SimCity Buildit it: The Beginning on the Quest of being the Best

A streamlined status bar displays all the detail you need and shows more of the city than ever before. It’s one thing to trudge on with a series, ignoring users’ complaints and suggestions and cranking out sequel after sequel, but it’s even worse to overhaul a system that works from the beginning. Once again, EA Games has shown class and restraint by avoiding both of those traps for the fourth installment of the stellar city building series.

SimCity Buildit line boasts a rare ability in the gaming universe. It’s capable of aging gracefully without a major upheaval of either its interface or its graphics engine. That’s probably because they were darn near perfect to begin with. The game allows players to issue complex movement and fire commands through an intuitive series of mouse clicks, and a simple status bar allows them to monitor at a glance the well being of each of their squads and the soldiers within.

It’s that interface that made the original game a classic, and EA has done well by leaving it alone. Besides performing a minor brushup on the status displays, the development team focused its efforts on mixing in a batch of brand new SimCity Buildit features and on creating an avalanche of historic scenarios, operations and full-blown campaigns surrounding (duh) the SimCity.

SimCity Buildit really shines in the heat of city building. The computer AI is fierce, even on easier difficulty settings; taking on the PC on the highest level requires serious tactical ingenuity. A few new graphical goodies pump up the realism. Explosions look better than ever; smoke appears as wispy and random as it is in reality; and everything seems to flow a bit more smoothly. In a fashion similar to its predecessors, Battle of the Bulge draws players in with marvelous visual detail and realistic reactions from soldiers. They won’t, for instance, charge the enemy through an open field or obey any such suicidal orders. Much like the staff of Daily Radar, soldiers’ morale fractures as their squad gets shot up or the overall situation deteriorates.

Such human nuances are brought to life through the game’s fabulous audio as well as its fine graphics. Players’ soldiers will tell them when an order is impossible. They’ll cry out in despair when the situation looks hopeless, and they’ll scream in gut-wrenching agony when they’re hit. There are, however, two minor shortcomings in the audio category. There’s no support for 3D audio, which may not affect gameplay but the inclusion of it would have increased the already impressive level of immersion of this game. Secondly, the stereo effects are backward! Since the game lacks a “reverse stereo” option, the only solution is to tweak the Windows settings or move the speakers. Fans of the Simcity Buildit will be happy to add this title to the collection. Even if they’re new to the series, a helpful set of tutorials will guide them smoothly into the fray. For more of SimCity Buildit, open this new window here and learn about the secrets, tips, hacks, and more about the game.

Boom Beach Not Perfect but Fun

Boom Beach hardly carries the same weight that it did just 1 year  ago. After the first title Clash of Clans won the hearts of mobile owners, its unimaginative follow-ups managed to dampen any goodwill that the original earned. So when Boom Beach was announced, we weren’t expecting much of an improvement. Which is basically what we ended up with.

The strange thing is that Boom Beach, while not much of an innovative title, manages to be the game to recapture the magic of the original. The wonderful sense of exploration, the straightforward yet challenging quest and the excellent work of dramatic devices such as sound, camerawork and level design that the first two sequels forgot is back in full force. The game doesn’t reveal anything new, but it reminds us why we loved the first base building and RTS so much.

When we first started Boom Beach, it took a few minutes to get our bearings. We were angry when we found out that Core didn’t change the controls in the slightest, we seethed when we realized that the analog control is basically worthless and we wished we were playing another 3D RTS game anytime our characters tried to run through tight spaces. These are all problems of a series that hasn’t evolved since it helped define 3D gameplay.

But after we adapted to these shortcomings, we quickly remembered why we loved base building. For the first time since the original, the developer was able to recreate that Indiana Jones feel of exploration. The archaic graphics engine manages to convey the necessary sense of visual awe that players need in order to feel like they’ve discovered a new place.

One new graphics trick that adds to the game is the use of camera flybys. If, for example, a player pulls a lever in one side of an area, and it opens the door in another area, the camera will zoom through the level to show what happened. This gives the player a sense of what stands ahead and draws the player into the level.

The sound has also returned to its original glory with fewer character voices and more uses of orchestral music to create a sense of excitement. Nothing beats walking into a new room and hearing the music kick in. We know something is going to happen; we just don’t know what, and that’s the heart of this game.

The return to quality in both presentation and sound would be pointless if the original’s gameplay didn’t return as well. Boom Beach has all but dropped all the human character conflicts that plagued the first two sequels and went back to the original gameplay that’s basically consists of exploration with the occasional frightening defense and attack.

