Games I’ve Been Playing: Hearthstone

Go, Blue Eyes White Dragon! …oops, wrong game.
Hearthstone
Sign up for the beta here.
(Open beta coming in January 2014!)
Or watch the game trailer here.

Hello there, it’s back with me on another “Games I’ve Been Playing” post, and surprise, surprise, this time it’s not another mobile game! Instead, this time we’ll be talking about the latest PC game from Blizzard, Hearthstone. I got the beta key around 2-3 weeks ago and have been playing it daily ever since. I suppose that’s enough time for me to form up a complete opinion about the game, so here we are.

And whoa, I just realized that I got the Hearthstone beta access on my birthday. Thanks again, Blizzard!

Anyway, before we go further, let me just say that Blizzard has missed a really big opportunity by not calling the game Cardcraft. Hell, they could even use Cards of Warcraft as the title if they want to keep the Warcraft branding. But nope, they went for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft instead.

Okay, enough of me rambling, time to get on with the show!
To get a quick overview of the game, just watch a round of Hearthstone here.

A Hearthstone match

So, what is Hearthstone? Hearthstone, in short, is a digital collectible card game featuring the universe of Warcraft. On Hearthstone, 2 players will engage in a turn-based match where they use their own deck of cards to defeat their opponent. The game plays out pretty much like Yu-Gi-Oh! or Magic: The Gathering where players can use their cards to summon minions and activate spells to try reducing the opponent’s health to 0.

Well, what’s so unique about Hearthstone then?

At the core of Hearthstone lies the mana system. It is the system that governs everything on the game. Each player starts a match with 1 mana, limiting the number of cards they can use early since every card costs some amount of mana. However, as the match progresses, the mana pool will slowly increase, allowing more devastating cards to be used as the match gets closer to its end.

And that’s all there is to it for the mana system. Sounds too simple, you say? Well, that’s the true brilliance of the mana system, because beyond its simplicity (which makes the game accessible to everyone), lies a deep strategical complexity.

For one, the mana system makes balancing your deck vital for winning since you need to excel even when you’re constrained by your mana limit. It also makes mana management during the game itself important, because losing your 5-mana card to an opponent’s 2-mana card is just a no go. Not to mention that it makes the game much more fast-paced, most of the the match I played last for just 10-15 minutes.

Seriously, whoever came up with the mana system deserves a Nobel prize.

Hearthstone heroes

Another defining feature of the game is the hero that you must choose to represent you during a match. Each hero in Hearthstone grants you a special ability and access to cards unique to that hero. Because of that, the hero you choose will shape up your deck and your play style. For example, if you choose the Mage hero, your play style would revolve around pressuring your opponent by dealing damage with your spell cards.

Okay, even though the game is really fun, you would still need someone to be your opponent, right? Fortunately, Hearthstone includes a matchmaking system that could quickly find an opponent for you. And so far it has been doing pretty good, I have never failed to find a game no matter what time I’m playing. Not to mention that the system is quite fair too, I’ve never found myself playing against someone totally out of my league.

Once you’re in a match and having a good time though, you’ll be surprised to see that there’s no way to chat with your opponent. Somehow Blizzard has totally skimped on adding any kind of social features to Hearthstone. There’s no chat, there’s no lobby, and the only way to communicate is with some limited emotes. Sigh, sometime all I want to do is tell my foe “Crap, I’m screwed.”, yet the game provides no way to do that.

With other free to play games goes all out on their social aspect, it’s perplexing to see Blizzard simply ignores that subject.

Hearthstone card

It’s not just social where Hearthstone is lacking though. Being a casual and quick game, Hearthstone is perfectly suited for mobile gaming, yet Blizzard doesn’t seem to be interested on pursuing the mobile market. Sure, there is a plan to release the game on iPad, but I just can’t see iPad as a mobile device that can be used for playing on the go (though iPad Mini is close).

