B-Boy Beats

March 28th, 2010 by djflippy

B-Boy Beats

This game really has the potential to be an extremely good rhythm title, with clever mechanics and a great soundtrack, but it is bogged down by difficult controls, an unnecessarily steep difficulty curve, and the inclusion of repeated and somewhat demoralizing negative feedback.

As with most rhythm games, the goal is to tap the screen in the proper locations, while staying on beat. The play area is a top-down view of a busted up cardboard box, perfect for breakdancing. Your fingers loosely represent your feet. You plant your “feet” firmly on the two start points to start and then tap the next circle when its outer ring scales down to fit the circle. This may sound easy, but the timing and placement is more difficult than many other games in the genre. You have to keep your inactive finger seated on the screen, which is somewhat counter to the quick  ”tap tap” feeling of other titles. On top of this, the developers have layered on several other techniques that are explained fully in the tutorial including the Moonwalk (tap-slide), the Reverse Moonwalk (slide-tap), and the Handplant (+2 finger press), among others (10 total).

“Break your fingers with…B-Boy Beats” is the tagline for the game and I found that after playing it for hours, it’s not far from the truth. Holding the iPhone and tapping with my thumbs seemed to be the most comfortable control usage, but when handplants are added, you need to find two extra fingers somewhere. They suggested using the ring finger, which would be horrible, so I opted to switch my main stance to index fingers and use my thumbs for the additional beats, which was non-optimal, but at least doable. The other major issue is the new user experience. Whenever you drop below a certain point on the “Break-o-meter”, the crowd starts to boo. I understand you want a certain amount of attitude in a game of this ilk, but because the game has issues recognizing when your feet are replaced properly after a failure, the problem is compounded a great deal. I did persevere and beat every crew on their own turf in the city, but I have the feeling many new users would give up quickly.

Even with this laundry list of issues, I still enjoyed the game a great deal, personally. B-Boy Beats could easily be a 5-Star game if it was better tuned and less punishing, but as it stands, it’s hovering around 3.5 Stars for me. The soundtrack, by the way, is well above average; if you like underground hip-hop, then you may like what is on offer here from the likes of Optimus Rhyme and Magitek.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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Fox Vs Duck

March 27th, 2010 by djflippy

Fox Vs Duck

What a pleasant surprise. The crew over at MrFungFung, the creators of the action-packed MiniSquadron, deliver an experience of an entirely different sort. From the very start, you can’t help but notice the perfectly executed graphic design vision that permeates this product. The minimalist headers slide in at the perfect pace from off-screen. The color, or lack thereof, prepares you for what you are about to see in-game and here is what you will see: a beautifully stylized black and white pool of water whose pleasantly calming waters are scattered with lilypads and vegetation that sprouts up at intervals. Beneath the water surface, a big fish lazily swims about. Outside the pool, a frisky fox prowls the environs. The whole scenario is quit zen-like.

In the middle of this serene scene, a cute little duck drops from the sky and splashes into the pond, causing quite a stir. Particularly if you don’t quickly tilt the iPhone in the appropriate direction to steer the little tyke away from the carnivorous fish lurking below, in which case he is snapped up instantly and thrashes to and fro in the sharp jaws, until noting is left but a widening circle of blood. Assuming you are deft enough to avoid the beast below, you can then tilt your ducky to the safety of the shore…unless of course…the wolf is nearby, in which case your little friend is gutted and left in a pool of his own blood.

The whole experience is tuned quite well: the amount of drag the lily pads cause, the frequency at which new plants appear, power-up drop rate, and the rate at which the fox’s speed increases with each new duck that appears. The gameplay will be too shallow for some, but I’m happy to help support talented developers with such a unique and beautiful vision.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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Kerplinkus

March 15th, 2010 by djflippy

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

March 15th, 2010 by djflippy

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

March 14th, 2010 by djflippy

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

March 13th, 2010 by djflippy

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

March 12th, 2010 by djflippy

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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Street Fighter IV

March 10th, 2010 by djflippy

Street Fighter IV

Yes, you read that right; a full-fledged version of Street Fighter IV that is in the arcades now. Okay, it’s only partially-fledged, but it is more than I expected and it’s a blast. Here’s the lowdown:

8 characters – Ryu and Ken, of course, Chun-Li, Blanka, Abel, Guile, Dhalsim, and M. Bison. Yes, it is missing a whole slew of characters and most likely your second or third favorite character is not there (…no Akuma!!!!!), but get over it. I might. Akuma is allegedly being released as DLC anyway.
4 buttons – Punch, Kick, Special, and Focus. That’s right, 2 punches and 2 kicks are missing. Hmm…
Moves – Most of the moves are present that did not require the missing buttons. They did, however, add pairings of a punch or a kick with directional taps, that adds several moves to each kit, which was clever.
Mechanics – Combos, Specials, Ultras, EX moves, Reversals, Technicals, Super-Cancels, and throw counters, all there, thankfully.
Controls – Better than expected. The virtual joystick works really well, once you get used to the enormous size of it. The controls work well enough, in fact, that I would have rather had an extra punch and kick button and if you couldn’t do the specials right, then tough KO, chump. Supers and Ultras can be executed by using the normal moves or by simply tapping the corresponding gauges. While this makes sense from an accessibility standpoint and even a gameplay standpoint, actually, it still feels a bit strange.
Modes – Tournament, Dojo (with a secret bonus), Free-Sparring, Training Room, and Versus…
Multiplayer – Affirmative; Versus = multiplayer. Local Bluetooth only, with local leaderboards; no online play or leaderboards. Waahhh.
7 stages - The backgrounds are noticeably flat, with no parallax; just a scrolling floor. I think it’s a good trade-off, particularly because it allowed for the next two bullet points.
Framerate – Excellent framerate on a 3GS, even during Bluetooth matches. Haven’t tried it on my antique 1st-gen yet, because I chose to get the review up fast, instead.
Graphics – The characters and particle effects look really good.  To me, the characters look like sprites generated from 3D models, but I could be wrong. They look good, regardless.

It is Street Fighter, it is fun, and it is on your iPhone. Those are the 3 biggest selling points, in my opinion. Several compromises were made to ship it on this platform, which is to be expected, and it was rushed out the door. I would understand if any of the aforementioned issues were a deal-breakers for people; personally, I would have given up the beautiful intro cinematic and any number of extra modes for more characters and online play. Having said that, though, it is still a must-have title for me and for SF fans everywhere. I’m having a great time experiencing the game all over again, only this time, while driving!

Capcom recently inked a deal with Gameloft to have them produce Street Fighter Alpha, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, and several other titles. Who’s to say what else Capcom has up their collective sleeves, because there is also a movie for Super Street Fighter IV included in this game…no official announcement for an iPhone version, but maybe if this one sells well…

Rating: ★★★★½ icon
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Dizzypad

March 5th, 2010 by djflippy

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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Dancing Lights

March 1st, 2010 by djflippy

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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