Author Archives: Shaun Musgrave


RPG Reload File 014 - 'Final Fantasy'

Hello, gentle readers, and welcome back to the RPG Reload, the weekly feature where we scour for the severed tails of rodents so that we can wear fancier clothes. Er, metaphorically speaking, of course. Each week, we take a look at an RPG from the App Store's past to see how it holds up today. It's a chance to take a deeper dive or go off on side-quests that might not otherwise fit in our usual reviews. Also, it guarantees that I get to play a good RPG every week and call it work. I try to grab a variety of RPGs covering the many corners of this broad genre, but just to keep things interesting, I throw the choice over to you, the reader, once per month. Simply vote for the game you'd like to see featured by commenting below or popping into the Official RPG Reload Club thread in our forums and you just might see your choice show up next! The final reader's choice Reload for 2014 will be in RPG Reload 017 at the beginning of December, so get those votes in as soon as you can...

Ah, the spin-off. A truly noble creature, brought into creation typically by a secondary character becoming so popular that it's believed by the powers that be that they can anchor a story of their own. Sometimes, it works out well, as in Frasier, The Jeffersons, and Wario Land. But for each success, there are a handful of failures like Joey, The Ropers, and Shadow The Hedgehog. Deep Silver's attempt to spin out a character iOS gamers have yet to meet leans more towards the latter group than the former, but point and click adventure fans are still likely to find some merit in the whole exercise. Secret Files: Sam Peters [$0.99] is a much shorter, simpler game than Secret Files: Tunguska [$4.99], and its protagonist is considerably more abrasive than that game's duo. That said, there are a couple of good puzzles and, along with occasionally clever bits of dialogue, it just barely manages keep its head above water...

'Monument Valley: Forgotten Shores' Review - Take Another Trip To The Valley

As I mentioned back when I reviewed Monument Valley [$3.99], it was bound to be a love it or hate it affair, and I was actually pleasantly surprised to see that most people felt as strongly about the experience as I did. It's a beautiful thing to play with, an artfully-constructed world that you can manipulate and bend around in ways that only a few other games have allowed. It was a gorgeous, pure experience, free of the flashing lights and urging pace that seems to be the general speed of things in this wonderful hobby of ours. It was also very short, with a mere ten levels to its tale, about a third of which were basically tutorial stages. By the time it turned up the gas even a little bit, it was soon finished. As an experience, it's hard to argue with it. As a mechanical game, it was a whole lot of potential with a somewhat wanting level of realizing it. Generally, it was very well-received, with most people left crying for more. So developer Ustwo got working on some more, and after several months of development, they've released an expansion for Monument Valley called Forgotten Shores...

It may be among the lowest hanging fruit of all when it comes to entertainment, but it's hard to deny the raw comedic appeal of monkeys. They're like little hairy people that we can teach amusing tricks to without feeling bad about it. They're also very useful for filling in gaps if you lack a charismatic actor or character. Generally, people like monkeys, unless they've known a real monkey, in which case, they probably hate monkeys. ..

'Mr. Particle Man' Review - At Last, One For The Gentlemen

Up-front disclaimer: I hadn't played or even heard of Ms. Particle Man [$1.99], the game this is a sequel to, until about a week ago. It was apparently released in late 2012, so I was probably busy building my deluxe shelter to protect myself from the impending inevitable apocalypse, which appears to be rather late at this point. I wish I had discovered it sooner, but I'm glad I finally did, even more so because I've found it by way of its superb follow-up, Mr. Particle Man [$1.99]. It's an unabashedly old-school experience that manages to make use of a few modern tricks, one of which I've never seen implemented in quite the same way before in an iOS game. Fair warning: Mr. Particle Man is one of those tough as nails games where you'll die, die, and die some more, and it's very possible, likely even, that you'll hit the limits of your own skill before the game is finished. If you're the sort that gets frustrated by games like that, move along with your sanity intact. For the rest of us weirdos who meet such adversity with laughter and an insane need to keep playing, what this game does is going to be a nice, comfortable fit...

