Marvel Snap

The Game

Marvel have joined the world of online multiplayer card games with their entry – Marvel Snap, published by Nuverse. The game is card collection and battling game which lets you collect all your favourite Marvel superheroes and villains and put your skills to the test against other players. The actual battles are quite simple and most importantly for a mobile game – quick to play. Each game has 3 locations at which players put their cards. All 3 locations start out hidden with one revealing each of the first 3 turns. Each location will be randomised and have some sort of modifier that can apply to specific cards, the entire location or even the entire game. Players need to try and win 2 out of 3 locations to win the game where each card’s power contributes to the player’s score at a specific location.

The stakes are then raised even more with the snap mechanic – this allows players to up the amount of rank points they get from each game or to force their opponent to retreat early. Winning a normal game would grant 2 points towards the next rank, if one player has snapped that doubles to 4, if both players have snapped it goes all the way up to 8. The game features daily missions that are drip fed every few hours, all sorts of card variants and the ability to upgrade the appearance of your cards. Upgrading cards is also the way players can progress their collection level allowing them to unlock new and powerful cards.

Worth it?

The game concept and mechanics are brilliantly simple yet effective. The duration of the game is probably it’s strongest point – 6 turns (around 3 minutes) present an excellent challenge and even though you sometimes feel like you could do with a turn or two more, pulling off the perfect combo in 6 turns is highly satisfying. The game is extremely fast paced and can turn in an instant. The Snap mechanic also adds an element of player tactics and mind games. There are a few areas where some improvement could be made like access to stats, new mission frequency, perhaps a 30/30 weekly missions target, ability to add and battle friends or view and compare collections. There is also potential for some more weird and wacky weekly game modes with crazy combos – similar to the tavern brawls in Hearthstone.

Overall it’s a great addition to mobile card games and is a truly mobile game in terms of game length – giving it an edge against competition like Hearthstone, Legends of Runeterra or Gwent. While there’s no explicit pay to win, paying for Season/Battle Pass can help speed up progress towards upgrading and unlocking new cards, although at £8.99 it is fairly difficult to justify. The visual upgrading of cards is a nice reward for using them more frequently and the rainbow variants ensures there’s always something to be upgrading and grinding for. The game’s high production value and addictive gameplay make it ideal for both long grinds or quick time-killing sessions.

Tips

  • Try not to fill a location too early in the game, especially if you have no way of buffing those cards
  • You should be able to create an early Ongoing deck quite quickly to get you through the early ranks
  • Only spend credits on upgrading your cards (getting them through the shop is more expensive)
  • Spend your gold on credits
  • The higher tier the card upgrade the more it will cost and the more points it will give you
  • Theme decks around key mechanics and 1-2 really good synergies, and a couple smaller ones
  • You can sometimes snap on the last turn if you’ve already ended your turn but the opponent hasn’t – particularly useful if you have forgotten to snap
  • You can copy and paste deck codes to share with friends (share button in deck creation)
  • Play with different decks, experiment – don’t feel precious about ranks (unless someone has snapped)
  • The higher your collection level the rarer the cards you will get – Collection Level 486+ is where the Series Five/Ultra Rare cards are found

Useful Links

Empire of Sin

The Game

Empire of Sin, published by Paradox Gaming is a strategy simulation game with turn based combat. You play as a 1920s gangster during the period of prohibition, competing with other gangsters for control over Chicago and running your various rackets. Rackets range from speakeasies to casinos and brothels and a few extra special buildings. The key resource that you need to ensure you have a steady production rate of is alcohol. You upgrade your breweries and the quality of alcohol to ensure a steady flow and good profits. As the game progresses and you get into the politics of it you can begin to make trade agreements, pacts or go to war with other mob bosses. You hire a team of various gangsters and when you engage in combat it plays out like a turn based XCOM-style battle.

The game allows you to build a badass crew of gangsters from a big roster of unique characters from a variety of classes and in a variety of tiers (differing in price and abilities). Each of the gangsters will have relations to others or can even develop them while you’re in a crew – for example they may fall in love with each other or if you kill one of their friends in a different crew they may refuse to work for you for a while. As you progress in the game your gangsters will unlock new skills, you will find new weapons to equip them with and their loyalty to you will improve.

