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Australia Day Post: Big Bash 2016 Review

Game: Big Bash 2016

Platforms: iOS, Android

Price: Free

Ah, Australia Day. The sound of snags sizzling on the barbie, splashes from pools, and of course, backyard cricket.

However, if you don’t have anyone to celebrate Australia Day, you could play cricket on Big Bash 2016, a game based on the cricket tournament of the same name.

I suppose this is going to need an explanation for my international readers. 

Cricket is a sports game where one team bats while the other fields. The fielding team has one player bowl the ball to a batsman on the pitch, who then hits the ball with his bat before running up and down the pitch to score “runs”. The batsmen keep running in the time it takes the fielders to return the ball to the bowler. If a batsmen hits it high, and it rolls over the field’s boundary, that is automatically counted as 4 runs, and a “full” hit over the boundary is automatically counted as 6. Batsmen are “out” if a ball of theirs is caught,  or if the ball hits one of the two wickets on the pitch before the batsmen crosses the “crease” (a white line before the wicket). If the batting team loses 10 wickets (10 batsmen get out) the teams switch sides, and the old fielding team (the new batting team) attempts to chase down the run total set by the old batting team.

The Big Bash is not a brawler, beat-em-up game, but the name of a T20 cricket competition in Australia, where each city competes in a tournament competition. T20 means 20 overs per side – each over consists of 6 balls, so the teams have to score the highest score they can from 120 balls.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s focus on the game.


You first choose a team (which are all fully licensed as well, which is nice), and then launch into either a quick-play game or the tournament. What is very cool is that the game offers both men and women play modes. You can also choose whether to bat or bowl first, although I think a randomiser option would have been nice, or a coin toss option like how the real-life games do it. You can also choose how many overs you play, with a variety of intervals from 2 to 20.

Bowling is nice and simplistic for the touch screen interface, it’s as easy as dragging a marker to the position you want to bowl to and then swiping up to determine the speed of the ball. You don’t actually get to control any of the fielders, but I think that was the right decision here: field control would be much too finnicky on a mobile device. However, I do think the ability to manually change the field layout would have been nice; the game randomizes (to an extent) the position of the fielders, and although that adds strategy to the bowling, the option to change the fielding position would have been a welcome addition.

Batting is even more simple, it just requires swiping in the direction you want the ball to go. The faster the swipe, the faster the ball. Runs are automatic based on ball position, which I think was also the right decision: you simply wouldn’t be able to get a good enough view of the field to determine when to run on such a small screen.


My only real complaint (the other minor things I’ve mentioned are nitpicks, really) is with the difficulty. The “normal difficulty” is ridiculously easy, my records were 3/630 for batting, which is impossible in real T20 cricket – for reference, 180 runs is a tough score to beat, the current record is about 220. In One Day Internationals, which are 50 overs, 350 runs is a tough score to beat. It’s just way too easy to smash 6s in the normal mode. I could forgive this, but it doesn’t get much better, my record on the next difficulty, “Pro”, was 10/348, which is better (I was bowled all out) but I’m still scoring ridiculously high. And then “Legend” difficulty is just ridiculous, because the bowler bowls these awful slow balls that are impossible to judge in determining when to swing. It’s so frustrating, it’s like the computer is giving you an underarm bowl. Some slower balls are expected, but not that slow. I would have much preferred that the force of the batsmen was toned down in the higher difficulty, so that 1s and 2s were more common than 6s, and where you hit the ball actually mattered and has a higher probability of being caught out, along with proper bowling. Instead, the highest difficulty feels unfair and is not much fun, and the lower difficulties are too easy and not fun. This game had so much potential for longevity, for thrilling games on the highest difficulty, but instead it just misses the mark.

Overall, I have no doubt that Big Bash 2016 deserves the title of a good game. Unfortunately, its difficulty problems cause this game to just fall short of greatness. I’m giving Big Bash 2016 3.5/5 objectively, and 3.5/5 subjectively.

Positives

+ Great control scheme for mobile devices

+ Fully licensed and inclusive of the women’s league

+ Allows wide range of game play times in the choice of overs

7/10

Negatives

– Unbalanced difficulty modes hinders longevity of the game

– Nitpicks: no randomiser for play order; no ability to edit field layout

Gamesland News: Intel, Minecraft, Samsung, and More!

The latest news from the gaming world, condensed into one post with an easy-to-read format.

