Category Archives: 4 stars

'Inside' Review - Try, Die, and Try Again

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December 14th, 2017 9:30 AM EST by Eli Hodapp in 4 stars, Games, Platform, Puzzle, Reviews
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For whatever reason, it seems like the fourth quarter of 2017 has been an absolute golden age of ports hitting the App Store. Playdead's Inside [Free] was just released, and we were lucky enough to be able to play through the game beforehand. As far as the iOS port is concerned, Playdead absolutely knocked this one out of the park. It's totally universal across the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, optimized for the iPhone X, supports MFi controllers, and has totally seamless iCloud save syncing. The touch controls are even well done, and it's a free download with a one-time $6.99 (as of this writing) unlock. If there's a box they're not checking with this port, I don't know what it is. Unfortunately, I'm just not sure if I really enjoyed the game that much... But, more on that later...

Being a series that has traded as much on story and dialogue as anything else, Ace Attorney has been able to get impressive mileage out of using the same basic structure for more than 15 years. The biggest change the formula has seen came with the 2009 arrival of the first official spin-off title in the franchise, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth [Free]. Following Phoenix Wright's rival and sometimes-ally, Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth, the game virtually abandoned the courtroom in favor of focusing on the investigations themselves. Taking a form similar to a point-and-click adventure, fans of the series got to enjoy a whole new perspective on familiar characters and locations. The game did well enough to earn a sequel, but that game went unlocalized due to how late it arrived in the Nintendo DS's lifespan. With the main series picking up again on the 3DS, most fans assumed we had seen the last of Ace Attorney Investigations...




After digging a little deeper into obscurities for the last couple of releases, SEGA has gone back to one of their tried and true 16-bit franchises for the latest addition to the SEGA Forever line-up. The Streets of Rage series has lain dormant for a very long time now, but in its heyday, it was one of SEGA's most successful action brands. To this day, I still consider Streets of Rage 2 to be one of the very best side-scrolling beat-em-ups ever made. But we're not here to talk about the sequel. Well, not yet anyway. No, today we're looking at the original Streets of Rage [Free], a game that may be lesser than its follow-up but still packs a pretty solid punch. Happily, SEGA has given the game the finest treatment we've seen for a new SEGA Forever release yet...

One of the remarkable things about the first three games in the Cally's Caves series of action-platformers is in how far they came in a relatively short time. The first game is quite primitive compared to the third, but they released only a couple of years apart. The thing about gains like that is that they rarely scale in a linear fashion. Cally's Caves 3 [Free] was an outstanding accomplishment for an indie game, presenting something that wouldn't have been terribly out of place as a retail release on a dedicated handheld. There's really only so much more Cally's Caves 4 [Free] could realistically be expected to do to top that. True to that, this is more or less another helping of the high-quality action found in Cally's Caves 3. For whatever it lacks in novelty, however, it makes up for by burying you in quantity...

My interest was piqued pretty hard as I was perusing the app store a couple weeks ago, only to see a puzzle game that involved exploring an alien ship and solving the puzzles of its technology and the fate of mankind after encountering them. That premise, for a sci-fi junkie like me, along with those drop dead gorgeous screen shots immediately had my attention. And while I was expecting something more akin to Myst [$4.99], what I received was closer to The Room [$0.99 (HD)] series, but with several areas of puzzles (The Rooms?) and a more cinematic piecemeal mystery story interspersed throughout. And it was pretty darn great. This is Returner 77 [$3.99]...

'Final Fantasy Dimensions 2' Review - Neither Fish Nor Fowl, but Fun Anyway

Nothing can ever be straightforward when it comes to sequels and Square Enix, can it? Here we have Final Fantasy Dimensions 2 [$14.99], which is not a follow-up to the story or mechanics of Final Fantasy Dimensions [Free]. Instead, it's the sequel to an unrelated Japan-only free-to-play social RPG called Final Fantasy Legends, which was also the title Final Fantasy Dimensions went by in Japan. But it's not really a sequel so much as it is a remake. In fact, it's the second such attempt at remaking that game, but when they remade it the first time they added the number 2 to show how significant said update was. But that didn't seem to go over well either, so now here we are. Final Fantasy Dimensions 2 is a rebuilt premium version of a free-to-play social RPG, and if that sounds like that might be a tough thing to pull off, you're half-right...

