally, your goal is to shoot as many enemies as possible. However, there are also fuel stations along the river, which you don't want to shoot, since your fuel is continually dwindling and you need these to refuel, so, unlike your typical shooter, holding down the shoot button is not recommended.

So, that's pretty much all there is. The game does offer a variety of different play modes and missions, as well as a variety of achievements (not that it'll tell you what they are), but since unlocking the different modes required completing five levels on the normal mode, which is nontrivial, I didn't bother. Oh, one other strange thing worth mentioning -- your shots can be steered even after you fire them; moving left or right also moves your shots, which is kind of unusual. Anyway, as mentioned, the graphics are pretty low-res, and the sounds are also pretty low-quality. The only thing which isn't Atari 2600-like is the background music, which isn't bad to begin with, but which is on way too short of a loop, so you'll get tired of it pretty quickly. The game is also riddled with typos and awkward constructions -- a native English proofreader would really have been a good idea.

Overall, River Raid just doesn't have interesting enough gameplay to be a really good game. For someone just starting out with Flash, it's not a bad effort, but it's just a simple shooter of the sort that has been around since the dawn of videogames, and so there's really no good reason to play this other than curiosity.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wooden Path

Wooden Path is a well-crafted version of a puzzle you've likely seen before -- a sliding blocks puzzle. There are a few enhancements to the basic formula, but they don't change the gameplay all that much.

The basic concept of Wooden Path is very simple. You have a set of varyingly-sized rectangular blocks. Some of them are wooden bridges, while others are different-colored stone. You have a limited area (set in a river, in this game) in which to move them, and the object is to slide the blocks around so that the wooden bridges make a continuous path from one bank of the river to the other. If you've ever played Rush Hour, for instance, this will seem pretty familiar. Some of the puzzles can get quite difficult, especially when the space is so limited that your possibilities are very tightly constrained. And, as is the hallmark for puzzles of this type, often you'll do a lot of work just to get one block into the right place, and then when it is, the rest of the puzzle kind of falls together.

There are a few additions that you wouldn't see in a physical puzzle, though. Some levels feature switches; they come in sets of two (or occasionally three) of the same color. To activate the switch, you must connect all of them with stones of the same color, which causes some barriers in the level to disappear. Some levels feature gold stones; connecting all of the gold stones to each other will cause them all to disappear. Finally, there are also teleporters. The teleporters can do interesting things -- for instance, they can change the orientation of a block -- but since they usually connect two otherwise-disconnected areas, most of the time they just serve to increase the effective area available in the puzzle. The gold stones and the switches are kind of neat, but they're also a little bit superfluous -- usually, once you trigger the switch or eliminate the gold stones, you've opened up enough space that the rest of the puzzle is pretty easy, so there's still really only one difficult objective.

The graphics are pretty -- while they're just stones, they're nicely textured and the background is nice. The game wisely eschews insanity-inducing background music in favor of some nice woodland sound effects, so you'll hear pleasant bird chirps and so forth. This adds a nice relaxing feeling to the game. The stones move softly, but audibly, so they have a nice heft. One puzzling interface decision is that the stones don't move as you drag them -- rather, you click and drag a stone, but the stone doesn't move until you actually let go of the mouse button. This is rather counterintuitive; while you get used to it eventually, I don't understand why they can't just move the stones normally.

Anyway, Wooden Path is a pleasing game to play, but it is awfully long -- the game features 22 "beginner's levels", which are, as you might expect, easier, but can still be pretty involved, and then 30 "adventurer's levels", which can often get very lengthy indeed. Probably the game could benefit from cutting a few of the levels so it's not quite so tedious to get them all. Still, Wooden Path is quite enjoyable in small doses. If you try to do 20 levels in one sitting, you'll certainly go mad, but a level here and a level there is the perfect way to do this game.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Shore Siege!

Shore Siege is a simple game by Antony Lavelle, the designer behind the SHIFT series of games. While entirely unlike SHIFT, Shore Siege does share several of SHIFT's traits -- it's simple, easy to learn, doesn't take too long, and has enough cleverness to make for an entertaining play.

