Video Game Players Only Want Multiplayer Games

I’m not sure if this has come up or not in the past several years Uncle Geekly’s been doing this blog, but your uncle dislikes absolutes, so I’m being facetious with this writeup’s title. Okay. Maybe video games and what players want isn’t serious enough of a topic to warrant me calling it facetious, but it’s an important topic for geeks.

Anyway. Any absolute like this title is inherently flawed. One can’t make a blanket statement about a large group of people or things, because there are many exceptions to the norm. The title derives from video game publisher Electronic Arts (EA) insisting that video game fans only want multiplayer experiences, but they’re doing so by saying that players don’t want games with a linear story, and if one looks at their recent track record, EA seldom publishes single-player games with linear stories.

Electronic Arts has been making games for decades. They’ve seen the video game climate change over the course of those years, and the comment EA makes every time they cancel a Star Wars game with a linear story or character driven game in the past decade or so is that players don’t want a single-player experience.

EA’s Patrick Soderlund illustrates the company’s attitude by stating in his blog “Our Visceral Studio has been developing an action-adventure title set in the Star Wars universe. In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game. Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come. We needed to pivot the design.”

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Let’s look beyond the fact that some Visceral Studio employees lost their jobs—Soderlund also stated that EA would shift as many Visceral Studio employees over to other projects as they could, which means that they didn’t do that for all their employees—and get to what Soderlund, speaking for EA, is saying. On the surface, it may sound to players as if EA wants to make games that resonate with players and grant players years of replay value but consider the source. Soderlund is a video game executive. He’s talking about monetization and making games that run like a service.

Do you think that I’m making a little bit of a leap there? Maybe, but EA has a long history of making great single-player, linear story games (Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Deep Space). They even have a long history of producing great linear story Star Wars games that are single-player like Knights of the Old Republic and the Jedi Knight series, so EA has plenty of research to suggest the contrary to what Soderlund said. Players do want linear story, character-driven games, especially ones set in the Star Wars universe.

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EA’s 2018 release A Way Out reinforces that players want single-player, linear story, character-driven games. A Way Out sold as many copies (200,000 for about $1 million) in one week as EA thought it would sell in the entire fiscal year. The truth is that EA wants players to only want multiplayer games. A single-player linear story game needs to have a finite ending to be satisfying. If that’s the case, players won’t purchase skins or weapons for a character when they’ve already beaten the game, unless they plan to play the game a second time.

I get it on some level. AAA games cost a lot of money to make, so publishers want to watch their bottom line and produce games that can bring in consistent money over a long period of time, games like the ones Soderlund mentioned in his blog “experiences that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come.” But let’s cut EA a break—sort of—and say that they don’t understand that there is more than one video game audience.

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If EA knew there was more than one video game audience, they may not have released Apex Legends at the beginning of February 2019 when Anthem was scheduled for release later the same month. They’re both solely online games that will attract a similar audience. Video game companies can’t predict what another studio will do, but they can space out similar releases from their own stable of games. That’s why video game companies need single-player games as much as they do multiplayer games.

Some players like multiplayer games, almost exclusively; others prefer single-player games. I dig both game types, but I lean toward single-player experiences. Variety is paramount. EA can, and should, offer great multiplayer and single-player games. I’d hate to see the publisher behind classics like Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic never make another single-player, linear story, character-driven game. It’s single-player games like the ones EA has produced in the past that lead some to accept video games as art, or at the very least, examples of incredible storytelling.

Do you agree or disagree that gamers still want single-player experiences with linear stories? Do you think EA and other companies like it are off-base with their assessment of the video game market? Let us know in the comments.

3 Lists of 3 Mini Games in Video Games

There are some mini games—small games within larger one—that are more fun to play than the original video game in which they’re found. Mini games are so pervasive in video games that there are some video games that are nothing but compilations of mini games. Uncle Geekly’s looking at you, Mario Party and Wario Ware.

But which mini games are the best in the business? Which ones are ones someone could play for hours on end without finishing the main questline? Your uncle Geekly will give you his answer with this week’s 3 list of 3.

