Nonstop Chuck Norris Review

Every so often, you come across a game which sounds so ridiculous that it couldn’t possibly work. When I saw a game called Nonstop Chuck Norris in the app store, I laughed. But after downloading it and spending a couple of hours playing it, I think it is one of the better mobile games to grace the app store, offering easy gameplay and a large amount of replayability that suits mobile gaming really well.

Game: Nonstop Chuck Norris
Platforms: iOS, Android
Price: Free-to-Play (in-app purchases for consumables)
Release Date: Worldwide: April 20, 2017

To start, let’s discuss the basic premise. There’s a story to the game, but understandably its rather nonsensical. An evil, robotic cat is attempting to destroy everything and it’s your job as Chuck Norris to stop it.

It should be noted that Norris is fully aware of its meme potential, and uses and abuses this potential to its full extreme. Chuck Norris has been embedded in meme culture and this game uses memes and general joking. It is completely self-aware, and it makes the game so much more enjoyable.

You see, you begin with a baseball bat, running around and attacking enemies. Chuck automatically runs to enemies, but by tapping icons at the bottom of the screen you can perform super moves that deal more damage. Defeating enemies earns XP, which can level Chuck up, and allows more moves to be learned. After defeating enough enemies in the level, the player usually wins a prize of some sort, which are completely ridiculous. Clothing items I encountered were horse heads for armoured protection, and weapons range from rifles being used as melee weapons to gardening rakes. The prizes generally have a theme of some sort as well, like cowboy or samurai.

file2

Gameplay: Chuck automatically attacks enemies, and the special moves (bottom) can be activated by the player

After winning the prize, Chuck punches his way to a the next floor, and the cycle repeats. There’s a boss every couple of floors, which keeps the game interesting, and requires the levelling up of Chuck’s items. Coins are earned from defeating enemies, and upgrading weapons and armour merely costs a sum of coins. The game will tell you when it thinks you’re ready to handle the boss as well, which is nice. If you haven’t got enough coins to upgrade, you can keep defeating enemies to earn coins until you do.

And this leads me to the really fantastic game design in this game: if you leave the app, Chuck keeps fighting for you. If you leave at a boss level, Chuck will continue fighting enemies and earning coins for you while you are gone – so if you don’t have enough coins, you can leave for a couple of hours, come back, and be ready to go again. I really like how I wasn’t forced into the microtransaction market with this game.

Another interesting feature of Nonstop is its replayability. Once you reach floor 20, you’re encouraged to “open a rift”, which causes you to lose all your items and coins, but you can also use tokens you earn in boss fights to upgrade Chuck’s permanent abilities (like +100% coin gain), as well as earn one of microtransaction consumable items, an energy drink which causes Chuck to go berserk and absolutely fly through floors. While the game gives you one of these for free at the beginning, I never used it again, even though it did look really cool. Again, the game doesn’t force you into microtransactions, which really makes it easy to recommend on an app store flooded with subpar games.

Other features include doing daily missions to unlock items that can lead to pets (I earned a doge pet pretty early on, which is silly and awesome at the same time) as well as leaderboard integration, if you’re into that sort of thing. I should briefly mention the art style as well, which is a colourful cartoon style that definitely suits this game.

file4

The colourful, cartoony nature of Nonstop

My one major gripe with this game is that although replayability exists in levelling up Chuck and attempting to go further each time, there’s no collectible system of any sort, which means it feels like you’re not achieving much. I just wish that I could collect some of the wacky items I come across, but I can see the difficulty in implementing such a system in a game like this. I do feel like some sort of cosmetic collectables would have strengthened this game.
A minor problem I have with this game is just that some of the special attacks don’t feel like much happens – it would have been nice to have a bit more of a screen-shake when Chuck slams the ground causing an earthquake, because at the moment the special attacks just feel a little unsatisfying to use. This is a very minor problem though.

Above all, I think I can summarise this game with an example of one time I was playing: my Chuck Norris was slamming enemies with his garden rake along with his shadows, and his pet doge was attacking goons off-screen. Nonstop Chuck Norris does so much right, on a platform where games get so much frequently wrong. It’s a fun, easy-to-play game, and it doesn’t force you to use microtransactions. What more can you ask for? I give it a 4.5/5 objectively and a 4/5 subjectively.

Positives
– Great gameplay
– Good replayability
– Hilariously self-aware
– Great game design

8.5/10

Negatives
– Lack of cosmetic collectables weakens replayability
– Special moves sometime lack “oomph”.

