Saturday, October 27, 2012

Casual Corner

Welcome to another casual corner that will not be as casual as usual. Normally, I concentrate on games that are sold by casual game portals, such as Big Fish Games, Gamehouse, or Alawar. But this month, I mostly got IHOGs from there and they are not that interesting. So, instead, I will shed some light on games out from Steam and/or GOG (Good Old Games) that are not much more expensive than a casual game, yet fun to play. They will be Mark of the Ninja, A Game of Dwarves, and Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams. (I’ll also do a separate post for Lucius later on.)

Mark of the Ninja is an interesting stealth game. It’s all the more interesting, because it’s not in 3D. Games like the Thief series or Splinter Cell rely on you being able to make your way around the enemies. In 2D, however, around merely consists of above or below the enemy, which makes things a lot more difficult. You are a ninja who has just gotten a tattoo with magical ink and is resting when the home of his clan is attacked. A female colleague picks you up and will appear again every now and then within the 13 chapters. The game has a high PEGI rating (18), mostly due to the gruesome and rather bloody ways you can kill your enemies, but it has cartoon graphics, which makes it less realistic. You do, however, get more points if you manage to get through a level (and they are big) without being spotted or killing a guard. I, personally, guess this will mean getting a lot of updates first, so you have better equipment to work with. You move in a side-scrolling manner through the levels and will find several ways to get from point A to point B (usually intersecting at important points C, D, E, F, and G). The ninja can climb sheer walls, slip through air vents, hang from hooks, and hide behind doors or inside planting pots. He has several tools, such as the bamboo darts, smoke grenades, and firecrackers. The tattoo has given him stronger senses, so you can hear (or rather see) things like the movement behind doors (the footfalls of the guards) or sense things like the perimeter of a watch dog’s sense of smell. What it has not given him, though, is immortality. Apart from being bad for the score, getting spotted can also soon mean being dead. Good thing, therefore, that there are several autosave points in the levels. Mark of the Ninja is a difficult game, but one you can replay several times (levels you finished can be replayed whenever you want to).

A Game of Dwarves, on the other hand, is a builder game. You are a Dwarf Prince, but your father, the king, is not happy with your conduct so far. Therefore, he kicks you out and tells you to bring your own clan to greatness to prove you can do more than just eat and sleep all day. The game has both a campaign and a casual game mode. The latter on is a sandbox mode, in which you choose a map type (maps are randomized) and just dig, build, explore, and research at your own pace. You have a level goal, but are in no hurry to meet it. In the campaign, you make your way through the world to fight the Dark Mages and prove you are worthy of being King of the Dwarves one day. The structures you can build underground are amazing, though, as you can have a huge cavern filled with bridges leading to a low tunnel which opens in a nice room with a dais for a throne. Or something completely different. Your dwarves can be trained for one of five different professions: digger, crafter, worker, soldier, or researcher. Diggers dig out new structures and mine all the useful thing underground (gold, silver, iron, gems, and loads of other stuff). Crafters make things, such as beds, tables, chests, decorations, and so on. Workers take care of the underground gardens and harvest food, ale, and wood. Soldiers are guards and warriors, for whenever a goblin or troll shows up in your settlement. Researchers work on advancing technology in all areas. I like the builder part of the game much more than the fighting part (and in the casual game you can turn fights off) and am enjoying myself a lot. The game is fun and the campaign at last serves as a great tutorial, if nothing else.

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is the remake of a game that Nintendo didn’t like the first time around (because the sisters were too much like Mario and his brother), then added to their Game Boy Color library. After one of the sisters is kidnapped by a strange warp, the other one follows into a strange dream world. Two dream worlds, actually, one in candy colours with fluffy enemies, one scary and full of monsters. When changing between the worlds, the main character changes as well (blond girl in the monster world, red-head in the candy world). She has different abilities in both world and where one offers no way out, it usually can be found in the other. You collect crystals in the levels which allow you to unlock graphics and other stuff in the main menu. You get rated, due to how many times you have died in the level. On the whole, the game is refreshingly old-fashioned in many ways. It’s pretty straight ahead, you can easily see where to go, even though the ‘how to get there’ isn’t always as obvious. The levels themselves are the difficulty of the game. It needs both quick fingers and a quick mind. Due to a few technical difficulties at the beginning, I haven’t gotten far in this game yet, but it still is a great one and something for every lover of platform games.

So, those are the three not-quite-casual games for this month. I recommend all three of those games, personally!

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