Tag Archives: Sim

Jurassic World Evolution review

Jurassic World Evolution is a park building management sim that allows you to recreate Jurassic Park, dealing with the dangers, costs and other challenges involved in building and maintaining a zoo attraction with highly dangerous and intractable dinosaurs. And indeed, it recreates many of the film’s troupes in a compelling, gamified way, providing an experience that’s challenging yet hugely satisfying in precisely the way you’d expect a management title to be.

Building and maintaining your parks across multiple islands is an involved process, you’ll be consumed by the building of paths and structures, powering these structures, designing enclosures that fit your dinosaur’s needs, tasking your rangers and asset containment units (ACUs) to deal with problems, as well researching new technologies, hatching new dinosaurs, and monitoring the park’s income and continuing to developed it into the best, safest and most profitable park it can be. Meanwhile, the entertainment, science and security divisions will each have missions for you to complete, furthering your reputation with them and unlocking even more buildings and dinosaur options. It’s a busy game, rarely giving you the opportunity to relax and simply enjoy the view.

And what a view it is, with some absolutely incredible animation and high quality textures bringing the extinct animals to life. Meanwhile, excellent terrain and weather details makes each island you’re tasked with building a park on a believable place. But the aspect of presentation that truly stands out is the audio, specifically the sounds of the dinosaurs. Hearing the Jurassic Park roar of a T-Rex never gets old, and its inclusion here adds to the authenticity of the experience in a big way.

However, what lets the experience down is the script. Each division head, as well as the CEO, frequently communicates with you, giving you missions, making comments on your management of the parks, and adding elements to the plot. It’s often terrible, with ridiculously clichéd and inane sentences coming from these characters. Even the dulcet tones of Jeff Goldblum fails to escape the poor writing, and it hurts the immersion each time one of these characters pipes up.

Fortunately, with a little selective hearing, you can overcome this obstacle and enjoy the management aspects. Jurassic World Evolution treads the thin line of micro-management, as such you won’t be engaging with staff hiring and firing for the many guest facilities on offer and you won’t be adjusting ticket prices, although you do have the option of adjusting individual prices at these guest facilities, such as the cost of food. Instead your attention will be focused on the dinosaurs and their care, building enclosures of the right size, with the right food sources included, with the right levels of forest, grassland and water, and the right mixture of species. Meanwhile, your rangers must be tasked with repairing structures, resupplying food dispensers, and treating illness and injury. Your ACU helicopters will need to be directed to tranquilise dinosaurs that have escaped or otherwise need moving, moving the dinosaurs from one location to another, and removing dead dinosaurs. All of these tasks must be manually assigned to rangers or ACU staff, where you can then either allow them to complete their task or you can take direct control and drive/fly around and perform them yourself.

You won’t find much time to get so personally involved, however, as managing the aforementioned aspects is quite the involved and challenging endeavour. You’ll need to dispatch dig crews to find fossils that are then used in the lab to extract DNA to support your cloning of these dinosaurs. Meanwhile, you’ll need to choose which dinosaurs to hatch and organise moving them to their enclosures, which you must build and prepare to meet that dinosaur’s needs. These needs can be studied from your control menu with InGen’s information for each dinosaur, but the majority of the data you need will come from actually having a live specimen in the park. Here you’ll learn what terrain best suits the dinosaur and how social they are with members their own species as well as others. If their comfort levels drop too low they’ll attack the fences, eventually breaking out and causing harm or death to your visitors.

Furthermore, power is a constant concern. Each building requires it, as well as the electrified fences – if you choose to use them – and a power failure not only prevents these structures from functioning but can spook your dinosaurs, or provide an all too tempting opportunity for the craftier ones, which can lead to fences being broken and your dinosaurs escaping. Add to that the threat of each division possibly sabotaging your buildings if they feel you’ve not been paying attention to their missions and the list of things you needs to manage quickly adds up.

However, this is the best part of Jurassic World Evolution, it recreates the kind of situations we’ve seen in the films in a clever, division mission-driven way, and the frequent need to scan your park and task your ranger and ACU staff to deal with issues keeps you busy between the actual building of the parks. It’s great and hugely engaging.