News

– Intel announced an 8-Core CPU, although nothing has really been optimised for it, so its kind of pointless…for now.

– The next Dragon Slash game is going to be a real-time hack-and-slash

– The next Little Big Planet game is going to be a ‘free-to-play, platform-survival game’, also known as an endless runner. It’s coming to Android, iOS, and the PS Vita in October.

– Minecraft was released for the Xbox One and PS4, and it’s a $5 upgrade from the previous console versions (but only to the respective consoles). The PS Vita release is coming “soon”.

– The movie for Shadow of the Colossus is still happening, with the people working on the film announced. Although there’s no cast yet.

– Finally, Samsung announced their VR headset, called “Gear VR”. The headset will work with the new “Note 4” (which slips into the front of the device and acts as the screen) and has several games already announced, including a first-person Temple Run that looks very scary.

Questions? Feedback?

Leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!

That’s all the news for this week, but come back next Friday (12/09/14) for more news from the land of gaming!

Professor Games Reviews: Small City

Every so often, there are those games that no-one can find the time to play, because we’re either too busy with other games, or with life in general. However, at Gamesland, I believe that those games still need to be reviewed. So, every so often, we’ll ask some people (our friends and family) to review games for us. These people adopt the persona of Professor Games; so that you, the readers, can understand who they are. Today’s guest is largely a casual gamer; and enjoys the genre of the casual simulation – games that have you build up a town, city, tower, or empire, and attempt to manage it. Today Professor Games shall review Small City.

– the editor (JaJaBinks2)

Game name: Small City

Available on: iOS, Google Play

Price: Free

In Small City, there is no story-line. You get to take as much time as you want with the game and move forward at your own pace. Basically, you have to build shops and houses for the people in the game and you are the mayor. You have to save up coins to buy a house or a store to move on. For the people in your city you can buy costumes and pets. These cost a rarer type of money in the game called small bucks. By buying more houses and shops you get prizes such as small bucks. There are challenges that you have to complete to level up and you obtain prizes for it. As well as buying shops and houses, you get to give people in your city taxi rides. You get to buy different taxis and speed it up, but these cost small bucks as well. I think the set-out works. The graphics are great and clear and I think it gives a really good, comfortable feel to the game.

Some of the flaws in the game include:

  1. You can only add friends by Facebook – this is very frustrating because you are connected by GameCentre but can’t add friends from there. Also, a few challenges have to include friends, this is impossible to do unless you have Facebook
  2. As you get further into the game, the longer it takes for buildings to build – at the start of the game it’s something around one minute of waiting and once you reach building 15 it’s already two hours of waiting. Of course you can use small bucks to speed it up but as I said before, those are hard to get
  3. Like buildings, restocking your shops takes a long time as well – in one of my stores, the lowest amount of time is 43 minutes to restock. It is very frustrating when you don’t have anything else to do
  4. At the start of the game, your taxi is really slow and if you don’t save up your small bucks, you are going to have to wait a really long time for the taxi to even arrive to the person.

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Mobile Week: Day 8 – Survivalcraft Experiments

Available On: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Amazon Kindle

Price: $4.49

Reviewed On: iOS

Ah, well hello there. My name is Professor Games. I am a worker at the Gamesland lab, and from now on I will occasionally be reviewing apps that I’ve deconstructed in my lab. Today we shall be looking at the not-quite Minecraft clone,  Survivalcraft, available exclusively on mobile devices, to finish off mobile week 2013.

While you are initially abandoned from your boat, there is no other story, other than the one you make yourself. It is a story about your survival. What’s good about the game is that the blocks are varied. You can have everything from coloured wood to different types of leaves. This means that it is very easy to create whatever you want, like pixelart, or if you really wanted to, DNA! This is helped by the fact that you can download many of different texture packs through the app, unlike Minecraft. Ironically, there’s even a texture pack to make Survivalcraft look like Minecraft. There’s also a variety of different animals, such as: wolves, cows, polar bears, giraffes, zebras, whales, and even emus, although there’s many, many more than that. In addition, many of these animals can be spawned as well using special spawners. What’s very good, however, is that this game is like Minecraft. A lot of the core mechanics are the same, but this game keeps things way more interesting than Minecraft‘s mobile game. For example, you can download the aforementioned texture packs, or even download other people’s worlds! There’s also electronics (far more advanced than any red stone) that kept me happy for a long time…I really enjoyed messing around with the electronics.