Great Mini Games

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Project Gotham Racing 2 (Geometry Wars)

Geometry Wars had its humble beginnings in the popular racing game Project Gotham Racing 2 as a hidden joke. The designers threw in this minimalist retro puzzle game, and it became so popular that it received a standalone release, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved.

This twin-stick space shooter had such addictive gameplay and stunning visuals that gamers didn’t care about the game’s uncompromising difficulty. Slap me around and call me novice.

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Super Monkey Ball (Monkey Target)

Rolling monkeys inside giant, transparent spheres is no easy task. I never got into Super Monkey Ball’s main game, but I’m up for a multiplayer game Monkey Target any time. Your monkey rolls down a huge ramp, and once they’ve built up enough momentum, those large balls open up to form wings. Then, players glide their monkeys gently through bananas and power-ups to land on targets found in the middle of the sea.

Gliding is relaxing, Monkey Target’s controls are far better than Super Monkey Ball’s, and the mini game is joy. I could play—and have played—this mini game all day.

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Animal Crossing (Nintendo Entertainment System)

Who needs a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Classic when you can collect in-game NES cartridges in Animal Crossing?

Sure, this one’s a little bit of a cheat because they’re classic NES games coded within a Wii game, but I got excited whenever I found an NES cartridge in Animal Crossing. I picked up Donkey Kong Jr. Math. Woo hoo!

 

Final Fantasy Mini Games

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Final Fantasy X (Blitzball)

I was going to make this list by incorporating Final Fantasy mini games within the larger list of great mini games, but I came up with 2 out 3 games coming from Final Fantasy, so FF’s getting its own list. I’m not even sorry.

The first one in this list is the one I didn’t include at first because the premise is the strangest of the three: Blitzball. Final Fantasy X’s Blitzball is underwater soccer meets basketball. It makes no sense. It’s also awesome.

I don’t know how many hours I wasted playing Blitzball instead of finishing Final Fantasy X’s main story line. I didn’t care that Sin was going to destroy Spira. I want to sign the best Blitzball goalie Nimrook to a long-term contract. I’m also going to transition from Wedge, who’s a great shooter early game, to a combination of Nedus (very fast and a great prospect for shooting) and Nav Guado (great counter-attacking forward). I’ll assemble a team that no one can beat. Mwah-ha-ha!

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Final Fantasy (Chocobo Racing)

Final Fantasy VII introduced chocobo racing, and it was a blast. The breeding system didn’t make a lot of sense, but the actual act of racing your chocobo (those are ostrich-type creatures for those who don’t play much Final Fantasy) played well. You had to know when to sprint your chocobo and when not to. I’m king of the chocobos.

The mini game was so popular that Final Fantasy brought the sport back for several iterations. Final Fantasy XIII-2 had a complex system where players could develop their chocobo’s statistics. You had to strike the right balance to achieve victory. Final Fantasy XV allows players to ride chocobos in the open world, which felt great, especially when Prompto makes up words for the song that plays every time a chocobo graces the screen.

“I like to ride my chocobo all day.” Me, too, Prompto. Me, too.

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Final Fantasy VIII (Triple Triad)

I find that most gamers fall into one of two mini card game camps: Triple Triad or Gwent. While I admit Gwent is a great game, it got its own release separate from The Witcher after all, I’m in the Final Fantasy VIII’s Triple Triad camp. I’m an older gamer. Deal with it.

I never used Quezacotl’s Card Mod Ability on any rare card. Keep your 100 Megalixirs; I want my Bahamut card. The same goes for three Diamond Armors. That Seifer card is too awesome.

I even cast the card capture spell so many times I lost count. I didn’t even care if I won a battle, I just wanted my cards. Sure, it’s a little like Pokemon, but I had to collect them all.

 

Fun skill checks that may as well be mini games

This one may need a little clarification. There are games within games, but there are also skill checks that can happen (like sneaking or fishing) that can occur within a game that’s really another mini game within a larger game. Here are three good examples of skill check mini games.

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Bioshock (Pipe Hacking)

A lot of games feature some lame computer hacking mini game—I’m looking at you Fallout 3’s word searches and Mass Effect 2’s matching blurry lines of code that you couldn’t pay me to play—but Bioshock took the classic game Pipe Dream and added a steampunk twist. One had to find and match pipes to make water flow where you wanted it to before the water escaped the system.

