Monday, February 8, 2016

Sonic Runners (iOS, Android) Review

After February's first review, Rayman Adventures, SuperPhillip Central takes a look at another platforming icon, Sonic the Hedgehog. Here, I check out the Blue Blur's next mobile outing, Sonic Runners. I just hope I can keep up!

Sonic's Microtransaction-laden Adventure

Sonic the Hedgehog has seen multiple releases already on mobile devices with games like Sonic Dash and Sonic Jump. With his latest mobile offering, he gets a game designed by Sonic Team itself instead of a Western developer. However, the end result, Sonic Runners, may have compelling gameplay, but it has a free-to-play model so sinister that it would make even Dr. Eggman shake his head in disgust.

It seemed like the obvious type of game for Sonic the Hedgehog of all characters to inhabit, the runner. However, Sonic Runners is hardly just another runner game. It has multiple levels to it that show off areas from Sonic: Lost World, such as the Green Hill equivalent of Windy Hill, Desert Ruins, Sky Road, and even Dr. Eggman's stomping grounds in the game, Lava Mountain.

There's an insane amount of text for a game of this type through Sonic Runners' story, and all of it is unneeded and superfluous. I ended up just skipping the dialogue entirely, as there are only so many scenarios that can be set up that have Dr. Eggman doing evil hijinks for the umpteenth time.

The runner genre seems perfectly fitting for Sonic the Hedgehog, and it mostly is.
Regardless, the actual gameplay is a lot of fun and designed well. It's just like what you'd expect a Sonic-starring runner to be like. You move from left to right in an automatic fashion, tapping the screen to jump and doing so again while in midair to perform a second leap-- a double jump, if you will. The round ends when you fall into a pit or take damage without holding any rings, typical Sonic the Hedgehog stuff.

These Egg Pawns are no match for Sonic's speed.
Levels are similar to the old 2D Sonic games, possessing multiple tier design to them. The greatest amount of rings and gems rest at the top of the screen and makes for less of a worry about colliding into a wall, a pit of spikes, or just a pit in general. Collecting rings and gems one after the other in a short amount of time gives you a combo bonus, and your score at the end of a run determines how much advance through a chapter of Sonic Runners' story. Get a high amount of points, and you'll quickly pass the requirements to face Dr. Eggman in a one-on-one battle that when beaten, opens up the next chapter for play.

Earn enough points in a run to make your way to a given chapter's conclusion.
The potential for long-term playing is there for Sonic Runners. Each of the over a dozen characters have their own gauges to earn experience with. Earning levels provides a given character with bonuses, such as more invincibility time from invincibility item boxes, for instance. You can also earn and equip what the game calls "Buddies", which give each character different bonuses during play. These take the form of series regular since Sonic Adventure, Chaos, as well as other objects and shapes.

A hit to Dr. Eggman will let loose a whole lot of precious rings.
Like I said, there's potential for long-term play, but whether or not it's actually worth it is an entirely different story. This is because Sega and Sonic Team went the wrong direction with the microtransactions and free-to-play style of the game.

This all begins with dying once in a given run. You are given a chance to return to your run by either spending a certain amount of Red Rings or through watching a 30-second advertisement. This isn't counting the ads that you have to watch after runs that pop up occasionally. Throw that in with long and frequent load times, and you're already getting your chops busted enough.

However, that wasn't enough for Sega or Sonic Team. You get two different roulette wheels to spin, one of which you get a free spin on a daily basis. The thing of it is that this wheel is pretty much full of useless stuff that you wouldn't want to spend your time with. The actual roulette wheel that has worthwhile goodies on it (such as new eggs to hatch new Buddies, or new characters to unlock) requires 50 Red Rings to spin. This would be great if Red Rings came naturally at a fast enough pace to feel you were investing your time in a positive way.

Levels start out slow enough, but every now and then the speed increases.
Instead, Red Rings are delivered to you very slowly, so slowly that the option to buy them via transaction for up to $39.99, or 485 Red Rings. The issue here is that even though you can spend that much for this premium type of currency for Sonic Runners is that Red Rings are easily wasted through spinning the second roulette wheel, which has a low probability of even giving you what you want, one of the unlockable characters. But hey, there is no better way to a get a new generation of gamblers into the gaming circle, so this is something that Sonic Runners, Sega, and Sonic Team can be applauded for. (I am being incredibly facetious right now, for those unaware.)

Thus, Sonic Runners is a good designed gameplay experience that is trapped behind walls upon walls of sleazy microtransactions and is a slave to the free-to-play model. It's the type of game that is a perfect example to unfortunately bring up to show how not to make a mobile game that respects the player and doesn't treat them so obviously as a money-generator. Otherwise, Sonic Runners is an enjoyable runner, when you actually get the chance to play it without all the loading times, ads, notifications, and microtransactions.

[SPC Says: C-]

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - Pumped and Primed PlayStation Edition

After an atypical Friday edition, SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs probably didn't give you enough time to miss them. Still, they're back on this Monday evening for your listening pleasure. This week's edition is all PlayStation, all the time with five VGM volumes regarding PlayStation exclusive games.

