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Comprehensive Reviews

Random Selections: The Final Edition

Rating 4.00 out of 5
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Pocket Monkey Games started out with such a promising lineup of titles: Sparta, Champion Archer, Finger Sling.  The something happened.  Part of it, I think, was poor partnerships as a publisher.  But even their last in-house title, Commando: Warmachine, doesn’t have the same spark their older titles did.  In this edition of Random Selections I take a look at Commando: Warmachine and Nazi Zombies, two war themed, side scrolling shooter games from Pocket Monkey Games that just seem to fall short of their potential.

Commando: Warmachine

This is the typical “man against the machine” story, where you as the lone Commando must take down the Nazi army.  You’ll do so through 12 missions in campaign mode or 3 different “last as long as you can” game modes.  Simple run and shoot games always have potential, but there’s just not enough different about Warmachine to make it stand above the rest.  There are also a few small things that over time detract from the polish of the game.

Ow, Quit It!

Commando is a dual stick shooter, with the left controller moving Commando and the right controller fighting.  The controls are actually pretty responsive, the only problem being when you have a weapon that has a reload time between single shots.  It’s easy to accidentally fire in the wrong direction when you first hit the joystick that controls the weapon.  The action is pretty standard, as you run to the left or right shooting enemies and occasionally collecting items (actually, I think that only happens once).  The iTunes description claims 12 missions, though I don’t know if that means 12 full levels or just 4 – each level is broken into 3 sections, which might account for the total of 12 missions.

There are 3 difficulty levels, and I’m still trying to beat the game on the easy level.  It’s not that the game is overly difficult, but for some reason they felt it necessary to make you start completely over when you die in campaign mode.  Personally, I don’t find the different missions interesting enough to play over and over again just to beat the final level (assuming 4-3 is the last mission).  There are several different types of weapons you can get, but the only ones that are worthwhile are the rapid fire automatic weapons.  It’s also kind of a pain to change weapons because the game doesn’t pause while you’re selecting a new gun.  The 3 mini-games are Survival and Last Stand, which are distance games that feel roughly the same, and Rocket Rampage which keeps track of your kill count and allows you to only use a rocket launcher.  None of these mini-games are all that entertaining after the first couple of tries.

Through The Woods...

One thing Commando is a return to form on for Pocket Monkey Games is the visuals.  The backgrounds look great, the characters are well drawn, and the animation is pretty decent.  It would have been nice to see more than two types of enemies visually, but the overall look of the game is quite sharp.  I like the red around the borders when you get shot.  The sound effects are fine, consisting mostly of different types of weapons.  The guards will shout out some phrases every now and again, which need to be either more varied or less frequent.  The beating heart when you’re almost dead is a nice touch.  The music is good.

To me Warmachine represents a missed opportunity.  Instead of being a straight scrolling shooter, there were opportunities for some variety in the levels.  When “defending his position”, Commando should have been stationary at one side of the screen blasting all who tried to come near.  On the level where you only use the sniper gun, switch the view to first person.  Little things like that would have really changed the dynamic of the game for the better.  As much as I was looking forward to this, I just can’t really get into Commando: Warmachine.

Final Verdict: Not Recommended
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Nazi Zombies

This title was published by Pocket Monkey Games and developed by another team.  It basically feels like Sparta: Lord Of War or Zombieville USA or any other of that style of gameplay, except it’s not as polished and honestly not as fun.  It’s really not a terrible game, it just doesn’t offer anything more than others in its genre.

The game has a campaign mode and an endless mode.  Unfortunately, the only difference I could detect between the two modes is that campaign mode ends after 12 levels, whereas endless mode just keeps on going.  The fact that endless mode is broken up into levels means it doesn’t feel a whole lot different than campaign mode.

Watch Yer Back

As for actual game play, you simply try to get to the end of each level, blasting Nazi zombies that get in your way.  You have a jetpack you can use to fly for limited spurts when the ground gets too congested, and when you’ve collected enough of something you can drop a bomb on all the zombies on the screen.  Zombies earn you cash which lets you buy weapon upgrades and ammo, and the game provides leader boards through OpenFeint.  Interestingly enough there are no achievements, which would almost make more sense than leader boards for this type of game.

The control scheme is actually pretty responsive, consisting of arrows to move left and right and buttons to shoot, fly and use the bomb.  The one thing that’s a bit frustrating is that you have to be about perfectly lined up to enter doors in the background.  Otherwise, things seem to work rather well.  The problem is the game just isn’t all that engrossing.  Even with only 12 levels I have no desire to complete campaign mode, and endless mode lost any excitement 3-4 levels in.  There just isn’t enough variety to the game to compel you to come back for more.

The game is rather blah visually.  The zombie designs aren’t that great, and the colors are quite drab, which while fitting for the setting gets kind of old after a while.  The main character isn’t too bad, but he looks kind of silly holding all of his weapons out fully extended all the time.  Anything that tends to pass for “special effects” looks a bit cheesy, sort of like the old George Romero zombie flicks.

Guys Can Shop Too

The sound effects are okay.  At least the guns have different sounds.  On the other hand, all the zombies sound alike, and instead of voiced quotes from the main hero you just get dialog bubbles.  The music is pretty decent, and the patriotic tune during the menu is a nice touch.

Like Commando: War Machine, Nazi Zombies had potential to be so much more than it was.  This one would require a little more work to be brought up to par, however, because in addition to lacking game play the overall look and feel of the game needs quite a bit of polishing.  When you have a genre that’s fairly crowded like this one is, the last thing you want to do is be “just part of the crowd”.

Final Verdict: Not Recommended
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I know Pocket Monkey Games has some new games coming down the pipe in the first half of 2011, and I hope they take this opportunity to wipe the slate clean and redeem themselves.  The company has such potential as both a publisher and a developer, but based on their last few offerings I’d say they’ve missed the mark on both what they are capable of and what the end users want.

End Of The Line

On a completely different note, this is my last edition of Random Selections.  As with all of my reviewing it’s been fun, but somewhere between the first and second edition I kind of lost site of the purpose behind the whole experiment.  I’ll still continue reviewing and bringing you the Games I Like segments, but I’m kind of working out in my brain where I really want to go with all this in the new year.  Regardless of what I decide, keep reading, keep playing and keep having fun.

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