December 11, 2020

Among Us - Review


Developer: Innersloth

Other Titles: Dig 2 China, The Henry Stickmin Collection

Genre: online multiplayer social deduction

Release Date: June 15, 2018

Platforms: iOS, Android, PC

There are popular games and then there is Among Us.  Innersloth's massively-insanely-popular mobile game has taken the online world by storm and it doesn't show any signs of letting up any time soon.  


Among Us is relatively simple; you're an astronaut guy on some space-station thing charged with doing tasks to fulfill whatever mission that has been laid out, however while doing said tasks there is an IMPOSTER among you (get it?) who is going around killing crewmates one by one.  It's up to the collective group to figure out who 'dun it' and vote to "float" who they believe is the imposter into space.  Sounds morbid, but a space dude's gotta do what a space dude's gotta do.  That's the long and short of it.  The tasks are simple (think of little match mini-games or raising a lever or sucking up trash in a vacuum), they're not meant to stump you, merely preoccupy you until you either get killed or complete all of the tasks before the imposter kills everyone.  

The game is obviously designed to be played on either your phone or tablet from the comfort of wherever you have an internet connection (couch, car, toilet), however there is a disadvantage to playing on mobile and it's when you're playing with a group that is playing on a computer.  You see, in the game when you suspect another player of being the imposter or you come across a dead body, you report it or call a meeting and then you get allotted time to convene and talk it over with the rest of the crew (other players).  This is where deduction and partnerships come in, you can either try to persuade the group to vote in a misleading direction (say if you were the imposter) or you can use your uncanny questioning abilities to try to figure out who among you (get it?) is the imposter.  Those playing on mobile are at the disadvantage because it uses valuable time to type things out on a phone/tablet, whereas those playing on a computer have a full-fledged keyboard and it doesn't take much time at all to type out a short sentence or word.  It may not seem like much, but those precious seconds matter when you're trying to convince the group not to kill you.  Granted, players have become so good at this game that it's likely not a disadvantage at all to seasoned vets of the game, but to newbies it could get tricky.  

Playing the game is fun in its own right, however I believe it's best played as a party game.  You create your own lobby and then get an invite code and then you can invite nine other players to join you in game.  You have the freedom to pick the map, the speed of the game, how far each character can see at any given time, and most importantly, how many imposters there are.  I had the most fun with the game while playing with my 11 year old daughter (who is significantly better at the game than I) and together we invited her other friends and collectively played for over an hour just our group.  I could see this game becoming a party staple, even in person.  

The game is comparatively more simple and easier to digest than another Budget Arcade reviewed social deduction game, Town of Salem.  


While the mobile version of Among Us is free, the PC version of the game is not.  You'll have to spend a cool $5 to play on your computer and as far as in-game purchases go, they are for cosmetic purposes only.  You can spend real dollars to customize your characters color, wear a cool looking hat or have a little mini-me running around with you.  It's another reason why this game has become so popular and likely won't be going anywhere anytime soon.  Gamers love free and they don't like developers charging money to gain a competitive advantage over  other gamers.  An even playing field at all times goes miles.  


Sky high.  You can play by yourself with a bunch of randos or you can host your own party and play with a bunch of friends.  You can play for five minutes or five hours.  Simply up to you.  I will say that game can get repetitive and, dare I say...boring?  If you're playing with friends I doubt it's boring, but it can trend that way after a couple of games which is why it's no big deal to close the app and go about your day and then reboot it when you're ready to accuse someone of being "sus" once again.  

Seal of Approval? 

While the game does get repetitive and can grow stale after a while, there are more than enough people playing this game at any given time to keep the wait times in lobbies short and you the gamer entertained for however long you want it.  The fact that it doesn't cost anything to get good at the game just adds to its allure.  This is a game that will live on your device for a long time.  It gets the coveted Budget Arcade Seal of Approval.     

