Without The Sarcasm http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com Insights. Analysis. Answers. Sun, 24 May 2015 01:08:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Slotomania Tips | Mobile Slots Roundup http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/slotomania-tips-mobile-slots-roundup/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/slotomania-tips-mobile-slots-roundup/#comments Sun, 24 May 2015 01:06:29 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6617
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A lot of my family members play mobile games now, and right now it seems like the current addiction is slots. Obviously, slots have been around and popular for a long time now, and Vegas slots are a gambling staple. However, it seems like recently they’ve been big on phones and tablets. In this series, I’ll take a look at the most popular slots games, starting with my Slotomania guide.

Intro to Slotomania: Machines & Coins

Slotomania has a ton of different machines you can play with. Most of the machines are available for free, if you play long enough. Some, though, require you to buy them. Also, paying for coins will help you unlock the “eventually free” machines faster.

Slotomania Tips: Unlocking New Machines

Slotomania Tip You unlock new machines as you level up. You level up faster the more you bet. So, if you’re bored of the machines you have now, start betting big! You’ll level up and unlock new ones in no time.

Slotomania slot machines run on coins, which you can get for free or pay real money for. Paying real money will obviously get you more coins faster than just waiting, but it can get really expensive really quickly!

Slotomania Tip Some of the coins you lose when you’re playing slots will end up in the “piggy bank” which you can break for a small fee. If you’re considering buying coins, check to see how much is in your bank and how much it would cost to get them back out, compared to the fees for buying them directly.

Depending on what machine you’re playing, the game plays slightly differently. It’s all slots, but there are subtle changes with each machine. For instance, the maximum number of lines and where the lines run on the machine changes.

Which machine you play is mostly a matter of personal preference. Is there a particular theme you like? Does one machine “feel lucky” to you? There’s also different bonus games for every machine, and you may enjoy one machine’s bonus game more than another. My suggestion would be to try new machines as they unlock to find out if you like the way it plays. You can always add or remove machines whenever you want – once they’re unlocked, they’re yours to keep!

Slotomania Tip Slot machines take up space on your phone/tablet. If you run out of space and can’t save new apps, photos, or other items, you’ll want to pare down your slots collection. If you forget how to do this, you can remove a slot machine you’ve installed by tapping and holding.

The game itself is pretty straightforward – just adjust your bet and the number of lines (if the machine supports it), and then hit the big green button.

Slotomania Tip If you want to let the game play itself for a while, hold the big green button down, and then tap one of the Auto Spin options to set up a number of spins to play. Note that you have to let up off the Spin button before you can tap one of the numbers. I found this very confusing!

“Winning” Slotomania

Slotomania is a slots game. Anyone who has played slots in Vegas or elsewhere knows that slots are about the fun of seeing the reels spin and the possibility of beating the odds and winning big. In the long run, though, everyone loses at slots. Luckily, Slotomania isn’t (usually) about losing real money, so losing is more of a “aww” moment rather than a “OH #$*&” moment.

You are going to find a lot of sites online that advertise “free Slotomania coins!” or “guaranteed Slotomania cheats!” These are scams, designed to exploit your desire to game the system. Don’t fall for them! They just want you to click on ads or give your personal information so that they can make money off of you.

One important thing to note – Slotomania must be online in order to work. The game contacts the Slotomania servers in order to determine whether you win or lose. This means two things – one, the slots will just spin endlessly if you’re not online, since they can’t connect to get the results. Two, any program that says it can help you cheat is lying – they’d have to change the Slotomania servers, and they (more than likely) can’t do that.

Free Slotomania Coins

Free Slotomania coins are available from a variety of methods. Stocking up on free coins in Slotomania can save you from having to pay your hard-earned money on them. As with all “free to play” games – patience is a virtue! Play short amounts and take frequent breaks, and as long as luck is on your side you’ll always have free Slotomania coins.

Slotomania Tips: Free Coins from Special Bonus

The most straightforward source of free Slotomania coins is the “special bonus.” This is just a free pack of coins you get from waiting a few hours and then checking back in. If you check in daily for several days in a row, you’ll get the “Lotto Bonus” which can easily earn you thousands of free Slotomania coins – if you’re lucky! This is the most reliable way to make free coins, but it’s also the slowest.

Another easy way to get free Slotomania coins is to connect to Facebook. Doing this the first time nets you a big coin bonus, and then you can harass your friends for free gifts. Harass responsibly – everybody has that one friend on Facebook who constantly bombards them with requests for games they’re playing. You know the one… don’t be that person :)

Slotomania Tip You can change the settings for Slotomania in Facebook so that it can only post things you can see, instead of posting things publicly on your timeline. This essentially makes all the “share this for free coins!” stuff Slotomania wants to do a lot less annoying to your friends.

Slotomania’s “Total Rewards” network is also a source of free coins. However, it’s really geared towards rewarding people who spend a lot of money on the game. It doesn’t hurt to keep track of it, and to exploit it when you can, but it’s not a large source of free Slotomania coins for people who are trying to play on the cheap.

Slotomania Tips: Tournaments for Free Coins

Slotomania also features live tournaments, which you can participate in for free. You only get free Slotomania coins from tournaments if you place high enough, but honestly what do you have to lose? You can check the tournaments tab to see what slot machines currently feature tournaments. I suggest picking a slot machine you like which is featured in a tournament so that you’re always taking advantage of the possible free coins from these sources.

Slotomania Tip Tournament winners appear to be determined by the amount you bet on the machine – the more you bet and win, the more your points go up. Thus, bet big during tournaments, if you can!

Conclusion

Slotomania is one of those games that you can leave on your phone for times when you don’t want to pay 100% of your attention to a game, but you still want to feel like you’re playing. If you’re a Vegas slots addict, being able to gamble fake money whenever you want is a big bonus! There are also so many different free machines that there’s always something new to try if you get bored. Just don’t get carried away with the in-app purchases! Remember, this is all fake money – you can’t ever cash out!

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Rebel Galaxy Preview http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/rebel-galaxy-preview/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/rebel-galaxy-preview/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 23:12:07 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6609 our favorite game of PAX South, remember? Recently, the fine folks at Double Damage Games released a press/streamer only alpha build. I asked nicely and got access, and spent the last week taking it for a spin around the sector. Now that it's over, let's look back at the slice of Rebel Galaxy I got to play, and come up with some sort of Rebel Galaxy preview.
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It’s no secret that we here at Without the Sarcasm love us some Rebel Galaxy. We did name it our favorite game of PAX South, remember? Recently, the fine folks at Double Damage Games released a press/streamer only alpha build. I asked nicely and got access, and spent the last week taking it for a spin around the sector. Now that it’s over, let’s look back at the slice of Rebel Galaxy I got to play, and come up with some sort of Rebel Galaxy preview.

Rebel Galaxy Preview: Exploring Space

Streaming Video We did a stream of the Rebel Galaxy preview, you can check out the archived version on YouTube!

Rebel Galaxy is a space trading and combat sim, which is a genre I have a long history with. Some of my earliest gaming memories are of Ambrosia Software’s Escape Velocity, which is as close as I could come to the classic Elite on an 80’s era Macintosh. In the years since, I’ve played many excellent examples of this genre, including the recently reviewed VoidExpanse.

