Monument Builders: Alcatraz

A casual game by Little World Studio, Monument Builders Alcatraz takes you through various levels in which you have to build things and clear roads on your path to the main goal, which is building Alcatraz.

The game seems simple, but like typical games of the style it’s timed, and not doing things within the allotted time can mean either failure or a lesser score. And we all know you want to get the 3/3 star rating, don’t you? Don’t deny it now.

Monument Builders takes you through various levels in which you have to dispatch your construction workers: bring down trees to gather resources, purchase materials and build stores: shops to keep the people and constructors fed and earn money with shops, material factories and more. Your construction workers will also need to be dispatched to clear out and repair roads, kick out thugs blocking them or… feed pelicans that will refuse to move otherwise.

Manage your resources and time wisely, and you will be able to get that 3 star rating and move on to the next map. Like other casual games of the sort, this one has several power ups, most of which are purchasable with in-game gems that, for once, you don’t need to pay for with real cash (you already paid for the game after all if you bought it on steam), but you do need to earn them by getting 3 stars in previous levels.

As a little added extra, in between the levels you will find a bit of tidbits about Alcatraz, which is rather interesting.

The story is nothing grand, as it never is with these casual games, but it is strangely addictive and I had a lot of fun playing it. Plus, it’s quick to pick up, play a single level and then move on with your day, something I always love. It’s fun to kill a bit of time with.

On the other hand, you might find that after playing a few levels, you’re merely repeating the same thing over and over, and might get just a little bored if you didn’t find the gaming style particularly exciting.

The game is not particularly striking in art or music, but it’s not unpleasant either, and I rather liked the looks of the maps.

Recommended if you’re into casual time-wasters, particularly if it’s on sale!

4/5

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Fallout Shelter

The mobile game Fallout Shelter is now free on PC as well, and being the fan of the series that I am, I decided to give it a try. Now, as a disclaimer: I love the series, but I’m not a diehard fan, which means I don’t know each and every detail about it, and thus I won’t be commenting or comparing anything story wise (not that there is much story) nor between games.

“That said, Fallout Shelter is not an RPG but a casual game, and as such, you’ll find little to no story here beyond following the setting of the rest of the franchise: Post-apocalyptic, vaults, raiders, and surviving (in the vault)”

The game is pretty basic rooms/survival when it comes to mobile and strategy/building games. You are the Overseer for a vault number of your choice, and your job is to ensure the vault runs smoothly and he survivors that arrive thrive, and expand the shelter for more of them. For this, you need to make sure they have three basic resources: power, food, and water. You have various rooms you can build, each bumping up different things.

“Placing key dwellers with special skill sets in specific rooms is the key to success”

Some will give one of those three things, others will attract new survivors, others will bump up storage or train your dweller’s SPECIAL skills – which yes, they do exist here, and they do have some purpose

Each room requires a particular SPECIAL skill, and the better you place your dwellers (the one with the highest SPECIAL in the matching room for it), the better the room will perform.

“You can upgrade or destroy rooms, put them together, drag dwellers between rooms, and you can even use the bedrooms to make dwellers procreate”

Rooms can also be ‘rushed’ for the resources, but there is a chance you might fail, and failure means one of the random failure scenarios will occur: fire, rad roaches, raider attacks, etc… these also may happen at random during gameplay. The more you expand and the higher level your dwellers are, the more chances of such things happening.

“You can send your dwellers out for quests and loot, and there is a (very high) chance they might die out in the open if you don’t equip them properly”

You have pets, weapons, clothes that you can equip everyone with, and items you can take apart for parts to craft weapons. There are caps, of course, earned by rushing rooms successfully, completing quests or game goals/objectives, exploring, and leveling dwellers. You can upgrade rooms to better their performance time.

“The better you handle things, the happier your dwellers will be in the vault”

All in all, for a casual game, it has quite a bit of attention to extras and depth, but like most casual games –even the ones that do have some- it’s lacking in story. I do think fallout Shelter will please people who are into a bit of strategy, as room placement and dweller placement is very important.

“As far as interaction with dwellers go, other than drag them around, you have little control over them”

Even putting a man and woman in the same room does not always guarantee they will get along enough to procreate. They do have little speech bubbles when you zoom in which are cute and funny, but also heavily repetitive. They do, however, let you know the status of how your expected couple is going – if things are going well or not.

“As far as graphics went, I loved it!”

The animations were cute, the characters were as expected, the rooms were surprisingly 2.5D, and the detail of what you saw changing when you move the map around was extra sweet. Sounds, music, effects, it was all awesome as expected.

“That said, fallout Shelter has all the obvious downsides of casual mobile games…”

Being a port, I found clicking and dragging dwellers to be a bit hit and miss. Often after quickly switching between dwellers in a room one would get stuck and I would be unable to pick them back up without reloading the save.

“The game still offers in-game purchases for boosts and caps. This isn’t game breaking as you can still play normally without purchasing anything. But you’d think Bethesda of all people could afford to make the entire game free”

On that same note, sometimes I would try to drag the map and end up accidentally picking someone up, as both left and right click serve to do the same things, apparently. This made it particularly annoying if I didn’t notice in time and accidentally ended up switching someone… more so if that someone happened to get stuck right after.

“Accessing the help was annoying as it required browsing through it by clicking and dragging”

The wait time to get things done, when playing on PC, is annoying. I’m not going to be opening and closing a game every three hours because I have absolutely nothing else to do while waiting for children to grow up or a birth to happen in order to keep playing. I’m also not going to leave it open in the background- particularly as, for a casual game, Fallout Shelter slowed down my pc as it had so many animations going at once, and on top of that, required none other than Bethesda’s own launcher to be installed and running at the same time.

