Music Racer Mobile Review

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Developer: AbstractArt; Released: December 26th, 2017

Reviewed on: Razer Phone, Android

Google Play

Racing games based on music-generated tracks aren’t entirely new to the gaming landscape, although that doesn’t make quality releases any less interesting. The most notable title that comes to mind is Audiosurf, which existed on PC since 2009 and proved successful enough that it spawned a sequel. On the mobile platform, however, if there were any similar games in the past, they were mostly low-quality clones that didn’t offer any interesting elements. And with a huge music library I carry on my phone compared to either my computer or laptop, I’ve been long wishing for something to come along I could compare to the quality of Audiosurf. Having tried Music Racer, which gets straight to the point with its name, there is finally a game on my phone where I can race tracks generated by my extensive music library. While the game is pretty straightforward, and most could consider it as another Audiosurf clone with similar mechanics, the quality of this release makes it worth discussing on its own. With a diverse selection of cars and track designs, powered by a decently good music track generator, Music Racer delivers a satisfying experience that’s well worth checking out, especially at its free price.

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The setup of Music Racer is simple: choose your car, choose the design of track and finally, load up whichever song you like from your music library. From there on, the game generates a racing stage to match the pacing of a particular song. It isn’t the most impressive track creator when compared to likes of Audiosurf, but showcases impressive song matching  for a mobile release. It is frankly impossible to avoid comparisons here as Music Racer takes extensive inspiration and design clues from Audiosurf, however as I want to point out, this isn’t a bad design direction. Racing speed varies depending on how fast a song is, and varies throughout any level to match highs and lows, as well as fast and slow points. To make the experience more interesting, players would collect points between the three linear lines set across a track. Apart from point collection, one has to avoid numerous obstacles that reset the score multiplier, and hitting too many can reset the score. Music Racer isn’t complex in its design nature, but using own songs makes for an engaging experience, even if you’ll be playing the game in short bursts at a time.

Collected points serve as a form of currency to unlock further race tracks and a decent variety of vehicles, which I found to be a nice touch as it keeps players engaged for the time it takes to unlock everything. This also provides ample diversity to the game experience, as race tracks feature different designs, even if they follow the same futuristic theme. With only three race modes to choose from, Music Racer greatly benefits from having different rides and stage designs. The Free mode exists simply for the enjoyment of user songs, while showcasing the game’s strong design. Normal is what most would be playing to progress through unlocking all of the game’s stages and cars, whereas Hard is the same experience but features quicker speeds and an increase in obstacles. Neither of the three are significantly diverse from one another, and Free mode isn’t worth paying much attention to as it doesn’t earn any points. While I would have liked to see some diversity in actual racing, the urge to unlock all stages and cars is strong enough to engage players for a while. As I’ve mentioned before, this will probably be a game best played in short bursts rather than over long sessions.

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A neat feature I found is how Music Racer shows progress in a song through an advancing white bar over the song title. I imagine most won’t need to be reminded how far along they’re into a song, but useful over long music tracks. Built with the Unity engine, the game’s graphics actually look really great for a small download that Music Racer is, with detailed models and diverse vibrant colors. Some track designs do lack legibility, however, especially those created with dark shades, which makes them worth trying out just once and then abandoning altogether. Most of the game’s car selection is modeled after real-world vehicles, although there are a few oddballs like a racing bike and what I can only assume is a flying mechanical bird or dragon. The garage is fairly diverse, and vehicles feature some nice effects matching their color scheme. Among the standout visual designs is your ride breaking into a million tiny pieces when hitting an obstacle, and then forming back together within milliseconds. Music Racer also boasts a good amount of visual options to make the game playable on lower-end smartphones, as well as giving the ability  to disable some visual effects to decrease strain on the eyes. There is a lot to like about visuals, and diversity helps to make the game as enjoyable as it currently is.

There is a small flaw to point out, however, and that is the presence of ads. These aren’t frequent, and don’t intrude on the gameplay whatsoever, which makes these ads a very minor issue. I applaud the developers for placing ads after a race and sometimes in the menu screens, as it would make the game a disaster otherwise, if the ads infringed onto the racing itself. Given the game’s free-to-play download, the ads are forgivable, however I would personally prefer to pay a few dollars to the developer and purchase a non-ad version. While this doesn’t appear to be an option at the moment, it’s something many would like to be implemented as well, based on Google Play Store reviews. The ads that play after each race are optional when taking a closer look, and players can choose whether to watch a 30-second ad for a small currency reward, or skip it altogether. This smart implementation of ads stands out given how most free mobile titles jam them in wherever they please. Overall, ads aren’t a big issue in Music Racer, but I would like to see the developer implement a paid version without any ads at all.

