Blast Works: Build, Trade, Destroy – Nintendo Wii Game First Impressions

Blast Works Title Screen

Blast Works Title Screen

Blast Works is a side-scrolling shooter game released in 2008 for the Nintendo Wii. It was developed by Budcat Creations and published by Majesco Entertainment. From the little research I have done on this game, it appears to be a port of Tumiki Fighters from the PC to the Wii.

Tumiki Fighters was developed by Kenta Cho and released as free software in 2004. Written in the D programming language, it uses OpenGL for graphics rendering. I would assume Kenta Cho had a good deal of creative license with Blast Works given that versions of his other games, rRootage, Gunroar, and Torus Trooper are included as unlockable bonus items in the game.

Come At Me

Come At Me

Blast Works has a unique game mechanic that I don’t believe I’ve seen in any other side-scrolling shooter I have played. When an enemy is shot down and is falling toward the bottom of the screen, the player may swoop in to catch the enemy or the enemy’s guns. Wherever the enemy makes contact with the player’s plane is where the two objects connect. Once connected, the enemy’s guns will fire from that position as the player’s own guns toward other enemies. The former enemy will also serve as a buffer from being hit directly and losing a plane. As a level progresses, downed enemies hook to downed enemies creating a massive structure of firepower the player has accumulated to take on the level’s final boss.

There's nothing quite like a good boss bullet hell.

There’s nothing quite like a good boss bullet hell.

When I first witnessed this game mechanic it surprised me. I had a great deal of fun connecting out enemy planes to the end of the screen and blasting anything in my path with my own bullet hell for once. I then got to thinking that due to this game mechanic the game might turn out to be too easy. Not so. The game makers did an excellent job balancing the game. Each boss I played outside of the first couple levels made me sweat. The player may choose three different levels of difficulty. The bullet hells are intense and Blast Works provides a similar experience to other classic side-scrolling shooters I have played in the past.

Come with me little girl on a magic carpet ride.

Come with me little girl on a magic carpet ride.

Another interesting feature provided in Blast Works is a full-fledged level editor. The player may create their own level, with their own enemies, and custom build their own planes to fly through those levels. Even new bullets can be created and customized. The game offers a CAD-like program to create and save new shapes and modify environments. The amount of detail to which a player can create their own levels is incredible. Blast Works feels like a PC game that still works incredibly well with the standard Wiimote/Nunchuck controllers.

Blast Works features three modes of gameplay for playing through the side-scrolling shooter levels. Campaign Mode allows one or two players to play through campaign levels in a sequential order. I assume extra game features are unlocked through this mode of play, but I have yet to unlock anything yet. Arcade Mode allows one to four players to play through levels sequentially for points. And as mentioned earlier, one to four players may play through a custom level created by a player in the User Levels mode.

Blast Works Game Disc

Blast Works Game Disc

The music in the Blast Works is good. It sounds like a typical Wii game soundtrack, but mixed with the heavy synthetic techno kind of themes I would expect from a classic side-scrolling shooter of the Super Nintendo era. While the graphics are a bit blocky and look quite dated for the time this title was released, Blast Works more than makes up for it in gameplay and replayability. I picked up my copy of Blast Works used for less than four dollars. From a quick Amazon search it appears buying a new copy might cost less than ten dollars. At that price it’s well worth it. I would especially recommend this title for children who enjoy playing with Legos. It’s certainly not Minecraft, but who knows? Maybe this will be a gateway game for getting my son to play with CAD software someday in the future.

Igor: The Game – Nintendo Wii Game First Impressions

Igor: The Game Main Menu

Igor: The Game Main Menu

Released on the Nintendo Wii in 2008, Igor: The Game was developed by Santa Cruz Games and published by Legacy Interactive and SouthPeak Games. Igor: The Game begins with protagonist Igor explaining his dream to be a somebody. In Malaria the somebodies are all evil scientists. Since Igor entered life with a hunchback, he was relegated to being a servant to the mad scientists. Therefore he has covertly been working on his inventions in secret in order to create something that will win the annual Evil Science Fair. All of the other characters beside Igor that may be played: Scamper, Brain, and Eva, are all creations of Igor. Eva, Igor’s most recent creation, was created to win first prize in the Evil Science Fair. Unfortunately it turns out she is not at all evil, and it is now up to the player playing as Igor to figure out how to still win the fair.