These type of games tend to follow a simple yet addictive gameplay loop. You mine or trade for resources, sell those resources at a profit, and then sink that profit into bigger and better ships. In addition to the trading, typically there’s a space combat element as well. You can engage in piracy, or become a bounty hunter. Usually there’s some galaxy-threatening event to take part in as well.

Rebel Piracy

Rebel Galaxy has 3D graphics, but for the most part it is played on a 2D plane. You can move left and right, but can’t pitch up or down or roll left or right. This keeps navigation simple, but the game still retains all the modern graphical trappings of a 3D game.

In practice, this means that combat is more along the lines of naval combat in Assassin’s Creed 4 or Sid Meier’s Pirates! – you’ve got powerful broadside weapons (space cannons?) that have to charge and be fired sideways. There are also secondary weapons like turrets and missiles that are more effective against smaller, faster moving craft.

Rebel Galaxy Preview: Trade Interface

If I had to use just one word to describe Rebel Galaxy, it would be “polished.” This game just exudes polish from every pore. Take the trade interface – at each station, on the trade screen you can see the average price in the system for every good, in addition to a price chart showing historical price trends. This makes being a trader so much easier.

Set Phasers to Kill

This level of polish extends to the combat. There can be a lot going on during an engagement, but Rebel Galaxy keeps things easy to digest without being too simplistic. Fighters and other small craft swarm around, but turrets will auto-target and fire on them. You can choose to take manual control, however, and pick your targets and fire faster than the AI will. When you do, automatic aim assist keeps you on target without the hassle of having to lead your shots.

Rebel Galaxy Preview: Combat

Firing broadsides requires slightly more strategy – the weapons need to charge for a few seconds, or the shots scatter and don’t hit much of anything. However, at close range, it can actually be beneficial to rapid fire, since even the errant wide shots will still probably hit.

Offense is only half the battle, though. Capital ships in Rebel Galaxy have several different layers of defense. First up is the shields, which absorb the bulk of hits but can recharge over time. Short duration deflectors give you a chance to block incoming fire, but must be activated manually and deplete quickly. When all that tech fails, you’ve still got old fashioned armor plating to keep you safe. If that fails, your hull is likely to go quickly afterwards, killing you with a climactic “boom.”

Galactic Gloss

Rebel Galaxy Preview: Alien NPCs

The visuals are definitely impressive in Rebel Galaxy, and for the most part I liked them. The ships are detailed without being overly complicated. The various backgrounds, special effects, and objects in space are all strikingly beautiful. One aspect I didn’t much care for were the character models in the spaceports – the humans especially fell a little into the uncanny valley for me.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the soundtrack – it’s very blues heavy, with a sort of country-rock atmosphere. It brings the “rebel” into Rebel Galaxy and makes it feel a bit deep South. I can honestly say I’ve never blown up space ships to twangy guitar riffs before, but now I know what I’ve been missing.

Galaxy-Sized Anticipation

The Rebel Galaxy preview cemented my desire to play more Rebel Galaxy. My only disappointment was that the preview had to end. The preview gave me enough of a peek at the game to see the curve of it, stretching off into the distance. I see the potential here for something great, even though what they’ve got already here is enough to sell me on it.

Game:Rebel Galaxy
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:2015
Price:TBD
Our Thoughts:

We still don’t know specifically when Rebel Galaxy is coming out, but I’m keeping a special place in my Steam library for when it lands, and you should too.

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Axiom Verge Review: METROIDvania http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/axiom-verge-review-metroidvania/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/axiom-verge-review-metroidvania/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 12:39:16 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6565 Axiom Verge is a 2D retro styled sci-fi exploration game created by Tom Happ. Axiom Verge was previously a PS4 exclusive, but on May 14th that exclusivity ends and the game comes to PC players via Steam. I got the opportunity to get a review key a couple of weeks early, and so I've been working on uncovering its secrets prior to release. In my Axiom Verge review, I'll give you the rundown on the game, what I liked, and what drove me crazy.
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Axiom Verge is a 2D retro styled sci-fi exploration game created by Tom Happ. Axiom Verge was previously a PS4 exclusive, but on May 14th that exclusivity ends and the game comes to PC players via Steam. I got the opportunity to get a review key a couple of weeks early, and so I’ve been working on uncovering its secrets prior to release. In my Axiom Verge review, I’ll give you the rundown on the game, what I liked, and what drove me crazy.

Axiom Verge Review: Title

Axiom Verge is a 2D platforming explorathon, and it’s very obviously influenced by Metroid games, especially Super Metroid for the SNES. In Axiom Verge, you’ll explore a hostile alien world, battling enemies of various types with different weaknesses and attack strategies. Along the way you’ll grab a diverse array of weapons and powerups that allow you to explore new areas and conquer new foes.

8-Bit Alien

Axiom Verge has tons of different exploration tools, many of which are quite unique. The game focuses on a world that is slowly being overrun by something called “the Breach” which manifests itself as graphical anomalies and sprite corruption effects. As you progress through the game, your mastery over this power increases and you can glitch or unglitch the game in various ways to make enemies easier or make traversing impossible areas simple.

Axiom Verge Review: Environments

The graphical style is very 8-bit, although it plays with more modern graphical tricks to create interesting effects that were impossible in the NES or even SNES eras. The alien sci-fi environments are very remnicient of Metroid in the early going, but they quickly take a darker turn. From my perspective, there’s a distinct H. R. Giger vibe here. There’s a lot of freaky tentacled aliens, ancient architecture, and uncanny valley robotics at play.

Axiom Verge Review: Android

That Giger influence extends to the story, which follows a scientist who wakes up in an alien world after his lab is destroyed. Instead of Metroid’s focus on augmentation of a power suit with upgrades designed for it, Axiom Verge takes more of a “body horror” approach, with some upgrades being forced on the protagonist, and some causing him to look less than human.

I won’t ruin the story, but the slow burn of its various twists and turns kept me interested from start to finish. Some of the “dun dun DUNNNN” reveals fell a bit flat, but on the whole I found it to be engaging and a worthy counterpart to the art and gameplay.

If the environments and powerups borrow heavily from Metroid, the weapons rip a page out of the Mega Man playbook. There are a ton of different weapons to choose from, and while there are some that are clearly more powerful than others, most have at least some purpose. I thoroughly enjoyed the combat, which managed to be challenging but generally fair. The boss fights are epic, tricky, but have patterns and tricks you can exploit if you get stuck.

The one thing I really didn’t like about combat in Axiom Verge was the low health alarm. It beeps constantly in time with the background music, which irritated me at times when I needed the most focus.

A Twisted Pile of Secrets

Axiom Verge is full of secrets, and honestly it’s both a strength and a liability. Metroidvania style games have often featured tricky secret rooms and powerups to collect, and this can keep the exploration interesting, even while backtracking through previously visited areas.

Axiom Verge Review: Alien Text

Axiom Verge takes its secrets to almost a Fez or Myst degree. Some of the secrets are so well hidden that you’re unlikely to find them unless you use a FAQ or guide. Don’t get me wrong – this can be a ton of fun. However, it’s not so fun when you’re not sure if you can’t get to something because you’re missing a very complex puzzle, because you don’t understand a game mechanic, or because you’re missing an important powerup.

In Metroid games (and in Nintendo games in general) there’s often a very deliberate architecture, where secrets are called out clearly if you understand the camera and the environment. In Axiom Verge, though, many times wall tiles and background tiles are the same color, so you won’t know if that wall is actually something you can get into until you try.