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Music Racer is a fun driving experience, allowing players to use songs from their music library to generate a racing track, with a music background to listen to. With this title, the mobile platform has a contender to match the unique setup of Audiosurf on the PC platform. As most have larger music libraries on their phones than on computers, this is a great game to play in short bursts while on the bus or waiting somewhere. With impressive visuals for its small size, and the experience available entirely offline, Music Racer’s quality is comparable to, if not better than many racing games on the platform, even those that come from big name publishers. If the design idea here appeals to you, I can definitely recommend Music Racer to many, and it’s free download doesn’t require any purchase whatsoever, even if presence of ads makes me wish for a premium paid version.

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Resident Evil 7 Review – Return to Survival Horror roots

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Developer, Publisher: Capcom

Released: January 24th, 2017; Review Platform: PC

System Specs: Intel Core i5-6500 3.2GHz, 16GB DDR4 RAM, Gigabyte GTX 1070 8GB

 

Unlike its recent predecessors, Resident Evil 7 is a truly horrifying game experience. By reintroducing survival horror gameplay into its stale series, Capcom brought back the things everyone loved about the series in the first place. However, to adapt to modern horror tropes, Resident Evil 7 features a first-person perspective that brings it closer to likes of Outlast and Amnesia. While it does take some inspiration out of those, the game also sets itself apart by handing players guns to remove the feel of playing hide and seek for hours on. And unlike the action-oriented RE5 & 6, the 7th installment doesn’t shower you with loads of ammo and explosives, which here are very scarce. With twisted villains that are not only terrifying, but also very dangerous, I always felt on edge crawling through sprawling locations and scavenging for any bits of ammo I could find. Resident Evil 7 ultimately returns to survival horror roots and is both the best Resident Evil game by far and one of the greatest entries in the survival horror genre.

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First appearances are usually deceiving

One of the game’s major highlights is the first-person perspective, which brings out the best in the atmosphere and art design. Resident Evil 7 is very grim, and it’s creepy locations are filled with various traps and enemy encounters. While new to the series, the first-person view is a very welcome change of pacing, especially given how well it integrates into the Resident Evil formula. If you own a Virtual Reality headset, the VR Edition is the best way to go, however is not necessary to fully enjoy the title. Even if you play it on a regular screen, Resident Evil 7 packs in enough visceral animations and creepy tension to unnerve even the most resilient. The sight of your protagonist getting his leg cut off with a chainsaw, for example, is one of the most brutal scenes in horror gaming, and that’s only one of many.

Set in rural Louisiana, Resident Evil 7’s setting is unnerving from the moment you get there. With seemingly abandoned houses that you soon learn are not quite empty, the atmosphere is very grim. Developers paid particular attention to level design, which shines at every step with environments filled with incredible detail. Resident Evil 7 also brings back the series’ focus on exploration, with supplies scattered throughout and some emphasis on puzzle solving. The latter aren’t particularly inspiring to those who love RE 1 just for those, but are fun in their own way, even if simple. As there are countless challenges to face getting to particular keys or items, solving those is not exactly a walk in the park.

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Ethan, why did you not bring a weapon with you in the first place?

The plot is established as something entirely new for the series, however features some subtle references from the overarching Resident Evil universe. I appreciated having an entirely different protagonist from the rest of the series, even if Resident Evil is not a franchise I got into until recently. Ethan Winters doesn’t have military training or troops at his disposal, and ventures out to the Baker mansion simply for reasons to find his wife. Missing for three years, she sends out a video message to Ethan warning him to never look for her. While his ignorance of the warning may seem like a bad starting point for the plot, especially given how he goes there without any means of self-defence, it transitions well into a much bigger story. Without spoiling further, I’d point out that the story is very much worth paying attention to. Long time fans of the series would also appreciate game design references, where the Baker property itself is fairly similar to the Spencer mansion of the very first game.