At first glance, Shore Siege seems to be your typical (side-view) survival shooter game -- your pirate ship is beached on the shore and under attack from a bizarre variety of critters, and you have to kill them to save your ship. However, the mechanics of the gameplay are not your simple "click mouse to shoot zombie" (or whatever else, but let's be honest, it's nearly always zombies) that you see in your ordinary survival shooter game. Rather, you have a truly silly assortment of weaponry, but each weapon in your arsenal is only effective against one or two types of enemy, and each weapon is used differently (some you click and drag onto the enemy, some you just click, some you have to hold over the enemy, etc.) At the end of the day, you can buy the usual array of upgrades to your weapons, and buy repairs for your ship; if you get it repaired enough, you can sail away from the island and win the game.

Anyway, the game is neither overly complicated, overly difficult, or overly long. The balance is not quite right; you'll discover that one of the upgrade strategies is clearly the most powerful, so once you find that out you should be able to win pretty easily and quickly. The graphics are pretty cute; the music is also nice, though (as is pretty much always the case) pretty repetitive. The sound effects are pretty basic, but they get the job done. One complaint is that one of the weapons (the magnet) was not at all intuitive to use; I didn't actually figure it out at all the first time I beat the game, but only when writing this review.

Overall, Shore Siege is a nice little diversion. Like the SHIFT series, it doesn't overstay its welcome; it doesn't bore you with 50 levels of nearly the same thing, but rather gets you through the game in a reasonable amount of time while remaining fun all the way through. It's not a game you feel the need to go back and play again and again, but I definitely enjoyed playing through it.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Zilch is a fun little dice game. Like any dice game, there is naturally a large element of luck, but like Yahtzee, it adds enough skill to make you feel like it's not just a mindless exercise. To its credit, though, it is completely unlike Yahtzee (although, perhaps not surprisingly, it is apparently based on a real dice game), giving it a nice, original feel.

The rules for Zilch are pretty straightforward. You roll six dice, and then score some or all of the resulting dice. You can score any number of ones or fives at a time, or three or more of any die; there are also a couple of special combinations (like a 1-6 run or three pairs). After scoring, you can elect to bank or roll again. If you bank, your turn ends, and all the points you have scored that turn are added to your score. (You can only bank, however, if you've already scored at least 300 points.) If you choose to roll again, you can try to score more points. However, you don't reroll dice that you've already used to score. (That is, if on your first roll, you score a single one, you then only roll five dice on your next roll, which obviously decreases your scoring opportunities. If you manage to score with all six dice, then you can reroll all of them.) If you happen to take a reroll and fail to score anything, you zilch! Zilching causes you to lose all of the points that you've accumulated that turn, and, should you be unfortunate to zilch three times in a row, you'll lose 500 points. So, there's a natural balance between wanting to push your luck to eke a few more points out of of your turn and quitting while you're ahead, which makes for a sound tactical foundation for the game. Once one player reaches 10000 points, the other player has one turn to try to beat that, and then a winner is declared.

That's pretty much all there is to the game. The game offers three different AIs (you can also play a hotseat 2-player game) -- Reckless is very aggressive (as you might guess from the name), and so will occasionally pull out huge scores but more often take completely avoidable zilches; Cautious is (again, as you might guess) more conservative, while Realist tries to take the most "human-like" approach. Realist is pretty tough to beat, but even it makes baffling decisions sometimes. The game is well-suited to being a laptop game, since it doesn't demand constant attention, a single round doesn't take very much time, and it can be played entirely with the keyboard. (I should take this moment to mention one poor interface decision, though. When you roll the dice, the scoring options are displayed, and you might think those are your choices. However, in some cases only the highest-scoring option is displayed. For instance, if you roll two ones, only the two ones scoring option will be displayed -- it doesn't appear you can just score a single one, which you might want to do to leave more dice free for your next roll. You can, however, score just the single one by clicking on the die, rather than the scoring option. This parenthetical remark will probably make no sense if you haven't actually played the game, but if you try it you'll see what I'm talking about.)

The graphics are pretty straightforward, but are charmingly carried out, giving the game a pleasing look. There's no music, and the sound effects are basic but well-chosen, making the game pleasant to play. With its default settings, the game does kind of proceed rather slowly, but you can speed it up by reducing some of the dead time.

