Category Archives: 3 stars

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
$2.99 Buy Now

Never Gone [$2.99] 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 [$3.99] 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...

Monkey Swingers [Free] is a game that has some immediate appeal, but it doesn't take long for it start pushing you away. Not only is the game quite tough, it also demands a fair bit of concentration, and a good run usually lasts longer than the excitement does. If you intend on getting your little monkey up into space and beyond, you need to demonstrate a high level of skill, but also set aside a reasonably big chunk of time to dedicate to the task. I like the idea behind the game well enough, and it's certainly got a nice system of upgrades and fun cosmetic items to unlock, but it just doesn't come together as well as I'd hope...

I question why Rayman Classic [$4.99] had to be brought back from the depths of 1994. The proper context to play Rayman is when you have literally nothing else to play. Say, if you bought an Atari Jaguar; man cannot live on Tempest 2000 alone. And if you bought a Game Boy Advance, Rayman Advance was one of the launch titles, a welcome respite from Super Mario Advance. But the thing is that Rayman was always a frustrating and difficult game. And we live in a universe where there's limitless games, and several great games starring Rayman to play besides this. Rayman is only worth it as a history lesson...

I've learned a few things from MetaHuman Inc. [$3.99], the latest interactive fiction release from Choice Of Games. First, with a little creativity, the ChoiceScript engine that powers these games can be more mechanically versatile than I thought it was capable of being. Next, I'm a terrible CEO. Just plain awful. Finally, I don't especially like being a CEO, and that ended up being a problem for me because being a CEO is more or less what MetaHuman Inc. is all about. At the start of the game, you are appointed the job of running MetaHuman Inc., a shady company that produces human enhancements through a variety of means legal or otherwise. The job starts in January, and you'll see it through to the end of the calendar year, at which point you'll face a final evaluation by the majority shareholders. If you fail to impress them, your death is certain...

Fantastic Plastic Squad [Free] is a game that punched me in the stomach. I’ve rarely felt so excited and then so disappointed in such a short amount of time. Maybe that’s not fair, but let’s start with the good part: The game has one of the strongest first five minutes of any game I’ve played on iOS. It introduces you to these awesome '80s action figures that walk around in a hilariously stiff way (they are plastic, as the game’s name suggests), and you get to use them to shoot aliens around a giant house! I absolutely love games that take place in ordinary places seen from a miniature perspective--probably because of playing with action figures as a child--and this game nails that feeling. The controls are smart and tight, and I could feel myself getting super pumped while playing through the tutorial. I could tell this would be a game I’d be playing for a long time. But I was wrong...

Off-beat simulation game developer Kairosoft has slowed down their iOS releases considerably in the last couple of years. That was probably a wise move, given how many elements each of their games tends to share with the rest. With new games from the developer coming only a few times a year now, it's easier to appreciate each one of them on their own merits, and it hasn't hurt that their recent releases have demonstrated an effort to break out of the reskinning that categorizes most of their work. The Ramen Sensei [$4.99], their latest iOS release, isn't as innovative as it could be, but its tight focus on its unusual subject matter helps it stand out a little. That said, unless you're really into the subject of ramen, this game is still essentially preaching to the Kairosoft choir...

'Rush N Krush' Review - Wacky Races

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December 18th, 2015 10:39 AM EDT by Chris Carter in 3 stars, Free, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Racing, Reviews, Universal
Free Buy Now

I never could have imagined that the mobile platform would house so many old school arcade experiences. Growing up I'd spend hours pumping quarters into various games, often times logging how much average playtime I'd get out of a single coin, so I could maximize my time at an arcade. I kind of do the same thing now with mobile games, especially if they offer "extra lives" or some form of energy mechanic...

Another day, another Warhammer game. But Pixel Toys' Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade [Free] seemed promising not just because Apple showed it off with 3D Touch, but also because it's a game where you walk around as a giant Imperial Knight and shoot everything in sight with big, explosive weapons and a giant chainsword. What's not to love with that combination? Well, the issue is that this game plays everything big – and that includes the monetization, which tries every trick in the book to get you to pay. This isn't bad, except for a misleading energy system that really sours the experience. And like many free-to-play games, including the social RPGs it apes much of its structure from, it quickly becomes something where if you tire of the cycle the game puts you on, you will fall out of it quickly. The gameplay is brutal fun, but it alone is not enough to keep you going...

Kemco appears to be on a bit of a strategy game kick of late on iOS, with Legend Of Ixtona [$3.99] releasing a few months ago, and now, Legna Tactica [$3.99]. Well, I can appreciate them wanting to change things up a bit here and there. Although I know many of their fans appreciate the regular trickle of traditional JRPGs, there has to be some kind of saturation point. Forty titles in, Kemco might just be finding it. Of course, it's also possible that their stalwart developers simply feel like making something different. Whatever the reason, we've got another strategy RPG in front of us, and I'm sure no one will fall out of their chair when I say that it's very derivative of the classic Tactics Ogre. This genre seems to have trouble shaking off Yasumi Matsuno's influence, and Kemco certainly weren't going to be the ones to do it...

I still remember the wild west of touchscreen development years ago, when people said that platformers would never work. While many classics have been ported by way of MFi controls, a lot of others stuck it to the naysayers with inventive on-screen control methods, or a design philosophy that accommodates accordingly. Count Crunch's Candy Curse [$0.99] is definitely manageable even without the help of an MFi device, but it doesn't really seek to do much more than that...

'Ghost of Memories' Review - Dazzling and Vague

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November 10th, 2015 1:00 PM EDT by Chris Carter in $2.99, 3 stars, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Puzzle, Reviews
99¢ Buy Now

The isometric take on puzzles games isn't new, but Monument Valley did it with such panache, that it started a revolution in the mobile arena. It's such a good premise for a limited amount of screen real estate, as the view allows you to take in gigantic landscapes without getting lost, or wanting for more. Ghost of Memories [$0.99] follows that same principle, but it's  not quite as exciting as its competition...

If there's one thing, above all else, that you should take away from The Doom Beneath [$2.99], it's that you shouldn't run away from bears. Stand your ground, play dead, or fight back even, but if you run away from a bear, there's a strong chance it will give chase and you'll end up falling into a subterranean cavern filled with cultists and Lovecraftian horrors. If the worst happens and you do fall into such a cavern, you should then play dead. It's good rehearsal for what's ahead, I promise...

With the Gamebook Adventures series winding to at least a temporary close, Tin Man has opted to release the last couple of volumes at the same time. I'm not going to fib, I'm a pretty big fan of this series and the fictional world of Orlandes it uses as a setting. From a story-telling standpoint, it's great to have a well-realized setting that players can take so many different perspectives in. On the gameplay side, the Gamebook Adventures gamebooks are usually fairer and more enjoyable than the paper gamebooks that inspired them. They're written knowing the player isn't having to stick a thumb in the pages and keep track of their inventory with a pencil, and they're stronger experiences for it. That we only have these last two volumes to hold us over for the time being makes each of them precious. That's why it kind of breaks my heart that I don't like Songs Of The Mystics [$1.99] more than I do...

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