Category Archives: 4 stars

It's interesting watching the flow of game design over time. While it's sometimes painful to watch established game designs hop from a paid model to a free-to-play set-up, those very same free-to-play hits have now been around long enough to start inspiring developers to travel that road in the opposite direction. The basic structure and look of Dungeon x Balls [Free] seem heavily informed by social RPG sensations like Puzzle and Dragons [Free], but rather than send the player down an endless rabbit hole of collection, evolution, and battling, it opts for a more traditional style. You'll find new characters with their own special abilities, battle boss creatures, and work your way through the story, and while there are IAP, they're solely of the cosmetic variety. Best of all, its core gameplay mechanic feels intuitive and fresh, a difficult thing to accomplish in the wildly crowded mobile market...

We've seen a lot of licensed LEGO games in the 11 years since the series of action games from Traveler's Tales first kicked off. Batman, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, the Avengers, Indiana Jones, Jurassic World, and Pirates of the Caribbean have all had at least one game made chronicling their stories and characters. I'm not even going to touch what's going on in LEGO Dimensions, but I'm pretty sure we're only a few announcements away from a Taxi playset complete with Judd Hirsch and Andy Kaufman mini-figures. While it's undeniable that these games pay loving homage to their respective licenses (I can't doubt the purity of any developer who includes Howard the Duck in their Marvel game), it's equally undeniable that despite the wide differences between those licenses, the games are very similar in terms of gameplay. It makes sense. They found a winning formula, so why not just kludge whatever's popular into that framework? Players seem happy enough, bills are paid, it's smiles all around...




I’ll just be upfront about it and say that I adore the Uncharted series. There are plenty of design decisions that I can and do criticize, from overuse of long climbing/platforming sessions that don’t provide much challenge to certain narrative criticisms. But the games are always gorgeous, with amazing set pieces, charming characters, solid gunplay, and memorable moments. I’ve even always enjoyed the multiplayer, often criticized as tacked on. It is among my top franchises. So it should come as no surprise that I wanted to review the mobile tie in puzzle game, Uncharted: Fortune Hunter [Free]...

The practice of cloning is troublesome for many reasons. There are the obvious problems, but beyond those, the fear of a game being perceived as a clone stifles the natural process of building on a great idea. We've seen some pretty shameful clones in the App Store's history, but perhaps none of them have been as harmful to the original game as 2048 was to Threes! [$2.99]. A marketplace battle took place, and I think it's safe to say a lot of people felt the wrong game won there. I'm not sure if the cloud hanging over that has kept more developers from taking a crack at ideas inspired by Threes!, but if it has, more's the shame. Still, we see the odd swing at doing something interesting with the compelling swiping and combining mechanism that Threes! introduced so well. The latest is Dungeon Tiles [Free], from developer Takashi Iyoda...

I've talked about shoot 'em ups ad nauseum, and for good reason -- they're one heck of a genre, and they're making a big comeback on mobile devices. They're just so fun to play and prey off of your ability to react to any given situation. I mean, who doesn't love blowing up aliens or some otherwise evil entity while dodging a hail of bullets on-screen? It's pretty much a universally beloved pastime. Frantic Shooter [Free], which hails more from the Robotron school of thought than anything, is just as fun even with touch controls...

Orangepixel's previous game, Space Grunts [$3.99] was basically a fast-paced, roguelike-inspired, action game that just so happened to be turn-based. Heroes of Loot 2 [$3.99] instead is that fast-action game that Space Grunts coult have been in an alternate universe. This Gauntlet-esque dungeon shooter eschews the item system for some new tricks, such as a two-character swapping system. And there is the expected intense challenge to be had, with dozens of dungeon floors to try and traverse before beating the game. Good luck getting anywhere near that without a lot of skillful play. Yet, despite everything on paper that seems enjoyable, there's something about the loose feel of Heroes of Loot 2, with some questionable design decisions along the way, that leave me not entirely enamored with this game...

Developer XperimentalZ Games has a vibe to its games that I can really appreciate. These games feel like they fell out of some parallel timeline where arcades stayed healthy and full of a variety of game types. A place, time, and dimension where games made about as much sense as a 1980s action movie, and took deep pride in that fact. I'm a big fan of XperimentalZ's previous release, Pixel Boat Rush [Free], a wild side-scrolling action boat racer, and when I heard the developer was tackling a pinball hybrid next, I was pretty excited. Unfortunately, as the release date of Pinball Breaker Forever [$0.99] approached, so too did a ton of RPGs, which meant I couldn't get to the game I had been looking forward to. Worse, everyone else at TouchArcade got busy at around the same time, leaving Pinball Breaker Forever to slide by without a review. No, we can't have that...

