Sunday, March 31, 2013

Video Game Review: CIMA: The Enemy

Created in 2003 for the Game Boy Advance by Neverland (known for Rune Factory, Rengoku, and Shining Force NEO) and Natsume (known for Harvest Moon, Harvest Moon, and Harvest Moon), CIMA: The Enemy is another sadly obscure game which I would very much love for more people to try out. (I also think more people should use run-on sentences. They're lovely.)

The story of CIMA: The Enemy is pretty unique, set in an interesting world. You play as Ark J, a rookie gate guardian. As a gate guardian your duty is to protect humanity from the CIMA, a race of life force vampires who feed on the emotion of hope. The CIMA abduct humans through dimensional gates, trapping them inside elaborate dungeons where the thought of escape gives the humans hope, which the CIMA feed on... by killing their prisoners at the last possible moment and devouring them.

As a gate guardian your job is to serve as guardian of a community and protect it from the CIMA. On your way to your new town, however, your train and everyone on board is swallowed up by a massive gate. Your job is to travel through the dungeon, find and rescue your fellow human prisoners, and escape the CIMA world alive.

As for gameplay, CIMA works a bit like old-school Zelda - top-down (well, isometric anyway) hack-and-slash with a focus on strategy and some pretty solid puzzle-solving. Each of your fellow prisoners has different skills and abilities which they can use to help you through the dungeon. Some of them, like the stubborn and self-reliant Vanrose, can actually fight alongside you. Others have skills that are useful out of combat, like the children Halley and Emmy who are light enough to cross rickety bridges that would break under an adult's weight, or the blacksmith Doug who can upgrade your attack and defense.

One interesting system which I wish the game developers had done more with is the trust system. The people you're trying to protect here won't automatically trust in your abilities. You have to earn their trust first - you gain a point with them for every few times you protect them by killing a monster near them, and you lose a point whenever they get hit. Once a character's trust in you is above 0 you get access to their crafting menu and the special items they can make for you.

Unfortunately, that's the limit of the trust system. As I said, I really would have liked to see the developers do more with this mechanic. Maybe characters could unlock new skills or strengthen existing skills as their trust in you grows. Perhaps there could also be more ways of gaining trust than just "kill monsters where your allies can see you."

In all, a really good game, I just wish they did more with it.

KR Rating: [4] GOOD

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Action 52 OWNS: Final

This is the final part of my my Action 52 Owns review. You can find other parts of the series at my Action 52 Owns post tag, here.

(Also, I highly recommend that if you interested in this, skip the previous links and get the Action 52 Owns Launcher.)

I said when I first started this that I was going to keep reviewing games from Action 52 Owns until I finished them all or got bored. Sad to say that as I was playing the games of A52O... well, I got pretty bored with them. I mentioned in my review of the Jigsaw remake that the game was extremely short. Well, that's pretty much the case with all of these.

To be honest, most of these aren't even worth reviewing, either because they're so boringly average they're not worth writing about or because everything I have to say about them could be summed up in one sentence. This puts me into an inconvenient spot as a reviewer where I'm expected to explain why a game is bad when it's really not worth it.

For example, I could tell you all about how Star Evil pads out five minutes of gameplay into hours using impossible difficulty, which might sound good (hours of gameplay!) until you realize there's still only about five minutes worth of interesting stuff (hours of boredom!). I could tell you about how the game's morality meter and multiple endings seemed like an ambitious and cool idea until I realized the morality system was completely broken and neither ending is really all that interesting anyway.

I could tell you all of that stuff, except that Star Evil is a worthless piece of shit game and I'm pretty sure I've already spent more time and thought playing the game and explaining it to you then the game's creator put into planning and developing it.