Ultimately your aim is to take over Chicago by either killing all other major factions or finding ways to buy them out and establish control over all neighbourhoods.

Worth it?

Overall the game will set you back around £15 (or around £5 on sale) and while the theme and characters are quite cool, the game falls a bit short in terms of delivering on player experience. The combat gets repetitive extremely quickly, there’s little variety in the environments you fight in. The game makes you grind other mobster’s rackets and districts, slowly building up your empire but after a certain while you are just spamming upgrades on your rackets and fighting the same fight in the streets and enemy rackets. There are also various known bugs in the game which tarnish the experience even more.

Winning the game feels like an incredibly long grind, it would be nice to see more variety in environments and a bit more diversity in enemies and scenarios. The characters, their dynamics and their personalities are an interesting element of the game and could be built upon. There is DLC which adds an extra racket and new playable gangsters and weapons, but for £10+ it’s a considerable additional cost. Overall the concept, characters, art and theme are good but the repetitive gameplay and a buggy experience, I wouldn’t pay more than £5 and the game offers little replay value (it is free on PS Plus Extra at least).

Tips

  • Use taxis to travel around the map
  • Don’t rush into hiring too many gangsters, but at the same time their cost remains at the level it is when you first hire them (or goes down) so hiring higher tier gangsters early is better
  • Don’t overextend – secure and upgrade neighbourhoods before adding more
  • Focus on thug-run neighbourhoods – they are easy to take over and won’t affect standings with other mobsters
  • If you kill a gang-leader their districts will all become thug owned, initially with 0 rackets – if you take over the thug depos you will get the district clean with all rackets immediately purchasable
  • Remember to check the black market trader every so often
  • Make sure your gangsters have health items equipped
  • When on the streets try to ambush enemy guards to get an advantage
  • Focus on your character’s bonuses and types of rackets that they scale from
  • Try not to anger the police – don’t kill officers and don’t be afraid to bribe them

Useful Links

Dicey Elementalist

The Game

Dicey Elements by DoubleThink Games is yet another rogue-like deck building dungeon crawler game. The game starts out by introducing you to its key mechanic, rolling a set of dice which determine what cards you can play. The dice effective function as mana with each move requiring a certain number or combination of dice. You can choose to hold dice and reroll others for better combos. You can only ever have six cards in play so you will have to be selective as your deck expands on your adventure. Enemies get harder as you progress and each one you defeat will give you gold (which can be used within the dungeon), stardust (used for permanent upgrades outside the dungeon) and exp (to level you up). Initially there’s only one character (The Fearless) to be played on the most basic mode (NormalMode), additional characters can be purchased and the additional modes are unlocked as you complete the previous mode.

As you navigate the dungeons, each room will have 1 – 3 exits and an enemy, shop or loot inside. If there’s an enemy you will need to defeat them before progressing. There’s a decent variety of enemies, some with special artifacts or powerful cards that will really challenge you. As you progress you will get rarer and better cards and be able to customise your deck to pull of some truly impressive combos. You will also unlock the ability to craft potions using Element Stones – some potions can be particularly useful in a pinch. You will be able to upgrade your adventure permanently through the Adventure Reform upgrade menu, as well as unlock some permanent features like blacksmiths and black marketers or even the arcade section of the tavern, which features a series of arcade games where you win tickets (although it’s not quite clear what the use of these tickets is). This section also features the daily challenge, which will feature a random character – disappointingly you cannot play unless you own the character (this could have served as a nice preview of various characters in order to help me choose which to purchase).

Worth it?

