Author Archives: Shaun Musgrave


When I was a kid, nobody ever played solitaire. You would see people playing it in the movies, usually in prison or something like that, but there were a million things more fun to do than play solitaire even if you were alone, such as counting the lines on the carpet pattern. That all changed with the advent of home computers becoming the norm instead of an exception, especially once the Internet started existing in the basic form we know it as today. Suddenly there was all kinds of waiting to do, and a game of solitaire was just a couple of clicks away, no shuffling or cleaning up required. You could even choose the design for the back of the cards! These were the salad days for solitaire. As the Internet and computers themselves became faster, and equally mindless but more colorful timewasters became prevalent, solitaire faded back into the pits from whence it came...

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I think Noodlecake and Massive Damage have just written a crown of sonnets to Candy Crush Saga [Free] publisher King. Like one of its previous releases, Flappy Golf [Free], Noodlecake's latest release, Zombie Puzzle Panic [Free], is a reply to one of the biggest hits of the App Store. While that game took the main mechanic from Flappy Bird and gave it an excellent twist to create something new, Zombie Puzzle Panic is altogether less exciting and almost cynical in its fairly strict adherence to Candy Crush Saga's gameplay. One might say King has earned this, but whatever your feelings are about that company, the result in this case is a game that is almost exactly like Candy Crush, but a little bit worse...

'World of Tanks Blitz' Review - A Fine Addition To Wargaming's Cannon Canon

Although it's recently become something of a household name in gaming circles, Belarus-based developer Wargaming.net has been around for a while now. For the first several years, it focused on strategy games, both turn-based and real-time, and had modest success within that niche. It finally hit the big time with its release of World of Tanks for the PC, a massively multiplayer online action shooter designed with the strategic sensibilities you would expect from a developer with Wargaming's resume. Initially launched in Russia in 2011, it soon spread across the globe, enjoying huge success in virtually every region it released in. It's a rare free-to-play game that manages to pull in casual players and hardcore alike, with its fair economy, approachable gameplay, and surprising depth...

The original Civilization Revolution [$2.99] represented acclaimed designer Sid Meier's attempt to make the Civilization series more appealing to a wider range of people than before. The main Civilization series is extremely well-known and beloved for being an incredibly deep game series, with each game offering nearly infinite replay value. The aim with Revolution was to take the core concepts of Civ and make a game that wasn't as intimidating by streamlining certain aspects and reducing the average length of each game. While hardcore fans of the original series were a bit mixed on the results, it was fairly well-received overall. Originally releasing on PC and various consoles, it made a big splash on iOS with a slightly late port in 2009. The game was a great match for mobiles, offering a reasonably deep gameplay experience that fit the stop and go nature of many mobile gamers. It was also quite well-maintained by publisher 2K Games, and was still receiving occasional updates as recently as late last year...

'Monster Hunter Freedom Unite' Review - Good-bye Free Time, Hello Wildlife Slaughter

Capcom's iOS games present a truly insane roll of the dice. You've got terribly reimagined ports of classics like Mega Man X [$4.99], wonderful ports of underappreciated games like Ghost Trick [Free], ports that are maybe a bit too perfect like Street Fighter II Collection [$3.99] or the dearly departed Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, and games that take familiar names and series and go in strange directions like Ghosts 'n Goblins Gold Knights [$0.99]. This time, however, they've really gone and done it. Just when you think they can't make you doubt them any further, they go and totally redeem themselves with an absolutely fantastic iOS version of Monster Hunter Freedom Unite [$14.99]...

'Desert Fox' Review - Attempt To Do What The Fox Could Not

Erwin Rommel, also known as the Desert Fox, has got to be one of the more interesting figures of World War 2. For starters, he's a well-regarded man in spite of fighting for Nazi Germany in the war, a rare enough achievement for him to gain distinction on alone. He was an incredibly skilled military commander, demonstrating an uncanny level of strategy, especially in the challenging desert climates of North Africa. His conscience was such that his ultimate downfall only came about because he was part of the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, and even after being discovered, he was allowed to die with some dignity, with his family's safety assured. He was beloved by the people of Germany, highly respected by his enemies, and overall quite the military genius. For those reasons, and more, the world has seen fit to give him one of our highest awards: video games based on him and his exploits...

Hunted Cow's been a bit nostalgic this year. After making a big return to World War 2 with the recent Tank Battle: East Front [$1.99] series and revisiting ancient warfare with Ancient Battle: Alexander [$3.99], it's making another return to the American Civil War, last visited in Civil War: 1862 [$1.99] late last year. For some, it's probably a bit too soon to go back to a very familiar period, but I'm just happy to get a break from tanks in my mobile war games. As you might expect given the frequency of Hunted Cow's releases, Civil War: 1864 [$4.99] feels very iterative, but there are a couple of differences beyond the expected slate of new missions...