 

Mass Effect Review

Why play games that release in 2017 when you can play games that released in 2007 instead?

Game: Mass Effect

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (reviewed), PC

Price: $15

I know Mass Effect: Andromeda just released, but I don’t have anything powerful enough to play it, and I thought I should actually play the originals before I get to Andromeda.

Mass Effect is a science-fiction spectacle; an action-RPG filled with ambition. The basic plot context is that in the future, humanity discovers a “mass relay”, which enables faster-than-light travel to other planets, and discover an entire alien coalition, which they then join. The plot of this game revolves around you, as the human Commander Shepard tracking down the rogue agent Saren, who attacked a human colony to gain information about the civilisation that came before ours. Mass Effect is very plot-driven and I don’t want to spoil too much, but the story is just pure great sci-fi, plain and simple.

World-building is a large part of any science-fiction story, and Bioware has not skimped out on that aspect. Examining technology, hacking random computer terminals scattered around planets, and collecting artefacts will unlock entries in the “codex”, the game’s encyclopaedia to the Mass Effect universe. If you love all that background information, there’s a lot here to keep you happy.

Another big part of this game is the narrative system. Now, you are in complete control of Commander Shepard’s story. You not only get to customise the look of your character, like other RPGs (I made my Shepard a little silly-looking with a ridiculous moustache, but there are definitely more nightmarish Shepards out there) but also their actions. This game gives you a variety of dialogue choices, and choosing some options will increase your “goodness” (which the game calls Paragon), and some options will increase your “rogueness” (which the game calls Renegade). You also get a variety of other decisions to make, like saving characters or choosing whether to hack someone’s computer for a shady client. It reminds me a bit of Telltale’s games, but this was before Telltale’s big break, and so this style of storytelling deserves a lot of credit. These decisions will also (apparently) carry over into the sequel, and I have to say, I’m excited to take my Shepard through these games.

Gameplay 2

An example of the dialogue wheel in Mass Effect

The gameplay is mainly combat-focused, but sadly this is where the game falls down a little – the gameplay is just a little too repetitive. I played this game twice (more on that later), once on easy and once on medium, and the game was pretty simple both times. The game introduces you to the cover system in the first level, but I found I never really needed to use cover – I just preferred to run and gun. I was playing as a soldier though, which meant I got access to all the guns in the game, but no tech or biotic (magic). You choose your class at the beginning of the game, and there’s definitely a lot of replay value just for the style of gameplay you choose. If I was playing as a different class, like tech, which only gets a pistol and sniper rifle, I might have used cover more.

There’s about 5 main missions to do in this game, and of these 3 can be done in any order, but there’s definitely some benefit to doing some before others (gaining new squad members, for example). This game isn’t open-world like other RPGs we’ve come to know and love, so even though you can tackle the main quest in any order, the levels themselves are mostly linear (there was one mission that was less linear, in that I did it differently on my two playthroughs, but the outcome will always be the same). My one complaint is that I didn’t quite realise the game was going to end with the final mission (I thought the game still had a while to go) and once the game’s over, you can’t go do any of the side missions (disappointing, as the game keeps this sense of urgency throughout and yet the urgency is all fake and you do have time to go off and do side missions). This meant I felt I hadn’t really experienced all the game had to offer after my one bare-bones playthrough, so I did it all again, and did the side missions. There’s one sizeable piece of DLC included in the PS3 version, which was a nice addition, even if it didn’t add much. I did some exploration and side missions in my second playthrough, but after a while they become so similar and their flaws become so apparent – there’s only so many pirate bases with reused assets I can take before I get bored. While there are some interesting missions here, most of the side missions fall flat, which was disappointing for such a large universe.

Gameplay 1

A look at the gameplay

The music in this game was quite good, I don’t usually notice music in games but this music was executed perfectly, it’s all your classic 80s synths and it suits the tone so well. The music becomes a lot more dramatic during the climaxes of missions as well, and it really helps the tone of the game.

The game has some general issues which I think are just a product of the time it was released – texture popping (where textures don’t load fully before a scene begins and then “pop” in later) occurs rather frequently, and during one scene my character just disappeared completely, so Shepard briefly spoke as a levitating pistol, which was quite amusing but also distracting as this was a major climax in the game. One time an entire scene was skipped after a mission. There’s also some design issues – it can be tough to figure out where to go – and a lot of the maps are reused, especially on non-essential planets. These aren’t major issues, but it does take away from the game a bit when each planet you visit just feels like a reskinned version of the last one.

