Archives for : PC Reviews

Dream Pinball 3D, is it a dream review?

In the need of a pinball fix? Well I gave Dream Pinball 3D a play and have to say I wasn’t disappointed. It contains 6 tables published by Topware Interactive. I picked this game up for cheap on Amazon and after playing it would have been willing to pay more.

It’s a pinball game so there isn’t a lot that can be said about it. The physics seemed sound to me. The table layouts were interesting and reminded me of old-school tables, not like the tables you play in Zen Pinball or Pinball FX2. Not that I don’t like those tables, but you got to love that classic feel if you are are pinball fan.

The game consists of difficulties, but they really seemed to only effect the count of starting balls, and didn’t really change much else. Dream lets you upload your high scores to their site and if you managed to get an insane score it may actually displayed on the site.

As a special note one of the tables is also based on the Two Worlds game franchise. I’m not sure if I would consider that a selling point, but it was a good table to play on. In all honesty I can’t complain about any of the tables though.

My two complaints about the game would be its low screen resolution and lack of support for multiple monitors was frustrating and played havoc when trying to switch from the game without closing it and completely impossible to play it when two monitors were plugged in. The second complaint was the activation, which I found to be tedious, and annoying as all hell. I rarely come across a game that has an online activation as complicated and frustrating as this game.

All that aside I give this pinball dream a 3 of 5. This is definitely worth getting if you enjoy pinball.

Not So Strategic War in Europe Review

The Strategic War in Europe by Wastelands Interactive starts off seeming like a turn based WWII treat. Then you go through the tutorial, if you could call it one. So here is my review of this wonderful title.

Okay, I love turned based strategy games and this one had all the ear-marks of a good one. A building system that reminded me of Axis and Allies, terrain that affected speed movement and combat, all the pretty standard concepts of hex based strategy game combat… It even has a new system to navel warfare which makes it harder to find and battle enemy subs and ships instead of just going after the hex that you magically see them in. All this sounds great and really it was… at first.

Then it hit me. The tutorial was absolutely horrendous. It didn’t help me learn anything about the new features. So I turned to the manual… nope still nothing. Navel warfare – the major change that sets this game apart from so many other games of this genre and style – has no decent form of explanation. Sure I could have probably found a good answer to this issue on the forums, but come on. A full manual and a tutorial and it doesn’t tell me how to make an aquatic attack on an enemy city. Only how to move troops from one friendly port to another; and even that is a convoluted mess that takes more time to do than it does to just send them there via tracks.

Here is another one I loved. After reading on the game I was under the impression that while real events that took place will happen in the game – which is really cool – you could stop certain ones by not preforming the action that caused the event. Don’t attack Russia and they won’t attack you, the peace treaty will hold up. Yeah, sounds great in theory. In practice that didn’t happen. I was Germany in multiple games, and every time, as soon as Finland decided to join the Axis, Russia came stomping in like a bulldozer. How I broke the treaty I still don’t know, but I swear I never attacked them. In the end all these events kept turning my game from one I felt I had some control over into merely an altered variation of the original outcome.

Now if you can figure out the navel warfare and how to circumvent the default events, you may actually enjoy the game. The rest of it plays pretty basically with common, easy to understand mechanics. I had such high hopes for this game, really I did. I was so excited to play it, I tried multiple times with varying strategies. In the end I came to the conclusion that it is just really, really not the game I thought it would be, nor a strategy game that stands out enough to scream “Buy me over that other game.” Seriously, just pass on this one, I love historical strategic war games, but I don’t want to be played by them.

1 out of 5 because it did work, it just wasn’t any fun; and that had nothing to do with my repeated losing. I’m used to that, ask my wife.
Have a good day and I hope you come back for my next review, which has to be more positive.

Paranormal Review

Okay so Paranormal has left Beta and been released. Not exactly bug free, but a game I enjoyed diving into. Matt Cohen has put together a game that combines elements we see in movies like Paranormal Activity and first person simulations with this horror jaunt. Sorry I’m excluding images from this article since I would hate to ruin the experience of witnessing any of the events in this game.

