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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Battlecon for iOS - An App Review

Some time ago i made an article about Battlecon, the fighting card game from level 99, and promised i'll be back to discuss about the iOS implementation. So today we're back to fulfill that promise and discuss about this portable playing version that hit the apple devices some months ago.


I'm not going to extend much to talk about the game itself as i covered that in my previous article. Suffices to say that Battlecon is at the moment one of the card games in the market that best represents a 2D fighting video-game. Your objective is simple: Beat your opponent to KO by reducing his/her life or be the one with higher amount of hit points remaining after a 15 turn countdown. To do so, every turn you would combine 2 cards, one Base, and one Style, to create a unique attack to threat your opponent with.

The presentation of the game is very good and truthful to it's board counterpart, with characters moving around their 2d board centered on the screen while cards in your hand appear to both sides of the screen. Some of the visual decisions of the design actually help the game to be easier to play: For example the physical separation between bases and styles for easier management of your turn choices as well as the life bar accounting for the total life points of both contestants, that turns partially blue depending on the amount of HP the opponents are guarding against.  

The separation between bases and styles helps accelerate your decision-making.
Everything is automatically calculated after each player plays his cards and ante for their turn, stopping only to ask the players when they need to take a decision based on their cards rules. While this makes the gameplay faster than the board version, players who never played the board game have complaint about not knowing what exactly happened, as the played cards have little screen time before the auto-play begins, thus not allowing you to read the opponents attack. This will annoy players not familiar with every character, but for experienced players will offer increase game-speed, so it's kind of a two edged knife.

While the mechanics are all rightly translated to iOS screens, Battlecon suffers some very nasty bugs, from annoying rule-breaking situations to even more serious app-crashers. Some of them easily repeatable. While this is usually not a problem for most iOS developers due to constant updates Battlecon has had no updates since the initial release and if we are to judge from other products from them, lvl99games is not one of the fastest companies to pull updates, if they pull them at all, mostly to the small size and wide amount of projects the company tries to embrace. (I'm still waiting for the much commented RPG cartographer update that was to allow graphic importing).

Characters and AI

Battlecon's board game version shines from the amount and variety of his cast, offering a wide range of options to find a fighter that suits your style. The iOS version sadly only offers half of the 18 member original cast: The four characters from the board-game demo version are free to play, while 6 more can be unloqued at 1$ (0,79 euro each) or by winning battles online (good luck with that). Additionally it has two temporarily exclusive chars from the upcoming Battlecon expansion but both of them can only be bought at 2$ each.

The full cast totals 16 characters. And allows using their alternate art versions.
To add insult to injury only the four free characters are playable by the AI. The game has no arcade mode whatsoever so if you want to face against the other characters you bought you will only be able to do so in the local asynchronous multi-player  mode (if you plan to do that, i'd recommend you to buy the board-game instead) or try your luck on the on-line synchronous mode. I only managed to play on-line once, two days after the app release, for the rest of the time the lobbies remain deserted, which makes quite impossible to win the more than 500 matches you need to unlock all the cast without paying unless you have some friend in game-center who also diggs the game. 

What's even worse about the four included AIs is that they cannot think out of the box, only planning based on their character and never on the opponent's, which makes them perform always the same opening move every time. This is pretty serious issue for Cadenza as his opening move would crash the app against some other character´s Shot.

Buying 8 chars that you're not be able to play against is kind of annoying.

Music and Art

One of my favorite things about this apps is the wise selection of musical themes befitting each character. They really help get in the mood, and having one theme per character helps transmit that 2d fighter feeling. Some of the themes like Hepzibah's "Pound for Pound" or Magdelina's "Epic Evolution" will remain on playback mode in your mind for hours after playing if you are not careful.

On the art side, the game maintains the board-game visuals, but all bought characters have also their 2P alternate art version unlocked (only Print and Play for the board game), which will allow you to play with the version of the art you like the most. Sadly, the four free characters alternate costume must also be payed for 1$ wich is quite pricey just for an alternate image, and being some of them the worst offenders when it comes to under-leveled art, their alternate version for them feels like a must. 


