Category Archives: $5.99

'Space Marshals 2' Review - It's 'Space Marshals', Too

Pixelbite got a lot right with the first Space Marshals [$4.99]. They eschewed much of what is common in dual-stick shooters on mobile, going with a slower, more thoughtful, stealth-based game. With an array of interesting weaponry and tactics at your disposal, such as using noisemakers to distract enemies to take them out away from the prying eyes of other enemies, it was a cool concept and a fun game. The controls were great for mobile, with MFi controller support, and iCloud to boot. It was not a perfect game, but a great example of how to make an original, stylish title for mobile. Plus, they updated the game with 2 new episodes months after launch. Space Marshals 2 [$5.99] returns and basically is the same game, streamlined with a couple new features, and skipping on the whole episodic aspect to give you 20 beefy levels of tactical stealth action in a space wild-west setting. And like any sequel where iteration is the key difference, it's not bad – this is the superior game – but the lack of surprise can be a bit disappointing...

The Chaos Rings series holds an important part in mobile gaming history, as it was among the first truly full-featured sets of original games made specifically for mobile devices. That coupled with the fact that Square Enix was the developer lent a lot of credibility to mobile as a true gaming platform back in its formative years. Sadly, Square Enix pulled the older Chaos Rings games, among other titles, last month due to incompatibility with newer iOS hardware, and as of right now only Chaos Rings 3 [$19.99] is still available. So it sure was weird when a week ago Square Enix announced a brand new game in the Chaos Rings series, only this time it was exclusively for the Apple Watch. That game, called Cosmos Rings [$5.99], is now available...




'Severed' Review - I'd Give my Left Arm to Play This on Mobile

Consider it a testament to the power of mobile that developers still want to make and release games for it, despite the challenges of selling on it. After all, when games are customary a third of their price on other platforms, it's no wonder that games are rarely announced first for mobile. Severed [$6.99] was that exception, as mobile was a core platform for the game at its announcement. Then, it became a PlayStation Vita exclusive, before eventually being re-announced for mobile. And here it finally is. This first-person Infinity Blade [$5.99] meets Zelda type game – is a really cool experience that feels like it should have been on mobile all along...

Dust: An Elysian Tail [$5.99] knocked off a lot of socks around here when it released on iOS last October. Originally an Xbox 360 release, Dust made its way to iOS in style. We liked it enough to give it our Game Of The Week and a five-star review, and I personally included the game in both my Best Overall Of 2015 and the RPG Reload 2015 Golden Pancho Awards. In short, the game has fantastic production values and it plays like a dream. That said, if you weren't using a newer device with 1 GB of RAM or more, or simply couldn't get on with virtual controls at all, you couldn't join the party. Well, friends, your invite's in the mail and you can RSVP tomorrow, because Dust has a really nice update coming this Thursday...

Much as I've enjoyed recent releases from gamebook publisher Tin Man Games, I have to admit there's been one area I've wanted to see some improvement in that has remained largely static across the bulk of their releases: the combat system. Given that the raison d'etre for the company has been to bring Fighting Fantasy-style gamebooks to mobile as accurately as possible, it's hard to complain too much about the simple dice-based back-and-forth battles they've used in many of their releases. Still, the occasional tantalizing flash of something more, as in their brilliant conversion of Appointment With F.E.A.R. [$2.99], has had me wishing they would take greater advantage of not being shackled to the rules of physical books...

'Dust: An Elysian Tail' Review - This Dust's No Bust

Dust: An Elysian Tail [$5.99] is the kind of game you can really lose yourself in. The sort of game that you want to take to a comfortable corner and just give all of your attention to until it's finished. In spite of the many releases each week on iOS, plenty of which are good games in their own right, we don't see efforts like this terribly often on the platform. At least half the time we do see titles like this, they're ports from another platform, as Dust itself is. That's a sad economic reality of the iOS ecosystem. The platform's main appeal, judging by the charts, is in games that entertain in short bites, perfect for the busy player or someone on the go. That's fine sometimes, but other times, you really want to get into a game, and players on mobile devices perhaps don't get as many opportunities to do so as we'd like. Luckily, it's easy to forget those gripes when you get stuck into something like Dust...

'Gamebook Adventures 12: Asuria Awakens' Review - A Truly Epic Close

I can't recall if it's been formally announced, but this twelfth installment in Tin Man's long-running Gamebook Adventures series is, at least for now, the last. The series has had ups and downs, but even the weaker installments helped flesh out the fascinating fantasy world of Orlandes, so I'm a little sad to see it going on hiatus. I am, however, ecstatic that it's doing so with Asuria Awakens [$1.99], which is not only the best Gamebook Adventures yet, but also one of the finer traditional-style gamebooks I've ever played. The creative team behind this game seemingly held nothing back, giving us a quest that takes your character from a lowly gofer to a savior. There are a lot of gamebooks that do that, mind you, but you really have to earn it in this one, and it feels great...

