Friday, July 19, 2019

Mobile Game Reviews: Bricks Breaker Quest

In an age where smart phones are in nearly everyone's hands (and almost definitely in the hands of people under a certain age range), mobile games are big business; Konami, Capcom, Sega and Nintendo all have a mobile game division in their companies, and they were some of the biggest game developers in the 80s and 90s.

However, if you've been playing video games as long as I have (since 1989), mobile games have a bad reputation, and for good reason.  You see, mobile games have one major obstacle to sucking in people like myself; control. Touch screens lack the precision control that a keyboard, mouse or controller have, so certain types of games are difficult on mobile devices unless they offer Bluetooth controller support.

And that's where this new series comes in; I download a game, play it for at least a week, and let you know if they're worth your time.  I'll be judging on a few criteria; control, graphical fidelity, sound, and frequency of ads, if any, and fun factor. And then, I'll round it up to whether it's worth your time and money. And with that, welcome to Mobile Game Reviews.

Today's game is something I actively looked for, Bricks Breaker Quest. Bricks Breaker Quest is one of many Brick Breaker games on the Google Play and iphone app stores, and its premise is simple; maneuver a ball from the bottom of the screen and use it to break the bricks above it. It requires a minimum knowledge of angles in order to get the highest possible scores, and if you manage to reach the thresh hold, you get the coveted three stars at the end of the game.

Control: Bricks Breaker Quest thrives on a mobile device; the angles are both strict and generous, creating a challenging, yet very playable, experience.  All you need to to is move you thumb around the screen, watching the white line that determines where your ball will go, and hope it does what you want it. And when it doesn't, it's no one's fault but your own.

Graphical Fidelity: Bricks Breaker Quest is a very simplistic game.  While modern looking, the graphics are simple, and that's exactly what's needed for this type of game.  All you have is a ball, a line to determine the angle you're going to send your ball, and all the bricks to break.

Sound: Like the graphics, Bricks Breaker Quest is simple in its sound design.  You hear an audible pop when the bricks break, and audible tone when you win or lose. There's no music, but it doesn't need it.

Ads: Ads are unavoidable, but unlike a lot of mobile games, Bricks Breaker Quest only displays them at the top and bottom of the screen; in my experience, there are NO pop up video ads. You CAN buy different shapes of balls to play with, but since you earn diamonds by winning, it's not necessary.

Fun Factor: Bricks Breaker Quest is a game that's fun if you're willing to put in the work for it.  Seeing that perfect combo getting you to a three star victory, or getting the highest possible score in the 100 ball and classic mode is so satisfying, and defeat in the regular mode is as devastating as it needs to be.

Final Analysis:  Bricks Breaker Quest by Mobirix is a modern take on a classic Blackberry app, and I love it.  There are hundreds of puzzles to go through, and all are appropriately challenging. Definitely a must play.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Star Wars the Old Republic: Gaming on the low end

Welcome back, my beautiful freaks, to the Assassin's Den!

So I've been thinking about some of the technical problems I have with Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I've come to the conclusion that almost all caused by the age of my computer, a few bugs in the game notwithstanding.  This computer that I'm typing this article out on was bought in 2007, and it's still really good at everything but SWTOR and a few other games made after 2015, and I thought it's time to talk about some of the issues I have, and some workarounds.

1. Performance- If I try to run this game on any real graphical settings, the game chugs. Pop in, being frozen in place, frame drops, all that. And that's why I'm forced to play on the lowest settings, in windowed mode.  At least, that's what Customer Support has told me.  And for the most part, playing on lowest functions properly, but I still get the frame drops, pop in and being frozen in place sometimes.

2. Audio Glitches- During cutscenes with explosions, the voice and music slow down and distort. This is most glaring during KOTFE Chapter 16, when Senya goes to save Arcann and talks to Vaylin from across the room. This happens no matter what device I've got it coming from, so I think it's a conflict between the game and my aging sound card.

3. Issues with cutscenes- This game is cutscene heavy, and under certain circumstances, they seize up entirely.  Some of them get pushed along if you wait; the portion where Valkorian knocks you down the stairs during his final set of cutscenes does push forward if you wait. But there are quite a few cutscenes that refuse to do so.  The most glaring are as follows;
  • Shara Jen. Just her. All of the cutscenes that happen when she call the Agent ship freeze up entirely for me, and refuse to advance. 
  • Warrior opening of Chapter 3 of their class story.  The first the the Emperor's Hand calls the ship, the cutscene freezes and refuses to advance.
  • If Koth is dead in KOTET Chapter 4. The scene where you're supposed to talk to Vette to advance the story after a large battle with Iokath droids siezes up and refuses to advance.
  • Theron Shan Romance while siding with the Empire on Iokath.  The scene where Jace Malcom dies and Theron cradles his father siezes up and refuses to advance.
It's for these reasons why I advice the next entry in this article.