All that said, though, the map is not so huge that you can’t just try everything in every room, which will get you most of the way towards finding all of the secrets. I definitely could see spending hours combing every last tile of each map trying to find everything.

A Right Turn at Albuquerque

There were also more than a few times where I wasn’t quite sure where to go next. This problem is compounded somewhat by a few lacking game features.

For one, there’s hardly ever a strong sense of where your next objective is. In Axiom Verge’s early going, it’s pretty obvious – go the one direction you can. Later, though, as the exploration options blossom, there can be many different ways to proceed and no clear idea as to which is going to move the game forward.

Axiom Verge Review: Map

Second, there’s very limited ways of interacting with the map. While the map shows the connection between rooms, that’s about all it is good for. The map won’t show you if there is an item in a particular room, or even if you’ve fully explored it. Some of this is available at a “zone” level, if you know how to read the map’s colored dots. You can mark two rooms for later, although the sheer number of things to keep track of dwarfs those two reminder dots quickly.

Finally, Axiom Verge lacks fast travel. There’s one zone of the map which is technically a “railway” of sorts which will take you rapidly between a few zones, but for the most part you’re going to hoof it through old areas pretty frequently. I can’t say I minded for the most part, but it still annoyed me a few times.

Conclusion

Tom Happ shot high with Axiom Verge – it’s a one-man attempt to recreate the enduring, classic fun of old action/adventure titles. When compared to those giants of gaming, it stands tall. Sure, there’s a few blemishes here and there. But by and large, it deserves to be considered a classic alongside them.

Game:Axiom Verge
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:5/14/2015
Price:$19.99
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

Axiom Verge is a really, really good game. If you love retro styles, Metroidvania titles, and Mega Man style combat, you’ll probably feel like Axiom Verge is easily game of the year material. It takes a lot of classic 8- and 16-bit tropes, blends them together with unique art and a lot of secrets, and pours out a thick milkshake of awesome gaming experiences.

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Chroma Squad Review: Lights, Camera, CHROMATIZE! http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/chroma-squad-review-lights-camera-chromatize/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/chroma-squad-review-lights-camera-chromatize/#comments Sun, 03 May 2015 22:26:07 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6551
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Chroma Squad comes to us this week from Behold Studios, makers of Knights of Pen and Paper. This time around, Behold has decided to make a combination business management and action RPG game that explores the many tropes surrounding Super Sentai-style shows, which in the western world includes things like Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Let’s suit up, battle some kaiju and explore Chroma Squad in this review!

Chroma Squad Review: Chroma Squad Logo

We originally saw Chroma Squad at SxSW Gaming, where Saulo Camarotti was showing off a prerelease build. Saulo and Behold’s press contact Sae hooked us up with a Steam key this week, a few days before release.

Chroma Squad follows the antics of a set of 5 stunt actors working on a popular martial arts program. They capital-H Hate their boss, and so they all agree to walk out and start their own studio. With the help of an abandoned warehouse and a conspicuously lucky brain-in-a-jar prop, they set out to make a better show.

The game itself is divided into two parts. While at the studio, you can outfit and upgrade your actors, your mech, and the studio itself. Once you have everything set up to your liking, you film episodes where the combat sequences are represented as turn-based tactical RPG segments.

The overall story follows the former stunt actors turned studio owners as they brave the trials and tribulations of starting out on their own. There’s a definite parallel between the action in game and the story of many indie game studios. You’ve got to meet fan’s expectations and deliver a compelling experience, while dealing with business problems, managing marketing, allocating budgets, and so forth.

Chroma Squad Review: The Story Thus Far

There’s a total of 5 main “seasons” of the show that tell the story from start to finish. All told, it’s around 30 episodes worth of combat.

Along the way, there’s a ton of tongue-in-cheek moments, and more fourth wall breaking than you can shake a stick at. Fans of Super Sentai style shows will probably get a lot more of the references than non-fans. There are also a lot of Kickstarter backer callouts and cameos, which is probably fun for them but not for a lot of others.

It can sometimes become hard to separate the story of the stunt actors and their studio from the storylines that their show is about. The dialog often switches back and forth between the two, and often the problems are intertwined as well. This makes the story somewhat confusing, so it pays to just not take it seriously and roll with it.

Lights, Camera…

Chroma Squad’s studio interface is a somewhat simple business management simulator. Income comes in from filming episodes, and you can allocate funds towards various upgrades.

Chroma Squad Review: Cash From Episodes

You’ve got the studio itself, which can be upgraded to give special benefits during combat sequences. These upgrades require lump sum cash and then cost you per episode filmed. For instance, you might purchase a “healthcare” upgrade which gives your actors bonus health.

Some of your budget can be spent on marketing. Different marketing agencies unlock as you progress, and you can pay them to unlock bonuses, which normally effect how much money and how many fans you gain from a successful episode.

Pro Tip As you gain fans, your marketing dollars go further. The various benefits from each agency can only be activated up to a limit determined by the number of fans you have. Thus, sometimes it doesn’t pay to over-spend on marketing, as the more expensive agencies require more fans to get the most out of them.

Chroma Squad Review: Equipment Upgrades

There’s also the matter of your actors’ equipment. Their suits and weapons can be bought or crafted from materials you find when fighting enemies. Simple gear might just be a plastic bucket and some duct tape, but as you move through the seasons the available cash and materials expand to allow you to build much more professional looking props.

Pro Tip You can combine weaker upgrade materials into more powerful materials in the crafting screen. Although the ratios aren’t great, it can sometimes be enough to get you one really good piece of gear, which can mean the difference between a successful episode and a failure.

Finally, there’s the mecha. Using cardboard and tape in various configurations, you can build parts that give special properties during mecha vs kaiju fights. Parts can give passive bonuses as well as unlock active skills.

As the show progresses, new options unlock in all of these areas. This serves as the primary way in which you become more powerful – there’s no experience or levels for the actors. Instead, they get more powerful as their gear becomes stronger and the studio bonuses start to pile up.

I generally enjoyed the business management side of the game, although I found it a bit simplistic. I was playing on the “normal” difficulty and found that I usually had so much cash that I could buy all the upgrades as soon as they unlocked. Thus, there weren’t a lot of interesting choices to be made – I just grabbed the best of everything right away.

Some of the equipment interfaces make it easy to compare your current gear against what you’re trying to buy/build, but others don’t. There’s a lot of painful swapping between menus to see if a particular piece of gear is better than what you have.

It’s Morphin’ Time!

The second half of the game is where you’ll be spending most of your time. Once an episode starts, you’ll have to guide your stunt actors through the scene, keeping them healthy and the audience interested while pummeling the bad guys into submission.

The more cool tricks you do – team acrobatics, skill use, etc, the more audience you draw in. This audience translates to fans and cash after the episode is over. In addition to just decimating your opponents, there are also secondary objectives, called “Director’s Instructions,” which can be completed for an audience boost. These are sometimes tricky, but the rewards are often worth it.

Chroma Squad Review: Beatdown

During the episode, there’s usually a threshold you have to reach before you can “Chromatize” and don your trademark spandex suits. Once you’ve Chromatized, each character gains access to their special skills and weapons. Each team member has a role, which determines what set of skills they have and what specific weapons they can use.

