Grand Prix Story (Review)

Last year I reviewed Kairosoft’s Game Dev Story which put you in charge of an upstart video game development team. I loved every minute of it, but when I conquered the game I was left wanting more. Thankfully it wasn’t long after that Kairosoft released another sim game that appeals to me, and that game is Grand Prix Story.

The idea behind Grand Prix Story is simple. You want to become the best racing team there ever was, though you start with absolutely nothing at your disposal and have to slowly crawl your way up the racing world’s ladder in order to achieve any success at all. Basically this is Game Dev Story, but with cars instead of games.

Your task is to hire drivers and mechanics to develop and research new cars and technologies in order to win various races and progress through championships that become progressively harder as you go. Naturally you’ll need money to hire staff, and you’ll be forking over more dough to each of them since every NPC demands a salary. Every development, research item, and upgrade also costs money. This game is essentially a giant vacuum that is sucking your digital money up like Cookie Monster does with cookies. To cover the costs of your endless activities, you’ll pretty much be entering races non-stop.

The best part about the races in this game? You get to watch them! This far exceeds having the race simulated and then being told what the results are. Qualifying laps for races are unfortunately simulated, but they are pretty representative of the quality of both your car and driver. If you have a good combination with adequate stats, then you should qualify on pole or near it. The times you will see in qualifying seem to be completely random though! Pole sitters may manage thirty second lap times on tracks that normally take upwards of fifty seconds to complete a lap of. To make things even stranger, the qualifying times are never close. The driver on pole may set a time of forty five seconds while the guy starting in eighth may have set a time that’s a full minute behind. On such short tracks, it feels a little odd to see these numbers. It’s not too big of an issue in races though, because the actual racing is always very close.

So what do you use prize money for in this game? First, there is hiring drivers and mechanics. You’ll be deciding who to hire based on their attributes. Higher numbers are obviously better, so you’ll want to hire the best people you can find. Half the fun in hiring drivers is in their names. They are mostly all parodies of real life drivers (mostly Formula 1). After playing for a little while, I was fielding two drivers named Kimi Kone and Mike Shoe. Anyone who has paid any attention to Formula 1 will know which two drivers are being parodied with those names! It’s quite funny to see that Kairosoft tried to capture their appearances in sprite-form here, as Mike Shoe very clearly looks like a little pixelated Michael Schumacher.

After you hire your staff, you can periodically train them by having them go jogging, reading, or even joyriding. Each activity costs a small sum of money and will increase the stats of your staff member peforming the training. Note that if you train a staff member too much in a short period of time, you’ll deplete their energy and leave them performing inadequately until their energy bar recharges.

R&D is where you’ll sink most of your money. Researching new cars (and then building them) can put a serious dent in your team’s wallet, but the results usually pay off if you have competent staff members working on your projects. When you’re not racing, researching and upgrading will be taking up all of your time. As if reseearching and upgrading cars wasn’t enough, you’re also responsible for doing the same with individual car parts such as engines, tires, and other performance enhancing parts. It then costs money to outfit your cars with researched and upgraded parts.

When you’re first starting out, this game will suck you dry. I wasn’t even playing for ten minutes before I was given “extra funds from a bank account” or something of the sort, because apparently my assistant was terrified that I was going to run the team into the ground despite the fact that I didn’t feel like such a thing would happen, nor did it ever occur. Grand Prix Story will turn you into a poverty-striken team boss for the first hour or so but, after that, you’ll find yourself comfortably staying afloat with ease. As was the case with Game Dev Story, you will reach a point in the game where you simply start dominating and become unstoppable. However, unlike in Game Dev Story, that point is harder tor each in Grand Prix Story due to all of the various car parts and pieces that you have to micromanage alongside taking care of your staff members. As far as depth goes, there’s definitely a lot more of it here than there was in Game Dev Story. There’s really no comparison, though I do miss the fun process of making games in Game Dev Story. Developing cars is fun here in Grand Prix Story, but it’s not as entertaining. However, the racing sequences are far better than Game Dev Story’s equivalent, which was simply reviewers awarding scores to your games.

