Age of Empires II: HD Edition

EEEEEEEE!!! An Age of Empires II HD Edition announcement trailer was published today:

AOE2 is one of my favorite games of all time, so I’m totally geeked that they’ve remastered it. Not only that, but it’ll have multi-monitor support, it’s on Steam, and it comes out in a month!

You can pre-order AOE2 HD on Steam for $17.99. It comes out April 9th, but if you pre-order on Steam, you’ll get to play it starting April 5th.

Humble Bundle with Android 5

Humble Bundle is out with its latest bundle: Humble Bundle with Android 5. Humble Bundles are collections of DRM-free video games and you pay what you want for them. As long as you spend more than the average purchase, you also get a few bonus games.

The six games in Humble Bundle with Android 5 run on Windows, OS X, Linux, and Android. You also get the game soundtracks and, as long as you pay at least $1, you get Steam keys for the games.

The Games

I played each of these games for a little while (some longer than others) on my Nexus 7 tablet.

Beat Hazard UltraBeat Hazard Ultra
music-powered arcade shooter

The essence of Beat Hazard Ultra is that it creates levels for you based on your music and then you shoot away until the song is done. A lot of people seem to like Beat Hazard Ultra, but it didn’t do much for me… and it can’t play music from Google Music, which was a bummer. Maybe I’ll try it out on my PC later to see if I like the experience more.

Dynamite JackDynamite Jack
stealth action game with bombs

In Dynamite Jack, you play as a captured space marine who is trying to escape the mines where he is forced to work. You place bombs to draw the attention of the guards, collect crystals to try to reduce time, and make your way to the next level. It seems okay, but not really the sort of game I’d want to play.

NightSky HDNightSky HD
physics-based action-puzzle game

The basic idea of NightSky is that you maneuver a sphere around various worlds using physics. The interface is simple and intuitive and there are occasionally mechanics like pinball flippers, vehicles, and reversing gravity to keep things interesting. I don’t usually care for dark designs, but I enjoyed NightSky and it makes a great mobile game.

Solar 2Solar 2
open-world space sandbox game

Solar 2 is easily one of my favorites in this bundle. You start the open-ended game as an asteroid and after you crash into enough other asteroids, you become a planet. As a planet, you try to get asteroids to orbit you and after a while, your planet supports life and you get ships to defend you from asteroids and other ships. Absorb enough asteroids and you’ll turn into a sun, and so on.  Super fun. I ended up playing a lot longer than I had planned. 😛

The next two games are unlocked if you pay more than the average (currently, $6.65).

Dungeon Defenders Second WaveDungeon Defenders
action RPG tower defense game

With Dungeon Defenders, you get Dungeon Defenders: Second Wave on Android devices, which has a hefty ~700MB additional data download when you first launch it. You also get non-mobile version of the game and all DLC (downloadable content). The game with all its DLC is $49.99 on Steam, so you’re getting a great deal by buying the bundle. I first played Dungeon Defenders on the PS3 a couple years ago and liked it. I didn’t care for playing it on my tablet; though. Although the graphics were great, I felt clumsy using the controls and the build phase took too long. It’s a good game; I just don’t think it works well for mobile devices.

Super HexagonSuper Hexagon
minimal geometric action game

Super Hexagon is a super fun, quick, challenging game. You guide a triangle around by moving it left and right and you try to avoid the incoming, rotating lines. It’s a simple idea, but it’s really tough! The games are very quick (I got tired of hearing “Game over!” all the time lol) and there are only two controls (left and right), which makes it a great mobile game. Super Hexagon is ridiculously simple, addictive, and challenging… and another one of my favorite games from this bundle.

There are less than 12 days remaining, so if you want to grab the Humble Bundle, make sure you do it soon!

Orcs Must Die! 2

As it goes with Steam sales, I bought Orcs Must Die! 2 by Robot Entertainment during the Autumn sale a few months ago and hadn’t gotten around to playing it until this week. I really liked the original Orcs Must Die!, though, so I knew I’d get around to playing the second version eventually. 😉

Playing Orcs Must Die! 2


OMD!2 is a strategy tower defense game (which I love), but it’s also a third-person action game, which is a fun genre blend. Players use traps, weapons, and spells to defend fortresses from waves of orc attacks. My favorite feature of OMD!2 is that it added co-op, so Nick and I can play together.

Character selection
Character selection


When you start the game, you get to pick between a male War Mage (from the original game) or a female Sorceress (a new addition). For the most part, it doesn’t seem to matter which character you choose, but there are some unique items and traps for each character. In general, the War Mage relies more on weapons, whereas the Sorceress relies more on spells.

Upgrade system
Upgrade system

Upgrade System

What’s really neat about OMD!2 is that you can customize the game for how you want to play. OMD!2 introduced a new and improved upgrade system that awards skulls for completing maps. The skulls are then used as a currency in the spellbook, where you can buy and upgrade weapons and traps. If you like to have strong defenses, you can use your skulls to get better traps. If you prefer the action aspect of the game, you can improve your weapons. Or you can do both! 🙂 You can even use skulls to buy costumes for your character.

