Social distance with Speed Dating for Ghosts

Speed Dating for Ghosts is a dating sim and visual novel in which you’re, as you might guess, a ghost.

I like Spooky Peter because of his name! Unlike most dating sims I’ve played in the past, Speed Dating for Ghosts doesn’t involve a long campaign in which you choose a single partner over the course of the game. In this game, you’ll end up on a date after a few minutes of playing. Afterwards, you can return to the speed dating location and choose to go on another date.

Speed Dating for Ghosts is definitely a little out there compared to similar games. It’s less about romance and more about companionship, loneliness, and self-discovery.

Plus in the DLC, you meet a dog! Oh, and you also meet a demon and the ghost of a vampire. Speed Dating for Ghosts was funny but frank about death, and I really enjoyed it. It’s available on PC, Switch, and iOS, and it was under $10 when I bought it on Switch. It looks like it’ $5.24 right now. I recommend it!

Papers, Please, Gamer’s Edition is full of collectibles

papers please

The Gamer’s Edition of Papers, Please was just announced, coming with a Steam key for the game, a keyring, a full set of Arstotzkan password and paperwork, Arstotzkan stamps, a Glory to Arstotzka poster, a suitcase, ink pad, approved and denied stamps, an inspector’s pin, and an immigration rule book for Arstotzka. Amazing. You can see an idea of what they believe it’ll all look like above. Note that I took the image from Gamer’s Edition.

Papers, Please is the 2013 game simulating work as an immigration officer in Arstotzka, a fictional, totalitarian country borrowing concepts of Eastern Bloc countries as well as dystopias such as that of the government in 1984. It’s one of the best games I’ve ever played, leaving the player wondering if each action they take is good or bad. For a game based on paperwork, it’s fun and really opens your eyes.

Gamer’s Edition is a new site that aims to deliver “the ultimate version of great digital games,” similar to the collector’s editions that tripe-A, physical titles get. It was designed primarily with indie games in mind, but the important requirement is that it’s a digital game. I think it’s a neat idea.

The Gamer’s Edition of Papers, Please costs $70, and they’re only producing the number that are ordered. I wish I had more money to spend right now, because I don’t have the money to spend on something like this right now. However, Gamer’s Edition seems to be a site worth watching.

Glory to Arstotzka!

Destroy villages and hoard gold as a dragon in the RTS, Hoard

hoard

This piece was originally published as a review on Game Boyz on 5/31/11. Each Game Boyz review is structured with sections for introduction, graphics, sound, gameplay, and conclusions. Hoard was reviewed using two downloaded copied provided by Big Sandwich Games. The game got little-to-no attention but was quite fun!

Developer: Big Sandwich Games
Publisher: Big Sandwich Games

Features:
1 – 4 Players
Four game modes
Over 100 Steam achievements
Leaderboards

hoard

Big Sandwich Games recently provided me with two copies of their awesome new game, Hoard. To understand Hoard, I’d like to consider an RTS game. Villages grow and become cities while farms increase in size to feed the villagers. Carts of gold travel along the roads. Castles rise, training knights to eliminate the dragons the terrorize the country. Now consider controlling the dragon.

Graphics

Hoard features a colorful, fantasy look. Maps look like they are placed on a wooden table. This drives a feeling of fun over realism. Multiple tilesets are included, giving you the ability to change the feel of the maps. The world is sparse and simple. While this makes the background a bit too plain, it makes aspects of the world you can engage really pop. While the graphics won’t win any awards, they set the tone and mood of the game well.

Your health and carrying capacity, two very important statistics, are prominently displayed over and under your dragon. This allows them to be seen easily at all times. Your fire-breath on the other hand, which is also an important statistic, is displayed at the top of the screen along with your dragon’s color and score. Because it’s out of the way, it’s hard to keep in mind. Of the three, it’s the least important to see at a glance, so I understand the decision, but I wish I could see it more easily. Keeping it out of the way, however, also keeps the interface uncluttered so you can keep a good view on the game.

