Big Bass Arcade: No Limit Review (3DS eShop) – “A Cheap Flop”

splash

The Nintendo 3DS’s eShop platform seems perfect for delivering more casual, bite-sized games, and there’s certainly been no shortage of these since its inception. For those looking for a quick pick-up and play fishing game, there’s Big Bass Arcade: No Limit by Big John Games. The third in their line of fishing simulators for the Wii and DS, they’ve now taken the leap to the 3DS platform with 3D graphics and expanded gameplay mechanics. But is it worth playing, or should you throw this one back?

The basic premise of the game is – no shocker – selecting different locations (or levels) to fish in, moving your boat to find a good fishing spot, and trying to catch the biggest fish you can. The gameplay itself is probably best described as a grab-bag of mini-game concepts, and you may feel like you’re playing several separate games during even a single round of Big Bass Arcade. First, you need to position your boat in a spot where the fish are biting – but this is done by simply moving your boat left and right along a single axis. An arrow will change color from red to yellow to indicate how the fish are biting – the yellower, the better. Once you pick a spot, you use a power meter like those found in so many golfing games to determine how far you cast your line. Pressing the A button will start the meter, which will bounce between low power and full, and another press will lock it in and cast your line. From here, you need to start reeling in your line to lure nearby fish. An audio cue from the game’s announcer will let you know when a fish is close – and once he hooks on, the most intense portion of the gameplay begins. You need to keep reeling in the fish with enough strength to fight it, but the more the fish struggles, the more your tension meter will fill up. Pull too hard, and your line will break. Give too much slack, and the fish will get away. This hectic element is further exacerbated by an overlapped quick time event element. All the while you’re trying to reel the fish in, the announcer will require you to press one of four directions on the D-pad (or swipe that direction on the screen) to keep fighting your hooked fish. Once the fish gets close enough to your boat, you can press or swipe up to capture him. If you’re successful, the game will record the weight of your fish, and the gameplay starts over.

large

This is basically how the game’s Free Fish mode plays out, and while the controls aren’t bad by any means – you can use the 3DS’s buttons or the touch screen to play – the gameplay does get repetitive pretty fast; for all the variety it offers, there’s very little cohesion between the gameplay elements. It can at times feel like someone is standing nearby, throwing you some new game to play every time a new thing happens, and it’s pretty jarring. There’s no sense of accomplishment once you figure the game’s controls out, though – it’s more like a barrier for entry than an element to master, so it comes down to the game’s different play modes to keep you engaged. It’s also no contest that the Wii version in the series has the best controls – the WiiMote’s motion controls make the game much more immersive, but Big John could only do so much with the 3DS platform.

However, Big John Games placed a surprising sense of progression into the game, as you’ll need different types of lures to catch different types of fish, and you’ll unlock additional lures by completing certain challenges in the game, such as catching a certain number of fish or an especially large fish from one breed. It’s actually a nice way to promote replay value, and it’s a good addition to the game. You’ll also need to complete a specific challenge to unlock the game’s tournament mode, so if nothing else, Big John made sure to set some goal for players to reach for.

Big Bass Arcade includes several gameplay modes to keep you busy with, aside from the previously-mentioned Free Fish mode, which allows you to fish for as long as you want with no restrictions. The game includes three challenge modes, requiring you to fish under certain conditions. No Limit has you catching as many fish as you can within the time limit, Bass Only will only credit you for any Bass that you catch, and Catch ‘Em All – coincidentally sharing Pokemon’s motto – similarly has you trying to catch every type of fish present in the stage, and while Red could take his sweet time, you only have 10 minutes to accomplish the feat. Catching 20 lbs. Of Bass in the Bass Only challenge will unlock the game’s Tournament mode, which sees you trying to score higher than your AI opponents by catching bigger and more uncommon fish. Each of these modes puts a spin on the game, but it boils down to the same simple gameplay concepts in each one, so the variety present is minuscule at best.

HfJ99_lLKhiRYZLa40Er-DNVcp6m4QYo

It’s also worth noting that the game’s tutorial would be better described as a brief, in-your-face instruction manual. Rather than introducing gameplay elements to you at a slow, comfortable pace, the tutorial throws every single control at you one after another with no chance to test it until you’ve read through the whole thing. Given how simple the game is, it’s not even like the tutorial does much for the player, but the format it’s present with serves to confuse rather than teach. It’s still worth a quick look to acclimate yourself with the controls, but aside from that, it leaves a lot to be desired.