It’s a fun mini game that gets a little old after the hundredth hack, but it’s a great throwback in an equally great game.

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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Fishing)

Gamers can fish as a mini game or skill check in numerous titles. Legend of Zelda even has several titles in its series where fishing is possible, but Ocarina of Time proves to be the best of the best.

The big payout is a piece of heart, but I liked it when I caught a fish so big that the guy who runs the plays deemed it “illegal.” Screw him. I threw his hat into the pond.

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Skyrim and other Bethesda titles (Lockpicking)

Skyrim started the old hair grip and screwdriver method of opening locks. Bethesda has perfected this rumble controller feedback, dexterous challenge. I know that I’d never be a great lockpicker in real life, but for a few hours, I can pretend with Skyrim, Wolfenstein: The New Order, and Fallout 3.

There are too many mini games to list here. Let us know what your favorites are in the comments and if you don’t agree with any of the games on this list, you can challenge me to lockpicking duel in Skyrim. First one to 100 wins.

Geekly News: October 12, 2018

There aren’t as many big headlines this week in Geekly News, so we’ll go with some short news blurbs followed by new releases. Let’s kickoff this ball game with a New York Comic Con panel and a trailer.

Good Omens

Principal photography on the upcoming Amazon series Good Omens (based on the collaborative novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) began over a year ago, but audiences didn’t catch a glimpse of any video until a panel at last week’s New York Comic Con. This series should be another solid one for Amazon who has slowly garnered a fine collection of native programming.

With American Gods and an upcoming Sandman movie, Neil Gaiman has been on a role with his creations finding their way on the silver and small screens. Is a Books of Magic or a Black Orchid movie far behind?

 

Batwoman Costume Revealed

The CW’s annual crossover event won’t occur until December 9th, but that didn’t stop the network from leaking its first glimpse of Ruby Rose as Batwoman. Like many other heroes in the Arrowverse, Batwoman will make her first appearance this year during the crossover event, but she’s scheduled to have her own series beginning next season.

The Arrowverse has dabbled with an LGBT superhero, Mr. Terrific, in the past, but Batwoman will mark the first take that an LGBT superhero will take center stage.

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Video Games

Friday, October 12, 2018

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

The latest Call of Duty has picked up a few tricks from the popular Fortnite. Previous installments of Call of Duty had player respawn (or have players’ characters revive) shortly after dying. This led to gun combat being fast paced and devalued long-distance shooting or snippers. We’ll have to see how this latest Call of Duty fares.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Switch, PS4, Xbox One)

This is another wait and see title. Starlink takes the failing “toys-to-life” video game genre (games like Skylanders that have players buy real-life toys and use them in video games) and makes it new and exciting by adding an open-world—or open-universe—element. The toy spaceships and pilots look interesting, but I prefer the Switch copy for this game, as characters from Nintendo’s Star Fox series will make an appearance. Heck, with Star Fox as part of the cast, I’d do a barrel roll.

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Movies

First Man

This film has received critical acclaim for Ryan Gosling’s performance of the first man on the moon Neil Armstrong and Clair Foy’s as his wife Janet Shearon. It’s also been at the center of an American flag controversy. First Man looks to be a lightning rod of buzz.

That was bad. First Man does intrigue me, and I’ll probably watch it at some point.

Bad Times at the El Royale

The premise may sound familiar (seven strangers who each hide dark secrets manage to stay at the same shady hotel), but the cast make this neo-noir mystery thriller sound like it’ll be fun if nothing else. Bad Times at the El Royale is another one I wouldn’t mind seeing.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

I never watched the first Goosebumps movie, but I heard it was a modest success. Jack Black makes another appearance as R. L. Stine. That’s something, I guess.

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TV

Friday, October 12, 2018

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CW)

The fourth and final season of this stellar comedy musical begins tonight. Don’t try to text, message, or call me. I’ll be washing my hair—which is code for watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)

Shirley Jackson knew how to write horror of all kinds. The short story that first garnered her attention and put her on the map was “The Lottery” and it’s a great psychological horror story. “The Haunting of Hill House” is a supernatural horror classic that Stephen King cited as the best horror story written in the 20th century. I’ll go with that and I’ll definitely see if this Netflix offering measures up.

