Author Archives: Shaun Musgrave


RPG Reload File 049 - 'Doom 2 RPG'

Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the RPG Reload, the weekly feature where we sometimes vanquish demons with toilet water. Each week, we take a look at an RPG from the App Store's past to see how it holds up in the here and now. It's a chance for a deeper dive than our reviews typically allow, giving us the chance to revisit old favorites and reflect on their position in the overall iOS RPG scene. Your only guide on this journey is Shaun, an observer from your own time, who appears in the form of a hologram only you can see and hear. I try to choose a balanced plate of RPGs from week to week in hopes of properly representing this gnarling hydra of a genre, but if you have a particular game you'd like to see me tackle, please let me know about it. You can do that by making a comment below, posting in the Official RPG Reload Club thread in the forums, or tweeting me at @RPGReload...

Thanks to the massive success of Rovio's Angry Birds [$0.99] during the formative years of the App Store, physics-based puzzle games are probably one of the more, shall we say, over-represented genres on the App Store. At this point, I'd imagine most people have plenty of them in their purchase histories, and as a result, it takes something really special to make any actual waves in the genre. An initial glance at Earth Vs. Balloons [Free], which in screenshots looks very much like something that's been done again and again on iOS, isn't likely to turn anyone's head. But after seeing the name of the developer, I had to check the game out. This game comes to us from Mangobile, the developer behind the equally plain-on-the-surface Kingturn [Free] strategy games. They're probably never going to win any awards for presentation pizazz, and while the Kingturn games certainly have their twists, they don't get by on innovation as much as they do from immensely solid construction and clever scenario design...




'Champion Of The Gods' Review - Destiny's Child

The gamebooks released by publisher Choice Of Games are a bit of a tough sell to the uninitiated. I mean, gamebooks in general are a tough sell, but many of the other gamebook publishers on the App Store put a lot of work into the stuff around the text. Whether it's a plethora of illustrations, a unique visual presentation, added music or sound effects, or even just playing around with the appearance of the virtual pages, considerable effort seems to be spent to try to get people to give the actual meat of the experience, the text, a proper chance. Choice Of Games offers little more than a splash image, generic radio buttons for choices, a couple of splashes of color in the status screen, and black text on white pages. There is no sleight of hand here. It all falls on the plot, the quality of the writing, and the success of the choices presented in creating a compelling personal experience for the player...

Classic Reload - 'Spider: The Secret Of Bryce Manor'

Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the first edition of the Classic Reload, a semi-random feature where we take a look at classic games from the App Store's past. Yes, it's a spin-off of the RPG Reload, but let's hope this is more Laverne & Shirley than Joanie Loves Chachi. Anyway, the idea here is the same. There are lots of great games in the iOS library that don't get talked about much anymore, even though they're still worth playing. When the App Store was fairly young it wasn't a huge problem, but with several years and countless hundreds of thousands of new apps behind us, some really great games have become invisible to many players. The aim of this column is to pick out some of those games and give them a thorough going-through to see how they hold up in the modern day and take a deeper dive than we may have initially. This will not be a weekly feature, but I do plan to put one out every once in a while. Think of it as a hopefully-pleasant surprise you can expect now and then...

Update Mondays: 'The Simpsons: Tapped Out', 'Ambition Of The Slimes', 'Farm Heroes Saga', 'The Ensign', And More

Hello everyone, and welcome to the week! It's time once again for our look back at the noteworthy updates of the last seven days. This week it's nearly all about free-to-play and little indies, but I suppose that makes sense, doesn't it? Of course, you can keep an eye out for updates yourself using AppShopper Social [Free], the watchlist in the TouchArcade App [Free], or by participating in the TouchArcade forums, but this weekly summary is here to fill in the things you might have missed. Let's dig in!..

'Million Arthur' Review - A Rusty Blade

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July 24th, 2015 12:45 PM EDT by Shaun Musgrave in 2 stars, Card, Free, iPad Games, iPhone games, Reviews, Role-Playing
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Although it's a new arrival in most of the world, Million Arthur [Free] is a relatively old game in a very young sub-genre. In Japan, it arrived mere months after the release of Puzzle & Dragons [Free], and while its story and production values made it a cross-media hit in its home country, the gameplay feels it's from another era. The best analogy I can make is to go back to the early days of first-person shooters. Developer id Software had released their breakout hit Wolfenstein 3D [$1.99] through publisher Apogee, but were going it alone for their next title. Apogee created a new game called Blake Stone that was built on Wolf 3D's skeleton, offering greater interactivity and a more open structure. It was a fine evolution of the gameplay established in Wolf 3D. The only problem was, the week after Blake Stone released, id Software released Doom [$4.99], and suddenly the whole tea table was up-ended. Million Arthur is Blake Stone, but for social RPGs, and outside of Japan, it's not releasing in the same window as its assassin, but years later...

