Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Mobile Game Reviews: We Bare Bears Match3 Repairs

In an age where smart phones are in nearly everyone's hands (and almost definitely in the hands of people under a certain age range), mobile games are big business; Konami, Capcom, Sega and Nintendo all have a mobile game division in their companies, and they were some of the biggest game developers in the 80s and 90s.

However, if you've been playing video games as long as I have (since 1989), mobile games have a bad reputation, and for good reason.  You see, mobile games have one major obstacle to sucking in people like myself; control. Touch screens lack the precision control that a keyboard, mouse or controller have, so certain types of games are difficult on mobile devices unless they offer Bluetooth controller support.

And that's where this new series comes in; I download a game, play it for at least a week, and let you know if they're worth your time.  I'll be judging on a few criteria; control, graphical fidelity, sound, and frequency of ads, if any, and fun factor. And then, I'll round it up to whether it's worth your time and money. And with that, welcome to Mobile Game Reviews.

Today's game is something that was a guilty pleasure for me; We Bare Bears Match3 Repairs. Developed by SundayToz Inc, this is a match 3 game starring the cast of the Cartoon Network series, We Bare Bears. You play as Grizzly, Panda and Ice Bear, as well as their friends, as they clean up and rebuild the areas you see on the show through match 3 puzzles.  Every time you solve a puzzle, you get a star, which you spend on items to clean up the map.

Control: We Bare Bears Match3 Repairs is a match three game.  For the puzzle sections, you slide gem, illustrated by vegetables, fruits, pretzels, pizza, tacos and other food items, in order to get match of three more tiles. For the rebuilding sections, the controls are simple tap and go.

Graphical Fidelity: We Bare Bears Match3 Repairs looks like the show.  Every single thing in this game looks like it came from the show, so all the characters and locations look like they should look for this series.

Sound: We Bare Bears Match3 Repairs has sound clips for vocalization of the characters, sound effects from the show, and distinct music for both maps and the match three sections.  All of it feels like it came from the show.

Ads and in app purchases: There are no ad in We Bare Bears Match3 Repairs, however, there are a LOT of in app purchases. So many that, if you're going to let your kids play this, you should lock down your ability to purchase things on the google play and apple stores, because kids can spend a LOT on things from the shop.

Fun Factor: We Bare Bears Match3 Repair is a very functional Match 3 game, which means it's fun if you enjoy that kind of thing.  Each level is progressively more difficult, and you've got 5 tries to solve a puzzle before you have to either recharge or spend real money on more tries.  What's also fun is seeing how the Bears change the map as you spend the stars you get for completing puzzles.

Final Analysis: We Bare Bears Match3 Repairs is a great Match 3 game that's unfortunately held back by the abundance of in app purchases. Your kids will love the game due to it being based on one of their favorite Cartoon Network shows, and since kids have little to no impulse controls, you NEED to keep that app store locked down. Other than that, I enjoyed my time with We Bare Bears Match3 Repairs wholeheartedly.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

What a Shazam game needs to be good

Welcome back, my beautiful freaks, to Sean's Workshop!

Today's hero is one who's still relatively in the public eye, Shazam, or the Original Captain Marvel before the New 52 reboot. 

Now, unlike most of the heroes I'm covering here, Shazam is actually two distinct people; Billy Batson,  a good hearted child who was frustrated with his life being bounced around in the foster care system, and Shazam, the heroic individual with the Wisdom of Solomon, Strength of Hercules, Stamina of Atlas, Power of Zeus, Courage of Achilles, and the Speed of Mercury, which in turn grants him certain abilities and resistances/in-vulnerabilities.  For example, as Shazam, Billy knows things he shouldn't know, can fly, has the durability of beings like Superman, spellcasting, and an assortment of other powers available to him.

Now, since Shazam is essentially a magical version of Superman but with a different set of secondary powers, a lot of the same rules apply, but with a twist.  You see, unlike other super hero games, Shazam's civilian form is not an adult; he's a child.  So unlike the adult heroes, who have experience juggling a civilian and superhero lifestyle, Billy Batson does not. Billy still has to deal with everything a child has to; school, curfews, etc.  So that's why a Shazam game will need two distinct gameplay modes; Billy and Shazam. Billy can go anywhere he pleases that's not gated behind some kind of age restriction, and he can talk to people as he pleases, those who ignore him due to him being a child notwithstanding.  And because he's a child, he can get into small places and give him a stealth based gameplay.

Shazam, however, is at full strength all the time. He can fly, he can run almost as fast as the Flash, and can put out all the strength of Superman and take all the punishment Superman can. However, Shazam can't go into any building that's not part of a mission he's undertaking, and he can't blend in with normal people at all.