The game is free to play and ads are only there if you want them – in the guise of a fairy which can offer you a random prize (ranging from gold to epic artifacts) or a revive if you die. You can play the game without either of these two. There are some slightly annoying ad banners on screen, but for a free game this is to be expected somewhat. The additional characters all cost various prices – The Stealthy can be picked up with in-game currency (gems), The Chanter will set you back $0.99, while The Prophet, The Telepathic and The Greedy are $1.99 each. There is also a purchase available for additional level up rewards for $2.99. My biggest issue with the pricing of all of these is that there’s no bundle or overall purchase where I could get everything for a reasonable price. $1.99 per character is a little bit expensive, The Chanter seems to have the perfect price, however it would be nice if all characters were still purchasable with premium currency so as to make it technically possible to purchase by purely playing the game. Also none of these purchases remove ads (separate purchase), it would be nice to know that if I am spending money on a game it will at least remove the annoying banners in game. There are also the occasional grammar or spelling issues throughout the game.

Overall, the aesthetic of the game and the sound are quite unique and very enjoyable. The overall gameplay loop isn’t anything too new or innovative, but the use of the dice as mana and throughout the game works really well. A successful run will usually take around an hour to an hour and a half depending on difficulty, but if you ever have to pause or quit, the game does a good job of recording your progress. With the adventure reform and several characters to unlock and play and a variety of difficulties and challenges there really is quite a bit to unpack and get stuck into. It’s a great game, good for medium-longer play times, but can also be picked up and dropped for short sessions.

Tips

  • If a card is on fire it will deal damage to you for using it
  • Red doors are basic enemies, Pink doors are elites, exclamation marks lead to a dice battle
  • Elites drop better loot
  • Artifacts are OP, but you can only carry 10 so think carefully about which 10 are active at any point in time
  • Spells or abilities that restore health are very useful
  • Remember to craft potions using your Elemental Stones, but you are unlikely to need them on easier runs
  • Unlock the blacksmith from the Adventure Reform as he will allow you to upgrade and sell cards
  • “Pick up” from the adventure reform unlocks the arcade/casino area
  • Having the Black Market Merchant (All for Cash) in the tavern isn’t really worth it although he does allow you to complete quests for small premium currency awards
  • Different characters synergise better with different decks and playstyles – the game is all about getting the right combos of cards, artifacts and that little bit of luck
  • Don’t overload your hand with hard requirement cards as it could make it very difficult for you to actually play any in a turn
  • If you have a lot of cards of 1 element, try and get some with 1/2 Pair requirements as these can be used with any cards and won’t leave you stuck with nothing to use
  • Cards that generate other cards are extremely useful (just make sure to use them when you have space for the new cards) – generating new cards allows your turn to go on for longer and for you to deliver even more damage (same goes for temp cards or the Soul Flame artifact)
  • Be careful with the Light Scythe artifact because if you have a “the next time you deal damage” card that will trigger for the hit of the Light Scythe

Useful Links

Pokémon Unbound – FireRed ROM Hack

The Game

Whether you are familiar with ROM Hacks or not, Pokémon Unbound by Skeli Games is an absolute must play for Pokémon fans. The fan made game outdoes pretty much any of the official games in every single aspect. Pokémon Unbound features Pokémon up to Gen VII, a completely original story and region known as Borrius. In addition to this there are a bunch of amazing quality of life improvements like the ability to auto-run, turbo modes on bikes and surfing, the ability to use HMs without having to actually teach them and exp share amongst the entire team.

The start of the game gives you a bit of backstory about the region, the story of a war fought between regions, rulers and Pokémon, until an ultra-powerful Pokémon was used by the king of Borrius to end the war with some unforeseen consequences. We are also shown a trainer who throws a powerful Pokémon into the sea, hoping it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands (which predictably it does). 15 years later your adventure begins: the game starts you out with a character customisation screen, quite unlike most traditional Pokémon games. After you’ve just from a decent palette of skin tones, hair colours, clothes colours you are ready to embark on your journey. Things take a turn quite quickly though and you are abducted to the secret base of the local evil organisation where you get to chose your started – Gabite, Beldum or Larvitar and you also get to meet your rival. Once you’ve fought your way out you meet Professor Log and your adventure begins in earnest. The game follows the age old recipe of 8 gyms, elite four and champion with a good deal of interaction and distraction from the Shadows – the evil organisation attempting to end the world. The story is really gripping with plenty of plot twists and surprises. You see and fight loads of legendary Pokémon and are even transported to other dimensions.

