Video Game Reviews

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Battlepillars
Publisher: Hitcents
Released On: iOS, Android
Street: 10.02

Free-to-play strategy that doesn’t feel cheap or unbalanced can be a hard thing to find—it’s a balancing act between gameplay mechanics and in-app purchases many developers struggle to implement effectively (EA’s Plants vs. Zombies 2, for example). Battlepillars is another in a long line of these titles, a promising spin on the mobile real-time strategy game ultimately sold short by its construction as a free-to-play game. The gameplay itself is quite fun: Players build long caterpillars with upgradeable equipment and weapons, sending them off to battle in 50 different levels full of enemies and bosses—it may not be revolutionary, but the mix of strategic creation and management of the many-legged units are at one’s disposal. The problem is, the constant difficulty spikes and reliance on a premium currency (“apples,” in this case) for progression gets frustrating. It’s one thing to challenge gamers to think outside the box in finishing a level, but curtailing a player’s progress with overpowered enemies is an unforgivable component of too many games of its kind. Battlepillars is an entertaining game, yes, but like most of its free-to-play counterparts, it suffers from frustrating attempts to generate revenue and tactics to extend its lifespan on one’s device. –Randy Dankievitch

Beyond: Two Souls
Quantic Dream/ Sony Computer Entertainment
Reviewed On: PS3 (Exclusive)
Street: 10.08

Beyond: Two Souls is a perfect marriage of graphics, incredible acting and intuitive controls. This amazing story is told in a series of sequences jumping through different periods in the protagonist’s timeline. Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe portray the struggle of their characters flawlessly, and the animation and facial mapping is so incredible that you believe everything that they are going through. The unique approaches to the afterlife, ghosts and God are intriguing without being condescending. Minimalist controls lead to more focus on choices—for example, whether or not to terrify a group of girls who picked on you while using your ghost-companion. Combat was also unique and engrossing, utilizing a solid duck-and-cover system blended with trigger-based shooting during the limited gunplay, or a reaction-based system of quick-time events for fighting/escaping tough scenarios. Although we never see Aiden, his character is defined purely by the player’s actions, and Ellen Page’s acting creates an incredible bond between the two. The best feeling across the myriad of viable endings is most definitely seeing your influence on the world and its characters merely through your choices. Though not as emotionally destructive as its predecessor, Beyond: Two Souls is truly art. –Thomas Winkley

Dead Trigger 2
Developer: Madfinger Games
Street Date: 10.23.13

In a world full of frustrating, timer and in-app purchase-filled “free” games, Dead Trigger 2 dares to be … exactly the same—an intricate set of systems designed to coax a few dollars out of your pocket. Like its predecessor, DT2 takes a beautifully-rendered post-apocalyptic world and presents players with a set of story-based and optional side tasks, which award cash used to upgrade your team (medic who makes medicine, engineer who upgrades guns, etc.) and buy new equipment. As a zombie game, it’s an entertaining array of gore shots and graphical effects – but with a completely forgettable “story” and a complete lack of variety when it comes to tasks (shoot zombie, find green halo “objective” area, repeat). As a free-to-play game, it’s even more frustrating: a simple weapon upgrade often involves three separate purchases, all addled by increasingly-long wait times. Without these F2P annoyances, Dead Trigger 2 could be a pleasant (if extremely repetitive) little graphical showcase for iOS: with them, it’s just another forgettable “free-to-pay”experience. –Randy Dankievitch