Review of HunieCam Studio

huniecamstudio

One of last year’s biggest video game surprises would have to be HuniePop, a Kickstarter funded project that is part puzzler and part dating sim. According to my Steam profile statistics, the game kept me entertained for an impressive forty hours. When the time came to review HuniePop I ended up awarding it five stars, earning it a honourable mention in my Top 5 Games of 2015. What can I say? I’m a sucker for addictive match three brainteasers… and the opportunity to bang attractive 2D women was rather stimulating too. After finding success with their raunchy Candy Crush clone, developer HuniePot next set their sights on injecting sexiness into the clicker/time management genre. The end result of their efforts is HunieCam Studio.

OVERVIEW

HunieCam Studio is the perfect title for anyone who has ever fantasized about making it rich within the adult entertainment industry. Players take control of a fledgling cam girl studio and are set the target of amassing a fortune within the space of three weeks. Starting your X-Rated empire begins with hiring some webcam models (whose ranks include familiar faces from HuniePop) and sending them to the studio, where they pose in front of online perverts. Once the show ends you get to bag the donations made by your sleazy patrons. In true clicker fashion, the process can be sped up by furiously tapping on the map’s studio icon. Alternatively you can accelerate things by pressing down on the studio portrait. I prefer the second method, as it is less strenuous on my finger. Enjoying HuniePop gave me a sprained wrist so I’d rather not suffer arthritis too.

The amount of income your contracted porn stars generate is dependent on their style and talent ratings. Style influences how many fans a cam girl can attract and is bolstered by visiting the nearby boutique. On the flip side talent determines how much cash a particular girl makes per recording session. If you wish to augment a girl’s skill in this field she will need to practice her techniques at the local strip club. Oh dear, her parents must be so ashamed… just like mine will be when they discover the type of games I am into! Other things worth considering, when living the life of a pornography mogul, are the happiness levels of your staff. Stockpiles of tobacco and booze need to be maintained to keep your workers happy. Paid trips to the spa are also mandatory to recover from fatigue… who knew that lying on your back all day could be so exhausting?

VERDICT

My rating for HunieCam Studio is three stars. It’s easily the best clicker game I have ever tried, as the twenty-one day deadline forces players to strategize rather than gormlessly watch numbers go up. Securing a big enough audience, to earn the game’s phallus shaped diamond trophy, will require that you aggressively expand your business. Mismanagement can however result in bankruptcy given that the cost of advertising and wages can quickly spiral out of control. When pursuing profit you’ll quickly have to assess the pros and cons of each revenue stream. Is turning one of your gals into an escort worth it? There’s good money to be made via prostitution, but be aware that you may lose a worker if your employee beds Charlie Sheen and ends up contracting AIDS.

Although I enjoyed playing HunieCam Studio it’s unlikely to keep my attention for the same amount of time that HuniePop did. Once you suss out a winning strategy the game begins to lose much of its appeal. Trying to beat your personal best score is fun for a while, but after finishing a few playthroughs (a three week campaign takes just two hours to complete) I did begin to tire of the constant repetition. On the visual side of things I must also say that I much prefer the art style of HuniePot’s previous release. Overall however I can still recommend this download to clicker fans and anyone who found HuniePop to be charming. Given that the title retails for a meagre seven euros I wouldn’t worry too much about HunieCam’s limited longevity. Needless to say I look forward to seeing what type of casual game HuniePot tackles next. If they are open to suggestions I vote for an erotic tower defence.

Stories: The Path of Destinies Review

storiespath

Gamers who only purchase physical releases are really missing out. Downloading stuff online is great, as it spares you the inconvenience of going outside to buy entertainment. The PSN store also contains some brilliant indie titles, which are not sold in retail outlets – case in point Stories: The Path of Destinies from Montreal based developer Spearhead Games. This swashbuckling adventure stars an anthropomorphic fox named Reynardo who, aside from having the moniker one would associate with a Brazilian soccer player, is a former sky pirate. Players control the bushy tailed hero in his battle versus a crazed amphibian emperor and his army of humanoid ravens.

