Chop Sushi!

Filed under: cheapo games — Will @ 10:00 am July 21, 2010

Game: Chop Sushi!
Purchased from: The iTunes Store
Price paid: $0.99
Platform: iPhone, iPad, & iPod Touch

I like playing puzzle games, but any more, most of them seem to be some variant of ‘match three of the same thing to make them disappear’. Which is great (kinda) for a while, but I do crave different experiences occasionally.

Take Chop Sushi! for example. On the surface, you have a match 3 things and make them disappear thing going on, but there are enough little additions that this doesn’t quite seem like the cookie-cutter puzzler that it could be.

There’s a kind of a story, but it was so bizarre that I didn’t really pay a lot of attention to it. The gist of it is that people are sad because of their demons (“Nobody likes my hair!”, etc.), and you, as the Master Chef, use the power of sushi to defeat their demons… somehow.

You’re presented with a 7×7 grid of sushi and wasabi. You have the ability to pick up any piece you want and move it in either of the four cardinal directions to the edge of the board, with the goal of matching three of the same things. Match most things, and nothing much happens, but match the wasabi and you attack your opponent’s life bar, and with a little guile you try to prevent your opponent from doing the same. The first one to run out of HP loses. It’s pretty straightforward (if not a little boring) for a while… until you start adding traps, specials, and boosts. These are special ‘recipes’ that are triggered by clearing certain combinations of sushi for a benefit (or in the case of traps, a detriment). Now the strategy comes in of trying to get the bonuses while forcing your opponent to trigger the traps. It’s a little complicated.

But there’s not a whole lot more to the game than that. There’s a half-hearted puzzle mode that feels kind of bolted on, and an overly simplistic fishing activity you can do, but they don’t really add anything worthwhile to the experience. So, no big gains or losses there. The real meat and potatoes of this game, so to speak, is the adventure mode, where you go up against the computer in a series of battles that steadily ramp up in difficulty, culminating in a final battle against… Well, I better not say, don’t want to ruin the surprise.

I pretty easily blew through this game in about a week, playing about an hour a day, but after the adventure mode is done, there’s really not much else to do with the thing. You can go back and relive the battles in the game if you want, but since your guy levels up RPG-style, most of the fights from the guys at the beginning of the game are going to last for one move or so. So replay takes a pretty big hit, but the ride to get there is decently interesting.

Pipe Mania

Filed under: cheapo games — Will @ 10:00 am July 14, 2010

Game: Pipe Mania
Purchased from: Big Lots
Price paid: $4.00
Platform: PC

If you haven’t caught on by now, Big Lots is pretty much my go to place for last season’s games on the cheap. There just aren’t enough hours in the day or dollars in my wallet for me to play all the games that I want when they make their first trip through the retail channels. But there are also games there that I’ve never seen outside of my local stores, so that’s a plus, too. One such game is Pipe Mania.

Pipe Mania has existed in one form or another for a number of years, and (very briefly) seemed like it was going to be as ubiquitous as Tetris, but for one reason or another, it seems to have nearly fallen off the face of the planet. If you’re not familiar with this game, it features you as a plumber of sorts presented wth a series of levels featuring a spigot and a drain. After a few seconds a slow flowing liquid called Flooze (not to be confused with Flooz) will start to flow. Your job is to take the random selection of pipe pieces and construct a winding path to the drain. The more pipes you use, the more points you get. Easy! Of course, most real plumbers that I know would go for the most direct route possible, but they also don’t have a selection of parts raining down on them from on high, so that’s a plus, I guess.

So this game is the same as that game. Yeah, there’s been stuff added: fancy-pantsy graphics, some cartoony characters (including a pairing of a lazy cat and a fastidious mouse, what fun!) and some of the levels have obstacles that you have to work around, but it’s nothing too earth-shattering.

The real draw is that this is something that you can pick up and play for a few minutes in between… well, whatever it is that people do on a computer when they’re not playing games.

Well, that and it cost less than one of those $5 footlongs, and lasted way longer.