The storyline to Igor: The Game is creative and clever. It is funny, and has a sort of Addams Family feel to it. The game is based on Igor a motion picture that was produced by Exodus Film Group and released by MGM in 2008. In the beginning cutscene, the player is greeted with the familiar looking Frankenstein-like lab. There is a creature on a laboratory table and mechanisms all around. Igor calls for Brain to pull the switch and the lights go off. After reprimanding his creation, the lights come back on and the correct switch is pulled. Lightning surges into the operating table and Eva, his new creature, immediately comes to life and darts through the walls making her escape toward the local home for blind orphans. They chase after her, seemingly half hoping she is not doing anything to get into trouble while also hoping she is creating all sort of havoc. I’ll admit, I chuckled. This game seemed like it was off to a good start. Unfortunately the gameplay is not as good as the lines and characters in the cutscenes.

Every room feels huge and takes some time to traverse.

Every room feels huge and takes some time to traverse.

I wonder if Igor: The Game was tight on deadlines and raced out the door to be released in time with the movie. One thing I noticed very quickly when I played it was that the environments are huge compared to the size of the player characters. It takes a good bit of time for the player to walk a character across a room. To compensate for this, the players can jump to heights that appear to be relatively higher than what I would have expected and seem to hang in the air longer than expected. It’s almost like the designers just turned gravity down in their game engine configuration to solve a problem that should have been addressed more geometrically. Both of these issues combine to make the game seem incredibly awkward. I realized after pondering the awkwardness for awhile that I would wager they made the environments larger in order to accommodate a more primitive camera for the 3D environments. If the room is bigger with high ceilings, you don’t have to worry as much about keeping the camera being in a difficult position for the player to view the character they are controlling. While I experienced no actual bugs while playing this game, it feels more like a polished alpha build with production cutscenes than a full production title.

You can't hear it here, but the background music is an annoying voice going, "La, La La, La Laaya Laa." I'm sure parents loved this game when it came out.

You can’t hear it here, but the background music is an annoying voice going, “La, La La, La Laaya Laa.” I’m sure parents loved this game when it came out.

One of the selling points of playing Igor: The Game for me was the fact that it allows up to four players to play cooperatively simultaneously. I figured it therefore might be a good game night title to invite friends over to play together in one sitting. While I praised Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game for its fantastic split-screen mode in an article published the other day, there is no such split-screen in Igor: The Game. Given that the environments are large relative to the size of the character playing, even when there are two characters it is easy for their mobility to be impeded when they both find themselves on opposite sides of the screen, especially in the middle of fighting dangerous monsters. There were numerous times when my teammate and I got increasingly frustrated due to being stuck depending on the movements on the other until one of us gave up in our objective and walked back over to the other player.

Beating mechanical chickens and bashing crates is about all we're doing here.

Beating mechanical chickens and bashing crates is about all we’re doing here.

The meat of the gameplay in the little we played of it was to collect flowers and nuts and bolts, and to fight wind-up chicken things. It felt like it took forever to clear a single room of enemies and collect all the loot necessary to proceed to the next area. Once an area was completed and we had reached the furthest extent of the room, it would take forever to backtrack to the exit to move to the next area. While the cutscenes were mildly entertaining, the gameplay was downright tedious.

Igor: The Game Game Disc

Igor: The Game Game Disc

I’m not really sure who would really benefit from playing Igor: The Game. If I were a small child, perhaps a fan of the movie, and this were one of the only games I owned for a gaming system, then I imagine I would be blind to its flaws and just enjoy it for the game it is. But given that this game was a chore to play in the brief time I began playing it, I don’t think it would be one I could see myself recommending or even agreeing to play on a random game night where my friends and I might be browsing through my game collection unsure of what to play next. My advice would be to skip this one over unless you enjoy being a thorough collector for the Wii.

Neon Chrome – Compatibility

Neon Chrome Title Screen

Neon Chrome Title Screen

System Requirements – Windows

Operating System: Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10
Processor: 2 GHz
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: DirectX 9.0c required
Hard Drive: 200 MB

System Requirements – Mac OS X

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.8
Processor: 2 GHz
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Hard Drive: 200 MB

System Requirements – Linux

Operating System: Ubuntu 16.04 or SteamOS
Processor: 2 GHz
Memory: 2 MB RAM
Hard Drive: 500 MB

Neon Chrome – Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Neon Chrome Title Screen

Neon Chrome Title Screen

Neon Chrome is a top-down shooter released in 2016 by 10tons Ltd for Windows 10, Mac OS X, and Linux on Valve’s Steam platform. My wife got me a copy of it from Humble Bundle in the Humble Very Positive Bundle 2. This bundle will disappear in the next 13 days, so if you like what you see, go pickup a copy.

I wouldn’t say I’m particularly a fan of top-down shooters, but Neon Chrome is sharp. You can tell a great deal of thought and imagination went into the creation of this game. The game is set in a cyberpunk future in a large arcology complex called Neon Chrome, run by Neon Corp, which is home to over a million people. The Overseer v1.0 is an artificial intelligence tasked with the responsibility of taking care of Neon Chrome and its inhabitants.