Moreover, the controller mapping is excellent. Moving and building within your park is simple and intuitive with camera controls for zooming on the triggers and panning and tilting on the analogue sticks, and menu navigation takes advantages of designated buttons for very quick and easy access to the frequently used rangers and ACU staff, as well as fossil extraction and selling.

Jurassic World Evolution isn’t the most unique title, 15 years ago Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis pulled off the dinosaur zoo management concept successfully and Jurassic World Evolution shares many of the same mechanics and features. However, it’s still an absolute treat to experience this kind of management title again, with hugely increased performance and visuals thanks to the marvels of modern hardware. Additionally, Frontier have done a tremendous job of weaving the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World film’s lore into the experience, making you feel like you are part of this world. And running a park with dinosaurs as the attraction is just superb fun, both when everything is going well and, possibly even more so, when the dinosaurs escape and it all goes wrong.

Thanks to Xbox and MAVERICK PR for supporting TiX

Dungeons 3 review

For those of us who gamed in the 90s, Bullfrog’s Dungeon Keeper is a title that is fondly remembered. The concept of building an intricate dungeon consisting of multiple rooms that cater to and therefore attract different creatures to live within it, all the while laying traps for heroes who ventured in, was a wonderfully compelling take on the management genre. Over the years some developers have tried to revive the dungeon building sub-genre but haven’t quite struck gold. Realmforge Studios, with their third dungeon building title, just did.

Indeed, Dungeons 3 takes many of the key features of Dungeon Keeper and injects enough fresh ideas. It’s a game that taps into the same compelling dungeon building and management as Bullfrog’s much loved title, while introducing a gripping new story and some RTS elements to set it apart. Add to that precisely the kind of modern day visuals you’d expect and we have a title posed to impress.

Dungeons 3 carries on the story from the previous two titles in the series, recapping you at the very beginning of the lengthy campaign. Its light-hearted, funny story full of fourth wall breaking moments and pop culture references. It can be a bit hit and miss as to whether the jokes land with you, but for the most part they’re witty and genre appropriate to satisfy the intended audience, with nods towards things like Supernatural, Buffy, Warcraft and Lord of the Rings but to name a few. The story pits you, the Ultimate Evil, against a nation of good citizens, their leaders and heroes, with you possessing and corrupting one of their own to lead your invasion. This results in some excellent, comedic moments between the corrupted dark elf Thalya and her paladin father figure.

Dungeons 3 is split between two levels: the underworld and the overworld. In the underworld you build you dungeon, mining veins of mana and gold, building rooms to house your creatures and meet their needs, and recruiting creatures. In the overworld you can control your creatures to invade the region, destroying settlements to prevent so many heroes invading your dungeon, and securing special points of interest to generate evil points, which can then be used to further upgrade your dungeon and creatures. The upgrade web allows you to spend gold and evil points to unlock new rooms, new creatures, and enhance what you already own, including increasing the amount of creatures you can have at any one time. It’s a complex system made palatable by its gradual introduction throughout the campaign.

Managing it all between these two levels is an enjoyable challenge. Initially there’s a lot of digging for your so called ‘little snots’ to do, building rooms, mining veins and exploring in the dark, but soon you’ll have no choice but to send some creatures top side to secure evil points or it’ll all come to a halt. Balancing your invasion of the overworld and expansion in the underworld against invading heroes means planning your creature’s movements and preparing your dungeon, it can really keep you on your toes, especially in the later campaign missions, and despite this ultimately being a repetitive set of tasks that change very little each mission, it rarely feels like it due to how much fun it is.

The campaign balances the difficulty brilliantly and dishes out new features at a nice pace. You’re never overwhelmed with new things to figure out and mastering the basics comes naturally as you re-build your dungeon, manage the upgrade web, and fight heroes each mission. In fact the repetition helps to reinforce good tactics and building strategies. It all feels very intuitive.

Unfortunately, there are a few issues that can ruin the fun a bit. The occasional bug when using menus can result in those menus not popping up. Meanwhile, path finding is often terrible, especially in the overworld with large groups of creatures. Finally, the framerate takes a pretty big hit when dealing with a lot of creatures and heroes at once. However, these issues are only minor nuisances to an otherwise excellent game.

