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Marbloid review – iOS Universal

December 8, 2018

10 word description (from official site): Marbloid is a 3D marble runner for iPhone and iPad.

10 word review: Incredibly good-looking, incredibly annoying. Prepare for extreme frustration.

You will like this if you enjoy: Failing due to deliberately perverse game design choices, losing everything you collected when you crash and fail due to those wacky design choices, being told “FAIL” by an annoying voice every time you fail and lose everything you collected due to those oh-so amusing game design choices.

The good news: Graphics are very nice. Performance is good – I didn’t get any slowdown or lag on my iPhone 8+. Concept is sound – guide a rolling ball through some areas collecting stuff and levelling up skills. No IAPs.

The bad news: Oh boy, where to start… The first few minutes with Marbloid are pretty good. But then you realise you lose everything you collected when you FAIL, so it’s different in this respect from other endless runner type games, you know, where you collect coins or whatever and they add to your stockpile every time you play. In Marbloid, the currency is emojis, which to be honest should have been a massive clue as to how annoying this game was going to be. Unlike the way you would expect this emoji-collecting to work, if you FAIL before reaching an exit point you lose all the emojis you have collected in that run, and you also lose any quest-related progress. This means you have to play the game a couple of different ways: One, grind on short, wimpy-but-safe(ish) runs to the first or second exit while collecting as many emojis as you can. This method can also be used to complete quests where you have to collect a total number of whatever in as many runs as it takes. The other way you have to play is enforced by quests to complete whatever in a single run – these are horrible because FAILING in this game is hard to avoid due to appallingly sadistic level design, specific level features which catch you out by being hidden around corners or just unavoidable, and the stupid tilt-only control, and the fact that you have to jump using a screen-tap but the bottom of the screen (where there’s a quest status bar) doesn’t register the screen taps and aaaarggghhhh! Trust me, it’s bloody annoying.

One thing which would remove the massive frustration of failing on a long, profitable run, would be if the stupid game let you keep what you had collected. You can even complete a quest – you get the screen prompt and everything – but if you don’t exit cleanly through an EXIT, and you FAIL, you lose that quest completion. It’s just stupid. I had to turn the volume off completely because the voice shouting “FAIL” every time you fail (which feels like every ten seconds) is ANNOYING. AS. HELL.

Arcadelife verdict: This is not so much a wasted opportunity as an excellent opportunity repeatedly slaughtered at the unholy altar of player-FAIL as part of some kind of evil, Groundhog Day experiment in phone-smashing frustration. This game’s annoyance could be mostly fixed by removing the unnecessarily cruel progress loss and the “FAIL” voiceover which purely serves to express just how much the designers don’t want you to enjoy playing their game.

Arcadelife rating

Presentation – 8/10
Visuals – 8.5/10
Controls – 6/10
Content – 6/10
Fun – -1/10
Final rating – 3/10

SMASH YOUR PHONE, THEN YOURSELF. IT’S WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO DO

 

 

This review was written on a dasKeyboard Model S Professional.
I also write novels – JW Tapper website
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Battle Princess Madelyn review – PC (Steam)

December 6, 2018

Game blurb, aka how the game is described on Steam and the Causal Bits BPM web page:
“You’re the princess! Battle Princess Madelyn to be precise, in this pixel perfect retro side-scroller, as you set off to defeat evil with your ghostly canine companion, Fritzy. Do you have what it takes to save your family, avenge your furry friend and become the ultimate battle princess?” “10 levels, each of which include up to 5 stages – including 1 or 2 branching hidden stages.”

What is it?
Battle Princess Madelyn is 2018’s indirect, unofficial descendant of Capcom’s thirty-year-old hard-as-nails scrolling platformer, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and its even older ancestor, Ghosts ‘n Goblins. Unlike those games, or any of their five later incarnations, the protagonist of BPM is Madelyn The (kind of) Princess instead of Arthur the knight. There are two modes: story and arcade. In story mode, a short cutscene sets up the premise that Madelyn needs/wants to go fight a bunch of bad guys and you’re almost immediately dropped into the action after some standard ‘talk to people in village to hear about the bad guys and the profit to be made and items to be gained from their wholesale slaughter’ conversations. The arcade mode just has the “Oh no, they killed my dog!” scene, which replaces the “Oh no, they stole the Princess!” scene from most of the classic side-scrolling undead-fighting platformers mentioned above.