The Immersion Room

The Immersion Room

The game starts the player off in a tutorial to help the player learn the controls. In this tutorial, the Overseer explains how while he is entrusted to take care of all of the lives within Neon Chrome, the trust goes both ways. He informs the player that she is scheduled for termination and as she fights her way through the level leads her into a trap. Once the player dies at the end of the tutorial, the game fades into the Immersion Room, from which all missions start.

The Immersion Room contains power-ups that can be purchased after completing level three and hacks that can be implemented once the player has defeated Overseer v1.0. It looks like there are 33 levels on the way to defeating Overseer v1.0. By sitting in the Immersion Chair, the player begins level one in a new asset in a different section of the Neon Chrome complex.

The Pathway to the Overseer.

The Pathway to the Overseer.

I haven’t quite discovered what an asset is in this game. I’m not sure if it is an actual human body that the player assumes control over, a cybernetic robot controlled remotely, or some sort of replicant hybrid in-between. The number of assets are finite, they are all numbered in the room where they wake up from hibernation. When walking to the edge of the room you can see there are other rooms with more assets in them. I don’t know what the game’s limit on the number of lives is, if there is a limit. When sitting in the Immersion Chair, the player gets to pick from three asset classes which come with a few different attributes.

Choose Your Asset.

Choose Your Asset.

Cyber Psychos get a boost to health and get two additional slots for cybernetic enhancement. Techies get a boost to energy and have an personal shield that regenerates over time. Corporate Soldiers have a riot shield that reduces hits taken to their face by 25%, along with a 15% bonus to damage inflicted from fighting. Hackers get a boost to energy and speed, and are proficient in picking locks for additional loot. They also start with a nifty little robot that shoots enemies alongside the player. I personally found my greatest satisfaction in playing the Hacker class. Hackers seem built for stealth and setting traps, and it seemed to become more my style to lure the enemies into a bottleneck for me to pick off one at a time, or to evade altogether by sneaking through doors while their backs were turned.

Gameplay as Hacker class.

Gameplay as Hacker class.

On some levels, there are places where you can upgrade your character’s cybernetics with different abilities. It’s interesting to play around with all of the options. Being as inexperienced as I am, the best option for me was usually to destruct all of the robots on the level. Neon Chrome is not a terribly easy game and takes some practice, and I’m not very good at top-down shooters. But the more you play, the better at it you get, and it’s actually quite a lot of fun.

Upgrade Your Cybernetics

Upgrade Your Cybernetics

Neon Chrome was designed for up to four players to play simultaneously and cooperatively on the same local machine. This is a good game to hook up to a big-screen television with four game pads to play with your friends. I have been playing it with a keyboard, but it might me much easier when I switch to my Steam controller.

Play with friends!

Play with friends!

I am a sucker for a futuristic cyberpunk theme, and this is where Neon Chrome really shines. If you are a fan of William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer, Ridley Scott’s movie Blade Runner, or other similar artworks of science fiction, then you’ll be right at home with Neon Chrome. With the dark foreboding background invaded by neon lights and lasers, and an inspiring soundtrack that fits with the theme, Neon Chrome delivers a rich gaming experience. The graphics are crisp. In some of these top-down shooters it’s hard to make out what I’m looking at from the top-down perspective. I have had fewer issues of this with Neon Chrome.

I think I will be playing a lot more of Neon Chrome in the days to come. It’s easy to pick up and play, it’s fun, it’s addictive, and it supports multiple players as a Steam Box title. As I said earlier, at the time of this writing it’s also on humble bundle, so you can support a good cause and get a great game simultaneously.

Tom Clancy’s The Division – Compatibility

Tom Clancy's The Division Character Screen

Tom Clancy’s The Division Character Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit only)
Processor: Intel Core i7-3770 or AMD FX-8350 or better.
Memory: 8GB RAM
Video: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970, AMD Radeon R9 290, equivalent or better. DirectX 11 required.
Hard Drive: 40GB free space

Windows 10

This game was designed to be run on Windows 10 and is fully compatible with Windows 10.

Tom Clancy’s The Division – Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Tom Clancy's The Division Character Screen

Tom Clancy’s The Division Character Screen

Often Valve’s Steam platform will offer a free weekend on a newer game to allow gamers to try the full version of a game before they decide to purchase it. This weekend’s game is Tom Clancy’s The Division released by Ubisoft in 2016 for Windows 10. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic not-too-distant future where some mysterious highly contagious disease has been released in an act of bioterrorism around Black Friday. People start dying, panic and rioting ensues, and civilization as we know it – at least in New York City – is about to collapse. That is when you, a strapping, youthful, athletic soldier who looks like they were cast for an Alien movie, are called up using a signal to your red wrist-watch. You see, you are a member of the elite group called The Division. They are called in when all other options have failed.

