Category Archives: 3 stars

After playing Principia [$2.99] through a few times, I find myself a little conflicted. This is an odd sort of science simulation game where you take on the role of a historical scientist and try to build your fame and fortune through research and discovery. Rival scientists will try to beat you to the punch or cattily attempt to discredit your work, and you can choose to respond in kind if you like. The game ends when your chosen character reaches the end of his working life, so you've got to try to get in as much as possible by then. It's a messy, ambitious game, and when I think on it, it doesn't really work at all. And yet, there's something compelling about it all. Perhaps it's the thrill of chasing a discovery to its end. Maybe it's the joy of rising to the top while your rivals slide downwards. The game's nerdy enthusiasm for science is also rather infectious. Whatever the case, it's certainly something to try if you're looking for a different kind of simulation game...

For all of the interesting themes that can be found in the published works of Choice of Games, one of the more common ones is that of war. I suppose that's no different from a lot of forms of entertainment, but it does start to feel like I'm re-living Disney's Mulan over and over again. Somehow a plucky (and usually lowly) hero manages to upset the certainly-evil invading bad guys almost entirely on their own, and usually gets a smooch or two along the way before being declared the best person that ever was. Yes, I'm over-simplifying, but it's only because this premise is starting to get a little weary. I had hoped Runt of the Litter [$3.99] would put a new spin on the theme, with its central conceit being that you need to raise and train a war gryphon. Indeed, it does play out differently than I would have guessed, but it's hard to say if that's for the better or the worse...




Like anyone who has been playing games for any length of time, I've seen so many endings that they barely even register in my memory anymore. But I distinctly remember the Saturday one summer in high school when I finally finished Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts. My friend owned the game, and I had dabbled with the game here and there over the couple of years leading up to that moment thanks to the occasional loan. It was something I had originally written off as being too frustrating to care about, but I was staying at my buddy's house that weekend and he was out for the day. Lacking other options, I sat down and played through the whole thing (twice). It's an incredibly difficult game even for its era, but there's a certain rhythm to it that will carry you through once you learn it. And to be perfectly honest, it's probably the easiest game in the series that started with 1985's Ghosts 'n Goblins...

'Realm Grinder' Review - Grind is Right

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February 21st, 2017 10:09 AM EDT by Chris Carter in 3 stars, Free, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Reviews, Simulation, Universal
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I feel like I've pontificated enough about the clicker genre. It's perfectly suited for mobile devices (where you can leave it dormant and come back to a fortune literally anywhere), and although it has its flaws and isn't for anyone, I'm glad that it exists. So many games have attempted to put their own unique spin on the formula with mixed results though, and that includes Realm Grinder [Free]...

Have you ever had a great idea for a game, and could see no reason why it wouldn't work? Ask anyone who has to turn ideas into reality, it doesn't always work out that way. Ideas that work on paper aren't as viable in real-life. Songs that sound good when you hum them don't have the same feeling when you play them on an instrument. Even for a writer, I've had ideas for articles that didn't work out because the ideas I had in my head didn't quite work out on paper. Now, sometimes these ideas still get pursued to completion. I'm not going to put words in Cobra Mobile's mouth as to Red's Kingdom [$2.99], but it certainly feels like an idea that someone had that was really cool, and I liked it too! Combine sliding puzzles with a Zelda-style adventure with upgrades to collect? Sounds like it has potential! But at least for myself, and in this particular format, it does not work...

I often find myself into a bit of a bind when I review a game that's well done in terms of design but also has major technical issues. How do you separate the plot and design ideas in the first episode of BATMAN - The Telltale Series [$4.99] from the engine's obvious shortcomings that make the game almost unplayable on all but the latest iOS devices? I've been playing the game on my iPhone 7 and even though I got some relatively long load times here and there, overall the experience was relatively fine (minus some typos, blurry text in the Codex, and graphical glitches). However, when I tried playing it on my iPad Air, I couldn't enjoy the game because the minutes-long load times really messed with the flow of the story (it's like watching a movie with long commercial breaks)...