The game’s audio-visual details are actually its best and worst qualities. The game’s graphics are surprisingly decent for a downloadable game; fish show a surprising level of detail in their movements and behaviors; your lures behave like you’d expect, even down to tassels and flyaways moving and spinning as they glide through the water. Textures and other details in the graphics are competent, and overall it’s more than you’d expect in an eShop game. The 3D is also done quite well, and gives you a real sense of depth; you’ll feel how far your cast your line, and the water has a real sense of volume when looking around. However, one area that isn’t nearly as good is the game’s audio. The game’s soundtrack consists of only a few simple tracks – a repetitive guitar ditty at the menu screen, a string-plucker while fishing, and an aggressive electric guitar track when catching a fish. All of these songs are just a few seconds in length and play on a loop, and are mind-numbingly repetitive. Then there’s the sound effects; it’s not all bad, as the splashing noises when your lure hits the water are crisp and clear. Once you get a bite, though, the game’s sound effects devolve into childish, cartoony noises that are a complete departure from the rest of the game’s tone. You’ll hear uncharacteristically-deep swooshing noises as your tiny minnow struggles in the water, silly bumper noises as the fish rebels against you, and a high-pitched sound effect straight out of Looney Toons when your line is about to break. Finally, the game’s announcer speaks in an unsettling, creepy, quiet tone, and while I’m sure Big John was going for an announcer that makes you think of a relaxing day on the lake, his tone comes off as less fishing buddy, more Jason. There’s also a lack of variety in his speech – there’s pretty much just one thing he says for each gameplay event. As soon as you hear “he’s getting close…!”, you’ll know a fish is chasing your lure, as soon as you’re over that chill going down your spine. I see what the developer was going for, but a little foresight in their audio department would have done a lot for the game, making it an upshot rather than an anchor.

Big Bass Arcade 1a

Big Bass Arcade: No Limit tries to take the previous games in the series further, but in the end, contrary to its name, it comes off as a very limited experience. Gameplay is a repetitive jumble of mini-game concepts, the different challenge modes do little to expand on the game’s premise, and the sound effects are a major negative on the game’s experience. There are some positives to out-weigh the negatives, but the fact remains that there are better fishing games out there – even No Limit‘s predecessors. Unless you’re desperate for a 3D fishing experience on the go, it’s best to look elsewhere.

Overall Score: 5.5 out of 10 = Wait for a price drop…

A special thank you to Big John Games for providing us a review copy for Big Bass Arcade: No Limit!

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

Curious to how our review system works? Check out the About section.

Coaster Creator 3D Review (3DS eShop): “Coaster Creativity On-The-Go”

Coaster Creator 3D Logo

During the late 90s, PC gamers were graced with a specific simulation game that won over the hearts of many, Roller Coaster Tycoon. Over the years, we’ve seen that series make a few sequels and expansions, giving the player tons more content to ellaborate on their ultimate roller coaster creation and theme parks. However, the series has dwindled down and aside from the new one released on the 3DS, roller coaster creation games have been a bit rare to come across, especially on consoles. Thankfully, the team over at Big John Games have accepted the challenge of bringing a roller coaster simulator for on-the-go gaming for the 3DS with Coaster Creator 3D. Does it succeed in bringing the genre over to the 3DS? Let’s find out.

Coaster Creator 3D allows for two main modes to choose between: Career and Sandbox. Choosing the Career mode, you will partake in 20 challenges that progress in difficulty. Each challenge will teach you a certain attribute that you could adjust for your coaster, such as the G-Force, corkscrews and loops on a track, steep drops and adjusting the track positions entirely. You’ll adjust all of this through the bottom touch-screen. On there, you’ll see a blueprint of the coaster that’s on the top screen (which shows the 3D environment and full rendering of the coaster being designed) and move around the tracks of the coaster to your liking. You’ll have a ton of tools to utilize to ensure you create the coaster of your liking. When you click on the track you want to adjust, you’ll be able to twist the track, add a track in between to make it a peak point or lower curve, corkscrew, loop, etc. It’s simple and intuitive to use for the most part, but was sometimes hard to distinguish the angle I was viewing the track from. Granted, you can rotate the camera of the blueprint with the D-Pad, but it occasionally looked a bit off. The Career mode will definitely be the staple that gives you an idea of how to create an amazing roller coaster down the line. Also, progressing through the Career will allow you to unlock other features for your creations between the 3 Track Types, 5 Locations, 17 Cart Styles, 10 Decals and 10 Special Fronts. The one gripe with the Career mode is that while it may serve as a tutorial for your custom creations, there’s no “proper” tutorial to what the tools do exactly. However, there is a “help” menu you can access in the pause menu, which gives you a more detailed breakdown of each tool.

