Fruit Ninja

May 21st, 2010 by djflippy

Fruit Ninja

For Ninja, it is way of life. Ninja must eat. For the rest of us, it is the simple pleasure of slicing fruit, not bombs. That’s all you do, really; no chain combos, no skill shots, no mercy. Miss three fruits, you’re dead. Slice a bomb, you’re dead. Sensei say: The fruit speak to you…just listen.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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Espgaluda II

May 20th, 2010 by djflippy

Espgaluda II

The Japanese developer, Cave, is responsible for some of my all-time favorite Bullet Hell shooters, with DoDonPachi for Sega Saturn at the top of that list. Having been fortunate enough to travel to Japan, on occasion, I have played several of their arcade releases as well, so it is no surprise that I immediately shelled out the cash for Espgaluda II. If you are at all a fan of top-down shooters, you should do the same, because this title will be an outstanding addition to your game library.

There are three different characters to choose from, each with an insanely powerful ship which progresses through multiple stages of screen-crushing upgrades. As Bullet Hell fans are aware, the real threat comes from the enemy bullets. At times, the screen is covered in a wall of bullets that the player must deftly navigate their way through at all costs. This is the core mechanic of the genre and this title nails it, in each of six killer stages, on each of three difficulty levels. There is really little else to say, as this is a near-perfect game released by an industry giant. Espagaluda II is my favorite shooter on the app store, by a fair margin, and this is unlikely to change…until Cave releases their next title.

Rating: ★★★★★ icon
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Tattoo Ink – Hollywood

May 18th, 2010 by djflippy

Tattoo Ink - Hollywood

Patrons come into your tattoo shop and request a tattoo and you are scored based on how well you accomplish your goals. In this game, that involves choosing a tattoo that best fits the patron’s tastes, including embellishments, outlining it in black, then airbrushing in the color.

Choosing the right tattoo is simply a matter of reading the patron’s comments and bio, then selecting the tattoo that best fits that criteria; not super exciting, but I guess it adds some flavor. Inking the tattoo tries to be a little more realistic, showing a needle that moves and tilts pretty convincingly as you adjust the speed and location of your finger. If you successfully ink over several key areas marked in blue, you enter a zen state in which the needle tracks much more tightly to the outline. When you lift up your finger at corner, the needle properly reorients to ease you into the next line. Completing the loop prompts you to wipe the excess ink away and begin the coloring process.

Coloring is a bit different, because you are guiding a wide-nozzle airbrush over the interior of the tattoo trying to get solid coverage, without going outside the black outline that you laid down previously. When you get your fill, you wipe it away to reveal the completed tattoo and are scored based on how much pain you put your client through and also your completion time, I believe.

Pain can be caused in either stage and it is represented by a gauge. I think speed is the primary trigger, but jacking around in the same area too much may have an effect too (not sure). If the gauge fills four times, presumably they leave, but that hasn’t happened to me yet.

There are three different tattoo artists that you can play through with and three different locations. The first shop only has 4 or 5 tattoos, each of which can be modified by 4 or 5 embellishments like blood or a crown. When you get to the next shop, I think that number doubles for each. There is a “boss” for each shop that you have to fight, as well, but I didn’t notice how they differed, although I’m sure they probably do in some manner (update: boss tattoos are unique).

I like that the developers went more for a realistic approach, as compared to Tattoo Mania Deluxe , for instance, but I feel like the artwork falls short of the stylized approach found in that title, both in the patrons and the tattoos themselves. Tattooing is an art, so this factor weighs pretty heavily for me, but I do realize opinions on artwork are subjective. Having played Tattoo Ink to completion with one character, I can say that the title needs more polish, more challenge, and more tattoos. Personally, I miss the time-management aspects of Tattoo Mania Deluxe and feel that it is a better game overall.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ icon
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ZombieSmash

