iPhone Gaming: Karma Star

Karma Star, developed by Majesco Entertainment, is without a doubt the most fascinating and unique game I’ve played on the iPhone. No seriously—I can’t stop playing the darn thing!

It’s a game that takes you through the paces of life in just 8 turns where you compete against 2 other players (represented by either AI or human). Games are over fairly quickly with an average of 8 minutes in length. You compete with 2 other players (AI controller or human) for the highest score. Each player has 5 traits: Health, Mind, People, Love and Money that are rated with a score of 1 through 5. Each turn you’re given the option to either boost a trait, which improves it’s score by 1, or by attacking another player’s identical trait scoring 2 points if you win the battle.

During combat players roll “dice” against one another. The higher rating your trait has, the more dice rolls you will get. For instance if your trait rating is 4 then you will get 4 dice rolls. If the accumulated score from these rolls are higher than your opponents—you win the round!

To really add some variety to the game Majesco has added wildcards. You can choose to play wildcards at the start of your turn, or during combat to influence the game in your favor. Wildcards vary from the helpful “Corruption” which allows you to steal a trait point from another player and “Moxie” which adds +2 to your dice rolls in combat, to the hell Mary type like “Sacrifice” where you can sacrifice 2 traits for an extra turn.

The game also rewards strategic gameplay with bonuses. Bonuses are a bit like the Achievement system on Xbox Live but more practical in nature because they boost your game score. For instance if you steal a wildcard from both players you will receive the “Thief” bonus boosting your score by 1. Or how about the bonus “Bully”, were attacking both players at least once nets you a point. The “Double Major” bonus get you a point if you get 2 of your traits up to level 5.

Karma Star is a game about human nature: Progression, development and conquest, but in a bite size format. With it's short game time and instant replayability it’s a perfect fit for handheld gaming. On top of all of this it's a steal for $1.99!

iTunes Link


E3 Impressions: Mass Effect 2

Those of you who listen to Played know that I adore the first game--despite it's faults--and have taken Commander Shepard through his paces more than once. Knowning how brilliant and effective Bioware is at creating entertaining experiences, my expectations for Mass Effect 2 were sky high going in to E3.

After getting two hands-off demonstrations I can mightily exclaim that Bioware has done a tremendous job at listening to it's fan base! Their plan is to advanced Mass Effect 2 in every direction possible including--one of my favorite parts of the series--the conversation system.

Being demonstrated on an X360, the first thing I immediately noticed were the graphical improvements. Gone are the annoying pop-in textures, the crosshatched creeping facial shadows, and most importantly--the feeble frame rate. It looks so fantastic in fact that I was forced to ask the project lead, Casey Hudson, if what we were watching was prerendered material. It sounds like a silly thing to ask, mainly because I knew the answer, but I had to be sure (and get it on the record).

The conversations between characters in the original, though interesting enough, mostly took place in rooms with static positions and sometimes drab perspectives. Bioware feels that that was a little too unnatural looking for the series. So in ME2 the perspectives used during conversations are more dynamic, "organic" and just overall more interesitng to watch.

In the demonstration I saw, Shepard was having a conversation with someone in a moving vehicle and the perspectives varied, moving from the back seat to close-ups and then outside of the vehicle. Though it's a small improvement, but it's one of the many little things Bioware is doing to improve the overall experience (and I don't mean to imply that every conversation will use Dutch angles) either, so please don't take it that way.

A new option has been added to the conversation system that appears to allow physical interaction with someone. It was basically a prompt--lasting only a few seconds--in the lower left-hand side of the screen to press the left trigger. When used in the demo, Shepard threw a guy out a window! I don’t know if this new prompt is always going to be an aggressive act of violence, but I'm very interested in finding out where they're going to take this addition. The original game did something similar in several instances of the game but it was interpreted through the conversation wheel—it just appears that now those instances have been defined elsewhere.

After the demo I asked the design lead about the inventory system. He wouldn’t give me specifics but he did say that they have completely scrapped the old system, from both the console and the PC versions, and are starting anew. He added that they are going for something much more practical, accessible, and useful.

I moved on to--perhaps the biggest gripe amongst us fans--the optional planetary visits and side quests. He smiled and assured me that every planet will be unique in design which quickly forced me to stopped him and press “every planet?”. Responding with another smile, “yes every planet.” In end of the demo they wrapped things up with a short video showing one off of the new planets and it was the exact opposite of what we're use to seeing in ME1. It was a lush green planet with a massive forest and rolling hills--it was exciting!

Lastly, I asked him if the same composer was returning and he said, unfortunately, that he could not talk about that.


What To Know What I Played At E3? BAM, There It Is...

I survived the E3 monster my friends! Yes, I'm back and I'm happy to report that I got to get my hands on some really amazing (and not so amazing) games. Here is the list:
  • Assassin's Creed 2
  • Uncharted 2
  • God of War 3
  • Brutal Legends
  • Dragon Age: Origins
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Heavy Rain
  • Pixeljunk Shooter
  • Split/Second
  • Blur
  • Prototype
  • Darksiders
  • Red Faction: Guerilla
  • Overlord II
  • Ghostbusters
  • Brink
  • Fallout DLC: Point Lookout
  • The Conduit
  • Aliens vs Predator
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum

I'm working on a write up right now, but I just wanted to check in with you folks and let you know I was alive.

Also, if the title of this entry does make sense then click here.

Stay tuned...


E3, Twitter and Me!

I am overjoyed, you have no idea! I am fortunate enough to be attending E3 this year. I will be there on all 3 days and the plan is to see and play everything I can get my hands on. Though I'm not doing coverage for any one in particular (besides Played and, of course, this blog) but I will be fully dedicated to updating my twitter feed with my advantures on the showroom floor.

There really nice thing is that I have very few appointments scheduled so my time will be spent playing lots and lots of games. That's a good position to be in don't you think?

Here are the games I plan to check out so far:
  • Half-Life 2: Episode 3
  • Assassin's Creed 2
  • Rage
  • Alan Wake
  • Uncharted 2
  • MAG
  • God of War 3
  • New Zelda
  • New Mario
  • Crackdown 2!!
  • APB
  • Gran Turismo 5
  • Modern Warfare 2
  • Brutal Legend
  • Dragon Age: Origins
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Diablo 3
  • Starcraft 2
  • Bioshock 2
  • Trico
  • Heavy Rain
  • LA Noire
  • Dead Rising 2
  • Forza 3
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic

Anyone have any further recommendations?

The reality of actually running through the estimated 40,000+ people, I imagine, will be a bit daunting but I'm up for it!

Again, stay tuned to my Twitter for all the action as it will be my only source of information for the next 3 days.