Category Archives: Ratings

'Hero Emblems' Review - A Heroic Match-3 Adventure

As we mentioned in our Game of the Week post, there’s a certain amount of oversaturation that has hit the Match-3 genre on the App Store. Thus, the launch of Hero Emblems [$3.99] was met with some skepticism that it would be yet another Match-3 with nothing to differentiate itself. Thankfully that’s not the case with this gorgeous puzzler. Impressive strategic implications, beautiful visuals, and great RPG mechanics make this title worth checking out...

Now, here's a rare situation. One of the strengths of the gamebook genre is in the sheer variety of situations it covers. Unlike most RPGs, there aren't a lot of expensive assets that need to be built and hopefully reused in future games, since apart from a handful of still pictures, the world is built through text. This frees the writers to tackle any kind of story or setting they want, including superheroes, pirates, horror, fantasy, comedy, and so on. With virtually anything on the table in terms of possibilities, the one type of story we don't see terribly often in gamebooks is a sequel story. Sure, the Fighting Fantasy series had a couple of direct sequels along with some tenuous links between their fantasy stories, most notably in the Sorcery! sub-series, and even the classic Choose Your Own Adventure series had a couple of follow-up books to some of the most popular stories. The Lone Wolf series was notable for allowing you carry your character forward from book to book, though the stories necessarily had to be stand-alone to a great extent...

In the first half of 2014, the hottest trend in war strategy games was the Eastern front of World War 2. We had entries from Hunted Cow, Shenandoah Studio, and Slitherine, all within a fairly short span of time. Slitherine's title, Frontline: Road To Moscow [$2.99], was a slightly more accessible strategy game than their usual fare, and although it lacked the depth that fans of the genre tend to crave, I enjoyed it well enough. The game had a huge variety of units to play with, took terrain conditions into account, and had just enough below the surface to keep me engaged without crushing me. On top of that, the visual designs of the pieces were excellent, the base game included a generous amount of missions, and while it did release in a bit of an Eastern front boom period, the overall scenario was still quite novel for me. In theory, I should be the perfect target for a follow-up...

One of the cooler games in the history of the App Store era of mobile gaming was 1-bit Ninja [$2.99], it being a platformer with a couple of neat twists: you could only move in one direction, generally forward; you could also shift the perspective of the screen to see ahead and to find where obstructions were actually background objects. It was a remarkably clever game, and one that is still fantastic today thanks to its recent update making it work on modern devices. 1-bit Ninja Remix Rush [$1.99] uses many of the same principles as that game, but with a new endless structure, that manages to be a great way to check this out for the first time, or as a way for people familiar with the original to get a fresh experience...

Some developers take a long time between game releases, making each one an often-painful wait between titles. If you're a Nitrome fan, you have no idea what I'm talking about. The pixel art aficionados and creators of Icebreaker [$0.99 / $2.99] have been on an utter tear on mobile in the last few months, with five games since August 2014, and three since December 2014, with the third being Gunbrick [$2.99]. Where Roller Polar [Free] and Platform Panic [Free] were both meant to be smaller arcade-style games, Gunbrick is a more fleshed-out, level-based puzzle-platformer. It's a game that's here and gone, though, being all too brief...

It's possible that I'll never get tired of good "endless" games. Although there's no real goal in sight, earning all of those incremental upgrades to do slightly better after each run is the definition of deviously addicting. Go!Go!Go! Racer [Free] has the addicting part down, but it suffers from the same fate as any heavily monetized game in that the devs have made it difficult to enjoy it without paying up...

Developer EXE Create seems to have their business all sorted out when it comes to putting together an enjoyable JRPG on a Kemco-sized budget. Even at their worst, we end up with something like Infinite Dunamis [$3.99], a solid effort whose chief offense is in its lack of ambition. More typically, however, an EXE Create release will fall among the best of prolific publisher Kemco's mobile catalog. The developer has a particular strength for characterization, casting their adventures with clashing personalities and a hero that shows actual growth. This work is backed by surprisingly strong localizations, resulting in a story that's fun to play through even if the overall plot isn't all that special. In terms of gameplay, they tend to play it safe most of the time, but unlike their stablemates at Kemco, even if they're not strong at a particular design element, they at least turn in a good enough effort that it doesn't detract from what they do well...

