Reviews written by SmallCaveGames

7 results - showing 1 - 7
 
Racing & Flying
 
Overall Fun Level 
 
8.0
SmallCaveGames Reviewed by SmallCaveGames    October 03, 2009
Top 500 Reviewer  -  

Patience with the controls...

What, another Halfbrick game?! You know it. I have to admit - I get a little extra excited when I hear about a new Halfbrick title now. You know that you can expect a polished game from a studio that has several nice titles under its belt already. There's a certain consistency among their games - even though they span several genres now, you can feel the similarities in the design.

In Rocket Racing, Halfbrick introduces another simple-to-understand, but tough-to-master game mechanic. The rockets on your racer (two of them) are controlled by the right and left triggers - so propelling your racer is all about carefully balancing those two rockets to move the direction that you want. Even cooler, using your rockets near a wall will quickly add speed as you push off - and the closer you are to the wall, the more speed you pick up. But don't get too close, because hitting the walls is jarring and will have the opposite effect. Riding along walls, and blasting off them can be extremely exciting when you start pulling it off. Speaking of which...

Let me get something out of the way. I had a really hard time with the controls - the dual trigger blasting was so brutally hard for me, that I had to step away to make sure my index fingers weren't actually breakfast sausages. I eventually started learning to move in the intended direction, but there was simply no way I was going perform well enough to progress. Thankfully, Halfbrick included alternate controls! "Stick" controls allowed me to use the left analog to steer and the trigger to blast - perfect. Now I was getting somewhere. I felt a little lame doing so, but it had to be done.

So now I jumped back into the single player mode, which is essentially a battle against yourself. And a clock I guess. The general idea is to beat each track in the best time possible, earning medals along the way. There are tracks based on getting from A to B, completing a number of laps, or hitting a number of checkpoints - but it's all a race against the tic toc of the clock. I soon learned that to get gold medals (or the elusive "brick" medal), I had to put up some seriously nice times. And if I didn't get golds, I probably wouldn't have enough medals to unlock the later tracks. This really tapped into my competitive nature. Stop me shall you?!


I can honestly say that this one of the most addicting racers I've ever played. Even without human or AI competition, I found myself hooked on trying to shave split-seconds off my times. Certain tracks are a bit unexciting, but others are a blast to whip around trying to ride a centimeter off the walls. Halfbrick must have known just how unforgiving each track can be, and smartly installed a self-destruct button that allows you to quickly blow up and restart a track quickly. You will use this feature many many times. You will curse. You may throw your controller. But you'll also be fist-pumping in your living room when you nail the track you've been attempting for an hour.

I am still working unlocking the later tracks because as mentioned it seems like you need golds on most of the tracks to keep progressing. I have one "brick" medal which was 90% luck but I still cherish it like a functional NES. I will be back to try again.

So the controls may frustrate at first, but I'd recommend sticking with it, or switching the control scheme like I did. There's actually much to appreciate in just how much fine tuning went in to the wall-blasting/sliding mechanic. The main reason I didn't score the game higher is because it really relies on mutliplayer for any real "racing" aspect. As a lover of games like Off Road and RC Pro Am, the lack of AI racers to challenge in a standard race setting leaves you wanting more. While racing the clock (and your sanity) is still a ton of fun, not being able to race others will leave lonely gamers with half of a game.

Give this one a go - see you on the leaderboards!!

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Action & Adventure
 
Overall Fun Level 
 
9.0
SmallCaveGames Reviewed by SmallCaveGames    October 03, 2009
Top 500 Reviewer  -  

Solid little fisher...

How very interesting. For those of you who are familiar with Lost Garden, you may already know the origins of this game. I remember back when that game-making challenge kicked off. This XBLIG release is not the first or only version of "Fishing Girl," but it is the first one I've played - and it's a nice filet of casual gaming.


With graphics courtesy of the Lost Garden guru Daniel Cook, there's no denying the high level of visual appeal. The smooth simple lines, and colorful fish against the neutral background create a beautiful little world that's pleasing to the eye. The clean interface and easy to grasp concept follow suit - creating a casual experience that will appeal to a wide range of gamers.

So what are we talking about here in terms of gameplay? Well, it's time to go fishing - that's right. You're little bear-like creature has access to rods, some lures, and a lake stock full of small, medium, and large fish (along with some superhuge sharks). In general, it's as simple as casting your line and reeling in some fish - you only will use one button (well two, but barely), and you won't be sweating over it. In fact, this game has the opposite effect - it's actually really relaxing and I believe that to be the intent.