OK, two rants now. First, a supportive rant. There's an amazing number of comments complaining that the game is rigged (i.e., the CPU somehow magically gets better rolls). These comments could practically serve for a case study in confirmation bias. It's pretty obvious to me that the rolls are fair, but, for instance, when you play Reckless, he occasionally will get phenomenal scores thanks to his aggressiveness. People will look at this and somehow think that the game is rigged, when in fact they're just not noticing all of the zilches that Reckless' recklessness get him, too. There are, of course, times when you will get blown out of the water due to the computer having good luck (I played one game when the computer rolled six ones, an 8000-point roll), but these are balanced out by the times when you get loads of points while the computer struggles. Anyway, my point is, people saying the game is rigged are clearly not paying attention.

Now, an annoyed rant. Zilch features 120 achievements, which is a truly staggering number, and I was terrified that Kongregate would make it an impossible badge to get all of them, which would have been unbelievably tedious. Thankfully, they chose the more sensible route of requiring 100 achivements, and making it only a hard badge. This is because the achievements are simply not well designed. Some of them just require mind-boggling time investments (completing a very large number of games, or scoring a total of a large number of points), or incredible luck (scoring a nearly impossible number of points in a single turn), which is not fun to anyone. Worse, though, is that a lot of the achievements overlap significantly. For instance, there's an achievement for playing a game that lasts 30 turns. There's also one for winning a game that lasts 30 turns. What's the point of the former when you have the latter? I could cite bunches more of examples, but if you play the game you'll see what I mean (you'll also see that, annoyingly, the game doesn't tell you how to get the achievements, which I've ranted about before). This means that the overall achievement count is kind of padded, because of all of the redundancies. Contrast Zilch's achivements with, say, Amorphous+, and you'll see what I mean. Amorphous+ has a lot more oddball, one-off achievements for silly things, so that there's a lot more variety in getting them all. And even though there is some redundancy, the redundant achievements aren't useless -- getting achievements can unlock rewards, which you may find necessary to get the harder achievements anyway. In Zilch, on the other hand, the achievements don't serve any purpose. Overall, I feel that the game probably would be served with fewer achievements, but more judiciously chosen ones.

Anyway, Zilch is a fun game. If you're playing it for the badges, you're probably going to have to play it a little more than ideal -- it's best played in small doses, since the gameplay doesn't change very much, playing ten games in a row can be kind of boring. Still, it's a good design and a good execution, and a fun game to play here and there.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Feudalism II

Feudalism II is -- let's be honest -- a mess of a game. It's a strategy game with not enough strategy; it's an action game with too much action; it's an RPG that doesn't matter. Overall, the different elements of the game simply do not fit together well; while the game certainly is ambitious, it fails to produce a challenging or entertaining result.

So, the basic concept in Feudalism II is pretty simple. You start as one of twelve heroes (there are six nations, each with a male and a female hero), with control of one tiny town in your starting nation and a small army to your name. You travel across the overland map from place to place (occasionally encountering random battles along the way); in a given town or city, you can buy or sell equipment, get quests, or attempt to capture the town. Once you've captured a location, you can recruit troops there to add to your army; naturally, the bigger and more powerful towns have better and more powerful troops, so you need to gradually work your way up the ladder. Once you've conquered one nation, though, conquering the other five is pretty much a cakewalk, since you can now use the best troops available.

Battles are, as you might expect, the most important part in the game, and it's here that the game's shortcomings become rapidly apparent. There is a wealth of things for you to do in battle -- you have a melee weapon and a ranged weapon, and can switch between the two as necessary; for each weapon, you can activate one or more skills which give you various powerful attacks, and you can also have passive skills which increase the power of your army and aura skills which can affect all the units on the battlefield. It's easy to see how this could lead to a variety of interesting tactical options. However, unless the enemy only has like two units, you'll never get to use any of them. With 15 or 20 units on the battlefield, the action is simply far too chaotic for you to be able to do anything productively -- the only useful action you can do the vast majority of the time is to sit in the back and fire arrows, which is hardly exciting. This means that the RPG elements of the game are not terribly useful -- as you gain experience, your character becomes more powerful and acquires more skills, but most of these skills you'll never use anyway (although some of the aura skills are very useful).