The Romanoffs (Amazon)

I’ve talked about The Romanoffs last week in our 3 Lists of 3. The stellar cast and odd premise (several people believe they’re part of the Russian royal family) has piques my interest.

Titans (DCU)

Titans, as in the adult versions of Teen Titans, was supposed to air on various cable networks before landing on the DCU’s new streaming service. Every company wanting their own streaming service burns my corn, but if DCU streaming can make enough quality programming, I may consider it. I’m most likely to download the app for a free trial and binge everything in a weekend.

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Charmed (CW)

Truth time: I watched the original. I even watched the original Charmed not that long ago and got embarrassed for ever having watched it. Charmed was a CW (then WB) mainstay and a lot of the tropes and clichés one can find in CW shows today pretty much originated with Charmed. I may watch an episode or two and catch a glimpse of this trio of witchy sisters.

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Arrow (CW)

Yep, the Arrowverse is still at it. I lost interest in these shows for some time, but like Charmed, I may tune in once or twice for old times’ sake.

Constantine: The Legend Continues (CW Seed)

It feels like yesterday when I lamented NBC cancelling the live-action TV show Constantine. Did it have its issues? Sure, but the series picked up steam and got canned before reaching full strength. Fans of the series were ticked, and the CW has brought back Matt Ryan (who played John Constantine) for this upcoming animated series. I think the CW Seed app offers free streaming for certain episodes. I’ll have to check on Monday or Tuesday. Or I could always wait for another free trial period.

Board Games

Solenia

Solenia

Belgian publisher Pearl Games originally intended to release this game as Sun-Moon but settled on the name Solenia. The game consists of 16 rounds where players play cards with holes in the middle of them onto a modular board. The holes reveal a resource that players are trying to pick up or deliver and players gain points for delivering goods.

All of this is fairly standard for gamers, specifically Euro-style gamers, but the most interesting aspect of Solenia—besides the see-through cards—is its modular board. The tiles are double-sided with day and night scenes. These tiles cycle between day and night throughout the game, so players must plan their moves based on when they can perform actions. I’ll try to demo this game before long.

That’s all we have for this week. Be kind to each other and stay geeky.

Geekly News: October 5, 2018

Another day and another new content type. We’re trying our hat at Geekly News today. Even though your uncle Geekly could scour the internet for any type of Geek News, most weeks this post type will list new releases for the coming week. We’re lucky this first week features a major movie announcement and a leak at Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax.

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Elder Scrolls VI

People have been debating for years which Tamriel province will host the sixth entry in the Elder Scrolls main series, and ZeniMax may have given players their first concrete evidence. Sure, some internet sleuths found evidence in the short teaser trailer, but that’s more in the realm of speculation.

And this new information could be filed as that too, but there’s a more compelling argument to be made. The attorney who registered a copyright for Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim years before each game’s release just registered a copyright for a single-player game set in the Elder Scrolls universe entitled Redfall.

This development suggests that Elder Scrolls VI will be set in part or entirely in Hammerfell (home of the Redguards) and will feature a questline involving Redguards.

Why not call it Hammerfell? Many Elder Scrolls games aren’t named by the province in which they occur, Morrowind and Skyrim are the exception, not the rule, they’re named based on the game’s storyline. Sure, Redfall could pertain to something other than Redguards and the contested Hammerfell/High Rock border, but it’s likely that Redguards and Hammerfell will factor into this latest installment.

There’s still no release date for Elder Scrolls VI. If your uncle Geekly were to place a bet for when Redfall will be released, he’d go with a post Playstation 5, X-Box 2 (who knows if Microsoft will stick with this naming convention, but to the best of my knowledge it’ll be X-Box 2) release.

It could also be that ZeniMax wants fans to talk about Elder Scrolls VI more. If so, mission accomplished.

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Mega Man Live Action Movie

Capcom has announced that its Mega Man franchise is going to get the live-action Hollywood treatment. The press release came one day after Mega Man 11’s release and the movie celebrates the franchise’s 30th anniversary.

