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Saturday, November 1st, 2014
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Local Entertainment

Simple Matching Game...Maybe Too Simple

by: Alan M. Wasserman - 07/24/14 - iOS

Elfcraft is a simple but fairly addictive matching game. In Elfcraft your objective is to place three or more matching component parts together. Three stones become a flint stone, match three flint stones to make dragon scales, match three dragon scales to make moon rocks and so on and so on.  There are 12 possible components to make.  Each turn you are given a two component piecess made up of the available component as you can currently make. At the beginning its two stones, but as you progress you may get a low-high piece in a stone and a Ice crystal and placing it can start to get very difficult if you are not somewhat planful of your moves.  Thankfully you can spin your pieces Tetris-style by tapping the screen and swiping your finger side to side to choose where to lower the stone in the 6x7 play area.  The early game is easy enough but as the pieces have more options with which to present you with your best laid plans can go out the window.  One interesting mechanic in the game is if you tilt the screen side to side all the pieces move together. This is advantageous if you have a matching component that is merely on the other side of play area, simply tilt and watch as the match resolves it’s self. I found that sometimes tilting can also create matches you can’t see.  The game also presents you with a “spell book” that has four spells to choose from. One spell removes one component of your choice to allow you to remove a mistaken placement or just get one out of the way that is blocking at match, other spells remove whole rows of components while others remove every component of one selected type.  For me the most useful and most rare spell is the swap stone spell. It allows you to swap two adjacent stones. Like Tetris, if your pieces get to the top of the board and you cannot place an entire piece the game ends.

I have a few issues with this game, while the game is fun and has a high replayability factor the board remains the same every time and the opening pieces are always the same so it can get very redundant until you start unlocking the 4th and 5th combinations.  The spellbook is limited use only, spells are unlocked when you reach predefined achievements (viewable from the main screen) but if you want more or are in a pinch you have to pay real money to get more.  The biggest issue I have with the game is the number of lives you have. Represented in this game as tree trunks or logs you only have 3 lives with which to play with and afterword’s you have to let them recharge before you can play again. A game without levels or missions should not employ this type of game mechanic. It cries out to me as a money grab by the developer.  As in many other mobile games you can pay for more lives starting at $1.99 for 10.

The game is fun and I think for a younger gamer it can provide a few minutes of entertainment, while a more experience gamer may be able to play longer eventually the game will end. The inability to play the game for as long as you want has me rating the game lower, as well as the pay-to-win mentality on the spellbook is pretty frustrating. Because of the novelty of the concept and the initial fun factor of the game I give it 5 out of 10

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Shadow of Mordor Review - Xbox One
by: Alan Wasserman - 10/20/14

Shadow of Mordor was nominated and won a ton of awards at E3 this year. After playing it for 12+ hours I can tell you that every one of those accolades is deserved. The game was created by Warner Bros.; the same house that brought the Batman Arkham games to life, from the get go you can feel the influence of those games in Mordor’s free flow combat system. The ability to chain attacks together with finishers and takedowns should feel very familiar to veterans of the Batman game. The leveling system is pretty robust; you can level up your character and each of the weapons he uses. While the amount of weapons you can use is limited to a long sword, a bow, and a broken sword .Talion uses as a dagger for executions and silent takedowns, the range of what you can do with them is pretty impressive.

The hero of the story, Talion, is a half wraith/half human anti-hero. After watching his family gets ritually slaughtered at the hands of an Agent of Mordor, Talion is “reborn” as death has rejected him. During this process he is linked to a wraith who shares a similar path and story to his own. Together they launch their plan for revenge so they both can rest at peace and join their families in the afterlife. The interactions between Talion and the wraith are pretty entertaining. The wraith is a central historic figure in the Tolkien universe and plays sort of the moral center of the story, while Talion plays the brute who likes to use force of will and arms to get his way. The creators of the game have taken pieces and parts from Tolkien’s less popular works (like Unfinished Tales, the Silmarillion, etc) and included them in the game to make it accurate and deep without messing with the core story from Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit.

The unique thing about the game is the Nemesis system. Each area of Mordor (there are 2 in the game) has five War Chief Uruks who are super powerful. Each War Chief has 1-2 body guards made up of the lower level Uruk and Orc captains.  There are fifteen Orc Captains. When you start out you don’t know who any of the captains or war chiefs are. You have to interrogate lower level orcs or find Intel to uncover who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are, what or who they are afraid of or what enrages them. The captains hang out in areas called strongholds and sometimes while you are on your way to a mission point or to get a collectible you stumble upon 1 or 2 (I’ve had as many as 3) captains in one area and a huge fight ensues. I literally have been so swarmed by orcs and Uruks that the whole screen is full of them and button mashing ensues to get Talion jumping back and forth chaining together attack to clear out the fodder to take down the Captain.

When you kill a captain you are granted a rune that you can attach to one of your three weapons that enhances it in certain ways. It can increase the amount of damage you do while mounted, or give you chance to regain life on an execution etc. The strength of the rune depends on how he was defeated. Taking advantages of his weaknesses and fears will grant you a higher level rune. Captains are not immediately replaced, but once you are defeated the Nemesis system then goes into action. The Uruk that killed you gets promoted to Captain, then about ½ of the open captain slots are filled by other unknown Uruks or those captains who were present at your defeat are majorly promoted to elite captains.