4. Get used to how to do tickets- The only way to get past those frozen cutscenes is to contact CS. And here are all the mandatory stuff you need to tell CS before you can actually tell them your problem.
  • Your current server
  • Your current character
  • The location it's happening
  • The player affected (you in this case)
 From here, you need to tell them, in great detail, what happened and what trouble shooting methods you performed in order to fix the problem, which, depending on whom is answering you, may get ignored entirely. The trouble shooting methods are as follows;
  1. Make sure you don't have any crew skill missions going on at that moment, since some CS reps will refuse to accept them on your behalf.
  2. Ensure you are playing on lowest settings and in windowed mode
  3. Reset the mission
  4. Relog into the character
  5. Relog into your account
  6. Ensure your video card is up to date (this is where the conflict lies, and if your machine is as old as mine, your most recent update is 4 years old)
  7. Flush your game's cache (you can find guides online for that)
  8.  Completely reinstall the game(Or just say you did, since that's supposed to remove any previous conflicts)
And I must stress, MAKE SURE YOU WROTE DOWN ALL OF WHAT I JUST SAID IN THE TICKET. You don't want to miss anything in the event that you get a good CS rep the first time.

At this point, you stress you don't care about what storyline bits you miss by them pushing the cutscene forward, more than once at this point, and then tell them what's happening.  And then, you hope that you get someone useful who actually does as you ask, and doesn't close the ticket unresolved.

And I want to take a moment to rant here about that; closing tickets unresolved.  You see, when I worked CS while on Active Duty, I was told you NEVER close the tickets until the customer is satisfied with the solution.  But apparently, SWTOR tickets are set so CS HAS to close tickets in order to talk to you in said ticket, resolved or not. And I'd say 70% of the time, CS Reps will just tell you to do what you already listed that you've done and do nothing to solve the problem.  You have to open a second ticket, referencing the first one, to get them to resolve the cutscene issue.  I once had to open 3 tickets on the same issue before that CS rep FINALLY did as I asked and pushed that forward. I complained on twitter about that, and it took EA saying "Yeah, this is unacceptable" before anything got resolved.  EA. One of the worst companies to work for was the one who agreed that SWTOR CS wasn't doing their job. Think about that for a moment.

Now, do I believe SWTOR is not worth playing with all these things I've just said? Absolutely not. I'm still a subscriber, and I still love the stories.  But if you don't have the money for a more up to date machine, you're going to be dealing with a lot of the same issues.  And there are some easy workarounds; Don't Kill Koth (though you can still go Dark Side in KOTFE Chapter 10), don't romance Theron if you intend to side with the Empire on Iokath.  But sad to say, the Agent story is unplayable for me, since Shara Jen calls the ship after every mission for most of the game.  I'm honestly willing to fight through the Warrior one, though, since I actually like the Warrior story too much to not do, but the Agent, which has been getting on my nerves ever since I started experiencing symptoms of my now diagnosed, and treated, mental illness, I can't even force my way through it anymore thanks to these issues.

In short, these are the important things to know if you're playing with a computer as old as mine. Be prepared for them, know the workarounds, and stay beatiful freaks!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Mobile Game Review: Galaxy Sky Shooting

In an age where smart phones are in nearly everyone's hands (and almost definitely in the hands of people under a certain age range), mobile games are big business; Konami, Capcom, Sega and Nintendo all have a mobile game division in their companies, and they were some of the biggest game developers in the 80s and 90s.

However, if you've been playing video games as long as I have (since 1989), mobile games have a bad reputation, and for good reason.  You see, mobile games have one major obstacle to sucking in people like myself; control. Touch screens lack the precision control that a keyboard, mouse or controller have, so certain types of games are difficult on mobile devices unless they offer Bluetooth controller support.

And that's where this new series comes in; I download a game, play it for at least a week, and let you know if they're worth your time.  I'll be judging on a few criteria; control, graphical fidelity, sound, and frequency of ads, if any, and fun factor. And then, I'll round it up to whether it's worth your time and money. And with that, welcome to Mobile Game Reviews.

Today's game is once again something I saw advertised in another game I play, Galaxy Sky Shooting. This game is a top down space shooter, pure and simple with very generous hit detection and multiple modes of play, including an endless mode, a boss fight mode, and a campaign with 210 (as of writing this) levels. 