The game balance is also not great. The gold, for instance, is way out of whack -- after your first few battles, you'll have more than enough money to last you through the rest of the game. While conquering your first nation is not easy, as I mentioned, once you're done with that, there's not much left. Each nation has its own set of weapons and techniques it specializes in, so in theory, you could take this into account when creating your army, but again, because the action is so chaotic, it's impossible to tell what's going on, so you might as well just build a simple army and go with that rather than trouble to do anything more complicated.

The graphics are about average; the overland map is pretty boring, although there is a nice amount of effort put into giving each nation a distinct appearance, so there is at least a nice variety. There's no music (which is a shame; the game probably could have benefited from some), and the sound effects are quite generic. Where the game really shows poor production values is in the text -- I am (sadly) accustomed to a certain level of errors in your typical Flash game, but Feudalism is completely riddled with typos, misspelled or wrong words, and very strange-sounding sentences; I suspect it was written by a non-native English speaker, but really, you'd think he could have at least asked a native English speaker or two to look over it before releasing it.

Overall, Feudalism II shows flashes of being an interesting game, but the vast majority of time it is not. Fortunately, it's not terribly difficult; since the outcome of battles seems often determined by luck as much as anything else, a couple of retries is usually all you need to get through the tougher battles. So, if you want the badge, it's not too bad, but it's still not a great experience.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Mytheria is, sigh, another card game.

This is going to sound like I'm picking on Mytheria, and I don't mean to, because at least in some ways it's a good game, but I can't help but feel a little frustrated at the current state of Flash gaming. The advantage of Flash gaming is that it's supposed to be this open playing field where all sorts of independent, crazy ideas can flourish. However, it seems like the lion's share of the most popular games on Kongregate currently are either sequels or one of the most popular categories: tower defense, card games, survival shooters, or dodgers. (To be fair, looking at the most recent challenges, this seems somewhat less true than I make it out to be. I think it's just the current profusion of sequels which is dragging me down a bit.)

OK, so Mytheria is a card game. The natural temptation with any card game is to compare it to Magic, and indeed, Mytheria is very much like a stripped-down version of Magic. There's no lands, but otherwise the procedure is very much the same: you use mana (which comes in five different colors) to play creatures, spells which have an instant effect, spells which enchant a creature, or spells which have an effect on the whole battlefield. Those creatures then attack; attacking creatures can be blocked by other creatures, in which case usually one or the other is killed, while unblocked creatures do damage directly to the player, and the objective is to reduce your enemy to 0 life. Some creatures have various special abilities -- some can assist others in blocking, some are unblockable, some can only be used to block, not attack, and so forth. These will probably sound vaguely familiar. There's even a Tim! And your cards have flavor text which often hints at some bigger plotline which is never really revealed.

Anyhow, what makes Mytheria different from Magic? Well, a few things. Perhaps the most obvious and important difference is that Mytheria has far, far fewer cards (83, if my count is correct), and those cards are pretty straightforward -- there aren't any Chaos Orbs lurking, for instance. This makes the game much more streamlined. Also, as mentioned earlier, there's no lands; rather, at the beginning of the turn, you have the choice of increasing your power (which effectively means playing a land) or drawing a card. This removes some of the frustration of never being able to get the land that you want (or, conversely, too many lands), while adding the tactical decision of whether to draw or increase your pool of mana. This sounds like a pretty clever design. However, in practice, it means that all you do is increase your power until you have enough mana to play everything you have lying around, and after that you draw cards, so it ends up being not quite as tactically complex as it first appears. The next difference, which is quite significant, is that you can only play cards at one specific point: during your turn, before attacking. This eliminates huge swaths of the Magic strategy space: no interrupting your opponent with Counterspells or the like, no strategically-timed Giant Growths or Lightning Bolts during the attack phase ... you get the picture. This makes the game vastly simpler (and, undoubtedly, much easier to program). Finally, instead of creatures having a different attack and defense/HP, all of those numbers are rolled into one "Strength" number, which is both a creature's attack power and its HP. When a creature takes damage, it does not immediately recover like in Magic; rather, its Strength recovers 1 point per turn until it reaches its maximum. The observant Magic player will note that this makes wall-type creatures incredibly powerful: not only can they cheaply absorb a lot of damage, but since they do an equal amount of damage in return, they can destroy even the most powerful attackers.