OVERVIEW

Stories: The Path of Destinies is an isometric action RPG, which has the aesthetics of a Diablo game and the combat system of a Rocksteady Caped Crusader title. Each level sees Reynardo swing over pitfalls, sneak past mechanical eyeballs and solve the occasional lever themed puzzle. At various points during each stage Reynardo will be confronted by the emperor’s feathery minions, which he must dispatch using an assortment of magical blades and his trusty hook shot. Stories’ combat isn’t too difficult, even if Reynardo is usually outnumbered, as enemy attacks are preceded by an exclamation mark appearing over their noggins. Press square when said punctuation mark materializes and Reynardo will perform a flashy counter attack faster than you can say “I’m Batman.”

How much experience one earns from battle is determined by how many unanswered sword swipes Reynardo dishes out. In general, lengthier combos equal more exp. Once enough experience has been accumulated Reynardo will be rewarded with a skill point, which can be invested into unlocking new abilities (more health, faster running speed, enhanced hook shot versatility, smellier farts… okay I made that last one up.) Bonuses can also be bestowed upon the one eyed fox by equipping enchanted gems. Additionally, Reynardo can use the ore he collects during his travels to fabricate magic swords. Each weapon possesses a unique trait (can restore health or set opponents ablaze for example) and act as keys that unlock doors leading to secret areas.

VERDICT

My rating for Stories: The Path of Destinies is four stars. I wasn’t expecting much from this game, given the generic title and my natural aversion to furries, but in the end I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun it was to play. Only a few technical hiccups impede me from rewarding Spearhead’s work with a higher score. The bugs in question include a few instances were the frame rate stutters more than Hugh Grant and two occasions were I had to restart a level, after suffering a glitch that caused Reynardo to get stuck on a piece of scenery. Luckily I didn’t have to backtrack much, as the game uses an auto-save feature and each stage is relatively short (in total a five chapter run only takes around an hour to finish.)

The aspects I enjoyed most about Path of Destinies would have to be the voice work and the multiple endings on offer. One sole actor is responsible for masterfully delivering all of the script’s dialogue. He narrates the cut scenes, voices every character and even chimes in with witty quips during gameplay. His performance never got stale, which is saying a lot given that viewing the twenty plus endings will require numerous playthroughs. What finale you get is determined by the “choose your own adventure” like decisions made in-between levels. Hmmm, that plot-altering mechanic may explain why I enjoyed Stories: The Path of Destinies so much. In a way, playing this reminded me a little of the excellent Lone Wolf novels… only that in this tale you control a Lone Fox.

Review of Oreimo (Season Two)

oreimo2

Two months after its UK release, I finally got round to watching the second season of Oreimo. Some readers warned me to avoid MVM Entertainment’s disappointing series two collection, but I couldn’t resist after thoroughly enjoying the previous instalment. Known in Japan as Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute) I was impressed by how the first DVD’s sixteen episodes panned out. The show’s title suggests an incestuous sleaze fest, but what we got instead was a heart-warming tale about two siblings who repair their fractured relationship through the joys of visual novels. Season one was excellent, but having watched the sequel I can certainly see why series two is much maligned. Not since the Usagi Drop manga have I seen a sweet story take such an unsavoury turn.

OVERVIEW

Oreimo season two begins with Kirino Kosaka reacclimatizing to life in Japan, after big brother Kyosuke convinced the fleet of foot teen to abandon her stateside track & field aspirations. Back home, Kirino once again finds herself struggling to juggle the dual-life of a popular model and a hardcore otaku. Thankfully for her Kyosuke is always close by, willing to lend a hand – whether it’s helping sis wean off an addictive mobile game or masquerading as a boyfriend (to deter talent agencies from relocating Miss Kosaka away from home.) Much like in the premier series, the stories on offer contain a nice mix of comedy and drama. Complementing the humorous episodes is a couple of tender flashbacks, which explain the motivations behind Kirino’s love of running and how her chum Saori Makishima overcame shyness. Just like Kirino, Saori can attribute her personal growth to a helpful older sibling.

