Posts Tagged ‘3.5 Stars’

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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B-Boy Beats

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

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

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

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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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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Sword of Fargoal

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Sword of Fargoal

This remake of the classic Commodore 64 Roguelike really plays well in short bursts on the iPhone. I’m a big fan of dungeon crawls and this one is no exception since the C64 was my computer of choice as a child, due to the great selection of games and the low barrier-to-entry (which here means, “rock-bottom price point”).

This translation may include the same old skool sid-chip sound effects, teleport traps, and buried treasure that you know and love, but what it adds is the real surprise. The developers have obviously put a significant amount of work into updating this to modern-ish standards. The artwork for the random dungeons is now in smooth 3D, the character art is much better (if you can believe it from the screenshot), they’ve added super-smooth fog-of-war, and also swipe controls (which act a little strange, but you get used to it).

What it has over similar games like NetHack is that it is very accessible. No pages and pages of cryptic commands, no ASCII graphics (*sobs*), and in turn, not as much depth. Still, it’s a really fun romp through a multi-level dungeon, as it always was, and its arrival on the iPhone is a pleasant surprise.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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Bee Spelled

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Bee Spelled

Bee-Spelled is a streamlined clone of PopCap’s Bookworm Adventures. The word “streamlined” here means, “missing features”, but it’s still fun. What we have here is a humorous, artistic, and lovingly animated version of the primary gameplay element of the original game; spelling words from a 4×4 grid, with as many letters as you can, to blast a cute little furry creature to bits. I actually like their bonus system a great deal; red letters deal fire damage, blue letters freeze, and green letters heal. The player has to factor in these bonuses when choosing a word to play. Like I said, it works well and the game is fun, but it has very little depth. The reason for this is that they left out all the ancillary elements that make the original game great; overworld exploration, collecting items, mini-games, and…hmm…that’s all I can remember, but it was full-featured. Anyway, this version isn’t perfect and you’ll quickly beat it, but your kids might like it too. It does feature a wisecracking tomcat with a monocle and a top-hat, which would make any game a winner.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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iGibbets

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

iGibbets

I downloaded iGibbets, sat down, and proceeded to play through every single one of the 30 levels provided. On one hand, this shows the developers nailed the fun-factor and this makes it worth the price of admission. On the other hand, it shows how fleeting the experience is and that the outcry for additional content will ring out across the land (although you can activate Hard Mode, which seems to be replaying the same levels, but with fewer arrows in your quiver).

Each level presents the player with several poor souls hanging from gibbets, soon to be executed. It’s the player’s job to “save” the victims, by shooting each noose with an arrow. If a stray arrow or two happen to graze one of these fellows…hey, it’s better than dying, good sir knight. To sever the cords, the player simply presses the convenient bow and arrow icon, drags it to set angle and distance, and then releases to let it fly. Arrows are a valuable commodity in this line of work, so the player is sometimes presented with a powerup that provides three additional arrows when shot. For those hard to reach places, a ricochet powerup can be shot, which bounces the arrow in a predetermined direction.

Sometimes, the player must shoot down a stack of boxes in order to take aim at the vict…uhh, rope…the rope…the one that suspends the victim. I mean…shooting directly at the guy would just be sadistic…*nervous laughter*. Anyway, these stacks of crates may seem out of place, but after a little research, I found that this practice is somewhat historically accurate. Executioners would oftentimes stack boxes at various locations near the gallows, in order to prevent some sissyboy from spoiling a perfectly good execution by “saving” the victim with a well-placed shot.

The physics model is good, the challenge is adequate, and let’s face it, piercing a guy in the neck…and then the elbow…and then the ankle is just inherently fun! I don’t think anyone would dispute that, particularly when the target is hanging from a noose; now that is Comedy Gold, “Arterial Sprays for 200, Trebek.” In fact, the overall experience this title provides is so real and so compelling that it may even serve as a safe outlet for people who enjoy shooting criminals down from the gallows, in real life.

To the potential naysayers, let me assure you, no actual prison inmates on death row were harmed during the filming this video game.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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Project 72

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Project 72

Yo, peep this: 4 kewl dewds up in Venice Beach, by way of Sweden, decide they want to develop an iPhone game, from start to finish, in 72 hours. Project 72 is the result of this tweaked out madness and it is all documented here: Dogtown Studios, so check it.

