Archive for the ‘Strategy’ 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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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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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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Words With Friends

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Words With Friends

This simple Scrabble clone has caught on in a big way, thanks to the ability to play versus real-life opponents, turn-by-turn. The player can create a game either by choosing a friend from facebook, from twitter, from their contact list, or they can be matchmade against a random player. After playing the first word, a notification is sent to the opponent, they receive a PUSH notification, and a badge appears on the game icon. There is no time limit for playing your turn and you can have several games going at once with other players. The rules are similar to Scrabble, as tiles from a tray are placed on the board to score based on tile worth and special spaces on the board, but there are no challenges; players can simply try a word and if it is not in the dictionary, they recall their tiles and try again. Because of the low time commitment per turn, the game is a perfect candidate to occupy a permanent spot on your iPhone to play at your leisure. Personally, I like it better than Scrabble IRL.

Rating: ★★★★★ icon
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Rogue Planet

Monday, December 14th, 2009

This is a multi-unit, turn-based Advanced Wars clone, with excellent character art in the cut scenes, an interesting and watchable storytelling approach. It does miss the mark on some of the gameplay basics like controls, for instance. There are several different unit types that use a rock, paper, scissor mechanic, so the game is all about positioning the right units, at the right place, and at the right time. When you don’t do this, your attacks can be ineffectual. It uses a mission-based structure and, while the early missions aren’t thrilling, they do serve to progress the story, although as I mentioned, the characters are outstanding and their dialogue is more compelling. Control-wise, it should be way easier to move a unit and it is way too easy to suicide a unit. The balance is not perfect either, but it is still playable. It currently has 1v1 multiplayer over Wifi and Bluetooth and Internet games are promised.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Dictator Defense

Friday, December 11th, 2009

I bet these guys crunched like Arnold to get this Plants vs. Zombies clone out, prior to the iPhone version of PvZ. It may lack the brilliance of PvZ, but some of the basic gameplay elements are there, and in no way is it a shoddy production. This Casual Tower Defense game, has the player drag offensive and defensive units onto the field to battle the troops entering from the top of the screen that are attempting to blast your base at the bottom of the screen into oblivion. You also have an uber-weapon that can only be used once per battle. If PvZ didn’t exist, I would most likely be very excited about this game, but if that were true, this game probably wouldn’t exist either.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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Castle Frenzy

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

A 3D Defend the Castle clone, with interesting special weapons like a Hydra, a Freeze Ray, and Fireball. Like other games in the genre, you primarily pick up an attacker with your finger and swipe him off the screen, but you can also slam them against the castle wall or hit them with a special weapon. There are various in-game challenges that are displayed before each level, which is a nice addition.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ icon
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The Settlers

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

For fans of the early original PC titles and newcomers alike, this is a really solid economic game, with a small dash of RTS. The resources to manage are listed across the top of the screen. These resources must be harvested, processed, and put to use, which is a pretty arduous process. One that you will either warm to or dislike, right off the bat. Everything has a prerequisite and the tech tree can be a bit daunting, but if you are up for learning the game, it’s worth the time and money. Be aware, though, that there are 4 races/campaigns, but no freeplay mode.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Romance of the Three Kingdoms Touch

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

This was a shocker. I’m a fan of the series, but I never expected to see it show up on the iPhone, quite honestly. I’m happy to report that they did an good job in porting what is an incredibly deep game. It is, by necessity, missing some of the features of its console brethren, but that is forgivable. For those that haven’t played a game from this series, it’s a turn-based strategy title set in 2nd century China, that involves economics, politics, and war. Each turn, you decide what needs to happen in each of your territories and which of your generals should carry out the plans. You need to manage resources, such as money, troops, and food. You need to keep your populace happy, as well as managing your relationships with allies and enemies. If you are not already a fan of this type of game, I doubt that this one will convert you (especially since it has a steep learning curve), but if you are, it’s great to have a version for the iPhone.

Update: Wow, be sure to save often, because if you get a phone called, your game is jacked. There is no auto-save!

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Command & Conquer Red Alert

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Let’s get this out of the way right now; there is no multiplayer…yet…it’s promised for an update. It’s also somewhat lacking in content so far; 4 simple tutorial type maps for each side and 2 skirmish maps. This is probably due to the fact that they support in-app purchasing, from day one, and want to milk it as much as possible. Many of the apps that use this content delivery method are free or at least cheap, so 10 bucks may feel a bit steep. Particularly when they have a 6-map pack available at launch for $1. So is it $10 for the “full” game or is it $11?

For those of you still reading, here’s the scoop. Other than two those issues, which to me are major, it’s a really solid effort that feels like a known franchise game should. It uses 3D assets, has full voice acting and music, a good tech tree, the controls are decent, and in most cases the UI is good. Selecting units can be troublesome, but luckily, they’ve added tabs along the side for unit groups; drag-select a group of units, tap the tab, and then whenever you tap that tab, the unit group is selected. They have a simple tech tree display with three entries visible and they rest accessed by swipe-scrolling. This UI is collapsible down to nothing, as is the mini-map, which is really nice. The pathfinding is sometimes sketchy, but it’s as good as any other RTS on the platform, from what I can tell. The missions are not as diverse as they could be, but again, I guess we’re supposed to buy new content. I’ve also experienced a very annoying and very repeatable crash bug that keeps resetting my progress. This review seems negative, but I do like the game, it’s just not as stellar as it was hyped up to be, for me at least. I do recommend it for RTS fans and my rating will most likely go up when the bugs are fixed and multiplayer is released.

Update: Local Wifi and Bluetooth has been added. My rating still stands, however, as I was hoping for online multiplayer.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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