Unfortunately, there’s a few problems with Survivalcraft that its competitor doesn’t have. It sometimes crashes. There’s a few glitches, like when some wolves decided to walk through glass and come get me! But perhaps its biggest problem is that you can die really easily, even on the easiest setting. Occasionally, I got killed with one hit from a wolf. Also, on creative mode, you can still die by falling into something, unlike Minecraft, where you are invincible in creative mode! But from a one-man game, across four devices, we weren’t expecting it to be perfect. But he always keeps his fans updated, over at his blog, where he constantly lets them know of new updates. How often do you find out about the mobile Minecraft updates?

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Mobile Week: Day 7 – Ships ‘N’ Battles Review

Available On: iOS, Google Play
Price: SD: $0.99 HD: $1.99
Reviewed On: iOS (HD version)

Ships ‘N’ Battles is another small indie title for mobile devices. The main idea of the game is that it’s an unofficial iOS port of the real-life boardgame Battleship. It’s done surprisingly well for an indie title.

The main aspect of the game is still the same, but with touch functionality. You tap a square of a board, tap that square again to confirm and launch a missile there. If it hits something, well done. If it doesn’t, there’s the chance (in this mobile game, at least) to get a power up, which might be to annihilate an entire row or column, or it might be a radar which tells you how many ships are in a particular area. These elements keep what might have been an oridnary port fresh and alive. The graphics are also quite nice, bordering the line between cartoon ships and realistsic water. You can also change the time of the battle (e.g. night instead morning), but the game automatically chooses the time corresponding to what time it is in real life. All the ships are still there, from the one-square submarine to the four-square battleship. Also included is multiplayer functionality, which includes battles over BlueTooth, Local WiFi, Game Centre (or its Android equivelant, I presume), or Worldwide, which means that someone playing on iOS can verse someone who has Android. Unfortunately, hardly anybody was on when I checked, and the only singleplayer options are four different AI modes…easy, medium, hard, and “extreme”, although “extreme” still doesn’t feel like much of a challenge. Fortunately, I was able to beat some friends and family with the Bluetooth mode.

That’s this game’s only real flaw. It’s just too short for the $1.99 HD price, and the graphics just don’t make up for it. But if you’re looking at getting this for a phone, and you can get someone else to download it so you can verse eachother, than I think this is a great option. Just get the $0.99 version.

Pros
– Faithful to the original board game.
– Has made it specifically for mobile, not a port.
– Power Ups keep the game alive.
– Lots of different multiplayer support options: BlueTooth, Local WiFi, Game Centre, Global

Cons
– Only four different singleplayer AI options
– HD is too high a pricepoint, as the graphics don’t make up for this games shortness.

Mobile Week – Day 4: Pocket Trains Review

Available On: iOS, Google Play

Price: Free

Reviewed On: iOS

Pocket Trains is the sequel to the highly successful title Pocket Planes, released last year. The game sees you taking control of a few trains and trying to create a highly successful train empire. Along the way, you’ll purchase new regions, trains, and tracks.

The most important change to this title is the fact that whenever you buy a new train, you have to buy a track for it as well. Trains cannot run on a different train’s tracks, so you’ll want the track to be long enough to ensure that it’s worth putting a train on it, but short enough so that it won’t run out of petrol travelling along the track. This can cost quite a bit of coins, but it’s well worth it.

Another change is that events now happen only in cities that you have tracks running to. This made most of them seem quite do-able, as opposed to Pocket Planes, where they quite often happened on the other side of the world. Bux (the premium currency) are now a lot easier to get now as well, with the missions that deliver them giving you 10+ bux often. But that doesn’t come without its costs, now things that costs bux  now cost more bux, as opening a train crate will cost you 10 bux.

The process to get more trains is now simplified. Instead of tracking down certain parts like you had to do in it’s predecessor, you now open one train crate for 10 bux and hope it completes a set you have started.

However, just as I had started getting into the game, it said something like ” Someone spilt orange juice on the controls! Fix now for 10000 coins or 1 bux?” and then you had to choose between the two. It just felt wrong to me, and I feel like that should have been left out. It is a freemium model, but Pocket Planes didn’t have to resort to that. It’s made worse by the fact that there’s not even an option to wait for 5 minutes for it to fix.