There are loads of nods to other games and regions, there are even Sinnoh trainers like Cynthia or Candice that appear; in the post-game you even run into Red. The game is so packed with content that it puts most “real” Pokémon games to shame. The questing system provides an entire new layer as you can keep track of all the various tasks you’ve accepted to help people around the region and earn some really nice rewards. The game will also allow you to Mega evolve Pokémon, battle and catch Gigantamax Pokémon and use Z-power moves. And if the main game wasn’t enough the post-game has been fleshed out with a Battle Frontier, the ability to catch virtually every legendary Pokémon ever released, different challengers after beating the Elite 4 and many more quests and surprises.

Worth it?

This game, like all ROMHacks is 100% free. Made by a passionate and dedicated community this game easily outshines many official release Pokémon games. The game allows you to catch and train Pokémon from some of the newest generations and will keep you busy for tens of hours. The game also comes with completed post-game and daily events adding even more hours of content. There is also plenty of information about the game on the wiki and various reddit pages, although admittedly some of it is for slightly outdated versions of the game. The configurable difficulties and scaling enemies also ensure that you’re always being challenged, but be weary of over-levelling any of your Pokémon as that will raise the level of your enemies. My only criticism (and it’s been really hard to come up with some) is the ability to skip some of the sliding puzzles after several attempts or time that has elapsed.

Overall the brilliant story, amazing original sprites, attention to detail and quality of life improvements make this an absolute must play for any fans of the traditional Pokémon games. Get a good mobile emulator like MyBoy! and you can play this on your phone – almost as good as playing it on your GBA or GBA SP. I highly recommend this to any and all Pokémon fans, especially if you’ve got a case of nostalgia or if you have played all the old games and are looking for something new.

Tips

  • You can get a shiny Elekid egg from completing the quest “The Rogue Electivire”
  • There are houses dotted around the map with people who will give you a choice of the 3 starters from a specific region, they will give you the others depending on how many gyms you have – Gen IV is in Dehara City, Gen V is on route 5, Gen VII is in Seaport City
  • You can get the eggs for Gen I and Gen VI starters from the Day-care Man’s sister in Magnolia town
  • Every 5 Pokémon in the Safari zone you will get a chance to catch one of the Gen III starters
  • Most routes have a special elite trainer who will only battle you after you’ve defeated all other trainers on that route
  • You don’t need all lights on in the Dehara Gym – some need to remain off in order to pass all the gates
  • The Regi caves will unlock after you complete the Tomb of Borrius – Regice cave is in the forest near Blizzard City, Regirock cave is in the Great Desert, Registeel is on route 18 just to the west of the waterfall before Victory Road
  • After completing the Regigigas mission for the guy in Tehl Town he will upgrade your Amulet Coin/Luck incense to increase the amount of cash they get you by giving him Big Nuggets
  • You can earn Big Nuggets by completing the daily Pep Quiz in Magnolia Town
  • A lady in the Mission HQ in Fallshore City will upgrade your Lucky Eggs in return for Big Pearls – you can get these by using thief on Clamperls when diving
  • You can avoid being spotted by the Dusclops in the Tomb of Borrius by disabling auto-run
  • You can get the starters you didn’t pick by visiting your rival’s house and the secret base that you’re abducted to in the beginning of the game
  • The best way to farm Light Clay for the ADM is by catching/using thief on Baltoy in the Ruins of the Void. If you use a Pokémon with Compound Eyes that will increase the chance that the pokemon holds an item. Get your hands on the DexNav as well in order to chain the Baltoys
  • You can use repels with the DexNav in order to EV farm and increase your chance of shinies
  • One of Professor Log’s assistants in Frozen Heights can let you look at a Pokémon’s IVs and EVs, along with all the moves they can learn and even give you an item to do so when you please
  • Most missions that have multiple objectives to collect can be expanded to see the location of these
  • Legendries that don’t appear from portals usually just require you to stand in a specific place (usually in the middle of a cliff overlooking an edge – like the birds, Rayquaza, etc)

Useful Links

Pokémon Gaia – FireRed ROM Hack

The Game

I have always been a massive fan of the Pokémon series of games – especially the older GameBoy Advance and Nintendo DS versions of the game. Games like Pokémon Sapphire or Pokémon FireRed were my childhood. Recently I have replied a lot of them on emulators (which I will review in a separate post) on my phone and it has been an amazing nostalgia trip. As I replayed these games I started discovering ROMHack versions of the games. I have known these exist for a while but never bothered giving them a go, and I was really missing out.