Well, apparently Blizzard just announced that Hearthstone is also going for iPhone and Android devices! While it won’t be arriving until at least second half of 2014, this is definitely great news for everybody who likes to play games on the go (or the toilet).

Anyway, after my first couple of rounds, I have a feeling that Hearthstone is going to be a game where I pour a lot of my time into. And my further experience with it seems to confirm that feeling. There certainly are issues (like the lack of chatting) that makes the game less than perfect. But Blizzard already get the hardest part, the core of the game, right, so I’m really hoping that they can fix those issues before the game is publicly released.

So what are you still doing here? Quick, go sign up for a beta!

A Thought on OUYA

OUYA: The console we need, but is it the console we deserve?
OUYAThe Indonesian version of this post could be found on GamesInAsia.

Note: This post is originally written on late July 2013, so some stuff might have changed since then. My overall opinion is still the same though.

Ah, the OUYA. The $99 game console that plays mobile game on your TV. The pioneer of the age of the microconsole. The proof that crowdfunding is the real deal.

I was sold on the idea of the OUYA right after I watched their introduction video. I believed that the console industry is in dire need of a disruption and I wanted to participate in such effort, so I decided to back it with my $99.

And apparently I was backer number 290! Being an early backer doesn’t mean I’ll get the console early unfortunately. In fact, I only got the console much later, around early June 2013. I’m not complaining though, being able to create and ship those products without much delay is quite an achievement already.

OUYA Console

So, how is it?

Overall, I really like it. I already have tons of fun playing several games on it, and while using it, there are some parts that feel like they’re the future. Looking back, I think the OUYA has delivered exactly what it promised months ago, which is bringing mobile games to the big screen.

Anyway, the OUYA is a multi-faceted product, so there isn’t any easy way to do a thorough judgement on it. However, I believe that there are only 3 aspects that we need to look at to get a complete impression of the OUYA. These aspects are the hardware, the software, and the ecosystem, so let’s check them out one by one.

OUYA Thank you

The OUYA is a physical product first and foremost, so let’s talk about the hardware first.

First, let me remind you again that OUYA is a $99 game console. At that price point, I knew the hardware wouldn’t be anywhere near Apple level, so I set my expectation real low. I seriously expected the console to feel all light and plasticky, just like a toy.

So when I finally got my hands on it, I am very pleased to find out that’s not the case at all. The console as a whole feels very solid and surprisingly quite weighty (though it’s still light enough to be carried around easily). The ports on the console are quite clear too, I found myself being able to setup the whole thing painlessly using the adapter and HDMI cable bundled with the OUYA.

The console is only half part of the story though, after all, most interaction with the device will be using the controller. Like with the console, I don’t have any problem with how the controller feels. It feels very good when I gripped it with my hands, and the joysticks also responded to my input with a nice tactile feeling.

It’s not like the controller is flawless though. My main gripe with it lies on the shoulder buttons (the L-R triggers on Playstation controller). Pressing the top triggers isn’t satisfying enough, and the bottom triggers are really hard to press. The same goes with the d-pad, it could use more tactile feedback since currently pressing it doesn’t feel as good as it should be.

One last thing. While the controller connects to the console using bluetooth connection, I don’t feel any latency issue when I use it. I have heard that some people are complaining about the latency, however, that’s not my experience at all.

OUYA Interface

While it’s true that OUYA is a physical product, we all have learned that software can make or break a product. Unfortunately, as of now, software is the weakest aspect of OUYA.

And no, the problem isn’t about the performance. It’s about the missing features. Guess what I did when I first got into the OUYA menu. Of course it’s to download various interesting-looking games. So try to imagine my surprise when I realized there’s no place to check my games download queue. Or when I realised I couldn’t easily check how much available storage I have left.

There’s also the problem that the navigation on OUYA isn’t optimized for the controller. For example, on the game description page, to browse the screenshots users have to press up to highlight the screenshots and then scroll left and right with the joystick. It’s like they forget that the controller has shoulder buttons that can be used to choose left and right easily.

