Tag Archives: strategy

If you work hard in Punch Club’s training, the fight is easy

I don’t know much about boxing, and I know even less about what it entails to train to become a good boxer. I figure it’s a lot of punching bags, doing push-ups, and dodging and weaving. I saw one of the Rocky films, but couldn’t tell you which one. Well, if anything, Punch Club is showing me that there’s much more involved, such as holding down part-time jobs, fighting mutated monsters in the sewers, eating food, sleeping, and keeping up your romantic relationships by bringing a young woman some flowers. The boxing life, it ain’t easy.

There’s a story here, and it’s sad. Your father was brutally murdered before your eyes…kind of just like how Batman’s parents went down. Now you must train hard, eat chicken, and punch dudes in the face to earn your place in the Punch Club ranks. All of this serves for you to discover who ended your father’s life and get that sweet, sweet revenge. I’m not there yet, still pretty low in the ranks, because it can be hard to multi-task, and so I’m splitting my time between multiple tasks, not sure what to really be focusing on in the short term. I figure it is better right now to earn money and buy training gear for my garage than keep paying the expensive gym fees, and that’s my main goal. The problem is something else always gets in the way.

Punch Club, for those that don’t know, comes from Lazy Bear Games and is a boxing tycoon management game with multiple branching storylines. Your goal is pretty clear from the start, but how you get there depends on whether you want to legitimately climb the rankings or take the more ridiculous, shady route. I’m kind of dancing between both paths at the moment, unsure where my loyalty lies, but I’ll eventually need to pick a path and stick to it.

Whatever task you’re completing, whether is it punching a bag or delivering pizza, gameplay boils down to watching a series of fluctuating statistic bars representing your various levels go up or down and then judging when enough is enough. Every activity essentially fills up some and empties others, with time given a crucial stat bar of its own. It’s an approach that carries through to the most important portion of Punch Club: training up your fighter. You can improve your brawler’s three core attributes–strength, agility, and stamina–by using certain pieces of gym equipment. However, your abilities will degrade over time when you’re not exercising, so it’s best to reserve the really hard graft for the period just before your next fight, to better your chances for climbing that ladder.

I’m usually not one for management sims, but Punch Club has both an aesthetic and attitude that I really do dig. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is basically a sim of a 1980s fighter movie, so all the nostalgia is quite warranted. I won’t spoil all the references, but you’ll see loving nods to Rocky, Blood Sport, Cobra, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Fight Club, Aliens, and more. The game itself uses pixel art, and it’s better than anything you probably ever saw on the SNES, with more colors and attention to detail. It might not be for everyone, but it’s definitively for me.

I don’t know how far up the ladder my trainee will get, but, for the time being, I’ll keep climbing.

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Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge

For some dumb reason, I assumed Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge was a theme park builder. It’s that word tycoon, which made me instantly think of RollerCoaster Tycoon. Silly me. It is most certainly not that. In fact, it’s an RTS, a genre I’m never good at sinking my teeth into, but I wanted to give it a shot so I at least played through the tutorial and first level. Let’s see if this rotting corpse has any life left in it.

Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge begins with Orville Tycoon, former disciple of Professor Brainhov, taking the zombie formula invented by Brainhov and using it to take over the world via shambling hordes of the undead. I’m assuming these characters appeared in the previous game. Orville only acts upon this after Brainhov tests the zombie formula on himself (after a previously unsuccessful test), which actually works, and turns himself into a zombie. All of the levels take place in ruined suburban areas, and the game does a decent job parodying suburbs and southern living. Anyways, Brainhov comes back from the grave and usurps Orville’s mobile zombie base with his more adept feral zombies, subsequently securing his rise back to power. It’s your job to stop him.

The controls take a little bit to get used to, but considering this is an RTS on a console, which means playing with a controller instead of mouse and keyboard, it’s perfectly perfunctory. The left analog stick moves the camera’s position and the right analog stick rotates the camera, letting you zoom in or out. Each unit is attached to a specific button on your controller, such as square or circle, and you move units by pressing these face buttons. The directional pad activates your zombie overlord’s powers, and you can cause a horde to go madly wild by pressing RB. The controls work pretty well–it is better than trying to draw boxes around specific units–but the pathfinding could use some work in spots.

