At first glance, Death vs. Monstars 2 seems much too similar to its prequel to warrant a higher rating or to be considered a better game. However, GameReclaim's latest arena shooter is a tremendous improvement while still maintaining the original's intense, frantic gameplay. The goal of each level is to destroy all enemy waves while avoiding both your foes and incoming fire. Along with 15 brand-new stages and 4 bosses to shoot down, there's also several challenge levels and a score attack mode thrown into the mix, providing you with hours of frenetic fun!
Death vs. Monstars has always been known for its mouse-only control scheme, which once again makes a comeback in DvM2. Death automatically fires in the opposite direction in which you move. Love it or hate it, the controls still work, even though it's sometimes tough to aim. Thankfully, holding the left mouse button allows you to strafe while locking your fire in one direction.
You can spend money dropped by the monstars at the shop to buy weapons, upgrades, and skins. It's always interesting to see Death with a top hat! You can even purchase some unique abilities, such as a shield, bullet-time, the destructive death ray. A common complaint is that there's no coin magnet, but this adds to the challenge of maxing out your upgrades, and farming easier levels for cash isn't difficult. Another gripe is the lack of an auto-pause option when your mouse goes offscreen, which is especially frustrating during a boss fight or when swarms of enemies are coming in from all sides. Sadly, all the stages feel very similar, and there's little to no variation in these levels. All this being said, DvM2 is a great game with minimal lag in spite of its chaotic appearance. Highly recommended to all shoot-em-up enthusiasts!
Notebook Wars 3 is a commendable shoot-em-up experience from Francisco Ferreres and Coolbuddy Games. Although it's unremarkably similar to the previous titles in the series, NW3 still adds a few interesting elements that make it a total blast to play for at least half an hour. Featuring the original hand-drawn art, a survival mode and a plethora of new-fangled enemies, weapons, and add-ons, this is the biggest and most action-packed Notebook Wars yet! Gliding across grid paper and launching radioactive sausages from your colourful flying fort has never been so fun!
But before you get to launching those sausages, you'll need to visit the Hangar, purchase some weapons, and customize your ship. You earn money by shooting down enemies and collecting the spoils. Other more elusive pickups include health kits, screen-clearing bombs that annihilate every enemy in sight, and the ultra-rare gold bullions. Bullions are ridiculously difficult to obtain and you could go for hours without finding enough bullions to buy anything decent. Up to two add-ons can be applied to each ship, but they cannot be removed or sold. As far as gameplay goes, what really drives the player is the huge variety of ships and weapons available for purchase. You'll definitely want to see what each weapon does at first, but once you see them demonstrated by your foes, you may decide that saving money for the more powerful guns is a better option.
Sadly, both the graphics and the gameplay have barely changed from its predecessors. NW3 suffers from a glaring lack of interesting bosses and creative stage design. The overall slowness of each level might hinder people from finishing the game; once you played about four levels, you've pretty much seen it all. Although there is a "Frenetic Mode" that supposedly makes the game more difficult, it actually plays at a decent speed with the exact same enemy patterns. After switching to Frenetic once, the sluggish Normal Mode is almost unbearable. A monotonous soundtrack does not compliment this at all, and it seriously grates on your ears within a few minutes of playing. Those boring blips and beeps that are used for sound effects forced me to hit Mute more than once.
In the end, Notebook Wars 3 is not without its flaws, and what it really lacks is something that marks it as different, something that makes it stand out from the rest of the shoot-em-ups out there. It's a fun game, but it just missed the mark from being truly great.
Far in the east, a wicked, ancient dragon reawakens, disturbing Winterfront's peaceful, snowless winters and summoning the forces of evil to run down the land's not-so beautiful forests and fields. To stop their impending doom, the inhabitants of Old Rock Castle take the most logical course of action and hire mercenaries to do the dirty work for them...and you just happen to be the mercenary leader. Are you up to the task? Elite Games' Hired Heroes takes you on a time-consuming humdrum of a journey across the land of Winterfront to confront and slay this evil dragon. It's not uncommon to find another RPG with a pitiful, under-developed plot, but sadly, its gameplay does not quite make up for its lack of story.
There are twelve, unmemorable heroes to unlock, but you may only use a select few in each level. Conveniently, eight of these heroes are simply stronger palette swaps of the first four. Before engaging in battle, you are given a certain amount of points to hire heroes, and there's no way to increase this total. You may then choose up to three relics to aid you in battle. Your prowess in combat is not determined by level-ups or even abilities, but by these very relics. Relics can enhance your strength, defense, health, regen, and move/ability range, but some relics also decrease other stats. They can all be purchased at the shop in the World Map, but you can't get any enemies to drop items. This system ends up being much more unhelpful than useful, especially since farming for money is miserably slow. Revisiting beaten levels is hardly worth it because it gets you mere pennies for winning and absolutely nothing after a loss. In Hired Heroes, money equals power!
It goes without saying that the game drags. Battles are turn-based ordeals in which you click your characters, move 'em, attack, and end your turn. You can choose to end your turn early, but the system is set up so that it's hard to switch smoothly between moving and attacking. There are some cool strategies to pull off, such as hiding ranged heroes behind melee units or using your area healers to attack and heal units at the same time. However, the overpowered, regenerating enemies have intense splash damage, range and raw power, which makes for a despicably tough nightmare of an RPG.