Tilt to Live

Filed under: cheapo games — Will @ 10:00 am July 7, 2010

Game: Tilt to Live
Purchased from: The iTunes Store
Price paid: $1.99
Platform: iPhone, iPad, & iPod Touch

Tilt to Live is a game that reminds me a whole lot of I MAED A GAM3 WITH ZOMBIES IN 1T!!!1. Like Zombies, it stars you in the middle of a field of things that aren’t you and that are trying to end your game. Unlike Zombies, though, your main weapon is your maneuverability. You have to tilt and turn your iPhone (or other iDevice) to slide your little arrow-guy around the playfield and avoid the Red Dots that spawn everwhere. The goal? Collect the Weapon Orbs, destroy as many of the Dots as possible, amass points, and repeat. It’s really that simple.

The draw to this game is its simplicity: it’s you against an unending army of dots, and its length: a full game takes me anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes. Meaning that you have time to play this pretty much any time you have a couple minutes to burn.

The downside? The only one that I can think of is the weapon selection. You get several ways to inflict Mass Doom(tm) on the Dots, but for some reason this game likes to give me the most boring powerup of all, the Nuke, more frequently than anything else, sometimes six or seven times in a row. That makes for a few boring matches, but the rest of the time, when they’re more random… Whoa-ho! Fun times!

Disney’s A Christmas Carol

Filed under: cheapo games — Will @ 10:00 am June 23, 2010

Game: Disney’s A Christmas Carol
Purchased from: Target
Price paid: $4.98
Platform: DS

Why am I talking about a Christmas game in June? It’s been oppressively hot in this area for the past several days, so I figured I’d try and have cooling thoughts by playing a game based around Christmas.

I might have been the only person on the planet that didn’t rush out to see Disney’s latest version of A Christmas Carol when it hit theaters last fall. Yeah, it’s got Jim Carrey playing a ridiculous number of parts, but other than that, it’s the same old story we’ve all heard before. I mean, imdb lists about 40 versions of the thing.

But we’re not here to talk about that, we’re here to talk about a game based on a movie which was based on a book. Being that far removed from the source material kind of concerned me a little bit. It turns out that I needn’t have worried, the game has precious little movie content, and other than the picture on the front of the box, I wouldn’t have even known that this was based on any kind of movie.

The game follows, more or less, the events of the story, so I’m not going to go into them here. But you’re presented with a scene from the story as a point ‘n’ click puzzle. Like most point ‘n’ clickers, your job is to click and rub on things in the correct order, through trial and error, mostly, to make things happen. Unlike most point ‘n’ click games, you can blow into the microphone on your DS to make everything onscreen that you can interact with light up, making things pretty easy.

Clear a scene and you’re treated to a short animated cutscene to further the story, and then another set of puzzles to solve. It’s all thrown together surprisingly well, and the difficulty is just high enough that you won’t breeze through them, and low enough that you won’t get frustrated and quit. It’s all pretty standard stuff, and it’s even halfway decent. But there’s not much of it. I was able to blow through the game in just over two hours, or about the amount of time that would have taken me to watch the movie, so that’s a wash.

The game also has a couple of cute extras. It has the full-text of the original Christmas Carol story, presented in giganto-print format that fits about ten words on the screen at a time, which is pretty decent. And there’s also an Advent Calendar where you play a ‘spot the differences’ game where you’re presented with two pictures and have to find the differences between them. The calendar is supposed to reveal one additional puzzle per day in the month of December through Christmas Eve. Except the year must have been hard-coded into the game because the first time I turned it on they all unlocked immediately.

Ah well.

The game is actually decent, and it doesn’t hurt that there is a reasonably-complete list of hints on Disney’s site to help some of the less-experienced players make it through. Add to all that the fact that the game can be completed in an afternoon, and it’s a nice diversion. Even if you’re using it to escape the crazy heat of the summer.

