Author Archives: Shaun Musgrave


As awesome as the App Store can be for gamers, it can be a very cruel place for those making the games. There are so many new releases every week and such a massive stockpile of evergreen titles that a lot of truly excellent titles get lost in the shuffle. Yet, in many of those cases, the developer keeps on updating and adding to those games, improving the experience even if it's just for a small group of users. I have to respect that kind of passion and care, and it's one of my favorite things about this little hobby we all share. Combat Monsters [Free], from Great Little War Game [$4.99] developer Rubicon, is one of those cases. It's a great game that for whatever reason didn't quite catch on the way it deserved to, but the developer keeps improving it anyway...

For how much sway it has in overall global mobile market, the Japanese App Store remains a relatively inscrutable sector for Western publishers. Just as games like Monster Strike [Free], Colopl Rune Story [Free], and Million Arthur have failed to make much of an impact outside of Asia, so too have many of the usual Western suspects struggled in Japan. There are lots of reasons for that, but the market is so valuable that in spite of numerous misses, no one seems ready to give up trying just yet...




RPG Reload File 083 - 'Rimelands: Hammer Of Thor'

Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the RPG Reload, the weekly feature where we regularly engage in medieval dumpster diving. Each week, we take a look at an RPG from the murky mists of the App Store's past to see how it stands in the judgmental light of the modern day. It's equal parts reflection, reminiscing, and diving deeper than our reviews usually allow for. As the wielder of the sacred nail clippers, I try to choose a balanced plate of games from week to week, but if you feel like I'm missing something essential, please let me know. You can comment below, post in the Official RPG Reload Club thread, or tweet me at @RPGReload. You might not see it soon, but I'll add your suggestion to the master list, a prestigious prize if there ever was one...

It's been an odd year for ChoiceScript interactive fiction games. In the first half of this year, I've reviewed two games related to mermaids, and one game related to pirates. Well, we must be at the end of this particular phase, because Choice Of The Pirate [$3.99] has both mermaids and pirates. Truly, we've nowhere left to go. Similar to previous pirate gamebook Scarlet Sails [Free], you play as a plucky member of a pirate crew who finally gets their chance to achieve glory. The tone is a little different here, however, with more of a fantasy Pirates of the Caribbean feel to the adventure. It's also a good bit longer than Scarlet Sails, making for a better pace and overall more enjoyable game. To be sure, it's popcorn, but there's nothing wrong with that now and then...

Hello everyone, and welcome to the week! It's time once again for our look back at the noteworthy updates of the last seven days. It's an odd assortment of games this week, mostly free-to-play. Nevertheless, there are plenty of goodies to be found in the bunch, and I've gathered up what I think are the best of the bunch. Of course, you can keep an eye out for updates yourself using AppShopper Social [Free], the watchlist in the TouchArcade App [Free], or by participating in the TouchArcade forums, but this weekly summary is here to fill in the things you might have missed. Let's dig in!..

It feels strange to type this, but Square Enix has removed almost the entire Chaos Rings series from the App Store, apparently never to return. From the entire series, only Chaos Rings 3 remains available for purchase. Those aren't the only games they've removed, either. Long-broken releases like Song Summoner, Drakerider, and others have also been taken down from the storefront, though they're all still accessible through your purchase history if you've already bought them. The removal of those games stings a little less since they've been non-functional for years now, but the Chaos Rings games only recently started having issues as of iOS 9. They're still fairly popular games, so it's surprising to see Square Enix throw in the towel on them...

Never Alone: Ki Edition [$4.99] is a game that seems to set out to do at least two things. First and foremost, it's trying to deliver an atmospheric puzzle-platformer game. It mostly succeeds at that, though it certainly makes a few mistakes that we see fairly often in this sub-genre. Never Alone also seeks to educate the player, at least a little bit, on the folklore and culture of the Inupiat people, and in this aim, it's a considerable success. The game doesn't force any of this on you, but rather focuses on the core gameplay and stunning visuals. It's an enjoyable game on those terms, but if you choose to delve into the extra content, you'll be able to appreciate Never Alone in a new light...

