NETWORK / INTERNET
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| Fedora Spade
As the game loads, you�ll ask yourself what �Tomato Engine� could mean. The answer lies in a game called Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom, a rare adventure for the NES: very similar to an Interactive Fiction game, but adapted to the lack of a keyboard. The graphics take only a portion of the screen, with a window for texts at the bottom, and another window with main verbs and commands at the right; the bottom window also becomes the place for selection of objects after you selected a verb. Due to both hardware and screen space constraints, the names of objects and characters displayed in selections are no more than eight letters long. The Tomato Engine is so faithful that even this characteristic is reproduced. No mouse is employed, just the Arrows to navigate through the commands, Z to select, and X to go back. You can save anytime but there�s only one slot.
The game built on this engine is, luckily, not silly as the prototype, but it doesn�t mean that Fedora Spade is completely serious: there�s a lot of humour and jokes, and the characters� names are extremely cheesy. Notice that this is an episodic series, the first two chapters were released together, and more are expected in the future. You play as Fedora Spade, a police detective put in charge of the Special Homicide Unit: despite the pompous name, it is the pariah of the Police Department of Lawless City. Apparently, Spade was a renowned detective once, but some event in the past reduced him to a shadow of his former self.
The first episode is named �Prologue� and acts as such: it�s much shorter and you won�t leave the police station during it. You are investigating the homicide of Sandy Fabulous, and must interrogate her boyfriend Juste Excellente. In most ways, it is a tutorial of what to expect from the following chapters.
The second episode, �The Red Ring�, is much longer and more articulate. Spade gets a partner, a woman with ties to his past, and investigates the death of an afro-american boxing champion, killed on the ring by a powerful blow of his Russian opponent (if you smell reference to some mid �80s movie, you�re right)� Apparently. This time, you will travel to various locations in Lawless City; also introduced is the coroner of the SHU, one of the most original characters I�ve seen in years, see him with your eyes.
The game is primarily centered on gathering information and evidence, interrogating people and examining objects. Finding useful clues can open access to new locations, and new topics to discuss, or search in the police station�s computer. There are no traditional inventory puzzles; instead, you�ll stumble into a couple problems needing some logic to be solved, and they are really quite ingenious. During interrogations, when asked to show an object as proof of Fedora�s statements, or noticing something contradictory between what the suspect says and what you know, the �Use� verb is for showing evidence. As I approached the game, someone drew paragons between these sections and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney [which is also humorously referenced at some point in the second episode, by the way]. Personally, although there is surely a lot of inspiration, I think it�s not the case, at least not completely. It won�t happen that by choosing the wrong evidence to show, you�ll miss something important or lose the game � you can retry until you get the correct object. Even if you carefully examined each object in your possession, it�s hard to keep track of all, and sometimes you�ll resort to just trying everything before spotting the right one.
It must be said that Fedora Spade isn�t particularly interactive, due to the limited number of actions and objects available, and apart from the aforementioned two or three passages, it�s not even difficult, since sooner or later you get what you need the advance the story. But such story is great, thanks to the excellent writing, which brings to life every character, and surprises the player with plot twists. Playing the first two episodes, I�ve grown fond of dense but good-hearted Officer Baldie, and I�m sure other characters will show up regularly in future chapters. With all the hilarity and silliness, Spade�s cases are serious at heart, and at times it feels like an authentic hard-boiled detective story: during the final interrogations of each episode, tension rises steadily until the climactic final revelation.
On top of that, to keep with the 8-bit theme, the graphics are adorably retro: very pixelated, not many colors, but finely crafted inside that small window. The backgrounds have as much details you could have obtained on a NES twenty years ago, and the characters possess only a few poses and expressions, but more than enough to match perfectly with the writing. The main theme tune is enjoyable, and funny sound effects underline the dialogues.
Overall, Fedora Spade is more of an interactive story � but a damn good one, which makes it more involving than many other games, regardless of the genre. It takes just a few hours but you won�t think it needs to be longer. In this sense, I found it more akin to Konami�s Snatcher than to Princess Tomato etcetera. I�m eagerly waiting for future episodes to be released.
Download link leads to the game�s page, where you can get the episodes released so far.
