Game Reviews

Review Bites: Humble Noodlecake Games Bundle Edition

So, it’s a new week, and we have a fresh Humble Mobile Bundle, this time featuring games from Noodlecake Studios. As someone who is usually a fan of the games they generally publish I was a bit excited about this one. Did that excitement hold up? Is this another home run sure-thing bundle like the last one from Crescent Moon Games?

Well… not exactly. Will be doing up a feature with most of the games from that Bundle in the near future but in order to be more timely I figured, “What the heck!” and set out to plow through the games in this bundle and give you some review-y goodness in case you haven’t bought it yet so you’ll know whether to spend, how much to spend, and what to expect. So here goes!

Polymer

Uhm… it won’t install on my nVidia Shield tablet… not off to a very good start…

Pros:

  • It looks theoretically interesting in the video included on their site
  • It doesn’t create any space issues

Cons:

  • Won’t install on the Shield? Really?
  • No really, in the video you show it on a phone but it has a problem with the Shield tablet? Arrrgh

Verdict: Unable to Review-mer

 

Glorkian Warrior: The Trials of the Glork

As improbable as it is (this was the second-to-last game I tried because it looked kind of dumb) I’ll actually come out and say I found this mildly enjoyable. While it is hardly the best shooter I’ve played by a mile the mix of pick-up-and-play-ness of it and a sensibility borrowed from multiple classic arcade shooters make it an unexpected treat. I really with they’d not put any effort into the “theme” and all, just delivering that gameplay with a much more simplistic main character, but it’s their game and I respect the final product.

Pros:

  • Mixes elements and an essence of multiple classic arcade shooters
  • Keeps throwing things at you just a little differently, never letting you get lulled into normalcy
  • Though I’m not a fan of the look, it does make for a very smooth game and played well with and without the controller

Cons:

  • Aside from the main character looking pretty stupid overall I really take issue with how tall he is. It is weirdly out of proportion to everything else and makes some situations more awkward than they should be
  • I’m guessing the developers thought they were infusing the game with some personality but it really didn’t work for me (though I now see that it could be based on a book I’ve never heard of)

Verdict: WTF?!? This is a game based on a kids’ book?!?!?

No really, there’s a book

Pumped BMX 2

Apparently the sequel to a popular game before it the copy I’d read for this game and the video looked impressive enough that I’d actually picked this up to review before the bundle came along ($3 down the drain, argh!) After playing it for a while there is good and bad with it. While I think it is set up pretty well, the control is tolerable to fair (though how people play this without a controller I don’t know), and it is a good challenge. For me there’s just something missing to the experience. I found myself hyper-focused on the specific challenges you’re given and I think in many ways that ended up missing the boat for what “fun” you could just have with the game. A bit early on for my tastes it also began throwing elements into the track that demanded not just executing tricks but building up momentum properly to clear a large jump. I could definitely see this sort of thing introduced little by little through the course of the game but it felt like it showed up pretty abruptly to me and helped kill my interest in the game before it really got a chance to dig in. Definitely could see where it would be popular with the right crowd though.

Pros:

  • Pretty well thought out and executed where it comes to control, essential for this kind of title
  • Offers a good challenge to people who possess the manual dexterity to pull off the various types of moves
  • Looks good and generally plays smoothly

Cons:

  • For me it strangely throws in a need to concentrate on building and maintaining momentum while doing stunts on the track to then be able to clear a large jump waaay too early in the game
  • I really didn’t like the challenges forcing you to do a single specific trick in isolation, not counting it when combined with other tricks. This unnecessarily slowed things down
  • You can progress to a degree without having to complete the challenges but as they’re implemented I just see them as a completionist’s (guilty as charged) nightmare. Would rather just be able to focus on pulling high scores and crazy combos over having to do some single or specific string of tricks
  • If you can play the game with the tilt and on-screen controls more power to you, I’d want to kill myself playing it that way

Verdict: Cartoony Trials BMX: OCD Nightmare Challenges Edition

 

Super Stickman Golf 2

I get it, this brings a simple kind of gameplay to the table that people certainly could enjoy. My issue is that after playing games like Hot Shots Golf or multiple Mario Golf entries over the years it just falls flat for me. There is a challenge, there are creative holes, there is most certainly some skill to pulling off great shots… but it just isn’t my personal cup of tea. Oddly enough, even with its very simple/casual style the 9 hole rounds you play also end up being a bit long to sneak in a quick play with so it stands as an odd title to me.

