Saturday, June 23, 2012

Universal Movie Tycoon

I love movies.  I love free games.  So when I saw an opportunity for a free game about movies, I was on board.  Universal Movie Tycoon brings all the things I love to my iDevice, but in a very awkward way.

As the name suggests, Universal Movie Tycoon is one of those tycoon games.  It allows you to build your own version of Universal Studios.  You get to decide where the movie sets go, the directors' trailers, and parking lots.  There are more production related tasks like choosing where to film a movie.  Do you want the coming-of-age comedy to be filmed on a high school set, or take the less traditional route and film in an office building?  Do you want to hire just any random actor for the dramatic role, or pay the big bucks for the best dramatic actor, ultimately increasing your profit?  You make all these decisions.

Most notably, and probably one of the more fun features of the game, is that you are making real Universal movies.  Pick the actors for Despicable Me or choose the set for Bridget Jones's Diary.  This game app was released for the iPhone and iPad as a celebration of Universal's 100 years, but it's not without a significant sales pitch.  There are little buttons scattered around the app that link you directly to iTunes to purchase the movies.  Of course you don't actually have to buy them, but the developers made the effort.  The sales push is far less annoying than other free games, but it's still very noticeable.

There are two forms of in-game currency.  One is a coin system that is fairly straight forward; make money from movies, spend money on scripts and sets, then make more movies.  The second in-game currency is this weird little thing called Move Magic.  You are given certain amounts of them to start with, but they are difficult and slow to earn.  Some of the tasks require huge amounts of Movie Magic so that means either waiting a long time, sometimes days, to earn enough, or buy some from the Apple Store.

There is so much stuff, this is just a zoomed in, small portion of the game play area.
The game functions well enough.  I initially played Universal Movie Tycoon on the iPad.  Even with the much larger screen, it was hard to not accidentally touch the wrong building or select the wrong item; there is a lot crammed into the game play area.  When I played this on the iPhone, the smaller screen obviously made the issues that much more prevalent.  

If you like tycoon style games, this should be a lot of fun.  If you aren't sure whether or not you are into that type of thing, download this one.  I have a hard time passing up a free game, and this is one of the better ones.  While the game play itself loses it's luster after about a week, give Universal Movie Tycoon a try anyways.  It's free.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sound Satisfaction

Sure the graphics are smooth, the game play is intense, and the music has me moving, but all I want to do is hear that sound.  That sound comes from the most menial tasks, insignificant characters, and quirky developers on the landscape.  They fill you with a sense of victory, completion, and enjoyment.

The first sound that always comes to mind is brought up here at Achievos on a pretty regular basis.  I think we have even written blogs specifically about it's effects.  The sound of an achievement popping is so satisfying as a direct result of what it represents.  Every time one is unlocked, it means that a milestone in the game was reached, a significant portion of the game is completed, and the overall gamer score is on the rise.  I imagine that gamers get the same response that a basketball players gets when he hears the ball swoosh through a hoop hitting nothing but the net.  It's a sound that means victory.

My next favorite sound comes from the game Bastion.  The in-game currency is this broken, blue fragment.  Collect them as you go and use them to pay for upgrades.  As they fall from dead enemies and broken pieces of environment, they do a fast drag along the ground to the player.  The sound it makes is like a large, uneven but polished rock rolling or falling toward the main character.  I think I like this sound so much not because of its monetary value, but because it's so unusual.  When collecting currency, there is usually a high pitched chime or some other obvious tone related to money.  Bastion provides a more hearty, deep, and somehow magnetic sound that puts a pretty serious smile on my face.

My last favorite sound is that of a well-connected shotgun blast.  When that heavy thud matches perfectly with the backwards jerk of a body, it's unbelievably satisfying.  To me, the blunt and violent sound of a shotgun blast feels like an instant victory.  If my KDR is 5/20 with a sub machine gun or an assault rifle, I'm annoyed and feel like a gaming failure.  But if I put up those same numbers using a shotgun, I feel like a king.  It's instant gratification.  I am close enough to see the whites of an enemies eyes and the shotgun blast declares me the immediate winner.  

These are just a few of the video game sounds that brighten my day.  It's not a John Williams score or an 8-bit repetitive tone, they are just small, simple sound effects that add a lot.  What are some of your favorites ?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Do You Have Valor?

Achievos is proud to welcome new Honorary Achievo Kate Luckdragon.  She is a self-proclaimed sci-fi junkie and bookworm.  She's also a graphic designer, comic book nerd, and all around awesome chick.  Even though she has been totally swamped with the final stages of college she still makes time for getting her game on.

“In this life you were born to CONQUER! Take charge as commander of a city and dominate the landscape. Ally with the strong in the land to establish mighty guilds. Outsmart and out-build your enemies in this intensive multiplayer strategy game.”

Sounds bad ass right?

I've never been a huge fan of real-time strategy games…I was always more of a puzzle and rpg kind of gal. But one night, I was looking through games on my iPad and came across Valor. Though the game starts slow, I've been playing for a few months now and currently have 4 cities on 3 different worlds and I've enjoyed every minute of it.

