Archero

What an absolutely little cracker of a game this is! The simplicity in the design but the excellent combination of action and puzzle solving is where this game comes alive. With a single thumb, you control your little archer through a world of increasing difficulty, where when you stop moving, you start shooting (automatically). There is a need to balance where you are positioned in the map alongside dodging incoming projectiles and other enemies, but at the end of the day, like me, you will be overwhelmed.

It seems that the first stage needs you to complete about fifty levels, which I’m never likely to do in the space of a single day, but I can see how, over time, you would build up the know-how as well as a few upgrades to your character, well enough that you can push through to that big five-zero.

And then, I suspect, you move on to the next world.

One of the things that really floated my boat from this game were the graphics. With very much a Clash of Clans feel, the design of this title really works for it. There are some level design issues in some spaces, particularly when playing a portrait-based game and the level needs to be deeper than the phone allows, meaning that you end up shooting at things off screen and, likewise, you are unable to see incoming projectiles. Nonetheless, you are able to navigate smoothly, and the character model is quick to respond and you can see (when the enemies are on screen) visual indicators to tell you how much health is left for both your player character and the enemies.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see this game still on my phone after a few months. For the first time in a while, I’m actually keen to see where I can expand on the fun of this game. It is well-designed, looks great, and above all else, it is just damn good fun.

Training Day

I don’t think there’s a gamer on the planet who hasn’t played, or at least heard, of Worms. It has a timeless formula that, essentially, just lets you experiment with a whole heap of different weapons times and ‘go at it’ with either the computer of a human opponent.

There are varying degrees of expertise in the Worms community. You have people who are so brilliant at lobbing their grenades across the map with the right level of force, the correct angle, and against the wind that they can blow an opponent off the board in a single stroke. There are others that (over)rely on just getting line of sight, lining up a bazooka shot and firing it with an extreme level of force (that doesn’t actually make a difference).

I like to consider myself somewhere in between.

What I didn’t expect with this particular outing for Worms was the introduction of some new toys. I thought the introduction of a tank was pretty cool – a bit unnecessary in terms of what some of the Worms joy is – but cool nonetheless.

And then, they introduced a Mech!

One of my favourite gaming memories is stomping around a desert world playing MechWarrior. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I couldn’t play it very well, but I absolutely loved it. So, now, picture Worms WMD introducing Mechs, and letting me stomp around the level with the same level of joy that was sparked well over twenty years ago. Absolutely priceless.

I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of this particular Worms, but at the same time, it has such familial comfort that I don’t need to dive too deep without giving my quick-and-dirty assessment on the game: it’s good. It’s the same ol’ Worms, with a WMD lick-of-paint.

To be honest, I wish more games took their winning formula, made them look pretty, and stopped stuffing around with the mechanics.

(The same could be said for the recently release Toy Story 4)

The Missing Lord (Xander)

I try and make a point of firing up Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms once every one or two weeks just to make sure I’m not missing a special event and, more importantly, an opportunity to unlock a special event character. While cross-save would still make this easier, I’ve increasingly become comfortable making my Xbox instance my Idle Champs home.

I’ll admit, Xbox achievements got me through the door, and my time investment in the console version has kept me there.

I enjoyed this latest event because I didn’t feel like it took itself too seriously. While most special events are achievable, some of them make more work than they need to, and this one just simply did not. It had a fun layout for the characters, and a good progress cadence that focussed on getting through it rather than punishing you for the sake of punishing you.

And what’s great about it? I have another character to collect this season! I’ve already sent Brunor back out again, and so with another day of grind, I should be adding another character to my collection.

It’s the little things in life.

Homescapes Level 43

When I think of some of the earliest games I played on the iPhone, a few notable titles come to mind: Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Homescapes all rung-in a new generation of gaming that made mobile phones a legitimate vehicle for contemporary gaming.

With all that in mind, I’m not sure whether I’m just a bad player or if I played more Gardenscapes than Homescapes, but I’m not sure why I’m still only at level 43!

Ah, I know what it is … parenting.

Without getting into a long monologue about contemporary parenting as a gamer, what I will say is that, often, overnight when you have a newborn, you want a quick fix of a short, sharp, but – most importantly – fun video game. Since the birth of my third child, I’ve been leaning quite heavily into Gardenscapes, cf. Homescapes, and so while they’re both great titles, I’m considerably ahead on the former.

