INDIE REVIEW: AND YET IT MOVES

We have reviewed popular titles such as Gears of War and Battlefield in the past, ignoring some great indie games that our audience may benefit from.  This first indie game review comes from our guest author, Vasu Chaturvedi.  Vasu is a game designer, movie buff, and a script writer. He can be found on Twitter at @1starArchie.

And Yet It Moves is the debut title from Indie developers Broken Rules. In this unique platformer, the developers throw aside the regular approach of appealing to their players; they get rid of the storyline completely and just maintain their focus on giving the players an impressive gameplay and brilliance in art style. Surely, the name itself feels very odd and it does not make sense even while discovering how the game progresses.

The Setup

Explore the odd landscapes and the mysterious world around you

In AYIM, you play a pencil-sketch cut-out character that is traversing the odd landscapes and the mysterious world around you. Your objective is to overcome numerous obstacles to reach a darkened door at the end of the world. But here is where the game’s real premise begins — in order to counter these obstacles, you have to use the primary mechanic of rotating the world around you. Your character has the ability to rotate the world around you by 90 or 180 degrees at any time in the direction. This in reality is what really sets the game on a different note, it creates a unique experience that forces you to look at the puzzles in front of you in a different manner, think and re-think your approach — one wrong move and you may be a victim of a fall down an endless abyss. The game has a unique way to guide you: on the way you shall encounter versions of yourself i.e your cut-out character, standing still as a checkpoint and once activated, this cut-out points towards a direction that you should go for in order to reach the next checkpoint and lead you across the mysterious world that AYIM presents before you. Usually in a platformer where you need to reach from one point to another, the focus is on giving you difficult terrains to traverse, unknown hostiles splurging on you, but what really sets this one apart is the fact that the developers give you the freedom to openly change the world as you like. AYIM presents you a world which you can turn with the click of a button, it’s times like these when you can proudly say that gravity is my friend. Use gravity as a weapon and you shall make good use of your environment as a weapon to take down anything that comes your way, needless to say you can even use the weapon on its own master, although it’s advisable to make sure that you do not twist and turn a lot since it can easily plunge you to your death. Gravity is your friend, but you shall not take (undue) advantage of it.

Visuals and Sounds
The game presents you with so many interesting things, and it’s impossible to forget them. The visuals immediately draw your attention and create a different mind-set, the artwork is beautiful. It works well with the theme and the developers have utilized it superbly, even the characters animations and movements feel fluid with plenty of ambient animations in the background to create a better effect. The sound design in itself is very different, it is not a combination of huge background scores that inspire awe, instead the music gives you an air of eeriness that might seem wrong in some games, but goes well with this one. Heck if it were any different, it would have been quite awkward.

Gameplay

Move the world around you to get around!

The puzzles in the game are fairly easy to solve. They revolve around the premise that you use the rotation mechanics in the game and get from one point to another, as easy as it may sound. The developers have made it quite tough on you, the camera cannot be adjusted by the player, the puzzle difficulties grows by each level you clear and they make you really think before you move. It is a great combination of unique design and difficulty that create a vivid experience for the users. The camera zooms in and out at different intervals to make the players explore more regions in the map. If there was a way to adjust and interact with the camera, I do believe that it would have reduced the overall level of puzzles in the game and would not create the sense of accomplishment players now get on completion of each level. The camera movements in itself create a difficulty. It may beat you a few times, you may find yourself relying on ‘trial and error’ but in the end, each puzzle is designed in a unique way.
Finally, I would like to conclude that And Yet It Moves creates its own style and class among other platformers. Incredible visuals, sound and design backed up by solid gameplay and difficult puzzles make this game a unique blend of art and design and a definite play for all the fans of the genre as well as others who want to experience something different and intriguing for once.  If I have convinced you enough, head over to the And Yet It Moves website to download a demo (and hopefully, the full game too!).  

The good:

  • Amazing art and sound design
  • Solid gameplay and controls
  • Unique puzzles

The bad:

  • Short length
  • Lack of story

Rating 9/10

FIFA 12 FOR IPAD: WASTE OF SPACE OR NEXT-GENERATION GAMING?

So when GamesInc was sitting in its Ivory Tower deciding the theme of it’s next blog post, something really strange happened. A conversation which involved armies taking over Europe, human baseball, treasure hunting across the world, ice skating for old people, an Elephant called Minimus and a Mouse called Gigantus, and whether chopsticks could be good game controllers (think about it, really!) led us to – a review of FIFA 12 for iPad. There is method to the madness – we wanted to see how iPad gaming had evolved and what it meant for the PS Vita coming out next year.