The important thing, though, is that Billy needs to be as fun as Shazam. So while he's making his way around the city, he could ride bikes, ride a skateboard, run, jump and scrap with other kids if it becomes necessary. He obviously can't fight adults due to a size, speed and strength advantage, but when he shouts the magic word "Shazam!" with heroic intent, needing to combat adults becomes a non-issue. However, he'd still do his best to maintain his secret identity, so he'd look for places to hide before transforming to do so safely.

Now, instead of the city being his life bar, we'd implement a clock mechanism.  You see, Billy Batson, as previously mentioned, is still a child, so he's still beholden to the restrictions of a child; so school, curfews and other appointments that are outside his control.  So not only would Billy need to keep to a schedule as Billy, but any time he's doing his superhero thing as Shazam, he'd need to keep watch on the clock.  So, if Shazam was facing off against one of his enemies, he'd need to finish up in time for bed or other restrictions.  And if he didn't finish up in time? Well, he'd get grounded and not be allowed into the city like he wants to.

Now, unlike the situation with Superman, Billy enjoys being a superhero; Shazam is a child's power fantasy, so there wouldn't be any alignment issues. Billy would do the right thing as Shazam, a child's desire for fun notwithstanding, which would be integrated into gameplay. For example, say Billy and his friends want to go to the baseball stadium after hours and knock a few balls around the park. Billy could fly there as Shazam, and either sneak in or fly in and they'd have fun. But remember, doing something like that is breaking curfew, and that could have consequences on the gameplay.

With all that said, this game would of course be open world, with full subway, bus and taxi routes for Billy and a full cityscape to fly through as Shazam. And as both Billy and Shazam, you could pick up side quests, though ones given to Shazam and ones given to Billy would be very different, though they could easily intersect.

Shazam could be fun if things are treated like a child's super hero fantasy, because that's what the character is. You don't need any moral ambiguity in a game like this either; Billy is a good kid with a good heart, and even though he sometimes struggles, he knows that he's been given a gift to help people. And that is the core of what would make a Shazam game good.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

"How to make a good superhero game": Characters that won't be covered

Welcome back, my beautiful freaks, to Sean's Workshop!

Today, I'm going to talk about which characters archetypes I'm not going to cover, and why. The list will be simple, with a short explanation afterward.

Superboy and Supergirl- This one's pretty simple in that I've already covered how to do it in my one on Superman. Just take the same power set and follow the same rules as I set forth for Superman.

Other Lantern Corps- For pretty much the same reason as the Superman one, but with one exception; the Green Lantern one already has the other Corps built into it via the multiplayer.

Member of the Bat family- Batman already has a very good series of through the Arkham series.  Just take what makes those good and apply them to the other members of the Bat family.

Non-powered or low powered martial arts characters- These games could work as "Batman, but without...". So someone like Green Arrow, Hawkeye, Electra, Daredevil, Captain America, Black Panther and Iron Fist, they could all could function on the Batman Arkham in terms of combat and exploration.

Spider-Man- Spider-man has had good games since the Spider-Man 2 based on the Sam Raimi movie, and continues to do so to this day. No need for me to analyze him.

Deadpool- I don't like him, but I hear his game is good anyway, so whatever.

Gadget Heroes- If they're not Batman level in terms of gadgets, they're either one trick ponies or not well known enough for people to care.

Team based heroes- Teams like the Avengers, X-men, Justice League and others are a little outside this focus, since it would require me to analyze multiple characters, instead of just one.

Wolverine and his offspring- James Howlett has a great game from 2009. Copy that combat engine with a new story, and you're gold.

Now, that's not to say that there won't be exceptions; I've got some really good ideas for Harley Quinn and Gwenpool that would be perfect for this kind of analysis paper, and if I or my twitter followers come up with some good ideas for these kind of characters, I'll cover them, but for now, this is a great master list on what I will not be doing.

So until next time, stay beautiful freaks!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

What a game about the Flash needs to be good

Welcome back, my beautiful freaks, to Sean's Workshop!

Today is one of the harder heroes I've had to do, the Flash. But not for the speed, no.  For the combat. But I'm getting ahead of myself a bit.

We always start with the powers, and with the Flash, it's simple; speed.  Through the Speed Force, the Flash is capable of near lightspeed running, so he'd be running at a high speed with things like speed lines and warped visuals as he goes. And if you're a gamer, you're thinking of one series to take inspiration from; Sonic the Hedgehog. More importantly, the games where a boost mechanic is available.  What you'd have the Flash do is start running, and gradually reach a speed that feels high to the player, which you use the thumbstick for. You can also boost to high speed right away with a boost button, which would be tied to a trigger, and boost beyond what the player feels is fast once you're at the "top speed."  However, unlike Sonic, the Flash's Speed Force protects the environment from being destroyed like the boost-centric Sonic games do.