Using the simple FPS controls we’re all so familiar with Paranormal puts you in control of a guy living in a haunted house whose decided to film the haunting. Visually the game is good and definetly sets the mood well. Before you know it your creeping through the house to find any and every form of activity happening before the battery on your camera drops to low and you need to go to sleep for the night to recharge your camera battery.

You can find out what happens on your own if you choose to not recharge the battery before it dies. Either way one of Paranormals best selling points is the fact that all the events are random. Play and play and play through it all you like and the order and even whether an event even happens can change everytime. I find this great.

There is one horrible downside to this. When you are ready to jump back in you have to listen to the beginning everytime, without a way to skip it that I found. If there is, please let me know. It is not only exceedingly long, after about the 3rd time it starts to become annoying as well/hell (you take your pick on that one). Skipping this would be great so as to explore the game more quickly especially since each playthrough is not entirely long, and the game is built for multiple playthroughs. Heck even as I write this I’m thinking about jumping into another run of it just to see if I can get some events I haven’t seen yet.

I’ll wait for a particularly annoying bug to hopefully get fixed, before doing that again. It isn’t one that everyone gets and it might even be one specific to my pc, but it was an extremely tedious bug that caused the game to crash every time I finished a playthrough, instead of taking me back to any form of menu. This forced me to start the game up over and over again. Thankfully the issue was only a real problem after the end of a play through, and the developer was pretty quick to respond to my message about the issue and hopefully he’ll identify the cause and work it out.

Before I toss out a rating, I want to say few little things about the game. As a simulation the game doesn’t play out like most games play out. You really feel more like you are a character walking around in a movie at times. The game does a good job of emersing you in the environment and hopefully the developer will continue to add a few more rocking scenes to mix in with the rest, just to keep us on our toes.

Paranormal earns itself a 3.5 out of 5, but if the bugs are worked out this game can easily be a 4 out of 5. I think horror fans will love this game and just absorb it, but others might feel the game lacks control or enough ability to interact with your environment to be fun. Since you really are more of an observer to the environment around you. I can say without a doubt, watch a video of the game or play the demo.

Quick Candles Review

Candles is a free short horror game made by Lasse Westmark. It’s not really scary, but it does have some tense moments for such a short game.

First off the game uses the simple WASD controls with the mouse click being the candle lighter. The object of the game is simply to light all the candles in the house, then turn on the generator. The challenge is that the house is infested with a creature that hates the light and will kill you upon touch. This makes for a few tense moments as you dart for the candle or away from the creatures.

Now my last note on the game is well the visuals and sounds. The game has a great ambiance to it and looks good, except in one case. The creatures are absolutely horrid. I don’t mean that in a oh my god, they are so scary or gross. I mean they just look kinda bad in comparison to the rest of the game. Luckily this is not to bad an issue and although the game fails to be scary it does get tense at a few points. It’s only bad issue is sometimes it’s buggy and the creatures don’t do what they are supposed to do.

I would rate this game a 2 out of 5, but if you like the horror/survival style games and are looking for something free to play give this a shot. What do you have to lose other than about 30 minutes.

Cinders Review

MoaCube’s Cinders is an interesting visual novel, based on the fairy tale Cinderella. Cinders artwork is really well done.

Cinders main gameplay aspect is the development of Cinders by the choices you make. Whether you choose to follow the fairy tale story or exact revenge on your wicked sisters and stepmother the choice is yours. The game isn’t incredibly long but has reason for multiple playthroughs, with 4 main types of endings but multiple variations to each of those 4 endings. This allows for endings that are very similar, but with interesting differences based on your choices.

The main thing that really stands out is the artwork. It really is well done and sets the scene well.  There are some grammar issues, but not many. The music is nice and fits the game, but after the second playthrough you will probably no longer want to hear it. Cinders also has trophies you can unlock for accomplishing certain events in game. Some of these are really hard to figure out.

After playing the game multiple times through I would say the one thing in the game that bothered me the most was the language. It didn’t feel like it really fit the time frame that the story seems to impart.  Which made it a little off putting. Another thing that I really didn’t like was in some scenes the characters mouths move when they speak but it just looked odd.

In the end I would rate this visual novel a 3 out of 5, if you like twists on fairy tales or vn’s you would probably like this game.  If those aren’t your thing this game isn’t the one to change your mind.

