Archive for the ‘4 Stars’ Category

Colorbind

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Colorbind

Colorbind is a stylish, but minimalist puzzle game by the makers of Monospace (which is another great puzzler). In this title, the player must fold assorted colors of paper strips around the screen in order to create a path that encompasses all dots of the corresponding colors. It sounds easy, and the first few levels are, but once you get half way through medium difficulty, you start to encounter some real brain-burners. With many puzzle games, you’re just going through the motions, because you’ve played them a million times before, in one form or another. This one is different; it taps a certain part of the brain that others do not. It’s beautifully presented, the challenge is definitely there, and it will take quite some time to complete all 84 levels.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Eco Punk

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Eco Punk

From the creators of Rasta Monkey, comes this sordid tale which begins on a street corner of a what looks to be a major metropolitan area populated with dispicable people that dispose of garbage out the windows of their gas-guzzling cars; cardboard boxes, bottles, stand-up basses, full cases of Brillo pads, piggy banks, gameboys, underpants, you name it. Apparently, these tossers are ignorant of how litter affects our environment, but luckily, the protagonist of our story is enviromentally conscience and he is here to save the day.

Our hero looks to be some type of a skateboarding Anarchist punk rock rabbit cookie-head and his job is to skate around the city block picking up refuse by running over it with his skateboard, all the while, avoiding the careless motorists. Picking up multiple bits of garbage in sequence provides a progressive-scoring chain combo that scales with the number of items snatched. That’s not all, sometimes power-ups drop, such as a laser machine gun or invincibility, so you can mow through the pigs on their goofy Segways. There are three modes of play; Classic, Timebend, and Blitz. Classic is the basic mode that ends when you become roadkill, cars in Timebend only move when you do (making it much less hectic, but still lethal) and Blitz is simply a timed mode.

Since there is only one map that covers just one street corner, the developers were able to render some beautifully lit  and detailed artwork. The game has personality and I love the stylized look and, even though it is somewhat limited in scope and depth, I still played it for 50 games straight and even got an achievement to prove it, thanks to the OpenFeint support. The touch controls are amazingly fluid and make D-Pad controls seem outdated. It’s a fun diversion and you may even decide compete with your friends to see who can become the most celebrated Eco Punk.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Military Madness: Neo Nectaris

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

MIlitary Madness: Neo Nectaris

Recognize. If you ever owned a TurboGrafx-16 system (I didn’t), you need this game. If you ever had a friend with a TurboGraphx-16 system (I did and I was so jealous of that rich mothe…), you need this game. If you are as old as Abe Vigoda, you need this game. If you don’t fit any of the above categories, but you want to see why the Advance Wars series even exists, you need this game.

The original Military Madness was a Turn-Based Strategy game released in the late 80′s that was well before it’s time. In this lovingly-crafted conversion –  unit composition, movement range, defense, firepower, and placement on underlying terrain actually matter. That and your own knowledge of the enemy troops and armor. These missions are no cakewalk, either, and if you go into thinking they are, you will get pwnd. It seems more difficult than I remember, but I loved this game as a kid and I love it now. It’s not polished really at all, but I actually think it plays better than the original, because the touch interface is much better than the broke-as-a-joke scrolling cursor.

BTW, this is not the Psone or PSP remake with the fancy-shmancy new cinematics. This is bare-bones 16-bit pixel goodness and I love it. If Herzog Zwei ever comes out for the iPhone, I will cry sparkly unicorn tears.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Guerilla Bob

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Guerilla Bob

This is a really polished game and I think it feels somewhat like what some people were expecting with the intial release of MiniGore (which I also recommend). Guerilla Bob is a dual-stick shooter with a zoomed out view, in which you fight four core enemy types; the grunt, the flamethrower, the bomber, and the nuker. Each of the enemies sometimes requires different tactics, as do the several boss characters. You have three weapons that upgrade at various points in the missions; machine gun, rocket launcher, and flamethrower. Several items and powerups drop too, such as speed, damage, and armor. There are several missions, but most of them tend to feel like, “walk straight forward, shoot stuff, strafe to gather power-ups”, with the exception of the bulldozer level, the river rafting, and the final mission that opens at the end of the game. This Survival Mode harkens back to MiniGore, because it has a bigger arena in which to battle huge waves of foes. By the way, his life bar is a cigar! Now, If only they could come up with some way to combine the aforementioned games…