It's been an odd year for ChoiceScript interactive fiction games. In the first half of this year, I've reviewed two games related to mermaids, and one game related to pirates. Well, we must be at the end of this particular phase, because Choice Of The Pirate [$4.99] has both mermaids and pirates. Truly, we've nowhere left to go. Similar to previous pirate gamebook Scarlet Sails [Free], you play as a plucky member of a pirate crew who finally gets their chance to achieve glory. The tone is a little different here, however, with more of a fantasy Pirates of the Caribbean feel to the adventure. It's also a good bit longer than Scarlet Sails, making for a better pace and overall more enjoyable game. To be sure, it's popcorn, but there's nothing wrong with that now and then...

Never Alone: Ki Edition [$4.99] is a game that seems to set out to do at least two things. First and foremost, it's trying to deliver an atmospheric puzzle-platformer game. It mostly succeeds at that, though it certainly makes a few mistakes that we see fairly often in this sub-genre. Never Alone also seeks to educate the player, at least a little bit, on the folklore and culture of the Inupiat people, and in this aim, it's a considerable success. The game doesn't force any of this on you, but rather focuses on the core gameplay and stunning visuals. It's an enjoyable game on those terms, but if you choose to delve into the extra content, you'll be able to appreciate Never Alone in a new light...

'Mr. Crab 2' Review - Crafty Crustacean

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June 3rd, 2016 5:30 PM EDT by Chris Carter in 4 stars, Action, Free, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Reviews, Universal
Free Buy Now

When a developer puts a spin on the typical auto-running formula, I'm usually there to check it out. While virtual buttons work just fine after years of acclimating to the concept, certain experiences lend themselves well to automatic movement, but there can be concessions in terms of how much we as players are allowed to interact with them. Mr. Crab 2 [Free] doesn't improve much on the foundation that was already built by its predecessor, but as an expansion of sorts, it works just fine...

As we all know, love it or hate it, freemium is a concept that is never going away. That said, there is a very specific subset of freemium that I like to call freemium fan service games. When a popular franchise or intellectual property wants to cash in on their loyal fan-base, slapping together a freemium game set within that world seems to be the way to go. But you know what? I love it sometimes. I’m pretty susceptible to some good fan service myself, and sometimes; not often, but sometimes, it makes the whole game worthwhile. Games like Star Trek Timelines [Free], while largely disliked by our community, still appealed to me as a huge trekkie, and the fan service within that game was fantastic. Well, if you’re partial to the ‘Tales of’ franchise of JRPG’s, then Tales of Link [Free] is the freemium fan service game for you, and has nothing to do with The Legend of Zelda if that’s also where your mind immediately jumped...

'Castles of Mad King Ludwig' Review - Some Assembly Required

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May 27th, 2016 1:30 PM EDT by Andrew Fretz in $6.99, 4 stars, Board, Reviews
$6.99 Buy Now

Castles of Mad King Ludwig[$6.99] is a curiously accurate description for the monstrous architectural nightmares that are created in the midst of playing this board game that is new to iOS. I have a lot of respect when you can capture so much of a game's essence in the title. If you are unfamiliar with the game, you owe it to yourself to get acquainted and prepare to toss feng shui out the window...

Goo Saga [$1.99] is a fun platformer for those who would be intrigued by a bit of physics fluidity in their games. It's perhaps a bit loose-playing, but fun. You control a sentient ball of goo that has to find the scientist that created them, and you do so by using your gooey abilities to their full potential. You can jump and slam on enemies to defeat them. As well, you can inflate and deflate, with inflation giving you a more solid body and faster speed, at the expense of some control. Additionally, you can deflate, which is slower, but allows you to squeeze through tight corners. Platforming and enemy-bopping is a huge part of the experience, but boss fights and vehicle-based levels will throw the occasional wrench in the proceedings...

I'm kind of picky with audio quality – not too much, but a bit more than many folks. Where most of our Mobcrush streamers use basic setups for their streaming from iPad, I go crazy using an audio mixer and good headphones with microphones. For a while I was using the Yamaha AG03 mixer on loan for review, but after returning it, I picked up a Behringer Xenyx302 that does a good enough job though I want to pick up the AG06 at some point. For my headphones, I was using the V-Moda M-100 with the BoomPro detachable boom microphone. But an issue I was having was that the headphones were isolating myself from my own voice too much. Combined with the always-on voice monitoring on the Xenyx302, this meant other people in my house could hear me talking because I'm probably yelling. I have open-back headphones that would isolate less, but I didn't have the boom microphone setup that I prefer for streaming, particularly when I'm streaming from an iPad that can move about. A desktop mic in this situation might not be preferable, and a complicated microphone setup seems excessive for streaming games straight from an iPad. Thankfully, an opportunity to review the ModMic 4.0 came around, and I jumped on it to see just how well this commonly-recommended solution works for headphones...

