Alright folks, I'm back from the land of the dead. My computer decided that it was going on strike and I'm currently waiting on a new battery charger, so my reviews the last 2 weeks got flushed down the toilet. I was originally going to review League of Legends, but seeing as I've only played 2 matches in it my inner journalist was kicking and screaming at the idea of squeezing a review out of it. However, I've boarded and commandeered my sister's netbook, and I have until she realizes it and sends her crew of mutant zombie hamsters after me to review some flash games. Besides, there were some great games this month that really deserve mentioning, one of which I've been anticipating for a while and freaked out when I saw. So, without further ado, let's get flashing!

                                       Game #1 - Upgrade Complete 2

Developer: Armor Games

Release Date: 4/14/11

Link: http://www.kongregate.com/games/ArmorGames/upgrade-complete-2

Concept: More meta humor than you can handle! While it's technically a space shooter, the focus is on upgrading everything imaginable. Sure, you could upgrade your ship, but why do that when you can upgrade the graphics or the HUD buttons? Heck, there's so much to upgrade that you can seriously upgrade your ability to upgrade your upgrade screen. Or the upgrade buttons. Or the border around the upgrade screen. Or the spelling on the upgrade screen. Or an annoying grunting sound that plays on the upgrade screen. Suffice it to say that there's a lot of stuff to upgrade.

The Good: There are some truly hilarious moments, some poking fun at trends in other games and some just plain funny. The number of things to upgrade is also completely absurd, and if there's anything else that could be upgraded I certainly can't think of it. The upgrade screen insulting you until you upgrade its politeness and the"premium content" section were particularly amusing; I highly recommend watching the premium content video (there's even an achievement for it).
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You've got a lot of work to do.
The Bad: If you're looking for challenge, you won't find it here. The game is incredibly easy and you'll get far more entertainment out of upgrading stuff than actually playing the shooting section, which is a shame because it does actually have all the makings of a decent game in that regard as well.

The Rage: (minor spoiler warning) WHEN I FIND THE TWERP THAT MADE THAT STUPID UPGRADE HEART RATE BUTTON... Beware of it! It actually works, and that's all I'm saying.

                                            Game #2: Gemcraft Labyrinth

Developer: Game in a Bottle / Armor Games

Release Date: 4/20/11

Link: http://armorgames.com/play/10317/gemcraft-labyrinth

Concept: Shoot at evil bugs with magic crystals that cover the screen in all kinds of pretty colors... sorry, what kind of crystals were we talking about? Gemcraft Labyrinth is a tower defense game where you create magical gems that fire bursts of energy at foes, and as you may have gathered it looks kind of like a bad drug trip to anyone watching it. This is the third game in a series, and while the first two games revolved around creating a gem with the power to thwart death, this one has you navigating a cursed maze and uncovering its secrets.

The Good: Like its predecessors, Gemcraft Labyrinth offers an unbelievable amount of content for a flash game. This installment is the largest yet, offering a total of 169 maps and the ability to pick and choose conditions and restrictions for each round in exchange for extra experience points. It also features a variety of upgrades and achievements that will keep you playing FAR longer than you really should. Also like its predecessors, currency and health are combined in the form of mana, which creates interesting strategic situations where you have to choose between adding more defenses and potentially dying because you upgraded something at the wrong time. Speaking of strategy, there are a TON of different options for how to create your defenses. There are 8 colors of gem (each with their own properties), 4 different structures to use them in (towers, traps, amplifiers, and shrines) plus the ability to drop them as bombs, walls that let you change the paths of attacking bugs, destructible spawn points, the ability to switch points between different upgrades at any time outside of battle... did I mention you can combine gems for multiple effects too? Yeah, there's a lot to see here. There are also a bunch of tweaks that make it more enjoyable than the previous entries such as tower AI options that let you change target priority and the ability to fire on destructible structures with gems in towers. By the way, did I mention the graphics? Because the graphics are great. If you have access to a higher-end computer, I highly suggest playing on that, because the particle effects are awesome.


The Bad: For as much praise as I just gave Gemcraft for having tons of content, there's almost TOO much content. There's a bit of a story and several boss stages to look forward to, but if you're hurrying on to see the next event (or rushing to finish the game so you can review it :D) you're in for way more intermediate stages than there really should be. This game is also the first in the series to have premium content, and a lot of players are really mad about it. The nagging to buy the premium version is pretty bad, with upgrades and battle settings with gigantic locks over them on the screens you go through every time you play a map. However, if you can ignore that, there is still a ton of content you can get to without paying.
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I should also mention, the bosses are kind of insane.
The Admissions: I have two things that colored my review that you should be aware of. #1: I'm not actually done with it yet. It's REALLY LONG, and without access to my computer I just haven't had enough time to keep playing it, and I didn't want to delay getting this post up any longer. #2:  I paid for the premium content. I know, it probably destroys my credibility as a freeware gaming blogger, but if you ask me it was one of the few that was actually worth it.

                                                Game #3: Elephant Quest

Developer: Armor Games (they've been busy this month, ok?)

Release Date: 4/13/11

Link: http://armorgames.com/play/10606/elephant-quest

Concept: In a a world where Elephants are born with laser turrets on their backs... comes another in a series of meta-games starring a lovable blue elephant. A pink Wooly Mammoth has stolen your best bowler hat, and it's up to you to find and defeat him. Elephant Quest kicks things up a notch from the previous games by adding a huge number of improvements like a quest system, upgrades, and a ton of different maps to explore.

The Good: The upgrade system is awesome. I mean really, this might be the most awesome upgrade system I've seen in a flash game. You get experience points and level up as you kill enemies like most games, but then you go to a point grid where you can move a certain number of spaces (reminds me of the sphere grid from Final Fantasy X, if you've played that). The spaces you choose determine the areas you get upgrade points in, which you can then allocate toward skills. It sounds complicated but really isn't. In other news, the dialogue is hilarious and the music is quite good. Plus, as if you needed any more encouragement to go play it, it's claimed the all time top rated game spot on Kongregate.

The Bad: The inventory system could have been done a lot better. Everything you get trails behind you by a string, so you'll be looking more like the rear view mirror in a teenage girl's car than an elephant. Also,despite the wide variety of environments, there really aren't many different enemies to see. I don't normally have any problems in the graphics department, but I also noticed that the low quality setting still isn't really low enough to play it smoothly on a lower-end computer, especially on the menu screens.
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Things can get a little hectic..
This has been the Freeware Fanatic, saying I hope the mutant zombie hamsters don't get to me before I can prove this blog isn't dead. Reinforcements are coming Tuesday!
 


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    Every week, I bring you the best in free video gaming! Flash games, Facebook apps, free-to-play MMOs and more every Monday!

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