Category Archives: 4.5 stars

'Halo: Spartan Strike' Review - An Evolutionary Success

Recently, Microsoft and the folks at 343 Industries launched two Halo spinoffs on the App Store. Halo: Spartan Assault [$5.99] originally debuted back in 2013 on Windows devices and is finally on iOS devices. However, Halo: Spartan Strike [$5.99] is a brand new adventure that saw a simultaneous launch on all pertinent platforms. As a sequel to Halo: Spartan Assault, it would make sense that Strike seeks to improve upon its predecessor and it succeeds in that regard. While the changes to the formula feel more evolutionary than revolutionary, those improvements are on a game that was already great  to begin with making Strike an even better dual stick shooter...

'Crowntakers' for iPad Review - A Royally Good Roguelike Spin

Some of the earliest video game RPGs were roguelikes, but if you didn't notice them around for a couple of decades, nobody would blame you. After being fairly popular in the early stages of home computing, they soon gave way to bigger, more persistent adventures. They still had a dedicated following during those years, with games like Nethack, Angband, and Japan's Mystery Dungeon series carrying the torch for the genre. The boom of indie developers and the surging interest in more compact gaming experiences in the last ten years has seen the genre make a big comeback. The basic elements of the genre have been used in many popular games that might not be strictly considered roguelikes but owe a massive debt to the genre nonetheless. A genre once almost totally represented by so few games that you could count them off on your fingers now has a strong influence, especially in the PC and mobile gaming markets...

'The Quest Keeper' Review - Not a 'Crossy Road' Clone, But Something Fresh

Crossy Road [Free] has inspired a lot of games recently, which is natural because it's been a huge success. It's made Hipster Whale millions of dollars on a game made in three months and without aggressive monetization. There are countless developers in similar situations that would kill for a tenth of its success. There are many straight-up clones, we're now starting to see games that try to iterate on it and make their own unique experiences. The Quest Keeper [Free] has an obvious inspiration, but it adds in RPG tropes, its own movement rules, and plenty of cool new things that make it its own fun game...

'Cube Koala' Review - Super Marsupial Boy

Some people like to curl up with a good book to relax, I like to curl up with a challenging game. While that sounds like the opposite of therapy for a lot of people, I enjoy the notion of testing my brain, especially with a casual setting like a mobile device where I can pick it up and play anytime. Cube Koala [Free] pretty much encapsulates that ideology...

'DuckTales Remastered' Review -  Solve A Mystery, Or Rewrite History

Nostalgia is definitely big business, as the movie industry has known for decades and the game industry only just started catching on to. It's a tricky thing, nostalgia. Some people like to hand wave it away, as though the positive feelings from a familiar situation are any less valid than the positive feelings from seeing a bit of visual spectacle. I strongly disagree with that notion. I think nostalgia is a wonderful thing, and if a game can use it effectively the result is almost always a better all-around experience. That's a big qualifier, though. A game that relies solely on nostalgia is as empty as one that relies solely on graphical flair. Nostalgia only works for the audience that was there at the time. For everyone else, you'd better make sure the rest of the game can support its own weight...

'Gunpowder' for iPad Review - Explosive Rube Goldberg Play Sets

After first seeing the trailer for developer Rogue Rocket Games’ Gunpowder [$4.99 (HD)] last week, I was instantly taken by the game’s Saturday morning cartoon aesthetic, and more specifically, that of the old Wile E. Coyote episodes of "Looney Tunes". It’s a style rarely seen in today’s cartoons, much less in any video game, so it was a refreshing hook that baited me to pay attention to the game. Fortunately, Gunpowder is more than just a pretty face, and brings with it physics-based puzzle gameplay that balances on the fine line of accessible yet satisfying...

'Shadowrun: Dragonfall' Review - The Matrix, Reloaded

I'm of two minds about Shadowrun Returns [$2.99 (HD)], the 2013 Kickstarter-fueled return to the cult cyberpunk setting. On the one hand, it's a really strong RPG that pays respect to the beloved 16-bit games. The pacing is snappy, the systems are enjoyable to play around with, and while the setting isn't quite as unique as it was twenty-five years ago, it's still unusual enough to help invigorate the experience. I mean, this vision of a dystopian cyberpunk future is almost adorably retro at this point, like looking back at the 1960s idea of where the space race would lead us. The writing quality is strong enough that those feelings of quaintness are quickly shaken as you get into the plot. On the other hand, the iOS release was extremely buggy at launch, the developer was slow to fix anything, and it's still missing content from the PC version, a situation that will likely never be resolved. The game has a tendency to grab you by the wrist and drag you along, with little in the way of role-playing options or any real agency on your part. That's a valid choice and I enjoy many games that use that kind of design, but at least where I'm concerned, I tend to feel that Shadowrun RPGs are best when they're a bit more open-ended...

'Boss Monster' Review - Beautiful Retro Card Game, Shame About the Interface

I'll put my cards on the table: I wasn't a fan of the Boss Monster card game. I was heavily in to Magic: The Gathering back then and a few of the guys in our club went ga-ga for Boss Monster and threw some cash in to the Kickstarter, but it never grabbed me in quite the same way. Yes I liked the retro theme and the pretty 8-bit art, and it's a cool idea to play as the baddy, but every time I played it struck me as one of those card games that has a lot of stuff going on, but not much happening...

'Tiny Dangerous Dungeons' Review - Big Fun

Like Metroidvanias, but much prefer short gaming experiences? Tiny Dangerous Dungeons [$0.99] will hit the spot perfectly for you. This latest title from Adventure Islands updates solo dev Jussi Simpanen's web game Tiny Dangerous Dungeons into a refined and expanded mobile game. And it's a super-cool experience that takes all the conventions of open-world 2D platformers centered around getting upgrades to progress, and makes it into a game you can get satisfaction out of in an afternoon, with a solid amount of replay value if you enjoy speed runs, which the game's short length makes accessible even if you don't have time for them, usually...