Around the Net, the most common definition you�ll find for Fraxy is like �Warning Forever where the bosses are made by the players�. Personally, I find the paragon forced and quite limitative for Fraxy which, aside from the concept of battling a parade of bosses to be destroyed piece to piece, is very different and has more than enough to stand on its own.
The game is a top-view arena shooter: you can move and shoot at 360 degrees with a hybrid mouse/keyboard control interface. The ship has an energy bar which recharges at a good rate, but is is consumed by both weapons and enemy shots. For example, the booster and the base Bullet weapon consume practically nothing when used separately, but together they cause a slow yet constant draining. The Blaster weapon is very powerful but each shot requires a lot of energy. Peculiar and very useful are the Stun weapons: they don�t cause actual damage, but deactivate the boss parts they hit for a few seconds, breaking their defenses. Also more useful than it looks is the Blur Decoy, which deviates enemy attacks.
Such energy system allows for survival through some enemy attacks: if energy is full and you aren�t firing, you can take some hits and then recover. Direct contact with a boss means instant death, though. Power-ups upgrade each weapon up to the third level, and energy quantity and regeneration up to five levels. They are very similar to Cho Ren Sha 68K�s: taking one makes the other two disappear. There�s a secret weapon called the Over Soll: stay in the light between the power-ups for a few seconds and you�ll get a special weapons upgrade and an immense quantity of energy for a limited time. If used correctly and at the right time, it deals massive damage to the bosses.
The true �star� of Fraxy, however, is the editor. Instructions are translated in English with Babelfish, but it�s intuitive enough and completely mouse-driven. Bosses are based on a modular structure and built from a set of 65 pieces with various functions � and quite inspired by the Gradius series graphically, I must add. The base is a main core from which all the other pieces are developed, other cores included. Examining custom bosses, I noticed that you can set up parts that, while moving in synchrone, aren�t physically attached to the main body; small support ships; invulnerable parts, thus acting as shields; more or less mobile extensions; and even parts that, after the destruction of some joints, detach from the main boss and fight separately. The array of possibilities is immense, and the screenshots here are just a little taste of what can be accomplished.
There isn�t music by default, but you can put audio files in the \bgm subfolder, just be sure they haven�t spaces in their filenames. Custom backgrounds can be added too.
Some missions (�Try�) are also included in the game, made with a scripting system. Unfortunately, unlike the single bosses, custom missions are rare so far: they aren�t easy to create, and the Babelfish-ed documentation doesn�t help.
Fraxy has more than one flaw. For a start, the graphics, with a maximum resolution of just 640x480, suffer from an excessively near �camera�: the visible portion of screen is too small, often the bosses will spend more time outside your visual, and you'll have to rely on the radar. There are noticeable slowdowns with complex bosses; the included readme_eng.txt says nothing about minimum specifics, just Windows and �very fast CPU for enough speed�, but I think it still needs some optimization. Mouse control feels often imprecise. Oddly, the five weapon slots cannot be configured in-game, but in the external setup program. Even the editor could be made better: selection of parts is a bit annoying, and while the effect the destruction of a piece has to adjiacent ones can be previewed, detachment of independent parts cannot. Would be great if the abilities to customize the graphics, and to create missions with another mouse-driven editor, were added: they would make Fraxy�s expandibility limitless.
Finally, though it�s not related to the game itself, a lot of user creations lack balance. Many are big, bad and cool to see, but just not fun to fight and simply frustrating, especially when making excessive use of big lasers and homing missiles coupled with large mobility. It will take some time to see a majority of �perfect� custom bosses.
For all its weaknesses, it must be noticed that Fraxy is still considered a work in progress, and periodically updated. So, the future could see all the actual nuances fixed. As it is now, Fraxy is a very rough gem � yet a shiny one, packed in less than a meg and a half of download. User content won�t make it much heavier, since your average boss data file rarely weighs more than 10 kylobites. There�s much fun to be had in the Free Play --> Random mode only.
Beside the main game, get this file and install its contents in the \enemy subfolder, overwriting the existing files. Now, the names of the default bosses will appear in English.
UPDATE, 13th of July: some bugs and new commands for the scripting system.
Click here to download a special package including more than 350 bosses, and a few backgrounds and missions found throughout the Net.