Overall Thoughts

Orcs Must Die! 2 is quickly becoming one of my favorite games. It added some really nice features like co-op, a new upgrade system, and even weekly challenges — not to mention the new campaign, enemies, and items. I highly recommend OMD!2, especially if you’re a sucker for tower defense games, like me. 😉

And if the $15 (game only) / $25 (complete pack) prices intimidate you, just wait for it to go on sale. I think Nick and I paid $10 total for 2 complete packs during the Autumn sale. The game is well worth the regular price, though!


Magicka is an action-adventure game I bought through Steam.

The Story & Game World

Magicka backstory
Magicka backstory

Magicka takes place in a fantasy world called Midgård that’s based on Norse mythology (bonus points for that!). The backstory is that there was once a powerful wizard called Grimnír who tried to harness the power of all Magicks. Grimnír was part of the Order of Magicka, a group of wizards who were entrusted with protecting the secrets of Magick and preserving peace in Midgård. Well, when the other wizards found out about Grimnír’s plans, they felt threatened and had him imprisoned at World’s End.

Players start out a wizard university, where you first meet Vlad (who is totally not a vampire, as he will frequently remind you). Vlad is the senior tutor at the university and he sends players on quests throughout the game.

Vlad, who is certainly not a vampire
Vlad, who is certainly not a vampire

I love the humor and light-hearted atmosphere of the game. One of the spells players can cast is called “Crash to Desktop,” which causes a random character to instantly die. Other examples of Magicka’s humor are a city named Dunderhaed, NPC’s who think the best place to hide during a fight is in the gunpowder storage, and bosses who say things like, “AAARGH!!! Loss of blood… my only weakness!” after you kill them. Even the tooltips can be funny; one tip says, “Chuck Norris isn’t in the game, but if he was, you would’ve already lost!” I love the in-game references to other games, movies, and pop culture, too.


Choosing your robe
Choosing your robe

When you start the game, you get to choose your wizard robe. The robes change your appearance and give you different traits, staves, and weapons depending on your choice. The staves and weapons don’t make a big difference since you can swap them in the game. The traits (like elemental resistance, increased HP, etc.) are perhaps worth paying attention to, but I doubt their impact is game-changing. Well, unless you pick a robe that is resistant to healing and gets healed by lightning instead or something. I picked the Tentacle Robe due to its sheer ridiculousness.

Wizards drown in water (have to freeze it to cross!)
Wizards drown in water (have to freeze it to cross!)

What I think makes Magicka different from other games I’ve played is its spell-casting system. It reminds me a lot of Alchemy, where you create things by combining different elements. When you start the game, it exposes you to the 8 different elements (water, lightning, life, arcane, shield, earth, cold, and fire) and teaches you how you can combine them to cast spells. You can cast a fireball, for example, by using earth and then fire. Some of the elements combine when cast after each other, too (water with fire produces steam and water with cold produces ice). Opposing elements (like lightning and water) cancel each other out. Furthermore, you can’t use lightning if your character is wet and if you’re on fire, you can put out the flames by casting water on yourself. You use the keyboard to pick elements (each element is assigned a keyboard key) and you cast the spell by clicking one of the mouse buttons and optionally holding shift. Special spells (Magicks) are cast with the spacebar. It takes a little while to get used to the controls and spells.

Crossing beams to create a more powerful beam
Crossing beams in to create a more powerful beam

One nice thing about Magicka is that it supports multiplayer. I have only played co-op, but there is also a versus (PVP) play mode. Playing co-op can actually be a little tricky. It’s easy to accidentally (or intentionally!) kill your friends with area of effect (AOE) spells or if they move in front of you while you’re casting. You also have to be very careful about crossing spell beams because when beams of opposing elements cross, it’ll cause an explosion. At least dying isn’t a big deal and it’s quick and easy to revive your friends.

Overall Thoughts

Magicka is fun, challenging, and light-hearted. It takes a little getting used to and you’ll probably die fairly often, but then you just try again. Experimenting with the elements and learning new spells is an aspect of the game I really enjoy. I definitely recommend giving Magicka a try!

Trine 2

Trine 2 Characters
Trine 2 Characters

Trine 2 is another game I picked up during the Steam Summer Sale. It’s a sidescrolling puzzle and action-adventure platform game… and it’s as visually attractive as it is fun to play.


You get to play as each of three different characters in Trine 2:

  • Amadeus (the wizard) – He can grab and move objects and conjure boxes and planks.
  • Zoya (the thief) – She can shoot arrows with her bow and use her grappling hook to move around.
  • Pontius (the knight) – He uses his sword and shield to defeat foes in combat and he has a hammer he can throw.
Trine 2 Wizard
Amadeus (Wizard)
Trine 2 Thief
Zoya (Thief)
Trine 2 Knight
Pontius (Knight)
Each of the characters has its own health meter and you can switch between characters on the fly (as long as the character isn’t dead). Health is restored at the various checkpoints in the game.

