Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Newgrounds Best Games of 2009: Part 3

Newgrounds 2010 Tank Awards Review: The Games
Part 3

And from a short break, we return to the list of the Newgrounds Tank Awards nominees. Here we go again! (Btw, apologies for the incredibly long review of Epic Battle Fantasy 2, it includes a rant that has been long burning and had nowhere to vent. It's still relevant, however, but I do apologise nonetheless.)

Epic Battle Fantasy 2
by matt-likes-swords
Play time: 39 minutes (to Game Over)

Oh Jesus, never in my time can I recall being so frustrated at a game. Not your conventional frustration mind, that will forever be held by the likes of Skate 2 and the GTA series. No, frustrating due to conflicting feelings whilst playing this mindfuck. The reason for this is simple; the game is very impressive, but is chock full of internet memes and anime humour. I found myself hating the game for it's stupid, stupid humour, with it's "w00t"s and "GTFO"s. It even includes a Dragonforce "Power Metal" attack for Christ's sake!

Despite this, the game itself is pretty solid. It's a turn-based RPG heavily inspired by the Final Fantasy series, unsurprisingly. The main focus of the game is to defeat waves of enemies, whilst balancing your MP and HP with what are, essentially, maxed-out characters. This creates a problem immediately, however, as even though the player is made to feel powerful from the very beginning there is no real tutorial so the game is left to be discovered. My advice, is play Easy or Normal first time. The art ranges from good to great, sporting chibi characters at it's lowest, but incredibly impressive summons at it's best. The sound is pretty decent too, a great knowledge of the JRPG genre is clearly displayed.

The meme's are unforgivable, however. I would not mind this if it were confined to aiming the humour just to a young, internet-savvy audience, as that would make a lot of sense. My problem is in lines like "Kill it with fire and AIDS". That is unforgivable. There will always be a place for alternative comedy, but considering the audience, and the art style, this is just another case of ignorance that permeates throughout an entire internet culture. Leave the racism, "Faggot" and AIDS jokes to the people that understand how and when they are to be used, and to what effect. Comedy is an art, and those who understand it can make pure comedy, without this understanding, you're left with lines like "Kill it with fire and AIDS".

The story is quite awful too, so the game's only saving grace is the artist's talent and understanding of the genre. The content, however, is debatable.
Score: 5/10

Gretel & Hansel
by makopudding
Play time: 38 minutes

When I first started this and saw the list of the nominees, this was the one I looked forward to playing the most. Artistically it definitely stood out the most. And it did not disappoint! This is by far, my favourite of the bunch I've played. Not only the most charismatic, it also successfully combines a creative plot, clever puzzles and dark humour that is just great. Hansel & Gretel is a point & click, that doesn't exactly take the story from "Hansel & Gretel", instead opting for a similarly dark tone with childish features and simplicity in story-telling.

In the review for "Another Small Favour", I stated that it's lack of in-game deaths was quite a big design failure as it left the game feeling like a list of tasks to be performed. Gretel & Hansel is it's antithesis, as it sports 10 clever deaths, each rewarded both visually and with achievements. Personally, I loved this, it's clever, enjoyable and keeps you on your investigating toes throughout, always looking for not only the tasks to be completed, but for possible ways to interact with the environment. I, love this. Each as dark, surprising and visually pleasing as the last, I particularly liked Gretel's meeting with a local crow.

My only problem with this is the programming, as it's quite bug-heavy, particularly if you want a second playthrough. Of the 10 items to be collected, I only needed to collect 9, approaching the final puzzle only to be cut to the endgame and cutscenes. Besides this, Gretel & Hansel is by far my favourite of the games thus far. And if that's not all, here's a screenshot for the sequel, coming soon.

Score: 9.5/10

Level Up!
by titch007uk
Play time: 1 hour

Not much to say, even with the hour I spent with this game. Level Up! is a platform collectathon with quite a quirky twist and design theory. The premise is that you spend one day at a time collecting gems and levelling skills, and when the day is up you play a battle mini-game. If you lose you are taken to the next day, all your skills are reset to one yet you keep your gems and abilities you purchased i.e. double jump. The idea is that even though your skills are reset and you have to start again, you progress through knowledge of the game. For this, I respect creator Duncan Saunders quite a bit, as only the Skate series comes to mind in successfully creating a format in which the player progresses, rather than the character/avatar. It's a difficult task, and I think Level Up! is quite a clever step towards the idea.

The game itself is reasonably good, solid more than anything. The code works very well, credited to the multiple testers on the team. Well done folks, you actually tested, you'll be surprised at the amount of devs that forget this when it's a smaller scale project. The music loop gets annoying, but the animation has clearly a lot of love in it, the idle animation particularly. The writing, however, is horrid. The dialogue with possibly the most "Mary Sue" character since the cast of Questionable Content (Sorry Mr Jacques, but every character seems to have a PHD in everything. EVERYTHING!), "Girl" is as flat and uninspired as an anime fanfiction, with humour to match. I swear, each line is repeated at least three times each, which I assume is an attempt at a humorous back-and-forth. It's pixel art, but I think that if you could zoom in on their faces, you would see their one raised eyebrow and "Ctrl+Alt+Delete" postures. It's just the right amount of faux-cynical and know-it-all arsery that'll just catapult the player/reader/watcher into realms of generic and forgettable that they'll skip/scroll/forward past. Oh, and amnesia. I could talk for hours about amnesia.

Just. Stop. It.

I'm looking at you Namco.
Score: 6.5/10

Miami Shark
by Wiesi
Play time: Just a few minutes, 3 playthroughs

Holy shit. It's a goddamn shark causing havoc in Miami! He's pulling the goddamn planes out of the sky!! He's jumping on top of yachts and causing chain explosions!! HE'S EATING THE FUCKING DUCKS!!!

So you play as a shark, jumping and chomping a higher score in a frantic dash to the finish line at the end of the harbour. Not a lot to say other than this game is fucking mad, and fucking fun! the most fun game on the list so far, Miami shark comes shooting up past Crush the Castle and Ching Chong Beautiful, and it's going to take one hell of a fun game to knock it off.

Not a real contender, but Miami Shark has devoured my heart and left me screaming in a pool of my own fun.
Score: 7/10

11 down, 10 left. Although looking at what's left, I'm looking forward to it. "Spewer" looks odd and the thumbnail for "William & Sly" is intriguing the hell out of me...! Well, See you soon!

SpewerWilliam & Sly

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