The early 1990s were a strange time for video game characters. Side-scrolling platformers were without question the most popular games, to the point that just about every company had to come up with a mascot or three to put in their own spin on the genre. An awful lot of those characters were simple variations on Sonic the Hedgehog, throwing a pair of big googly eyes on some kind of anthropomorphic animal with an attitude in a vain effort to create some sort of familiar look. Licensed characters from other media and even real celebrities were also popular choices for similar reasons. Then there was Chuck D. Head. He's a mummy with his face on his chest, which he stretches out to attack enemies. Sometimes he finds a head with another face on it, and he throws that head like a hefty boomerang as another means of attacking. Chuck is the star of DeCap Attack [Free], a surprisingly high-effort platformer from SEGA and developer Vic Tokai...

When it comes to SEGA and their 16-bit library, game re-releases tend to fall into one of three categories. First, there are the games that are always included: Sonic, Golden Axe, Altered Beast, and the like. Then, you've got games that are often included, but not always. Phantasy Star 2, Ecco the Dolphin, and Shinobi 3 are examples of this group. Finally, there are games that SEGA only seems to include if they're being very thorough. Sometimes it's because they're tricky to emulate, other times because of rights issues, and still other times where the reason isn't clear at all. Beyond Oasis [Free] used to be part of this group, but it feels like it's slowly moving into the second category instead. Its presence here relatively early on in the SEGA Forever initiative is a good example of its improving fortunes...

I would be willing to bet that many of us have doodled various things on paper at one point in our lives. There is something special about what our imaginations can create when we implement our ideas through different forms of art. I still have a couple of notebooks (from my early childhood) that are chock-full of strange ideas/illustrations and I still find it entertaining to pour over their contents from time to time. I have come to appreciate games that attempt to emulate the aesthetics of doodles/drawings that are procured from the depths of people's imaginations. Grapple Gum [$1.99] emulates this type of art style and manages to mash a variety of gameplay mechanics together to create a "slingshot-action-platformer"...

I love puzzle games. Lucky for me you can't swing a dead Pokemon in the App Store without hitting several dozen. Not all of them are good, of course, and many are shallow copies of much better games. There are enough good ones, however, to keep me entertained and seeking more. Those moments when I come across something really compelling and get that "oh cool" feeling make the search well worth the effort. Glowish [$1.99], a recently released pattern-recognition puzzler, definitely gave me that feeling...

I have always been extremely fascinated by the Victorian Period. Its aesthetics and 19th century industrial technology definitely allure me more than other periods of time. However, I am an even bigger sucker for Neo-Victorian (A.K.A Steampunk) aesthetics and its different technologies. I think they are a unique mixture of different aspects that you wouldn't initially imagine to be together. My choices in playing past games such as Dishonored and Bioshock Infinite were definitely influenced my my fascination with Victorian science fiction. These aforementioned personal fun-facts are why I absolutely had to try out Noblemen: 1896 [Free] by Foursaken Media...

A few years back, I reviewed an enjoyable puzzle game called Circix [Free]. In that game, you had to connect circuits in the correct fashion to get past each stage. Setting aside the theme, the core puzzle of the game was in thinking about how each node had to relate to its neighbors. Well, the developer behind that game recently released a new puzzle game called Taps [$1.99]. On the surface, it's completely different from the neon electronics theme of Circix, but it follows a similar idea of building its puzzles around logical relationships. Taps feels more polished, more unique, and more carefully thought-out than its predecessor, and it's just as devilishly challenging once it gets going...

In Cityglitch [$2.99], a new puzzle game in app stores now, the world is filled with haunted cities full of glitches—strange, irregular, and dangerous beings that torment the residents. It falls on a red-headed protagonist to fly through each city from rooftop to rooftop and light runes in order to conduct a magical ritual that will free each city from their glitches. Naturally you play as this protagonist and must solve a puzzle to light each rooftop rune. Each puzzle takes the form of a five-by-five grid. One or more of these spaces will be occupied by pink oblong circles which are the runes of that rooftop. When your protagonist steps on a rune it will light up becoming two oblong circles, one nested within another. Your goal is to light up all of the runes...

