This is a combined review of 3 exciting games, we will be reviewing Alexandria Bloodshow, Alive 4-Ever Returns & Alive4ever Mini
Recently, Sega has been doing a bang-up job bringing out some of the most interesting historical strategy/simulation games on the market. Samurai Bloodshow and Total War Battles sent players deep into Japan’s past as you took control of an army to fend off attacking enemy forces. Now with Alexandria Bloodshow, a spiritual sequel to Samurai Bloodshow, Sega wants to take us into ancient Egypt and Greece as the two giants battle each other for supremacy. Unfortunately, If you’ve played Samurai Bloodshow, then you won’t find a whole lot to surprise you, as the mechanics and the game itself are virtually the same.
In the free version of the game, you take control of a pharaoh trying to fend off the invading Greek armies. You can play as both the Greeks and Egyptians if you unlock the full version via in-app purchase. Either way, you have to deploy and control your numerous types of troops to stop the enemy hordes from breaking through and reaching your leader. If you fail as the Egyptians, then your commander gets his feet strapped to a chariot and dragged in front of a laughing enemy army. Succeed, and you make the god Horus happy. This is a guy you want to keep happy.
So just like Samurai Bloodshow, your troops defend and enemies attack on a battlefield segmented by rows. Before every battle you have to make your ‘deck.’ In this deck you choose which units and how many of each you wish to bring into the next battle. When the battle starts, the order of the troops you have available to you during the actual battle are randomly determined, but as you deplete your troops you can spend gold to deal out more cards as the battle rages on. You drag your troops, or cards, onto the battlefield, ready and willing to die in the defense of their king.
Similar cards can also be dragged onto one another in order to level up your units. Every unit, ranging from slaves to archers to harpists, has different capabilities, strengths and weaknesses, ways they move and so on. Your leader can also cast spells, called techniques, which can sometimes heal your troops, damage the enemy, or enhance your units abilities. Since you have a limited number of cards and even more limited number of each kind of unit, it takes a large amount of strategy, and some luck, to win in battle. The game is tough, even from the beginning, so don’t let the pretty pictures and ease of gameplay lull you into a false sense of security.
And speaking of those pretty pictures, one area where Alexandria Bloodshow really excels is in its presentation. Every screen, every unit, and every animation looks like it’s a hieroglyph painting come to life. Troops move in a staccato, puppet-like fashion, which may seem odd at first, but when animated on top of the beautifully illustrated battlefields, you completely buy into the illusion. The game is also gleefully gory: heads get decapitated, limbs get severed and blood spurts in such copious amounts that you’d think Quentin Tarantino is directing a historical epic. Sound effects are equally adept at helping to immerse you in this wonderful piece of gaming art.
If Samurai Bloodshow had never happened, than Alexandria Bloodshow would be a revelation. The gameplay isn’t anything that hasn’t been done before, but the way it presents itself is amazing and it’s challenging and fun enough to give even the most advanced strategy player a run for their money. But alas, Samurai Bloodshow has happened and since the gameplay is identical in almost every way it takes a little bit of the luster off of its Egyptian sequel. All that being said, the game is a blast to play and and even more fun to just look at.
The original Alive 4-Ever set a new standard for zombie shooters on the iPhone. It had four-player multiplayer, dozens of mission objectives, and more guns than the Michigan Militia. We eagerly anticipated the sequel, only to find that it’s more of the same without any meaningful upgrades.
If all you’re looking for is more missions, Alive 4-Ever Returns does manage to deliver. The 40 levels range from killing 300 zombies to staying alive for three minutes. Like before, sometimes you’ll have to escort a helpless survivor to safety, or recover suitcases filled with gold or vaccine. Each level also has a bonus objective, which will give you more experience and unlock new items for stat boosts.
The fun of leveling up, then spending experience points and cash on health and gun upgrades, is still completely intact. This was one of our favorite aspects of the original game, and we’re glad to see it hasn’t gone anywhere. Most of the attributes are the same, though, so at least one opportunity for greater depth was missed.
Another missed opportunity is the terrible story, which is told through Twitter-length snippets flashed before each mission. They describe a plot that is completely unrelated to the gameplay, and by the end we couldn’t care less about what they had to say.
Some of the additions we did appreciate, however, include usable skills that give a temporary boost to your character’s abilities in the middle of battle, and grenades that you can toss at enemies. The grenades come in two varieties, fragmentation and sticky, and they do give you more options when you’re swarmed by the undead.
You’ll also be able to pick up a set of dual handguns, which give you a near-invincible burst of firepower. Before, when picking up a suitcase, you were limited to your single handgun. But now, even with one hand on a suitcase, the dual handguns can make a huge difference. We can’t help but imagine our survivor holding the suitcase in their teeth while they go all John Woo for a short time.
These additions, along with some new zombie types and environmental effects, are not very significant. While they slightly mix up the gameplay, most of the time you’ll just feel like you’re replaying the original Alive 4-Ever. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Alive 4-Ever Returns fails to move the series forward in a way that will make fans of the original excited once again.
Killing zombies: If you’re a gamer, you’ve probably honed this skill all your life. Feel free to consider yourself an expert on the subject. Alive4ever Mini is the latest attempt at making that oft-cheapening experience feel brand new again. And while it doesn’t exactly succeed, it does serve up some serviceable dual-stick shooter fun. Meridian Digital’s third entry into the series doesn’t innovate, but it stays solid.
Vets from Alive 4-Everand Alive 4-Ever Returns will find themselves hurled into a decidedly cuter endeavor– some of the most adorable monsters this side of super-deformed chibis. Gone are the darker horror visuals from prior entries into the series, and in their place are color palettes that pop and adorable abominations. Lavender blobs, candy colored clowns, and grinning ghouls await your fire– just ready to be annihilated at your call.
And you’ll be doing quite a lot of that. Mini is at its heart a very typical twin stick shooter. Throughout each level you’re tasked with completing challenges, objectives, and– yes– killing zombies. Sometimes you’ll escort civvies to safety, and sometimes you’ll pick up numerous vaccines meant for curing those unfortunate enough to have been infected. At the conclusion of each mission your success is measured on several metrics: how many zombies did you slay? How many zombie souls (dropped upon the death of each zombie) did you collect? All standard fare, comfortable additions, and enhancements.
As far as the zombie carnage goes, there’s never a shortage of enemies on-screen or baddies to kill. Missions are quick and bite-sized with a decadent selection of both standard and superpowered armaments for maximum carnage. A leveling system allows dedicated players to access upgrades and stat boosts for significant improvements in zombie-slaughtering fun.
In-game currency is available for purchase with real-world cash, but can be earned by simply playing the game just as easily, though “real” purchases an’t exactly priced at ridiculous increments. The hangup here is you probably will never even want to spend the money– beyond upgrades and easy-to-obtain perks, Alive4ever Mini is still very much a stagnant, run-of-the-mill twin stick shooter that doesn’t offer much more than solid shooter mechanics. All the pieces fall into place the way they should, and there’s plenty to do, but one just can’t avoid the permeating feeling of “I’ve done this too many times before.” For a franchise that made its debut as an engaging shooter, that’s more than a little disappointing.
That’s not to say that Alive4ever Mini is a bad game, though. It’s fun in quick bursts, and the sticky sweet chibi monster visuals are interesting as well as the background music. It just feels more than a little like another cash-in. If you’re looking for another dual-stick shootout, Mini isn’t a terrible choice, but you might be better served investing in a series that innovates. On the other hand, there are adorable exploding zombies– and they’ve gotta count for something.