'Lettercraft' Review: Think Through the Pressure In a Finely-Tuned, Timed Wordsearch Game

If you loved Loren Brichter’s classic multiplayer word game Letterpress, but for some reason you want a single-player version of it, then Italian developers Marco Torretta and Stefano Figurelli have something to show you: Lettercraft...

'Taichi Panda' Review - Hack 'N Slash Meets Free to Play MMORPG (with Pandas)

In a follow-up to our 2014 E3 preview and just a few days before a major update, we sat down to see the furry martial artist in action. Taichi Panda [Free] from Snail Games was released in the US on The App Store earlier this month with an Android release also available. It is a free-to-play dungeon crawler with an RPG feel and some extensive online multiplayer features that make it a stand out from other titles in the genre...

'Tales from the Borderlands' Review - Less Loot, More Talk

The idea of Tales from the Borderlands [$4.99] was certainly an intriguing one once it was announced. The Borderlands series definitely has a unique feel to it from its setting, dialogue, and characters that can be easily screwed up by a developer not quite in tune with the way the series operates. The good news is that Telltale Games are experts at story, so the idea that they could approach and do justice to this universe while also expanding on it in a way that isn't just a loot-filled first-person shooter is an interesting proposition...

'Silly Sausage in Meat Land' Review - Go Ahead and Sniff Your Own Butt

Every time Nitrome announces a new game, I get excited for two reasons. One is that I love pixel art games and Nitrome specializes in them. Second is that their games are usually pretty cool in some way, have some twist to them that's interesting to discover. Silly Sausage in Meat Land [Free] is their latest and one of their best games that I've played yet. It's a goofy and challenging game that does some really cool things...

'The Trace' Review - Tracing Clues and Taking Names

'The Trace' Review - Tracing Clues and Taking Names

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March 25th, 2015 8:16 PM EDT by Tasos Lazarides in $4.99, 4.5 stars, Game Center, Puzzle, Reviews, Universal
$4.99 Buy Now

One of my favorite gaming experiences back in the late 1980s was playing the fantastic Police Quest series by Sierra Entertainment. I had perhaps too much fun playing the cop and roaming the streets as an incompetent instrument of justice. So, I was quite happy that The Trace [$4.99], the new game by British award-winning games developer Relentless Software, out now for iPhone and iPad, brought me back to my glorious crime-solving days. As Detective Sam Pearce of Baltimore PD, you get to follow a long trail of bodies in the hunt for a killer. Relentless Software has developed the game from the ground up for tablet and mobile devices, and it shows both in the game's influences and its controls. If you've been gaming on mobile devices the last few years, you'll easily recognize the genres that make up The Trace...

'SwapQuest' Review - An Excellent Genre Mashup

When done correctly, I feel like there’s no better mix of genres than the puzzle/RPG combination. Adding character progression and some exploration elements to a good puzzle mechanic has the potential to really turn a neat game into a full-on adventure. SwapQuest [$2.99] has managed to do just that by combining classic Pipe Mania gameplay with some great RPG mechanics. Add in some cool retro visuals and awesome music and SwapQuest is an experience that shouldn’t be missed...

'Imps in Tokyo' Review - Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

A first glance at Imps in Tokyo [$1.99] might not really reveal much about what type of game it is. A picturesque style and a dark purple-blue motif are at the forefront of information you can see from screenshots. Developer We are Vigilantes have crafted a game that is much greater than the sum of its parts. Imps in Tokyo is, in broadest strokes, a pattern recognition game. Passing most stages will require flying around, dodging some enemies, killing other enemies and collecting as many magic pellets as possible. ..

'Card Crawl' Review - Just One More Time

Card games are extremely difficult to make, in my estimation: the game has to provide a rigid set of rules, while having to deal with randomness in a way that feels fair while reveling in the entropy that comes from not knowing what's next. I don't know if Card Crawl [$1.99] ever completely succeeds in that respect in terms of fairness with the randomness. But it does an excellent enough job otherwise at making a game that's super-fun with an interesting set of rules that I struggle to put this one down...

'AG Drive' Review - Doesn't Reinvent the Hover Engine

You just don't see a whole lot of ugly futuristic racers. Even if a game has ugly visuals, it can be excused away as a lo-fi stylistic choice to represent the vagueness of the future, or some artsy gobbledygook like that. But often, because the games can be big, bold, and colorful because they're playing with exaggerated fantasy, futuristic racing games can be gorgeous. Wipeout has always been a great-looking franchise. AG Drive [$3.99] follows that Wipeout formula - deliver fast-paced futuristic racing that's absolutely stunning to look at. This is a solid futuristic racing game that's quite easy on the eyes...

'Planet Quest' Review - Feel The Heavenly Rhythm

Rhythm video games and weird themes go together like peanut butter and jam. It doesn't seem like a natural combination by any means, but most of the best and most successful games in the genre have sported bizarre or abstract themes. That's probably owing to the genre's big break coming with Sony's Parappa The Rapper, a weird yet impossibly charming game about a cartoon dog trying to impress the love of his life, a sunflower named Sunny, learning how to drive or make a cake by rapping along to his instructors' beats. ..

'Garou: Mark of the Wolves' Review - When Butt Fights Dong, We All Win

The latest port of an SNK Neo-Geo fighting game to iOS is one of the best yet. Garou: Mark of the Wolves [$3.99] has a reputation as being one of the last Dreamcast games to release in the US, a late-era Neo Geo game, and as a darn good fighter, the last in the main Fatal Fury series. Now it's on iOS along with other ports done by DotEmu, but this version winds up being one of the best ports yet thanks to the robust features included...

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