All posts by Hope

Hands-on Preview of ‘Legendary Wars’, Releasing Soon

Legendary Wars by Liv Games is one of those games that is a long time in the making. The game has come a long way since its conception in a garage, the development team toiled for months, but in the end, the wait for the consumer will be most definitely worth it. A castle defense hybrid that brings in RPG elements to the lane tower defense style made infamous by Plants vs Zombies, throw in some real-time strategy for good measure and Legendary Wars will hook you from the start.

Once you pick up your jaw from the popping graphics, you will find a very polished game. After you send your miner to collect gems for you to buy troops you are in business. To make things interesting and different, the miner somehow has access to different colored gems in every world. It’s a little touch, but one that shows the creativeness of the developers. It reaps polish and charm. And it is those little touches that has this game standing head and shoulders above the crowd.

Goals of each level are different, whether you need to just sit and defend the onslaught of enemies that include everything from zombies to vampires and everything in between, storm the enemy castle, or even protect one leader or another from harm. Mixed in with these levels are short quests that amount to a running with a purpose mini-game. Make your way through these levels by jumping obstacles, slaying enemies, tag teaming with your allies and more. They serve as an excellent change of pace. Another way Liv Games attempts to keep the game constantly fresh and new.

Be sure to visit the armory in between levels to upgrade your units, upgrade your castle and when the time comes, equip your heroes with armor. Lots goes on in the well planned and laid out armory so be sure to explore every nook and cranny. Use your hard earned gems here and if you find yourself outmatched, replay a level to earn more coins (at a reduced rate from your first playthrough however).

Impressive are the types of allies you will have access to as you move along in the game. One of my favorite moments was having my unicorn spew rainbows to defeat bats and vampires. But you will also collect wizards and more. Though I have not finished the first playthrough, I am told there are surprises to be found on a second and third time around, making this game have an incredible amount of content.

The time that it has taken Liv Games to perfect this game is evident. Almost a year in the making, the development team is still open to improvements and tweaks. Listening to the feedback from testers they have recently implemented many changes even at this late stage to create the perfect experience for the user. Never is a question too inconsequential for them to take the time to return an email promptly. Very impressive is this endeavor. And if the care and love that is being shown during development is any indication of the maintenance after release, the game will continue to grow and blossom.

Look for the release of Legendary Wars by Liv Games on the AppStore soon!

Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery Review: Brewing Potions Again

Time Management games seem to be the perfect genre for the iOS platform. Different of course from their Tycoon cousins, time management games lend to a little at a time gameplay. Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery by 10tons, Ltd is exactly one of those time management games that has you hooked from the get-go. In a typical “just one more level” fashion, you quickly find yourself devoting several hours into the game before coming up for air.

In the highly anticipated sequel to Miriel the Magical Merchant, you are again tasked by grandma to watch the shop. But this time there are answers to be found. What is the mystery behind the artifact shaped like an egg? What clues can anyone provide? In a search for answers, Miriel must go on a quest to different towns to help mind the shop while the owners help search for answers. This quest system separates Miriel’s Enchanged Mystery from other Time Management games that simply change around the “Dash” mechanics and story lines. As a twist to the overworked formula, the goal of some levels is collecting items from patrons as opposed to always collecting coins. The variety works very well as you are suddenly determined to trudge onward, not just for yourself but for Miriel and Grandma.

Likes:

Gameplay: Of course the touch mechanics are similar to its predecessor and the tasks seem the same, but somehow they seem very fresh and different. Each town has a specialty item that you must unlock from the traveling merchant to offer your wide range of customers. Combinations of items and the line up of items for the rack is a strategic undertaking. Take too long and you will not be able to use your magic. Upgrade your equipment for optimal serve times, and set out your tasks in advance for best results. Serve your customers quickly enough to be able to use your magic which helps you beat each level optimally. Collect combos for more coins and more reward. Satisfy each customer quickly so a new one has a space at the counter giving you more opportunity to reach the expert goal in each level.