I was not enthused with the idea as I had to spend hours playing FIFA on my ipad. This sounded as appealing as counting frozen chickens in a deep freezer. But boy was I mistaken.

Positives
I must admit my preconceptions were broken as I played FIFA 12. The graphics, whilst nowhere near the console equivalents, are surprisingly good. You get a good sense of space on the pitch, and play build-up is enjoyable. Although the close up of players is pathetic – they look like they’re built of Lego – but you can live with it as it doesn’t take away from the game.

Player characteristics are surprisingly realistic – Messi is god, Rooney is unnervingly quick, strong, and accurate, Benzema will score from anywhere with the ugliest shots ever, and Zoolander can turn in one more direction than Walcott (right).

The iPad touch-screen controls work surprisingly well.

The touch screen playing which was my biggest fear turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable. You have three touch screen buttons, and by pressing, double-tapping, or sliding them you get nearly all the options of the console.  There are some nice innovations too, you slide your finger over the screen in the direction you are aiming for free kicks and corners, meaning you can curve the ball away or towards goal easily. The ability to give directions to players off the ball by tapping them onscreen is interesting, although good luck doing it when you’re sprinting down the field. You can also use your iPod touch or iPhone as controllers which means it takes more of a console feel to the game.

Negatives

Manager Mode tends to crash randomly.

You obviously don’t get the same multiplayer joy from the iPad as you do for it’s console cousins, even with two players on iPhone controllers. Despite the playability being good, it’s no PS3 or Xbox version.  There are also some irritating in game habits. In the manager mode, the game would crash at random game moments meaning I had to replay or simulate the game–which, when you’re crushing Chelski 3-0 at half-time, is very annoying!  The commentaries can also be ridiculous and after blocking a clear goal scoring opportunity for your opponents at the expense of a corner, your team look distraught as if someone had just told them that Nestle had decided to stop producing Maggi noodles. And if you have quick wingers you can guarantee that they’ll be able to sprint the length of the pitch and get into the box nearly unopposed.

Overall impressions and what it means for PS Vita
Despite all the positives, FIFA 12 on iPad is nowhere near it’s console equivalents – but then it’s not supposed to be. Buying an iPad for it’s gaming offerings is like buying a PS3 for it’s Internet browsing – a silly idea. Having said that – I throughly enjoyed playing it and I still whack out my iPad randomly to continue my managerial career (although the amount of in-game crashes has curbed my enthusiasm).  It’s also been significantly less powerful for picking up chicks in coffee shops than reading a Tolstoy, Steinbeck, or Proust, but that’s hardly surprising!  Picking up chicks in India is a tough task anyway.

So what does it mean for Vita and gaming more broadly?  Well first of all, I’m not sure I’ll buy a Vita. I’m guilty of having bought a PSP and given up on it early, not really getting the gaming joy out of it, and finding my need for a portable gaming device not as big as I needed. Despite the Vita promising some innovations such as the rear touch pad, and two joysticks – it’ll need to deliver significantly more than the PSP for me to consider getting one in addition to my iPad. Having said that, there are 26 launch titles (including Wipeout and Unchartered) and another 100 games in the works. Having all the benefits of Internet access on the go and my media files, means that the media offerings of Vita are not going to sway me (the PSP ones were interesting but failed to deliver). So all in all, I will need to be convinced by the Vita before I get one – at the moment, my limited on-the-go gaming needs are well fulfilled by my iPad.

PS Vita and Wii U integrate touch screen functionalities.

The one thing that did occur to me while playing FIFA 12 is how well the touch screen can work, and hopefully console makers will take note. Nintendo seems to have already taken note with WiiU where there will be a touch screen included in the remote controller. Sony also promises that the Vita will integrate effectively with the PS3. But if you think beyond that, the development of Move and Kinect could integrate with a sort of touch screen option (or even a virtual touch a la virtual reality).  We’re not there yet – but surely the development of different types of gaming platforms will take to whole new realities of gaming in the future, which can only be a good thing!

What are you’re experiences of gaming with your iPad or iPhone? Do you agree that these types of development will push gaming forward? Want us to tackle new topics in our blog – just let us know!

