Give SimCity Buildit a Chance

At first, SimCity Buildit seems like every gamers’ dream — after all, who doesn’t want to show those EA hacks exactly how it’s done? Unfortunately, with SimCity Buildit even the most dedicated amateur game designer will end up mired in a pit of disappointment and frustration. Marred by technical difficulties, ultimately simplistic design and a painfully complex interface, SimCity Buildit is less a dream come true than a nightmare that never seems to end.

On first impression, SimCity Buildit looks not so much dated as positively Jurassic, a throwback to the days of second-string SNES RPGs. From the poorly rendered environment tiles to the malformed two-frame characters, this title would have been a visual disappointment as a first-generation game.

Of course, the more enterprising among us are free to create their own artwork to boost the game’s appeal, but given the title’s less than intuitive joy pad interface, we would guess that the majority of such attempts are more likely to end with the reset button and a bruised fist than any sort of visual improvement.

Sonically, this is equally disappointing, with the audio library limited to some generic MIDI ditties and some eight-bit quality bleeps, bloods and white noise effects. Since the majority of these effects are fantasy styled, anyone who wants to develop a present — or future — based RPG will have to make do with some rather incongruous audio accompaniment.

From a role-playing point of view, the system begins at the most simplistically generic level possible. The base level combat, magic and exploration interfaces have more in common with NES game play than the megaRPGs of today. Nowhere is this more evident than in the included prefab quest, with its supremely silly storyline and dull, uninvolving gameplay likely to deter even the hardiest of budding game designers.

As a game creation tool, this does have its positive aspects — most notably the incredible level of customization. Almost every aspect of the basic roleplaying system can be taken, tweaked, manipulated and reinserted to test its effects on the game world. Unfortunately, while SimCity Buildit does allow the reconfiguration of its various systems, users are unable to redesign them from scratch — if they start out disliking the basic combat system, all the tweaking in the world is most likely not going to change their minds. Unlimited cash and simoleons trick has been explained on this website here.

For those who can handle the limitations inherent in SimCity Buildit’s various gameplay modes, there is at least the possibility of a rewarding experience. These gamers may never create the roleplaying experience of their dreams, but they may at least find the title a reasonable way to while away a rainy afternoon or two.

Unfortunately, even these forgiving souls would be hard pressed to remain peaceful when confronted with the Byzantine monstrosity that is utterly cryptic front end. While it’s understandable that a joypad-based interface may not be the best bet for a smooth game-creation experience, ASCII does itself few favors with its enigmatic menu system and convoluted customization tools. It’s likely that all but the most manual-retentive will, at some point, find themselves lost deep within SimCity Buildit’s toolset, faced with an interface screen of indefinable function and little visible purpose.

Adding to the palpable sense of frustration is the fact that SimCity Buildit’s debugging tool is all but nonexistent. It is a relatively common occurrence to spend hours on the intricate design and construction of a seemingly promising RPG, only to be struck down at the last moment when the damn thing won’t run for reasons far beyond human divination. It is at times like this that is likely to switch roles from intriguing game construction set to shiny black Frisbee heading directly for an open bedroom window.

An ambitious failure, SimCity Buildit strives for a level of depth it never quite reaches. Luring gamers in with the promise of creating the ultimate homebrew RPG, ASCII’s latest ends up falling short in all areas, with dated graphics, a hellish interface and the overriding scent of failure. Better to head out to the store and pick up a real roleplaying game than waste even one day with this ultimately disappointing mess.

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Making the Best out of Clash Royale

A great game, and frighteningly addictive. Fun in either single or two-player, Clash Royale takes the strategy of Worms a step further. The weapons are fewer in number, but quite sufficient, and the challenge level is kept up by the amount of time required to master each weapon. CAUTION: Clash Royale may eat all of your spare time, and cause you to dream of dynamiting livestock. An all-around great buy, or a fun one to rent.