The Flash can also do a couple things that Sonic can't; running up buildings and vibrate through objects.  And also, using his cosmic treadmill, he can move forward and backward through time safely, though he can still do so without it.  So, all of these things would be integrated into the gameplay.

Which leads me into something that had me scratching my head for the longest time; combat. The Flash isn't like Batman or Wonder Woman or Superman; he's not a trained fighter or a power house, but Barry Allen, the Flash you'd be playing as, does have some nominal combat training due to his time at the Central City Police Academy.  So, Barry would have some basic punches and kicks and a grab ability.  So, while running around, Barry could punch opponents while moving at high speeds, kick them, or grapple them to the ground.

However, it's when we bring his ability to vibrate into things is when Barry becomes a powerhouse. You see, Barry's ability to vibrate allows him to create his Infinite Mass Punch, which basically gives him power akin to Superman in terms of damage potential. This is why we'd put the vibrate button on the controller and allow that to accent the punches, kicks and grabs.

And it's when we implement the Flash's rogues gallery that things get fun; all of them have something that either get around or outright neutralize his speed, or has speed akin to his own.  The Rogues, for example, are a team of thieves who use their powers and arms to neutralize the Flash's speed, while people like Reverse Flash can match him in terms of speed. So any boss fight with the Flash's rogues gallery would either be a puzzle to be solved like the Rogues or a combat race like with another speedster.

And speaking of puzzles, since Barry Allen is a police officer and forensic scientist, he's be very good at casing crime scenes, so you could implement something akin to Batman's detective vision from the Arkham series.

Which brings me to the story. First off, it would need to based on the comics, not the tv series. Comics Flash is an easy going, funny hero, where as tv Flash is much more serious.  You'd get a lot of comic relief and wisecracks that you'd see out of someone like Spider-man, making it a fun game.

And lastly, the type of game that would benefit the Flash; Open World.  Running around Central City would make you feel like the Flash the entire time, and would give you opportunities to perform side quests for the Flash family.

How about DLC? Well, I can think of two really easy packs; Wally West and Wallace West.  Wally West, the red haired Flash from DC Rebirth, would follow the current storyline of him being let out of prison after the events of Heroes in Crisis, and he'd be working to rebuild his name. As for Wallace, or Kid Flash, he'd be working with the Teen Titans where they are based instead of Central City.

The Flash would be a fun character to play if he's done right, and to be done right, you need both a good speed and running engines.  Let's hope whoever actually makes a the Flash game does it right.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Mobile Game Reviews: Dragon Lapis

In an age where smart phones are in nearly everyone's hands (and almost definitely in the hands of people under a certain age range), mobile games are big business; Konami, Capcom, Sega and Nintendo all have a mobile game division in their companies, and they were some of the biggest game developers in the 80s and 90s.

However, if you've been playing video games as long as I have (since 1989), mobile games have a bad reputation, and for good reason.  You see, mobile games have one major obstacle to sucking in people like myself; control. Touch screens lack the precision control that a keyboard, mouse or controller have, so certain types of games are difficult on mobile devices unless they offer Bluetooth controller support.

And that's where this new series comes in; I download a game, play it for at least a week, and let you know if they're worth your time.  I'll be judging on a few criteria; control, graphical fidelity, sound, and frequency of ads, if any, and fun factor. And then, I'll round it up to whether it's worth your time and money. And with that, welcome to Mobile Game Reviews.

Before I start, let me let the cat out of the bag; yes, I changed the URL and the name of this blog.  I'm finally moving away from that Rurouni Kenshin inspired name I carried for WAY too long.

With that out of the way, today's game is a full port of a 3DS game, Dragon Lapis. This game is a full JRPG by Kemco, and it was the first game that showed me that mobile device games could be more than just puzzles and endless runners.

Control: Sadly, we must start with worst part of the game, control. The tapping of menus is fine, but trying to move around the overworld is hardly accurate, no matter which control scheme you use. More than once, I've tapped in one place and it thought I tapped in another to move.  But thankfully, a JRPG doesn't need extremely accurate movement controls, so I'll give this game a pass on that.

Graphical Fidelity: Dragon Lapis is a game that would have looked at home right on the Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis.  It's a retro inspired game that captures the aesthetic perfectly.

Sound: Dragon Lapis sounds like it would have been at home on the Super Nintendo with the chip tune inspired music and sound design. Nothing sounds out of place.

