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Haven Review: Pokemon Gold and Silver

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Greetings trawler and welcome to the magical word of Pokemon, a place of untold mystery filled to the brim with mighty beasts, fluffy critters, a bucket load of weird things and a fair share of Eldrtich abominations wanting to feast on your soul. In this lovely pastel-colored world, children as young as ten are sent out to become a Pokemon trainer; someone who can wield the mighty powers each Pokemon contains. However I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s mostly children who did badly on their aptitude tests that have to travel across the land. This might also explain why fishermen with only “Magicarps” are in the party. In other words, these poor uneducated buggers throw fish at you…weak aquatic creatures that flop around on the ground.

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A move that involves only flopping and Splashing around in front of the opponent. It has no effect. Image found on Google.

As Pokemom participate in vicious fights against other monsters, they will eventually become stronger and “evolve” into a bigger and much more vicious version, though the process should be called a metamorphosis. After all I was taught that evolution was something that happened over a very long time through generations. But I’ll crack that up the likelihood that the local scientist in town could quite possibly be bonkers with no formal education. So I’ll stick to the term “evolution”.

The most common way to proceed through the game is via combat, though some rare exceptions occur. Either through elemental rocks or when night sets, some evolve through trading with other trainers, and a selective few by holding an item while being traded. These also seem to grow strong faster, as well. A new trend that recently occurred a well, is the ability to breed Pokemon by putting two of the same gender at the ever-friendly Caretaker’s place. Eventually they lay an egg that will hatch into baby, and if its nature is right will get a little stronger than the rest, by fighting certain Pokemon. Rumor has it that a Pokemon with different color might just appear…and it’s ultra rare! On my journey I got some new tools, as well. This includes a snazzy phone with a map function, though I’m not sure why these deadbeat trainers I fought on the way want to have my number. It’s not like the eventual rematch will be any less one-sided.

Fact of Pokemon life.
Fact of Pokemon life.

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for several decades or in The Congo, you have probably heard of or seen a Pokemon product. Whether this is a good thing or not is for you to decide. My first encounter was the pesky Trading Card Game (TCG), which almost no one played (yet everyone and their mother had a card or ten). I was clearly a target demographic when Nintendo launched its nefarious plot to make money off funky critters that fought each other in an arena…essentially a combination of cock fighting and match of rock-paper-scissors.

The old and the new version.
The old and the new version.

The first in the series I actually played through was Pokemon Gold, the sequel to Red and Blue, which added more of everything; new monsters, new locations and a lot of post-game content. The formula mostly follows the idea of fighting eight gym leaders, then challenge the elite four and lastly the champion. As part of the post-game content, there were eight more gym leaders to beat and to have a climatic battle against. Red was the champion from the previous game.

Slightly upgraded graphics.
Slightly upgraded graphics.

Eventually Gold and Silver got a remake named Soul Silver and Hearth Gold, which included a lot of the new elements introduced in later games. This includes Pokemon that need a certain level of happiness to evolve. Aside from better graphics and the addition of some mechanics the game includes a pedometer, a device that counts the number of steps the user has taken during a walk. It is also possible to transfer a Pokemon into the device to level it up while walking, and trade a random item with another person who also has such a device.

The main series is formulaic as all hell and is an example of how to make a highly addictive, turn-based role playing game correctly.

Disclaimer:  We received this game for review purposes only. As such, all views in this article are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

While you’re at it, check out this Pokemon fancomic.
http://pokeventuras.smackjeeves.com/

Njål H Sand

Haven Review: Stella Glow

First up is our disclaimer. We received this game for review purposes only, and as such all opinions in this review are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

SGCoverRGBStella Glow is yet another title from the Atlus game company, and being honest the last few titles from them have been less than enjoyable. These include Legend of Legacy and Etrian Odyssey II, so I go into this with low expectations.

However right from the start, I noticed another company had a hand in making this title; my old friend SEGA. The game started and I was instantly taken to a screen where apparently a previous protagonist is being engulfed in some type of fire; he is dying as his teammates look on. So now I’m intrigued as I try to struggle with looking past the flames that are burning and engulfing me, and a promise is made so that no one else will have to suffer the same way.

The game soon cuts to a girl named Lisette in the village of Mithra, talking about a previous hero who stopped God’s wrath by sacrificing himself.Stella-Glow-Hilda_11-04-15 I assume this to be the previous protagonist from the cut-scene. Before long she learns that her adopted brother is off in the forest hunting, and she runs after him. As soon as they meet they’re tossed into the first battle of the game!

Combat is in the form of a Final Fantasy style tactic, with the twist that players are allowed to move around the board only a certain number of steps. When he gets close to an enemy he can attack. The game instructs the player to attack rear flanks, as enemies are weaker there. Upon attacking you are treated to a nice cut-scene of the player battling with the monster. It was a nice change from what I’ve seen in other game titles. It also gives a nice look at character appearance, in an in-depth…albeit chibi design. After the battle ends and you continue on with the story, you are treated to some spectacular voice acting that made me just want to play the game even more. The voices felt like they belonged with the characters. I also noticed that the voice actors never once went off script, where as in other games the text would say one thing and the voices another. Everything was precise and to the point, explaining the story so I wouldn’t get lost.2954587-harbingers+2

As I continued on with the game, Lisette soon became a witch and I was told to tune her soul, which played out as you would expect. No hidden mini-game, no random hidden feature, just a small story cut-scene again where I talk to her and am given some “yes” or “no” options. I was a little confused when the prologue was over. It said the story is now mine to tell, but through playing the game there was very little room for customization (outside of character creation).

