The Lost Reviews – Arms Dealer

21 10 2016

Arms Dealer

Tutorials are a major importance to Video Games, without them, chances are we would have no idea how to play the game. It would be complete guess-work as we play the first level over and over again hoping for a hint as to what we are supposed to be doing. Thankfully, that’s why we have Tutorials. Tutorials though don’t have necessarily spoon feed you with information, they could either present just the core details to you or let you work it out from there, or they could be simple prompts at the side of the screen, and rely on you to implement them and discover them yourself. Tutorials themselves could even be a part of the game, and when effective enough could become one of the most memorable parts of the game; a good example would be Age of Empires II for instance. Recently I have been playing another game that too has a memorable tutorial, but all for the wrong reasons.

Age of Empires 2

Arms Dealer (produced by Case in Point Studios, LLC) is a game about buying, selling, trading and shipping weapons around the world to some less than reputable characters. As a new person to the gig, you have some money to which you can begin to build your empire, but to start with you need to buy some guns, make friends and maybe build some form of transport. You start in a country, and from there can buy weapons, while also buying intel on countries to get the prices up and down during buying and selling as well as get involved with auctions. As the game progresses you will need to watch your back as agencies from around the world are looking to bring you down, so while you are earning cash and reputation, you will also be building up your prison sentence should you get caught. Well that’s the theory of how the game works or should work, just depends how much you age by the time you get past the tutorial.


The game comes with a nice clever interface. It provides you with a map similar to DEFCON and Pandemic 2 to which you can plan where you want to go, buy weapons from, and who to sell them too. The game also comes with an intuitive scheme of windows, much like your desktop; which you can move around willy nilly to your heart’s content to get the best input system possible for you to play the game. It’s sort of like that snap feature on Windows 7 (just without the ridiculous advert). The game controls and input are pretty basic as the only real control you will need comes from your mouse. You just simply click what you want to click, while moving the in game windows around to suit your comfortably.


The in game map and windows are nicely made, and the images of weapons and vehicles are nicely detailed, and the in game text is nice and easy to read. It’s just everything else is pretty terrible. Some of the in game buttons don’t look like buttons, so you don’t know how to press them, or if you can press them. Some of them are actually pretty small and hard to click on and some of the text is not exactly helpful as you are trying to find an action and you don’t know where it is or how to find it either.


The real issue with this game for me though is the flipping tutorial. Now most in game tutorials will try to restrict the amount of writing it puts on-screen, other than of course direct and intuitive information, the information you need and want, in order for you to play the game. Sometimes a tutorial will even have some form, of spoken dialogue, so you don’t cause yourself any un-required eye strain. Here though the dialogue boxes have no spoken word, and contain nothing but tiny text, in a small window, and guess what, there is a lot of it. Some spoken word would be a great deal of help here just so you can get a touch more detail, without hurting your eyes. But that is not the worst of it. Due to the amount of windows and text boxes you will be opening during the game, there is a lot of reading involved, and unnecessary moving of windows because the tutorial window demands the centre screen, and so always moves itself back into place, which is not helpful. Worse is still to come, as the text is not descriptive enough and asks you to press buttons you can’t find but according to the tutorial…..’EXIST!’ So you start looking around for the button it tells you to press, but you just can’t find it. And then the windows start to throw a sissy fit, as if you accidentally close a window (but more likely do it on purpose just to get it out of the way), it sort of reverts back to an original state, forcing you to start all over again (not to mention; the lag).


The windows feature is a nice add-on, it’s a general shame that it just does not work properly. How are you supposed to see this wonderfully detailed map when sooner or later the whole screen is just going to be filled up with in-game windows! How a game like this, which in fairness should strive, like all games, not to create a nuisance is supposed to work is beyond me. Why can’t the windows work like the windows of an installation screen? Instead of you opening up windows to complete an over the top action, why can’t the screen change automatically, by pressing a continue button or something. When you purchase an item off Amazon, you don’t need to open several windows to complete the action, because the window changes automatically to the next step. It’s simple, very simple, so why does this game then thrive to do the exact opposite and be a nuisance.


