Archive for the ‘review’ Category

Quick Look: The Train Episode 2 for iPhone

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

I’m a big adventure game fan, but it seems like more often than not adventure games that make their way to iOS devices are simply ports from other devices, consoles or computers.  Consequently, when an original title comes along I get really excited.  Thankfully, The Train Ep. 1 didn’t disappoint when I finally got the chance to play it.  The interface was a bit clunky at times and the game was too short, but it was worth it for the decent visuals, the good story and the interesting characters.  Episode 2 ups the ante in the aesthetics department as well as the story, but it’s still pretty short.  That would be okay with me, except in its current incarnation the interface is quite frustrating.  Your enjoyment will weigh heavily on how patient you are.

Is That Your Dragon?

Is That Your Dragon?

The first episode chronicled the quest of a guy named Martin, who was trying to get to his fiancée.  The backdrop is a future Earth that has been devastated by the Apocalypse, and in this episode you get to find out how the emperor of this dystopian future came into power.  More appropriately, you get to play the someday emperor Greg as he takes the final journey that leads to his rise in power.  Aboard a train to India you’ll discover mystery, betrayal and the love of someone’s life… plus some other interesting loose ends from episode one.  You don’t need to have played the first part to enjoy this one, but it certainly can’t hurt.

Like a typical adventure game you’ll need to study all of your locations, scrutinize everyone you meet, and solve some puzzles in order to accomplish your goals.  Most items are collected by tapping on them, though some might be given to you by other characters in the game.  To use an item you tap on it in inventory and then tap what you want to use it with.  As long as your inventory is open, the last item you selected is “active” until you tap on it again or tap on a different item.  To talk to someone just tap on them.  You can then tap to scroll through the dialog.  Also, tapping on certain areas will cause a dialog to come up describing the area.  Just tap away from the dialog to close it.

My Father Is Dead

My Father Is Dead

Unlike the first game, there are no “extended” screens in episode 2, so you don’t have a virtual joystick to scroll around the screen.  That’s okay, because that system had a couple of kinks anyway.  Unfortunately, the navigation in this episode has what I call “sticky” syndrome.  If you click things to quickly, it’s possible for dialogs (or even descriptions when you pick up items) to get stuck.  The only way to clear this is to move to a different scene in the game or sometimes even two or three scenes away.  This wouldn’t be so bad except that every scene has a slight load time, and even slight load times add up after a while.  Patience will persevere, but in the mean time it can get frustrating.

The graphics are decent, and certainly better than episode 1.  The locations look nice, and for the most part the people look good, but there are times when they feel like cardboard cutouts.  There isn’t a ton of animation in the game, the most notable exception being the motion outside the windows to give the train a feeling of movement.  There are some sound effects here and there, though sadly no voiceovers.  That’s something I’d really like to see in this series.  The music is very nice and changes depending on the situation, which is nice because given that the majority of the game takes place in the train it could have been easy to stick with one track.

Mysterious Prelude

Mysterious Prelude

As original adventures on the iPhone go, The Train is turning out to be one of the most engaging series available.  The story is well thought out, the pacing is decent, and the developer sure knows how to create a cliffhanger.  The visuals are getting better with each iteration, and the music is blossoming as well.  My main frustration is that the interface actually seems to have gotten a bit worse.  I imagine a lot of it can be attributed to the development tool, but that doesn’t help us as end users out any.  Purely from a story and puzzle standpoint I’d recommend the game, but unless you mind a lot of needless backtracking you’ll soon grow tired of the fragile interface.

Final Verdict: On The Fence
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Quick Look: Cover The Sheep for iPhone

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

A wolf and a sheep go parachute jumping… no, this isn’t the start of some bad bar room joke.  It’s actually a new game puzzle game that has you trying once again to protect the poor, innocent sheep from the jaws of the vicious wolf.  This time they are trying to use parachutes and balloons to escape from their hungry adversaries, but unfortunately the wolves have the same methods of transportation.  You must safely guide the sheep to a certain platform while making sure the wolf doesn’t arrive, because if the wolf makes it to the end it will get the sheep no matter what obstacles are between them.

Level 2-2

Level 2-2

To guide the sheep you tilt your device left and right.  This actually works pretty smoothly for the most part, though control did feel a bit jittery on a couple of levels.  The problem is that the wolf moves right along with you, so you have to use elements in your surroundings to put some distance between you and the wolf.  Walls can keep one or the other of you from moving, while fans can slow your ascent / decent and springs can catapult you back upwards for a bit.  Ultimately, though, you need to make sure the wolf ends up falling in some water or getting skewered on the wrong end of a spike pit, because otherwise it will eat you in the end.  To move on to the next level you simply must survive the wolf.  To unlock a new level set you must collect a certain number of apples, three of which exist on each level.  The concept is simple enough, but some of these levels are extremely difficult.  On the plus side, you can always revisit a passed level to try and do better later.

Aesthetically, this game is all about cute.  The sheep is extremely adorable with its big eyes and little hearts floating from its head after beating a level.  The wolf is constantly eyeing its prey, and it’s actually kind of amusing when he eats the sheep (not that I don’t feel sorry for the sheep, mind you).  The accompanying sound effects fit the mood of the game perfectly, whether it’s the snicker of the wolf when he gets an apple before you do or the sheep’s laugh.  The music is well done, and each level set has its own theme.

Level 1-14

Level 1-14

Currently there are 60 levels broken into 3 worlds, and even though you might be able to finish each level relatively easily, you’ll have to work hard to get all the apples.  There are also 38 achievements to earn, so the game should keep you busy for quite a while.  Personally, I think it’s a while worth spending.

Final Verdict: Recommended
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Quick Look: Crocodile Crossing for iPhone

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

This whole corporate name game thing confuses me, but whether you know them as Crawl Space Games or Elevate Entertainment, one thing is clear: these guys know their way around a causal game.  If you don’t believe me all you need to do is check out Crocodile Crossing, their latest offering for iOS devices.  The game looks like it’s for kids and the controls are deceptively simple, yet playing it through once or twice on the third level will make you realize that this isn’t just for the young ones.  Besides, the pigs are cute and it is fun watching them bounce around seemingly oblivious to the crocodile below.

Two For One

Two For One

The premise is simple – the poor little piggies just want to get from one side of the swamp to the other without becoming croc food, and it’s your job to get them there.  To do this you control a trampoline at the bottom of the screen by sliding it back and forth with your finger.  A pig must be safely nestled on the dock at the right side of the screen in order to be counted.  You have to keep an eye on this, because it’s not uncommon for a pig to just miss a jump at the end of its journey and end up plummeting to an implied doom.  Of course this can also get you into trouble (or at least it does me) because at the last moment I’ll whip over to rescue said pig and lose one coming from the other side of the swamp.

The first level is pretty easy, with a decent sized island floating between the two docks that can give wayward pigs and your poor trampoline a bit of a reprieve.  In the second level the island is moving back and forth, and I believe it’s a bit smaller.  Finally, level 3 gets rid of the island and zooms out a bit, giving you a wider gap to contend with.  I hope they roll out more levels, because I’m eager to see what will be coming next.  Every level sports the hungry crocodile, though he’s really just there for intimidation since you never see him eat any pigs.

Quick While He's Distracted

Quick While He's Distracted

As you’re playing wings, a clock and a trampoline will occasionally fall from the sky.  The wings will remain with you and save one pig from plummeting to their demise.  The trampoline temporarily makes your trampoline bigger, and the clock slows down all the action for a bit.  The power ups are pretty easy to retrieve (you simply tap on them), the down side being there is no multi-touch, so you have to let go of the trampoline for a moment.  Unfortunately, in this game a moment can make all the difference.

All together there are 3 levels and 5 or 6 different pigs, most of which need to be unlocked by playing the game and some of which aren’t even available to be unlocked unless you make an IAP for the full version.  The game does have a leaderboard for each level via OpenFeint, but sadly there are no achievements at this point.  Hopefully that will come some day.  In the mean time you can feel some sense of accomplishment by rescuing enough pigs to unlock each new level and pig type.

