Category Archives: Ratings

'Ember' Review - Keeping the Old-School RPG Light Burning

When 505 Games and N-Fusion released their old-school inspired RPG Ember [$9.99] last week, there were a few interesting things we noted. First, with a stated longevity of 30+ hours (coupled with no IAP), it’s certainly one of the longest premium RPGs we’ve played in awhile. Second, as a near simultaneous release with the PC version, it’s one of those increasingly rare games where the developer isn’t trying to hide the fact that a mobile version was developed concurrently with the PC version. Both are typically good indicators of a well-made game, and Ember certainly fits the bill. It does an excellent job paying homage to the old-school RPG and its controls make an acceptable transition to touch screen...

Did you play Day of the Tentacle [$4.99] and think "I like how this game makes me feel stupid, but would like it better if it was a platformer?" Well, that's Donut Games' Vulture Island [$2.99] in a nutshell. It sends you on the quests of a LucasArts point-and-click adventure game, but with 2D platforming. You will use items in weird ways on other items, trying to solve puzzles that will make you curse yourself and slap your forehead over how obvious the solution seems after the fact. It's all that fun, but as a platforming game, a clever combination that's made for another winner from Donut Games...




'Solitairica' Review - The Solitaire Roguelike Your Grandma Could Enjoy

Solitaire is quite possibly the most popular video game of all time, thanks to the game's inclusion in Windows in particular. Many a bored office worker, student, and grandparent has sunk hours into this classic card game. Now, with games like Card Crawl [$2.99] bringing modern roguelike influence into card games, it seems only fitting that Solitairica [$3.99] should come into existence, bringing something more closely resembling actual solitaire to the solitaire roguelike subgenre. And it promises to steal countless hours of your time, even if you're not necessarily a card game player...

'Sorcery! 4' Review - The End of an Incredible Journey

It's been over three years since inkle released their adaptation of the first book in the Steve Jackson's Sorcery! series. In a lot of ways, that app redefined what players expected from a mobile version of a gamebook. It would have been a far simpler matter for inkle to do the expected thing and do a straight conversion of the original books. They had the engine for it, and the series is well-regarded enough that it probably would have done fairly well. Instead, the developers decided to make something that a physical book would have a hard time approximating, while at the same time appealing to the fairly large overlap between gamebook readers and tabletop gaming fans. The first game mostly relied on a unique presentation and reworked battle mechanics, but the following two games brought more and more complexity to the table. Sorcery! 3 [$4.99] was so near to a full-on RPG that its roots were hard to spot at times...

When I first played Exploding Kittens on mobile, I was quite happy with the way the physical had turned digital; the subtle additions of animation and sounds here and there really helped bring the game to life, making it even more fun to play than the original. Sushi Go! [$4.99] has followed a similar path in its journey from card to digital with the developer keeping the game's original card art but adding subtle animations that help make the game quite charming and make it feel more like a digital game than a straight port of a card game. Sushi Go! isn't perfect - there's limited interaction with other players (no emotes or anything like that), which detracts from the social aspect of a card game, and the iPad UI doesn't take advantage of the screen as well as it could. Despite these issues, Sushi Go! is a fun, quick card game that might also put a smile on your face every time you play it...

'Magic Mansion' Review - Monochrome Monotony

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September 15th, 2016 1:15 PM EDT by Chris Carter in 3 stars, Free, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Platform, Reviews, Universal
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If your game is going to be based on an endless principle, it better have a good hook. I'm not thinking narrowly in terms of unlocks, but a fundamental design philosophy that encourages the player to keep chipping away at their high score. A compelling art style and a responsive control scheme help, as endless games are generally great in quick spurts, and not with long marathon sessions...

By now, we all know what to do if a large meteor is on a course to strike the Earth: throw Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis, and Steve Buscemi in a rocket loaded with a nuclear bomb, point them at the rock, and let the magic happen. They're our planet's ace in the hole. But what should we do if not one meteor is headed for us, but rather five? Ten? One hundred? Even if you throw in Casey, it's not enough Affleckpower to take care of that many flying chunks of absolute destruction. Such is the nightmare scenario considered by Atomic Super Lander [$2.99], the latest action game from Crescent Moon Games and bitWeird Games...

