Category Archives: 4 stars

Stormblades [Free] is Diet Infinity Blade [$5.99]. I say this not to demean the game or to put it down, it's just that its motivations are patently obvious. This takes Infinity Blade's combat, complete with its directional attacks and dodging in one-on-one battles against bigger enemies, but stripping down a lot of the extra features from the combat and the meta-game. The combat is simpler but familiar, the game is level-based, and there's no 'exploration', it's just about advancing from one challenge to the next, buying better weapons and more potions along the way to keep up with the advancing difficulty. It's not as deep a game and can be a bit repetitive, but it also takes away some of the annoyances that Infinity Blade could sometimes get bogged down in, especially once Infinity Blade 3 [$6.99] rolled around. And as a free-to-play game, it's surprisingly fair. Stormblades is an interesting little package for those who want a familiar experience, but streamlined...

Even today, it's rare to see a developer's name affixed to a video game title. There are a lot of reasons for that, depending on which period we look at, but one of the bigger exceptions to that is the name of Sid Meier. I'm not sure how or why his name ended up in the title of Sid Meier's Pirates! [$2.99], but it might have simply been to help make the somewhat generic title more unique. The game was a massive hit, and while publishers generally don't like to canonize developers, they'll make an exception for just about any rule if the money looks right. So it is that after just a few more games, nearly every game Sid Meier had a hand in, and a few that he didn't, carried his name. It's an odd outcome for someone who seems to be a relatively low-key guy. The problem with his name becoming a brand, however, is that you can't be too sure with any given release just how much of the game is Sid Meier the designer versus Sid Meier the marketing tag...

'Odd Bot Out' Review - One Man's Unique Puzzle Platformer

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March 20th, 2015 11:56 AM EDT by Ben Jarris in 4 stars, Puzzle, Reviews
$1.99 Buy Now

One man, 1000+ design sketches and 1 years round the clock sweat and tears, has produced an intriguing puzzle platformer that's blown me away in terms of ingenuity and uniqueness. You can see why Apple chose to feature the game; the magic comes from the lego style constructions with blocks, characters and other objects. Each level is short and smart, providing just the objects you need to make it to the exit. Blocks and characters can be stuck together or pulled apart, and everything in game can be stacked on top of each other, or stuck to the side of other objects to increase their abilities and usefulness. It makes for varied solutions from fewer objects, requiring true problem solving skills...

'TouchTone' Review - Tricky Puzzles, Touchy Tone

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March 18th, 2015 11:30 PM EDT by Shaun Musgrave in $2.99, 4 stars, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Puzzle, Reviews
$2.99 Buy Now

It's been a few years since we've seen a new iOS release from Mikengreg, the developers behind the hit Solipskier [$0.99]. Mike Boxleiter and Greg Wohlwend gave the label a bit of a rest while they worked on other things after Gasketball [Free (HD)] didn't catch on quite the way they'd hoped. Notably, Wolhwend ended up teaming up with Asher Vollmer to create Puzzlejuice [$1.99] and Threes! [$1.99], both excellent puzzle games with strong visual designs. Well, the band is back together again, and perhaps somewhat informed by their experiences had apart. TouchTone [$2.99] is a striking puzzle game, the sort of thing we've come to expect from Wohlwend's recent projects, but it's also a compelling politically-charged statement on modern America, something both Boxleiter and Wohlwend have strong ideas about. While these two sides of the game don't blend together as well as I might like them to, they're individually strong enough that if you're only coming to the game for one, you'll likely find the other to be quite enjoyable...

Rop [$0.99] has a bit of an odd name. Without the accent over the o, it may seem like "rahp" instead of "rope," which is the theme of this game. It's a puzzle game where a bunch of ropes are strung together, and your goal is to rearrange the different linked points into a shape matching what is given, all on a hexagonal grid. Yep folks, this is a casual minimalist puzzle game that's also a real game. 2015, we did it! I can tell you whether you will enjoy Rop or not through the answer to one simple question: do you get satisfaction when you get a massive mess of cords untangled? If so, every time you solve a puzzle here, you will feel pretty good...

Gameloft’s Dungeon Hunter dungeon crawler series has seen a lot of changes over the years, and that theme continues with this year’s release of Dungeon Hunter 5 [Free]. Yes, the hack n’ slash series continues its march into freemium territory, but this time it does so with a system that’s pretty fair to its players. It actually leads to a game that’s not only pretty enjoyable (within the confines of its systems) but has the potential for long term investment...