Help!

Help!

The visuals are cute.  Each pig has their own look about them, though they do all share a certain sports ball like roundness.  The crocodile pops up every once in a while with a big smile across its mouth, licking its lips.  The only disappointment is that there is no animation in the background.  The sound effects are done well enough, with each pig having a unique grunt.  There is actually a different soundtrack for each level which is nice, and the first level even has some nifty ambient noise.

Crocodile Crossing is another fine casual game from the folks over at Crawl Space Games.  It has the perfect appeal for kids, yet it’s still fun enough for adults to enjoy, even if you don’t have any rugrats.  You can pick up the game for free, but I would definitely encourage you to get the IAP pack, because that has the best levels and pigs in it.  This is one group of pigs that deserve all the help you can give them.

Final Verdict: Recommended
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Quick Look: Mobile Cloth – a revolution against touchscreen fingerprints

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

I generally don’t do non-software reviews, in large part because I don’t use enough of a variety of anything to make comparative judgments.  When it comes to cleaning the screen of a mobile device, however, almost everyone has something they use.  For me that’s typically whatever happens to be handy: my shirt or a tissue.  Now I do have a screen protector, so at least I’m not rubbing these things directly against my screen.

Anyway, when I saw that Mobile Cloth was looking for people to try out and review their cloths, I figured I might as well give it a try.  Certainly whatever they had to offer must be better than my “weapons” of choice.  The difference, however, was incredible.  A couple of swipes with the MC nano (the smaller size cloth), and the screen protector looked just like it did when I first applied it to my device.  The best part is that all you need is the cloth, though they do suggest a bit of water if you have “caked on particles”.  Thankfully that doesn’t usually apply to me, as I’m the only one that uses my iPod Touch.

The cloths come in two sizes: 4”x4” and 9”x9”.  Obviously you can use either size cloth for any size device, though the 4×4 is a bit more portable.  What I like about the smaller size is that it fits quite nicely in the bottom half of the plastic case which came with my iPod Touch and which I still use to carry my device around.  Of course either size can be easily tucked away in a carrying case, and the larger size might be better for a laptop or desktop screen to clear off dust.  You can easily wash and dry the cloths so that they will last for years to come.

The cloths can be bought in packs of 1, 2, 4 and 6, and with the packs of 4 or 6 you get an extra one for free.  If you use your mobile device a lot or have a lot of mobile devices you use (these would even work well with camera lenses, photographers), I would definitely suggest giving a Mobile Cloth a try.  They would make great Christmas gifts as well!

Web Site: Mobile Cloth

I apologize for lack of screen shots, but I’m not really set up for that, and all the shots I tried to take had too much glare to be useful.  Check out the press section of the web site for some links with shots, or visit the “What Is Mobile Cloth” section for a decent video showing the cloths in action.


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Quick Look: Amerzone Part 1 for iPhone

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Benoit Sokal is probably best known in the adventure gaming world for his Syberia series, but before those critically acclaimed games he devised one called Amerzone.  I had been looking forward to playing this game for a long time, and I finally got my chance with its release on iOS devices.  Sadly, after waiting so long for what I was sure would be an engaging experience, I’m not sure after playing episode one if I was left wanting for more or simply disillusioned with the experience.  Maybe it’s just the nature of the episodic experience, but I felt like I interacted with an intro rather than playing a full fledged game.

Is He Dead?

Is He Dead?

You play a journalist that has taken interest in the musings of an explorer touting the existence of a mysterious breed of “white birds” that is constantly in flight.  When the explorer dies, you find yourself on a quest to return his prize position, an egg that supposedly contains one of these white birds, to the Amerzone.  In part one of this three part tale you’ll rummage through the explorer’s lighthouse and eventually make your way to a craft that will get you to the Amerzone.  The craft launches and… game over.  I would be surprised if the game even took half an hour, and that includes me starting over at one point.

There are two encounters during this installment of the game, but most of your background will come from reading documents you pick up along the way.  I certainly don’t mind reading the occasional letter or journal entry, but I much prefer interaction with NPCs as my prime conduit for learning about my adventure.  This episode is also woefully light on puzzle solving.  There are really only a couple of small “brain teasers”, and most everything else is a matter of wandering around and throwing the occasional switch.  The overall feeling is very “adventure lite” compared to the Syberia series.

Da Plane, Da Plane

Da Plane, Da Plane

Navigation is a matter of dragging your finger to pan around the area (you pretty much have 360 degree vision), and tapping when you want to move or interact with something.  To use an inventory item you select it from the inventory screen, and then it becomes the active item, so you just have to tap whatever you want to use it with.  If you elect the “permanent help” option all pathways and interactive spots will marked, otherwise they won’t.  I’d suggest turning this feature off for more of a challenge, but it makes it almost impossible to determine where to move without directional arrows.  Plus, without the help on I was unable to pick up the first object I ran across that I should have been able to grab.

Graphically the game doesn’t disappoint.  All the areas you navigate through are incredibly detailed and extremely well drawn.  The character models aren’t great, but they look pretty decent.  My one gripe is that some areas are too dark, even with the lights “on”.  The sound effects are spot on and make you feel like you’re in a real place.  When you stand right outside the lighthouse, for example, the rolling waves almost make you physically look up for the nearest seagull.  There are a couple of spots where music plays, but for the most part your audio experience lies with the sound effects.  This isn’t always bad, but some subtle background tunes would be nice.

Enter If You Dare

Enter If You Dare

I realize this is only the first part of three, so maybe I’m judging too harshly, but it really didn’t meet my expectations in any way except visually.  The episode was too short, it didn’t stand well on its own, and there wasn’t a lot to do.  After I realized that I had finished part 1, I almost felt like I didn’t really care to know whether your character gets the egg to the Amerzone safely or even if these white birds really do exists.  Maybe as part of the whole package this is a fine segment, but since I haven’t played episodes 2 and 3 yet I can only offer advice based on this installment.  As such…

Final Verdict
Standalone: Not Recommended
As Part Of The Whole: On The Fence (until I’ve played parts 2&3)

And just so you don’t think I’m being unfair, here’s a perfect counterexample: Path Of The Dragon part 1 was not only good on it’s own, but it actually left me wanting to know what was going to come next.  You can check out my thoughts on that game here: Path Of The Dragon Review

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Quick Look: Mixzle for iPhone

Friday, September 30th, 2011

When I was a kid I found some amusement in those little plastic sliding puzzle games.  Of course they were a lot more fun when you could take the pieces out and put them back in however you wanted – it made them a lot easier to solve!  I’ve never been much of a fan of electronic versions of this type of game, though there have been a couple of developers that have made interesting mash-ups using the sliding puzzle mechanic as a basis for a different type of game.  Mixzle is one such effort, and one of the most original at that.  Every level requires you to dunk a ball in a basket, and all the intermediate pieces to make that happen must be moved around the board via the sliding puzzle method.  It can get frustrating at times, but I also find myself actually getting addicted to the concept.

A-Maze-ing

A-Maze-ing

Each level has a ball at the top of the screen that must be dropped into a basket somewhere else on the board.  The position of the ball and basket will be different on each level, and occasionally you might even get to move the basket around the playing board.  More importantly is the fact that you must slide all the pieces into place so that the dropped ball can bounce, teleport or whatever it needs to in order to get to the basket.  So what are these pieces?

They start with simple wooden parts that might be horizontal, vertical or diagonal boards, or possibly even triangular pieces.  Then you get similar pieces that are wrapped in cloth so they provide a softer bounce.  Springs provide a stronger, quicker bounce.  Fans blow the ball or cause it to float, depending on whether they are horizontal or vertical.  Teleports allow the ball to move from one spot to another without hesitation.  There may be other objects as well, but that’s for you to discover as you play.

Are You A Fan?

Are You A Fan?