Kairosoft, the extremely prolific developer of simulation games like Game Dev Story [$4.99], is almost as unpredictable with its release schedules as it is predictable with its game designs. One of its recent trends is releasing the Japanese versions of its games at the same time worldwide, something that obviously doesn't help much if you can't read the language. While they used to just update the Japanese app with added languages, the developer has recently taken to releasing separate international versions after a period of time has passed. The latest game to get that treatment is Station Manager [$5.99], a train station simulator...

While Level-5 isn't exactly a household name themselves yet, they've been involved in the development of many well-known titles. From homegrown franchises like Professor Layton, Yo-Kai Watch, and Inazuma Eleven, to collaborations like Dragon Quest 8 [$19.99] and Dragon Quest 9, they've gained quite a successful reputation over the years. They're no stranger to mobile gaming, either, though most of their smartphone games have only seen releases in the Japanese market. So far, we've only seen Layton Brothers Mystery Room [Free], Yo-Kai Watch Wibble Wobble [Free], and Liberation Maiden [$2.99] internationally. Hopefully, that will change, because it looks like Level-5 has some big plans for mobile...

RPG Reload File 082 - The Banner Saga

Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the RPG Reload, the weekly feature where we add a piece to our banner with each game played. Each week, we take a look at an RPG from the App Store's past to see how it holds up in the harsh light of today. It's a chance to play some old favorites one more time, to see how a game settled into the iOS landscape over time, or simply to take a deeper dive than our reviews typically allow for. As the Mr. Miyagi of this particular dojo, I decide which titles we wax on about from week to week. I try to keep things fairly balanced, but if you feel like there's a great game I'm missing out on, please let me know. You can do that by posting in the comments below, stopping by the Official RPG Reload Club thread in the forums, or by tweeting me at @RPGReload...

Paradox Interactive is mostly known for its complex strategy games covering wars and situations both real and imagined. Its most famous series in that vein is probably Europa Universalis, but Paradox shepherds several successful strategy brands, including both internally developed titles and games where they act only as a publisher. Their latest iOS release brings one of their more popular strategy brands to the platform, but in a very different form. Hearts of Iron: War Stories [Free] is a spin-off of the World War 2 strategy series Hearts of Iron, which originated on Windows PCs in 2002 and just saw its most recent release a few days ago. Instead of the familiar tactical gameplay fans know and love, War Stories is a gamebook. You're no grand commander, but rather a young recruit to the British RAF. If nothing else, it's a change of pace for Paradox, and it shows...

Vblank Entertainment's Retro City Rampage DX [$4.99] is a charming ode to 1980s pop culture. What started as an 8-bit demake of Grand Theft Auto eventually mutated into a tribute to NES games, movies, TV shows, and more. While its reach occasionally extends beyond its grasp in some of its parodies, it certainly does an excellent job at its original purpose, which was to create a retro-flavored take on Rockstar's seminal action series. While the controls take a little adjusting to, the mobile version of the game that arrived in March is a fine port that includes all of the things that made the game a hit elsewhere. It received our Game of the Week award and managed to coax four whole stars out of the villainous Carter Dotson in his review. That's a half-star more than he gave your favorite game...

Hello, gentle listeners! This month we've got an exciting episode of the RPG Reload Podcast for you, as it happened to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the featured game, Dragon Quest [$2.99]. Eric Ford and Andy Fretz spent the last month playing through one of the most important JRPGs in history for the very first time, while I replayed it for... well, let's not count, okay? By now, regular readers and listeners probably know that I still think highly of the game, but how did it turn out for my co-hosts, who don't have the benefit of nostalgia? You'll just have to listen and see...

Update Mondays: 'Slither.io', 'Pinball Arcade', 'Real Racing 3', 'Uncharted: Fortune Hunter', And More

Hello everyone, and welcome to the week! It's time once again for our look back at the noteworthy updates of the last seven days. To be honest, this was kind of a so-so week for interesting updates, but I've still managed to find a few worth looking at. Of course, you can keep an eye out for updates yourself using AppShopper Social [Free], the watchlist in the TouchArcade App [Free], or by participating in the TouchArcade forums, but this weekly summary is here to fill in the things you might have missed. Let's dig in!..