Pokémon Gaia is a FireRed ROMHack made by Spherical Ice. The hack completely alters the game with an amazing original story seeing you through the typical storyline of beating gyms and the league, defeating an evil organisation all while creating the ultimate team of Pokémon. The game is set in a fictional region known as Orbtus. The game features Pokémon from up to Gen 6 from the regions of Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova and Kalos. The game includes updated move sets, items, mega evolutions, fairy types, reusable TMs and more.

The story follows the established model of a young teen who leaves home in the quest to become an amazing Pokémon trainer. As you and your rival progress through the world you will encounter members of an evil organisation intent on controlling the world by using the power of legendary Pokémon (in this case it’s Regice, Regirock, Registeel and Regigigas). Battle them and the many trainers of the region, discover all Pokemon from newer generations and take on the Pokémon League in this amazing fan made passion project (which might as well be an original release). The region of Orbtus is well fleshed out with a variety of cities, biomes, areas and an interesting history.

Worth it?

Replaying old Pokémon games on an emulator is free and an a great nostalgia trip. Playing these fan-made ROMHacks is also free and an amazing experience. Like many other ROMHacks this was made by fans of the franchise, working for no profit but purely the love of Pokémon games. The game story, the amount of detail and work that has gone in are truly remarkable. Being able to catch Pokémon up to Gen 6 and use all new moves or functionality (like Mega Evolutions) is awesome – especially for those who don’t really appreciate the new style of games as much, who haven’t had a chance to play on DS or Switch or who would like to relive new experiences on the older engines.

Overall, if you have not played any ROMHacks before, Pokémon Gaia is a good introduction. While in its current state there isn’t much of a post-league game, the story, events, gyms and Elite Four are all really well done and fleshed out. It would be nice to see the Regis as catchable after the main story concludes and maybe some additional challenges or high-level trainers. The game really feels like it could be an official entry to the series. The use of the Regis as the legendary Pokémon for the focus of the story is quite different and almost provides a bit of a fictional backstory. For me the ideal way to play is on my phone and a good emulator will set you back around £3, but there are some decent free options too. The game will keep you busy for quite a while, especially if you decide to take your time and talk to people or help out where you can.

Tips

  • You can get Deoxys once you have Strength in the Cosmic Caverns
  • You can catch Rayquaza once you have waterfall in the Emerald Peak just outside Nestpine Town
  • The best place to use the VS seeker is in the area just before the nurse on Victory Road – there are 3 Ace Trainers in view which are all quite easy to beat
  • You can find the coin case inside one of the warehouses in Telmurk city – the same one with the Rotom appliances
  • You can get the Amulet Coin quite early on by buying it from a guy in Aerous City for $5000
  • You can turn fossils into Pokémon at the Professor’s house – upstairs
  • You can play on 2x speed with most emulators which makes the whole experience that little bit better
  • To set up the ROMHack download FireRed (Squirrels) and then apply the patch to it, then simply load up the newly patched FireRed (you may want to rename it) into an emulator and off you go

Useful Links

City Skylines: Airports

The Game

City Skylines: Airports is the 10th expansion pack for City Skylines published by Paradox Interactive. In this review I will just be discussing the DLC in isolation. Similarly to some of the previous DLCs released (Campus, Industries, Parklife) the game focuses on zoning new areas and levelling them up over time. As the name suggests this DLC focuses on airports. You get to zone out an airport area, which conveniently flattens the ground in the area (longer term City Skylines players will know the pain of flattening land to fit in an airport). Once an area has been dedicated for the airport you can choose from some basic airport components in 3 different styles. Using these modular components you build up the airport, adding terminals, runways, taxi roads, stands, parked airplanes, cargo planes and even hotels. There is a really nice range of cosmetic items to add and even some new public transport links that can go straight into your terminals – subway, train and busses – all with some new unique skins for the vehicles. Your airports will level up as more people use them and you will even be able to create your own airline charging extortionate prices.