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BATTLEFIELD 2: BAD COMPANY REVIEW

I have always been a Call of Duty fan, but lately I was somewhat disappointed by Activision’s Modern Warfare series and the Black Ops edition. Not that they aren’t great games – I understand what most folks like it. But you haven’t really seen a great shooter in action until you have played Battlefield.

As we prepare for a Battlefield 3 release in just ten more days, I figured this is the best time to check out the last edition of Battlefield 2: Bad Company. I won’t be reviewing its multiplayer capabilities today and will focus on its extensive campaign. Besides, if you would like a technical review, you can always go to IGN.com.

Exotic locales and attention to detail encourage you to lighten up and enjoy the sights

Exotic Locales that Make You Want to Go Slow

The campaign takes you from one location to another (I was too busy blowing up stuff to really pay attention where I was going), and at times the immaculate graphics make you want to stand and stare for a bit before you go back to blowing stuff up. Icing on the cake is that everything is explosion-friendly: you can blow up everything from cars, armored vehicles, and building as long as you have the necessary firepower.

Squadmates that Go Beyond Traditional AI

One key irritant in the Call of Duty series is how inept your squadmates are. More often that not, you will find them shooting at walls or walking on air. Not so in Battlefield 2, each of your squadmates: Sarge, Marlowe, Sweetwater, and Haggard, has a unique personality and the story is built around them closely — not as dummies to shoot at enemies you can’t always reach. The is subtle humor in the friendly banter between them as well, but sometimes it tends to get lost with all the action around you.

Ride your quad bike on icy terrain chasing enemies down the treacherous slopes

Diverse Gameplay

While the Call of Duty series also provides you with a bit more to do that point and shoot, I found the experience in Battlefield 2 much more engaging. The realistic gameplay and accurate use of controller vibrations almost makes you feel like a part of the action, something I never quite got from Black Ops. You get to shoot at enemy soldiers off your helicopter, ride your dune buggy into enemy territory, and blow up a wall to make way for your team.

Overall, it was about 10 hours of extreme fun. If anything, this has peaked my interest in Battlefield 3. If you haven’t played Battlefield 2 yet, then now is the right time — grab it (at a huge discount) before Battlefield 3 releases this month!

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CRYSIS 2: REVIEW

I will start this review with a disclaimer.  I have only played Crysis 2 on XBOX and I have never played Crysis on PC.  Having got that out of the way for Crytek fanboys, I am ready to share my views on the game.

The first thing that strikes you about this game is the graphics.  The moment I slipped the DVD into my console, I was hooked on to how

Breathtaking visuals and larger-than-life destruction add to Crysis 2's gameplay

real everything appeared.  The entire game is in first person.  Throughout the game, you are provided with snippets into the life of Alcatraz — the (new) recipient of the nanosuit, a powerful armor that provides you with exceptional strength, resilience, and stealth.  You move through the story maneuvering the abilities of the nanosuit.  You start off by barely making it out of a submarine into chaos at New York (how a submarine gets into NY is anybody’s guess).

The usual issue with first person shooters is that you often head down paths that lead to nowhere or, in the case of more dumbed-down shoot-em-alls, an arrow always points you in the right direction.  Crysis 2 also provides you indications on where to go, but does it in style with its tactical options that allow you to survey the area and mark points of interest.

The AI in the game is pretty intelligent: most enemies do not follow the same route every time you load from a checkpoint. If you use your stealth mode to walk past enemy soldiers or aliens, you will see that slight suspicion in their movements as they sense you near them.  You may not face too many opponents on the way but if you foolishly initiate a shoot-em-up, enemies will converge on you in a more coordinated manner.

Realistic surrounding and great 5.1 recording keep you hooked on to every split second.

Unlike most first person shooters, Crysis 2 tries to keep your attention on the story (written by science fiction writer Richard K. Morgan).  There are moments of relief between action, where you are provided with a strong storyline that explains why you are doing what you are doing.  There are twists in the story as well – so make sure you are listening.

I have not played Crysis 2 multiplayer online on XBOX Live too much – but from what I have played, it is extremely difficult to make it alive beyond 30 seconds.  I don’t suck too bad at first person shooters, but maybe I am just not doing something right!

Overall, I rate it a 9/10 on my book.  If you have not had a chance to play it yet, go ahead and get yourself a copy today.  If you have a chance to play it on PC and on console, let us know which version you like best and why!