Control: Galaxy Sky Shooting is in a genre that requires precision to dodge fire and hit enemies, but thankfully, it is very generous with hit boxes. No matter how wide the ship is, only the middle section where the cockpit would be is the hitbox for you.  So, as long as you keep that section out of fire, you're good. And since the weapons autofire, all you need to do is concentrate on dodging and lining up your shots.

Graphical Fidelity: Galaxy Sky Shooting is a modern game.  All the sprites are modern looking and the background is what looks like a modern picture of satellite view of the universe.  All the sprites look good, and the text is large and easy to read.

Sound: Galaxy Sky Shooting has modern sound.  The music is modern, the sounds are modern, and the voice that you get when a boss battle is about to start sounds clear and crisp.

Ads: Unfortunately, the ad policy is extremely obtrusive; you get static ads at results screens, and the occasional ad after a win or loss that get more frequent the longer you play.  They also give you the opportunity to use ads to double your coins, which are used for upgrades and new ships from the market, and viewable ads for other things. Thankfully, if you play enough rounds, they ask "do you like the ads?" and when you say no, they offer one more viewable ad, or a microtransaction, to remove the ads for the rest of the day.  They also offer a transaction to remove ads personally.

Fun Factor: Galaxy Sky Shooting is in a genre that is mindless fun, and when you combine good control and reasonable hit boxes, a game like Galaxy Sky Shooting can be a blast. It's great for a short round or two while on the bus or train, and it's also good for "Oh, one more round" gameplay when you're on your own.

Final Analysis: This game would be perfect if it wasn't for the ad policy.  Space shooters are a perfect fit for mobile devices because they make full use of what mobile devices have to offer.  If you want to toss a couple bucks their way to remove ads permanently, that's up to you, but otherwise, it's a great free mobile experience that you don't want to miss out on.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Mobile Game Reviews: Prizefighters

In an age where smart phones are in nearly everyone's hands (and almost definitely in the hands of people under a certain age range), mobile games are big business; Konami, Capcom, Sega and Nintendo all have a mobile game division in their companies, and they were some of the biggest game developers in the 80s and 90s.

However, if you've been playing video games as long as I have (since 1989), mobile games have a bad reputation, and for good reason.  You see, mobile games have one major obstacle to sucking in people like myself; control. Touch screens lack the precision control that a keyboard, mouse or controller have, so certain types of games are difficult on mobile devices unless they offer Bluetooth controller support.

And that's where this new series comes in; I download a game, play it for at least a week, and let you know if they're worth your time.  I'll be judging on a few criteria; control, graphical fidelity, sound, and frequency of ads, if any, and fun factor. And then, I'll round it up to whether it's worth your time and money. And with that, welcome to Mobile Game Reviews.

Today's game is once again something I saw advertised on the Google Play store, Prizefighters. Prizefighters is a Punch Out! inspired game where you create a custom fighter, level them up and take them through a career mode, an arcade mode, and an online mode to determine who is the best fighter on the leader boards.

Control: Prizefighters is built for touch screen controls, though I would advise you to swap from the full touch screen experience to the virtual buttons as soon as the tutorial is over, because like its biggest influence, this game requires precision.  You don't want to throw a punch when you're trying to block, for example. And if you've got a blue tooth controller, which it does support, that offers even more precision for a game that has you controlling a boxer in a Punch Out! style experience.

Graphical Fidelity: Prize Fighter looks like a Sega Master System style Punch Out!. It's got full color capability that a modern smartphone can display, but it has the pixelated look of an 8-bit game.  All text is large and easy to read, and it looks good, if small, in landscape mode instead of the portrait mode it defaults to.

Sound: Prizefighters offers a retro sound design; all the music is chip tune inspired, punches sound as realistic as those from a boxing movie, and the voice clips for the referee sound like they were created with the same digitized techniques that were available in the 90s.

Ads: When it comes to ads, they're very unobtrusive; occasional ads after fights, and a clickable ad if you want 150 extra coins every six minutes.

Fun Factor: Prizefighters is a very enjoyable game. It takes all the elements that make Punch Out! Wii great, and ads in a leveling system that makes your fighter stronger to compensate for the lack of precision inherent in a touchscreen approach. It feels like a Punch Out! game, but with just enough to make it unique.