Our culture's fiction has a fascination with werewolves. We've explored what it would be like to be an American werewolf tourist in Europe, what it would be like to have a werewolf Michael J. Fox, what it would be like to have a werewolf boyfriend, what it would be like to have a werewolf boyfriend who competes with our vampire boyfriend but then ends up being the boyfriend of our daughter instead, and so on. But I feel we could be doing a better job of digging into the fascinating subject of what it would be like to have a werewolf member of congress, a niche I was hoping Congresswolf [Free], a recent gamebook release from Choice of Games, would fill...

I've been a huge F1 fan for over twenty five years and still watch it religiously. And I've also had the chance to play a couple of the Codemasters' F1 PC games in the past, so I have a pretty good sense of what the developer brings to the racing genre. So, when I heard at the Apple keynote that Codemasters was bringing what looked like a full F1 game to mobile, I was very excited. I love racing games on mobile, and I always thought that a well-made F1 game with the actual license and tracks would be great. Now we finally got F1 2016 [$4.99], and I have to say I'm impressed in some ways and quite disappointed in others. First of all, this game has way more content than I expected it to have in terms of modes and ways to play it. At the same time, half of those modes are marred by incredibly dumb AI opponents. And on top of that, there are numerous bugs and design decisions that make playing the game frustrating at times. When the driving clicks, though, the game is really fun...

Fox's animation shows have been dominating TV for quite some time now. Family Guy, Futurama, Bob's Burgers, American Dad, and King of the Hill all offer their own specific kind of craziness and humor. It's not surprising, then, that Kongregate decided to develop a card game based on all five shows, and the result is hilarious, as to be expected. Yet not all is rosy in Animation Throwdown: The Quest for Cards [Free]; while you'll laugh at the silly card combos and be entertained for quite a bit with the gameplay, eventually you hit so many timers that you'll quickly regret your investment in the game...

'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...

Out There Chronicles [$1.99] is a good idea. Take the mysterious, interesting universe of the survival/resource management game Out There [$3.99] and create a gamebook in the same setting that helps flesh the background out. A boots on the ground view, so to speak. It's even written by the same person that wrote the original game. The presentation is quite strong for a game of this genre, adopting much of the aesthetic of the core Out There experience, and it even attempts to incorporate a few of the mechanics, such as learning alien languages and trying to conserve resources. As a companion piece to Out There, it's pretty neat. But while it's good at evoking the feel of its parent, as a piece of interactive fiction, it leaves me a bit cold...

I’m a pretty big mark for The Blacklist. It’s not amazing but it’s my kind of show. James Spader’s performance elevates the standard cool and suave genius character who always makes things go their way to something pretty unique and memorable with Raymond Reddington. The Blacklist makes sense to adapt as a narrative driven detective adventure game. While that isn’t what we have here, those elements are present. Some of the character dialogue comes off as super shallow and basic, but some of it could have honestly been lifted directly from the source material. I can practically hear Spader’s voice when Reddington talks. Unfortunately, all the good things this game has to offer are standing behind an FBI level freemium firewall that even Agent Aram with his L33T Haxxor skills couldn’t penetrate. This is The Blacklist: Conspiracy [Free]...

I'm really glad that fighting games are still alive and well. They're a classic old school genre that has withstood the test of time, and many franchises that were started so long ago in arcades are still with us. Although it's not nearly as old as Street Fighter, Arc System Works' BlazBlue has definitely earned the right to be in the same conversation, following up their storied Guilty Gear series with the same amount of flash and style. That partially translates to the mobile arena with a game that's more beat 'em up than fighter in BlazBlue RR - [Free], but it's muddled by one of the worst IAP schemes I've seen in a while...

As video games increase in complexity, and as there is a unilateral push from both software and hardware developers for graphical prowess, there is a certain charm from games that choose to reminisce on days gone by. Whether it’s titles such as Downwell [$2.99] which have the difficult yet extremely rewarding arcade style action that has been lost over the years, or classics such as 1-Bit Ninja [$2.99] that throwback directly to the 2D side scrolling platformer days of the Mario series, the most successful retro titles on any device are the ones that utilise their source material perfectly while either refining it to perfection or adding unique, modern twists on the formula. However, the schematics for ‘retro’ games in the current gaming environment run a fine line that is more than just surface deep - if it’s too complex, you simply have a modern title under a wrapper of pixel art graphics. On the other hand, if the game is too simple it may just serve as a reminder to why we no longer spend our time squinting at monochrome screens without a backlight. 2-bit Cowboy Rides Again [$1.99] unfortunately is a prime example of the latter - some good level design and interesting ideas are let down by forced artificial difficulty, and ultimately the retro nucleus of the title ends up holding the game back rather than letting it run free...