December 10, 2020

Genshin Impact - Review


Developer: miHoYo 

Other Titles: Honkai Impact 3rd, Collapse Gokuen

Genre: Action RPG

Release Date: September 28, 2020

Platforms: PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, iOS/Android

Every so often there comes a game that just blows you away; not because of how good it is but because of its scale.  Developer miHoYo set out to make an anime action/adventure RPG game that was large in concept, touted a massive development budget but was also free-to-play.  Out of those concepts, Genshin Impact was born and it is great!


There's no denying that Genshin Impact bears a ton of similarities to Nintendo's Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  Everything from the stamina meter, to the combat, to the map, to the monsters you face throughout...everything harkens back to BotW.  

You are a mysterious "traveler" from another world stuck on Earth looking for your brother in the land of Teyvat.  One thing about the campaign in this game is that it pretty much abandons the whole "looking for your brother" bit.  It instead replaces it with a more intriguing storyline that allows you to explore the entire map, which is insanely large for a F2P game.  

While the combat is pretty good, everything revolves around cooking in-game.  Health options, power-ups, and more are all highly important to your progression through the game.  The anime influences take over the game pretty quickly and make their mark on the gameplay.  Every particular type of anime-inspired character is represented and some are more, er...sexual than others (but that's just another anime trope).  One thing that stands out about the gameplay is the voice-acting throughout by the supporting characters (everyone other than your fairy companion is digestible).  It's particularly well done and makes the game feel more authentic.   

The game utilizes element battle where your character's element of choice can come quite in handy in you getting past a certain big bad or progressing through the game's main story quests.  Say you're battling some water bad guys (blobs, probably) and you have a character in your party who specializes in electric attacks...well, guess what, you should probably battle those water dudes with that electric character.  

The game's story is told through your "Adventure Rank" which you obtain through main quests, side quests and completing objectives across the map.  The game doesn't really hit a wall until you obtain Adventure Rank 20 or so.  Then it becomes a grind.  Every bit of the story is released as you obtain different Adventure Rank levels.  Personally, I didn't obtain an AR rank of higher than 22 but even then it was becoming quite the grind to progress.  


That brings me to the pay-to-win factor that Genshin Impact brings to the action/adventure realm.  It's a fantastic game, don't get me wrong, however as you progress through ranks it becomes impossibly hard to progress where needed without spending actual money on the game.  There's horror stories online of gamers spending hundreds of money on the game, attempting to get a particular character that (they believe) is needed to give them an upper hand in-game, only to get repetitive characters and items that they obtained many transactions prior.  There are tons of different in-game currencies to parse through and spend in order to get the actual currency that you need.  It's quite confusing why there are so many currencies, and I'm not going to get into them all here (just play the game), it's a reason I could see many getting turned off of the game.  It is an absolute necessity, in order to complete the game, to spend your money.  To me, that takes Genshin Impact out of the running for Game of the Year.  You simply can't claim to be F2P and then expect your gamer base to fork  over money (a lot) in order to complete your game.  Sure, if miHoYo had released this game with a $60 price tag and made the entire campaign available and only charged for DLC, we'd likely be talking about a GotY contender.  They didn't and that hurts its overall product.  


I believe that miHoYo knew what they had on-hand before releasing this game as a F2P model.  They knew your average RPG gamer would eat this game up and would keep coming back.  Plus you get added bonuses every day, so there's another incentive.  Daily quests are also a thing that bring gamers back and will have Genshin Impact in your repeat library.  The map being so incredibly large also ups the replayability because there's just so much to explore and do, it will take you hours upon hours to discover everything and complete all side quests.  

Seal of Approval?

Genshin Impact is the most fun I've had playing a free-to-play game in quite some time.  The amount of detail and gameplay options you have at your disposal is very impressive.  miHoYo hit this one out of the park and I could see this game living for years in its current state with map and story updates.  Give a shot as it gets the coveted Budget Arcade Seal of Approval!

