Author Archives: Shaun Musgrave


'ALONE' Review - Forever Alone

With all the gimmicks endless runners tend to have bolted on them these days, it's sometimes easy to forget that it all started with just a simple score attack. No IAPs, no coins, no cosmetic upgrades, no power-ups, just an endless, increasingly difficult, randomized stage and a challenge to see how far you can go before inevitably failing. That's not to say gimmicks are bad, as they can be quite a lot of fun. Just look at Jetpack Joyride [Free], which is so loaded with stuff you could almost forget about the goal of going farther in favor of collecting things and still have tons of fun. There's something about that pure experience, however. It's something I greatly appreciated in Boson X [$2.99], and it's something I very much enjoy here in ALONE [$1.99]...

The genre label 'Metroidvania' is a combination of Metroid and Castlevania, referring to just about any Metroid game and the post-Symphony of the Night Castlevania games largely overseen by Koji Igarashi. The genre itself, though, stretches back pretty far, and there's at least one series concurrent to Metroid and well before Symphony that hasn't really gotten its due in the grand history of things. I'm referring to Westone's Monster World series, which spun of out the action-oriented Wonder Boy, got a lot of confusing localizations and revisions, and sadly bowed out after the 16-bit console generation. It's a great series that had a lot of clear influence on later titles such as Shantae [$2.99], but seems to get little credit for its contributions to the genre. With that in mind, I am not going to call Ninja Smasher [$1.99] a Metroidvania. It's a non-linear action game with a big, interconnected map where you find new abilities to open up new routes, but at least in my estimation, this game is taking notes less from Metroid or Igarashi's Castlevania and more from Westone's colorful, cartoonish adventures...

Having just finished my review of the final episode of The Walking Dead Season Two [$4.99], I thought it might be nice to decompress with a little pinball, as I often do after finishing a story-heavy game. Luckily for me, the developers behind Zen Pinball [Free] just released a thematically-appropriate new table as both a standalone app and an in-app purchase within the regular app. The Walking Dead Pinball [$1.99] follows most of the well-established trappings of Zen Studios's take on silverball, so it's hard to say if people burnt out on their offerings will be all that excited with it. For fans of The Walking Dead game, however, it brings just enough of the character of Season One [Free] to make it worth checking out...

You might recall that with The Walking Dead: Season One [Free], we did something of an unorthodox review due to the episodic nature of the game. There was a basic overview that was appended to with a review of each episode as they released, with the score adjusting appropriately. As it worked pretty well last time, we'll be doing the same thing here. I'll do my best to avoid any serious spoilers for the current season, but I'm going to talk frankly about the first season, so if you haven't finished it yet, consider yourself warned about possible spoilers...

'Appointment With F.E.A.R.' Review - My New Favorite Superhero Is Tin Man

If you ever need proof that competition is healthy for the customer, just check out the gamebook scene on mobiles. What started as simple conversions of the text of existing books has spun out into three developers each, in their own way, trying to combine the essence of classic gamebooks with the flexibility that modern technology allows. It started with Tin Man Games essentially giving you the keys to the game via a bunch of extra features, followed by inkle's brilliant adaptation of Steve Jackson's Sorcery! [$4.99] and Forge Reply's original RPG adventure based on the popular Lone Wolf [$0.99] character. Then, in April, Tin Man released their version of Starship Traveller [$5.99], where for the first time, the developer didn't simply bring the original book over with some bells and whistles, but elaborated on it. Recently, inkle again upped the ante with their stunning take on Jules Verne's classic novel, 80 Days [$4.99], and now we've got Tin Man replying in kind with what is clearly their most confident conversion yet, Appointment With F.E.A.R. [$2.99]...

I always love to see a game that doesn't take itself too seriously. If it also happens to be genuinely funny at times, that's even better. Ace Ferrara And The Dino Menace [$3.99] packs in enough self-awareness, charm, and humor, it's easy to forgive some of the failings in its gameplay. It's a space shooter that feels a lot like a Saturday morning cartoon, with a colorful cast of characters, a goofy plot to take over Earth, and plenty of action. The gameplay also feels like it's tuned for a younger crowd, with short, easy to clear missions and very simple controls. Veteran starfighters looking for their next battle probably won't be satisified, at the very least. As a fun little popcorn experience, however, Ace Ferrara has a lot going for it...

RPG Reload File 003 - 'The Bard's Tale (1985)'

August 28th, 2014 4:30 PM EDT by Shaun Musgrave in News
$2.99 Buy Now

Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the RPG Reload, a weekly feature where I take a look back at a previously released iOS RPG to do a little reflection, reconsideration, and to perhaps dig in directions that are outside the scope of a regular review. I cover RPGs of all kinds here, but even though I try to cover as many bases as possible, I'm still just one person and prone to potential blind spots. That's where you come in, my friends. Once per month, I'll be playing an RPG selected by you nice people, as voted in the comments of these articles and in our RPG Reload Club thread in the TouchArcade forums. Yes, I'll have to play whatever the cruel majority decides and write a whole bunch of words about it, so please, go easy on the Kemco games. I'm happy to announce that the subject of our very first Reader's Choice RPG Reload is none other than The Quest Gold [$7.99]! Please look forward to that one in next week's article...

