Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Duel Adventure

OK, confession time. Because I could never afford a Game Boy, I never played the Pokemon games. However, because I was such a big Pokefan (the official name for anyone who watched even the later, less interesting seasons) that I forked out good money for the Pokemon game cards. I was fifteen years old, and no, I didn't so much as see a girl's breast for another seven years.

If you remember, these cards became so popular that they resulted in violence on the playground, as schoolkids were determined to find the rarest, most powerful cards. It was, quite frankly, ridiculous, but the game itself was actually a lot of fun, and paved the way for the multitude of other Anime card games that flooded the market in the years that followed.

Now someone has had the bright idea to take this concept and adapt it for the Internet. Duel Adventure certainly has all of the elements in place - except, of course, for a sense of fun.

The idea is that you are given a hand of five cards, and you must use them in the best way possible to defeat your opponent. The cards themselves look pretty impressive. I mean, check out this blue dragon! Yeah, I know it looks red, but I think you'll find the title clearly says "Blue Dragon."

You like zombies, right? Well, check out this shit! And who doesn't want, um, Armageddon? There's an option to print the cards out, so you can play in real life, with a real friend and everything. My advice is to do that, because playing the online game can be tedious, frustrating and downright pointless.

This is the actual game screen, and unless the idea was a clichéd cod-Medieval get-up straight outta Photoshop, it's not very impressive. Sure, there's the duel, but where's the adventure? Off in a better game, apparently.

It's not that Duel Adventure is unplayable. There are plenty of different card types, from monsters to spells to health potions. It's up to the player to properly balance their supply of mana while also causing damage to their opponent.

One of the big problems is the complete lack of control the player has over what cards they're holding. You don't get to choose the cards or even the type of deck you play with. The result is that this is less card game and more crap shoot, since you're at the mercy of whatever random image generator is dealing out your hand.

Because of the randomness of the hands, you'll lose far more often than you'll win. It really is all about the luck of the draw. While that's fairly appropriate, given the style of game, it gets increasingly frustrating.

When you do win (and hey, the law of averages says you will, at least once) you'll be rewarded with a new card. I learned quite quickly that of all these cards, the monsters are the most useful. You know how, in an RPG, it's always easier to club someone to death with a melée weapon than it is to try shooting them? Well, in Duel Adventure the monster card is your melée weapon.

Forget about Mana, forget about poison spells - in fact, forget about anything except the blunt force trauma of a giant squid in the face. It won't guarantee you any more wins than using your hand strategically, but it's a lot of fun. And in Duel Adventure, a game sorely lacking in excitement, at least you'll get something out of it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ramen Cooking Game

Oh God. Oh, dear God in Heaven.

What happened? I mean, seriously, what's going on? How has it come to this? Are we really so starved for original ideas that someone, somewhere spent good time and energy creating this? Ramen Cooking Game is exactly what you think it is. I was almost late for work, got my ass chewed on a conference call, then spent my evening playing a game in which the sole objective is to make Ramen. Your day was nowhere near as bad as mine.

This is it; this is the entire game. You cook noodles, you chop up ingredients, you throw it in a pot and you make Ramen. Jesus Christ, it's a puzzler based around cooking Ramen, made by people who specialise in dress-up games - you were expecting a challenge, maybe?

How utterly pointless is this game? Unless you really love Ramen, you will get exactly twenty seconds of pleasure from playing this. Apparently the goal is to make sixteen Ramen meals for your impatient customers, but I must have made twice that many and I still have no idea what's supposed to happen when you win. I began to doubt that anything happened at all. I'm pretty sure you just end up making Ramen forever.

Sounds fun, doesn't it?

If you don't make the Ramen before the customer's happiness meter reaches the red, then the meal is failed and you have to go on to the next one. Like you could possibly fail - just remember to add the Ramen soup and noodles, and you're good to go. Plus, with only four meals to master, you'll just end up repeating the same recipe over and over again, four or five times in a row.

This is the type of game that gives you a headache from wondering at the idiocy of it all. I know my reviews have been a lot shorter these days, and this is the shortest of the bunch, but what do you want me to write? What could I possibly note that would make it any more apparent that this game is a woeful attempt to steal minutes of your life? You shouldn't even need to read a review like this to know that Ramen Cooking Game is a horrible experience. It's about cooking Ramen, God dammit! It couldn't be any more apparent!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Jammer

Don't tell me my finger's not on the pulse of society. As the U.S.A. and the rest of the world (who has to live with you) celebrates the election of Barack Obama to the office of President, I found myself considering this blog. In keeping with this brave, new world, so full of hope and opportunity, I had to ask: is this right? Maybe from now on I should focus on the positive side of online games, the pros that naturally outweigh the cons.

But then I thought, no. No, I won't be doing that. Even as we live history, I still gotta bitch about Flash games.

Anyway, with the election results dominating the headlines, I felt it only fitting that I take a gander at the many election-themed games that have popped up over the last year, and while I was surprised by how good so many of them actually are, I wasn't shocked when I came across Election Jammer.

It's all very simple - fly around collecting stars (which somehow equate to votes) in order to win the election. I played as Obama, because I figured if anybody can collect stars while flying a plane across the United States, it's him. The arrow keys get you around, but you have to be careful as you only have a limited amount of fuel, here shown in the guise of campaign funds. Take too long to collect the stars and you'll literally crash and burn.

Of course, you're never given anywhere near enough fuel to complete the level, but you can pick up refills in the form of money bags that top up your funds. Still, it doesn't help when you're in situations like the one shown above. Without fuel, I can't reach that last single star hanging right above me.

In fact, the only thing I can do is fly off the edge of a platform and crash, so I can start again. At least you're given unlimited tries, but you receive far fewer points every time you fail.

One of the main reasons behind so many restarts, and my biggest gripe with the game, is the sensitivity of the controls. Press too hard and you can send your little nominee shooting offscreen, not to mention waste valuable fuel. Every moment you're in the air costs you more and more of your minuscule fuel supply, so you can't really hover and line yourself up with the stars. More often than not you need to devise a way that will allow you to collect all the stars as you go hurtling around the screen, and as far as I can see there's really only one solution to each level.

Eventually bad guys show up. Here's Bill O'Reilly, doing what I'm sure he'd love to do if he ever got the chance - smacking Obama around the face with a fly swat.

Glenn Beck also makes his presence felt, prompting me to ask "Who the fuck is Glenn Beck?" Apparently he's a conservative talk show host who once compared Al Gore's efforts to raise awareness of global warming with the tactics Hitler used during the Holocaust. If that doesn't piss you off enough, these levels are more often than not evil.

And while we're on the subject of all things evil, here's Rush Limbaugh. And what I found was, a few changes aside, these levels are remarkably similar, meaning that play quickly becomes monotonous.

Oh, if you're wondering who McCain has to face when you play as him:

I'd also have a picture of him facing off against Oprah, but apparently if you go back to an earlier level in the game, you lose all of the later levels that you worked so hard to attain. So, even though the game saves your progress and gives you the option to play any level you choose, should you go back to an earlier stage, you have to play through the whole game again.

Sometimes game developers can be as stupid as the Bush administration.

So, in summation, Election Jammer sucks. Not that anyone reading this cares - you're all too drunk to give a rat's ass about Flash games. And hey, given the enormity of recent events, maybe the games can take a back seat, just for this week.