The film is tentatively titled MEGA MAN (in all caps) and has writer/directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish, Paranormal Activity 3) attached to the project. Capcom says it aims to “appeal to a diverse audience, including not only game players but action movie fans as well, with an adaptation that maintains the world of the Mega Man games, while incorporating the grand production and entertainment value that Hollywood movies are known for.”

Video game movies don’t have the best track record, but I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed with this title. It’s a safe bet that your uncle Geekly will be watching this film on opening weekend. There’s no release date set for this project as of this write-up.

And now for some new releases for the upcoming Week.

Video Games

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Friday, October 5, 2018

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

This is the latest of the Assassin’s Creed games and it’s set in ancient Greece. Be ready for a lot of “This…Is…Sparta!.”

Super Mario Party (Switch)

My family and I have had some fun with this title in the past. It blends roll, spin and move (roll dice to see how far you can go in a turn: for example, Monopoly) of tabletop games with minigames one might find in other Mario titles.

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Movies

Venom

This one troubles me. Based on the trailers, the special effects are dated and that’s not a good thing for a comic book movie. I’m also concerned with how they pronounced symbiote.

A Star is Born

Lady Gaga (first major acting role) and Bradley Cooper (first time director) recreate this Barbara Streisand classic. I may not see this one in theaters, but I’ll probably see it when it’s out on video or streaming.

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TV

Friday, October 5, 2018

Big Mouth (Netflix)

I’ve heard good things about this one. It’s a raunchy cartoon series centered around puberty. I haven’t gotten around to watching it because there are a lot of raunchy cartoon series to choose from.

Into the Dark (Hulu)

This one confused me a bit. Netflix recently released a movie entitled Hold the Dark. Hulu’s Into the Dark is an American horror anthology series for those who think American Horror Story isn’t enough. I’ll give it a chance.

The Man in the High Castle (Amazon)

I’ll have to finish the second season before starting the upcoming third. The Man in the High Castle is easily one of Amazon Prime’s best series.

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Sunday, October 7, 2018

Doctor Who (BBC America)

The adventures of the first female Doctor Who begins today. Yes! Bring it on.

Star Wars Resistance (Disney)

There have been several successful Star Wars cartoons. The franchise almost redeemed the prequels with all the work Star Wars animated series put in. Resistance is set in the sequel’s timeline. It’ll interesting to see how this series builds Poe Dameron’s character.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

I wonder how long people can survive in a world with zombies. The Walking Dead endeavors to answer that question with nine years and counting. This year has the distinction of Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) leaving the series.

Arrowverse

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Flash (CW)

Ah, the Arrowverse. I might watch an episode or two just for old time’s sake. These shows are no longer appointment television for me, but it can be fun to watch certain DC comics characters grace the small screen.

Black Lightning (CW)

I never got into Black Lightning because I had all but given up on the Arrowverse by the time it was released, but Black Lightning is one of the first live-action superhero TV shows to feature an African-American protagonist (Netflix’s Luke Cage beat it by a half year), and from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t intertwine as much with the rest of the Arrowverse. I’ll probably give it a shot. Looks like I have some binging to do.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Riverdale (CW)

I never got into Riverdale, but I know that many folks think of it as something more than a fusion of Dawson’s Creek and Archie Comics. This may be one of those series I watch well into the show’s run.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Supernatural (CW)

This CW standard enters its 14th season today. Talk about your long-running television shows.

That’s all we have for Geekly News this week. May the geek with you and be kind to one another.

 

Geekly’s Free Video Game Summer: September 18, 2016

 

One more week after this one, where did the summer go? Hi, guys, it’s me, Kyle. I’ll get to the games in a bit, but I wanted to remind everyone that I’ll be taking a breather after next week before posting new free video game reviews in the autumn. Jim and I will be ramping up our TV show coverage, and I may need a few weeks to get prepared. Here’s another Geekly Free Video Game Summer post; I wanted to merge tabletop games with video games, so this week’s post will be free video games based on tabletop games.