May 17th, 2010 by djflippy

ZombieSmash

ZombieSmash brings a lot to the Castle Defense genre and looks great doing it. Instead of troops marching in from a distant castle on the right, as is typical, zombies swarm in from either side of your broke-down shack. The zombies come in many flavors, including high-speed dashers, hoppers, bombers, and snipers. Killing a zombie produces a floating star that provides cash when tapped. Cash buys upgrades: mines, grenades, cement brick drops, wrecking balls, meteor showers, and many more. Weapons often require some level of skill to use effectively, which makes the game much more interesting than many of the competing products out there. The pacing is excellent and the challenge is high, particularly on the upper levels of difficulty. The artwork and animation are top notch. If you enjoy swipe-the-baddies Castle Defense games, this is definitely one to check out.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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The Impossible Game

May 16th, 2010 by djflippy

The Impossible Game

Much respect to this developer for delivering on their promise, because so many games don’t. The promise, in this case, is that The Impossible Game is indeed impossible. Decidedly low-rent graphics don’t keep me from returning time and time again to see if I can best my previous efforts and prove them wrong. I mean, all you have to do is jump over scrolling obstacles, right? Trust me, it’s a daunting task, especially since you have to begin again from the start point every time you fail. The repetition does allow you to feel good about the sections that you have learned, though. And learn them, you must; the timing, spacing, and rhythm of your jumps needs to be dead-on, otherwise, it’s back to square one. They did include a Practice Mode, which allows you to drag your spawn point along with you, but clearly if you use it…you’re a cheater. Monotonous? Yes. Ghetto graphics? Yes. Worth it for the challenge? For me, the answer is definitely yes, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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Above

April 29th, 2010 by djflippy

Above

This is a simple one-thumb sky-jump game with stellar anime-influenced artwork. Press and hold anywhere to charge your businessman’s jump and release to jump upward accordingly and hopefully land on a platform. Wash, rinse, repeat. The timing and strength of these jumps is the core gameplay, which benefits from a small number of platform types; stationary, moving, trampoline, and disintegrating. There are three different environments, each with beautifully hand-drawn backgrounds. For me, this doesn’t have the addictive quality of other pick-up-and-play titles like Doodle Jump, but it still has a nice level of polish.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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Pew!

April 28th, 2010 by djflippy

Pew!

This unassuming little shooter actually has a lot going for it.; it’s challenging, it has a compelling upgrade system, and it has good replay value. I played through the whole game and still plan to play through again, if only to get the early completion achievement. While the achievement design itself isn’t stellar, they mesh so well with the upgrades that you can’t help but try to get them all. Repeated plays earn cash that can be spent on upgrading each and every section of the ship: left and right weapons, armor, and combos. Each section has three different categories to upgrade and, in the case of weapons, can also be replaced with different armaments. For instance, if you don’t like the basic weapon upgrades, rate-of-fire, damage, and number of cannons, you can purchase a deadly laser cannon or heat-seeking missiles. Which item to upgrade at what time is actually an important decision each time, because you have to take into account the types of enemies you are currently encountering. The enemies themselves have a decent amount of variety too. All in all, I would say this is a decent shooter with enough challenge to offer at least one play-through.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ icon
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Lt. Fly Rise of the Arachnids

April 27th, 2010 by djflippy

Lt Fly

Don’t pass up this Match-4/Shooter hybrid, even if you despise Match-3 games, because it definitely stands on its own with regard to gameplay and innovation. The play field consists of a block grid on the left and an open area on the right, which allows for all sorts of creepy spiders to deal death from above by careening downward on their silken threads. Tapping on the war zone fires a weapon from a centralized cannon, which requires ammunition. Ammo is obtained by completing matches on the block grid and causing ammo blocks to drop off the bottom of the screen. Completing certain achievements unlocks other temporary weapons that are fueled by matching blocks of the same color. When you fill the corresponding bar, tapping the bar opens a weapon wheel used to select the flamethrower, laser, and mud cannon, among others. Managing your ammo and weapons is a big part of the gameplay, as are the powerups. The powerups have you flipping over the iPhone to change gravity, shaking it to stun enemies, and snipping spider silk by swiping laterally. The pacing is fast and furious, the challenge is well-tuned, and the artwork is quite nice, as well. This one is definitely worth a look.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Tilt to Live