With the Gamebook Adventures series winding to at least a temporary close, Tin Man has opted to release the last couple of volumes at the same time. I'm not going to fib, I'm a pretty big fan of this series and the fictional world of Orlandes it uses as a setting. From a story-telling standpoint, it's great to have a well-realized setting that players can take so many different perspectives in. On the gameplay side, the Gamebook Adventures gamebooks are usually fairer and more enjoyable than the paper gamebooks that inspired them. They're written knowing the player isn't having to stick a thumb in the pages and keep track of their inventory with a pencil, and they're stronger experiences for it. That we only have these last two volumes to hold us over for the time being makes each of them precious. That's why it kind of breaks my heart that I don't like Songs Of The Mystics [$1.99] more than I do...

'Operation Dracula' Review - One, Two, Three Power-Ups, Ahaha

I think I could play shoot 'em ups until the day I die. It was one of the first genres I experienced in arcades outside of fighting games, and to this day, it's by far the genre that I import the most. Ironically, Siberian Strike was one of the very first games I played on an iOS device as well -- it's in my blood. It's good that Operation Dracula [$2.99], in spite of its cheesy presentation, is a solid showing...

Old genres rarely die, they just often end up evolving into something a bit different. That's certainly the case with beat-em-ups, a genre which reached its height in the 16-bit era only to almost completely vanish in the following generation. That happened for many reasons, including market saturation, the popularity of one-on-one fighters eating the genre's lunch, an overall lack of innovation, and the 3D nature of the gameplay meaning it got precious little boost from the shift into polygons the way other genres did. A few attempts were made to keep the genre going on PlayStation and its contemporaries, but they met with limited success at best. It wouldn't be until the release of the PlayStation 2 that the beat-em-up would find its new footing, thanks to Koei's Dynasty Warriors series. That series spawned many sequels, spin-offs, and imitators, and even today serves as a general template for the genre...

Kids today are all about Minecraft [$6.99]. Mining this, mining that. Back when I was a young fellow, we had a different kind of 'craft: Lovecraft. Okay, if you're still reading, you're probably strong enough to handle a bit of Lovecraftian gamebook horror. The problem is that up until recently, most of the horror gamebooks on iOS have been focused on zombies, vampires, or other such classic monsters. Tin Man Games has had a couple of promising-looking titles up for a couple of years now, but they were French books without translations, leaving them out of the reach of most English players. Well, it seems like May 2015 is the month where Tin Man is finishing some old business, because in addition to the recent release of Gamebook Adventures 10 [$1.99], they've also finished up an English version of Les Fils d'Uruzime, translated directly as Sons Of Uruzime [$2.99]...

It's been almost a year and a half since the last volume of Gamebook Adventures, the homegrown series of adventures that kicked things off for prolific gamebook publisher Tin Man Games. The developers at Tin Man have certainly kept busy in that time, adapting several Fighting Fantasy books and a few other treasures like Ryan North's To Be Or Not To Be [$5.99], and while many of those have been great fun, I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been waiting for a return to the world of Orlandes. The tenth volume of Gamebook Adventures, Lords Of Nurroth [$1.99], brings the setting back with style, casting you as a professional liberator of goods who heads out on a routine job and finds a lot more than they bargained for...

One of the main complaints I hear about traditional gamebooks is that they're too difficult. It's fair criticism. When we think of gamebooks, we generally think of things like the Fighting Fantasy series or Lone Wolf, and both of those make liberal use of some nasty tricks at times. If you're playing an Ian Livingstone book, you'd best be rolling the best possible scores, and if you're playing a Steve Jackson adventure, I hope you're searching every nook and cranny and picking up everything that isn't nailed down. The worst offenders are designed around a so-called golden path, the one correct sequence of actions that can take you to the ending, but even the best will sometimes kill you for flipping to the wrong page. It's little wonder almost everyone cheat at the things to some extent...

'Halo: Spartan Strike' Review - An Evolutionary Success

Recently, Microsoft and the folks at 343 Industries launched two Halo spinoffs on the App Store. Halo: Spartan Assault [$2.99] originally debuted back in 2013 on Windows devices and is finally on iOS devices. However, Halo: Spartan Strike [$2.99] is a brand new adventure that saw a simultaneous launch on all pertinent platforms. As a sequel to Halo: Spartan Assault, it would make sense that Strike seeks to improve upon its predecessor and it succeeds in that regard. While the changes to the formula feel more evolutionary than revolutionary, those improvements are on a game that was already great  to begin with making Strike an even better dual stick shooter...