Coaster Creator 3D Gameplay 2

Aside from the Career will be the main attraction to Coaster Creator 3D, Sandbox mode. This will allow you to bring out your creative side by creating the craziest, most thrilling ride you can imagine. When you begin, you’ll start by creating a new track, which allows you to pick from particular parameters: Location, Track Type, Lifter Turn and Height. Upon choosing those, you’ll have the chance to draw out a rough layout or outline of your coaster. You’ll have 70 Sketch Points allocated to draw out your design from the start point and end point. You can then place hills between the tracks so that you can elevate your ride. Afterwards, when you’re ready, you’ll advance the creation and enter the park in its 3D environment, alongside the blueprint for editing on the bottom-screen. Naturally, the tools I mentioned in the Career are in full effect here, with no restrictions. As you’re editing your coaster, you can test it out in the editor mode in slow-mo, standard and fast speed, as well as rewinding…allowing for precision editing when trying to find the specific point where you need to edit your coaster. When you choose Quick Ride in the pause menu of the edit, you’ll be able to view your final product from a variety of camera angles. You can view the ride from the front of the cart, showing all the riders, as well as through a first-person perspective to get a personal feel of how the ride plays out. More interestingly, you can view the ride from any seat of the coaster.

Coaster Creator 3D Gameplay 3

Big John Games also went the extra mile by providing a feature to have your Mii characters participate on your coaster creations (which is unlocked through the Career mode). When you’re done with your roller coaster creation, you can exit out of the edit and build up the park a bit. You’ll be able to choose a variety of props and storefronts to plant around your track, but you can’t place an unlimited amount. You’ll be able to place at most, 20 objects, and you only have $32,000 to spend. You can choose between generalized items (such as Bumper Cars, Bounce Castle, Soda Stand, etc.) and themed items, which all depend on the location you chose to place your coaster in. Lastly, you can finish up the track with some customization. The track and support’s colors can be altered, as well as the cart style and seats’ colors. Once done, your coaster is ready to ride at any time. Additionally, you can play a mini-game called Star Roller, which has you riding your coaster while moving your character’s hand to grab the stars randomized on the ride for a high score. It’s nothing amazing, but a neat addition nonetheless. Now you can share your creations with friends, but not in the way most would expect. There’s no online connection, nor any local connectivity to be found here. However, Big John Games have implemented the ability to export QR codes. These will allow you to share your creations with anyone that scans the image, which will then be stored into their game. While it’s strange that there’s no wireless connectivity to share creations, it’s nice to see there is at least a way to do so.

Coaster Creator 3D Gameplay 1

Coaster Creator 3D’s visuals are bright, crisp and colorful, with a solid amount of detail put into the environment, coasters and riders (even the Mii characters look really good). While playing without the 3D slider, the game ran at a near 60 fps, but occasionally dipped depending on how much detail was on screen. When playing with the 3D slider up, the game drops to 30 fps, so some of that smoothness is gone. Thankfully, the 3D effect is very well done, never overdoing the depth at all and is fairly easy on the eyes. In terms of audio, the audio effects of the wind zipping by and the cart rolling down the tracks are spot on, nailing the feel of being on an actual roller coaster. While there’s only a handful of music tracks, the mixture of cheery songs during the creation, to the atmospheric menu music all work very well. It’s an enjoyable audio experience that helps with the overall game experience.

Coaster Creator 3D does exactly what it’s supposed to do, provide players with the tools to create their own roller coaster on-the-go. However, Big John Games provides a game that has plenty of depth that will keep roller coaster enthusiasts entertained for quite some time. With it’s simple and intuitive design system, crisp visuals and audio, and overall engaging gameplay, roller coaster fans would do very well to download this on their 3DS for the $9.99 asking price.

Overall Score: 8.0 out of 10 = Buy it!

A special thank you to Big John Games for providing us a review copy for Coaster Creator 3D!

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

Curious to how our review system works? Check out the About section.

Soccer Up 3D Review (3DS): “Kick It Away from Your 3DS”

Soccer Up 3D Logo

When it comes to the most popular sport in the world, soccer is the one that’s always on top. Spanish developer EnjoyUp Games, who has been putting out a decent amount of titles for Nintendo’s DSiWare format has decided to finally release a 3DSWare title, Soccer Up 3D. While we’ve seen yearly releases of soccer sim games like FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer, EnjoyUp wanted to bring a more simplistic, pickup-and-play game for a more accommodating price. However, is Soccer Up 3D worth your time?

Soccer Up 3D is actually an enhanced version to 2011’s WiiWare release, Soccer Up. EnjoyUp Games listened to some of the criticisms the game received and aimed to provide solutions to those in the 3DS edition. Now, if you’re a soccer sim buff that loves FIFA or PES, I will say right off the bat that this game will probably not satisfy your soccer needs. This is a more basic, old-school approach soccer game that’s not looking to carry any real soccer players or locales.