Knowing that the game was developed in just 72 hours, I have to say that it exceeds my expectations in almost every way; the graphics are stylish and crisp, the soundtrack is bumpin’, and the gameplay is superb. It is perfect in its approachability, but still extremely challenging, which is a hard thing to accomplish. This is textbook Pick-Up-and-Play, folks; keep it simple and fun, present repeatable challenges, and make it compelling enough to make the player want to play it, “just one more time.”

A message to the guys at Dogtown: quit your day jobs…and if this is your day job, then get back to work! The days of 6-month development cycles are behind us now, so I’ll have my dollar ready for you when your next game releases on Friday.
Dog + Town = Win.

I was so excited, I forgot to tell you what the game is! It’s a casual-ish dodging game, in which the player guides a 50′s future rocket ship through space, avoiding asteroids, and nabbing powerups. The most important one being fuel, because if you run out – game over, loser. Same way with black holes; here’s a pro-tip from our boy Yuri – you see a black hole, steer starboard or port…not both. What makes it exciting and kind sorta somewhat insanely difficult is that your ship speeds up…and up…and exponentially up! Luckily, there is always a nearby object to help you gradually apply the brakes (hint: it starts with “a” and ends with “steroids”). My rating reflects the pure kickbuttedness of this idea and the team of lunatics behind it. I hope others will follow in their wake. Poehali!

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Parachute Ninja

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Parachute Ninja

You are little blue ball. Evil black ball kill your parents. Your house in flames. You flee to hut of uncle, Master Yo, a yellow ball. He teach you to be ninja. You must regain control of ninja scroll. Only this will avenge death of your family. Aaand…scene.

Picture a level filled with the slingshots from Must.Eat.Birds. Your ballboy is snug inside, while it’s stretched to the limit. You see an arcing, dotted line that shows your intended path, much like the system in Ignite (which I predicted ‘everyone ‘would copy…and I was wrong). You bounce between slingshots, collecting glowing goodies, until you reach the sacred lamp, at which point the level ends. If you miss your landing and you are plummeting to the water, which is deadly to your ninja ball, you can press-and-hold anywhere on the screen to pop open your umbrella to slow your descent. Tilting the iDevice left and right controls your directional vector. As you progress through the levels, springboards, giant fans, manually rotatable springboards, timed slingshots, an evil spiked ball, and other obstacles and modes of transport increase the level of challenge. BTW, don’t hit the spikes; it hurts. Although, it doesn’t matter that much, because blue ball has infinite lives.

The colors are gorgeous and the artwork too (especially the map), the music is soothing, the opening cinematic is super-cute, and the mechanics are good and scale properly. What bothered me at first was the pacing of the story mode. I thought it was a snoozer until figured out the rhythm of hitting the slingshots and parachuting to the nearest neighbor slingshot, then it became more interesting. You really need to embrace your inner zen. The endless mode is a bit speedier, though, the water level rises, and the obstacles are semi-randomized. It’s definitely a polished effort, although I don’t know long it will stay on my springboard.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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Valet Hero

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Valet Hero

In this recent addition to the line-drawing genre, you are gently ushered into the exciting and glamorous career of…valet parking! Wait, wait, before you go anywhere, it’s actually pretty good. The player is tasked with parking each and every random car that enters the parking lot into a space that corresponds to the color of the car (there is a colorblind mode that adds symbols to the cars and parking spaces, which is a nice touch). You simply swipe your finger from the car to the space to park it, much like Flight Control.

What really matters in this game, however, is how well you park each car. Park it crooked, you get a “sloppy” penalty. Park on the wrong color, you also get a penalty (and in Marathon Mode, this is disallowed entirely). Park two or more of the same color car in sequence, you gain a multiplier. Bonus points are added for rear-in parking, pull-through parking (when you drive over another space before coming to rest in the adjacent space), and if your combo meter has juice, you can press-and-hold the boost button to speed up all cars on screen. This becomes necessary on levels with a ton of cars to park and in levels that have obstacle cars, like the po-po, that are all up in your business.

There are five different parking lots, each with a Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Marathon level. You can play any of the lots, but for each one, you have to complete the Bronze, before you can play the Silver, and so on. The devs switch up the content a little bit in the medal levels, but the Marathon level of each lot follows separate rules. It’s endless, spots are colorless until the corresponding car enters the lot, and you are required to park in the matching spot or it’s game over. Same way with hitting a car or other obstruction; you’re dead, kid.

I think it’s a fun take on traffic control, but it’s hard to say how much lasting power it will have. It is OpenFeint enabled, though, so you can compare your scores with your fellow valets.

Rating: ★★★½☆ icon
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