Story and quest system: The game has a story that actually sucks you in, teasing you with bits and pieces as you go along, stringing you along to the finish of a heck of a lot of levels. Collecting items from customers instead of coin is a nice change. Having a chance to upgrade the equipment and Miriel’s abilities adds to the game for those inevitable hectic times where there is a mad rush of customers. Because the game is based on a story, there is no straight line to follow and Miriel bounces back and forth from place to place on an expansive map making gameplay fresh and fun.

Dislikes:

Can’t replay levels: Ok so I am a perfectionist when it comes to these games and maybe in this case I need to let it go, but I find it annoying that if I merely complete a level without the expert goal satisfied, I can’t replay it to try again. I am used to following a path of levels and gold starring each one but in this case I can’t – because I am not allowed to. Miriel goes from town to town, satisfies the shopkeepers to gather her clues, but I am left a little empty when I am one point away from the expert score.

Frenetic gameplay: There are times where there is a rush of customers and poor Miriel is expected to balance 5 items at once, make different combinations and recipes, get the cheese and frostberries ready for sale etc but sometimes the touch screen just doesn’t register an action and you find yourself short one bag of flour, or one loaf of bread. Maybe I tap too quickly, maybe I miss the mark in my frenzy, but perhaps the touch mechanic is not as sensitive as it should be.

Hidden Object Mini Game: The items are too tiny and actually looking for the pieces of them is an exercise in futility. Thankfully there is no penalty for random tapping so in order to get through what to me became, a minor nuisance to pass before I could continue with the game, I just tapped the heck out of the screen until I passed the level. Unfortunately I have no idea what it was I was looking for or what it was I found.

So Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery by 10tons, Ltd arrives on the appstore as a sequel to Miriel the Magical Merchant without much of a change in mechanics but the addition of quest driven gameplay and the hunt for clues to figure out what exactly this artifact means. Thankfully all the real world recipes are available to unlock in case you have a hankering to make your own “Tasty Strawberry Soup.” Lots of Lifetime Achievements are calculated and there are several Awards to unlock in game. Game Center would add a new dimension to the game and you could share your achievements with friends but alas, there is no social network available.

If you are love Time Management games and are looking for something a little different than the usual, give Miriel a whirl. Collecting magical harps and dying cloth has never been so fun! But if you are new to the genre, start with Miriel the Magical Merchant for a solid time management title that pushes the limits of the genre to new directions.

Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery by 10tons, Ltd is available on the AppStore for $2.99. Version 1.0 and 1.0.1 were tested on both a 2g and 4g iPod Touch with iOS 4.1. (as a side note, 1.0.1 was released to remedy the “retry level bug” but I still can not find a way to replay a level as I mentioned above) An iPad HD version is available for $4.99.


Wizard Hex Review: Under Its Spell

Board games and the iOS are a match made in heaven. All of the fun and none of the mess. The AI does all the calculations for you and you never lose a piece under the couch. What more can you ask for? Well, add in some creativity and you get unique games for the platform and lookie here – Wizard Hex by Trouble Brothers is born! Trouble Brothers is affiliated with Fargoal, LLC. Developers of a game you might be familiar with – Sword of Fargoal? Hmm, yeah, I thought that might ring a bell!  Wizard Hex is the first of three board games being released under the Trouble Brothers, LLC umbrella and let me tell you they have a winner for their first release. Jeff McCord states that Trouble Brothers has a “cool philosophy about creating multiplayer game experiences so that people can play games together on iPad like you might have with traditional board games in the past! Also, no spilled game parts.” And this is completely and utterly true.

I loaded up the game, started to play, and I am embarrassed to say how much time went by before I took a breath!  And this was with an iPod Touch, and me against the AI! I can only imagine what a breath taking experience this is on the iPad. Not only that, with so many options to play even as a single player vs the AI, the possibilities are endless. Play with your allies at your side, play asymmetrically; truly you can set the game up any way you want, and because of this the strategy will be limitless.