Final Analysis: If you like Punch Out! Wii, you'll like Prizefighters. It is a great homage to its inspiration, and a great game for mobile devices, especially if you've got a bluetooth controller.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Mobile Game Review: Pac Man 256

In an age where smart phones are in nearly everyone's hands (and almost definitely in the hands of people under a certain age range), mobile games are big business; Konami, Capcom, Sega and Nintendo all have a mobile game division in their companies, and they were some of the biggest game developers in the 80s and 90s.

However, if you've been playing video games as long as I have (since 1989), mobile games have a bad reputation, and for good reason.  You see, mobile games have one major obstacle to sucking in people like myself; control. Touch screens lack the precision control that a keyboard, mouse or controller have, so certain types of games are difficult on mobile devices unless they offer Bluetooth controller support.

And that's where this new series comes in; I download a game, play it for at least a week, and let you know if they're worth your time.  I'll be judging on a few criteria; control, graphical fidelity, sound, and frequency of ads, if any, and fun factor. And then, I'll round it up to whether it's worth your time and money. And with that, welcome to Mobile Game Reviews.

Today's game is something that I saw on advertised on the Google Play store in the popular games tab; Pac Man 256.  The idea for Pac Man 256 is that it's based on the infamous 256 glitch; basically, if you reach level 256, a bug is caused by the calculation of the number of fruit to draw rolling over to zero. The code attempts to draw 256 fruit–236 more than it was designed for–resulting in the maze being corrupted.And that's what Pac Man 256 is designed around; the glitch is chasing you, and if it touches you, it kills you.  It is your task to avoid the encroaching glitch and still gather dots, fruits, power pellets and any power ups you can and achieve the highest score possible before you die.

Control: Pac Man 256 is built around around touch screen controls. You're swiping up down, left and right to move, and tapping for menus.  It's as accurate as any mobile game can get and any mistake made feels like your fault, which is a hard thing for even some console or PC game to hammer out.

Graphical Fidelity: Pac Man 256 has a faux retro style; everything's in 3D, but it's done in a way that's befitting of a Pac Man game.  You can earn themes for the game, which changes the graphics from the basic pixelated design for Pac Man, to something more smoothed out, to the Pac Mania style, to Pac Man CEDX's style, and more.

Sound: Pac Man 256 sounds like a Pac Man game.  All the sounds and music sound like a remixed version of their original sounds from the arcade games and all the successful ports.

Ads: Pac Man 256 only has ads if you want to see them. However, seeing them gives you extra coin rewards you can use to purchase new skins for your game, upgrades to your power ups, etc, but you can also spend real money on those things, so ads don't have to be a thing at all for you.

Fun Factor: Pac Man 256 takes the classic Pac Man formula and ads in the "glitch wall chasing you" mechanic, creating a very fun experience. However, there are loads of power ups in addition to the basic power pellet that lets you eat ghosts in your arsenal.  You can get things a laser to blast ghosts in front of you, a stealth ability that lets you slip past them, a giant upgrade to crush the ghosts, and many more. There's so many options for you to make your way to the high score, and new power ups are unlocked over time.

Final Analysis: Pac Man 256 is easy to learn, but difficult to master, just like the original game.  But it's a great time waster if you've got a few minutes to an hour to kill while waiting on something else. A great mobile experience, overall.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Mobile Game Review: Slayin'

In an age where smart phones are in nearly everyone's hands (and almost definitely in the hands of people under a certain age range), mobile games are big business; Konami, Capcom, Sega and Nintendo all have a mobile game division in their companies, and they were some of the biggest game developers in the 80s and 90s.

However, if you've been playing video games as long as I have (since 1989), mobile games have a bad reputation, and for good reason.  You see, mobile games have one major obstacle to sucking in people like myself; control. Touch screens lack the precision control that a keyboard, mouse or controller have, so certain types of games are difficult on mobile devices unless they offer Bluetooth controller support.

And that's where this new series comes in; I download a game, play it for at least a week, and let you know if they're worth your time.  I'll be judging on a few criteria; control, graphical fidelity, sound, and frequency of ads, if any, and fun factor. And then, I'll round it up to whether it's worth your time and money. And with that, welcome to Mobile Game Reviews.

Today's review is on a game that I saw on youtube, Slayin'. Slayin' is a game built around a touchscreen control scheme, with a left button, a right button, a pause button and an action button. The action button is determinant on which of 6 classes you can choose for combat. Each class has something different to bring to the table; the Knight, for example, has a one directional weapon, but has the most defense, but the Knave has a bidirectional weapon, and the highest luck, and the mage has the highest attack, but can't jump, and so on for the other three classes.  All bring something distinct to the gameplay in your attempt to last long enough to face the dragon at the end.  It has a retro aesthetic in sound, and music; it would have fit in perfectly on the Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis.