We start out with some realism with Infamous: Second Son and God of War: Ascension. Then we end on a cartoon-y angle with music from Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, LocoRoco 2, and Puppeteer. It's a mix of music from PlayStation platforms that should satisfy any want.

If you want to listen to any VGM volume previously spotlighted on SuperPhillip Central, look no further than the VGM Database.

v1071. Infamous: Second Son (PS4) - Owning the Future

We begin this PlayStation installment of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs with a series that hasn't been on the Favorite VGMs... until now. It's Infamous, and the game we're listening to a song from is the PlayStation 4's Second Son. While not the greatest the Infamous series or even Sucker Punch have to offer, the game was beautiful to behold and a blast to play.

v1072. God of War: Ascension (PS3) - Warrior's Truth

What's your opinion on the God of War franchise? Have you seen enough of Kratos and wish that Sony would take a different route with a new protagonist, or do you think Kratos is too iconic of a game character to replace? Whatever the case, you can bet with God of War you'll get a sensational and epic score, and that is no better exemplified than with Warrior's Truth from God of War: Ascension.

v1073. Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (PS2) - Veldin - Kyzil Plateau

Ratchet's home planet is the beginning to his adventure in the third Ratchet & Clank installment, Up Your Arsenal. The game had a more action-oriented tone to it, though it still possessed plenty of platforming charm for players to enjoy. David Bergeaud was the composer behind many early Ratchet & Clank soundtracks, and it's my honest opinion that the series' soundtracks didn't reach the same height as the earlier Bergeaud-composed scores.

v1074. LocoRoco 2 (PSP) - Etoule Pucoratte! (2)

Time to get goofy with this eccentric credits theme by the LocoRoco All-Stars. Whether they belong to the orange, green, red, blue, black, or whatever colored LocoRoco family, this song is a perfect wrap-up to the pure platforming goodness of LocoRoco's sequel.

v1075. Puppeteer (PS3) - Fire the Long Toms!

Ahoy there, mateys! This final song for this PlayStation-centric edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs comes from Puppeteer, a game that didn't get its fair shake, as it released around the PlayStation 4's launch. Still, if you can mind the constant interruptions to gameplay via the charming story, you'll most likely dig this 2.5D platformer.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Rayman Adventures (iOS, Android) Review

The first review of February for SuperPhillip Central is a first in general for SuperPhillip Central. It's SPC's first free-to-play game getting the review treatment, and it's for my favorite franchise that comes out of Ubisoft, Rayman. His first free-to-play affair takes us to collecting an assortment of cute creatures known as Incrediballs. How is the game overall? Find out with my review.

Is Rayman Adventures an Incrediball experience?

Rayman's previous mobile outings had him running, jumping, hovering, punching, and kicking in automatic runner fashion. This holds true with Rayman Adventures. However, this time around the game is not a premium-priced one. Instead, it's a free-to-play affair with its own caveats that make the adventure a perilous one for a small amount of bad reasons. Otherwise, Rayman's platforming prowess shines brightly on mobile devices once again.

Rayman Adventures sees Rayman automatically running like in Rayman: Jungle Run and Rayman: Fiesta Run. Here, you can change his direction with a swipe in the opposite direction. Swiping is also the means to attack foes. Meanwhile, a quick tap of the screen initiates a jump, and during a jump, holding your finger on the touch screen begins your character's ability to hover in the air. It's not a perfect control scheme, as some of the finger-fu required for some of the more involved platforming and combat sections would be better with actual controller support (which is only available for Apple TV players), but what's here in Rayman Adventures is serviceable enough.

The tutorial level eases you into Rayman's Incrediball adventure.
The main formula to Rayman Adventures is to collect goofy, little, spherical characters known as Incrediballs. Each selection of levels you transport to has one of these to rescue after clearing a handful of levels. These levels feature objectives like collecting as many Lums as possible, rescuing Teensies in more exploration-based levels than normal, and beating down enemies on your way to the goal.

Barbara will teach these foes to not to mess with the Teensies.
At the conclusion of the handful of levels, you get an egg that must be incubated for a period of time. Items in-game and money in real-life can be used to hasten along the process. Hatched eggs will let loose one of over a hundred Incrediball creatures, which if new to your collection, will grow a tree some extra height. As the tree reaches new heights, new level types and bonuses are unlocked.

However, with a limited amount of Incrediballs to collect, you're bound to come across clones. When this happens, a gauge becomes partially filled. When filled completely, you earn some bonus gems, used for everything from buying special potions to speed up the process of hatching eggs to unlocking new costumes for Rayman and Barbara (two other playable characters, Globox and a random Teensie, will be available sometime down the line).

