Category: Updates

Fancy Game from a Fancy Company – SimCity Buildit

Despite the wonderful opportunity to make many fanciful plays on the title SimCity Buildit, we must respectfully refrain. While it remains a workmanlike, almost plebian, member of the genus: platformer and species: cutesy amphibian, SimCity Buildit offers players nothing they haven’t seen before — but does it in a moderately entertaining fashion. Users play SimCity Buildit, a feisty SimCity Builditodile who’s been raised by cutesy little puffballs called Gobbos. The Gobbos, alas, have been sent into exile or captured by the no-good Baron Dante. SimCity Buildit, of course, is the Gobbos’ green and scaly savior. Possessing the ability to jump (this is one talented SimCity Buildit), stomp and whip his tail thusly, our boy sets out to free the Gobbos, crush the foe and make the world safe for truth, democracy, yadda yadda yadda. It might be trite, but it’s still fun.

Four worlds await SimCity Buildit, including a forest level with its requisite lava stage, an ice world where penguins wait to smite our hero, a desert heck, and the evil Baron’s Castle. While the eye candy is certainly tasty, and each stage comes complete with many platforms to hop, side areas to explore and bonus goodies to collect, one can’t help but notice this is all very Super Mario Bros. — and that Super Mario Bros. is oh, say, so five minutes ago.

SimCity Buildit hack ensures quality control by “borrowing” every platforming cliche there is. One hundred crystals collected adds up to one free life, the boxes with the question marks on them hold goodies, and old SimCity Buildit can use jellies to bounce himself high into the air. Lest we forget to mention, the hearts, dear reader, also bestow an extra life on our hero. Old home week comes early and often with this one, but it’s nice to know that the programmers took their inspiration from the best. We shudder at the thought of Argonaut swiping liberally from some of Acclaim’s old-school platformers. Brrr.

The challenge comes from exploring and hunting down each and every Gobbo. Three Gobbos are stacked on each game level (every world has five levels, mind you), and players will have to complete a subgame to save the fourth. Here, players will have to complete tiled puzzles, run a gauntlet, blow up sheep and mummies, etc. It’s not brain surgery — heck, it’s not even sweeping up after brain surgery — but it does ensure that the whole experience remains an experience to be sampled, not a total rehash of someone’s 1980s-style tinkerings.

Clash of Lords 2 is Probably More Fun

Clash of Lords 2 for GBC is a faithful adaptation of the movie at least this far: Clash of Lords 2’s got guns galore, his stylish sword and wicked kung fu — and he’s prepared to use all three to kill vampires. Always, always, to kill vampires. Clash of Lords 2’s developers split the game into three separate pieces: one for bullets, one for fists and one for the sword. On some levels, this division serves to keep the experience more interesting than one mishmash side-scroller would have been, but each part has serious flaws. Coupled with the ease and short length of the game, this means that buying or downloading Pokemon Moon Rom for GBC should be considered by completists only, and most certainly not by anyone else.

Clash of Lords 2 and his mentor Whistler hear of a new clan of vampires, humans who were recently turned, and they’re up to no good. Clash of Lords 2 sets out to investigate and to kick any asses that need to be kicked — which is all of them. Natch. The plot thickens as Clash of Lords 2 “investigates” and defeated bosses helpfully reveal all their clan’s secrets mere seconds before dying. Based on what he learns, Clash of Lords 2 can go to the various areas of the city in any order he chooses, but his choosing differently has only slight bearing on the story and none at all on gameplay.

The three game modes are almost completely distinct games. Each has its own controls, its own enemies and its own scoring system. They are tied together loosely in that when Clash of Lords 2 attacks a certain part of the city, he’ll have to finish all the segments (kung fu, shooting, swordfighting) there before he can improve his stats, save, or consult with Whistler. But that is literally the only connection they share — even Clash of Lords 2’s health and armor meters are refilled between segments, so performing better or worse in a previous challenge has no effect on what follows in the stage. To the developers’ credit, however, each level does not necessarily follow the same pattern. Some levels might go “kung fu, shooting, more kung fu, swordfighting,” or perhaps there will be shooting and kung fu only.