Graphics are typical Kairosoft fare. There’s nothing truly spectacular looking as all graphics are 2D backgrounds and sprites. Still, Kairosoft’s graphics always have a really charming personality to them and Grand Prix Story’s visuals are no different. The appearances of some of the staff members made me crack a smile (Mike Shoe especially), and some of the cars look really interesting. It’s also fun watching your crews working busily in the team garage.

Sound isn’t stellar, but it is a definite step up from what I had to endure in Game Dev Story which had pretty subpar music and sound effects. Grand Prix Story doesn’t exactly have good music or sound effects, but they’re still somewhat endearing and enjoyable. I wouldn’t say that they’re grating or repetitive, but you’re also not missing anything by turning your volume down.

Grand Prix Story is definitely worth checking out if you’re into Kairosoft’s sim games or like racing management games in general. This game isn’t nearly as deep as the more serious management sims out there, but it’s still a lot of fun when you want to manage a racing team on the go.

Final Score

8.5/10

Pros:
+ Graphics are charming, cute and simple. It’s hard not to like them.
+ Immense amount of R&D will always give you something to work on.
+ Races are fun to watch, especially when they’re close.

Cons:
– Not as much customization as there was in Game Dev Story.
– Music and sound aren’t worth writing home about.
– Questionable times in qualifying sessions will puzzle most players.

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Game Dev Story (Review)

Why are you reading this review instead of playing the game?!

Throughout 2011, I heard about Game Dev Story an awful lot. Professional reviewers were praising the game and apparently it was selling really well on app stores. Well, about half a year after the game’s release on iOS, I decided to dust my iPod Touch off and check the game out.

So, what is Game Dev Story? A very basic summary is that you are in charge of a video game development company (games, staffing, etc.) and must turn it into an industry crushing behemoth! Does this sound fun? Well if you have a fondness for simulation games (think anything by Maxis) or just video game development in general, then this game should definitely appeal to you.

Players start off with a pretty small office to work out of and, right off the bat, your secretary will ask you to hire three employees to get the company started. Potential hirees all come with various silly names that poke fun at the entertainment industry (Donny Jepp, Stephen Jobson, Walt Sidney). These NPCs all have job-specific titles such as coder, producer, writer, and so forth. Each title implies what field the characters excel at. Each hirable NPC also has four main statistics – programming, scenario, graphics, and sound. These four statistics will, ultimately, be the deciding factors in who you hire and who you give passes to. They will determine how good your employees are at designing your games. The programming statistic generally improves overall development of the games and the proposal writing of each game. Scenario affects how creative your games will be, which is vital in the grand scheme of the game. Graphics and sound are, predictably, the graphics and sound of your games.

Players will have to choose which consoles are right to develop for and when.

When you start, employees will have very low statistics. Because of this fact you should not expect your games to succeed very much in the beginning and they will, at best, just cover lost expenses.However, as you gradually make more money off of your stinkers that you release, you’ll be able to level up and train your employees so that they become more skilled. Leveling up is pretty basic and simply uses research points, a sort of currency you earn from simply working on and debugging games. Training is a different story and requires you to spend your company’s actual money. You can choose various activities for your employees to train in, and all will increase at least one of the four statistics possessed by them. Eventually, simply leveling and training your employees becomes less and less beneficial over time and, once they appear to be at their limits without having oodles of cash thrown into training them, you have to command your secretary to bring in a batch of new applicants who are hopeful to work for you. In most cases, you will have to fire an existing employee to hire a new one, but this is rarely a problem since the new employees are usually better except for very late in the game. The only downside to firing long time employees is that you may feel a little sad letting go of an employee that you’ve had working for your company since the start of the game.

