HexDefense (Free) Review

Game Title: Hexdefense Free (Android Market link)

Phone Model (reviewed on): Samsung Nexus S

Maybe I’m wrong here but I think you should allow your players to beat unpaid versions of games, I mean, what’s the point in proving to the user that the game is so hard that they wouldn’t even stand a chance in the paid version? Where’s the incentive to buy it? I may be jumping the gun here and perhaps the paid version offers more variety, but my failure in the free version tells me I’m not cut out for it.

To be fair, I was hooked on this game from the beginning. The graphics are very easy on the eye, the music, while a little repetitive is good (besides you tend to tune out after a while anyway) and the explosions and other effects are really nice so kudos to the developer there. The addiction seems to be in trying out the different types of towers and playing with layouts.

However, it’s not balanced correctly – every time I got as far as wave 16 (of 20) I was annihilated. I went from comfortably killing all invaders in round 15, albeit getting rather close to my home hexagon, to every invader bar the front two reaching it, meaning in wave 17 I didn’t stand a chance. I also like to think I had a pretty impressive array and layout of defense towers! It would also be nice to have an undo feature because the tower placement can be a little unforgiving sometimes.

I’ve not played a lot of tower defense games, but given the audience of the Android Marketplace, I fear too many will find this too difficult for the same reasons I have.

(The new) Prince of Persia



Not too long ago I acquired Prince of Persia on the XBox 306. I’m just over half the way through it so I thought I’d share my experience up till now. So, let me just start off by saying that I really wanted to love this game as much as I did Sands of Time on the Gamecube and, while it’s not a complete disappointment, I am left somewhat deflated by it.

It starts off well enough, fantastic graphics, large expansive vistas, fluid game play (except the combat) and overall, it’s very well polished. The music captures the atmosphere well and fits with the whole Arabic fantasy theme. I was initially dismayed though to discover that the prince is a wise-cracking American. I don’t have anything against American accents, I just didn’t expect it from a game set in Arabia. Anyway, I did get used to it and found that I was becoming more immune to it as time went on.

The whole running and jumping thing is something that takes some getting used to (and I’m a fan of the previous POP games), knowing exactly when to press certain buttons to chain the moves, allowing you to reach higher areas or just for travelling between areas. It can get a bit irritating when you’ve fallen for the umpteenth time. Usually though, it’s a combination of scoping ahead before you set off and/or falling when its not obvious what to do in that crucial split second, then going back and doing it again.

Prince of Persia

The prince and his light-loving sidekick Elika

Another huge part played is that of the princess, who follows you around wherever you go. She helps out by saving you when you fall, giving your longer jumps a bit of a boost and by being the main proponent in reclaiming the corrupted lands. Despite all of her usefulness, it’s the parts of the game where the princess helps out that you really start to wish didn’t exist.

In such a huge world, with such a massive scope for falling it’s definitely useful to have some sort of ability to quickly correct any slip-ups that lead to certain death at the bottom of a dark precipice. Sands of Time used a rewind capability which worked seamlessly and didn’t make you feel like you were cheating. The new game uses the princess to save the prince if he falls too far, by means of grabbing his hand and lobbing him back to the last flat platform that you were standing on. It’s a bit of a clumsy mechanic, better by far than merely ending the prince’s life and giving you a game over, but still. Perhaps there should have been more focus on, 1: how the environment could have eased this and 2: a more compelling risk-reward device.

The combat isn’t quite there either, it feels lethargic and a bit of a lottery at times. There are simple minions dotted about here and there who don’t prove too much trouble but its the boss fights that are the most irritating. They seem to have adopted God of War’s QTE events for parts of the fights – said boss enemy will manage to land a couple of hits, triggering tedious  sequences where you have to mash a button to avoid getting your head rammed into the ground. It really doesn’t take too much imagination and I guess that’s why many developers are using it more and more often. God of War’s implementation was fantastic, but POP just leaves you feeling cheated.

About a third of the way through the game, the monsters you fight become covered in ‘corruption’, which really just looks like an oil slick with tentacles. This ushers in what I think is the worst decision in the game – to render the sword useless in fighting corruption-covered foes, defaulting to the feeble efforts of the princess.

