This is the video game equivalent of Michael Bay getting the rights to a classic cartoon series. It feels so needlessly "epic" and loses what made the original charming. It's like the developers were trying to compete with other sci-fi FPS games like Halo and focused more on the shooter aspect over the tower defense aspect. I suppose if you haven't played the first game, you'll still really like the genre hybrid. But as a huge fan of Sanctum 1, it's pretty hard for me to ignore the "improvements" made here. For instance, block placement is now extremely limited and clunky. You can't even safely stand on the blocks anymore without the monsters attacking you (in fact, they will often stray from their path to hunt you down). You have a life bar and can die. Weapon upgrades are gone, and all the weapons now have a recoil that makes it difficult to aim. The towers can only be upgraded to Level 3, as well, but at least you can dump extra money into them to "overcharge" them. That's about the only interesting new idea at play here. Everything else feels like a step backwards, despite how grandiose the presentation may be. Sometimes, simple and campy is all you need, and Sanctum 1 excelled at that. I have no idea what happened here or how this franchise got so off track.
There's really no better way to unwind after work than to kill a bunch of orcs. But it's not just shooting them with guns and magic (which is pretty fun on its own) that makes this a special treat. Orcs Must Die includes several traps (or rather, towers) to help you thin the hordes. The number of traps in the game is impressive, giving you a lot of room to try different styles. I like that you can refund everything you've bought in the store and start anew if you didn't like the weapons/traps you previously chose to focus on. The "2" in the game's name also brings online co-op with it, which is a welcome addition. As enjoyable as it is to kill waves of trolls and ogres, it's not quite the same when played alone. Knowing that the original game was single-player only makes me think I wouldn't have liked it that much. This sequel, however, is great. While it may not provide the same wonder and lasting appeal that, say, Dungeon Defenders has in the action and tower-defense genre, it's still a unique experience and definitely worth a look.
It's great to see Nintendo still coming out with new, original puzzle ideas. Yes, I know, Pushmo was on the 3DS first a few years earlier, but let me have this moment! Pushmo World is a wonderful combination of platforming and block pushing/pulling that offers a surprising level of challenge across its many, many puzzles. I think there are upwards of 250 puzzles in this game, not to mention you can build your own and download others'. Content-wise, it's totally worth it, especially considering how some of these puzzles had me stumped for 20-30 minutes at a time. Even small puzzles with very few blocks to interact with can be deceptively complex. But it's all wrapped up in a cute, casual, and approachable package. The controls are super simple. There are no time limits. There's no way to die or get stuck (you can quickly jump down and reset the puzzle if you know you messed up). But it will definitely test your smarts. If you're into puzzle games, you're gonna love it.
It probably wasn't a good idea to play Super Sanctum TD on the heels of the original Sanctum game. Whereas Sanctum 1 is an engaging mash-up of FPS and TD gameplay, Super Sanctum is a straight-up traditional tower defense game that feels quite bland in comparison. Of course, there's absolutely nothing wrong with old-school TD. The game even offers a few extra features like being able to use skills or (like in the original) place blocks to route the monsters. And it really is fun to see the familiar Sanctum monsters recreated in 16-bit graphics. Unfortunately, in a 2D environment, the limitations of the block placement are more noticeable. The game is also very stingy with money. It's hard to put together any kind of rewarding defense when you're only ever given enough money each round to build or upgrade one tower. Given that, I should warn you further that Super Sanctum TD is hard. While other TD games like Fieldrunners were hard in an "I know I can figure this out" way, this particular game is more hard in an "I am so sick of these guys getting through" way. If you're a huge TD fan, you may still like it. Just don't play any other Sanctum game first, or it'll just leave you wishing there was more here.
Do you like the Mario Party series? If so, Miner Warfare is probably for you. The game pits up to eight players against each other as they mine through tons of dirt and rush to grab powerups and money before each other. Every second of the first couple of games is really great and fun, but no other game types, few different powerups, and no online play means the game gets stale ridiculously fast. Sure, it is a ton of fun at first, but after two matches you'll almost certainly have seen everything the game has to offer which is incredibly disappointing. This most likely would have been a big seller back in the days when games like Bomberman were all the rage, but by today's standards Miner Warfare just doesn't make a real lasting impression. Miner Warfare has a great premise, but because it is lacking in options it's not really worth playing unless you know you have a few people that will play with you or are somewhat inebriated.