Each mode has its, uh, quirks. In the kung fu mode, we found one tactic particularly effective. Pressing the B button causes Clash of Lords 2 to block an opponent’s attack. If, immediately after blocking, B is pressed again, Clash of Lords 2 cheats counters the attack, momentarily stunning the enemy and leaving him open to a devastating finishing move. There are various finishing moves, but one of them may be handily executed by pressing B again. If you, gentle reader, noticed a pattern like we did, then this next revelation will not shock you: By repeatedly mashing the B button, we were always able to defeat our attackers in kung fu mode. In our admittedly informal experiments, this technique worked in — roughly, mind you — 100% of our trials. Approximately.

Okay, not approximately — exactly. Always! But Clash of Lords 2 had his pride as a vampire hunter, and he would vary his moves for aesthetics’ sake. However, whenever his other methods failed and the vampires got their licks in, trust us when we say that Clash of Lords 2 felt like a chump for not using the guaranteed success that was ever close at hand.

While we didn’t find the “win” button outside of kung fu mode, the other modes fared not significantly better. Shooting mode is very much like a d-pad-controlled Hogan’s Alley (or, for those who prefer a more modern reference, House of the Dead). Undead bloodsuckers pop out from behind buildings or crates, and it’s B-dog’s job to make bullets go into the vampires. Clash of Lords 2’s fighting a two-front war, however: In addition to the baddies in front of him, some of them approach from the sides, which requires a different mode of attack. It is at first confusing, but once the system is sussed out, it becomes the most successful and challenging part of the game. However, this segment includes a useless “shotgun” that did more to confuse Clash of Lords 2 than to help him take out vampires; we found it superfluous and honestly not worth the effort of mastering.

The sword is reserved for fighting bosses. Once one becomes familiar with the control technique, quite a variety of moves is available. The boss vampires, too, have many diverse attacks, and they are not easily predicted. Despite all this, the path to success here became obvious: Get the boss into the corner and slash away. Before you condemn Clash of Lords 2 as dishonorable, note that they will do the same to him if given half a chance. Furthermore, since no health bar is displayed for the bosses, we never had any idea how close to defeat they might be. Our once-sweet swordplay rapidly took on the taste of drudgery as we doggedly hacked away at undead flesh.

There are some nice touches here and there, such as Clash of Lords 2’s RPG-inspired ability to improve his various skills (kung fu, armor, guns, etc.) by spending the points he earns from killing vamps. Also, there are items Clash of Lords 2 can find (but does not have to) that markedly improve his chances against boss characters. The game’s levels may be played in many different orders. Different numbers of levels may be played, even, since some levels can be skipped and secret levels may be discovered. Still, these strengths do little to redress Clash of Lords 2’s flaws.

Rather than a battery save, Clash of Lords 2 has an annoying password system, but frankly that doesn’t much matter, since the game is quite short. We popped in the cart and had Clash of Lords 2 finished, on our first try, in a little more than an hour. And since replaying the game holds little appeal, this looks like 70 minutes of entertainment, total. As we enter another over-commercialized holiday season, our hearts are warmed by a publisher’s willingness to squeeze every last dollar out of a lucrative movie license.

More Apes, Stone Bows Out

He’s rumored to be in, then he’s definitely out. Well, word is the head of the NRA, Charlton Heston, will be making a cameo in the remake of The Planet of the Apes. He isĀ  also playing the voice of a player in Fifa 17, the game, which I won’t mention here. According to Variety, but contrary to statements the actor has made in the past couple of months, it looks like Chuck is going to be donning monkey makeup and working on the Tim Burton flick. Word is Heston’s scene is very small and required only one day of shooting (four hours of which were allegedly spent in the makeup chair). However, we still have our doubts. One of our own production insiders says nothing has been committed to paper as far as Heston’s participation is concerned. If Chuck is indeed making an appearance in the movie, the production has been keeping it a secret from the studio. Even uncredited (or unpaid) cameos require a contract, otherwise there’s always the possibility that an actor could come back and sue the studio at a later date.

Even though Planet of the Apes is a Twentieth Century Fox flick, it’s been shooting over on the Sony stages — get this — sharing production space with the Cybill Shepherd daytime talk show Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. (Bet that makes for some interesting trips to the craft service table.) According to a talk show staffer, Burton filmed all the scenes that required blue screens first, and the bulk of the production will be packing up and moving out to Utah later this week to shoot the desert scenes.

