Category Archives: 3 stars

After a pretty fun and quite long Minecraft: Story Mode Season 1, Telltale returns to the world of Minecraft with Episode 1 of Season 2 [$4.99], and although it has some fun new ideas, I wasn't too crazy with the direction of the narrative and, especially, with the decision to add complex fighting sequences in a game that can barely handle simple swipes. I have to admit that I died more times in Hero in Residence than in pretty much any other Telltale game ever, and that wasn't because I'm not good at swiping at the right time. I had fun getting reunited with some of the characters from Season 1 and seeing how things have turned out after those events, but Hero in Residence didn't really impress me, and I'm hoping the rest of the episodes deliver a more coherent narrative and fewer action sequences...

The latest SEGA Forever release is upon us, and like many of the releases so far this one was already released on iOS several years ago before being pulled due to compatibility issues. Space Harrier 2 [Free] is a game of some historical significance as it was one of just two launch titles for the SEGA Genesis's debut in Japan, but it's also a firm reminder that the SEGA Forever celebration of the company's history remains steadily focused on one particular period of it. The emulation is solid enough and it's a decent game that is well-suited to touch controls, so nostalgic SEGA fans could do a lot worse than throwing a couple of bucks at it. Any appeal beyond that group might be a tough sell, however...




I kind of feel bad for the developers of Glyph Quest, We Heart Dragons. They've got a sound concept for their puzzle/RPG hybrid series, one with a satisfying amount of depth that nevertheless manages to be quite straightforward. The problem seems to be in finding the right balance of elements that allows them to make some money with the idea. After trying two player-friendly models and not getting great results, I guess I can't blame them for veering things hard in the free-to-play monetization direction. That's a tricky road to walk, however, and Glyph Quest Chronicles [Free] can't quite keep itself from stumbling into the ditch now and then...

Taito is one of the most historically significant companies in gaming history, and that is almost entirely due to Space Invaders. The 1978 pioneer of shoot-em-ups kicked off a genuine worldwide craze, and Taito watched their coffers fill with cash hand over fist. Plenty of great games followed, but none would have the impact or financial success of Space Invaders. Taito helped create the arcade scene with that game's focus on achieving high scores. Sadly, the company never quite got the swing of making home games, and their relevance diminished right alongside the arcades they helped to build in the first place. They weren't even able to hold onto their crown in the shoot-em-up genre for very long, but to their credit, they kept right on swinging anyway...

A node is a point at which lines come together or branch. It also drives the gameplay of new puzzle game noded [$0.99] by Pixel Envision Limited. In noded you're presented with a series of lines and nodes in a particular shape and given a target shape to replicate. You tap on the nodes to flip their associated lines in another direction and must figure out the right series of moves to morph into the correct final shape. The goal is to complete this transformation in as few moves as possible...

Trusty JRPG publisher Kemco's been trying to spread its wings a little bit of late, trying out new developers and gameplay variations after years of serving up the same old. They haven't quite given up on the old formula yet, though. Developer EXE-Create is still by Kemco's side, cranking out their serviceable brand of JRPG joy every couple of months or so. Onigo Hunter [$4.99] is the latest offering, and it's more or less the usual fare for Kemco. It tries to do a few new things but was obviously constrained by the resources available, making for an experience that is likely to be a little too familiar to mobile RPG fans...

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 [Free] 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 [$1.99], 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 [$2.99] 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...

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