Category Archives: 3.5 stars

Many 20th century governments have risen and fallen on the power of the word. While sudden explosions of dissent have marked the often-televised end of regimes like Romania's Ceouseskou in 1989, it was the power of the official or underground press that often initially held these governments in power and fomented the dissent that led to their downfall. And these words in official propaganda or unofficial, subversive propaganda (because any information with an angle is, technically, a form of propaganda) caused suffering and death and ruined millions of lives. That's why when I started playing The Westport Independent [$4.99], a "censorship simulator" according to the App Store description, I was expecting my words to cost many lives, my decisions to matter both in terms of gameplay but also in terms of making me care about the lives lost, even the imaginary ones...

To be frank, I always expected the semi-frequent requests I'd heard for a Harvest Moon iOS game to turn out to be a monkey's paw wish. I figured we would see the series on iOS sooner or later, especially after the Harvest Moon name was disassociated from the actual series, but I was expecting it to be a free-to-play game laden with IAPs. Harvest Moon: Seeds Of Memories [$9.99] is likely not what fans of the series would ideally want, but it is a fully premium title without a stitch of IAP to be found in it, and it retains enough of the appeal of the series that it will likely satisfy would-be farmers, if not excite them...




So here’s the deal. For one reason or another, I never seem to get around to playing titles from the Daedalic Entertainment. I own several of them because of Steam sales and Humble Bundles, but I just keep putting them off. Games like Edna & Harvey [$2.99 (HD)] or Deponia [$9.99 (HD)], also available on iOS, which seem great. When I saw the 2009 classic The Whispered World [$9.99 (HD)] come out exclusively for iPads, I downloaded it with the intention of finally playing one of this studio’s fascinating looking titles. This was nearly two months ago, around Thanksgiving of last year, and sure enough, I did it again! Caught up in the holiday hubbabaloo, I completely neglected this story of a sad clown who’s set to bring about the apocalypse. So dang it if this review was going to come way past the game’s release, I wanted to analyze and discuss this experience with you all...

If the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have one lesson to teach us, it's that pizza is awesome. If they have a second lesson to teach us, it's about the value of teamwork and watching out for your friends and family. The thing is, outside of the multiplayer TMNT games, we're usually only seeing one of the brothers in action at a time. Sure, you can usually choose your favorite turtle, but what would Master Splinter say if he saw the team separated all the time like that? TMNT - Portal Power [$3.99]'s main claim to fame, as near as I can see it, is that it allows you, nay, requires you to control all four of the turtles at once. If that sounds like it could get hectic, you're right. Portal Power isn't quite as deep as some other TMNT games, but it's still a pretty fun game that fans of the characters should enjoy...

When it comes to modern games trying to pay tribute to retro classics, nailing the balance between making a fun modern game and an appropriate homage is really tough. It can be done – Shovel Knight on console and PC is a fantastic example of how to pay tribute to Mega Man, Castlevania, and the like. And we look at Horizon Chase [Free] on mobile, which did an amazing job at balancing out the feel of retro racing games while not being as clunky, frustrating, and unfair as many of those games were. There's a balance to be had. Venture Kid [$0.99] from FDG Entertainment clearly wants to pay tribute to Mega Man in everything it's about, and in doing so, it's kind of a solid platformer, but it mostly just misses the point of what made the game it's paying tribute to so great...

Let’s talk about upgrades. It’s pretty common in free-to-play games for the difficulty to ramp up and up, and the only way to progress is to spend whatever currencies and upgrade your cards, characters, weapons, clothes, eating utensils, or whatever else is supposed to make you “better”. When it’s done badly it can turn into a dreaded Pay Wall, but there are plenty of fair examples, too. This system works fine in RPGs, shooters, match-three games, and the like. In games that require pure strategy, however, the model starts to feel kind of weird...

'TrainCrasher' review - Slash 'em up

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January 13th, 2016 1:00 PM EDT by Chris Carter in 3.5 stars, Action, Free, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Reviews, Universal
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I can't exactly remember what my first beat 'em up was, but I believe it was one of the NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games. They're great to play solo for sure, but most of my fun came by way of co-op, mashing away with three (or more) players on an arcade cabinet. There's an awesome sense of comradery there, all focusing on the common goal at once -- something that's very rarely replicated in the gaming world's current online focus. TrainCrasher [Free] might not have co-op, but it's a fun enough recreation of all of those old classics...