The members of the Baker family that oppose the journey of your protagonist Ethan Winters are twisted beyond measure. Their introduction scene is one of the best in gaming at setting up villains, and each is absolutely out to get you. Jack Baker, who I almost believed could never be killed, follows you whenever you go in the introductory act and takes up a third of the game with some of the best moments. Just when you think he is gone, he shows up again at most unpredictable moments, and getting rid of him is beyond satisfying. Then there’s Marguerite, who unleashed deadly swarms of bees. Lucas, who sets up wicked traps to challenge players beyond logical measure, rounds off the act and is deadly in his own way. The game feels noticeably weaker in its latter third when you deal with the Baker family, which is somewhat of a shame as they are a major highlight.

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Jack Baker wouldn’t care its his own son’s hand he’s cutting off

While Resident Evil 7 provides plenty of weapons to deal with enemy threats, I never once felt overpowered in my playthrough. Ammo is very scarce , and bosses are heavily resilient to damage, which makes enemy encounters intense. To fill the gaps between villains, Resident Evil 7 brings in standard enemies, which aren’t particularly inspiring in their motions, or scary. In latter part, they feel like a design drag and the game tends to stumble at overloading you with ammo as well. While having guns in your arsenal doesn’t particularly provide for a sense of security, they are a great mechanic to have. In the genre full of games that don’t provide players with the means of defence, Resident Evil 7 strongly succeeds. It could have been tempting for developers to overload players with guns and ammo, their limited use doesn’t ruin the pacing by any stretch.

Exploring RE 7’s locations is an experience filled with tension throughout the 25 hours it took me to complete the story. Without ever forcing jump scares onto players, the game’s pacing is ideal for survival horror titles. Enemy encounters are frequently broken up by exploration of both it’s indoor and outdoor locations. While running into foes rarely took me by surprise, other interactive elements provided for some spectacular horror moments. To flesh out some of the backstory, and also aid in discovering clues, are videotapes hidden in a few spots. These not only allow to progress through certain sections, but also feature some intense moments. Without wishing to spoil, I found these to portray some gruesome and surprising moments, which enhanced the experience further. For exploration purists, Resident Evil 7 features coins as a certain form of currency, which are few in the game, but unlock some high-end weapons and upgrades. Finally, the checkpoint system is very similar to that of Alien: Isolation, where players can only save during certain points in the game. This necessitates careful exploration as the protagonist is still very fragile.

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Limited inventory makes item choices meaningful

Resident Evil 7 is an excellent addition to the long-running survival horror series, and brings the experience back around to the “horror” part. While aside from the first-person view it doesn’t deliver anything we haven’t seen from the series, it is a much needed departure from the few recent titles in the Resident Evil universe. An emphasis on limited supplies and careful exploration keeps players on edge, and the game is packed with terrifying sequences throughout the entire campaign. This isn’t just a hide-and-seek affair either, as Resident Evil 7 features guns to help you progress, however these never ruin the pacing due to ammo scarcity. A decent variety in those also allows to experiment over multiple playthroughs, and the game is one of the best horror experiences to keep coming back for more. If you somehow haven’t picked this title up yet, I’d encourage doing so, as Resident Evil 7 ranks among the best horror games currently on the market. It is also the best Resident Evil game by far, and offers a welcome change in perspective, as well as a good departure from the action-focused 5th and 6th entries.

Dying Light: The Following Review – Improved Zombie Slaughter

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Dying Light: The Following sets an example of how game expansions should be done, and almost feels like a proper sequel rather than DLC content. Set in the outlying countryside of Harran, it provides a vast landscape entirely different from dense urban regions of the city. With vast stretches of open road, the expansion leans on its newly introduced vehicle gameplay, which sets it apart from main game’s parkour-focused action. Players are free to jump into it at any point in time, as The Following is accessible from the main menu screen, however I’d recommend diving into it at least halfway through Dying Light. Progression carries completely over, so time investment in the main game pays off, and provides you with better equipment and skills. With addition of the buggy, The Following integrates well into the existing framework, and new elements feel like they’ve always existed in the first place. An interesting plot and a vast open world set the back tone for this expansion, which proves to be an excellent improvement over the main game’s central mechanics. With a diverse set of additions, this expansion is worth taking a look if you enjoyed Dying Light’s diverse set of action and survival mechanics.

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