Soccer Up 3D Gameplay 5

Soccer Up 3D provides a World Cup, Exhibition and Training mode to play around with. World Cup has you aiming for the big trophy that every soccer hopes to win. Exhibition lets you play a single match against the CPU. And lastly, Training has you get acclimated to the controls and mechanics. All of these modes provide for some customization as well, whether you tinker the game time, control setup and stadium you play in. The core foundation of the game is here, but there’s a single important problem…it just doesn’t play well.

Soccer Up 3D Gameplay 1

Controls are more or less easy to grasp for a soccer title, albeit with an additional mechanic known as “After Kick”. This lets you slightly curve the ball after kicking it, which is a nice feature that’s rewarding to pull off. Aside from this feature, the mechanics start to feel less fleshed out. Controlling players on the field is pretty responsive, but switching players is a pain. When it released on the WiiWare, the players would automatically switch. On the 3DS, they give you the option to switch players manually. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work as well as it should, usually picking a player that’s not closest to the ball. Another severe issue is the slide tackle. The button might as well be labeled in red saying “DON’T PRESS THIS BUTTON!” because no matter how perfectly you position your slide tackle, the opposing player will trip and the whistle will be blown. What’s the purpose of the button/mechanic if all it does is penalize you? There’s no way to take the ball from your opponent except to run up to them and hope your player grabs the ball from them. Another issue experienced with the game is the glitched “injury time”. After doing a 90 minute game, the injury time went up to an additional 40 minutes…and I can say right now that there wasn’t anywhere near that much time that happened in the match that needed 40 extra minutes. This happened twice in similar occurrences during my playthrough of the game.

Soccer Up 3D Gameplay 2

Now, it wouldn’t be a sports game without a multiplayer component. After all, sports game shine quite well when playing with friends. First off, I need to give EnjoyUp credit for how they handled this. The game offers Download Play, but actually provides the non-owner the entire game to play until they quit the application or shut off the system. This is a very welcome approach to Download Play and I hope many other developers take note to this. Now, the multiplayer seems to work decently most of the time, but again, glitches were found here. Some laughable, some not so forgiving. During my multiplayer run, my friend and I were running mid-field trying to take the ball from each other and then suddenly, we were teleported to a corner kick. Another issue (that’s not a glitch) was the penalty shootouts. While in reality, I hate penalty shootouts because it’s nothing more than a game of luck, this shows you where your opponent is aiming to kick. While that may seem handy, that just seemed odd and makes the intensity of a shootout less engaging. The multiplayer is certainly more entertaining than going up against the CPU, so aim to have someone else with a 3DS nearby to get a bit more enjoyment out of the game. There’s no online play, strictly local play only.

Soccer Up 3D Gameplay 3

When you play two hours of the game, you’ll unlock the Mii feature to add your Miis to a custom team, choose the jersey colors and which Mii belongs at which position. It’s a cool feature for sure, but you never really see your Miis up-close in action. Speaking of teams, you do get to choose to play as your favorite nations around the world…except every player has the same generic look to them. The only difference in all honesty when choosing a team is the jersey color they represent…that’s about it. Visually, the game looks ok for a 3DSWare game, but the banners around the stadium are low-res. Animations are serviceable and get the job done for a soccer title. The 3D effect is done pretty well, without it straining your eyes much at all. Audio wise, there’s menu music (only one song in the whole game) and a few lines of dialogue the commentator says. There’s no “real” commentating though aside from “Kick-off”, “GOALLLLLL!” and calls of that nature. Sometimes you’ll hear the crowd in the stadium but it kicks in and out too seldom. The sounds of the players kicking the ball and running on the field are appropriate though.

Soccer Up 3D is an enhanced version to the WiiWare title released in 2011. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t play well enough for me to recommend to soccer fans of any type. It’s buggy and just simply, not much fun at all. While it may be a budget soccer title for on-the-go entertainment at $5.99, think carefully if you want to spend it on this game. It’s not godawful or anything like that, but it’s certainly subpar.

Overall Score: 4.5 out of 10 = Don’t Buy It!

A special thank you to EnjoyUp Games for providing us the review copy for Soccer Up 3D!

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for all the latest news, editorials and 100% honest reviews!

SpeedX 3D Review (3DSWare)

SpeedX 3D is a first-person, tube-racer that was originally released for the Android OS by developer Gamelion. It has now been brought over to the 3DS via Nintendo eShop for $3.99. Is it a solid title that’ll grab your attention or something that you can simply bypass?

