Hello again. It’s me, Kyle, and I have another week of Free Video Game Summer. I’ll take a break later this month, mid-September is the beginning of autumn, and continue this series as an ongoing free video games post—I’ll probably write posts for this series with less regularity, perhaps once every other week or something—but until then here’s another theme-less Video Game Summer post in which I’ll probably figure out a recurring theme half-way through the post. Oh, well.
I downloaded Smash Squad toward the beginning of the summer and waited until a good group of games to pair it with presented itself. There aren’t any. It many ways it’s not your typical free-to-play video game and in other ways it is. Let’s start with what makes Smash Squad unique: its concept. Take a finger flick tabletop game like Flick ‘em Up and merge it with a superhero game where you can upgrade your heroes and you get Smash Squad.
Your squad is composed of pog-like discs. Each of these discs has health, attack, and defense and you flick them (pull back in the opposite direction of the way you want to shoot your disc) at your opponent’s discs. If you take out their discs before they take out yours, you win. Ah, this is such an interesting game mechanism. I love flicking my discs at other people’s discs. This mechanism is done well and it makes Smash Squad stand out from the horde of other free games. But what’s underneath Smash Squad’s shiny new mechanism resembles many other games.
There’s an energy system. Instead of the player not being able to compete for a while, each disc/hero has energy and you can’t play them until they have enough energy to compete. This functions the same way as other free-to-play games, but once you advance in rank and have plenty of heroes, you could play Smash Squad more regularly than you would other games of its ilk.
You can also upgrade your squad. Smash Squad has several levels of items—of varying rarity and cost to purchase with real-world money—that players can use to upgrade their squad. It’s always difficult to see how many crystals, jelly beans, or whatever the item you can purchase is costs when there are odd currency exchange rates. Like many free-to-play games Smash Squad monetizes pain and suffering. You don’t have to spend real-world money, but you will have to wait some time to unlock certain goodies.
Overall, the good outweighs the bad and Smash Squad offers a unique gaming experience. It may not be your thing, but you should give it a spin—or a flick.
World Zombination is a tower defense game that allows players to control either the humans, the defense, or zombies, the horde of enemies. Let’s face it, you’re going to want to play as the zombies. No offense to the humans—they’re already on the defensive—but few games allow you to play as zombies or as the enemy horde attacking the tower defense. I did play as the humans as well as the zombies, and World Zombination does a good job of presenting a tower defense game with a twist: your towers move. But the zombie side of things makes this game shine.
You get to load out your zombie power-ups and deploy your horde in strategic places to overwhelm those pesky humans. While it can be satisfying to fight off the zombie horde, it was more satisfying to gobble up brains. Ultimately there’s little difference between the two sides. You get a lot of the same power-ups. The objective is the only thing that changes when you go from human to zombie or vice versa. But it’s the objective that makes playing as the zombies unique.
Now, World Zombination has a lot of the same things we see in other free-to-play games: wait times for power-ups, hard to obtain in-game currency that tempts players to spend real money, and energy recharging that can be cut down if you use the same hard to obtain in-game currency. You’ll have to be patient, or be willing to spend real money, but World Zombination provides a singular tower defense experience, especially when you factor in player-versus-player game modes.
Batman: Arkham Underworld
Okay. I just said that no other tower defense game besides World Zombination allows you to play as the enemy horde. Well, Batman: Arkham Underworld does that, too. In fact, Batman: Arkham Underworld plays a lot like World Zombination with a different theme and skin. This time, you play as Batman’s rogues.
Batman: Arkham Underworld isn’t a bad game, it provides an experience similar to World Zombination, but Batman’s rogues as a theme doesn’t work as well as a zombie horde. It’s one thing to unlock a new zombie type and power them up. It’s another when the game treats Batman’s rogues like World Zombination treats its zombies; they aren’t unique enough to justify the theme. Batman: Arkham Underworld plays like your controlling a zombie horde masquerading as Batman’s rogues’ gallery.
Batman: Arkham Underworld has many of World Zombination’s features, and you can find some solid game play. It’s not as if Batman: Arkham Underworld is a bad game; the theme doesn’t match the game mechanism. Still, if you like Batman and enjoy the idea of a playing as the side seldom played in a tower defense game, you may like Batman: Arkham Underworld. And it’d be redundant to have both Batman: Arkham Underworld and World Zombination.
Ghostbusters: Slime City
Ghostbusters: Slime City cashes in on the summer blockbuster Ghostbusters, but you won’t find many of the characters from the original movie or the reboot—human characters that is; Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man make appearances. Ghostbusters: Slime City has the most action of any game I’ve covered so far, but it maintains the level-up aspects of your equipment as well as your headquarters and a bank, and I’m not sure the mini-games make much sense.
Beyond the weird mini-games like feeding Slimer hot dogs and gaining money, the core game play is busting a bunch a ghosts by pointing and swiping on your touch screen. Your ghostbuster will run out of power and you have to take your finger off your screen for them to recharge their battery and when you have power, you continue to point and swipe. At random moments you’ll trap ghosts—I’m not sure how the game determines which ghosts you trap—but most ghosts are blasted with your proton ray. You get a few minutes to bust the target number of ghosts you need to bust and then you either beat the level or have to replay it. Ghostbusters: Slime City is a straightforward game. It doesn’t add any new game play or offer an engaging story—although there is one the game shoe horns into the gameplay—but if you like Ghostbusters and busting makes you feel good, you may want to give Ghostbusters: Slime City. This game doesn’t cover enough new ground to be staying in my permanent collection.
Spider-Man Unlimited is Temple Run with a Spider-Man skin. There’s nothing wrong with that premise. In fact, Spider-Man Unlimited does a great job of incorporating new game mechanisms to the Temple Run model that are suited to Spider-Man. Web slinging is fantastic. Battling enemies is intuitive but challenging. And the dynamic level generation keeps players on their toes.
That last point can be a good or bad thing. I like being challenged by a game, even if it’s a free-to-play game, but you can get stuck on a level for a really long time and instead of being able to memorize what’s going to show up next on a map, because you died several times on a stage, Spider-Man Unlimited does a good job of changing up the level each time. You could be fighting enemies and dodging obstacles one play through of a stage, only to be web slinging the next time.
A free-to-play game wouldn’t make money without having power-ups, enhancements, and boosts for your heroes, and Spider-Man Unlimited uses the customary difficult to obtain in-game currency, energy recharge times, and the like. Again, you can spend a lot of money getting through things—and Spider-Man Unlimited can be frustrating enough to make you want to spend money—or you could be patient and clear the level without spending money.
Regardless, Spider-Man Unlimited adds enough to the Temple Run formula to make it uniquely Spidey, fresh, and worth a quick play.
All right. We’re almost done with Free Video Game Summer. Until next we meet, thanks for reading.