Pro Tip When you Chromatize, all your squad members are healed, and they will walk to whoever was active when the button was pushed. This move doesn’t cost you anything, so you can use this to get your heroes in position early on, for example.

One of the more unique elements of Chroma Squad’s combat is the Teamwork aspect. Each team member can choose to end their turn in a “Teamwork” pose, which allows them to join forces with other team members. Teamwork allows your squad to fight together versus a common foe, or it can allow your squad to work together to move much further in a turn than would normally be possible. Teamwork, along with the right gear and skill combos, is essential to success.

Pro Tip When your Assist uses Teamwork, they will heal any of your other squad members in neighboring squares. You can move your squad around before your Assist uses Teamwork to maximize this benefit. However, note that the Assist won’t heal themselves.

Chroma Squad Review: Team Attack!

Teamwork attacks combine the power of two or more squad members to devastating effect. Against bosses, you can even bring your whole squad to bear on a single attack. This causes a special finishing move animation to play. Doing a finishing move that doesn’t kill an enemy actually costs you audience, so be sure that you can kill before you use it. Boss monsters will get a “Finish It” star over their head when they are ready.

Pro Tip If you have a weapon and use it to attack, other squad members who are set to use Teamwork can also use weapons, assuming their weapons are ready to fire. This helps in a couple of ways – one is that squad members with ranged weapons will hit with them as long as they’re in range. Second, if all of your squad members have their weapons ready, and you use them all in the same team attack, you’ll get an extra special animation.

One thing I thoroughly enjoyed was the soundtrack. Especially in combat, the music is awesome. I found myself really jamming out to the battle music.

The tactical combat is fun and didn’t feel tired through all 30 or so episodes I played to get to the end. It’s not as deep as, say, Final Fantasy Tactics or XCOM: Enemy Unknown. There’s not really that many situations where height, line of sight, or cover come into play. There’s also a rather limited set of ability choices as well. Still, it’s executed well and manages to capture the appeal of shows like Power Rangers with choreographed combat and silly rubber suited bad guys.

I’ll Form the Head

Sometimes, though, punching stuff and doing backflips just won’t cut it against the forces of evil. When the really big monsters come out to play, it’s time for a mecha vs. kaiju segment. Chroma Squad’s mecha vs. kaiju combat is handled as a pretty simple turn-based game with quick time events. It’s somewhat similar to the Paper Mario RPG style of gameplay.

Chroma Squad Review: Mecha Boss Fight GO!

When it’s your turn, you can order the mecha to punch, defend, or use a special skill. The more you punch, the higher the combo, and the more damage each punch does. However, your chance to hit plummets. Missing or using most special skills ends your turn.

On the enemy turn, the kaiju will wind up its attacks, and your defense depends on timing your block. Time it perfectly and most of the damage will be mitigated. Kaiju also have special skills they can use to hit much harder and inflict status ailments.

Overall, the mecha segments are fun and add a change of pace from the normal turn based combat that happens during episodes. They’re not especially varied, but neither are the giant robot combat sequences they’re based on.

I’ll Squash You Like a Bug!

There are a few issues I had with Chroma Squad. Some of these I’ve mentioned already – occasionally the interface is sub-optimal or doesn’t explain itself well. There are a few translation bugs here and there, although they’re relatively minor and I am willing to be they’ll be fixed quickly.

Like I said, the story is a bit hit or miss at times, owing in part to the game’s loose separation between the different stories it is trying to tell. If you get the references and/or you were a Kickstarter backer, you’ll probably have more fun with it than if you don’t.

A few times I ran into bugs that broke secondary objectives. I never had a crash to desktop, but I did encounter one game-breaking bug in the final mission that made me have to replay the level a total of 3 times to get through – and that mission is long.

Conclusion

Chroma Squad is a darn fun game. It takes aspects of several different game genres and blends them with a deep appreciation of Super Sentai style plots and pacing. It’s consistently silly, balancing over the top dialog, ridiculous enemies and crazy plots with a firmly tongue-in-cheek playfulness. It’s got a few issues, which I hope will be resolved quickly with patches. There’s nothing fundamentally broken here, and what is busted is unlikely to ruin your experience.

Game:Chroma Squad
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:4/30/2015
Price:$14.99
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

If you like turn-based tactical RPGs and Power Rangers, Chroma Squad is worth checking out. There’s a lot of game here, and it’s almost pure fun from start to finish.

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Cult of the Fiver | April 2015 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cult-of-the-fiver-april-2015/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/cult-of-the-fiver-april-2015/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 00:57:18 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6539 game demos and impressions from SxSW. Now that THAT backlog has been cleared, let's dig into some new cheap games! This month's inductees into the cult are Valiant Hearts: The Great War, Road Not Taken, Vertical Drop Heroes HD, Wrack and The Weaponographist.
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Did you notice we skipped a month there? Instead of Cult of the Fiver, I was swamped with game demos and impressions from SxSW. Now that THAT backlog has been cleared, let’s dig into some new cheap games! This month’s inductees into the cult are Valiant Hearts: The Great War, Road Not Taken, Vertical Drop Heroes HD, Wrack and The Weaponographist.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Cult of the Fiver: Valiant Hearts - The Great War

As World War I rages through Europe, a small family is divided and forced to take sides in the conflict. Told through comic book style art and puzzle-solving adventure game style gameplay, Valiant Hearts focuses on the intertwined story of a few unwilling participants in the war, and the choices they make in order to survive and protect the ones they love.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is worth your $5 because… unlike many modern adventure games, it actually has puzzles and isn’t just about dialog trees with other characters. However, the puzzles are never so obtuse that they can’t be solved logically. The story is well done as well. The art style manages to balance the seriousness of war with the fact that this is just a videogame.

But don’t pay full price for Valiant Hearts: The Great War, since… it’s a fairly simplistic game on the whole. If the story doesn’t grab you, chances are you’ll find the whole thing boring. It’s a bit drawn out and slow moving at times. There are multiple quick-time-event sequences that can be irritating to get through.

Other Coverage: Pre-Cult on TAY

Store page(s): Amazon w/Uplay (doh!) DRM | Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • There are collectible items strewn around, but just mashing the “pickup” button as you walk will get you most of them. Some are hidden, usually you can find most of these by heading the wrong way when a level starts.
  • Once you have access to the dog, you can make him flip switches and head into areas that are otherwise inaccessible.
  • You can usually only carry one item at a time, and bringing an item from an earlier area never factored into any puzzle as far as I could tell.

Road Not Taken

Cult of the Fiver: Road Not Taken

Deep in the woods is a village. This village sends its children into the forest to collect berries that are believed to have life-extending powers. However, the dangers of the woods often mean that many children never return. As the village Ranger, you are tasked with saving as many children as you can, by manipulating objects in the forest with a magical staff. Fall in the forest or fail to save the children and you’ll never return “home.”

Road Not Taken is worth your $5 because… it’s a very unique take on the puzzle game genre, made by the same company that produced the mobile game Triple Town. The story has a very somber and desolate tone that is contrasted sharply by the cartoony visuals. The core puzzle game mechanic is interesting, and becoming good at it is vital to your survival.

But don’t pay full price for Road Not Taken, since… it’s brutally difficult, and a lot of the time you’ll be at the mercy of random things outside of your control. Death is especially punishing, and unlike a lot of modern games with permadeath mechanics, there’s not a lot of progress to be made when you die.

