Tag Archives: Studio

Haven Review: Zamarian

 

2016-02-01_00005Zamarian is a mouse-driven arcade space shooter. Instead of having free movement though, you are stuck moving in a circular motion around a central point. Enemies tend to spawn at the center and spiral out toward you, however some will spawn outside the circle. Enemies will drop money, health (in the form of shields), and sometimes weapon upgrades. However all these upgrades can be bought from the store if you have the coin. You can also spend money to buy new ships. There are light, medium and heavy ships. From what I gathered, the only difference is their price and their health. The heavy ship obviously costs the most and sports the most health.

An interesting mechanic is that items are bought in real time. There is no pause menu to access the shop. If you are running low on health, quickly buy a new ship while still avoiding incoming attacks. Once a purchased ship is destroyed you’ll go back to the base ship. Of course when this happens, the game recommends immediately purchasing a new one since the health of the base ship is minimal. So essentially, if you’re quick enough and have the cash, you can just keep buying new lives. This is the recommended thing to spend your money on, as weapon upgrades come along fairly often. But if you’re needing something in a pinch or are just bored with your current gun, you can buy a new one.

Weapons also have health that depletes when you get hit. So you’ll be switching through them pretty regularly. One problem I have with the weapon store is that the names of the weapons aren’t displayed; just tiny pictures. When you’re focusing on everything else, trying to make out what those pictures actually correspond to can be a big pain. Usually I open up the store, pick something at random and just kinda go with it.2016-02-01_00004

The UI in general is a little lacking. When enemies spawn in the center of the circle, they’re very tiny and hard to see. It’s not the biggest issue, but with everything else going on it’s hard to tell what exactly is coming at you. This can be said for things you need to collect, as well as for those to avoid. There really isn’t the biggest distinction between collectibles (like money and upgrades) and enemy bullets. They’re all just brightly colored objects flying toward you. There have been many times where a mass of glowing green things are flying toward me, and I go to pick them up, thinking they’re money. In reality they’re bullets, and I get destroyed. When the screen is that hectic and there are a billion things flying in your direction, there really needs to be a way to distinguish what’s good and bad. In the heat of the moment it’s harder to make snap decisions because everything is a little more ambiguous than I’d like.

The controls for Zamarian are weird. Literally all you do is spin around the center point. You can move inward and outward, but that’s it. Aside from opening the stores and buying stuff, there’s no other clicking involved. In fact, your guns fire automatically.

2016-02-01_00002

The biggest problem with this game is its sound design. Since the guns are constantly firing, there’s a steady, never-ending “pew-pew-pew” coming from them. This, in addition to the myriad blips and bloops coming from the enemies and pick-ups…all on top of a generic metal soundtrack…leads to an atonal cacophony that makes my ears bleed. It’s literally that bad. I did worse at the game when the sound was on. I couldn’t concentrate on anything with that horrid noise in the background. Luckily this problem is easily solved by turning off all the noises/music and just putting on a nice podcast. Zamarian is an interesting take on the arcade space shooter genre, but with definite problems. Overall though, it’s a nice little experience.

zamer

Disclaimer: We received this game because we wanted to review it, and as such all views in this article our are own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

-Jordan Kamm-

Haven Review: Umihara Kawase

2016-02-28_00001

Umihara Kawase is an interesting platfomer puzzle game. You play as a little girl with a fishing pole. The original game was released in 1994. In 2015 the game was reworked and launched on Steam. The game dealt with some legal issues, and after a change of developer the game is ready to be played. This review will be for the Steam edition of the game, but of course I can’t really talk about that without touching on the original game, as well.

First off, this game is incredibly difficult. You must complete 10 level chunks with a total of 8 lives. If you run out of lives then you start back at the beginning. The Steam edition has changed a handful of levels throughout the game. These changes seem more about smoothing out the difficulty curve than for anything else. The starting levels of the Steam edition definitely ease you into the control scheme and concepts of the game; more so than the starting level of the original title.2016-02-28_00003

You use your fishing pole in two ways: You can either attach it to enemies and “reel” them into your backpack (accomplished by simply running over them) or you can attach it to walls and use it as a grappling hook. This is your main way of traversing the level. There are definitely routes you can take that require intricate maneuvers with the pole, which I have yet to master. There are also the slower, safer routes. However even these sometimes require precision grappling in order to get through.