What does it look like?
BPM is full-on retro pixel art and proud of it. I could probably witter on for several paragraphs about the satisfyingly lo-res homage to 80’s arcade games, but you can see for yourself from the screen images in this review. If you hadn’t seen this game but you heard it described as a modern take on Ghouls ‘n Ghosts with retro pixel art graphics, this is how you would probably imagine it looking. Bosses are big (see pic of first boss below), nicely drawn and animated, and take a lot of pummelling.

Is it worth turning the sound up?
Sort of. The music is great, and there’s an option to select an ‘orchestral’ or ‘arcade’ soundtrack. Sadly, the sound effects are very quiet (at least as far as I could tell on my system) and there’s no option to adjust the music/effects volumes independently.

How are the controls?
Keyboard works okay, you pretty much just have directional controls, jump and attack, however you can’t change the allocated keys. I played mostly using an XBox 360 gamepad plugged into the PC and it was fine, although the inventory button is only assigned to a PC key (Tab) which seems a bit weird because there are plenty of spare buttons on a gamepad for this. Response to input is consistent and immediate – I never felt like I was dying or falling to my doom due to controller issues.

Final opinion
I’m old, I played Ghouls ‘n Ghosts when it was in the arcades, and I played Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on a SNES way back when that was new and exciting, and laggy as heck of course. A modern spin on the side-scrolling action platformer, as well as being a game I would really want to try out, is always going to be facing some serious competition from my (arguably rose-tinted) memories of those original games. Battle Princess Madelyn gets it mostly right. While I play the game, I keep running through a list in my head of what I’d like different, or better. I prefer the arcade mode over the story mode, but that’s just something irredeemably screwed up in my gamer DNA due to living through the Golden Age – I love high scores. And, of course, there’s no high-score table in this game, so I have to mark it down for that. Other things that irritated me included the quick-travel which doesn’t seem to include the hub village as a travel option – I honestly can’t figure out how to get back there to cash in quests, find the dude who offers upgrades, etc.

 

Other details, like the inability to change key mappings, or separately adjust music and volume controls make this feel just a tiny bit unpolished.

The core gameplay is spot on, the game looks really nice and controls work well. I’ll keep going back to play it long after this review has been published, but it would be great to have some of these issues sorted out – they honestly would not be difficult to fix.

Scores – because we love scores.
Dem retro graphics – 9
Music – 8.5
Sound FX – 4 (make ’em louder or give us a volume control)
Controls – 9
Gameplay (difficulty) – 8
Gameplay (fun) – 7.5
Menu options / customisation – 4

Overall score – 8 (I rounded it up with some rose-tinted memories)

This review was written on a dasKeyboard Model S Professional.
I also write novels – JW Tapper website
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Battle Princess Madelyn – Release Date 06 December 2018

November 13, 2018

Battle Princess Madelyn – Releases December 6th 2018 on Nintendo Switch, XB1, PS4 & Windows PC

 

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Skyrim – Nordic Legend ‘self-sufficiency’ challenge

April 20, 2018

Welcome to the Skyrim – Nordic Legend ‘self-sufficiency’ challenge.

This is something I’ve recently started, based on ideas obtained from various Skyrim challenges. It’s not particularly a roleplaying challenge, and it’s not intended to be crushingly punishing or extremely tedious, although it is to be played entirely on Legendary difficulty. I’ll post updates on an infrequent basis; if you take up the challenge, please add a comment or two to let me know how you’re getting on with it.

Overall purpose of this challenge: To be entirely self-sufficient on Legendary difficulty, and to abide strictly by the rules of the challenge.

Almost all the challenge rules do not require ‘player honesty’ or remembering ‘roleplay’ specific elements, as they can be continually checked against the recorded stats for the character. An exception to this is the first set of restrictions (see below) regarding the player state on leaving Helgen.

Character creation and state on leaving Helgen.

Race: Nord

Difficulty: Legendary. This cannot be changed at any time after leaving Helgen.