I found the combat to be somewhat underwhelming. As with all things zombies, unless you are 28 Days Later, there’s nothing fast and frantic to watch, even with upgraded ninja zombie classes. Instead, you select your group of undead beings and send them off to slaughter humans or battle against ferals, and everything moves so slowly. Once the fighting starts, you just watch it happen and hope for the best. This is probably pretty common for the genre, but again, it’s not an area I know much about, and I wanted a little more direct involvement.

I will say this about Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge. It’s presented well, and the story, which is mostly told without words, is pretty funny and enjoyable to watch unfold. I love the look of both the zombies and civilians. The graphics are not extremely detailed, but are rather going for a colorful cartoon look, and it works. There’s a nicely included codex on the main menu that lets you look at all the zombies, monsters, and buildings up close since you can only zoom in so far during a mission, plus you’ll learn some good info there, like attack damage and HP stats. The music certainly evokes a B-level zombie horror style that somehow infuses mellow jazz and doesn’t really interfere with the bigger picture, and it’s fine if a bit unmemorable.

Looks like I don’t need to pick a side in this battle of zombies versus zombies–Orville or Brainhov. Instead, I’m uninstalling Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge from my PlayStation 3 and moving on to something else. Though now I have a hankering to go back and play the original Age of Empires, one of a select few RTS games I enjoyed back in the day. Granted, this was when I literally have three to four games to play on my PC, so my options were limited and I took what I could take.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Wargroove brings brain-teasing tactics to consoles

Evidently, I am attracted to a very specific type of strategy game, and it is Wargroove. Which, as far as I can tell, is trying to be a modern take on the Advance Wars series, but I never got to play any of them, woe is me. In fact, the only strategy games I have any experience with are Fire Emblem: Awakening, The Temple of Elemental Evil, and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, among other smaller titles that I surely can’t remember at this moment. In short, I’ve never been a big fan of SRPGs or tactical games, but the genre is growing on me, especially if it is turn-based and not action-driven, like the Command & Conquer series. Give me time to think, people.

Anyways, Wargroove is a turn-based tactics video game in which players explore maps and battle foes, which is pretty typical stuff. Players can choose to take control of one of thirteen commanders, each with their own campaign, motivations, and personality, as well as special ability, referred to as a Groove. The game supports local and online multiplayer, including player versus player and cooperative play. There’s also a bunch of campaign-editing tools to allow players to create their own maps, which I promise here and now to never do though I’m not opposed to downloading some others have created. For me, it’s all about the main campaign.

Let’s dig in further. When war breaks out in the Kingdom of Cherrystone, the young Queen Mercia–who I occasionally misread as Merica–must flee her home. Pursued by her foes, which includes vampires, the only way to save her kingdom is to travel to new lands in search of allies. So far, I’ve only completing all the missions in Act 1 so…this is kind of all I really know story-wise at the moment. I’m sure things will get more dramatic later, but Wargroove does a great job with its storytelling, using in-game graphics to present bits of dialogue. I am always a fan of when a character grunts or just speaks one word from an entire sentence, and that’s how things go here, but you still get an idea about these people and what they sound like.

The first few missions do a good job of slowly easing you into Wargroove‘s groove. Your goal is generally to either defeat the opposing army’s commander or take their fortress. Capturing unallied buildings on the map or taking them from your opponent earns you money, which you can then spend on new units or health. The campaign introduces the units one after another and gives you hints as to their use, as well as how to use their respective critical hits. The first time you’re up against airborne fiends, for example, you also gain ballistas and mages, both excellent against that particular type of enemy. These missions give you time to get to know units and their strengths and weaknesses without being overbearing. Knowing what type of soldier fares best against what enemy is vitally crucial to keeping your troops standing.

So far, Wargroove’s weaknesses are a bit of a bummer and do detract from its general goodness. These include its occasional spike of crushing difficulty and tendency to drag on, turn after turn after turn. Positioning characters in the right spots for attacks and critical hits is already difficult enough, but Wargroove’s maps are relatively large, which means you can spend round after round simply traveling to meet the enemy or setting up your troops in the most optimal location possible. Maps often have chokepoints, such as bridges, that can be difficult to circumvent, quickly leading to your soldiers literally lining up to meet their maker. Flanking enemies is really important, as your damage to rival troops goes up greatly, but generating an army large enough to do so takes time, even if you load a bunch of them into wagons.

