All posts by John

Flick Golf Review: A Flicking Awesome Golf

So most people have at least seen the myriad of golf titles on all gaming platforms. There’s a ton of them and a few real gems. My favorites include ‘Everybody’s Golf’ on the PSP and it’s virtual clone ‘We Golf’ on all iDevices.

I love those two titles so much, actually, that when a new one comes around I’m really quite skeptical. Nothing can replace my cartoon golf games! They’re too damn much fun.

When Flick Golf came across my desk, I couldn’t believe it. It looks a lot like the golf games I love but the similarities end there. The people at Full Fat Productions have completely redesigned the idea of hand held portable golf. I thought this redesign of gameplay would be lame, but it’s totally not. Here’s what they did.

You don’t have a cute little avatar, your golf ball is just there on it’s tee waiting for you to do someting. The camera can be adjusted to make aiming easier. You take into account the wind direction and then swipe your finger carefully to aim for the distant tee on the green. Once in the air, you can almost fly your ball putting various spins and turns on the ball to guide it home.

The tee itself is a real point of interest. Putting is gone. Instead you have one stroke followed by a furious session of spinning the ball to get it where you want it to go. You’re aiming for what is essential a target with the hole at the dead center. Your score on each hole is based on how close you get it to the hole and how awesome your spinning skill is.

There are three courses, beautiful to look at and also challenging. Each course represents one of three levels of difficulty.

Flick Golf has taken me completely by surprise. This is a truly great reimagintion of portable golf and I highly praise Full Fat Production for having the guts to blaze new ground.

Likes

Gameplay: It’s ridiculously easy to play for such a challenging game no hole takes too long so it’s extremely easy to pay as casually or seriously as you’d like. There is simply no boredom inducing factor in this version of golf. It’s just elegantly great.

Visuals: I love when a game makes the iPhone or iPad look good because I like to show people how awesome the device is. Flick Golf is gorgeous and a game I’d love to see on the display units in the Apple Store.

Fun: It simply is. I can rationalize why as much as you want me too but with this game there is almost an irrational fun quality to it that can’t re ally be nailed down to a specific set of features. Flick Golf is just fun.

Dislikes

Volume of content: The picky, gluttonous person in me would like to see more of these beautifully rendered courses. My fingers are crossed that in time there will be more!

No Game Center: I can’t fathom why they went with OpenFeint for leaderboards. This game would be a perfect candidate to rock up on Game Center in the near future. Again, my fingers are crossed.

Flick Golf is another one of those games that you simply can’t go wrong with, unless you hate golf games for some reason. But, even then I’d suggest you check it out. This isn’t your run of the mill ‘Mina no Golf’ clone. Everyone should have this one and its available for iPad as well! This review is brought to you by the letters M and H because you…

Flick Golf is developed by Full Fat Productions Ltd. and is available on the app store for $2.99 on iPhone/iPod Touch and $4.99 for iPad. It was reviewed at version 1.0 on my iPhone 4.



Galaxy on Fire 2 Review: Tough to Get Into, Totally Worth the Pain

Galaxy on Fire 2 is a type of game that has plagued me for my whole gaming life. It’s a very complex, technically challenging, and wide open sort of game that, to a certain extent, makes the more linear individual wonder what the hell you’re supposed to do.

Even after several hours of play (spread over a good number of days) I don’t feel like I’ve gotten very far. In fact, it took me ages to feel comfortable enough to write this review and even still I don’t really feel like I’ve plumbed the depths of the game.

This should be a pretty darn encouraging thing for those of you who love and adore these types of experiences. There will be no shortage of stuff to do. I promise. My sister has played a total of 7 hours so far and hasn’t yet tired of it or felt like she was nearing the end.

So, I’m going to focus on the mechanics of the game. Once you get used to them, they’re pretty great.

At first I was put off by the simple fact that you don’t get to control the speed of your ship. That’s tough for me. I like to really feel like I’m driving the thing and at first I didn’t at all. Of course, I feel the same way about EVE Online so…

What you do control is your weapons and all other aspects of piloting which, is not at all easy. You will very quickly be glad you don’t have to worry about the throttle. You have a choice accelerometer control or onscreen d-pad control. Personally I find the onscreen d-pad more rewarding and I feel less self conscious using it on the bus. It’s totally a matter of personal preference though.

Navigation is done through a nifty system of target and then jump which I find quite fun and further eliminates that nagging desire for a throttle. As Douglas Adams said, ‘space is big’, so there’s no real need to vary your throttle.

Combat is as expected although you have the ability to set your weapons to auto fire which is more helpful than you can know. Mining is one of the chief ways you make money in GOF2 and this I find to be the most frustrating element. It is TRULY DIFFICULT. It takes practice and has made me put the game down more than once in frustration.

Still, it is worth pushing through it and learning. Don’t forget to play with your control sensitivity. This will help…a lot!