There’s never any consequence of making mistakes in fights – the princess saves you and the enemy’s health goes up a bit. You’re left feeling that the developers just made the fights deliberately frustrating to somehow balance this out. The result is that, despite your best efforts and research of the combo hierarchy, you never really feel like you won convincingly or deserved victory.

I think the best way to describe the new Prince of Persia is bitter-sweet: you’re glad the princess saves you when you fall, but you’re pissed off that the next move was so obtuse you couldn’t have guessed it on the fly, you’re happy you managed to land an acrobatically dazzling combo on an enemy but pissed off that every other attempt was thwarted by the enemy’s unhaltable QTE events.

I’m gonna stick with this one and play it through. If this is your genre then go for it but if you’re more of a jack of all genres, I’d suggest spending your valuable gaming time elsewhere.

Mario Kart Wheeeeee!

My experience with Mario Kart goes all the way back to the original SNES version, which was an awesome game, I must have been about 11 or 12 at the time, so for me it’s one of those old nostalgic games and playing through the SNES tracks on the Wii version brings it all back – the intricately taken corners, the desperation for a red shell, the feeling of cataclysmic disappointment as you’re pipped at the post – it’s all back!

There are 8 cups in all, with 4 tracks each, giving an impressive total of 32 tracks. The new tracks that have Mario Kart Wii - Toadbeen bought in for the Wii version are fantastic, each as original and attention-grabbing as the next. Then of course there is the mind-boggling Rainbow Road – a fixture in all mario kart games; Nintendo have really gone crazy with the Wii’s Rainbow Road!

Mario Kart has always been a challenging game, one that rewards skill and mastery. As with all Mario Kart games, there is a heavy degree of ‘computer interference’. You may start calling that ‘cheating’ after the 8th time Peach smashes you with a red shell just as you’re about to cross the line on the last lap! Although, naturally if you’re not an amazing player you’re not as prone to the Blue Spikey Shell (otherwise known as the ‘spikey bunnet’) and other various flukes, courtesy of the NPCs, such as three red shells in a row or pricision aimed bananna throws.

As always, theres the 50cc, 100cc and 150cc races which can be translated as the difficulty settings;

  • 50cc – pretty easy to come first (if you know what you’re doing);
  • 100cc – bit of a jump up the difficulty curve (aka ‘these guys are cheating b******s!’);
  • 150cc – I hope you’re already bald because you’ll be tearing your hair out (aka ‘crouching girlfriend, flying Wiimote’ mode).

As you progress through the difficulties and cups you’ll unlock new karts, bikes and characters, some of whome seem pretty useless, but the more masterful may find a use for them. There’s also the battle mode which originally featured in the N64 incarnation, which is alright with four people, but the fun really lies in the racing.

I’ve so far managed to finish the 50cc cups and I’ve started into the 100cc cups, there’s a marked difference in difficulty and I reckon the majority of players will be happy getting half way through the 100ccs and dabble in the more difficult ones.

The online mode is fantastic, it’s really seamless and easy to use. If you have friends registered already (see playing your Wii friends), you can join games with them and the remaining slots will be filled with other random players from around the globe. Provided you have a decent broadband connection the latency is pretty good and unnoticeable for the most part. The best part of the online mode is that it totally removes the NPC cheating element, meaning if someone beats you, they were the better racer. There remains the random element, of course, as you’re never sure what item you’re going to get and sometimes it all comes down to just that – a golden mushroom can be a lifesaver on the last lap!

Lets not forget the split-screen multiplayer mode which is where Mario Mart Wii really shines! There is nothing better than feeling the anguish from your buddy as you knock them off the track and down a dark. pit. Mario Kart will truly bring even the quietest of players out of their shell. You can also have a maximum of two players in split-screen mode playing online.

There’s a lot more besides and I could ramble on and tell you about it but I won’t, lest to say that this is the most pure gaming experience I’ve had for a while and is, without doubt, the best Mario Kart since the original appeared way back in 1992.