Restrictions

Restrictions upon leaving Helgen…

> Player must accompany Ralof and not Hadvar – the Stormcloak side must always be chosen.
> Player must be level 1.
> No skills are to be improved before leaving Helgen via the cave exit into the main game world.
> Player’s inventory must be completely empty. Anything being carried must be dropped before leaving through the cave exit.
> Gold carried must be 0.
> Player must be wearing nothing.
> Player must be wielding no weapon or shield.


Consistent restrictions (i.e. for the rest of the time this character is played)…

> Can only wear, wield and use items, potions and food crafted yourself. This means no bought, found or looted items can be used by the player. This includes weapons, armour, potions, food. However, all items (whether looted, found or crafted) can be sold in order to buy crafting materials.

> No magic spells can be used or learned apart from the two starter spells – Healing and Flames.

> Nothing can be stolen. This means that anything in the world marked ‘STEAL’ cannot be opened, unlocked, taken, or otherwise manipulated by the player or a follower.

> Pick-pocketing is not allowed at all.

> The murder of innocent NPCs is not allowed. i.e. Don’t attack any person who isn’t attacking you, unless that person is a quest target. (Yes, you can kill Grelod The Kind if you have the appropriate quest active).

> Waiting is not allowed.

> Cart travel is not allowed.

> Vanilla game should be played – no mods, particularly any that add or improve weapons, armour, or any crafting skills.

Actions that are allowed, which may not be clear from the restrictions…

> Followers can be equipped with anything you find, loot or craft.

> You are allowed to disenchant found and looted items, and to enchant items that you have crafted.

> Anything crafted by the player can be used by the player. This includes unique items such as the Aetherial Crown.

> Houses may be bought and used by the player.

> Sleeping (e.g. in a player house, at an inn, or on bedroll out in the world) is allowed.

> Fast travel to locations previously discovered by the player is allowed.

> Shouts are allowed.

> Perks can be put into any skill tree.

> Cooking, Smithing, Alchemy and Enchanting are all allowed.

> Filled soul gems that are found or bought can be used by the player.

> All crafting materials may be bought, including ingots.

General objectives / win conditions

> Progress as far as possible in the main quest line.

> Progress as far as possible in the civil war quest line, taking the Stormcloak side.

> Acquire 100,000 gold at one time (i.e. have that much in your inventory at least once).

That’s it. Actually pretty straightforward despite the lengthy description of the challenge. So far, I’ve made a fairly decent start in the first half hour, getting to Riverwood and crafting a full set of leather armour and an iron warhammer. I obviously took Sven’s side, and not Faendal’s, because Nords have to stick together. Sven’s turning out to be not too bad at all with a one-handed sword, but I don’t intend keeping him around for very long.

I’ll be concentrating on these skills:
> Two-Handed
> Light Armour
> Smithing
> Enchanting

And I’ll have  some interest in:
> Alchemy
> Restoration

Initially, up to level 20, I’ll be stacking level-up health and stamina in an 80:20 ratio, so by level 20 I should have 220 Health and 170 Stamina. After that, it will probably be 50:50 Health and Stamina.

If you’re really lucky, I’ll add some videos of significant moments…

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Battle Princess Madelyn – teaser trailer #1

September 22, 2017

This definitely looks like it’s going to rule.

Press release information:

September 20th 2017, Nova Scotia, Canada – Causal Bit Games is excited to present a stunning new trailer to commemorate the recent success on Kickstarter of Battle Princess Madelyn, that quadrupled the target set, and also to thank the many fans who have supported the game is set to release on PC, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Wii U – which is due for release first quarter 2018.

Features

  • Story mode allows players to explore the vast world of Princess Madelyn – uncover the secrets of the kingdom and beyond.
  • A 10 level Arcade mode for the action hungry old school game player – levels designed specifically for a fast action arcade experience.
  • Join Madelyn on her quest of self-discovery as she helps others, and not just herself, to becomes a wiser more mature knight and to save her family and kingdom from the clutches of evil.
  • An array of weaponry to choose from, each with its own unique abilities, which are also modified by the three different types of armor the player can receive on their way through the game.
  • Meet many different characters as Madelyn builds a support system throughout the kingdom.
  • Loads of ghouls, demons and bosses to crush on your way to becoming the kingdom’s most powerful defender.
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Danmaku Unlimited 3 review (iOS / Universal)

August 10, 2017

10 word description: Bullet hell sequel. New modes. Unlockable firing methods. Beginner-friendly.

