Peggle Series (Review)

“For fans of Breakout, Pinball and Puzzle Bobble, this is as good as it gets.”

In 2007, PopCap released a little puzzle game that borrowed gameplay elements from several other popular games. This game would come to be known as Peggle, and would be ported to various consoles over time and, in 2008, spawned a sequel called Peggle Nights.

Rather than just reviewing the original Peggle or the sequel, or even any specific version, I’m reviewing every Peggle game instead because, face it, there are very few differences between any of them. Peggle Nights barely even changed from the first game, but that’s not really a bad thing.

So, what is this “Peggle” all about? Well, it’s all about aiming a ball 180 degrees (half a circle) and firing it at coloured pegs. It sounds really simplistic, and it usually is. Simplicity does not equal easy, however.

There are two pegs, blue and orange. Blue pegs are more plentiful and increase your score exponentially. Orange pegs are not as plentiful, and this is because in order to clear a level, you have to shoot and destroy every orange peg.

There are two additional “special” pegs as well. The yellow pegs grant you special abilities and the purple pegs increases the points you will receive for hitting every other peg on the same shot.

Regarding special abilities, what you can use depends on the “animal helper” that you have. If you are playing adventure mode, then you are assigned a different one every ten levels, but if you are playing any other game mode than you can manually choose who to use. These animal chracters don’t serve a lot of purpose other than to give you a different looking avatar at the top of the screen and to grant you different power ups. The unicorn’s special will grant you super precise aiming while the dragon’s special replaces your regular ball with a fireball which demolishes every peg in it’s path.

Levels start out easy, but after clearing about twenty or thirty, the difficulty will jump up significantly. Peggle never gets so hard that you’ll have any rage quits or anything, but it can be difficult enough to challenge you a great deal and make you complain that your shot “shouldn’t have gone there” or “should have hit that peg” and so forth.

That reminds me of the physics. They are quite unpredictable in Peggle, even more than you’ll find in any Pinball game. In order to plot where the ball will go, you will have to stare long and hard at the screen. This isn’t very fun and, like most people, you’ll probably just take whatever shots look best without analyzing the trajectory of the ball too much.

Peggle really shines in multiplayer modes, which I think may only be in the console versions. Essentially, the person who ends up with a higher score will win the level. This means that the person who destroys all orange pegs won’t necessarily be the winner. A little bit of strategy is involved, and it’s good fun.

As I said in the header, anyone who likes Breakout, Pinball, or Puzzle Bobble should enjoy Peggle quite a lot. This game will appeal to many others though, considering the fact that it is a PopCap game. Go over to their website and download a free demo of whatever Peggle game you happen across first if you have never done so. Peggle is quite fun and should be enjoyable to almost everybody.

Final Score

7.9/10

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The Hunter (Review)

“A hunting game where the actual hunting almost takes a back seat.”

I was blasted on a forum I visit regular for playing the The Hunter. If I was still a teenager, my ego probably would’ve been hurt and I would have stopped playing the game. Fortunately I’m an adult with my own mind, and I’m willing to accept that there are people who view The Hunter as disgusting or inhumane, despite the fact that nothing in the game is even real. It is interesting that these are the same people who will beat pedestrians with baseball bats before running them down with cars in Grand Theft Auto and other games. A lot of games are “morally” wrong, and I felt that it was pointless of them to criticize a hunting game considering the fact that the real life activty is educational and productive. Bloody, yes, but it still has benefits such as providing you with food and controlling the population. Anyway, I should be reviewing a game here.

The Hunter is a free to play hunting simulation originally made by Expansive Worlds but now developed and updated by Avalanche Studios (think Just Cause), and was released in March 2009.

In The Hunter, you take on the role of a hunter who you you choose an avatar and name for and set out across Whitehart Island to hunt animals. If you are playing for free, you will only be able to hunt mule deer. If you subscribe, you will be able to hunt several other animals including elk and turkeys.

When you’re not off on your own shooting at things, you will probably be taking on “quests” from a guy named Doc, who I think is the resident expert hunter on Whitehart Island. His quests do not seem to offer any kind of rewards and instead just seem to eixst as a way to familiarize yourself with the gameplay and the island’s geography.

Before I explain how the hunting works, I really want to talk about Whitehart Island. This island is very, very large and takes about an hour to run from one end to the other. It has everything from beautiful beaches, marshes, cliffs, deep forests, and meadows. It truly is a very diverse island and there’s a lot to see. The best part about all of these diverse locations is that they all look really, really good. For a free to play game that is now a year old, the visuals are simply gorgeous. Screenshots do not accurately depict just how pretty the terrain is in this game. Every piece of grass and every leaf on every tree animates realistically. Clouds drift by overhead, realistically blanketing the landscape in shade as it does so. On the topic of shading, it’s very good in The Hunter. There are many shadows in this game, especially when you are in the middle of the woods. The amazing care taken to make the forests look real in The Hunter is very evident, blowing other forest-based games out of the water. After exploring The Hunter’s woods for a few days, looking at the deep forests in Oblivion was like looking at a cartoon. Wild animals also look fairly good in the game. They animate well and have somewhat realistic texturing.

You can’t have attractive graphics without having sound to match, and The Hunter does not disappoint. The ambient sounds in this game are so realistic that it’s frightening. If you were to close your eyes and listen, you could almost feel as if you are in the forest. Crickets, birds, rain drops, wind gusts and the sound of water gently lapping against the shore all sound very convincing. Animal calls are also very convincing, and are real attention getters when the environment is fairly silent. The sound really pulls you in too, as I can remember trying so hard to be completely silent while stalking animals that I could visibly see. Sometimes you will lose sight of your prey in the thick woods, only to have them end up getting extremely close to you, spotting you, and then running away frighteningly fast. The sound that the deer hooves make when they do this is captivating, and in quiet moments, quite shocking to hear out of the blue.

