Thursday, July 29, 2010

Zombies Took My Daughter!

Zombies! As I've mentioned time and time again, I love 'em. While vampires sparkle and wolfmen lose their teeth, zombies amble on regardless, as cool today as they were when George A Romero popularised the modern zombie flick. So a game called Zombies Took My Daughter really can't fail to entertain, and thankfully it does just that.

Your daughter Anna is trapped somewhere in an infected city. Mutated ghouls roam the streets; you've got 36 hours to search for Anna and get her to safety. One of the coolest things about Zombies Took My Daughter is that the game map randomly changes every time you play, so you never experience the same levels twice. It also means that, no matter how experience you gain, there'll always be new surprises and challenges waiting for you.

The game features an abundance of mêlée weapons and firearms. While it's always satisfying to cave in a zombie's head with a Ming vase, however, my advice to find a shotgun and keep it fully loaded. The shotguns may not have much range but they make up for it with pure stopping power, taking down numerous ghouls in one shot.

You're not alone in the abandoned city. While the zombies are a given, you can also rescue other survivors, who will then help you clear out an area. This will save you ammo as well as reduce the risk of getting hurt. Dying is something you definitely don't want to do often. Every time you go down for the count, you lose two hours. Considering it can take one or two hours to reach each new destination via the subway system, that's time you can't afford to lose.

Thankfully, there are ways to cut down the search time. Examine dead bodies and you may find evidence of where Anna hasn't been spotted, eliminating numerous spots around town (and making one wonder how Anna got so popular that everyone in the city seemingly knows her.) There are also quests that you can complete, gathering a certain amount of supplies to eliminate a whole block from your search. These supplies aren't always in the easiest to reach spots, but then that's part of the challenge and the reward is definitely worth it if you want to get in and out of the city on time. Convicts are on the loose, and taking them down can earn you money you'll need for rope ladders and energy drinks.

While it's not the prettiest game in the world, Zombies Took My Daughter still has a certain charm. It's the sound effects that really get to you, though - hearing an undead mutant's pig squeal as it tears into your flesh isn't something you'll forget easily. It must be said that there's something very unnerving about watching a gang of zombies race towards you like you were slathered in BBQ sauce and you have only a crowbar with which to defend yourself.

Zombies Took My Daughter is a frighteningly addictive game - hell, I stopped writing this review at one point to have another go at it. If you platformers, shoot-'em-ups, puzzle games or zombies (or all four), then this is the game for you. Grab your hatchet and your AK-47 and take to the streets!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ice Bike

Oh man. You may notice the extreme lateness of this review. I guess I'd just been putting this off. Not for any real reason, if I'm honest. Ice Bike isn't an awful game. It's not particularly good, but it isn't rage-inducing. If anything, the game doesn't incite any emotion whatsoever.

Let's face it: that's far worse than pissing people off. Surely your goal should be to cause some kind of reaction in the player, right? Not so much here. It's a shame because Ice Bike is actually a pretty well made game. You drive a snowmobile around a course in the shortest time possible and everything looks pretty nice.

Nothing jumps out at you, true, but it's perfectly adequate. That's the best way to describe Ice Bike - a thoroughly adequate game.

The graphics? As I've noted, perfectly adequate.
The controls? Turning can be a little slow, but otherwise adequate.
Difficulty? Well, there aren't any penalties (you can't even really crash) and you're not up against a time limit, but the tracks get a bit longer and more twisty, so I suppose it's... adequate.

You see my problem here? How do you review a game that has nothing out of the ordinary? There's nothing about Ice Bike that makes it memorable. It just kind of sits there, like that ornament your aunt Brenda bought you that one time she was on holiday in Cypress and that you never notice until it's time to clean the living room. Why would you bother playing a game like this?

Maybe if you like snowmobiles, you'll get something out of it. But then, depending on where you are in the world, you could just drive a snowmobile. It reminds me a lot of a scene in an old episode of The Simpsons. Bart, forced to stay in school while everyone else goes to the chocolate factory, has to help Principal Skinner seal envelopes. Skinner suggests that Bart make a game of it, seeing how many he can seal in an hour, then trying to break that record. To which Bart replies, "Sounds like a pretty crappy game."

Ice Bike is that crappy game. The only competition is yourself, and I don't mean you have to overcome some inner demons to achieve success. You ride around a course, you see how quickly you did it, then you try to do it faster. Since all of the course are unlocked from the beginning, there's no incentive to beat your record. You do it just because, for want of a better reason.

In a world where there are great games and awful games, Ice Bike ranks somewhere right in the middle. Neither good enough to be a fan favourite nor bad enough to cause waves of gamer rage, it sits on the Information Superhighway like a petrol station you only stop at if you need to stretch your legs, quickly forgotten as soon as you leave.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Doodle God

Like many people I picked up Peter Molyneux's literal God sim Black & White. The concept of being a deity - choosing whether I wanted people to worship me out of love, respect or fear; raising and training a monster to carry out my godly duties and occasionally eat someone - really piqued my interest. After years of Sim City allowing you to just be mayor, here was a game that allowed you to be the ultimate divine being!