I have to mark this game down sadly, which is a shame because overall I really wanted it to be good. I held high expectations and hope that this would be a fun game. I like economic/trading games like this, because generally they are games which don’t require you to complete in one sitting. It’s not Call of Duty; it’s a nice small game which could either be played in short bursts or long periods. It’s like Evil Genius: you don’t have to play it for a long time if you don’t want to, you could play a quick snippet, and play more when you wanted too. The game has some nice points, a wonderfully detailed map, and some nice pictures of guns (which if that is all you want, then great, perfect game for you), but if you want more than that; I am afraid you are going to be disappointed. I hope this game can be salvaged, because I feel that it is a wasted opportunity full of potential. I think that this game could have been really good; a proper enjoyable little gem with plenty of hours of game-play; But right now; I feel like I wish had not wasted my money on it, even if it was a cheap purchase!



The Lost Reviews – Infested Planet

20 10 2016

Infested Planet (Rocket Bear Games - 2014)

If Alien movies have taught us anything, it’s that guns do not work against Aliens! That statement has been proved over and over again from films such as Aliens (where an elite team of Marines were wiped out in near seconds), Starship Troopers (where legions of soldiers were killed in less than an hour) and Independence Day (where the human race was nearly wiped out in 3 days). So, with this knowledge in hand we know for sure that if Aliens invade Earth, we should not use guns in any shape or form as they simply do not work; it seems however that some people have to learn the hard way.


Infested Planet (produced by Rocket Bear Games) is a game about a squad of soldiers invading a planet infested with an alien species, and whose job it is to try and wipe them out. Each level begins with your elite team of soldiers landing in an area, with a small base set up. From here it is your duty to guide them through a maze of tunnels in the hope of destroying all enemy bases to win the level. As soon as you land however, the Aliens are on top of you and you will need to plan wisely and prioritize where you can as the aliens descend in swarms around your base.


Each level is set in a nicely rendered 2D plan view map, and there are no tricky images to understand as everything is nice and clear. The games visuals remind me of one of those planet invasion flash games. You know the ones that feel more like a maths exam, where there is a planet with a value of 10, and so you need to send an army with a value of 11 to conquer it. Well, the maps look like that, with nice near circular bases for both you and the aliens, and as the swarms of alien monsters begin to descend on your bases and men, they even begin to look like those sorts of games. The aliens and soldiers feature a wonderful colour palette, with your soldiers changing colour as they upgrade and even the aliens get a nice patchwork of colouring too.


The main way you play is by guiding your soldiers around the map, attacking bases and taking them over, bit by bit extending your reach. You will be offered times to upgrade while in the battlefield, upgrading your soldiers to different classes, while also being offered opportunities to drop supplies in and even call in helicopter strikes. It’s kind of similar to opportunities offered in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (which I have still yet to play). These upgrades however do not make the game any easier as the aliens can mutate as their bases get destroyed, and just because you have claimed a base does not make it safe, as the aliens can and will attack them, destroying them and converting the land back to their side. They will even take control of you gun turrets given half the chance.


The AI in this game is brilliant. The aliens attack in well-designed swarms, and don’t just rely on being small, because as the game progresses, and bases mutate, other larger and more fearsome species come out to play. It’s actually kind of fun, yet stimulating-ly terrifying as you see these swarms just appear and attack out of nowhere. Yes, you can put up defenses, but spots can be over run and you can’t help but look back at your bases, just to check if they are safe for the time being. Meanwhile, you have to keep a sharp eye on your team as they come under attack, and have to defend themselves not just from aliens, but the alien’s own defensive capabilities also.