The Book of Legends Review

The Book of Legends is a RPG in the vein of the old 16 bit genre. Created by Aldorlea Games, The Book of Legends brings back that feel of amazing adventures in a doomed world, that old RPGs did so well. With a long playing time and re-playability, this is a game you just need to hear about. I want to apologize if this review comes off as sounding like a fan review, it is hard to help.

Much like other old school RPGs of this genre gameplay is so simple it doesn’t even need to be mentioned in any real detail. Just believe me when I say you will understand the controls. So lets move on to the fun stuff. You have a large myriad of characters that you have the chance to recruit into your party. Although depending on your actions and who is in your party can effect who you can recruit.  So you can’t get to play with everyone in anyone play through, I know that is a little disappointing but there are just so many characters that can join your party that I doubt, it will be too disappointing.

Like many of the best old RPG’s This game is a time taker. Don’t expect to finish this legend quickly, With over 50 hours to complete more if you play as pathetically as I do. You will have plenty of time to get to know the characters and experience a thrilling old school style RPG.

One change from the old RPG and most RPG’s is the characters dialogs. They are amazing, the things they say are funny, yet don’t diminish from the series atmosphere the game has produced. Jordan the first member of your party and in my opinion your main character is a jerk to put it nicely. I would use another term for him, but his comments are great and the response from his party members are a treasure. This is one of the major reasons it is worth playing more than once as well. Different characters means different interactions.

The story continues to put more pressure on the characters to the point that things get bad enough that you will actually split into multiple parties to fight bosses. This allows you to really experience more than just your main powered up line-up. Every character whether it be human or animal becomes an asset and worth leveling up. All characters have special skill sets and specific weapons they can use so with just over 30 characters in all in the game you may have quiet the variety of weapons and armors needed to fully equip all the characters.

The Book of Legends even has multiple endings, a bunch of side quests and secrets.  The artwork on both the characters pictures and the monsters is fantastic. The music works really well with the game and doesn’t get annoying or drive you to mute it. The only thing that was a little saddening was that you can’t get all the characters in one playing, although the fact that choices affect which characters end up on your team makes the game feel more involved.

This game is fantastic and absolutely hysterical dialog between Jordan and Jasmine and once Clea joins the group it only gets better.  This is a don’t freaking miss it, RPG. I thought Laxius Force was the best Aldorlea Games could bring to the table but the Book of Legends really is legendary.

Without a doubt 5 out of 5.

Katawa Shoujo Review

Katawa Shoujo is a visual novel created by Four Leaf Studios, a group initially formed from the 4Chan forums.  For those of you who don’t know what a visual novel is, I let you in.  It is a sort of game that is mainly story over anything else. What Four Leaf Studios created was a very large and interesting VN. The name itself means Disability Girl and you would think that with that title coming from the 4Chan community it would be entirely depraved, but it really isn’t.

First off as a VN this is not a game for those who seek adventure or action packed gameplay. No, you are looking at a lot of reading, making some choices that will affect events, and watching the events unfold to create a story. I had never played a VN until Katawa Shoujo and it was a great introduction to the genre.

The idea of the game is you play a teen who has a heart attack and is sent to a school for disabled teens. The story tells how he comes to terms with his own weakness and that of others, all the while finding love. Although you can fail at getting the girl you are attempting to woo, and get a not so good ending. I found an ending that was the absolute worse possible while attempting to get on one of the girls’ path. Within Katawa Shoujo there are 5 girls you can attempt to have a relationship with; Emi, Hanako, Lilly, Rin, and Shizune each with their own story and endings.  This is a feature common in VN’s, giving you multiple paths and endings adding reply value to the game as you seek to see the story of the other girls.

Now don’t get me wrong as much as I enjoyed this game and have completed 3 of the 5 paths as of this moment, this is not a game I can see a large majority of people being interested in.  I should say it is a niche genre. If you like reading and those old choose your own adventure books this game has that feel to it. The animations, character art, and music are all well done.  I wasn’t a fan of the photograph backgrounds used for many scenes, but at least they fit the scenes well.

Katawa Shoujo is a free game, so if you’re mildly interested I really recommend giving it a go.  I rate this game a 4 out of 5 and only do so because it is a game that many would find hard to get into.



