Monday, May 28, 2012

Casual Corner

Welcome to what might become a new series of posts, the Casual Corner. Here I will present a couple of games each month, usually games that will not get any coverage in gaming magazines for being casual and/or indie games.

For the first Casual corner, I have chosen three different types of games: Kingdom Chronicles, Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen, and SkyDrift. A time management game, an adventure, and a racing/flying game.

I will start with the last one released, which is Kingdom Chronicles. It’s a game like My Kingdom for the Princess or Roads of Rome. You have to make your way through levels, usually repairing a road, and do other stuff on the side. The game has very nice and very funny graphics, a varied gameplay, and some nice, new ideas. On the down side, it is rather short with only 40 levels (plus 6 for the collector’s edition at Big Fish Games). 50 levels and more are standard by today. The game, however, makes up for it by the diversity of the levels, even though the basic principle is, of course, always the same. The game is forgiving for beginners (or people like me, who are not obsessed enough to replay every level again and again), you can continue even after the time runs out and so finish a level in your own time, if necessary. On the whole, the games gets good marks from me, even though the CE, as usually, is not really worth the extra price (but then, I got it in a sale for less than normally). The additional content of the CE is a Strategy Guide that is pretty useless, 6 more levels in which you play the other side, and some design graphics from the game.

April/May and October/November are Nancy Drew months, as they are the time in the year when HerInteractive releases a new game. This year it has been Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen in May (in October/November it will be Nancy Drew: The Deadly Device, as the end credits of the game tell us). With this new game comes a new starting screen and a new HUD for the games, as they have revamped their looks. Nancy’s desk at home (which she can almost never use in the games, as all except Alibi in Ashes are not set in her hometown) is gone, replaced by a more conventional menu picture. On the whole, though, the Nancy Drew games seem to get easier. If you compare one of the last few (The Captive Curse, Alibi in Ashes, Tomb of the Lost Queen) to earlier ones, you realize the time for playing through has definitely been shortened. They have gotten easier, so you can figure puzzles out earlier and thus will finish them sooner. On the whole, however, that doesn’t hurt the fun and adventures are for replaying, anyway (at least for me). The game is nice, even though the Egypt setting has been used a bit too often recently, at least for my taste. The game also is more puzzle heavy than earlier games (which rely more on the adventure-type actions like talking and using objects from your inventory). Still a lot of talk and a true Nancy Drew game.

SkyDrift is quite a bit older than the other two games I have listed so far. I have included it in this month’s Casual Corner, because I bought it on sale from Steam in May. At first sight it reminded me of Slipstream 5000, a futuristic racing game with flying cars that I have played endlessly a long time ago (you can still get it at Good Old Games, though). It is a bit more difficult, because you fly planes in SkyDrift and thus have to keep an eye on your distance to the ground, too. Yet the racing tracks are very nice to look at and each has its own difficulties. You can unlock a lot of different planes (and different skins for each plane) and there’s achievements and trophies, too. The different plane types do, indeed, fly differently. Some are more manoeuvrable than others, some are faster, or more durable. There are three types of races, too. Power races are your usual race type. Come in first to win the race. Survivor races are more difficult, because you have to make sure you are not in last place when the countdown happens. The last one during a countdown is out of the race. In both types you can pick up power-ups on the race tracks. Four of them (rocket, cannon, electrical field, and mines) are offensive power-up with which you can thin out the competition a bit. The other two (repair kit and shield) are defensive and help you to stay alive when others shoot at you (the electrical field can defeat you against a rocket, though). The last type of race doesn’t offer power-ups. Instead, the speed race offers a lot of golden rings. Fly through them to speed up, so you can stay ahead of the other contestants. I’m not a genius at flying, but I find the game quite amusing and fun to play. It’s definitely worth a look, if you like that type of game, and it’s very nice to look at.

That’s it, that was the first Casual Corner. Come back towards the end of next month for another one!

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