Archive for May, 2012


Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Part 8

May 30, 2012

*** Warning – Contains spoilers ***

I’ll try to keep this diary entry fairly brief. No, Rollins isn’t dead, he’s at the start of Act IV. I’m going to take my standard (non hardcore) mode Barbarian through that act as quickly as possible, spot any potentially worrying areas and encounters, then get through it in hardcore mode. So, what’s happened since part 7?

After the battles inside the fortress, the action temporarily moves outside for some siege engine destruction and running battles with land and air demons. Rollins’ auction house gear is keeping the fights all on the easy side and progress is quite swift.

Various events, such as Crazy Climber (above) and many encounters with elite enemies add to the xp count and Rollins’ growing wealth. I’m happily spending 20k on individual items now, focussing on socketed gear and a mixture of +strength, life regen and +XP stats.

Not long after level 31, the Templar came out with a random comment that was rather amusing…

Before descending into the Arreat Crater, there was this short and mostly uneventful mini-boss fight against the Siegebreaker Assault Beast. A couple of weak purple items, 10 achievement points and that’s it.

No big changes, or really any kind of changes at all as far as skills are concerned. The primary/secondary constant bashing is still working well against the large swarms of demons and other gibbering nasties.

Cydaea appears a few times during the descent through some impressive looking “depths of hell” style levels, mostly just to pass comment on my progress. When the big fight with her finally happens, it’s not that big and not really much of a fight.

After getting past her, there’s not really much to do before the end of act encounter with Azmodan. Rollins reached level 33 just before that.

Azmodan is a fairly straightforward fight; hit him until he falls over. At one point I lost about 15% health, but there is plenty of room to run away and heal from life regen gear without bothering with potions.

As you can see, he’s not immune to being stunned. I got 3 decent yellows (rares) and another hardcore achievement for killing him.

A few minutes of wandering around, chatting to NPCs and watching another very pretty cut-scene and it’s time to go to Heaven, and Act IV.

Thanks for reading this far! In part 9, we’ll see how far Rollins can get through Act IV and whether he manages to land a critical blow that does greater than 1000 damage – it’s close now, but still only in the 800 range.

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Go to Part 7]

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Go to Part 9]


Beat the Bullies review (iOS / Universal)

May 30, 2012

“Well the Snowman will make you happy…”

10 word description: “Jump around with a bouncing flame by tapping the screen” – copied from the app store description.

Earn extra “bash through the red platforms” skill points by collecting the small yellow fireball things

10 word review: Surprisingly entertaining and addictive puzzle/platform game. Well worth playing.

Charge into penguins to knock them back

You will like this if you enjoy: Furmins is close in concept, with the combination of item placement and then a fair amount of player interaction while the main character is navigating the screen. In my opinion this game is much more fun than Furmins, despite the far simpler graphics and lack of hype.

The good news: Simple but clear and colourful cartoon graphics. Puzzle elements, level design and control method are all very good and work well together. Plenty of levels. Challenging 3-star ratings don’t affect game progress. A lot of fun; levels can be solved in different ways.

You can draw up to 3 additional platforms before starting a level. They can be any length

The bad news: I don’t know who comes up with these misleading and frankly crap game names, but they need to stop. Hell, even Angry Snowmen would have been better. Pee’d off Penguins. Frozen Fireballs. Platform Game With Some Snow. Anything else, really, but not Beat the Bullies.

You can float in bubbles. No, really

Arcadelife verdict: In spite of the massive handicap inflicted by the terrible name, this game is really rather good. I tried the first level, thought it seemed a bit simplistic, with a clumsy control method, then I did level 2 and got into it. Next thing I knew, I’d completed the first world (24 levels) and was eager to push on and do more, and more. It isn’t simplistic and the control method is not clumsy. Levels that initially appear impossible can often be solved by imaginative use of the extra platforms (drawn with your finger) and some clever jumping. I didn’t get the feeling that there was always just one perfect way to beat a level, and that’s a great quality in this type of puzzler.

I’d suggest taking a break from whatever platform/physics/puzzle game you’re currently playing and have a go at this one. Chances are, you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 8/10
Audio – 7.5/10
Controls – 9/10
Content – 8.5/10
Fun – 8.5/10
Final rating – 85/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.2
iTunes link

Red Key Blue Key website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)


Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Part 7

May 29, 2012

*** Warning – Contains spoilers ***

In fairly standard RPG tradition, I’ve left the desert and I’m now in a much colder region with snow, fir trees and a few million demons trying to chew my limbs off.

