Bia Hawks

Bia Hawks

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(131 comments, 5 posts)

Passion, balance, energy & glam ;)

Posts by Bia Hawks

Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed (WiiU game)

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Remember Sonic? A cult figure of the 90´s, surely the most famous hedgehog across virtual reality and the main star of the SEGA game factory. For some of us, there is no need for description: we know Sonic, we basically grew up with him, playing the fun speedy games on those vintage SEGA consoles. Back then, you just had one or two arcade games, the luckiest of us maybe even more, and you were either a Nintendo or a SEGA kid. For all those who don’t know about Sonic, you can take a leap back to the past here.

Since 1991 – the year when Sonic emerged – a lot has happened; the entire game industry evolved so fast, facing revolutionary progress as well as numerous trends, like gaming on mobile devices or using VR equipment. As for the content dimension, one popular trend is definitely the racing game. Racing games are fun, entertaining and challenging, and can be played as a single player or with more people at once. And there are many out there. After a comprehensive review of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe written by HaikuHunter, here is my review about the dynamic and colorful racing game feat. Sonic in “Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed”.

“Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed” was released by SEGA in 2012. The Wii U version came out in November 2012, followed by PC versions for Windows in 2013 and iOS in 2014, and ultimately Xbox in 2016. Critics evaluated the game positively. The Wii U version however got minus points due to some issues in the online gameplay, but there are plenty of offline challenges that compensate. In multi-player mode, further players can easily join the game, provided they have a controller and a display port.

 

What´s special about the game?

 

As the title anticipates, it´s all about racing transformed. The racing car of each character can transform into a flight plane, for air racing, or a boat, for cruising on water. In one race, chances are that you must activate up to all 3 transformations. One of the things good to learn quickly are stunts, for example spinning in the air when taking off a ramp, or drifting in curves. This gets you bonus points and extra speed.

In the “Career” section, the game offers four different modes: world tour, Grand Prix, timed race and single race. These are meant to train your racing skills on different levels, from bronze (easy) to gold (difficult). When you finished a set of races on the bronze level and made it to the podium (top 3), you unlock them in the silver mode, where the competition gets tougher. What I missed here was more variation between levels; after racing through the same scenery several times, you kind of wish more challenging stuff on the next level. In a way, there is a higher difficulty through the fact that in the silver and gold levels, the sceneries are mirror-inverted and the competitors are more fast and furious. If that does it, then you will probably not get too bored seeing the same scenery over and over again. But still, as a single player, you kind of expect more pepper.

If you play as a single user, you can configure whether you use the Pro Controller or the Wii U pad as a main instrument. To make the most out of the game, I definitely recommend the handier Pro Controller. In this case, the Wii U pad will simultaneously show the route map and your position on it during the race. The competitors and the overall ranking per race are also displayed. Personally, I don’t really look at these stats while playing, in order not to get distracted from the race.

Current position and ranking displayed on the Wii U pad

Characters

 

Besides Sonic, you can choose between an entire range of characters from the SEGA universe. Some of them are well known from the Sonic game series, like Sonic´s friends Tails and Amy Rose, Knuckles the Echidna, or his enemy Metal Sonic. There are also further SEGA figures like AiAi – the Monkey (Super Monkey Ball), BD Joe – the funky taxi driver or Ulala – the sassy reporter from Space Channel 5. Each character has his own strengths and weaknesses. While Sonic is the fastest and wackiest protagonist, Amy can fly more precisely, and with Knuckles you have a smooth ride on boat. Sometimes it´s wise to choose a certain character depending on the race ahead you. A curvy race can be mastered better with Amy than with Tails, while BD Joe can get very speedy on straight road. Personally, my favorite character is Amy Rose. She can face most races in a balanced way, especially on boat or plane, which are quite a challenge as a beginner. After some practice, I won many levels with Amy, it´s so much fun to hear her cheering “hurray!” and “wow!” on the way.

