Category Archives: 3.5 stars

'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...




Sometimes, based on the recommendation of the lovely Touch Arcade community, you get to go into a project completely blind. I had never heard of the source material for Eden: The Game [Free], which is apparently based on a UK reality television show where a group of people live in a remote area of Scotland for an entire year. It's not only meant as entertainment for the masses, but it's also a social experiment in and of itself. The mobile game adaptation somewhat symbolizes how difficult it is to get an encampment up and running from nothing, with a little less thrill involved, of course...

Once rare treats in an overall line-up that included a few other developers, EXE-Create's games for Kemco have recently had to shoulder most of the load for the near-monthly release schedule of the publisher. Of this year's seven iOS releases so far from Kemco, five have come from EXE-Create. Now, this developer knows how to put together solid RPGs in a short span of time, but that kind of breakneck schedule isn't going to make anyone look good. Taking things one step further, this month's selection, Asdivine Cross [Free / $4.99], is a remake of one of the developer's old feature phone releases. Many of the gameplay systems have been changed, which would be good if the "new" systems weren't simply copy and pasted from their last few original games. In a vacuum, Asdivine Cross is a decent enough JRPG, even quite good in places. Unfortunately, we're not in a vacuum. We're in the world where this is the second Asdivine game I've reviewed in the last six months...

'Quell Zen' Review - Peaceful Enough

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July 29th, 2016 5:00 PM EDT by Chris Carter in $3.99, 3.5 stars, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Puzzle, Reviews, Universal
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Everyone gets their zen from their own special place. For me, that's usually listening to the latest Kenna album, grinding away in an MMO and leveling up a new character. It's relaxing in a way that it's probably crazy to basically anyone else, but if you shared some of your methods, you'd probably sound crazy too. So when a game bills itself as a zen-like experience, it's usually dubious of the claim given the subjectivity of its nature. With Quell Zen [$3.99] though, it mostly does its job, providing a puzzler veneer...

I’m a sucker for sci-fi horror settings, so when I saw this brutal app icon alongside colorful screenshots that really pop, I knew I had to go for this app. Wait, what’s that? And it’s a premium game with no in-app purchases? Oh Dead Shell, you say all the right things! I was excited to dive deep into the ghoulish landscape of Dead Shell: Roguelike RPG [$2.99] from the word go. Sadly, my excitement was met with a game that doesn’t really seem to know what it wants to be. It’s definitely an interesting game with a very cool premise, but that only takes you so far...

Every now and then, a game comes along that has wonderful ideas, but sadly fails to live up to the promise of those ideas. Mainly because the awesome ideas are either under-funded or come from inexperienced developers. That's the case we have today, but when I saw this game, I could not pass it up. Not only did it look super hectic and crazy, but it's pretty unique in that it's both a castle defense and an endless runner. Endless Defense? Castle Runner? Anyway, in this case, your castle is a gargantuan pedal to the metal tank, and it isn't stopping for very much. I give you Mega Tank [Free]...

Tests can be stressful. I mean, that makes sense when you're not confident about the material on the test, but sometimes tests that cover things you know very well can be even more nerve-wracking. You shouldn't fail something if you know what you're doing, right? Now imagine the test you have to pass is checking your humanity. You can pass that test, surely. Most of our readers have been human for a while, after all. That's the premise behind Able Black [$1.99], an interactive fiction game where you play a freshly-booted android who has to pass his citizenship test before he can join society...

There weren't a lot of games that used the "draw a line" mechanic before smartphones, but the ones that did exist really stand out. One such title is Kirby: Canvas Curse, released on the Nintendo DS in 2005, among several other follow-ups and clones. Most of them follow the same formula -- simply draw on the screen to manipulate the character, which was usually cruising through a world drawn with a cutesy veneer. Don't Be Squared [Free] follows that same path, but with a decidedly less interesting aesthetic...

I almost let this particular game slip completely under my radar, but when I saw some screenshots of it, I knew I absolutely had to play it. I just hoped that the game would live up to the aesthetic. Mahluk: Dark Demon [$0.99] is a hack and slash platformer in the vein of Goblin Sword [$1.99] and Sword of Xolan [$0.99] with a super dark art style in which the foreground is completely silhouetted. It’s not dark in the artsy Limbo [$4.99] kind of way, but more the heavy metal crap-sack demon infested Dark Souls style world way, which I am all about. And while the aesthetic is far and away the best thing this game has going for it, it plays pretty decently as well...

By now, the social RPG genre has found a pretty comfortable groove. Take some kind of battle mechanic, staple the now-standard collect, fuse, evolve leveling system onto it, and make sure you have an ever-expanding line-up of desirable goodies for players to chase after. The recipe is simple enough, though finding success with it is another matter. There's a lot of competition, and players have got to be getting a little tired of the same old. That's likely as good an explanation as any for why the social RPG genre has started to stretch its legs out a little. If there's one company that has been trying seemingly every permutation of features to try to score a hit, it's Square Enix. Very few of their efforts have ever left the shores of Japan, but that might be starting to change. Not long ago, we saw a wide release for Kingdom Hearts Unchained Chi [Free], and now we've got one for Final Fantasy Brave Exvius [Free], Square's collaboration with Brave Frontier [Free] developers Alim...