That all said, I am enjoying Wargroove and am excited to hop back into it after taking a bit of break once I got through Act 1’s missions. Seems like a big patch just hit for the game too, with many things being updated, such as adding mid-mission checkpoints and such. That’s cool. If it can make some of the more difficult missions easier and forgiving, I’m all for it, because it stinks to waste thirty minutes doing battle only to have your commander get wiped somewhat unfairly.

Lastly, I’m just going to leave this here, because it is all anyone needs to see to know that Wargroove is super special:

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Port Royale 3

I knew going into Port Royale 3 that this wasn’t a game for me, and, surprise surprise, it’s totally not a game for me. Except, on paper, it sounds a lot like many of the board games I’ve been getting into lately, what with its numerous systems and decisions to make, various paths to follow. Almost like a deck-builder. I mean, there is a board game with a similar name to this, but it’s not one to one. Either way, I gave it a shot, but was ultimately forced to walk the plank. Yarrr.

Here’s the lowdown on how all this starts in Port Royale 3. You’re in the Caribbean during the turbulent 17th century. The mighty kingdoms of Spain, England, France, and the Netherlands are fighting over the colonies. As an up-and-coming young sea captain, your only goal is to become the most powerful man in the New World. Seems reasonable to me. Well, to achieve that goal, you first have to choose one of the two available campaigns–Adventurer or Trader. I went with…the trader route, because, even when I was playing Civilization V, I steered clear of fighting with other territories and focused mostly on being a peaceful person that just liked to earn a few coins now and then.

If you go the way of the Adventurer, you’ll lead an unforgiving campaign for the conquest of the seas, which involves a lot of invasion, piracy, bounty hunting, and raiding. Basically, you’re a pirate, and you need to do whatever it takes to build your own empire in the Caribbean. The Trader’s path is, on the opposite, mostly about developing your riches and economic power. To become the most powerful Trader of the New World, you will need to create trade routes, build industries, and develop the economy of the colonies. There’s also a Free Play mode, where you can mix both of those methods in any way you want, letting you create your own unique tale of plundering and selling goods.

So, I sailed around the Caribbean a bit, going from place to place, such as Santiago and Tortuga, purchasing goods for low prices and selling them elsewhere for higher prices. Y’know, making an earning. Sugar and rum were very popular choices, as was wood. Always gotta get that wood. Reminds me of how important it is in Catan; during one game, I traded almost everything I had, including my precious sheep, for a single piece of wood, but it was worth it, as it helped me build one more road, giving me the Longest Road victory point. Anyways, I diverge…mostly because I don’t know what else to say about Port Royale 3.

Port Royale 3‘s soundtrack is actually quite nice, and I know this because I had the game on pause a lot while typing up this blog post. It was composed by Dag Winderlich and Tobias Adler and features a lot of frantic drumming and seagulls crying out in the background, and that might sound nightmarish to some of y’all, but it’s really not. As someone who grew up near the beach, it’s familiar.

Look, I’m sure if I took the time to truly dig into all the menus and various options at play, Port Royale 3 would offer me a ton of things to do and plan for, but it just didn’t hook me from the start. It begins slow, thankfully, but even still, I don’t know what half the menu options mean, even after ranking up, and I’d rather play something like The Sims 4 or Zoo Tycoon to get my simulation fix. Oh well. Guess the pirate life is not for me.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Vandal Hearts

At first, I couldn’t remember the name of this game. Was it Valiant Hearts? No, that was the dramatic Great War take starring a cool dog from a few years back. Was it Vigilante Hearts? No, though something under that title does appear to exist. At last, after some light Googling, I figured it out and everything came rushing back…Vandal Hearts, one of my first stabs at a strategy RPG, as well as the title that helped pave the way for future classics like Final Fantasy Tactics and the Ogre Battle series. Too bad this one didn’t really go anywhere. Also, don’t expect it to show up on the forthcoming PlayStation Classic…though I’m surprised that both a sequel and a prequel were later made.

