achtungexplosiv: (Default)
As I've mentioned previously, I've been playing about with the Alchemy games on my Android phone over the last few months. It's the sort of thing I do when stuck on the tube, rather than in lieu of some other activity, and it keeps me sane enough through the rush hour commute.

I've checked out the three following games: Alchemy (no other name, just that), Alchemy Classic and Alchemy - Genetics.
Alchemy
I already reviewed the first Alchemy back here and I enjoyed it a lot. As I have now played it extensively and found all 380 elements, I feel that it serves as an appropriate benchmark. A quick recap: It has compact but distinct icons and reasonable responsiveness if a bit laggy with a lot of icons on screen at once and prone to overheating. There are plenty of methods to create many items including logical progression, figures of speech and pop culture references. Being able to see how you produced an element is very handy and the autolink to an element's wikipedia article is a nice touch. Hints are behind the paywall but given the many routes you can take for many elements, the fairly logical sequence things follow and the fact it's always 2 elements that combine (sometimes the same one duplicated), it's not a headache. If all else fails, there's cheat apps and websites that list how to make everything.


Alchemy Genetics Screenies

So the first one to compare is Alchemy - Genetics. The premise is the same except that the focus is on creating animals. As of writing this, 525 of them to be precise. The freeware version has adverts but beyond that I didn't spot any other loss of functionality, which is a rarity these days as more and more of an app's features get moved to the other side of the pay wall *. It's got more of a cutesy interface along the lines of the kids' TV show interpretations of a mad science laboratory, and whilst it's clearer which animals are being combined to form what, it also imposes limitations on the interface and how it is manipulated. It's also missing some rather key preferences, such as being able to disable the buzz if you're creating something via a pathway you have already discovered. This gets to be very irritating very quickly because all you can do is disable the notifications entirely. Combinations can run both ways as well, so Dove + Pig [fat] = Dodo, but Pig [fat] + Dove != Dodo. If you have an animal earmarked in the first or the second spot for combination, you can't easily switch spots around either.

Other annoyances include combinations being extremely random (rodent + Tweety (Pie) = Hamster? but of course, everyone knows that!) although there is a random hint button that will let you know about an animal you can create with what you already have. In addition, large chunks of the top and bottom of the screen taken up by oversized buttons and the 'view screen' interface. Whilst my HTC Sensation has a large screen, I can see anyone playing on an HTC Wildfire getting very irritated.

In the end I stopped playing it after about an hour and haven't picked it up since, though perhaps I should give it another go soon. Certainly, I can appreciate the slight UI improvements it does have over the next game.


Alchemy Classic Screenies


With comments claiming this game is the original and 'way better', I was wary but at the same time intrigued about Alchemy Classic. My first impressions were that yes, it certainly looks nice where Alchemy is plain, and it has little swirly animations when you successfully combine elements. Another feature I noticed immediately is that successful combinations give you points, which you can then spend on hints on the next combinations. Added to this is the fact that the game lists all the new elements you can create with the elements you already have, I thought that perhaps I was onto a casual game winner here. The free version of the game has ads (of course) and also locks out a number of elements (complete with a little padlock icon).

Unfortunately, playing it for a while brought several major issues to light. The icons, while lovely, are very large and erratically sized with bounding boxes that far exceed the image size. This makes them unwieldy and awkward to position because even the tiniest bit of overlap is ready by the game as an attempted combine and regardless of whatever other elements you have overlapping any of the partaking elements, the game reads the whole combination rather than allowing for sub-combinations. For example, if you combine Carbon and Hydrogen, you get Hydrocarbons, except if a bit of Hydrogen was overlapping with, say, Fog. The game then reads Carbon + Hydrogen + Fog which produces nothing. Add this to the fact that the UI responsiveness is very poor, some icons are so huge you can only fit two of them in a row and if you try to stack a few in a pile to test one by one, the whole thing slows down immensely. If the bounding box of an icon touches the top bar of the screen, it's deleted, which doesn't end well with the poor touchscreen responsiveness. The bottom of the screen is completely unresponsive half the time and I've lost elements because I can't move them once they're there. (No, my phone is fine and I have no trouble with anything else in that location.) You can't easily and readily see how you created an element without having to faff with options in the Information screen either, which is an annoyance if you accidentally created something and didn't spot what the other component was.