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Lilt Line

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Lilt Line

I really like this one. You may not, primarily because it’s way too short. You could play through all the levels in one or two sittings.  The idea, the minimalist presentation, and the Dubstep soundtrack (provided by 16bit) are absolutely killer. You guide a simple white trail through an ever-changing tunnel, by tilting the iPhone. When you cross a thick white column, you tap your finger to the beat anywhere on the screen. Hitting the walls or missing a beat reduces your score. Hit zero, game over. Unfortunately, the beat tap feels unresponsive, since it’s triggered on the release, not the press. C’mon, it’s a rhythm game, how could they make that mistake?!? Another questionable design decision is that the key parts of the music are dampened, after a miss, which is punishing. This is billed as a “massively single player tactical espionage survival horror musical space flight simulation”, which is pretty awesome in and of itself. Why is it called Lilt Line, instead of Tilt Line? No idea. Again, I like it, but I don’t really recommend it, in it’s current state, for anyone but the most adventurous, rich, and/or drunk.

Update: Kick_Butt. The developers have added 4 new, huge levels; bumps my rating up to 4 Stars. I really do like this game and I can heartily recommend it, now that they have addressed my primary concern.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Ghosts’n Zombies

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Ghosts'n Zombies

What a pleasant surprise; this game came out of nowhere, from the developers of Cell War, and it is a blast. The first thing you’ll notice is that the artwork is superb. For instance, the protagonist is an ornery old monk with bushy eyebrows and a bright read nose, presumably from sampling his monastery’s fine brews.

In the first level, he enters from screen-left and must fight off a horde of ghosts haunting his place of prayer. He begins with a buckshot pistol that is fired simply by tapping the screen, but this is not a run-of-the-mill tap-to-shoot duck hunt. You see combos can be scored when nailing multiple ghosts with one shot, so position is of the utmost importance. The player controls the monk’s movement by simply tilting the iDevice left and right and he will automatically pick up fallen gems that serve as ammo.

If he runs out of ammo, freakin’ Death appears and lops his head off with a double-bladed scythe, dripping with blood. To keep from reaching this point, the player can upgrade weapons sequentially by scoring combos and he has quite a killer arsenal, up to and including a chaingun. I haven’t seen a flamethrower yet, but this game has me praying that there is one. When you do tap your upgraded weapon, a glorious angel descends from the heavens and provides to you the blessed tool of destruction. I know, right…best thing ever!

While the gameplay may seem rudimentary, it’s not; the developers, TipCat Mobile, have really put some thought into how this game plays. Aligning shots is important, as I said, but there are a variety of enemies that can potentially hinder your performance; pesky rodents running across the floorboards, meatheads that enter from either side and continue to hassle you even after their heads have been blown off, and also a number of flying enemies whose movement patterns and speed keep you on your toes. There is a Story Mode and an Endless Mode, in which every enemy and their momma are thrown at you. Good thing a holy cross shows up once in a while that obliterates every enemy on screen.

The whimsical and twisted theme, the beautiful artwork, the pacing, and the core gameplay mechanics all come together to deliver a game that, for me, is a must have title. It’s even OpenFeint enabled, with achievements and all, so be sure to pick this one up.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Sword & Poker

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Sword & Poker

Prior to PuzzleQuest, I most likely would have told you that an RPG/Match-3 hybrid would be ridiculous, but it was awesome. Well, Gaia Co. LTD. chose an RPG/Poker hybrid as their first US game release and it too makes for a fun game. Each encounter begins with a 3×3 layout of pre-seeded cards on a 5×5 grid. The player looks at their hand of 4 cards and chooses 2 to put on either end of a 3-card row. This column, row, or diagonal line of cards is then scored as a normal Poker hand (pair,  2 pair, 3 of a kind, etc.) Points scored from the hand damage the opponent, who happens to be a monster. You see, the player enters a dungeon, making simple decision as to which route to take and then encounters a monster to play poker against. Sounds pretty straight forward, right? After exiting the dungeon, the cash earned from winning battles can be spent on equipment and such. This gear will improve the player’s abilities in combat. Abilities matter too, whether it be weapon damage multipliers, a fatter sack *ahem*, or a shield to mitigate damage. Magic spells can be equipped, as well, to perhaps sway the battle in your favor. The card play can be relatively interesting, with all of these variables in play. Denial is an important tactic too, since the hands are in open view, you will oftentimes want to forego your big move to block an even bigger one from the opponent. While the core gameplay is addictive and fun, it can sometimes devolve into when to chuck your cards and pass your turn, because the big combos that score multiple rows are generally seen near the end of the match. I can’t fault the developers, though, because they came up with a pretty original game here that has a ton of replay-value as the player levels up their character. The art, soundtrack, and gameplay evoke a wonderful, if somewhat quirky, theme and everyone that plays it, loves it.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Bird Strike