Sound

The music and sound effects work very well in Hoard to set the mood. The music is simple yet exciting, giving that extra drive in competitive matches. The cheerful, light-hearted sound effects contrasts with the music wonderfully, reinforcing that the game is about fun even when you’re trying hard to win. I especially love it when the princesses call for help or cry out. It really adds that goofiness into the game.

hoard

Gameplay

The goal in Hoard is simple – collect the largest amount of gold to win. The primary way to gain goal is to burn villages, farms, and gold carts and carry the gold back to your hoard. There is some strategy to this though. Letting towns and farms grow bigger will yield larger hauls. Do you want to destroy the towns quickly to maximize your gold early in a match, or do you want to let the towns grow a little, giving you more gold but sacrificing progression at the start of the match? It’s hard to decide.

In matches with multiple dragons, if you deal enough damage to villages without destroying them, they’ll become fearful of you. Once they reach this state, they will periodically bring carts of gold straight to your hoard. To keep them doing this, you’ll want to make sure no other dragon deals more damage to them, otherwise they will become fearful of the rival dragon instead of you!

Thieves will also visit your hoard, attempting to get away with your hard-earned (or hard-stolen, I suppose) gold. If you can get back to your hoard in time, you can kill them before they make it away. Mage towers will periodically rise in the land, attacking you with magic. Destroying them causes a gem to appear worth a large amount of gold. Similar to villages, if you leave the mage towers alone, they’l grow more powerful but will drop more gold. Letting them live can be quite the gamble, however, because too many can prove too much to handle. Another fun way to make gold is to kidnap princesses. Once you return to your hoard with a princess, you’ll have to keep those pesky knights away for a preset amount of time in order to collect your ransom.

hoard

You can only hold a set amount of gold before needing to return to your hoard to drop it off. You also replenish HP when at your hoard. Gold also acts as experience; when you collect enough gold, you gain a level and can increase your stats. You have four stats that can be raised – speed, fire-breath, carrying capacity, and armor. What you raise first can really change how you play at the start of the match, leaving this a great example of the complexity of strategy inherent in the game.

Hoard features four different game modes. In the Treasure mode, which is the primary mode, you must collect the biggest hoard of gold to win. Princess Rush tasks you with kidnapping the most princesses. In Hoard (survival), HP doesn’t replenish. Instead, you’ll need to kidnap princesses to regain health while attempting to survive as long as possible. Finally, in Co-op you share a gold hoard with the other dragons! Hoard doesn’t have a campaign or story mode at all. All the modes are played in short skirmishes either alone, with AI-controlled dragons, or multiplayer!

hoard

Hoard is a fantastic game because of the complex strategies available that have been boiled down into 10 minute chunks of gaming. Multiplayer is a great way to spice it up, but AI dragons provide fun when no one’s aound with whom to play. While it lacks any kind of campaign mode that can give that “ahh, I’ve beat the game” moment and feeling, it’s great because you can play as many rounds as you feel like playing, and it’s always a bit different. Similar to how multiplayer, arena-based first-person shooters contrast story-driven first-person shooters, Hoard fulfills the same relationship with story-driven real-time strategies. Hoard is a complex RTS dressed up as a tabletop, miniatures wargame and served in small portions. It’s $10 on Steam and definitely worth the pricetag.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth, a reverse tower defense (tower offense?)

Anomaly: Warzone Earth
This piece was originally published as a review on Game Boyz on 5/2/11. Each Game Boyz review is structured with sections for introduction, graphics, sound, gameplay, and conclusions. Games are scored on graphics, gameplay, sound, tilt, and overall, each on a 10-point scale. Anomaly: Warzone Earth was reviewed using a downloaded copy provided by 11 bit studios. I still find this game under-appreciated.