The basic framework of the game is pretty simple -- you have 12 missions, which you play with a fixed deck against various opponents. After completing the sixth mission, you unlock the challenges. In the challenges, you have to build your own deck to defeat a variety of different tasks (you start out with very little health, the enemy starts out with a lot of health, etc.). The main problem is simply that the game is too easy -- the AI is really not very good, and the missions are pretty fair, so you should have no problem rolling through them (I didn't die once my first time through, although I did manage to get killed a couple of times replaying them). Deck design for the challenges is also not hard -- you just need to pick one of the colors and build a good deck. (You might think that the fact that you can freely pick which color to add when you increase your power would encourage multicolor decks. However, the vast majority of the cards require all colored mana to play; not many call for any colorless mana, and only a few call for more than 1, so in practice, single-color decks tend to be the most effective. This is kind of unfortunate design.) Because of the small number of cards (and the fact that the card balance is not so great), building a powerful deck is not a difficult task, so you also shouldn't find the challenges too difficult.

To give credit where it's due, Mytheria is a lovely game. The art is very nice and the backgrounds are beautiful. The music is minimal but a nice touch, and the sound effects are varied enough that they don't become completely boring instantly. The interface is also very nice-looking, but it's awfully slow; I had to turn the message speed up to maximum to make it tolerable, and while creature combat is still annoyingly slow that way, instants often flash by too quickly to notice, which is kind of aggravating. (Another poor interface feature is that when you play a card requiring colorless mana, a dialog box requiring you to pick the color you want to use pops up, even if you only have one color available. Annoying!)

Anyway, if you play Mytheria, you can enjoy the pretty pictures, and it won't take you very long to finish. So if you're just in it for the badge, it's not too bad. Still, it's kind of a disappointment, simply because with more cards, better card design and balance, and more challenges, this could easily be a really good game, but as it is, it's just kind of blah.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Hanna in a Choppa

Hanna in a Choppa is, shockingly, yet another game that I started before it had badges, although unlike Splitter, which is still badgeless as of this writing, it got badges before I had even finished the game, so my early adoption was rewarded. Hooray! Anyway, Hanna in a Choppa is not a particularly original game -- you fly around doing things in a helicopter -- but it is charmingly and deftly executed, and is overall an entertaining little diversion.

As I mentioned, and as you probably could have guessed from the title, you fly around in a helicopter. Your task is, nominally, to reach the flag at the end of the level; sometimes this is simply a matter of navigation, but often times it requires whimsical tasks like cutting hair, herding sheep, or performing a rescue at sea. By themselves, the levels are pretty easy, but the trickier tasks are completing the level "very fast" or "perfect" (which requires that you don't touch any of the walls or floors), which can be quite challenging (and annoying, in some cases). The game, as you might be able to guess from the above tasks, has a pretty light sense of humor, and is quite bright and cheerful throughout. There are a few references to other games -- a World of Goo reference sneaks in, and there is the (sadly seemingly obligatory) cake borrowed from Portal, too.

The default control set is simply "press an arrow key to make the helicopter go in that direction", which occasionally, when executing more demanding maneuvers, can cause the helicopter to pitch annoyingly (you can also rotate the helicopter yourself, but this isn't always reliable). It wasn't until the end of the game that I discovered that you can also activate more realistic controls (namely, up arrow propels you in the direction that the rotor is facing, and to move in a different direction, you have to rotate). Mouse controls also exist, but I couldn't really get them to work well (which is fine; I prefer keyboard anyway); while I appreciate the diversity of control schemes, more notification of their existence would be nice. The interface is clean -- I especially appreciate the little icons in the lower-left corner which illustrate whether you are still eligible for receiving a perfect or very fast, so you know when it's worthwhile to keep trying or give up. One thing that could be clearer -- it is possible to crash the chopper (er, choppa), but it's not clear if this is only caused by very high-impact collisions, or if several lower-velocity impacts could have the same effect, since there's no damage meter or anything available.

