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Sometimes, I do not need a large scale adventure to satisfy my boredom. It does not have to be a game of deathmatch in a first-person shooter, or getting lost in a big open world to feel gratified. That is where Spy Chameleon - RGB Agent comes in. At first glance there may not be much on the surface to this nimble puzzle game. Given some time though, you will see that Spy Chameleon is worth giving a look.
Gameplay consists of getting from one end of the stage to the other while blending into the environment and navigating obstacles along the way. In the event you fail to do so, you have to either start the stage over or at a checkpoint. Blending in with the environment is simple, it is just a button press away. The best way to play is with an Xbox 360 or One controller, as the color your stealthy chameleon changes to are mapped to the corresponding button (B button is red, therefore he changes to red). Changing from one color to another is simple and easy thanks to the straightforward control scheme. Whenever you get caught disguised in the wrong color, it feels more of an error on the player's part rather than the game. Mastering quickly switching colors will be necessary in the game's later puzzles.
When you are not switching colors to blend in with various objects on the ground, you will need to carefully navigate through numerous hazards. Robots scan the environment, as well as running around the floor. Robots who scan the floor have a vision cone which you will need to avoid. Early on, these scanning robots are easy to avoid while you are still learning the ropes; but like other obstacles in the game, these scanners get more challenging as you progress through the levels. Fast moving lab rats, wide vision goldfish, and security cameras are some of the other things looking to end your sneaky ways. All of these get combined later in the game for some challenging puzzles that can take several tries before you finally progress. All of these hazards and obstacles are introduced in a relatively easy way to show the mechanics before making things difficult in later levels.
The levels themselves are not terribly long, which can be quite refreshing. Levels can take anywhere from under 30 seconds to complete, to a few minutes depending on how carefully- or recklessly you proceed. If you are using a controller, a quick use of the right stick can give you a better glimpse of the level before you tackle it. Checkpoints are appropriately placed giving players a breather in the tougher sections. Respawns are quick and easy after you get caught, with the option to go back to a checkpoint or restart the level. The pace does not get stale as getting back to sneaking around happens quickly.
With 75 levels to tackle, it will take you a couple of hours to get through all of them. All levels contain three challenges: collect all flies, ladybugs, and beat a certain time. Even if you go through the levels quickly, these three challenges will have you coming back to test your skill. A harder difficulty and some specific achievements add an even greater challenge. It is smart editions like these that add replay value to a somewhat short game.
No matter how long you spend with Spy Chameleon, it is worth your time. The music has a great vibe, the controls are easy to learn, and the challenge increases at a steady pace. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or just learning how to play, the game is easy to pickup and enjoy. It is easy to underestimate Spy Chameleon, but it is a steal at $5.
- + Easy to pickup gameplay
- + Levels are quick to runthrough
- + Charming music
- - A little short
Time played: 4 hours (on Steam)
Available platforms: Steam, Wii U and Xbox One
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If you haven't been playing Tales From the Borderlands, now is the time to jump on board. The wait has been long for the third episode, but the action and story-telling make up for that. An interesting new villain, old faces, a lost ATLUS facility, and a possible romance are all in store for the third episode.
After seeing Fiona and Rhys talking again to their mysterious captor, we pick up right where the previous episode left off. Depending on whether you trusted Fiona or Handsome Jack leads to two different scenarios. Given the nature, choosing Jack will result in a more violent sequence with the body count rising quickly. Upon making your way back to the surface you are introduced to Vallory, who is none too happy about being screwed out of the deal from episode 1. Soon after, we find out Athena's true intentions before kicking off the third episode's intro sequence.
This episode plays a little extra attention to the characters and how they react with each other. About halfway through Rhys and Fiona split, with Sasha and Athena respectively. The interactions between each of the two separate groups is really quite enjoyable, and one of the reasons this episode is great. Whether it is Rhys seemingly falling for Sasha, or Athena teaching Fiona how to be a Vault Hunter, the character building that started in the first episode stays strong. Fiona really stands out in this episode, as she grows up before our eyes. A little tough love from Athena starts to turn Fiona into a more dependable character, whose confidence takes a big boost. By the end, Fiona is a confident and dependable character that can hold her own.
Then there is Rhys, who is still what we have come to expect from the first two episodes. He is still great, but does not have quite the same level of development as Fiona. His relationship with Sasha develops more, and almost looks like love is in the air. That is short lived however as the two find trouble, ironically in the air. Jack is back and still great, even though he is not as prevalent as previous episodes. Still, there is an interesting conversation between him and Rhys in the second act that could have severe consequences. Handsome Jack reacts accordingly to the choice you make, which can bring some relief or fear of what is to come. Side with Jack and make him happy, but tell him to get lost brings a VERY stern warning.
