Category Archives: 3 stars

Thanks to the massive success of Rovio's Angry Birds [$0.99] during the formative years of the App Store, physics-based puzzle games are probably one of the more, shall we say, over-represented genres on the App Store. At this point, I'd imagine most people have plenty of them in their purchase histories, and as a result, it takes something really special to make any actual waves in the genre. An initial glance at Earth Vs. Balloons [Free], which in screenshots looks very much like something that's been done again and again on iOS, isn't likely to turn anyone's head. But after seeing the name of the developer, I had to check the game out. This game comes to us from Mangobile, the developer behind the equally plain-on-the-surface Kingturn [Free] strategy games. They're probably never going to win any awards for presentation pizazz, and while the Kingturn games certainly have their twists, they don't get by on innovation as much as they do from immensely solid construction and clever scenario design...

This puzzle/adventure game from Bandai Namco is far from innovative but attaching average game play to a beloved franchise is a sure way to climb the charts. In Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle [Free], you play as an unnamed fighter working to avert the disaster of an "expanding dimensional distortion." Trunks and King Kai direct you on your quest, forwarding the plot and offering battle advice. The story gets a bit convoluted from there, especially when trying to explain why the Z-Fighters are battling each other...




Let me start this review by apologizing for its tardiness. I've been kicking this down the road for weeks, mostly because I've been kicking the game itself down the road for weeks. I've been doing that because playing Always Sometimes Monsters [$4.99] is not fun, or exciting, or even remotely enjoyable for me. A great deal of that is intentional design. Some of it isn't. The terrible mobile UI is likely not meant to be a commentary on anything, for example. Nor are the technical hiccups that occur during many mini-games. Beyond that, however, the game itself is not looking to give you a good time. It's essentially a series of depressing choices between bad options where anyone and everyone is ready to spew out a fortune cookie at you unsolicited. Being an iffy port of a divisive game, it's both easy and hard to review at the same time. Hence, the feet-dragging...

Have you ever had the sudden urge to be a creepy person wandering around in public making people uncomfortable? If so, you are in luck. Magic Cube's Barcode Knight[$0.99] is out and offers you the perfect excuse to wander around and scan random barcodes with your iOS device. Whether you are sneaking around a Walmart or lurking in a McDonalds, you now have an almost semi-plausible excuse for it. ..

UpUp: Frozen Adventure [Free] by developer Sioux is a fresh take on iOS puzzle platformers. The crux of the game is to guide an unnamed hiker safely up the mountain before he freezes to death. There is a health bar in the upper lefthand corner that slowly empties as you get colder and colder. The goal is to balance speed and collection strategies, as there are small yellow gems scattered throughout each level...

'KKRacing' Review - The Kart Racer We Deserve

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June 26th, 2015 11:30 AM EDT by Nathan Reinauer in 3 stars, Free, Games, Racing, Reviews, Universal
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I have a question: What would you get if you crossed an antelope with a human baby? I have no idea. No one does. One more question: What if you crossed one of those Puzzle & Dragons [Free] style social RPGs with Mario Kart? Hey, I actually have an answer for that! You’d get KKRacing [Free] by Beijing Kaku All-dimensional Media Co. That may sound like an awful combination, but it’s actually pretty good. And loads more fun than a babylope...

Of all the stories I expected to experience this week, a cross between a dating simulation and 21 Jump Street was not especially high on the list, but here we are. Sword Of Asumi [$3.99] is a visual novel with mild dating sim elements that casts you as an undercover assassin trying to root out the source of a terrorist threat at a school. You'll have to pose as a schoolgirl for however long it takes to find the culprit, with your superior keeping an eye on you as one of the teaching staff. I'll be honest: I think that's an absolutely brilliant premise for a game like this. It's a good central plot to build a story around, providing reasons to mingle with as many people as possible in a variety of locations. There are potentially great conflicts if you happen to get close to someone who is involved in the nefarious plot. There's a reason this all worked so well for Fox in the late 1980s...