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Warning Forever [7/10] REVIEWED BY HyperRussell
I played a lot of Japanese shooters, so one must possess something special to result impressive. EndEffector is one of such good breed: right from the loading screen and the stylish options screen, you�ll notice how much work was spent on its production. And, while its technical features are the first to get noticed, there�s also a great game under the skin.
Surely, the graphics catch the eye immediately. They are in 3D, but the gameplay is kept into two dimensions, with side view and horizontal scrolling. The camera movement on the backgrounds gives a good sense of depth, although they are the weakest point of the game: their detail is often sparse and, worse, they show very poor textures sometimes. Enemies are much better, with good design (some even show some originality in this field) and animation. Special effects are used very well; the sparks generated by shots hitting the enemies are a real touch of class. There are short non-interactive sequences between each level and the next one, where for once the camera strays from the usual view. There is a nice sense of real continuity between the levels: the game starts on the surface of Mars, then the player�s ship moves in space through a jumpgate, fights an enemy fleet, descends to Earth, and finally underwater to fight what seems to be the classic Super-AI gone rogue. Bosses and sub-bosses are surely the best part of the game: the Gatekeeper at the end of level 2 is nothing short of awesome! The engine is quite scalable, you can even reduce the resolution to 320x240 (but the game will look ugly this way).
Add to these graphics a great soundtrack, with different themes not only for each level, but for every end boss. I think the level 2 boss is even better with its music. I also recommend the themes of levels 3 and 4, and their respective bosses. Sound effects are much more conventional, but the loud explosions of the bosses are always satisfying.
Such display of graphics and sound is coupled by an equally good gameplay, which has even some originality. The main shot, for which you can just put a weight on the X key, has two sub-cannons firing slightly in diagonal and, most important, is quite fast. But even with this rate of fire, most enemies are quite resistant, and there are no upgrades available. There, it enters the secondary weapon, activated with Z: a globe of energy is generated, and thrown as the key is released. At maximum size, it can tear through enemy ranks and cause heavy damage to bosses. This powerful weapon has his limits: while Z is held, the ship becomes slower, and the globe is not easy to direct, especially during the first plays. Controls give an effective feeling of having a great yet unstable force at hand � but mastering it is extremely satisfactory, and makes for some dashes of strategy in the game (when are the couple of seconds I don�t risk being hit?).
The so-called �Novice� difficulty level is by no means easy, but neither hardcore. At first, you have only a credit, which is spent as you start to play, like you inserted a coin in an arcade machine: so, after you take six hits, it�s Game Over. But you get an additional credit for every new level you reach, and if you completed one you can replay it singularly. This makes for a nice progression curve: you get more chances to go further and complete the game, but only if you get actually better at playing. It�s not long, five short levels and the final battle, but they are quite intense: the best care was put not only in the bosses� graphics, but in their attacks. Once you finish in Novice, you can try Expert difficulty. Notice that enemies don�t get faster or more resistant, and their attacks you already know aren�t different, with few exceptions; instead, they use new attacks, not seen in Novice mode. This means that even opponents which were almost harmless before, now can take the player by surprise with their rays and loads of bullets. It�s quite a challenge, though some passages could look unfair, due to overloading of bullets on the screen. After losing the last life, you can save a replay and watch it, holding Z to speed up and X for slow motion. Both in this mode and in normal game, you pause and exit to the title screen by pressing C.
Worth of the 70+ megabytes of download, EndEffector is a game that, with some refinements - more technical than in game mechanics - could have been a commercial title on the PS2 or Dreamcast. Not surprisingly, a commercial version (sold at a budget price) exists: it�s called EndEffector#, and appears to be an enhanced �remix� of the original � but this doesn�t detract from the quality of the free version: not to be missed, especially by fans of shooting games.
|THE REVIEWER ALSO RECOMMENDS THESE SIMILAR GAMES:|
Idinaloq [8/10] REVIEWED BY Boson
Die Slave [9/10] REVIEWED BY Dragonfly
CloudPhobia [8/10] REVIEWED BY Mechalord
Amanagi [7/10] REVIEWED BY Boson
| Between Heaven and Hell
Vince is an average young man. He�s travelling with his girlfriend, Anna, to meet her parents. While they are enjoying a moment of relax and romanticism, they are hit by another car. As he wakes up, the surroundings appear familiar and at the same time different. After the first misadventures, Vince learns the truth: he is now comatose and in a sort of limbo, but he will return to life soon. Anna, on the other hand, is on her way to Hell due to a mistake: our novice Orpheus is ready to do anything to bring her back.
