Archive for the ‘Shooter’ 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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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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Space Miner: Space Ore Bust

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Space Miner

If these guys would have told me they were developing an Asteroids/Sinistar RPG, I would have said they were nuts. Well, after playing it, I’d have to say you would be nuts not to buy it. It’s an  innovative hybrid with quirky characters, humorous dialog, a beautifully engineered progression system, and addictive gameplay.

The idea here is that you have a space station that serves as a hub for your adventures, populated by a small but diverse group of characters, each with their own motivation and personality. You receive quests here and then pilot your ship out into the surrounding sectors of space to not only complete the mission, but also to mine for ore, which is used to upgrade your ship.

Ship upgrades have both breadth and depth. There are a total of seven ship sections to upgrade: hulls, reactors, engines, collectors, weapons, shields, and scanners. Within each of these categories, there are countless upgrades of varying costs and abilities, enough to scroll off of the screen. Hours of gameplay, witty banter, and upgrade goodness here; don’t pass it up.

Rating: ★★★★★ icon

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Plants vs. Zombies

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Plants vs. Zombies

Two words: buy it. The grueling wait is finally over – Plants vs. Zombies, my 2009 Casual Game of the Year, has now been released for the iPhone platform in (almost) all it’s glory and gets the site’s highest recommendation of Editor’s Choice. What the casual gaming experts at PopCap did with this title was to take the well-known gaming genre of Tower Defense, dissect it, distill it down to its core elements, inject it with an ever-present sense of humor, and then present the whole  package in a way that appeals to players of any skill level. It is a brilliant game; one that is beautifully illustrated and animated, one that allows for both strategic and tactical decision-making, and one that provides hours of enjoyment for kids and adults alike.

The unique premise of this game is that vile and pernicious zombies are attacking your home and you must fend them off with diverse selection of of armed and dangerous plants from your garden. Zombies enter the garden from the right side of the screen, occupying up to 6 horizontal lanes, and proceed to plod toward the home on the left, only to be stopped by an arsenal of plants that have been placed in the space between. The plants run the gambit from simple, unassuming sunflowers (which provide the precious resource of sun that allows the purchase of all plant types) to massive Cob Cannons that lob devastating bombs, which obliterate zombies en masse. The zombies are no less diverse in their presentation and function, starting with the lowly grunt to the white-gloved, moonwalking, Solid-Gold-dancer-spawning Michael Jackson zombie. While this hints at the humorous vibe that the game provides, it really just scratches the surface. There are so many hilarious puns, pop culture references, and quirky/characterful personalities throughout the course of this game that it really is more than the sum of its parts.

The core gameplay is just so perfectly balanced, tuned, and executed. The player must make choices at every step of the way; choosing the most strategic plant load-outs prior to each level, based on the zombie types present, choosing when and where to plant them, and choosing how to respond tactically to situations that arise at each encounter. While it doesn’t provide every single feature of its Mac counterpart at launch, like the Survival Mode and the Zen Garden, it’s still a must-have title that is recommended for just about anyone that owns an iPhone.

SPOILER ALERT – highlight to reveal:

After beating the 50 levels in Adventure Mode, Quick Play Mode opens, which allows allows the player to start at any stage and play a subset of mini-games: Wall-nut Bowling, Whack-a-zombie, Vase Breaker, the Final Boss, and the Conveyor Belt levels (1-5, 1-10, 2-10, 3-5, 3-10, 4-10, and 5-5). Playing thorough Adventure Mode a second time is just like the Mac version; Crazy Dave picks three of your seed packs for you, so that you’ll potentially use a different strategy than the first time you played through.

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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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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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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Doodle Army

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Doodle Army

This game owns. Your soldier enters Boot Camp, with nothing but a government issue pistol, and is asked to face an onslaught of hundreds. Hundreds of helmeted stickmen, that is. Don’t worry, along the way you’ll receive a generous portion of life power-ups and a Rambo-grade arsenal of weapons. Traversing the side-scrolling battlefields has you hopping over barbed wired, stacks of tires, and various scaffolding-style obstacles. This no simple affair, either; Boot Camp itself is 1000m long and is peppered liberally with hotzones. There is real decision-making and tactics needed, as well, so be prepared to learn which weapons pwn in which encounters and to conserve ammo. Believe it or not, the game actually models real-world weapons pretty effectively, noticeable both by their silohuette and their firing characteristics. This game has great pacing, hilarious style, and solid gameplay. It is so rewarding to hear the little stickmen scream. Dewd, there’s blood and heads everywhere; just buy the game!

Rating: ★★★★½ icon
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Tomena Sanner (US)

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Tomena Sanner (US)

Okay, this game is pure genius. The gameplay consists entirely of timing moves for your little man in a business suit to execute, WHILE BREAKDANCING, in order to keep his pace and reach the goal before the timer runs out. It is loaded with wacky Japanese goodness, including a rhythm section at the end of every level. The crazy factor most closely resembles that of a old playstation game I have called Incredible Crisis (which is a must-play); while the gameplay is completely different, the humor and style is similar. Over the course of the 9 game levels, you will accomplish all of the following important tasks:

  1. Moonwalk with Santa…on the moon
  2. Ski down a dinosaur’s back
  3. Disco-dance with a panda
  4. Play Baseball with a man in a Godzilla suit
  5. Get a kiss from a Swedish maid
  6. Line-dance with Japanese schoolgirls
  7. Slam dunk on a 20’ rim
  8. Do the robot…with a robot

    By the way, if you play through the whole game, you will be able to visit both heaven and hell. Buy this game and make Konami filthy rich.

    Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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