SpeedX 3D’s premise is all about getting from point A to point B without colliding into obstacles or falling off the track. As you start off the campaign, the speed will be relatively slow, giving you a chance to acclimate to the game’s style. Initially, you’ll be in an enclosed tube with cubes and pillars sticking out that try to obstruct some of your path. Colliding into these will instantly result in a game over unless you have a “shield”, which can be acquired by speeding over the lit-up pads placed on the track. You can collect up to four shields but they slowly deplete over time, regardless of whether you collide with an object or not. The game tries to throw a few curveballs at you by incorporating “hazard zones” such as Blackout, Gravity Well, Hue Shift, Dark Nebula and Plasma Cloud. The hazards make things interesting and dodging cubes, pyramids and pillars certainly a bit more difficult. Aside from hazards, you can receive “bonuses” that give you certain abilities such as Time Dilation, Quake and Space Fold. As with shields, these can be collected by going over the lit-up pads but can used at anytime during your run by simply pressing the A button or tapping the icon on the touch screen.

You can play with two different control schemes: the Circle Pad or Motion Sensor. The Circle Pad provides a comfortable experience but it’s the Motion Sensor that makes the game feel more immersive. Although, if you plan to play the game with the 3D on, then I would avoid Motion Sensor controls since it will cause a strong amount of “ghosting” effect. Speaking of the 3D, the depth it provides is way too deep that I personally couldn’t play with it on all the way. It’s not that my eyes aren’t adjusted to the 3D, as I’ve been playing through a ton of 3DS games with the 3D full blast, but it’s just not easy on the eyes to view in 3D. Visually, the game is very basic looking but it works as that was the intended style. When you’re speeding through space, that looks much more appealing than staying enclosed in a polygonal tube. Unfortunately, you’ll only see the inside of a tube and some of space…with no other environment changes, leading to a monotonous appeal. Also, the draw distance is very limited. While that’s fine when you’re enclosed in the tube, it looks odd when you’re out in space and the track is magically appearing in front of you in a short distance. The one visual aspect that bothered me most was the framerate. It just doesn’t feel “right” with the game’s sense of speed. SpeedX 3D isn’t exactly a graphically intensive game where it couldn’t push a smoother framerate.

Aside from the campaign mode, spanning four stages, each with 12 runs, you can tackle the Endless, Survival and Zones modes as well, testing out how long you can last. There are four difficulties to choose from, allowing beginner players to stick to their speed while the more advanced players can zip through at ludicrous speed. In Endless mode, it’s basically the game’s core mechanic and just goes on until you crash. Survival mode is the same as Endless except you can’t use any shields, making it a sudden death mode essentially. Zones mode is basically the same as Survival except it will have you focusing on collecting fuel on the lit-up pads so that you can keep going as far as possible. Ultimately, each mode plays very similar with only slight variations. SpeedX 3D has an in-game, stat-tracking system but only tracks the furthest point you’ve achieved in each game type. It’s basic, but still a nice addition to have in the game.

For a synopsis mentioning how “great” the electronic music is, it had quite the opposite effect on me. It practically had me dozing off during my playthrough and never engaged me into the experience at all. It’s a shame really. I look forward to the audio portion of a game and if there’s nothing there to engage me, a good chunk of the experience is ruined for me.

Unlike Gamelion’s previous efforts (i.e. “I Must Run” which was a solid, fun title), SpeedX 3D doesn’t have enough that will keep you glued to the screen for more than a few minutes. While some may find enjoyment out of it, it’s still tough to fully recommend to everyone. If you have an Android device, then I’d say you’re better off downloading that version as the framerate is significantly smoother. SpeedX 3D isn’t necessarily a bad game, just a monotonous one that wears off very quickly.

Overall Score: 5.5 out of 10 = Reconsider the immediate purchase…

Planet Crashers Review (3DSWare)

Planet Crashers is a story-driven RPG developed by Renegade Kid on the 3DS Nintendo eShop. Calling Planet Crashers a story-driven RPG definitely evokes expectations of a huge, complex world to explore with many interesting characters to meet along the way. No doubt this is a popular genre on Nintendo’s portable consoles, including the Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance. So does Planet Crashers bring anything new to a tried-and-true category, or just follow suit? Let’s find out.

One of the most immediately-noticeable features of Planet Crashers is its whimsical, quirky art style and sense of humor. Though simple, the game is filled with a lot of interesting sights, not the first of which is your avatar in-game. Upon entering the game’s main menu, the first selectable option is to customize your hero, and the list of options here is exhaustive: you can name your hero, choose their gender, skin color, hair, eyes, mouth, and clothes. Several options in each category are unlocked right off the bat, but others are also locked and must be earned in-game. Many of the facial features available make your hero look like a devious troublemaker, but several options exist otherwise, and can be mixed and matched. Still, in a game with a story placing your character as the “best hope to save the galaxy”, one would expect a few more heroic-looking options.

