Author Archives: Shaun Musgrave


TGS 2014: Hands-On With 'Chaos Rings 3'

The kids are back in school and the temperatures are cooling down, and in Japan that means it's the time of the year for the annual Tokyo Game Show. I got hands-on time with a bunch of cool upcoming games, but I figured you guys might be interested in hearing about this one first. Square Enix had a huge booth at the show this year, and while a lot of that was for their console and handheld games, mobile had a major presence as well. There were a handful of playable titles, but I went right for Chaos Rings 3. It's one of my most anticipated games, so I was eager to see if it lived up to my hopes...

Yes, I went for the low-hanging fruit with the review title. Let's just try to move past that and get to the game I want to tell you about today, Kapsula [$1.99]. This is a pretty unusual game. If it wasn't so utterly out there with its theme, I'd almost think it was the product of some bizarre marketing meeting. This is basically a lane-based endless runner mixed with a match-3 puzzle game, and I'll let you try to hash out how that might work for a second before I spoil it all for you...

It's something that mobile gamers probably overlook more often than we should, but audio can add tremendously to the experience you get from a game. From the throaty growling threats of Sinistar to the playful jingle that plays when you die in Super Mario Bros. to the unsettling atmosphere of Bioshock, video games have always used sound to subtly manipulate the emotional state of the player. Unfortunately, the very nature of how and where most handheld games are played means a lot of us rarely hear the games that engage us so well. You're going to have to trust me on one thing, though, and that's that if you play Shoot The Moon [Free], you're going to want to do it with the sound on...

Hello, gentle readers, and welcome back to the RPG Reload, the weekly journey to seek the long-buried legends of iOS RPGs, revisit them, and escape within 2,000 words. I haven't succeeded in that yet, and I'm pretty sure today isn't going to buck that trend. As this week's installment hopefully demonstrates, we are welcome to all kinds of RPGs here in the Reload, and while I will do my best to share the love around, there is someone who can keep an eye on me to make sure I'm not sticking too closely to my comfort zone. That someone is you. Yes, as regular readers know, once a month, I'm playing and writing about an RPG selected by the readers. The next reader's choice is coming up pretty fast in RPG Reload 008, so get your votes in now by leaving a comment below or posting in the Official RPG Reload Club in our forums. This is your last week to cast a vote, because even Batman needs prep time. In addition to voting, I'd also love to hear your thoughts on this week's game or any other games I've covered. I'm also not going to say no to any fresh humor, just throwing that out there...

Occasionally, a video game has a brilliant new idea that it builds itself around. Sometimes it gets it right the first time, sometimes it's left to another game to capitalize on it. Most games, however, have to be content with coming at an existing idea, hoping to provide a new angle, presentation, or mix of other ideas to set itself apart. Such is the case with Partyrs [$1.99], a charming puzzle game with a premise that should ring pretty familiar to avid mobile puzzle game fans. It's a game about arranging guests in a room according to their desires in order to ensure maximum party satisfaction. In practice, it's very similar to the popular games Girls Like Robots [$2.99] and Joining Hands [$2.99], a puzzle type that stretches at least as far back as those old logic puzzles about ferrying sheep and wolves across the river with one boat...

Several months back, mobile gamers were treated to Alphadia Genesis [$9.99], the first kind-of-3D RPG from Kemco, courtesy of developer EXE Create. Since then, Kemco's released another half dozen or so games, but they were all using older 2D engines, even EXE Create's Fanatic Earth [$7.99]. Well, we've finally got our second game using the 3D battle engine in Illusion Of L'Phalcia [$3.99], and it just goes to show that if you're dedicated to churning out an RPG in a span of weeks, it doesn't matter if you're using 2D or 3D graphics, the results are still going to be mixed...

Gameloft's newest release, Spider-Man Unlimited [Free], makes me feel all complicated inside. Regular readers will know that I tend to prefer my running games to be simple and gimmick-free, and this game is anything but that. Of course, regular readers will also know that I can't resist a game based on superhero comics. I expected that to be my struggle with the game, but in a surprise twist, it's not. This is probably the most fun I've had with a gimmick-heavy runner this side of Iron Man 3 [Free]. It has a ton of gameplay variety, a great goal-based structure to accompany its endless running mode, exceptional fan service, and a few ridiculously compelling tricks borrowed from Puzzle & Dragons [Free]-style games. As a huge Spider-Man fan, playing this game is an absolute joy. Unfortunately, leveling up an assortment of collectible characters isn't the only way Spider-Man Unlimited borrowed from that popular genre, and therein lay the proverbial fly, or I suppose spider, in the soup...