While such premise sounds grim, the game is absolutely not to be taken seriously, and made with a voluntarily campy atmosphere. Just be aware if you are particularly religious, since there�s quite a �free� interpretation of some concepts of Christian religion; nothing I would consider so offensive, though.
Between Heaven and Hell is, basically, a platformer with a slower pace, closer to the older Prince of Persia titles and Another World. From the last, it also takes the story-driven progression, with some scripted events and cutscenes marking various passages of the game; they are nicely integrated with the interactive portions, but they cannot be skipped, which is annoying after the first or second time you see them. As further homage, you can resume playing with a system of four-digit passwords (you can see the one of your current area when you pause). It could sound odd, given the setting, but there is more realism than in your average platformer: Vince can climb ledges, and longer jumps are impossibile without grabbing one at the other side of a cliff. He can also walk slowly, crawl, make smaller jumps and interact with some objects. Sounds complex? It isn�t: the arrows and two keys are all that�s needed, and there are complete video instructions before you start playing. Controls work well, but are not impeccable: they can be stiff in some situations, and a couple of times I had problems performing a long jump with Up + Left or Right. Nothing really serious, though.
Variety is a strong point of the game. Each screen is unique and the challenges on Vince�s path range from pure action to precision jumping, from trials of his reflexes to even puzzles: never complex, but well-conceived and sometimes inventive. This keeps the gameplay always fresh; it can be frustrating sometimes, but never to the point of pushing the player to leave. The only passage I would have done better, is one where you ride a flying device which moves on �lanes�, requiring a very precise timing to change between them � a bit annoying.
By the author�s admission, the graphics of BHAH owe a lot to some Photoshop effects: without them, they�d look much worse. But thanks to such effects, they have a cool �painted� look, perfect for the atmosphere of the game, and quite unique too. So, a real problem I�d like to point out is the color palette, really too dark in many screens. Vince, a digitization of the author himself, has surprisingly fluid and detailed animations, even if not all the frames are perfect, and so he looks goofy sometimes. The other characters are digitized people too (except the little demons, obviously), not accurately detailed like Vince, but still nicely done. Music is good although a couple of tracks felt �flat�; I would have liked some darker tunes but, again, the game wants to be cheesy � and the complete dubbing is here to remind us.
In a few words: Between Heaven and Hell is a fun game from start to finish, visually stylish and with good non-frenetic gameplay, worth of the (maybe too) hefty download of over 140 megabytes, even if it lasts just a few hours � I felt it was over too soon. The same characteristics, however, may not be appealing to a number of players. Still, it is a very good achievement, also considering it is made with AGAST, a tool created for adventure games.
Download link redirects to Download.com's BHAH page.
| Super Cosplay War Ultra
Remember Fighters Kyodotai? Between a huge number of games made with ASCII/Enterbrain�s Fighter Maker, it stood as one of the best: having a tool to help doesn�t make a game easier to create - animations, collisions, grabs, special moves and balancement must still be carefully crafted. For this reason, many games fail in one or more of these aspects; FK, though far from perfect, did not. A few years later, the same team is back, with a game far surpassing their previous work. After a first version released in 2003, it was upgraded to the current version called Final02, with a greatly expanded roster of characters.
There�s even some story, about a freak accident giving some people the ability to assume the powers of the costumes they wear, effectively turning them into Super Cosplayers. There�s an organization of evil SCs, the Battle Royale, and apparently it is behind Z Org., a company organizing a fighting tournament: the Super Cosplay War Ultra of the title.
As you must have guessed already, this is a totally crazy fighting game, with characters dressing in a lot of different costumes as they perform their attacks; the only similar game coming to my mind is Capcom�s Pocket Fighter. SCWU is surely an otaku�s dream (or nightmare): the series portrayed by the characters range from various mecha anime, to some videogames or mainstream series like Naruto, and even some tokusatsu (Power Rangers-like shows). Even if you don�t know the referenced series and characters, you�ll appreciate the wackiness of the cast and their attacks: one by Kay (pictured in one of the screenshots), in particular, is between the funniest super moves in a fighting game, ever.
