L.A. Gridlock Review—To the Exits!

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I haven’t reviewed the recently released Minis because, for whatever reason, they can’t be played on my PlayStation Vita. Fortunately, most of the SCEE Minis released last week are compatible with the Vita.

L.A. Gridlock is one of those Minis that managed to sneak up on us, without much PR. Actually, the ever mysterious forum poster Grayback (conspiracy theory suggests he/she is a gaming industry insider) posted a link in the forums a couple of months ago regarding this game. We were not able to report on it in the main blog because the source was in French, and Google’s translation engine might have wrongly translated the news snippet.

We know now, though, that L.A. Gridlock is a tower defense game. TD games in the Minis program were aplenty back in 2010 but then died down. Now, it seems like they are having a comeback, with this and Defenders of the Mystic Garden (review forthcoming). But what separates L.A. Gridlock from the rest of the TD games is its use of a “realistic” setting: Los Angeles!

Instead of installing towers, magical creatures, wizards, knights, or any other D&D archetypes, you place police units on the sides of the street. Then thugs and criminals on their rides cruise down into the area and bump into innocent citizens until they are reduced to smithereens.

You won’t be defending a certain structure located in the center of the level; instead, you must provide safe journey to the citizens. Even I’m confused by what I’ve written, but the objective of the game is keeping the paths safe, unlike the usual protecting the heart of something.

There is a meter on the left side of the screen; it goes up when chaos occurs, and once it is filled, it is game over. It builds up when cars blow up and tempers down when bad guys explode. Motorists and the thugs come in from an entrance point, meander through the city and proceed to the exits. You must keep the innocents alive and destroy the thugs, not letting them escape.

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Letting a single enemy unit escape means cash penalty. Less cash, less police units, more chaos. The game also gives you five dollars every few seconds. The main cash source is the toll booth. You can build it everywhere but it does hold up traffic. And slow traffic means lots and lots of people dying when waves of criminals start occupying the streets.

Certainly, L.A. Gridlock is not your typical tower defense game. You can’t expect to net good results from loading your units in one area to attack a single enemy unit because police units can only attack a single “angle” once per enemy unit.

The simple explanation is that police cars can only attack from behind, police vans can only bump the front, and police bikes only the sides—meaning, for every enemy, only one car, one van, and two bikes can attack it. And you don’t have control over this, as they just randomly pick a target and chase it down all over the place. As long as the target is alive, the posts left behind will remain empty, and every single thug that goes past will never be chased. So you have to really lay out a plan.

The controls are easy, and highly optimized for the PSP. You move the cursor with the D-pad/analog nub, confirm with X, and place units with X. Another good thing about this game also is that it does not allow accidental placing of units because you have to hold the X button for a little while. You choose police units with the shoulder buttons. The units are introduced one by one as you progress, along with their upgrades and some hybrids. Pressing Select will give you an overhead perspective; pressing O puts you at different angles. Pressing Triangle transfers the cursor to the current area your screen is showing.

In my opinion, if you want to go 3D, do it with all your might or don’t do it all. Aside from the fact that 3D graphics do not age gracefully, ugly 3D is just hideous. Luckily for L.A. Gridlock, the gameplay is fresh enough for me to forgive the terrible 3D renders and details. Swap Zap was ugly, but it was great. In this case, L.A. Gridlock is a good one, not a great game. I don’t know, maybe on the PSP this game looks good, but on the Vita, it’s too unpleasant for the eyes.

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Be warned, the fresh gameplay is also downright limited. There are only eight stages, and it only has four areas. Once you get the formula for success, everything is a walk in the park. There are lots of bugs, too, one of which is clipping. Sometimes the police units don’t work, also, and sometimes pathfinding for hostile, neutral and friendly units gets broken.

Nevertheless, Immersive Games should take a good look at this IP and put more time and money into creating another title with this promising game design. Release this on iOS, I guess, get some money and then release as a full game on PSN later.

7/10

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Comments

14 Responses to “L.A. Gridlock Review—To the Exits!”
  1. onmode-ky says:

    “There are only eight stages, and it only has four areas.”

    Does this mean the whole game has only 8 stages (2 per area), or each area has 8 stages? Whatever the case, how long does it take to play the whole game? I know you described the content as “limited,” but it sounds like the game might last, like, a couple of hours for a complete newbie. The only 8-or-fewer-stages games I know which last a long time are scrolling shooters.

    Do you start from the beginning each time or something and try to make it all the way through to the end?

  2. Jasper Nikki says:

    The game has only one mode: campaign mode. In the campaign mode, there are four areas to defend, and you play them twice. So a total of 8 stages (2 per area). And yes, you start from the beginning. The numbering scheme of the campaign (first number being area number) 1-1,2-1,3-1,4-1, 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, 4-2)

    Actually, I played the game around four hours because you are not stopping the wave, you protect the neutral cars, you can fail immediately when several of the neutral cars get demolished consecutively by sheer luck.

  3. min says:

    I have started reviewing NOVA and PAC MAN CE if you want to see.