December 9, 2020

Rocket League F2P - Review


Developer: Psyonix 

Other Titles: Gears of War, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Bulletstorm

Genre: Vehicular Soccer 

Release Date: July 7, 2015

Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC/Mac, Nintendo Switch (later)

There are genres of video games for everyone.  Literally every single person that walks this Earth.  You like trading seashells on a fictitious island that's run by a raccoon?  There's a game for you!  You like playing a game as a alien(monster?) figure high in the sky where the only objective is to knock other players off the map?  There's a game for you!  You want to play a game of soccer as a RC car where you can do tricks and pimp your ride?  Well, let's talk about that game...


Rocket League was released back in the day - almost six years ago, in fact - as a game that was going to take the eSports world by storm.  It was billed as this fast-paced "racing"-type game that introduced soccer into the mix.  It was an interesting premise.  Fast forward all of those years and the free-to-play model of the game, which was launched back in September 2020, is just as polished and just as fun as when the game first launched.  

Two teams of cars begin a given match by driving aimlessly around an enclosed arena attempting to get a giant ball in their respective nets on the other end of the arena.  There's a timer (usually around 5 minutes) and the team with the most points at the end of the match wins.  Simple.  You can pick and choose what type of player you want to play as, and keep in mind that the game is best played as a traditional soccer type role (forward, midfield, fullback).  While playing the game, that's how I set out to play the game; defender stays back and defends the net, midfielder is responsible for getting the ball up to the forwards, forwards primary responsibility is scoring.  If you choose to play a more chaotic game, where every car is simply just driving around hitting the ball in an unknown direction just hoping to get the ball in the net, your gameplay experience probably won't be as deep as playing a traditional role.  Now in order to actually get good at the game you'll have to master the intricate details of how the vehicles operate, the gravity in the game, timing jumps, timing your boosts, how do you hit the ball while it's in the air, where you hit the's all important in mastering the game.  That's pretty much it.  It's fun.  


Psyonix making this game free-to-play is a way to keep the game fresh and shows evolution in the gaming market to stay relevant.  I feel that evolution maintains itself with the game's microtransactions as they are purely cosmetic.  There are no pay-to-win models here.  That's a reason the game will maintain its fun-factor.  You can purchase different skins for your car; there have been sales where you can purchase a skin that makes your vehicle look like the Delorean from the Back to the Future films, or puts a "M" on your car and changes the paint schemes to look like Mario, there's the Batmobile, Jurassic Park Jeep, or perhaps the  ECTO-1 from Ghostbusters.  It's a cool collection of skins that provide joy rather than give you a competitive advantage.  


Picking up a controller and playing for an hour, getting some ranked matches in, and then putting the controller down is probably the best way to approach this game.  It's not a game that you'll likely play for hours and hours on end, but rather play a couple of matches daily - maybe with friends or just randomly - and then do something else.  The fact that the game is still so fun to play six years after its initial launch is a testament to the developers and the game's core base.  The market for this game is clearly still there. 

Seal of Approval?

While some gamers may be a bit perturbed that this game went free-to-play only a few years after some (Nintendo gamers) spent $50 on it, it's still one of the best "sports" games out there and the fact that you can download it for free and jump right in and experience the fun is so great.  It's one of the best F2P models and gets the coveted Budget Arcade Seal of Approval.

December 7, 2020

Fruit Ninja 2 - Review


Developer: Halfbrick Studios

Other Titles: Jetpack Joy Ride, Fish Out of Water, Monster Dash

Release Date: November 5, 2020

Genre: Action Fruit-Slicing 

Platforms: iOS, Android

Friends, how do you make a sequel to one of last decades' most surprising hit mobile games? Call it "2".  That's exactly what developer Halfbrick has done with Fruit Ninja 2, which is to say not much at all.  I believe not changing much when it comes to gameplay or how the game is received, is a praise in its own right because it requires confidence by the developer to know that the previous game was a hit and by keeping much of the core game in the sequel will lead to the sequel becoming a smash hit as well.  Now, that's does not mean that Halfbrick just simply recolored some fruit and placed some new character skins in Fruit Ninja 2 and called it good.  No, they actually kept the core gameplay intact and added some options that allow you to explore the game's in-depth offerings.  Let's dive in.  