Story: Dragon Lapis is a JRPG where you take control of Lucas and his party of adventurers as they go through the lands and try to gather the Dragon Lapicis to awaken the power in Lucas' blood and stop the evil Silver Dragon with the aid of Iria, the Gold Dragon in human form, Melvin the Rogue and Elodie the mage.  And even after you complete that story, there's an...expansion I guess, that you start up immediately after to stop a demon from taking over the world.  There's a lot going on in Dragon Lapis, and you'd better be ready for it.

Ads: The ad policy in Dragon Lapis is really bad. When you start the game the first time, you don't really see that many ads, but once you get to a certain point after you recruit all four party members, you get a cutscene where they tell you that "the information deity wants to inform you of products and services you might like", which is an in universe explanation of not only more frequent post battle video ads, but also banner ads at the top and bottom of your screen. You can buy an "upgrade" to opt out of this, but I still think this is an extremely greedy way to get money.

Fun factor: Dragon Lapis is a full fledged JRPG, which means it has all the tropes; random battles, upgrading weapons, leveling up your character from said random battles.  But this game has a different ways to handle leveling up. You see, it utilizes job classes, so you can play any job with any character, and when you do so, you get specific weapon and armor proficiency. However, to level these jobs up, you use growth plates to upgrade your abilities and gain new ones. It is definitely a unique way to handle advancement.

Final analysis. Dragon Lapis is a game with a lot of problems, but there's a lot of good there too. But despite all the problems I saw, I had fun with this game from beginning to end.  If you're a fan of retro JRPGs, you don't want to miss out on Dragon Lapis.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

What a Ghost Rider game needs to be good

Welcome back, my beautiful freaks, to the Assassin's Den!

To continue my "how to make a good super hero game" series, I'm going to talk about Ghost Rider.  Now, as of now, there has only been one Ghost Rider solo game on the PS2/PSP/GBA, and all had pretty bad reviews back in 2007 when they were released. 

Now, Ghost Rider's not the most popular character; Johnny Blaze, the most well known, was created in the 67, and only had 7 issues, then 84 between 73 and 83, and then didn't have a solo series again until 2001, which was a mini series, and then again having a full series from 2006 to 2009 with 34 issues, and then another 9 between 2011 to 2012. Danny Ketch, the next best known Ghost Rider, had the most consistently long running series with 93 issues from 1990 to 1998, with issue 94 coming out in 2007.  However, comics fans have seen him making a LOT of cameo appearances in other books, like Wolverine's solo series, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and plenty of other places, as well as a TON of team based video games.

But how do you make a good Ghost Rider solo game? Well, I've got a few games to reference, one for a big to do, and one for a big what not to do.

First off, the to do; Devil May Cry.  Ghost Rider's powers and abilities could benefit greatly with a combat system similar to the Devil May Cry series.  First off, when in his Ghost Rider form, he's functionally immortal, just like Dante.  And like Dante, he has multiple combat styles; hand to hand, the chains, and, depending on the character, a shotgun that can shoot hellfire. Hand to hand would be the fastest style, and would allow the Ghost Rider to manipulate hellfire at will. The chance would give him medium range, but would be slightly slower. They would limit the ability to use hellfire, but since the chains are fueled by hellfire, that's not a problem. And the shotgun would grant range and massive damage, but would slower than all the other styles.

Now, if the Ghost Rider can get a grab on an opponent, he can use his Penance Stare, an ability to force an enemy to relive tall the pain they've ever caused anyone. This ability would kill an enemy outright, and would be a great way to regain health.

Now, you can't be the Ghost Rider without the motorcycle, and this is where Ride to Hell Retribution for what NOT to do in motorcycle combat.  In Ride to Hell, you become glued to your opponent while you fight them in deliberate padding levels. For Ghost Rider, you'd want something similar to the Road Rash series, so the motorcycle combat needs to be as dynamic as Devil May Cry's combat system, as fast as possible with the ability to use all of Ghost Rider's powers in combat. For example, say you're speeding down a highway chasing down a boss fight and you see mobs all around you. You can use your hellfire shotgun on them to blow them out of your path, your chains to rip people out of vehicles or pull them toward you, or you can melee people with your hellfire fists. You could also use hellfire to boost ahead, jump without ramps, and do all kinds of crazy stuff like stick to walls and ram through buildings and vehicles alike.

And the best part is that you can summon the motorcycle at any time for use in general combat.

Now, if this makes you feel that I advocate an open world, I don't.  The best way to feel like Ghost Rider would be a linear level game. You see, Ghost Rider's not about saving people; he's about punishing the guilty.  If the Ghost Rider's involved in something, chances are he's after the worst of the worst in the Marvel Universe; demons, devil worshipers and other magical threats.  If the Ghost Rider's after you, chances are you are not worth saving. 