Other Coverage: Pre-Cult on TAY

Store page(s): Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • Remember that the goal is saving children. Everything else is secondary.
  • You don’t have to open every door between rooms in order to win. In fact, some rooms you don’t need to visit at all.
  • You can make a fire by matching fire sprites together to make an axe, then using the axe to chop trees and get logs, and then match the logs together. Having a fire warms up a room, lessening the penalty for moving while carrying something.
  • You can give up after finding half of the children, and besides taking a pay hit, there’s no other downside. Half your energy carries over to the next year, so sometimes it makes more sense to abort if the final kids are hard to find.
  • Remember that you can throw parents to children as well as vice versa – sometimes it is easier to move a parent to where the child is then to carry the child to the parent.

Vertical Drop Heroes HD

Cult of the FIver: Vertical Drop Heroes HD

Vertical Drop Heroes HD is a vertically scrolling 2-D action RPG in the same vein as Rogue Legacy. Fight downwards using a combination of randomly generated weapons and skills. There are 10 levels, each capped off with a boss. Can you survive to the end and discover the temple’s dark secret? Probably not. But throw enough heroes at it and eventually you’re bound to succeed!

Vertical Drop Heroes HD is worth your $5 because… the core action RPG elements are generally fun, and the simple concept is executed well. There’s a decent amount of grinding, but you feel like you’re getting more powerful and the investment in time is paying off.

But don’t pay full price for Vertical Drop Heroes HD, since… it only retails for a couple of bucks more normally. It’s also a bit simplistic, and a bit frustrating when you get killed by some BS attack that is unblockable and undodgeable. The art and music are both flash game quality, which is not that much of a surprise since this is a remake of a flash game.

Other Coverage: Pre-Cult on TAY

Store page(s): Amazon w/No DRM | Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • Pacifism orbs can be upgraded to give massive XP and gold bonuses. They can make grinding for better upgrades go much faster, so make sure you invest time in them.
  • It’s possible to run a level twice, once for pacifism orbs and a second time to get XP from kills. It takes longer, but you’ll end up pretty darn powerful.
  • If you try to hit a square that has more than one enemy in it, you’ll only hit one of the enemies. However, all of the enemies can still hit you. Thus, jumping into a square full of bad guys is a fast way to die!
  • The final boss can be one-shotted with Polymorph.

Wrack

Cult of the Fiver: Wrack

Aliens are invading, led by a megalomaniacal scientist and it’s up to one man to stop them from getting hold of some really advanced… technology… thing. Fight lizards, robots, and bosses with a variety of classic first-person shooter weapons to save the day!

Wrack is worth your $5 because… it’s an old-school Quake style shooter that focuses on skill and combo kills. Trick jumps, big guns, secret areas, and gibs galore.

But don’t pay full price for Wrack, since… it’s a bit on the short side, and there isn’t as much variety in weapons and enemies as I would really want. Some of the weapons feel a bit underpowered.

Other Coverage: Full Review

Store page(s): Steam

Quick Tips:

  • The sword is really powerful, especially against robots, although using it is pretty risky.
  • The big robots will slam the ground, doing damage unless you stay off the ground when they’re pounding it.
  • Strafing while running forward gives you a tiny speed boost, which can get you to areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.

The Weaponographist

Cult of the Fiver: The Weaponographist

Doug McGrave, legendary demon hunter, is walking through the woods when he manages to piss off a powerful witch. Now he’s cursed, and forced to fight hordes of demons and save a village – all for free. The nerve of these witches! The curse has knocked him down to level 1, stolen his weapons, and continually weakens him unless he’s killing demons.

The Weaponographist is worth your $5 because… it’s packed with unique enemies and crazy weapons. Unicorns that shoot rockets and pogo stick jesters, for instance. The constant need to grab new weapons and fight different combinations of enemies keeps the game feeling fresh through its 5 dungeon levels.

But don’t pay full price for The Weaponographist, since… actually, the asking price is totally reasonable. It’s a well done and inexpensive game.

Other Coverage: Our Twitch Stream | Full Review

Store page(s): Amazon w/Steam DRM | Steam | Humble

Quick Tips:

  • Know where your next weapon is, because weapons are constantly breaking. Punching stuff is a losing proposition.
  • Magic is powerful but usually pretty rare. Try to conserve it for maximum effect.
  • Every enemy has an attack pattern – master it, and you’ll find your fights get easier.
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The Weaponographist Review: Weaponography for Dummies http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/the-weaponographist-review-weaponography-for-dummies/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/the-weaponographist-review-weaponography-for-dummies/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 22:32:53 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6523
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The Weaponographist is a top-down arena combat hack-n-slash game from Puuba, makers of Concursion. We saw The Weaponographist at the Media Indie Exchange booth at the SxSW Gaming Expo. With its release imminent, they’ve given me a copy to put through its paces. I’ve spent a good dozen hours with the game now, so it’s time to pass judgement. What’s the deal with the Weaponographist? Should you play it? Let’s find out in my Weaponographist review.

Doug McGrave, Victim!

Doug McGrave, legendary demon hunter, was just minding his own business, walking through the woods. Some old lady accosts him and demands that he “save their village” or whatever. Since they couldn’t afford him, Doug declined. Turns out this old lady was a powerful witch, who cursed Doug, kidnapped him, and basically made him her demon hunting slave. Now Doug is at the mercy of a bunch of communist, demon plagued villagers, battling ever more powerful foes at a significant handicap.

Okay, okay, so maybe Doug was being a bit of a jerk. And by “bit of a jerk” I may mean a huge, unrepentant a-hole. But still, this is a pretty serious situation. While Doug can’t “die” per se, he is stuck in a neverending demonic quagmire with little hope for escape. This is where the game begins – you play as Doug, and must brave the dungeon to save the village, while dealing with the effects of the witch’s curse.

Weaponographist stream! We streamed The Weaponographist before it was available! You can check out our stream here, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitch!

A Horrible Night to Have a Curse

Boy, what a curse it is… Not only have you been busted down to a level 1 noobcake and lost all your gear, you also must constantly kill demons in order to make progress. If you’re not killing, the combo meter is quickly draining. If it fully empties, your experience starts to drain as well.

Since punching demons with your bare fists is a bit… inefficient, you’ve got to salvage what weapons you can from enemies as you progress. Each enemy in The Weaponographist has a chance to drop their weapon when killed, and both the demons and the monsters are all a bit unique. For instance, you might fight a unicorn that belches missiles from its horn, and then steal its horn to make a makeshift rocket launcher for yourself. Or you might encounter a lion tamer (a literal lion in this case) and steal its whip.

Pro Tip Keep an eye on the durability of your current weapon, and know where the other weapons have dropped. Don’t get caught by surprise when your weapon breaks!

In addition to weapons, there are also magical items available. These are a bit more rare, but just as unique. One of the first you find is a tuba that fires a massive blast in a straight line. There’s also an orange octopus wearing shutter shades and carrying a quartet of blasters. Suffice it to say, these magical items balance their rarity with room-clearing power.

After clearing a number of rooms, you’ve got to face off against a powerful boss.

The Weaponographist Review: Boss Fight!

Pro Tip Make no mistake – the curse is still in full effect here. You’ve still got to kill demons in order to survive, both to keep your combo going and to ensure a steady supply of weapons.