Unlike hardware though, software can evolve over time. So it is highly possible that one day the OUYA will get a brand new interface from a software update. I just hoped that the OUYA guys focused on fixing the interface first before adding more features such as leader boards and social stuff.

Then again, iTunes interface is horrible yet people still use it because of all the contents, so…

OUYA Games

Since OUYA is a game console, it is important that we also talk about what games are available and what games are good on the OUYA. And more importantly, how is the experience of gaming on the OUYA?

First off, let me just say that the OUYA guys got the model right, which is Free to Try. Having an (almost) instant access to hundreds of games for your console is a real blast. Being able to easily browse available games and then trying it out right away is exactly the kind of experience that I want on my game console. Some games do take the free concept to the extreme, for example, League of Evil actually offers the first 50 levels or so for free!

Speaking of League of Evil, I’ve actually played the sequel a bit on my iPod. I didn’t get very far though, playing a fast-paced platformer on a touchscreen just doesn’t feel good. However, playing it on the OUYA with a real game controller gives the total opposite experience. It feels… just right, like the game is always meant to be played with a controller.

Seriously, the tactile feedback on your hand feels unbelievably good. I’m finally able to double-jump, run, dash with precision and actually feeling awesome doing it. Man, how I wish League of Evil 2 and 3 to be released on the OUYA as well. Now I know I won’t be going back to play another platformer on a touchscreen device.

OUYA League of Evil

Seeing how League of Evil is a great game on OUYA, is it safe to say that platformers are a good fit for the OUYA? Based on some other platformers I have tried like Gunslugs and Sonic 4, I think it’s safe to think so. Even runner-platformer like Wind-Up Knight and Vector feels really good when played on the OUYA.

Actually, not just platformers, any game that requires a lot of movement will feel better when played on the OUYA. For example, moving and aiming in the touchscreen version of Shadow Gun feels very awkward, but doing the same thing using a controller feels much more natural. Even Final Fantasy III feels better when played on the OUYA since the character need to travel a lot.

And man, I’ve gotta say, playing Final Fantasy III on the OUYA really takes me back to the PSX era (and BTW, the PSX emulator on the OUYA is really, really good, even better than the one on the PC).

Speaking of Final Fantasy III, the game costs around $15, just like its counterpart in Google Play. And this is my biggest peeve with the OUYA ecosystem, I have already bought a Final Fantasy III from Google Play! Not just FFIII, I have also bought Sonic 4, Vector, and a bunch of other games from outside the OUYA. Having to pay again for the same game really made me think twice about purchasing anything.

Yeah, I know that isn’t the OUYA guys fault, it still sucks though.

By the way, it’s kinda interesting that I haven’t met any game with in-app purchase for virtual currency or something similar.

OUYA Game: Ittle Dew

While we’re on that subject, let’s talk about the payment system for a bit. From my experience, the payment system on the OUYA is pretty painless, just like what you’d usually find on a mobile platform. The only problem is that OUYA asks for your credit card number right in the beginning when you first log in to the console. While it’s not a problem for me, I imagine it will trouble a lot of people with no credit card.

Though I have heard that you don’t actually need to put a correct card number on it, so it may not be that big of a problem.

Anyway, so far we have only covered games, but being an Android device, OUYA can also run other Android apps. During the two months I’ve been with my OUYA, I have watched movie, listened to music, browsed internet, and watched Youtube on the TV in my living room (now where’s that Twitter client for OUYA…). Sure, not all apps are available on the OUYA store, but OUYA is an open console, so all you really need to do is copy and install the app to the console.

And you know what’s crazy about being open? Earlier on this post I complained about OUYA’s interface, and guess what, someone has already made a custom launcher for the OUYA! Hell, that launcher is even more customizable with wallpaper, folders, and stuff. Maybe the OUYA team doesn’t need to build a better interface after all.