'Warhammer 40K: Deathwatch - Tyranid Invasion' Review - Glorious Space Hunters

Rodeo Games has a niche, and they're getting better and better at satisfying it with each new release. Their last game was a fairly well-received conversion of the classic Warhammer Quest [$4.99] board game, and their newest release is another Warhammer-themed turn-based strategy game. Of course, before all of that, Rodeo Games made their name with their excellent Hunters series of turn-based strategy games, and its from those roots that Warhammer 40K: Deathwatch [$4.99] draws most strongly from. This is basically Hunters 3, albeit with a Warhammer 40K skin. Some might frame that as a negative, but it's been a few years since the last Hunters game. I'm more than willing to entertain a sequel at this point, especially one as high-quality as Deathwatch...

RPG Reload File 048 - 'Puzzle & Dragons'

Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the RPG Reload, the weekly feature where we try not to blow our weekly allowance on Magic Stones. Each week, we take a look at an RPG from the App Store's past to see how it holds up in the modern day. It's a chance to revisit, reflect, or simply take a deeper dive than our reviews typically allow. The RPG genre is impossibly broad, and I try to do my best to balance things out from week to week, but if you've got a game you'd like to see me play, please let me know. You can comment below, post in the Official RPG Reload Club thread in the forums, or tweet me at @RPGReload with your suggestions. The last regular reader's choice article is coming up soon, and with the way the votes have gone, it's all but decided. That said, I'll still be taking anything you kind folks throw at me under advisement for future features, so feel free to speak up...

It's an exciting time for Dragon Quest fans. In the last few weeks, we've had the Minecraft [$6.99] take-off Dragon Quest Builders announced for Sony's platforms, Dragon Quest Monsters Joker 3 announced for the Nintendo 3DS, and a live stream scheduled for July 28th where it's expected the long-awaited Dragon Quest 11 will be announced. Mobile isn't being left out of the party, either. Amid all of these other announcements, Square Enix also said that they would be bringing a new free-to-play Dragon Quest game to mobile platforms later this year...

Just over a year ago, developer GlobZ released Mucho Party [Free], an enjoyable collection of mini-games that can be played alone or, more ideally, with up to seven of your friends. When I reviewed it, I found it to be a lot of fun to play with other people, even if it wasn't quite so enjoyable to play against the computer opponents. That version of the game had a respectable 31 different mini-games loaded into it, but the game has seen several updates that added more. That said, it was kind of a hard sell due to its up-front cost of $3.99, so it never seemed to catch on all that well...

'Cally's Caves 3' Review - Cally Powers Up Yet Again

Going back and playing the first Cally's Caves game, it's stunning how far this series has come in such a short span of time. While the core action gameplay is solid, just about everything else in the game looks and feels, well, like the small indie game that it is. Cally's Caves 2 [Free] upped the ante significantly, not just in terms of presentation but also in gameplay mechanics, adding a compelling Ratchet & Clank-style weapon upgrade system and smoothing out the overall difficulty. A quick glance at Cally's Caves 3 [Free] would make you think you're getting more of the same from the second game, but although the game may not appear all that different at first, I'm going to go as far as to say that this third game represents almost as significant a leap over Cally's Caves 2 as that game had made over the original...

Old genres rarely die, they just often end up evolving into something a bit different. That's certainly the case with beat-em-ups, a genre which reached its height in the 16-bit era only to almost completely vanish in the following generation. That happened for many reasons, including market saturation, the popularity of one-on-one fighters eating the genre's lunch, an overall lack of innovation, and the 3D nature of the gameplay meaning it got precious little boost from the shift into polygons the way other genres did. A few attempts were made to keep the genre going on PlayStation and its contemporaries, but they met with limited success at best. It wouldn't be until the release of the PlayStation 2 that the beat-em-up would find its new footing, thanks to Koei's Dynasty Warriors series. That series spawned many sequels, spin-offs, and imitators, and even today serves as a general template for the genre...

Update Mondays: 'Adventure Time Game Wizard', 'WWE 2K', 'King Of Thieves', 'Harmony 3', And More

Hello everyone, and welcome to the week! It's time once again for our look back at the noteworthy updates of the last seven days. It's a bit of a light one this week, so you'll have to settle for a slightly shorter read than usual. I hope you'll forgive me! Of course, you can keep an eye out for updates yourself using AppShopper Social [Free], the watchlist in the TouchArcade App [Free], or by participating in the TouchArcade forums, but this weekly summary is here to fill in the things you might have missed. Let's dig in!..