In terms of actually making games, there is a fun amount of options here. You get to choose the console to develop for along with the game’s name, genre, and theme. Want to make a cowboy RPG called Space Goons? Feel free to do that! If the RPG genre and cowboy theme are both popular at the time of the game’s development, then Space Goons could easily become a smash hit! As the years go by, the general public will be more partial to certain genres and themes than others. One year they may want action games and the next they might want racing games. It is not essential to give the public what they want because, if your staff is skilled enough, the game will succeed regardless. Still, adhering to the demands of the public will usually always net you at least 25% more in overall sales. You really can’t say no to that, can you?

Winning the coveted grand prize at the Global Game Awards will be high on your list of objectives to fulfill.

Every now and then, new consoles will be announced by companies that parody real life corporations (Senga releases the Exodus, Sonny will unveil the Playstatus, etc.) and you will have to pay handsome licensing fees to develop for these new devices. Since older consoles will eventually become obsolete and stop selling entirely, it is essentially to jump ship to newer and better consoles when you have the funds available to do so.

There are two annual events that are eventually introduced which also parody real life counterparts. GameDex is an annual convention that is clearly Game Dev Story’s version of E3. You can choose how much to spend on your company’s booth and presentation at Game Dex, or you can choose not to go entirely. This will, however, affect your popularity with the fanbase you’ve amassed over time. The second event is the Global Game Awards. This is basically the Oscars, but for games. There are a few categories to win (including the silly “worst game of the year”), but players will ultimately want their games to win the grand prize of the award show which is simply titled “the grand prize.” By winning it, you will be rewarded with a nice one million dollar prize. This is very helpful at the start of the game, but tends to feel pretty miniscule later on. The problem with this is that you are incredibly unlikely to win the grand prize for a few years at least and, when you do, it just isn’t much of a big deal anymore.

In terms of presentation, I have to commend this game for having a very cute look to it that is a breeze to navigate. Graphics are very reminiscent of the 16 bit era and are exceptionally easy on the eyes. Since Game Dev Story is a Japanese developed game, you can of course expect a few colourful and silly looking scenes which should make you smile. The sound of the game is a different story though, and I had to turn the music off within minutes of playing. It truly is horrendous to listen to, and the sound effects are only marginally better.

Fictional magazine reviewers will rate your games upon release and this can drastically affect your sales.

Ignoring the fact that this game has pretty bad music and sound effects, the rest of the package is really incredible. If you like simulation titles, then you will have a lot of trouble putting this game down as you will frequently find yourself saying “I’ll just make one more game, but then I have to get up” only to find yourself making five, six, maybe seven more games before you manage to put your iOS device down! The gameplay truly is addictive, but in a very pleasant way. Is Game Dev Story worth checking out? Without a doubt. Hop to it, folks!

Pros:
+ Amazing replay value with each game being a new experience.
+ Graphics are charming, cute, and simple.
+ Very easy game to pick up and play with no prior experience.

Cons:
– The sound is bad. Really, really bad. Final score isn’t 9+ because of it alone.
– Certain gameplay aspects become pointless over time.
– It’s not available to console and PC gamers!

Final Score

8.6/10

Flying Hamster (Review)

“An excessively crazy and cute side scrolling shooter that anyone can pick up and enjoy.”

While poking around the Playstation Store’s Minis section for something to play on my PSP, I happened across a curious sounding title. Flying Hamster. I read the description and realized that the game was side scrolling shooter, like Gradius or R-Type. Considering the fact that the player assumed the role of a hamster, I just had to check the game out to see what it was like. Well, after playing the game quite frequently on my PSP, I can say that it’s a pretty fantastic shooter.

In Flying Hamster, you play as a hamster who is constantly trying to rescue his girlfriend hamster from the clutches of evil. Just before the start of each level, the protagonist’s girlfriend is captured by the boss of the next level. It’s all done in a really adorably cartoon-like anime style that you can’t help but chuckle over. The game’s cuteness is so over the top that it is absurd. That does not mean that the game is just a cute little romp for kiddies, no. While the presentation of the game may be very sugar coated, there is a very dark sense of humour in this game. In the first level, cows that use their udders as machine guns attack the player, and in the following level that is set in the desert, penguins with parasols try to shoot down the player with pistols. Yes, you read that right… Penguins in the desert.