'Never Gone' Review - Living Death Is A Real Grind

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May 19th, 2016 11:00 AM EDT by Shaun Musgrave in $0.99, 3 stars, Action, iPad Games, iPhone games, Reviews
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Never Gone [Free] could have really been something. That's my biggest takeaway from this game, after spending more time with it than I probably needed to for this review. Fundamentally, it's a belt-scrolling beat-em-up along the lines of games like Double Dragon or Final Fight, but it brings in a lot of elements from stylish action games like Devil May Cry to spice things up. The main character's moveset is ripped right out of Dante's playbook, and the game also incorporates a lot of Devil May Cry's aesthetics. Never Gone also features some light RPG elements that allow you to develop your character and create new gear...

There is no shortage of aerial dogfighting games in this world, both 2D and 3D. Tons of games try, fairly successfully, to capture that aerial combat dynamic, but very few are aces. That’s the kind of case we have on our hands today. Pilots of the Dawn [Free], from Sapeli Studio Oy, is brimming with talent and potential, and while it lacks variety in both gametypes and assets, what is there definitely shines...

The Heroes Rise trilogy of gamebooks are, as near as I can tell, among the most popular releases from Choice Of Games. There are probably a lot of reasons for that, including the popularity of both superheroes and reality show send-ups, the interesting, convoluted plot, and the overall quality of the writing. Most of those things are still just as popular now as they were before, so even though the author of Heroes Rise has already started a new series set in another universe, it's perhaps not that surprising that the Hero Project is coming back for a second season. That trilogy wrapped things up so well, however, that it's hard to say what the best way forward would be for a follow-up. The Hero Project: Redemption Season [$4.99] finds a new direction, and while it's a pretty good one, it's tackling some complex issues that it can't quite seem to get a proper handle on...

I can't decide if I'm happy or sad that we've gotten enough EXE-Create RPGs from Kemco this year that I'm getting a bit weary of them. The developer behind the Alphadia, Across Age, and Asdivine series, as well as numerous other one-off RPGs, EXE-Create generally creates the best games of any of the teams working for Kemco. They're particularly good at writing interesting characters and entertaining dialogue, and I can't honestly think of a single release from them that has let me down in that regard. The most common weak point of their RPGs is in how safe they tend to play things with gameplay mechanics. They seem to have really fallen into a rut of late, and it's made all the more apparent when you play their releases nearly back-to-back. For good or for ill, Glorious Savior [Free / $4.99] is another EXE-Create RPG through and through...

There are a lot of different ways a piece of interactive fiction can succeed. Some of them tell a great story, some of them give the player a genuine feel of agency in the plot, and some of them have interesting puzzles. Some have tense, RPG-like battles, while others have no fighting at all and focus on building character relationships. A few just take a very interesting setting or theme and run with it. But for all of these strong points that gamebooks can take advantage of, there are a ton of pitfalls that, if not specific to the format, are at least more potentially devastating to the overall enjoyment of a work. It's not an easy thing to put a smooth, highly-interactive narrative together that manages to be strong enough to carry an entire game. It involves almost all of the headaches of writing a good book combined with the difficulties of quality game design...

The Kingdom Hearts series is one of the top-selling RPG brands in the world. It's hard not to be cynical about its origins, as it was a clear attempt to mash together two things that are very popular, especially in Japan, to see how much money would come out. The answer was, a lot. To the credit of the various development teams who have worked on the franchise, they've made the best of a very unnatural mash-up. The original game sort of coasted on the goodwill of fans and largely inoffensive gameplay, but some of the follow-up games have been surprisingly high quality. Even the failures have tended to be interesting experiments worth messing around with just to appreciate their quirkiness...

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