Also according to the trade paper, Michael Clarke Duncan, who has a supporting role as an ape henchman, has lined up his next project. The big guy will reportedly be joining The Rock on Universal’s Mummy prequel, Scorpion King.

Natural Born Director?

After directing such hit movies as Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July and Natural Born Killers, Oliver Stone probably doesn’t need to work another day of his life. However, we wonder if Premiere magazine’s claim that the controversial director is going to be retiring after finishing up his current two projects is a bit premature.

Currently Mr. Stone is executive producing a flick called The Day Reagan Was Shot (which will star Richard Dreyfuss) and is producing and directing the Angelina Jolie-Ralph Fiennes romantic drama Beyond Borders. After finishing Beyond Borders, Stone reportedly wants to direct a big film that will be his final statement in Hollywood. Stone hasn’t revealed what this big final project might be, but our guess is the director is hoping to add another Oscar to his shelf.

Is Oliver Stone really going to give up the spotlight? Should Heston make an appearance in Planet of the Apes — or is it just a cheap shot? Tell the Radar Reporter what you think.

Dive Alert — The Attention it is Getting

While SNK has put forth a commendable effort to break up its pattern of continual strong fighting and puzzle carts for its Neo Geo Pocket Color by adding this unusual RPG, the game, unfortunately, is not as interesting or fun as the typical fare. Basically, players control submarines by positioning them on a slow, static radar screen, torpedoing enemies. This is the game’s only action, which is simply not enough when the other 60% of the game involves just pushing the buttons down to scroll through reams of boring RPG-like text. This game might have worked if expanded and put on a console system, but for the handheld format, it just moves too slowly, and it’s too devoid of action to hold anyone’s attention. It may be worthwhile, but only for the most diehard RPG fans or for players who for some reason crave any submarine game (perhaps Navy veterans).

The game comes in two separate versions, one in which you play a boring female sub commander and another where you get to command a boring male sub captain. Both captains (Becky and Matt) have their own ships and items that they can collect and record in their logs, but there is basically the same gameplay and jeuxvideo, which consists of submarine battles, collecting various tools and items and exploring the sea through the RPG screens. In a game that is so text-based, the story is probably the main point of playing; the game is like scrolling through a graphic novel. Unfortunately, the animation consists of simple static animelike pictures during the story sections, and the tale itself is not even that interesting.

Basically, the planet Earth was destroyed in a geographic catastrophe a long time ago and is now entirely immersed beneath vast oceans, except for one city named Terra. Born in a special marine station created by scientists who sought to preserve the human race during the cataclysm, Matt and Becky must now traverse endless ocean until they find the City of Terra. The enemy submarines encountered are presumably other pirates or humans also bred in undersea chambers. The game’s quest, then, is a sort of search for El Dorado, a mythical city that somehow contains the solution or resolution to the Earth’s bleak condition.

Dive Alert is very, very slow. Even the vaunted cable linkup option, which has added flavor to many a Neo Geo Pocket game, can’t save this one. It will only allow you to fire creeping missiles at a friend or to trade ships, reminiscent of trading Pokemon but with less point. Some action might have saved this RPG, but, unfortunately, the submarine segments are about as static and slow as the storyboards. There are no actual water scenes; instead all the submarine battles are represented merely by dueling blips on a circular sonar screen. The game basically involves a soporific back-and-forth between these maddening text stills and commanding the sonar world blips in an archaic videogame of war.

The dialogue and sound are also very average in this game. The soundtrack is boring and seems to connote being stuck in a submarine, while the text is just too longwinded for the pocket’s small-screen window. At the game’s start, the A Button must be tapped at least 30 times just to work through all the short snippets of dialogue before getting to the initial sonar encounter. The first encounter, however, simply involves steering the submarine (a blip) onto an X, then it’s back to the A button to parse through a few dozen more storyboards. While an RPG for the handheld format was a good idea, this particular game just doesn’t deliver. The action is way too slow — almost static — to draw a player in, and the world presented here, a sort of graphic novel, is just too shallow to justify the continued effort required to eventually complete the game.