Author Archives: Shaun Musgrave


Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the RPG Reload, the weekly feature where we open random doors hoping we aren't scared to death by what we find inside. Each week, we take a look at a game from the App Store's past and poke it with a stick to see what happens. It's a bit of reflection, a bit of revisiting, and perhaps a bit of an excuse to have fun with an old friend. As this week obviously demonstrates, all kinds of RPGs are welcome here, and I'll do my best to make sure we get a good variety chosen from the selection. Once per month, you guys get to choose what I play and write about, which should help that balance stay intact. The next reader's choice is in RPG Reload 013, so get your vote in as soon as possible by leaving a comment below or dropping into the Official RPG Reload Club thread on the forums. You can also feel free to leave your thoughts, comments, and suggestions in either place, since playing games is more fun when you can talk about it with your friends...

'Crimsonland HD' Review - Can't Beat The Real Thing

It's fun to think back to the launch of the Xbox 360 in 2005, when out of all the possible choices for a breakout early hit, the one that most gamers flocked to was the humble Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved. Starting as an in-house test demo, it's still amazing to me that this little game not only carried a console through the dry launch period all hardware suffers from, but also dragged a sub-genre back into viability, where it still sits to this day. Suddenly, twin-stick shooters were popular and prolific in a way they perhaps never were before. Mobiles have particularly enjoyed the fruits of that success, with a load of great twin-stick shooters already and more releasing all the time. But although the genre was fairly quiet in the years prior to Geometry Wars, like any dormant genre, it wasn't completely dead. One particular standout was 2003's Crimsonland [Free], an early effort from a name many iOS gamers know quite well, 10tons Entertainment...

It's been quite a year for Dragon Quest [$2.99] games on iOS, and with all of those games comes a whole lot of slime-smashing. Those cute, nearly-harmless, little blue gumdrops with a perpetual smile sure take a lot of abuse from the would-be heroes of RPG worlds, and maybe it's time for a little payback. So goes the story of indie strategy RPG Ambition Of The Slimes [Free] from developer Masaya Takahashi. It's available for free in the App Store right now, with one little catch: It's entirely in Japanese. Worry not, however, because the App Store description says that English will be coming in the next update. It's a little tricky to navigate at the moment if you can't read anything, but it doesn't cost you anything to try, I suppose. If you'd rather wait, let me give you a few more details to hold you over...

'Chaos Rings 3' Launches On The Japanese App Store, Worldwide Release Date Still Unknown

It was only a few months ago that we heard Chaos Rings 3 was being made, and time sure does fly, because it's finally here. Well, depending on where 'here' is for you, I suppose. As of today, Chaos Rings 3 has officially launched on the App Store in Japan for the price of 2,800 yen, or about $25 US, with no IAP whatsoever. We've yet to get even an announcement of its release internationally, let alone a specific date we could expect it, but given the general success of the series worldwide, it's probably safe to assume it is coming at some point...

Over the years, I feel like I've developed a pretty good nose for my own tastes. Usually just from reading a brief outline and seeing a few screens, I can at least figure out in ballpark terms how well I'll like a game, and it's rare for a game to fall outside of those admittedly broad estimates. Surprises come in two flavors, then. Sometimes a game I don't expect to like much turns out to be totally up my alley, like SEGA's Yakuza, and other times, a game that I think looks great just doesn't click for me at all. Unfortunately, Card Dungeon [$3.99], a game that initially appears to have a great deal in common with the PC game Card Hunter, is an example of the latter. It's a roguelike with an interesting hook and a great visual style reminiscent of a board game, and while I could list off a lot of things I think it does very well, it never manages to come together into something I can truly enjoy...

As a developer, if you're going to wade neck-deep into a crowded genre, especially one in a very crowded marketplace in general, you have to have some kind of means of standing out from the crowd. When it comes to side-scrolling running games, it's getting harder and harder to find something that can actually accomplish that job. Jack B. Nimble [$1.99], from developer Sean Noonan, opts to take the approach of a double-barreled appeal to nostalgia, with graphics that look like they came off a torqued-up Game Boy and a theme that will be instantly recognizable to Castlevania fans. It's got an interestingly familiar cadence to it that I don't see very often in this kind of game, and it will certainly have strong appeal for those who appreciate streamlined runners like Canabalt [$2.99] or Boson X [$2.99]...

Imagine you're the creator of Dragon Quest [$2.99]. You've successfully streamlined the somewhat impenetrable RPG genre to a point where anyone and everyone can play the game and enjoy it, and now it's time for a sequel. Obviously, people are ready and asking for something a bit bigger and more complex, and simply delivering something in the same scope as the first game isn't going to satisfy them. How far do you walk the concept back to its inspirations, Wizardry, Ultima, and the like? That's a question I suspect Yuji Horii grappled with when coming up with Dragon Quest 2 [$4.99] , and while he wouldn't hit the sweet spot until the next installment, it's undeniable that the sequel to Dragon Quest is a considerably bigger and slightly more sophisticated game...

