Monthly Archives: March 2016

Ravenous and Bulletproof Outlaws’ Side-Scrolling Action Game ‘Paranormal Minis’ Resurrected (Again!)

Ravenous and Bulletproof Outlaws’ Side-Scrolling Action Game ‘Paranormal Minis’ Resurrected (Again!)

All the way back in November of 2013, Ravenous Games once again teamed up with Bulletproof Outlaws, the artists they worked with on their popular platformers League of Evil 2 and 3, on a new action shooter called Paranormal Minis. Originally a dual-stick shooter, progress on Paranormal Minis sort of languished in the face of other projects, until a full year later when Ravenous revived the project and overhauled its dual-stick design to make it a more traditional side-scrolling action shooter/brawler. Unfortunately, both teams once again became busy and poor Paranormal Minis got put on the back burner once again. Now, well over a year later, Ravenous has again resurrected the thread for Paranormal Minis to announce that work has begun yet again on the game, and they offered up this brand new screenshot.

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Ravenous says that in the past couple of weeks they’ve added in new weapons to Paranormal Minis, including ones with explosions that cause splash damage (Hello rocket launchers!) and ones that do damage over time (flamethrower!). They’ve also implemented 4 playable characters each with unique stats, as well as different skills you can equip to those characters do boost things like weapon damage and movement speed. They’re hoping to finish up some menu work and have an alpha version of Paranormal Minis up and running in a couple of weeks, and they estimate that they’ll need another month or two to (finally) wrap up the entire project. Let’s hope this one doesn’t get sidetracked again as it looks really awesome!

Calm Your Nerves When Flying by Packing a “Feel-Good Kit”

Calm Your Nerves When Flying by Packing a “Feel-Good Kit”

Even if you fly regularly, it can still be nerve-wracking. You can calm yourself a little each time you fly by packing a kit filled with things that increase your comfort and cheer you up.

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‘Romancing SaGa 2’ Import Impressions – Final Fantasy’s Complicated Cousin

‘Romancing SaGa 2’ Import Impressions – Final Fantasy’s Complicated Cousin

Square Enix’s SaGa series has always had a difficult relationship with players outside of Japan. Although in certain details it’s not terribly different from the Final Fantasy series, SaGa is very much a product of its creator, Akitoshi Kawazu. It’s not afraid to go way outside of everyone’s comfort zone in terms of mechanics. How that kind of approach works out depends on the individual game. While many RPG fans find the Game Boy release SaGa 2 (known in the US as Final Fantasy Legend 2) to be a fairly agreeable game, the PlayStation 2 title Unlimited SaGa is considered by many to be one of the worst games Square ever attached their name to. Most of the games in the series elicit a mixed reaction, making it difficult to know if they’re going to be your thing or not. If nothing else, at least, Romancing SaGa 2 is considered one of the better installments in the series, which might explain why it’s the first to get an iOS release.

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A remake of a 1993 Japan-exclusive Super NES release, Romancing SaGa 2 has been given the kind of visual remaster many had wished for with other Square Enix 16-bit classics. That is to say, it looks good on the high resolution iPhone screen without sacrificing its original style. There aren’t any nasty filters, and sprites look true to how you would remember them if you had played the original version. This isn’t the first remake of the game, or even the first version of it on a mobile phone, however. Japanese feature phones got a version of the game back in 2010, and the bonus features from that release are included here. The visuals and UI are new to this version, though, and as you would expect, sorting through menus is a breeze on a touch screen. Moving around is a bit more difficult, particularly if you want to move precisely. Square’s really had a rough go with virtual sticks lately. The game runs smoothly as long as you’re on an iPhone 5 or higher, and apart from the fussy movement controls, this is quite an excellent version of the game.

It’s not hard to see why the Romancing SaGa games weren’t released worldwide back in the 16-bit era. They’re very strange, complicated games, and Square’s perception of the RPG market outside Japan at that time can be inferred almost entirely by the fact that Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is known as Final Fantasy USA in Japan. Some systems carry over from the Game Boy games we know and mostly love, but there are some big changes, too. For starters, Romancing SaGa 2 puts you in the role of a line of emperors, starting with Emperor Leon and moving on down through the generations as time passes and characters expire. That title isn’t just for show, as you’ll need to run your empire, finding gold for the treasury and collecting taxes to spend on various necessities. As you clear dungeons and other areas on the map, your empire will expand, and you’ll get more tax money to spend. It’s quite open-ended for a console RPG of its era, too.