Ignoring the technical aspects of playing, the game itself isn't that much fun because there is only ever one way to produce an element: no multiple routes here. There are occasional nonsensical combinations that even when discovered still make absolutely no logical sense, for example the only way to make a Container is to combine Metal - ok - with an Active Robot - WAT? I quickly discovered the reason the game is so generous with telling you what it's possible to find with your current open elements, and why you can buy hints with points. Unlike the other 2 games, combinations are not limited to 2 elements only. Some of them have up to 8 (EIGHT) elements that have to stack up. When you consider that there are currently 389 Elements to be discovered and you have to combine up as many as 8 seperate items, that's a truly staggering number of possibilities with that tiny remote chance of hitting one of your 389. I think there is a slight majority of the combinations only involving 2 but there's a whole ton of 3s and a not inconsiderable number of 4s and more. If you didn't spend points on hints and know what end result you're trying to come up with, you'd never find those needles in the haystack.

Despite all of this I have soldiered on through gritted teeth, determined not to let the game beat me but I suspect that come the 3/4/5 etc combinations, I'll have run out of points and then I'll give up because like hell am I going to try and sit there for hours taking a tiny handful of elements and combining them in every possible combination of up to 7 at a time, then cross over each tiny handful.

tl;dr - Alchemy Classic turns a game into a massive numbercrunching exercise one normally employs a supercomputer to do.


Overall

Of the three Alchemy games, the first one is far and away the best of the bunch. Yes it's the least pretty looking but it has the most appropriate functionality and the tightest interface. I didn't like the other two much after playing that one because it exposed their weaknesses without suffering from lacking their strengths. Still now I am done with Alchemy (at least until an update adds new stuff), I am exploring the others more.


*This moving the goalposts rubbish is a major beef I have with free Android apps at the moment and I have a little rantette about it relating to a soul-builder app for RIFT I used to like very much (before a major update took away all the features instead of actually updating the souls which had been recently changed by a game patch...)
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
... on my PC and on my Android.

First of all, it goes without saying that I hop onto Champions Online now and then, usually to faff about with the character creator. Cryptic recently had a birthday event to celebrate 2 years of the game, and there were presents and suchlike which I had a blast pewpewing for.

Champions Online logo


Pity the costume items were random from presents but so it goes.


For the Commute

Recently I have discovered the nifty little Android Game called Alchemy (see prior entry). My first real foray into Mobile gaming and it's not even a Gamer's Game: no flashy graphics, no kill count, no online play etc. It's simple, fun, quite the battery hog and keeps me entertained when I'm not busy.

In summary: start with Fire, Water, Earth & Air. Combine them up into new items such as Metal, Sand, Sea and Life. Continue on until you invent Locomotive, Werewolf, The Beatles and Borscht. There's a current total of 380 of them to uncover and there's a free version of the app that works well enough.

Alchemy/Android image

For a detailed look at the game, read my previous journal entry.


For the Horde Telara!

On the PC, I have recently got back into the Trion Worlds MMO Rift in a big way. I was out of the game on anything like a regular or serious basis for some time, keeping only a vague ear to the ground on what was developing. With pretty much everyone I played with having moved on for a variety of reasons, it got dull and difficult to keep my characters in good equipment on my own (and one thing I can't stand is allowing my characters to become gimped and a burden).

Rift logo

The recent months have seen a fair number of updates to the game; redesigned graphics for some models, lots of new NPCs and quests, some very nifty UI tweaks (my favourite of which is the new Quest Item bag that saves on your very limited inventory space in a massive way), new encounters and dungeons, redesigned encounters and dungeons and a lot of tweaking of the various souls. All of this comes as part of the world event-driven storyline expansions that are released every month or two. Version 1.4 was released recently and in honour of the game's 6 month anniversary (half-birthday they call it, cheesy but there we are) there was a round of free game time and various ingame freebies available including the obligatory references to the cake not being a lie, which coincided with Champions Online's 2nd birthday, as mentioned above, that also proved the cake was real.

Whilst there is always argument and debate about the changes that are made, and they're not always for the best, overall I think Trion Worlds is getting it right in terms of the optimisation, bugsquashing and playability. Best of all, there still isn't a sodding cash shop for power items: it's still a sub-based game that isn't pay-to-win. To me, this is a HUGE point in its favour.

