Saturday, 17 May 2014

Serious Sam 3: BFE Game design review

I'm a big fan of Serious Sam, having played the originals, 2 and now 3. I've always enjoyed the solid gun action, the interesting environments and the overwhelmingly crazy number of enemies running towards you. Serious Sam 3: BFE (Battle for Earth) tells the story of what happened just prior to Sam entering the time lock which allowed him to travel back into time.

What I liked
Serious Sam arcade action- It's a Serious Sam game full of action, large arenas and a multitude of crazy enemies and overwhelming odds.

Running- This is a good new thing to Serious Sam. I like the ability to run and reposition yourself.

Destructible scenary- This is a good fun addition to the game. It really kept me on my toes as no place is truly safe in the larger arenas.

What I disliked
Weapons- The sledgehammer is fun (albeit slow) as is the devastator shotgun which is really awesome. However the sniper rifle and laser gun are secrets in the game which you have to look for. It's also missing weapons like the chainsaw, grenade launcher, flamethrower and the Serious bomb.

The new C4 explosives are alright but I don't feel like its the same as the grenade launcher. You also get the Sirian multilator which is unfortunately next to useless. You might as well just melee the enemy.

Finally, I kind of wish there was something similar to the homing parrot of Serious Sam 2.

Reloading- One of the best parts of Serious Sam was the lack of reloading. Unfortunately reloading is a big part of this game and it feels out of place and slowing the game down.

Melee attacks- I like the addition of melee attacks in the game which instantly kills an enemy. However what I don't like is how Sam holds on to a bodypart as a trophy afterwards. You can actually toss it at enemies and damage them but it's really slow, next to useless and almost never hits.

Graphics and artstyle- Serious Sam 3 takes place in a future Egypt very similar to our modern era which is also the same setting for Serious Sam Episdoe 1.

This Eygpt however is a realistic and gritty war torn modern zone and when compared with the Egypt from Serious Sam Episode 1, the variety of time periods from Episode 2 and the crazy wacky episodes of Serious Sam 2 I find Serious Sam's environments very disappointed. Who can forget the splendor of fighting through Mental's hordes in Egypt during its heyday or Babylon? What about that planet where everything was really big in Serious Sam 2 or the Kleer planet? If I wanted to play a modern military shooter set in a gritty urban environment, I would play Call of Duty. Overall, I feel Serious Sam 3 needed to be more creative and interesting. Why not have more sections with futuristic alien technology? Aside from the enemies and some alien tombs, there was nothing interesting. Even a couple of alien tanks or structures would have livened things up around Egypt.

Level design- The game in my opinion often forces you into cramped corridors and space especially at the beginning which in my opinion is terrible. Serious Sam has always been about large open spaces faces hordes of enemies, not closed corridors and everything just needs to be even larger and bigger. Furthermore, because of the very similar environments the levels just don't feel memorable. The game gets better as it progresses and the last level is awesome and epic as always.

New enemies- Unfortunately the new enemies don't add to the game. Most of the new enemies, such the pillar hoping attacker and the flying sorceress feel very out of place. The first actively hides from you around pillars turning it into a hide-and-seek game while the flying sorceress is invicible until it starts using its magical powers of stasis. There's simply no way to damage them properly for the majority of the time and you end up having to wait around for them to expose themmselves. It feels out of place for a game like Serious Sam.

Sandclouds- Great showcase of technology but this tends to obscure the action. Enemies aren't affected by this as far as I can tell so they can still see you.

Story- The story is average but the talking is just boring and way too serious. And it kind of just ends abruptly with Sam entering the timelock. Also, in the ending, Sam has jetpack but he doesn't start with one in Serious Sam: First Encounter.

Jetpack- So you have a jetpack but you only get to use it in the last level. A real wasted opportunity.

Serious Sam 3 is a fun game don't get me wrong, but the new things they added just don't quite seem to fit my expectations of a Serious Sam game. I'd still rather play Serious Sam Second Encounter HD over this any day.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Capsized: Game design review

Capsized is 2D action platformer game with grappling hooks and jetpacks with its mechanics very clearly influenced from Liero and Soldat. You control a spaceman who can wield multiple weapons and have to complete an objective such as destroy something, kill enemies or reach the exit.

What I liked:
Grappling hooks and jetpacks- Few games have both. This game gives them to you pretty much straight away and its really fun to grapple around and fling yourself upwards.
All weapons have dual fire- Each weapon has two firing modes effectively doubling the amount of weapons you have.

Solid mechanics- Mechanically the game is smooth and solid and controls were responsive.

What I didn't like
Level design is way too claustrophobic- The levels are terrible for a game with a jetpack and grappling hook. All too often you end up stuck in a cave with poisonous gas billowing at you or a requirement to move rocks through thin narrow passages.

Physics puzzle- Like many other physics based games, occasionaly you will have to drag and drop rocks to certain places but frankly its a real pain to actually control them and al too often I'll get stuck trying to place a rock in a specific place or overshoot it. Frankly I think they should just had you pick up keys rather than trying to position rocks or alternatively have objects click in place one you're close enough.

Enemy camoflague- Just like the environment, the enemies are all green meaning they are difficult to spot when you're whizzing through the level.

Jetpack underused- Jetpack is almost slow considering the grappling hook can easily fling you across the entire screen if timed right. There's also a hammer which air blasts you backward. Using both the jetpack and hammer can allow you to pull of some amazing moves. The jetack on the otherhand does very little flinging and is mosty used to stabilise yourself to close the remaining space to reach a platform.

Small screen size- Screen size is very small especially considering how fast I could fling myself. All too often I would not know where I was headed. The ability to zoom in and out the faster you travel would have helped solve this problem.

I played up to level 11 in Capsized, but the game became way too tough and reptitive. So I stopped playing. As mentioned I don't understand why this game got such high scores from everybody. While mechanically sound, the game lacks interesting level design and just doesn't make use of its full potential. I can't really recommend you play this.