Author Archives: Shaun Musgrave


When you think of card games, you usually think of sitting at a table, real or virtual, with other people, shooting the breeze and enjoying a nice, strategic social activity. It's not all that shocking, then, that most video card games are also geared towards multiplayer, with single player usually amounting to little more than an AI opponent you can practice on to learn the rules of the game in order to get ready for the real thing. Every once in a while, though, you get a game that really makes a strong effort to flesh out the single player experience into something resembling a proper game on its own. Sometimes the game does this by adding increasingly naked ladies, sometimes it throws in familiar characters from other games complete with entertaining banter, and other times it fits a bit of a quasi-RPG shell around the card battles. Card City Nights [$1.99] uses two of those three methods. The latter two, specifically. There are no increasingly naked ladies in this game...

With the new Robocop movie in theaters, I'm sure many people are spending some time with the tie-in game of the same name, Robocop [Free], from Glu Games. I reviewed it a while back and found it to be a bit of a bear thanks to its monetization aspects, but if you're feeling like being Robocop, this is pretty much your best option apart from threatening a druglord and putting your faith in the city of Detroit to put you back together again. So, I felt that, in the spirit of my previous guide for Batman: Arkham Origins [Free], if you're going to play this, you might as well have a guide to help you get through as efficiently as possible without reaching into your cybernetic wallet compartment in your leg, by which I mean, your pocket...

Let me start off by being clear: Dungeon Keeper [Free] isn't necessarily the most popular game out there, and a lot of that has to do with how stingy it can be if you aren't paying money. This might make you think it's not really the best game to offer up a guide for, but in actuality, this is the kind of F2P game that a guide can be most useful for. To be honest, I don't think you can play Dungeon Keeper optimally without spending money, but if you don't want to spend money yet want to play this game, well, there are good ways and bad ways to go about that. One of the challenges of putting this guide together is that EA keeps changing things around, scrambling to find an optimal (for somebody, anyway) balance. That means it's hard for me to use specifics like the costs of things, because they might be different by the end of the week. In lieu of that kind of guide, I've decided instead to focus on some general advice and information about things that are unlikely to change too much...

'Bug Heroes 2' Review - This Sequel Ant Fooling Around

A few years ago, Foursaken Media released Bug Heroes [Free], an awesome hybrid of castle defense and twin stick shooting with a healthy dose of RPG mechanics sprinkled in. What could have turned out to be an overly ambitious idea instead ended up just right, offering players tons of content with great core mechanics. Given how well it went over with iOS gamers, it was probably inevitable that we would one day be talking about the sequel, and here we are. Bug Heroes 2 [$1.99] is an excellent follow-up to the first game, maintaining the same basic elements that made the first game work so well and adding a few twists, all while piling a giant heap of new content on top and giving the whole thing a beautiful shine. The end result is just about everything a fan could want out of a sequel...

Ninja games! One might say there are not enough of them out there, if one were the sort of person who needed a new ninja game every hour of every day for the rest of one's life. It might seem silly that there are so many games featuring them, but like their equally overplayed colleagues, zombies, it's really just because they (or at least the pop culture image of them) fit video games almost perfectly. While zombies are great for letting a player cut loose on a crowd of human-like figures without any of the messy moral implications, ninjas are great shorthand for a nimble character who could potentially have any tools at his or her disposal. If a ninja pulls out a smoke bomb, we don't question it. If a ninja launches a grappling hook at the ceiling Batman-style, hey, it just works. Wall-jumping is really hard in real life, but if anyone can do it, a ninja can. Plus, they look really cool...

Perhaps because of how many of them are made, platformers have often turned to heavy usage of gimmicks to try to breathe some fresh air into things. Whether it's the closet full of special suits from Mario's adventures or the gravity-defying antics of VVVVVV, it's strangely more difficult sometimes to find a platformer that isn't packed full of novelties. There's nothing wrong with gimmicks, of course. When used well, they can make running and jumping from point A to point B feel like something you've never done before. Still, it's nice once in a while to play a game that gives you a straightforward run and jump through cleverly designed stages. Ava's Quest [Free] is just such a game. There are a few little gimmicks as you play through the game's 30 levels, but for the most part, the game simply focuses on using familiar elements to present you with a pleasant challenge. Oh, and to let you know up-front, you only get four stages for free. The rest are unlocked via an IAP for $1.99...

'Word Mage' Review - The Hyperactive Member Of The Word Game Family

The word game is one of those genres that's basically always active on iOS, with new entries released at a fairly regular pace. That said, recently, there seems to be a higher amount than usual of excellent new games twisting RPG mechanics into the genre. They're two great tastes that taste great together, I suppose. What's interesting to me is how games coming from the same basic angle of "word game plus RPG" can have such different results. If we consider the recent Spell Quest [Free] to be the Dragon Quest of word RPGs, with its slow, deliberate pace and focus on carefully-planned strategy, then Word Mage [$0.99] is the Ys of the genre, moving at a blazing pace and demanding quick reactions to enemies that become increasingly dedicated to finishing you off...

