Archive for the ‘4 Stars’ Category

ZombieSmash

Monday, May 17th, 2010

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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Lt. Fly Rise of the Arachnids

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

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

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

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

Monday, March 29th, 2010

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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Kerplinkus

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Kerplinkus

This tile-matching game sets itself well apart from competing products, due to its hectic gameplay, muted art style, and classic SID-chip soundtrack. Columns of tiles slowing march upward from the bottom of the screen and can be sped up, at any time, by tapping the bottom bar. If a stack reaches the top, it’s game over. Single tiles drop constantly from the top and the player must quickly align tiles below that match the ones above in order to break the lot. Switching tiles is done by tapping a stack tile and then tapping another stack tile to switch it with. The tiles that drop cannot be manipulated in any way. It takes a few plays to get your head around the idea, because it is actually very different from the normal mode of thinking in tile-matching games. It requires you to assess the layout very quickly in your mind and figure out the quickest way to delete the largest number of tiles with each drop or series of drops. By that I mean, you oftentimes just let a few non-matching tiles drop in order to get a larger match with another set of tiles. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it has an online leaderboard, both for Timed and Endless Modes. A really nice effort by the crew at Binary Square.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Ragdoll Blaster 2

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Ragdoll Blaster 2

I don’t need to say much about this one; this sequel offers 150 new levels of ragdoll rage, as good or better than the first title. The graphic style is much more sophisticated now, but it is up to each individual whether they think it betters the original doodle art. Personally, I like the update. Anyone that loved the first title has already hit the Buy Button, but for those that missed the original, it was an excellent pick-up-and-play physics puzzler that was smothered in winsawse. You simply aim the cannon and set the shot strength, together in one simple swipe, and hope for the best. Ragdoll hits target, move to the next level. Couldn’t be simpler. Killer game.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Radio Flare REDUX

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Radio Flare Redux

This sequel adds everything that was missing from the original and then some. If you liked the first one, buy this immediately. If you didn’t like it or haven’t played it, read on. Just like the original, this is a side-scrolling shooter; left thumb controls ship (note that your thumb need not cover the ship) and the right thumb controls the weapon lock-on. The lock-on is Panzer Dragoon-style, swipe multiple targets, release, all targets are destroyed. There is no limit to the number of enemies you can target simultaneously either. There are a good variety of enemies, with different flight patterns, attacks, and defenses. The early bosses are lackluster, but on the whole, I like the enemies. I love the soundtrack, though; absolute glitch-hop masterpiece. That alone is worth the price of admission. Enemies even explode to the rhythm! There are multiple sectors, each with several planets/levels and after each one, your progress is reported. Not only your star-rating for that particular level, but your progress toward a huge number of unlockable goodies; levels, weapons, songs, and even sound samples to use in their on-board sampler. How kewl is that? Yes your thumbs will get in your way, yes enemies will ambush you from behind, and yes, sometimes you will lift and replace your thumbs at the wrong interval and everything will be messed up briefly. Get over it, this game is win.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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The Hero

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

The Hero

Zombies? Check. Ninjas? Check. Swarms of killer bees, giant tanks with heat-seeking missiles, UFOs that spawn replicating green blobs from outer space? Check, check, check. Babies plummeting from tenement buildings? Check baby, check baby, 1, 2, 3. Well, it seems as though this title has something to please everyone…and to be fair, the babies do have parachutes…

You are a Superhero. Meanies invade the neighborhood. You look at your directional radar and fly at the meanies. You defeat them simply by flying into them, but using a little of your boost gauge helps. To fill your boost gauge, you give high-fives to the local residents that pop out of the windows frequently. You also have to put out fires, destroy uber-bombs, and make sure you don’t destroy too many civilian cars in the process. Killing creeps and high-fiving peoples increases your Fame meter. Do neither and your Fame meter decreases to nothing and your game ends. The further you get into the game, the more things you have to manage simultaneously, which is the core focus of the game.

The controls provide very fluid movement, albeit with a limited turning radius. Managing your boost is key as are your special powers; the two I’ve unlocked thus far are Freeze and Boom; both act as you would expect. There are two modes, Campaign and Survival, each with their own set of challenges. The soundtrack is upbeat and well-crafted, there are a number of achievements to gain, and the whole package is very polished.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Strimko

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Strikmo

If you like Sudoku and want to try a similar logic puzzle with a clever twist, Strimko is for you. The way it works is that each column and row needs a full set of numbers, as well as each string (numbers that are connected by lines), with no duplicates. Many of the same Sudoku-solving principles apply for these puzzles, but it still manages to provide a fresh experience.

I’ve played through many of the puzzles from the Core Pack (100), the Bonus Pack (20 puzzles unlocked after finishing the core pack) game, the Lite Pack (9), and the mixed pack (60 puzzles available via DLC) and have enjoyed most of them. The numbers are color-coded for quick recognition and you can input smaller ‘number candidates’ to narrow down your options. The game has four difficulty levels (Easy, Medium, Hard, and Master), OpenFeint integration that provides a number of achievements that are fun to chase after, and the all-important pause and resume.

My only suggestion to the developers would be to remove the extraneous top bar, move the bottom bar up, then add a number line to replace (or compliment, if you prefer) the circular number entry. You never know where it will appear and it covers information necessary to determine your input. I know you can move it around, but that’s too fiddly. Sometimes simpler is better (almost always, when in reference to interface).

Anyway, it’s a great puzzle game for the intended audience and the included puzzles far outnumber the DLC, so you can play through them first, before making the call on spending extra cash.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Dancing Lights

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Dancing Lights

“Dancing Lights is a minimalistic, abstract re-imagining of childhood discovery. I wanted to create an experience which mimicked my first interactions with a videogame. I had no instructions, nor did I care about a score. Only two things mattered: the response I got from touching the game and the sheer joy of discovery.”

“Behind its abstract shapes and basic rules is a world of limitless depth, morphing into different forms based on your thoughts and mood. Will the experience be relaxing, tense, intriguing, or something completely different? Simply touch a light and see where it takes you.”

-David Anton, creator of Dancing Lights

This is an experience game and, based on his stated goals, David has succeeded. The minimalist artwork is sublime, the soundtrack is hauntingly beautiful, and the process of discovery is wonderfully compelling and relaxing. The best thing I can say about this work is that, if you like art, you will enjoy Dancing Lights.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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