Friday, April 29, 2011

Just a heads-up...

I'm down with a flu so I'll be cancelling posts until monday or so. Hope everyone's OK with this.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cellfense - tower defense gone puzzle?

Cellfense is a new game on the app store, having been released only yesterday. It's a tower defense game, and the pretense is simple - defend your phone from the evil viruses! The graphic style is neat, if uneventful, and overall the game is pretty average - however, it has one (in my opinion) large flaw.

It's not the particle effects.
You see, usually the idea of tower defense games is that you have to be creative with tower placement in order to find a positioning that works. Cellfense is a little different - here, you have to find THE positioning that works, because far too often, it feels like there's really only one solution to each level. There are several reasons for this:

  • Too few & too strong enemies.
  • Too little leeway (one enemy with 5% hp slip past you? Game over.)
  • Limited numbers of turrets (!!!)
I don't mean the last one as "Oh, you can't just fill out the entire level with turrets". The game gives you a number of enemies visible at the start of each level and the bare minimum of turrets needed to take them down, and then it's up to you to place them properly. This is done through the energy system - you have limited energy that you can choose to spend on towers or powerups (there's a vastly unreliable slow and a fairly useful "berserk" effect available from the start). Because of this tightness, you have to be fairly spot on to the developers' logic in order to beat each level. 

Don't get me wrong. I like the game, but I feel that it's too hard from the start, and not in the "challenge is fun" sense. I don't know if the problems mentioned above are balance issues or intended, but if it's the former, then they really need to be addressed.

The game is $0.99 on the app store for the full version. There's a lite version for free that gives slightly less content than the full. I wouldn't recommend the game now, but if the issues described in this review are addressed, I promise to go back and give it a second look.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sword & Sworcery - taking it to the next level

There's one app I absolutely need to tell you about. It goes by the name of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP(Or S:S&SE for short), and it's currently the Featured Game on the app store. It used to be an iPad exclusive, but luckily for us handheld users, it was recently made universal to iPod/iPhones as well. It is an odd mix of a 2D point & click game and quicktime events, and boy, does it work.

You control a character known as "The Scythian", navigating a mystical realm on your quest. Along the way, you retrieve such objects as the Megatome (not kidding!) and the Golden Trigon. You must utilize sworcery (which, I am told, is a kind of magic) to unlock the secrets of the land.

The game's main forte lies in its graphics. The developers call it an audiovisual experience, and I'm hard pressed to find a better way to describe it. The visuals are expansive, yet retro-styled amazingly well. The audio is incredibly immersive. The game's humor is extremely charming - it doesn't take itself too seriously (something far too many games tend to do), either ("Logfella had the feeling that it was a time of miracles & he wondered if maybe something awesome was about to happen." "We got The Gold Trigon. We are so awesome.").

One of the best parts of the game, though, is the combat system. Remember when I said quicktime events? They shine. So very, very much. It takes away from the dullness of traditional turn-based encounters masterfully - in fact, my only complaint about this game is that there's not a lot of combat in the early parts of it. Even the way you are able to shift freely between combat mode and movement mode by flipping your device 90 degrees is masterful (at one point, you are required to enter combat mode in order to threaten a rainbow). It does take a little while for the game to get started, but honestly - you owe this game at least playing through the first chapter (there are 6, currently).

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is $2.99 on the app store. Get it. Right away. Hell, you should've been installing it while you read this.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Deathfall HD - shiny graphics are a selling point

Today, I'd like to talk about a game that has been out on the app store for some time - namely, Deathfall. It was released mid-January '11, however, today it received an update in the form of a HD version. Which is, in my opinion, completely valid. (Please note that the resolution doesn't carry over on screenshots, and that the graphics are far better ingame than they appear to be here.)

Rolling, rolling, rolling...