'Pick-Xell' Review - It's A Dirty Job

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January 7th, 2016 12:03 PM EDT by Shaun Musgrave in 3.5 stars, Action, Arcade, Free, Game Center, iPad Games, iPhone games, Reviews
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You don't have to look far to find an iOS game about digging. It's an oddly specific activity to have so many games to its name, but whatever the reasons, people seem to enjoy it. Most games of this type encourage the player to take their time and be cautious, which makes sense given the inherent dangers involved. Games with more an arcade bent to them will counter this need for caution with some sort of immediate danger that keeps the player moving. The challenge then becomes moving fast enough to avoid danger while somehow trying not to make any fatal mistakes in spite of your pace. Pick-Xell [Free], the latest release from Japanese publisher Obokaidem, distills that idea down to its very essence...

'Gopogo' Review - Hop 'til You Drop

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December 29th, 2015 4:30 PM EDT by Chris Carter in 3.5 stars, Action, Free, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Reviews, Universal
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The mobile landscape has shifted quite a bit since the introduction of the App Store. In the beginning, the market was flooded with tons of hardcore experiences, meant to cater towards the console and PC gaming crowd. But over time, a lot of those games started to thin out, in favor of garnering massive audiences with casual titles and aggressive IAP "platforms." While there are a lot of gems in either side of the coin, it's nice to get a difficult game ever now and then, which includes the inevitably polarizing Gopogo [Free]...

Based on a novel by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, Metro 2033 has quickly become the video gaming world's third-favorite post-nuclear-apocalypse setting, give or take a rank or two. Set in a world where a nuclear war forced Moscow's survivors to live in the underground subway stations that sprawl out under the city, it's a setting ripe with possibilities for games. Ukrainian developer 4A games apparently felt it would make a good first-person shooter, and they proved themselves right in 2010 with the release of Metro 2033 on Xbox 360 and Windows PCs. That game was followed by a sequel called Metro: Last Light, and I'm quite sure we'll be seeing more games coming in that particular series. Russian developer DaSuppa and publisher TapStar Interactive seem to have come away from the book with a different kind of game idea, perhaps figuring that the struggle for resources and sprawling map filled with nodes would make a good strategy game. They weren't wrong. Metro 2033: Wars [$5.99] is awfully rough around the edges, but it's at least worth checking out for patient strategy fans who are looking for a lighter bite...

I make a terrible Arthur. It's not something I've had to put much thought into in my life, so I wasn't actually aware of that particular gap in my skillset until I played Pendragon Rising [$3.99], the latest release from prolific interactive fiction publishers Choice Of Games. This adventure sees you guiding a young Arthur (or Arta, if you'd prefer to play a woman) as he returns to Briton from a seven-year stay in Rome. Your parent, the ruler of Gwynedd, is seriously injured in a battle with the leader of the invading Saxons, and the matter of their succession will determine the fate of Gwynedd and Briton itself. There's a rightful heir to the throne, and you technically aren't it, but as is often the case with stories based on the Arthurian legend, things get complicated fairly quickly...

The fundamental conflict surrounding how I feel about roguelike I Wanna Be a Hero [$2.99] is that the game owes a huge debt to Crypt of the Necrodancer, and if you've played that game, then a lot of what this is trying to do makes sense. Of course, Necrodancer isn't on mobile quite yet, so if you're just a mobile gamer, then perhaps you're only used to this. Still, I Wanna Be a Hero does a lot that is interesting and it's not a bad game, but it's definitely lacking...

'Pyro Jump Rescue' Review - Twirling, Twirling Towards Freedom

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December 11th, 2015 11:04 AM EDT by Nadia Oxford in 3.5 stars, Free, Review, Reviews
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Pyro Jump Rescue [Free] is interestingly named. It insinuates that the game is about leaping around to save a pyromaniac. That'd be an interesting idea for a mobile game, but it's not what Pyro Jump Rescue is about. Instead, this action / adventure title works off the barrel-blasting mechanics popularized by 1994's classic Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo...