'GunBird 2' Review - Classic Cute 'em Up

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September 13th, 2016 11:42 AM EDT by Chris Carter in 3.5 stars, Free, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Reviews, Shooter
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Shoot 'em ups have a rich, long history, perhaps one of the longest in all of gaming. While Pong and Pac-Man were the first for many, Galaga was right in the mix as well, and with the advent of easy to manage digital marketplaces we're seeing a resurgence of some of those classic games right here in the mobile space. Cave pretty much opened the shmup floodgates after some stragglers at the start of the Android and iOS movement, but there's plenty of other competitors vying for attention as well. That includes Psikyo, who developed the Gunbird series way back in 1998 on arcades (and eventually the Dreamcast). And here we are 18 years later with a mobile edition. Flaws and all, it's a pretty fantastic series of events...

'Siralim 2' Review - Have Another Scoop of the Good Stuff

No matter how you slice it, making a sequel to Siralim [Free] was always going to be a tough job. The original game is essentially an overstuffed endless pit of RPG joy, densely packed with enough systems, side content, and additional challenges to keep any genre fan busy for dozens of hours or more. In hindsight, it was almost an impossible achievement. It was developer Thylacine's first stab at the genre, and it was extremely unconventional. Mixing elements of monster-catching, base-building, and roguelikes, it was like someone made a delicious Shin Megami Tensei - Romancing SaGa - Rogue sandwich and somehow pulled that blend off with only a few minor hitches. Excellent post-release support ironed out just about all of the game's issues, leaving one to wonder what exactly a sequel could accomplish...

'Mr. Robot: 1.51exfilitrati0n.ipa' Review - Behind a Believable Hacker's Screen Looking Out

Have you played Lifeline? It came out in 2015 and had a very clever concept: it turned one of the primary purposes of a phone - sending and receiving messages - into a game. The game had you talking to a survivor of a spaceship crash and you couldn't do anything but advise him, all the while trying to keep him alive. At its core, Lifeline was a choose-your-own-adventure game, but its use of "real-time" messaging as the main game mechanic made the game feel more like a real-life communication rather than a spreadsheet of choices and consequences. As much as it tried to imitate real life, though, Lifeline was a bit too stilted, the communication never really tricking you into believing that the person on the other side of the fictional line was a real human being...

'Justice Monsters Five' Review - Justice Denied

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September 2nd, 2016 6:00 PM EDT by Shaun Musgrave in 2 stars, Free, iPad Games, iPhone games, Pinball, Reviews, Social RPG
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You know, I actually had a small shred of hope for Justice Monsters Five [Free]. It looked like a take-off of the enjoyable Monster Strike [Free], had some nice-looking artwork, and its status as a Final Fantasy 15 spin-off, the first playable non-demo anything based on Final Fantasy 15, lulled me into thinking it was going to be of a certain level of quality. Plus, Square Enix has gotten better with their free-to-play efforts of late. They're all quite serviceable if not very exciting or innovative. Unfortunately, I was almost completely wrong about this game. The production values are good for what it is and it's not a broken game or anything like that, but those are both of the nice things I have to say about this shallow, dull affair...

Street Fighter Puzzle Spirits [Free] is actually a couple of years old now, and only just arriving in more countries worldwide. In some ways, it feels its age. It's less refined than the usual spins on Puzzle & Dragons [Free] we see these days, giving it the feeling of something that was slapped together to cash in on a craze before the tide went out again. It initially comes off as crudely simple, but if you give it a little time, that basic simplicity gives way to a very satisfying set of mechanics. Unfortunately, one other way shows the age of this game. While many social RPGs have loosened up a little on the monetization squeeze in recent times, Street Fighter Puzzle Spirits has its boots firmly planted in the past. On your throat. What remains is a fun game that can get frustrating in a hurry if you're not willing to pay up...

Ever since Tetris was used to deploy tens of millions of Game Boys into households across the world, puzzle games and handheld hardware have had a tight relationship. You'd be hard-pressed to find a handheld launch without a puzzle game of some sort on offer, but virtually none of them have been as important to their hardware's launch than Tetris was for the Game Boy. If you had to find a runner-up, however, the original Lumines on PlayStation Portable would surely be it. On hardware that offered some of the best 3D graphics that you could fit in your pocket, somehow the shining star of the system's early life was a falling-block puzzler. Granted, it was an incredibly stylish falling-block puzzler with an outstanding soundtrack. I don't know many PSP owners who don't have some kind of nostalgia for the game...