10 word review: Beautiful, intense, and tough as you want it to be.

You will like this if you enjoy: Bullet hell shooters. Seeing a screen full of gorgeous geometric shapes moving very, very fast.

The good news: A truly beautiful experience, both visually and the way it sounds. The controls are as intuitive and unobtrusive as possible, with no on-screen buttons, and minimal swipe controls that are virtually impossible to get wrong. Even the menus are crisp, clear and as gorgeous as the rest of the game.

The bad news: The game is hardly original, but then how could anyone genuinely expect a totally original gaming experience from the third game in a series within a genre that is as niche as bullet hell shooters? 

Arcadelife verdict: While it doesn’t really attempt anything groundbreaking, there’s a deeply compelling purity to the style, intensity and gameplay of DU3. The minor tweaks and improvements to what has gone before in this series are well-considered and definitely improve the overall experience. For bullet-hell fans, particularly fans of the genre on mobile devices, DU3 is an easy recommendation, with the very minor caveat that it isn’t going to blow your mind with its originality… only with its stunning beauty.

Arcadelife rating

Presentation – 9.5/10
Visuals – 9.5/10
Controls – 9/10
Content – 8/10
Fun – 8/10
Final rating – 9/10

PURE

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0.4
iTunes link
Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPhone 6 (iOS 10.3.2)
iPad Pro (iOS 10.3.2)
This review was typed on a Das Keyboard Model S mechanical keyboard – check them out, they’re really rather groovy.
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Preview – Danmaku Unlimited 3 (iOS)

July 22, 2017

There are a couple of things worth mentioning before I start: First, there’s no personal opinion (of DU3) or any kind of review material in this article because I have been asked not to publish a review until the game’s iOS release date – 10 August 2017. Second, the images in this preview are taken from my own iPhone 6 and iPad Pro, and they have been compressed to .jpg format to save space on my WordPress account, so any lack of quality in the images is because of the compression, not the game’s visuals.

One thing I can get away with saying, is that I played the hell out of Danmaku Unlimited 2, loved every second, and I was still playing it on a fairly regular basis until a promo code for DU3 turned up.

Here’s some info from the press release: “Inspired by legendary classics like Ikaruga, Dodonpachi and Touhou, Danmaku Unlimited 3 is a lovingly crafted medley of the best aspects of Japanese Bullet Hell games, but with an innovative twist that makes it an accessible package perfectly suited as a gateway into the world of Bullet Hell. Initially available on PC/Steam, the game is now returning to its roots (Danmaku 1 and 2 were originally mobile titles) in a no-compromise premium port for iOS and Android.

This is the feature list from the press release:

• Console grade Bullet Hell experience fully realized for mobile.
• Medley of the best aspects of classic Japanese Bullet Hell shooters in a modern HD package with its own innovative twist.
• Premium experience: Perfect 1 to 1 port of the PC Version with no Ads or iAP of any kind.
• Pixel perfect touch movement with innovative virtual button free controls.
• Epic campaign across 2 unique game modes each with their own mechanics and scoring.
• Tons of weapon customization and extra unlocks.
• Brand new SPIRIT/GRAZE system gives beginners an exciting and stylish experience while rewarding skillful high risk plays that genre veterans are capable of.
• Chase high-scores with Gamecenter/Google Play leaderboards/achievements integration.
• Rocking soundtrack by the talented indie circle Blankfield from Tokyo.

Here are a couple of closing comments from the game’s creator: “The game will launch universally on iOS and Android on August 10th with an introductory price of 4.99USD (It will rise to closer to the PC version after). High quality images can also be found on the game’s DU3 website.)”

I’ll be posting a review here on Arcadelife on (or very soon after) 10 August 2017.

Don’t forget to support a struggling, unknown, unloved (and hopelessly melodramatic) author by at least having a look at my other website.