As much as i love Battlecon as a board game and i like most of level99games iOS products i must admit that Battlecon for iOS while not being a bad app, fails to meet the Battlecon fan's expectations and probably will disappoint many other iOS board-game fans. The app charges too much money for the amount of content it offers (14$ if you want to unlock every content available) and at the moment seems like a rushed app that could have been way better just by delaying a bit it's release to playtest more, and given an AI for every character.

You'll like it:
If you want to test the mechanics before buying the boardgame.
If you have a bunch of other friends into Battlecon, that have iOS. 

You won't like it:
If you want it to play solo against an AI or an unknow rival on the internet.
You get annoyed by AI rage-quitting by forcefully crashing the app. 

Closing Comments: 
Level99games is already working in an update for the app, that includes 3 more characters and a full playable cast of AI chars with improved AI performance, that you will be able to battle in the new Arcade mode. I've been able to try  the unreleased update, courtesy of Brad Talton, lead designer of lvl99games, and i must say that the improvements seem like will bring the app to the place it deserves between other great iOS boardgame adaptations like Ascension or Neuroshima Hex. For the moment though we can only wait for the update, but we are still left with the feelings that this new version should have been the first released version. 

The first update has just been anounced. You should look forward to it.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Tentacle rape is awwwwrite

Sodapop miniatures has been always one of my favourite companies on the gaming market for their vision to link the traditional gaming with the japanese style visuals in their visually stunning range of miniatures and boardgames. Just recently i went back to their site since i was disconnected from the community from some months and learned their first card game: Tentacle Bento, was forcefully removed from Kickstarter after being successfully funded under accusations of encouraging girl abuse, rape and molestation.


Did you remember last time i talked about moral defenders and how they are a harm for illustrated society? I'm starting to think some people need to cool off a bit.

The idea behind Tentacle Bento is fun and parodic. For you guys who are not familiar with this issue, i'm gonna enlighten you with some history: 

Japanese censorship laws forbid any explicit depiction of genitals in any way and format, which it's even extended to porn movies. In orther to overcame this issue without having to paste censoring mosaics over every scene, japanese artists created an entire hentai anime genre in which the male counterpart was replaced with a slimy tentacled entity that would abduct the girls and perform all kinds of acts that looked obscene to the viewer.

This is what a pussy looks like to a young japanese virgin.
I refrain from saying they were having sexual intercourse, because that statement would depend on the fluff behind the story: Devouring energy, gen stealing, eating, assimilating... whatever the wording it involved lots of tentacles groping and/or penetrating the girls in various fashion, with or without her consent (yeah, there is consensual tentacle sex, look for it on google). 

Whatever the case, this genre of erotic-horror movie is deeply ingrained in anime culture, something that Sodapop is aiming to parody in Tentacle Bento. In the game you play as a tentacled monster and your aim is just to abduct more girls than your other slimy fellows. No sexual reference whatsoever is made to the girls destinies after abduction as the game just revolves about pairing cards to form combinations.

Tentacle porn in japan goes down a long history.
Tentacle Bento could be perfectly called Area 51, have dark art and revolve about grey-man aliens abducting american farmers and animals, and probably no one would have given shit about the game. Just by changing their art style to anime and the alien type to a tentacled alien is it suddenly encouraging rape? Oh, come on!!

Guys, are we insane or what? Games are games, are meant to have fun, are meant to be parodic and hilarious situations. Saying Tentacle Bento encourages rape and molestation it's like saying that playing Mwahahaha! encourages genocide and building weapons of mass destruction or Cash and Guns encourages bank robbing, forming of criminal organizations, gun-shooting problem-solving, agression of federal agents...and a long etc... and that extends for looooots of other board games. (I won't even enter about discussing video-games because it would be unfair for them).

Ika Musume: the bastard product of a successful human-tentacle love encounter.
I understand that there's people who might be offended by this, but if everytime everyone was offended by our actions we stopped doing them, humanity would have never evolved. I know there is very bizzarre shit going out on the world and the corners of the internet, but i simply don't meddle with it and live my life while letting others leave theirs as long as they do not do harm to real people in the real world. 

If there is people backing a  project is because they want that to be real. And let's get real, no harm comes of something that cannot harm anyone. I'm sorry but "making apology"of something  is the worst excuse of a crime i've ever heard and in my opinion goes against freedom of speech. No one that calls himself civilized should be offended by some guys at their home playing a boardgame, no mater the theme.