At the risk of sounding cliche, Wizard Hex takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master. The endless strategy and game play abounds and literally no two games will ever be alike. You think you have mastered a strategy when suddenly it fails and you must think quickly and move forward in that game another way. You will find yourself relying on your opponents / allies as much as yourself. The game rules are such that you can not attack a neighbor which leads you to progress with your neighboring element across the board, possibly attacking an ally to gain the upper hand and sneak into enemy territory, oh I am telling you, the possibilities are truly endless.

The gameplay is actually much simpler than it sounds. 1-6 players lay tiles on a hexagon board, each with elemental symbols on them. The goal? Occupy more of the board at the end of the round. There are some simple rules to follow as you begin your quest and whether you play one on one with the AI, or with 5 of your closest friends you will definitely use each other in your strategy. Build, attack, there will always be a strategic benefit to both; but it is up to you the player to determine when that time is. You may start each game at one of three levels: Apprentice, Journeyman, and the highest is Master. Do you have what it takes to challenge the Master?

As if this wasn’t enough, McCord promises more in an update:

Once people get used to the basic gameplay mechanics there will be “Spells” that we will add! Each time you master certain gameplay combinations (to be determined) you can unlock a new set of spells. We will start by introducing one into the spellbook. For example, for wind there may be a special spell for “blowing” a piece or pieces sideways. Or for Fire there might be a way to “burn” a piece or pieces next to you. Since spells will be powerful it might take the form of one enchantment or special token per game. AND it will always be evenly matched. If you unlock an Earth spell it will also unlock the other equivalent element spells. Some spells will be attack and others defense.

I finally was able to round up the troops and get some real life multiplayer action in and wow I can say that it exceeded any expectation that I had! It led to some interesting thought processes and insightful strategy. Not only that, everyone wanted to play a different element on a different round just to see how that would work out. Again, I have to remind you this was hovered around an iPod Touch. The experience around an iPad has GOT to be incredible and I can easily see this taking over Game Night at a future gathering.

Likes:

Gameplay: As the developers themselves stated it is a mix of Go, Chess, Backgammon, Reversi, or any other strategy game you can think of in an entirely original presentation. There are so many variables with 1 to 6 players that you will never be playing the same game twice. Attack one of your allies to get to your opponent; use your ally to block your opponent; don’t forget to build the untouchable gold tower; there are so many ways to play! One thing remains constant though, control as much of the board as you can at the end to win.  And remember, even if you have “allies” they do not count as you conquering the board – so remember to play your own element. Don’t get too caught up in the “team” bonding thought like I did. Just because in a single player game you might control three elements, only one is yours. Think of the others as a support staff if you will.

The bottom line though bears repeating – this game has simple rules but very deep strategy. To consistently be successful you will need to learn several forms of strategy. The AI is very intelligent and will have you guessing each and every time.

Controls: The touch screen is very intuitive. The pieces you can move light up to give you a little assistance. Drag and dropping your pieces on the board is seamless. There has not been a better interface.

Overall presentation: I am not sure I can say much more about this. Everything is very polished with great graphics, sound effects and music that add to the atmosphere. You name it, it has it. At the risk of gushing too much, all I can say it is spectacular.

Dislikes:

Tutorial: As easy as the gameplay actually is, the game could use a little more instruction. But that too is promised in an update. There are some intricacies in the game that I discovered by accident or by conversation with the developer. Since the average consumer won’t have the opportunity that I did, a bit more on the instructions would be great.

So even with all that, I am happy to say – but wait there is more! McCord has a list of additions as well. These include: the special spells for each element mentioned earlier, GameCenter support, continually improved AI for solo play, zoom into book pages for iPhone version for better viewing on screen, and as I hoped for, more detailed instructions and tips & tricks.

A dedicated Troubled Brothers Forum is in the early stages for all three of their new board games. Start to play this game and I am sure you will want to find your way over to chat with other fans and compare strategy notes.