There are some intuitive gameplay elements that add to the feeling of progression and reward. Certain lures are better than others, and only work on the appropriate fish. Larger fish will strip you of smaller lures, and weaker fishing rods won't allow you to cast very far or deep into the lake. You eventually need to catch enough fish so that you can earn money to buy upgrades and progress towards the endgame (which I will leave unsaid).

There are varying rarities of fish too, so as you become better at casting, you can attempt to catch the rarest fish and earn more money. This concept taps in to the addictive "collector" mentality, and it's hard to temper the desire grab those fish that are most elusive and hard to come by.


One nice bonus that I appreciate is that there is a little story involved that will help motivate you to keep fishing and progressing - nothing monumental by any means, but effective. Another nice little touch is a built in achievement system that rewards you for hitting certain milestones and achieving perfect casts, etc. They are well-conceived to make you keep playing towards separate goals and had these been real achievements, they'd actually carry some serious weight.

The main issue some players will have with Fishing Girl is that the challenge level is really low, and the overall experience is quite short. Because other Flash versions of the game exist (although most are quite different than this version), I can't imagine this being priced at anything other than 80MP. But at that price, it's a perfect fit and a very worthwhile impulse buy. While nearly polar opposite to I MAED A GAM3 W1TH ZOMBIES 1N IT!!!1 (grrr), it's another great example of simple but well-designed game that will appeal to many at that price. It's a nice trend we're seeing. If you're open to a more casual experience and enjoy a little fishing, I recommend this one.

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Action & Adventure
 
Overall Fun Level 
 
8.0
SmallCaveGames Reviewed by SmallCaveGames    June 11, 2009
Top 500 Reviewer  -  

I love it when developers let there imaginations loose. This loony, mature, political satire beat-em-up granted me a very enjoyable Sunday morning.

This is the second community games release from Arrogancy Games and I believe this one is the hotter ticket. The premise is a twisted take on all of the current notable political figures/events and despite the nickname/name changes, I don't think anyone will be confused as to who the characters are supposed to be (unless you live in a van down by the river).

This first element that struck me was the very crisp, cartoony art style. It allows for a good deal of exaggeration and makes for some satisfying over-the-top effects. There is also an opening sequence that I could have sworn was a shot of a female's butt walking, but the pan out revealed it to be our protagonist's (Barry's) rear end. I am not sure what that says about me, or potentially the developer's sick imagination. Moving along...



There is a great degree of polish beyond the impressive graphics. Also included are special moves, a variety of attacks/combos, varied enemy AI, several unique bosses, storyboard style interludes, a 'hard' mode - and most notably, the ability to play 2 player co-op (awesome). This is the kind of effort that deserves a round of applause.

Small spoiler here, but I really want to mention it. You can pick up a cow and smash enemies with it. Yep, that's right.

So time to get beefy. There are two related issues I had with Angry Barry. First, the endless droves of enemies can be mind-numbing. Sometimes there are so many packed on the screen that I actually was having trouble finding Barry. It's not unusual to go 5 minutes just fighting the same one or two enemies over and over in repetitive fashion. I believe this could have been balanced better by making each enemy tougher to take down (seems that they all take 1 or 2 hits max, besides bosses). On a related front, this repetition may have been an effort to extend the game time, which is understandable because I was able to play through on normal difficulty in about an hour, without dying.



So this, for me, is another example of quality over quantity. It can still sting when you realize that that you've nearly exhausted the playability in a single sitting, but it was a memorable experience. Angry Barry is appropriately priced at 400MP and the developer does make mention in the game that he struggled with that choice - which is something I actually found refreshingly honest, not arrogant.

Any old sckool beat-em-up fans should definitely have a look for a unique and current take on an old genre.

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Action & Adventure
 
Overall Fun Level 
 
7.0
SmallCaveGames Reviewed by SmallCaveGames    May 26, 2009
Top 500 Reviewer  -  

"ORBYX!" (in a robot voice). That's what you hear when you launch this new pachinko-style game on XBCG. I guess the idea here is that we're blowing up orbs with bouncing flaming cannonballs - sounds good to me.

Some of you might be familiar with this type of gameplay because this pachinko mechanic has become quite popular recently. You essentially aim your shots at at the board, trying to blast specific orbs away, and build up mega scores and combos with all of the ricochets. It's quite addicitive, I must admit. It's as if every shot has a dose of strategy paired with the rush of a gamble. It's easy to play and enjoy a couple rounds, or a couple of hours of rounds. It's sort of like getting to play Plinko over and over and much as you want. (no cash prize though, booooo) Oh and that's a Price is Right reference.

