Sunday, 22 May 2011

Android App of the Week: Drag Racing














I am a proud owner of an HTC Wildfire, running on the Android Operating System. Yes, proud owner! On this blog I wish to post my favourite time wasting app of the week. Of course, this will nearly always be a game. This week, it's Drag Racing! This game has been around for a while as a browser based game, as far as I know. Racing games, or sports games in general, are admittedly not my forté and don't usually appeal to me. This game however, is fun and extremely addictive. Yes, I'll repeat that, extremely addictive. If you have something important to do today - I suggest avoiding this download. The game is basically a series of randomly generated drag races between you an an opponent, you can choose various difficulties and two different distances with varying rewards for a victory. You can also play online against others if you have a 3G or WiFi connection.

The races themselves are very simple. You begin by touching the accelerator to put your foot down, and then your only job will be to change gear at the right time and apply nitros strategically. You begin with a small amount of cash with which to purchase a car and tune it up a bit, and the aim of the game is to basically earn money and buy better cars and tune them up to be as good as possible. That's what I like about this game - it's very simple to play but has some strategic elements as well. This is exactly what I like to see in an app, something that can kill time and has a long life span. Games like the classic Doodle Jump are fun and addictive - but they lack any forms of progression. Each time you boot up Drag Race, you know you're going to make some progress towards that Veyron SS you always wanted.




















Now I'm not going to lie - Android Apps are not as smooth as iOS apps. However, Drag Race appears to be remarkably smooth and well coded. There are no FPS issues such as the ones with iOS ports like Angry Birds. Better yet, this App is completely free to download from the Android Market and can be found here. Verdict below!

MateriaVerdict:
Gameplay: Addictive, simple and perfect for a touch-screen app - 10/10
Music: Sounds of car engines. What more would you ask for in this app? - 9/10
Graphics: Smooth and sleek, very surprising for an Android App - 7/10
Overall: 26/30

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Terraria

This first post was originally supposed to be on the recently released stand-alone expansion for the Mount & Blade series, Mount & Blade: With Fire And Sword. However, an extremely unexpected release of an Indie title I have been aware of for only a very short time has changed that. Now, this has to be the strangest release I have ever seen, forgivable for being an Indie title. The game in question, is Terraria. An indie title for the PC created by Andrew Spinks, or Redigit. Along with production assistant Jeremy Guerette and artists Finn Brice and Gabriel Enrique Kiesshau. The release was very unexpected, the only publicity I had seen for the game was on some popular gaming channels on YouTube. It was released through Steam on the 16th of May, with no coverage on the Store's featured games section. It has since earned a place on the front page, however.








Terraria is described by it's developers as being an Action, Adventure and RPG. This is a very fitting mix of genres for the game, and the array of genres is very fitting of an Indie title. So, I boot up the game and am presented with a menu screen of course. From here, I select singleplayer, and am asked to create a character. Terraria is a 2D side-scrolling game, and so I wasn't really expecting much in terms of character customization. However, I was actually quite impressed with the array of choice infront of me, to freely design my character. This is a very minor feature, but because I feel a lot of the game's content lies in it's multiplayer, character customization does play a role. After creating a character, I can then generate my world. The game takes place in a randomly generated world, several of which can be created, and a single character and their items can be moved from world to world. This is where the RPG element of the game comes in, as you gather items and suchlike, they will stay with you. So, onto the game itself. Comparisons have, unfortunately in my opinion, been made with Mojang's hit title Minecraft. Now, I'm going to be rather controversial here and say that I feel Terraria is far more enjoyable to play than Minecraft, but that of course is a matter of opinion. Players can use axes and pickaxes to mine and collect wood, and the world itself is made up of millions of tiles much like the blocks used in Minecraft, but 2D. Players are able to build what they like, and can also use resources to craft different items. And this, is where the similarities end. In fact, this is where vanilla Minecraft's content ends.