Just like the standard sliding puzzle game, the board is divided into an equal number of squares horizontally and vertically, but one is missing so that you can move all the rest of them around.  To move a piece, simply drag it to an adjacent spot, assuming that spot is open.  One caveat is that every board has at least one piece that can’t be moved.  Another interesting feature is the ability to rotate pieces on certain levels.  Unfortunately there is a specific place on the board where the rotation occurs, so it can be rather costly moving pieces to that spot.  You score appears to be based at least partially on the number of moves you make, so unnecessary trips around the board can be quite detrimental.

You start the board with 10, 20 or 30 balls – this can be changed in the settings.  When you think you have all the pieces in place, press the start button and see if you make the basket.  I also think that your score is based on the number of balls you have left, but nothing in the game confirms either of these suspicions.  If you miss, start rearranging the pieces again.  The nice thing is that you can always base your next try off of your last attempt, so if you were close it might just be a matter of sliding a particular piece up, down, left or right one square.  On the other hand, if you’re playing with 30 balls and you’ve tried 15 combinations that didn’t work, it becomes rather difficult to keep track of that all in your head after a while.  And, should you actually have to start the level over again, your back to square one so to speak.

Simple Physics

Simple Physics

The visuals are actually quite polished.  The pieces look good, and everything is animated when appropriate.  The basket even flops around as you slide it across the screen.  The sound effects are pretty subdued, but then there isn’t really a lot of need for effects.  I do like the robotic sound the arm makes when it drops the ball.  There’s decent music when the menu is up, but there’s actually no tune playing during the game itself.  That’s a bit disappointing, as it tends to be more noticeable in slower paced games like this.

I’m still not a huge fan of the sliding puzzle mechanic.  However, when it gets used in a situation like this, it actually becomes an interesting game play tactic.  The levels are well designed, and even when they seem impossible it’s usually just a matter of adjusting the location of a piece or two.  It can sometimes get frustrating playing a level through more than one “game over”, especially when you’re playing with the 30 balls setting, but there’s still a sense of accomplishment when you’ve finished a level.  For those that are patient, this will become an addictive experience.

Final Verdict: Recommended
App Store Link
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Quick Look: After The Fall Puzzle for iPhone

Friday, September 30th, 2011

One thing I like about the collection of games under the ArianeSoft label is that it’s hard to look at any of them and say “this is clearly a clone of xxx”.  After The Fall Puzzle is no exception to this rule.  One might argue that it feels like Dungeon Raid with a Fallout setting, but one on one combat gives it a different feel than even that game.  The combination of simple game play and the ability for the flow of the game to turn on a dime make for an intense, exciting experience.

All Bones, No Skin

All Bones, No Skin

You play a lone soldier in a post-apocalyptic world just trying to survive.  In order to do so you’ll have to go up against and defeat one adversary after another.  Each opponent gets tougher, and each time you start with a level playing field.  You each have the same amount of health to start off, and you both have 0 attack modifier and 0 defense modifier.  The match 3 board is where you get your supplies by matching 3 or more of the same item.  This is one of those games where instead of sliding tiles back and forth you draw a line through all the tiles you want to match (they must be adjacent).  When you’ve made your selection you’ll reap the benefit of whatever tile type you chose, and then it will be your opponent’s turn.  If you fall below zero health, the game is over.  If your opponent loses you move on to fight another villain with more health.

Items on the board do one of 4 things.  Weapons like grenades and axes do direct damage to the opponent’s health.  If you have an attack modifier, that value is added to the total damage done by the weapons.  Any defense the opponent has goes away first before health is reduced.  Things like helmets and camouflage pants increase your defense.  Objects like target signs and multiple bullets boost your attack modifier.  Finally, food, drink and medical supplies help you regain health.  The values of each object can be found in the help screen, and if one of the items in your chain has a x2 modifier the point total for that haul is doubled.  Each round has a different set of objects, and in fact if the board needs to be reset because there are no moves, the variety of objects will most likely change.

Is Your Mascara Running?

Is Your Mascara Running?

Even though there are “stats”, you’ll be disappointed if you’re looking for a deep RPG experience.  I sometimes forget that myself as I think “boy it would be nice if the game did this or that”.  In reality, though, the game has a nice balance of matching and basic combat mechanics that keep it simple without it getting old.  The one thing I am a bit disappointed with is the fact that it has OpenFeint integration but no achievements.  Leaderboards are nice, but only effective as more people get and play the game consistently.  At least achievements give you something to earn on your own.

The visuals in ATF are pretty decent.  The creatures and your soldier look really cool, and the objects are all easily discernable, except for a couple of knives that look a bit too similar.  There aren’t a lot of effects, but there are nice little touches like blood when someone is injured or a flash of light upon being healed.  The only thing that kind of gets on my nerves is the jittering of the box for whichever player has the focus.  A nicely outlined box would have sufficed here.

I'm Not Little Miss Muffet!

I'm Not Little Miss Muffet!

I like the sound effects, but in some cases they are a bit too generic.  For instance, every creature sounds the same when it gets hit.  There’s also something really creepy about a skeleton swallowing liquids!  On the plus side, at least each of the weapons has a unique sound to it.  The music in ATF is really good.  I’m not sure it fits the post-apocalyptic mood so much (at least not the in-game music), but it’s easy to listen to and doesn’t get overbearing.

After The Fall Puzzle is a great example of how a game doesn’t have to be revolutionary to still be fun.  It’s the matching concept we know and love with a couple of twists, and it doesn’t try to be any game’s clone.  The non-fantasy setting is a nice touch, and random boards and creatures make for a new experience every time you play.  It might not have all the bells and whistles of its contemporaries, but it’s great for spending a few minutes here and there when you feeling like matching with a little bit more.

Final Verdict: Recommended
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Quick Look: Velocispider for iPhone

Monday, September 5th, 2011

It seems like one of the most popular things to hear on the App Store today is “my game is retro this or old school that”.  Unfortunately, that more often than not translates to nothing more than poor graphics and bad music.  Thankfully, Retro Dreamer is a company that knows all about its namesake, and they prove it quite admirably with Velocispider.  If it weren’t for the fact that the graphics and sound were a bit too good, I’d almost be willing to bet that this were a port of a Nintendo game, and that’s what retro is all about.

The Big Bad Man

The Big Bad Man

You are a velocispider – half velociraptor, half spider, with a bit of cyborg power thrown in for good measure.  Apparently your eggs are pretty tasty, because an evil scientist is trying to collect them for his breakfast.  You’ll have to fend off 20 waves of diabolical egg snatchers, including the good doctor himself.  There are a nice variety of creatures to fight, each with their own style of attack.  As for your part in this battle, you tilt the device back and forth to move the velocispider, and press and release the screen to fire a charge shot.  Normal firing is handled automatically.

My favorites are what I like to call the “fail whale wannabe”, the super crab, and of course the doctor, who you get the pleasure of confronting twice.  Besides the doctor, the only other creature that can steal eggs is a purple squid like thing, but you have to keep a constant watch because they’ll sneak up and snatch eggs while you’re busy worrying about something that’s actually shooting at you.  If you lose all three eggs the level is over.  Same goes for losing all three hearts.

Reinforcement Time

Reinforcement Time

Thankfully you get several power ups through the course of a level, including points, hearts, and a couple of nice weapons like double shot, triple shot and speed shot.  And the plus side, power ups carry through to the next level.  On the down side, so does the lack of hearts you might have.  The game has 18 achievements that you can work on, but given that part of the game’s old school charm is its tough nature, many of these will probably be hard to get if you’re a more casual gamer.  In fact, they’re aren’t really any you earn simply for playing the game.  But, that’s pretty good incentive for coming back again and again.

The graphics are retro perfection.  Imagine taking a Nintendo game and giving it a VGA facelift, and that’s the style of the visuals.  The velocispider is awesome, and the villains are pretty cool as well.  As for my favorites, I direct you back to the list above, as they are the same visually as they are game play wise.  The background has a nice “ravaged future” look to it, and the cut scenes remind me of the old Ninja Gaiden NES game.  I have no idea why, but they do.

Fail Whale???

Fail Whale???