Worth it?

The DLC will set you back around £10 on consoles with CD keys being available for PC around £5. You will get 3 new maps and the addition of the airport zones with loads of customisation options and new public transport skins. The game also comes with a handful of new achievements, which are pretty easy to complete.

Overall for £10 I cannot say this DLC is worth it. While the customisation options are nice and you can get some really cool looking airports, the money really just isn’t worth it. I opened up a fairly late game city, set up a couple airports and got all achievements in about 5 minutes of playing. Within 30 minutes I had the highest level airport. Aesthetically speaking the DLC does add a nice amount, but in terms of depth and playability there really isn’t much there to keep you in long term. Comparing to the other similar DLCs like Parklife and the Industries this one is quite lacking and a little bit disappointing. If on sale it does become a little bit more sensible so do look out for it on sale or pick up some discounted CD keys.

Tips

  • Metro station and Train station link directly to concourses
  • You only really need 1 runway per airport
  • Make sure your airplane taxi routes link up correctly in the one way system

Useful Links

Idle Fortress Tower Defense (Early Access)

The Game

Idle Fortress Tower Defense is an early access game by DD Games. As suggested by the fairly generic name it’s a simple game with a simple premise – upgrade your fortress and defeat an onslaught of enemy waves. The concept of an idle tower defence game was something that intrigued me, however I was a little disappointed that this game isn’t really what I would call an “idle”.

The game has quite a typical mobile cartoony art style that works quite nicely. The core gameplay loop is doing runs in which you see how many waves you can last. You can upgrade your tower heavily throughout the battle with silver coins that you earn. During your run you will also earn gold which can be used to permanently upgrade your tower at the factory or research lab. Every 10 waves a buffed up boss will also appear, providing a significant challenge. There are plenty of upgrades to unlock including a variety of shot types, satellites, health and defence upgrades.

Worth it?

The game is free to play and still in development. Even while I have been playing for the last couple of weeks quite a few things have changed and while some things like watching ads currently seems to be disabled, it does generally keep getting better updates. Ad watching is only there to increase the amount earned from a run and generally not intrusive. I wouldn’t really call this an “idle” game due to the fact that you actually have to be quite active when doing a run and being selective of what gets upgrade. The only idle element is the gem mine which awards you gems every so often.

The game is quite good for active play sessions, which can last anywhere between 5 and 15-20 minutes depending on how many waves you manage to get, as you progress there are other ways to speed up fights. The game does have various bugs, mainly around the areas of properly ending waves and the game cycle itself. Overall it’s a fun game and is a good base to build on. It would be nice to know when the second area is actually unlocked as it feels like it’s quite far away. The game is actually quite challenging and ramps up its difficulty quite early on.

There isn’t that much in the way of idle mechanics, perhaps if the tower fought off waves with it’s permanent upgrades and restarted every time it died or some sort of auto-buyer it could be more of an idle (while afk). Another option would be some sort of idle farms or mechanics that tick while you are away from the game. Either way as an active-play game there’s a good amount to get stuck into, it would be nice to see more cards and card slots and possibly even more upgrades, secondary turrets, areas, enemies and maybe even some more truly idle mechanics.

Tips

  • Focus on upgrading gold and coins per level as early as possible
  • Life-steal and HP are key to getting past bosses
  • Regeneration is generally useless
  • Unlock all card slots and cards asap, keep purchasing and upgrading cards with your gems
  • Don’t bother win a second lab research slot
  • The maximum game speed multiplier is 3x

Useful Links

Punch Club

The Game

Punch Club developed by Lazy Bear Studios and published by tinyBuild is a pixel graphics fighting simulation game. With elements reminiscent of Sims and loads of references to cult classic films there’s quite a bit to unpack with this game. The game has a fairly simple and straightforward gameplay loop consisting of training to level up your stats, working to earn cash and fighting your way to becoming champion of the world (technically you watch your character fight).