OUYA Baxy

Phew, we’ve finally reached the end of this long, long post regarding the OUYA. Well, to sum it all up, OUYA’s hardware is really nice, the software really needs more work, and there are already lots of games that could (and should) be played on the OUYA. I’d even say those games are worth the OUYA.

Should you get it? Well, if you have always longing to play smaller games with controller on a TV (just like I did), go get it. Otherwise, if you’re just some casual guy, go wait for the Apple or Google game console.

Games I’ve Been Playing: Pocket Trains

I’m back, my people!
Playing game

Get Pocket Trains for iOS here.
Get Pocket Trains for Android here.
Or watch the gameplay video here.

Oh wow, it’s been quite some times since I posted anything here. Have no fear, I’m back now! And I also got a much longer and heavier post ready to be published. In the meanwhile, I hope this light post on the latest game I’ve been playing would whet your appetite.

Onward, then.

Choo choo!

So, what is Pocket Trains? Is it some sort of Tamagotchi game where you raise train that grows longer and longer? Well, the truth isn’t far off, because instead of raising a train, you’re managing a network of railroads that grows larger and larger.

Pocket Trains is the latest game from Nimble Bit, a game studio known for its addicting timer-based game Tiny Tower. So as you might expect, Pocket Trains is another one of their attempt at the casual, timer-based simulation genre. On Pocket Trains, you will send various trains across the world, wait for them to arrive at their destination, and then proceed to collect the reward. The reward you get can be used to grow your railroad empire by purchasing track to another city or building a new train you can use.

Despite being a timer-based game, Pocket Trains isn’t one of those games where you can advance by just mindlessly tapping stuff on the screen. For each train you have, you must manually choose which stuff the train will deliver. Since different jobs have different reward, there’s some sort of tactical aspect to the game where player must choose the best route and jobs to attain the best reward possible.

To be honest though, I still can’t decide wheter this tactical layer a bad thing or a good thing. It sure brings more depth to the game, but it also brings more complexity.

Map

In addition to the standard delivery job, Pocket Trains also has daily events to spice things up. Every day (real life day) you will get a new random goal to deliver stuff to (or from) a certain location. I really like the addition of daily goals on this type of game. It gives a smaller goal that player can chase everyday so they won’t just play around aimless.

Speaking of aimlessness, despite the addition of daily events, progression (or the lack of it) is a major problem in Pocket Trains. Yes, your railroad empire gets bigger and you also have more trains to manage, but the game does a really poor job of conveying this growth. The railroads isn’t getting more used, the stuff you deliver stays the same, even the stations aren’t getting more crowded.

Part of the problem with the progression is the low amount of available upgrades. You can only upgrade the train fuel capacity and how much stuff it could carry. So no, you can’t make your trains go faster or use the fuel more efficient or any other upgrades you can think of. I mean, it’s called Pocket Trains for god’s sake, so why can’t I tinker with those trains?

Station

I may have been a bit harsh on Pocket Trains on my writing here (still, Nimble Bit has shown that they can do better), but it’s still a game I’d easily recommend to anyone. Despite all its flaws, Pocket Trains is still a good game that you can easily get into when you found yourself with a tiny bit of free time. And it’s free too!

For the time being though, I’m still waiting for that Tiny Deathstar 😉

Games I’ve Been Playing: Minigore 2 Zombies

Would the “Zombies” in the title drive more readers to this blog? =p
Playing game

Get Minigore 2: Zombies for iOS here.
Or watch the gameplay video here!

Hi there, it’s been a while since I blogged about anything. Yeah, sorry about that, my schedule is kinda tight lately. But don’t worry, I’m going to be more free in the coming weeks, so hopefully I can get back to my regular blogging routine. And with that, let’s open up this comeback with another Games I’ve Been Playing post!

So, what game have I been playing lately? Well, after getting over my affair with Nimble Quest, the game that I seem to keep picking up these days is Minigore 2: Zombies. Truth be told, this game has been sitting on my iPod for quite a while now, but I only around got to play it lately (yeah, I have a habit of purchasing a game and not touching it until days later @.@).