Ultraman: Little Adventure

Filed under: cheapo games — Will @ 10:10 am June 16, 2010

Game: Ultraman: Little Adventure
Purchased from: Big Lots
Price paid: $6.00
Platform: PC

I never really bothered to familiarize myself with Ultraman, so all I really know about him is that he looks kind of like a guy wearing a robot costume and fights other things that look like guys wearing other costumes. So I really didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Ultraman: Little Adventure. All I had to go on was the stuff that they put on the back of the box: three screenshots, a vague description, and the corner proudly proclaiming “Ages 5 & Up”, which isn’t really all that descriptive, but is enough to sway me into buying a game, apparently.

Ultraman plays a lot like Pac-Mania, but since you’ve probably never actually played Pac-Mania, that probably doesn’t help you. Picture regular Pac-Man, change the viewpoint to 3/4 overhead, and make the nondescript mazes into nondescript cityscapes, and you’re starting to get there.

You guide Ultraman (or Ultraman Taro, or Ultraman Ace, whoever they are) and walk around something that looks like it came directly out of SimCity grabbing ‘crystals’ that are scattered all over the place. Grab ‘em all, and head toward the teleporter to go to the next level. Easy, right?

Hah! You wish!

Standing in your way are monsters with names that I’ve never heard of and can’t spell. Just be content to know that they’re generic, monstery things bent on keeping you from completing your civic duty. And by “bent on keeping you from completing your civic duty”, I mean “kind of wander around the maze aimlessly and bump into you from time to time”. Which isn’t even as debilitating as I’ve made it sound. They just kind of bump into you and flail around while you lose precious energy. Your defense? Other than your smarts, Ultraman can shoot energy beams to temporarily take out the guys that stand in his way.

Typical gameplay shot. I don't know who any of those guys are.

Typical gameplay shot. I don't know who any of those guys are.

And that’s pretty much it.

Yeah, the layouts of the levels change (“25 different stages” the box hollers at me), and there are some wimpy obstacles in the way on some of them (switches that raise and lower bridges? sweet!), but nothing special.

There’s nothing wrong with this game, exactly, but there’s nothing particularly great about it, either. You just guide Ultraman around one generic level after another, solving puzzles mostly without actually trying, and generally just passing a few minutes of your time.


Filed under: cheapo games — Will @ 8:00 am June 9, 2010

Purchased from: Xbox Live
Price paid: 80 Microsoft Points (equivalent to $1 American)
Platform: Xbox 360

One of the great things about the Indie Games channel of Xbox Live is that pretty much anyone that wants to pay the entrance fee can develop and publish their vision for the world to take in, which also is one of the biggest weaknesses. Pretty much any pile of dreck can make it to the service, which can make sifting through them to find the gems a chore.

But that’s what I’m here for.

One of the games that maed some waves last year was (and I quote) “I MAED A GAM3 WITH ZOMBIES IN 1T!!!1″, a game with a four-pronged hook.

Prong 1: Using ridiculous ‘Leet Speak‘, which virtually nobody uses seriously any more, to ‘maek the gaem’ look like it was put together by some kind of gamer. ‘One of us’, so to speak. But since I don’t know anyone who actually uses that kind of phraseology, I can only assume it’s supposed to be some kind of ‘inside joke’ that’s so not a secret that anyone who’s had access to the Internet for more than five minutes knows all about it.

Prong 2: A ridiculous self-referential theme song that plays for the length of the game. Throughout the first few minutes of the game you’re treated to (what I’m pretty sure is) the author of the game singing about how great his game is, about all the zombies, and how he hopes you buy it because it’s only a dollar. I’ve found several references that say that this song lasts for 13 minutes and 37 seconds, or 13:37, which is another reference to the ‘Leet Speak’ referenced above. I haven’t actually managed to find my stopwatch to time it, so I don’t actually know if that’s true or not.

Prong 3: You might remember a little game from a few years back called Geometry Wars that kind of exploded all over the Internet for a while. It’s a game that features you, a thing that moves around a playfield, shooting waves upon waves of things that aren’t you until they disappear. It’s probably safe to assume that the mechanics were ripped off from Geometry Wars, but since those mechanics were lifted almost wholesale from Smash TV, that’s not too big of a deal.