Let me start this review by apologizing for its tardiness. I've been kicking this down the road for weeks, mostly because I've been kicking the game itself down the road for weeks. I've been doing that because playing Always Sometimes Monsters [$4.99] is not fun, or exciting, or even remotely enjoyable for me. A great deal of that is intentional design. Some of it isn't. The terrible mobile UI is likely not meant to be a commentary on anything, for example. Nor are the technical hiccups that occur during many mini-games. Beyond that, however, the game itself is not looking to give you a good time. It's essentially a series of depressing choices between bad options where anyone and everyone is ready to spew out a fortune cookie at you unsolicited. Being an iffy port of a divisive game, it's both easy and hard to review at the same time. Hence, the feet-dragging...

Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the RPG Reload, the weekly feature where we need food badly. Each week, we dig into the archives to find an RPG from times past, all just for the little old purpose of seeing how it holds up today. It's a bit of reflection, a little revisiting, and a chance to dive deeper on a game than our usual reviews allow. As ever, I try to present a sensible spread of titles to represent this vast genre from week to week, but if you think I'm missing something cool, please let me know. You can make suggestions by commenting down below, posting in the Official RPG Reload Club thread in the forums, or by tweeting me at @RPGReload. We've only got one last regular reader's choice article coming up in August before starting the new format, so if there's something you want to see soon, let me know now...

Friends, Wednesdays are tough. The joy of the previous weekend is a distant memory, Friday seems like a million miles away, it's all very hard to cope with. When you've got something tough to cope with, buying a bunch of stuff is probably the second-best way to get your mind off of things. But then the credit card bill comes, and you've got something even bigger to cope with. What if I told you there was a magical shop where you could get hours and hours of glorious escape, all without breaking the bank? Today, that magical shop is the App Store. There are a ton of great games on sale, and while I'm pretty sure there's no unifying occasion tying all of these sales together, the point is that a lot of cool stuff is on for great prices. I've put together a list of the notable ones I've found, and since I haven't got a hot clue when most of these sales end, you'd best buy whatever has caught your eye...

Major companies with a worldwide presence like Square Enix can't do much of anything without getting notice from almost everyone, so it's perhaps a little surprising that they launched a successful new series a couple of years ago with the English-speaking world paying it little mind. Million Arthur [Free] has slowly grown from a single smartphone app to an entire franchise, with multiple games appearing not only on mobile but also 3DS and Vita, a live action TV show, and more merchandise than you can shake a dakimakura at. It even got an English release in Singapore, but that's about as far as it's gotten for Western gamers until today, when Gamevil and Square Enix launched the game globally on iOS and Android...

I feel like it's pretty hard for a letter game to distinguish itself at this point in the App Store's life. Much like any long-in-the-tooth genre, new entries are starting to feel far more similar to each other than different. AlphaBear [Free], the latest from Triple Town [Free] developer Spry Fox, looks into the developer's past for inspiration. Panda Poet is a web game that has you making words to create bigger and more numerous pandas than your opponent. It's kind of a word game crossed with Othello, and if I may put on my day job hat for a second here, it's been invaluable as an English study tool for some of the kids I teach. Though it works fine in mobile browsers, it's not available as a native mobile app, and you really do need two human players to get the most out of it. In short, there's room to grow the concept, and that's sort of what AlphaBear does...

'Five Nights At Freddy's' Plot Guide - Everything To Know Before 'Five Nights At Freddy's 4'

Okay, so there's this series of scary games called Five Nights At Freddy's. Have you heard of it? It's pretty popular, with all three games in the series scoring major hits on every platform they've released on, and a fourth on the way. When described in terms of pure gameplay, it's not much more than a frantic take on the old Red Light/Green Light children's game, but the atmosphere, story, and ever-mysterious lore have earned the series a ton of dedicated fans. They meet in various places on the Internet to share theories and predictions and discuss the meaning of the many vague hints the creator has left in each game. From the outside looking in, it's all a bit impenetrable, which is why we decided to put together a plot guide in the spirit of our Infinity Blade guide from a couple of years ago. If you are new to the series and don't really get what's going on with the story, this guide has pretty much everything you'll need to know and then some...

Update Mondays: 'Mortal Kombat X', 'Pet Rescue Saga', 'Marvel Future Fight', 'Pixel Dungeon', And More

Hello everyone, and welcome to the week! It's time once again for our look back at the noteworthy updates of the last seven days. It's quite a mixed bunch this week, I have to say. That means there's a little something for just about everyone! Of course, you can keep an eye out for updates yourself using AppShopper Social [Free], the watchlist in the TouchArcade App [Free], or by participating in the TouchArcade forums, but this weekly summary is here to fill in the things you might have missed. Let's dig in!..