In my opinion Oreimo season two starts well enough, with episodes matching the quality of its predecessor. Once the halfway mark is breached however things begin to turn sour. Many of the elements that made the show popular are replaced with a generic harem yarn revolving around Kyosuke. Gothic lolita Kuroneko, girl next-door Manami Tamura and tsundere pinup Ayase Aragaki begin to compete for the protagonist’s affections (the latter is unexpected given that Ayase spends most of the series pummelling Kyosuke’s face.) As far as surprises go Ayase’s change of heart is nothing compared to the identity of Kyosuke’s fourth suitor…. one Kirino Kosaka! The connoisseur of brother x sister eroge could possibly turn her fantasies into reality. If she really is into that sort of thing Kirino should have stayed in the US, as I hear that rednecks are agreeable to inter-family nuptials.

VERDICT

My rating for Oreimo season two is three stars. Had I watched the DVDs with no prior knowledge of what was about to transpire I might have detested the series, so thank goodness for the naysayers. All the negative reviews helped me extrapolate how the story would play out. With my expectations suitably lowered I was able to enjoy the good parts of season two and not dwell too much on its flaws. Given the choice however I would have preferred to play the Oreimo PSP games over watching this anime adaptation. A visual novel, where you can manipulate who Kyosuke hooks up with, would circumvent the disappointment one feels whenever your ship doesn’t win the romance harem war. I also understand that in the handheld game Kyosuke and Kirino are not blood related, which softness the discomfort some may feel about incestuous love stories.

Looking back at the thirteen episodes and final three OVAs I can certainly see why Oreimo’s conclusion received so much ire. On multiple occasions author Tsukasa Fushimi teases his audience with the romances they have all been baying for, only to then abort the storyline twenty minutes later. The ending is also rather unsatisfying. It felt like the writer jettisoned the idea he was building towards, at the eleventh hour, just to avoid controversy. The finale we get is however no more egregious than other examples I could cite. Cliffhangers and unresolved harem comedies (were the hero never commits to one girl) infuriate me far more. The biggest loser in Oreimo season two isn’t the viewer though, but Kyosuke. He sacrifices so much to appease his bratty sis and gets very little in return. In the grand scheme of things he would have led a much more peaceful life had his parents birthed a little brother instead.

Review of Broken Sword 5

brokensword5

A broken sword is ineffective at impaling enemies, but it does make for a fine point and click adventure. Yes, the folks at Revolution Software (whose previous work include the excellent Beneath a Steel Sky) are back for the fifth instalment of their best-known franchise. Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse sees the series awaken from a seven-year hibernation, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign and strong sales of the older titles on iOS devices. Split up into two episodes, this latest caper has Yankee lawyer George Stobbart reuniting with French reporter Nicole Collard in a case that shall push their puzzle solving wits to the limit.

OVERVIEW

Broken Sword 5 begins its tale at a Parisian gallery, which is presently displaying a piece of priceless artwork dubbed La Malediccio. When a pizza delivery guy arrives at the establishment it soon becomes apparent that something is wrong. Did the staff at Dominoes forget to add anchovies? Nope. It actually turns out that the cheesy snack is a Trojan Horse, which has allowed the chap carrying it to get through the front door. Once inside the bogus deliveryman pilfers La Malediccio right in front of George’s eyes. Given that the insurance company responsible for the painting employs George, our blonde protagonist now has the unenviable task of retrieving the stolen watercolour. Nico, sensing a scoop, decides to tag along for the ride. The pair’s journey will ultimately see them travel to London, Spain and even the Middle East.

Players expecting Day of the Tentacle‘s zaniness should brace themselves for a slow start, as Broken Sword 5 kicks things off with a slow paced whodunit grounded in reality. Much of the early game has you sifting for clues, making Serpent’s Curse feel like a handheld version of Hercule Poirot (the famous Belgian detective who balances a slug on his lip.) After a while the plot does liven up however, with the narrative transitioning from a crime investigation to an Indiana Jones like supernatural escapade. By the time episode two rolls along George and Nicole find themselves embroiled in a Gnostic conspiracy that could potentially culminate in Lucifer being crowned ruler of Earth. In case they fail let me hedge my bets by saying Hail Satan!

VERDICT

My rating for Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse is three stars. Revolution Software has succeeded in reviving the franchise with a solid point and click adventure, which is sure to impress connoisseurs of the genre. The brainteasers on offer start simple enough, but get progressively harder. Early on simply using an item in the right place or interacting with an eccentric NPC is all you need to solve a conundrum. Later on you’ll be expected to decode ciphers, manipulate switches and have knowledge of musical notes. At times it got too challenging for my feeble brain, so thank goodness for the in-built hint system. Sussing things out is a lot of fun, although my enjoyment was somewhat hampered by the clunky touch screen controls. Rubbing your finger across the Vita display gets tiresome after a while… especially if you loathe smudging your hardware.