I rag on Kemco quite a bit sometimes, but I really have to commend them for sticking to their guns even as the whole market has changed around them. Just about every month, we can look forward to getting at least one traditional JRPG, albeit with wildly varying levels of quality between titles. To the best of my knowledge, they are pretty much the last publisher on Earth regularly serving that niche, as even companies like Square Enix are shifting further towards the popular social RPG model that has captured the affections of Japanese gamers. I may not like every game they release, but I greatly appreciate what they're doing. Their latest iOS release in English, Legend Of Ixtona [$3.99], has the publisher taking on a slightly different, but no less traditional, model of RPG. It's an isometric turn-based strategy RPG in the style of Yasumi Matsuno's Tactics series of games, and although it's a bit rough, it's surprisingly decent for a first effort...

King's got their formula down pat by now. First, take a puzzle concept that has shown some success in the past, be it Bejeweled, Peggle [$0.99], Puzzle Bobble, or anything else. If it's not already stage-based, change it so that it is. Then dial up the difficulty gradually, spiking it now and then to tempt players towards buying power-ups. Introduce new levels regularly, new gimmicks almost as often, do the whole thing up in a sharp package, and wait for the money to come in. No one can deny the success they've had at it, to be sure. But apart from Candy Crush Saga [Free]'s follow-up Candy Crush Soda Saga [Free], King's had trouble making their games stick of late. Their major successes, the two Candy Crush games, Farm Heroes Saga [Free], and Pet Rescue Saga [Free], continue to hang on the higher positions of the top grossing charts, but other efforts like Diamond Digger Saga [Free] and Paper Pear Saga [Free] have gone nowhere. My gut tells me there's a pattern here, and that same instinct tells me that King's latest, AlphaBetty Saga [Free], might suffer the same fate...

'Hardest Game Ever 2' Review - Deceptive Titling

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June 3rd, 2015 4:30 PM EDT by Brittney Broder in 3 stars, Arcade, Games, Ratings, Reviews
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To call The Hardest Game Ever 2 (HGE2) the “hardest game ever” is a bit deceptive. Rather, the game hinges on a series of simplistic challenges that range from mindlessly easy to frustratingly difficult. New stages unlock as existing stages are passed with varying degrees of success, which is rated according to a letter-grade system. Getting a higher score will earn you a “S” (for “Star”) and a certain amount of stars are required for unlocking further levels. The difficulty of the game comes from needing to acquire so many S-level rankings, rather than just passing the minigames themselves...

'Shobon Flip' Review - There Has To Be A Twist

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May 29th, 2015 3:30 PM EDT by Nathan Reinauer in $0.99, 3 stars, Games, Pinball, Reviews, Universal
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What is a Shobon? This was the biggest, most pressing question nagging at me while playing Shobon Flip [$0.99] by Masami Kodaira. A brief, incredibly confusing google search informed me that it has something to do with a cat character (who may be suffering from depression) that has appeared in various Mario-like platformers on the internet. Maybe you already knew that, and good for you if you did. The reason I needed to know is that he, she, or it is also the star of this weird little pinball game. The ball is a Shobon, and the background is often filled with a giant naked Shobon flexing his muscles and shaking his pearly white butt around. Readers, welcome to my nightmares...

'Tofu Hunter' Review - Tofu Isn't This Bland

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May 27th, 2015 4:15 PM EDT by Chris Carter in 3 stars, Free, Games, iPad Games, Reviews, Shooter, Universal
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Sometimes a parody can be just as shallow as the very thing it attempts to lampoon. Take Tofu Hunter [Free]. It makes every attempt to poke fun at games like Deer Hunter, subbing out living pieces of bean curd for real live woodland creatures. Just like a bad batch of soy milk, it's a little too bitter...

When we say a game is "love it or hate it", we typically mean that some people are going to dig it and other people aren't. Destiny Emerald [$2.99] is "love it or hate it" in a different sense. Sometimes I love the game, and other times I hate it. I can't really decide which one is the overpowering feeling here. I love that it's a fairly straight gameplay homage to the older Legend Of Zelda games, and that unlike most efforts in that vein, it actually delivers a satisfying, lengthy adventure. I love the thematic tip of the hat to Falcom's Legacy Of The Wizard, with a whole family of selectable characters each with their own talents. The visuals are generally appealing, and the dungeon design is solid, if a little uninspired. I hate the unforgiving collision detection. I'm not a fan of the technical issues that end up slowing the game to a standstill or warping my character when the screen scrolls. The game's economy is completely broken, and it has a serious effect on the overall experience...