'Sky Force 2014' Review - A Modern Take On The Mobile Shoot-Em-Up

It's sometimes easy to forget how far mobile gaming has come in such a short time. Not even 10 years ago, people playing phone games were using ill-suited keypads to move sluggish characters around simple environments to fill the time while they waited for the bus. Almost none of the big game companies had their eye on the ball, and that left an opportunity for a bunch of smaller guys to get a lot more attention far more easily than they can today. As an example, just look at Sky Force. Originally released in 2004, developed by a four-person team in Poland, Sky Force's enjoyable mix of 1942 enemy patterns and Raiden-like visuals made it a big winner among early mobile gamers. It later enjoyed an enhanced port to other smartphones, with a choice of tilt or touch-based controls and a lot of features that were interesting at the time, like Open Feint. Like all too many games of that vintage, iOS updates eventually left Sky Force behind, sadly...

On the list of things I would never have guessed I'd be playing on my iPhone in 2014, a rhythm game from SNK based on the King of Fighters franchise has to rank pretty highly. I'm not going to question what led SNK to make their first new music game in over 13 years, but given how fondly I remember their last one, I'm glad to see them return to the genre, even if it's in quite a different form. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that most people haven't played SNK's Cool Cool Toon for the SEGA Dreamcast, given it was a fairly late Japan-only release, but if you have, The Rhythm of Fighters [$0.99] borrows heavily from it, along with a little inspiration from Theatrhythm Final Fantasy [Free]...

Thanks to the relatively low barrier to entry, the App Store is filled with labors of love. Compared to most other times in gaming's fairly short history, it's less difficult to get a game together and out in front of the public's eyes, even if you have a small team and no budget, so it's no surprise we see a lot of people making homages to their childhood favorites or putting together something that approximates their dream game. Arcane Ghosts [$1.99] is one such labor of love, a letter written with care to express affection for the side-scrolling action games of old, with a particular eye towards Capcom's Ghosts 'n' Goblins series. That series is famous for a few things, but mainly for being a very frustrating game with unusual, yet tight, controls. Arcane Ghosts gets almost all of that right except the most important part...

The last three major LEGO releases on iOS certainly represent quite the platter. LEGO The Lord of the Rings [$4.99], as a shared release with the other major handheld game systems, was cut down from the console versions in many respects, offering a few decent-sized hubs but taking out the interesting RPG elements. Still, while some parts were lost, the levels at least stayed fairly faithful to the console title. Then, we got a port of LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga [Free], which seemed to be a fairly direct port of the console games and, perhaps significantly, did not release on the 3DS and PlayStation Vita. I've mentioned this in earlier LEGO reviews, but it's worth repeating for context's sake. The entire handheld LEGO line's design is held back by the weakest hardware in the group, and that still, to this very day, includes the original Nintendo DS...

Today's law enforcement officers have many tools at their disposal for catching bad guys. Tasers, handguns, tear gas, forensic investigation, DNA testing, and more are used to their utmost effectiveness to keep normal citizens like you and me safe from nefarious fellows. Vigilantes, too, have their tricks, whether it's martial arts skills, expensive tank cars, or goopy web fluid. However, some criminals are so devious that they fall between the cracks of the police and superheroes. The secret to stopping them is known only to two entities: Macaulay Culkin and the developers of Get Fiquette [$1.99]...

One of the things I've had to get used to about living in Japan is the existence of a rainy season. As I write this review, we're coming off a solid week of rain. It rains all night, it rains all day, breaking just long enough to convince you to leave your house without an umbrella before recommencing in full swing. It's an annoying part of every year because it's really hard to get things done when it's raining all the time. The positive side of that situation is that sometimes you really can't get anything done, and you are kind of forced to relax inside your house with nothing but time on your hands, a bit of a rarity in adult life. I have no idea if it was the intention of the developer, but Rainblocks [Free], the new puzzle game from Subaku [$1.99] creator Let's Playing, very much feels like a rainy day in some ways...

Die-hard Kemco fans, or sufferers as we are known to normal people, know that for whatever reason, Kemco's games usually hit Android before iOS. Typically, the iOS versions lag behind by a month or two, but there have been a couple of instances where Kemco skipped to the next game instead. As of this month, one of those two skipped titles has finally seen release on iOS, some eight months after the Android release. For any other publisher, that's not a very long time, but for Kemco, that's somewhere around eight releases ago, and as a result, Link of Hearts [$3.99] feels a bit outdated in several respects. Well, more outdated than usual, I guess I should say...

Just imagine how great the world would be if everything lived up to its potential. We'd have flying cars, safe clean-burning energy for all, a Stanley Cup-winning team in Vancouver, and Elthinia [$2.99] wouldn't be a terrible mess of a game. Unfortunately, here in the real world, potential sometimes amounts to very little except disappointment. If you play Elthinia, and I strongly assert that you should not, you can see the potential all over the place. The battle artwork is really good, the story is extremely detailed, character progression and customization are surprisingly deep, and the world seems like a place I'd like to explore. The first problem is that this is very clearly not a finished product. To be very fair, I waited until the game had its first patch since it was supposed to be coming quickly and fixing some very important things. Well, the game is still full of bugs, both major and minor, but the game is out there on the store for anyone to buy, so it's fair game for criticism...