The joy of Flying Hamster is that it makes practically no sense at all. The game is just mindless fun, and it plays like something straight out of 1990. If the graphics were a little lower quality, this game could easily pass as something straight out of the Super Nintendo’s library. That is in no way a bad thing, since the Super Nintendo had a healthy amount of fun shooters. Flying Hamster is perhaps even more enjoyable than any shooter on the SNES. The game’s insane levels of quirkiness help it along quite a lot, but the gameplay is also extremely solid. Controls are very fluid and precise, so missing your targets or failing to avoid incoming projectiles will always be your own fault.

Flying Hamster is divided up into roughly half a dozen stages which are all themed. Throughout the stages, the player will have to dodge all sorts of zig-zagging enemies and projectiles while shooting down obstacles and stage bosses. The bosses are pretty fun in this game and definitely make you smile. The bosses start out moderately easy with a giant owl that shoots homing lasers from it’s eyes, but the game will quickly ramp up the difficulty slightly, though the game never becomes as difficult as other games in the genre. I think most of the reason for this game being fairly easy is the fact that you are able to take three hits before dying instead of just one, and the powerups are pretty darn powerful.

My two favourite power-ups are the beer and the fire. The beer will make the player squirt little dabs of beer, but when it is charged up, prepare for projectile vomit-like streams of beer! It’s a prett gross (but hilarious sight) and, fortunately, it’s strong as hell too. The fire is in the same boat as the beer. If you fire it without charging it, you’ll just shoot off weak little shots, but when the fire attack is charged, our little hamster spews a steady stream of fire that obliterates everything in it’s way! There are many other power-ups to collect, such as homing bees and boomerange bananas. All of them are pretty silly and should put a smirk on your face.

The presentation is what really sells this game, though. The graphics are ridiculously cute (just look at the screenshots in the review) and the music is so light-hearted and fun. It really is impossible not to be captivated by this charming little game. I had a recent play session of the game where I hooked my PSP up to my TV and everyone in the room got a kick out of all of the hilarious and silly things happening on the screen.

I honestly cannot give this game a low score or not recommend it to anyone. It’s such a lot of fun to play, and the crazy presentation of the game even appeals to people who don’t like side scrolling shooters. For only a few bucks on the Playstation Store (as well as on the iPhone App Store), you really can’t go wrong with having this game in the palm of your hands.

Final Score

9/10

WackyLands Boss (Review)

“A game that finally lets us fulfill our boyhood fantasies of being fifty feet tall and capable of destroying farming villages.”

WackyLands Boss is a game with an extremely simple premise. In this quirky little game, you are supposed to play as the bad guy. You see, you get to control a character known as “The Boss” which is a essentially a giant ogre that is capable of tearing through the ranks of the “heroes” who come at your boss in waves upon waves in an effort to bring it down.

The gameplay is moderately enjoyable, hovering somewhere around the average mark. You move your boss left and right through stages, using various light and heavy attacks along with a few special attacks that you can perform when your rage bar fills up, which does so whenever you take damage.

I found WackyLands Boss to be fairly fun to play, because it was interesting to be able to play as a screen filling giant for once. I wasn’t really able to connect with the game’s supposed story however, which just involves destroying the countryside merely because you’re one bad dude. The story indicates that heroes are out to stop you, but instead you will just find lots and lots of identical looking characters with identical sound effects rushing at you, and none of them are any bit difficult to dispatch. Even the bosses are frighteningly easy.

The sound really isn’t worth mentioning a whole lot. All sound effects are incredibly generic, and the cries and screams from the heroes you kill or set on fire can be simply annoying at times. The music is pretty low key and just feels like background noise most of the time. The music doesn’t sound bad or anything, it just isn’t immersive at all.