What this game provides at its core details plus in game specialties is really nice, and it’s good to see a game that even when it does provide you with upgrades, it does not necessarily mean that it gets any easier. It does not necessarily have a learning curve, more a steady playing field, and one that requires you to strategize rather than burst in all guns blaring. The game though for all its wonderful inclusions does have some short comings. There is an in game shop system which allows you to purchase new items and upgrades from cash you receive from winning (and even surrendering) a level. When you go into the shop though hoping to get much-needed upgrades, you discover that most of them (although at a fair price) are temporary and are only really available for no more than the next three levels. That is pretty annoying especially as some of them can be pretty expensive. You would think that something that cost that much, you would get keep wouldn’t you? The story does not really seem to be needed either. The game’s plot is provided in a similar form to an old shoot-em up game, where there is a lot of written text, no voice over dialogue and when it actually comes to a level, you don’t really know why they gave you any plot. But then things get weird as the game provides you with random missions and the story just appears to well: disappear…altogether. But the crazy thing is, is that you don’t really care about the plot, as there is so much fun in its gameplay you just want to get past the written word and just start shooting aliens. It’s a bit wasted if I’m to be honest.


Altogether I think this is a fun game. Yes its shop is convoluted and un-usable and its story is pretty much not wanted and at least a bit wasted; but everything else that this game provides is on the surface near perfect. It’s not overly long, you can play it in long and short bursts, it’s relatively easy to pick up and play, and its design is really nice and colourful (compared to say a mysteriously abandoned ship in space lacking a carpet). Overall I would say this is just a nice little game if you fancy a break from a heavy laden triple A game or if you just have a little time to play something diverse, in-depth, but also very light.



The Lost Reviews – Big Pharma

19 10 2016

big-pharma (twice circled - 2015)

You know when you played Theme Hospital (assuming you did, because, you know; why wouldn’t you?), did you ever think to yourself: “I could be doing so much more here, why don’t I leave the life of being a Hospital CEO and go into Pharmaceutical Production?” Well chances are that you thought no such thing as for one; Theme Hospital was a game, not real life or an RPG, and for two; you were really quite content with the game you were playing at the time. If it were the case though that one day while playing Theme Hospital and you actually thought the above statement, well now you can – not in Theme Hospital, but in a game that focuses on the production of Medicine based products.


Big Pharma (produced by Twice Circled) is a game where you the player are managing director of a pharmaceutical company. You start your company off with a small brightly coloured interior warehouse and a few inventions and ingredients at your disposal to which you can use to create cures for illnesses. All you need to do is put these assets into production and sell sell sell.


Game play is very simple; in your empty warehouse you need to use one of the holes in the wall to import an ingredient, and then use machines at your disposal to meet certain requirements before either finishing off the ingredient mixture or upgrading it to be a cure for something else. Once that is done, you need to turn the current ingredient into a manufactured cure by putting it through a pill maker, and then transport it to another hole in the wall to name it and sell it. Later options at your disposal include creaming the drugs instead of selling them as pills, and even packing them. The game though is not as easy as it sounds as machines, conveyor belts and equipment take up space (turning it into a mini puzzle game in the process) and you have a limited area, plus in some cases are required to create a catalyst in order for some cures to be upgraded. The game though is not all about Medication Manufacturing, as it’s also a part business and research sim. You will be required to hire explorers and researchers to discover new ingredients and new machinery, while at the same time use their down time to provide you with upgrade points. At the same time however, you need to be concerning yourself with making money too, as production costs can be quite astronomical, and your company is in competition with others.


Big Pharma is a nicely animated little game. The game graphics are nicely detailed, but not too detailed so can work on most machines without a fuss. The Animation though is superb. It can be quite mesmerizing watching the ingredients progress along the conveyor belts, changing form and colour as machines work on them, and watching the machines work is a nice little added extra, and comes with a form of animation very similar I find to that of Theme Hospital. Watching the water boil in the Dissolver, or seeing ingredients pulped in the Agglomerator, working their way down the production line and being made into either pills or as a cream. It’s really fun to watch and nice little bits like that really help this game to provide a detailed experience.