A couple of current niggles include throwing so much XP at the characters over the recent half-birthday celebrations that everyone overlevels much too fast and you end up fighting grey mobs in sub-par gear with the zone quests only half finished (yeah, I make a lousy powerleveler). The other is the removal of the soul quests because apparently newbies found it too confusing to have to quest for other souls or something. Now you just buy them from a trainer and in the process lose a chunk of the darker side of the characters' stories: where do you think those souls stuffed inside of you came from in the first place? They could have left both options in IMO.

Rift Bahmi on a Tartagon
Do not mock the turtle.

I'm currently splitting my playtime primarily between lowbie Defiants on Argent and highbie Guardians on Icewatch. Still not hit 50 yet for the raiding but I'm keeping my main characters in Artisan Mark-made blues and Zone-Puzzle Purples as much as possible so as to be solo/duo capable and not a gimp.


If anyone is interested in giving the game a free trial, let me know. I can Ascend a Friend, which is a cheesy way of saying I can get you a free copy of the game + 7 day trial. For that I can get a hat and you get to put up with me popping up at random intervals.
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
I'm being rather slow on the uptake of mobile gaming on the Android platform, despite having a very capable handset. Partly it's because I'm focused on other game-playing media and partly it's because I see the phone's touchscreen interface as a rather limited sort of DS that has no alternative control options like buttons and only the one screen. I've yet to make that paradigm shift into games designed specifically for the screen types and sizes of modern smartphones (and no, Angry Birds does not interest me). Sudoku and the like notwithstanding.

With all this in mind, I've generally avoided games on my droid.

It was only the result of lunchtime surfing on friday that I happened across a mention of a game for the Android named Alchemy. The concept is very simple: starting with the 4 Classical elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth the aim is to combine up pairs of elements in order to create more. Air + Air = Wind, for example, and Wind + Stone = Sand. Eventually you end up with things like Time, Zombie, Sex, Quetzacoatl, Toast and the Ghostbusters.
Alchemy logo
As of writing this, there are 380 different 'elements' to discover. Elements being items you can make and then use to make other things with, rather than elements in any classical sense. Not everything can then in turn make something else, and these top-of-tree items are called Terminal Elements. Examples of such things include Transformer (of the robots in disguise variety), Explosion, Island and Lichen. There is frequently more than one way to produce an item and if you have the option to ignore previously discovered combinations enabled, it will still trigger production of previously discovered items if you're going about it in a different way. An example of this is Ash which can be made in many different ways including Dragon + Man, Vampire + Light, Tobacco + Fire and Dust + Dust.

As you can tell, there is a degree of internal logic as well as phrases, proverbs and pop culture references. Sometimes it can seem rather incongruous, however, and if an extremely obvious combination seems to be missing then chances are it will exist but require an item you hadn't thought of and will then become blindingly obvious once you've found it. There's a slew of guides floating about as apps, as webpages, as Facebook discussion groups and so on. Personally I'm avoiding those as it spoils the fun of accidentally combining things and getting unexpected surprises.

It's surprisingly addictive. I play it when bored and away from home, or on public transport, or waiting for the kettle to boil... Up to 210 elements so far. I might look at other alchemy games once I'm done but it would mostly be for comparison, given that they all seem to share a large chunk of the combinations and after you've done it the first time the novelty wears off.

Alchemy screenies
Old screenshot is old, unfortunately.


And now the parts I don't like:
  • The fact that the game doesn't suspend unless you quit to Home, chewing up battery at an enormous rate even if the screen is off and locked.
  • The free version of the app has an adbar at the top which displaces the whole screen down, meaning that items which end up at the bottom fall off the screen or superimpose over the add/trash button and thus you can't do anything with them. That's just poor design IMO.
  • There's an option to shake your phone to mix up the items on screen in order to discover new combinations. This has never once worked for me, no matter whether I leave combining to dragging one on top of the other (default) or switch to tap 1st then tap 2nd.

There's a number of similar games floating around, both using Flash and on various smartphone and tablet platforms. Doodle God is a rather chill attempt for the PC, and Alchemy Classic which exists for a variety of phone and tablet types.

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achtungexplosiv

May 2012

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