Features:
Single-player campaign and two assault modes
Steam Achievements
Steam Leaderboards
Steam Cloud
Controller Enabled

Anomaly: Warzone Earth

Anomaly: Warzone Earth is a fantastic new game available on Steam for both PC and Mac. Provided to me by 11 bit studios, Anomaly is a tower defense game… of sorts. Perhaps it’s better to call it a reverse tower defense or a tower offense game. Or better yet, we could just call it a strategy game! In Anomaly, you see the layout of turrets in the level while controlling a line of assault vehicles. You strategize by planning the best route, deciding which vehicles to use and upgrade, and using special abilities. If you plan carefully, your units can destroy the turrets, get through the defense, and reach the end of the level!

Graphics

Anomaly looks great on my great on my PC. I’m running Windows 7 Professional on an Intel Core 2 Duo 64-bit 2.53 GHz processor with 6 GB RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT graphics card. Even with my less than stellar graphics card, the game ran fine on maximum video settings and looked fantastic. Everything looked clean and easy to see. Enemies are outlined in red and friendly units are outlined in blue. Simple health bars appear over units’ heads. On the left side of the screen, icons representing various abilities are present with the amount available appearing adjacent to them. An elegant tactical map screen can be pulled up at any time, and the unit upgrade and purchase screen is also sleek looking and simple to use. In the main menu screens, small amounts of the screen were cut off from the edges of my non-widescreen monitor. I could manage to read everything, so it wasn’t a terrible error. It’s also a known bug that 11 bit studios is fixing.

Sound

Like the graphics, the audio was also great, and I definitely don’t have any complaints. Both the music and sound effects were good. I enjoyed the dialogue quite a bit. Despite being a little cheesy, it was very fun. Sometimes holding the speed-up button, which speeds up the game for those stretches where you’re waiting for combat, caused dialogue to cut out. It was a minor annoyance, but I had to remember to stop holding the button if I was approaching a goal at which I expected dialogue.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth

Gameplay

As I mentioned previously, Anomaly: Warzone Earth is a reverse tower-defense game. You control up to six vehicles and a commander. The vehicles travel along roads on set paths. Bringing up the tactical map pauses the game and allows you to control which direction the convoy will turn at each intersection. You can’t stop, reverse, or deviate from the path. The map shows the entire level, any power ups available to be picked up, and all enemies as well as your own units. Because different enemies have different types of weapons and ranges, it becomes very important to plan your route carefully on the map screen. For example, some enemies can only shoot directly in front of them. You’ll want to drive past these turrets rather than down streets heading straight toward them. Another trick is loop around repeatedly, slowly picking off enemies. You’re awarded money for destroying enemies, and you can also find minerals that are worth money. You can then spend your earnings on new units (up to six) or on upgrading your current vehicles.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth

Besides planning your route and upgrading, there’s another huge aspect to the strategy involved in Anomaly. Your commander doesn’t follow the set paths and can go anywhere. Unlike the vehicles, he deals no damage; rather, he deploys special abilities! You have a set number of each ability but can find more throughout the level with them usually appearing where some enemies were destroyed. When an ability is deployed, it lasts for a small amount of time. The first ability introduced is the Repair. Any friendly unit within the circle that appears is repaired as long as it’s within the circle. Next there’s the Smoke Screen, which lowers the accuracies of all enemies within the circle. Similar to the Smoke Screen, the Decoy will cause all enemies within the circle to target the decoy. (Using the Smoke Screen and the Decoy at the same time works quite well!) The final ability is the Airstrike, which drops a bomb on the current location. When the commander dies, he respawns at the same location after a short delay and is invulnerable for a couple seconds, letting you get back to safety.