With its 20 mission campaign, and with each mission taking 30 minutes to an hour to complete on average, there’s a huge amount of playtime here. And with skirmish and multiplayer options to satisfy your dungeon building needs even further, there’s plenty here to keep you occupied once the story has wrapped. The technical issues are a blemish but ones that can be easily forgiven thanks to how much fun it is and how delightful it is to play a dungeon management game that takes the best of Dungeon Keeper and injects some fresh ideas into the mix.

Thanks to Xbox and Kalypso Media for supporting TiX

Project Cars 2 review

The racing genre is nowhere near as saturated as it used to be, at least in regards to the sheer amount of titles out there. However, finding a gap within the genre to focus on is more difficult than ever, with the majority of racing titles covering every aspect of racing so thoroughly as to narrow or entirely eliminate most gaps. Project Cars 2 has therefore concentrated on delivering a true simulation for players to enjoy; covering a large variety of different disciplines but keeping the experience as realistic as possible. Still, the competition is strong and the timing of Project Cars 2’s release may limit its overall appeal.

Indeed, Project Cars 2 improves on the original by stepping up its realism to an impressive level. The huge variety and amount of cars each offer a unique set of handling challenges to master, making every aspect of a race a thoughtful endeavour. Simply pulling away from the starting grid requires forethought: do you gun it or ease into it? Where’s the sweet spot for traction and acceleration? What’s the turning circle like at different speeds? How does the weather affect the handling? All of these questions are thrown at you. You are driving in a simulation of immense realism and it therefore requires deep consideration.

It’s exhilarating stuff. There’s a mastery to conquer for each car and for each discipline that keeps you busy and engaged for countless hours. Learning how to drive through streets is a very different lesson to driving on a raceway, even if the cars are the same. Meanwhile, rally driving, etc. offer entirely different challenges for you to suss out. There’s so many things to learn, and with Project Cars 2 offering such as a wealth of cars, tracks and disciplines, the potential fun is endless.

Of course, this fun is only the case if you’re a driving enthusiast. Project Cars 2 has a niche market in mind. If you own and regularly use a full steering wheel setup, then this is definitely the title for you, otherwise, this focus on simulation driving is going to frustrate you hugely.

It’s a fight from the very first race. The aforementioned wealth of things to learn is an overwhelming burden on the average player. You’ll spin out simply from trying to pull away quickly from the start. Meanwhile, the dynamic weather can turn a clear day, with favourable conditions that you’ve mastered well enough to finish in a respectable position, into a wet or cold day, sending you flying off the track due to a misjudged corner or overtake. It’s a punishing game where each overtake is hard fought, each corner is an obstacle to be studied, and your car’s handling is best analysed through experience. Indeed, if you mean to master Project Cars 2, it’ll cost you considerable patience and time.

However, for some this exhausting and comprehensive schooling will certainly be worth it. There aren’t many titles quite this dedicated out there right now, or indeed even planned for the future. This is a title that you might otherwise expect from Codemasters, for its excellent attention to realism and detail. And even the likes of the imminent Forza 7 can’t quite compete at this level of authenticity. But of course, this is also where Project Cars 2 is likely to fail. Forza 7 will be far more welcoming to all levels of racing players. Project Cars 2 is purposely niche, and so its player base is specific, and you may very well not be their target audience.

For those that do live and breathe driving; that own steering wheel setups that put their actual cars to shame, and for those that drive not only to compete for position but for the love of mastering the machines, then Project Cars 2 is right up your alley. Moreover, you’ll be able to enjoy a remarkably attractive simulator at that. The vehicle models are exceptionally well detailed and realised, with equally well imitated cockpits to boot. Meanwhile, excellent lighting and weather effects brings the terrific variety of tracks to life, whether they’re the real raceways or fabricated ones. Additionally, the engine sounds almost force you to bite your lip in anticipation for the horse power you have the privilege of driving. However, the AI does occasionally let it down, with some odd behaviour when cornering creating an, often comical, sense of unpredictability, as well as the AI switching suddenly between aggressive and passive driving styles. Otherwise, Project Cars 2 does a marvellous job visually and audibly, bringing the experience of driving these cars in these wonderful locations to your living room.