The game also has a very distinctive style. Although the graphics themselves are pretty simple, the game uses a black-and-orange color scheme which lends a very bold air to the proceedings, and the graphic design is definitely quality. The sound effects and music are both on the cute side, occasionally tending towards the twee; as is so often the case, the music is pleasant in the background when things are going smoothly but can often drive you crazy if you're stuck on one particular task. The game is also not quite glitch-free -- if you manage to get through the game without getting yourself or an object stuck in (or pulled through) a wall, then you ended up a lot better than me. Still, the game generally runs smoothly.

While there isn't much to the basic game mechanics, the diversity of tasks that you are given adds a nice variety to the game and prevents it from becoming repetitive and tedious. It definitely doesn't overstay its welcome -- it won't take you long at all to do the 21 levels in the game, and even trying to get all of the perfects and very fasts, while certainly not a trivial task, is not the exercise in frustration that it can so easily be in a Flash game. Overall, it's a game you should enjoy playing.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


If you've read my reviews of SHIFT (here) and SHIFT 2 (here), you know that I would eagerly anticipate the arrival of SHIFT 3. So when I first saw it appear on Armor Games, I was delighted. But I wanted to wait for it to appear on Kongregate, so I could get all of the badges in one place. So I waited. And waited. And waited. I expected I'd have to wait a couple of weeks; instead, it took several months for the game to arrive on Kongregate. Not surprisingly, that kind of wait tends to take the excitement out of a game. It's certainly not the game's fault -- it delivers pretty much exactly what you'd want from a sequel. There are a few interesting improvements to the game, but the core gameplay experience remains unchanged -- mostly it's just more of what you've come to love.

Just to recap for those of you too uninterested to play the first two and too lazy to read my reviews, SHIFT 3 is a pretty straightforward platformer -- your goal is to reach the exit door in a level by jumping on blocks and avoiding spikes. Keys will move barriers around, hopefully to your benefit, and lightbulbs remove checked squares that impede your progress. At the beginning of the game, you are a black figure standing on a white background. However, by pressing Shift, you can shift into the black block you're standing on and become a white figure on a black background. This opens up all sorts of creative puzzle options. There also exist buttons which can rotate the screen 180 degrees (or even 90 degrees) without the need to shift.

Anyway, the biggest change in SHIFT 3 is that the game is no longer completely linear; you don't just do one room after another until you reach the end. Rather, some rooms have multiple exits, and you'll often need to backtrack to a previously-visited room. Keys can also affect barriers in other rooms, meaning that you'll often move to another room, grab a key, and then return to your previous room and take advantage of the change you've just effected. While this definitely adds an interesting new feature, the designer thankfully does not go overboard; the overall layout is not too complicated, and the game thoughtfully provides a map to help you navigate your way through.

As in SHIFT 2, there are two possible endings; to get the better of the two, you need to collect various newspaper clippings strewn throughout the game. These are kind of an effort to give the game a Portal-like hint of a backstory, but there's not really enough to make the plot terribly interesting. These usually require finding various secret doors, but the game isn't too cruel about hiding these -- generally, their presence is pretty well indicated, so you just need to pay attention when looking around to find them. Unfortunately, because what you need to get the good ending is just a series of numbers, it's easy for people to get the good ending without doing any of the work, which I naturally disapprove of.

In addition to the main adventure mode, SHIFT 3 also offers three "player packs", collections of six levels from various sources to give a quick "classic SHIFT" experience. These are quite short, and range in difficulty from quite easy to moderately head-scratching. They're a nice little addition to the main game, but, being only six levels, they're not going to take you too long to get through. The game also has a wide variety of achievements, like SHIFT 2, although it seems to have embraced the annoying trend of not actually telling you how to get the achievements. What is the purpose of this?! All it does is drive people to FAQs. Fortunately, I was able to figure out how to get all of the achievements by myself without too much difficulty, since most of them are pretty sensibly named; still, it's a needless irritation.

The graphics are the same as in the first two; the music has been changed again, although when you play the player packs, you get the original SHIFT music, which I think is still my favorite of the three. The game also includes a level editor, which is a nice addition to the game content. Thankfully, despite being an Armor Games product, the Kongregate version of SHIFT 3 isn't crippled in any way, which is a relief.

Overall, SHIFT 3 is a fun experience. It's not going to offer much you haven't already seen if you've played the first two, but like its two predecessors, it's good, well-designed, entertaining fun which doesn't overstay its welcome.