Valroy is the new antagonist introduced in this episode, who is the main boss who got screwed over in the vault key deal. She is a typical hard-ass, take-no-crap villain who is not afraid to bust a cap in someone. Valroy is mean, but she lacks the unique personality that makes Vasquez stand out as a villain.
However, Catch A Ride is not perfect. Lip syncing is still bad in some spots and this is something that really should be fixed. It is not a deal breaker by any means, but when each episode is several months apart and the problem persists, there really should be no excuse.
Your choice on how you handled the loaderbot in episode one does not seem to have a bearing here. The loaderbot would have two different attitudes toward Rhys depending on what he decided in the first episode, but that is forgotten in Catch A Ride. A minor complaint, just curious as to why that decision does not continue in future episodes. Fiona can still find and collect money, and again the decision to spend money is purely on cosmetics. If you like messing with the look of the characters, then you will enjoy the option when you get to it. I am hesitant to spend with the fear that I am going to need that money later in a really big decision. I just wish spending cash was used on more than just cosmetics.
Even with a few snags, Catch A Ride is still a great episode that is entertaining the whole way through. The humor is funny and clever as ever, while the development of characters continues to be a strong point. A few familiar vault hunters appear near the end of the episode, putting a time-line on where these events take place in relation to the Borderlands timeline. Even with another long delay, episode three does not stumble while delivering on characters and action alike.
+Nice mix of story and action
-Valroy is just "eh"
-Why is Loaderbot not mad anymore?
When it comes to meals, appetizers can be absolutely fantastic; getting your taste buds warmed up and leaving you wanting more. Ultimately that is the job of appetizers. Some can leave you empty and wanting more, while others are more expensive and fail to live up to the price. The same can be said for video games in general. If The Phantom Pain is the incredible main dish it appears to be, then Ground Zeroes is a fulfilling appetizer; giving you a taste of the new Metal Gear while making you want more as soon as it's gone.
For those of you who have played Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Ground Zeroes is essentially the Tanker chapter. The experience is very fun and thrilling but rather short. What we have is a bite size of The Phantom Pain, teasing us while making the wait much harder. There is only one story mission, but several other pseudo-history missions that help give the game more replayability. The only downside is these extra missions are all played on the same map, with enemy placement and objectives changed to keep things from getting stale.
The main story of Ground Zeroes is relatively short, clocking in at somewhere between 45 to 90 minutes depending on play style. There is no boss to fight at the end, just a short search and rescue mission setting up the story of The Phantom Pain. This might be disappointing to some Metal Gear fans, but there is no reason that it should be. Ground Zeroes is not looking to cram a big cinematic story into a short experience, it's introducing you to something grand. That's not to say there is an absence of story, it's just presented in a different way. Most of the story is told at the opening and after you've completed your extractions of Paz and Chico. Limiting lengthy story-telling cutscenes to before and after the main gameplay is an interesting experiment. Time will tell if this trend will continue in The Phantom Pain.
Rather than sit through codec screens just to explain a simple mission objective, it's all done in game. With the press of a button, Kaz provides intel and support without pausing the action. Hearing information in real-time while still performing actions keeps the pace going way better than staring at a codex screen for minutes at a time. Further story details can be obtained through cassette tapes that are found through the environment. While nothing groundbreaking is found on these tapes, they do provide details for the people who get the most out of Metal Gear's lore.
Metal Gear has done a good job in the past of guiding you along a path, while still giving you options on how to handle situations. Sneak by undetected or break everyone's neck? Semi-linear paths but still enough variety of actions to make the situations fresh hours into the experience. Ground Zeroes provides the first true non-linear approach to the series. There are many different ways to get to your objectives, and the game does not restrict you to a set path. Yeah Kaz will tell you to go rescue Chico first, but you don't have to. Rescuing Paz first will change enemy movements and positions. Once you are dropped into the world, the area is yours to play around in at your pace.
The shift to an open world changes the gameplay some, but stealth is still a factor. You are encouraged to avoid enemies, only engaging in combat when necessary. Gone are the very limited cone-shaped eyesight of guards, and replaced with more realistic enemies. In past games, if a guard suspects he sees something he walks over, checks where you were standing, and then goes back to his position. Simply moving out of sight or behind a wall was simple enough to fool a guard. The behavior of guards in Ground Zeroes is much more varied. If you just get into eyesight of a guard, their reactions can be different each time. Most will turn on their flashlight in the visinity of where they thought they saw you, some might go check it out, and a few call radio to say they are investigating. This new type of behavior changes your approach, as with an open environment there is more emphasis on staying out of sight.