Screenshot 1

So, what is Minigore 2: Zombies? Is it just another zombie game?

Well, it IS a zombie game, but it is also a dual-stick shooter. And I always have a soft spot in my heart for mobile dual-stick shooter. I think that genre has the perfect combination of simplicity and intensity for mobile platforms. And come on, who doesn’t like killing zombies or other monsters?

Then, how does Minigore 2 differ from other dual-stick shooters? Well, for starter, your weapon is limited by the number of ammunition that the weapon has, which means you have to keep scouring the maps for more weapons to switch to. So you need to keep your eye on the ammo indicator if you don’t want to find yourself weaponless and (later) dead. There are also some melee weapons for you to try, but unfortunately they aren’t as fun to use as the machine guns.

One other thing, and this, I think, is the best differentiator that the game has. There’s only a single currency in the game. Hurrah! No more badass weapon that can only be unlocked by purchasing some In-App Purchase. Hurrah! No more depression because you just lost and the best weapon needs to be unlocked with real money. To be honest, I think this is the reason why I keep playing the game.

And by the way, while this is a zombie game, and the game title even has the word “gore” in it, don’t think for a second that this is a scary game. It’s quite the opposite in fact, I think the visual in this game is quite charming with all that blocky looks. Sometime I wonder if blocky model is the pixel art version of 3D artworks 😄

Screenshot 2

Zombies, penguins, and Russians. What else could you possibly want?

I may have lied a bit when I told you that Minigore 2 is a dual-stick shooter. In fact, the game is a lot closer to a single-stick-with-a-separate-button-for-firing shooter. Yeah, the game default setting has the Auto Aim feature turned on, so the player will automatically shoot the nearest enemy (or something like that, the aiming is a bit weird sometime) when the fire button is pressed.

Based on the decision to turn on the auto-aim by default, it is clear that the game is much more geared toward moving and positioning the character instead of plain old shooting (so, dual-stick mover?). In fact, I found my left thumb hurting a lot since I tend to press really hard on the screen, hoping the character would move faster. A lot of stuff in the game supports this focus on movement too, like having the enemy not instantly attacking when the player got in the attack range.

Making the game more about about moving rather than aiming and shooting is a really nice move on the developer’s part. It fits the touchscreen control perfectly since it reduces the amount of control the player need to worry about. Not to mention that it makes the game really simple.

Screenshot 3

One thing that surprises me the most about this game is the replayability. I have finished all 7 levels provided in the game, yet I still find myself playing the game from time to time. This is partially due to the fact that I can still progress further, namely in the weapon department, even though there’s no more new level for me. In fact, I think I only unlocked 20% of all the weapon upgrades, so there’s still long way to go for me.

Apparently separating the level/game progress with the unlockable/character progress is a good way to extract more play time from a game. Just keep in mind that it won’t work if the base gameplay isn’t fun, since I wouldn’t buy better guns if killing those zombies with better gun isn’t fun. And by the way, each level in the game can be repeated with increasing difficulty, so the game actually does still offer more challenge to overcome even after the player beat the game.

Seems like we have reached the end of my game impression, and I haven’t uttered a single complaint about the game! Wow, is Minigore 2 a flawless, perfect game? Well, it may be flawless, but it surely isn’t perfect. While the game is good and overall enjoyable, there is no high point that could make me think “Whoa, this thing is awesome!”. And I don’t think I ever find myself got really sucked into the game.

All in all, Minigore 2 is money well spent and I know it will keep me entertained for a couple more days. Well, that’s all for know, I still got zombies to kill!

Games I’ve Been Playin: Slayin

Almost couldn’t resist naming this post “They See Me Playin, They Slayin” 😄
Playing game
Get Slayin for iOS here.
Play Slayin on your browser here.

Whew, seems like it’s been forever since I wrote anything here. Granted, it’s only 3 weeks, but it still feels like a long, long time to me. So let’s open up with something light, a Games I’ve Been Playing post!