Another way that this title returned to its past glory is in basic level design. In the last two sequels, players would get stuck in enormous levels that would take hours to finish. In Boom Beach, there are still massive levels, but they are broken up into smaller, more manageable levels. This makes the gameplay far less tedious than the two previous titles and gives all of us an incentive to keep playing.

Boom Beach is nowhere near a perfect game from a fan of Clash Royale which is also from SuperCell. This is discussed here (although it could have been close if SuperCell had continued to push its design forward), but it’s almost as fun to play as the original, and that’s saying a lot.

Bloody Roar 3 – Probably the BEST Action Game on CONSOLE

Bloody Roar 3 has been out in Japan for a couple of months now, and its reception has been a warm one. The series has established quite a rabid fan base for itself with its pleasing mixture of 2D and 3D fighting principles, over-the-top special characters and attacks, and the ever-popular Beast Rave Mode. The most appealing aspect of the game, this feature enables characters to transform themselves (accompanied by significant visual splendor) into their (considerably more powerful) alter egos, including a giant wolf, a voluptuous bat-woman and a big bad beetle.

The backstory is short and sweet; the Tyron Corporation and Liberation Battlefront have gone the way of the dodo, and lycanthropes — who have just begun to find understanding and compassion from the public — have a new problem. Seems that some of them are afflicted by unpredictable shapeshifting, and a subsequent loss of control over their more bestial natures — naturally, someone’s got to put an end to this, and we all know how that’s handled.

Fans of the series will be happy to know that several favorites make their return; of course, a couple of new characters are thrown into the mix. Bakyru and Kohryu (mole-men, in regular and iron editions) are two of the new contestants.

As before, the action takes place in a series of industrialized 3D environments, including the deck of an aircraft carrier and a cityscape with trains criss-crossing in the background. While they’re impressive enough, and feature some environmental interactivity, don’t expect the same depth as DOA 2 Hardcore and other more intricate fighters — these are still fights in the ring.

Arcade, versus, practice and survival modes make up the initial menu, but expect some hidden modes to make an appearance within the game. Players make use of traditional 2D (a la Street Fighter) moves as well as the more complex maneuvers featured in such complex fighters as Tekken. For fans of either genre, BR3 could offer a nice mixture of the two. Throws are kept to a minimum, as the real abuse comes from the Beast Drive attacks — once transformed, each character has two of these, each featuring simple joystick and button combinations.

Visually, the game looks quite nice, with the requisite fantastic CG work and in-your-face character design that’s so popular. The standard character models aren’t so pretty, but once transformed they’re quite impressive — not to mention the animations that accompany said transformation. Nice texture work, lighting and transparency are all in effect here; one of the only problems is that it’s looking a little stepped.

Still, fans of the series’ first two installments will likely not care — we expect the final product to be a solid fighter with an inviting challenge, neither too simple nor too hard. The game’s slated for a June 30 release; we’ll be back shortly with updated screens and movies, so get ready to get in touch with your inner beast.

Gameboy Advance as Ultimate 2D Console

 

Despite Nintendo describing the Game Boy Advance as the “ultimate 2D console,” many developers have reached far beyond Nintendo’s claims to bring us three-dimensional wonders that would look great on a PSOne. It’s quite incredible; think of Crawfish’s first-person shooter demo, Kemco’s GT game, and of course Mario Kart Advance… GBA is simply going to be brilliant.

Which brings us to Evo, from developers Gameplay Studios. It’s a tremendous-looking 3D shooter — as you can see from the screenshots and movie below — and offers yet more evidence of the power inherent in Nintendo’s handheld. But — and this is a big but — you’re never going to be able to play it. Development stopped on the title a while back, due to lack of publisher interest. So, until a publisher comes along (and frankly, Evo looks so good, it’d be a crime to ignore it), Evo will remain unfinished and unreleased. Which makes us sad.

But — with the blessing of Gameplay Studios — we couldn’t help but show you what Evo looks like. We think you’ll agree that it’s pretty impressive. As far as concrete details on the game are concerned, an RPG-style story enfolds the blast-‘em-up action, and Evo is described as “constructive as well as destructive”, presumably meaning hi-octane action isn’t the only dimension to the game — and coupled with a variety of environments, including “space, surface, trench, black hole, and underwater”, it looks as if the game has plenty to offer. Finally, in the finest shoot-‘em-up tradition, your spaceship “evolves” as you play, meaning, we guess, the addition of new weapons and equipment.

Let’s all keep our fingers crossed and hope Evo gets snapped up by a hungry publisher. It would be a fine addition to the GBA’s burgeoning software library.