Pros:

  • Basic controls that obviously would work in any format
  • If you don’t mind holes with no basis in reality there are some interesting course layouts and designs intended to challenge your skills and thinking
  • As minimalistic as it tends to be there is a sense of personality to it all I liked
  • Ends up taking on a puzzle game mentality in places, which does make it more interesting

Cons:

  • For video game golf veterans I see this as a tough sell for it being too watered down in the end
  • Session length seems to make it a bit of a tough sell as a quick pick up and play game but seems too simple to engage with for long stretches unless you really dig the puzzle-ish elements and perfecting each hole

Verdict: “Adequate, Minimally-Featured Golf and Puzzle Challenge with Overly Simple Controls” 2

 

Devious Dungeon

Reviewing any game that is “Rogue-like” is getting to be a bit tiresome, there are simply A LOT of games of this type to be found out there ranging from decent to pretty horrible. As games in this space go, even outside the Android market, I’d consider this in the upper 70% or so. The dungeons are reasonably well randomized, while you will die repeatedly there is an accumulation of money that can be used to slowly upgrade your character, and there is a decent challenge to be had without it being oppressively cruel. This, in many ways, reminds me of Rogue Legacy on the PC, which is a shame since the comparison points out where there may have been an opportunity to do a little more to make the game interesting. Still, some solid 2D platforming and slashing fun with a constant challenge.

Pros:

  • Challenging, but as you play you do accumulate money and experience that continue to improve your core character. This is a design I prefer
  • Progression can be tough, depending on how things shake out, but it generally feels like you’re inching along towards being better on a consistent basis. Squeezes you pretty hard but stops short of crushing, a difficult balance

Cons:

  • I found the control to be too loose and floaty for my tastes, and it resulted in some unnecessary frustration given the precision platforming it wants you to execute in places
  • As there is a ton of competition in this space there are very similar games I’ve played that I think were better executed

Verdict: “Another Decent Rogue-like Title, But Not the Best” Dungeon

 

Tower Dwellers

I’ll just put this out there right up front. First, I generally get very bored of tower defense games. Second, the exception to that rule has always and only been the Kingdom Rush series that somehow infuses enough voodoo magic into their games that I get hooked on a genre I normally find a bit tedious. While my very initial impressions of this title left me a bit cold, and feeling more of the same was coming, it does one thing that immediately got my attention. By building support buildings next to your towers that combine to define what type of hero they contribute to it creates a potentially new strategy hook with hybrid types. While I’ll need to play the game more to see if they fully capitalize on the potential of this move I’ll admit it has me intrigued to keep going with the game where I’d have normally dismissed others in the genre.

Pros:

  • There is great potential in the slight variation this title has managed to come up with, allowing for more varied combinations and strategy to be utilized
  • Having some support buildings shared between towers additionally blends in some required strategic thinking, adding another wrinkle
  • Love for the button (that not all games include) that speeds things up!

Cons:

  • Up against the likes of Kingdom Rush that just oozes personality Dwellers does try to be quirky and have a sense of humor but most of it honestly falls flat

Verdict: Trying Hard to Give Kingdom Rush Some Competition Dwellers

 

Mikey Boots

Now here’s a game where I have a conundrum in how I feel. On the one hand it is very clean, seems to fulfill its objectives for what it set out to do well, and is entertaining enough. On the other hand I find it all very simple and dull. In the fight for my attention with other brief time wasters I can’t see this cracking through the likes of Punch Quest (how am I still entertained by it?), Threes, or the recent addition of Crossy Road? I did find it to be enjoyable, and I could see people really digging on it since it is simple but well-executed, but it just ended up being a bit unremarkable for me.