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Your main goal is to take down the Seven Heroes, a group of warriors from the past who returned not as saviors, but as demons. You’ll make your first attempt pretty early on, and suffice it to say, it doesn’t go well. The rest of the game is basically a slow-motion Rocky montage of you trying to get your characters strong enough to win. Should an emperor die, it’s on to the next generation, stronger and hopefully wiser. The rest of your party is filled out with various people from around the empire who join as one of several job classes. Interestingly, each character has a stat called Life Points. They’re depleted any time a character is KO’d in battle, and when that character runs out, you can say good-bye to them. Yes, it’s rather vicious.

The leveling system is equally capricious, though if you’ve played a SaGa game before, or its spiritual grandfather Final Fantasy 2 [$ 7.99], you’ll probably be familiar with it. Stats level up individually after battles, seemingly randomly. Using weapons makes them more powerful for that character. Romancing SaGa 2‘s main innovation in terms of character building is its Spark system that has your characters learning new moves apparently out of the blue. There are methods behind all of this madness, but most people will finish the game just as confused about what’s going on behind the curtain as when they started. It’s probably one of the main things that turns people off of SaGa, and I’ll admit that even I have to be in the right mood to deal with it.

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Also important is the formation system, which allows you arrange your party in a variety of patterns that convey advantages and disadvantages depending on a character’s position. If an enemy gets the jump on you, they’ll usually scramble up your formation, so walk carefully or try not to care too much, I suppose. Enemies are visible on the map, will home in on your position, and absolutely love to dog-pile. Should a character survive the battle, their HP will be completely restored, but Life Points can only be restored through expensive and somewhat rare potions. As in Final Fantasy 2, you need make sure you’re approaching each enemy correctly, lest your attack do no damage whatsoever. Make sure you’ve always got a couple of spellcasters on hand.

Romancing SaGa 2 is the same weird game it always was. The thing is, if you give it enough time, you might come to grow fond of its eccentricities. If nothing else, it’s at least respectable how little it seems to care for the conventions of the RPG genre. It makes it feel almost as fresh nearly 13 years later as it did when it first came out. Outside of the SaGa games themselves, there’s nothing else that plays quite like Romancing SaGa 2. Ambitious, overly complicated, and frequently messy, even this well-liked installment is destined to split people if it even manages to get released outside of Japan.

That, unfortunately, is the rub. Romancing SaGa 2 has never been officially translated into English, and we haven’t seen a SaGa game leave Japan since 2005’s Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song on PlayStation 2. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but there are a lot of forces working against it. Still, Square Enix has proven that they have confidence in the worldwide smartphone market for premium RPGs, and they’re running out of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games to port. It may be that Square is finally willing to take a gamble on another English SaGa release. Let’s hope so, because this is an excellent port of one of the more interesting RPGs from Square’s 16-bit days.

Take a Look at Y’Shaarj, the Third God From ‘Hearthstone’ ‘Whispers of the Old Gods’ Expansion

Take a Look at Y’Shaarj, the Third God From ‘Hearthstone’ ‘Whispers of the Old Gods’ Expansion

And then they were three Old Gods in Hearthstone [Free]. After C’Thun and N’Zoth, Blizzard unveiled Y’Shaarj, the biggest of the Old Gods and once the head of the largest empire on Azeroth. The third of the gods from the upcoming Whispers of the Old Gods expansion, Y’Shaarj is, of course, a 10-cost Legendary and has the highest stats of the Gods we’ve seen so far with 10 Attack and 10 Health. His effect, though, is on the disappointing side, at least with what we know so far about the expansion. At the end of your turn, Y’Shaarj puts a minion from your deck into the battlefield. First, a couple of clarifications: as with other similar effects, Y’Shaarj’s won’t trigger battlecries, and cards with end of turn effects that are pulled out of your deck will not activate those effects, which pretty much demands you build a very specific deck if you’re not to waste your cards’ battlecries and effects.