Above all though, Mass Effect is solid. It made me care enough to play it twice, which is something I can’t say a lot about most games, just to experience it properly the second time. I had a really hard time trying to decide what score to give it – it falls just short of excellence, but it’s certainly great. I’m giving a 4/5 objectively, due to it’s design issues, and a 4.5/5 subjectively, because I did really enjoy it.

Positives
+ Great sci-fi storytelling
+ Great customization options
+ Good variety of gameplay options

8.5/10

Negatives
– Gameplay repetitive after a while
– Maps reused for side missions
– Fake urgency detracts from ability to do side missions
– Miscellaneous design and graphical issues

Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season 2 Review

When I played Season 1 of Telltale’s unique storytelling game set in the world of The Walking Dead, I absolutely loved it – it was my game of the year of 2014.

Will season 2 of this series be able to retain everything which made the first so great? Or will it fail?

Game: Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season 2

Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android, PS Vita (Reviewed)

Price: $25 for the full season ($5 per episode)

For those of you that have never played, read, or watched anything to do with The Walking Dead, it’s essentially a zombie apocalypse story that focuses on the survivors and their problems in a world where everything is scarce.

Following on from the events in the first game, you control Clementine, a nine year old girl. The opening starts only a couple of months after the ending of the first game, but before long the game skips eighteen months. This is done, partially, to allow Clementine to develop into her own character. In Season 1 she was a major secondary character, but here she is the playable character, so it’s important to distinguish her a little.

clementine

What I immediately noticed about this game is how much darker it is. This is evident not only from its high age rating, but also from the general atmosphere and artwork. While the first game did have some bright artwork, here the majority of the action is gloomy and upsetting: and sure, this is a gloomy and upsetting story, but some variation would have been nice. At the moment, there’s barely any sort of variation between episodes.

Each episode is its own story, but they all are part of a larger arc. The main story here revolves around Clementine trying to find a new group of survivors and her journey with them, which is an interesting story as she soon gets swept up into a series of events that affect her and her group.

One of the problems I had in this season is that it felt like my choices didn’t matter. Now while I don’t mind the illusion of choice, this game doesn’t allow the role-playing experience the first season had. In the first game you controlled Lee, who acted as a father figure to Clementine since the death of her own parents. Some of the best choices you made as Lee had nothing to do with the story, but how you personally chose to raise Clementine. Examples that spring to mind include punching someone a few times but not enough to seriously damage him, not stealing out of the boot of a car, and so on. These choices had little-to-no effect on the story, but it felt like I was choosing what to do in this world, which I feel is just as important as the major decisions. Here, it’s fairly obvious the major decisions don’t have a major effect (saving characters will just result in them silently in the background) but there’s so little of these minor, role-playing decisions that it doesn’t matter anyway.

3

The linear plot itself is pretty decent, featuring some returning characters from season 1 and an exhilarating final episode climax.

The artwork is quite nice, as mentioned previously it’s dark and gloomy but it suits the story. This is definitely a cinematic experience, so I would recommend playing it on a big screen. Season 1 was pretty good on the small Vita screen, but season 2 wasn’t as good on the small screen. I would recommend a console purchase for the full experience.

The sound was decent, the highlight of course being the songs that play during the credits of each episode. There’s nothing really special about the in-episode sound though, but given this is a dialogue-heavy game I don’t expect much from the music anyway.

2

The biggest failure of this game was its lack of optimisation. It was occasionally slow and had some bugs; for instance at one point the dialogue for a scene played while the scene was still loading and then I had to watch the scene in silence. Episode 3 also crashed to the home screen at one point, which was a little upsetting but fortunately I was able to load from the most recent scene. I can’t comment on the other platforms, but I would recommend avoiding the PS Vita version, as it is, out of the platforms I’ve played Telltale games on, the least optimised.

So let’s some up what we have here: a good plot, decent storytelling, good gameplay, and good graphics. What we have here is a good game, but unfortunately one that just falls shy of the great and amazing games I am used to from Telltale. I give The Walking Dead: Season 2 a 3.5/5 objectively and a 3.5/5 subjectively.

Positives

+ Good Plot

+ Good Graphics

7/10

Negatives

– Decisions not as good as expected from Telltale

– Bugs and other optimisation issues

 

The NES Collection: A Nightmare on Elm Street Review

I didn’t play this one for long, so it’s going to be a pretty short review.