This game has plenty of unlocks, and all can be bought with in game currency, fame. All the characters, different background music, interface borders, gravestone styles for to display your high score, all of it purchased with in game currency. Yes, you can buy the currency with real money, but you don't have to; fame is easy to get so long as you know what you're doing.

Control: Slayin' is built around around touch screen controls. Things are precise, and when you hit a button, it does what you tell it to. Though, if you're like me and used to a controller with this kind of game, you may find yourself taking damage unintentionally when you try to rock the dpad, since touchscreens don't work that way. 

Graphical Fidelity: Slayin' looks like it came right out of the 90s in terms of graphics, and it fits the screen perfectly.  Sprites are colorful and easy to make out against the backgrounds, so you're never confusing your character with an enemy.

Sound: Slayin' sounds like a game for the Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis.  Sound effects and music are sound like they were made with a 16 bit sound chip.

Ads: Slayin' is very good about ads.  When you boot up the game, you get a static ad, and if you want to revive after your character dies, you can watch an additional ad.

Fun Factor: Slayin' is mindless fun for when you've got nothing else to do.  It's simple, easy to understand, and can fill up a few minutes here and there when you're waiting on something.

Final Analysis: Slayin' is fun.  It's simple to learn, but difficult to master. There's plenty of challenges for you to complete with each character, some more fun than others, but Slayin' can be a game you play for a LONG time.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Mobile Game Review: Sonic Dash

In an age where smart phones are in nearly everyone's hands (and almost definitely in the hands of people under a certain age range), mobile games are big business; Konami, Capcom, Sega and Nintendo all have a mobile game division in their companies, and they were some of the biggest game developers in the 80s and 90s.

However, if you've been playing video games as long as I have (since 1989), mobile games have a bad reputation, and for good reason.  You see, mobile games have one major obstacle to sucking in people like myself; control. Touch screens lack the precision control that a keyboard, mouse or controller have, so certain types of games are difficult on mobile devices unless they offer Bluetooth controller support.

And that's where this new series comes in; I download a game, play it for at least a week, and let you know if they're worth your time.  I'll be judging on a few criteria; control, graphical fidelity, sound, and frequency of ads, if any, and fun factor. And then, I'll round it up to whether it's worth your time and money. And with that, welcome to Mobile Game Reviews.

Today's review is on a game that I picked up when my brother started pushing me into mobile games, Sonic Dash.  Sonic Dash is a game where you run endlessly forward, collecting rings and power ups, dodging obstacles and destroying enemies, with a couple of boss fights thrown in for good measure.  You have a total of 16 characters from the Sonic console games, though a few require you to pay real money to get access.  You have seven stages to run through, though 6 of them have requirements to unlock them.  And you unlock them through gathering little animals from the robot enemies, and paying them gems, one of the three currencies this game has, to complete objectives and unlock new stages and characters.  You also have a multiplier that determines how quickly you accumulate points for your high score.

Control: Sonic Dash is perfect for a mobile device; swipe up, swipe down, swipe left and right, and tap to choose things. Tap to dash, tap to use stage starting power ups. No precision required.

Graphical Fidelity: Sonic Dash looks like a modern Sonic game.  All the characters look like they're supposed to, all the stages look like they were taken right out of a modern Sonic title. All the text is large and easy to read.

Sound: Sonic Dash sounds like a Sonic game.  The music feels like it was taken from the Sonic the Hedgehog series, and this is no more evident than in both the Green Hill and Sky Sanctuary zones.  They sound like an updated version of their original stage music.

Ads: This is the first game that I'm reviewing that has unavoidable ads.  You get them after every stage before they bring you back to the title screen, and you can get extra ads for things like a revive, doubling your end of run ring count, and for an extra spin on the prize wheel.  But there is no way to avoid the ads so long as your device is connected to the internet.  Unfortunately, I've had instances where the ads crash the entire game, freezing it up and not letting me do anything else and forcing me to quit the game entirely.

Fun Factor: Sonic Dash is mindless fun for when you've got nothing else to do.  It's simple, easy to understand, and can fill up a few minutes here and there when you're waiting on something.

Final Analysis: Sonic Dash is a great game that is unfortunately held back by the ad policy.  If they would let you pay for a way to remove them, I'd say this is a must download for any Sonic fan, but if you find in game advertising intrusive, especially when the ads have a tendency to crash the game, you might want to look elsewhere.  But if ads don't bother you, you'll have a good time. I know I do, despite my issues with the ad policy.