I imagine that veteran Broken Sword players will love this latest game far more than I did, as the levels contain a number of cool call backs. Characters from earlier titles drop by, to make cameo appearances, including a certain horned nemesis (who some may recognize from The Infamous Goat Puzzle.) Long time fans are also sure to approve of the game’s aesthetics, which mark the return of traditional 2D visuals. The cell-shaded graphics superimposed over beautiful hand drawn backgrounds look gorgeous and on the presentation front I also have to praise the strong voice acting. It really enhances the witty dialogue; so much so that I would often offer my entire inventory to complete strangers, just to see how they would react. In case you are wondering… no, people are not generally fond of strong cologne or icky pet roaches.

Review of Brynhildr in the Darkness

brynhildr

Whilst perusing the list of freshly released UK anime titles Brynhildr in the Darkness caught my eye, as it is promoted with the blurb “from the creator of Elfen Lied.” I am a fan of Lynn Okamoto’s series because, much like Madoka Magica, it subverted my expectations. The cute character artwork belied the dark themes permeating through its narrative. If anything Elfen Lied’s subject matter was a little too macabre for some, resulting in negative reviews from squeamish critics (man up you pussies.) This time round Mr Okamoto has changed tact, hoping to appease the naysayers. What we get as a result is a show that recycles Elfen Lied’s ideas in a more presentable package. Scenes of tragedy and dismemberment may remain, but they ultimately play second fiddle to more palatable moments of harem hijinks (and shots of boobies.)

OVERVIEW

Brynhildr in the Darkness begins with astrology club president Ryouta Murakami crossing paths with a new transfer student named Neko Kuroha. When Neko introduces herself to the members of Ryouta’s class she catches the eye of the budding astronomer, as she strongly resembles one of his childhood friends (a deceased girl who tragically perished when a friendly game of “find the alien” culminated in her plummeting down from a dam.) Neko claims to have never met Ryouta, but does reluctantly admit to being a witch after she rescues Murakami from a mudslide via the use of supernatural powers. It appears that Neko has the ability to detonate objects from range, although the origins of her sorcery lie in science rather than magic – to be precise, the source of Neko’s talents emanate from a metal implant affixed to her neck.

It’s eventually revealed that Neko is one of many witches who fled from a laboratory, which was conducting cruel experiments on her. Other witches of note include Kuroha’s roommate Kana Tachibana, whose soothsaying skills come at the cost of her mobility. Kana’s paralysis prevents her from speaking, but she is still able to communicate through the use of a keypad. The pair sometime calls upon the services of Kazumi Schlierenzauer, whose bewitching gifts allow her to hack computers faster than Lizard Squad breaches Sony servers. A fourth escapee, named Kotori Takatori, who has an aptitude for teleportation eventually joins the aforementioned trio. For a while the gals enjoy their freedom with Ryouta, but it isn’t long before their former captors make an appearance. Keen to keep their research a secret, the lab dispatches rival witches to apprehend the absconders. In a battle of witch versus witch, who shall emerge triumphant?

VERDICT

My rating for Brynhildr in the Darkness is three and a half stars. As a fan of Elfen Lied it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I really enjoyed the series, even if Lynn Okamoto is guilty of repurposing the “chicks hunted by evil scientists” formula for a second successive time. On the plus side, out of the two shows, viewers who detest gore and bleakness may favour this tamer Elfen Lied clone. The gruesome deaths are less graphic and Ryouta/Neko are more amiable than their Elfen Lied counterparts. Overall Brynhildr is less difficult to watch, from an emotional standpoint, as the cast isn’t exclusively composed of characters suffering from psychological trauma. What the script suffers from however is a rushed finale that chooses to fast track the arrival of new enemies, the chief antagonist’s motivations and revelations about witch technology in the two last episodes.

