Tag Archives: Iceberg Interactive

Starpoint Gemini Warlords review

Starpoint Gemini Warlords suffers a bit of an identity crisis. It wants to be a 4X strategy game and a space combat/trading sim at the same time. When it commits to one, or when you choose to commit to one yourself, it can prove a compelling experience built on the adventure of emergent gameplay, however, switching between the two presents some difficulties.

Largely these difficulties stem from a lack of understanding about what you’re supposed to do and how to go about it. With some patience you can overcome this and enjoy what’s on offer. New comers to the series, however, are unlikely to invest the time needed. A lack of an engaging storyline as well as the confusing clashes in mechanics makes this an initially off-putting experience, as you decide between controlling your ships personally or commanding them remotely. Indeed, it’s a tricky sell when both styles of play are catered to in this fashion; where both are adequate in order to achieve the objectives but neither feel special or entirely appropriate. It’s an unfortunate side effect of its design, where developer Little Green Men Games took community feedback from Starpoint Gemini 2 and created this spinoff.

As such, fans of the series are likely going to enjoy this unique adventure in the universe they’re already acquainted with, with a new story about a splintered faction of humanity looking to survive and dominate the Gemini system. Your task of direct control of ships, options to trade, explore and fight within the open structure of the scenario-based sandbox mode is similar enough to the previous, numbered, titles for fans to feel comfortable with, meanwhile, building up a fleet of ships and a powerful home base to conquer the system offers some new experiences.

Unfortunately, the story’s lacklustre tale and use of copious, dull fetch quests makes a terrible first impression. However, this largely acts as the tutorial rather than the primary experience. Once things open up, Starpoint Gemini Warlord’s Elite-esque freedom to trade, fight and explore, along with the real-time strategy elements of commanding a fleet and upgrading your home base, is compelling enough to keep you engaged for countless hours. We did, however, encounter some technical issues, with framerate dips frequently breaking immersion, but overall the presentation was strong, with some excellent looking ships, weapons fire and explosion making combat a pleasant spectacle and exploring the Gemini system’s many different regions a treat.

The combination of 4X strategy and space sim means Starpoint Gemini Warlords is full of content to sink your teeth into, and offers a huge variety of different tasks to engage in. Meanwhile, RPG elements allows you to choose a class of ship and abilities to suit your playstyle. However, it’s complex, and with a tutorial marred by a boring story and set of initial quests, it fails to teach you enough early on to keep you engaged. Stick with it and focus on the free-roaming mode, however, and you’ll be in for a deep and satisfying experience, one you’ll enjoy even more if you’re already invested in the series.

Thanks to Xbox and Iceberg Interactive for supporting TiX

Gas Guzzlers Extreme review

There has been a glut of racing games lately, with a good number of them featuring some form of battle element. Gas Guzzlers Extreme falls most definitely into that last category. Imagine, dear reader, a race series where the aim of the game is to destroy the other racers. Will Gas Guzzlers have the fuel economy of a 5-litre V8, or a sleek Japanese hybrid?

The aim of Gas Guzzlers then is to climb the leaderboards of the three championships that you can enter. As with most games of this nature, you start off with a meagre amount of cash to choose and buy one of the initial two junk piles that you can afford. Buy carefully though, you’ll need to leave yourself enough readies to upgrade various bits and pieces on your rusty steed. Don’t worry at this stage, you will have the opportunity to buy a new car, but we’ll come to that shortly.

Upgrade the car to what you can afford then and launch yourself into the first challenge. After what seems to be an eternity of loading, you’re ready to race. If there’s one thing that’s missing from the game initially, it’s some direction. The triggers are used for acceleration and braking, you find that out soon enough, but I was a little confused by the lack of firepower to begin with. All was answered soon though. Each track has an amnesty zone at the start of the race where none of the firepower you’ve invested heavily in will activate. Think of it like the DRS in F1, it only activates after a certain point in the race.