Ultimately, I haven’t played Pocket Trains for long, but it doesn’t just feel as entertaining as its predecessor. The freemium model is just too outstanding here, and I ultimately think that Pocket Planes is the better game. I hope Pocket Boats is a bit better than this (if it comes).

Pros

– Nice Retro Artwork

– Fans of the games will enjoy it

– Good train-based ideas in the game (e.g. tracks)

– Bux are easier to get, but the ratio of bux to purchase is roughly the same.

Cons

– Freemium model really shows out

– “Pay to fix” the train

– Can be slow at the start, which leads to boredom.

Mobile Week – Day 3: Monopoly for iPad Review

Available On: iOS (iPhone and iPod different to iPad version), Google Play

Reviewed On: iPad iOS version

Price: iPhone and iPod (iOS): $0.99 

iPad (iOS): $7.49 (AU, $6.99 American version)

Android: $5.17

So many ports! What is going on with Mobile week, I’m just reviewing ports of every game available (that should change tomorrow, however). Monopoly is, of course, a port of the highly successful board game from Parker Brothers, and this version is made by Electronic Arts.

Background Information About the Board Game

 

The board game, for those of you that don’t know, revolves around the players having to go around a board consisting of 40 spaces with 28 of them being properties that the player can buy. 22 of these properties are “streets” with three streets belonging to a colour group. When all the streets in a colour group have been bought, the player is able to build houses, and later, hotels on them. When another player lands on a street owned by a different player, they have to pay that player rent, and with more houses comes more rent, with a hotel having some quite costly rent prices. 4 of the streets are slightly different, consisting of only two streets to a group. The brown colour set is just after the “Go” space, and is the cheapest to own, place houses, and pay rent to the owner, while the dark blue colour group comes just before the “Go” space, and is the most expensive to own. The price of properties steadily increases as you go around the board. Also, there are four railroads, owning all four will collect $200 in rent each time a player lands on one, and there are two utilities, owning both will give you x10 the amount of the dice roll in rent. There are four corner spaces “Go”, which every time you pass it will give you $200, Jail, which you’re only in if you roll doubles three times in a row, get a chance card, or land on on one of the other corner squares: “Go to Jail”. Otherwise, you’re “just visiting” the jail. The last corner spot is “free parking”. There is the addition of Chance and Community Chest cards, which will either give you something good or something bad.

End of Background Information

This port is quite good. The dice have real physics to them, so if they bump together, the numbers will change, or if they roll over the card piles, the numbers will change again. Everything is mechanical in this game, so your icon will move whatever you rolled, and the bank will automatically give you $200 every time you pass “Go”, or will automatically pay you or another player for rent. All the player(s) have to do is choose whether or not to buy a property! Of course, when you do go into debt, you can choose which properties to mortgage, or indeed, let the computer do it for you! The AI is good, I found that I was able to beat the AI on hard, but when I challenged them again, I found that I lost. I think I just got lucky that first time. However, when playing with 3 AI and myself, when I got bankrupt second, the AI whose turn it was just after mine resigned and the other AI won! It would have been pretty cool to see the two AI battle it out, but maybe that’s more a convenience thing to players. Also convenient is the fact that you can leave the game at any time, and come back and resume exactly where you left off.  There’s also some multiplayer options: a “pass and play”, where you pass the device on to another player, or a local Bluetooth and WiFi mode, if you have two devices. I was only able to test out the pass and play with a friend, so I don’t know how quick the Bluetooth or WiFi options are. It’s also slightly disappointing that you can’t challenge someone over WiFi to anywhere in the world. I know that some players might not have the time to play a potentially long game like that, but it could play out like Draw Something, where you take a turn, and the other player takes a turn when they feel like it. I know it’s not perfect, but at least it caters to everybody.

There’s not much wrong with this game, it does get boring fairly quickly, but House Rules are able to be changed (what if I change the amount of starting money, or the amount of pass “Go” money?), and I think there’s a bit of fun to be had here, especially if you like the board game, but you don’t like packing up each time you start a game because you’re busy, or you don’t have anyone to play the board game with. I think this version is much better than the board game, because it’s a lot simpler and doesn’t require you to pack up!

Pros

– Same as board game

– Bank Automatic

– Different levels of AI (very easy – hard)

– House Rules are able to be changed

– No packing up

– Can challenge AI characters

– Can challenge someone else close to you via Bluetooth/WiFi

Cons

– Can’t challenge people over WiFi in different parts of the world

– Gets boring after two games (even on different difficulties)