There’s also plenty you can do outside of racing. Tuning your cars to suit your driving style, the raceway, or the weather you’ll be fighting against, is a considerable pastime in itself. Fortunately is very easy to do, with everything explained to you in plain English. In fact, that’s something Project Cars 2 does very well: explaining things. Each new screen greets you with a short, narrated explanation to help you on your way, and thanks to a clean and accessible UI, you’ll be diving into the career or playing quick races offline or online, with tuned or stock cars, swiftly and without confusion.

Project Cars 2 is aimed squarely at driving simulation fans, to the point where playing it without a steering wheel setup feels somehow sacrilegious. And it recreates the thrill and expertise of driving super cars, rally cars, F1, and multiple other disinclines exceptionally well. It is, however, also a difficult game to play, highly inaccessible to those less practiced with simulation driving. Meanwhile, Forza 7 is also about to be released, a title that will feature many of Project Cars 2’s strongest features with added accessibly, making this already niche title an even harder sell. If you’re a driving sim nut, then don’t hesitate to pick up Project Cars 2, otherwise, best stay clear.

Thanks to Xbox and Bandai Namco for supporting TiX

Graveyard Keeper announced

In the mood for a humorous, pixel art, medieval cemetery management sim? Then Graveyard Keeper could be for you.

Coming out later this year on Xbox One, Graveyard Keeper lets you build and manage your own graveyard while finding shortcuts to cut costs, expand into entertainment with witch-burning festivals, and scare nearby villagers into attending church. This is a game of capitalism and doing whatever it takes to build a thriving business.

Airport Architect coming to Xbox One in 2017

UIG Entertainment have today announced that their forthcoming management simulation title, Airport Architect, will be coming to Xbox One in early spring of 2017.

Airport Architect is a casual simulation game with a unique art style challenging you to construct, design and manage your very own personalized airport. Offering advanced and realistic simulation features, your task is to create an international multi-terminal airport catering to numerous agencies accommodating millions of passengers.

Real airport designs are included as starter-kits, such as LAX, VIE and LHR. Or you can craft your very own airport from scratch using the large number of interior and exterior items included with the game. Hangars, airstrips, control towers and airport vehicles and planes are just the beginning.

Dovetail Games Euro Fishing review

Dovetail Games Euro Fishing is another simulation title from the makers of Train Simulator, offering a digital facsimile of lake fishing that’s far more realistic than the majority of other fishing titles currently available. However, does its authenticity damage its enjoyment?

It will for some, Euro Fishing’s recreates the experience of fishing realistically enough so to make it unappealing to those not enamoured by the sport. However, if you’re looking for some out of season fishing or don’t fancy the weather outside, Euro Fishing is sure to provide a great substitution.

A comprehensive tutorial offers an accessible, multi-stage set of lessons to teach you not only the mechanics of the game but also the tricks involved in the real thing, introducing you to bait and float types, showing you how to cast your line, and educating you on what to look out for and how to best reel in those precious fish.

Dovetail Euro Fishing 1

Meanwhile, outside of the tutorial you have the choice of singleplayer fishing against the AI in all manner of tournaments or overcoming challenges, free fishing simply for the fun of it, and an online offering allowing you to competitively fish against your friends or in tournaments against the wider player-base.

It appears to be a fairly barebones set of options but what’s here encapsulates the sport of lake fishing nicely. There are five real-world lakes to fish in: The Observatory, L’arène, Digger Lake, St John’s Lake, and Presa Del Monte Bravo. Meanwhile, seven species of fish – Roach, Bream, Tench, Common Carp, Mirror Carp, Leather Carp and the Wels Catfish – test your skills and wits. And indeed this simulator truly does test your abilities. Casting to the right area of a lake, baiting your hook with the right bait, fighting the fish should you be lucky enough to get a bite, picking the right peg to cast from, and managing multiple rods at the same time, all require some thoughtful preparation and strategy for you to find any success. As such it’s a remarkably competent simulation.

Dovetail Euro Fishing 2

However, some issues do damage the enjoyment and sense of realism. Lengthy load times are frustrating and it’s common for the camera to be obstructed each time it tries to celebrate a fish you’ve caught with a panning shot. Meanwhile, a lack of fine details makes the environments look overly bright and gamey. However, the gamification with the named ‘boss fishes’ which are highly prized but difficult fish to catch, is a nice touch, and if the tricky, analogue stick realistic casting gets on your nerves it can be changed to a more arcadey button pressing option.

