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Monday, June 25, 2012

Sonic 4 Episode 2 - Review - The return of a lost friend.

It was about time that I did a post about sonic, taking in account how he is the main inspiration for this blog's title. Today thoughh i'm not going back to spagonia but instead i venture forth in the new episode of Sonic 4 episode 2, which tries again to pull a necromantic spell on the saga after Generations success and episode 1's fiasco.
Everyone here? Let's get this party started!

Second parts were never good?

Whoever said that never played Sonic. The blue hedgehog can count his second episode as one of his best of the modern days, getting closer to the 16 bit era of the awesome titles like Sonic CD. For that reason, after the frankenstein catastrophe of episode 1 where sega pulled all the corpses of games to create a dead game with little of fun moments in it, episode 2 has managed to gather the best of the old and the best of new Sonic, in that particular way that Generations set as the right direction.

Graphics are fantastic and in some stages like Oil Desert you will find yourself staring at the wonderful background of dark clouds moving menacely. The essence of the old games was captured with the level design and constant hints to the past, like the use of Badniks as enemies instead of the modern Egg Pawns and platforming areas clearly separated from high speed ones.

The clouds... so beautifuuuuuul!

Episode 2 Sonic moves faster, and the physics are better (in my opinion even better than generations where jumping was kind of weird). He moves very similarly as how it did on the mega drive with the exception of the homing attack. Now let me say this, and i'm sorry for all the sonic haters out there, but the homing attack is very good when the stage does not conspirate against you, and here it certainly helps the game flow with a nicer tempo. 

Sega has learnt from the errors of the past and the stages do not have many "run into deathtrap" issues, as they tend to slow you down before the most dangerous areas taking benefit of terrain. I only recall one place in the game where you run into a trap and is on one of the last zones. All of the deathpits are nicely identificated with the new bright red alert signs introduced in generations so you can see them coming and prepare your secret weapon...


...where have you been all my life?! Seriously, the new coordination mechanic that makes the orange fox cooperate with you is one of the best things of the game. I wonder why nobody thought of this before. 

Now by pressing one button you will have your sidekick automatically come to the rescue to get you of a tight spot. Cooperation is fast and does not interrupt the flow of the game so you can jump full speed ahead into bottomless pits and call Tails for the catch keeping the game fast. He also has the submarine ability as well as a new combined roll attack that makes the classic spin dash pale in comparison by momentum and punch. 
Close call buddy!

Unlike Sonic Colours where sometimes the use of abilities was kind of repetitive, here sega has managed to achieve the balance between necessity and fun. Some bosses will have to be killed with coordinated moves as well as some areas will need Tails to be traversed, but still it wont be that often that it becomes a tiring routine that will spoil the fun, and most of the times there will be an alternative to it.

Now you really feel like you have a sidekick instead of an orange inmortal shadow (even though, Tails is still quite immortal, wonder why Sonic doesn't send him alone to save the world).  

No one can destroy the Metal

Sonic 4 Ep 2 brings back metal sonic from the grave and man he does one hell of a return. Fights and races against Metal Sonic are the best boss fights from the game and you'll get to face him up to 4 times to prove which hedgehog pwns harder.

Damn!! I know I shouldn`t have make him run on Windows Vista!!!
As a clear declaration of intentions, SEGA has prepared some stages  and scenarios reminiscent of Sonic and Metal previous encounters, with a brand new boss theme exclusive for him (that sounds awesome). White Park boss encounter is a cool fight atop of a rollercoaster where speed will be critical to land hits similar to Generation's boss fight, while Death Egg MkII features a payback race replaying the events of Sonic CD, with a complete remake of Stardust Speedway´s japanese theme song.


While Episode 1 could count just a few tracks beyond Lost Labyrinth and Mad Gear worth the listening, Sonic 4 ep 2 has some brilliant tracks that recall the glory of the 16bit era Sonic, with limited tones but still in magnificent HD. 

Three charged missiles and for some reason Metal thinks is funnier to throw you the disabled ones.
Sylvania castle acts start with a good music, highly reminiscent of first stages and Ruin classical stages. White park has good festive tracks (though in my opinion 1st act sounds more like  Ragnarok Battle Offline than Sonic), but it's at act 3 where it captures more the atmosphere of the stage. 

Oil Desert has a magnificent beat to it reminiscent of Sonic 1's Scrap Brain Zone, but it's in Sky Fortress second act where things go from good to fantastic. A free runnin escapade atop of the deck of one of the Egg Fleet airships, with little obstacles to atop you and listenning to this awesome tune... Probably the most Sonic moment of the game. 

White Park is a pretty good Stardust Speedway successor.
For finishers death Egg MkII has a killer tune too: with a short main theme repeating every two seconds, it would have been obnoxious in a stage full of hazards, but in this highspeed gravity paranoia it does so well! The iterating theme feels like a warning danger alarm that keeps you moving forward at top speed.

Better with friends

Multiplayer feels as nice as single player in the ipad's bluetooth system and I managed to play some games where the coordination factor between Sonic and Tails players added quite a bit to the fun.

In multiplayer, Tails will change Sonic's homing attack for his classic flight, so now for the first time Sonic has an ability no other character in the game shares (it was about time). Still both of them can call a coordinated move so it is possible to save your friends ass of a dangerous situation of you are well compenetrated.