'RPG Asdivine Hearts' Review - Credit Where It's Due, This Is Really Good

Well, friends, it was bound to happen sooner or later. A couple of the developers of Kemco's regular RPG releases have been dancing at the knife edge of quality for a while now, and it was only a matter of time before one of them finally lined up all the pieces and created something truly excellent. I always knew it would be you, EXE Create. Asdivine Hearts [$3.99] isn't just Kemco's best RPG release to date, it's one of the better original JRPGs available on mobiles from anyone. It doesn't transcend the genre in any meaningful ways, but every aspect of it not only shows a desire to change things up a bit, but to make sure all of those ideas actually work well together. If you like JRPGs and want something that isn't a port of a classic, this game should definitely be on your short list...

Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the RPG Reload, the weekly feature where we teach cute little animals to go for the eyes. Each week, we'll be revisiting a classic RPG from the App Store's past to see how it holds up to the cruel light of the modern day. We'll also have some laughs and learn some valuable lessons about friendship and not leaving a can of Coke in your car overnight in Winnipeg in December. In my carefully planned schedule for this column, I've tried to strike a good balance of various types of RPGs from developers of differing sizes and fame, but once per month, I turn to you, dear readers, to choose the game you'd like to see me cover. Simply cast your vote in the comments below or in the Official RPG Reload Club thread in our forums. As this very installment you are reading is a reader's choice Reload, the next one will be RPG Reload 017 in December. I'm probably going to change the rules on the reader's choice in the New Year to allow for some wackier picks, so this might be the last time the majority will rule. Take advantage of it!..

There are lot of reasons developers might choose to put a game on mobiles, and plenty of them have nothing to do with the unique interface presented by the touch screen. Most of us have learned to deal with virtual buttons and such just fine, but it's always nice when a developer clearly designs their game around the hardware's natural input methods in an intuitive way. Splot [$1.99], a new platformer from the developers behind the Trine games, benefits greatly from its easy-to-understand control setup. Its controls work very well, and that should theoretically open the developer up to more challenging level designs, an element I think most platform fans can agree on. Unfortunately, Splot doesn't quite go as far as I'd like it in that regard, but it still ends up being a fun, content-rich game that will keep you busy for at least a few hours...

Okay, so if you've been around the block a few times in the mobile or flash game scenes, you've almost certainly come across a time management game before. Going back as far as Activision's Pressure Cooker, this puzzle sub-genre typically requires you to match pieces of things just right while under a time limit. It's enjoyed a bit of a comeback in recent years thanks to games like Diner Dash [Free] and Cook, Serve, Delicious! [$4.99 (HD)], and you can find dozens if not hundreds of games in the genre on the App Store, covering a wide variety of jobs or tasks. The difficult thing, then, for a new time management game is to differentiate itself from the enormous pack. Twisty Hollow [$2.99] opts for a more abstract view of the action, and from there it finds a few tricks to call its own...

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, said Charles Caleb Colton, a man whose words are far more famous than his name. I'm not sure if that's always the case, but I do believe strongly that it sometimes is. For example, when I was a young lad, I used to try to draw Spider-Man exactly the way Todd McFarlane did. His art was so exciting and cool to me that I would find my favorite panels and more or less copy them. That eventually extended to my original drawings of Spider-Man, with the big eyes and the bundly webs finding their way into those margin-doodles my poor teachers had to put up with. In my defense, McFarlane was pretty popular at the time. I was a big fan of the art, and I wanted to express that through drawing similar things. Never mind that they were poor replicas, they were sincere, innocent-minded odes to McFarlane's unusual style. I think we see a lot of that type of situation in the game industry, since so many of today's developers grew up blanketed in the hobby. Of course, we also see quite a bit of the less-innocent imitations that are less about appreciation of art and more about appreciation of money, but I think it's safe to say that 2012's Partia [$3.99], a naked homage to Nintendo's Fire Emblem, is more the former...