The game; all be it relatively fun and still pretty unique, does have its short comings. For one, I like the idea of creating a production line, but the production line does seem to be rather slow, I did not know that Conveyor belts started and stopped every second, I thought they just kept going? It can take a while for the process to complete and when you need money fast, but the conveyors only move at one speed (which is sort of move and stop, move and stop), or the other cases where you are trying to reach a deadline in the game’s objectives mode, it can be very annoying. You can of course speed things up with the mystical speed change options in the bottom left of the screen, but you may as well just keep it up at full speed in that case just to speed up the game and make the conveyors more realistic. The objectives are not bad and it is pretty fun going through each one, just to give you something to do in the game, but with your mind on reaching a certain objective, you may as well ignore everything else in the game, and concentrate on what you need to do rather than what else you could be doing. Then once you have done enough and or have reached your goal, you do have the option of getting a better score than the basic score which is a nice added add-on, but by this point you may as well just speed up the game in places or end the level just to be done with it and do something else.


Most of the cures you make can be upgraded relatively quickly on, but they require the use of machines you have not unlocked yet, in which case I found myself spending time and money in researching the things I needed each time before sending anything in production, just to be able to give the game the best I could. The other thing though is the Catalysts. The game comes with a very comprehensive tutorial mode which is very descriptive and also very fun, but each time I tried to do a catalyst in the real game, I would not achieve it. Making catalysts is supposed to be hard, but when you are doing everything right, the catalyst still does not make itself, and it can be very annoying, especially as sometimes you need that upgraded cure to move on.


Big Pharma is one of these Production line games that have begun to make a real appearance in the industry along with other games like Factorio. Making a production line is a good fun idea and when combined with making product to sell turns the game not just into a factory based game but also a resources and economic game, where you need to concentrate on not just making a good product but also turning a profit. I like that idea, and when combined with the games look, idea and animation, it makes a good fit that is at least to begin with a fun game to play. But as the game progresses and its short comings come to light, it becomes a game that I was once excited to play but now don’t really see a future for. Maybe I like my games with a little more realism in its depictions of production, but for its slow speed, but also relatively pointless extras during its objective based gameplay, I feel that this game was once fun, but then just ended.



The Lost Reviews – Governor of Poker 2

18 10 2016


If you like board and card games as much as me, you may have a huge stack of games. Lots of games you enjoy, some probably more than others, and maybe some you have yet to play, but the one thing that is probably more true than most is that, you probably don’t get to play many of them all that often. There maybe a few for instance that you have not played in a while. This is definitely true of me; some of the time I play more of than others, while games like Munchkin for example I don’t get to play as often as I would prefer, because sometimes they are hard to bring to the table. Some of the time when you play games, it’s best to play ones other people have experience of just so everyone can have a good time, and don’t need to learn a lot of new details. This can be true of other games too, and in my experience I can go long periods of time not playing a basic card game like Poker.


I was introduced to Poker over a decade ago, but it can be hard to get a game of it in. I can watch it on TV, like I used to during the good old days of the William Hill Poker Grand Prix, but there is nothing like actually playing it, which is why it’s a good thing that there are many video games out there that allow me the opportunity to play a game of poker in the meantime, whenever I want to, and in my experience, there is none finer than Governor of Poker.


I originally used to play this games predecessor on Kongregate, but then it was more of a demo, never got to play the original in its full form, however when I noticed this sequel on Steam; I near leapt at the opportunity. In Governor of Poker 2 (by Youda Games), much like the original, you are a wannabe poker champion living in Texas, and you spend your days go from town to town, competing in games, acquiring enough to take over the entire town, before moving onto the next. Purchasing buildings provides you with an income, while competing in tournaments and cash games provides you with an opportunity to acquire more money much more quickly while also building up your reputation. As you progress, you will encounter star NPC players, taking them on in the hope of becoming the number one poker man in the whole of Texas.