So, the fun starts after you pass the Fire Zone sign. Be careful though, you’re not safe camping behind some cars, ploughing it full of lead. There are some weapon upgrades that offer reverse firing, so you’ll take some hits wherever you sit on the track. The tracks themselves have multiple routes to drive, so sometimes, even finding your opposing racers can be difficult. Each car can have a small indicator above it during the race, so if you keep an eye out while trying to avoid course obstacles and scenery, then you can usually spot them and use the Nitro on the car to catch up.

Gas Guzzlers

Nitro, ah yes. There is a small boost available on the car, by tapping the A button, and this seems to reset as you cross the start/finish line, so use it wisely. This can also be topped up along the way with on-track power-ups. These include more ammo, yes, you really can run out of lead, nitro, mines, smoke bombs, oil slick barrels and repairs. Pick your power-up carefully on the pass, it’s no good grabbing a mine if you’re about to become another footnote on the nearest scrapyard’s stock-list.

Being scrapped isn’t the end of the world, however. What is does mean, in the long term, is that you could be losing places in the championship. You can, in the garage, choose one of the repair options to fix your battered vehicle. As you progress, you’ll get the opportunity to buy new cars, which will need certain parts upgrading again. Thankfully this does not include the armament, which is transferrable between cars. It’s strikes me as a little bit of a disadvantage being able to afford a new car, but not being able to afford to pimp it up well enough to compete, even on the easiest difficulty setting. In the garage you can also spray your charger to your liking, unless you choose to be sponsored, in which case, you’re stuck with the sponsor’s paintjob.

The cars themselves handle fairly well, but there’s definitely a feeling that something has been sacrificed to try and squeeze some more frame-rate out of it. I’ve seen worse graphics, but only on older games. The garage visuals are good enough, never quite reaching the heights of other racing games, though. For the racing side of game, the graphics blur quite well as you speed past. I’m not sure if this is down to the poor quality or some clever coding. I have a hunch on the answer to that, but I can’t put my finger exactly on it.

Gas Guzzlers

The driving mechanics are executed well enough, the car points generally in the direction that you’re trying to go, but the physics seem just a touch off. The collision detection is fair to OK, with you having the ability to knock some of each car’s health armour away by ramming them. Be careful with this, as you might end up smashing yourself to bits too.

As well as the weapons, there are some other hazards to watch out for. The mines you can drive over are not easy to spot during the race, and the stun grenades simply paint everything in white as you try to remember the track direction you needed to go in. The less said about the smoke effect the better.

The game is accompanied by a soundtrack, and an alterable commentary track. I’m not sure why this is included, as half the time you can’t really hear what’s going on with it. The weapon noise and engine whine is enough in my opinion, and the addition of commentary seems just a little on the extravagant side when the visuals and gameplay could’ve done with a little more in the way of attention.

Gas Guzzlers

Gas Guzzlers Extreme has a good selection of race types to drive, offering Power, Classic and Knockout initially, with sponsor-run Deathmatch and Capture the Flag on the first championship. Later on in the game, they introduce Last Man Standing too. These offer some challenge, especially the Team Deathmatch, as you’re never quite sure if your team is winning or not, but ultimately, the frustration comes from the controls and frame rate issues. Oh, there are zombies too, in the included Full Metal Zombie pack.

The one big thing that seems to have been left out is Multiplayer. It was rumoured to be included, but seems to have been removed from the game description on the Xbox Store. This is probably the biggest missed opportunity for Gas Guzzlers Extreme. Whether it will be included in the future is another matter, and would in all honesty add an extra point or two on to my score. As it is, the game is initially fun and has a decent difficulty curve to start with, getting progressively more difficult to earn the cash you’ll need to buy better cars and more upgrades. The lack of multiplayer is the game’s Achilles heel though.

Thanks to Xbox and Iceberg Interactive for supporting TiX

Starpoint Gemini 2 review

Space. The final frontier. Or so they say. We’ve seen the release of the legend that is Frontier: Dangerous in the last few months. Could Starpoint Gemini 2 hope to achieve what Braben’s space behemoth has already?