Slightly more hyped than usual, Samurai Rising is RPG giant Square Enix's latest attempt to get a slice of the booming social RPG market. As with many of their other efforts in this market, Samurai Rising takes strongly after another popular free-to-play game, in this case White Cat Project. It's an action-RPG built for single or multiplayer play, with all the trimmings and tricks you've probably come to expect from the social RPG genre. I've spent a little time with the game since it came out yesterday here in Japan, and I thought I'd give you a few impressions...

Chances are good that if you know any Japanese RPGs at all, you know Final Fantasy [$7.99]. It's also quite likely you've at least heard of Dragon Quest [$2.99], even if you haven't played it. Chrono Trigger [$9.99] and Secret Of Mana [$7.99] are both quite well-known worldwide, as well. It's not surprising, then, that Square Enix has diligently ported almost every one of those games to mobile over the last several years. With only a few holes remaining among their world-famous titles, however, Square Enix is probably going to have to dig a little deeper in their back catalogue if they want to find new candidates to port. This year we've already seen a lovely remake of Final Fantasy Adventure in the form of Adventures Of Mana [$13.99]. Perhaps it's fitting, then, that the next unexpected selection comes from the other series that started on Nintendo's Game Boy...

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite for iOS is one of the best Capcom releases on the platform thus far. That made it extra painful when the game just plain stopped working after iOS 8.4 hit, not even a year after the game's worldwide release. Now, Capcom's had their ups and downs on mobile, but they're usually pretty good about updating their games if they break, as the Ghost Trick [Free] saga shows. Unfortunately, they also tend to take a while working on those updates, as... well, as the Ghost Trick saga shows. They're also strangely frank about the whole idea, regularly pinning notices on the App Store descriptions of their games warning people that the games might not work on newer iOS versions, even when they do...

RPG Reload Presents - The History Of Handheld RPGs, Part Ten

Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the RPG Reload. This week, we're continuing our little monthly project looking at the history of handheld RPGs. That means that we will not be taking a look at a specific RPG from the App Store's past this time around. Last month, we looked at the early years of smartphone RPGs, when paid games ruled the roost. For the first time since perhaps the early years of the Game Boy, JRPGs and WRPGs were arriving on a handheld in nearly equal numbers. Dedicated handheld systems weren't finished yet by any means, however, and both Nintendo and Sony would introduce successors to their handhelds just as the smartphone market started to pivot. This month, we're looking at Nintendo's offering, a system that had some pretty big shoes to fill in the wake of the Nintendo DS's unprecedented success...

'Hatoful Boyfriend' Review - Love, Pudding, And More Drama Than You Can Shake A Feather At

Hatoful Boyfriend [$4.99] is one of those games that grabs attention just with a description of its premise. It's a Japanese dating simulator where you play a human girl who attends a school for birds. Naturally, every last one of your potential suitors is some type of bird or another. Doves, pigeons, finches, and more can be wooed over the course of your character's sophomore year at the school. Unlike many games with a goofy premise, however, Hatoful Boyfriend manages to deliver a really enjoyable game. It knows when to play things straight, when to wink at the audience, when to bow to the absurd, and when to let things go off in surprising directions. In general, it's a parody of the visual novel genre, but its plot is so meticulously crafted, it stands perfectly well on its own even if you have no experience with the genre...

Fans of Mystery Dungeon and similar Japanese-style roguelikes last summer got a treat when Q-Cumber Factory released Alchemic Dungeons [$0.99], a follow-up to their earlier title, Rogue Ninja [$2.99]. It offered a twist on the usual formula by allowing you to collect materials and craft items, weapons, and other gear on the fly. Once you got the various recipes down, you could easily craft the things you needed for whatever situation was at hand, lending the game a somewhat gentler curve than comparable titles. Another cool improvement the game made over its predecessor was in allowing you to choose from three different characters, each of whom had a style all their own...