Category Archives: 4 stars

Much as I've enjoyed recent releases from gamebook publisher Tin Man Games, I have to admit there's been one area I've wanted to see some improvement in that has remained largely static across the bulk of their releases: the combat system. Given that the raison d'etre for the company has been to bring Fighting Fantasy-style gamebooks to mobile as accurately as possible, it's hard to complain too much about the simple dice-based back-and-forth battles they've used in many of their releases. Still, the occasional tantalizing flash of something more, as in their brilliant conversion of Appointment With F.E.A.R. [$5.99], has had me wishing they would take greater advantage of not being shackled to the rules of physical books...

In space, nobody can hear you scream because you were just slightly off with that black hole you placed down, careening your ship just to the side of the key you needed, flying into the barrier around the goal that you thought would be down. Maybe next time, AGRAV [Free]. This game of black holes will fluster you, but it's rewarding, and its entry price point – 30 levels for free with an IAP for more – is unbeatable...




'Lunar Flowers' Review - Rock the Dragon

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October 22nd, 2015 12:30 PM EDT by Chris Carter in 4 stars, Free, Games, iPad Models, iPhone games, Puzzle, Reviews, Universal
99¢ Buy Now

I think the games as art debate is pretty much done in my view. Yes, games can be art, and in their own unique way, provide us with an alternate viewpoint that can enrich us both spiritually and culturally. While Lunar Flowers [Free] isn't exactly a life-changing event, it's a pretty fun little game, and a beautiful work of art...

Shooty Skies [Free] is a chaotic, endless arcade shooter by some of the same people who created Crossy Road [Free]. This follow-up to the viral hit uses the same quirky and cute style, featuring a variety of blocky animals and anthropomorphized electronics, but amps up the action one hundred fold. This arcade flyer puts the player behind the wheel of an aircraft loaded with pixel-shooting guns and drops them into a sky filled with a strange assortment of enemies that will barrage you with a variety of projectiles – joystick controllers, hamburgers, cans of soda, dollar bills, axes...

Skeletomb [Free], by Punk Labs, is a retro-style endless dungeon crawler set in a pixelated fantasy world whose "blocky" design is a nod to Minecraft's infamous aesthetic. With precious few lives, this game will have you frantically dashing, jumping, and swinging to try to survive as long as possible and climb deeper into this fun but deadly world. There are 28 characters to unlock, including a White Knight, a Skeleton, the "Dan in a Box" (think Jack-in-a-Box with a club), a Jester, and the Viking-like Bourboness, to name a few. The game doesn't take itself too seriously, which is an appropriate match to the quirky and simple art style. ..

The biggest strength of interactive fiction is in how it lets the player shape the story of the game. While other genres are improving in that regard, they're limited largely due to the costs associated with visual and audio assets. It simply doesn't make sense to spend millions of dollars on content that only a small percentage of players will experience. Text isn't quite free, but it's certainly a lot cheaper. That said, with all of that freedom, there are still an awful lot of games in the genre that have you playing a similar character in the broad sense. Violence may not be a useful answer in our modern society, but it will sure get you far in plenty of games. Ratings War [$2.99] does something different, and in doing so, feels a lot more real in spite of its far-flung futuristic setting. You play as a journalist, and although you get to decide what kind of journalist you are, there's very little room for action-heroics in this story...

Like many popular figures, PewDiePie tends to get a mixed reaction. A whole lot of people love him. At least 39,743,403 people, at the time of writing this. A lot of people hate him. I'm sure some will stop by the comments down below. Then, there are people who have no strong feelings either way. Perhaps they've lived in Japan for a long time or something, I don't know. Group A, you already bought PewDiePie: Legend Of The Brofist [$4.99]. I'd bet you like it quite a bit, because there are a lot of jokes and references in the game that I haven't got a hot clue about. That almost certainly means the fanservice is probably off the charts...

'Hocus' Review - They're Illusions, Michael

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October 8th, 2015 11:28 AM EDT by Nathan Reinauer in $0.99, 4 stars, Games, Maze, Puzzle, Reviews, Universal
99¢ Buy Now

When I was a kid my dad taught me how to draw a Penrose triangle, which is regarded as one of the purest example of an impossible object. I drew it on everything, and my poor teachers at the time probably thought my family was part of some secret order or something. I just find the shape kind of fascinating since it forces your brain to reset itself depending on where you’re looking. Also, isn’t it slightly mind blowing that in order to depict an object too complicated to exist in three dimensional space, you have to dumb it down to a flat plane? Maybe “too complicated” isn’t the right way to describe it (indeed, the fact that it’s missing a dimension is precisely what allows the illusion to work), but there’s still something rather enigmatic about impossible shapes. And apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so, since there are quite a few games that use the idea as the basis for mind warping puzzles. Like Hocus [$0.99], for example...