  4. onmode-ky says:

    min, I think you should mail the site’s contact e-mail address on the About page and work out whatever problem you have registering for the forum. You can link to a specific post within the forum, but you can not link to a specific comment within a blog post, so any reviews you write in post comments will eventually be sort of lost, in that they’ll just be somewhere in the pile.

  5. onmode-ky says:

    Oh, wait, you can link directly to a comment. Just copy the link from the date portion of the comment, under the “[your_username] says:” text. E.g., the part of my above comment that says “April 17, 2012 at 6:13 pm” is this link.

  6. min says:

    “http://www.pspminis.com/4749/pac-man-ce-%e2%80%93-just-another-pac-man-game/comment-page-1/#comment-10328″ is all i can get.

    Please help

  7. onmode-ky says:

    Well, that’s the right link, but having a bunch of links in your comments is going to be a problem going forward. Have you contacted the site about your forum problem yet? It would be much better for your reviews to go in the forum’s user reviews section, where you could stick “by min” or something in the title to mark the ones you wrote. You wouldn’t have this links issue you’re running into here.

  8. min says:

    It’s not the site that is the problem, its my internet security that is blocking it. But I don’t want to muck around with it in case I do something bad. I am not very good with computers( mainly because I wasn’t brought up on them, I was working by the time computers came into the real world!). And that is also the reason I never knew what you meant when I talked about the PS ONE games as they are still great looking games to me.
    I think I will just keep my reviews to the comments box.
    Thank you anyway onmode-ky, you have been a lot of help over the past few months and for that I am grateful.

    PS-do you have problems with the CAPTCHA code for comments for sometimes it takes me a few tries to get it right(maybe its just me going blind!!!)?

    Thank you

  9. onmode-ky says:

    Whoa, you thought the PS1 games in the PS Store were new games? Er, you’re aware that the current-generation PlayStation device is called “PS3,” no? Not trying to sound mean here, just surprised.

    I don’t ever see the CAPTCHA code field, because I comment while logged in from the forum.

  10. min says:

    no onmode-ky, its because the time that i played many games was the psone era then i stopped when the ps2 came out and only got a ps3 for its blu ray functionality. i am not used to the next generation of games. I was given a PSP 1000 and then a 3000 for my birthday and i must say, after being used to psone games, it was a massive step up so I am going to stick where i am now and enjoy it.
    I am the only love left for sony’s psone and psp.
    I hope not.
    ps- your comment felt slightly out of place, I thought you would have understood what I was commenting about in the above.

  11. onmode-ky says:

    Sorry, what you wrote earlier confused me. When you said, “I was working by the time computers came into the real world,” I thought you were talking about the mid-80s, and that the last time you had followed video games was around the Atari 2600 era. That in itself would not have been that surprising, but I think it would be rare for someone to regain a strong interest in video games after a period of nearly 30 years. In that situation, though, I could certainly see PS1 games still looking very impressive.

  12. min says:

    Thank you.

    I must say that that to me the PSone era had the best line up of games. I’ve got all the Tomb Raiders, GTA’s, Deus ex, Gran Turismo’s…The list goes on. Nowadays, not a lot of passion goes into games compared to then. Take Duke Nukem for example. It was great back in the day but the release of the new one might just well have been a pile of poop in a case. It was that bad.
    If any creators of minis are reading this, please look back on gaming history to predict what people will like.

    What’s your thoughts onmode-ky, is this just me who thinks this ?

  13. onmode-ky says:

    “Nowadays, not a lot of passion goes into games compared to then.”

    Heh, as a fairly regular reader of the AtariAge forum, I can point you to many people who would say that the PS1 was the beginning of the fall of passion from video game development. :) Those people (not everyone at AA, of course) don’t see in PS1 games the fun that they had in Atari, Nintendo, or Sega games; “3D was the death of gaming!”, they proclaim.

    Me, I just think fun games were made in every past era, continue to still be made, and can keep on being made in the future. It’s just that new kinds of fun gaming can appear, and also that different people have different definitions of “fun.”

  14. min says:

    Very true.
    The arrival of the psone went along with the the arrival of 3d gaming and creators were new to the software and the hardware. Today, the processionals make the games, back then everyone was an amateur which meant there was a large amount of competition going around. This mean’t that the developers tried their best at making the games they loved. With the new software came new ideas and creators knew that they needed something fresh to come out top. Nowadays, there is not a lot of new ideas kicking about (be it there is a lot of old but good ideas) but games don’t feel special like they used to.

    For example,
    imagine you are in the 90’s and you buy your (imaginary) son the new Resident Evil 2 game(as age ratings we not a great deal back then). Imagine the happiness on his face as he puts in the disc for the first time and starts treading through Raccoon City.Now imagine giving you son the new modern warfare game in the world of today. No happy face, just a grin. For your (imaginary) son knows that it is almost the same as the last one (whether he admits it or not is a different story).
    You see.
    Back in the day, some games were bad, but you still loved them for trying. Nowadays, only a handful of games come out that are “must-haves”.

    I would much rather play through all my tomb raiders and resident evils than play all of the “COD’s”.
    This is only my opinion though but please respect it.

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