The sound effects are about the only thing I’m disappointed with.  They’re not bad by any means, but they aren’t really fresh like the rest of the aesthetics.  It would be cool if some of the creatures made noises, and I’d really love to hear something from the doctor, even if it was just a maniacal laugh every once in a while.  At least the music has that same “authentic but upgraded” feel as the visuals.  Granted you’ll be too busy dodging bullets to notice for the most part.

Velocispider is old school gaming personified, right down to the single screen playing field.  At the same time it feels fresh and new, without really bringing anything different to the table.  There’s lots of action, splendid visuals, and a great soundtrack to listen to.  I just wish there were some sort of endless mode or something.  That would be icing on this delicious retro cake (okay, so I’m a bit hungry right now).

Final Verdict: Highly Recommended
App Store Link
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Quick Look: Velocispider for iPhone

Monday, September 5th, 2011

It seems like one of the most popular things to hear on the App Store today is “my game is retro this or old school that”.  Unfortunately, that more often than not translates to nothing more than poor graphics and bad music.  Thankfully, Retro Dreamer is a company that knows all about its namesake, and they prove it quite admirably with Velocispider.  If it weren’t for the fact that the graphics and sound were a bit too good, I’d almost be willing to bet that this were a port of a Nintendo game, and that’s what retro is all about.

The Big Bad Man

The Big Bad Man

You are a velocispider – half velociraptor, half spider, with a bit of cyborg power thrown in for good measure.  Apparently your eggs are pretty tasty, because an evil scientist is trying to collect them for his breakfast.  You’ll have to fend off 20 waves of diabolical egg snatchers, including the good doctor himself.  There are a nice variety of creatures to fight, each with their own style of attack.  As for your part in this battle, you tilt the device back and forth to move the velocispider, and press and release the screen to fire a charge shot.  Normal firing is handled automatically.

My favorites are what I like to call the “fail whale wannabe”, the super crab, and of course the doctor, who you get the pleasure of confronting twice.  Besides the doctor, the only other creature that can steal eggs is a purple squid like thing, but you have to keep a constant watch because they’ll sneak up and snatch eggs while you’re busy worrying about something that’s actually shooting at you.  If you lose all three eggs the level is over.  Same goes for losing all three hearts.

Reinforcement Time

Reinforcement Time

Thankfully you get several power ups through the course of a level, including points, hearts, and a couple of nice weapons like double shot, triple shot and speed shot.  And the plus side, power ups carry through to the next level.  On the down side, so does the lack of hearts you might have.  The game has 18 achievements that you can work on, but given that part of the game’s old school charm is its tough nature, many of these will probably be hard to get if you’re a more casual gamer.  In fact, they’re aren’t really any you earn simply for playing the game.  But, that’s pretty good incentive for coming back again and again.

The graphics are retro perfection.  Imagine taking a Nintendo game and giving it a VGA facelift, and that’s the style of the visuals.  The velocispider is awesome, and the villains are pretty cool as well.  As for my favorites, I direct you back to the list above, as they are the same visually as they are game play wise.  The background has a nice “ravaged future” look to it, and the cut scenes remind me of the old Ninja Gaiden NES game.  I have no idea why, but they do.

Fail Whale???

Fail Whale???

The sound effects are about the only thing I’m disappointed with.  They’re not bad by any means, but they aren’t really fresh like the rest of the aesthetics.  It would be cool if some of the creatures made noises, and I’d really love to hear something from the doctor, even if it was just a maniacal laugh every once in a while.  At least the music has that same “authentic but upgraded” feel as the visuals.  Granted you’ll be too busy dodging bullets to notice for the most part.

Velocispider is old school gaming personified, right down to the single screen playing field.  At the same time it feels fresh and new, without really bringing anything different to the table.  There’s lots of action, splendid visuals, and a great soundtrack to listen to.  I just wish there were some sort of endless mode or something.  That would be icing on this delicious retro cake (okay, so I’m a bit hungry right now).

Final Verdict: Highly Recommended
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Quick Look: Monty And The Mugwumps for iPhone

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Monty and the Mugwumps is the first iPhone offering from Jatzan, and I’m not really sure what to make of it. When I saw the screen shots I wasn’t impressed, and when I started playing the game my suspicions were confirmed. The more I play the game, however, the more I realize there’s just a bit of genius to the whole thing. It’s not like I have to say that either, because I certainly have enough other action / puzzle games to play. Despite the game’s amateurish audio and visual elements and rough interface, there’s a rather addictive game lying underneath.

Two Keys

Two Keys

You are Monty, and it is up to you to traverse 90 levels of dastardly mugwumps, nasty lasers and other things, rescuing all the little Montys and escaping to safety. This task won’t be easy, as Mugwumps love eating Monty for any meal of the day, and if you or the little one gets too close you’re dinner. There’s also a pesky time limit once the escape portal has been opened before the air runs out and you must start again. Every once in a while they even throw in an extra little quirk like the entire level being timed or you only having a certain number of moves to complete a level. I actually wish there were more of the latter type of puzzle, though I could certainly do without any more timing obstacles than I need.

To move Monty you tap him and then drag where you want him to go. Once you lift your finger Monty is off, and he can’t be maneuvered again until he stops. One problem is that if you don’t tap just right then you don’t get hold of Monty, and this can either waste precious time or prevent you from getting out of the way of an enemy quickly enough. Also, it’s hard to be completely precise with this method of movement, which can cause issues when trying to navigate narrow areas. You also have the ability to jump by tapping on Monty, but again if you’re off just a bit he doesn’t jump, and that’s not good when you’re headed towards a laser. Finally there are power ups you can pick up like a speed boost and high jump. You just run over them to collect them, and then you tap on them before your next move to use them.

Flame On

Flame On

The level designs are interesting. Most every level has a bunch of coins you need to collect before the portal will open. Some levels have doors which require keys to open, others have lasers you need to avoid or jump over. And of course there are the different types of Mugwumps you need to deal with. I’ve only played about a third of the game so far, but I’d imagine (or at least I’m hoping) that there might even be a few more things in store for me. Part of my problem at the beginning was that the level designs seemed pretty ridiculous, but as I continue to play I realize just how good some of them are. There are some that are pretty silly, though with this many levels that’s to be expected. The important thing is that it’s clear the level designer tried to be as diverse as possible when designing the different levels.

The interface could stand to be cleaned up a bit. Level selection is cumbersome to scroll through, and sometimes hard to pick the actual level you want. When you die it should give you the option to retry the level, instead of making you go back to the menu and select it again. A reset at the top of the screen that can be executed at any time during the level would be nice as well.

Wacky Starfish

Wacky Starfish

The graphics are a bit of a mixed bag. Monty looks like a big yellow asterisk with eyes, which is actually kind of cool. The monsters are kind of cheesy, but they still look half way decent, and I love it when their mouths open up to eat Monty. The walls and lasers and stuff look pretty basic, which when combined with the overall interface give the game a bit of an unpolished feel. The sound effects work pretty well. I particularly like the sound of a mugwump eating Monty and the different noises Monty makes in response. The music is nice to listen to, while not really standing out from the pack. At least there is background music and it’s tolerable, though.

Monty is definitely one of those cases where you shouldn’t judge the book by its cover… or more appropriately, the game by its screen shots. The cool part is that you can get a full third of the game for free by downloading The Story Begins, so you can see for yourself what the game is like without spending any money. I think you’ll find that it’s worth an extra buck to get the remaining 60 levels. Monty isn’t my favorite puzzle game in recent months, but it certainly merits spending some time with.

Final Verdict: Recommended
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Quick Look: Golden Axe III for iPhone

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Golden Axe 3 was the end of an era as it marked the last episode of the series proper until the release of Golden Axe: Beast Master in 2008.  Sadly, it didn’t go out with quite as much of a bang as it deserved.  After all, the original Golden Axe was the first game I owned for my Genesis, and it would seem like by the time they got to part three it should be leaps and bounds above the original, right?  Interestingly, it never made its way stateside on cartridge, but only on the Sega Channel, which I was not privy to being a subscriber to.  After playing this iOS port, I’d say it wasn’t a total loss.