At this point, some 30 or so RPGs in, I really have to wonder how many people are actually playing all the games Kemco's putting out there. As regular readers know, I really love RPGs, and even I'm starting to feel like we're reaching some kind saturation point with this company. Nevertheless, we must put one foot in front of the other, because the games do at least improve over time, and you never know when something worth getting excited about will come along. Soul Of Deva [$3.99] is not quite that game, but like many other recent Kemco efforts, I feel like we're getting very close. Given that I can make decent claim to having written more words about Kemco mobile RPGs than just about anyone on Earth, a tragic title if ever there was one, I tend to build expectations about their releases before I even start them up. Typically, I base this on the specific developer, and it rarely fails...

'Terra Battle' Review - Final Fantasy's Creator Works His Magic On Social RPGs

Some gamers know Hironobu Sakaguchi's name. Others do not. Just about everyone is familiar with his work, however. He's the creator of the Final Fantasy series of games, the director of Final Fantasy 1 through 5, one of the designers of Chrono Trigger, the producer or executive producer of Final Fantasy 6 through 12, and unfortunately, the director of the feature film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. In 2003, he resigned from the company built on his efforts to strike out on his own, just before the merger that created Square Enix. His new company, Mistwalker, debuted with a bang, releasing two great RPGs on the Xbox 360, Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey. These titles were backed by Microsoft money, and it was hoped they would give the 360 what it needed to compete in the Japanese market. Unfortunately, they didn't go over quite the way Microsoft had hoped...

'Pumped BMX 2' Review - I Want To Ride This Bicycle

Side-scrolling games where you ride through a course performing tricks and stunts seem to be all the rage these days, mostly thanks to the sudden popularity the Trials series found several years ago. That rise coincided nicely with the fall of 3D open world trick games like the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series, ensuring that trick-crazy gamers wouldn't go hungry. Unfortunately, Trials took its sweet time coming to mobiles, just arriving in 2014 as Trials Frontier [Free]. One thing I've learned about the App Store is that if you leave a void, someone will fill it, and one of the more fun attempts to do so came in the form of 2012's Pumped BMX [$1.99], from developer Yeah Us. The game was a weird hybrid of Tiny Wings [$0.99] and Trials, focusing mostly on performing stunts on the way to clearing each stage...

'Spirits of Spring' Review - A Powerful, Cathartic Experience

Let me begin this review by lighting the "Experience Game" signal, just so that we're starting off with clarity. I've talked before about the distinction between games focused on mechanics and what I usually refer to as experience games, particularly in my review of Monument Valley [$3.99]. As you would probably expect from Minority Media, the developers behind PlayStation 3 game Papo & Yo, their new game fits firmly into the latter category. In Spirits Of Spring [$1.99], the mechanics exist only to serve the experience, so if you're mostly into mastering play mechanics, I guess this review was a short read for you. There are no fail states in this game, it's relatively brief in run-time, and you're never asked to do anything terribly difficult with the few abilities you have at your disposal. Those who enjoy games that focus on delivering an experience, on the other hand, will find something more than worth your time and money. It's a bittersweet exploration of bullying, from both sides of the fence, and though its hand is perhaps a little too heavy at times, I still found it to be a very precious journey...

I've been even happier than usual with the recent releases from gamebook developer Tin Man Games. They've taken a couple of books that I enjoyed a great deal when I was younger and rather than simply present them faithfully as they typically do, they've shined them up into even better forms. The Complete Sagas Of Fire*Wolf [$9.99] represents a slightly different challenge, however. In my opinion, the original books that this release draws from are deeply flawed in a way none of the other books Tin Man have sourced for their adaptations are. They've made some serious improvements, but in the end, it's probably something that only the hardcore gamebook fans or people with nostalgia for Fire*Wolf ought to look into. Oh, and the asterisk stands for some kind of grunt that we can't make in our language. Basically, his parents were hippies...

Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the RPG Reload, the weekly features where we attempt to take over the world by being the best heroes we can be. Each week, we take a look at an RPG from the App Store's past to see how it's doing these days, how it holds up, and how the wife and kids are. All kinds of RPGs are welcome in this feature, and I'll always do my best to mix things up from week to week. To keep my madness in check, however, once a month I throw the selection to you, the readers. Simply leave a comment below or drop into the Official RPG Reload Club thread in the forum to tell me what you'd like to see me play in the next reader's choice column, which will be RPG Reload File 013. Yes, the five Thursdays in October mean you guys have an extra week to vote this time around, so make your voices heard. You can also comment or post about the game I've written about, or RPG things in general. Fresh comedy is also welcome...

Personally, I'm always satisfied when I see a horror game make good on the sales charts these days. After hearing certain big companies insist that gamers weren't interested in scary games anymore, watching something like Five Nights At Freddy's [$2.99] go big makes me feel good because it affirms that, hey, there are lots of different kinds of people with lots of different kinds of tastes buying and playing games. I wish I liked it more, but those are the breaks, sometimes. ..

Square Enix has been slowly updating many of their old apps with controller support and various other fixes recently. Too slowly for some, I'm sure, but it's nice to see they're still making an effort to make sure classics like Secret Of Mana [$8.99] and Final Fantasy 3 [$15.99] are working as best as possible. Well, you can add one more to that list, because Final Fantasy 6 [$15.99] received an update out of the blue today that addresses some complaints about the controls, both for those with MFi controllers and those without...