A hurried conclusion isn’t the worst thing ever though. Brynhildr ends on a satisfactory (albeit bittersweet) note, which trumps the unresolved cliffhangers found in other shows. Based on this enjoyable adaptation I wouldn’t be averse to checking out the source material. I’m curious to see what occurs after the events of the anime and what was cut, given that eighty chapters worth of manga were condensed into thirteen episodes. Had the harem shenanigans been removed the plot could have been fleshed out more, but I honestly didn’t mind. Scenes of Kazumi flirting with Ryouta seem reasonable given her predicament. I can certainly see how a hormonal girl, with a limited lifespan, would be keen to lose her virginity. Unfortunately for her Ryouta spurns the opportunity to get laid in what must be Brynhildr’s most unrealistic moment… and that’s saying a lot from an anime featuring girls who can summon black holes!

Senran Kagura Estival Versus Review

senranestival

Thank goodness for the release of Senran Kagura Estival Versus. Just when I was starting to think that all developers had lost their integrity, with all the needless censorship being done to appease feminists, we finally get a game that bucks the trend of political correctness. For those of you unfamiliar with the franchise, Senran Kagura is the brainchild of creator Kenichiro Takaki – a genius who saw the potential of using the 3D display of Nintendo’s handheld to make the “assets” of his busty characters really pop out. I can’t wait to see what he has planned for the upcoming virtual reality headsets! Numerous sequels later (and with one million worldwide sales under its belt) the series finally makes its PS4 debut. Brace yourself for heaps of fan service, female ninja brawling and destructible clothing… because attire getting torn in combat is realistic, and not at all motivated by the desire to see teenagers in their underwear.

OVERVIEW

Estival Versus begins with everyone’s favourite cast of Shinobi students getting spirited away to a seaside resort. The sunny location, situated in an alternate dimension populated with ghosts, is playing host to the Shinobi Bon Dance – a martial arts contest where competitors vie for the Kagura title. Eager to sharpen their skills, in anticipation of an impending bout versus a monstrous Yoma, the heroines agree to participate in the tournament and use the downtime between duels to bond with the spirits of their departed relatives. Watching Ryobi and Ryona interact with their deceased sis was rather poignant, but if you detest tearjerkers fear not because levity is in plentiful supply. It’s hard not to grin at the onscreen nudity or the quirky subplots, which include the brewing of potions that turn consumers into masochists and the tale of an elder who partakes in some harmless groping after he takes possession of his granddaughter’s body.

Senran Kagura wouldn’t have attracted a following if bikinis and copious amounts of jiggling were all it had to offer. The reason why the series has prospered is due to the fun button-bashing gameplay. Combat is reminiscent to Dynasty Warriors, with players using combos to decimate hordes of enemies. Estival Versus may lack the strategic base capturing found in Dynasty Warriors, but on the plus side it is less linear than its predecessors. Exploration of levels is encouraged, because attaining the game’s entire collection of bonus content will require that players find a total of eighty elusive towers. Making a return in this sequel is the ability to transform. Unlocking special moves require that you swap a girl’s default school uniform for a kinky outfit. Alternatively you can activate Frantic Mode by stripping down to your undergarments. Shinobi unburdened by the weight of apparel will receive a boost to their speed and damage.

VERDICT

My rating for Senran Kagura Estival Versus is four and a half stars. It gets a better score than Shinovi Versus due to the refined battle system. At its core both titles are virtually identical, but Estival Versus edges things out thanks to the addition of AI companions and the ability to dash on walls. Another improvement I can cite is the superior range of power-ups that can be claimed from slain enemies. Aside from health restorative rice balls and mystical scrolls it is now possible to acquire bombs, which inflict status ailments on anyone standing within the explosive’s blast radius. Outside of combat Estival Versus boasts an extensive wardrobe of clothing and hairstyles. If you enjoy playing dress up it’s possible to remodel the girls to your liking and have them pose in dioramas. Your fashion works can be entered into online pageants or shared amongst your friends list (probably a bad idea, as it will expose to chums what a pervert you are.)

