Category Archives: 2.5 stars

Thanks to the relatively low barrier to entry, the App Store is filled with labors of love. Compared to most other times in gaming's fairly short history, it's less difficult to get a game together and out in front of the public's eyes, even if you have a small team and no budget, so it's no surprise we see a lot of people making homages to their childhood favorites or putting together something that approximates their dream game. Arcane Ghosts [$1.99] is one such labor of love, a letter written with care to express affection for the side-scrolling action games of old, with a particular eye towards Capcom's Ghosts 'n' Goblins series. That series is famous for a few things, but mainly for being a very frustrating game with unusual, yet tight, controls. Arcane Ghosts gets almost all of that right except the most important part...

While I enjoy a big budget RPG production like any fan of the genre does, I'm also a pretty big fan of checking out what the little guys are up to. That's because when it comes to RPGs, perhaps more than most genres, you don't need a huge budget or a massive studio to realize your gameplay ideas. It doesn't hurt, mind you, but it's arguable that the very core of video game RPGs is in realizing abstract ideas through more practical means. It's why companies like Atlus and Falcom who work with budgets many times smaller than someone like Square-Enix are still able to capture the hearts of RPG lovers just the same. To be honest, finding an innovative RPG with ideas that connect well with me tends to be a bit rare, but the enjoyment I get from them when I do find them makes the search more than worthwhile...

I was a bit surprised by this latest release from Kairosoft, makers of the hit simulation Game Dev Story [$4.99]. Not by the game itself, mind you, since this is right off the assembly line in every way, shape, and form. No, I was surprised by Pocket Harvest [$4.99] because I really thought Kairosoft had done a farming game before. I guess it's because farming and rustic settings have been regular elements of many of their games. This is their first pure farming game, but it has been shoehorned into Kairosoft's most familiar template, creating a game that is one of their least appealing to date. The most common criticism of this developer's games is how much they tend to recycle, but at least with titles like World Cruise Story [$4.99] or Sushi Spinnery [$3.99], the settings are unique even if the mechanics are very familiar. Pocket Harvest doesn't even have that going for it, unfortunately...

A young boy who gets trapped inside a video game? Well, it all sounds a little familiar.. doesn’t it? That aside, Marcus Level [$0.99], despite it’s strange name, is a curious platform game that takes elements from the endless runner genre to combine a unique twist on what is essentially a quirky finite runner game...

In my younger years, I would often look through the ads in the back of games magazines, goggle-eyed at all the niche import games and weird pieces of hardware that, living in a very small town, I would never, ever have a chance to find in a local store. Ads were a liittle different back then, which was likely a result of the primitive nature of game graphics, and they had a tendency to, shall we say, oversell the concept in slightly misleading ways. If you had an active imagination, it was all too easy to read one of these ads and conjure up something in your mind that was far more entertaining than the reality. I'm sure we can all rifle off a variety of examples, but for me, one of the worst was the Barcode Battler...

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...

Like most kids who grew up in the 1980s, I loved Robocop. It was kind of a strange situation, looking back. The movie was an R-rated, ultra-violent piece of multi-layered social commentary, and yet the character was heavily marketed towards kids. Of course, for kids, it wasn't social commentary, it was a movie about a cyborg police officer with a gun in his leg shooting bad guys and big robots while issuing easily-quoted one-liners. That description sounds nearly as perfect as can be for a video game concept, and yet, Robocop's forays into gaming have not only been of dubious quality, the IP itself seems to be cursed. In addition to Orion Pictures itself going down the tubes shortly after the wretched third movie, literally every company that ever worked on a Robocop game no longer exists. Perhaps that explains why such an easily-exploitable franchise has been relatively dormant for so long...

Finally available worldwide after a soft launch in Canada, Fightback [Free] is something of a unfortunate tale. Ninja Theory is a fairly major developer known for decently-playing action games with excellent production values. They're perhaps most famous for the controversial DmC, where they ended up taking the brunt of the anger of fans over choices that were largely directed by the publisher. It's odd that they've shown up on iOS with such little fanfare, but perhaps it's for the best, because Fightback is an exhasperating combination of great gameplay and fatal F2P mechanics...

It's that time of the month again, and without missing a beat, we have a new RPG from Kemco. Destiny Fantasia [$2.99] comes to us by way of developer WorldWideSoftware, Kemco's original mobile partners in crime. They're most famously the developers behind Symphony of Eternity [$7.99] and Symphony of the Origin [$8.99], and they, in my opinion, turn out the worst work out of any of the teams Kemco publishes for. They last poked their heads up on iOS with End of Aspiration [$7.99], a game we didn't care for all that much, and most of the criticisms of that title apply fairly well here...

Well, here we are again. I'm going to preface this review with the statement that I don't envy publishers in today's smartphone market. Thanks to what is certainly the most ridiculously high level of competition in any gaming market ever, it must be enormously difficult to balance getting your game into enough people's hands with making enough money to keep the lights on. As with any difficult task, there are many figurative bodies on the floor resulting from missteps. There are free games that give away too much, leading to little income. There are free games that give too little, leading to being buried in obscurity. With so many free and low-priced games, publishers that choose to put a larger price on their games frequently face backlash or, worse, have their product entirely ignored. It's a minefield, and I feel for you guys...

To know how well you're going to like Warner Brothers and NetherRealm's latest superhero action game, Batman: Arkham Origins [Free], you need to ask yourself a few questions. Was the combat in Batman Arkham City Lockdown [$5.99] too complicated for you? Did you find Injustice [Free] had too many characters who weren't Batman? Do you love badly implemented stamina meters? If you answered yes to all of these questions, please smack yourself in the back of the head, and then head to the App Store to download this game, because friend, is this one for you!..

In a way, the App Store presents some of the most fertile soil possible for the puzzle genre of games. The touch interface lends itself well to moving pieces or objects around, they're one of the easier genres to put together a game for if you're a small developer, and the audience is very responsive to them. It's no wonder that there are so many different puzzle games available for iOS gamers. Pixel Push [Free] tries to push its way into this crowded arena, and like many other puzzle games on the platform, it's got a good idea, but slips on the execution...

Kerosene Games knows how to make a visually-gorgeous game; Bounty Arms [$4.99] is proof of it. But graphics never make up for the rest of a game’s short-comings, and when the shine of the polygons wear-off so does the hypnosis. Sure, Bounty Arms is gorgeous and resides with a charming art-direction, but not much more than that...

I'm not going to lie. One of the things that attracts me to a game, in the ocean of choice that is the App Store, is stylish presentation. While I'm certainly known to check into games with faces only a mother could love, sometimes a game's look grabs me, even when I should know better. Such is unfortunately the case with Soul Savior [Free], a game that seems really cool and fresh from its description but ends up being anything but...

Call of Mini Zombies 2 [Free], the latest by Triniti Interactive, is the developer's most recent take on the zombie massacre genre. To its credit, it certainly succeeds at offering lots of zombies and plenty of opportunity to kill them. Unfortunately, this is about all the game has to offer as Call of Mini Zombies 2 ends up as a pretty bland third-person shooter...

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