Our guest of honor for this post is Slayin, an endless arcade game for iOS with retro looks. Some days ago I promised that I’ll have the game as the topic of my next Games I’ve Been Playing series, and so, here we are.

My first encounter with Slayin is on a preview article, and I immediately knew that I have to give it a try when I saw the screenshot (pictured below). I mean, come on, it has a pixelated retro look, a fire-breathing dragon, an armored knight, and a freaking NES controller for controlling the knight. If that doesn’t scream awesomeness, I don’t know what does.

Anyway, the game finally arrived on the App store and I was really pleased to discover that it actually has a solid gameplay to pair up with the fantastic theme. Later on I found out that I can buy equipment upgrades for my knight at a shop, giving the game a hint of RPG feelings. At that point, I just fell in love with the game.

I didn’t know that I could love the game even more, but I actually did when I figured out that I can purchase a new look for the controller (just check out the controller in the last picture of this post, it seriously looks bad-ass). And when I discovered that I could turn on scanlines effect for an even more retro look, I was simply ecstatic.

Slayin screenshot dragon

The screenshot that captured my heart

Wait, let’s roll back a bit. What is Slayin? How does it play out?

Well, Slayin is some sort of an arena game where you keep fighting monsters in a closed area to increase your level and collect coins. In a way, it really is similar to Spellsword, another really nice arena game. The difference is that Slayin is an endless game, which means that as your level increases, so does the amount of more monsters thrown at you.

Their difference doesn’t stop at that, while Spellsword is a hardcore game where you have to jump around quickly and accurately, Slayin is a really simple game where your hero will automatically move and kill any enemy he hits. So it’s just a matter of changing direction and deciding when to jump. This simple control surprisingly works very well for what seemed to be a hardcore game (I mean, slaying monsters and all that sound pretty hardcore, aren’t they?).

Slayin tries to add some depth to its simple gameplay by having a shop where the players could get upgrades for their hero. I really like their implementation of this shop since it lets the players choose how they want to play the game. You want to play a tank with tons of health? Upgrade your armor so you can endure more attacks! Or may be you want to kill enemies easily? Buy a longer sword. Coupled with the medieval setting, there’s a really strong hint of RPG oozing out from this game.

And have I mentioned anything about the bosses? Once in a while, a boss will spawn in the arena which can only be killed after a few hits. And I’ve gotta say, I’m really, really impressed with the variety of bosses shown in the game. At first I thought they will be as simple as “dodge twice, then attack the opening”, but instead the game got a teleporting insect, a bouncing-and-splitting giant slime, and other crazy stuff as the bosses. Simply put, boss encounters in the game never seem to bore me.

Slayin screenshot controller

That said, the game could really use more contents. While the game features 2 more heroes that can be unlocked, the second unlockable hero plays almost the same as the default one. It would be really awesome if the player has three ways to play the game instead of two, since each hero gives the game a unique feeling.

And the lack of noticeable progress is disturbing too. Sure, we have unlockables like the heroes and a few custom controllers, but these unlockables don’t make me any better at playing. I suppose the developer wish to have a pure-skill based game, which is totally understandable, but that doesn’t mean a skill-based upgrade can’t be incorporated into the game.

With all that said though, I still loved the game. I think it manages to nail a lot of stuff perfectly even though it lacks that addictive, one more time feeling.

A little trivia, I actually came to the same conclusion ages ago when I tweeted my initial impression on Slayin 😄

A Thought About DreadOut

I really should be doing that final log, but alas…
DreadOut
Let’s start with a simple question, what is Dreadout? DreadOut is an indie horror game that takes place in an Asian-Indonesian setting. In the game you will take control of Linda, the protagonist, exploring a haunted town where she will encounter tons of ghost and other supernatural stuff. Fortunately she’s equipped with a phone that could take photo of a ghost to banish it so it’s all good, right?

Currently there’s a demo of the game that’s available here so you can give it a try.