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Pokemon: Trading Card Game (TCG) Online

Pokemon: TCG Online does a great job of transferring the game from the table to your mobile device. That can be a good and bad thing. There have been countless releases of Pokemon: TCG in the past two decades and Pokemon: TCG Online has samples from many of those releases, which leads to unbalanced power with the decks players construct, especially when you challenge opponents online. Of course you could play block format (only the sets released in the past year) but you’re still subject to opponents who have been collecting cards a lot long than you. When you’re first starting out, you will lose—a lot.

The game also includes legacy (last several years) and unlimited (any card from any Pokemon release) and you’re likelihood of winning a game diminishes with each group of cards you add to the card pool, but you could play with that awesome Wobbufett—if you have that awesome Wobbufett, that is. The gameplay is the classic Pokemon: TCG gameplay.

Players summon Pokemon with one as their main Pokemon and up to five on their bench, should the main Pokemon get defeated. Pokemon need energy cards attached to them to perform their abilities so energy cards are the second most common, and the rest of a deck consists of trainer or support cards that do various things to support the Pokemon on your team. At the beginning of each match, both players draw ten cards from their deck and place them face down, which make up their rewards, and the first player to earn all ten of their reward cards wins.

Okay. Most of you probably didn’t need the gameplay refresher, but it is addictive—as most Pokemon products tend to be. I didn’t mind the trip down memory lane with Pokemon TCG Online. It’s a solid TCG and if you have any interest in Pokemon, I recommend it; you also don’t have to keep binders of cards: space saving idea.

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Neuroshima Hex!

I covered the tabletop game Neuroshima Hex over a year ago (here’s a link) and not much is different with the app version, except that the app makes the game easier to play and more accessible, and that’s always a good thing. Players take command of a faction and the game is played 19 honeycomb grid. Instead of cards, players use hexagonal tiles to denote their forces. Each player starts the game with their headquarters tile with 20 hit points. Players win if they are the first player to lower their opponent’s HQ to zero hit points or if the tile draw pile is exhausted, whoever’s HQ has the most hit points wins.

Players take turns playing tiles. Most tiles are unit tiles. They’ll deal damage on whatever face (of the hexagon) they have a triangle. Short triangles are melee attacks and only work on adjacent units or if the HQ is adjacent. Long, skinny triangles are ranged attacks which hit the first enemy unit (or enemy HQ) in the direction the triangle is positioned. Every unit also has a number which denotes their initiative (how quickly they act); the higher the number, the faster the unit performs their attack. Once the board fills up with tiles or a player uses a combat tile (a burst symbol on the tile), the two armies fight. Units with the highest initiative perform their attacks first and play continues in initiative until every unit gets an action.

And it’s the computer’s calculations during combat that makes the Neuroshima Hex app more enjoyable than the original tabletop game. I almost always forget a unit or two, or an ability. Playing online negates human error, and my brain doesn’t have to crunch as many numbers. Neuroshima Hex packs a lot of game and strategy in a small amount of time (10-15 minutes). If you want a new-age Chess with a faint war theme, Neuroshima Hex might be right up your alley. I highly recommend it.

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Summoner Wars

Oh, this is the game that put Plaid Hat Games (Dead of Winter, and Mice and Mystics) on the map. I enjoy Summoner Wars, and the free-to-play app does a great job of transitioning the game to mobile platforms.

Similar to Neuroshima Hex, players take control of a faction, each with strengths and weaknesses, only this time you’re playing in a fantasy world and you’re a summoner. Summoner Wars’ gameplay is miniatures without the miniatures. You manipulate cards, which represent your units, on a 6×8 grid. You have your customary attack, defense, health, and movement you’ll find in any miniatures game, and most units have special abilities you can exploit. The first player to lower their opponent’s summoner card’s health to zero wins.

Summoner Wars doesn’t try to reinvent miniatures battle. If you’re looking for a more in-depth miniatures game, you’d be better off looking elsewhere, but Summoner Wars is an accessible game for folks who are interested in miniatures as a game type, and it’s fun. If you want to play more than the fire elves, you’ll have to pay money to unlock other factions, but the free version of Summoner Wars offers a lot in terms of strategy and replayability. You may not be able to play as other factions, but you can play against them. This is another game I highly recommend.