The setup is similar to a three-dimensional Worms, but unlike the SuperCell series the members of your team are individuals, each following his own career path. This additional aspect greatly alters (and improves!) the strategy of the game, introducing the element of team structuring. Given only a set number of promotion points, the player must choose wisely to insure a well-rounded team, as a weak member late in the game can ruin it for the whole team. The battle is turn-based, like worms, and so your victory may depend on terminating a key enemy before he has a chance to destroy you. Surviving certain levels may not be too difficult, but trying to get a survival bonus on each level can keep you trying for weeks.

The graphics are essentially what are required for the game. The hog appearances are individual but basic, and the landscapes are simplified; there are enough graphics to be fun, but not enough to slow the game down. A good balance. Perhaps the best touch is after a kill — the victorious hog, standing proudly with the weapon of choice, which with a heavy machine gun looks pretty bad ass. Underwater deaths are concluded, not with sinking pigs, but underwater explosions — very cool! Wavering sniper rifles, blimps that can be called in for air strikes, and zooming in on wounded hogs after the shot are other graphic goodies that really add to game play. Movie cut scenes were interesting, sometimes funny but more often puzzling and strange.

Some of the comments are hilarious and fun, others get annoying after a while (like the first time). The noises of the weapons were simple but cool — I liked the cluster grenade sounds. Perhaps the funniest sound is one of the simplest — the little snort-squeal when the enemy is hit by a sniper bullet (although for some reason it’s not as funny when your hog is the one in the sights…) All in all, good sounds to complement the graphics of Clash Royale. Visit the latest gems tricks for Clash Royale in this link here.

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Second Look at the PinBall Game

I am a pinball addict and have been going through withdrawl over the past decade. It used to be that I could go to 7-11 and spend an afternoon playing “Silverball Mania,” “Galaxy,” or “Dr. Who.” A few years ago, I received Pro Pinball “Time Shock” for Christmas. I was blown away. Short of feeling the pinball machine between my hands, the simulation was perfect. It was with great anticipation that I picked up “Fantastic Journey.” Most of the element of good pinball are here. Unfortunately sound and game slowdown prevent this game from being great.

The game has a typical fantasty pinball theme. However, the background story is not obvious without reading the manual. There are plenty of bumpers, drop targets, and ramps to keep the ball active. There is an especially cool feature with a magnet that immobilizes the ball in front of a spinner and then shoots the ball through the spinner causing it to spin madly. I’m still not sure how to operate the video game mode, or at least it doesn’t seem intuitive. Still, good fun.

The graphics are beautiful at high resolutions. It doesn’t get much better than this. There are reflections in the ball and movement is fluid. The only complaint is that during multiball, the game slows down so much that balls start to leave tracer trails. Using the same resolution, does not lead to this problem in “Time Shock.”

I have to agree with the PC Gamer reviewer on this point. The sounds are lame. The music is sometimes ok, but often sounds like elevator music/70’s porn music. The voices seem inappropriate. The good doctor doesn’t sound very urgent whenever he implores you to finish a task. I’m surprised the alpha/beta testers didn’t complain more about this.

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Pro Pinball: Fantastic Journey

There aren’t a lot of pinball games released for the PC. The most obvious reason is that there just aren’t a lot of pinball enthusiasts anymore. The corner arcade is a dying industry, and, unfortunately, pinball itself seems to be entering its twilight years (see sidebar). Another likely reason there are so few pinball games for the PC is that the Pro Pinball series is so good that its games approach near-perfect pinball action. Although not as complicated as Timeshock! and not really as fun as Big Race USA, Fantastic Journey is an excellent pinball simulation with all the features, physics and options that we have come to expect from the series. Although the music is a weakness and the gameplay is a little simple, Fantastic Journey is still a must-have for any PC pinball wizard.