It’s disappointing that your fishing antics are restricted to lakes and only seven species of fish, but it’s a strong foundation for more content in either DLC or a sequel. It’s certainly a bit of a niche title but one that caters to its audience splendidly. If you’re a keen fisher then Dovetail Games Euro Fishing is going to suit you wonderfully, if fishing isn’t really your thing, then you’ll find this too weighted toward simulation to enjoy.

Thanks to Xbox and Dovetail Games for supporting TiX

Prison Architect preview program review

Don’t let the aesthetics fool you, Prison Architect may look jolly and light hearted but there’s some dark storytelling and concepts explored here. It’s a bit tonally inconsistent but certainly proves to be a fun and fascinating management game.

In Prison Architect you, unsurprisingly, build and manage prisons. This involves building cells, offices, power rooms, showers, execution chambers and every other structure within the prison; as well as ensuring the facility is powered, has running water, and that each room is equipped and furnished. This is alongside managing your budget, researching and implementing programs to help rehabilitate and care for your inmates, hiring guards, quelling riots, searching cells and plenty more. It’s a comprehensive management game that covers every aspect of running a prison.

This can be overwhelming, and if you jump straight into the sandbox mode you’ll struggle to make progress. However, jump in to Prison Stories and you’ll be eased in with a set of narrative driven tutorials that teach you how to build and run a prison. These tutorials follow a connected story told over multiple parts and quickly introduce you to the darker side of this management title, exploring prisons in a surprisingly in-depth way.

Prison Architect 1

Prison Architect often throws its darker side to the forefront, with each inmate possessing a unique rap sheet and set of requirements that would best suit them during their incarceration. And with riots, prison violence, and death row inmates, you’re often put in the position of executing prisoners, placing them in solitary, turning out their cells, and even authorising lethal force to maintain control. Additionally, as your prison grows and the budget tightens, you’re forced to make decisions on how to manage what you offer your inmates; making decisions on what, if any, programs you support to help rehabilitate and care for them. It’s an involved management title that interestingly explores how easy it is for a person to become a number.

In addition to Prison Stories and the sandbox mode, you can also jump in and manage pre-built prisons, if you don’t fancy building one from scratch. Currently ten pre-built prisons are available to manage, but the World of Wardens mode is due to be updated in the near future with the ability to submit prisons of your own creation as well as play those built by other players.

Prison Architect 2

With the tutorial under your belt, running, building and upgrading prisons becomes fairly intuitive and engaging; there’s always something to aim for and do and the prisoners are intractable enough to encourage your vigilance in keeping on top of things. However, there are a few bugs present that can break your immersion, such as audio cutting out and workers getting stuck and being unable to complete construction. Of course this is still in the Preview Program, so the odd bug is to be expected.

Indeed Prison Architect is a fun and engrossing management title, one that explores the concept of prison life in a deeper way than you may expect. The tone feels a little ‘off’ due to the cartoon aesthetic but despite the darker side there’s still a great deal of fun to be had managing the many aspects of a prison. I can’t wait to see the full release this spring.

Thanks to Xbox and Double Eleven for supporting TiX

Constructor HD coming next year

Cast your minds back 18 years and you might recall a city building management game created by System 3 called Constructor. It was a popular title, especially on PC, with a wonderfully unique personality that set it apart from the likes of Sim City.

Well next year, the long rumoured Constructor HD will see a release, and it’ll be hitting Xbox One.

Back in the day, the PlayStation release saw a lot of compromises to get the title to work on the platform. The PC version’s online features weren’t present, the visuals were knocked down slightly, loading was lengthy, and the save file filled an entire memory card. These are issues we won’t be seeing with Constructor HD, hopefully.

Tropico 5 confirmed for Xbox One

Fans of the highly acclaimed dictator sim, and its bearded despot, can celebrate as Topico 5 is due to launch on the Xbox One in spring 2016

Launching with the full version of the game, as well as the Bayo del Ofato, Big Cheese, Mad World, Generalissimo, and Joint Adventure add ons, and the first expansion, Waterborne.

Xbox One dictators will also receive five new exclusive Xbox One sandbox maps, as well as a new controller-optimised interface, and, naturally, Xbox Live achievements.

For more information, and to keep updated with the development of Tropico 5 on Xbox One, visit their website.