Lightning Strike

Lightning Strike

The biggest problem I have with part three is that there wasn’t much of a noticeable difference between the original up through this second sequel.  Sure it’s a bit flashier and there are now four playable characters, but when you even compare the growth of this series to its urban counterpart Streets Of Rage, it pales in comparison.  On the plus side, it plays quite nicely on my iPod Touch 4G.  It also looks better than the first two installments, though the color palettes are still atrocious.  At least the character designs are better and more defined.  The music is still the same wonderful chip tunes that permeated the series, and the sound effects are still pretty bad.

Game play is still pretty much the same, though you can actually get health and magic refills during the levels instead of having to wait until the end now.  There are also a couple opportunities where you can pick between two paths, and at least one instance where you’re fighting aboard a moving platform, two features which I believe were new to this iteration of the series.  Still, minor enhancements aside, this game falls more under the concept of “level pack” than an actual new game.  It just goes to show how spoiled we’ve gotten over the years.

Well That Hurt

Well That Hurt

Part one was fun just for the sake of reminiscing, and part two was enjoyable because it felt like a nice step up from part one (plus the port was much more playable than the first outing).  With this sequel, however, I’d only recommend it to three groups of people: die hard fans, hardcore nostalgia buffs (not necessarily fans of Golden Axe itself), and those that are curious about the series and haven’t tried the others.  Everyone else has probably either had their fill or won’t be interested when you compare it to more recent offerings.

Final Verdict: On The Fence
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Quick Look: Battle Bunny for iPhone

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

I want to believe that Pocket Monkey Games has nowhere to go but up.  They started strong with games like Sparta, Champion Archer and Finger Sling (my personal favorite of the lot), and even Swingaling wasn’t bad.  When you look at the selections beyond Corporate Crackdown, though, most everything devolves into move left / right and kill to survive formula, and not a single one comes close to the quality of Sparta.  Battle Bunny falls in the middle of the group.  It’s not any more exciting than the other offerings, but at least it looks decent and the music is okay.  Still, I’m not likely to return to it once this review is over.

Bunny In Action

Bunny In Action

Basically the game is you against the weasels, though there is no intro or any sort of explanation as to why this feud is going on.  You can run left and right, jump, and use a knife or gun to defend yourself against the enemy.  Every action has an onscreen button, and they are all quite responsive.  I do wish the gun and jump buttons were flipped, but that’s a minor quibble.  There are coins to collect that seem to serve no purpose other than collecting them, and a meager 6 Game Center achievements that you can earn.  There are leaderboards as well, but I haven’t really been compelled to check them to see how I’m doing.

The enemies come at you from both sides, but other than two different types of weapons (which don’t seem to serve a functional difference), there is no variety amongst the weasels.  As the weasels attack you the screen will start to flash with bloody red borders.  The more frequent the flash, the more damaged you are.  Visually it’s pretty neat, but as a true life meter it’s worthless, because it doesn’t tell you how many hits until you die.  There are land mines which play nice as long as you don’t land directly on them, and that’s basically it for opposition.  My main cause of death is usually misjudging my jump and landing on a mine instead of going over it.  In the end, there’s just not a whole lot to do in this game.

Strike A Pose

Strike A Pose

The graphics aren’t bad, especially when it comes to the detailed background, but again there isn’t much variety.  All the weasels look the same except for the weapons, so your character is the main thing that stands out.  Again it’s not bad, but not great.  The one neat effect besides the blood border is the fact that the weasels do drop their weapon when you hit them.  The sound effects are pretty bland, and when you swipe a weasel with your knife it sounds more like you’re tearing paper than anything.  The music is okay, but it gets repetitive really quickly.

While a conclusion is probably overkill at this point, here goes anyway.  The move left or right and attack everything in sight paradigm has been done 100 different ways on the iPhone, and a majority of them are better than this.  I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that Pocket Monkey Games will rise above their current offerings one of these days, but alas Battle Bunny isn’t their salvation.  I wish there was at least something that would make me say “you might consider this if…”, but that’s not even the case.  If you don’t own any Pocket Monkey Games, get Sparta instead.  Otherwise, you should probably look elsewhere.

Final Verdict: Not Recommended
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Quick Look: Save Yammi for iPhone

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

What do you get when you combine a cute creature with an insatiable hunger for sweets, some rope, and the ability to play with physics?  No, this isn’t another Cut The Rope sequel.  This is Save Yammi, the latest puzzle game offering from BulkyPix.  I was worried this would simply turn out to be a Cut The Rope clone, and I still see shades of Om Nom ever time Yammi chomps on a cookie, but this is certainly a fun puzzle game in it’s own right.  Best of all, the game play is actually different than Cut The Rope.

It's Shocking

It's Shocking

Okay, so enough about that other game… let’s discuss Save Yammi.  You are trying to help a little octopus named Yammi find his way home to the Gulf of Mexico while avoiding a nasty shark.  Of course, you won’t know this without checking out the iTunes description, since there isn’t any sort of intro in the game itself.  Too bad, because given the graphics quality I bet an intro would be really cool.  Anyway, to get poor Yammi through each level, for some reason you have to feed him a cookie.  As luck would have it, though, this is one stubborn octopus, and he won’t eat the cookie until you’ve collected the 3 yellow stars floating around the level.  There are also red stars, but those are just for bonus.

So how do you help Yammi?  You start the ball (or cookie, as it were) rolling by tapping the cookie.  At any point, as long as you have rope left you can draw a piece of rope on the screen to help guide the cookie.  This helps in both giving it a path to roll along and in blocking it from going places you don’t want it to.  Keep in mind that rope segments will fade away after a certain length of time.  As the levels get trickier you get items like teleports and bubbles that help keep the cookie moving.  The game currently has 100 levels spread across 10 cities, and so far every city has introduced at least one new concept.

Bubbly Personality

Bubbly Personality

Your final score for each level is based on three factors: the three yellow stars (which you must get), the two red stars and how much rope you have left.  You only need the yellow stars to progress to the next level, but you can always go back and replay levels where you didn’t get all the red stars.  Save Yammi is also Game Center enabled, with a total of 16 achievements to earn and leaderboards to compete in.  Most achievements are built on doing a certain activity many times, so it should take you a while to collect them all.

The graphics are certainly one of the highlights of Save Yammi.  Not the backgrounds so much, mind you, as they are relatively plain compared to everything else.  However, all the objects look good, whether it’s a simple star or the grumbling thunder cloud.  Of course Yammi himself is awesome, with his big eyes and wonderful expressions.  If you leave the cookie rolling around him too long without having all the stars, he’ll even hold up a little sign to let you know that you need three stars.

Teleports

Teleports

The sound effects are actually pretty decent.  However, the one thing that troubles me just a bit is how much Yammi sounds like a certain other adorable critter.  In fact, if you closed your eyes you’d be hard pressed not to think you were hearing Om Nom when Yammi crunches a cookie.  Sorry, that’s the last time I’ll bring that up.  The music is pleasant enough, but it seems there are only two tunes – one for the menu and one for actual game play.  Even if each city didn’t have its own theme, a couple more scores would be nice.

I lied – I’m going to mention it once more.  For those of you that feel like you’ve gotten your fill with Cut The Rope or think that this is going to be too similar in game play, please give it a chance.  The rest of you that don’t have those fears should have already bought it.  This game is extremely fun, and really not quite like the other games of its ilk.  I just hope it manages to break the top 10 for a while, because it deserves all the accolades its brethren have received.

Final Verdict: Highly Recommended
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Quick Look: The Train episode 1 for iPhone

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

As a gamer of the 80’s, I grew up with a lot of magnificent adventure games: the Infocom classics, Sierra Online (before all the ownership changes) and several other companies come to mind.  Lately there has been a decent amount of adventure game activity on the platform, but it is as much about bringing us ports of old classics as actually delivering new tales.  Thankfully The Train falls under the second category, and while it’s a bit rough around the edges, it certainly provides for an entertaining experience.  It is a bit on the tough side, so be prepared to put your thinking cap on when boarding this transit system.