I’ve changed my approach slightly; instead of going completely overboard with vitality stat increases on gear and gems, Rollins has more +strength gear now. The huge crowds of enemies, noticeably larger and more persistent than in the previous two acts, require fast and efficient slaughter rather than just standing there with 3500+ life, while hacking slowly away at them.

I eventually remembered to change my primary attack from Frenzy to Cleave, far more useful for taking out crowds. I probably set it to Frenzy for the Belial fight and forgot to change it back. I have to admit, in normal difficulty, getting skills exactly right isn’t a priority. I tend to stick with primary and secondary attacks (mouse buttons) for all fights, until I get into a situation where I’m massively surrounded, when I simply fire off the skills on buttons 1, 2, 3 and 4 in quick succession, as follows:

1 – Ignore Pain – damage protection 30 seconds + knockback
2 – Overpower – attack nearby enemies + throw multiple axes
3 – War Cry – increase armour (party) for 60 seconds (120 with Inspiring Presence passive skill)
4 – Call of the Ancients – summon 3 heroes to fight alongside for 15 seconds

That has the effect of pretty much clearing everything in the immediate vicinity, while simultaneously mitigating virtually any incoming damage. It’s simple, mindless and almost impossible to mess up as no thought is required beyond pressing 4 buttons one after the other. As I am well aware, much more thought and tactical skill use will be needed in higher difficulty levels.

One thing I need to get around to trying is the “Elective” mode, where you have complete control over which skills you select and which buttons you assign. That’s more how I’d expect to see skills being chosen and assigned anyway, so I should hurry up and get on with it!

Level 30 arrived fairly quickly, while clearing the large and varied crowds of enemies on the way to The Larder and mini-boss Ghom, looking very much like a flatulent mutant relative of Jabba the Hutt. In spite of the clouds of noxious gas, he was not much of a threat and didn’t last very long.

With all the exploration and a bit of zone repetition, Rollins is even managing to clear up a few of the explore/read achievements that I missed on my standard character.

Rollins’ gear hasn’t changed much, just some incremental improvements in a few slots. I got two decent yellow (rare) rings from Ghom, which was a nice surprise as boss loot had so far been rather uninspiring.

In that screenshot, you will notice that I now also have a level 9 Wizard in addition to the two Barbarians. She is a pure co-op character that I am using in a constant two-player team with a friend who is playing a Witch Doctor. I can thoroughly recommend this kind of co-op play as it is fast, chaotic and a whole lot of fun. The Witch Doctor skills are very weird; I have to get around to playing one of those at some point.

Oh look, I changed my banner…

Coming soon in part 8 … Azmodan and the end of Act III, hopefully as always!

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Go to Part 6]

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Go to Part 8]


LAD – Limbo inspired puzzle platformer coming to iOS, Mac & Android

May 28, 2012

LAD, a “dark, eerie, atmospheric thinking game” is currently a work in progress over at Black Chair Games.

Anyone who has played Limbo (PC, Mac, PS3, XBox360) will immediately spot the inspiration for this game. As Black Chair Games explain, “LAD is a dark, eerie, atmospheric thinking game inspired by ‘Limbo’ in the mould of a puzzle platformer, planned soon for release on iPhone, iPad, Mac and Android. It’ll have you asking questions throughout its cryptic story.

Creating such an artistically close copy, LAD will be setting itself up for some instant and possibly hard comparisons with Limbo. I’m hoping Black Chair Games can pull this off and create a great Limbo style game for my iPad!

The video (below) is beta footage from some of the earlier levels.

Update – The game is now available. It is reviewed here on Arcadelife.


Air Mail review (iOS / Universal)

May 27, 2012

“Sailing through the wide blue yonder
It’s that Air Mail Special on the fly”

10 word description: Arcade flying game. Three modes. Three control methods. Game Center.

10 word review: Pretty and entertaining. I wish my iPad could run it.

You will like this if you enjoy: Arcade style flight games where you have to fly through rings and beat par times. Pilotwings Resort (3DS) looks like a similar current game (from the videos I’ve seen), although I haven’t played that. There are obviously quite a few older games that share similarities with this one.

The good news: Very pretty and stylish graphics. Three different, configurable control methods. Time limits (as far as I have seen) are purely for the star ratings. Exploration is encouraged. Gameplay is fun and the arcade flight model is easy to get on with. Several different camera views to choose from.

The bad news: Performance isn’t brilliant on my 4th gen Touch. I wish I had a more recent iPad than my 1st gen, as that isn’t a compatible device for this game. That is probably just bad news for me and anyone else in the same technology rut. Apart from that, and the fact that I have trouble finding the golden monkeys, it’s all pretty much good news.