The find-the-Teensie levels are my favorite kind in Rayman Adventures.
Levels ordinarily take but a few minutes to complete, making Rayman Adventures work well for mobile play. They're based off of level tropes from Rayman Legends, such as locales like Medieval Mayhem, Olympus Maximus, and Toad Story, for instance. However, once you've completed a set of levels, there is no returning to them. You are whisked away to an entirely new series of levels once you decide to leave that set behind. The inability to replay some of my favorite levels I had played was a bit of a bummer. It would have been nice to have had some way to catalog my favorites for future play, if only for the benefit of being able to enjoy them again.

The ground punch from past Rayman games feels as good as ever to perform in Adventures.
Furthermore, as hatching eggs are locked behind a wall of time, you have moments where you can't make progress in the game. Sure, there are no things like being unable to play because you've expended all your amount of play sessions like many free-to-play mobile games, but there is also no way to earn new eggs while waiting for the current Incrediball egg to hatch. This means you're not making any form of long-term progress in the game, which can be mighty annoying. It gets particularly annoying when you have to wait upwards of three hours or more for an egg to hatch.

Rayman Adventures runs admirably on both iOS and Android. The Ubi Art engine once again steals the show and animates characters beautifully and renders colorful worlds to enjoy and behold. Some minor frame-rate issues popped up for me in some levels, particularly ones with lots of enemies, but since levels are so short, deaths due to the chugging of the visuals didn't irritate too much. Rayman Adventures' sound is the usual collection of fun voice clips and fantastic music as heard in Rayman Legends.

This type of level requires you to defeat all foes while staying alive in the process.
While the free-to-play model is usually one to feel suspicious about, its appearance in Rayman Adventures isn't too sinister or ghastly. Yes, waiting for your Incrediball egg to hatch to make any kind of progress is a bummer, but all in all, Rayman Adventures' F2P structure isn't that bad. Furthermore, controller support would have been appreciated, but what's offered with touch isn't too problematic either. If you're looking for a continuation of the charm of Rayman on mobile devices after his adventures in Jungle Run and Fiesta Run, you've got it with Rayman Adventures.

[SPC Says: B]

Friday, February 5, 2016

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - Lots of Catching Up to Do Edition

Generally, SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs are posted on Mondays, but this is a special edition on a Friday of all days, due to some unforeseen circumstances. Being posted on a Friday is really the only major change here this edition, as this week still has five wonderful VGM volumes to engross ourselves with.

We first roll out with the Autobots against the Decepticons with Transformers: Devastation. Then we tangle with Kameo: Elements of Power. Next up, Mega Man X2 takes center stage, followed by a round at the Western Valley Country Club with Hot Shots Golf 3. Finally, Sly Cooper sneaks into this edition with Sly 2: Band of Thieves.

Even though this is on a different day than normal, I won't forget to mention the VGM Database, where all VGM volumes both past and present are conveniently located for your listening pleasure!

v1066. Transformers: Devastation (Multi) - Face the Devastation (End Credits)

Did anyone order some cheese? This is the greatest kind of cheese-- it's low-fat, full of guitar goodness, and complete with high pitched vocals. This song indeed rocks, and it's perfect for capping off the excellence of Activision and Platinum Games' epic Transformers entry, Transformers: Devastation.

v1067. Kameo: Elements of Power (360) - Ice Mountain Onslaught

One of two Xbox 360 launch titles by Rare (the other being Perfect Dark Zero), Kameo: Elements of Power provided a glorious gaming adventure through its epic worlds and confrontations. The soundtrack is also, if you'll excuse me for repeating the word, epic, as well. Steve Burke did a tremendous job with this orchestral soundtrack, bringing a wonderful sense of gravitas to each and every combat situation in Kameo's journey.

v1068. Mega Man X2 (SNES) - Magna Centipede Stage

Mega Man returns to SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs with Mega Man X2 being represented this time around. Magna Centipede's stage takes place in a high tech computer control center, also used in the final stage of the game. Typically the Mega Man X soundtracks are much more hard rock driven than those songs of the classic series, and this song example shows that clearly.

v1069. Hot Shots Golf 3 (PS2) - Western Valley C.C. (Summer)

We may be deep in the winter season here in North America, but that doesn't mean we can't be thinking of summertime, warmer temps, and a lack of snow and ice. Hot Shots Golf 3's Western Valley takes us to the golf course with nice temperatures, nice breezes, and hopefully some hole-in-ones!

v1070. Sly 2: Band of Thieves (PS2) - Museum

Shh... Quietly, now. As Sly Cooper, you need to stealthily saunter around enemies as you progress through Sly 2: Band of Thieves' cleverly designed levels. Sly 2 introduced the ability to play as Bentley and Murray, as well as provided a more open-ended level structure. While the game was still an enjoyable one, I can't help but prefer the original's simplicity and levels over any sequel.

Fire Emblem Fates (3DS) Life on the Front Lines: The Battle at Hand Trailer

Nintendo is making no concessions with the upcoming Fire Emblem Fates. Yet another video for the game has been posted on its YouTube account, and this one is but one episode of several showcasing the ins and outs of Fates. Fire Emblem Fates slashes its way and sets up a strategy for release on the Nintendo 3DS on February 19th in the Americas.


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