In the current era of video games, we seem to have hit a weird snag. We’re seeing the prices of digital downloads rise whilst the cost of a physical copy is falling – it all seems to make no sense! However, what really is best for consumers? What is the best distribution method for developers and why are we seeing this weird shift in prices? When a physical copy sells for £35 and a digital copy sells for £45, is there a reason to back digital?
- 66 levels (6 hidden)
- Sheep customisation (17 skins & 6 types of blood)
- Level editor (PC Only)
A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away there was a team of developers who went by the name of Psygnosis. Psygnosis were well known for producing very beautiful and excellent games like the classic Barbarian (1987) and Shadow Of The Beast (1989). Sometime in 1993 Psygnosis were
consumed acquired by the mighty Sony and continued to produce quality products like the fantastic futuristic racing game Wipeout. But let’s not forget one of their biggest games, selling in the region of 15 million copies over multiple platforms and that was called Lemmings. Now, like Timlah I too am a big fan of most of the work that Team 17 put out. It takes a very brave bunch of developers to take on a product that has already sold 15 million copies and especially in today’s market where the focus is leaning towards high impact graphics and open worlds, is there room for a classicly animated A to B puzzle game?
Flockers was originally released in 2014 and on first glance there really is not denying the similarity between it and Lemmings. You are put in control of a flock of fluffy sheep that are escaping their diabolical masters (the Worms). The sheep aimless walk from left to right only changing direction when the hit something they cannot overcome. You guide them to safety aiming for the exit along the way solving the various puzzles to get over/around obstacles. Points are awarded for every sheep saved, and by using less of the tools that you acquire, finally awarding you up to a total of total three stars. However very unlike Lemmings you pick up tools along the way rather than be given a set number at the start. Sheep can die in a number of ways, first and foremost is the environment which is littered with nefarious contraptions that are set to squish, impale or slice up your sheep. Another way to reduce the numbers is to let your sheep fall too far, this can be counteracted by giving the sheep a soft landing (another sheep). Of course, you can also loose sheep by destroying them yourself; yes, every now and then you will have to sacrifice the life of one of your fluffy little friends for the good of the flock.
The main method of control is the mouse, simply select the tool you want from the bar at the bottom of the screen and then click a sheep to activate that tool for that sheep. Pressing the right mouse button gives you a much wider cursor which is great when you want to make a lot of sheep do the same thing and not have to click 50 times. You also have the ability to zoom in and out of the scenes so that you can see what is up ahead and try to predict what is going to happen. Team17 have also integrated the keyboard a bit to try and help you quickly switch between one tool and another. Numbers 1-0 will select the tool sitting in that slot, letters Q and E will shift the tool that you are on left or right one. You can speed up the movement of the little sheep by pressing the left shift key which is useful for the impatient.
Looks & Sounds
Team 17 have a huge pedigree for having a great art style to their games and Flockers is no exception to this. The backgrounds are detailed and moody with great use of lighting, spikes implements are suitably covered in blood and make a quite fun squidgy noise when your innocent little sheep happen to wander onto them. Switches make a satisfying click when activated, it’s the kind of quality that you would expect from a seasoned house such as Team 17. Your little sheep are animated well, and lovable but equally fun to see them burst into streams of blood.
Moans & Verdict
Well, I would like to say that I had no issue with Flockers at all but that is just not the case. There is a bug (at least on the OSX version) that crashes the game as soon as it tries to load the main menu. It turns out that it’s related to the online link and if you turn off your network so that the game cannot connect to the internet then it’s fine. This small bug nearly ruined the game entirely for me, I hate it when I try to load any game and it just crashes. I would expect it on a game that is older perhaps but not 2014. This then also means that I cannot take advantage of user generated levels because as soon as I switch on the internet it crashes. Another annoyance is the fact that the level editor is only available for Windows. Yeah, I get it I own a Mac I am not allowed to have nice things.
If you put those things aside then you have a perfectly good game. Is it just Lemmings? Well yes and no, there is certainly enough in Flockers for them to of made it their own. It looks, sounds and feels professional which is something you would expect from Team 17 and definitely worth investing in; £14.99 for it feels a bit cheeky though. I picked it up in a recent sale for £1.49 but probably would pay up to £10 for it. It has enough puzzle pieces there to keep you occupied for a few hours the difficulty curve is well balanced. Like any game of this type, there is a degree of frustration but that is half the reason to play; if only to yell at the screen when you complete a level a true sign of enjoyment.