Arcadelife verdict: It’s a well designed, fun game. Possibly not quite the Best Game Ever that some other reviews are making it out to be, but then I’m just bitter because the only device I have that will run it doesn’t run it particularly well. The restrained choice of a normal looking biplane, rather than a hang-glider or some freaky steam-powered flying bicycle is to be applauded. If I ever get a later model iPad, I’ll definitely play this game on it.

If you played Air Supremacy and wished for a non-violent exploration mode, you’re going to love this game. As well as a pure exploration mode, there is also a hidden golden monkey in each mission (in campaign mode) to go back and look for. Sometimes it feels like there’s a bit too much exploring to do, as the monkeys aren’t exactly easy to find.

Overall, very good and well worth getting if you have an iPad that can run it. If you have a compatible iPhone/iPod Touch, it’s also worth getting but be prepared for a slightly less amazing experience than on the larger device.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 9/10
Audio – 8.5/10
Controls – 8.5/10
Content – 9/10
Fun – 8/10
Final rating – 86/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0
iTunes link

Chillingo / Air Mail website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (iOS 5.1.1)

Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Part 6

May 25, 2012

*** Warning – Contains spoilers ***

This is so much fun! I experienced genuine anxiety, tension and a worryingly accelerated heartbeat during the Belial fight at the end of Act 2 and it reminded me how attached I can get to video games, particularly when there’s the constant threat of sudden and permanent Game Over. Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself again. Part 6 of my Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary starts at level 23.

With a considerable amount of zone repetition (grinding) I levelled Rollins up to 27 before the big fight at the end of the Act. Due to carelessness on my part, I didn’t have my screen capture utility running when I went through levels 24 and 25 so there are no pictures of those, sorry.

I completed several of the desert zone events, such as that one in the picture above. It’s always worth fully exploring each area of the map to discover as many of these as you can.

That’s a nice zoomed-in party shot where I was running around with Leah, Kulle, Covetous Shen and my pet Templar in the sewers. The Dead Adventurer (random loot bucket) always makes me think of Skyrim; I’m wondering if the guy used to be an adventurer like me, and what might have happened to his knee.

And that was Anarchis Filthpit. Some of the elite fights are very pretty, in a firestorm carnage way. On my standard (non hardcore) Barbarian, I faced Belial at level 25 with admittedly rather average gear. With Rollins, I wanted to be two levels higher and a lot better equipped. Just to be sure.

As you might imagine, levelling progress starts to slow right down between 26 and 27 in the desert. Even though the grinding was making me a fair bit of cash from loot, I was starting to think I needed to get to the end and get this fight over with, no matter how it turned out.

The fire and environmental destruction effects are great; I love those massive stone pillars in the tombs that come crashing down when you hit them. It does a lot to help reduce the feeling of repetition when you’re constantly hacking through the demonic hordes.

The Templar doesn’t like the look of this place. I was about half way between level 26 and 27 so I didn’t really care where we were.

At last – level 27. At this point, I thought let’s finish up whatever quest we have on the go, sort Rollins’ skills out for the final fight and get it over with.

With Kulle out of the way, there are just a few quick conversations and a bit of preliminary running around killing stuff before the end of act showdown. Going into the Belial fight, this is how Rollins was set up:

Active skills

Frenzy (Triumph rune)
Rend (Blood Lust rune)
Ignore Pain (Bravado rune)
Revenge (Vengeance is Mine rune)
Threatening Shout (Intimidate rune)
Call of the Ancients

Nerves of Steel
Inspiring Presence

Strength – 323
Dexterity – 38
Intelligence – 82
Vitality – 302
Armour – 1330 / Life 3449
Damage – 217

That’s rather over the top, I admit!

Belial joins the fight as a fairly normal looking elite enemy. When you wear him down to about 20% health, he gives you a bit of a speech and then transforms into a much larger version. The first time I fought him with Rollins, I completely forgot to take any screenshots as I was concentrating so hard and also too scared of making a mistake. I got the pictures here by going back and doing the last quest again and repeating the whole Belial fight sequence. Possibly rather silly, but in the first fight I had taken hardly any damage so I was reasonably confident.

The extra fighter you can see on the left is one of the temporary ones who get summoned by the ‘Call of the Ancients’ skill

You’re hoping I blew it and got Rollins killed the second time, aren’t you? It would have been funny if I had, I’ll give you that! Sorry, he’s still alive and waiting at the start of Act 3. I’m going to go through most of that act on my standard Barbarian before taking Rollins through it, so the next part of this diary might take a day or two to appear.