Wizard Hex by Trouble Brothers makes its way into the appstore and while it was optimized for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch owners will want a piece of this Universal action as well. With depth and originality, the first of three board games by Troubled Brothers will exceed anyone’s wildest expectations. Packed with strategy and thought, no two games will be the same. Learn new techniques the more you play in this truly easy to learn, take your lifetime to master gem. I have to say this is one of the best games I have played in some time. I have no problem recommending this to everyone, whatever device you own!

Wizard Hex by Trouble Brothers is available on the appstore as a Universal application for $4.99. It was tested on a 4g iPod Touch with iOS 4.1.




Eternal Legacy Review: There is a Great Game Buried in Here

Say what you want about Gameloft, love or hate them, there is no disputing the fact that they bring the games most desired to the iOS platform with their signature Gameloft flair. Eternal Legacy is one of their latest RPG’s to hit the market and will definitely ring a familiar tune. Turn based battles, fantastical future setting, hmmm, might I have played something similar? Probably, since most RPG’s tend to have those elements incorporated somehow. Main character having a bad blondish hair day? Ok ringing more of a bell.

So with all the similarities I would be remiss to mention that all those hints led me to compare this game to the later titles in the Final Fantasy series. Some say copy, some say inspiration, but I say bring it on. This can be good or it can be bad for Gameloft. Good because anyone hoping for a Final Fantasy type game on their iPhone or iPod Touch finally has one. Bad because Eternal Legacy has a very high bar to reach if it expects Eternal Legacy to meet or exceed arguably one of the best RPG’s of any platform.

It’s a mixed bag for me, a lover of the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy brings so much to the table so is there any way that Eternal Legacy can match the storytelling, battle system, graphics, controls, anything really. I have to say that in some ways it does and in some ways it does not – all within the same categories. Gameloft has taken the inspiration and then added its own flair to it. So from here on out the comparison to Final Fantasy in my review has stopped.

The main character with the bad hair day (oops sorry, really stopping now) Astrian, has a pretty complicated back story we come to find out. In a, who am I really story line, there are of course the usual – we must save the world from the evil empire – overtones. Several different characters drop in to help Astrian on his quest, including a princess shocked at her father’s actions, a brother sister team that is set on taking on the world among others.

Likes:

Graphics: The graphics on this game really show how far the platform has come. In a 3D world completely controlled by the touch of your finger, you really feel immersed in Algoad. At times I swore I felt the snowflakes on my shoulder. The graphics really shine during battle. If you run into an enemy and a chest is behind him, the chest will appear in battle. No stock battle screens here which have been common of late in turn based battle games. This is very appealing and makes each battle appear on its own. Not just your run of the mill – insert battle screen here – code. The scenery at times is immersive as you gaze across the country. 360 panning just adds to this experience. You will have a hard time finding something more beautiful on this platform.

Interface: Everything seems to be covered here. There is a Quest Log available that not only lists current quests but has a list of events that just happened. When so and so joined the party is on the list. When so and so left the party is listed. The quest log is so complete so if you find yourself taking any kind of break from the game, it will jog your memory to exactly where you are and what you need to do next. A feature lacking on many mobile RPG’s that render returning to them useless after any lapse in play.

The map is graphically a line drawing, but it gets the job done. Your position is highlighted, even with a beam of light which shows which direction you are traveling. Quest locations are indicated. So in a very simple blueprint of the area you are in, much information is included.

Character information, equipment, inventory is all here. In fact whatever you would expect to find for information is here and then some. A few clicks and your hero is equipped with some new weapons or armor, all quite easily and intuitively.

Battle System, but: I say but here because the battle system is both a Like and a Dislike to me. I really like it because for a turn based battle it really moves. You have a choice to control either Astrian or all three of your characters manually. Or two of your characters can perform in a manner consistent with the role you assign them – for example as the healer or as a thief. There are no pauses in this turn based battle system however and if you snooze you lose as your enemies will continue to pound away at you if you do not make a choice of action. There is a lot of customization possible within the battle screen and that brings a different twist to the typical Turn Based battle system.