The game itself is very limiting as well, as to what the player can actually do. Through my entire time playing, it felt as if the story was just advancing without much of my input. At times I felt forced to grind away.Stella-Glow-Dated-JP_03-09-15 I get that a role-playing game wants to tell a story, but it felt more like a Telltale game where I don’t get a choice between going to point A or to point B. I was just forced to do it.

Overall though, despite that one flaw with the game, I have been having a good time playing through and I wish there was more I could do. But I suppose some things are just not meant to be. I recommend picking up Stella Glow if you have the money laying around, as it’s a fun title and the story to me at least is fairly good; even with its blatant attempt at a materia-like setup for its weapons.

-Daniel Clatworthy-
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Haven Review: Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution

Title1First up is our disclaimer. We received this game for review purposes only, and as such all opinions in this review are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

Adapting board games to electronic platforms is a hit-and-miss operation. Classic titles that have been around for decades are especially difficult. Often the rules quite don’t translate, and developers are slow to release expansion boards, card sets and game pieces in the form of DLC. Fortunately, the game we’re about to review doesn’t have to worry about any of that because it’s unique to the computerized world! Enter Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution, developed by High Tale Studios and published by Black Shell Media.

Fans will tell you that to be a good board game, a title must provide a balance of two features: strategy and tactics. The former represents an overall plan that defines a player’s future intentions. The latter denotes a specific proaction to embellish that plan, or a reaction to an opponent’s move.
Castle2The idea behind Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution is simple enough. You are a rebel squirrel during the French Revolution, doing your part to end the tyranny brought on by the tax-collecting authority. Acorns are your currency, and your fellow squirrels are being denied their share. Vive la Revolution!

The game plays out on a grid somewhat like a chess board. You place gun-wielding squirrels onto squares on your side of the board, along with obstacles and barricades to slow the Tax Man’s army. You place your pieces and attack first each round, before the enemy has a chance to do the same. To compensate, your opponent is granted a larger corps of defenders to use on the first turn (and on subsequent turns if they survive). This defensive advantage becomes more pronounced as the game progresses, so your thought processes must evolve, as well.
Gate1Stationed behind each team of combatants is a base of operations. This is shown as a house, gate or some other solid structure, depending on the current place in the story. The goal of each round is to destroy the enemy base, and it turns out that your base always begins with more hit points that that of the AI. Don’t be fooled, however. The opponent’s aforementioned corps advantage more than makes up for its slightly weaker base. Trust me, you’ll appreciate every last hit point you have!

The rules of play remain more or less the same throughout the story, so we’ll examine the most common strategic and tactical elements for this review.

First, the strategy:

FiveItemsWhen a round begins, you’re presented with a 5-item lineup. This consists of “3 barrels plus 2 squirrels” or “3 squirrels plus 2 barrels”. Either way, you have these 5 objects to place onto the board as you see fit. Squirrels represent your offensive force, while barrels provide protective defense. Truth be told, squirrels do have a small number of hit points themselves, so they can be used as defensive structures to protect your base.

AcornsBefore placing your pieces, look for piles of acorn currency that periodically show up on the board. Placing either a squirrel or a barrel onto the acorns increases your bank reserves. What can you spend acorns on? Three things:

TrioDefense: Increases the amount of damage your squirrels absorb from enemy fire.
Strength: Increases your squirrels’ attack damage.
Health: Restores hit points to your base of operations.

One thing to remember is that you’re not obligated to claim or spend acorns on the round they appear. In other words, you don’t have to sacrifice good piece placement for currency. Acorns left on the board will remain in place for the next round. Especially in later stages, large bank reserves become critical for victory. Now this doesn’t mean you can bilk the system by “squirreling away” all your nuts; the Tax Man collects a nominal percentage of your bank at the start of every round! Unfair? Perhaps. But with patience, you’ll figure out your opponent’s methods, beat the rounds and advance the story.Gate2

Now for the tactics:

Placing three like objects adjacent to each other (either in a straight line or in an “L” shape) causes them to combine into a single, tougher object. So three “pistol-squirrels” combine to form a single “rifle squirrel”. Three “barrels” combine to form a single “sand barrier”. These advanced objects can be combined even further (three “sand barriers” become a “wood barrier”, etc.). Each time you combine items in this way, additional acorns are added to your bank.

AdvancedA word of caution when combining objects: The upgraded item will not automatically appear on the center square, rather the square that received the “third” item. In the image below for example, the sand barrier has replaced all three barrels, and it has appeared in the square where the barrel marked “3” was originally placed:

Combine2Mechanics like these are what make this game enjoyable because they’re easy to understand, yet not easily mastered. The fact that you can replace the enemy AI with an actual human opponent helps to justify the title’s not-quite-bargain price. I would suggest adding Steam achievements, as these often tip the purchasing scale to the positive side. Also, a way to adjust the game’s difficulty would be useful. As it stands, it’s a bit too hard. Though the AI’s base has fewer hit points, its corps bonus is OP and can be frustrating to overcome.

So overall, is Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution worth it? Priced on Steam at $15 (USD), the answer is yes. Despite its difficulty, you’ll find yourself wanting “One more round…just one more round!” Have fun balancing all the elements of this well-thought-out, board game style slug-fest…and go nuts!

-Chris Roberts-
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