March 31st, 2010 by djflippy

Tilt to Live

Tilt to Live is an excellent pick-up & play title with perfect controls, lively visuals, and host of killer power-ups. As the title suggests, all you have to do is live; red dots bad, open space good. Avoiding the evil red dots is no small task, however, because you’ll be weaving your way in an out of random dot bursts, encroaching dot rings, and solid walls of dots. To aid you is a wide array of power-ups, such as homing missiles, ice blasters, lightning strikes, and the spiked ball of death. The accelerometer gives surprisingly precise controls and the collision sphere on your ship must only be a pixel wide, because you can really get yourself out of some impossibly tight situations. This is really where the game shines; After triggering an impossible chain of power-ups at split-second intervals, while maneuvering between 50 obstacles, you really feel like you are in the zone and can’t put the game down. Not only that, but hitting the big scores on the AGON leaderboards will uncover hidden achievements that provide access to newer and bigger weapons. Tilt to Live is a challenging and addictive game that brings out the strengths of the iPhone platform.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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We Rule

March 29th, 2010 by djflippy

We Rule

We Rule is a beautifully presented Farmville clone for the iPhone with a compelling medieval theme, period soundtrack, and addictive gameplay. The player begins the game with a modest encampment which can be upgraded multiple times over the course of the game until it becomes a relatively intimidating castle. Castle upgrades are purchased using gold which is generated by constructing a thriving town. Planting crops, building tailor shops, lumber mills, wizard dens, housing for your citizens, and a ton of other structures all provide gold and/or experience. Creating or transplanting an active social network is the most efficient way to accomplish your tasks, because other players can put in orders for your goods simply by tapping on one of your shops (which conveniently sends an opt-in PUSH notification). They will do this repeatedly too, and so will you, because there is no work involved whatsoever, just time. You see, each task requires a predefined duration, from seconds to hours. Welcome to OCDville, please enjoy your stay!

Each time you level up, you are provided a small amount of “Mojo” which allows you to complete a task immediately. You can also buy your way to stardom by purchasing Mojo directly from ngmoco:) from within the app (which ca benefit both you and your friends, incidentally). This business model is being called “Freemium”, because the game is free to play for everyone and it is a premium title from a proven developer, but if you want access to content faster, you can buy it. I don’t typically talk much about app pricing, because it varies so much, but I thought this was worth mentioning, because ngmoco:) has stated that all of their games from now on are going to use this model. They’ve gotten some bad press for the decision, but to me the game is significantly better than most of the free games on the app store and if you want to support the company by purchasing Mojo, it’s your decision.

There are a few improvements that I think could be made to the game, primarily in the area of user interface and networking. There are no tool-tips to guide your purchasing, which was a major feature to overlook, because you want players to feel like they are making interesting decisions, even if all roads lead to gold and XP. Another missing feature is an “Achievement Earned” pop-up and the Achievements themselves are somewhat uninspired, as well. Moving buildings around is fairly cumbersome process too, but I’ll give them a break, since there is no associated cost to do so or frequency limitation. Just like any server-based game with a large player base, there were connectivity issues early on, but the company spokesperson did an excellent job of addressing the community and the team is burning through the issues as fast as possible.

I like the game a lot, after playing it for a couple weeks. One reason is that it provides a nice outlet for creativity, because there are all sorts of ways to decorate your town; several types of trees, lakes and rivers, picnic tables, windmills and water towers, rune-stones, banners, flowers, and the list goes on. This is in addition to the income-generating shops you can purchase, of which there are many (I’m saving up for the Dragon’s Lair!) There are also ways to min-max the system, so there is room here for math fiends as well. The artwork is cute without being cutesy and when you build your bakery and see a teeny-tiny little chef wandering around town, it really sells the theme. We Rule is an excellent entry into the social gaming market on the iPhone that is well worth a look.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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