Archive for the ‘Viewpoint’ Category

Espgaluda II

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

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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The Impossible Game

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

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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Pew!

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

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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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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Dizzypad

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Dizzypad

This is the latest one-thumb casual game by NimbleBit of Scoops fame. Their games are typically based on a simple premise and game mechanic that is fun to practice repeatedly; this game is no exception. Your goal as the tiny frog is simply to jump from one spinning lilypad to another. Skipping over a lilypad or snarfing up a dragonfly will net you an extra 1up flower. Dropping in the drink loses you a flower and, if you run out, it’s game over. I’m surprised at how challenging this simple task can be. For instance, there are a slew of achievements to gain, one of which is to hop a 40-lilypad sequence without fail and it is no easy feat. Since there is no clock running, you could take your time for each jump, but the game feels like the pacing should be quick and that is how I tend to play. The sound and graphics are all perfectly understated to reinforce the pond theme and colorful frog skins open up frequently. Another winner from NimbleBit.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 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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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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N.O.V.A. – Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

N.O.V.A.

This game is stunning. This is truly a must-buy game for fans of First Person Shooters; excellent gameplay, lush environments, and spot-on controls. It’s basically “Halo for the iPhone”, with a full 13-mission campaign game, a diverse arsenal of weapons, and some of the best visuals we’ve seen on the iPhone. While it may be a little too much like Halo, with regard to level design and encounters, I won’t fault it too much, because we’re talking about an iPhone game being compared to multi-million dollar, triple-AAA console title; just getting in the ball park is admirable, in my book.

The controls are similar to Gameloft’s previous effort, Modern Combat: Sandstorm, in which the virtual left analog stick controls movement and strafing, while a touch-and-drag elsewhere on the screen controls freelook. A fairly generous aim-assist helps to zero in on targets and score headshots. This is more than adequate during the single-player game and serves its purpose in multiplayer as well. Oh, did I mention N.O.V.A. has a multiplayer component…?

N.O.V.A. players who want to rip some face can do so in local matches or online via Gameloft’s servers. The 4-player multiplayer mode currently can be experienced on 5 different maps that correspond to of each the game’s diverse tilesets. While it doesn’t offer the more robust upgrade system of it’s nearest competitor, Eliminate Pro (which is the other top contender for best iDevice FPS), I didn’t expect it to, because the single-player was the obvious focus of the game.

While moving through a lush jungle or trudging through snow-packed canyons, one almost forgets what mobile gaming used to be (Mobile Snake anyone?). The encounters are scripted like a PC title and the enemies believably react to the player. Full-fledged mission introductions are shown, complete with voice-over and a full story arc and, while it won’t be called the Citizen Cane of gaming (lol), the plot moves forward as well as to be expected.

The amount of effort poured into the development of this game is is evidenced in the high level of polish that shows through in almost all areas of the game, including art, audio, technical achievement, and gameplay.

Rating: ★★★★★ icon
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Ravensword: The Fallen King

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

ravensword

At first, Ravensword feels like a decent attempt at making an Elder Scrolls-style game on a mobile platform. The player character wakes up in a small medieval town with…guess what…amnesia! The player must sort out the mystery of the evil sweeping across the land. This is the long-term goal, but just as any other RPG worth it’s salt, the short-term goals is to slaughter truckloads of rats first…pesky varmints. From the early presentation, my assumption was that the stage was set for an intricate progression curve to be min-maxed within an inch of its life by skill choices and gear selection, but it turned out not to be the case.

Character customization is almost non existent in this game. Sure, you kill stuff and gain levels to progress, but there are very few meaningful drops from monsters and a skill tree is nowhere to be found. You do pick up some rune stones that help you in some areas, but there is no full magic system. Two of the primary factors of great RPGs are deep character customization that involves frequent player choice on a diverse skill tree and a near-constant stream of new gear, upon which the player must sift through to find the best build. Unfortunately, there is no skill tree and the item game doesn’t provide nearly enough diversity and depth to keep the player interested.

The lack of these key features is really a shame, because the developers (just two guys, BTW) did get plenty of things right. The game has a wonderful soundtrack that evokes the medieval period brilliantly and the sound effects, like chirping birds and grunting beasties, are very convincing. The environments in this free-roaming 3D world are believable and interesting. The quest system works quite well to move the player through the story.  The lock-on combat system generally keeps the player in control, although it does suffer from the common problem that low melee attackers are hard to see. Your effectiveness in combat is limited only by your ability to press the pause button and guzzle a health potion. Wait, these were supposed to be positive comments! The best element of the game, for me, was the exploration and the accompanying feeling of discovery. That’s what kept me playing through the game; I wanted to see and hear what was next.

I attempted to enumerate not only the game’s flaws, but also its successes, because I do think it is a good game in some ways; just not the one I had hoped for. As a player, I’m definitely more suited to the Japanese-style RPG, such as Zenonia or even a more Western approach such as Dungeon Hunter (my favorite Diablo-style dungeon crawl on the iDevice, as of this writing). And for those that thought this game would be The Quest with better graphics, I hate to say it, but you will most likely be disappointed.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Eliminate Pro

Monday, November 16th, 2009

After a brief heads-up last installment, I thought I would return with my impressions after having a chance to put the game through its paces. My verdict is…GET THIS. It’s a freakin’ online First Person Shooter on your iPhone! You learn the controls, which are decent, against bots and then quickly go online to rip face. Doing so provides credits that allow you to upgrade your gear, buy new weapons, and improve your stats. As I mentioned previously, the game itself is FREE, but the way they get your money is by Down-Loadable Content. After a few matches against real players, your health (energy) will be low. You either wait for hours for it to recharge, buy some for real money, or play without the possibility of obtaining credits. You want the credits, though, because upgrades make a noticeable difference in power. Frankly, I’m amazed by the level of customization offered, the steady framerate, and solid gameplay that this title provides. This game marks a milestone in iPhone game development, with regard to what is possible. Psst…first one’s FREE, kid.

Rating: ★★★★★ icon
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