Rollins at 27. Yes, there is blood dripping from the sword

See you in part 7…

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Go to Part 5]

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Go to Part 7]


Slingshot Racing review (iOS/Universal)

May 24, 2012

“But I’ll throw you one better if you’ve got the nerve
Let’s race all the way to Dead Man’s Curve”

10 word description: Top down racer. One-touch grappling hook control method. Game Center.

10 word review: Innovative control method, pretty graphics, a lot of fun. Recommended.

You will like this if you enjoy: Top down (Super Sprint) style racers but without the various problems associated with standard touch controls.

The good news: The control method is excellent. Graphics and visual effects are high quality. Audio is also very good. Plenty of content, with a variety of challenges and objectives. Overall high level of polish. Fast restart option that is separate from the pause menu. The simultaneous multiplayer (on one device) works really well; there’s also an option to use additional AI cars too, which makes it good for perfecting your technique on tricky tracks.

The bad news: For me, it turns into a slideshow when connecting to Game Center; admittedly, that probably isn’t an issue with this particular game but I tended to notice it a lot. The 3-star (ok, 3 nut) ratings have oddly fluctuating difficulty levels. In the middle of a straight run of 3 stars there can be a track/challenge where it is incredibly hard to get 3 stars. I encountered this more than once and, despite countless retries, those challenges are still on 2 stars. Maybe I’m rubbish but, in that case, how was I able to easily get 3 stars on many subsequent challenges? The races against AI cars are the easiest challenges, often seeming way too easy when compared to other challenges in the same group.

Arcadelife verdict: Minor gripes aside, and those are very minor gripes really, this is a great game. I can’t praise the control method highly enough; once again, someone has taken the time to think about a perfect touch screen control method and then build a game around it, rather than developing a great game and ruining it with awkward, unhelpful controls.

Essentially, you are controlling cornering and achieving the best racing line, avoiding obstacles and collecting items and powerups, by attaching a slingshot cable via tapping and holding. The game selects the nearest grapple point, and in 99.9% of cases it’s the one you wanted, while the car’s speed is handled automatically and often depends on your skill at efficiently sling-shotting the car around bends.

Overall, this is an excellent variation on the top-down racing theme and an easy recommendation.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 9/10
Audio – 8.5/10
Controls – 10/10
Content – 9/10
Fun – 8.5/10
Final rating – 90/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0
iTunes link

Slingshot Racing website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)

Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Part 5

May 23, 2012

*** Warning – Contains spoilers ***

Part 5 of this diary officially starts at the beginning of Diablo 3’s Act 2, although I did quickly level up from 18 to 19 by re-running level 3 of the Halls of Agony in Act 1 before taking the cutscene ride to the desert. Between part 4 and 5 of this diary, I completed Act 2 on my standard (not hardcore) Barbarian, so I know what Rollins has to face and where I am most likely to fear the worst. Yes, I’m talking about Belial. In standard mode, it took me two attempts to beat that boss. In hardcore mode, as you know, there is only one attempt, ever.

It didn’t take long to reach the milestone of level 20; there are plenty of large groups to slaughter in the desert and quite a few random side-quests, dungeons and events to find. It’s fairly obvious that a major method of levelling and earning gear/gold for a hardcore character is to thoroughly explore every area, then go back and do it all again.

Thinking about Belial, and how my standard mode character died, I realised several things: First, stay out of the green circles! Second, I need to start replacing my +XP gear with pieces that have a high vitality stat, preferably also a decent life regeneration stat and, optionally, some strength. Gem slots, yes, of course, are very good too. I also need to ditch dual-wielding and use the best shield I can find (on the auction house). Skills are becoming more important too; I’m setting Rollins up with the ones that keep him alive rather than do damage to enemies, although sometimes there’s a bit of an overlap. Revenge, Nerves of Steel, Ignore Pain, Threatening Shout, etc. Pretty much anything that boosts vitality, replenishes life or reduces enemy effectiveness. Learning when to use each skill, that’s a good idea too!

So far, elites and champions aren’t giving me any trouble. I expect this to drastically change in higher difficulty levels, but there’s still a long way to go in ‘Normal’ before I need to worry about that.

The only subquest/event that I avoided was the one in a timed dungeon. I did it in standard mode and completed it successfully, but I don’t like the idea of sending Rollins in there, getting lost or otherwise delayed and then dying because the timer ran out. Also, the last thing you want in HC mode is to be playing against a timer, rushing things and potentially making a fatal mistake.

Maghda is an early Act 2 boss fight. No problems with her, and not much else needed killing before I reached level 22.

I’ll be taking my time through Act 2, re-running whole zones to get as much of a level & skill advantage as possible before taking on Belial. For now, this is what Rollins is looking like at level 22. In part 6 of this diary he will hopefully be beyond level 25 with gear more appropriate for the end-of-act showdown.