Apparently, merpeople are the new trend in interactive fiction. Yes, I call something a trend if I spot more than one instance. I'm pretty weird that way. Anyway, a couple of months ago, Choice Of Games released The Daring Mermaid Expedition [Free], a somewhat farcical adventure that provided a brief, enjoyable window into a fantasy world under the sea. The Sea Eternal [Free] also chooses the ocean depths as the setting of its story, but from the other side of the coin. Rather than playing an inquisitive human who accidentally stumbles upon this strange world, you play as one of the merpeople who inhabit it. In spite of this shift in perspective, the core of the story largely tries to untangle what it is to be human, or at least what it is to be sentient. It takes on a lot of very difficult questions, and although it doesn't handle them all with perfect grace, The Sea Eternal is nevertheless quite engaging and thought-provoking...

'Amidakuji Knight' Review - Choose a Path

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May 12th, 2016 11:00 AM EDT by Chris Carter in $0.99, 4 stars, Free, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Puzzle, Reviews
99¢ Buy Now

Many years ago, I encountered a really cool boss in a game called Mega Man X. As one of the last encounters leading up to the final fight, players were locked in a room with a giant robotic spider, with multiple metal "webs" hanging from the ceiling. Every few seconds the webs would change, and create new pathways for the spider to travel. The rules were simple -- it had to follow the journey of least resistance, and turn down every path it could. It was interesting because players could deduce where the spider would fall with any given pattern, but they had to be fast enough to figure it out before he landed on you. That concept is basically how the entire game of Amidakuji Knight [$0.99] works, to great success. The concept not only translates perfectly to a touchscreen, but the developers also extend it a bit with a full-on level-up and gear system. After a quick setup that involves a heroic knight and his quest to locate a valuable talisman across three chapters, players are off to the overworld, where they're presented with a number of choices, represented with paths. Each board has five in all, which will lead you to an end goal -- whether it's an enemy to fight and gain experience from, gold, or an item...

In an era where kids can fire up a game like Real Racing 3 [Free] for free on a mobile device, I can't imagine slot car racing sets are as ubiquitous as they were when I was a kid. Just about everyone seemed to own one back then, whether they were interested in cars or not. They're pretty simple toys, with the only real input being how fast the car is going at any given time, but there was a certain thrill in seeing how fast you could take corners without careening wildly off the little plastic tracks. There was a bit of technique to it, though the advantage certainly went to the player who was most familiar with the track. Black Hole Joyrider [$0.99], the latest from Boson X [$2.99] creator Ian MacLarty, might look and sound like a grand space adventure, but it's basically a gorgeous game of slot car solitaire...

'Zenge' Review - Everything Slides Into Place

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April 22nd, 2016 11:39 AM EDT by Chris Carter in $0.99, 4 stars, Games, iPad Games, iPhone games, Puzzle, Reviews, Universal
99¢ Buy Now

At a very young age, I was trained for puzzle games. You know, putting those square pegs into their appropriate holes, Operation to meticulously work on my reaction times, and so on. All of those tabletop experiences trained me for what was to come down the road, when I had to put those same pegs into hundreds of different locations over the years, dreamed up by some of the most prophetic puzzle designers the world has ever seen. That includes Zenge [$0.99], which takes the core premise of shifting around different shapes into one magnificent canvas...

'Pang Adventures' Review - Pang, Nab It

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April 20th, 2016 11:01 AM EDT by Shaun Musgrave in $2.99, 4 stars, Action, Arcade, Game Center, iPad Games, iPhone games, Reviews
$3.99 Buy Now

Until now, publisher Dotemu's work on iOS has been mostly limited to bringing back beloved classics in their original forms. Their releases have run the gamut from arcade shoot-em-ups like R.Type [$1.99] to point-and-click PC titles like Sanitarium [$3.99], to say nothing of the work they've done for other companies like SNK and Square Enix. Pang Adventures [$3.99] is something of an unusual case for the prolific French publisher, as it's a new game based on an old favorite franchise. You might remember the series under the names Pang, Buster Bros., Pomping World, Magical Michael, or if you're particularly well-informed, Cannon Ball. We'll go with Pang for the purposes of this review...

It sometimes feels like Marvel is working towards a future where there will be a free-to-play game for every possible genre. The quality of those games has run the gamut from the bland Marvel: War Of Heroes to the surprisingly enjoyable Marvel Future Fight [Free]. Somewhere in the upper end of that range sits Marvel: Avengers Alliance, a rather fun game with a battle system pulled from turn-based RPGs. The one thing that ties most of these games together aside from the license is that no matter how well they start off, they all seem to end up becoming worse over the long run. The original Avengers Alliance is probably the worst example of that, with its poorly-implemented PVP, serious issues with cheating players, and completely broken character balance. At a certain point, it felt like Marvel Entertainment just gave up on it...

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