Exploration: The world at first glance seems very open. Panning to see what is around you actually affords you with some nice views. Walk over to the ledge and see the vast world below. It’s pretty all encompassing and nothing that you see seems to repeat itself. Again, no stock image panels but a real cinematic experience.

Enemy Encounters: Enemies pace in a predictable fashion and avoiding random encounters, well they can’t be so random if you can see them, is fairly easy to do. But sometimes the enemy surprises you and your best plan of avoidance is foiled and of course you start at a disadvantage with your backs turned to the enemy during battle. Fighting as many enemies as you see however will certainly help with the leveling up and makes boss fights easier. I find that if you do battle each enemy you see then you will be at an appropriate level for where you are in the story.

Dislikes:

Story line: Well, all good Japanese RPG’s are known for their epic story line. It starts off very slowly and that “skip” button is awfully tempting. Had it not been for this review, I am sure that I would have succumbed to its painful allure, but I did press through and found that the story does develop, but sadly too late for probably a huge majority of gamers. By the time the story gets interesting, not too many people are reading it. I am glad that I persevered to get to the intriguing twists, but the story needs to grab you from the start. Since there was no hook in the beginning, the story comes too little too late.

Side Quests: Well, I know they are there, but the main story is so encompassing that you can really miss them. Before long you can forget there are even any side quests to complete. Other than the markings on the map you actually might not know they exist altogether. What is an RPG without some great side quests to boost your inventory?

Holding you by the hand: In the US there is a company Fidelity Investments that boasts 100% guidance in their investments if only you follow their “green line” shown in their commercials. Well playing this game I sometimes felt like I was in the Fidelity commercial and following not the green line but this aqua colored arrow. Talk about encouraging you not to find side quests, not to explore, not to think for yourself. This arrow will most assuredly bring you where you need to go next no questions asked. No getting lost in an area of the map that you needn’t be in. None of that stuff that toughens up a seasoned RPG player. Add portals to the map and perhaps make the one you are headed toward a different color and lose the arrow. That way there is some direction but not the feeling someone is whispering in your ear: “come on, this way, no no not that way, this way” the entire game.

Battle System, but: Ok here is the dislike of the battle system. The game introduces a mechanism that you can “queue” up three moves in advance. While it seems at first to be a great feature – line up your moves and then watch the battle play out, it turns out this is a severe flaw. Once you line up your moves you can not undo them. They are set and if the enemy poisons you, you must wait a very long time before you can administer a potion as your cure. By that time you or a party member has lost a lot of life. Also, as you stare at the screen waiting for your turn to finally cycle back, the screen often fades out into battery saver mode. There is a simple switch for that Gameloft! I don’t like having to constantly tap the screen to keep it lit, especially if I am supposedly watching my own battle!

The balance of the battle system seems off as well. I can dish out a critical attack of 9,999 three times to one enemy while my compatriots add their own damage and the enemy does not fall. Meanwhile the enemy is dealing a measly 100 – 500 points of damage that is in line to my HP. There has to be some kind of equality there. It doesn’t make me feel any better to deal thousands and thousands of damage points to my enemy if he has 1,000 times more damage than me. No worries, my ego can handle it, I don’t want to be needlessly encouraged with inflated numbers.

Fragment equip / unequip: It seems that in order to change a fragment (an item that gives passive abilities when equipped to weapons and armor) you can not remove it but replace it. Once a fragment has been assigned to an item, fragments are there to stay. That is a very inconvenient oversight.

Voice graphics: Well this might be a petty gripe, but when the dialogue is over I expect the character’s mouth to stop moving. There might be three words of dialogue but if you do not press the next arrow your character will keep “talking” as if there was the entire text of “War and Peace” to be recited. Sort of made me think of a Japanese Martial Arts movie with very bad American voice dubbing.

Ultimately, Eternal Legacy by Gameloft is one of the most graphically pleasing RPG’s on the appstore at the moment. It is a well made J-RPG that boasts umpteen hours of gameplay between the main quest and the side quests, even if those side quests are hard to find. If you can overlook the shortcomings of an average at best story and horrid voice acting, then you will definitely enjoy Eternal Legacy. Buried under some of its flaws is a great game. After all, it is very hard to find anything else quite like it on this platform.