Which is why Ghost Rider's rogues gallery is pretty much demons from hell, with the occasional wizard thrown in for good measure.  So someone like Centurious the souless, Blackheart or Zadkiel would be perfect foes for the Ghost Rider.

Now, this game would also be perfect for something prevalent in the modern gaming industry; DLC. You see, the main game would be about Johnny Blaze, the most well known Ghost Rider, but DLC packs would give you a campaign for Danny Ketch and another one for Robbie Reyes.  Now, Danny's campaign would be easy to implement, since both he and Johnny are bikers with the exact same moveset. Just modify Danny's animations a little and you'd be fine.  But Robbie? Not only does he drive a car instead of a motorcycle, but he also doesn't use a shotgun, and based on the pictures I've see, he'd use tire irons, hammers and other stuff used in car repair in melee range.  And like the bikers, he can summon the car to use in general combat too.

Ghost Rider can be awesome. He looks awesome, his concept is awesome, so he should play awesome too.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

What a Wonder Woman game needs to be good

Welcome back, my beautiful freaks, to the Assassin's Den!

After doing both a "How to make a Good Superman Game" and a "How to make a Good Green Lantern Game", I decided to tackle the final part of the DC Comics trinity, Wonder Woman.  (I won't be doing a Batman version, because there are already good Batman games out there). And when I did my research, I found something horrifying; Wonder Woman does not have a stand alone game.  She's part of Justice League games or games where the League is involved in, the Lego series and Injustice. Not a single solo title out there, even after her popular movie came out.  This needs to be fixed pronto, and I can give several ideas on how.

First off, we need to talk about her powers.  There's a reason it's been argued that Wonder Woman could beat Superman in combat, and for good reason.  She's as fast and strong as any Kryptonian under a yellow sun, and she's nearly as durable.  She's survived bludgeoning force from the likes of Superman, Doomsday, Shazam and Darkseid, and while edged weapons and bullets harm her, they are not fatal. Combine that with an accelerated healing factor, her ability to fly and her status as a demigod granting her biological immortality, Wonder Woman is a powerhouse, pure and simple.  Combine that with the Bracelets of Submission, made of nearly indestructible 8th metal, which can survive Darkseid's Omega Beams, and her Lasso of Truth, which is an unbreakable rope from the Greek Pantheon, which allows her to force anyone bound in it to tell the truth under any circumstances, even if the subject is under mind control, along with her magical sword and shield, also made of 8th metal, its no wonder she's able to take on some of the most powerful beings in the DC landscape and won almost every time.

Now, unlike Superman and Green Lantern, Wonder Woman's game can function perfectly well as a level based game, though a functional hub world would be beneficial.  She could have a base with her friends Eta Candy, Steve Trevor, one with the Justice League and one where she deals with the Olympians, since she is technically among their numbers. From there, she's sent on missions to perform in distinct levels, with boss fights happening every few stages.

The boss fights present a problem, because as Diana said herself, the reason she doesn't have a large rogue's gallery is because when she deals with them, she deals with them, making her one of few heroes who has no problem with killing.  Which is why I advocate two things; 1, give her an M-rated game and have the combat system be similar to the one presented in 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and 2, make her boss fights be functionally immortal.  So, you'd want people like Ares, Circe, Medusa, First Born, Giganta and Cheetah.  All but Giganta are immortals, and there have been multiple Cheetahs.

Now, for the tutorial, you start out on Themyscira and teach her the basics of the combat engine, as well as covering how she gained her powers in Wonder Woman Rebirth, which shows her current version of her origin story, then do a timeskip to the current storyline, and move forward her game from there.

Now, do I think you'd want cameos from the Justice League in the game? No.  If the League facilities are used as a hub world, she can talk to them, but her game needs to be her own, since she's never really had one before now.  Besides, she's on par with Superman in terms of capability, so she doesn't NEED the help of the League for anything outside information or the odd mission.

And before I conclude this, there are two people you want to voice Wonder Woman in this game; Gal Gadot or Susan Eisenburg.  Both of these women have done iconic performances for Diana of Themyscira, and both would be perfect for the role. That said, Susan Eisenburg would be easier to get, since she's an established voice actor, while Gal Gadot is more focused on her movie career.

A Wonder Woman game could be awesome if done right, and compared to some other heroes, she's not that hard to do right.  Just give her the respect she deserves, make her the warrior she was trained to be while still maintaining what makes her a good person, and you'll get a great game out of it.