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Indie Reviews: Amazing Ants, Cognitition, AI War, Xenominer, Pangolin

AMAZING ANTS REVIEW

Amazing Ants had me by the time I read the title. Because, let’s face it, ladies and gentlemen: ants are freaking AWESOME. But does Below Zero Games’ first release, Amazing Ants, do justice to the insects?

Amazing Ants is a 2-D strategy puzzle game that, for old people like myself, will be reminiscent of the maze games from back in the 80s. In it, you choose to play as either black or red ants and have to fight against the opposing army of ants.

There are a total of 250 single player mazes in the game and over 30 two-player mazes too. There’s even a cool level editor with which you can build custom levels to your heart’s content. Most of the 250 mazes in the game are brilliantly designed and there’s plenty of variety among them.

It’s easy to get around the maze itself. The challenge comes from avoiding enemy ants. It is possible to take the enemy ants on, but your key to victory in Amazing Ants is to manoeuvre around the enemies rather than going after them Rambo style.

The graphics aren’t perfect. They’re bright and simple but rather dated. Truth be told, it would probably be worth Below Zero Games’ time to look to up the ante with the graphics, because ultimately, with Amazing Ants, we’re left with a truly fun and enjoyable game that is almost interrupted by graphics that serve to distract the player rather than drawing them deeper into the action of the game.

While Amazin Ants isn’t perfect by any means, it is an enjoyable title, and there’s enough levels to provide for many hours of gaming.

 

Overall: A decent if flawed debut from Ground Zero Games.

3.5 out of 5.

 XENOMINER REVIEW

Oh dear,  it’s not yet another blinking Minecraft game, is it? You bet your sweet hiney it is, but this latest Minecraft game, Xenominer, is actually a really great game. What’s more, unlike most block-building game, it’s not a rip-off. Xenominer truly goes to work on the block building genre, becoming the most advanced example of the genre on the market.

Xenominer takes place on a distant planet where you are alone with nothing but your ship’s computer, Daisy. Daisy plays a vital role in helping you survive the hazardous environment.

Every once in a while, a star comes around that gives a huge dose of radiation that is harmful to you. Your suit offers limited protection, but you will need to take shelter to and keep away from the radiation if you are to stay alive.

Xenominer allows you to collect pieces far off in the distance using the P.I.C.K tool. This allows you, for instance, to pull a block out from behind a half-open wall without having to destroy the wall first.

Xenominer looks like an older version of Minecraft. They have that brilliant retro charm that all true gamers love. There’s no multiplayer option and this is a definite weakness of the game. It’s also a shame that the game is more concerned with surviving than it is with creating. But perhaps some players will enjoy this angle more.

Overall, Xenominer deserves to be commended for its innovative new take on block-building, and though Minecraft fans may dislike some of the design decisions Gristmill Studios have taken, in most areas the game succeeds with flying colours.

  4 out of 5 

PANGOLIN REVIEW

Over the past few years, the biggest discussion point surrounding games has been the manner in which they are controlled. New controllers and new control schemes have been born, some of them surviving, some of them dying, all of them sparking interest. Now, Feedtank are delivering yet another new type of game that the studio promised would get players “jabbing the screen in a completely new way.” Have they delivered on their promise?

There’s a hint of Asia about the design of Pangolin. Backgrounds have a fabric-like quality (the type that always reminds me of Yoshi’s Story or Super Mario World 2 ). The music is upbeat and matches the graphics, creating a joyful and immersive presentation that pulls you right into the heart of the game.

The gameplay itself is pretty simple. You have to guide the Pangolin (a mammal indigenous to Asia) over the level by bouncing the animal in the right direction. To do this, you tap the screen at two points below the pangolin to create a trampoline. The angle and strength of the jump is determined by where you tap. You’ll have to practice to get used to the feel of the controls, and there is a certain degree of trial and error, but it’s so fun you won’t mind a bit.  You’re also limited to the number of bounces you can make on a level . If you’re left with bounces at the end of the level you’ll get bonus points, just as you will for collecting diamonds and coins.

Being the type of guy who cannot resist cuteness, I totally adore both the style and the gameplay of Pangolin (I also like the fact that I didn’t know what a Pangolin was before this game, which gives it educational points too, huzzah!). Everything from the pacing to the controls has been perfectly tweaked, making Pangolin a truly exceptional gaming experience.

For cuteness, originality, fun and, yes, even for making me learn a new word(“Pangolin”) I have to recommend Pangolin. Play it today!

   Pangolin Review Overall: 4.5 out of 5. 

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller is the first commercial game from Phoenix Online Studios, though its hard to believe that the game is a debut, given its high production values and ambition. With Jane Jensen (Gabriel Knight) working as a story consultant, Cognition has all it needs to be a hit.

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Review

Cognition is a dark point and click adventure game that will have you gripped from the opening scene and leave you wanting more when you complete it.  What makes it so gripping is largely the story. It stars a strong female protagonist, Erica, who finds herself in a spooky world full of puzzles. As you progress, you gradually gain access to Erica’s supernatural abilities.

Thanks to excellent writing, you quickly become attached to Erica and will find yourself fully absorbed in her fictional world.  That’s a good thing, especially given that the gameplay in said world is so captivating and entertaining. The puzzles and the riddles are really intelligent (you actually feel like a clever clogs when you solve them).

On solving Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller’s puzzles, I actually felt smart for a moment. Thank you, Phoenix Online Studios!

Everything I’ve said so far about Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller has been wholly positive, but the game is not without its flaws. The graphics and the sound are the main weakness. The game really doesn’t look very great. The models look all kinds of wrong, coming across wooden. Their lack of realism works against the excellent storytelling and voice acting, and the sound isn’t about to wow anybody either.

For me, though, what matters most about a game is its story. If you’ve got a great story you can get hooked and totally absorbed in a game, regardless of anything else. It’s here the Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller truly excels. While minor hiccups in graphics and sound can get in the way at times, the story is simply too good to pass up.

If you love a good story and great characters, Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller is an absolute must.

OVERALL: 4 out of 5.

 

 

Paul M Harrison

Professional esports commentator and freelance games journalist. Basically, gaming is my life. And I love it.

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