Goat Simulator review

Goat Simulator may only be a physic playground, but it’s not as aimless as it first seems. There are dozens of optional objectives to complete that run the gamut from running up the sides of buildings, to staying in the air for a certain amount of time. And as you go about completing them, exploring the two areas – Goatville and Goat City Bay – for opportunities to conquer the objectives and hunting that precious 1,000 Gamerscore, you’ll also discover secret areas, odd occurrences, millions of glitches and bugs, and plenty of referential humour, these will distract you, and before you know it hours will have passed, and you’ve experienced nothing but hilarious, tear inducing fun.

Indeed ‘playground’ is certainly the appropriate word for describing Goat Simulator. Each area is full of equipment, buildings, people, and vehicles to distract you and have fun with, whether that’s ramming and kicking people metres into the air for sport, trying to ride skateboards and bikes, or defying gravity by running up walls and sailing through the air. Add a few glitches to your activities and the fun multiplies, but there’s so much more than just a few glitches.

Goat Sim 1

Water transubstantiates between liquid, solid and gas, resulting in peculiar physics as you frequently jump off the surface or trot unabated on the ocean floor. Meanwhile, you tongue can latch onto almost anything and stretch seemingly infinitely, and on occasion the rest of your head will follow suit. Furthermore, random glitches can occur, such as you embedding yourself in a structure. It’s fantastically absurd. Wonderfully, the developers, Coffee Stain Studios, won’t be fixing any of these bugs either, just the game breaking ones, instead they label them as features, and features they certainly are, ones that make an amusing title downright hilarious.

If you crave structure, however, Goat Simulator isn’t for you. The many objectives serve the greater goal of scoring points, and that’s it. Multipliers accumulate and increase your scoring if you destroy objects and perform pretty much any action during the generous multiplier windows, causing your score to skyrocket – much like your goat when the physics glitch out and gravity forgets what it’s supposed to do for a living. It’s very similar to playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on endless mode; in fact some skating ramps and similar features are strewn across the map, along with skateboards you can hilariously ride. Additionally, everywhere you turn there’s something to do, somewhere to explore, or some joke to put a smile on your face, and you don’t need a skateboard to pull off some spectacular tricks, gain some speed, jump and press the flip button to back or forward flip, or press the ragdoll button and watch your body flop around the environment. There’s a wealth of delight to be found in the simplest actions thanks to the physics.

Goat Sim 3

And that’s where Goat Simulator generates its fun: from the highly amusing, downright silly construction of the entire experience. It’s emergent gameplay at its purest, requiring you to make your own fun, and there’s an abundance of tools lying around waiting for you to interact with them that are brilliant at providing just that. Additionally, mutators can be unlocked and activated that modify your goat, such as a deadmau5 head that makes pedestrians dance at the press of a button, and plenty more for you to experiment with. However, you can burn out on the experience in longer play sessions. Go into Goat Simulator meaning to spend a couple of hours absorbing its stupidity and the fun can wear out, mean to go in for just a 10 minute mess about as dinner cooks, and expect a severely burnt meal as hours pass. Goat Simulator’s silliness is compelling when you’re aimlessly interacting with the world, but far less so when you’re more focused on achieving specific things. This can work against the list of objectives, especially so on the stiffer challenges.

The addition of four player local multiplayer easily alleviates any boredom, as bringing friends to the craziness enhances the fun tremendously. There are competitive challenges you can get involved with, such as races and score objectives, but the more structured setups feel incongruous to the rest of the experience and lacks the same fun. Creating your own challenges through emergent play, embracing the glitches and silliness, soon leads to ecstatic laughing.

Goat Sim 2

Goat Simulator is purposely broken, the glitches are left in because they are funny to see and experience, because a physics playground where the physics are fluid and inconsistent introduces a compelling chaos that’s easy to enjoy. Four player is insane and brilliant. Blowing up gas tanks that propel you through the air, latching your tongue to pedestrians and dragging them up to a pentagram to be sacrificed, climbing up a crane and pushing an unsuspecting person off the top – whatever it is you end up doing in Goat Simulator, you’ll have a laugh and a lot of fun doing it. However, its lack of structure means your mileage with it depends on how you engage with its brand of humour and craziness.

Thanks to Coffee Stain Studios for supplying TiX with a download code

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