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Nov 2, 2009

Review: November's Downloadable Games

Shadow Complex
Microsoft Game Studio, Epic Games
Available on Xbox Live Arcade

In a sea of casual arcade games on Xbox Live, Shadow Complex tends to stand out with its stellar cut-scenes and visually impressive world. Sure, a lot of people will compare this game to the Metroid and Castlevanias of the past but trust me when I say; you haven’t played anything quite like this.

Shadow Complex follows the events from a book called Empire which centers on Jason Flemming as he attempts to save his girlfriend, Claire after she is kidnapped by a secret organization called the Progressive Restoration. Jason must work his way through the organization’s secret complex to find Claire and collect equipment to aid him in his efforts.

Though this is technically a side-scroller, the levels are more 2.5D than 2D since Jason has access to layers of the levels rather than just the typical up, down, left and right directions. This gives the player a feeling of 3D when really the game is still just 2D. Being a huge Uncharted fan, I was happy to hear Nolan North (voice of Nathan Drake) as the voice of Jason Flemming but it would given the game more of uniqueness if the character didn’t look so much like Nathan Drake too. Some of the in-game instructions were a little unclear which made some of boss battles hard but overall, the controls were pretty easy to pick up.

I know there was some mass controversy over this game because of the negative gay right views of Orson Card Scott, the author of Empire but honestly this is a great game and I don’t think anyone should let some closed-minded author’s views just in the way of enjoying a great videogame. Even I didn’t let my personal issues with Cliffy B get in the way of enjoying it.

Buy it!

Axel & Pixel
2K Play, Silver Wish Games
Available on Xbox Live Arcade

If you are looking for the next thing in indie art games, then look no further than Axel & Pixel, the new title from 2K Play and Silver Wish Games. This unique title looks like an oil painting come to life with the Monty Python animations. Be prepared to fall into this dream world and never come back.

Axel & Pixel follows a young painter and his faithful dog into a seasonal dreamland of fantastic life forms and environments as they attempt to steal back the key to reality from an evil giant rat. Axel & Pixel must interact with the objects in each level with their magical cursor in order to move onto the next level in pursuit of the rat. Both Axel & Pixel can affect objects which you can click on when your cursor becomes highlighted. Some objects must be clicked on in a specific order or at a specific time in order for them to work. Sketches, bones and paints can be found throughout the game for bonus achievements in the end.

Mini games have been placed in between the main levels of the game that require you to drive vehicles like a hot air balloon or car, and while they tend to break up all the pointing and clicking, I found them to be really hard to complete. The controls were unforgiving and each vehicle had a small health bar that took massive damage with each hit.

While you would think the highlighting cursor would take all difficulty out of this game, Axel & Pixel’s clever puzzles will have you constantly using your wits to help get the duo home. Don’t worry though; there is a nice little hint system to help you in your moments of need.

In a world of mainstream videogame hype, it really doesn’t hurt to check out an indie game or two once in a while and support the little guy. Obviously 2K Play saw potential in this game enough to back it so made you should too.

Buy it!

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Dark Lord
Square Enix
Available on Wii Ware

Tower defence games are now all the rage with everyone from Square Enix to South Park jumping on board with a game in the genre. Square Enix came to the table with Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Dark Lord, one of many in the FFCC series, and surprisingly this game wasn’t what I expected.

Sure, I expected something decent as I always do from Square but with so many tower defence games out there following the same format as Pixel Junk Monsters; I expected something like that but with Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicle characters and monsters. Instead I found they went in a whole other direction with RPG elements, an evil main character and a vertical playing field rather than a flat one.

You play as Mira, the daughter of a fallen Dark Lord who is trying to regain her dark realm by taking revenge over the kingdoms that destroyed her Father, the previous Dark Lord and their tower. As she tries to rebuilt, heroes are sent from the nearby kingdoms to destroy her and her minions in their tower. You must defend your tower by adding new floors and monsters, both defensive and offensive in order to stop the heroes before the reach the source of your power, the tower’s crystal, which is posted on the top level.

I love how unique Square Enix was in creating this game as they opted for an evil female character rather than the typical male hero character and even made the assistant, Tonbetty (a Tonberry), a female as well. The monsters in the game were quite well designed and the goblins especially remind me of something from the Jim Henson Workshop. Be prepared though for lots of RPG experience grinding in order to advantage to higher levels and better monsters because points don’t come easy and you will have to replay levels in order to gain enough for advancement.

While I was happy to see something a little different from the rest, I still wasn’t overly impressed with this game like I was with Pixel Junk Monsters or even Plants vs. Zombies. Sure, this is still a decent game but you have to have the patience to play it and with a stack of review games to be just waiting to be played, I just don’t have the time to replay levels when I really just want to move on to new things.

Pass on it!

Plants vs. Zombies
Pop Cap Games
Available at Pop Cap Games & Steam

Along with tower defence games, zombies are also the big genre in games right now, almost to the point that you have to wonder if the t-virus was injected into the game industry and is now running rampant through the world of game design. Plants vs. Zombies takes both the zombies and tower defence genres, and manages to mash them so perfectly that I couldn’t imagine any other game laying claim to the throne in the Kingdom of Zombie Tower Defence Games from this point forward.

Plants vs. Zombies bring to life a garden full of plant life in order to protect you from a horde of zombies trying to eat your precious brains. You must plant one plant after another in different areas like your backyard, pool and roof in order to keep the zombies at bay. You will get to unlock an arsenal of plant life like pea shooters, tall nuts, cob cannons and more in order to defend against an evil undead army full of zombies with traffic cone hats, football player zombies and even thriller zombies.

Along the way you’ll get help from your crazy neighbour who will give you mini games to play and a store to shop in. You can buy items to help you from the store and also buy supplies for your Zen garden which will net you coins. As you progress through the game, you will also unlock puzzles, mini games and some endless survival modes which will net your more coins and items for your Zen garden.

For only $19.99, Plants vs. Zombie is probably one of the best valued PC games you could possible own on the market right now as its comes with a lengthy adventure mode which can be played over and over again for extra goodies and it also comes with addictive puzzles and mini games which are like two more games on their own. Once you played all those modes through, you then have the Zen garden to play around with and the endless survival modes to clear as well. The game is just full of stuff to do. I’ve been playing it for months now and I still haven’t got everything there is to collect in the game.

The whimsy cartoon graphics and humour in everything in the game will have you amused to no end. The game will continue to challenge you with its ever changing elements and endless supply of different game types. No game will give you as much choice and challenge as this one does for so little cash and as a bonus, the Steam version gives you achievements to work towards.

Pop Cap Games has a flash version available on their website currently for those who wish to check the game out before they buy but I highly suggest you download this game today.

Buy it!

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