Galaxy on Fire 2 is so big and complex I could just sit here and ramble. Instead, just do yourself a favor and buy it. You won’t regret it. It’s one of those epic games that even if you don’t play it right away, you won’t be sorry to have so you can pick at it. That’s exactly how GTA: Chinatown Wars is for me. Like Galaxy on Fire 2, my iPhone is never without it.

Likes

Gameplay: Perfectly rock solid gameplay makes this game one of those ‘Holy crap this is better than the PSP’ kind of games. There is nothing lacking here.

Graphics: Just absolutely gorgeous top notch visuals that all by themselves will make you happy you bought it. It REALLY shows off what iOS and it’s devices are capable of.

Depth: There’s no end in sight. It just keeps going, and going, and going.

Dislikes

Gameplay: I wish it was a little easier to get into at first. That first hump is really hard to get over and there was serious danger of losing me there.

Galaxy on Fire 2 is a must. Even if you don’t normally play these kinds of games, you should buy it. It proves that your iPhone IS a gaming platform and perfect to show of to your unbelieving friends. There’s more than enough fun here for the most demanding player and still fun to be had if only as a novelty. This is all not to mention that the game is universal and looks AMAZING on the iPad.

Galaxy on Fire 2 is developed by Fishlabs and is available on the iPhone/iPad for $6.99. It was reviewed at version 1.0.3 on my iPhone 4.


‘Braveheart’: Diablo-esque fun on the iPhone and iPad? Let’s hope so!

Coming in December is Braveheart, yet another action RPG, this time Gaijin Entertainment.

From what we can see so far it looks like what we have here is a very solid game maybe more akin to Untold Legends on the PSP than anything we’ve yet seen on the app store.

The adventure takes place on a search for the Holy Grail. You’re working for King Whilhelm who needs the Holy Grail in order to protect his kingdom from The Great Dragon. In return you’ll receive half his kingdom and the hand of his daughter.

Let’s just hope it’s the willing hand of his daughter, or I see some problems down the road.

A gameplay video on Gaijin’s site show’s some truly impressive visuals as well as indicators that you’ll have a decent arsenal with which to conduct your epic adventure. There are guns. This is an action RPG with guns. How can you not be at least a little intrigued, especially when it looks like the control might be similar to Minigore? 10 different weapons and magical spells, as well as bonus abilities are all promised as well as a beautiful game world.

There will be an iPhone/iPod Touch version as well as an iPad version. It seems clear that we’re not talking about a universal version of the game here. Honestly though, while I love universal apps, I never find too much fault in anyone who decides to separate them. I know, from the experiences of some app developing friends, creating universal games is no small feat. Prices are yet to be determined.

If you’re interested, Gaijin is soliciting beta testers right now for their beta which should last until December 1st. You’ll just need to be able to give them your UDID and if you’re selected will be in like Flint.

This looks like it could really give Dungeon Hunter a run for it’s money and I hope it does. This genre of game needs more representation on ALL platforms and Braveheart doesn’t look like it will disappoint.

To check out their materials head over to the their site and check it out.

Blimp HD Review: Best Use of Hot Air in a Game, EVER

Blimp HD is both a wonderful piece of gaming nostalgia and great new platformer that takes full advantage of the technology at its disposal. It’s both easy to pick up and play for a minute and totally satisfying to play for long stretches at a time.

On my first Gameboy, I loved games that put me in control of a vehicle and made you navigate through some complex series of massive mazelike obstacles. Add to it things that that shoot at you and a nice arsenal of weapons at your command and ten year old me was in imagination heaven. Ten year old me is happy again.

Blimp HD puts you in command of a blimp, as you might imagine. Each stage is set on a steam punk alien world where you transport workers and cargo from platform to platform in a fixed amount of time. There are time extensions, bonus crystals, and health boosts to be collected, and in later levels your blimp will be armed with bombs you drop onto your enemies below.

The real strategy comes in deciding how you’re going to organize your trips around the stage. It’s both a time management problem and strategic combat one with both elements giving each stage of the game significant replay value.

The controls are easy to learn and yet sensitive and difficult to master once you’ve got weaponry to deal with while keeping your blimp aloft with constant well-timed jets of hot air. What’s brilliant is that you can control the movement of the blimp with either the accelerometer or an on screen slider you can toggle on and off. I assumed the slider would be harder than just tilting my iPad but it turned out it works really well and saves me looking like a freak on the bus.

I frequently harp about the non-gaming aspects of games and in this case I’m happy to say that the developer has created a really nice package. Much like early Gameboy games, Blimp HD is not without a story, and a reasonably imaginative one, but also doesn’t make the story the main focus of the game. Blimp HD is all about gameplay and beautiful design.

Finally, this is not a game to play without headphones. The music is gorgeous and made me very badly want to break out Garage Band and pretend I could make cool music too. For the record…I can’t.

So, in a nutshell…

Likes

Gameplay: This is solid, very recognizable gameplay and that’s not a bad thing. I’d love to see more games that resurrect this style of imaginative play. Something about it just stirs my imagination and makes me want to keep playing.