It was four years ago that EA bought Firemint, and many people at the time were worried about the latter studio’s future. Surely this would be the end of the beloved developer who brought us App Store classics like Flight Control and the Real Racing series, right? Surely EA would suck the life out of them and add mountains of IAP and other shenanigans? Well, a few years (and a merger with fellow Aussies Iron Monkey) later we got Need For Speed: Most Wanted [$4.99] and Real Racing 3 [Free], two games that are incredibly well-made and fun. (Admittedly, RR3’s pay model was pretty controversial when it came out, but it still ended up becoming one of my favorite racers on iOS.) And now we have their latest, Need For Speed: No Limits [Free]. It’s the first game I’ve played from Firemonkeys where I can sense many of the EA doomsayers’ predictions coming true. This game is unabashedly, almost aggressively free-to-play, to the point where even the title seems like EA is laughing at us. But… is it fun?..

Some games do ten things relatively well in an attempt to grab as big an audience as they can; a CCG fighting game with roleplay elements is not unheard of on the App Store. This trend has definitely seen an uptick recently as developers either dip a toe in every possible pool in sight or copy already-successful games such as Clash of Clans. However, you also have games like Raceline CC [Free] which focus on one mechanic and one idea and try to do it as best they can. Raceline CC is all about motorbike drag racing with an emphasis on slip-streaming, and that's pretty much it. However, while the game has one mechanic throughout the whole game, it is done quite well and proves once more that one idea done very well beats many ideas done relatively well, just as long as you actually like that one idea. So, if you like drag racing games with nice visuals, plenty of small variations on a theme (in the form of various tournaments and championships), and you don't mind playing mostly in short bursts, then you'll enjoy Raceline CC...

'Magic Flute by Mozart' Review - One Time At Bandcamp

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September 29th, 2015 12:00 PM EDT by Nathan Reinauer in $1.99, 4 stars, Games, Music / Rhythm, Puzzle, Reviews, Universal
$3.99 Buy Now

I first heard about Mozart's opera The Magic Flute when I was a music major in college. I remember thinking the title was sort of ridiculous, and the plot seemed equally silly. Something about a guy and his bird buddy meeting some witches or something and then rescuing a princess somewhere. And, of course, there's a magical flute. It was hard to take seriously since opera was never my thing, but reading about it on wikipedia all these years later it actually sounds kind of interesting. The main plot is supposed to be kind of light and silly, but underneath there's a subtext about religion, reason, and enlightment. Oh! And there's an iPhone game based on it now. Did I mention that part?..

One of the things I like about Japanese visual novels as opposed to their Western interactive fiction counterparts is they seemingly habitually go completely off the rails at points. No matter how mundane the premise might be, it's almost an expectation in the genre that the story take a lot of unexpected turns. At least in my experience, it's the strongest quality of a visual novel, since the choices you make tend to be few, far between, and not immediately all that important. The other interesting thing about them is that while there is a true ending, it's typically not possible to find it on your first playthrough. You have to explore multiple routes and sometimes have to piece together the right sequence to see the real ending. This can result in players having to put up with a great deal of overlap, particularly early in the game, as they make their way to each forked path...

What do you get when you cross the idea of sentient objects from Toy Story with eastern philosophies of reincarnation, but instead of toys, the objects are tools of all kinds, from phones to frying pans to bullets to weapons of mass destruction? You get one of the stranger games available on the App Store. Throw in a great minimalist silhouette art style and puzzles of death and blood shed, and you’ve got Redden [$2.99], a nifty title from earlier this summer that I nearly overlooked entirely...

When it comes to people like me, there's no such thing as "too much" Lovecraftian horror. I love to rep H.P. and the Big C whenever I can. There is just something so wonderfully visceral and imaginative about eldritch horror. Clearly, I'm not the only one who has been sucked into this particular abyss. We've already had a few solid mobile outings for Cthulhu and his gang of incomprehensible amorphous ungodly powerful monstrosities, such as Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land [$4.99], and a port of the phenomenally insane board game Elder Sign: Omens [$3.99 / $6.99 (HD)]. Technically we've had this game since December of 2013, but it's recently been re-launched in its final form with a happening new icon and complete feature list. I give you The Moaning Words [Free]...