Little Green Men Games’ first foray onto the Xbox One is a space-exploring, trading battler with an engaging mission-based campaign. You start out, as most of this type of game starts, by choosing between 3 classes for your character. Whether you pick Commander, Engineer of Gunner, you will also get the opportunity to forge a career for yourself, be it space pirate, trader, miner, scientist or any of the other various professions that are available.

Each class has a set of skills that they specialise in and there’s a levelling system for you to be able to increase those stats accordingly. These also affect the options you may have in the context menu, but I’ll come to that later on.

The campaign throws you in gently. You play Adrian Faulkner, son of the legendary Gabriel Faulkner, hero of the last Gemini Wars. As the story starts, you’re launching at your father’s side, until he asks you to perform a side-mission and you’re brought crashing to the reality that his flotilla has been attacked and destroyed, leaving only clues, intentionally scattered among other ships for you to find.

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This initial scene-setting is also handy to allow you to get to know the ship’s controls. You’ll soon be diverting all power to engines in order to get to that distant Waypoint. The ship is fairly responsive for a mid-sized cruiser. There are little tweaks that I would make to the game, like a little more inertia on the ship when stopping. Currently, you power the engines down and you come to a dead stop, which is a little odd to begin with.

You have the usual primary and secondary weapons fire, along with some nifty extra accessed by the Y and A buttons. These are customisable and allow you to repair the ship if damaged, boost shield or firepower and a few other surprises besides. The left stick gives your ship direction while the right pans around 360 degrees, allowing you to look at the incredible space-view. This pan option allows you to travel in one direction but still be able to take out those bad guys that are trying to make you space-dust. The fire at will command comes in very handy at this point, taking out pirates while you continue on your way. Oh, and that view.

The graphics are stunning. The nebulae and stars are a joy to behold. Space isn’t as big and empty as you’d think either. It’s crammed full of asteroid fields, junk fields, space stations, mining platforms, wormholes and plasma ribbons. Some will help you, some will hinder, but all are lovingly created and look amazing. The asteroid fields and floating space junk aren’t just there for show either. You can blast them into their component bits and collect the loot to sell on at a space station or trading post later.

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There are lots of trading posts too. Each sector has at least one to dock at and they’ve taken the stress of docking out of Starpoint Gemini 2, as to dock, all you need to do is get within a certain distance of the station or planet and press A when prompted. No lining up with the docking bay and trying desperately to match the rotation of the station so you don’t ditch it into the side-plating. This is also helped by the clear and uncluttered HUD. You’ve got a radar scope in the bottom left corner and when you’re within inner radar range of any hostile forces, your shields will automatically raise. This gives you a visible ring around your ship, representing the relative shield strength of each section. If you need to boost your shields manually for a short period, you can activate a manual power routing section that can provide you with that protective boost or can add extra offensive power to your ship’s weapons.

So, onto the main bit I guess. How easy is it to dogfight in Starpoint? The answer is surprisingly easy, thanks to that pan system. In fact, it’s so easy that you might find yourself suckered into taking on a bit more than you can handle and you’ll have to use the power to engines (PTE) function to skidaddle pretty sharpish. There is a nice touch with this though, and that’s the ship’s computer telling you that it’s ‘re-routing all available power to engines’.

The audio in-game is your standard ship’s sounds. Engines and weapons all sound good and there’s some irritatingly spacey music that runs constantly in the background. Thankfully you can turn this down or off if you’re of a mind to do so. The main issue I have with the sounds is the voice acting. It’s not Oscar nomination-worthy, I think is the best way I can describe it. In space, no one can hear you scream, which in some of the character’s cases, might not have been a bad thing. There was one welcome moment when one of the ship captains I was supposed to interact with as part of the main campaign lost his vocals altogether. Not a bad thing at the time.

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The campaign itself is engaging and there are many side-quests to attempt as well, which will earn you credits and experience. The credits will allow you to re-arm your secondary weapons and repair your or upgrade your ship, the experience allows you to level up and increase your stats or reputation.