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Zombie Dice

There had to be one game I didn’t like in this group, and Zombie Dice is that game. I like the original tabletop version of Zombie Dice (I reviewed it a while ago; here’s a link), but the app version doesn’t measure up to the fun of rolling dice and pressing your luck. The pressing your luck aspect is still present but I tend to not like games that use a lot of dice rolling in a video game, especially when you can tell whether or not the games cheating.

Players take on the role of a zombie. You role dice, which denote humans, and the first zombie to eat 13 brains wins. Now, there are three results you can get on a zombie die: brains, shotgun blast, and footsteps. If you roll brains, you ate one brain. If you roll a shotgun blast, you got shot or hit by a human; you only get three shotgun blasts before you lose your turn. If you roll footsteps, your prey escaped. When it’s your turn you grab three dice and roll them. After any roll you can choose to keep your brain total and pass your turn or you can continue to roll, but if you roll three shotgun blasts, your turn ends, you lose any points you gained this turn (keeping your total for the game), and play goes to the zombie on your left.

Zombie Dice is a simple, press your luck game, but it’s a blast. The app isn’t as much fun. Since there are only three results, it’s easy to tell when you roll far too many shotgun blasts, while your computer opponent tends to roll far too many brains. Hmm. Feel free to pick up the physical copy of Zombie Dice (you can find it at most supermarkets today), but don’t bother playing the mobile app.

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Boss Monster

Boss Monster is yet another tabletop game I’ve reviewed in the distant past (here’s a link), and this is another app that does a great job of capturing the essence of the original.

Players are the boss monster at the end of a video game. You build your dungeon, attract video game heroes to your dungeon, and collect souls. If your dungeon fails to defeat a hero, you receive a wound (or two if it’s an epic hero). If you receive five or more wounds, you lose. The first player to collect 10 hero souls or the last boss monster standing wins.

There isn’t much to add from the original review, except that the Boss Monster app runs slow. The original game can take a while to pay (about 20-30 minutes for a card game, which is a little on the long side), but the extra time it takes for heroes to travel through dungeons in the app makes a typical game run about the same time as the original, and there’s usually only one human character. That’s way too long for a solo-mobile game. I like Boss Monster but the game needs to speed up its processing power. I’ll still keep it in my permanent collection, but Boss Monster is one of those games I have to be in the mood to play. I’d prefer to play the original tabletop version.

That’s one more week down and only one more to go. I’ll try to get some free-to-play MMORPGs under my belt for next week. Let’s end the Free Video Game Summer with a bang. Until next we meet, thanks for reading.

Geekly’s Free Video Game Summer: September 9, 2016

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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.

smashsquad

Smash Squad

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.

worldzombination

World Zombination

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.

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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.

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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-manunlimitedapp

Spider-Man Unlimited

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.

Geekly’s Free Video Game Summer: September 2, 2016

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Hello. We don’t have a theme for this week’s Free Video Game Summer. There’s just a lot of small games. That means that these reviews won’t be too long—for the most part—so let’s get to it.

PocketPolitics

Pocket Politics

Pocket Politics uses the same set up as Kongregate’s previous game, AdVenture Capitalist. I reviewed AdVenture Capitalist earlier this summer and liked it, but that was the PC version of the game, which is the far superior version of the game. I downloaded the iTunes app and there were more stumbling blocks in terms of ploys to gain people’s money and these schemes rear their heads here in Pocket Politics.

Looking beyond these money-making practices, the main game mechanisms from AdVenture Capitalist are still in place. You tap businesses to open them and generate money, hire managers to tap businesses for you, and purchase upgrades to boost your earnings. This set-up worked for AdVenture Capitalist because it matches the game’s theme. The same can’t be said of Pocket Politics. Most people know that money talks in politics, but it’s not the one-for-one of the original and these same game mechanisms fall flat even before you factor in the shady ways power-ups work. Play AdVenture Capitalist on the PC and skip Pocket Politics.

BigBangRacing

Big Bang Racing

Big Bang Racing is a fun little racing game in the mode of Mod Nation Racers or Little Big Planet Karting. The controls aren’t as good as a 3D racing game—this is a side-scrolling racing game—but they’re also not too difficult to pick up and master either. Where Big Bang Racing shines is in its customization.