During the game, you can unlock some further, hidden characters. Among the figures that can be unlocked there are some more characters from the Sonic family (will not spoil the surprise here ;-)

Amy flying through a tunnel

Tails driving through a village

Sonic driving on a futuristic highway in the Lights City

Graphics

 

The game presents a very colorful visual universe, a vivid and intense journey for the eye. The diversity in the scenery leads the player through green landscapes, casino highways, winter nights, cities with sky scrapers, Japanese landmarks, rivers, seaside roads, industrial depots, flight platforms, mexican lava rivers, spooky ghost houses and many many more.

Each scenery sparkles in strong colors and is enriched by animated details, which boost your journey with extra joy.

 

Amy flying though a dream portal

Knuckles flying through old historic walls

 

Tails racing through a medieval city

 

Gameplay

 

Basically, you have quite straightforward controls to accelerate, drift, spin, use weapons. However, there are more tricks available for doing stunts, and the combinations of controls are not transparent, you have to discover them. This can be a challenge, I dare to say.

For moving forward, you use the same control, no matter if you race on road, on water or in the air. A race consists in 3 laps. Usually, the first two laps are quite the same, while the third one gets a bit more difficult requiring transformed racing. Before starting a race, you can choose an available gear for your character. For example, for a curvy route, you might go better with the “Balanced” gear than with the “Turbo” gear. The effects of each gear work differently for each character. As you advance in playing, more gears get unlocked for your character.

During the race, there are collectibles on the way: coins, surprise items you have to hit, in order to get a weapon that can be used against your opponents. The currently available weapon can be seen in the top right corner of the screen.

Here is my list with some of the coolest weapons:

Hotroad – a kind of enormous speed boost like fire gear; you must end it actively with a blast, to sweep the opponents in range away (but if you don’t activate it on time, it will blast you up, to your disadvantage, and slow you down; this happens after a few seconds, so you have to activate the blast quite quickly!)

All Star – a kind of absolute power state that lasts for a short time; you float with super speed accompanied by the character-specific song – Amy´s All Star has a fancy song and unleashes pink hearts while she’s drifting with super speed ;-) With All Star you can easily overrun some opponents at a time, quite a cool thing.

Blowfish – a big round fish to be released on the way, so the cars behind you bump into it – when this happens, they get slowed down. The fish itself has a funny face too!

Ice (Snow balls) – with snow balls you can shoot on the opponent in front of you (precision is required!)

 

On the road, there are glowing pink arrows that add turbo power, if you drive on top of them. On water and in air, these are pink glowing gateways – if you fly or swim through them, you get a turbo boost. It takes some practice to learn to drift successfully in a dramatic curve right after getting a turbo boost… But that makes the entire game so active and fun.

Obstacles like bees swarm, blowfishes, lightning bolts, spiders etc. are placed on the way to challenge your tenacity. The game is very entertaining and dynamic, each race and scenery is unique. Watch below Amy Rose mastering the Mexican “Samba de Amigo”…

…and Sonic ruling the race in the “Carrier Zone”:

By the way, with collected coins you can play casino (5 coins per chance) – if you’re lucky, you can win a pre-package for the next race, for example start your next race with a Blowfish or a turbo boost. :D

Play coins in the bonus Casino to get benefits and pre-packages for the next race

 

Summing up

 

+ Good gameplay, for Wii U very cool to play with the Pro Controller

+ Fun racing with collectibles and boosts

+ Diversity in available characters, more characters can be unlocked

+ Nice graphics, lively scenery, brilliant colors

+ Entertaining music and game voicing

 

– Loading: quite long loading sequences between races or game modes, can sometimes take up to minutes

– Not much diversity between easy and difficult game levels, mostly same sceneries (yet quite many, though)

– I would have loved a story, a story that twines everything together and establishes connections – for instance, a story around Sonic and his friends would have been nice.

– There is no central user manual or game rules directory. I had difficulties to find out how to shoot different weapons (some can be shot even to the rear, others just to the front). You just get some random hints while the game is loading, which is not quite enough. But perhaps it was intended like this, to challenge players.