'Drifty Dash' Review - Grand Theft Cartoon

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There's a distinct lack of car combat and otherwise silly vehicular based games in the current climate. Whereas everyone was chasing that almighty Destruction Derby or Twisted Metal dollar back in the day with entertaining, if flawed releases like Vigilante 8, nowadays a true successor is a rarity. Heck, even Mario Kart 8 had a ham-stringed battle mode. But with the multitude of platforms anything is possible, and although Drifty Dash [Free] doesn't come close to honoring its pedigree, it's not a bad way to pass the time...

Beat 'em ups started out with a simple enough premise. Punch stuff, get points. It's that easy! In an era where quarters equated to extra lives, and arcade owners could jack up the difficulty with the flip of a switch before the doors opened, it was a lucrative business. But once they hit home consoles things changed. Players could just opt for infinite lives, which, while great for your wallet, takes away some of the inherent nervousness of using up your very last quarter in X-Men while Magneto is flashing with a critical amount of life. It was a rush to be sure, and although Rockabilly Beatdown [$0.99] captures some of that magic, it lacks staying power...

The clicker meets the action RPG in Nonstop Knight [Free]. Essentially, the progression of action-RPGs with loot, character leveling, and elements of clickers like idle revenue generation, and prestiging to reset your progress in the name of permanent stat upgrades, are combined into one game. Your hero automatically runs through dungeons, and you watch them fight, triggering special timed abilities, and using the revenue you earn to buy more and better equipment. Normally, I'm opposed to clickers without clicking, but having the timed abilities to use means that there actually is a degree of meaningful interactivity. The only problem with Nonstop Knight is that its progression slows to crawl, and stops being meaningful way too soon...

When the Apple Watch released, a number of developers attempted to take advantage of the buzz by either updating old games with new features, or by releasing new games specifically designed with the Apple Watch in mind. One of the more success of the latter group was Lifeline [$1.99], an interactive fiction game that had you guiding a student named Taylor who had been stranded on a moon. As with most games in this genre, the game mostly consisted of reading text and making the occasional choice. The gimmick came from the way the game incorporated real time into the story. Taylor would often become busy after you made a choice, and you'd have no choice but to wait until Taylor notified you, via your watch or your device, that the story could continue. While the game itself was quite simple relative to other gamebooks, this element gave Lifeline the twist it needed to stand out from the pack...

Virtually every Japanese strategy RPG can be said to be inspired by Nintendo's Fire Emblem in some way or another. While strategy RPGs followed their own path in the West, they did so mostly on computer formats that either weren't available in Japan or were very niche. When Fire Emblem's developer Intelligent Systems got the idea to add some Dragon Quest-style elements to their Famicom Wars turn-based strategy formula, they ended up creating a sort of Dragon Quest of their own. Not nearly as popular, mind you, but certainly as influential for its sub-genre. Without Fire Emblem, games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea, and Shining Force likely wouldn't have existed, nor would the numerous strategy RPGs that they themselves spawned. That said, while a debt is clearly owed, the genre has widened and evolved considerably over the years, to the point that many strategy RPG games bear little resemblance to Fire Emblem...

'Cruise Control' Review - Nightcall

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May 23rd, 2016 1:00 PM EDT by Chris Carter in 3.5 stars, Free, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Racing, Reviews, Universal
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Growing up in the 80s, I saw a ton of sci-fi films. Whether they were dramatic masterpieces or oozed cheese and camp I loved them all the same, and the numerous references in modern day media like Turbo Kid, Kung Fury, or Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon are palpable. Sometimes creators just go all out in their unabashed love for the era, and that passion shines through in Cruise Control [Free] -- albeit, in light of some unfortunate IAP peddling...

Having played hundreds of action adventure games over the years, the thirst is still very much intact. To many people out there there's only so many times you can adventure with Samus in space, or take an anthropomorphic rabbit on a quest to remember his past before you started to get winded of the concept. But every time I encounter a brand new 2D world, I feel like it's a brand new challenge to undertake -- a new excuse to get to know another universe. While the mechanics most definitely hold up, Soul of Sword [Free]'s world isn't necessarily worth uncovering...

Quirky media can often be a breath of fresh air. Whereas dramas and grimdark settings usually go over well with just about anyone, weird comedies like Arrested Development can break the mold and have us enjoy something we never even knew we wanted. But quirk alone isn't enough to carry every project. Sometimes, studios or developers can go overboard, and made a game so loud, so desperate for your attention that it falls on deaf ears. Despite some solid gameplay mechanics, Egz The Origin of the Universe [$3.99] suffers from some of these issues...

It's always a downer when a game you really like at its core is dragged down by external factors. Such is the case with Trap Da Gang [Free], the latest release from Japanese publisher Obokaid'em Games. The basic gameplay is challenging, fun, and wonderfully reminiscent of vintage arcade games from the mid-1980s. But being a free game, it also has an economy that you have to deal with, and while that's not always bad in principle, the extra cruft it brings to the game hurts it. It's still a fun game, but I couldn't help but wish there were some way to play it in a purer form...

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