Okay, so I'm a typical SEGA fan. I complained about Sonic Jump Fever [Free] in my review, but I still ended up playing it a lot anyway. This, however, works out to your benefit, because since I've somehow unlocked pretty much everything, I'm in a great position to give you some advice about how to get the most out of this game with a minimum of pain and suffering. The core gameplay isn't very deep, and if you've played a jumping game before, you've probably developed some skills that will help you out in this game. The game does have a bunch of unlockables and power-ups, though, and there's definitely an optimal way of making use of those. Here are ten tips to help you score big in Sonic Jump Fever without losing your personal gold ring stockpile...

I've played a lot of free-to-play RPGs, and they all tend to have the same strengths and weaknesses. That's probably due to most of them being inspired by the model used in the popular Puzzle & Dragons [Free], following its formula as closely as possible in hopes of achieving similar levels of success. Now, I like that game quite a bit, but even I'm getting a little tired of getting into a new game only to see the same old mechanics powering it. There must be other effective ways to monetize your puzzle RPG besides monster-collecting and stamina meters. Spellfall: Puzzle RPG [Free] takes a different approach, avoiding many typical elements such as multiple currencies, drawing random monsters, and nudging you to expand your inventory. Unfortunately, the game also has its own take on the stamina meter concept that seems on paper like it would be better, but in practice doesn't quite work out...

Do you like the review headline? See, what I did there was take Clash of Clans [Free] and clumsily mixed Star Wars with it in a very on-the-nose way, in hopes that it would provide some entertainment to fans of both. Sorry for the sidetrack there, you came here to read a review of Star Wars: Commander [Free], right? It's the latest in a very long line of Star Wars-themed games that give a popular genre or title a healthy coat of Star Wars paint to see if something magical will happen. To the credit of Lucasarts, this has yielded some strong results in the past. Star Wars Baldur's Gate was pretty cool, Star Wars Wing Commander was amazing, Star Wars Battlefield 1942 was really fun, and even Star Wars Doom was pretty good for its time. Of course, there was also Star Wars Fighting Game and Star Wars Twisted Metal, so clearly the pendulum swings both ways here...

It would be nice if, one day, all four of Kemco's development teams could get together and make an RPG that combines all of their strengths and covers all of their weaknesses. After just over one year of reviewing Kemco's near-monthly releases, I'm at the point where all I need to do is look at which team is behind a game to make a strong guess at which areas the game will succeed or fail in. This time, we've got Magitec's latest, Soul Historica [$7.99]. They're the developers behind Grinsia [$0.99], Chrome Wolf [$7.99], and Covenant of Solitude [$7.99], and if you've played any of those, you've probably got a good idea of how well you'll like this one...

It's been almost four years since the original They Need To Be Fed [$0.99] made its way from PCs to iOS. We at TouchArcade liked it a lot when we reviewed it then, and when its follow-up appeared on the App Store last year, we liked that one a lot, too. Well, just last week, Bit Ate Bit released They Need To Be Fed 3 [$1.99], and it's no surprise that I like it a lot. I'm sure nobody was expecting them to punt on this when they've got the formula down, though, so the bigger question is whether, with a shorter span of time between sequels, Bit Ate Bit was able to up the ante the way they did with the second game...

Ask M. Night Shyamalan: When you strike it big by giving people an amazing swerve, it's incredibly hard to follow it up in a way that will please that audience. You either give the people the twist they're expecting from you, totally losing the purpose of a twist, or you play it straight and leave out the reason why people are probably into you in the first place. That's the unfortunate position developer Amirali Rajan finds himself in with The Ensign [$0.99], an attempt to build on to the story found in the underdog hit, A Dark Room [$0.99]. If you didn't play that game but plan to, you should stop reading this review right about here unless you want to be totally spoiled, and you really shouldn't want that...

'Catchup - Abstract Strategy' Review - Strategy So Good, You Don't Need Condiments

I think the key to a really great strategy game lies in finding the correct balance between accessibility and depth. Not that success can't be found on either side, as the longevity of Checkers and Go prove, but at least for me, I like my strategy games to be fairly easy to pick up but with a nice, long tail of mastery. Fortunately, there are a lot of very clever strategy game designers out there, so I never feel like I go too long without something to satisfy my urges. The latest one to catch me is appropriately named Catchup [$2.99], an iOS version of a board game released a few years back. It's hard to imagine a strategy game with simpler rules than this, but the game still provides a satisfyingly complex punch...

'Rules!' Review - Have Fun Finding The Limits Of Your Memory

Like your body, your brain needs exercise to stay in shape, and the older you get, the more you're fighting nature to achieve that goal. While gamers have no shortage of ways to give their grey matter a good old kicking, we rarely have to push against the limits of our short-term memory. Back in the day, we'd have to remember all kinds of stupid cheat code commands, passwords, and directions to play, but passwords and directions gave way to saves and maps, and cheat codes turned into IAP, removing quite a bit of the strain placed on that part of the brain. I mean, unless you're a hardcore fighting game player. Those guys are pros at remembering phone numbers, I tell you. The developers of the iOS adaptation of Carcassonne [$9.99] have got a new game that will give your flabby memory a workout, though, and it's actually quite a bit of fun...