Tablet Double Feature: MMoJ and Anomaly

Wow! My throat feels less like a knife-slide and more like a throat! That’s a positive change! Unfortunately, being sequestered in a tiny room of the house meant that I didn’t get to do a lot of the things I planned to do this week, like research and gaming, but I was saved from a total lack of productivity by my new tablet! So, while I didn’t get to create a whole lot, I DID get to consume a whole bunch. It was a feast, dear reader, a feast for the mind-brain.

The first thing I discovered this week was the vlogbrothers. I’m not exactly sure where they and Nerdfighteria have been all my life, but wherever it was, it was too far away. Check them out, if you haven’t already. There’s a veritable learngasm of knowledge waiting for you. There are a bunch of off-shoot programs that they’re involved with or endorse, as well, but, you’ll probably find them the same way I did: by watching their show.

I did manage to finish this week’s Iron Writer Challenge story. It’s my first attempt at a love story, because, why not? Here’s the next Valid and Sound Letsplay, as well. Not toootally unproductive. >.>

BUT, one of the downsides of having a leaky fever-brain is that I don’t get to retain all that much from minute to minute. It makes it very difficult to write, because I usually use my memory to keep track of the synonyms for common words I’ve used and the syntactical forms I’ve employed. It lets me keep things fresh over time. Or, if that sounded too dry, I like to use different word combos to get higher DMC-style ratings. Yeah, that’s better.

Another thing I used my tablet for, as you might imagine, was apps. App games, by design, take very little concentration to play and, thankfully, can always be played on mute. That’s important, because it helps limit the number of times I perceive the feeling that my head is exploding. Which is good. So, other than munching on brain-food and Castle, I also finished two different app-games: Middle Manager of Justice and Anomaly HD. Both of which I will review for you nooow.

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Yeah, I know it’s the PC splash art, but it’s not much different. Anomaly is a reverse tower-defense game that was developed by 11 Bit Studios and published on almost every platform available. Believe me, if you have a screen, you can almost certainly play this game. I got it through the Mobile Humble Bundle a little while ago. The gist of the story is that Earth and then suddenly aliens. The aliens, as per standard procedure, set up a perimeter around their crash site and begin doing alien stuff. That, it would seem, includes building stationary robotic defenses all around the roads of the cities they landed beside. Not like, on the roads, just off to the side.

The Earth reacts by sending in slow-moving, but heavily armed, transport caravans to investigate the situation. A task you carry out by slowly moving around the roads between buildings, instead of, say, anywhere else. But, this is just the set-up for an offensive TD-game. No, it’s not offensive as in bad. Your job is to troll through the towers and take them down with your blasty-cannons. Thoughtfully, the aliens seem to have constructed their towers from Mechano, or you’d never get anywhere.

At the beginning of each level, you get a set of simple objectives and then a tac-map of the surrounding area. From there, you buy your convoy and pick your route through the enemy defensive installations using an intuitive arrow-pathing system.

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As the game progresses, you’ll unlock new types of units, but so will the enemy. Each individual unit can be upgraded with cash, and, thankfully, you can sell the melting slag from destroyed enemy installations for the pocket money you need to make your missile launchers that much more potent.

But, a game wouldn’t be that much fun if you just sat back and let the mission play out from there, despite the thoughtful fast-forward arrow the devs put in to expedite your play-time. So, while your caravan is moseying through town, you can assist them with special powers like the benevolent finger-god you are. It’s easy enough. You just click on a power and use it on an area, but the game wouldn’t be very challenging if these weren’t limited. In order to gain the use of a power, it must first be supply dropped from a passing jet-plane. Coincidentally, this is also how you get more troops, should you feel like buying them en-route. Why you can’t just have them drop you off right next to the objective, I’ll never understand, but I think if we DID know the answer to that, we’d understand the Lord of the Rings that much better. Maybe it’s a laser-targeting thing , but I doubt the eagles used that technology very often.

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It looks pretty good, and it’s nice to see a civilization that’s gotten its act together enough to paint all of their mechano-kill droids the same colour. It’s a perturbing reminder of what Apple’s military will look like when The Day finally arrives. Won’t be hard to spot, at least. Well, the ones without the Stealth App anyways.

Later on, some of the enemy attacks require you to complete a quick-tap event or change your route on the fly, but it’s rarely intensive. It’s kind of relaxing, actually, to watch them roll through a town, occasionally healing or defending them with an ability. Mostly, tactics come down to ability use and caravan order.

It does have problems, though, and it wouldn’t be one of my reviews if I didn’t point them out. A major flaw in this game, besides the caravan’s obvious weakness to Silent Hill Void-pits, is that you can’t give direct firing orders to your vehicles. I tried for a while, and it seemed like it was making a difference, but that turned out to have been confirmation bias the more tests I did. This is a huge problem, but it saps some of the tactical strategy out of the game. Besides, games like this thrive on busy-work. It just feels weird that they cut it out.

After all, the only real relationship between vehicles and enemy installations is time. Each vehicle has a certain amount of damage it does per hit and a specific rate at which it fires. Each hit does a set amount of damage. Each building-type has a standard life total and returns fire in a unique pattern. Now, since your movement speed it held constant the entire time you’re attacking, each building encounter is a question of efficiency. How much damage can you do as you approach it versus the amount of damage it can do to you. You can stack the deck in your favour by messing with approach vectors and line-of-sight, so planning has to go into that. You can also directly insert variables with your powers. So, perhaps, limiting your control over your unit’s firing patterns was only fair, because it means you have to play around your own AI.

BUT, if you did provide user control to your units, then you could introduce more challenging, frantic scenarios. Ones that require priority fire. The only reason the current set-up is a problem is that there are occasions where you want to be able to set firing priorities. When they throw in game-play elements like escorts and special targets, it doesn’t make sense that your troops would be blasting away at an unimportant tower when another one is pounding your special unit into dust.