Heavy Bullets is not exactly a new game. Originally released in 2014, it was played by quite a few streamers at the time of launch. I remember buying it during yet another sale, after it had been sitting on my wish list for a while and I can honestly say that I still think it’s worth every penny of it’s retail price (£6.99 on Steam & £7.49 on Humble Bundle).
You play a security program that has been sent in to restore order to a mainframe that has gone haywire. To do so you are equipped with a gun that only contains 6 bullets in some sort of Dirty Harry style gun. You must hold onto these six bullets as well as aim to pick up coins throughout the ten levels in order to buy some upgrades.
Heavy Bullets does not push the boundaries in aesthetics, but I really like the way it looks. It has a very distinct neon colour palette and is visually lucid and bright; the game nips along which is no surprise but it feels right at home at this speed. You can spot one of the bank or shop ATM’s immediately and the maps even randomly generate secrets, which I think is a pretty cool touch. I really love the way the graphics flicker whenever you get hit, along with the intentional visual glitches when you are on your last life, making the whole thing feel more tense.
It’s essentially a stripped down 3D-first person shooter, but there is something distinctly ominous about it. The music and general sound design certainly adds a lot to the atmosphere. In game it goes awfully quiet but as you roam around you get some very distinctive audible clues. The imps make a cute little chirping sound which you soon learn to be afraid of, as they launch themselves at you with great intensity. The game is rogue-like and so the enemies and the levels are randomised, which means that you have no idea what is around the corner. You may remember that I said that One More Dungeon really suffered from this, but for some reason it works in Heavy Bullets. There’s something about the smoothness of the game, along with the way it flows. I hate to put it down to feel but when you have played a fair few 3D shooters you begin to get a feel for which one’s work and which ones don’t.
Having a limited amount of ammo really adds to the atmosphere. I’m not sure how other people play it, but I end up paranoid reloading at every opportunity that I can. The first few enemies you meet are fairly easy, some worm like beasties that hide in the bushes which can sometimes be difficult to see, followed by some imps that run at you when they see you, which for me cause an instant amount of panic and tension. Further on you meet up with sentry guns that can only be killed if you shoot their battery. There are even flying enemies in the game. You can improve your chances of survival in further rounds by saving money in the bank, so the next time you play through you can dip into your account to help you out.
The money is generous enough, you don’t have to play 1000 games in order to afford one of the items. The shops can provide you with more health or upgrades to increase the radius of coin and bullet pickup, a discount in the shop and so on. The Steam community have put together a great little item guide so go have a look at them so you know what to buy from the ATM’s. Also a little thing I didn’t know is that you can blow up the ATM which gets you some extra cash. In theory you could do this early on to get extra cash and save up the money to make a proper attempt at the 10 levels.
It all comes down to the bullets though, they look and feel heavy when you fire them. When they hit something they lay on the floor and bounce their plump little form on the floor enticing you to pick them back up. Even when you reload them they make a satisfying thunk when re-entering the chamber. Upon reaching the end of a level, apart from me letting out a small joyous ‘whoop’, you’re not rewarded just yet. After all, you have a job to do here and need to get on with it. If and when you finish all 10 levels you are rewarded with $5,000 of in-game cash ready to spend to make your next attempt a lot easier, no doubt.
I already said at the top of the review that I think Heavy Bullets is well worth the money. Its slick feel takes me back to early days of Quake which makes it pure simple 3D-shooter fun. In a recent sale I saw it on offer for a mere £2 which is a total bargain. The soundtrack is well worth the extra money although trying to use Steam to play it filled me with rage, but this is more of a problem I have with Steam rather than the game. Unlike some rogue based games, Heavy Bullet punishes you in the right places and the right way, making you, the player, determined to improve your skill and ability to defeat those damn worms. In my opinion… just buy it already!
Have you played Heavy Bullets? Do you also feel it’s a great example of a 3D shooter? Have you managed to finish it (I haven’t!). Give us all of your comments below or contact us in one of the many other forms of Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.
Humble Bundle has given me plenty of great games, but they’ve also given me some really good design tools as well. This article is a first impressions review of one of them: Spriter Pro. Join Timlah as we look at what Spriter Pro features and what it can do for your own hobbyist or indie game design studio.