There are a total of 5 levels to the dungeon, each longer than the previous. After clearing all 5 levels, you unlock the ability to buy “hardcore mode” – which lets you replay the game, but with the curse amplified to the extreme. I played through the entire game once and the first floor on hardcore, and it took me around 10-12 hours to finish.

The Weaponographist Review: A chaotic fight!

Each room in the dungeon feels like a new challenge. Since there are so many different enemies, with different tactics and different weapons, I find myself constantly adapting my tactics to new situations. I can’t rely on my favorite weapon and a cheap strategy in order to win. I’ve got to keep moving and keep my wits about me in order to succeed.

I found early on that there were a few weapons I just didn’t like. But as I progressed further, I found that the real issue was that I didn’t understand how to use them properly. For instance, there’s one weapon that makes you swing a mace around yourself constantly. You can’t go charging up to melee enemies with this weapon and hope to survive – you’ve got to get the timing and range down to really do damage without getting hit.

Dead & Loving It

The Weaponographist Review: Dead. Again...

When you die (and you will), you respawn back in town. Here, you can spend your accumulated “demon goop” (ew) as a currency to gain bonuses for your next run into the dungeon. There are general upgrades, which weaken the curse to an extent, and then there are upgrades for weapons and magic. Finally, there are upgrades that spawn temporary effect runes in the dungeon, which have various positive effects.

Pro Tip Upgrade your health and reduce the combo curse early – both of these are really important to your survival. In the early going, try to focus on a few weapons, ideally the ones that drop while fighting the current level’s boss. However, all weapon upgrades eventually become worth it.

Whenever I’m playing a game that features death as a core mechanic, I try to judge it based on how frustrated I am whenever I die. Did my death feel like a setback? Did I lose a lot of progress? Will I have to grind my way through something boring in order to get back to where I was?

The Weaponographist Review: Town!

In the case of The Weaponographist, I actually didn’t mind dying at all. I feel like sometimes there were rooms where the same enemies spawned every time, but for the most part each room had enough randomization that every playthrough was a unique challenge. The meta-game of upgrades in town also made me want to die occasionally, just so I could power up and chew through the demons faster.

Pro Tip Ranged weapons can make your life easier by letting you kill demons without chasing them around. If you’re trying to speedrun a level, mastering ranged weapons is practically a requirement.

Weaponographobia

Most of the complaints I could level at The Weaponographist are pretty slight. For instance, I’d like my weapon durability to be a bit more obvious. Usually I’m not paying attention to the lower left corner of the display where it’s shown. There’s also not a lot of variety in terms of combat arenas. Most rooms are identical, except for cosmetic differences.

Conclusion

If you enjoy button mashing dungeon crawling, definitely check out The Weaponographist! There’s a free demo that features the first two levels, and any progress you make carries over to the main game.

Game:The Weaponographist
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:4/29/2015
Price:$9.99
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

The Weaponographist is silly and gory in equal measure. It’s well polished and a ton of fun to play. The constant need to keep moving and killing means there’s rarely a dull moment. This, coupled with the variety of weapons and enemies keeps the game feeling fresh despite the setbacks death brings.

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Pixel ru² Preview http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/pixel-ru-preview/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/pixel-ru-preview/#comments Sun, 26 Apr 2015 14:52:02 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6512 Pixel ru² is the debut game from C63 Industries, a partnership between two life-long tech geeks. We played a bit at PAX South, and wrote up our impressions as part of Indie HYPE. Now that the game is on Steam in Early Access, C63 co-founder Wolfenhex shot me a key to check it out further.
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Pixel ru² is the debut game from C63 Industries, a partnership between two life-long tech geeks. We played a bit at PAX South, and wrote up our impressions as part of Indie HYPE. Now that the game is on Steam in Early Access, C63 co-founder Wolfenhex shot me a key to check it out further.

I’ll start by saying that Pixel ru² is very early still – right now there are only a half dozen levels in the base game, the story elements aren’t present, and there are still game mechanics left to implement, among other things. The duo at C63 are hard at work, however, and I’ve seen several updates to the game in just the week I’ve had access to it on Steam.

Pixel Mechanics

Pixel ru2 Preview: a small but tricky level

Pixel ru² is a challenging platformer at its core – think along the lines of Super Meat Boy crossed with Thomas Was Alone and you’ll be at least part of the way there. The goal in every level is to get to the exit – but between your pixel and the exit are a number of different hazards.

These hazards generally take the form of a sort of static-filled bar that instantly destroys your pixel in an explosion of sparks. However, there are enemies as well. Enemies will move around and try to shoot you, but you have an array of weapons at your disposal to take them out. In order to beat them, you’ve got to fire shots at them of a complimentary color.

Your pixel avatar has a color as well, and this color can be changed by passing through various gates scattered around the level. This proves important, as platforms can either be solid or passed through depending on your color and the color of the platform.

On top of these mechanics, you can also flip gravity as long as you’re on the ground, and touching certain pixels causes the whole game world to rotate.

Many Dead Pixels

The combination of all of these different systems allows Pixel ru² to feature some dizzying puzzles and some frantic platforming. Jump, shoot an enemy, land, flip gravity, change color, fall through the floor, push this block over there, change direction, grab some score pickups, flip gravity again… it becomes almost like a carefully orchestrated dance when done properly.

Pixel ru2: Runtime Error!

Although most levels will let you get by on your own pace, one of the current levels (Runtime Error) is a timed event that is fiendishly hard. Levels can be replayed for score, which is rapidly decreasing as time passes and whenever you bite it.

There’s no final count on levels in the base game as of yet. In addition to whatever levels C63 cooks up, there’s already Steam Workshop support and a level editor included.

A Story About My Pixel

Although the story has yet to be fleshed out in-game, Wolfenhex gave me a quick synopsis:

The game’s story is about AI and the future of humanity. Our goal is to hint about a lot of the story throughout the game, either from text that pops up from the OS or through collecting the bonus data (bonus points) through the level. Each point is actually text that is flashing it’s content in binary and our plan is that when you collect the point you see the text at the end of the level and unlock this whole hidden story as you play.

Pixel ru2 Preview: ENIAC

The background of each level is actually an image, but one that is represented in 3D space behind the level. The pixels don’t properly align until you reach the exit, when the photo finally comes into focus. The images are educational in nature, as Wolfenhex explains:

We decided to use educational images relevant to the game’s story because we just like the idea of it. We want to help educate people about things, but it’s hard to make a fun game that focuses on education, so we focused on making a fun game that we added education to.

Conclusion

My co-conspirator EBongo described Pixel ru² as a truly geeky game – I believe his exact words were “If games were dice, Pixel ru² would be a d20.” If you’ve got the platforming mettle to take it on, you can find Pixel ru² at its homepage as well as on Steam. There’s even a free demo available!

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Darkest Dungeon Review: Insanely Fun http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/darkest-dungeon-review-insanely-fun/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/darkest-dungeon-review-insanely-fun/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 02:19:50 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6501
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Some games have a way of hooking you, and setting the hook deep. Darkest Dungeon not only accomplishes that, it has a class with a hook for a primary weapon. Yes, it is brutal. It is dark, creepy, and sometimes tense. Unlike a lot of games of its ilk, sometimes adventurers just… don’t make it out. I already shared a few initial impressions over on Kotaku, but now that I’ve had a chance to play it for a good chunk of time I thought I’d share some additional thoughts. Yes, I’ve died numerous times – and you can bet that unless you are incredibly lucky and conservative you probably will too.

