#1ReasonWhy More story != more words My mystery flight

Archive for November, 2010

Review: Astroslugs

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

I did a review a while ago for my new literary home Resolution Magazine on the lovely little puzzler called Astroslugs, but forgot to pop it up here! Check it out here.

You gotta go there to get the whole thing but here’s a snippet!
“ASTROSLUGS IS the love-child of The Bit Barons, Alexander Zacherl, Alexander Widl and Sergej Klementinovski, an indie development trio from Munich, Germany. In this colourful puzzler you play as an alien whose rocket has crash landed on a foreign multi-continental planetoid. In order to repair your ship and go home you must decipher ancient alien hieroglyphs by activating ‘slugballs’ in certain patterns in order to harvest their energy.”

Review: Costume Quest

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

I done some words over at Digital Gaudium, they look a little something like this.

It’s Hallow’s Eve, you’ve been working on your costume for ages. Or at least your Mum has. This is the highlight of your year. Your night. You’re new in town and Mum’s pretty keen on you and your twin making some new friends around here. Trick Or Treating could be just the ticket. Or it could threaten the very fabric of your family, yanking a tiny family-member-apple violently from it’s family tree… either way a pail full of sweet sweet fun, right?!

We follow Wren and Reynold, fraternal twins going Trick Or Treating on their favourite night of the year, luckily the most socially acceptable night in which to partake: Halloween. You choose which twin you want to play as and shortly after the other gets stolen by a monster in one of the earliest houses you trick or treat in, because your stupid brother (or sister) had to dress up as candy corn and get mistaken for an actual confection. Cue mammoth quest to get your brother or sister back! Not because you love them but because it’ll ruin your night if you go home and get grounded for mislaying a sibling. A bunch of monsters are obsessed with providing as much candy as possible to appease their lord BoJonn, who suffers from some kind of blood sugar disorder where he requires inordinate amounts of lollies to function. In order to get all this candy for their master, they’re ransacking all the local houses for all their halloween candy. Dorsilla the Witch is overseeing proceedings, as the middle man between BoJonn and the grunts, known as Grubbins, Trowbogs, and Crestwailers. As you may expect from Double Fine Productions (the fine folk that gave us Psychonauts and Brutal Legend) the humour injected into this XBLA download-only title is one of it’s most magnificent draw-cards. I found myself doing my best Santa impression heartily chuckling on enough occasions to give the jolly fat man a run for his money. Costume Quest is charming, witty, and thoroughly entertaining.

At it’s core Costume Quest is an adventure role-playing game, along with titillating little turn based battle sequences vaguely resembling simplified JRPGs. Separated in to 3 acts, your first area to explore is the twin’s neighbourhood, followed by the local Mall, and then a forest valley. In all 3 areas you’re charged with the responsibility of knocking on each door, completing quests given by the local children and some adults, and battling monsters. Each house you knock on will either contain an adult about to shower you with candy, or a monster that triggers a battle scene. I found myself saying “Phwwoooaarrrrrr” when I came across my first battle sequence, as the tone of the game seemed to change in a big way. I went from playing my chosen twin in a cute little robot costume, to flying through the air (fist in the sky!) and turning into a badass Transformer robot. The costumes the children wear give them different abilities in battle, medic abilities, tank abilities, defensive capabilities and great special attacks, varying with each costume. You collect bits of the costumes along your journey and once you have all 4 pieces of the costume you can then bring the smack down in the battle sequences. Costumes vary from your classics such as the robot, the cat, the knight, and the pumpkin, all the way to your slightly more obscure varieties like the French fries, the space warrior and the unicorn. My personal favourite was the Statue of Liberty. Not for her special attacks or healing abilities, but for her short cinematic when you press ‘Anthem’ (her medic ability). She flies into the air, her torch thrust upright as red and white stripes burst out from behind her, with blue and white stars following in a show of patriotic peacockage, complete with soaring eagle and Abraham Lincoln’s face triumphantly sliding across the screen. Just delicious and an example of the kind of humour Schafer & Co. have cleverly sprinkled around this game.

Your quests are mainly fetch quests, a few mini games, and a little bit of candy grinding, but they never seem to get stale. The menu system was outstanding in its intuitiveness, 2 pages of a notebook (with spiral down the centre), using the left control stick to scroll down the left page, and the right control stick to scroll the right. The left and right shoulder buttons were used to toggle between pages, here you could easily access information on what quests you were currently working on, view your status, Battle Stamps, Creepy Treats cards, and Costumes. Battle Stamps are stamps you can collect to unlock special capabilities in the battle sequences and are mostly bought with candy, although some can be found as rewards for quest completion. Creepy Treats cards are what all the cool kids are collecting, and in each act you’ll find a quest involving finding a rare card for one of the kids, in exchange for one you don’t have. Collecting all the cards unlocks a costume piece, and an achievement.

The art style has a hand-drawn loveliness to it in this uber-cute world, where you can find everything from monsters and giant creepy birds to adorable little children dressed up like fairy princesses, exclaiming “Please don’t touch my dress, it’s silk”. The contrast between the friendly neighbourhood and the nastiness of the later stages is very clear and adds to the drama of your impending boss battle, which are immense amounts of fun. The sound is exquisite, complimenting the playful tone of the game perfectly, a little drumroll frequently plays which helps with the suspense and really gets you into the mood for an impending fight. There wasn’t any voice acting, which some may feel is a hinderance but I personally preferred reading the dialogue and imagining the character’s voices myself. The dialogue is punchy enough to lend itself to your imagination easily, I don’t feel different voice actors would have contributed a whole lot to it – in fact they may have hurt it. I’d prefer no voice acting to bad voice acting – and with this witty dialogue the chance for failure in the delivery is pretty high.

On paper, the game play and the premise don’t seem like much, at it’s core it’s pretty basic, but the delivery is where this game completely wins you over. It’ll charm your socks off, make you laugh, give you a break to put your socks back on, then do it all over again. The world is a lovely one to be in, and I look forward to any DLC which may or may not be on the cards. Side effects may include giddiness, spontaneous chortling, a sugar craving, uncontrollable cosplay purchases, and the urge to flick salt at people.

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