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

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Back to the Future: The Game (Review)

“A love letter to the fans of the Back to the Future trilogy which should not be missed.”

I was never really a fan of point and click adventure games. I’m not sure if I can offer a valid reason as to why, so I’ll just go ahead and say that the genre as a whole isn’t my cup of tea and I rarely ever like adventure games in even the slightest amount. The only exception, ever, was Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. That game strayed a bit from the typical adventure formula, so it may not even count.

However, I can now say that there is a point and click adventure game that I feel I really and truly enjoy. Back to the Future.

Based on the amazing film trilogy from the late 1980s and early 1990s, Back to the Future: Episode 1 is the first of five stories that will ultimately make up the full game itself and is, in a way, Back to the Future 4.

The game picks up a few months after the end of Back to the Future 3. Doc Brown has been gone for some time and his belongings and property are to be sold off. When the DeLorean unexpectedly shows up outside of the Doc’s house, Marty is practically forced to investigate.

After using the time traveling DeLorean, Marty is taken back to the year 1931 where he finds out that Doc Brown has been imprisoned and is linked to burning down Hill Valley’s speakeasy. The rest of the episode deals with Marty trying to bust the Doc out.

Overall, Episode 1 is fairly short, and most people should be able to get through it in about two and a half to three hours. Considering that there are several more episodes to play through in the coming months, this isn’t such a big deal and I imagine that the full game, complete with all five episodes, will run about as long as most games out there today.

The graphics in Back to the Future aren’t really pushing any boundaries as they aim for a cartoon-like presentation. I found the graphics to be a little off-putting initially, but they quickly grew on me and I ended up liking the graphical style quite a bit. The graphics aren’t bad at all, they’re just done in a different style than we’re used to.

The sounds of the game are pretty decent. Music is mostly in the background and not too distracting, and actual sound effects also take a backseat in favour of the voice acting. The voices are definitely the high point of the game’s sound department. A few actors from the film series lend their voice to the game, the most notable being Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown who does an absolutely awesome job in the role considering he hasn’t had to voice Doc Brown so much in well over a decade. Michael J. Fox unfortunately does not voice Marty, but the guy they got to play Marty (AJ LoCascio) sounds so much like Fox in the films that it is almost scary.

Since the environment is fully 3D and the player has to hold down the mouse and move it around to tell Marty where to go, I found the controls to be a little awkward. I never really seemed to adjust to them, and they are perhaps the greatest strike against the game in my opinion. In this day and age, poor controls are almost impossible to find in a game, so it baffles me that Back to the Future seems to have a control scheme that feels like it was lifted straight out of a ten year old game.

For fans of the Back to the Future series, there are a lot of references and little hidden goodies that the player will spot as they play. Those who are not overly familiar with the film or even the setting won’t notice too much, and will probably just chug through the game.

Overall, this is a very fun adventure game that feels like a love letter to the fans of Back to the Future. If you’re a fan of the movies, then you’ll most certainly have a lot of fun with this game. However, if the franchise doesn’t really appeal to you, then this game may not be your cup of tea solely because the game practically relies on the player knowing the characters and the setting. People who haven’t watched the movies or bothered to remember finer details will probably have absolutely no idea that Kid Tannen is the father of Biff Tannen, the fellow who bothered Marty’s father in high school.

So, if you like the Back to the Future series, then this is definitely a game that you should play! If you’re not, then check out the movies before playing this game.

Final Score

8.5/10

 

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

Brain Challenge (Review)

“Exercising your brain has never been this much fun.”

When I wanted to put a decent game on my BlackBerry Bold 9700 a few months back, I wasn’t sure what to go with. I had tried Mega Man 3, but found the controls to be absolutely terrible. This ruled out platformers. I thought for a while about what would work on a keypad based mobile phone. The answer was Brain Challenge.

Brain Challenge consists of practice modes and daily IQ/stress tests that determine how much of your brain you’re using, or how stressed you may be. I don’t consider these tests to be entirely accurate, but it’s fun trying to improve your score day after day.

The tests present you with games that force you to use a wide variety of skills, such as memory, timed reflexes, and mathematics. Some of the games are quite fun, such as the one that makes you select which path a frog will traverse and which point he will end up at. Others are not so fun to me, like the one that has you trying to press a button on your phone the very second that a black outline aligns itself with a shape’s outer perimeter.

The better you do at the games, the harder they will be next time you play them. Over time, I recognized a very significant jump in the difficulty of the memory based games, which the game tells me I am best at.

The controls are great on the BlackBerry Bold. Using the trackball is a real joy, as it is more responsive than any video game controller. I have very rarely made mistakes while playing any of the games in Brain Challenge, though I have been slow to input my answers a few times because the BlackBerry trackball can in fact be very sensitive, but this is not the game’s fault.

Sound is actually quite annoying in Brain Challenge, and I always find myself turning it off to prevent myself from getting a headache. It does sound quite bad, especially the main menu music which I fear not even the composer of it may love.

While it isn’t going to win any awards, Brain Challenge is a great puzzle game to play on the go or when you have a few minutes to kill, and is probably my favourite game that I have on my BlackBerry, beating out The Sims 3 and Guitar Hero 5 Mobile by a very large margin. If puzzle games are your thing and you have a BlackBerry, give this one a shot.

Final Score

7/10