Prong 4: The game costs $1. You’re bludgeoned over the head with this fact repeatedly until you’ve lost consciousness, and then it’s jammed sideways into every open orifice on your person. There’s a good chance that you’ve got a dollar sitting in your Xbox Live account after buying shirts for your avatar, and this guy really wants you to use it to get his game instead of some pile of fetid bleu-cheese masquerading as a game.

And should you?

Well, that depends. The game is fast-paced, challenging, and kind of silly… And you can pretty much experience everything the game has to offer by watching the video above. Not to mention that playing it by yourself is kind of boring. But if you have two or more people, then it starts to get interesting. You can either work as a team or play for yourself, but I can guarantee* that there will be a lot of cross-chatter, some backstabbing, and a general good time held.

Unless your friends don’t like having mindless, silly fun. And who really wants to play video games with those people anyway?

*Not actually guaranteed.

World of Zoo

Filed under: cheapo games — Tags: , , — Will @ 6:00 am May 19, 2010

Game: World of Zoo
Purchased from: Target
Price paid: $4.98
Platform: PC

World of Zoo is kind of interesting to me. It’s been out on shelves since October of 2009 and before I found it in the clearance bin I hadn’t heard of it. In fact, I could hardly find any mention of this game on the entire Internet, save for a few previews and screenshots.

So I’m here to help break that silence.

World of Zoo is actually nothing like World of Goo, a game I have actually heard of. It stars animals in various zoo enclosures under your purview, and you as the local zookeeper, have to take care of them. Taking care of them, in this case, involves throwing them toys, grooming them, giving them food, and generally making them as happy as possible. Really, calling this thing a ‘game’ is a bit of a stretch, it’s definitely an activity, though

There’s a lot of stuff to do in this, er, activity, if you define ‘stuff’ as lots of buttons to click on to make stuff happen. Want to give your animals a toy? Click a button. Want to spray them with the hose? Click a button. Want to build a new playset for them to play on? Click on the hammer button and then click on the spot to build it. All to get precious hearts (i.e. sweet, sweet affection) from your critters. Hearts allow you to expand your zoo and take care of more animals.

So, there’s nothing really wrong with this thing, exactly. It’s definitely geared to the younger crowd with its simplistic interface. And, as long as the animals are happy (which seems to be pretty easy to maintain) then they kind of creepily smile at you all the time.

All of this makes it a decent time-waster, and I’d have probably gotten more out of it if I was a pre-teen. But it’s definitely a solid title, which makes its lack of media coverage that much more baffling. This isn’t some quickie shovelware game, and it’s worth every bit of the five-spot I blew on it, and if I was born 20 years or so later, it might even be worth twice that to me.

Aegis Wing

Filed under: cheapo games — Will @ 1:05 pm May 12, 2010

Game: Aegis Wing
Purchased from: XBox Live Marketplace
Price paid: 0 MS Points (Free!)
Platform: XBox 360

I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was one game on Xbox Live that didn’t cost anything, it’s almost like Microsoft is giving you the opportunity to see what downloading a game is like so that you’ll be more willing to download more games in the future, and if the game’s not half-bad, then so much the better!

Aegis Wing is a rail-shooter, and all that really means is that you fly along a set path shooting the waves upon waves of enemies that are bigger, faster, more maneuverable, and better armed than you. Your goal is to use your wits and superior piloting skills to blow them all up.

Really, most of the game is pretty bog-standard. If you’ve played a shooter before, you pretty much already know what to expect. The ‘hook’, though, comes into play when you get more people involved.

Get two to four people playing this game and you can link your ships together for increased firepower with the tradeoff that your ship becomes a much larger target.

There’s actually not too much that’s difficult about this game. I was able to round up three friends and we went through the game in about an hour without too much trouble, so finishing it is certainly an achievable goal.

And the cost is just right, at 0 Microsoft Points, there’s really no reason to not pick it up… unless you hate having fun or feel like you have to spend money on something to make it worth your while. And if that’s the case, what are you doing reading this site?