The games main piece though comes to its Poker games, which thanks to the Wild West theme, mean that you and everyone else are represented at the table via hats and hands. This part of the game really does come down to the core gameplay of most Poker games, and there can be tells, there can be bluffing, while all the time still creating tension and panic as you watch the chips build up, change colour or reduce in quick fashion. From there on it comes down to how good of a poker player you are, and how far you are willing to go to get the table win.


The game is nicely designed, even if the designs themselves have not changed much since its predecessor. The animation is nicely implemented, from walking, to cut scenes, to even the flicking of chips at the poker table. The only issue I really have with the design side is that the maps are rather static. The only person moving around is you, while everyone else stands mega still not moving before or after you enter a saloon; it does not carry much in the way of life. The game’s soundtrack is nicely designed as it comes more down to a couple of pieces of music, but leaves everything else to the stiffening sound a bliss of silence, with a little bit of noise coming from other characters and of course the dealer. While the original definitely still carries the best theme tune, the game’s soundtrack is at it’s best when there is virtually no sound at all. The gameplay is nicely mixed up, and the differences between games, hats, and even the allowance to buy houses and make an income is rather good, I just don’t think there is really any need for a story in this game, it does not adapt or change over time, it just sort of pops up when you reach a goal, even if reaching that goal requires you to play for several hours before you reach the next one. The only thing you really feel, is the disappointment and crunch as you begin to lose money and property, and wonder how you are going to get back onto your feet. There is a lot to like, and a lot to enjoy, but there is a lot of crowding and a lot of wasted bonuses which just don’t work or appeal, it brings a down note to what is actually a pretty competent and thoroughly enjoyable game.


Don’t get me wrong, I really do like this game; I just think it provides you with things you don’t need or even want. At heart, its basic charm is how this game succeeds, it’s not because you want to free poker from the corrupt hands of those who would rather not play it, but because you want an environment that allows you to play Poker, as close to real as possible. At the tables, you get a real sense of dread, passion and emotion as you win or lose, and as you strive to believe that you can win, and know when it’s time to push or pull back. Everything is there, the poker side works, and the other gameplay pieces included continue to enhance your experience. That’s all this game in the end needs to provide, it does not need a story, just a sense that you are awesome at poker……….at least when you are.



The Lost Reviews – Mini Metro

17 10 2016

mini-metro (Dinosaur Polo Club - 2015)

One of the most recognized maps in the world (or at least the UK) has to be the London Tube Map. The London Tube Map is a nice simple looking map which makes travelling through the London Underground much easier than it would be if the map was anything like an OS (Ordinance Survey) Map. With it’s easy to follow curvature/straight lines, use of circles to show terminals and of course the use of easy to identify colours, the Tube map is so simple yet very effective and in turn assists millions of consumers every day; but have you ever wondered to yourself: ‘How do they do it?” Well, that question I cannot answer, but if you have ever considered having a go at doing your own map in a similar style but did not know how or even where to start; well now there is an easy way to give it a go.


Developed by Dinosaur Polo Club; Mini Metro is a strategy/puzzle/simulation game where you are given the task of connecting stations on a map. It’s very simple; to begin with you get given a choice of cities to choose from. All you do is simply choose one and as soon as the map loads you are given three stations taking the forms of shapes which in turn you need to connect. Connecting stations is also very simple as all you have to do is hold and drag on a station and a coloured line will appear which you then connect to another station. Once your line has been laid down, a small little train carriage will appear and will set to work ferrying customers to their nearest desired station. Customers take the form of little shapes, and where they want to go is defined by what shape they are. Triangle customers want to go to triangle stations, square customers to square stations and circle customers to circle stations. As the game continues more stations will randomly appear in which you will need to connect to, other shaped stations will appear meaning more defined customers to transport, and also the map will generally get bigger with lines getting busier. You can of course ease congestion by adding more trains, incorporating several carriages to trains, adding more lines as well as adding terminals and bridges/tunnels to spots that you think require them. So, much like the real world, it gets busy.


