Category Archives: 3.5 stars

Look, I love my hardcore math battles as much as the next person, but sometimes it's nice to get something a little lighter. It can be hard to find an RPG that skates the line between simplicity and complexity well, but that's just the spot that Witch Spring 2 [$3.99] fits into. With an emphasis on crafting, exploration of a limited map, and simple turn-based battles, it's probably not going to be to everyone's tastes. It also leans rather heavily on a cute anime style that is obviously going to resonate with some and turn off others. And yet, there's a lot of heart to the effort, and its innocent enthusiasm can be a little infectious. It's certainly a nice break from the usual template we see in this genre, if nothing else...

It is exceedingly unlikely that Square Enix will ever make another Final Fantasy Tactics [$13.99 / $15.99 (HD)] game, at least in the traditional sense. I don't say that to be a wet blanket, it's just the way that it is. The series that seemingly introduced so many Western console players to strategy RPGs, a genre which has recently seen a serious boom in popularity worldwide, has apparently rode off into the night with its creator, Yasumi Matsuno. The weak reception to the third game in the series, Final Fantasy Tactics A2, probably didn't help matters, and without Matsuno at Square Enix to champion for it, the publisher looks to have lost interest in the brand. There were a couple of free-to-play browser games that didn't really go anywhere, but I suspect that's not the sort of thing that series fans are looking for anyway. What to do?..




Okay, we're at a point now where it's highly unlikely many mobile gamers are itching for another roguelite. It's proven to be a popular genre on mobile, which means everyone, their uncle, and their uncle's cat has released some kind of variation on the time-honored theme. 1-Bit Rogue [Free], from Kan Kikuchi and popular Japanese indie developer Skipmore, is the latest to give it the old college try, and while it's a pretty fun game, I'm not sure it has much to say to anyone looking for something to perk up the genre. It does all the things well that Skipmore usually excels at: the retro-style presentation feels authentic, there are fun unlockables, and it's an easy game to come to grips with. If nothing else, that makes it worth checking out for a game or three...

'RETSNOM' Review - Yako S'ti

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I think the first platformer I ever played where you could manipulate gravity was Irem's Metal Storm for the 8-bit NES. It's a side-scrolling action game, a genre that at the time was so flooded that you virtually had to have some kind of gimmick to stand out. You were mostly jumping and shooting, but you also had a handy button that let you flip to the ceiling. That mechanic showed up here and there over the years before the popular VVVVVV [$2.99] used it better than any game had before, at least in my opinion. It makes for clever puzzles, but more importantly, it rewrites the rules of one of gaming's most well-worn genres. So it's not surprising that a lot of games that followed VVVVVV drew that mechanic into their tool sets. Unfortunately, in becoming a trend, flipping gravity has lost a lot of what it can offer a game...

Genre mashups always toe a precarious line between providing players with established systems of play while simultaneously turning them upside down by placing them in new environments. If not done well enough, players are left with a completely foreign experience without any familiar gameplay elements to form a grounding experience. In other words, balance is key. The Lost Shield [$1.99], while a relatively basic example of a genre mashup, nevertheless does a decent job achieving that balance. In fact, if not for some more fundamental issues with the game, I’d have no problem heralding it as a rare unqualified success...

Everyone has a genre they couldn't live without. For some youngsters, it's survival games, which can extend to Minecraft. For others, it's sports games, and the thrill of drafting out a new fantasy team with incoming college players thrown into the fray. For me, my choice ebbs and flows depending on the year, but the most consistent one I'm always falling back on is platformers. Whether it's those of the mascot variety with strict adherence to 3D standards and wonky cameras, or the tried and true 2D approach, you can put pretty much any one of them in front of me and I'll at least give it a go. Tons of Bullets [$0.99] caught my eye in name alone, but it ended up being about more than just blasting things...

For English console gamers, ASCII's RPG Maker for the original PlayStation was likely their first chance to make their own game without actually learning how to program. It was a very limited version of the software, but you could make a basic JRPG with it if you were dedicated enough. I imagine most players bounced off of it, though, since it took a lot of time to make anything really worthwhile. Those who stuck with it likely found their way to the more robust PC versions of RPG Maker, which started getting official English releases from 2005 onward. Since 2010, the English versions of the PC RPG Maker have been handled by Degica. That same publisher has now released an iOS RPG creation tool called RPG Creator [Free]. It's not from the same people as RPG Maker, but it certainly does a good job of approximating its earlier incarnations...

'Antiquia Lost' Review - Goo Girl Gone

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You don't even have to squint for Antiquia Lost [Free / $4.99] to resemble the recent Asdivine games released by Kemco. In terms of its visuals, mechanics, and systems, it's barely changed from EXE-Create's last few games for the prolific RPG publisher. There are a few small twists, most notably that one of the main characters has an unusual method of leveling up, but for the most part, if you've played any of the EXE-Create RPGs that use weapon customization as a core mechanic, you'll know what to expect here. That's not necessarily a bad thing, I suppose, but it's also not a very exciting thing. The most noteworthy part of Antiquia Lost is in how it advances Kemco's IAP monetization techniques, and that's not really the kind of dinner bell most of us want to hear...

Zombie titles really need to innovate more-so than a lot of other types of games these days. The market is just so saturated that the mere notion of "survival" itself just isn't enough, and there at least needs to be an interesting hook involved beyond the solitary concept of continuing to exist. Skyhill [$2.99] does that, even if the magic doesn't last as long as the developers intended it to...

'GunBird 2' Review - Classic Cute 'em Up

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September 13th, 2016 11:42 AM EST 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...

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...

'Abyssrium' Review - An Underwater Tap 'em Up

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August 26th, 2016 12:48 PM EST 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 EST 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...

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