Keeping an eye on enemy placement and behavior will be crucial, as Snake does not have a radar. However a few things help give you a leg up on your enemies. Using the binoculars (or by aiming your gun at an enemy) will mark them, giving sort of a glow that can be seen even through walls and objects. Marking an enemy helps tremendously, as the glowing of marked enemies makes them easy to identify. Getting just in sight of an enemy will produce a small white indicator in the direction of the enemy. This signal stays on screen as long as the enemy is curious of your presence, and fades away when the enemy goes back to their normal routine. Both of these new ideas work very well in providing player awareness, even in the midst of performing actions. Marked enemies and objectives can be clearly represented on screen, giving you a good deal of information without filling the screen with a massive HUD.
Something new added is the ability to call in helicopters to extract hostages. Be aware of where you call them in, as anti-air placements along with enemy gunfire can bring down the chopper. It's a nice addition that brings substance to extractions instead of going to a location and watching a cutscene. Bringing in a chopper can be done by either throwing a flare or calling it in with your Idroid. Calling the helicopter in before you arrive to the extraction point can save you from waiting for it to show up. Although being able to see the chopper come in from a distance does have it's little moment of "hey that's pretty cool."
Weapon and item selection is all done in real time here, rather than pausing the action. With a much smaller inventory to choose from, it was never an issue. My only problem is that menus take up the center of the screen, covering up most of your line of sight. It's best to use the menus when in cover or not doing anything to avoid taking un-necessary damage. Say goodbye to rations as they are no longer used to recover health. Taking a que from Call of Duty and Gears of War, health is based on how much accumitulive damage you take at time. Standing around and taking too many hits will cause the screen to change color, forcing you to either take some cover and heal or die. Sometimes you will be able to get away, but you still must heal yourself with spray before you continue to fight. While this system seems to replace most health bars, I'm not sure it was really necessary for Metal Gear to adopt this trend. Then again, how many rations are you going to find just laying around in a bush?
Should you happen to alert an enemy, you are greeted with the new Reflex system. Putting the familiar "!" over enemies heads, the action slows down to give Snake a few seconds to silence them before the alert is raised. Personally I find this system makes the game a little too easy. It is tough to get in a few tranquilizer shots (if you are going no kills) due to the time between shots, but an assault rifle can easily take care of an enemy during this small window. The option is set ON by default, but you can turn it off if you choose to live dangerously.
Getting into firefights presents a new type of fun. Gunfights in previous games could be problematic with extremely accurate enemies and shooting that was not made to handle large groups at a time. Triggering an alert is no longer a death sentence. Rather than running for cover, shooting your way out of a situation is more of an option than ever. Don't get me wrong, the enemies can be really aggressive if they find you, but fighting against them feels more fun than ever. Even more, different guns have a unique feel to each them. Holding the trigger for an automatic weapon will spray lots of bullets but accuracy will take a hit. Staying hidden is still generally preferred but the mechanics in place allow you to fight your way out of situations as well.
The brand new Fox Engine really shows itself even in this small adventure. Characters are very nicely detailed, objects appear real, and the weather during the Ground Zeroes mission is incredible. Light blinds your vision and rain drips off of Snake; the little effects are great and really stand out. Even on the Xbox 360 the graphics are very impressive with no slowdown.
Although few, the cutscenes are very well directed. The voice acting as always in the series is very solid. Fans of David Hyter might have a hard time getting used to the new voice of Snake, but you couldn't ask for a better replacement than Kiefer Sutherland. His performance is very well done, and quite fitting for the gruff character of Snake. The rest of the cast performs well too, with Kaz delivering my favorite line so far. If you want to get a feel for the tone the series is about to go, be sure not to miss the cutscene following the extraction of Paz and Chico. It is gut-wrenching to say the least...
At the price of $19.99, Ground Zeroes is a great purchase not only for Metal Gear fans, but fans of the genre as well. Although short in the story compartment, there is enough in here to get your money's worth. The action feels great, the challenge of stealth is still present, and the graphics are gorgeous. Ground Zeroes is just the thing to get your taste buds hungry for the upcoming Phantom Pain.
- Wonderful graphics and presentation
- Fun combat
- Open world concept works in Metal Gear
- Main story is very short
- Only one area to play in