I am sure some critics will look at my score and scoff that it is too generous. Well, I care not one iota. If Street Fighter V can get glowing praise from some press outlets why not Senran Kagura? Unlike Capcom’s bare bones release, Senran Kagura has a huge roster of playable characters (it’s almost as huge as the featured cup sizes.) Senran Kagura also trumps Ryu and pals by having a fully fleshed out story mode. The main campaign stretches over eight days and every character gets a moment in the spotlight, courtesy of side missions that span across five levels. The exploitative graphics and simplistic controls may prevent Senran Kagura from ever achieving mainstream recognition, but if you have enjoyed the previous instalments buying this latest offering is a no brainer. Estival Versus is the finest Tamsoft developed game I have ever played and thanks to the HD graphics it can claim to be the “breast” looking SK title to date.

Review of Hanamonogatari

hanamonogatari

Apparently an entire year has elapsed since British viewers last received a dose of Monogatari goodness. To be honest I hadn’t noticed. Despite being a fan of the original series (Bakemonogatari) my enthusiasm for the franchise dipped ever so slightly when the follow up came out. Monogatari Series Second was still entertaining, but in terms of quality it lacked the consistency of its predecessor. Overall the chronologically confused series was a hodgepodge of excellent story arcs intermixed with some less than riveting tales. Perhaps I would have been more forgiving with the season’s missteps had all the episodes been bundled into one or two DVD sets? What we got instead was a series chopped up into several, consumer unfriendly, volumes. With the lengthy pause between releases now over, fans can finally cap off their season two collections by purchasing Hanamonogatari. Let’s see if it was worth the wait.

OVERVIEW

Hanamonogatari takes place after the events of Koimonogatari, which means that the protagonist baton needs to be transitioned over to a new star – because leading man Koyomi Araragi has since graduated (and heaven forbid that we get an anime not set at high school.) As you may have gathered from the box art, the honour of leading character is bestowed upon spunky carpet muncher Suruga Kanbaru. Long time fans of the show will recognize Suruga as the basketball ace who retired from the sport when a cursed monkey paw replaced her left arm with the limb of a hairy simian. Although Araragi no longer attends Suruga’s school it appears that the supernatural oddities he tangled with have not vacated the premises.

Gossip circulating around the academy halls tells of a mysterious devil that is aiding down on luck students with their personal woes. Suruga decides to investigate the rumours only to find that the fiend in question is her former basketball rival Rouka Numachi. Back when Suruga was famous for scoring three pointers, Rouka had the reputation of being an excellent defender who specialized in blocking shots. I apologise if my basketball lingo is inaccurate, but alas I have no knowledge of the game… I decided to avoid the sport completely after playing the horrible Shaq Fu on the SNES. Anyway, it appears that Rouka has become a counsellor of sorts after a leg injury forced her to quit basketball. Under the guise of a devil, Rouka spends her days listening to the misfortune of others. She also hunts down hexed primate parts and unbeknownst to Suruga is plotting to acquire her past adversaries’ appendage for her collection!

VERDICT

I am awarding Hanamonogatari a score of three stars. My opinion of this five-part story is that Hanamonogatari isn’t the weakest entry in the series, but it isn’t the strongest one either. The absence of Araragi and other fan favourite characters is especially noticeable, as it denies Suruga a partner to trade witticisms with. This ultimately causes her to change from a humorous exhibitionist to a rather glum heroine. Such a shame as banter, rich in puns, is what I enjoy most about the Monogatari series. More gags would have been nice to balance out Rouka’s lengthy monologues about the virtues of running away from life’s troubles. At times the dialogue dragged, not helped by the fact that Monogatari’s usually dynamic visuals didn’t feel all that creative on this occasion. Perhaps Studio Shaft is running out of inspiration after adapting so many of Nisio Isin’s books.

Despite my criticisms I did enjoy watching a new Monogatari adventure after all this time. I do however feel that the plot would have worked better as a concise movie, rather than a padded out quintet of episodes. On the plus side I enjoyed conman Kaiki’s cameo. It’s a relief to see that he survived his injuries, even if his miraculous recovery (and sudden panache for sprinting) is never explained. Viewers who loathe gore will also appreciate how this chapter in the Monogatari saga was devoid of violence, with the final conflict being resolved via a 1v1 duel on the basketball court. In closing, your average anime viewer won’t go bananas over Hanamonogatari’s monkey themed yarn. For fans of the series it will at least tide them over until the upcoming movie trilogy comes out and more of the light novels get localized.