As a longtime fan of gamebooks and interactive fiction in general, I've enjoyed seeing the genre blossom on iOS, especially within the last few years. What's especially great about it is that it hasn't simply been the work of any one developer. The genre is far stronger for having a variety of voices like inkle, Tin Man Games, Forge Reply, and Cubus Games each doing their own thing. A lot of people who probably haven't picked up a physical gamebook since elementary school are enjoying the feast of choices we have available to us on our mobile devices. Each push of boundaries for the genre seems to widen the audience even more. A lot of the recent hits have focused on playing with the presentation or the freedom to move away from the traditional structure adopted from paper books. The monochrome sketches of Lone Wolf [$0.99] coming to life, the simple yet striking imagery of 80 Days [$4.99], the hilarious Kate Beaton sketches of Hamlet and company in Ryan North's To Be Or Not To Be [$5.99], or even the rocking soundtrack of Heavy Metal Thunder [$4.99] are all signs of a genre that is casting off the limitations of the past and charging into its own unwritten future...

'Mega Drift' review - Anywhere but Tokyo

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Cool cars, a rad '90s racer aesthetic, and a free price point -- what could go wrong with Mega Drift [Free]? Despite the on-paper looks, it's the pacing that wounds the beast. As you can probably guess, you'll be drifting a lot with Chillingo's latest foray into the iOS marketplace. ..

One side-effect of Apple requiring an annual fee from developers is that, if the developer goes out of business, their games drop off the App Store. That's what happened with Spanish indies Blue Shadow and their gravity-based platformer Naught. So while anyone with an Android device can still download Naught and its sequel, they've been missing from the iOS App Store. You can't keep a good indie team down, though, and now former Blue Shadow developers have returned as Wild Sphere, and Naught is back on your Apple device...

One of the main complaints I hear about traditional gamebooks is that they're too difficult. It's fair criticism. When we think of gamebooks, we generally think of things like the Fighting Fantasy series or Lone Wolf, and both of those make liberal use of some nasty tricks at times. If you're playing an Ian Livingstone book, you'd best be rolling the best possible scores, and if you're playing a Steve Jackson adventure, I hope you're searching every nook and cranny and picking up everything that isn't nailed down. The worst offenders are designed around a so-called golden path, the one correct sequence of actions that can take you to the ending, but even the best will sometimes kill you for flipping to the wrong page. It's little wonder almost everyone cheat at the things to some extent...

There are certain games that remind me of those little activity books you used to be able to find in gas stations before every child in North America owned a handheld gaming system of some sort. The ones that had a "magic" marker that would reveal invisible ink as you ran it over the pages. When I was a little fellow, I loved those books a lot. As far as I was concerned, those were magic. There was just one problem with them. Once you went through the whole book and marked up all the pages, they were finished. There was no reason to keep them, and you certainly couldn't redo them. You couldn't even admire them the way you could with a particularly well-done coloring book since most of the fun came from the discovery...

Knights and Snails [Free] is a game that should have an identity crisis. It feels like it should be a multiplayer CCG-type title, with strategic battles. Instead it decides to structure itself more like a match-3 game with dozens of levels to play, and the trappings of something like Candy Crush Saga. [Free] I'm baffled by it, because the core gameplay concept is so interesting, but it just goes in such a weird and ill-fated direction...

'Criminel' for iPad Review - A Flawed Investigation

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April 2nd, 2015 7:54 PM EDT by Carter Dotson in $1.99, 3 stars, Adventure, Games, iPad Games, Reviews
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I feel like Criminel [$1.99] is a game that could have been great, but it never manages to deliver on its promise, relying entirely on story and theme without challenging the player. The premise is that you're a new crime scene photographer in Paris in 1890, and you join the police force to help solve crimes with the investigator you work under, Max Roget. You learn the basics – you take photos of relevant evidence, examine the photos for any important aspects, then analyze witness testimony in order to find the important clues to figure out who committed the crime. Then, you get a lineup of criminals based on the collected details, and you have to accuse the person who likely did it...

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