Tag Archives: HandyGames

Marvin’s World: Townsmen6 & Sea Empire

I’ve always enjoyed games that involve manufacturing, bartering & managing resources. A number of these follow a standard format. You’ve come to a new country (or city). You need to build houses for your people, identify food sources, create means of employment and facilitate economy. You may also need to manage a defense environment by building barracks, training army, manufacturing weapons and directing wars and/or defensive tactics. Along the way, you also complete tasks, quests and acquire upgrades, powers and medals.

Board games started me on Monopoly in its various delightful avatars and then progressed to Risk and the Catan games. The internet offered up a wide range right from the casual Empire to the MMORPG, Runescape. Even ZyngaGames tapped into this with Farmville, Cityville, Mafia Wars, Petville, Cafe Story and others.

The Android market has its share of options. Unfortunately for me, most of them seem to be incompatible with my device. Still, here are two that I found interesting enough to try out.

Townsmen6: The French Revolution!

The first, Townsmen 6 comes in a free version and a paid-for one. You start by entering one of the territories in France, during the French Revolution. You need to build houses, each of which adds two people to your population. Lumber huts and quarries must be established to gather basic resources. Food sources like farms, fishing huts and windmills & bakeries must be created. All of these need people to run there so you need to distribute your people accordingly in each place. The more people work in a building, the faster and higher its output. Other buildings that don’t require permanent employees like wells and storage sheds also must be built. At the first level upgrade, your existing buildings can be upgraded to employ more people and produce more.The next stage of progress includes more developed buildings such as universities (where scholars can research creating newer functions & buildings), coffee houses (where propagandists can be created) and military camps (to train and maintain soldiers). And finally, you can extend your control by moving to other regions and building your communities there too.

In Campaign mode, the territories you enter will already have some settlements, possibly hostile to new encampments. You may need to manage your community as well as protect them from conversion and/or attack. Weather plays a big role in the productivity of a community as well as their morale (which directly impacts productivity as they refuse to work in prolonged rainy weather). Starvation or lack of certain key resources can also cause strikes. And finally, you have a limited period to establish or turn around a community.

Townsmen 6 is great fun since it involves managing people, resources, schedules & war strategy.  Unlike many other phone app games, it allows for different ways to play the same game. Between region acquisitions, you’re also allowed to build in an additional chance component by flipping a coin for a lottery-style resource bonus.

Resource management games involve spending a lot of time staring at the same picture. Hence the quality of the graphics, the people’s expressions, movements and the look of the structures is extra important. Townsmen 6 has beautiful graphics and mood music to match. The level of detail in the trees, rain, farms and buildings ensure that boredom doesn’t set in. The people look like funny, little cartoon characters dressed in Medieval European style and scurrying about their work, grinning broadly or pouting (when bored). Strikes show these tiny citizens congregating outside buildings and pumping their little fists up and down. Low morale is depicted by a series of Zzzs issuing from the face of a sleeping townsman. All in all, the game is a visual delight as well as a completely satisfying experience for a junkie of this game genre.

Townsmen 6 is developed by HandyGames and is available for download in the Android Market.

Sea Empire: Island Mogul!

The other one, Sea Empire has you in the role of a sea captain, racing for sea economy supremacy across islands. Each island produces certain resources. You can mine them, ship them across to other islands and trade them for other resources. As your earnings increase, you can build more ships and/or buildings and thus grow your empire.

The Random Map option lets you design your game map by selecting number of islands, fortresses required to win, big resource islands and the number of opponents. Campaign mode takes you through specific missions on the map, doing these tasks.

Maps & directives are depicted on what looks like an ancient map, torn and faded at the edges. This is a nice touch. The soundtrack is an object splashing through water, alternated by sawing/hammering sounds during building, which works well. However, the aerial-only view is a bit of a turn-off. The grandeur of ships and the majesty of the sea are things we usually see at ground level. The graphics on this game are not high quality enough to substitute for that. The mobile screen is too small for one to be able to appreciate the look an island. This last is a vital missing component since a big part of resource management games is the sense of satisfaction the gamer gets, from seeing growth & development on what started as a bare plot. On Sea Empire, the islands just look like blobs with tinier blobs within them.

Gameplay happens by tapping on the island that you want to send your ship to, to trade, manufacture or build. Possible options for these are presented in the same cream colour as the rest of the screen while options that are unavailable are in grey. The main screen also has a status bar showing what day it is, the level of each of your resources and a ‘speed up’ option. Overall, the game is promising but gets boring because of the monotonous visuals.