The graphics are without a doubt the best part of this game. Your “boss” is more often than not very goofy looking or even downright cute depending on how you customize it. In between levels, you are able to customize it’s face or buy clothes and weapons for it. There are lots of hilarious combinations that you can make with the eyes and mouth, and I got quite a kick out of making my guy look absolutely thrilled and happy as he squashed knights and set archers on fire.

WackyLands Boss is not a revolutionary game at all, but it has some interesting ideas that aren’t implemented nearly often enough in games these days. The gameplay is pretty decent and certainly has some charm, though it can get repetitive very quickly and can suffer from being far too easy of a game.

Final Score

7.6/10

Crystal Defenders (Review)

“A surprisingly pleasantly tower defense game that can roll with the best of them.”

It’s difficult for any tower defense game aspiring to be the “next big thing” to really make it on the scene anymore thanks to PopCap’s Plants vs Zombies. Crystal Defenders, by Square-Enix, is one of those rare tower defense games that is not only very enjoyable, but is good enough to challenge the behemoth that is Plants vs Zombies.

Crystal Defenders is a Final Fantasy themed tower defense game that takes place on fairly large maps which require the player to place various different units down to deter the oncoming waves of monsters. The objective is to prevent the monsters from reaching your crystals at the end of the path. Each map is essentially just a long road that the monsters walk. They never attack you directly, but the threat of them snatching your crystals is always very real. If you lose all twenty crystals, it’s game over.

The selection of units appears limited when you first play, but you quickly get used to it. There are six classes to choose from most of the time and the most common are soldier, black mage, archer, white monk, thief, and time mage. Soldiers are the brute force of your army and essentially just hit hard – really hard! Black mages thrust fire spells at oncoming monsters and, along with the long range archers, are able to hit airborne monsters. White monks are average fighters who do not hit as hard as soldiers, but they have the ability to hit several monsters at once. Thieves cannot attack, but if a monster dies within their line of sight, you will get a huge cash bonus. Time mages, of course, possess weak attacks and the ability to slow monsters down.

There are various summons as well, each consuming five crystals when called, making them very risky to use. One summon, Phoenix, pumps up the attack and abilities of your army for the duration of the attack wave, while the Ramuh summon unleashes a devastating lightning attack across the entire map that will deliver lethal damage to all living monsters. Both sound very useful but, as I said, they consume five crystals when summoned. The whole point of the game is to protect the crystals, so really the only time to use one of these summons is when you believe that five or more monsters will reach the end, since most monsters steal one crystal each.

With each kill, you are awarded gold which goes towards leveling up your units. Once you are several waves in, it becomes apparent that the key to success isn’t placing many units but leveling up the ones you have already deployed instead.

The gameplay is simple and never gets too complicated, but it is extremely strategic and, when you clear a wave of monsters that seems particularly difficult or frustrating, you get a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Winning in Crystal Defenders really does feel extremely rewarding due to it’s ruthless nature, which is much more than I can say for the casual-friendly Plants vs Zombies.

The graphics are pretty basic and look like late PS1 or early PS2 graphics. The entire map and all units are 2D sprites, but since this is Square-Enix you just know that the graphics have to be at the very least decent looking. They’re not overglorified, but they do the job and are in some ways mildly cute.

Crystal Defenders’ music is very impressive, though. It sounds a lot like the music from Final Fantasy Tactics, which is no bad thing at all. The music may seem like a bit too much for a tower defense game at times, but that does not hurt the game or the music at all. Crystal Defenders is a real joy to listen to, believe me.

Overall, Crystal Defenders is a fantastic tower defense game and I feel that it is impossible for me to choose between this and Plants vs Zombies as the better tower defense game. If you’re a fan of old school tower defense games, or like Plants vs Zombies but want something a little rougher, then this is the game for you.

Crystal Defenders is available on the 360, PSP, Playstation 3, Wii, and most mobile phones. Since pretty much everyone owns at least one of those platforms, there really is no excuse to miss this game if tower defense is your thing. Check it out.