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His effect is very similar to Varian Wrynn’s, which hasn’t seen that much play recently. At least Y’Shaarj only pulls one card, so he won’t mill you as quickly as Varian. Still, most comments I’ve seen describe the third God as the most disappointing of the three because he’s too slow and his effect doesn’t have the immediate impact a 10-mana card needs to have. People really expected to see something special, and this version of Y’Shaarj definitely hasn’t impressed many.

Blizzard unveiled another card today, Ancient Harbinger, whose mission is to ensure you draw that God before the end of the match. At the start of your turn, the 6-mana 4/6 minion puts a 10-cost minion from your deck into your hand, something that can make players who are gambling with big minions feel a bit more comfortable that if nothing else, they’ll probably have that expensive card in their hand.

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Of course, you first have to draw Ancient Harbinger at a convenient time, then play it and hope he survives a turn, and then make it to turn 10 (or thereabout) to play that 10 mana cost card (God or otherwise). A few too many ways that plan can go wrong, I think. We’ll see when all the cards come out and Standard hits whether the meta will slow enough to allow for these big guys, but I think not many will go the Y’Shaarz route. So, what do you think of this God? Disappointed, or pretty much what you expected?

Adjust Audio Balance in iOS Under the Accessibility Options

Adjust Audio Balance in iOS Under the Accessibility Options

If I?m doing anything where I need to hear the world around me, I tend to just keep one earbud in when I?m listening to podcasts or music. This obviously screws with the sound, but Macworld reminds us where the option to adjust balance is tucked away in iOS.

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Big ‘Power Hover’ Update Finally Arrives Next Week, New Trailer Released

Big ‘Power Hover’ Update Finally Arrives Next Week, New Trailer Released

We’ve been following the progress of Power Hover’s [$ 2.99] forthcoming update for the past few months as developer Oddrok has been posting bits and pieces of the update in our forums. Now it’s all coming full circle as that update is finished and set to arrive next Thursday, April 7th. The update will include new environments to hover around in, an entire new chapter with 6 new levels and 1 new endless boss level, and new characters to unlock and play as. All of this new goodness can be seen in this brand new trailer.

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In case you’re in the dark on what all this Power Hover business is all about, check out our original review from December to get the skinny on the game. Basically, it’s an extremely stylish 3rd-person runner type game, but level-based with certain endless levels and a really unique physics system. Our only real gripe with the game was a lack of variety, which should be rectified nicely with the new environments and characters in next week’s update. Also check out the forum thread for plenty of discussion on Power Hover, and look for the game’s first big content update next Thursday.

Stylish Endless Surfer ‘Go Surf’ Launching Next Thursday

Stylish Endless Surfer ‘Go Surf’ Launching Next Thursday

Earlier this month we checked out the trailer for Go Surf, a new one-touch endless surfing game that had a really killer visual style. Developer Diverso Games has got in touch with us to let us know that Go Surf now has an official release date, and should be arriving on the App Store next Thursday, April 7th. In case you missed that trailer the first time around, here it is again.

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Some folks, ourselves included, have said Go Surf looks like the surfing version of Alto’s Adventure [$ 2.99], and I still think that’s pretty accurate. Both games are centered around a simple gameplay mechanic but are fleshed out by their beautiful visuals and the little worlds they take place in that feel truly alive. Go Surf in particular feels like it nails that beach lifestyle vibe. The game has actually been in soft-launch for a couple of weeks, and so far early players have had some nice things to say about it, as well as some good feedback for the developers. So expect a pretty polished product when Go Surf officially launches on April 7th for $ 2.99 with no IAP.

Correct a Child’s Behavior Without Punishment By Focusing on These Three Things

Correct a Child’s Behavior Without Punishment By Focusing on These Three Things

Many parents dole out punishment when their children do something bad, but Alan Kazdin, director of the Yale Parenting Center, says that even gentle punishment like time outs don?t work.