Eternal Legacy by Gameloft version 1.0.0 was reviewed on a 2g iPod Touch and a 4g iPod Touch, both with iOS 4.1. It is available now in the appstore at $6.99.

Eternal Legacy HD is also available for the iPad for $9.99.



Scarlett and the Spark of Life Review: Graphically and Lyrically Great

A Princess in distress. The stereotypical story line would call for the handsome Prince to valiantly come along and sweep her off to safety. But such is not the case for Princess Scarlett in Scarlett and the Spark of Life: Scarlett Adventures Episode 1 by Launching Pad Games. Instead, the feisty Scarlett takes matters into her own hands to escape, motivated by what we learn is to save her sister. What follows is an adventure that will entertain as well as puzzle you. In a unique blend of Point and Click adventure meets Choose your Ending storybook, Scarlett and the Spark of Life has a great story, eye popping graphics and an easy to use interface.

Likes:

Storyline: The writing is witty and quirky, both leading to a pleasurable experience. The unique adventure and the cast of characters met along the way are entertaining and the story that unravels will elicit several laughs. Stereotypes thrown out the window, Scarlett doesn’t need a Prince to save her, she will construct her own talking horse to aid in her escape. The story is so good that it kept me playing just to figure out how Scarlett solve her predicament.

Graphics: The style chosen is wonderful and bright, with beautiful colors that add to the atmosphere. Clever scenes of a quaint village make the game smoother and actually make up for some of the game’s shortcomings. Combine the graphics with the story and it was a well planned comic book that was delightful and amusing.

Dislikes:

Dialogue: Despite the excellent story, the game has much more reading than would be expected in a point and click adventure. Even if this game was designed to be a choose your own ending story, the dialogue loops prevent that. The game leads you to the right choices no matter what you do. Choosing the improper dialogue responses merely end up artificially lengthening the game than anything else. The story is pleasant enough to read through but this excess of dialogue gives the game a bit of an identity crisis. Is it a point and click with too much dialogue or a choose your own adventure story with some puzzles mixed in?

Interface: While the point and click interface is spot on and done extremely well and accurately, the hint system makes the game a bit too easy. For each scene that you enter, the hint system lights up every spot on that screen that has possible interaction. While you still need to figure out what to do with the items you find, this makes the game a little too easy.

Puzzles: Well, there weren’t enough of them and they were not hard enough for the seasoned point and click adventure player. With the hint system and the game pretty much guiding you by the hand scene by scene, the puzzles were too obvious. If you missed some key item along the way, the game would not progress until you went back and found it. There were moments of greatness though as one or two puzzles really were fun to solve, but ultimately this is a great game for a beginner to get a feel for the genre.

Overall, while enjoyable, the game had a few shortcomings that made it confusing to not only classify but to hold my attention. As clever as the story is, it is almost too clever and drawn out. Even though the story that comes out of even incorrect responses is fun to read, it would have been preferable for the choices that you made to affect the outcome of the game. Perhaps if you take too long the kidnappers catch up to the Princess. Perhaps good old Gherkin never sees the light of day if you can’t figure a way to repair him.

Scarlett and the Spark of Life: Scarlett Adventures Episode 1 by Launching Pad Games is a great start for what could ultimately be a classic Adventure series if it can find its true identity and work within that framework. The point and click adventures that have too much dialogue do not appeal much to me, as I like to play my games and not read them; but I really did enjoy the story of Scarlett. If the next episode has more puzzles and less dialogue that would be a huge step in the right direction. In the end, Scarlett does ride off into the sunset; not with a Knight, but with a mechanical horse. Those kinds of witty scenes and excellent writing do give me hope for what the future might hold for the series.

Scarlett and the Spark of Life: Scarlett Adventures Episode 1 by Launching Pad Games was reviewed on both a 2g iPod Touch and a 4g iPod Touch, both with iOS 4.1. It is available now for $2.99.