Hugh Likes Video Games: Fallout Shelter

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Fallout Shelter
Bethesda Games
Played on Android Mobile
The Post-Apocalypse has been in the zeitgeist lately, in all it’s myriad forms of the end of the world.  From the cinematic wasteland of “Mad Max: Fury Road” to the small-screen shambling of “The Walking Dead.”  But perhaps the most iconic doomsday scenario is still Nuclear War.  And lately, nobody has taken more advantage of the irradiated wasteland than Bethesda Games’ “Fallout” games.  With Fallout 4 burning up the charts, Today seems like a good day to examine their free promotional game, Fallout Shelter for IOS and Android.
While the series is all about exploration, Fallout Shelter sticks closer to home, putting you in the chair of a Vault-Tec overseer.  Starting with some survivors, a few caps, and a hole in the ground, you have to keep your vault running, and your dwellers happy, safe, and healthy.  Imagine a simplified version of The Sims, but with more guns and radioactive scorpions.
The game is presented as a 2D grid, with rooms taking up 1 to 3 spaces on the grid.  As time goes by, and the vault population increases, players can dig deeper and deeper into the earth to expand.  While it requires a bit more horsepower than you might expect, the visuals are cute and engaging, based on the cartoonish Vault-Boy style of Fallout’s mascot.  It ran very smoothly on my Samsung Galaxy S5.  My iPhone 4S didn’t do well, though.
Each dweller has their own simplified stats and inventory based on Fallout’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attribute system, and most of the game involves choosing where to assign dwellers to get the best use out of their stats, which you can improve with equipment or training rooms.  Being more productive is also key to keeping dwellers happy.
One of the other main parts of the game is increasing your vault population, and unfortunately, this one wasn’t implemented quite as well.  There is only one really effective way to increase your population, and that’s the old-fashioned way.  Later in the game overseers can build radio rooms to call survivors out of the wasteland, but for the most part, your dwellers will have to get busy.  This is accomplished by putting two dwellers of opposite sex in sleeping quarters together and waiting for nature to take its course.  The result is that both dwellers get a big boost of happiness, and the woman is immediately super pregnant.  Then, both dwellers can return to their prospective tasks until the child is born.
The problem is that the game has a system for hookups, but not relationships.  Although it keeps track of parentage to prevent incest, which can accidentally happen when you have a 100+ dwellers, this information is hidden from the player.  By removing any lasting relationships, in spite of the romantic dialog they spout, the mechanic comes off as less of a wooing and more of a breeding program.  This is exacerbated by the fact that only male/female couples can hook up.  It’s not a deal breaker, but it has a lingering authoritarian (and homophobic) vibe to it.  This may have been Bethesda’s intention, as Vault-tec is usually presented as short-sightedly patriarchal in keeping with Fallout’s 1950’s-inspired vision of America, but if so, they didn’t fully commit to the message.  This is especially true considering that breeding dwellers is key to unlocking plans for new rooms.  If you want to build the best spaces for your vault, your dwellers had better get busy.
If you can get past this one glaring flaw, Fallout Shelter is a diverting and open-ended management sim with just enough style and charm to keep you going.  Fallout Shelter is free (with in-app purchases, naturally,) for IOS or Android.
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Hugh Likes Video Games: Dragon Quest

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Dragon Quest I for Android
Created by Yuji Horii
Published by Square Enix
Square Enix is not a company that is shy about porting its classic games to new platforms.  WIth three of the most beloved Japanese Role Playing Game brands in their stable, it’s easy to see why.  And with the ubiquity of mobile gaming, it is only good business for them to move into the tablet and phone market.  But while many of these ports have been based on early updates such as the DS or PSP ports of early Final Fantasy games, the mobile port of Dragon Quest seems to be developed for the phone.
Dragon Quest, which was called “Dragon Warrior” when it was released in North America, was a full-on phenomenon in Japan but never quite took off in the United States.  The U.S. never even saw the two Super Famicom itterations of the series until they were released for the Nintendo DS in 2009 and 2011.
The mobile version of Dragon Quest is a bit to get used to but retains all the charm of the original.  The first surprise is that it runs in portrait rather than landscape orientation.  I was put off at first, but it actually works with the game’s graphical style quite well.  DQ is arguably the first true Japanese Role Playing Game, and a lot of the tropes of the subgenre start here.  Like the original, battles take place in windows that pop up on the map rather than transitioning to their own screen.  This actually works really well in portrait mode once you get used to it.  The sprites seem to come from one of the 16-bit versions of the game, and look great, but remain simple.  The soundtrack is a gorgeous, high fidelity version that sounds great, even out of the rear speaker on my Galaxy S5.  The english translation is based on Dragon Warrior’s psuedo-Shakespearian script, which is fine, but reads oddly printed in an arial font.  Windows have the original black bubble quality, but commands are on phone buttons that look a little off.  These all felt a little distracting, but don’t get in the way of the experience.
The gameplay itself, aside from a few shortcuts from the menu, remains unchanged.  This is great, but as the origin of the JRPG, it still has some rough edges.  Be ready to spend a lot of time leveling up, and accept that sometimes the game will kill you and there will have been nothing you could have done to prevent it.  Also be prepared to wander a bit.  It’s still a fun and entertaining experience, but this game doesn’t hold your hand.
If you’re looking for a bit of a gaming history lesson, or if you’re an older gamer looking for a nostalgic refresher, Dragon Quest I for mobile platforms is a bit to get used to, but does an excellent job delivering a classic game.  You can download it from your preferred app store.
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