There is no hiding the fact that Party Hard is violent. Violence in video games is always a bit of a touchy subject with people. I personally don’t believe that video games that depict violence encourage people to kill, but I will say that if you’re a parent you may want to check this out first. I have reason to believe that the six-second pitch for this game went something like. “Have you ever had noisy neighbours? Have you ever wanted to stab them? Well, now you can”. Now we here at GeekOut do not encourage you to stab your noisy neighbours. A much better way to solve that problem is to try talking to them first if that fails then maybe consider dialling 101 and talking to the police about the situation.
Developed by Pinkol Games and published by TinyBuild, Party Hard was the result of a game jam, one of those “Build a game in X days” events. Now not all games that get made in this way evolve into full products but you may remember that we have reviewed both HackNet and SuperHot, both of which came out of game jams and are pretty good. You start the game with a little tutorial that teaches you the basics of walking up behind people and stabbing them or using the environment to your advantage by pushing people into fires or setting traps. The controls are simple and work really well on a controller, but as per the clue in the title of the game, Party Hard is by no means easy which I really appreciate.
When playing the game you soon learn that you can’t just go in and stab everyone. If you’re spotted killing people or other party goers find your victims then they will call the police who will turn up and look for someone to arrest. It’s quite fun getting away with murder, so to speak. You can also manage to trick the police into arresting the wrong person! However, if you are spotted then you can try to make your escape. Run away from the police for a long enough time and they give up the chase or alternatively you can try to jump out of a window or head through a cellar. Don’t come to rely upon these exits, if you use them too often when you’re being chased, a vaguely familiar man in blue overalls with a red shirt and a large moustache armed with a wrench appears and closes off the exit.
The game adopts the current popular pixellated style, which you might think is not much to write home about, but I rather like it. At the end of each level is a little cinematic which tries to explain the Party Hard killer, but really does not add too much to the game itself. There are some fun cameos from the patrons starring people from Breaking Bad, Michael Jackson, Darth Vader and more. The ultimate goal of each level is to be the last man standing so you can go home and get back to sleep. When you’re done with the main game I guess it opens up more characters which include a ninja, a cop, a female character and a butcher. However I have yet to get past the third level so can’t really tell you what it’s like to play as them. There is a fully fledged level editor where you can create your own level, with traps, party goers, security and all sorts. The creative among you will love this, which allows you to share the level with the rest of the world via Steam workshop, so you can make your very own house party to share with your friends.
Is it fun? Yes.
The challenge is pretty high but I don’t feel like I am being punished for no good reason, it’s usually because I have taken too big a risk. Coming up with strategic ways to reduce the crowd is fun and I can just fire it up for a few spare minutes, no need to sink hours and hours into it which I really like. It’s also really nice to have levels that are designed for a change, I have played so many rogue-style games with their random elements often ending in disappointment. Do I feel I got my money’s worth? Well, I paid $4.49 USD for it which is about £3.20. Given the difficulty, along with the presence of a full level editor, I actually would pay full price for this. It’s well worth £10 in my opinion but then again, I’m a bit of a bargain hunter!
Love and rockets
In a recent bout of sales, I picked up a few games on my wishlist one of which was Punch Club. Now this is one of those games that I knew very little about when I bought it, I didn’t watch videos, read other reviews or anything. I thought the game might be some sort of boxing management simulation, something akin to an old game I used to play Barry McGuigans Boxing where you controlled a fighter moving his way up through the ranks to fight the champ. I was wrong, so very very wrong.
The game is more of a street-fighter management/strategy game where you take control of the life of a fighter in his quest to rise through the ranks to stardom and maybe get involved in some interesting side quests along the way. When you start you are shown a storyline cut scene that sets the background story with your father being brutally murdered. Then several years later you start in your house and after a telephone call, you are allowed to start to roam the city which opens up more as you play. Now I hate to criticise a game so early on but I can’t help but feel that the developers missed something by not allowing you to customise the look of your character.