The Man Behind The Paper

The Man Behind The Paper

The game is told from the point of view of Martin, a “painter mage” that lives in a world where magic has been banned by a maniacal emperor.  On a routine visit to your fiancée things start to go awry, and suddenly you find yourself embroiled in a mystery to figure out what has happened to your beloved.  To find your fiancée you’ll need to visit several locations, interact with some interesting individuals, and solve a few mind bending puzzles.  Most of the time traveling to a new location is a matter of tapping where you want to go or clicking the “back” arrow when provided, though sometimes you’ll have to interact with the environment to set of a chain of events to get you someplace new.

To use an item you select it and then tap on what you want to use the item on.  An item will stay selected until you tap on it again or select another item, so if you start getting a lot of messages like “are you kidding?”, it’s probably because you accidentally left an item selected.  Interacting with mini-game style puzzles really depends on the puzzle.  You’ll tap, swipe, drag, tilt and more to accomplish everything that you need to.  You also tap on people to interact with them.  Sometimes the tapping seems overly sensitive, and there were multiple occasions where it took me several taps to clear a dialog away because it kept coming back.  One thing I found rather interesting was that most every screen was at least wider or taller than the physical screen, and to move your viewpoint you use a virtual stick in the lower left corner of the screen.  It’s a cool feature, but I didn’t care for what I assumed to be auto centering on some scenes because of it.

In The Attic

In The Attic

There are several puzzles in the game, both inventory based and mini-game style.  My biggest issue was the difficulty of the puzzles.  I found myself more often than not consulting the in-game help or the developer for tips or solutions.  I do like the fact that the hint option is context specific and almost always in at least two parts, so you don’t get the whole solution if you don’t want it.  I just wish I wouldn’t have had to abuse it so much.  One other facet I’d like to mention is the whole idea of Martin being a “painter mage”.  This gives him the ability to create and manipulate artwork.  It’s actually a really powerful concept, and it’s used a couple of times in the game, but it should have been explored more in my opinion.

The visuals have a very distinct look about them.  Everything is very detailed, but there isn’t a whole lot of animation anywhere in the game.  There are also certain areas where the artistic skill isn’t nearly as strong – the human figure, for example.  I like the artwork, but it doesn’t wow me like some of the offerings on the App Store.  The sound effects are the same way.  Nothing really jumps out at you, and given the locales there are some missed opportunities for cool background noise.  I’d also love to see speech added to the game – who doesn’t want to hear a zombie talk?  The music is really good.  It has the feel of an action suspense movie, which is just what a game like this needs.

Help Me

Help Me

Despite any grumblings I’ve mentioned, I would say The Train episode 1 is a decent start for The Moonwalls.  I was disappointed when it suddenly ended, because I was really getting into the story at the point.  If you tend to spend most of your time playing hidden object style games you might find this a bit daunting (not criticizing, because I love HoGs), but for more traditional adventure gamers this is worth checking out.  It’s a nice foundation for Martin’s world, and by the end you’ll want to pick up episode 2 (which should be out by the time I publish this).

Final Verdict: Recommended
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Quick Look: Burn It All for iPhone

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Cut The Rope, Burn The Rope, Burn It All – iPhone gamers seem to have a slight obsession with puzzle games that involve destroying ropes.  The way I figure it, as long as the games are fun, that’s perfectly okay.  It’s even better when you throw in the element of fire – that way I can play with flames without burning my house down!  Of course my biggest fear with Burn It All was that it was going to feel too much like Burn The Rope, but thankfully they are completely different games, aside from the whole burning thing.  I don’t even have to worry about my headphones getting tangled with Burn It All either.

Peace... Or Not

Peace... Or Not

The premise behind each level is simple: burn everything that will catch on fire.  You have a certain amount of time with which to accomplish this task or you fail the level.  You can also earn up to three gems per level depending on how quickly you finish the level, though it is possible to complete a level without earning any gems.  When you beat a level a new one is unlocked, and when you complete all the levels in a world the next world is opened up for you.  There are currently 4 worlds with a total of 100 levels, and there’s a spot for a fifth world in the menu system, so hopefully we’ll see that one day.

To start a fire you drag a flame from its starting point to whatever you want to set on fire.  There are three different types of flames, each with their own abilities.  The yellow is the weakest, and can only burn ropes starting from the end of the rope.  The blue flame can burn a rope starting from anywhere and can also burn wood.  The green flame can burn anything and can set multiple things on fire before needing to be refueled, but it takes the longest to recharge.  In addition to simply running out of time, you’ll also get obstacles like stone (which can’t be burnt), drops of water that will put your flame out, and jets of gas that can be both good and bad.  My biggest obstacle, unfortunately, is that sometimes my finger gets in the way and I can’t tell what’s going on.  You don’t have to be directly on the flame to control it, but in my opinion the screen really isn’t big enough for relative control.

The Lost Ark

The Lost Ark

This is a bit of a spoiler, but I want to mention it because it’s probably the coolest mechanic of the game.  Once you get into the third and fourth worlds you get the benefit of the “time loop”, which actually lets you play a level twice with two different flames!  This is usually necessary because there are parts that can’t be destroyed by the first flame you get, but can be taken care of with the second flame.  The trick is figuring out how to maximize the use of your first flame so that you can make the most of your second flame when the time comes.  These levels are some of the most interesting but also the most challenging.  I have quite a few that I skated by with nothing more than a “win” (I had no gems) just because I wanted to see what came next.

The visuals in Burn It All are quite nice.  The board layouts look good, with a nice mix of rock, rope and wood.  And of course everything looks nifty when it’s on fire.  There are also some cool special effects like when a drop of water hits your flame or a gas jet accelerates your lighting ability.  The sound effects are decent as well, especially when it comes to the little noises and occasional words like “fire” that the flames utter.  The music is well written and there are enough tunes (at least from what I can tell) that you shouldn’t get bored with the soundtrack.

I Hate Bats

I Hate Bats

Burn It All is another extremely entertaining puzzle game, with enough differences from the pack to make it worth delving into.  Just a tad bit more variety on non-rope items that can burn would be nice, but at least there was something besides ropes to begin with.  The difficulty level gets somewhat extreme in the end, so don’t expect this to be a walk in the park, but it should keep the hardcore gamers happy.  Between trying to achieve 3 gems on 100 levels and attempting to earn all the achievements, you won’t run out of game to play for quite a while.  I think the base mechanic of Burn The Rope was a bit more novel, but in the end I found Burn It All to more accessible.

Final Verdict: Highly Recommended
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Quick Look: Paper Munchers for iPhone

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Paper Munchers is proof that the food chain works just fine, as long as it’s aided by a bomb every now and again.  The big monsters are hungry, and it’s up to you to feed them as efficiently as you can.  This is a different take on the physics puzzle concept that’s both fresh and fun.  That is, of course, unless you run out of bombs.  But, as a last resort, there are always in-app purchases for that.

Spinning Doom

Spinning Doom

The world of Paper Munchers is full of big monsters with their mouths wide open, just hoping that something small and scrumptious will pop in.  There are plenty of little monsters for them to consume, but the small critters don’t seem too eager to just jump into the jaws of death.  That’s where you come in.  As wielder of the bombs, you simply tap the screen to place an explosive device, and watch as monsters go flying.  Every monster will get consumed, but aside from helping you complete the level, only certain ones are beneficial to your immediate game play.

There are two types of bombs in this world: temporary and permanent.  Permanent bombs come in a group of three, and this group gets replenished each time you start a level.  The one saving grace to your collection of permanent bombs is that you can actually earn them back while playing a level.  The first critter of a certain color that lands in the mouth of a big monster of the same color after using a bomb will earn you a replacement bomb.  Don’t get too excited, though.  If you land a small pink monster in a big pink monster’s mouth, and then a blue one in a big blue monster’s mouth on the same turn, you won’t get two bombs.  Still, if you can manage it you should be able to keep your supply of permanent bombs coming.