A little disclaimer before we go further, I’m not in any way an expert or even a fan of the horror genre. I’m just someone who’s highly opinionated and enjoy writing.

Anyway, yesterday I gave the demo of DreadOut a try. Well, “gave a try” may be an exaggeration since I only played the first five minutes and then spent another 15 minutes watching a friend played it. And it’s not like he forcibly took control of the game from me either, the game actually feels so scary that I can’t play it anymore. And since DreadOut is a horror game, I think being able to scare someone (well, me) like this is a pretty awesome feat.

Is it that scary? Well, DreadOut used a combination of darkness and eery sound to create an unbelievably scary atmosphere. And being only able to see the ghosts from your camera actually intensifies this atmosphere even further. That said, having an audience who watch me play the game probably also plays a role in me getting scared.

And by the way, that other person who continued my game also gave up playing. In the end we all decided to just watch Die Hard for the rest of the night 😄

Linda

She’s probably the cutest thing in the game

While I did say it’s an awesome feat to be able to scare someone, I suppose making a player quit the game isn’t actually a good thing. Granted, I’m not someone who loves horror games that much, but I still enjoy a good scare and some tensions. I mean, the first part of Bioshock is crazy scary, but it is the best part of the game and I totally enjoyed every second of it.

It’s interesting to see that Dreadout and Bioshock (again, first part) have a really similar scary experience . Both games make you feel scared of turning around a corner because of what’s possibly lurking behind it. But the main difference is, Bioshock manages to make me endure all those scary stuff while Dreadout just makes me give up.

My problem is that there’s just no compelling reason for me to go forward in the game. So when I got to enter a dark, scary alley, all I could think of is why the hell I should go that way when I see no treasure or safe haven or anything beyond that alley. Not to mention the game doesn’t reward me for exploring places. No collectibles or anything that would motivate me to try entering an unexplored room brimming with possible ghosts.

One thing that bugged me the most is that there’s also no reward in any form when a ghost is successfully captured. No visual indicator that you’ve succeeded, no nice sound effect, no nothing. I guess you could say that the relief afterward is some sort of reward, but seriously, that feeling is so short-lived that I highly doubt it could be called a reward.

And that’s my other problem with the game. The entire game feels so intense and there’s barely any place where you could feel safe. Even after you checked out a room and found it to be clear, you still have this feeling that something may jump at you at any given time. There’s just no ground rule set up about when you should be scared and when you shouldn’t.

Sigh, I don’t know, may be I just missed the point of a horror game? At this point, the game feels more like a gauntlet run full of scary things to test your courage and frankly, that’s just not my thing. I mean, even horror movies has something compelling like a plot or a mystery that makes me want to endure it to the end.

That said, DreadOut definitely has potential. It’s not easy to create a scary experience but DreadOut has actually nailed that part. I hope they succeed in their crowdfunding, because there are still tons of stuff could be fixed in the game.

If you’re interested, give it a try yourself from here.

Games I’ve Been Playing: Nimble Quest

Yep, it’s only one game this time around.
Playing gameGet Nimble Quest for iOS here.
Get Nimble Quest for Mac here.
Get Nimble Quest for Android here.
Or just watch the trailer here.

Well, it’s time for another helping of the Games I’ve Been Playing series!

As you’ve seen from the title, we’re only going to talk about one single game this time. And it’s not because I haven’t played any other mobile games, it’s just that this is the game that I’m most excited about right now. Not to mention that this game is rather unique so doing a thorough examination of it would be fun.

To tell you the truth, I could have talked about a recent super popular indie game called Ridiculous Fishing. Unlike most people though, I hated that game. So I don’t know if I’m qualified to write about it since I haven’t played much of the game. May be I should just write a short rant about it some time later.

Anyway, yes, I’ve been playing a lot of Nimble Quest lately. In case you don’t know, Nimble Quest is a game from NimbleBit, the creator of Tiny Tower and Pocket Planes. Seeing their track record of producing awesome games, could Nimble Quest be another hit? What is it about anyway?