There are lots of different reasons that a person might enjoy an RPG, from the story to the battle system to exploration, but I think the one aspect that speaks to just about everyone is seeing numbers go up. It's such an appealing element of RPGs that it's been wholesale lifted by other genres over the last several years to massive success. Some games have even gone as far as to ditch everything else, allowing you to mindlessly tap away to see your numbers go up. Templar Infinite Crusade [$1.99] doesn't go quite that far, but it's certainly in the neighborhood. It looks like the dog's breakfast, it's so random that you'll need as much luck as strategy to survive, and yet, there's a certain basic appeal to the game that might get its hooks into you if you give it a shot...

'Drop Wizard' Review - Here Comes the Drop

I absolutely love Neutronized's pixel art stylings. They added a lot of flair to their previous games Roar Rampage [$0.99] and Lost Yeti [$1.99], though both were darn good games in their own rights. Now they've returned with another pixelly game, and one that pays homage to single-screen arcade classics like Bubble Bobble with Drop Wizard [$1.99]. It's definitely a game that's paying homage to the classics, and feels like it'd be a great fit in an arcade cabinet from 25 years ago or so. But Neutronized don't just rest on their laurels with the retro homage, they actually make a game that's remarkably clever in and of itself...

I must admit that I am a sucker for games with good craftsmanship. For me, good visuals, refined controls, little details, things that can seem often shiny and superficial reveal something to me, especially when they come from a smaller developer: they reveal that there is perhaps a deeper quality to pay attention to here. Crossy Road [Free] was so excellent to me not just because it is so much fun to play, but little details and tweaks made to game feel abound in that game, and they push it from "entertaining diversion" to "supremely excellent game." What we have here in Bit Dungeon 2 [appprice url="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bit-dungeon-ii/id823658485?mt=8" is the flip side of that coin: what happens when a game has a compelling structure, but lacks that last stretch of quality that makes the great games what they are? You're left with an experience of what could have been...

FIFA 15: Ultimate Team [Free] is a game that lives and dies by its monetization. Where previous entries in the series had a bevy of modes that soccer video games will have, this latest entry in EA's soccer series scraps them all for the Ultimate Team mode being the exclusive focus of the game. This is about building squads of players obtained through card packs, earning coins from matches, competing in seasons and tournaments, trying to get rewards and buy more card packs to build deeper and better teams in the quest to form the Ultimate Team. While the core game is better than ever, and the Ultimate Team mode has its perks, the shift to just being about this monetized meta-game hurts FIFA 15...

If Super Meat Boy had a rhythm based mini-game, it might look a lot like Give It Up![$0.99]. A strong techno beat drives the latest offering from Invictus. The first time I died the game told me 'Maybe you should go watch TV.' As a fan of good burns, I took this as a good omen of things to come. I was not disappointed...

Tap Titans [Free] is the latest game to make me feel ashamed for enjoying it so much. After Bitcoin Billionaire [Free] ruined my life, I figured I was safe from clickers for a while. Then I saw Tap Titans on the App Store, and heard it mentioned in a comment that I was probably enjoying it. I wasn't yet, but that spurred me to check it out. And I'm either really glad I did, or really distraught that apparently my tastes are this shallow that the very semblance of a game is enough to satisfy me...

The tag line for The Witcher AG[$5.99 (HD)] says a lot. "The Witcher Adventure Game is CD PROJEKT RED's board game set in the brutal, dark fantasy universe of monster slayer Geralt of Rivia!." I don't know if its intentional that one hero gets top billing over the other three that are involved in the game, but after playing some rounds, I think we have a pretty obvious Mary Sue case on our hands. Geralt is the guy that right off the bat is best in combat. No one fights like Geralt, rolls his dice like Geralt, In a wrestling match nobody bites like Geralt. If you are ok with a slower start, the other characters are ok to play too though...

Platform Panic [Free] is an interesting game because it manages to straddle both sides of an interesting duality regarding retro-style and pixel art games. Pixel art games are always an interesting proposition because there's a sort of confusing duality to them. Part of the appeal of pixel art is based on the limiting nature of retro games, with their low resolutions and limited resources demanding pixel art. So it gets used in part because it's a throwback to the early days of gaming. But it's also a bona-fide art style at this point that can be used in games that really don't have much to do with retro games, but still just use that style. I mean, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP [$2.99 / $4.99] really isn't much like classic games, but it's got distinctive pixel art. ..

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