Gamebooks based on the works of William Shakespeare are so hot right now. Well, okay, there's really just Ryan North's To Be Or Not To Be [$5.99], Ryan North's Romeo And/Or Juliet, and now this one, but that's enough for me to call it a trend. A delightful, wonderful trend. But lest you think Choice of Games is merely riding the tailcoats of those previous books with A Midsummer Night's Choice [Free], let me assure you that this is an entirely different sort of animal. While North's gamebooks take the familiar situations and characters and give the reader the chance to move the story in wildly different direction, A Midsummer Night's Choice tells an almost entirely original tale, albeit with its fair share of nods to Shakespeare's famous play...

'Riptide GP: Renegade' Review - Screaming for Vengeance

Vector Unit makes their aquatic racing series bigger and better in Riptide GP: Renegade [$2.99]. The aquatic racing genre is a small one with few new contenders to the Riptide GP [$0.99] throne. Which is easy to see why – there's water physics to contend with, not to mention the challenge of creating engaging courses. Yet, Vector Unit has excelled in this genre, from Hydro Thunder Hurricane to the Riptide GP games. Now with Renegade, they take the series from mobile to console and then back to mobile. And the game is well worth the wait – the formula here is still incredibly strong, with some interesting new iterations to the franchise, and some clear improvements from the console scope of this one...

'Abyssrium' Review - An Underwater Tap 'em Up

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August 26th, 2016 12:48 PM EDT by Chris Carter in 3.5 stars, Free, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Reviews, Simulation, Universal
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For some, clickers got real old real fast. Most people I know were introduced to them by way of Cookie Clicker, which took the world by storm for several weeks until people got tired of clicking on things. But since a multitude of developers (even Bandai Namco) are partaking in these click-fests, it's become more important than ever to differentiate yourself from the crowd. That can be done in a myriad of ways, from adding "endgames" or RPG elements. But for me, it's okay for a clicker to just be a clicker, especially when it has a relaxing atmosphere like Abyssrium [Free]. For the uninitiated, the goal of tappers is very much like a city-building simulator -- acquire currency (hearts), so you can use it to acquire items that allow you to gain more currency. It's not a tough thing to wrap your head around, especially since the vast majority of your time is going to be spent tapping indiscriminately at the screen. But Abyssrium manages to add a zen-like feel to the whole shebang that makes it feel like less of a chore and more of means to let off some stress. The spooky yet majestic art is mostly to blame. Your empire starts off with one adorable rock with a smiley face and builds from there. Soon you'll have plants growing out of your avatar, fish swimming around going about their business, and mystic artifacts surrounding your home, all of which impact your earn rate in different ways...

We've been riding the renewed wave of roguelikes and roguelites for several years now. By the very nature of the genre, a good roguelike can last players for a really long time. What that means is that any new entry is going to have to have some kind of way of standing out if it hopes to get attention. Hero Generations [$4.99] has a strong, easily-understood gimmick: every move costs a year of your character's life, and when they run out of years, it's game over. Before that happens, you need to find a mate and have a kid, who will hopefully be able to carry on some of the previous character's traits and legacy. As you expand your abilities and fame from generation to generation, you'll eventually piece together an urgent goal, but you won't be able to do anything about it if your family line dies off early...

'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...

So, you thought you were getting a technical marvel of an action game in Eisenhorn: Xenos [$9.99]? Wrong! This adaptation of the 2001 novel set in the ever-expansive and convoluted Warhammer universe, starring inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn, has disappointing combat, and the game largely tries to hide it and convince you that it's unnecessary. Instead, this is about telling the story from the novel, featuring Mark Strong as Eisenhorn, while presenting some gorgeous backdrops, with you at the controls driving the narrative. And if Warhammer lore is your bag, this is a game for you. As an action game? Eh...

'Leap of Fate' Review - Jump In

Leap of Fate [$3.99] didn't make a great first impression on me. The opening cut-scene dialogue is ponderous. The aiming feels a little off. The tutorial has a lot of clumsy navigation elements, suggesting there will be some shoveled-in platforming to break up the action. The first time I loaded the game, I played through the tutorial, wondered why Jared was raving about it so much, then switched over to something else. Of course, since I was assigned to the review, I had to come back to Leap of Fate soon. Reviewing games is generally a great job, but one of the few downsides is that you can't always walk away from games you're not enjoying. Sometimes, however, that turns out to be a good thing, and Leap of Fate is one such case...

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