As regular readers know, I play a lot of interactive fiction games. Visual novels, gamebooks, text adventures, I enjoy them all just the same. While I'm often pleasantly surprised by the writing or structure of these games, it's quite rare for me to come across something that is different from a gameplay perspective. Veteran gamebook developer Tin Man Games has been full of surprises recently, however, so I suppose I should start expecting things like Choices: And The Sun Went Out [Free]. It's a choice-based adventure with a couple of clever twists, with chief among them being that it's not finished. Okay, that's normally a bad thing to say about a game, but in the case of Choices, it's actually its main hook. Rather than presenting a complete story that players can purchase up-front, Choices instead offers a subscription-based model where new content arrives every week, building on the story bit by bit...

There isn’t very much to say about virtual pets. We’ve all played with one at some point, whether it was a Tamogachi or a Clumsy Ninja [Free], and they all offer pretty much the same experience. They’re usually cute and also usually a bit shallow. So how do you direct someone’s attention to your virtual pet experience? By putting them in charge of one of the most destructive and incomprehensible monsters since before time was time, of course! And by making that elder god as cute as can possibly be, even as he eats his own servants because you forgot to feed him! Here’s the simple but amusing Cthulhu Virtual Pet [Free] from Silvia Sanchez and NeuroCreativa...

'Amazing Loot Grind' Review - Tap to Loot

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December 3rd, 2015 2:00 PM EDT by Chris Carter in 3.5 stars, Free, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Reviews, Simulation, Universal
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For a period of one month, Cookie Clicker basically took over my PC. I played it at work, and at home, with two simultaneous instances running at once. The concept of watching numbers go up over time isn't anything new -- it's something PC and old console RPGs have been doing for decades -- but clickers cut out all of the downtime and just let you get to the rewards. It's a fascinating social experiment, but on occasion, it also makes for a fun video game. Amazing Loot Grind [Free] is one such instance, and it's perfect to play for hours or seconds at a time...

'Super Hyper Ball' Review - Breakout Pinball

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December 3rd, 2015 1:00 PM EDT by Chris Carter in 3.5 stars, Free, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Pinball, Reviews, Universal
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I've been playing Breakout-esque games for decades now, and despite the fact that they've fundamentally remained the same, they still do the trick every so often when I'm craving an arcade-like retro experience. Sure it's a score-attack-based affair, with a dangling carrot that will never actually be reached, but at the very least, you can still break out all of those bricks and move on to the next set of tiles. There's a sense of progression to it and a noble air of simplicity that makes the genre so alluring. Super Hyper Ball [Free] maintains the same classic feel as those titles, but adds in a few rudimentary aspects of pinball into the mix...

Sometimes, in life, the earth starts bursting at the seams with magma and fire while meteors and little chibi zombie para-troopers rain down endlessly from the sky and giant slime monsters slug their way across the earth. Sometimes, a baseball playing Robot gets caught up in all of that mess, and decides that if he’s going to go down, he’s literally going down swinging. And also hitting. And sometimes striking out. Such is the premise of Baseball Apocalypse [$0.99] from Thomas Janson...

I don't know about you, friends, but when I play games that give me moral choices, I tend to stick to the good side. When it's time to play the evil side, I really have to push myself into doing the bad thing, even knowing full well that it doesn't actually hurt anyone. I guess all those Saturday morning cartoons and superhero comic books worked. In games, as in cartoons and comics, it's usually pretty easy to sort out the good side from the bad side. Rescuing kittens from trees is good! Lighting a tree full of kittens on fire is bad! It's pretty rare for a game to present genuinely difficult choices that have no clearly just answers. The latest interactive fiction release from Choice Of Games, Deathless: The City's Thirst [$3.99], had me second-guessing myself all the way through. It's ultimately the best quality in a story that otherwise feels a bit episodic and unfocused...

Controls define how a player will interface with the experience that a game is trying to provide. If the controls are subpar, the experience will suffer. But sometimes, offering just different control mechanisms can change the experience in and of themselves, despite each being effective in different ways. PixWing [$3.99] is one of those games, offering both a gyroscopic control scheme to fly around, but also a virtual joystick scheme. At first, the game made you at least play through the tutorial with the gyroscope, since the game is centered around moving your body to navigate the wolrd, offering the virtual joystick as an alternative. This reinforced the intended way to play the game, but it came with a drawback: if you tried playing the game in public for the first time, you were liable to look like a lunatic...

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