Balancing a tower defense title properly is a pretty tough task. Make a game too easy and players may lose interest in advancing through the game’s missions and difficulty. On the other hand, an incredibly difficult TD title can potentially alienate a lot of prospective players. Epic War TD 2 [$2.99] by AMT Games leans heavily on the difficult side in terms of the TD spectrum. However, the game is balanced well enough that most TD gamers can succeed while optional modes provide a challenge for the hardcore fans...

'Miner Z' Review - Mr. Zombie Driller

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I can't get enough of mining games. Although there are a decent amount of them out in the world, I feel like we still need more. The thrill of digging down deep into the depths of the unknown is unparalleled, and incredibly addictive. Miner Z [Free] might be a more arcade-like experience akin to an endless runner, but it still gets the job done...

Ever since we first caught wind of it back in February, Sick Bricks  [Free] by Spin Master has been an intriguing title to play. A lot of the individual elements have been seen before in countless games before it. However, as a compilation, we’ve never quite seen a title combine all of those elements with a real-world toy buying campaign. Granted, it’s not quite the perfect melding of real and digital world assets that I’d like. However, Sick Bricks is still a pretty fun game and should do quite well with its intended audience...

If you're an iPad owner, into strategy games, and are a history buff, the mere mention of Slitherine's name is probably enough to get your blood pumping. Simply put, they consistently release some of the finest strategy games on iOS. Their games tend to be on the upper end of the App Store price range, but it's a genuine case of getting what you pay for. Each game is typically packed with content, extremely well-designed, and rounded out with a full set of features. Another well-known name in iOS strategy circles is Hunted Cow Studios, who are also nothing if not reliable. For years, their niche was in regularly releasing low-priced games covering a variety of interesting settings. The mechanics of those games rarely held any surprises, but they filled the belly without emptying the wallet. These two major forces in the iOS strategy game scene have come together with the release of Hell: Fight For Gilrand [$9.99 (HD)], an iPad-only release...

Nitrome is a company with a very fascinating output, as they have roots as a Flash game company with a particular pixel art style, and Flash games have always felt to me like they straddle a line between being casual-friendly but also maintaining that appeal to core, dyed-in-the-wool gamers. As such, their mobile games definitely have that casual feel while still being ones that core gamers should enjoy as 'real games'. And Magic Touch - Wizard for Hire [Free] is perhaps their best effort at being casual yet gamer-friendly. It's got touch-friendly controls, but very quickly ramps up into an incredible challenge to face down...

There's an inherent joy in playing around with physics. In life, some of our earliest interactions with the external world involve playing around with physics to get a feel for the rules of reality. Even as fully-grown, educated, theoretically wise adults, we still get the urge to use our coffee spoon to launch the creamer at the person sitting at the table on the other side of the restaurant, just to see if we could. For a long time, games weren't terribly good at recreating satisfying physics along with all the other bits we tend to want in a game. There just wasn't enough computing power, time, or resources in general, and it wasn't a high priority. I maintain to this day that the reason Sonic The Hedgehog hit as powerfully as it did was due more to its solid physics engine than anything else. Any old character can go fast, but Sonic not only made us work for it, but also let us see the consequences of that speed. It wouldn't be until several years later that putting realistic physics into a game became a popular thing to do, but once it did, it broke things wide open...

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Swap Heroes [$0.99] was a solid game that combined a strategic quick-play focus with plenty of RPG elements. Swap Heroes 2 [$0.99] does pretty much the same thing - it's the same gameplay, where one hero dying means game over. There are a new set of heroes with new abilities to use, but largely balanced in similar ways. The changes here are structural, and that's not a knock on Swap Heroes 2: it's kind of like when a band releases an album a year after their previous one. It's not a huge jump, but you can often tell where refinements and improvements exist, and Swap Heroes 2 is just a better game...

'Daytona Rush' Review - Endless Racing

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February 17th, 2015 3:00 PM EDT by Eric Ford in 4 stars, Free, Games, iPhone games, Racing, Reviews, Universal
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As we’ve state before, it’s a tough gig to be an endless runner on the App Store. Nearly all are simply reskins of the same type of gameplay, requiring standouts to either significantly alter the formula (and risk losing that aspect that makes them so appealing) or offer a novel theme to that counteracts what is other standard gameplay fare. Daytona Rush  [Free] is clearly in the latter category with a pretty novel and well implemented theme of stock car racing. When combined with its (thankful) utter lack of IAP, good leaderboard support and great production values, Daytona Rush may be an endless racer worth trying...