Sports games tend to go in one of a few different directions. Some of them opt for hard realism, trying to capture every nuance of the sport in a very clinical way. The aim here is to try to give the player the exact feeling of playing the sport. Others go the route of Tony Hawk, where it's kind of realistic in some ways, but fantastical in others. These games are cool because you're usually following the rules of the sport, but it makes you feel like you're a superhuman player. Another way to go is to pitch out any pretenses of reality and just go wild. The familiar surface gives something for the players to connect to, but the end result usually feels less like a sports game and more like another genre. Endless Surf [$0.99], the sequel to Bobble Surfer [$0.99] is from the latter school of thought. Looking at screenshots, you would think this was a Tony Hawk-style take on surfing, but it's actually pretty much a straight-forward runner with an interesting skin...

Nostalgia is a heck of a thing. Like many of you, I like to indulge in revisiting my childhood on occasion. To tell the truth, though, when it comes to games, I feel like I never fully left my childhood favorites behind. Not only am I big on retro collections and classic re-releases, I actually have an NES and SNES connected to my main TV, plugged in and ready to go at all times. I keep my old brick Game Boy in an empty drawer in the kitchen in case I want to play some Tetris while I wait for the water to boil. There's one important part of my gaming past that I fell out of touch with over the years, however, and that's computer gaming. My first gaming hardware that I actually owned and had in my house, apart from a Coleco Mini Arcade version of Galaxian, was a Commodore 64. It was only a couple of years later at most that I got an NES, but those Commodore years remain as formative to my gaming memories as hanging off of arcade machines at the restaurant where my mother worked...

If you had asked me back in the 90s which of the popular and/or long-running adventure series would be more or less the last one standing almost 20 years later, I doubt I would have guessed Broken Sword, but here we are. With the dissolution of Lucasarts likely putting Monkey Island to rest forever, Sierra being completely eradicated in the Activision-Blizzard merger, and the huge breakout success of The Walking Dead [Free] making it increasingly unlikely we'll see any further Sam & Max games or the planned King's Quest revival from Telltale Games, Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse [$6.99] appears to be the only survivor from that golden era. Amazingly, the series is still in the hands of its creator, though this new chapter needed some help from the fans to make it to fruition...

It's been a long wait, but Tengami [$4.99], the adventure game inspired by pop-up storybooks, has finally been completed. The developer, Nyamyam, is a new name, but you're almost certainly familiar with past projects they've worked on, including Diddy Kong Racing, StarFox Adventures, Way of the Samurai 3, and Kinect Sports. Tengami got a lot of attention almost immediately, thanks to its eye-catching, beautiful graphical style. The final product delivers on that visual promise and then some. It was less certain was how the gameplay would turn out. Happily, I can say that while the gameplay is considerably more pedestrian than the presentation, it's solid enough that fans of adventure and puzzle games will definitely want to give the game a go...

Apart from fussing around with the odd flight simulator on my Commodore 64, one of the first flying games I remember spending any real amount of time on was Top Gun for the NES. Like many young boys, I thought planes were pretty cool, and I loved how I could choose which missiles I wanted to take with me. Anyway, this game was one of the ones that was kept at my grandmother's house, so I only got to play it when we went there to visit, but I would almost always play it when we did. There was just one problem with Top Gun, especially if you only got to play it now and then, and if you've played it, you probably know what I'm talking about. At the end of the first level, you're directed to land your jet on an aircraft carrier. The game gives you all kinds of signals and directions that you're supposed to follow, but no matter what I did, that plane crashed almost every single time. I think I landed it once, maybe twice? As a result of this game, I have a mild trauma when it comes to landing an aircraft in video games, but I have discovered some sweet therapy in the form of Any Landing [Free]...

The recent trend in adventure games has been to take on more of an episodic model, which is great when they finally come to fruition, but often results in an introductory chapter that lacks satisfaction. Detective Grimoire [$3.99], from publisher Armor Games and developer SFB Games, fortunately bucks this trend, offering a solid, self-contained story that also has sequel hooks firmly planted. Although it offers just a single case that can be solved in just a few hours without a lot of effort, the level of polish on both the art and the story help elevate the experience. I also appreciate its more abstract and light-hearted take on things. It helps the game stand out a bit in the current landscape of more serious and realistic entries into the adventure genre...

Stubies [$0.99] is a deceptive little game. When you first start playing, it's simple. A bit too simple, in fact. In this game, little creatures of different colors will come walking in a straight direction from some point off of the map, and you have to point them in the right direction to find another creature of the same color, at which point they'll be cleared off the board and you'll score some points. Each level has a set amount of points as the goal, and once you reach it, your score and time are tallied and it's off to the next stage. The only way you can lose is if too many of the little Stubies wander off an edge. Each one that drops costs you a star, and if you lose all three of your stars, you fail the stage. Another thing you want to avoid is having two Stubies of different colors pushing against each other. After a short time, they'll turn into solid white objects that will deflect anything that tries to walk into them. It doesn't directly cost you stars, but it can complicate things...

I kind of feel bad for this game. Not only did Journey To Kreisia [$3.99] release at almost the same time as Square-Enix's Final Fantasy VI [$15.99] iOS remake, but it's also having to live in the looming shadow of Alphadia Genesis's impending release. Kemco's RPGs aren't terribly high profile at the best of times, and RPG fans clearly have their attention elsewhere right now. I think that's too bad, because while this game isn't an outstanding RPG by any means, it's got a great sense of self-awareness. This aspect, layered on top of its familiar, competent EXE Create backbone, lends the whole adventure a fun feeling that separates it from the herd...