Tag Archives: $2.99

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.

Braveheart HD Review: Circular Sword Swinging, Mindless Fun

Gajin Entertainment’s Braveheart HD is a new action role playing on the App Store that offers a nice breath of fresh air. The game is very accessible not just to role playing game fans but fans of dual-analog shooters. It is not without flaws however and can get repetitive if you are used to traditional RPGs.

This is an action RPG that is mostly action and little role playing. The battle system is intriguing here because you circle with your thumb to unwind an attack motion and have to move round the game map hitting every enemy in sight. But unlike many dual-analog shooters there is a second (ranged) attack option — like using crossbows among other weapons — that is used by holding a finger on the screen and pointing to where you want to shoot with another. On top of this there are perks or actions awarded for killing enemies like health generation and there are also items to be gather on the battlefield. The interesting battle system is not without flaws however. Sometimes it’s hard to unwind the swing already in motion –which is done by circling your thumb in the opposite direction –and Richard just swings in the opposite direction instead of stopping it.

Although easy to get into, the game gets challenging fast and you will need to use the shops in the game’s city menu to buy elixirs and upgrade weapons. To gain gold and experience points you will be doing side-mission hunts in similar locations to where you progressed in story mode.

The game centers around a campaign of a renegade knight named Richard who offended the king, got imprisoned, and now has a chance to win his freedom by finding a grail guarded by a dragon. Besides the story mode, there is also a challenges mode where you try overcoming various game challenges the game throws at you like killing a set amount of enemies in a set time frame. The challenges mode adds longetivity to the title but the story mode is its bread and butter. There are elements of the story unveiled via cut scenes between each mission completed. As you progress through these stages, you gain access to new territories, with different backrounds.

Likes

Default controls: There are two control options, but the default method based purely on touch and not an on-screen analog is a great control mechanism, and I love the aiming system of the range weapons the game offers. It is fun mixing up meele ring-around-the-rosy swings with the ranged weapons.

Fun Story: I also enjoy the story and think it has character compared to most RPGs on the App Store, as you aren’t some super-righteous noble knight here.

Production values: I also like the graphics and movement animations, and the presentation in general is very high here.

Dislikes

Repetitive gameplay for an RPG: There isn’t much variation in the levels and it gets repetitive killing waves of enemies in every level. The game gets really challenging as well and you have to grind through the hunts after a while and this adds to the repetitive nature of the game.

Lack of control outside combat: There are no areas to explore outside the pre-arranged levels you fight in.

Hardcore RPG fans may find Braveheart’s level layout and arcade nature too simplified—as the App Store’s RPG offerings can get quite deep these days—there is still a lot of customization and depth offered here and the combat is intriguing.

Braveheart HD was developed by Gajin Entertainment, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPad.  The price is $2.99.

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.



Samurai II Vengence Review: Cell-Shaded Graphics, Heads Flying in All Directions

There aren’t too many cut-throat, violent games on the App Store. Nor are there many games that feature the aesthetic beauty of hand-painted, cell-shaded graphics. Samurai 2 Vengence by Madfinger Games is such a game and a wonderful brawler to boot. The action can get very intense and the visuals are truly gorgeous here. To those who haven’t played the original and who have a weak heart, be warned however. Samurai 2 has some violent gameplay – compromised of decapitating the enemies’ heads, arms, and bodies in half as well as unleashing rapid combos in all directions at them. The way decapitation works is sometimes the game slows down allowing you to swing the sword and if it hits an enemy a decapitation takes place.

You are a Samurai bent on a mission to save villagers from an evil human-demon hybrid named Orochi that gained power from the underworld after escaping capture. The story isn’t going to win awards but it is well presented through cutscenes in between the game’s seven chapters. Gameplay consists of using keystroke-combinations of two virtual attack buttons to take on enemies ranging from those using bows and arrows to samurai with swords. As you defeat enemies and break barrels you can purchase additional attacks or combinations — as well as health via the points you acquire.

Besides fighting your way up to Orochi there are also obstacles to overcome like wooden spikes or blades coming from the ground. The camera sometimes changes angles and direction and there is a nice variety of level layouts as you progress through chapters.

Likes

Presentation: The game has incredible presentation and production values for an iDevice app — and is an Universal App. From the game’s melodies giving the game flair and mood of the Far East to the beautiful visuals and colors to moving platforms. Control is also really well done with a virtual analog and two different attack buttons as well as a roll. The graphics are just pure eye candy and I don’t think I’ve seen anything that matches this on the iDevices yet. The controls with the touch analog and various button inputs like dodging-rolling are very well implemented and keep the game fresh. This isn’t just an average brawler type game, but one with art and style and some great gameplay. The game is no cake walk and has various difficulty settings for different kinds of players but is aimed at the less casual crowd.