Avernum: Escape from the Pit

Avernum: Escape from the Pit is a remake/rewrite of the old Exile and Avernum Trilogys by Spiderweb Software. Avernum is a RPG with a Tactical RPG fighting system and plays a lot like Avadon: The Black Fortress, a game I reviewed a while back. Although there are a number of similarities to the two games there are a lot of differences as well.

We’ll start with what is Avernum about. In Avernum you play a group of 4 characters that you create at the beginning of the game. For whatever unknown reason they like many before them have been thrown into a portal to Avernum a cavernous world separated from the surface world. Whatever sins or possibly wrong person you POed you are now stuck in an underground world with no way out in sight. Welcome to Avernum a world of the unwanted. People have been being thrown down here for a long time and have established there own system of survival and your characters must set out to find their place in this new world or maybe a way out.

So that is the gist of the story. You’ll talk to different people get quests and information to lead you farther into Avernum and the secrets that have been left behind. Although the story and the way it works differs greatly from Avadon and most RPGs these days. First since you create your team of 4 from different types or you can even select a custom type to create a team exactly the way you want it. You can chose how they look what their names are and what skills and traits they have. The downside to this is that your characters really have no history or importance individually. You won’t hear anything interesting from them or have any story lines that focus on any individual member of your team. It really is all about your team as a whole.

The game offers you the freedom to attack anyone you would like to. So if you want to attempt to go on a spree you can, although this won’t benefit you in anyway that I can tell. Although it is a good way to get killed pretty quickly as the towns guards come to take you out pretty fast. So give it a shot if you’re daring or just follow the quests and explore the surroundings. Like most RPGs, you will have your kill em all quests, as well as your numerous fetch quests. So many fetch quests you may even feel like stabbing the guy who wants you to fetch some very lame set of objects that may take forever to find on the expansive map. Although unlike Avadon in Avernum pretty much everyone is friendly which is a little strange figuring that these are the people kicked out of the surface world for whatever reason. Prison makes strange bedfellows I guess and Avernum is in a way a very large prison, that offers more freedom than the surface world albeit with a higher mortality rate.

As far as gameplay goes, point and click is the key to it. Much like Avadon in this way, I never really used the keyboard for much of anything. You just point and click then your character moves to that location on the map or if in battle they move as close to there as possible. Selecting spells is easy even if you don’t put them on the quick bar at the bottom. It is just a click on the spell type priest or mage and select the spell you want then click the target. If your character is too far away they will move closer to get the shot off. While there are warrior skills you can learn as well that allow you to deal more damage in a single attack they all have a recoup time denoted by fatigue. Overall the games battle mechanics are simple, straight forward and fairly easy to grasp. All battles are played out where the floor is like a grid of squares that you and your enemies maneuver to gain line of sight or get next to them to pummel them with your weapon.

Leveling is easy to grasp as well, yet can be a bit hard to determine the best route to go with your characters. The first part of leveling is picking which attribute to add a point to; strength, dexterity, intelligence, and endurance. These attributes are all pretty straight forward. Next you will get 2 points to add to your skills, whether it is archery, mage skills or lock picking or any of the  other numerous choices. This is the part that choosing your route becomes very important. How much tool use/lockpick skill do you need in the group or are you going to find a book that requires more points in arcane lore than you already have?  I found myself many a times lacking the skill levels necessary to do what I wanted at the time I found something. Requiring me to go get experience to level up and go back to the object I couldn’t open or use at a later time. The last part of leveling is every two levels you get the chance to choose a new trait to add to your character. These traits seem dependent on both your attributes and skills you have chosen. This is what can give your mage that extra oomph from your warrior you decided to turn into a swordmage. Yep, that is also a trait and I’ll say I was happy to see it.

The things I found lacking was that objects on the ground are very often hard to see. This can make some fetch quests a royal pain. You end up taking a few steps only to check the ground again finding nothing or a rock. The music isn’t bad, but it isn’t grand either. It just sort of blends away and is quite forgettable. The last thing is that your characters have no stories, you don’t get to pick one or give them one in game they simply are and they stay together simply because they came through the portal together. There is no interaction with them and I couldn’t help but feel like they as a whole might as well be just one hero. The last thing I wasn’t to fond of was the reputation system it goes up from completing quests and it helps to open up more quests and get people to talk to you who would otherwise be uninterested in your arrival. While it is an interesting mechanic the encourages you to do the quests it also makes you feel a little constrained into doing things like the fetch quests and other things just to build your reputation.