For those of us who have been playing the Pro Pinball series since The Web, (which, by the way, is inlcuded FREE in the retail release of FJ) the announcement of another installment is always good news. But to be honest, there has been a downward trend in the quality of the titles that is a little disappointing. After The Web, Cunning Developments produced Timeshock!, the single most ambitious and realistic pinball sim ever created, which still stands as the best pinball game on any system. Naturally any follow-up would be a disappointment, but Big Race USA was still an outstanding, although overly simple, game. Finally, Fantastic Journey has all the realism of previous tables, but the gameplay is now too simplistic, and the overall experience is less challenging, and therefore less enjoyable, than previous tables.

The basic theme for Fantastic Journey has an Around the World in 80 Days feel. The 19th century, Victorian setting has mad militarist General Yagov threatening to blow up the moon with a rocket. Our only hope is the ingenuity of Professor Steam and his ability to construct a series of contraptions in order to defeat the villain. These contraptions make up the basic “journeys” in the game. Players must shoot a series of highlighted shots to construct one of five steam-powered vehicles such as the boat, airship, drill, submarine and, finally, the rocket. Once a contraption has been built, players must travel through exotic locales to collect gems in order to power the rocket. No one has even paid any attention to the “plot” in a pinball game, but there is enough variety in the modes that the game avoids a numbing linearity that other pinball sims have.

Although the variety in “journeys” is nice, the basic gameplay has been overly simplified. The most obvious missing feature is a third, upper flipper which always opens up boards to fast loop combos and improbable jackpot shots. FJ features only the two basic flippers along with a magna-save down the left outlane. The result is that most shots can be achieved with either flipper or a simple flip-pass, so after a little practice, a pinball aficionado would likely be able to rack up big points almost at will. Furthermore, the bumpers are isolated in the upper left-hand corner of the field, so the randomness and speed they bring to the table are greatly muted.

FJ does feature all of the essentials like ramps, drop targets, orbits, spinners, lanes and bonus rollovers, and when a steam frenzy occurs, the play can get pretty fast and furious despite the inevitable slowdown in framerates. As usual the presentation is spotless. The game looks fantastic, from its helpful dot matrix display — which now comes in either monochrome or color — to its perfectly rendered decals and lights, FJ looks as good as any real pinball table out there. Like the previous Pro Pinball games, players can use the “examine table” option to explore the playing field in extreme close-up. It’s a testimony to the dedication of the Cunning Developments staff that it included little details in the game that can only be truly appreciated with this option. For actual gameplay, players can choose to view the table from three different angles, select an opaque or transparent dot matrix display, choose between 256 and 16 million colors, and even set the resolution up to 1600 x 1200. On a high-end system, the colors and reflections of the surface are as good or better than any other pinball title.

Unfortunately, the excellent visuals are not complemented by the audio. Although the game wisely stores all of the sounds in the system RAM to prevent game delays while accessing the CD-ROM, the standard music in FJ is, to be polite, bland and, to be honest, awful. The synthesized score that starts the game and is played in a normal or non-journey state features a sort of electronic bag-pipe-with-a-beat music that is just plain annoying. Fortunately, the music changes during journeys or multiball, so that may be more motivation for players to get that lock lit. The voice work is pretty generic, and a little bit of variety in speech files would have done wonders to liven up the game.

Finally, just as previous titles featured a host of options, FJ has all of the tweaks that any pinball owner would have in the real world. Players can not only see an amazing number of stats — how long each game lasts, number of jackpots, percentage of skill shots etc. — but users can modify everything down to the last detail, from the duration of the ball save feature to the number of buy-ins possible. It’s this extra attention to detail that has always made owning a Pro Pinball game almost like owning a real table. Pro Pinball is also featured at clashroyalehack.fr, the website that is originally made for Clash Royale free gems.

But, ultimately, the pinball industry is now only preaching to the converted. There are fewer and fewer tables being produced today, so fewer and fewer players can appreciate pinball’s unique charms. Although four players can take turns on a table, and Empire has set up a web page so pros can post their best scores, the sad truth is that pinball games are going the way of the dinosaur. And while Pro Pinball: Fantastic Journey is an excellent pinball sim, it is not nearly enough to reverse this trend.

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