Darkest Dungeon Affliction

Let’s be real

Link, Cloud, the Diablo hunters – these guys have seen some shit. Dungeons have been a dark, scary place for a long time, that’s part of the point – but somehow the characters we play have this ludicrous ability to shrug off utterly horrifying events. We suspend disbelief because it is convenient and fun, but when you stop and reflect on some of the things these characters have experienced, its hard to explain what why they wouldn’t be stark raving mad.

Darkest Dungeon plays the “what if” game and explores what real adventuring would look like in a world with Zombies, Mutants, and Death Cultists. Spoiler Alert: It’s dark. Traps spring, loot is sparse, and torches rapidly run low. As things start to look bleak, the resolve of your band of four adventurers is tested – and often they fail. When the pressure starts to get too much, psychotic breaks are frequent – leading to compulsive selfishness, irrational attacks, or acts of cowardice (which probably aren’t that crazy given the circumstances). It doesn’t take long before any of your adventurers is pretty cracked in the head, and as you develop veterans they will live up to the description of “grizzled” probably better than many of the characters you’ve seen described that way.

Darkest Dungeon Combat

Dark Economics

At first, you might wonder what fun there is to have in a world of many harsh realities, chief among them being permadeath. It doesn’t take long though to realize that while some adventurers are going to bite it fast, some live to tell the tale. As weeks pass you’ll gradually distill some formidable warriors from the soft bunch of noobs that first come knocking at the wagon.

Planning a Quest

After a few plunges into the darkness, I started to become better at estimating what my adventurers would need. Chris from Red Hook advised us at SxSW Gaming that supplies were intended to be a scarcity by design. I found that the order of priorities are 1) Torches 2) Food 3) Everything else. My dungeon crawlers are hard dudes and dudettes, and so they rarely get any of the special stuff, but I’ve found that darkness and total starvation cause them to accrue insanity at an unprofitable rate. Let’s say there were some failed experiments.

Darkest Dungeon Camp

No pain, no gain

In the darkness I learned that suffering and starvation are often a necessary evil for my team. Those town upgrades aren’t going to buy themselves. A fair number of the early team members, perhaps we could say “interns”, had a pretty rough go of it. The amazing phenomenon of this was that I immediately became attached to the Leper that seemed to be an unstoppable tank, and the Grave Robber that cheated death 4 times in a row. I built them up with some early upgrades, but in the end the Necromancer was too tough for them to handle. If you want to succeed, losses like these are part of the game. Don’t overspend to try and keep your crawlers coddled. In the end it won’t be enough to keep them in good condition anyway, and besides – it would cheapen their legacy.

Pro Tip I do highly recommend keeping a Vestal with the party at all times. Shoot for upgrading her healing abilities as one of your primary goals in the early game. The party heal can be particularly effective, since party members need only be at one hitpoint to avoid “death’s door” saving throws.

Darkest Dungeon Grave Robber Daggers

Hail Marys

Darkest Dungeon makes the accomplishments of your intrepid heroes feel meaningful. As I mention above, the Necromancer not only wiped a party of some of my favorite heroes at the time, he also intimidated me. I saw what a boss in this game could do – bad things, man. With that as a goal, I start a whole new season of training for my dungeon explorers. Weeks passed, but over time I put together a hardened group that was prepared for that jerk’s undead scourge. Suffice it to say, I still feel pretty damn good about putting the nail in that dudes coffin – and it isn’t because of some cut scene where he’s killing villagers or desecrating some holy place – it’s because of what he did to me and some of my favorite heroes at the time. Such crimes will not be forgotten.

Pro Tip Succession planning is a key aspect of any successful business, and it is key to your role as manager of a team of dungeon crawlers. If you find you like a certain class, check the wagon every so often and make sure you have some back ups. To get the better abilities, you’ll also need to rotate these fresh faces into your line up so that they can gain the grim experience that comes only from the darkness.

Darkest Dungeon Planned Classes

Early Access

On a final note, I think it is worth highlighting that Darkest Dungeon is in amazing shape for Early Access, and at the price point it is already worth picking up. Red Hook is doing a great job of regularly updating the game to add new content and tweak/retune what is already in place. It was my favorite game from SxSW and given many more hours it still stands up as an excellently dark and creepy turn-based roguelite. Grab it now, support a great game, and bask in the insanity that ensues.

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Wrack Review: Get Wrack’ed! http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/wrack-review-get-wracked/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/wrack-review-get-wracked/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 02:11:22 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6487 Wrack is a stylish first-person shooter from Final Boss Entertainment. We saw Wrack at PAX South 2015, and it took home our "best FPS of show" award! At the show we only got a little taste of the game, though. Shortly after the con, Wrack went on mega-sale and I couldn't help but pick up a copy. In this article, I'll give you all the gory details in my Wrack review!
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Wrack is a stylish first-person shooter from Final Boss Entertainment. We saw Wrack at PAX South 2015, and it took home our “best FPS of show” award! At the show we only got a little taste of the game, though. Shortly after the con, Wrack went on mega-sale and I couldn’t help but pick up a copy. In this article, I’ll give you all the gory details in my Wrack review!

Wrack Review: Logo

Wrack is (obviously) a first person shooter. It follows in the lineage of the original Quake and Unreal, unlike many modern shooters that take their cues from Halo and Call of Duty. The basic ideas it inherits from classic FPS’es are things like:

  • Health as a number, which can be replenished by health packs of various sizes
  • Armor, which reduces health damage by 50%, and is tracked separately from health
  • A bunch of weapons in your inventory at once, instead of two that you have to choose from a larger roster
  • Your character is fast and can sprint infinitely
  • More of an emphasis on trick jumps and careful maneuvering
  • Secret rooms to discover
  • Powerups that increase damage dealt or reduce damage taken

Wrack takes all of these concepts more or less wholesale from classic shooters. I don’t find that to be a bad thing, personally. I loved those old games, and getting a modern interpretation of them makes me a happy player.

Wrack Review: Level Complete!

Wrack has got a very distinctive art style. Old school shooters tended to be a bit heavy on the earth tones, and dimly lit corridors. Wrack is positively cheery by those standards. It’s very heavily influenced by comic books, and even the end of level scorecards are made to look like comic book covers.

Gun Wrack

Weapons are at the core of first person shooters. Wrack has a set of five weapons:

  • Hyperblade – a somewhat slow charging melee weapon
  • Pistol – your standard sidearm, decent against soft targets but not effective against robots or heavy armor
  • Shotgun – it’s a shotgun. ‘Nuff said
  • Pulsar – A pretty generic rapid-fire energy weapon, except that the shots tend to fall quickly, so it can be used to shoot over cover
  • Bazooka – Your typical rocket launcher

Wrack Review: Combo!

Killing enemies in quick succession causes a combo meter to build. If you combo enough, you can unleash a powerful finishing move, which varies depending on what gun you’re using. It’s a feature that would normally be secondary fire in a game like Unreal, but this implementation requires a bit more player skill to pull off.

I was kind of bummed that there weren’t more weapons – there’s really no “ludicrously overpowered” gun like the BFG in Quake, for instance. There’s also a real lack of long-range hitscan weapons, like a railgun. Also, there’s not really any interesting alien weapons with weird characteristics (a la the Needler from Halo).