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Bird Strike

This game offers the same approachability,  intuitive controls, and replayabitlity as some of the best casual games, with the added bonus of some delightful artwork. If you are a fan of games like Scoops or Doodle Jump, this is really worth checking out. The graphics are top-notch and loaded with character. It starts off as a simple Winter Bells clone, but soon diverges from the formula by adding different powerups and obstacles. The best part, though, is when you reach the maximum sky height, by grabbing rocket powerups, you encounter a UFO that blasts you back down through the vertical level at top speed. It’s even more fun on the way back, because you score big for destroying any of the obstacles that you originally had to avoid. At the very bottom, if you tilt your little blue bird perfectly, he plummets down through an open sewer lid to grab even more goodies. Great stuff here, for the most part, but the end-game can sometimes degenerate into an un-winnable state, if you overuse your rockets. Once you play through all the levels, you either return to compete more on the OpenFeint leaderboards or simply delete it with a satisfied feeling.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Arachnadoodle

Monday, January 25th, 2010

arachnadoodle

To call this game “Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor meets Peggle” is not far from the truth, but both are great games and this one stakes its claim in the mobile gaming space quite well. Pins are laid out across each level, all of which must be passed over in order to win the level. The player sets the direction and power of Boris the spider with a simple finger swipe, which sends the little critter whizzing across the level, leaving spider webs in his wake. This process is repeated a number of times to clear all the pins, at which point the player is scored for the percentage of web coverage. Then Boris kicks back as insects stream in from off-screen (to the well-known tune of Ride of the Valkyries); many of them will escape, but others will get trapped in the network of webs, netting the player more points before jumping to the next level. Over the course of 32 levels, all sorts of bugs and obstacles show up to keep the game interesting and test your finesse. This game is similar enough to the aforementioned titles to appeal to the same audience, but different enough to stand on its own legs…eight to be exact…

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Appsaurus

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Appsaurus

With Appsaurus the brilliant minds at Hello, Chair Inc. have hit upon the perfect combination of machine learning, usability, and fun. Full stop.

If you are a die-hard fan of the app search/comparison meta-game, as I am, this app is for you. When you hit the Explore button, a selection of five apps are displayed. The user simply taps his or her favorite app from the list and another similar screen appears, with a different assortment of apps. With each press, Appsaurus learns more about the types of apps you like and the recommendations start to get better and better. And that’s just the beginning. To expedite the recommendation process, you can swipe any of the apps to mark them as favorites or to block them. This whole process is surprisingly fun! You start to see more of your favorite apps to mark, which shows you the app is learning, but you also start to see recommendations for apps that you don’t own, some of which look quite interesting. After my first few minutes of use, I already found three apps that interested me and this is coming from a guy that owns over 3000 apps already.

That describes the core functionality of the app, but there are a variety of tweaks for users to experiment with. One important feature is that you can browse your Favorites list at any time and add your own manually. That’s right, you don’t have to wait hours for your favorite app to show up (although my favorite, Trism, showed up in a matter of minutes), you can simply do a search and add it to your list yourself to improve the recommendation process. You can also tap that favorite app to provide a list of “Apps Like This”, which is an indispensable tool. Yes, you will sometimes get a list of five apps with no “winner” on it, but you can simply reload for a new set of possibilities. You can also create customized lists that disallow certain categories (bye bye “Weather”), include specific search terms, and look only for apps below a certain price point. The real beauty of this app is that you don’t “start over” every time you open the app, instead it saves all of your data up to and including your entire path used to get where you are. By that I mean, you can backtrack through all of your previous exploration at any time, not just for the current session to find a certain app.

The only gripes I have are as follows: I would have liked the ability to mark apps of interest. You can always mark them as a Favorite and refer back to that list later, but then they could potentially taint your results. Besides, for me at least, the Favorites list becomes cumbersome fairly quickly. I would really have liked an option to disallow Lite versions, as well, since they are duplicative, but it’s not a major concern. I also can’t comment on how useful the app will be to users that start with very few apps, because I have no data on that (although my assumption is that this app would be next to useless for someone hasn’t used a lot of apps, since there would be no data to mine). None of these issues keep the app from being extremely useful for me, so I’ll continue to use it and perhaps hope for an update, at least on the Lite issue.

The user interface is elegant, the controls are intuitive, and the app does exactly what it professes to do – it finds apps that you might like. If you know about apps and you want to improve your app collection, in a way that caters to you directly, you can’t do better than this app.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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