When I first started up Bit Evolution I was expecting one of those indie games that slaps 8-bit graphics onto a random concept and hopes for the best while not trying to make anything spectacular. However, while it initially seems like that, Bit Evolution actually commits to the Bit. Each level is basically an environmental puzzle where you have to shift reality back and forth between the regular game world and the realm of code to get around gaps and dangers. While that doesn't sound like much, it's the deceptively simple premise married to the classic Super Mario Bros. gamplay that makes it a real joy to play. It's a simple approach, but super effective. The level design strikes a nice balance between being easy and frustrating while somehow never becoming too hard or too easy to discourage you from finishing a level. Bit Evolution is a beautifully nostalgic, and wonderful game. If you grew up on a steady diet of platformers, this is definitely a game you'll enjoy.
Hohokum is somewhat of an oddity to me. It's a laidback game and while I am not normally into games that are supposed to be relaxing, I love it. There's not really a specific mission or story that you're taking part in, but the game does have you guiding a small Serpent thing through many colorful worlds and the beautiful aesthetics married to the game's music just makes it a real joy to experience. It's crazy, but even though it's such a simple looking game my girlfriend loves to watch me play it and that's the only game I can say that about. I haven't played Journey, but the sort of things I heard in reviews about the game feeling like an emotional adventure is sort of how I feel about Hohokum. I know I am likely doing a poor job describing the game, but that's because it's so simple that it actually feels like they have made it an art. Everything about the game is just great, from the beginning of the adventure to the end. Hohokum may be one of the most simplistic and perfect games I have ever played.
I'm a pretty big fan of the Arkham series, so understandably, I've been waiting for Arkham Knight for what feels like forever now. Thankfully, it's finally out! So, how is it? Well, I have had a ridiculous amount of glitches and bugs that have somewhat marred the experience. Almost anything you can imagine has happened as the game has frozen, Batman has fallen through the world and been trapped in walls, and the game has even locked up and crashed my console twice. I never thought I would say it, but Arkham Knight is actually somehow more broken than Arkham Origins was at release. Thankfully, the game is so good that the experience is actually salvageable. Both the story and the gameplay are great and the wealth of side missions available will definitely keep you playing for a while. Despite all the hate the Batmobile has got, I love it and even enjoy going back and replaying the Riddler's Batmobile challenges! I wasn't sure if this would be it, but it's fantastic and I think it's safe to say that this is the game worth owning a current gen console for despite its problems.
You usually can't go wrong with mixing tower defense gameplay and another genre, and Sanctum is no exception. This FPS/TD hybrid is fun. Maybe not as fun as, say, Dungeon Defenders, but the first-person shooter aspect helps separate it as a completely different kind of experience, anyway. Similar to Fieldrunners, tower placement is crucial to direct the path of the monsters, but tower placement is only half the battle. You really do have to get your hands dirty and attack the monsters head-on with your own rocket launcher, shotgun, and sniper rifle. It's pretty satisfying to contribute to the damage count, and being able to run across the top of the towers gives you a cool viewpoint of the overall battle. The FPS mechanics aren't perfect, though. Jumping, for instance, is a bit clunky, and you'll frequently misstep and fall into the trenches. The default controller layout is also rather confusing. And some of the air monsters can be downright annoying to deal with. When you link up with a few friends online, though, even the most obnoxious maps are a rewarding challenge to take on. This is a great co-op experience. Seriously, you're not only getting two genres in one, but there's co-op. Something in there's bound to intrigue you.
It might look like your typical old-school shoot 'em up at first (which wouldn't be such a bad thing, anyway), but XIIZEAL has a few neat tricks up its sleeve. For instance, your ship can dish out close-range sideways attacks that are stronger than your normal gun. This really changes how you think about shooters. Trying to hang back and dodge bullets isn't always the best way out anymore. It's also cool how the levels and enemies vary depending on how well you're doing, meaning if you breeze through Level 2 too quickly, you could end up with a harder boss at the end. Levels 1 and 2 are pretty easy overall, though, but you may have a tough time reaching the game's final eighth stage, even on easy mode. Fortunately, you're given additional credits the longer you play the game, so there's hope for me yet! There are two things that bug me about XIIZEAL, though. The menus are a little clunky; nothing's really been cleaned up in that regard in the move from arcade to PC. And I wish that the ship moved just a hair faster... or had a more distinct hit box. It can be hard to get out of those bullet hell moments safely. But all in all, this is a solid shoot 'em up that only gets better the more you play it.
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