One of the cool things about video games is how they let you do things that you might not be very good at in real life. For example, in the real world, I am about as stealthy as a cow on ice skates, but in video games, I can be a master big boss ninja. Stealth games were around as early as 1981's 005 from SEGA and enjoyed a few brief spikes of popularity around certain titles like Castle Wolfenstein on the Apple II and Konami's Metal Gear on the MSX, but for the most part, it was a genre waiting for technology to catch up with its ambitions. Finally, in the late 1990s, the genre broke out in a big way on the backs of titles like Metal Gear Solid, Thief, and Tenchu, and would keep going strong with heavy hitter franchises like Splinter Cell and Assassin's Creed. These big franchises are still going at it, though at times with a reduced emphasis on pure stealth, but the genre's recently been seeing a lot more small-scale projects. I think Stealth [$1.99] represents one of the smallest yet, having been created by just one person...

RPG Reload File 005 - 'Saturday Morning RPG'

Hello, gentle readers, and welcome once again to the RPG Reload, your weekly dose of words about RPGs, where every morning is Saturday morning, and we are all wearing our metaphorical pajamas. Every week, we tune in for a rerun of an RPG from App Store days gone by for a little reflection and revisiting. I'll do my best to keep things a bit varied and balanced between the many different kinds of RPGs out there, but once a month, in order to defend human freedom against my ruthless determination to rule the world, the selection falls to you, the reader. Our next reader's choice feature will be in RPG Reload 008, so please vote for the RPG you want to see me write about in either the comments below or the Official RPG Reload Club thread in our forums. Those are also both great places to share your thoughts, experiences, fresh comedy, and knowledge...

'The Journey Down: Chapter Two' Review - Bwana's Big Adventure Kicks Into High Gear

Nearly two years ago, or longer if you're a PC gamer, we were introduced to the world and characters of The Journey Down [$2.99], a point and click/tap adventure game from developer SkyGoblin. It was a mechanically sound example of the genre with charm to spare, but it definitely suffered from the usual chapter one problem of doing a whole lot of setting up and not much paying off. If you played it, chances are good that you fell in love with its jazzy, dark atmosphere and lovable protagonist, Bwana. Chances are also good that after finishing the game's two and a half hour adventure, you went looking for a magic lamp to wish up the next chapter. It's been a bit of a wait, but The Journey Down: Chapter Two [$4.99] is finally here, and it's an excellent continuation of the story...

Reviewing a game like Dragon Quest [$2.99] is never easy. First of all, as many of you probably do, I have a very deep childhood connection to this game, which means it's a nostalgic trip for me every time I play it. Then there's the fact that this is a genre-defining game, and as a result, can't possibly be expected to be as refined as the games that followed in the path it carved out. Ultimately, this game is both a classic and a curio, a piece of history that feels like one, no matter how much Square Enix tries to pretty it up. Its age is in its fundamental structure. I think it holds up very well relative to other games from its era, but that's perhaps faint praise, given the state of console RPGs in 1986. A completely new player without any sort of fondness for the history of the series would be better off checking out Dragon Quest 4 [$14.99] first. That doesn't mean that the first Dragon Quest has nothing to offer, but it's probably not the best way to break the ice in 2014...

It's been a long while since we've seen an update to Beamdog's iOS version of Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition [$9.99], but finally, version 1.3 has arrived, and it brings with it a ton of fixes and changes, including one of the most requested and significant changes yet: Fixing the colors on Drizzt and giving him his signature scimitars. Yes, at long last, the legions of fans and general iOS gamers can rest easily knowing one of pulp fantasy's biggest characters is now faithfully transcribed in video game format. Oh, and they've also added support for iPhone, if anyone was asking about that...

Boy, all kinds of surprising news related to Final Fantasy today, isn't there? The latest surprise is that the latest game from Hironobu Sakaguchi, the Final Fantasy creator and current Executive Surfer of Mistwalker Corporation, has soft launched. Perhaps, like me, you thought Terra Battle would make its debut on the Japanese App Store. Well, put on your fake Canadian mutton chops, because if you want to get an early start on Sakaguchi's latest, you'll find it north of the digital border in the untamed wilds of the Canadian App Store...

Well, we all wondered what Square-Enix's strategy was going to be for making Final Fantasy games available to mobile gamers from Final Fantasy 7 onward, but I don't think anyone called this one. Square-Enix announced today that they will be launching a mobile streaming service called Dive In, allowing mobile gamers to stream and play select Square-Enix games over wi-fi to their devices. The service will launch in Japan on October 9th, 2014, with three titles: Final Fantasy 7, Final Fantasy 13, and The Cherry Blossom Murders.  November will see the additions of Final Fantasy 8 and The Last Remnant, and in December, Final Fantasy 13-2, Murdered: Soul Suspect, and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 will arrive...

'Battle Riders' Review - Wreck And Roll Racing

Once upon a time, there were shooting games and there were driving games. Two fine genres enjoyed by many gamers, young and old. Then, in the early 80s, in a move precedented only by the peanut butter-chocolate combination that was so delicious it kicked off the concept of democracy, the two ideas were finally brought together. It's hard to nail down who did it first, with it largely depending on how broad you go, but by the time the theme from Peter Gunn was pounding in your local arcade, there was no going back. We were driving cars, we were shooting at other cars, and it was pretty great. As a genre, its certainly had its ups and downs, but I don't think it's ever going to disappear entirely...