'Monster Strike' Review - Billiards And Dragons

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November 3rd, 2014 2:00 PM EST by Shaun Musgrave in 4 stars, Arcade, Free, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Puzzle, Reviews
Free Buy Now

I've written many words about games that sought to bump Gungho's Puzzle And Dragons [Free] from its lofty perch high atop the Japanese App Store, though only one, Terra Battle [Free], managed to top it in quality and none have been able to beat it in the charts. Well, the king appears to be dead, and the perpetrator is none other than Monster Strike [Free], another game from a big Japanese company, albeit not a company traditionally associated with games. Instead, it's brought to us by Mixi, sort of Japan's answer to Facebook before the latter rode in to grab its market share. Don't worry, though, because there's some real industry talent behind this game and it shows. Monster Strike has dealt a powerful blow to Puzzle And Dragons, and it hasn't come by that through luck...

I don't get that many chances to express my affection for pinball around here, mostly because the two main pinball developers tend to publish their new work as IAPs rather than stand-alone apps, and we don't typically review that kind of thing around here. Let it be known, however, that I love pinball to its core. I love it like Joanie loves Chachi. I used to have an off-brand pinball machine in my basement back home in Canada, and whenever I went to arcades as a kid, I was instantly drawn to the noisy clicks, bells, and synthesized music emitting from whichever licensed machine they had that month. Although it took me a while, I've also developed a taste for video pinball, though like most fans, that's out of compromise more than anything else, since finding an actual pinball machine in this day and age is hard enough in the USA, let alone Japan. It goes without saying that I am both a big fan of Pinball Arcade [$0.99] developer Farsight Studios, and a harsh critic. I regret that today, I am going to be more the latter...

RPG Reload File 012 - 'Costume Quest'

Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the RPG Reload, the weekly feature where we put metaphorical cardboard boxes on our heads and pretend we're knights. Each week, we play an RPG from the App Store's past to do a little deep diving. It's a chance to revisit and reflect on some great games from years gone by, and an opportunity to expand beyond the usual scope of our reviews here at TouchArcade. Like a particularly cunning trick-or-treater, I've carefully planned my schedule, so as to cover a wide variety of RPGs, but if you guys know of any houses that are handing out full-size Snickers bars, fess up! Drop a comment down below or post in the Official RPG Reload Club thread in the forums to vote for which RPG you'd like to see me write about. Once per month, the majority rules, and I will carry out the tragic work of playing that awesome game. The next reader's choice article is next week, and the winner this time is Baldur's Gate [$9.99]! Any votes made from now will go towards the following reader's choice, which will take place in RPG Reload File 017 at the beginning of December...

Let's be frank, video games based on team sports aren't known for revolutions between updates. That reputation was mostly earned by them being among the first types of games to adopt a yearly release schedule. As it turns out, games take a lot of work to make, and if you're committed to meeting a particular date every year, there's only so much you can risk upheaving. Given this long-held tradition in the genre, I almost instinctively wasn't surprised to find that NHL 2K [$7.99] is, shall we say, a modest step forward from the last hockey game 2K released on iOS. Shaking away that initial gut reaction, I then remember that this isn't a yearly update, and it has in fact been over four years since NHL 2K11, and in that context, it's almost embarrassing how little has been done here. If you're looking for a decent hockey game and you don't have NHL 2K11, it's easy enough to recommend NHL 2K. It's competent, and there's honestly little competition even across the entire handheld spectrum. If you do have 2K11, the question of whether it's worth it gets a bit trickier...

If you loved Final Fantasy Tactics [$13.99 / $15.99 (HD)] but thought it would be better if all of the characters were anime girls, then Japanese indie SRPG Rime Berta [$4.99] may have caught your eye. It's a clear tip of the hat to games like the aforementioned, and in a lot of ways does a very competent job of aping its overall presentation and many of its systems. It's a bit lean on content, which is perhaps understandable given the size of the developer, but its biggest failings are in the fundamentals. It's a serious problem when there are quite a few excellent strategy RPGs on the App Store that, even if nothing else, manage to nail those aspects. In the end, Rime Berta is all dressed up with no place to go...