Sea Empire is developed by BluePlop and is available for free download in the Android Market.

Marvin’s World: Angry Birds & Aporkalypse

Don’t Be A Bird-Brain, Be A Pig!

Pop culture is a mystery. I’m stumped by the success of a game that involves catapulting scowling, winged creatures onto a building to destroy it. The movie Rio: Angry Birdsmay have contributed to its popularity but then again, most people I know went to watch it because of the game. Evidently omnipresence equals popularity.

I admit I’m not particularly enthused by shoot-em-down style games. But most people I know who enjoy those like more gore and grit in their graphics than Angry Birds‘ primary school cartoon depiction. What’s more, on my phone, I couldn’t even really see the angry bird expressions well enough to derive any comic value from them.

It’s not like Angry Birds is particularly challenging. I’ve been told by its diehard fans that it requires an understanding of physics. Really? Oh, and so does walking. Duh. On a tiny mobilephone screen, I don’t really get the intellectual kick of figuring out the perfect angle and propel velocity. On a bigger screen like a console game, I doubt I’d be interested in a game with such basic line-drawing/primary-colour graphics. And at an arcade, I’d just be too embarrassed to be seen around what I see as a little kiddies game.

But this is just me. Angry Birds (and the other versions it spawned including Angry Birds Rio) continues to rule not just gaming thumbs but popular lingo as well. The boy has taken to frowning and saying,

“Oof, you’re such an Angry Bird!”

each time I’m, well, angry. I had the following conversation on Twitter:

@ideasmithy: Temper has nothing to do with fur and feathers. #$%% Rio for popularizing a stupid phrase!! #angrybirds

@krist0ph3r: @ideasmithy my friend has pillowfights with her husband when she’s angry. she’s never heard of angry birds.

Angry Birds is a product of Rovio Mobile and is available for free download in the Android Market.

On the other hand, I’m really taken up with Aporkalypse. The protagonists are four pigs, each one with its own unique powers and behaviour. The game begins with Hungry Pig, a rotund, always starving piggie that can eat its way through obstacles but also regurgitate them for use as stepping stones and other things. Then we meet War Pig, strapped in porcine military style and armed to its chops to shoot down enemies. At a mid-level stage, the Pest Pig enters the game, resplendent in its green & smelly self and it can help you control enemies by stink-bombing them. And finally, there’s Ghost Pig which can move over crumbling bricks with ease, teleport each time someone dies but also come back to its ‘living’ self.

The game involves negotiating the pigs through a series of obstacles, facing down monsters, collecting coins and tending to special tasks like freeing pigs, all using a combination of each pig’s skills.The obstacles include crumbling walls that break down after you pass, rivers, slippery ice cubes, fiery paths, clouds and rivers. The maze is multi-level with staircases, bridges, trolleys, broken connections and sheer drops. And finally there is (slightly drunk-looking) Angel Pig and Devil Pig who will do their best to keep your pigs from doing what they want.

Aporkalypse is punctuated by tongue-in-cheek conversations between Angel Pig and Devil Pig between levels. The sound effects include grunting (!), Hungry Pig’s gobbling and War Pig‘s firing. Adding to the entertainment is the expression on the pigs’ faces when they’ve been shot at by War Pig, stink-bombed by Pest Pig or move between life & death (Ghost Pig). And finally, there’s all the additional effects like a stink-bombed location with emanating fumes, rotating coins, Devil Pig’s jabbing attacks and even random animals frozen within the ice cubes.

I think there’s actually only one possible way to get past each level. You can make the game even more complex but limiting your scroll options. There is no Map for a birds’ eye view of the game. And if you turn off the scrolling option, your pigs will negotiate their way across blind till the end of a corridor or river. I love the sensory detail in this game, right from its music to the elaborate depiction of obstacles to the perfectly tuned movements and expressions of the pigs. Aporkalypse also achieves that golden mean of staying one step ahead of the player to keep it interesting but not so difficult that it is frustrating to play it.

I’m currently on what I think is a middle level of the game since I can’t see a way to track the level number. The four pigs have come together for the first time in my game and I’ve been struggling to get them all across a maze of obstacles. But I’m enjoying every minute of it! And the end of it, a grunting piggie is just a helluva lot cuter than an angry bird!

Aporkalypse is a product of HandyGames and is available for free download as well as an extended, paid version in the Android Market.

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*A version of this is posted to Yahoo! Real Beauty.

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