PuzzleQuest: Galactrix

Filed under: cheapo games — Will @ 7:00 am May 5, 2010

Game: PuzzleQuest: Galactrix
Purchased from: Best Buy
Price paid: $5.99
Platform: PC

It’s no great secret that I like puzzle games. But it’s also no great secret that I’m not a huge fan of the Bejeweled-type games. So why did I pick up a game that looks like it’s Bejeweled in space?

Because I had $6 burning a hole in my pocket, duh.

PuzzleQuest presents you with a series of hexagonal grids where you (and optionally a computer opponent) swap tiles and try to match three or more in a row (no big surprise there).

And your goals will vary from trying to destroy your opponent’s ship to ‘hacking’ (which is a fancy way of saying you have to make a certain sequence of clears in a restricted time limit) to ‘mining’ (which is a fancy way of saying that you have to match colors while working around garbage blocks that don’t actually do much). These are all wrapped with a story mode that’s conveyed with static pictures where the portraits talk to each other. Fire Emblem-style.

And I’d really like to tell you more about this game, like how deep and engrossing the story is, how the dialog is punchy with deep and pertinent undertones, how long the game is, all that kind of stuff.

But I can’t.

Mostly because the game would crash after about 20 minutes of me playing it for no discernible reason (thankfully, the autosave worked). I know, poor me, right?

But there was hope to be found!

I checked out the site of the publisher, Aspyr, and found that they had released a patch that, among other things:

“Fixed a bug that caused random crashes/performance issues on certain computers.”

Which I downloaded and installed, only to find that the patch couldn’t find the game installed on my system. It just throws up its virtual hands and gives up.

So I guess that makes this a pretty good game to pick up and play for about 20 minutes or so at a time because that’s as long as it’ll stay running, but that’s hardly a glowing review. But I will say that I don’t really miss my six bucks.

That makes it better, right?


Filed under: cheapo games — Will @ 7:00 am April 28, 2010

Game: Audiosurf
Purchased from: Steam
Price paid: $9.99
Platform: PC

Audiosurf is a kind of strange animal. It’s part rhythm game and part puzzler. You take your ship and pilot it down a course that’s generated by analyzing whatever song you chose. There are different colored ‘cars’ on the road that you have to try to hit and collect to fill up a grid on the bottom of the screen. When three or more of the same color line up you clear them. It actually sounds more complicated than it is… sort of.¬† The hook is, though, that you’re not limited to whatever songs the developer thought you should play with (and could afford the license to put in the game), you get to actually pick and choose songs from your very own music library¬† to generate the tracks. So the amount and variety of the levels is really up to how many songs you have stored away on your computer.

Which means that the game already has the best soundtrack ever, so it’s got that going for it.

The song you choose affects more than just how the track looks. You pick a slowish song and the track goes up at a leisurely pace. Pick a fast song with a lot of action, and the track goes down and it really starts to look like a roller coaster.

Of course, some songs work better than others. I actually had pretty bad luck playing chiptunes, which made me kind of sad. But that’s a pretty minor concern, really.

And that’s about all there is to it. Do well enough and you can become ‘champion’ of a particular song and get your score posted to the Audiosurf site for all to see, and if you get dethroned, you’ll get an email prodding you to try again.

But that’s it, there’s no overarching goal, no princess to save, and no country to rescue from oppressive, corrupt, government. It’s just you, your music, and your reflexes competing with yourself (and the world, if you want) for a high score.

Even better is that this is the kind of game that you can play for just a few minutes at a time. There’s something to be said about the ability to do a song or two during some downtime to take your mind off whatever task is at hand without having to worry about trying to make it to the next save point is actually pretty refreshing.

The only downside is that the demo only allows you to play four songs, and that’s it. Even if you have to stop the songs in the middle, you get four songs, and that’s it. If you want to play more than that, you’ll have to pony up for the full version. But, really, four songs is really enough to decide if this game’s for you, so that’s not too big a deal.

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