Game: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Platform:  NES

Price: $35

I’ve never actually seen A Nightmare on Elm Street, so I went into this with no idea what was heppening.

It’s a pretty basic platformer, you can punch with B and jump with A. Enemies on-screen can be taken out with a few punches.

This was developed by Rare, so the mechanics are pretty good. One of the cooler mechanics is a nightmare bar that steadily depletes. Once empty, nightmare mode begins, where the enemies are tougher. Unfortunately what ruins this mechanic for me is that Freddy can randomly appear at any time during this mode, resulting in a boss battle that cannot be won without an upgrade found before the boss battle.

There’s a decent amount of levels here, and the graphics are good.

It’s just an average platformer but if you like the film I’d say it’s worth checking out.

Positives

+ Innovative nightmare mechanic

5.fw

Negatives

– Unfair boss battle timing

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

NES Collection #007: A Boy and His Blob Review

I was really looking forward to this game. I really was. A unique and interesting puzzle mechanic, from the creator of Pitfall? What’s not to like?

Game: A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia

Platforms: NES, Wii (Remake)

Price: $11 (NES); $14.95 (Wii)

Unfortunately, there’s a lot to not like.

The plot is that a blob has escaped from his home planet of Blobolonia and needs a boy’s help to overthrow the evil sweet-eating emperor.

The unique game mechanic present here is that you can feed this blob jellybeans and, depending on the flavour, will change the blob’s form to a variety of useful items. You’re encouraged to experiment to find all the combinations, and if I was a kid living in 1990 I probably would have written them all down in a notebook, or in the notes section of the manual. But I’m not a kid in 1990, so I had GameFAQs at my disposal. Ha!


The main goal in this game is to collect treasure. No problem, and I was able to do this no problem by turning my blob firstly into a hole, and then a ladder.

Then I got stuck. I turned my blob into a hole and… fell to my death. I tried every screen, eventually found a spot to fall down to, and then I collected some more treasure. Then I fell through the hole again, to my death. There was nowhere else to go. The game gives no indication of where to go, which is a deal-breaker in adventure games such as this. But all of this is forgiveable, except you only have five lives, and once you lose them, you start at the beginning. And that’s the problem with this game: it is unforgiving, but not in a fun nor an enjoyable way.

Music and graphics are decent, but not decent enough to save the gameplay.

Apparently the Wiimake (get it, like remake) is better. Go play that instead.

Positives

+ Unique puzzle mechanism

+ Decent gameplay

4.5.fw

Negatives

– Not enough guidance

– Silly lives mechanic for an adventure game

NES Collection #006: 8 Eyes Review

If this game was released today, I think it would garner significant praise for innovation. Unfortunately, since it was released in 1990, it is instead a sad game, that tries to do too much for this era.

Game: 8 Eyes

Console: NES

Price: ~$10

Set in an apocolyptic future, you’re character is tasked with finding the 8 jewels that will enable civilisation to be rebuilt. It’s a fairly simple story but it’s not the main focus here anyway.

The gameplay is like the Castlevania series (which admittedly I’ve never played, so maybe take that with a grain of salt) in that it’s a side-scrolling platformer and your character has weapons to take out enemies. Where this game is unique though, is in the falconer mechanic.


Your character is a falconer, so at any point you can release your falcon, who will fly erratically covering the screen. You can even issue simple commands like a swooping downward attack to help you defeat enemies. Where this mechanic falls short is that you can’t control the falcon as well – only hope that he goes near the enemy. A second player can play as the falcon, which is better, but doesn’t make the game any easier (believe me, I tried the first level in both 1 and 2 player). Adding to this frustration is that special weapons are use by the length you hold a button down, and the lack of consistency with any of the two buttons the NES offers, result in frustrating controls that render the game essentially unplayable.

If this game was released today, it would have controllers with so many more buttons to use, and two analogue sticks means that the player and the falcon can be controlled simultaneously. If this was the case, I think this game would be praised for its innovative controls, like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was a few years ago. Instead, we’re left with a game ahead of its time; with frustrating controls resulting in a game that is extremely difficult to play. For it’s attempts at innovation, I’m giving 8 Eyes 3/5 objectively and 2 subjectively.

Positives

+ Attempts to Innovate

5.fw

Negatives

– Frustrating Controls

– Extremely Difficult (in 1 and 2 player) due to inconsistent controls