At any rate, upon finishing your customizations, you can “Start Quest” (start or resume a saved game), enter Local or Internet Play, or Delete your saved Data. The single- and multi-player components have a lot of dependence on each other, but let’s get into the single-player game first, as that’s going to be where you spend a lot of your time playing Planet Crashers.

Upon starting a new game, you’ll be filled in on the story: a mysterious force is threatening the galaxy, and as a young graduate of the Planet Crashers Academy, it’s up to you to find out more about this imminent danger and to stop it. The game starts you in your character’s home on the planet Lushy Greeny, and although there are a lot of items decorating it, there doesn’t seem to be any way to interact with them. Stepping outside reveals the rest of the planet, complete with scenary, characters, dungeons, and shops to interact with. The central element that pushes the gameplay along is the game’s quest system. Most of your quests will come from the Job Board outside your house, but some characters will also grant you quests, like the person standing outside your home. Quests often ask you to rescue a person in a dungeon, bring an item to someone, or retrieve an item from a dungeon, among others. The way the game executes this system is a bit flawed, however, and might throw some players off. Upon entering my first dungeon (simply named Green Dungeon), I looked for a wallet which was supposed to be on the first floor, yet was nowhere to be seen, either on my map or in my viewport. As it turns out, you need to check your Quest Log outside of a dungeon and select a quest to accept before entering. It’s a bit odd that the developer didn’t just have the game accept a quest for you automatically if you neglect to, but it’s a lesson I learned quickly. Another inconvenient aspect of the quest system is the fact that you can only perform one quest at a time, and upon completing it, will instantly be teleported back home, making it impossible to complete other quests on that floor. All in all, it makes the game feel much more like a grind than an engaging experience. The worst part, however, is the fact that you can’t save your game manually – the game will only save upon completing a quest, and if you shut the game off before that, your game will revert to your last save the next time you start up, which forces you to play when you might not want to.

Aside from questing, you’ll see other character bustling towards you in dungeons, waiting to fight with you. Upon colliding with an enemy, you’ll enter a battle screen with your opponent. Planet Crashers’ battle system is a fairly-simple turn-based format. You and your opponent will take turns slugging it out until one of you is knocked out. Characters have four stats that determine their performance in battle: Attack, Defense, Speed, and HP. HP increases automatically upon leveling up, but Attack, Defense, and Speed are chosen by the player. You can also equip your character with weapons to increase your attack power, and some of them are downright silly, like a giant pencil or a petrified banana. Planet Crashers takes a cue from games like Pokemon in that your character can collect a set of skills and assign up to four of them at a time to use in battle. At first, “Strike” will be the only skill you have, but you can learn others as you progress, such as “Concussive Strike”, which deals more damage than its entry-level counterpart. Planet Crashers also borrows from the Super Mario RPG line of games by allowing you to deal more damage by pressing the “A” button at the right time during your attack animation. A small image will pop up to let you know when to hit it, and this can happen more than once per attack. It may not be a new idea, but it’s a great inclusion to help Planet Crashers’ combat from becoming boring. You can also use items, swap out skills, or retreat on your turn, and sometimes the right strategic move can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Though the game’s combat system is solid, it suffers from a few issues. What I’m left wondering is, if the game lets you press “A” to increase your damage during attacks, why not borrow SMRPG’s system entirely and improve defense during an opponent’s attack by pressing “A” at the right time? Attacking is fun, but being on the defense and watching your character get pummeled isn’t quite as much. This is more of a minor gripe compared to a much bigger issue about Planet Crashers’ combat – it’s completely avoidable. When moving around in a dungeon, it’s possible to outmaneuver any enemy that comes at you. This is due to the fact that enemies can’t move as fast as you, and they will stand in place as long as you do. Thus, if you wanted to, you could avoid combat entirely and just rush to your quest objective in a dungeon – and this is something I found myself doing a lot, unfortunately, namely because battles aren’t very rewarding either. Beating an enemy gives a small amount of gold and experience points (XP), but it’s much, much more efficient to simply get your quests done as fast as you can, making combat feel more like a punishment for not paying attention to that Crazy Chris running at you.