Egglia: Legend of the Redcap [$9.99] is an example of a game that betrays expectations to its own detriment. Because the development team consists of some key people who worked on Square's Mana series, the game's look and marketing might give you the impression it's a similar game. It's not. The game carries a relatively high price tag and no IAP, factors which usually point to a more traditional gaming experience, but Egglia also requires you to maintain an online connection and deal with a lot of timers and social RPG elements. On a fundamental level, you might look at the game's previews and screenshots and think you're getting something along the lines of a standard JRPG. But it's not that, either. Sadly, I think if you come into the game holding too strongly to any of these reasonable expectations, you're a lot less likely to enjoy the game for what it is. I suppose that's at least one major thing Egglia has in common with the average Mana game...

Before we get going with this review, let's address the elephant in the corner of the room: SEGA Forever. SEGA's latest attempt to bring its classics to iOS has had a bit of a rocky start thanks to a frankly lackluster Genesis emulator. SEGA got a lot of feedback from those initial releases and, to their credit, have been working hard trying to address the problems. Their latest release is Ristar [Free], and it comes with a new emulator build that shows significant improvement over previous ones. It's not perfect, mind you. While it greatly improves on the framerate and sound issues many have had with earlier releases, this version sometimes has some screen tearing. Nevertheless, it's a solid enough release that we feel it's worth reviewing this game largely on its own merits...

'Swim Out' Review - A Relaxing Poolside Puzzler

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August 11th, 2017 12:45 PM EST by Nick Vigdahl in $1.99, 4 stars, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Puzzle, Reviews, Universal
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Summer is cruising along at a blistering pace isn't it? It's the speediest of all seasons to be sure and before long many of us will be left with wind chills and blankets of snow to continually clear and drive through, others will face sleet and gloomy skies. It's not over yet, though, and a new puzzle game is out to help conjure happier times once it is. Swim Out [$2.99] is a clever new puzzle game about a blue-capped swimmer looking to navigate their way through a great many high traffic pools...

'Time Crash' Review - A Solid Runner You Should Spend Your Time With

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August 4th, 2017 12:00 PM EST by Wayne Skabelund in $2.99, 4 stars, Reviews
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I am sure we all have watched at least one or two videos of people successfully performing parkour stunts (or failing miserably). It's fascinating what the human body can do once one puts forth the effort to learn new things. However, I have always gotten my personal parkour fix vicariously through games such as Mirror's Edge or the Prince of Persia series. I was pleasantly surprised to discover another game that could potentially fill my need to pull off dangerous stunts, without the chance of reaping painful consequences. This aforementioned game is called Time Crash [$2.99] by 8SEC...

The original Knights of Pen & Paper [$4.99] was a goofy, grind-heavy RPG with a novel set-up that allowed it to poke fun at the many tropes of the genre. It painted over its repetitive mechanics with a sweet candy coating of enthusiastic charm and only slightly overstayed its welcome. In spite of its flaws, it was a great starting point both for the Pen & Paper concept and its developers Behold Studios. Oddly, the two went their separate ways when Behold opted to work on Chroma Squad [$4.99] instead of putting together a direct sequel to their popular game. The task of crafting Knights of Pen & Paper 2 [Free] fell to Kyy Games, and it's safe to say they didn't quite meet the expectations of many of the fans of the first game. Now, Behold is back to try their own follow-up to Pen & Paper. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with a similar setting, however, they've decided to take things to space with Galaxy of Pen & Paper [$4.99]...

Puzzle games have really upped the ante in recent years to add challenge and tension to the gaming experience. Time limits, move limits, stars to earn, and points to accrue all say, "Sure you can win, but can you win the best?" There's nothing inherently wrong with these mechanics. When employed well—and not just to sell packs of hints—they can make puzzle games more fun. Sometimes, however, you don't want to worry about moves and stars and points and how long it takes you. This is where minimalist puzzle games find their niche. They set aside the quest to find the very best solution and challenge you to find any solution. This week's freshly released Neo Angle [$1.99] is a minimalist puzzle game and well worth a look...

Something about the writing style in Avatar of the Wolf [$3.99] almost immediately put me off. Most of the well-written gamebooks from Choice of Games have an almost velvety tone to their prose, gently massaging your brain and doing their best to make it comfortable. Avatar of the Wolf, by comparison, is thorny. The words feel shorter, less comfortable to read, and above all, aggressive. It's even disorienting at times. The way this story is written does as much to set the tone as the meaning of the words the writer chooses. It was jarring to try to slide into the main character. Yet it turns out to be precisely the atmosphere this story needs. Avatar of the Wolf isn't a fluffy tale of adventure that will appeal broadly, but give it time to spin its yarn and you might find yourself unable to put it down...

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