 

All in all, I enjoyed playing this game. Driving Sonic is quite a speedy thing in this colorful game, just as usual. My great hope is that the next Sonic racing game will evolve around a story and maybe even combine racing with jump&run adventure – thinking further, I would love something like that – Sonic would be the perfect character for such a mixed fun hullabaloo.

 

Machinarium update: the iPad edition

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Rating: 5.0/5 (4 votes cast)

As an update to Firefish`s article about this brilliant gem from the Czech private game studio Amanita Design, the new iPad edition of Machinarium was released!!!
Although at first I hesitated whether to purchase it or not, since I`m not that much into testing games on different platforms, I eventually decided to do so – I liked this game too much and was curious about how it would present itself in the modern tablet format.

The game excells on iPad on all levels: perfect graphics, great sound (music is here and there a bit different from the PC version, but still keeps in the same ambiental, spatial, gloomy note). The iPad edition costs much less than the one for PC, but the feeling it gives is way better, stronger, deeper. It feels nice being able to control everything and play with a single touch, easily make the robot move, use objects or adjust his size. This great iPad edition offers a new game experience with Machinarium, it inlays a new perspective on the game, relying on the much closer interraction between gamer and game interface.
Personally, I love playing it on my iPad3 always with headers, so I can let myself carried away into the steel world of robotic adventure. Each time when I play, I`m over and over surprised by the fine details, genuine design, intelligent puzzles and sensitive colour scheme; I must admit, I oversaw some of these while playing it on the good old PC.

A last quick note: the game doesn`t work on iPad 1, unfortunately; due to its ingenious game features, it requires at least iPad 2 to work properly.

If you already tested the game on iPad, I`m looking forward to hearing your impressions on it.

By the way, another iPad joy from Amanita Design is the Kooky app, including film, comics, illustrated book and mini games, all about the lost teddy bear.
After having checked out other Amanita Design works like Samorost and Botanicula, I must say: Nice! They`re original, artistic, with a very interesting touch of humour – I warmly recommend them, not just to Indie game fans, but to everybody keen on games. It`s something new they bring about.

Bookworm Adventures

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Howdy all! Have you ever had the feeling that sometimes words are loosely scrambling in your head and you just can`t find the right one? Well, this is exactly what the big Bookworm Adventures game confronts you with! A long trip of Lex (the extremely smart and cute little bookworm) through a whole lotta levels on that funny little map of his takes you to a great spelling journey, from A to Z!

Lex the Bookworm was “born” in 2003 in the PopCap games house and released at that time in a brand new word puzzle game. Although very small and down to really basic game design, the game won rapidly in popularity. What makes it so fun and beloved is, in my opinion, the never-ending table of tiles which works like a Scrabble game table. But this game is cleverly levelled: the better and longer the words, the bigger the points earned. For less common words or foreign words Lex provides you with a short explanation, and in this way you can also learn new words. In the relaxed mode you just play and play with no constraints, until you see nothing else but letters.. :-) In the “action” mode, things get a little more dangerous: burning tiles appear and threaten your library. The target is to quickly form words with those menacing tiles. Difficult it gets when X`es, W`s, K`s and Q`s in a row just invade your library and “eat” all the letters in their way! With every completed level, you proudly acquire a new rank e.g. chief librarian, clerk, which brings a funny note to the whole game perception. So this is the initial basis on which Bookworm Adventures was then later in 2006 created.

This extended game brings role playing and much more elements, like the journey, the map, the bonus mini games inbetween, and also the confrontation between Lex and his opponents at the end of each level. Further more, Lex is in love! His goal is to find and save his sweetheart throughout the three game modes (Adventure, Arena, Mini Games). Full of humour are the creatures he must defeat as opponents: all sorts of monsters, beasts, nymphs and distorted mythical creatures. In order to damage the opponent, Lex must spell good words with the tiles available on the table. Great words bring gem tiles, like amethyst, diamond, crystal etc. These gems enhance the value of the words spellt with them.