Perhaps the biggest shame in Planet Crashers’ gameplay is the inclusion of the multiplayer mode. The game’s description for the iPhone mentions a GPS feature, allowing players to team up with others and adventure together, receiving special bonuses for playing with others in their area. There is no such mention of that feature in the 3DS version of the game. In fact, the only multiplayer option available is 1-on-1 battling with other players

To sum it up, Planet Crashers’ gameplay feels like similar browser-based RPGs, and definitely takes a back-seat to the game’s story and art direction, somewhere where the game excels. The art direction is cute, artsy, and definitely lends itself to the game’s overall light-hearted, feel-good theme. The music is upbeat and simple, and the character interactions are downright laugh-worthy – there’s nothing like a sign at a dungeon entrance calling you a chicken for choosing not to enter, and if a wooden post can evoke that kind of personality, wait until you meet some of the other characters in the game’s universe. Characters also skip and bustle around the screen, and combat is totally ridiculous – hearing stock “bashing” sounds while your character is spun and tossed by the enemy is surprisingly humorous. It’s small charms like this that make Planet Crashers a cute, charming experience. The 3D functionality is well-used too, and really works in conjunction with Planet Crashers’ rotating planet levels to provide a real sense of depth.

In closing, Planet Crashers isn’t for everyone. Those of you looking for a hardcore RPG experience should avoid Planet Crashers, as you’ll probably be more frustrated than engaged. However, those looking for a more casual, pick-up-and-play experience with a whimsical style might find Planet Crashers more their speed.

FINAL VERDICT: 5.0 / 10 = Wait for Price Drop

Special thanks to UTV Ignition Entertainment for providing us with a review copy of Planet Crashers!

Order Up!! Review (3DSWare)

When it comes to culinary games, let’s be honest, there’s not much that’s actually solid in this department. Order Up!!, developed by SuperVillain Studios (known for “Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake” and “Tron: Evolution”, both for PSP) and published by UTV Ignition, aims to take a stab at the genre. Question is, does it serve a fine course or does it fall into the same line of shovelware titles?

The first thing I picked up on was the game’s art style and humor. It’s very light hearted but not overly so where it seems too childish. It actually reminded me of a Nickelodeon-style animation from the older shows I used to watch. The 3D effect is also well done and gives you a sense of actually being in the kitchen with a solid amount of depth. You’ll start off by choosing a male or female chef, whom is then deployed to land at the nearest restaurant to work at. Starting off as a tutorial, you’ll be working in a fast food restaurant to get your bearings on how to cook your meals for customers. While you’ll have your stereotypical nerdy manager guiding you through the process, with some chuckle-worthy dialogue, you’ll be pushing food out with ease. Thanks to intuitive touch controls, you’ll become a legitimate chef in minutes and as you get the feel for it, be able to multitask prepping several different ingredients at once.

Upon completing the tutorial, you’ll earn your first restaurant (which is a diner) and it is here where the game essentially kicks off. You now have access to an overview map of the city you’re in, as well as the phone and newspapers to order new ingredients, hire more staff, upgrade kitchen utilities, buy special recipes and call for some cooking tips. When it comes to running a restaurant, it’s about getting the food out as best and quickly as possible to the customer, right? Well, same exact concept is in effect here. Consider it a cooking simulator but with humor incorporated. As customers come in and take their seat, you’ll use the touch screen to click on a table to start cooking for them. Each time you click one of the tables, it shows the current status of the customer’s mood, this way you know which table you should probably take care of first. As the waiter/waitress takes their order, there’ll be some conversation between them, showcasing hints as to what extra ingredients the customer is hinting for. It’s an interesting system and adds an extra layer of immersion to the game’s experience.

When it comes to cooking your food, keeping the meals hot and pushing them out simultaneously is the key to earning better reputation and more money. Cooking the variety of dishes the game offers also doesn’t feel repetitive either, thanks to the cleverness in controls and how to go about preparing each food item. For example, to grate cheese, you swipe the stylus on the touch screen diagonally up and down as if you’re actually grating cheese. To cook burgers, you’ll pay attention to the temperature meter of each side of the meat and flip it by simulating a “flipping burger” motion with the stylus (a counter-clockwise spin). I could literally sit here and type the extensive varieties of ways to cook various different food items but the bottom line is, it’s impressive and doesn’t feel tacky in any way.

At the end of your run, you’ll read what the customers thought of your restaurant, providing some constructive feedback as to what improvements you need to make in your cooking or if you’re doing a solid job and to keep at it. You’ll achieve stars for completing certain stipulations while running your restaurant and once you’ve achieved 4 out of 5 stars, you’ll have to call in the “Food Critic” to see if you deserve that fifth and final star for the restaurant. Should you fail, you can always call them back and try it again so there’s nothing to really fear should you mess up. Once you earn your fifth star, you’ll unlock the next restaurant to purchase and advance to. There are five restaurants to own overall, each getting fancier, as well as adding different dishes, as you progress. Occasionally you’ll also have to play some mini-games such as collect the flying newspapers that the paperboy dropped, slice thrown peppers from a sensei, smack rodents trying to scare off customers, and a few others too. It helps keep the game fresh and changes it up once in a while, which is a nice addition.