Ammo is often pretty limited, especially for the Pulsar. Once the bazooka appears, ammo is pretty common by comparison. I found myself switching up weapons pretty often to focus on the best weapon for a given scenario in order to consume ammo. I rarely found myself completely dry, however, as there are many ammo pickups scattered about.

Wrack ‘Em Up

The enemies you use these weapons on can be categorized into two groups.

Wrack Review: Bazooooooka!

The first I’ll call “lizard aliens” – these guys come in a wide variety of flavors. Some shoot single shots at you, others will shoot homing bolts or shots that split in three. The highest tier lizard aliens have a sort of long-range laser sniper that they charge and fire at you.

The second group are robots. There are three of these, a small spider robot, a small spider robot with explosives wired to it, and a large 10 foot tall walking robot that likes to slam the ground and cause massive damage.

Wrack Review: Robots + the Pulsar

Beyond the standard enemies, each major level caps off with a boss fight. The boss fights are interesting, and varied. They’re some of my favorite moments in the game, as each boss is huge, animated well, and has an interesting attack pattern.

Wrack doesn’t pull any punches, even on the “normal” difficulty I played on. I died a lot. Especially to the bosses – there were a few that took me a good ten tries to beat. Wrack has a lives and continues system, but it also allows you to quicksave whenever you want. These two things together confused me – as long as I made smart quicksaves, was there any reason to die and be sent back to the last checkpoint, or the start of the level?

Wracking My Brain

To summarize my criticisms of it – I want more Wrack. I want more weapons, more enemies, and more levels to play. I want more bosses to fight. Wrack left me wanting more, and I can’t say that’s a totally unwelcome feeling. There’s Steam Workshop support, so perhaps the community will step up and make more Wrack. Also, hopefully the dev(s) will consider releasing DLC or a sequel at some point.

Game:Wrack
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:9/30/2014
Price:$14.99
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

At the end of the day, I enjoyed Wrack. It’s got a lot of nostalgic game mechanics, but it’s wrapped up in a lot of modern conveniences and some shiny artwork. If you missed out on (or just plain miss) old-school shooters, Wrack is a solid choice.

Wrack is available now on Steam.

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I Am Bread Review: … and So Can You! http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/i-am-bread-review-and-so-can-you/ http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/i-am-bread-review-and-so-can-you/#comments Sun, 12 Apr 2015 19:32:42 +0000 http://www.withoutthesarcasm.com/?p=6474 I Am Bread flopped its way out of Steam Early Access this week and landed flat onto the hot coils of the Steam New Releases page. Is this "bread simulator" the neatest thing since... well, sliced bread? Or is it half-baked? Let's find out in my I Am Bread review!
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I Am Bread flopped its way out of Steam Early Access this week and landed flat onto the hot coils of the Steam New Releases page. Is this “bread simulator” the neatest thing since… well, sliced bread? Or is it half-baked? Let’s find out in my I Am Bread review!

(Full Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this game for review. I am not otherwise affiliated with Bossa Studios, however.)

I Am Bread is clearly a new entry in the “bumblecore” genre, and at first glance it is the most similar to the flash game GIRP, although you could also compare it to Bossa’s previous game, Surgeon Simulator. In the “story mode” you play as a slice of bread that desperately wants to become toast. You’ve got to get from the loaf to a source of heat in order to make this transition possible. Between you and golden brown deliciousness is a household obstacle course of many different environments that make you decidedly less tasty. The floor in particular is a good way to lose a lot of deliciousness, but everywhere you flop there are hazards, like ants, band-aids, and water. Nobody likes soggy toast…

I Am Bread Review: Jelly Toast, mmm

Your slice of bread gets around by attaching one (or more) of its corners to a surface with the bumpers or triggers, and then pivoting using the analog stick to get another corner in position to attach. In this way, you can traverse surfaces both horizontal and vertical. There’s some slight floppyness to the bread, which you can use while you have momentum to kind of angle around shallow corners. In many stages, there’s also butter and jelly, which decrease or increase the stickyness of the bread. This can make it easier to slide across surfaces or adhere to walls, depending.

Loafing Around

I Am Bread features 7 different stages, each taking place in a different location. A couple are outdoors, so staying out of the rain and avoiding the wind become critical. I was able to “pass” all of the stages in the story mode in about 6-7 hours of play, although most of the time I barely skirted by with a D or E grade. A single run through of a stage takes around 10 minutes, although I had to restart dozens of times before I could properly clear each one.

I Am Bread Review: Yuck, inedible :(

If you become particularly frustrated with a story mode level, there’s always Magic Marmalade. Touching this keeps you from losing your grip or from becoming inedible, but it locks your score to a “E” grade. It’s great for exploring a level you can’t quite figure out, or passing a stage that you’re just having trouble mastering.

Clearing stages also unlocks alternative modes, and each puts a different spin on the core game mechanics. The first is a “Free Roam” mode which just lets you mess around in each environment without any sort of goals. Next is a “Rampage” mode, where you play as a baguette and have to trash everything in sight. There’s a “Bagel Race” where you guide a rolling bagel through a series of checkpoints. In “Cheese Hunt,” your cracker has to reach slices of smelly cheese while avoiding damage. Finally, there’s a “Zero G” mode where your slice is strapped to some rockets and has to conserve fuel while trying to become toasted.

I Am Bread Review: BREAD INNNN SPAAAACE

Of the alternative modes, my favorites were “Rampage” and “Zero G.” Rampage mode takes the game’s floppy physics and uses it for chaos, and I always find that enjoyable. Grabbing hunks of broken glass and flinging them around did not get old. I was surprised that I enjoyed Zero G, but I found it to be very relaxing compared to the other modes. I could make small adjustments to my course, and float serenely rather than feel like every second mattered.

Camera Bready

Stress is somewhat core to the bumblecore experience. Saying I Am Bread’s “controls are awkward” is like saying “you get to shoot a gun” about a FPS. However, I did find the controls a bit more awkward than they really needed to be. I definitely took a few years off the life of my controller trying to make fast, precise movements. Your slice’s movement is camera relative, so there are times where you have to put the camera at a confusing angle in order to move the way you need to in order to navigate certain surfaces. Trying to cross a ceiling or the underside of a shelf is a particularly challenging endeavor.

I Am Bread Review: Bent Bread

I also hit a few weird physics glitches during play. In one section of the gas station, for instance, I could reliably cause the bread to kind of fold in on itself, which usually resulted in me flying halfway across the map in some random direction. Hilarious? Sure. But also it tended to ruin a run, which was a bummer.

Another odd thing is that you can grab light objects, twirl them around, and then end up flying off with your combined momentum. Sometimes if you land on something that breaks (like a glass or plate) and then mistakenly grab onto it instead of to the floor, you’ll inadvertently end up flinging yourself and the object across the room. Again, it’s kind of funny the first time, but as it can ruin 10 minutes of play when it happens, it’s kind of frustrating.

One Last Slice

Game:I Am Bread
Links:Homepage, Store Page
Release:4/9/2015
Price:$12.99
Rating: - Awesome!
Our Thoughts:

I Am Bread is silly and dumb, but still challenging and rewarding. The 7 core environments, with 6 different gameplay modes, offer a wide variety of breadventures to explore. If the difficulty of Surgeon Simulator put you off, this is far more forgiving by comparison.

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