Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Get TreeTD With Some Fun Defense Gaming

The defense genre of gaming is one I thought would be hashed and rehashed by now. Originally limited to games where you defended a castle, there have been variations that have you defending gardens, redneck retreats, temples, cities, bowling alleys... and now, trees. Yes, trees.

This time, in TreeTD: Tower Defense, you set up your towers on, of all things, some branches. They sure seem pretty sturdy for the amount of firepower you can call up. The goal here is to take potshots at marble-like baddies as they roll down the limbs of the tree toward the roots. Lose enough lives and the game ends.

There's enough difference in your towers to make the gameplay interesting: there are Pebble Towers (stinky), Water, Lightning, Rock, Metal, Earth, and Fire. The elemental towers (Earth, Air, Fire, Water), like in the science they taught me in first grade, are each superior over one elemental form of bad guy. Earth beats Water enemies handily, Water beats Electric enemies, and so on. Metal and Rock? They beat everything, man. Metal fires really slowly and isn't that accurate, but it does monster damage when it hits something. One of the cool mechanics of this game is how some bullets roll along the tree limbs, and often hit something.

The playing area is huge, several screens high. There's a click-and-drag bar on the left you can use to jump down, but my 2006 computer gets all choppy trying to handle it.

I just tried it out on Medium, and was able to pepper everything with a mix of elemental, Rock and Metal towers. I didn't bother with the Pebble towers... even the programmers admitted they were lousy once you upgraded them. I guess if you do some of the harder challenges, there will be a need for them.

Not only do you have a choice of straightforward difficulty levels, you can also choose different challenges like Funnel Tree ("the hardest tree to defend on the planet"), One Life (let one creep slip to the roots and it's over), 20K (build your defenses fast -- advanced waves come every 10 seconds), Quick Release (one monster a second for 300 seconds), and Marathon (100 waves, 20 lives).

I wasn't able to really hear the sound effects over the brassy music, but they're there if you turn the music off. I'd keep the music on though, it's silly and fun in a wacky old-timey way, and there are several tracks.

This was a very enjoyable game to play, with a lot of effort put into it. Though the enemies were just a bunch of brightly colored goofballs with nothing to make them stand out much on Medium, I'm going back for another round or two of challenges tomorrow and seeing what sort of trouble I can get into.

Well done!

B+. Some of the challenge modes are downright wack.

Originality: A. A great variation on the defense game, with great creativity on the chaotic rolldowns and multi-screen gameplay. Hectic challenges too!

Graphics: B+. Crisp and clean. Some mutant monsters of different sizes and shapes would have upped the score.

Controls: A-. Very intuitive, though some better boundaries and labeling would have made finding the upgrade button a little easier.

Sound: A. You will never hear the kind of music this game offers in another defense game ever. It is music I think John McCain would love and should have used for his campaign.

Replay value: B. Worth a try tomorrow but I don't think I'll play it after that.

Overall value: A-. A few tune-ups and extra variations here and there, and this would be an A game.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Stee-rike! Zombie Baseball

I like the occasional rough-around-the-edges flash game. Where there isn't finesse, there's originality.

Zombie Baseball is a mildly gory game with a zany premise: Rapunzel-style, some hot girl is letting... baseballs?!? down to you. And, with your choice of two bats at a time, you're using these baseballs to hit zombies away.

Things start out slow and clumsy on all sides, but with some practice you can start knocking heads off the zombies with line drives. As you progress you can pick up a second bat with special powers and also upgrade Rapunzel and your own stats (strength and swing recovery).

My only beefs with the game are that there are no continues, and that the hitting strength curve is too high when you max out. At the end of the curve, you're hitting homers with every swing, when all you're trying to do is hit the zombies coming for you. Still, if you keep your batting strength (which, strangely, doesn't seem to do extra damage) at around four bars, you'll do fine.

Excitement: B.
Things get hairy if a lot of zombies get close. Fortunately a few of the special bats help by drilling through zombies, igniting them, and eventually setting off nukes.

Originality: A Zombies and baseball have never crossed my mind.

Graphics: B Some of the later zombies are downright freakish. Points off for taking a lot of graphic detail off what's usually beyond the edge of the screen.

Controls: A- Solidly responsive. But if zombies get too close and you're recovering from a powered up swing, you're pooched. You'd think you could hit them away with the bat... :D

Sound: C Good zombie effects, but please stop making those annoying "Maximum ATTACK" and "Come on, come on!" phrases repeat so much. Great nuke effect.

Replay value: B+ It's easy to play through 20 rounds without losing the rest of your day.

Overall value: A-

Play Zombie Baseball at http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/466365.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Don't Be A Quitter -- Keep Playing Splitter!

When a game comes up with a vibrant new take on tried and true rules and challenges, my ears pick up and the game makes its way to Lost Productivity.

Splitter is a 25-level mini-masterpiece. Instead of pushing, pulling, throwing or shooting things in your average physics game, all you do is cut them. And you can only cut wood and joints (they look a lot like yellow strings to me).

You control a total slacker of a smiley face who's subject to the laws of physics. That's right, your mug just sits there and does nothing. Kind of like me. However, you have a very sharp knife. A knife so sharp, it can slice through wood or strings in a single cut.

The law of gravity is in effect in this game, so when you cut things in strategic places, things begin to happen. Supports fall, attached spheres roll free and bonk you on the head, ramps form, and so on. You have a certain number of cuts you can make each level. The difficulty starts out just right and slowly gets fiendish from there. There are bonus stars you can collect, but the instructions don't say what you get if you collect all of them (a Herculean task requiring solid reflexes and a physics degree).

Two innovations include being able to record your best solves for people to watch online, and a limited jump-ahead feature if you really get stuck on one level. A very fun game and the music, while repetitive, doesn't grind on your like "Maximum Attack" in Zombie Baseball, a game I'll be reviewing soon!

Play Splitter at http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/467404.

B. You cut wood and strings. It does have its moments when you carve up a particularly ornery level.

Originality: A-. It's a physics game, but some of the puzzles are elegant and downright fun.

Graphics: A. Functional and smooth.

Controls: A-. Though you can make cuts any way you want, you're going to have to deal with a lot of trial and error unless your sweater says "MIT".

Sound: B+. Complex music, with minimal sound effects for gameplay.

Replay value: C. After a day bordering on carpal tunnel, some of the crazy cuts I had to make will be left for other people to watch on the tutorial. Maybe someday before I die I'll make a resolution to solve levels 19 and up, and get all the stars, but it's not likely. :D

Overall rating: A-