Orbyx adapts this simple mechanic well, and you're going to enjoy a crisp game with solid production value. There's plenty of levels/boards to play, and it's very easy to learn the basics. You can preview your shot in order to get a feel for the first couple bounces that will occur - which is pretty key when you get down to your last couple shots.

For me personally, the randomness of the third/fourth/fifth unpredictable bounce lends itself to a bit too much luck. After you plan your initial shot, there's quite a bit of sitting and watching your ball (sorry, I mean flaming cannonball) take it's course. Sometimes you catch a break and start landing unforeseen combos, sometimes you get screwed and the balls just bounces once/twice and then manages to hit nothing else. Not that 'chance' is a bad element in a game, but there's quite a bit here.

Orbyx adds a wealth of frills that add to the experience. There is an element of 'magic spells' that you can unleash if you collect the 5 letters to spell m-a-g-i-c. There's zoom-in and slow-mo action as you come close to beating a level, and there is a great array of SFX that really add to the fun addicitive nature of bouncing around the boards. All-the-while, the graphics and backgrounds are rich, colorful, and deep.

In that same vein however, you might find that the mixmash of prominent themes sort of clash a bit. From the opening, which sounds robotic, to the techno breakbeats, concept of flaming cannonballs (medieval?) and then elven princesses, magic spells, and fantasy style music tracks....I was a bit lost. In someways it does keep things interesting and adds variety, but I would have personally preferred if the developer picked one and really drove it home. With the four female fantasy characters and magic themes, I think that would have worked just fine to carry that through. Maybe even go one step further down the RPG/fantasy road and add a leveling/experience system and maybe a shop to buy powerups and items from, etc. There's room for innovation. (granted you might only attract a certain audience that way)

So Orbyx is a fresh take on a popular style of game and it's great to have this option on XBCG, especially at this level of polish. A 400 MP, I believe it's fairly priced considering it could keep you going for 30+ hours of gameplay. So it really just comes down to whether or not you like the basic game mechanic of pachinko. If you do, you should snatch this up faster than you can say "Elven robot techno cannonballs." ;)

Small Cave Games

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Action & Adventure
 
Overall Fun Level 
 
9.0
SmallCaveGames Reviewed by SmallCaveGames    May 22, 2009
Top 500 Reviewer  -  

Hear that? That's the sound of fresh air blowing into the Community Games section of your Xbox Live. Take a deep breath of it.

I could write 3 pages about Clover, but at some point my ramblings must become boring, and you should really just go play it for yourself. Now before I over-hype, I will say that this type of game is obviously not for everyone (how many really are?), but it fills an empty niche on the XBCG platform and will be a huge hit in the minds of many.

Clover is self-described as a platforming-puzzler-adventure game. And yes that's about right, but you won't be bopping on the heads of enemies. You will likely be overwhelmed with nostalgia in certain moments - although I am not sure exactly for what (only the town sections of Zelda 2 come immediately to mind for me). The primary mechanics and gameplay involve item collection and puzzle-solving via narrative. You don't carry a weapon, you cannot fight or shoot lasers out of your eyes - you just have an adventure to go on, so hop to it.

There are so many things that Clover does right, that I basically just have to list them, or else proceed with the aforementioned 3 page review. So then: Beautiful watercolor-based graphics, amusing SFX, great story (with a political tie-in should you look for it), fun characters, easy to pick-up gameplay, excellent puzzle/clue design, and a great "mood." For me, my favorite aspect is that I was able to jump in to a totally unique (yet modest) world, become entirely immersed, and achieve a strong sense of reward every time I figured out a solution.

So what then, could I possibly have beef with? Oh don't you worry. ;) I have a small list of gripes that are of course subjective and may not be issues with some. I honestly found the music to be spot-on and very moody initially, but after 15 minutes or so it was actually grating on my brain. It's purely piano, and very repetitive sort of jarring piano without much of a melody. Second, some may find fault in the short length of the game combined with low replayablity - though you should try to be in the "quality-over-quantity" mindset. Last, as is often the case with adventure-puzzlers, you may find yourself doing much mindless backtracking and running around while you try to manage your inventory and solve the puzzles. It comes with the territory I suppose (and the developer did actually build in one 'quick-travel' solution) but I found myself *sighing several times upon realizing I needed to travel ALL the way back across the gameworld to get what I needed.

As a final word, and without giving away too much, players will experience a rather unique ending and one that I did not expect to find. In my mind, it creates the urge for a sequel so we'll see what the developer (Binary Tweed) says about that. I definitely recommend this game to just about anyone, unless you have an aversion to puzzle-adventure-platformers (I like to mix the order up - keeps things fresh) At 400 MP it's not so much a value pick as it is an indulgence. It's like that small tub of Ben and Jerry's you keep in the freezer.