What annoys a bit, however, is that very often when you get precious gem tiles, the enemy beast just freezes them for some rounds, in which you must stay alive, that is, create enough powerful words to destroy him. But when 3/4 of your letters are frozen, there are not much words left possible! When you still have common letters you can form shorter words that unfortunately have pretty much no effect on the enemy; on the contrary, the beast gets annoyed and smashes Lex with whatever power he has. If you cannot form any word with the tiles left, the only solution is scramble, but then again you lose all gems.
This can get a bit frustrating while playing, but the key is to concentrate upon the word forming itself. If you follow the hints given, e.g. spell Metal words, Colours, Vegetables etc., and at the same time strive to form long, composed or rare words, you can quickly win and defeat the beasts (Whooomped!!!) :-) What I mostly like about this game, apart from the learning aspect, is the range of adjectives you get for your word compositions; really nifty words get a big “Astonishing!” from little Lex and when hearing this, you somehow just feel good about it :-)

Apart from this, there is one thing I want to point out; I find the classic Bookworm game suitable for all, young and old, kids, parents, worms.. :-) But Bookworm Adventures has something particularly childish at it. It is sweet and colourful, in my opinion, this game is suitable for all those who still have a sparkle of the child inside them.. Otherwise the whole range of game elements may appear a bit silly to more serious, grown up, in a hurry people… ;-)
Meanwhile, the Nintendo DS and DSiWare version was released in 2009, I can only imagine the whole lots of fun!! And there is an Xbox version too! Already feel like scrambling a bit…

Happy New Year, Artsygamers!!!

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May the new year bring you joy, happiness, success and accomplishments, but above all health and love. And of course, lots of gamezz :D Happy new year!

Limbo

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Developed exclusively for Xbox 360, Limbo is the first production of the independent game studio “Playdead”, grounded 2006 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The game revolves around the central figure of a boy who embarks upon a long, dark and dangerous journey in the quest of his lost sister. The Limbo actually represents the horrible world that he must silently trespass overcoming puzzles and challenges in order to reach what he looks for. It is no random fact that producer and game director Arnt Jensen chose this title for the game: in the Catholic theology, Limbo refers to the edge of Hell, a temporary state of those who died prematurely but not freed from the Original Sin. Also, Dante in his masterpiece Divine Comedy describes Limbo as the first circle of Hell, whereas medieval theological beliefs assigned Limbo as one of the 4 parts of the underworld.

This strong background of meaning can therefore explain the film-noir appearance of the game, dominated by deep blur and a fabulous range of gray tones, meant to convey solitude, uncertainty and danger of the gloomy world of the boy`s itinerary. The silhouette of the main character is the only one that appears to be alive under the heavy, smoky sky that covers everything. What is particularly strange about this game is the lack of a soundtrack in the common acceptance of the concept, compensated just by ethereal echoes and ambient sounds; the resulting silence makes you feel even closer the suspense and the atmosphere of the game.

Among the compact shades that dominate the scenery, white sparkles often appear in the foreground, creating a beautiful contrasting picture; and, as a significant detail, the boy`s eyes are always shining, like a small light in the dark. This black and white technique of the game is inspired from the German expressionism, a trend at the beginning of the 20th century, marking cinematography with black and white usually very abstract and suspenseful elements, e.g. Alfred Hitchcock` s movies. Concerning the game puzzles, Limbo combines the beautiful imagery with a unique, challenging and brain teasing collection of puzzles to be solved, ranging from simple to difficult and even hostile, but all of them equally fun to solve.

Based on all this extremely unique set of elements and features, the game has won the Excellence award in Visual Art and Technical Excellence last year. The bad part is that for now, the producers refuse to extend it on further platforms, although there are numerous requests for PC and Mac versions. Let`s hope they will eventually change their mind, because Limbo offers a very distinct and beautiful game experience.

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