Don't get me wrong. Not all of these games are bad. I meant every word of praise I gave for Illuminator and Jigsaw. Really, all of the games can be put into a few distinct categories:

Actually Good (Or At Least No Glaring Problems)
Illuminator: See my full review.
STREEMERZ: A Bionic Commando homage that borrows a lot of the goofy stylings of its original counterpart, including clowns and bouncy balls as enemies. Warning: is hard as Hell.
Bubblegirl Rozy: Also a short game, but in a way that feels like it fits for a collection. Good platforming with hidden areas and unlockables, and a decent level of difficulty.
Rocket Jockey: A side-scrolling shooter involving a cowboy riding a rocket, lassoing space-cattle with his laser-lasso. It's goofy but it works.
Non Human: A side-scrolling action game reminiscent of old school Castlevania, wherin you pilot a mecha through the countryside, destroying mutant monsters. Pretty cool and has a lot of replayability despite its short length.
Sombreros: As sherriff you must defeat the thieves that stole your sombreros. Collecting sombreros gives you the ability to slow down time and shoot incoming foes. Has an interesting story, good (if sometimes creepy) humor, and is lots of fun.
Beeps And Blips: A top-down shooter where you navigate through rooms full of enemies and traps. Has an interesting story and decent gameplay.
Storm Over The Desert: The obligatory political game from the original anthology, involves driving tanks through the desert to destroy the evil Satan Hosain. A top-down shooter with no particular problems.

Good Except For A Few Annoying Issues
City of Doom: You climb a building while shooting at alien bugs to kill them. Suffers from a flashing sprite glitch which sometimes causes enemies and projectiles to disappear off your screen, yet still be able to hit you.
Silver Sword: A top-down hack 'n' slash like the original Legend of Zelda, with an interesting gameplay mechanic involving throwing your sword or something, where it changes type based on distance it travels. Hindered by limited saves, "meh" graphics, and poor level design where it will appear you can travel off the edge of a map in a certain spot but you actually can't.
Operation: Full Moon: A top-down shooter involving a moon buggy that shoots at stationary turrets. Boring and repetitive gameplay is made even worse by unresponsive controls.
Meong: A decent puzzle game in the style of old school Legend of Zelda games, where you have to make your way through a series of chambers filled with traps. Fairly long and always gives you something new. Sadly, most of the puzzles are based mostly, if not entirely, on timing and luck rather than skill and logic - a mortal sin for any puzzle game.

Promising But Way Too Short
Jigsaw: See my full review.
Chill Out: Okay, so it's mostly a knock-off of Ice Climbers, but it is still fairly decent with interesting gameplay that kept me entertained for the 12 minutes it lasted me on my first playthrough.
Fuzz Power: The story of a disgraced barber which plays like Mario with Sonic's spin power thrown in. Lasted about 6 minutes.
Time Warp Tickers: A unique and interesting game with a fun mechanic involving flicking enemies with your cat's giant hand mecha. (It's a weird game.) Despite only consisting of one level which you can beat in about 3 minutes, the game has loading times on the order of a minute and a half!
Shooting Gallery: Picture Duck Hunt without a zapper. Actually, don't do that because that sucks. Anyway, you move back and forth and shoot at targets. There's also two-player mode, and a game type called Keepy Uppy where you earn points by shooting a falling ball to keep it in the air. Decent idea, but super short and with so few unique targets to shoot at.
Jupiter Scope: Your spaceship flies back and forth along the bottom of the screen shooting down meteors before they can hit the city. Too bad there's only two types of meteors and one type of enemy. Gets old really fast as a result.
Dedant: You play an ant who has to fend off incoming ants by throwing rocks at them. Similar to Jupiter Scope, it's a promising idea held back by the limited number of opponents - you'll have seen everything the game has to offer after the first couple of levels.
Mash Man: In the developers' own words: "It wasn't much to work with in terms of gameplay, so we decided to focus more on the mood that the original game sets." It is certainly an experience with an interesting story and an awesome alternate ending, but also one of the shortest on here.

Ambitious But Poorly Executed
Critical Bypass: Attempts to be a 3D Starfox-style space shooter, but fails spectacularly. Unlike Starfox, where you could sort of dodge attacks, in CB enemies will shoot you with 100% accuracy lasers after spending about a second on screen, meaning you'll die quick if you can't shoot them first. With a mouse that would be easy, but you have to aim with the arrow keys, which is ridiculously clunky.
Star Evil: You know what Star Evil considers a morality system? Kill enemies to be good. Press the C button to make your character scream cusswords and become evil. No, really. That's it.

So Damn Bad They Shouldn't Exist
Atmos Quake: Sort of like Star Evil except even worse. Boring, goes nowhere, and looks and plays like it was made in a single afternoon.
Alfredo: An uninspired Metroid-wannabe with no enemies save the bosses and only the most basic of platforming challenges. Also shitty graphics, generic powers, and a half-ass story given up on partway through for an even MORE half-ass story.