One final observation, probably not very surprising – the cost of gems on the Hardcore auction house appears to be over 10x the prices on the standard mode AH.

See you in part 6…

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Go to Part 4]

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Go to Part 6]


Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Part 4

May 21, 2012

*** Warning – Contains spoilers ***

Since part 3 (posted earlier today), Hardcore Barbarian ‘Rollins’ has risen from level 15 to 18, defeated The Butcher and is all set to move into Act 2. Polite, possibly slightly ironic applause much appreciated at this point. Rewinding to level 15, this is what happened first…

I went back and rushed through the quest immediately before the start of the Halls of Agony zones; this involved killing the Spider Queen (again), finding the Staff of Kha-something (come on, do you think I read the quest notes?) and fighting my way to Leoric’s castle/mansion/whatever.This got Rollins to…

… level 16, as well as gaining a fair amount of gold and items to sell. It’s worth pointing out that although I’m retracing Rollins’ steps in addition to repeating what my non-hardcore Barbarian has recently done, none of this feels dull or overly repetitious. I admit that not everyone would find the experience the same, but then I don’t expect everyone enjoys this kind of hack-fest RPG either.

So much for Tyrant Skullcrusher. Despite the impressive death-metal bass player name, he lasted about 3 seconds. The only close call Rollins has had so far, and it really wasn’t that close, was being butted around like a tennis ball by a group of elite bull creatures who all had the knockback ability. What did I do? I ran away, of course, and picked them off one at a time. And so, into the Halls of Agony and the short stroll to the lair of The Butcher.

Thanks to my +XP gear and quite a few helpful experience shrines in the halls, it didn’t take long to reach level 17. Here’s a nice shot of Rollins and his pet Templar crossing the bridge before the entrance to the final zone before The Butcher.

See, I still take the time to admire the scenery even in hardcore mode. Here’s a short interlude to show you my auction history.

That’s the stuff that Rollins has been buying and selling on the way to level 18. As I mentioned in an earlier post (part 1, I think), I am not doing this kind of auction house overkill on my standard Barbarian character – this is pure HC paranoia fuelled repetitive gear tweaking. And so we come to level 18 and the big fight, which wasn’t particularly big.

The Butcher. He’s not so tough…

And here’s the achievement notification for beating him in hardcore mode.

There will now be a short break in hardcore progress reports, while I get through Act 2 on my standard mode Barbarian, as a kind of rehearsal for the hardcore run through it immediately after. With optimism levels this high, it’s sure to come to a disastrous and sudden end, right?

Level 18

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Go to Part 3]

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Go to Part 5]


Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Part 3

May 21, 2012

*** Warning – Contains spoilers ***

As I predicted yesterday, Rollins has reached the start of the Imprisoned Angel quest which means that some time today (if there aren’t any connection issues) he will be facing The Butcher and reaching the end of Act 1.

I completed the Last Stand of the Ancients event and had a fairly easy time of it in the Drowned Temple. I’m going to stick with the Templar sidekick character, for now anyway, because I like his heal abilities and unintentionally funny comments.

While I’m playing this character I’m constantly aware that every completed quest, every level-up, is just taking me closer and closer to that rather inevitable Game Over message. It’s an odd way to play an RPG, knowing that a lack of concentration or even a lag spike could shut Rollins down for good. It does make it all far more immediate; I’m not storing anything, I either sell my old gear to the NPC merchant or put it back on the auction house. I’m not even trying to make a lot of money off old gear, just enough to keep constantly replacing my equipped items with better ones.

This is the sort of thing you can pick up on the auction house. Keep those prices low, HC players!

My first socketed item in HC mode

Aggressive use of +XP items and some tactical quest repetition is keeping Rollins slightly ahead of the levelling curve. I’m considering repeating the whole Trail of the Coven section for the xp and gold, before starting the Imprisoned Angel quests. I don’t need to do it, but an unhealthy mixture of paranoia and gear-greed is encouraging me to face The Butcher in the most hard-to-kill state I can get to.

This fight wasn’t even close. I used a health potion but I would have been fine without it. In HC mode, “being fine” is what happens just before you die.

Here it is, level 15. Only 5 more to go for the next achievement. Yeah, keep telling yourself it’s “only 5 more to go”!

One final look at Rollins at level 15 on the hero select screen. I love that new helmet, very Crusaders, although I don’t think it matches the fluffy shoulder pieces.

Tomorrow, or maybe later today, part 4 should have a rousing celebration of Rollins’ completion of Act 1. Unless, of course, it all goes horribly wrong. Stay tuned…

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Go to Part 2]

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Go to Part 4]