Anyways, this Vandal Hearts is a turn-based tactical role-playing video game developed by my once favorite companies Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo for the original PlayStation back in 1997. It’s got a lot of what many modern, staple SRPGs have these days, such as Fire Emblem and its ilk: a grid-based map, a variety of abilities to employ, and rock/paper/scissors combat. Y’know, warriors with swords kill archers, archers kill hawknights, and hawknights kill swordsmen. There’s also healers, mages, heavy armor warriors, and monks to contend with–who later can turn into ninja, y’know like all monks eventually do. Your enemies for each mission is comprised of similar classes, and it’s your responsibility to exploit their weaknesses, and not every mission is about destroying all the enemies as other objectives are in play.

Vandal Hearts‘ story, as far as I can remember and dig up info on, revolves around one Ash Lambert, a young warrior tormented by the traitorous legacy of his father. Ash and his wonderfully named cast of allies have dedicated themselves to stopping a power-mad dictator named Hel Spites–what a name–from rising to power. It’s a bit traditional, but I liked a lot of the characters and dialogues, and there are some early twists to deal with that make their progress slow and, at times, a little dull.

I definitely did not ever beat Vandal Hearts. I probably didn’t even get too far into the whole affair as I knew early on that SRPGs just weren’t my cup of tea. Though many years later some titles would change my mind momentarily. I do remember being confused why archers were not able to shoot diagonally. Also, moving a cursor around with a PlayStation console was a chore and never felt fluid. Still, it’s a game I think about from time to time, maybe because I dig its aesthetic so much, or because I spent so much of my lonely teenager years hanging out with my best friend the gray videogame console adorned with PSM lid stickers, and the music is super solid.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Anomaly: Warzone Earth

Anomaly: Warzone Earth is set in the year 2018, where sections of an alien spacecraft have crash-landed in several major cities around the world, including Baghdad and Tokyo, and doom is beyond impending. Y’know, not all that much different from our current climate. Anyways, you take on the role of the commander of an armor battalion, referred to as “14th Platoon,” and are sent to investigate anomalies that have occurred in the vicinity of these wreckages and gather information on what is happening in the affected areas. See, the anomalies–which, if you didn’t know, are something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected–are interfering with radar and satellite imagery and must be dealt with to neutralize any potential threats.

Y’all should already know at this point that tower defense is not a favorite genre of mine. It’s not to say I hate it to the point that I won’t play anything in it, as I have enjoyed a few–namely Kingdom Rush and Plants vs. Zombies–but generally I’m not hooked on the gameplay. I only played Defense Grid: The Awakening long enough to get some specific Achievements back when I was trying to hit a certain amount and then uninstalled the game without any further thought. Harsh, but true. Well, Anomaly: Warzone Earth is kind of like a reverse tower defense. Or, if you are feeling silly, tower offense. However, I’m continue to remain not hooked.

Basically, you control a bunch of mobile units in an environment brimming with enemy turrets, making your way to a specific point on the map. Anomaly: Warzone Earth takes this idea one step further by giving you control over what you can build, the order in which you place your units–they move in a singular line–and by also allowing you to plot out the course you’ll take dynamically during the mission, switching routes when necessary or a better path opens up. I enjoyed the rethinking “on the fly” part, as well as running ahead of my units and gathering power-ups, seeing what enemies and traps are in store.

I like the look of Anomaly: Warzone Earth a lot, and the top-down perspective really makes you feel like a god, commanding these soldier-esque ants to do your bidding. You direct all the movement, the moment-to-moment action, and collect power-ups dropped on the battlefield from planes overhead. The UI is clean and stylish, with the map screen sporting a beautiful mix of blues, whites, and reds, and the tutorial never really felt like a tutorial, pushing you through the first mission quickly while teaching you things along the way, such as how to heal units or purchase new tanks. That said, the story is fairly ho-hum, with the voice acting not doing it any favors.

I played the first three levels of Anomaly: Warzone Earth‘s campaign, stopping at mission 4 “Distress Call,” and that’s enough for me. There’s other modes, like Baghdad Mayhem and Tokyo Raid, that are grayed out on the start screen, and I’ll never experience local co-op, but that’s okay. I liked this more than I thought I would, but not enough to keep going.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #18 – Legendary Gary

A battle of turns
Make Gary legendary
Find motivation

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.