When Microsoft announced Halo: Spartan Assault way back in early 2013 as a dual-stick shooter set in the Halo universe that would be exclusive to the Windows platform, no one ever thought that the folks in Redmond would ever sign off on it eventually hitting Apple’s App Store (although we dreamed about it when we checked it out at E3 that year). Yet, here we are with Microsoft pulling a rabbit out of its hat and launching both Halo: Spartan Assault [$2.99] and Halo: Spartan Strike [$2.99] simultaneously on the App Store. As you’ll soon discover, both games play quite similarly to each other, but we’ll focus primarily on Spartan Assault and the gameplay basics in this review and will get into more specifics as well as the differences of Spartan Strike in Part II of our review...

'Ryan North's To Be Or Not To Be' Review - All Aboard the Party Boat to England

You probably know the William Shakespeare play Hamlet, or at least you have some form of cultural awareness about it thanks to English classes. You at least know the famous opening line to the character Hamlet's soliloquy, which provides the title of the latest gamebook adaptation from Tin Man Games, To Be Or Not To Be [$5.99]. This is adapted from Ryan North's choose-your-own-adventure novel of the same name from 2013, now available in handy digital form! I'm a fan of Ryan North's work, being a fan of the fantastic long-running webcomic Dinosaur Comics and of his spectacular run on the Adventure Time comic series. He has this particular sense of absurd humor that comes through in everything he makes, he has this distinctive voice, so as soon as I heard that To Be Or Not To Be was a thing that existed, based on a 2013 book of the same name, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. And it was well worth the wait, as this is an absolutely hilarious adventure...

Tin Man Games has been applying their considerable gamebook know-how to the Fighting Fantasy series for a couple of years now, so far releasing eight of the most popular and noteworthy installments of the franchise. While there are a couple of conspicuous absences remaining, the developer has shown a good eye in its selections thus far. The latest release, Fighting Fantasy: Bloodbones [$2.99], is an interesting choice for a few reasons. This is the first of Tin Man's Fighting Fantasy releases that isn't written by either Ian Livingstone or Steve Jackson, instead being the work of Jonathan Green, one of the writers from the later days of the series. Bloodbones was considered a lost book for several years, as it was initially planned as the 60th entry in the series before publisher Puffin canceled Fighting Fantasy with the 59th book. Like its titular character, death didn't hold it back for long. In 2006, fans could finally put their hands on Bloodbones as the 26th release in the Wizard Books revival of the line...

The tag line for The Witcher AG[$5.99 (HD)] says a lot. "The Witcher Adventure Game is CD PROJEKT RED's board game set in the brutal, dark fantasy universe of monster slayer Geralt of Rivia!." I don't know if its intentional that one hero gets top billing over the other three that are involved in the game, but after playing some rounds, I think we have a pretty obvious Mary Sue case on our hands. Geralt is the guy that right off the bat is best in combat. No one fights like Geralt, rolls his dice like Geralt, In a wrestling match nobody bites like Geralt. If you are ok with a slower start, the other characters are ok to play too though...

'Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath' Review - You're Looking Mighty Good, Stranger

The story of the Oddworld Inhabitants themselves is almost as interesting as that of any of their games. Founded by Hollywood veterans to take advantage of the correctly-predicted boom that 3D graphics would bring, the company had a clear, ambitious plan for a series of five games that took place in their Oddworld universe. A new team planning for that many games before they've even finished one is the game development equivalent of a rookie stepping up to the plate and pointing at the stands, but when Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee released, it seemed like the Oddworld Inhabitants weren't bluffing. The game was a massive hit, and the lead character Abe become something of a cult icon in the 32-bit era. It was followed by an initially unplanned direct sequel, Abe's Exoddus, which was meant to help fill the gap while everyone waited for the next chapter of the quintology...

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, said Charles Caleb Colton, a man whose words are far more famous than his name. I'm not sure if that's always the case, but I do believe strongly that it sometimes is. For example, when I was a young lad, I used to try to draw Spider-Man exactly the way Todd McFarlane did. His art was so exciting and cool to me that I would find my favorite panels and more or less copy them. That eventually extended to my original drawings of Spider-Man, with the big eyes and the bundly webs finding their way into those margin-doodles my poor teachers had to put up with. In my defense, McFarlane was pretty popular at the time. I was a big fan of the art, and I wanted to express that through drawing similar things. Never mind that they were poor replicas, they were sincere, innocent-minded odes to McFarlane's unusual style. I think we see a lot of that type of situation in the game industry, since so many of today's developers grew up blanketed in the hobby. Of course, we also see quite a bit of the less-innocent imitations that are less about appreciation of art and more about appreciation of money, but I think it's safe to say that 2012's Partia [$3.99], a naked homage to Nintendo's Fire Emblem, is more the former...

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