Beside the classic 1VS1 mode, there�s the Battle Royale: with a CPU-controlled companion (unfortunately, you cannot select such character: each is paired with another by default), the player fights some enemies specifically created for this mode, along with their tedious Zaku and Pac-Helo henchmen, in very chaotic battles � too chaotic sometimes, since you can get beaten from both sides without too much guilt on your side. These characters are also selectable for normal play, but since they are specifically suited as opponents for the Battle Royale and have some serious unbalancements (like lack of grabs or limited super moves bar), you can�t even choose a mode to play with them: there are just some fights designed for them. And, obviously, it�s not recommended to choose a Battle Royale character to fight another human player. However, there are other 26 characters, so no big loss! Add five unselectable bosses, and we have a huge cast of completely original characters which, as far as I know, is unsurpassed between freeware fighters, and rivals many commercial games too.
Controls are based on four buttos: Punch, Kick, Grab, and �Air�, a sort of uppercut which sends the opponent flying. Simple Punch-Kick sequences make Cosplay Combos, each character has two and they can be combined. Such simple layout doesn�t mean a simple or, worse, simplicistic gameplay: with some experience, you can pull off great combos. I think you won�t use the grab frequently, while the �Air� is very useful in combos: since one is not considered over until the opponent touches the ground, an uppercut can link two series of attacks.
Each characters has at least three or four special moves, two super moves requiring 100 units of the specials� bar at the bottom of the screen, which charges up to 300, and an extremely powerful super move, which requires a full bar and depletes it completely. Notice that the game includes a complete and intuitive move list, drawn in the style of old arcade sheets. Great! When energy is very low, defense is stronger and the moves of some characters change slightly. Also remind the Guard Counter technique: when you are blocking and under physical attack, press Punch+Kick to free yourself using 100 units of the specials� bar � very useful during a Battle Royale.
The cartoony characters move on much more detailed backgrounds � it�s evident that some are not original work. The first two stages, in fact, are some default Fighter Maker background. Luckily, other stages look better as you advance, also thanks to the presence of crowds and other animated details, and the final stages, which seem completely original, are very cool indeed. They must have found someone able to draw proper backgrounds when the game was already in advanced stage. As for the characters, some are evidently drawn worse than others, but at least they all have good animation, and great effects for their most powerful moves � some are really spectacular. Overall, the graphics are a mixed bag, but also good for the game�s wackiness.
As in FK, the soundtrack is made with a lot of great dance/eurobeat songs. I probably wouldn�t like many of them alone, but here, they fit perfectly. Remixes of some anime music can be found too. There�s a lot of sound effects and speeches of high quality, although some are too loud.
Some problems of SCWU are due more to limits of the Fighter Maker than to the game itself: the massive size of about 250 megabytes (the most complex games made with this engine are always so heavy, especially when using high-quality music), limited options, the lack of a command to return to the title screen, no selectable difficulty level � and the only available one is quite hard. The AI, while not the smartest, is quite aggressive and can prove problematic from the first matches. With some experience, you can beat the normal opponents, but the bosses are another story, as they can make even the most experts players cry in desperation: few can say to have actually beaten Zenka (and there are two more bosses after her). The programmers are fighting games enthusiasts and, unfortunately, the challenge is calibrated to their standards.
On the other hand, their experience is reflected in the extreme care given to all characters, both in their moves and their balance (some characters in FK were much more powerful than others, a mistake not repeated here), and in the refinement of the gameplay, which is surely the game�s strongest point: so great, it makes any other problem disappear as you play, also thanks to the wide variety of characters. While less expert players won�t be able to fully enjoy SCWU in single player, there are months of fun to have with friends.
Behind the silly fa�ade, Super Cosplay War Ultra is an extremely solid fighting game, with little to envy to most commercial productions; not be missed, and worth every byte of his hefty download. It is not surprising to know that Team F.K. is now working on a new game, to be published by Arc System Works, of Guilty Gear Fame; it won�t be freeware this time, but we can hope for the same high standards.
In June 2006, a small demo of a future version of SCWU, to be called Final Fix, was released. One of the three playable characters is a previously unselectable boss. It also features a new background, a new selection screen and many artworks between each fight. Unfortunately, there are no news since then, and the status of the project is unknown.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: the password to install the game ,once you downloaded it, is
To know more of the game�s options, go to the Cheats and Hints section.
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