This is particularly annoying as even if I were to leave the game and come back, I still feel like I’ve not advanced any and I mainly just come back to re-assign people and then leave it again. It’s not something I find overly encouraging to keep coming back to.

“The game also has as requirement that your system be 64bits. Beats me as to why, but if you’re still not on it, then tough cookies”

And the worst of it all, which made me bump down one whole star, and which I’ve already briefly mentioned and is amusingly enough not related to it being a port: they force you to install and use their own launcher. Why. Just WHY? How many launchers should a person have installed because you all want to be “unique”? You don’t attract people to your platform by forcing them to install launchers. You attract them by making GREAT games.

That said, it is a great game with a lot of depth for a casual build and survive game, and whether you’re a fan of the franchise or not you are sure to like it, but it’s still not something I think I will be coming back to too often.

Racer 8

 

Data
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Game: Racer 8
Genre: Casual, Racing
Developer: 30.06 Studios Ltd
Publisher: KISS ltd
Release Date: Jun 6, 2014
Platform: PC / Played on Windows 7
Overall rating:  2/10
Graphics: 7/10
Controls: 8/10
Level/Puzzle Design:2/10
Sound: 2/10
Story: N/A
Replay Value: 0/10
Community: N/A

 

Review

Racer 8 is a mobile-port puzzle game. The basic premise is this “puzzle” – a racing track – where the car moves around and you turn tiles to make a path to the finish line: not overly exciting, but a good time waster to have on your phone and are somewhere, waiting, and terribly bored.
But that’s about all this game is, and it should have stayed as a phone game.

The game’s graphics are decent, kinda cuteish, but definitely… generic. There’s nothing special about them, and it looks exactly like every other mobile game with cars.

The splash screen forces you through the tutorial even when you’ve already played the game and clearly don’t need it (there is a skip button, but in mine it wouldn’t work at all). So you go through the tutorial, start playing, and then get 100 pop ups telling you the exact same thing the tutorial screen just did. Ugh! Interrupt my gameplay why don’t you?

After the first round alone it gets boring and repetitive, which you could have kind of guessed it was, though I had somehow hoped it might be a bit more exciting and that the levels would provide a bit of a challenge further on. Not quite so.

There are no graphic options, no sound options, not even volume options. In fact, there are NO options whatsoever. Even if it were to be a basic hi/low, on/off setting, you HAVE to have options in your game!
To top it off, the music was pretty awful (and it was super loud), so I had to mute my entire computer to play. Way to go.

Definitely steer clear from this one, unless it’s free again.

Concrete Jungle

 

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Game: Concrete Jungle
Genre: Indie, Strategy, Puzzle, Card Game, City Builder
Developer: Cole Powered Games
Publisher: Cole Powered games
Release Date: Sept 23, 2015
Platform: PC / Windows 7
Overall rating:  9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Controls: 10/10
Level/Puzzle Design: 10/10
Sound: 9/10
Story: N/A
Replay Value: 9/10
Community: N/A

 

Review

Concrete Jungle is a very simple, yet very difficult puzzle/card game by Cole Powered Games.

Unlike free builders where you can more or less place things wherever you want so long as you keep everyone happy; Concrete Jungle leans more into puzzle aspects than city building. It brings the level of difficulty up by adding to the mix a deck of cards; the cards feature buildings, each with pros and cons.You can only place buildings dealt from your deck, and you have a limited space to place them in – think of it as a deck and a board. Meanwhile, you must add up to a certain amount of points to ‘clear’ the first area of the board (called a column) so you can continue on building to the finish line. It might not make much sense explained like this, but once you look at the screenshots, you’ll surely understand better.

The game is very addictive. It offers a campaign mode, where you more or less follow a small story while you play through each stage with various different goals; and it also offers a “custom game” mode, the custom mode allows you to play solo (customizing how many lines or columns you want to make to the finish line as well as a few other things), play versus (local co-op or online), a luck-based version of solo (in which you have no deck, but random buildings to place on the board), and the ability to load a previous save file.

I found that it was easy to pick up and leave at any given time – maybe not so much if you’re doing latter campaign stages, but if you play custom solo you can make quick games, and play in short little bursts or for longer periods of time according to your mood, so I think this game would be apt for casual gamers as well as those that like to play for hours on end. Unlike other games, where normally I get tired of trying to re-do a failed stages over and over, I didn’t have that reaction with Concrete Jungle. The modes offered a slight level of randomization when repeating a stage (some things were fixed, others weren’t), so that it didn’t really feel like a repeat each time.
The versus sessions can get a little ‘intense’ when both players are of a similar skill level, making for entertaining matches. Yet, I found the (forced) versus matches on the campaign mode a lot less fun to play through than the solo campaigns.

Whether you play solo or versus you gain exp and level up, thus unlocking new cards to play in your deck.

The art of the game is very appealing, the soundeffects and music are pleasant and relaxing, and the voice acting surprisingly good. The puzzle aspect got increasingly difficult as the stages advanced and more game options were given to me: such as getting different cards or skills once I reached a certain amount of points, or when target rises if you use too much of another type of points, and so on… You have “lives”, too, which help you along the way if you can’t clear a column.

The mix of city building (although it’s arguably more of a puzzle than a city builder) and cards was very well executed and I’m happy to say I was pleasantly surprised by Concrete Jungle.

Recommended: I definitely recommend this game if you like puzzles, card games, or strategy type games, but it’s probably not for hardcore city builders.