I love the idea of Adventure Time Game Wizard [$4.99] because of the power of its license. Pixel Press Floors [Free] was cool technology, in the way that it let people sketch out levels on paper using a system of glyphs, and then take a photograph to scan them into the game. It's a remarkably cool tech and idea. But really, the greatness of the idea and its reach was somewhat limited by the new intellectual property and the limitations that Pixel Press had in terms of PR and reach on the App Store. Thus enter Cartoon Network. The kids love them some Adventure Time. So, why not combine that license and the Cartoon Network marketing muscle with the latest Pixel Press tech? What is here is not just a competent platformer, but an incredibly powerful creation tool that I think could be really great because of the way that it opens up creation to a young audience in an accessible way...

Much as I love it, I have to admit that video pinball is a very, very strange thing. They're sort of like those homemade recipes for Ecto Cooler that you can find around the internet: a shadow of the real thing, an attempt to replicate an incredibly tactile but now nearly-extinct experience. For most people, there haven't been any pinball tables around their locale since Clinton was in office. I wouldn't be shocked if many of our readers have never laid eyes on one in their lifetime. But for those of us who love them, if we can't wrap our fingers around a real machine and build the callouses on the palms of our hands by slamming them into the side of a wooden box to nudge a steel ball a half-centimeter off its course, we'll take what we can get. We'll take the video pinball. Because even though there's an unquestionable component of the game intrinsically tied to physical sensations, the games themselves have strong merit on their gameplay. The lights and sounds pulled us in, but the gameplay is what kept us coming back...

I admit, when I first played Radical [Free] from BeaverTap Games, I was a little disappointed that the team that made the wonderful Mikey games were aiming a bit lower with this game. But really, the more time I spent with it, the more I found that they had made a clever game that lived up to their standards while at a smaller scale in terms of design and visuals. That they made a smaller game like this was interesting enough to me – and I think that in part from the fact that it's made by interesting developers who know how to make a game, the game is well worth checking out...

Ever since it’s unveiling over two years ago, Midnight Star [Free] has had some lofty expectations thrust upon it. One consistent theme we’ve heard since its announcement was a promise for a control scheme reimagined for touch-based input. As the game slowly soft launched we realized that such a reimagining would also come with a free-to-play system for monetization. With its worldwide launch last week, we’ve finally had a chance to check out both its claim for improved controls as well as test out its freemium elements. After some extended time with this first-person shooter from Industrial Toys, I came away impressed with the controls and the amount of content offered, but was left lamenting its free-to-play elements...

Evoland [$4.99] is an odd experience. It's packed to the brim with genuine enthusiasm for my favorite genre and many great games of that genre and outside of it. Like an experienced stage magician running through his act, it has a brilliant set of tricks that it cleverly lays out one after the other, upping the ante each time to maintain your awe and excitement. At first they come at breakneck speed, not unlike the progress of gaming technology itself. After a half hour or so of this, the designers must have realized that they had to space out their remaining cards so that the game wouldn't be finished too quickly. Things slow down. They ride out the previous trick for a while, perhaps too long. Then, having exhausted their bag of tricks and understanding that even a patient audience can get restless, things come to a swift, sweet finish. Evoland is too short at times and too long at others...

Kairosoft makes a lot of games. Rather, I suppose they made a lot of games and have been diligently porting them over to smartphones ever since. They're not bad games. If you happened to be trapped in an elevator for a couple of days with one, you might not even notice you didn't hit your floor. That said, they are extremely similar to one another, relying on the same few templates spread across every single job anyone ever had or will have. It wears on you after a few games, especially if you fall into a row of their building simulations. I've often said that any given Kairosoft game is going to be amazing if it's your first and mind-numbing if it's your fifth. The sad thing in all of this is that the template that brought them to the dance, so to speak, is the least-recycled of them all. Game Dev Story [$3.99] put Kairosoft on the international map years ago, and the biggest request everyone has made since is for a sequel. Kairosoft marches to their own beat, though, and that beat apparently dictates that there shall be only one Game Dev Story per Halley's Comet appearance...

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