That’s just nit-picking, though. It’s not really a deal-breaker, and you’ll probably find that the game is well-balanced enough that this isn’t really a problem. After all, the real fun comes from cleverly picking your route and plowing through those death-lobsters to victory!

Speaking of, the next game we’re going to look at is Middle Manager of Justice!

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This gem came to us from Double Fine and was produced in association with Dracogen. As you might expect from a Double Fine game, it’s swimming in personality. I mean, it would have to be, it’s a game about being a middle manager for a super-hero squad. In a future where civic defense relies heavily on the privatized field of super-heroing to do most of the heavy lifting, you apply for a middle manager position with Justice Co. Or something like that. Your job is to manage the schedules of, hire, train and house a team of super heroes.

Now, team building isn’t usually an easy job, but it’s pretty simple here. Your heroes have stats. You increase those stats through training. Levelling up gives you a certain number of training sessions. You get the picture. It’s a free-to-play game, so there’s an energy system of sorts. But, this is a Double Fine game, so it’s not annoying. The energy cost is time. It takes time to train a hero to do a thing. So, you set a hero to do a thing and they do it until it’s done. You can turn off the game and walk away and it’ll happen while you’re gone. However, if you’re impatient, you can use an in-game currency to buy your way through that time. That in-game currency can be earned rather easily or bought if you’re bored. This is pretty much the only thing you can spend real money on in the game, and it’s completely non-intrusive. Mostly.

It’s thematically unified and well-designed, but it still has the standard FTP model stuff. Catching bad-guys in a region improves that region’s mood. The better the mood, the more they pay you when the pay cycle pops up. Fight crime -> improve mood -> collect money every few minutes -> use money to buy upgrades -> fight more crime. It’s designed to keep you checking back. Although, the mood in a region can always be easily recovered, so don’t worry too much about it if your heroes need time to train.

You start out with a hallway and an office, but you can buy upgrades for your headquarters until it fills itself out, like so:

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Each room serves a purpose. Research for new items (If you’ve got the int). A call-center to make extra cash. A break-room to improve morale. A training center for stats. A different training center for super-moves (Int reqs, yo). A hospital to rest. And, of course, your office. Each upgrades unlocks new capabilities, and they’re all pretty useful. Even your manager can learn abilities, with enough time, commitment and the proper promotions. Oh, he can also fuse super-meteorites together to grant new powers, which is a management class I missed out on in the past. 😥

There are challenges you can fulfil that will keep you on the right track with a little Skinner-box action, but the rewards are pretty trivial after a while.

To actually fight crime, you can delegate, which gives you a “Change of Success” rating or you can indulge the voyeuristic and watch.

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It’s a Final Fantasy-esque back and forth punch-up. Each hero and each villain gets a turn per round to make a move. From here, you can instruct your heroes to use their equipped super move instead of their basic attack and use items. Also, you can utilize your MIDDLE MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES OF POWER! Like, pep-talks and paradigm… shifts… Yeah, but in this world, they’re wildly effective. Eventually, you’ll want to not watch these exchanges, because it does get a bit dull, but heroes won’t use their powers without you around, so you’re stuck with the basic-change delegation problem. Do you take the 78% success chance? Or, do you just swoop in, use one power and win?

Once you have a balanced team, okay equipment, new costumes, items, meteorites and decent powers, there isn’t a whole lot going on on the tactical side. It’s mostly watching with a chance of tapping in the early hours. Neat game, although…

It has two major flaws in my eyes. The first is that your team-size is limited. You start with one hero, but as you work your way up, you can hire more with in-game currency. You’re limited to a team of four, though. Which, to me, is too few. If you want to feel like a true middle manager, then you’ve got to be delegating all the time. But here, you end up micro-managing a lot… maybe you’re more like a middle manager than I thought. But, regardless, if you want to take care of some crime through delegation, do some research, train your heroes and practice super powers, then you’re going to find that you swiftly run out of man-power. It’s a little underwhelming to have to stop fighting crime because you want two of your guys to get their cardio in and another to research a cool new kind of coffee, while the fourth is working on a super power. Even if you do have a free hero, they’re going to be in an endless cycle of punch-up-bed-punch-up-bed… And, if you want a single hero to succeed on most occasions, you’re going to have to watch the fight, which removes the aspect of delegation I enjoy the most: not having to supervise.

Again, though, the game doesn’t punish you at all, and there isn’t much problem with taking the time and waiting it out. I mean, you don’t have to pay much attention, and it wouldn’t be much of a free-to-play game if it didn’t encourage you to come check it every ten minutes for fresh reports of “Job Complete!” or new coins to secure.

The other problem is a bit more obvious and a bit less forgiveable: it doesn’t have a bloody ending. Sure, you can finish the story campaign, but then you’re back to the same mundane grind of keeping the average hoodlums off the streets. Maybe it’s a more complex metaphor than I’m giving it credit for. After all, that IS what you would do as a middle manager. There’s no parade-hip-hip-hooray-for-victory for you. No, there’s a soulless cake and a “seeya Monday.” Still, would have preferred an ending. Even the week has its Friday. (Disclaimer: Being a manager is not actually as bad as I’m making it seem, but Please realize how hard your manager works before she or he pops a blood-vessel.)

Those were the games I burned my time into this week. Not too shabby, all things considered. I’m giving Anomaly: Warzone Earth: Mobile Campain A Delicate Pedal on New-Fallen Snow out of An Exciting Movie Trailer Before A Decent Movie. Middle Manager of Justice is going to receive a whopping Three Red Starburst Candies Packaged In A Row out of The Scent Of A Newly Washed Kitchen. 

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Oh, and, DFTBA!

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