Overall, Order Up!! is a prime example of a cooking game done right. It does a great job of making the player feel like they’re behind the counter doing all the work and feels rewarding in achieving perfect standards for the customers. The visuals and audio are surprisingly high caliber for a downloadable eShop title and while it’s going for $9.99, it has the quality of a retail title on the 3DS and will last players a solid amount of time to complete. Even after completion, you can always tackle “Quick Play” to just enjoy the game itself. If you’ve ever had interest in a cooking title or are just looking for something different from your typical genre, Order Up!! is a great downloadable that’s well worth the asking price and ranks amongst the better of the titles released on the eShop.

Overall Score: 8.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thank you to UTV Ignition for providing us with a review code for “Order Up!!”.

Dillon’s Rolling Western Review (3DS eShop): A Quirky, But Solid Adventure

I remember first hearing about Dillon’s Rolling Western at the Nintendo Direct conference earlier on in the year. Initially I had little interest in the game, but as I watched the gameplay videos, I became more intrigued; a new character from a new game that’s downloadable for a cool $9.99 on the eShop. It received the honor of being fully advertized during a public Nintendo conference, so it has to be worth the price of admission, right?

Dillon’s Rolling Western plays it safe and stylish with its story, throwing you into a western themed world full of anthropomorphic animals who are dealing with a pest control problem. The primary plot is given to you very early on (it was also given to you in its launch trailer), providing insight on how some humble towns in the west are losing their Scrogs livestock to some mean-looking monsters known as Grocks. The game centers around Dillon, an armored armadillo, who along with his little furry friend Russ, have offered to go out and help the towns (assuming the price is right). The story and atmosphere is very much child safe but can still be enjoyed by adults as well. Cutscenes are brief and the dialogue is sparse. Each character has a unique personality, though I’m sorry to say that there is no voice acting to help flesh out the characters any further.

This is one of the the few games I can name that truly takes advantage of the 3DS’ touch screen and 3D capabilities. All of Dillon’s primary controls other than walking (which is mapped to the Circle Pad) is handled by your stylus and the touch screen. Your primary method of getting around is by charging up Dillon by dragging the stylus downward and then releasing to allow Dillon to roll across the dusty western landscape. I’ve heard people compare this gameplay to Sonic the Hedgehog, but this is really a lot more like Goron Link from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Dillon’s turning is not particularly sharp when rolling, but navigating the map overall works pretty well.

It’s worth noting that the game is a new take on Tower Defense. The Grocks walk along a set path and make their way toward the town from their nests in order to eat Scrogs (which lowers your overall reward or can lead to failure). There are towers you can set up, but I’ve found it’s challenging to save enough money to adequately build towers and set up their weapons to properly aid you in fending off the beasts. That’s where Dillon’s combat mode comes in. You cannot rely solely on your tower guns, so you will have to engage Grocks on your own. When you run into a Grock on the map, you will enter a small battlefield where you can then roll into and punch Grocks into pieces. The Grocks still on the map will continue to move and your guns will still attack them if they are still in range. To make matters worse, your guns cannot change the direction they are facing (which depends on the gun you choose). This leads to towers getting attacked and destroyed frequently, and also allows Grocks to sometimes pass by them completely unscathed. It’s not something that cannot be worked with; in fact the game keeps you on your toes in this regard. However, more customization with the tower guns would have been much appreciated. Thankfully, you can temporarily upgrade Dillon’s gear as well as your town’s defenses.

The game looks pretty good for a downloadable game. The warm colors make it really feel like a game set in the west and the cel-shaded graphics make the game look quite cartoony, very much like its official artwork. The 3D works well when moving around the map, aiding seeing the depth between objects like towers and Grocks and not harming the game’s lower though steady framerate. While there isn’t a whole lot of action going at once until the later stages, it’s interesting to note how large the maps are. It takes at least a full minute or so to get from one end of the map to the other, and this is just from rolling. Models and textures are simple but the game overall looks appealing, if only a little bare.

The soundtrack is well composed with a spaghetti western type feel, though the song selection is fairly limited. The same music cues are played with little variety. The Grocks produce menacing groans and growls and Dillon’s grunt noises are fitting and fun to listen to. They’re fun tracks to say the least, but expect to hear them a lot when you play.

This was the first digitally downloaded game I purchased that was not a Virtual Console title. Despite some flaws, I found it to be very interesting and fun. Sure, it’s tower defense, but it takes the formula and tries something very unique. If you’re looking for a cheap game on your 3DS and don’t mind tower defense gameplay, this isn’t a bad selection to check out.

Verdict: BUY IT!