The purpose of the Nemesis system is that my game should be slightly different than anyone else’s. The Orcs that defeat me in combat will not be the same as the ones that get you.  As mentioned each of the captains have a specific weakness, one that I love to exploit is that some of them can be killed with a single headshot. The bow in the game fires pretty far and its awesome and hilarious to shoot a captain from 200ft or more away, follow the arrow as it kills them and the watching all the orcs in the area run away like cockroaches with the light turned on.

For completionists the game has a ton of collectibles and things do to do outside of the main story line. You can roam the lands of Mordor and find hidden artifacts that provide backstory to the world and the characters you encounter throughout the game. Furthermore there are elven inscriptions called Ithildin, collecting each one completes a doorway similar to the one seen in Lord of Rings that leads to Moria. Each area, flora, fauna, and person you discover unlocks more lore about the world of Lord of the Rings giving it a robust and deep backstory that you can explore at your leisure.

The games achievements are pretty straightforward. Some are related to story missions, others to collecting items or completing side quests. They pop with fair regularity so you’re each session you feel like you are moving toward full completion.

I rate games based on how much I enjoy them and how challenging they are. But I also take into account how eager I am to dive back into the game after I have been away. This game has me completely engrossed and each time I turn off the counsel to go to bed I think about when I’ll get to turn it back on again.

I give this game 9.5 out of 10.

 

 

SPACECOM Review - PC

by: Benjamin and Joshua Goldfarb - 10/02/14

SPACECOM is a real-time strategy game in which you serve as a starfleet commander; navigating various planetary systems with the goal of outsmarting other commanders. Through a series of battles, sieges, and invasions you aim to gain total space dominance. And while SPACECOM’s gameplay mechanics might leave you a bit frustrated at times, it makes up for your skyrocketing blood pressure by offering a minimalistic art style, deeply meditative soundtrack, and a multiplayer mode to settle all of your real life disputes in.

One of the most interest piquing features of SPACECOM are the minimalistic visuals. This game will not bog down your processor with high detail shadowing. Everything is depicted as a simple geometric shape, almost as if you were watching the ships on a radar screen. This gives the player a strong feeling of actually “commanding” the ships, which paired with the entrancing, ambient soundtrack, allows players to really immerse themselves in the action. While the game interface and layout was visually and aurally excellent, we did encounter some annoying game mechanics during our playthrough. For instance, we found ourselves right-clicking far more often than should have been necessary. This was due to multiple essential commands such as unit movement and map controls being mapped to right-click. This meant that a simple misclick when trying to shift the map could inadvertently send your fleet in the wrong direction. What really made this mechanic annoying was the fact that, once assigned, reversing your movement was incredibly difficult, nigh impossible, leaving you with no choice but to watch the action unfold.

After practicing our tactics and learning strategy in single player, we decided to test our skills against one another in the multiplayer mode. This game mode ultimately proved to be our favorite. There is something innately exhilarating about pitting your strategies against your friends and trying to outsmart one another in real time combat, and that’s exactly what SPACECOM delivers. Whether you are a casual gamer or a dedicated fan of RTS games, SPACECOM’s variable game speed settings allow players of all skill levels to command a fleet and taste victory.

There were a few flaws, what with the control difficulties and some confusing gameplay mechanics. However, we have to give it to the game developers at 11 Bit Studios, SPACECOM won us over with the simple and clean design, relaxing soundtrack, and intensely fun multiplayer. Overall, SPACECOM has a few nitpicky problems, but is a solid strategy game and a joy to play! We give SPACECOM 7.5 out of 10. A review code was provided for this story.

 

 

by: Ben Goldfarb - 10/29/14

Gabriel Knight returns to the voodoo capital of the United States in the 20th anniversary remake of the adventure classic, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. Boasting an impressive visual update and remastered soundtrack, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition holds a candle to it’s predecessor and boy does it hold it close.

Gabriel Knight debuted on the point-and-click adventure scene in 1993 and has aged well since. The new artwork really helps bring the game to new life. 21 years later, the games content is identical to the original’s. I think this says a lot about the quality of the game. While some of the dialogue seems outdated and hokey at times, the plot line needed no adjustments to maintain relevance in a modern context.

The story revolves around Gabriel Knight, a writer by day and a womanizer...well, all of the time. He catches wind of some voodoo related murders in New Orleans and decides to investigate the murders, hoping to use them as inspiration for a new novel. Suspicious characters and strange occurrences emerge as Gabriel dives into the world of voodoo and Gabriel must make some life changing decisions.

I ultimately found the game to be quite enjoyable. The audio and visual updates were necessary to bring this game back to life! It is spooky, clever, and pretty difficult. Others compliment the pacing of the game but I actually found it to be somewhat slow. I admit that I am not the best at these kinds of games, but I solved the puzzles in Portal...I shouldn’t have to use a guide for this. Another issue I had was that the “interaction” mechanics are relatively unique for the genre. While different is not inherently a problem, these differences were not ever discussed or introduced to the user. I would prefer that the controls be listed somewhere in the client. I would give this game a solid 8/10.

 

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition is now available for iPad, PC, Mac, and Android platforms. A Review code was provided by Pinkerton Road for this story.

 

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