Which was great, except it eventually got a little boring. You see, being a god in Black & White was a lot like being the mayor in Sim City. You did an awful lot of resource gathering and general day to day problem solving, interspersed with the odd monster battle or, if you were bored, people throwing (which, of course, you couldn't really do if you wanted to be a nice god - as if anyone cared about that.) I never played the second game because it apparently took all the things that were fun about the first one and made them kind of suck, but my memories of Black & White remain a few hours of fun, then an ever increasing urge to do something less godly and more fun. I will say, however, that it makes Old Testament God's regular mood swings a lot more understandable. You'd raze a city to the ground too if Geoff from Crop Gathering kept bugging you about the annual reports.

Anyway, this week's game puts you back into the position of god without having to worry about all that administrative stuff. Doodle God simply focuses on the fun part of being the Creator - namely, creating stuff. It's an intriguing little puzzle game that asks you to make a myriad of items by mixing and matching different elements. Starting with earth, wind, fire and water, the goal is to create 115 brand new elements (though the word is used loosely - I don't remember seeing "tree" on the periodic table."

It's a disarmingly simple concept that's easy enough to get sucked into but tricky enough to keep you guessing as you mix up different elements, branching out from the original four to develop more advanced items.

The graphics aren't much to write home about, but then a game like this doesn't really call for anything flashy. Instead, things are kept clear and simple: two columns of elements, pick one from each column and watch them smash together to make something new. Most of the early elements are pretty obvious, but as things get more complicated the combinations become trickier to discern.

Fortunately, you can ask for a hint every now and again that helps point you in the right direction. It's definitely needed, as is some serious lateral thinking. It allows for a nice mental workout, but not one that will leave you screaming at your monitor.

All in all, Doodle God is an intriguing little puzzle game that your Creationist cousin will love. Little touches like the inclusion of a quote by famous figures make for a classy title, and the ability to download the game as an App means you can create the Universe on the move. A wonderful little game.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


As long time readers will know, I'm a big fan of sniper games. There really is nothing more satisfying than watching the head of someone you've never met explode due to a bullet fired from 300 yards away.

Um... anyway, you'll also be aware that when I come across a crappy sniper game (and I've come across many), I like to point it out for ridicule and abuse. What can I say? I'm an jerk like that. That brings us to HeadShot (yes, all one word, and yes, with a capital "S" in the middle, bringing to mind some 90's EXTREEEEME superhero.) The plot goes pretty much like this: with gang-related crime tearing the city apart, the mayor has hired you to secretly kill off all of the gangsters in town. Legal issues aside, what makes the mayor think one guy with a sniper rifle can eliminate all the gangs in his city? If the police and elected officials can't stop the crime wave, what makes him think this one sniper can? Is this guy The Punisher, or something?

Starting the game, I was instantly reminded of another, better sniper game, simply called The Sniper, and set during D-Day. This isn't really surprising to me, as HeadShot is a carbon copy of The Sniper, save for a few missing touches, such as the realistic twitch of the sniper scope, the ragged breathing of the man behind the rifle and kickback after every round. HeadShot has none of these elements and the rather plain, uninspired graphics as well as the basic gameplay doesn't make up for it. It's perfectly serviceable, but "serviceable" just doesn't cut it when a game two years older than yours is five time better.

Also, can someone tell me what's going on with some of these gangsters? What the hell is this guy doing? Is he breakdancing? Is he praying? Some of the characters take the most laughable poses that shooting them in the head is less like execution and more like saving them further embarrassment.

Not that you should really bother aiming for the head. You may be surprised to learn that a game called HeadShot awards you bonus points for shooting gangsters in the head. But no matter how carefully you aim, nine time out of ten a head shot won't register, so it's really not worth the time and effort.

Definitely not the time, anyway. That's another thing that grinds my gears: the time limit on each level. Level one has you searching for five Latinos (oh, that's another thing - all the gangs are handily split up into distinct racial minorities) in an eighty second time limit. Certainly not impossible, though it may take one or two attempts before you spot all the gangsters. But how about when you get to level three and have to shoot 25 "Afros" in the same amount of time? True, that many makes it more like shooting heavily armed fish in a barrel, but there's always going to be those one or two that are hiding behind a wall, or the gun won't load fast enough for you to nail every single one. And what happens when you start to panic and miss shots? That's more time wasted. Why no one thought to increase the time limit in relation to the number of targets, I can't say, but I have the sneaking suspicion they were just too damn lazy to do it.

HeadShot is a bog standard sniper game brought down by unimpressive visuals and stupidly short time limits. I'm sure the guys who made it are really proud, but the guy who makes Tactical Assassin won't be losing any sleep over them.