Every day you will have to balance exercise, work and other tasks to progress, at the end of every day you will lose a significant chunk of your stats. There are three main attributes that you can develop – strength (red), agility (blue) and stamina (green). Different gym equipment will level you up at different speeds, exercise too long on one piece of equipment and you’ll start earning less points, so make sure to change up your routine as soon as that happens. Your stats tie in to your fighting abilities and skills. After each fight you will learn skill points which can be spent learning new skills, moves or perks. As if all of that wasn’t enough you also have to ensure you’ve got enough food, energy and happiness each day. In the early game finding the balance between working to earn money and training is particularly difficult, so you’ll probably be stuffing yourself with frozen pizzas for quite some time.

The story focuses on a character who dreams of becoming a great fighter and avenging his father’s death. As you become a better fighter more elements to the story will unfold, as well as some side-stories, which actually get pretty weird after a while. The game world is packed with references to movies like Fight Club, Rocky, The Simpsons, John Wick and even Jay and Silent Bob (if you look outside the store) and some truly beautiful pixel art.

Worth it?

This isn’t an easy game. Especially the early game can be particularly hard as you balance working, training and fighting. Once you start to unlock better jobs, some home equipment and more skills things begin to get a bit easier and the game starts to click. The mid-game (from Din Kong) onwards begins to get a bit easier, however it is also worth noting that this is an extremely grindy game. While losing some stats every day makes sense and is an established mechanic it also makes the game really hard and you will be spending an extremely long time levelling up your stats (especially for the final fights). While it is quite punishing, it also makes for a good challenge. Some story lines will also present you with choices which will affect them, potentially making completion for those story lines unachievable.

You can get the game for around £1.50 on sale, which is absolutely worth it. The game provides a good challenge, is wonderfully aesthetic, has an interesting story and loads of film references to keep you going. It will take you quite a few hours to complete your first playthrough and you may be tempted to do a second one after (maybe even a speedrun). The sound track can get a bit repetitive after hours of grinding and the game itself can get a bit repetitive and grindy towards the end, but other than that it is quite difficult to fault it. If you see the game on sale, grab it.

Tips

  • In the early game meat is the most effective cost per food item, however pizza is better at recovering your health
  • Making money is only difficult in the early game – focus on getting your own equipment at home so as to avoid the daily cost of the gym
  • The skip attack skills is very useful if you are draining your energy very quickly
  • Adapt your strategy from round to round – try out different moves, counters and defensive moves
  • Fights will teleport you directly to the location so you can save yourself the walking
  • Keep skills just above a level if the day is about to tick over, so you can easily get it back up again at the start of the new day
  • Focus on unlocking the extra skill slots early in the skill tree
  • Look ahead at what gets you where in the skill tree, plan ahead
  • Once you are living with Din Kong focus on upgrading daily allowance asap, money will also become a trivial concern pretty quickly then
  • You can collect the prize from Mickey in the trailer park twice
  • Skill unlock cost caps at 25
  • The flower locations for Adrian are: Roy’s garden, the Warehouse, the Bar, Mick’s office and your house
  • Check out the wiki for more tips/tricks

Useful Links

Valthirian Arc – Hero School Story

The Game

Valthirian Arc – Hero School Story by Agate Games is a rather weird, but strangely addictive game available on PC, PS4 and Switch. A quirky art style and a mix of anime and cute characters make this quite an interesting game. There are two aspects to Valthirian Arc – on the one hand you are a principal managing a school for heroes. You will need to build and upgrade various classrooms and facilities around the school while also upgrading your students and crafting them new gear. At the end of each academic year you have to graduate some of your students in order to obtain a large lump some of cash and experience.