So while Avernum is very open world with a large map to explore and a myriad of quests to take, I miss the deeper intrigue you get from other RPGs. While the game is nice and has a very retro feel to it storytelling wise it just didn’t grip me the same way as other RPGs. It does offer a lot of character build choices and plenty of locations to explore, but I could only give it a 3 out of 5. It is a solid game and has more plus than minus when it comes down to it. If you love RPGs and TRPGs give this game a shot if not you will probably be bored pretty quickly.

Armada 2526 Gold Ed Random Giveaway!

Hey All, back in May 2011 I reviewed Armada 2526 and it’s Expansion Supernova. Now Armada 2526 and it’s expansion have been bundled together in a nice gold edition and guess what. Thanks to the wonderful folks at Iceberg Interactive, I have 2 boxed copies of the recently released Armada 2526 Gold Edition to give away.

Now this great 4x game with realtime battles is worth the interest of any 4x player or space game lover. So go read my review, then come back and follow these simple directions for your chance at winning a copy of this great game.

To enter the random giveaway you must do the following things

1.  Follow DarkstarMatryx on Twitter
2.  Tweet “@DarkstarMatryx @Iceberg_Int #PCGames I want to win Armada 2526 Gold Ed”
3.  Post this tweet on Friday or Saturday March 23rd-24th 2012 CST.
4.  Only one entry per person.

Two winners will be randomly selected from those who enter.  I will contact the winners via Twitter private messages for details on where to mail the product.


Indie RPG Laxius Force Review

Aldorlea GamesLaxius Force is the indie RPG for review today. This PC title is the first in the Laxius Force games of which there are 3. The Laxius Force saga is comprised of 3 free games the Laxius Power trilogy and 4 purchasable games Laxius Force trilogy and 3 Stars of Destiny. Starting off with Laxius Force and having never played the Laxius Power trilogy had me worried I might be a little lost, but that ended up being pretty unfounded.

First of all you need to know for Laxius Force’s story and the back story of the characters is told through characters talking about their past and the events that transpired. A nice aspect is that it is done in a way that you don’t feel lost about stuff or filled with way too much info at any given time. So the game is able to stand on it’s own and act as a great first game to the Laxius universe. Now lets get on to the good and the bad of Laxius Force.

Let’s start with the good. It is a 16bit styled RPG that unlike the other two games by Aldorlea Games that I reviewed, “Sylia” and “Dreamscape“. This game focuses more on the traditional and serious aspects of Fantasy RPGs. Don’t get me wrong there is humor in the game, just not to the degree that the other 2 games had. During battles your characters aren’t visible as the enemy stands in front of you. Battles are turn based, you set your team’s attacks and when you’ve set the last characters attacks they will perform them based on their speed while the enemies attack will occur during same phase, much like most standard RPGs.

Another good thing about this game is the story and the characters in it. Nope you won’t be fighting with a team of pets or farm animals this time. It is hero’s, werewolves, skeleton warriors and the like. With a strong story you begin with one group, but soon switch to the characters you will mostly play as the retired heroes Random and his Elven girlfriend Sarah. They come out of a 7 month retirement after having saved the deport and want to see what has happened since they pretty much went off the grid. They have both gotten rather rusty in the 7 months, so they are back to starting from scratch to work up all their skills. As they talk to people and complete quests they meet people who will join your team. The story seemed to drag me into it and I found the writing for it pretty good to boot.

Now there was only 1 thing I didn’t quite like about the game and that was some of the artwork for the villains during battles. Don’t get me wrong the artwork for the character portraits has a nice look to it. As far as the enemies appearance in battle not all of them look sketchy, just some. Overall though this didn’t ruin the game experience or anything near that level. It’s just not as refined as some of the other games they have made.

In the end I rate this game a 4.5 out of 5. It’s solid story, interesting character conversations, and numerous playable characters make this game well worth playing.