Not only can you trick out your cart, you can create your own levels and play levels designed by your friends. This makes for endless content. And with a global community, you’ll find hours of enjoyment. Big Bang Racing isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of other games that capture the adrenaline of pedal to the metal racing, and I would’ve preferred some power ups besides turbo boost (there may be more if I were to play longer) but for a free, kart racing game, you can’t go wrong with Big Bang Racing.

Snakebird

Snakebird

Snakebird gets its name from the titular character who’s a gooey amalgam of a snake and a bird. At its heart Snakebird is a puzzle game. You navigate levels by sliding your snakebird over hills and into caves. It’s a simple and fun concept, but the game can get frustrating.

There’s no hint system that I could find, so players could spend hours—days if you take breaks—on a stage before clearing the level. That’s not a deal breaker for me, but it could be for many other people. In fact, Snakebird doesn’t waste much time before plunging its players into difficult to solve puzzles. It can be brutal game, so beware. But if you can get pass its unforgiving puzzles, Snakebird can be fun.

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Winter Fugitives 2 Chronicles

Like Big Bang, Winter Fugitives 2 Chronicles is another simplified version of a popular game type: stealth. If you like sneaking around in Thief or Metal Gear Solid, you might enjoy the stripped down Winter Fugitives 2 Chronicles. Players control a prisoner trying to escape. You have to avoid guards (who have cones of vision you must side-step) and look for the occasional key, found in desks, safes, or crates. You have the option of knocking out guards and subduing them, but you run the risk of not gaining the level’s bonus, and you typically want the bonus. Other than that, there isn’t a lot of complexity to Winter Fugitives 2 Chronicles. Try not to be seen. The gameplay is tight and it can scratch the itch of a free-to-play stealth, mobile game.

JellyJump

Jelly Jump

Jelly Jump is another game with a simple concept. Players control a jelly cube and must jump (tap the cube) at the right time to make to the level above them; instead of side scrolling, Jelly Jump top scrolls. You only have a short time to make your jump because you may get closed off from the level above you (draw bridges) and water is filling the bottom of the screen. It’s a fun little game.

You could pay $1.99 and eliminate ads that periodically show up, but the ads in Jelly Jump aren’t obtrusive, you can get by with the free version. The gameplay may be simple but it can be intense. Several times I got my jelly cube stuck in a draw bridge and frantically tapped the screen to free it. It’s odd how a simple game can elicit a response like that. For a little game Jelly Jump can get your blood pumping, and it’s worth a quick play.

PowerHover

Power Hover

Power Hover puts you in control of a guy on a hover board, restoring power to the countryside. Each stage has you swiping to avoid obstacles and pick up electricity. If you collect enough electricity, you can power up the local power stations and people regain their electric power. This is yet another simple concept game, but Power Hover does a good job of providing tight controls and gameplay, and players know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. That’s always a plus.

While Power Hover isn’t as deep as Big Bang—few free-to-play games can offer that much content—it does provide plenty of fun. That’s probably the theme of this week’s games: strip away a game style to what makes it work. Power Hover may be too simple for some gamers, but for what it is, it works.

NonstopKnight

Nonstop Knight

It’s funny how some of these games do exactly what the title says. Nonstop Knight is a game where the player controls a knight who runs through a dungeon, killing creatures, whether you control them or not, hence the title, Nonstop Knight. This title has more going on but that doesn’t make it a better game.

If you’ve been following Geekly’s Free Video Game Summer, you’ll know that I don’t care for games that give me little agency as a player. Nonstop Knight plays itself. Literally, you don’t have to play the game for your knight to kill goblins deep in the dungeon in which you’re crawling. It’s a game that’s on rails, and I don’t care for it. Sure, AdVenture Capitalist suffers from this a bit, too, but the player still has to make choices. If you’re logged in, you can pull off some combat moves, but Nonstop Knight doesn’t give players any meaningful choices. You don’t even control your character. Skip it.

We don’t have too many more weeks left. Hopefully, I can keep this up. Until next we meet, thanks for reading.