Final Score

8.6/10

Tekken Resolute (Review)


“The game to buy if you want to smash Nina Williams’ face in on the go.”

Imagine my surprise when I found out that there was a Tekken game available on the BlackBerry App World. I could not imagine my little BlackBerry Bold 9700 being able to run a 3D Tekken game, so I was suspicious at first. After checking out the screenshots of the game however, I learned that this was a 2D fighter. Quite a change for Tekken! As a huge fan of the Tekken franchise, I purchased the game for a few dollars and gave it a try.

The most upsetting thing that I learned right away is that the game will not play music and sound effects at the same time, forcing you to pick which you would rather hear. This was a little disappointing, as both the music and sound effects make the Tekken experience into what it is.

From the main menu, you can choose between a few options. Arcade, Story, Practice, and Tekken Force are all present. There is also a “Custom” option on the main menu, which I presume is for making your own outfits.

Tekken Force and Custom are locked initially, and I have not experienced either feature since, well, the game just isn’t interesting enough for me to want to unlock them. I have a pretty good idea as to how Tekken Force would play anyway, and I severely doubt that the custom costumes would be any good at all in this mobile Tekken game. So, let’s head straight to the reason why anyone would even buy this game – to play some Tekken!

There are eight characters. Jin, Kazuya, King, Law, Nina, Paul, Xiaoyu, and Yoshimitsu. Initially, only Jin and Xiaoyu are available. The rest of the cast must be unlocked by completing game modes.

I immediately took notice of the graphics when my first fight began. They are really quite nice for a mobile fighter. The backgrounds look fairly vibrant and the character sprites animate very well, except for King who seems to be suffering from the worst case of Parkinson’s that I have ever seen. King, in his idle stance, is moving and shuffling at a frighteningly uncontrollable speed, and it just looks very awkward. The rest of the characters look just fine though, and I was actually genuinely impressed. They really do look pretty decent, and I could tell that effort was put into the sprites.

The controls aren’t as bad as what I’ve had to endure in some other games on my BlackBerry (I’m looking at you, Mega Man 3), but they leave a lot to be desired for. If you are exceptionally lazy, you can play the entire game with just the BlackBerry’s trackpad. Pressing it will make your character perform a punch while moving your finger across it will, of course, make your character move as well. If you want a little more depth (which you should), you can perform other kicks and punches by pressing a few buttons on your phone’s keypad. All attack and movement buttons are cluttered together, so if you are on a BlackBerry Bold such like I am, the controls become difficult to manage and many mistakes will be had. The game is certainly playable however, it’s just very difficult to adjust to.

The music and sound effects are hardly even sufficient in this game, and you can tell that they are of a very low quality. I find that I enjoy the game most with the sounds turned off.

Despite the fact that this game has a story mode, there isn’t much of a story at all beyond the characters trash talking each other during matches. The interaction between Jin and Paul alone was cringe-worthy.

The fighting itself is awfully simple, which could be expected from a mobile fighter. AI opponents have a habit of just walking into attacks, and they are really slow at being any bit defensive. Wins will come often and easily, and there is literally no point in trying to pull of any signature moves with your chosen characters because they won’t be needed.

The gameplay really isn’t too bad. It’s flawed and lacks a lot of depth, but it can briefly hold my attention. It’s not really awful or anything, it just doesn’t have anything to hook me and make me want to keep playing. I suppose that I could just say that the gameplay is bland.

Overall, this game could serve as a decent two or three minute diversion, but it is unlikely that you will want to sink much time into this game to unlock all of the goodies it presents when you can just as easily do that on Tekken 6 for the 360, PSP, or 360, or on Tekken Tag Tournament 2 next summer. Still, it’s enjoyable in small doses. If you want to beat up some popular Tekken characters on the go, then this may be a decent game to check out for only a few dollars.

Final Score

6.2/10