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Fighting
 
Overall Fun Level 
 
8.0
SmallCaveGames Reviewed by SmallCaveGames    May 21, 2009
Top 500 Reviewer  -  

When I play a game like this, it really makes me appreciate the XBCG community and what it's bringing to the table. This is clearly a project that was a labor of love for the developers, and something tells me they had a ton of fun and laughs creating it.

If you think the name is a little 'out there' wait until you see the title screen. I have to point it out because I was laughing for a good minute trying to figure out what I was looking at. Two ears with a switchblade coming out of it? A little creature climbing a ladder in to a woman's butt? Priceless.


So once you jump in, you'll find it's a nice pick-up-and-play design. It's dodgeball platformer style, with a strong (funny) thematic twist. You pick devils and angels to play with (either team or free-for-all) and the balls are actually human souls!! That may sound horrific but it's actually very light-hearted. You jump and float around (A button), pick up balls and throw them at your opponents (both using Right Trigger). You can also use a well timed push of the Right Trigger to cancel out an incoming hit (catch). The simple play also allows for dedicated players to master the dodgeball trade.

As hinted at, the graphics and theme are strong (while a bit odd/random). There's a nice variety of levels to play and they are well-designed for fast paced action. The controls are tight and responsive. And the SFX/music follows through well on the quirky theme. We're not at the high end of what we've seen graphically on XBCG, but it's a very nice 2D presentation.

So as you can tell, I feel this game has much going for it. There's really only one design decision that brings it down for me, but it's sort of a big deal, and I am sure it was something the developers thought about. It's heavily aimed at multiplayer. In fact, the game originally 'shipped' with only a multiplayer aspect, but the devs smartly re-released with a 'bot' element allowing for single player dodgeball action. While bot play helps, the game still really requires that you have a good group of gamer friends to play with in order to get full enjoyment out of it. It's a shame too, because the mechanics are tight enough where I could envision a full single player campaign using all of the same set pieces.

I did convince my wife to sit down and play with me (second time this year maybe?) and it confirmed that this game is really easy to pick up, much more fun when playing with friends, and that my wife is in fact always going to be terrible at video games. Ahhh well.

The bottom line is, grab this game sooner rather than later if you have a group of friends to play it with. It's a good deal at 200 MP, and if you're a family of gamers this would also be a solid battle game (in the spirit of Mario Brothers battle mode) for the family. If you're more of a solo gamer and/or are looking for a strong single player aspect, it's probably a pass. My hat is off to the devs though, nice presentation and delivery - and bonus points for following through on a great wacky theme.

SmallCaveGames.

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Action & Adventure
 
Overall Fun Level 
 
6.0
SmallCaveGames Reviewed by SmallCaveGames    May 21, 2009
Top 500 Reviewer  -  

6 out of 10

Pretty cool box art. And you get to fight a penis monster.

What we have here is a decent attempt to make the first noteworthy FPS available to Community Games. Johnny Crush takes all of your favorite guns used in almost every FPS ever made (assault rifle, shotgun, chaingun, yada yada), and pits you against big insects in a city-like setting. My 'originality' meter is going flaccid (sorry) but I will give a quick high-five for delivering a playable FPS with solid graphics and fun guns. It's also easy to load up and just start splattering insects, with little concern for any sort of story/plot - and sometimes that's just what people are looking for.

Where this game falls short is the actual gameplay. We can certainly forgive Johhy Crush for the lack of AAA-level graphics and polish, and given the context it can certainly hold it's own on delivering fun visuals. But man oh man, be prepared to backpedal. With the drone-like AI that simply spawns and hones in on your location, and the wide open city streets, the ONLY way to play this game seems to be to back-back-back-that-shit-up with guns blazing. If you get your back against the wall, you're in trouble and usually you just try to escape to a new area so you can backpedal some more.

Regardless of the repetitive and somewhat mindless backpedaling extravaganza, it's not like players can't have a good deal of fun. I mean after all, it's an FPS with killer insects. The kicker however is the cost. This game needs to be marketed and delivered as the very-poor-man's Halo and at 800MP, that's just not cheap enough. It's going to be very hard to undercut the AAA titles, XBLA, and the bargain bins, with that ambitious top-level price tag. I hate to say it, but it's going to rub people the wrong way.

I admire the ambition, and believe this would definitely be a better, recommendable experience at 200MP. You'll have to really like FPSs, insects, and/or giant johnsons to shell out the cost of 2-4 smaller fun titles.

www.smallcavegames.blogspot.com

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