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‘Dirac’ Review – Atoms @ Home

‘Dirac’ Review – Atoms @ Home

With a name like Mediocre, it?s almost like the studio is baiting reviewers. ?Go ahead,? they’re saying, ?just try to make some lame joke about our games being mediocre.? Of course we can?t say those things, because Smash Hit [Free] and Does Not Commute [Free] (and earlier titles like Sprinkle [$ 1.99]) were outstanding games. The irony in their name proves the studio is supremely confident in the quality of their products, and they’ve certainly earned it.

That said, their latest game, Dirac [$ 1.99], doesn’t feel quite as mind blowing as their previous hits. It’s still not ?mediocre?, but it’s a considerably more dialed-down experience than Smash or Commute. In fact, it?s nothing at all like their recent output, since Dirac is essentially just a simple line-drawing arcade game.

dirac1?Simple? is relative, though, as even this game has a bit more meat on its bones than the majority of iOS releases each week. There are five modes, ranging from ?Novicium? to ?Absurdium?. The mechanics change slightly in each of them, but the core remains the same: there?s a big molecule in the middle of the screen, and every few seconds it burps out quantum particles of different colors. (Note: I?m not a physicist, so go easy in the comments.) In some modes it seems to happen to the beat of the music, which is a really nice touch. Anyway, basically you need to draw lines between dots of the same color to make them disappear, and if any different colored dot hits the line, it?s broken and you have to start over. If any particles fall off the screen, the molecule at the center of the screen shrinks. If the molecule disappears entirely, it?s game over. Maybe even for the whole universe.

There?s a bit of strategy involved as well, because if you manage to create a closed circle with your line drawing, you?ll capture every other particle inside (even if it?s not part of your line). This leads to a lot of frantic moments where you?re trying to delicately navigate the hordes of dots without touching any of the wrong color, and closing the circle before it gets too big and expands off the screen.

It can be incredibly difficult after a few minutes when the screen is a chaotic mess, especially in the later modes where the challenge ramps up considerably. Unfortunately, it can often be extremely frustrating since you can?t keep track of every dot on screen, and eventually one is going to ruin your circle-making. Making things even harder is the fact that the dots are tiny and human fingers are inelegant meat sticks, so you?re constantly stabbing and dragging around the screen with some of your view blocked.

dirac2That said, when you do pull off one of these circle maneuvers, it can feel like quite an accomplishment. Especially when the screen is full of dots and you capture 90% of them with one unbroken line. It does wonders for your score, too, and I often found myself intentionally waiting until the screen was full before drawing any lines. Another helpful addition for achieving high scores are special smaller molecules that bump your multiplier up when you capture them.

As I mentioned earlier, there are five modes (difficulties) total, not including ?Tutorium?. The first one is not much more than what I?ve described so far, and the rest typically add new elements (like white particles so you have to deal with three instead of two) and ramp up the frequency with which the particles appear. Also, when you achieve a specific high score in any of these modes, the circle surrounding that mode?s icon will fill, giving you something to progress toward.

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I like Dirac. It?s a clever idea that works pretty well on the touchscreen, and there?s plenty of content to keep you engaged in the form of extra modes with slightly tweaked game mechanics. I also really enjoyed the particle physics theme (or is it chemistry?), and it all comes together in a package that feels quite different from Mediocre?s other games. Of course, all of their games are quite different from one another, so in that respect I suppose it?s not that surprising at all. That said, it was slightly frustrating interacting with the tiny dots on the screen at times since your hand and/or fingers could very easily cover the action. (I played on an iPad, and can?t even imagine trying to get a high score on a phone.) It?s not quite as inventive and genre-busting as some of the developer’s other recent games, but it?s still quite far from being just “mediocre”.

Save $15 On (Almost) Any $75 eBay Order, Including Gift Cards

Save On (Almost) Any eBay Order, Including Gift Cards

From now until 8PM ET, eBay is taking $ 15 off any $ 75 order (with a few exclusions) when you check out with Paypal and use code C15LIMITEDTIME at checkout. That includes gift cards (other than eBay gift cards), so there?s really no reason not to take advantage.

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