Pros:

  • It knows what it is and it delivers what is intended
  • Gameplay is very simple but control is tight (an absolute must for this title) and responsive
  • It makes some simple attempts to give itself a little personality with a coin economy and all sorts of cute gear to customize your character

Cons:

  • While I can’t find many particular faults in the game overall I just can’t see it being something I’m compelled to play much more
  • I suppose having something hidden in the levels and a star rating system are an attempt at creating a reason to return to levels and “master” them but there’s so little overall difficulty that I can’t see that being terribly fulfilling or challenging

Verdict: Meh-y Boots

 

Wayward Souls

Now we’re getting into the meat and potatoes of the package, though you could buy this by itself (I’d actually bought it months ago, just hadn’t put out a review yet) for (slightly) less than getting it tied to this package. Another Rogue-ish title, this is overall of the much more brutal variety than Devious Dungeon, throwing you into each run at ground zero and making you use a mix of skill and luck to get yourself on the road to greatness. There’s a lot here to like as the game looks great, controls well, and if you’re so inclined to enjoy a game that smacks you around it offers a great (and steep) challenge. It is the game I’d consider the gem of the bundle.

Pros:

  • Pretty high production values with a very SNES-era 16-bit look
  • 3 classes that each play pretty distinctly different
  • Hats! (sorry, my love of TF2 makes hat inclusion something special)

Cons:

  • The randomness in each playthrough is to the point that it can seem unfairly different per run at times, I’d have hoped for a bit more guarantee of power-ups in quantity even if not in quality
  • While I appreciate a challenge I tend to be more of a fan of games that progressively let you gain power or improved skills as you play through and die many times. There are coins you collect but the opportunity to use them is more limited than I’d have liked ideally
  • If you don’t like a stiff challenge or walk in expecting this to be a game you’ll “beat” this won’t be a good game for you

Verdict: Unrepentently Tough Souls

 

Wave Wave New (2.0)

Since this is included in the velvet rope section of the bundle with Wayward Souls and I loved the first version this should be a home run awesome game, right? I can’t quite express how disappointed I am in this version of the game. Where the first felt chaotic but inspired, throwing the kitched sink of nausea-inducing twists, turns, and distortions, this actually feels like it has pulled back and reverted to a previous version. Gone is a primary mode that changes things up, to be replaced by one with a consistent schtick of just rotating. Where did my random announced modes go? Why did they go away? The other modes didn’t get much better with one being all about repeating the same pattern that simply moves too fast to the point of simply being aggravating (keep in mind, I love playing the original for 6 seconds at a pop), and a Tricks mode that again was paced just a hair too fast to the point you begin questioning whether the response time of the game is just a hair off. Throw in the fact that there are course elements that are so tight and small that they actually feel like a bug in the course routine and I consider this an absolute shame, having lost its way

Pros:

  • Comparing it to the previous version I loved I’m actually at a loss to come up with something it absolutely does better than the original

Cons:

  • The loss in variety of the old primary mode is baffling to me, especially when it has been replaced by far more repetitive and less varied options
  • Either the speed of the game this time around is just slightly too high or the response time is somehow just slightly off. What had been aggravation at myself from the previous version as I lost for failing to execute, this time is aggravation feeling like it just didn’t quite register when I let go (and this is after going back to the original and still not having that feeling in the same play session)
  • At times the course gets so densely packed in that I would consider it a bug. If those spots are intentional it would actually be worse as the pace the game demands would then force you to get through those spots just really tapping the screen at just the right pace. If this were a rhythm game I could respect that, but with this title it makes absolutely no sense
  • As you can see in the video the game crashed on me a fair bit, even in play sessions where other games had no issues

Verdict: Wave Wave Goodbye to My Interest

 

So, how to sum up the bundle as a whole? A tough one. Mind you, saying this just harms my own chances of getting more games out of the bundle (there are extra unlocked games at specific milestones) but compared to the quality of previous mobile bundles I sadly find this one lacking for me. One game ended up being outright uninstallable, one is pretty well unplayable though I loved its predecessor, many are just “Meh”, and the best in the package I got on sale a while ago for half the price you’d need to pay to get it in this bundle. This is compared to other bundles that had genuine surprises that really caught my attention and sucked up a fair bit of my time. Honestly I think I’d shoot low and get the base games if you thought they’d be worthwhile, only going to the higher tier if you really think one of the mid unlocks appeals to you. Still could be a bargain, just this group of games seems like mostly missed potential.

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