The Corner Pockets

The Corner Pockets

Temporary bombs, on the other hand, are quite fickle.  As their name implies, once you use them they are gone.  Don’t despair, though.  You can always buy bombs in the store.  Bombs cost currency, which you earn every time you complete a level.  Or, if you want to fast track things, you can spend your hard earned cash buying currency through in-app purchases.  It all seems a bit ironic if you ask me.  So far I haven’t run across a level I couldn’t beat with only my 3 permanent bombs (I ran out of temp bombs pretty quickly), but going this route you’ll certainly spend a lot of time on some levels.

The graphics in Paper Munchers are interesting to say the least.  The background employs the “make it look like paper” style of art, which I suppose has something to do with the name.  When implemented well it can be very stylish, and there’s no question that it looks fabulous here.  They even managed to make the oft times drab color pallet work.  The small creatures are basic shapes like rectangles and squares that have eyes and mouths, though they are certainly animated little shapes.  The hungry monsters start out as gnarly beasts with wide, gaping jaws, but later transform into other things like big organic saw blades.  One of the best (and admittedly rather morbid) parts of the visuals is the bones that are spit out when the monsters are done eating the small creatures.

The Blocks Cometh

The Blocks Cometh

The sound effects work well towards creating a darkly humorous mood.  The victims gurgle and chirp until they cease to exist, and in the case of the wide-jawed monsters, a nice little chomping sound followed by a spit completes the gruesome picture.  Other noises are appropriate to the types of monster you are feeding.  I will admit that I was a bit disappointed with the music, which is actually rather plain.  Given the atmosphere I would have almost expected a couple of Danny Elfman style tracks.

The main issue I have with Paper Munchers is that except for when you first complete a given level, currency doesn’t flow so freely in this game.  If you don’t mind spending some real do for fake currency, or you can live with 3 bombs once your supply of temps has been depleted, this is one very entertaining game.  Just remember that no actual monsters were harmed in the making of this software.

Final Verdict: Recommended
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Quick Look: Collision Effect for iPhone

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

My first inclination was to say that Collision Effect is like the Seinfeld of gaming – a whole lot of something about nothing.  Then it dawned on me that it’s more like an interactive fireworks display with points.  Now I don’t know what it is – except for the fact that it’s a whole lot of fun.  The game can get really frantic, and that’s when it is at its best.  The game is part action, part puzzle, and completely addictive.

Infinity And Beyond?

Infinity And Beyond?

Now that I’m done with my small sales pitch, you’re probably wondering what exactly Collision Effect is?  The game does little to explain what’s going on, but basically you have these entities called Zybbles, and you must make them collide.  In order to accomplish this you tap one Zybble of a certain color, and all others of the same color will head towards that one, culminating in a cool little explosion when they hit.  The thing is, you’ll quickly have multiple color groups on the screen at the same time, and you don’t want to (and often can’t) wait for one to clear up before you try to join another.  The other end of the equation here is that different colored Zybbles can’t touch (yeah, it’s Zybble segregation, but it’s only a video game).

Collision Effect has 3 game play modes.  Classic and Life Force are very similar in style.  Both require you to just keep on going until Zybbles of the wrong color collide.  There are a couple of power ups to help you, such as the meteor that blows up everything on screen when you touch it and the ice ball that slows down all movement temporarily.  The main difference is that in Classic mode one wrong collision signals the end of the game.  In Life Force mode, however, a bad collision starts a counter, and as long as you don’t get another bad collision before that counter gets to zero you can keep playing.  I do believe the counter gets longer every time you need it.

Four Corners

Four Corners

The third mode is Puzzle mode, and this one lets you take your time and think about your actions.  Don’t think this makes this mode any easier, however.  Each of the 120 boards starts with a static configuration of Zybbles, and you have to figure out which ones to tap and at what point to tap them so that each group can form without an incorrect collision.  At first it seems pretty simple, but it doesn’t take long before you realize that just a fraction of a second in timing makes all the difference in the world.  Some of these boards will definitely challenge most players.

The visuals are simply stunning.  There is no 3D, and not really even a lot of detail.  The Zybbles are basically balls of energy that leave particle trails, and the explosions aren’t that big.  However, when you start getting a bunch of particle trails of different colors crossing each other, and you watch Zybbles break the trails they go through, there’s something about it that just looks really awesome.  Of course the nebulous space background doesn’t hurt anything either.

Triangle

Triangle

The sound effects mainly consist of what sounds like a musical note when you tap a Zybble (especially cool when you tap multiples and hear the different sounds), a small collision sound, and interesting, almost angelic tone right before Zybbles of a group collide.  The music on the title screen is almost mesmerizing.  I’m not sure why I mention that, because hopefully you don’t spend much of your time at the main menu, but there you have it.  The in game music is really cool because it starts off subtle, and at moments when you least expect it ramps up to help get the adrenaline pumping.  It’s a nice compliment to the overall aesthetics of the game.

So after all my times playing Collision Effect I still don’t know how to classify it.  Maybe it is a “dodge ‘em” game with a big twist.  Whatever you want to call it, Collision Effect is one of those games that is way too simple in concept yet insanely difficult to master.  It’s also one of those games that are worth it every step of the way.  Currently at 99 cents for a universal app, I can’t think of a reason not to check Collision Effect out.  But, if you really don’t believe me, there is a lite version as well.

Final Verdict: Highly Recommended
App Store Link
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Quick Look: Supermarket Scramble for iPhone

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

I’ve played many match 3 games before, and I’ve also enjoyed one or two grocery store time management games, but this is the first I’ve dabbled in a combination of the two.  It turns out that the mix works quite well!  There are a couple of limitations that the random nature of the food drop and the interface place on strategy, but overall the two concepts blend together nicely and actually make for a rather challenging game.

Lots Of Produce

Lots Of Produce

Like typical time management games, it’s all about the customer. Your customers will line up at the bottom of the screen, each one having a list of items they need to buy.  To fill their items you must make a sufficient number of matches in the match 3 board that takes up most of the screen.  Once you’ve match enough of an item a check will appear next to that item in the shopper’s list, and excess will go to the next shopper that needs it.  When all items are matched for a shopper a cash register appears.  The customer will eventually go away on their own, but you can clear them out early by tapping on them.

Of course every patron is losing patience as they stand around waiting, and I’m assuming they’ll leave if you don’t get their order filled before their patience runs out, though I haven’t had that happen yet.  The obvious cure for this is to fill their order in a timely fashion.  To help you random power ups will appear like candy to sooth the shoppers’ nerves and a cart to clear away rows of items and help shake things up a bit.  Each new power up is introduced after several levels of play, and once you’ve acquired a power up you can level up that power up to make it more useful.  The one thing I didn’t care for was that it seems like the hard candy, which only affects one shopper, always affects the first shopper instead of giving you a chance to pick.

I Did Good!

I Did Good!

Speaking of upgrades, once you’ve completed a level you’ll earn stars based on reaching your goal, your expert goal, and the bonus set out for the level.  In effect you can earn up to three stars per level.  These stars can be spent upgrading power ups, food quality (which I assume means you need less matches to fill an order), and the store itself (for instance, adding 10 seconds to the clock at the start of the level).  There are a lot of items to upgrade and a lot of upgrade levels per item, so each game really could be a different experience from that perspective.

The graphics are certainly pleasant, though not quite up to the standards I usually expect from time management games.  The match 3 board looks decent enough, and you can certainly tell what everything is. Shopper portraits look alright, as does the image of the shopkeeper on the results screen of each level, but it’s clear the artist isn’t quite as skilled with drawing people.  The sound effects are adequate, and I do like the voices.  It’s just a shame the diva never has anything nice to say!  The music pretty much sounds like what you’d hear while walking around a supermarket, so I suppose your affinity towards the tune would depend on how much you like that somewhat generic elevator type instrumental.  For me it works.