The Rest of the Game

The game world is really pretty. It’s full of detail and vibrant colors, which I love. There are some fun and interesting world objects, too, like giant snails and frogs that you can interact with.

The game world is full of obstacles and puzzles to challenge players, too. For instance, one recurring puzzle involves watering plants to make them grow. The player needs to find the water source and manipulate the game objects in such a way that the plant get watered. Other challenges include fighting goblins when they show up, getting across ravines filled with spikes, rerouting steam jets, and dodging fireball-spitting plants. There are also occasional boss fights, but for the most part, I find them to be rather anti-climactic.

Trine 2 Skill Tree
Trine 2 Skill Tree

To challenge players further, the levels are filled with objects for players to collect. There are glowing vials throughout the game that generally require some clever thinking to acquire. When the player collects 50 vials, he/she earns a point for the skill tree. The points can be spent on things like an increased number of conjured items for the wizard, fire arrows for the thief, and charge for the knight. Players can also find hidden treasure chests, which contain paintings and poems that tell more of the story.

A really cool feature about Trine 2 is that it supports online co-op, so you can play with up to two of your friends. When you play with other people, you each get to play as one of the characters (you can switch characters if you want). This lets you do some pretty neat things like using the wizard to fly the other characters around on planks and boxes.

Trine 2 Co-Op
Trine 2 Three-Player Online Co-Op

Overall Thoughts

I love Trine 2. 🙂 It’s fun to play and it’s such a beautiful game. I really like that you can play co-op, too. Highly recommended!

Secret of the Magic Crystals

Because of the Steam Summer Sale, I’m loading up on new games to try out. As a joke, a friend of mine sent me Secret of the Magic Crystals, a fantasy horse-breeding simulation game. To humor him, I decided to play it this morning.

The Story

Inheriting Grandpa's Farm
Inheriting Grandpa’s Farm

A magical meteor crashed on Earth long ago, breaking up into magical crystal pieces. My grandfather found two of the crystals and was convinced that they give horses special abilities. He was a college professor or something and the academic community thought he was nuts and kicked him out. I guess he gave up on investigating the crystals, because he gave them (and his farm) to his two young grandchildren.

The Game World

I, as a little kid, get to take over Grandpa’s farm. There are a few different structures in the farm:

  • Stable – Where the horses live. I apparently inherited a unicorn along with the farm! You can also feed and brush your horses here.
  • Blacksmith – Where you can make horseshoes by combining weird ingredients. My first horseshoe attempt failed and I lost the items I used to make them. On my second attempt, I was able to make horseshoes, but I never figured out how to put them on my horse.
  • Corral – Where you train your horses. There are a few different training options that give the horses various attributes (strength, stamina, dexterity, etc.). The training options are essentially identical for the player, though. The horse goes along a path and you hit arrow keys as they appear above the horse. Not very challenging or fun.
  • Barn – Where you get to heal your horse. You can mix ingredients to create drugs and inject them into your horses or something. My horses never appeared sick, so I decided not to play experimental herbalist.
  • Gate – Where your can send your horses to races or have them complete quests. While your horse is at a race or on a quest, you just have to sit and wait for it to come back. From races, horses can win gold and trophies that show up in its stall. From quests, you get ingredients for horseshoes and potions.
Brushing my Horse in the Stable
Brushing my Horse in the Stable
Training in the Corral
Training in the Corral

Playing the Game

My Horse Won a Race
My Horse Won a Race

I went to the stable first, because that’s where I figured I’d find a horse. Sure enough, there was a brown unicorn waiting for me. I brushed it, fed it, gave it something to drink, and then tried to figure out what to do next. I failed at horseshoes in the Blacksmith, got bored with training in the Corral, and investigated the Barn. When I got to the gate, it looked like maybe that’s where the game would get fun because that’s where you can send your horse to races. Unfortunately, you’re not involved with the race at all. You just have to sit and wait for your horse to return with the results of the race.  Meh.

Horse-Breeding Success!
Horse-Breeding Success!

At that point, I decided I wanted to try horse breeding before I gave up on the game. I couldn’t figure out how to get another horse, though! I went to the store in the stable, but I couldn’t buy another horse there. I tried to buy a better lantern for my horse, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to actually buy it. I ended up looking online for how to breed horses. You have to upgrade your Well so that you can get a new stall in the Stable (obviously, duh!). Then, you go to that stall and are able to buy a new horse. The new horse becomes an adult pretty quickly and then you have to train it for a while. You also have to upgrade your Well again to make room for the baby horse. Once you have two horses with maxed out attributes, a heart icon appears by the horse in the Stable and a baby horse appears in the empty stall. Hurrah.

Horses also have levels, but I couldn’t figure out how to level my horses. Breeding my two level 1 horses produced a level 2 horse, though, so maybe the only way you level horses is through breeding.

Overall Thoughts

Boring and confusing. The game just wasn’t fun and I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to figure out how do things like buying items in the shop and getting another horse. Granted, I didn’t play the game very long and maybe I totally missed some aspect of the game, but I didn’t enjoy it at all. Sadly, Secrets of the Magic Crystals is not a hidden gem of a game.