It's really secure for them to put the HQ behind such a tricky door to open.

It’s really secure for them to put the HQ behind such a tricky door to open.

Reporting for duty immediately, you learn that you’re part of the second draft. It is implied the first group didn’t make it, and you’re sort of given your first mission. This is one of the interesting things about Tom Clancy’s The Division. I would almost call it a Grand Theft Auto V simulator. It’s sort of open world, but there are very limited things you can do in the open world they give you. If you are frustrated with a quest you are currently working on, run down another street in the city and find a quest that might interest you more, though keep in mind the restricting game mechanics will be present on any quest you choose.

She can crouch, she can jump, she can crouch and jump. Division girl!

She can jump, she can crouch. She can jump and crouch. Division girl!

My first mission was to rescue food stolen from some rioters. The rioter was behind a barricade of chain-link fencing. The player is not offered a clear jump or a clear crouch button. If you press the crouch button at the wrong place, you will not crouch. If you press the jump button in the wrong place, you will not jump. The game (generally) tells you when you’re standing in front of an obstacle whether you can crouch behind it to use it as cover, or to jump over it to get closer to an objective. In order to achieve my mission, I had to determine which section of the fence I could jump over and stand correctly in front of it while pressing the jump button to jump over it. Others might have more success than I have, but I found the non-player characters to be much more proficient with their firearms from a long distance than I was. Getting as close as possible to an enemy to shoot them and continually moving was my preferred strategy.

The graphics designers did a good job making foreground blend with background. Probably the most colorful post-apocalyptic future I've seen.

The graphics designers did a good job making foreground blend with background. This is probably the most colorful post-apocalyptic future I’ve seen.

The most frustrating game mechanic was pressing the “Use” key when I needed to. The default for this is the “F” key. Sometimes I would head right for a situation where I needed to press this key, I would press it and the game would progress flawlessly. Other times I would spend ten minutes trying to get my character in the correct position to push the button correctly. In the first mission there is a body that the player is supposed to search to look for clues. I pressed “F” from every angle at every distance for nearly twenty minutes and could not get it to work to progress with the mission. I finally gave up and went looking for other missions.

Graphics designer be like, "Love More!"

Graphics designer be like, “Love More!”

I found a new mission to rescue some hostages from a bank. In order to get there I had to take a subway tunnel. In order to get into the subway tunnel I had to press the “F” key. It worked perfectly; perhaps I had just been a dumb dumb all those other times. I ran in guns blazing to the bank, got routed by the thugs, and they disoriented me with some sort of gas grenade. Even though I killed three of them, I still died, which caused me to respawn at the beginning of the mission; once again faced with the subway tunnel. I tried again for ten minutes to get the subway tunnel open and eventually gave up. Reading through forums, it looks like this has happened with others running Tom Clancy’s The Division on a laptop.

Code developer be like, "F that."

Code developer be like, “F that.”

One interesting mechanic included in Tom Clancy’s The Division are special abilities, almost like spells cast in fantasy RPGs, that are equipped by the player and activated using the “Q” and “E” buttons. The player’s character levels up over the course of missions. At the beginning of the game only the “E” button can be equipped with one of three starter abilities. When the player reaches level 5, the “Q” button is unlocked, and as the character levels up, they can pick up abilities with greater power in the game.

Equipping new abilities

Equipping new abilities

I saw in many of the related forums I read through that four player cooperative play was possible in Tom Clancy’s The Division and that there was also a multiplayer option for playing with others online. Scanning my in-game menu, I was unable to find these features. There is a section where you can add friends and be a part of groups. Maybe I just need a friend playing the game with me. From what I was reading online, it looks like Ubisoft was attempting to make this game a massive open-world experience with most sections being PvE and a section called The Dark Zone for PvP where friendly fire is enabled. I have yet to experience these intriguing offerings.

Some initial connecting took over four minutes. Start game ready to work on laundry or dishes and then come back.

Some initial connecting took over four minutes. Start game, work on laundry or dishes, and then come back.

I really want to like Tom Clancy’s The Division, but feel like I could have played other games in the time it took me to try to open doors and search bodies. I am not sure I would purchase this one; there are quite a few kinks in the game and it feels like it’s still in beta in places. That being said, a free weekend is a free weekend. Get on Steam, download it, and play it for yourself to see what you think.