Art: This is one of the truly beautiful games. Everything from the writing of the pre-level briefings to the sound effects and music makes this a top-notch experience. The stage design is lush and colorful, never becoming old or repetitive.

Replay Value: The story is fine, but what really hooks me is the gameplay and the fun of navigating your blimp around each gorgeous stage. The stages are so much fun I find myself just wanting to play one because it was fun, kind of like your favorite play set as a child.

Dislikes

No Connectedness: Pretty much, these days, anything that doesn’t in some way utilize Game Center is going to be knocked down a notch, even if it’s a miniscule notch as it is in this case. It’s really not necessary but would add even more fun with high scores and achievements. Yes, I’m one of those achievement loving people. You know who you are.

Blimp HD is a solid, professional, and top-tier game that I’d be thrilled to see on any handheld gaming platform. To find it on an iOS device is thrilling and speaks really well for the platform. You should get it ASAP.

Blimp HD is developed by Craneball Studios and is available on the iPad for $3.99. It was reviewed at version 1.0 on my iPad.


Highborn Review: Standard gameplay, but then hilarity (and good writing) ensues.

Highborn is a strong game. Its mechanics are smooth, and the gameplay is well thought out and easy to learn. In fact, you’ll probably think it’s pretty similar to lots of other games of its genre. It reminds me of Advance Wars on the DS and Mechowars on iPhone/iPod Touch. The list could go on and on. There are a huge number of games just like Highborn.

But not really.

This is a funny game in a few ways, but mostly because it is in fact funny. It’s really funny. I mean, I have literally laughed out loud while playing this game.

At this point I suppose I depart from reviewing Highborn for a moment, but this is pertinent. One thing I’ve found lacking in many, if not most games on iOS devices, is good writing. I’ve seen some of the most shoddy, halfhearted, attempts at giving a game a story/backstory since days prior to the NES. In many cases, I’d rather they had not tried, and just tossed me into it as if I was playing some version of bricks.

I’ve given this a lot of thought and I’m sure it’s not because it’s too expensive to get a writer. As a writer, I can promise you, it’s not too expensive to get a writer. I am no stranger to writing cheap, and by cheap…I mean free.

No, it’s not a lack of hungry writers willing to sell their soul for a chance to ply their trade in a meaningful way. I actually think it’s because the app store is literally dominated by projects where the driving creative influence is from the programmers. And please, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a slam to the one-man/girl shops. In fact, I see some of the strongest writing out there on the app store coming from one-man/girl shops and some of the worst coming from the likes of EA, who seems to still care about iOS game development about as much as McDonald’s cares about making actual food.

Too many games on the app store still seem like tech demos with individual programmers or companies saying ‘look what I can do on the iPhone! Now, maybe I can get rich from this!’ There simply aren’t enough people (EA included) choosing iOS as a platform and then making something truly excellent for it by adding all the other touches; all the things that give a game true life and make us want to exist in that mental space instead of veg’ing or sleeping on the bus.

This is changing. Just look at the games we’ve reviewed lately and you can see that iOS is the future of gaming. The potential is there and ready to be embraced, but to do so, it takes a lot more than programming.

So, programmers and developers, get out there! Find yourself a writer. We want to work for you and I promise you, we all suck at haggling.

…which brings me back to Highborn…no really, it does.

As I said, the gameplay is excellent, but familiar and none too remarkable. Graphically, it’s a joy. Everything about the look of Highborn is beautifully simple, that simplicity being used to sculpt a unique and comical look for the game. I just love looking at it.

The writing is really clever and funny, with a myriad of pop culture references and jokes about other games. Perhaps the funniest thing is that the game world is self-aware. This breaking of the fourth wall provides such humor and cleverness that you forget that you have to do a lot of reading in this game. It’s totally worth it. Unlike most games you really feel like these pieces you move around the world are little people you know, with 3D personalities that bring comedy much like the joyful hilarity in the those games about the plumber with the mustache. Highborn could not be a better example of why games need good writing.

So in a nutshell…

Likes

Graphics: This game is beautiful and proves, once again, that gameplay and artistic design will win out every time over flash & pop noisy things that wow you instantly and are forgotten ten minutes later.

Writing: I love the voice this game has, and I love that I can point to this as a game with a voice. Smashing job!

Multiplayer: Excellent use of the Plus+ network for matchmaking and conducting your multiplayer games with your friends. It’s really a lot of fun, bogged down only by the fact that I don’t like Plus+ very much. If you do, it’ll be PERFECT.

Dislikes

Multiplayer: I’d really like them to use Game Center. I really hate having to have two, three, and four accounts for connected gaming on the iPhone. Apple’s put Game Center out there; reward them for it, USE IT.

Highborn is a really strong game and I highly recommend you give it a shot, even if your not a fan of turn based strategy games, or you’re tired of them. This is fresh, new, and seriously…how expensive is it really?

Highborn is developed by Jet Set Games and is available on the app store for $1.99. This review is based on version 1.1.2 and was played on my iPhone 4.  There is also a lite version available for free.