The Free-roam game mode basically allows you to wander around in space with the freedom to do pretty much anything you want. There are no quests at all to speak of and you can simply cruise around, taking in the sights of the many sectors and avoiding or annihilating hostile ships. You can also increase your ship’s chances of a successful fight by hiring crew at the various trading posts. These will cost you wages on a regular basis though, so be wary of your bank balance or you might have a mutiny on your hands.

Travelling from sector to sector takes some time and although your PTE does speed things up a little more, you can choose to use the various Starpoints to get to another sector in a short time. This will cost you credits though. Personally, I liked the idea of powering through space at a rate of knots although as you travel from sector to sector there is a slight pause in the game, which is annoying.

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So, how do you sum up a game as vast as Starpoint Gemini 2? Well, the graphics are stunning. A lot of care and attention has been taken to make this game a visual feast and the game has depth but not to the point where you’re not sure what to do next. You’re pretty much free to run the missions you want to in the campaign and the freeroam mode allows you to simply drift through life as a space-bum as you see fit. The controls are simple yet not so simple as to make the game boring. There’s a lot to do or you can do nothing. It’s totally up to you. A couple of points like the voice acting and the sector transfer lag let it down slightly, but you should be thinking of Starpoint Gemini 2 as a serious contender to Frontier and it should be in your collection.

Thanks to Xbox and Little Green MEn Games for their support

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Starpoint Gemini 2 release date announced

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It’s always the same, right? You sit around waiting for one space-shooter or RPG and several really good looking ones turn up at once. Publisher, Iceberg Interactive and developer, Little Green Man Games have finally got around to announcing the release date for their space-shooter come-RPG, Starpoint Gemini 2.

Having already won the coveted PC Gamer’s Best PC Game of 2014 award, it would only be a matter of time before the title headed to Xbox One.

It’s been two years since the end of the second Gemini war. The Empire have reduced a group of freedom fighters, the Gemini League, to a rudderless rag tag fugitive fleet. Just when the huge Imperial war machine was about to crush the last vestiges of hope from the Gemini League they pulled back and began fortifying Starpoint with mammoth numbers.

Take up the story and dive into a journey that will reveal dark secrets and unimaginable twists that will finally yield the incredible truth.

The game will boast all of the PC version’s features but will also have an improved HUD design which has been rebuilt for use with Xbox controllers.

It will also have a new “rotate and follow” camera mode to make it easier to move around during the heat of battle. A heap of xbox achievements and a redesigned user interface round off the Xbox One extras and tweaks that the game will benefit from.

Starpoint Gemini 2 will warp onto an Xbox One near you on the 11th of December.

Post-apocalyptic wasteland Bonded comes to Xbox One

Dutch independent publisher, Iceberg Interactive, are bringing Arkavi Studios’ Bonded to Xbox One during Q4 of 2015. The 3D Sci-Fi adventure is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland – a bold decision especially with Fallout 4 releasing in the same window.

You play as Mira, a little girl looking for her parents in a world dominated by self-aware machines – sounds very Terminator to0 – as she tries to break their oppression with the help of her robot friend Bao, but can the friendship of the two playable characters overcome the challenges of the wasteland and avoid being hunted down by the planet’s dominant robot inhabitants?

We are very happy to finally announce Bonded, a game we’ve been developing with great joy. With this game we aim to offer a rich experience full of challenging puzzles, unique environments that will fuel your imagination and a touching story that will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions.

Edgar Ferreira, Art Director at Arkavi Studios

Inside My Radio plays out on Xbox One

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French developer, TurboDindon, along with Seaven Studio have teamed up with Iceberg Interactive to bring the LudumDare Jam award winning Inside My Radio to Xbox One.

This rhythm-driven platform adventure pits you as a green LED, mysteriously trapped inside a dying boombox. Bring the music back alive to rescue the boombox and ultimately, yourself.

Rhythmic timing is required to jump, dash or slam, so if you’ve got the rhythm of a middle-aged dad at a wedding disco, this might not be the game for you and it’s no use playing this on mute either.

The developers say that if you picture the game as a record, where every level is a different track, you should cope just fine.

The announcement trailer is below, what do you think?