The other thing that I think draws me to Gardenscapes over Homescapes is the story. While it’s nice that the whole narrative focuses on improving our protagonist’s parent’s home, I think it feels more engaging to be working on the expansive garden in Gardenscapes. There is real aesthetic changes rather than just the small tweaks and occasional new asset dropped into the environment of the home.

So … with that in mind … I better get back to it. This house won’t renovate itself, and the cat needs a new bed to sleep in!

Break the Bank

Hitman 2 • Completed “Golden Handshake” • 20G • 0.67% of gamers unlocked this

Those who know me, know that I love the Hitman rebooted series – it was by far-and-away my Game of the Year for 2016, and the sequel was pipped-at-the-post for 2018 only by the exceptional masterpiece that was God of War.

What GoW doesn’t do, however, is keep up with a healthy drip-feed of content and love that IOI (which I now chuckle about since I started watching Ready Player One) have given the game ever since they wrestled control of it from Square Enix.

I have to say – if getting out from a big publisher can do this for Hitman 2, I have exceptionally high hopes to see what Destiny 2 can do once free from Activision.

But I digress. Today I want to talk about one of the newer missions in H2, set in a New York Bank. It’s tight, controlled, and offers up a ‘Hitman-lite’ experience when compared to the main game(s). But I have to say, as additional content, I am more than happy for this level of polish. Sure, it doesn’t have the sprawling environment of Sapienza, or the NPC-rich markets of Marrakech, but what it has is story. It has enough beats for 47 to make this feel quintessentially Hitman, and – above all else – it’s fun.

Without much effort, I was able to get through two of the main story angles, and with a bit of blind luck and random button-presses, I managed to clear a few more milestones as well. The mission itself asks you to kill the main bank boss and steal some data from either the safe or off three other bosses in the bank – and while my plan going in was to aim for the safe, as it turned out, I stumbled into those three executives without too much trouble – and so, I killed them, took their hard drives, and then put a bullet in the front of the bank boss lady’s head.

Just another day in paradise.

Which, ironically, is where Lucas Grey tells 47 that they are headed to next at the end of the level – right before the ominous TO BE CONTINUED splashed across the screen.

After XIII ended the game like that back in 2003, I’ve been a little bit scarred. At least give me a (The) Sopranos-style cut-to-black!

I suppose the difference here is, the fact overarching story told in cutscenes is very different than that told through either in-mission voiceover or through emerging gameplay. Hitman is a game where you can dive into a world and kill a target without needing to know all the nuts and bolts of their lives. XIII is an intensely narrative-driven action romp where context is essential.

Still, to be safe – just don’t do ‘to be continued’s’.

I’m curious to see what some of the other achievements are for this DLC but I’m more than pleased for a solid first effort from IOI. I can’t wait to see what else they come up when they inevitably (shudder) ‘continue’ the series.

AoM Forbidden Valley 1-7 Flicker of Hope

As it turns out, you can only use your ‘borrow a minion off a friend’ once a day, and so with a whole roster full of woefully underpowered heroes, I elected to mix up the path a little and head into the Forbidden Valley.

I didn’t think there was anything special about this fight – it was fairly evenly matched and both sides lost a person or two (though, obviously, I still had some standing at the end!), but my main takeaway out of this whole encounter was that I had completely missed the auto advance button on the left hand side of the screen. So, instead of trying to find the best attack/defend option on each round, I can increase the speed to 4x, let it auto-play, and I believe it’s going quicker than I’ve ever been able to get through a game that didn’t use an auto-clicker or a few player-friendly enhancements!

AoM Light Campaign 2-7 Valley of the Shadow

It’s been a few days since I last opened up Age of Magic, so imagine my delight when I logged on and got bumped to level 19 straight away. Lucky me!

Back into the throng of the fight, and this was a level that wasn’t shy about introducing quite a few enemies into the mix. The main antagonist for this level was a floating demon-like creature called an ‘Arekhon Shadow’, who was big, nasty, and did a good job of taking the focus – and the damage – off the rest of the group.

Of course, the whole fight was made a lot easier given I ‘borrowed’ a Level 41 Roland from a ‘friend’!