Your begin to manage the day to day routine of your fighter which consists of juggling time and money between training at the gym to increase your stats, earning money (which can also increase your stats) so that you can train, sleeping and eating to revive your energy so that you can train more and fighting to increase you rank and try out new skills. When one day rolls into the next you lose a bit of your stats. This makes days that you cannot or don’t train really expensive and made the game feel like a bit of a grind. With every fight that you take part in you gain skill tree points that can be spent on learning new moves or focussing your fighter into one of the major disciplines of Bear, Tiger or Turtle. This is where Punch Club will get it’s replay value in that you can play the game through several times and change the focus points for your fighter. You could make them a powerhouse by putting a load of time and energy into weights and focussing your skill points on power or aim for a more speed oriented fighter who might focus more on kicks and their dodging ability. Whichever road you choose for your fighter you need to choose it early on because being equally balanced is not the way to go here. However given the fact that the main storyline does not seem to change between one play and another I probably would not bother with a second play though unless I am missing something.
Money plays a very serious part in the game and I think (although yet to prove it) the faster you can save up for your own gym equipment you will begin to feel the benefits in all areas. A session in the Gym costs $10 per time which means you should try to go there when you are full capacity to get the most out of it. Doing this is a lot harder than it sounds as I found myself always timing it wrong at first and my first fighter suffered from it greatly. But you don’t want a game like this just to give the answers to you straight away. The fights themselves are automatic and the only influence you have is at the end of every round where you can change your fighters tactics. Graphically the game has a polished pixelated 1980’s style. I think if it went a different way with super high resolution graphics it may even lose some of the appeal. My brain complains that there is no day/night cycle, time and days do pass but locations always seem to be the same, beautifully sunny at home while at the bar it’s perpetual night, it just feels weird. Adding a very subtle weather change or day/night cycle might have added to the immersion for me.
I really enjoy the amount of references to TV and film that there are in Punch Club. The Quick Store which never shuts is owned by a certain Apu, outside the store are two recognisable figures that look and act an awful amount like Jay & Silent Bob. Your mentor is Micky, which reminds me very much of Mickey from the Rocky series. The Pizza store is owned by Casey who is the spitting image of Stephen Segal and looks handy with a knife. Then you meet Biff, the mutant Crocodile who loves Pizza and not so subtle references to Fight Club. There are a lot of these dotted about which makes the game feel a little familiar, if you know any of the references that they point to.
While playing the game I found myself asking the question “am I having fun?” which is never a good sign. To be honest I have to say that for me it was not that fun. Maybe I just have the wrong sort of mind to care about the stats? It feels like a grind without a real purpose, the lack of interaction with the fights and the training just mean the game misses with me. At times it feels like an improved and less pay to win version of any of the free to play farming games out there which may sound cruel but that’s how I feel about it. I don’t find myself being drawn into the world but if you’re into stats based games and don’t mind a bit of a grind then I am sure you will love it.
TLDR: Graphically nice, good potential for storyline but lacks interaction and involvement.
Overall score: 5/10
Love and rockets
SUPERHOT has been on my radar for some time. I played the original demo probably two years ago and was very impressed so when they decided to Kickstarter the game I went ahead and backed it. I must admit I was really looking forward to play the final release, so I picked up my copy on it’s official release of 25th February 2016.
GeekOut Bristol has come and gone once again, with more geeks than you can shake a stick at coming to enjoy the event. But now that we’re all done, it’s time to look back at what went well and information for the next meetup. As always, thanks to everyone who came along!
We’re keen to deliver more competitions over on the GeekOut South-West Facebook page. We’re hoping to do more with competitions too. We had a fair few responses to this months competition, but alas, there could only be one winner for this months competition. We put all the names into a hat, we shook the hat, we then threw the hat out of the window. Next we retrieved the hat, threw it into a purging fire and then went to buy a new hat.
From there, we looked inside of our brand new hat, used a magical spell or ten on it and finally we came up with the result. The winner for this months competition is:
Rox from AddAltMode
Congratulations to Rox! If you’ve all not had a chance, please check out AddAltMode, which is a wonderful website that celebrates their geekdoms in a most passionate way!
To Rox: We’ll be contacting you soon so we can sort out the transfer of all of the brilliant games in the Bandai Namco Humble Bundle.
That’s it for this months competition. For the readers of GeekOut South-West, we’ll always announce the competitions on here, warning you to go and check our Facebook channel. When you get a chance to, please do go and give us a Like. We do lots of exclusive content straight to Facebook (mostly due to file sizes of some of our images!)