You’ve got to hand it to Capybara: they released two of the best “smaller” videogames of 2009 within a few months of each other, and both happen to belong to a genre that I for one had been totally through with. You know a game type has officially reached saturation when Kotex makes their own clone, but Capybara proves that match-3 still has some life left in it after all. Critter Crunch combined the descending action of Space Invaders with a novel “food chain” matching mechanic to great effect. Clash of Heroes, on the other hand, tries its hand at providing an alternative to the Puzzle Quest-style match-3 RPG. This is a game created for everyone who, like me, devoured Gyromancer and Galactrix last year but were left feeling cold.
Clash of Heroes is a DS title, so you wouldn’t expect it to match Critter Crunch’s pristine HD visuals. But you also wouldn’t expect this game’s crude sprite art to satisfy as much as it does. It would be interesting to see how much money was spent on producing these two games, because it seems entirely possible that Critter Crunch (which costs roughly one-forth the price of CoH at retail) was the more expensive of the two projects. I wouldn’t say the look here is charming; it’s basically a bunch of low-pixel soldiers and demons who can only face one direction even while walking. Graphics hounds will be somewhat non-plussed during the opening scenes, but once they start strategizing they’ll quickly cease to really care how the game looks at all.
The game is divided up into independent vignettes following the tribulations of one of five young warriors whose parents have been slaughtered by a demonic horde; therefore, there are five types of armies: elven, knight, undead, demon, and “mage” (think Aladdin’s Jafar, not Gandalf). Each arc follows the same basic pattern: slowly build up your army, make your way through a short quest supplemented by bounty hunting missions on the side, and wrap things up with an incredibly well-designed boss fight. Just when you’re sick of using the same units and scanning the rote dialogue of one spiky-haired anime-type, the sequence ends.
You can read the rest of the review here at Sleeper Hit.
I’ve been neglecting posting here, because school work is ridiculous and I’m busy writing things non-casually for News Games and Sleeper Hit. I’ve been working at Sleeper Hit for a little under a month now, and I’m finally getting into a groove for product reviewing. I’m still trying to figure out how to mix in personal touches without being too NGJ and how to insert meaningful game studies lessons without coming off as overbearing or tangential. Receiving free games is weird. We’re a pretty small site, but basically all it takes is one or two polite emails to get anything we want sent over. Nobody emails us to ask how the review is going if it’s taking more than a week, and nobody posts angry, anonymous comments if we write a slam piece. I guess, because we don’t have advertising (and a payroll), things are just idyllic. Also, I get a press pass to PAX East, so that’s awesome.
ODST – This is where I got myself a little too into the NGJ mess, with 800 words about what the first Halo and its pistol meant to me.
Trine – One of the best indie games I’ve played on Steam yet. Great contrast between the mage and thief characters, lame level design and reliance on “physics.”
Critter Crunch – This is where I tried to insert a lecture about puzzle games and the power of context… and failed. It feels tacked on; better luck next time. Good game!
Oh and, “Editing. Editing never changes.” Apparently having an MFA in creative writing doesn’t automatically imbue one with the ability to construct complete sentences.