The amount of content included in Terraria, for an indie title that can be bought for a mere £5.99, is incredible. I have yet to access a lot of this content myself, and of course I will be playing this title for much longer. Let's begin with the crafting system. Players can create simple items such as torches to light the way simply by entering the menu, and selecting it from a list of craftable items. To craft more complex items the player much create a Workbench, Furnace, Anvil and an alchemy bench. The complexity of the crafting system and large amounts of items is extremely overwhelming initially, you only have to check the game's Wiki page to see just how complex it is. Initially, this may be quite daunting and seem difficult to manage. Especially since the GUI for inventory management can at times be clunky and a little difficult to use. You will collect a very large amount of items when playing the game, and for OCD freaks like myself, inventory management becomes very tedious. This is my only criticism of the game in it's current state, aside from a few bugs and glitches still hanging around in Multiplayer, but this is still an early release, and again it is an Indie title, so I am willing to forgive this.



















Exploding Trees - Making your wood collection more efficient!

So, what else differentiates this title from Minecraft? Terraria has made use of allied NPCs. As you construct your village and meet certain conditions, NPCs will move into your village. The merchant sells various items such as a mining helmet that can be used to prevent the need for torches, and sold anything you do not need. This currency system adds yet another layer of depth to an already content rich game. Other NPCs include the Nurse who will heal you for a price and a Demolitionist who sells...well, do I really need to explain? Some NPCs are more difficult to access than others, the Dryad for example will only appear once you have defeated one of the games bosses. Bosses can be summoned in various ways, such as the Eye of Cthulu by using 10 Lens at a demon altar. However, bosses are extremely difficult to take down and you will need either extremely good gear or a few friends to help you out. This is a great addition to the game, as it adds some action and a goal for the player to meet. The 2D point-and-click combat system is very simple and yet very fun.

The gameplay is largely focussed on exploration and adventure of an expansive and detailed randomly generated world. You can dig down to find enormous caverns below the surface, filled with treasure chests and monsters alike. This is where the bulk of gameplay takes place, digging down to find precious minerals, heart crystals to increase you're character's health among other things. The world is generated perfectly balanced - rare minerals are not impossible to find and yet they are still challenging. Dig far enough down, and the player can even reach the underworld where more adventures and excitement await. As I have said, this game's content is so expansive I have yet to access a lot of it. Multiplayer is still relatively unstable, however I have managed to get a server running through Hamachi. The gameplay on a multiplayer server is of course exactly the same, but with the added fun of playing with friends.



























Where there's RPG, there's numbers flying out of heads.

So, below I'm going to give some rather cliche ratings to this game to give you an idea of my overall verdict. I would recommend this title to anyone, and it's only £5.99! Better yet, it'll only take around 2 minutes to download through Steam - You have no reason not to try this game out!

MateriaVerdict:
Gameplay: Fun, Addictive and Expansive - 8/10
Music: 8Bit wonder, but only a few tracks that can get kind of repetitive - 7/10
Graphics: Clean and effective, colourful and fits the feel of the game - 8/10
Total: 23/30

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Welcome!

The modern video games industry is vast and caters for a large variety of different audiences. From casual gamers playing the Sims and Peggle, to (forgive the stereotype) teenagers playing the annual installment of Call Of Duty, to hardcore gamers playing World of Warcraft, and even those seeking something a little bit out of the ordinary with Indie games. So, what is this blog for? Well, first I'll explain a little bit about myself. I'm 18, and currently living the joys of A-Level Business Studies and ICT. I really hope the sarcasm in that statement comes across. Fortunately I am now coming to the end of my A-Levels, and am hoping to go on to University to study Computer Game Development, Computer Game Programming, Games Computing and the rest of the plethora of names given to courses.

Put simply, I have a passion for video games. I want to use this blog to put across my views on the games I play through, and I like to think of myself as being rather critical of the industry. For this reason, I will not be posting about mainstream mammoths that lack creativity (i.e. Call Of Duty). I look for a certain differentiation in gameplay mechanics - or an imaginative storyline. As many of you will have already picked up on, I'm a big Final Fantasy fan. I grew up playing Final Fantasy games, and their storylines have become a part of my childhood. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy the odd zombie fest and play Killing Floor, or a competitive game of Counter-Strike: Source. But notice, I like to avoid the mainstream wherever possible. This is because I feel the most creative and innovative games are often overlooked by the bulk of the industry in place for those that have already created a strong brand image. Those games everyone talks about and everyones playing. Anyway, I'll stop rambling here and leave this post at that. I hope to be making my first actual post soon, so stay tuned! I've always wanted to say that.