In a nutshell, the object of Valor is to build up your city and conquer other cities with the army and scholars you've built up. Once you conquer other cities, those cities are yours to rule as you see fit and the other player loses their spot on that world. As with most things, there's so much more to it than that.

First, I'll start with buildings. There are several different building types that you can construct in valor and each building has a specific purpose to allow for advancement and all around brutality. If you were to start playing today, I would recommend building up your resources, warehouse, and farm production as quickly as possible. The more resources, food and storage you have, the better your chance of faster advancement. This game is real-time, which means that when it says it's going to take thirteen hours for you to level up your lumbermill, you're gonna have to wait thirteen hours. The wait isn't that long in the beginning, and if you have a mellow night at home just hanging out, you're guaranteed to get your city up and running in just a few hours…but you'll need to go back daily (or, several times a day) if you want to keep advancing.

After you've gotten a decent production of lumber, clay and iron, you can move on to working on your City Hall, which is where you upgrade and construct buildings & your Market, which allows you to trade resources with other players.

Here are a couple screen shots of my cities on Lynx: World 64.

Then comes probably the most important part of Valor…your army. Your army consists of three buildings; barracks, stable and workshop. Inside the barracks you will find lancers, sentries and berserkers as your choices for infantry. In the stable there are scouts, knights and guardians for cavalry. The workshop holds your rams and ballistas for siege. If you are interested in reading further about each one, click here for the Valor Wiki (

As you upgrade your city, you receive 'research points' that you can use to upgrade your units to higher levels. One mistake that I made in the beginning was that I spread out my research points between each category. In retrospect, that wasn't a good idea. I decided to specialize my guardians, berserkers and ballistas. After getting rid of my scouts, sentries and rams - my attack score went through the roof because I was condensing my research points and making my army extra awesome! It was excellent. I would also recommend checking out this chart, it helped me tremendously in choosing what units to recruit and pour my skill points into.

I bet you're thinking something like this right now: “So, Kate, you've told me all about what units are, now what the hell do I do with them?!”  That's simple…ATTACK EVERYONE! J The world that your city is on is filled with hundreds of other cities, doing exactly what you're doing and just waiting to be attacked. I gauge my attacks based on point level and only go after those with similar points to me so it's more of a fair fight- but that doesn't always work. Players with smaller armies have wiped me out before. That is where your strategy comes in…you can send scouts to the opposing city to see what you're getting in to, or you can just charge in and see what happens. The latter is usually my preferred method because I find it more fun that way.

One thing that's gotten me hooked on Valor is the team playing. The game allows for guilds to form. Find yourself a good guild and be active in the forums, then you've got all the back up you need for large scale attacks. I've actually met some cool people through this game and it's quite enjoyable to work together to take another guild out or conquer a series of small cities. For more reading on strategies, go here:

So, there you have it, my extremely basic guide to Valor. There is obviously so much more but you will learn if you pick up the game and start playing.

Happy slaying!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Walking Dead: A New Day

If there is anything people should know about me, it's that I am 100% over the zombie fad.  I don't like scary things in general and the genre is super bloated.  The only area where I have made exception is with The Walking Dead.  In the same way that a good sports movie has little to do with sports, The Walking Dead has little to do with zombies; it's all about the characters and relationships.  The game based on the popular graphic novel follows suit.

When people think of a zombie video game, the images that come to mind are horde shooters from Call of Duty, super gory deaths in Resident Evil, and free-roaming with a machete in Dead Rising.  The Walking Dead is a point and click adventure that puts the player in control of the character Lee Everett as he meets people along his journey to find refuge from the zombie apocalypse.  Lee must make important choices about who to save and which people to side with during arguments and conversations.  Every choice has an impact on the games outcome and how the other characters treat the player.

I haven't played too many games like this, but I am told that it is similar to the Back to the Future PC game.  It is a point and click game, so the suspense expected from a zombie game is definitely lacking.  I don't mind the more calm feeling, but for some it's a real let down.  For the most part, the controls and game play are pretty self-explanatory and intuitive.  

I had two major gripes about the game.  The first being that the Y-axis does not invert.  The episodes of the game are short, I finished in around two hours, so it's hard to adjust so quickly to the not-inverted controls and then immediately go back to another game two hours later.  It seems obvious that there should be an option in the menus to change it, but there isn't.  I have my fingers crossed that they will include it in future episodes.  Also, there is a timer when it comes to making decisions and sometimes that timer is damn fast.  I understand that the mechanic behind it is to force me to make a quick, impulse decision as I would in real life, but it goes so fast that I can't read all the options before time runs out and a decision is made for me.

Other than those two negatives, this game is full of a whole lot of positive.  The scare factor doesn't make it unplayable, the characters and relationships are compelling, and it's a refreshing choice in game style for an over-saturated genre.  For a measly 400 MS points on Xbox or $5 on PSN or PC, I highly recommend picking up this title.