Remember playing the original Fruit Ninja game and the fun it allowed for as long as you wanted to play, and then you could simply exit the app and not have to worry about what level you were on or if you completed all of the objectives.  Fruit Ninja 2 keeps all those same stakes, which we like to call "no stakes gaming" around these parts, while taking your journey into fruit slicing down a few rabbit holes.  The core gameplay experience still revolves around you slicing fruit with your ninja sword - as you are a ninja, once again - and the more fruit you slice the higher your point totals go.  It's not complicated.  However, some added gameplay options that this sequel brings are the ability to attach "special moves" to your slicing; sometimes these super abilities makes fruit bigger, sometimes they make more fruit appear on screen, or sometimes they're just point total bonuses that last for a brief period.  You can have three total attached for you to use.  

Everyone loves a multiplayer option with Halfbrick going the extra mile to bring the gameplay mode to Fruit Ninja 2.  It's one of the games' best additions and it's done particularly well.  You join a lobby of players and when the game pits you against another person. You each get turns to slice fruit and then you slice fruit on the same screen at a higher pace.  It's particularly addictive, the rush of slicing apples and bananas against another real person.  

Evolving the game means adding more gameplay options, beyond the multiplayer.  Halfbrick has added some challenge progressions to the core gameplay experience, and it may be the most rewarding addition to the game.  The challenges often change depending on the day or week but most are slotted-in options that make you complete time trials or obtain point totals or not hit any bombs by the end of the time period.  As you progress through the challenges you'll eventually reach the end where you will be rewarded with either a new sword (I only obtained one new sword this way, and it wasn't necessarily a gameplay advantage) or a new special ability or, my favorite addition (sarcasm), a plethora of in-game currency that you can use to either improve your ninja character's look or purchase a new sword or purchase new abilities.  This is where the game takes a dip in quality for me.  


Make no mistake here, Halfbrick is in the video game business to make money and that's a very clear change in this sequel from the first game.  The first Fruit Ninja didn't have many in-your-face micro-transactions, but this go-around clearly wants to capitalize on your gameplay experience.  There are a slew of different in-game currencies that reveal different things throughout the game.  One particular currency - tickets - allows you more attempts at the challenges section (as you only get a set number per day).  The more tickets you have the more chances you have at obtaining the prize at the end of the challenge road.  It's not a new method, but one I didn't quite expect when I started playing the game.  

Another currency is seeds that you can obtain and plant in your garden in a different section of the game.  These seeds require watering and don't grow particularly fast (think hours), so it requires you to come back to the game in the time specified to see what has sowed.  Most of the times they are just gameplay boosts, but you can obtain other forms of game currency this way.  Regardless of the many in-game currencies there are, it isn't so much to bog the game down or make you overwhelmed.  You can still download the game for free and play to your hearts content and then put it down.  That's a win.  


Rationalizing Fruit Ninja 2 as "no stakes gaming" doesn't require much effort at all, and that's precisely the reason why the replay factor is so high here.  You can simply pick it up and put it down.  There isn't anything in game that makes you worry or fret about continuing for the replay factor to take a hit. You're also not likely to run out of things to do.  Did you just plant some seeds in your garden and now you have to wait 12 hours for them to grow?  No worries, just log back in at the time and collect your reward.  Log back out when you are through puttering around.  Truly no stakes.  

Seal of Approval?

Knowing your audience is always key when it comes to mobile games.  Halfbrick spent a decade tinkering and evolving their gamer base, with Fruit Ninja 2 they have not only brought back the addicting gameplay of the first title, they've improved on it creating a more well-rounded and in-depth experience that can live on your phone or tablet for years and years.   Fruit Ninja 2 gets the Budget Arcade famed "Seal of Approval".