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By Chris De Herrera 
Copyright 1998-2007
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Realms Review 
By Allen Gall, Copyright 2003
Revised 3/16/2003
Allen is available for freelance writing projects involving Pocket PC software and hardware, everything ranging from press releases to documentation.  If you have a project, e-mail me and we'll chat.

Back in the mid-90s, before the coming of EverQuest and the enormous Quake subculture, there was an online multiplayer game called Subspace.  One of the earliest games to use the new DirectX video acceleration technology, the goal of this simple game was to fly around in a ship Asteroids/Sinistar-style and blow up other players.  Sounds simple, eh?  It was, and it got old pretty fast.  More recently, Jimmysoftware released a similar Pocket PC game which had you blast enemy ships in a series of levels.

Now we have a game called Realms from a company called “Two Stunads,” ( www.twostunads.com ) and it’s one of the most polished Pocket PC games to date.  The game is a simple shooter, the goal being to simply destroy enemy targets in your ship while flying around and avoiding enemy fire.  The game has outstanding graphics, with excellent 3D models that could’ve been pulled from the coin-op machines of several years ago.  The game is also a pleasure to navigate--most screens have a green 3D grid backdrop reminiscent of the movie Tron

The game is also well designed, featuring two basic modes.  There’s a regular campaign mode, where you go on a series of missions in pursuit of a single objective.  Six worlds (“realms”) are available with five different missions each, and they’re all gorgeous to look at.  The second mode is melee, which is an all-out deathmatch against the computer.  This mode is highly configurable, allowing you to select the number of ships, the time limit, and othere options.  In the campaign mode, you can upgrade your ship along the way as you deal with more challenging enemies.  The game also lets you configure the control options such as controls, sound and music volume, and other options.  You can even customize the heads-up display (HUD),  which shows information such as your radar, power usage, and other important things.

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Realms is a visual treat.  Check out the detail of the background and the HUD information in the top and bottom areas of the screen.

Graphics, sound, and game design are only part of the picture, though--game play, or the experience of actually playing the game--is what makes everything either come together or fall apart.  Unfortunately, the game play of Realms falls in the latter category.  Whether you play with the d-pad and buttons or the stylus, you’re in a constantly moving ship.  This is fine, but all the other objects in the screen are also constantly moving, and they’re also firing at you while they’re at it.  The problem is that there’s so much going on, even in the early levels, that you’re continually forced to decide whether you need to fire at your enemies or just duck out of the way.  Every time I played the game, I ended up doing a combination of both, to little success.  Making everything worse is the inertia, which is present no matter which control method you use--you end up crashing into whatever’s around you.  The in-game graphics are terrific--the ships look great, the animation is smooth and fast, and the scrolling backgrounds are especially appealing.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to look at them too long.  My gaming sessions were always short and frustrating, especially since everything in the game looked and functioned so well except for the game play.

Realms, unless it receives a major game play overhaul, will probably go down along with Monster Truck Crushing and 3D Mini Trans Canada in the category of games that look great but just don’t play well.  Oh, it’s not ridiculously slow like the latter or spastic like the former, but at heart it’s a great idea poorly executed.  C

Realms supports Pocket PCs with ARM and XScale CPUs.  A demo is available, and the full version can be purchased for $14.95.

Allen Gall is a freelance game reviewer and the games editor for CEWindows.NET. If you have a game you'd like Allen to review, you can e-mail him at allen@cewindows.net

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