Now, for the hunting portion of the game. The Hunter must be initialized from the game’s website where you choose where you want to hunt. You can check messages, accept quests from Doc, and a few other things on the website as well. When you’re ready to jump into the game, you go to the map screen and choose which lodge to start at. The game will then start up and make you choose your equipment before setting you down ingame outside of a lodge. Equipment ranges from your typical hunting rifles, to animal callers, and to baits and lures.

Finding an animal can take a bit of time. Usually you won’t just happen to see an animal grazing as you stroll down the road. Nine times out of ten, you’re going to have to find out where they are, or bring them to you. To find out where they are, you can use your callers which will attract nearby animals, usually tempting them into making vocal calls back to you. Whenever there is an audible noise from an animal, your Huntermate, which is a small GPS-like device, will pick up on it and tell you what direction it came from. If you tap a button on the Huntermate when this happens, you will be able to track the animal. The Huntermate will kindly let you know where the animal last was and what direction it’s moving in.

Another method of tracking animals is to find droppings or foot prints. The Huntermate picks up on these too, but you’ll likely see these clues before it does since they always have glowing red “domes” around them so that they stick out. I thought that this broke the immersion a little, but considering the fact that these clues would be next to impossible to see without the red glow justifies the decision to illuminate droppings and prints.

Anyhow, when an animal is coming towards you that you are hunting, you will quickly learn that being quiet and taking cover is absolutely vital. If you make one wrong move, the animal is going to pick up on it and either become cautious or just run away without hesitation. If you let them get too close to you before taking a shot, you will find that they almost seem curious of you, wondering what you are as they slowly approach. However, once they are about fifteen feet away, they will clue in and run away so it is best to take a shot before that happens – provided you know which direction an animal is approaching from. I had two deer sneak up on me in a very bushy area. I didn’t see them and they didn’t seem to see me. They only knew that a buck (which was really my doe caller) was beckoning them closer and closer. They got too close and ran away, so that was a botched hunt.

Between looking for animals and then tracking them, and also exploring the beautiful island, you can easily lose yourself for an hour or two at a time in The Hunter if you’re even just a casual fan of hunting. I don’t hunt in real life and only have a minor interest in hunting games, but I found The Hunter to be very engrossing.

Considering that the game is free, I really do recommend trying this game out. If not to enjoy the thrill of the hunt, then at least to admire the animals as well as the beautiful island you are playing on.

Try out The Hunter by clicking here: http://www.thehunter.com/.

Final Score

8.1/10

Evony Antics

Nobody else can make town building and resource harvesting look this erotic.

My first encounter with Evony was last summer sometime. Evony banners, like the one below, were all over the place.

I decided against playing the game, believing it to be another MMORPG that tried to rip off the ultra successful formula of World of Warcraft. It wasn’t until my brother told me that he was playing it, and that it was something very different, that I decided to give it a go.

My brother likened Evony to something like Civilization, but I don’t think that it could even emulate that well. I quickly learned that Evony is just a bland game that makes you build a town, collect resources, and train an army very, very slowly. I realized that one could only be successful in Evony if they had absolutely no life, or if they were willing to spend money on it. That’s right, you could spend real money in Evony to be awarded with fairly pathetic items that don’t even make a colossal difference. To make a super city, you would have to spend quite a lot of money.

Would you be willing to continuously sink money into something that looks like this?

Evony just isn’t worth it at all, it’s horribly boring and is mostly just a game of numbers. Given what the sole purpose of Evony is, to just increase numbers, they should have just made this a text-based game or a web game without pictures. Everything on your screen that has more than two colours is irrelevant.

Anyway, I played Evony for about two weeks, playing it “discreetly” at work like the later ads mentioned. Evony gives you the ability to change the the text in the title bar of your browser, so you can change it to “Google” and minimize it and absolutely nobody would know that it’s Evony unless they maximize it. This is the trick I used at work.

Anyway, I started to become aware that Evony was a waste of time. Around the same time, a wave of new ads for the game appeared on the internet.

I found these ads to be really amusing at first, but the image it gave Evony was certainly a bad one and I found myself feeling embarrassed to be an Evony player and I quit.

It wasn’t long after that things then just got completely out of hand.

Boy, am I ever glad that I stopped playing this last year. Evony’s ad campaign has been getting worse lately, even transforming into “build your own dream girl” flash ads that you can “play.” When you finish building a girl, you are then sent to the Evony site.

Several months ago, PopCap apparently became fed up with the Evony ads as well and decided to parody them in one of the funniest acts on the internet over the past year.

PopCap made their own Evony ads, but in the style of Plants vs Zombies.

Score one for PopCap. This made Evony become the laughing stock of the internet, which was sorely deserved.

Evony continues to receive a lot of complaints about the misleading advertising campaign that the game’s makers continue to use to promote the game. Unfortunately, I can’t see how it is doing any good for a game that is absolutely terrible.

Sure, Evony still has lots of players. However, the point in time in which people who play Evony as laughed at is certainly approaching. Teenagers will have to decide whether they want to play Evony or “look cool” to their online peers and not play, and we all know how much teenagers value being cool in the eyes of others.

Anyway, I have a feeling that Evony’s ridiculous ad campaign is not over and I look forward to seeing what ads come next! I’ve never been happier to not be a player of this pathetic excuse of a game.

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