One thing that I feel is unnecessarily difficult to pull off is flipping yourself up onto solid ground while hanging from a ledge. At times it can be pretty arbitrary whether or not your character actually succeeds, or just limply dangles…flopping around just like the fish you prey upon. Numerous deaths were wasted on trying to make a jump, only to be caught on an edge rather than anything solid; then dropping into the water below instead of pulling myself up. This is the one area where the controls don’t feel as responsive as they need to be for this kind of precision. This was an issue with the first iteration of the game that wasn’t really fixed in the Steam edition. In all honesty, this more than likely won’t be an issue for experienced players. But for someone casually playing, this is definitely an area of frustration.2016-02-28_00002

The weakest area of the game are the boss fights. At the end of 10 levels you fight a boss. The fights tend to be heavily reliant on trial and error. With limited lives and one-hit kills, you can quickly get a “game over” without figuring out anything. This, however is mostly mitigated by one of the game’s best features: a practice mode. Once you’ve reached a level in the main game, you can jump over to practice mode and replay that level again and again until you’ve gotten it down. The result of adding in this practice mode means that you have to go through these training sessions to figure out these unforgiving levels. This means smoother runs through the main game and fewer lives wasted on figuring out what’s going on. However the down side to the practice mode is that the game gets away with not adding important context clues in the level design to help you navigate an area. It will occasionally throw you into a level that may take you several attempts to figure out. Again this is a pretty small complaint, since trying the level a few times in practice mode isn’t a big deal. You can pretty much figure everything out after a few attempts.2016-02-28_00005

The updated art style in the game is really nice. They took great care making the game look likes its 1994 counterpart, but with modern touches to really make the retro look work. All the fish look weird and wonderful. The colors make the whole world vibrant and the random stuff lying around the levels, like giant carrots and school supplies, add a lovely hint of the bizarre. Umihara Kawase has its flaws to be sure, but it’s still a lovely little experience; given you have enough patience for it.fishgame

Disclaimer: We received this game because we wanted to review it, and as such all views in this article our are own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

-Jordan Kamm-

 

Haven Review: The Bug Butcher

BugTitleFirst 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.

When you hear the term “shoot-em-up”, your first reaction isn’t to take it literally. Well, it is now! Introducing The Bug Butcher, developed and published by Awfully Nice Studios. In this fast-action arcade blaster, you start out with a basic pulse gun with which you shoot at monsters falling from the ceiling. It’s literally a shoot-em-UP! These bad guys are essentially large, mean rubber balls that bounce and careen around the room. This means you must run back and forth across the floor to keep up with them, while not getting crushed in the process.
Picture1When you are positioned directly beneath a foe, fire your weapon. This will split the spherical denizen into two separate, smaller monsters. These smaller ones are less tough, but they move faster. Shoot them again until they turn into gold coins that you can pick up and spend later for special perks and weapon upgrades.
JuiceDuring combat, strange things can happen. A ceiling snake suddenly descends, grabbing a hapless NPC. Quickly shoot it down and the NPC returns to duty, albeit a bit dazed. Also, useful power-ups appear on the floor. One power-up, for instance will grant you extra running speed, while others increase your gun’s damage and rate of fire. Be sure to grab these!

Upgrade1After you complete each round, you’re able to spend collected coins on various weapons, power-ups and perks:

Weapons include machine guns, lasers and rockets; a marked improvement over your basic pellet pistol.
Power-ups include temporary invincibility, homing missiles and elemental grenades.
Perks include speed boosts, protective shields and combo attack enhancements.

The game is fast; very fast. I therefore recommend using a controller, rather than mouse and keyboard. In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s virtually impossible to beat the game with the latter.

There are three degrees of difficulty from which to choose: Easy, Medium and Hard. There are also three distinct “game modes”: Arcade Missions, Panic (Single Player) and Panic (Local Co-op). All this variety provides a welcome degree of challenge within an otherwise repetitive arcade experience. The difficulty levels are self-explanatory, so let’s examine the game modes:

LaserArcade Missions starts off with a quick tutorial and a training stage. After that, there are five story stages with six missions per stage. Coin-redeemed upgrades are persistent throughout the story and can be removed/replaced after each stage.
Panic (Single Player) is an endless survival variation of the Arcade mode, and monster waves are more intense here. To compensate, you can press ESC at any time during a stage to redeem coins for upgrades! Unfortunately, these upgrades do not persist; they are good for the current stage only.
Panic (Local Co-op) is identical to the Single Player, except that another player can join you in battle. What’s more, you can actually revive your partner when they fall!
FireAll in all, the game is a heart-pounding bullet-fest. The enemies, while similar in bouncy proclivity, sport unique effects when shot. You’re certainly in for a few surprises as you make little ones out of big ones.

So is The Bug Butcher worth it? For fans of arcade shooters with healthy doses of dodging, rolling and running, the answer is yes. Priced on Steam at $8 (USD), it’s a good value. Add its 31 Steam achievements and it’s even better. If, however you’re a staunch PC user who’s not inclined to plug in a USB controller, you may opt for a different game. But before you do, I’d recommend investing in an XBox/PS compatible device and giving this title a try. It’s simple, repetitive action. But for that reason it’s great for learning how to use a controller.
BugScale1-Chris Roberts-