Nimble Quest

In Nimble Quest you take control of a group of heroes fighting monsters in various places. This group of heroes will keep moving forward so you have to control their movement direction with a swipe of your finger to avoid hitting walls or monsters. As those monsters are defeated they may drop a power up or an additional hero that can be added to your group.

It’s funny how most article about this game likened it to Snake (yeah, that classic game on your old Nokia phone) while it actually reminds me of those old JRPGs character train. You know, it’s that silly system where the main characters are lined up and moves around the map in a single row. Not to mention that Nimble Quest takes place in a medieval setting, which is one of the most common settings of JRPG.

Actually, that’s what gets me so excited about the game. If you use a bit of your imagination, you could see Nimble Quest as some sort of Action RPG where the heroes roam around the map battling monsters. And if the mechanism in this game is actually good, then other developers could use the same control scheme to build a new breed of mobile RPGs (because let’s admit it, those virtual joypads suck).

Party train

Well, since I’m kinda pumped for this game, I quickly give it a try when NimbleBit provides a web version of the game as a preview. Unfortunately, my initial reaction after playing it for a while is just “okay”. The game isn’t bad, but it doesn’t make me go “Holy crap, this is the best thing on Earth!” like when I first played Punch Quest or Temple Run.

However my opinion slowly changed once I got the the game on my iPod. Somehow I still feel that the game is “meh”, but then I realized that I’m actually playing it whenever I have time to waste (waiting for a download to finish, int the toilet, etc). So is it actually a good game?

Well, part of if why I play it every time is because it has such a perfect session length for a mobile game. Games like Jetpack Joyride also has a short play session, but each time you finish a session you actually still want to play more. Nimble Quest doesn’t have that feeling, so once I died I feel it’s okay to just close the game.

Now that I think about it, may be that’s why I’m not really into the game in the beginning. Because it doesn’t leave me wanting for more.

Heroes

Another factor that makes me keep playing the game is progress. Not “progress” in the sense of advancing to the next level or unlocking new stuff or revealing another part of the story. While that kind of progress would help, I would stop playing once I got stuck at something.

What I mean by progress is to have every game I played to be meaningful. To have every game session contributes to me getting stronger. And Nimble Quest does pretty well in this area since every time I play I will get some crystals (the in-game currency) and the hero will get some experience points.

I especially like how the heroes can be be leveled up. The heroes can be leveled up by both filling up their experience bar as well as by using crystals to unlock the next level. And they’re not exclusive, filling up their experience will make their leveling up cost to be cheaper. And that further reinforces the feeling of progress since anything I do in the game, whether it’s defeating enemies or collecting crystals, will make my heroes get stronger.

That said, I’m not really a fan of the game upgrading system. The game only have upgrades for those powerups that are randomly dropped by the enemy. And since they’re random, upgrading those powerups doesn’t make me feel stronger. After all, those power ups are not a reliable source of power since I some time get a powerup that I don’t need (such as an attack-increase when there’s no enemy).

The hero leveling system actually suffers a bit of this problem too. Each hero has a specific set of upgrades, like an armor increase for the first level up and an attack range for the second one. So a lot of times I found my hero level up to be kinda useless, because who needs armor when you died instantly if you run into an enemy.

Pre level

By the way, while the early part of the game (like, the first four levels) kinda resembles Snake or even a simple Action RPG, the late-game part actually feels like you’re controlling this train of doom that shoots fireball to all direction. It’s a giant bundle of chaotic fun, too bad at that point the game becomes really hard.

Anyway, right now I’m kinda stuck at the Depth level (a hell/volcano-themed area) and the third hero level up requirement is kinda crazy. So yeah, I don’t know if I’ll ever finish the game at this rate.

Well, that’s all for now. Besides, this post has gotten longer than I originally planned for. Let’s hope I found another game that I’m excited to talk about!