The second aspect of this game are the actual missions that your students are sent on. These are essentially little randomised dungeons in which you usually have to find some items or kill some mobs. This encompasses the core gameplay loop in which you go out on missions, find loot, gain experience, followed by levelling up your students and eventually graduating them and enrolling new ones to repeat the process with. As you advance the story and acquire more experience your school will grow, allowing you to place more buildings and unlock specialisations for your students.

Worth it?

The game is available on Steam for £11.99, I got it on sale on PS4 for around £2.50. Realistically, the game isn’t really worth much more than £5.00, but it does have an addictive quality about it where you keep thinking to yourself – “just one more mission or one more graduation”. The gameplay does get quite repetitive quite quickly, but the prospects of improving your students further and further and unlocking the various specialisations can keep you engaged for quite a while.

Overall the story isn’t anything overly compelling, although it does appear to have a couple of variations on the end result. There’s an interesting variety of mechanics, from managing and building the school, to crafting gear and upgrading students. It has a weirdly addictive side to it that does make you want to keep playing for some time. If you focus on doing only the main story line missions you can probably complete it in around 5-10 hours, however doing side quests and favours is a great way to earn more cash and upgrade your students even more. If you spot this on sale, it’s definitely worth a try if you fancy something a little bit more quirky.

Tips

  • Do not send all parties on idle missions (ones that play out on their own) as time advances really slowly when you are not out on a mission.
  • Always ensure you have on party with which to play out missions while the others can go on idle ones. You can use the main party to advance time by completing the missions.
  • Don’t get too attached to your students, you will have to graduate them at some point as newer students joining will have a higher level cap.
  • The dirk is a great weapon for the lowest class students.
  • Always buy everything you can from the travelling merchant.
  • There’s little point in crafting most of the lower class weapons as you’ll tend to find a lot while out on missions.
  • Invest in buildings and rooms that give you extra cash early on, you can always delete or replace them later on.
  • Item drop rate is capped, regardless of how many rooms you have that buff it.
  • Look out for students’ base stats when enrolling them – you can specialise them based on these. Focus on their strengths.

Useful Links

Card Guardians: Deck Building Roguelike Card Game

The Game

Card Guardians (as it should be called) is a deck building turn based combat game by Tapps Games – PT. The game has likely drawn a good deal of inspiration from the popular Slay the Spire. It is a simple concept based around fighting various mobs using a deck of various cards. Every time you beat an enemy you will advance on your current adventure – you will get to choose a card to add to your deck (for this adventure only) and a choice of what to do next. Sometimes you will get to choose a way to improve your deck or heal up, other times you will have to choose which enemy you would like to take on.

Your adventures will get you gold and armour – armour can be upgraded in quality by merging 4 alike pieces. Each piece of armour can then be upgraded using gold to increase the base stats that it provides (gloves boost attack, helmets boost defence, chest pieces boost health). There are different types of armour and armour sets that provide unique set bonuses which will give you a better chance at the start of the battle.

Worth it?

Overall the game takes some clever and familiar mechanics and delivers an enjoyable and challenging experience. The game is also easy to pick up and drop as it will save your progress on your last run. My biggest issue with the game is that in a way you are “forced” to watch videos after each battle to get the better loot. While you don’t have to, if you want more gold and a better card selection – it will be in your interest to do so. One slightly annoying aspect is that it seems you need 4 piece of the same armour to upgrade the quality as opposed to 3 (which is sort of what the UI suggests). The game currently has two playable characters which are completely different – giving the game quite a bit of variety in terms of play style.

The ad-free version is £6.99 which is a bit on the expensive side for what it actually offers – the key benefit being a free way to upgrade your loot after each battle and a free revive if you die on an adventure. If the overall price was 15-20% cheaper it would make a lot more sense to go for as the perks are pretty useful. Gameplay is fairly repetitive but the randomness of the cards you may get allows you to try different tactics and ensures that each run is completely unique.

Tips

  • You can use defend or magic cards once you’ve filled up your super power without resetting it.
  • Exile cards can only be used once per battle, but will return to your deck in your next fight.
  • When offered the shop choice – you can buy multiple cards using gold.
  • Your armour will be lost on your next turn so don’t overextend your use of “Defend” cards.

Useful Links