...That's the kind of faces you make when you aren´t.
To help to achieve that, the screen is limited to follow the fastest of the team, and warping the lagging member into position with the same momentum so it can fastly addapt to the teammate movement.

For closings: 

Overall: Quite enjoying I must say. The new mechanics may dissuade players looking for a greater challenge (the game is not that difficult aside from some punctual areas), but deffinitely is a game worth buying and having into the collection and a total must if you are a Sonic fan. 

You will like it:
If you need a good platformer for your moments of enjoyment in the portable devices.
If you want a game that plays fast for those little interludes in the bus.
If you have fangasms while raiding air vessels at top speed while listening to awesome music.

You wont like it:
If you are looking for a insanely difficult game.
If you are looking for a deep profound story.
If you hate water stages (this one packs quite a bit)
If you think Sonic 2 was the last good Sonic game (You Sonic hater, GTFO of my blog!!)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BattleCon - War of Indines: A fighting game Review

It was not so much time ago that i took my time to write a review about Mystic Empyrean, the pioneering RPG who opened the way for digital RPG rulebooks in tablets, by level99games. Today I’m back to talk about another of their creations, the board game Battlecon - War of Indines.

I must say that when I saw Battlecon in kickstarter some time ago it didn’t call me much in first place. Now I regret not having invested a bit on it knowing already the previous curriculum from this developer. Let me show you what I missed.

The game
Battlecon is a 2 to 4 player game that tries to represent a classic 2D fighter game and truth to be told he does it pretty well. The game manages to capture the movements and the forward thinking required in 2D fighters, and does it in a swift manner, with games that last no more than 15 minutes for experienced players, and maybe 10 minutes more for novices.

The rules are pretty basic and can be summarized in one or two text pages, which makes it pretty simple and straightforward to learn and to teach new players into it. But do not be blinded by that, as the game offers a great deal of strategy, for as you would expect each of the characters in the game has a very particular way of fighting, and a varied range of difficulty, and getting to know every one of them and their matchups will require some time.

Each game turn has both characters creating their own “custom” attack, by mixing one of their style cards unique to their character, with one of the general base cards, shared by all the cast. This way even if you never played against that particular character you can predict at least half of your opponent’s attacks as they come for a common pool of generic fighting moves (strike, dash, grasp, shoot…). The style card will give the attack that personal character’s flavor by turning it stronger, faster or with special effects.

Left: Style Right: Base. Adding numbers on both sides will give the attack's final stats.
Moving and spacing becomes an important part of the game as it is on the screen, so you have to calculate well the range of the attacks or move out of range of the enemies. Pulling/pushing and cornering also become part of the game and you will soon be planning your combos various moves ahead to perform deadly setups that will break through your enemy’s life as a knife through butter. 

Also simultaneous selection of the attacks and the possility to negate your opponents attacks by stunning them before attack, force you to be always fully aware of the cards discarded by your opponent. Card pairs used will be unavailable for 2 turns until they cycle back to your hand, thus impeding that certain attacks just repeat constantly, so by knowing what your opponent does not have available, you can tweak your strategy. 

Once you know the basics you can start getting confident with the characters themselves, and with 18 characters (plus some promos) you have a wide range of combat options to try. Long range fighters, close range rushdowns, trappers, or bulky stalwarts… there is sure one of them that will pick your interest. (and if you're not satisfied, a standalone expansion with 18 more characters is already in development!)

Characters are overall well balanced with the exception of some specific matchups, and all play well with their flavor. My personal problem though is the inconsistency of the art on the character cards, ranging from exceptionally good renditions to amateur depictions. Level99games offers an alternate art edition of the game (For those mirror matches as player2), but it’s only print and play and suffers from the same inconsistency. I found myself wishing I could mix both or either buy both as a boxed set (mayhaps a future Deluxe edition… wink wink).  

The World of Indines setting has some cool chars, sadly, art varies from awesome like this one to amateur.
One of the most brilliant moves of Battlecon in my opinion was the rules to play tag duels (KOF style) or 2vs2 combats, which allow for a greater group of friends to join into the fight. Also the game features alternate base cards that can be used to power up characters so you can play a 2vs1 game with one EX or Almighty characters, as a boss encounter of sorts. This opens the game for a wider range of options of play definitely increasing the already wide replayability of the game. (As a Guilty Gear fanboy I totally loved this and was the final decision maker for buying).

If this caught your interest and you want to give it a try do not hesitate and jump right to Battlecon´s site where you will be able to download a print and play, free demo version, on which you will be able to test 4 characters with varied play-stiles and get to know the mechanics. If you are not into printing you have also the option of playing those 4 free chars on the free ipad app or the demo Vassal module.

Additionally, the Battlecon site offers some great amount of freebies to tune your games, from deck cases to 16 bit character stands, which add even more personality to the game.

Kahrolyn, Heketh and the rest of the cast in wonderful 16bit resolution.
You will like it:
If you are into card games.
If you love fighting games.
You are looking for a fast game to setup and play (less than 30min). 

You won't like it:
If card games to you mean spending your budget in booster packs.
If you play fighting games performing Hadouken one after another.

Next time, I will review Battlecon’s iOS app, so stay tuned!