The strategy involved comes from a few different aspects. First, you’ll want to plan a good route. Most likely you’ll be bringing the map up repeatedly throughout each level, adjusting your path as you go. Next, you’ll want to plan which units to use and which order to put them in your convoy. For example, I like to start with a high-armor unit, and I include two shield generating units in my convoy. These shield units provide shields around themselves and the two adjacent vehicles. You’ll also want to correctly use your commander’s abilities to help your vehicles survive. Finally, you’ll need to upgrade your units wisely. There are three difficulties available with which to challenge yourself. You’re awarded points for destroying enemies (more for destroying them without too much delay between kills) and having abilities at the end of the level. Each level has its own leaderboard, providing a lot of competition.

Let’s not forget the story! There is a reason for the vehicles to be fighting those turrets! An alien ship crashes in two spots on Earth, Baghdad and Tokyo. Strange domes, anomalies, appear over the crash sites, and appear to be some sort of shield. Inside these anomalies are the alien ships and turrets. After investigating, the military finds them quite aggressive and decide to neutralize the enemy. Before and during missions, characters talk, giving you some background on what’s happening. This is ample motivation to give a reason to the actions in the game and also provides some interesting twists along the way.

11 bit studios has made a fantastic game with Anomaly: Warzone Earth. It’s definitely a change to the tower defense genre. With a compelling story mode, achievements, leaderboards, and two assault modes, there’s plenty to do for people looking for high replay value. I find Anomaly: Warzone Earth incredibly cheap at $9.99 and worth every penny. If you’re interested in strategy games, I highly recommend you pick this one up and keep your eyes on 11 bit studios in the future!

The McElroy brothers “play” Elegy for a Dead World

A couple weeks ago, Griffin and Justin McElroy recorded a video while “playing” Elegy for a Dead World. The game lets you float through a backdrop of a desolate, alien world and provides writing prompts. You can complete the prompts and publish your story as well as view others’ stories. I don’t think anything I’d ever be able to write could compare to their work though! Check it out on Polygon.

Offspring Fling!

offspring fling

Offspring Fling! is a cute puzzle platformer on Steam that I tried recently. It was very enjoyable, and just look at that art! What you can’t hear, because I’m not including it, is the great music.

offspring fling

When this mean looking dinosaur shows up, your babies scatter. It’s up to you to rescue them!

offspring fling

You can run and jump as well as pick up and fling your babies. As you carry more babies, you won’t be able to jump as the high. Each level tasks you with getting your babies to the door. Some of the stages definitely took some thinking, but I was never really stumped. You won’t find yourself losing repeatedly like in a platformer such as Super Meat Boy or N+, but you will have to think about the puzzles.

offspring fling

It’s a neat little game with adorable graphics. There are still extras to unlock if I choose to keep playing, but it only took me about four hours to beat the base game. It was definitely worth it.

Atom Zombie Smasher

atom zombie smasher

Atom Zombie Smasher is an interesting little real-time strategy game I played recently. You run a country’s military as it’s being overrun with zombies and must attempt to rescue civilians and fight back the infected.

atom zombie smasher

There’s sort of two main spheres of strategy. First, there’s the map of the country. It’s procedurally-generated, so the game’ll be a little different each time you play. To beat the game, you need a certain number of points, and one way you earn points is by controlling territory. Your map shows you what territories the zombies have taken and what territories you’ve fully cleaned. Each day, which is basically a level, has different soldiers available. You need to decide when to attack each territory considering the state of the board, how strong the enemies are, and what soldiers you have available.

atom zombie smasher

During a battle for a particular territory, you’ll have differents tools as your disposal with a variety of victory conditions. In this level, you can see purple infected, yellow civilians, and blue scientists. Scientists are basically currency for addition unlocks. Along the bottom, you’ll see the tools I have – a helicopter to rescue civilians, explosives, blockades, and snipers. What I really like is that you’re always given the option of trying a level again before continuing, even if you succeed. Sometimes I win but think I can do better.

You can set up games of varying lengths dependent on the number of points required for victory. A long campaign can be quite complicated, but you can also make a short campaign capable of being finished in under hour. It’s definitely a fun little game!