Plenty Of Upgrades

Plenty Of Upgrades

The main drawback to Supermarket Scramble is that unlike traditional time management games, you don’t have as much control over your resources since they come from the randomly generated match 3 interface.  That aside, this game has managed to take two of my favorite casual genres and mash them up in an interesting and fun way.  I wouldn’t mind seeing the game get a bit of a facelift aesthetically, but that in no way detracts from the game’s entertainment value.  Whether you look at it as “you got your match 3 in my time management” or “you got your time management in my match 3”, what you end up with is a whole lot of fun.

Final Verdict: Recommended
App Store Link


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Quick Look: Treasure Seekers 3 – Follow The Ghosts for iPhone

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

It seems you can’t keep a good treasure hunter down.  Nelly and Tom are back for yet another globetrotting adventure.  This one starts out as a quest to recover a missing jewel, but quickly turns into a mission to settle supernatural forces around the world.  It’s certainly a worth successor to the Treasure Seekers franchise, with it’s nice blend of puzzle solving, hidden object scavenging and mini puzzle distractions.  It would be nice if it weren’t so hard to find your objectives on screen sometimes, but otherwise it provides for quite an enjoyable romp.

It's No Audrey II

It's No Audrey II

I’m not quite sure how to proceed with this review, because I don’t simply want to regurgitate my words from my thoughts on part two.  However, everything I said there pretty much applies to Follow The Ghosts, so you can check out my review of The Enchanted Canvases here.  One thing I really like about this series is the use of “key” objects, or items in the background that when tapped produce a list of objects you must find in the scene.  What’s nice about the way this is done is that unlike a normal hidden object scene where everything is purposely cluttered, these key object quests happen on the normal screens, so it feels like the objects you are searching for are more naturally blending into the environment.

I also like the fact that the mini games are just that – mini.  While they are used to uncover something about the game, they are fairly basic and unobtrusive, and typically make sense.  So far in Follow The Ghosts the main form of mini game has been of the “assemble a picture from torn parts” variety, though one mini game has you swatting flies.  It’s a way to break up the potential monotony of object finding without burdening the player too much.

A Man And His Cat

A Man And His Cat

As usual the game is a “tap the screen affair”, and aside from the occasional perceived lack of responsiveness the controls work quite well.  Fortunately you don’t get penalized for wrong taps, so there’s nothing to worry about in that regards.  The one thing I found a bit frustrating about Follow The Ghosts was that it seemed even worse than The Enchanted Canvases as far as actually finding key objects and the like.  Obviously finding the hidden objects should be a challenge, but when you can’t even determine where the starting point for your search is, that can be somewhat annoying.  At least you have unlimited hints to compensate for this, but I really don’t like using them if I don’t have to, and there have been times where even after I used a hint I thought to myself “I would have never thought of that”.

Once again the graphics are very well done.  The objects you need to find are easily discernable, unless you just don’t know what a particular object in the list is in the first place.  They haven’t upped the ante much in the animation department, though there are a few nice touches like a man petting the cat sitting next to him or the snapping plant.  Ambient sounds are a bit lacking in this iteration of Treasure Seekers, though the music is still certainly up to snuff.  One of these days I’d love to hear some voices put to Nelly and Tom.

Cute Little Monkey

Cute Little Monkey

There’s no question that Follow The Ghosts is yet another strong entry in the Treasure Seekers franchise.  I’m not sure that I like it quite as much as The Enchanted Canvases, but that opinion might change by the time I’m done with the game (we’ll have to see how the ending goes).  Whether you’re new to the series or a franchise veteran, there is plenty here to love.  I can’t wait to see what their next outing has in store for us.

Final Verdict: Recommended
App Store Link
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Quick Look: Front Runner for iPhone

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

With as easy as it is to get games on the App Store, the scrolling shooter genre is becoming just as saturated as any other these days.  As a result, you really need something different to stand out from the crowd.  On the down side, Front Runner doesn’t really offer that “something different”.  Thankfully, it’s still pretty fun to play, especially when you encounter the bosses (either for real or when they show up to taunt you).  There’s no new ground broken here, but it treads the old ground well enough.

 

Red Ivan's Coming

Red Ivan's Coming

It’s been a while since I started playing this game, so I don’t honestly recall the story, but from what I gather you’re a funny looking red dude that plays a mean trumpet and is trying to rescue an alien named Daisy.  In story mode you’ll have to beat 21 levels of bad guys, complete with three boss battles.  There’s also a survival mode that you unlock by completing story mode, but I haven’t gotten that far yet.  It’s not that the game is overly difficult, because you’ll pretty much fly through all the levels of each stage with little challenge except the boss levels.  It’s just that there appears to be a nasty glitch that prevented the last level from ending even though I defeated the bad guy, and I didn’t feel like tackling it again.

There’s not a lot of rhyme or reason to the level design in this game.  The enemies start of pretty sparse, but as the levels progress the screen will soon be flooded with adversaries.  When you take them down, some will leave notes for you to pick up.  These notes are worth either 1 or 5 points, and at the beginning of each level you can use those points to upgrade weapons and your ship.  The ship’s speed and shields can be upgraded, and each weapon can be upgraded for power and rate of fire.  What I really like about the system is that you get to keep whatever points you collect even if you don’t finish the level, so this ends up being one of those games where it won’t be impossible to fully upgrade all your weapons.  And trust me, there are times where you’ll need it.

One thing I find rather interesting is that once you’ve completed a block of seven levels, you can go back and play that level set again.  Your score will start back at 0, but it’s a chance for you to actually better your score from the first time around and earn achievements that you couldn’t earn before.  Don’t think this is necessarily going to be an easy way to earn extra points for upgrades, however.  I decided to test this out for kicks, and you don’t earn a whole lot of upgrade points on the first set of levels.  Guess the developers didn’t want you to “cheat” your way to victory!

Him again?

Him again?

Your only option for controlling the game is to drag your finger around the screen.  Normally this is the option I prefer for scrolling shooters anyway, but in this case it starts my list of “what I don’t like about Front Runner”.  Your ship is pretty small, and unless I use my pinky, I’m covering the ship a good portion of the time that I’m playing.  This makes it rather difficult to dodge just in the nick of time, which is often required when lots of bullets are flying around.  Second, while it doesn’t happen very often, sometimes achievement notices will pop up, blocking the action.  That’s not very cool in my book.

Finally, I’d like to mention the errors.  I usually leave this part out, but in this case they were significant enough for me to bring them up.  The game pretty consistently crashes after about 10 to 15 minutes of playing.  Thankfully it’s usually between the shop and the next level, so at least I don’t lose anything.  Then there was the bug at the end of the last level.  This one I think happened because there were notes that I could not pick up, and it was like the game didn’t know that I had completed the last level.  As a result I was stuck and had to shut the game down, and even though I had beaten the final boss I now have not completed the game yet.  That is definitely not cool.

Graphically the game is quite charming.  There are only a few types of adversaries, but each one looks quite different, and the end bosses actually have some personality to them.  Some of the objects appear to be clay moldings like in OddBlob or Platypus, but the overall style doesn’t seem to match that, so I’m not really sure if they’re 3D models or just good old fashioned pixel art.  Whatever the case, it looks pretty good.  I really like the look of the protagonist as well, but sadly you don’t really get to see him except for in the title screen.

Bad Guys Keep On Comin'

Bad Guys Keep On Comin'

The sound effects for the most part were just okay – there really wasn’t anything new to be heard here.  I did, however, crack a smile every time a villain would come out and wag its tongue at me.  I was actually somewhat disappointed in the soundtrack.  Especially when compared to several of the scrolling shooters I’ve played recently, the music was generic and bland.

I’m really torn on this one.  It’s not very in-depth (most gamers should easily beat the game in an hour or two), and the bugs are a bit annoying, especially whatever caused me to dump on the last level before I could win the game.  There’s not really anything new about the game compared to others of its type either.  Still, I did have fun playing it and the bosses are quite amusing.  Everything points to me giving this a Not Recommended, but instead I’m just going to caution you strongly that you might experience some stability issues with the game.

Final Verdict: On The Fence (leaning towards Not Recommended)
App Store Link
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[All About Quick Looks]


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