Mini Metro is pretty easy to pick up and play, it features an easy control system where you simply use the mouse to drag lines to stations, connect them and then drag features like extra lines and trains to the stations. It’s also pretty easy to simply get going. It features an easy tutorial where it teaches all this to you, before then letting you just to get on with it. To begin with you get a few basic maps including London and Paris, and as you begin to progress through the game you get to unlock other cities too including Cairo, Osaka, Melbourne, Sao Paulo and New York City all of which feature their own tasks and challenges while also providing you with unique perspectives and features, such as in the Cairo map where the trains can only hold 4 shapes per carriage (not 6), or like the Osaka map where it gives you access to the high speed Shinkansen Bullet Train.


There are three basic modes to choose from:

  • In Normal Mode, you are given a city and need to work hard to make sure that all customers are satisfied and can reach their destinations without getting the station overcrowded. If they do get overcrowded, circles will begin to appear around the station, if it gets completely filled, the customers have had enough and the game ends. You receive extra features after every Sunday.
  • In Endless Mode, you are given a map, but the game does not end if the station gets overcrowded. Instead it just continues until the city has grown as big as it can get. Extra features are provided not every Sunday or every week, instead they are given when you reach a proficiency milestone, the key to Endless mode being that it’s not about how many customers you can service before it gets overcrowded, but how efficient the service you provide is.
  • In Extreme Mode, you are given a city as usual and much like Normal, need to prevent the stations getting overcrowded, however; where as in the two above modes you can re-arrange already made lines to accommodate new stations with ease, or move trains from one line to another if the need arises; in Extreme Mode, once the line has been placed it cannot be moved, nor can the trains be relocated, you just have to live with your decisions and hope for the best.

All these modes provide you with a score at the end of the game, to which you can then see how well you have done compared with the rest of the world, as well as compare graphs to see how well you did overall. There is also the option of the Daily Challenge from the opening menu, where a random challenge is made and posted every day, where players can try their mettle at several different random maps (but only once a day) and then compare them once again with the rest of the world, you know; if…you really want to.


Mini Metro is a nice and simple game to play, and one where you don’t need to worry about sound neither. The game does not come with a soundtrack per-say except for the sound of the camera feature when it takes a picture of the map, just in case you want a keepsake. Although the lack of sound is pretty peaceful, meaning you can listen or watch something else in the meantime and use the game as an over the top screen saver, some sound could be a nice little feature. I was not thinking of a soundtrack exactly, maybe more the sound of angry commuters waiting around for their train; with the noise getting louder the longer they wait.


The game is nicely well designed and each difficulty level has been made with some precision providing different forms of gameplay as it goes on. It’s not like it gets really difficult or makes things harder, it’s more that it makes things more of a challenge but rewards you with a unique gaming experience each time. I just think though that there could be more spacing and randomness every time you receive an item; more spacing as to what you can choose from, or more randomness rather than expected. I also think that while the difficulty is not too bad, there could be more challenging points in the core gameplay. While there are rarer shapes for rarer customers, I just think that like a normal tube map, some shapes, every now and then could appear who want to go to a specific place on the map. There are so many common shapes; it could bring an additional level of challenge to the map if one circle customer wanted to go to a desired circle location, not just the nearest.


Issues aside: I really like Mini Metro. Yes, there is some allowance for sounds, plus an addition of more challenging core gameplay could provide a little more taste, but even without, this game is still packed with an ideal level of flavour. It’s a game that does not take itself too seriously. It’s not like Rollercoaster Tycoon or Sid Meier’s Railroads, games that require you to negotiate obstacles and pay through the nose to fix them. Here you do not need to worry about money, or much in the way of obstacles except for the odd river, all you need to worry about is providing the best service possible. It’s nice, simple, easy to play, and aesthetically pleasing to the eye with its nice simple design. It’s sort of like a Miniature Railway; it adds a nice new eye level of fun to something that most of us take for granted every day, and is genuinely; just a nice fun thing to do.



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