Tactical advantage

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So …. It’s been a few weeks now with the and it’s become a regular addition to my bag.

And recently it’s been spending a lot of time in the company of ‘Unit 13’

‘Unit 13’ is a tactical shooter, on a handheld, and more importantly .. it’s actually pretty good.

 

The set-up is pretty standard fair, you’re the new recruit of the squad in question. Your “initiation” is the tutorial for the controls and that’s pretty much it, off you go to take out the baddies …

In a switch to most shooters you get to play all the members of the team, each with their own speciality and successful missions allow you to level up the person in question and unlock goodies for the team.

Unlike most shooters it’s not kill count that counts here, yes in most cases taking out the terrorists is the idea (notice I said most cases there .. ) but this just adds to your score, and progressing swiftly and efficiently boosts the score multipler, and thusly your score. This is the end game, place as high as you can on the scoreboards …

To that end what of the missions, well you’ve got a selection of stealth, direct action, elite and the hellish deadline …. that final one is my personal nemesis, you get a set time to accomplish the tasks set out, so in most cases the stealthy approach will see you failing the mission.

Complete a mission an you’ll get a star rating based on several criteria, get 3 stars or above and you’ll unlock the dynamic mission where objectives are thrown at you on the fly.

Earn enough stars and you’ll unlock the HVT missions (HVT = High Value Target) which sees you hunting down a specific terrorist leader type hiding in the areas the missions are set in. These can take some doing so prepare to dig in for the long haul 😉

There’s a co-op multiplay option available so you and a buddy (or a random stranger) can take on the enemy, but there’s no competative one … possibly a massive omission and deal breaker for many BUT for me it doesn’t detract from the experience.

 

The controls are tight and responsive and that 2nd analogue stick/nub really makes the difference. The touch screen is used to access maps, reload weapons and interact with items where necessary, but these are also mapped to physical buttons too. Personally I found the touch screen made perfect sense for these as it was just a quick thumb move to reload etc. but each to their own 🙂

Generally it’s not the most emersive of games but as a portable, on the go, tactical shooter experience I’m really very impressed and urge you to at least try the demo that’s available before dismissing this title completely ….

 

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Raiders of the Lost Block

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So last week saw the release of the latest in Travellers Tales Lego inspired game …. Lego Indiana Jones – The Original Adventures

Previously they’ve turned out highly enjoyable recreations of the Star Wars universe, with both humorous takes on classic scenes and engaging game play for kids of all ages. So there were high hopes for this one.

And they haven’t disappointed ….

If you’ve played any of the previous Star Wars Lego games you’ll know what to expect in the graphics department. The only thing they’ve done here is change the setting to match those of the 3 original Indy movies (no Kingdom of the Crystal Skull nonsense here). The cut scenes again take memorable/key scenes from the movies and render them in “3D block-o-vision” and inject the humour that was found in the Star Wars games.
The Lego versions of Indy and Co. are pretty good and you’ll be able to tell which character is which quite easily. The scenery is detailed and well thought out as well. It’s the little graphical touches that’ll make you smile thought .. Indy’s whip, for example, is a lego piece complete with a connector on the end.

The audio is good too …. You’ll be spotting segments of the movie scores throughout the game, normally at crucial/dramatic moments. As with the Star Wars games there’s no voice acting for the characters at all (well you try moving your mouth when your heads made from plastic) but given the expressions that are painted across their faces you won’t miss it. The audio fits in well without it overpowering the sound effects associated with what’s going on on screen.

So we’ve established that the look and sound of the game is pretty much what you’d expected when you picked up the game. The same Lego-based shenanigans you saw in Star Wars but with an Indy theme …. and that is no bad thing, but how did the game play.

They had to change the puzzle mechanic for the Indy games for the obvious reason …. you don’t get Indy messing about with “The Force”
This rules out any magic waving of arms to pull items from afar and flip switches, what you end up with is a wrench (or it might be a spanner) and a shovel. With both of these you can dig up buried items and fix machines that activate little platforms and vehicles.
You’ll find quite a lot of co-operative puzzles for your characters to get plastic noggins round following the staple of switches to activate, gaps to traverse and things to locate to allow you to build bigger things.
Weapons are aquired by reducing the enemies that have them to their component parts (and I still don’t get tired of seeing them explode into a little shower of Lego bricks) but if there aren’t any of those around you can often throw objects or just resort to good old fashioned fisticuffs. Co-op is at the heart of this game, although also a bit of a question as well but I’ll get to that in a minute, and if you’re not playing with a friend it doesn’t detract from the gameplay. The AI controlling your companion is capable of dispensing as swift a blocky end as you are, and they always know what to do and where to jump when it comes to the puzzles (once you’re on the right track of course). You’ll also find yourself being forced to switch characters due to their “phobias”, for example, Indy is scared of snakes and cowers when he gets too close to them and you have to back him away from the hissing reptile.
This mechanic works fantastically both within the realms of the “world” that this is set in and for the puzzles themselves.

Intialy you’ll run through the game on Story Mode to unlock the levels in Free Play mode .. which allows you to go back and fully explore the environment outside of the character constraints of the story on the quest for treasure chests and studs to buy extra characters and clothing.
The game features the build-a-character mode which resulted in many a weird creation Lego Star Wars, the parts are a tad more restrained here but it’s still amusing to switch Indy’s head onto Short Round’s body. The “menu” itself is a museum which is too be explored as well, as that too contains secrets and things to collect.

Yes, they had to tweak the formula that worked so well in Lego Star Wars but it doesn’t detract from the overall feel of the game which is one of fun.
You still get the “unlimited lives” to allow the younger (or less skilled older) player to progress through the game and there’s an adaptive AI to make it harder for the better player, but it’s got all the pieces it needs to be a good game and it makes good use of them. There are however a couple of negative points ….. The first one being the camera. In some instances it’d be nice to be able to move the camera more freely so we can get a better idea of the scenery and the hidden treasures. Several times I found myself making a “leap of faith” towards what I hoped was a ledge … only to find myself plummeting to my demise. It’s not bad to the extent that the game’s unplayable, not at all, in fact it’s pretty good for the vast majority of the game. It’s just those little instances that you’d like it to move a tad more than it actually does. The second gripe is related to Co-op play. The final incarnation of Lego Star Wars had online Co-op which was great fun, yet for some reason they chosen to omit this from Lego Indiana Jones which mystifies me …. but the fun is still there, you’ll just have to invite a mate over to come and enjoy it with you.

In a nutshell, this is a (whip) crackingly good game with plenty for kids of all ages. If you enjoyed Lego Star Wars you’ll enjoy this.

I can’t wait for the next offering from Traveller’s Tales …… Lego Batman