As I said before, the shallow background story could have been overlooked if the dry, turn-based gameplay had made up for it. It doesn't help that the in-game dialogue is riddled with unsightly typos and incredibly cheesy jokes. Instead, the lack of polish and replayability make this game almost entirely un-fun. While the 2D sprite artwork is commendable, the boring world names, such as "Small Village" and "North Forest", accurately describe the Hired Heroes' overall blandness. It's annoying how your strength is mainly based on relics, and if you choose the wrong ones, it's really hard to get more money. Hired Heroes just felt like it was missing something, an extra oomph to make it different from the average RPG adventure. You shouldn't play this for more than an hour unless you really want to see what that dragon looks like, and that's not quite worth it.
Ever since the release of Bejeweled in 2001, match-3 games have really been starting to show their age. Flash game developers have been hard pressed to find a new way to revolutionize the genre without doing something that has been done before. Mochi Media's first-inhouse game takes a very unique turn-based battle approach in an attempt to breathe new life into this exhausted concept. Does it work? Here's the scoop!
The first major discovery you'll make in the world of Biogems will be the spectacular, cartoon-style artwork. The game simply sparkles with intensity. Mochi's Dominique Ferland has seriously brought on his radical artistic flair with this one. All the menus, characters and gems have been polished to perfection. Everything looks like they popped straight out of a comic, and that's a good thing! It really meshes with the goofy and quirky astro-creature conflict without taking anything away from the addictive gameplay. The stellar sound effects and pumped up soundtrack also add a incredible dimension to the Biogems experience.
When you finally begin playing, you'll get to choose your anthropomorphic space pet avatar, and then breeze past the hazy and generally unimportant plot to your first duel. Almost everyone knows how these kinds of games work: you swap any gem with an adjacent gem to create a line of three or more matching gems. This blows up the matching gems and summons new gems from the top of the screen to fill the empty spaces on the grid. But the twist lies in how every gem colour have diverse effects in battle, such as unleashing a special attack or filling your rage meter. It is worth mentioning that matching four or five gems awards you with an extra turn. This battle match-3 method works surprising smoothly, although the AI does follow a predictable pattern. Eventually, defensive matching becomes a much more effective strategy towards the end of the game. This essentially sucks out the fun of pummelling your enemy to a pulp since gameplay will suddenly be based on patience. Knowing when to attack and defend is crucial, although victory often depends on a great deal of luck.
Since you share the same board with your opponents, your options will become very limited, especially when you encounter stronger opponents that hit hard and gain increased bonuses. However, there are many ways to turn the tides in your favour, such as swiping all the energy gems when your opponent can no longer attack or swapping defense and counterattack gems on the same turn. The ability to skip a turn would have been nice, but rarely do you need to wait for the 20 second move timer to expire before realizing that you can line up another explosive combo. While some casual gamers may find Biogems to be too difficult, you can obtain rubies to upgrade your character after every fight. Matching shiny gems during a match allows you to collect more rubies to spend at the upgrade shop before your engaging in your next battle. Even though the game gets kind of unexciting after a few hours, Biogems is an innovative and fresh take on a popular genre.
Sky 9 Games' latest 2D beat-em-up sends us back in time to the Roman Empire, where tales of betrayal, bloodshed and revenge have been dramatized for us in a slightly untruthful yet entertaining way. In Siegius Arena, you assume the role an unnamed centurion who has been double-crossed and backstabbed (literally) by one of his own men in the Dacian Wars. He is promptly sentenced to death in the Arena, where he is forced to take up arms and fight for his life.
You'll have a grand old time hacking and slashing through the bloodthirsty masses, albeit not without finding a few gimmicks. There are three battle arenas, each one more difficult than the last. You raise the crowd's "excitement bar" by cutting down everyone who comes across your path without getting hit. When the excitement bar is full, pressing Spacebar activates your ultimate attack. While all this sounds reminiscent of a normal beat-em-up, the controls are somewhat wooden, and the sluggish movement of your character will lead to his to untimely death more than once.
Later opponents are stronger palette swaps of previous enemy types, and the lackluster action makes for a mindless button mashing experience that offers little in the way of replayability. Stunlocking and the good ol' hit-and run strategy are both extremely effective. A flurry of light attacks can deal the same amount of damage as one heavy attack within seconds, rendering both the latter and the purchasable throwing javelins next to useless. Unless you are unnaturally skilled, you'll likely have to go to previous levels to farm for gold. This becomes a tedious grindfest that may force you to stop playing out of boredom. When not engaged in battle, the shops provide you with overpriced weapons, items, and spells on which to spend your well-earned loot. This equipment is absolutely necessary to turn the tide of battle, to the point where this game could almost be titled "Shop Arena". Unfortunately, most of the helpful upgrades stay locked until later in the game.
In spite of what has been said, Siegius Arena somehow still manages to be interesting and fun. This game has great visuals and a bold atmosphere, taking on a much more serious tone than the original Siegius RTS. Its rousing, majestic soundtrack fits perfectly into this mold, but I feel there are not enough varying tracks spread out through its 36 levels. Siegius Arena is a great half hour endeavour to help you vent your frustrations during a coffee break. However, it's plagued by repetitive gameplay, long load times and significant difficulty jumps. If you are looking for a hack-n-slash with replay value and a plot, find another game.