It seems like gore sells on the App Store recently, doesn't it? Take Happy Wheels, the challenging platformer that was a surprising hit on the App Store partly because of the wonderful explosions of bones and blood that accompany each of your (frequent) failings. If you think about it, we are extremely used to death in our games (Mario doesn't bounce back when he falls off a platform - he meets an untimely, violent death), but those deaths are often bloodless, a sanitized failure that makes a game suitable for all ages while still retaining the mechanic of dying equals losing. Cute Things Dying Violently [$0.99], ApathyWorks' recent iOS port of its Xbox Live Indie Games hit, declares from as early as the title that gore is central in this puzzle-platformer game, but one shouldn't think that CTDV is all about the gore...

I have a problem with Mucho Taco [Free]. Sure, it’s entertaining (as clickers go) with fun art and a silly premise. It has some neat ideas to switch up the genre, like swiping instead of clicking and throwing in a vaguely Tiny Tower [Free]-esque restaurant timer system. And there are a lot of fun little details here and there, like the way the filling peeks out when you fold a tortilla or the way the customers start picketing when your restaurants close. My problem with Mucho Taco, though, is that it is seriously eating into the time I spend playing Noodlecakes other idle clicker, Bitcoin Billionaire [Free]...

'Worms 4' Review - Scorched Earthworm

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September 17th, 2015 12:22 PM EDT by Nathan Reinauer in $4.99, 4 stars, Arcade, Games, Reviews, Strategy, Universal
$4.99 Buy Now

Some of my favorite gaming memories while growing up were playing Worms with my older brother on PC. He was always quite a bit better than me, as older brothers are (and he still is), but it was still incredibly fun slinging Super Sheep, Concrete Donkeys, and Holy Hand Grenades at each other until he whittled me down to nothing. Imagine my delight, then, when several years ago I learned Worms would be coming to iPhone! I bought every iteration on day one, and even though they weren't perfect, Team 17 managed to get it just a little bit more right every time. And now, finally, we have Worms 4 [$4.99], a sequel tailor made for mobile...

When you start playing ECA-Games' Rock(s) Rider HD [$2.99], a few things pop out immediately, first of those being how great this mobile game looks. You know how many developers brag about their game's "console-quality" visuals? Well, Rock(s) Rider HD's visuals can definitely be called console-quality. Of course, we have to start rethinking these console comparisons since mobile hardware is improving rapidly, but that's a discussion for another day. So, if you enjoy your games visually spectacular, you can't really go wrong with Rock(s) Rider HD as this is the kind of game you can use to show off your phone or tablet to those who aren't into mobile gaming...

'Power Ping Pong' Review - Tablet Tennis

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September 14th, 2015 12:27 PM EDT by Nathan Reinauer in $4.99, 4 stars, Arcade, Games, Reviews, Sports, Universal
$4.99 Buy Now

Have you ever played one of those games that everyone raves about, but it doesn’t click with you? It looks really fun and should be right up your alley, but for some reason you can’t crack it. “What’s wrong with me?” you might wonder. “Am I doing something dumb?” Well, if you couldn’t guess, that was my first experience with Chillingo’s Power Ping Pong [$4.99]. After playing for about a week now, I think I’m finally figuring out what was wrong. We’ll get to all that soon enough, but first: what is it?..

Dungeon Of the Endless [$1.99 (HD)] is an odd hybrid. On each level, you'll take your chosen heroes through a room-by-room search, looking for the exit. The layouts are random, so you'll never know what's behind each door until you open it. Sometimes you'll find a merchant who will sell you new gear, other times you'll find a room full of alien creatures ready to feast on your bones. For this part of the level, you're essentially going through the roguelike motions, trying to power up your characters and gather resources without pushing yourself too far and getting killed. Once you find the exit, there's a little twist. You'll need to go back to the starting room, pick up the heavy crystal contained within, and slowly carry it to the exit while constant attacks are rained down on you. You'll need to prepare ahead of time by spending resources on turrets and other such defenses, essentially setting up as though you're playing a tower defense game. Mixing genres is sometimes a recipe for disaster, but Dungeon Of The Endless manages itself quite well...

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