Why? Because the graphical experience is all it has going for it. Don't get me wrong - the audio is great as well, and it complements the visuals nicely. But the game just isn't fun in a gaming sort of sense. For the first 5 minutes or so, the game is oddly charming, in a "Well, this is kind of entertaining" sense. Then again, that's about how long it takes you to realize that what you've already seen is everything you'll get, gameplay-wise. Sure, it has an appeal in the form of score addiction, but even that wasn't enough to keep me playing for very long at a time. It's an arcade title at its finest.

The game is a typical falldown-style game. You tilt the level left or right, and the skull follows the tilts, falling down the level. Your task is to collect as many artifacts as possible to score points, and to add to the completionism sense, there's a reward for collecting all the artifacts in a sequence (which is about 20-30 artifacts). Wanna know what the reward is? Your skull glows orange. For roughly 5 seconds, in which you receive extra points.

At least the backgrounds are neat.
To add to that, the tilt graphics feel irritating and clunky most of the time. There's no option to increase sensitivity or invert the controls. In fact, there are no options at all, not even to turn off the audio (not that you'd want to - it's very good for a 0.99$ game).

It also has achievements.
I didn't say they were fun achievements.
My verdict? If you're really a fan of falldown arcade games, get it. The audiovisual experience makes it better than most of its peers in that category, but I wouldn't call it fun. At $0.99, nobody's going to blame you for buying it - however, there are far better games out there at the same price.


Also, on a slightly unrelated note - if you have a suggestion for a review, or a tip, or would like your game reviewed, please feel free to email me at!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Percepto - Breaking the Z axis

Percepto is a new, interesting gem in the app store. It's featured by Apple this week, and carries with it a new iteration of an often-seen concept in iOS games (Shift, Gravity Guy) - game field manipulation.

The game is a 2D puzzle that involves sliding a character across a room into a door. The interesting part comes in when you tap the room into 3D mode, allowing you to flip it and re-tap it into 2D to move around obstacles.

While it's certainly an interesting concept, I wish I could call the game wildly entertaining, but... it just isn't. New mechanics are few and far between, keeping the gameplay largely repetitive throughout the game. While the shine of the 3D/2D switch will keep most people enthralled for the first few minutes, after that, it becomes a struggle to stay positive.

The game does have a certain OCD factor, as it records time spent and moves spent, but that's the only real incentive to play the game. In my opinion, a game doesn't warrant being a paid app if the only thing it has going for it is its gimmick.

Get it if you're bored and a puzzle maniac - otherwise, avoid this app.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Air Penguin - and you thought Super Meat Boy was hard

Someone told me once that everything is better with birds. Looking at iPhone gaming, I'm inclined to believe this.


Case in point: Air Penguin. It's a newcomer on the app store, having been released only a week ago (April 14th). And yet, it's already reached the #1 paid app spot in several countries, including Denmark, Austria, Germany and Russia. Why?

Let's start with a basic look: The game has you jump through linear levels using platforms and tilt controls in The Floor Is Made Of Lava a la iPhone. Sounds easy? It is... To start with. But once the game introduces advanced mechanics - broken platforms that will have you start over on touch, sharks, swordfish, seals - the complexity grows, at which point you'll quickly find yourself trapped in an addictive rage machine.

Because it's really freaking hard.

But - and credit where it's due - unlike many other iOS games, it's not hard because the controls are gimped, it's hard because of the amazing level design put into the game. The platform spacing and mechanics both contribute to this. You don't sit there feeling frustrated that the game is playing against you - rather, the rage turns into addiction. 

That brings me onto my next point - it's really freaking long! The game has over 100 stages, plus a survival mode. That's far more than most paid apps.  And don't be tricked into thinking that long = repetitive - sure, it's not a game to play for 8 hours straight, but it's obvious that the level designer had a blast using the mechanics creatively. 
Those damn whales.

I don't have much criticism on this game. The graphic style is endearing as hell, lending to the light-hearted atmosphere of the game, which the music matches up to perfectly. At $0.99, this game is well worth the price.   If you're looking for a new game to pass those lunchbreaks with, get this.