Variety of gameplay: There is a Dojo game mode in addition to the main storyline where you fight hordes of enemies including Orochi himself with no continues and this should be a nice addition for gamers who already beat the main storyline.

The game’s pace flows real well between fights because of a variety of gameplay elements besides combat. For example, I had to navigate obstacles coming at me with spikes and move platforms to advance as the camera zoomed in various ways showing the game’s aesthetics.

Dislikes

No block button: I Don’t like the fact the enemies can block various swings with the sword but I couldn’t. A block option as another input would have been nice but the roll does the job as well although sometimes it can get redundant to constantly use it during larger battles when every hit against enemies will be returned five fold. Some options to mix strategies up with a block would be great.

Lack of multiplayer: Although GameCenter support is included with leaderboards and some other network options, online multiplayer would be a blast to play with a co-op campaign on the hardest difficulty setting and versus battles against rival Samurai is missing as well.

Length: The game is not long and shouldn’t take more than a handful of hours to finish even with the high difficulty on anything beside the easiest setting.

Overall, Samurai 2 Vengence is a very solid game that shows the potential of the kinds of games the iDevices can handle despite lacking the processing power of a PC or modern console. I played this on my iPad and the game felt incredible in every aspect. The developers are also listening to the community and adding updates like they have with a lower difficulty setting. I highly recommend the title to any serious gamers not turned off by decapitations and blood — as there is plenty here.

Samurai II: Vengence was developed by Madfinger Games, and I played through version 1.0.3 on my iPad.  The price is $2.99.


Splatterhouse Review: Yesterday’s Gore-fest is Today’s Snore-fest?

I think it’s safe to say I missed the boat by a bit on the original Splatterhouse.  To be fair, it came out twenty-two years ago, so it’s not too surprising that it slipped under my radar while some of Namco’s more ubiquitous releases like Pac-Man and Dig-Dug would go on to loot many a quarter from my twitchy young fingers.  So apparently, it created a bit of a stir when it came out.  The game follows the young Rick and his girlfriend Jennifer, two intrepid young students of parapsychology (one of those majors only offered at more specialized universities no doubt).  Upon going to investigate the spooky mansion of the mysterious Dr. West, who is rumored to have disappeared years ago while conducting nefarious experiments on the dead, our young lovebirds predictably get trapped by a thunderstorm.  You guessed it, after seeking shelter in the mansion, they’re totally trapped inside, Jennifer gets abducted by demons, and Rick gets knocked unconscious.  Our hero awakens with the mysterious ‘Hell mask’ grafted on his face, an ancient Aztec artifact with some sort of dark power.  And, this being a video game made in the 1980’s, so begins the hazardous shlep to rescue your kidnapped female companion.

Namco Bandai are re-releasing the original, unedited game on iOS to coincide with the revival of the franchise on PS3 and XBox 360.  At the time of its release, Splatterhouse caused enough hoopla to cause it to be gradually pulled from most American arcades, relegating it to the shadowy corners of out-of-the-way pizza parlors and bowling alleys.  In fact, it’s pretty unlikely that you ever played the arcade version back in the day.  So how does it stack up by contemporary standards?  Read on, dear reader.  Splatterhouse is, as far as I can tell, a very faithful port of the original game (as it was released in the arcades, not the edited home console release).  And from what I gather, this will mean a great deal to a small, select group of people.  If the very phrase ‘faithful port of the original’ gives you some sort of retro-stalgic gore-gasm, then I would recommend you buy this game.  However, the uninitiated should be aware that what they would be getting themselves into is a very simplistic side-scrolling beat-em-up experience, with gameplay that may well feel dated by today’s standards.  On the one hand, the game has an enjoyably spooky/kitsch 16-bit horror aesthetic, and its progression keeps you genuinely wanting to plod along to the next room so you can see what happens.  On the other hand though, the gameplay can become tedious and a bit of a chore, and despite Namco’s token offering of a ‘Splatter Rush Mode,’ there’s not ultimately much to it to make you want to keep coming back.

Likes

Horror Movie Aesthetic: Splatterhouse is like a living monument to the horror flicks of the 80’s.  The protagonist looks about 97% like Jason Voorhees, many of your enemies would look at home in the Evil Dead movies, and Dr. West the mad scientist of unorthodox parapsychology is a reference to H.P. Lovecraft’s “Reanimator”.  Considering the hardware restrictions developers were working with in 1988, Splatterhouse does a remarkable job of establishing a creepy vibe.  There are plenty of memorable B-movie-ish moments, like a poltergeist that animates every object in a room one by one and makes them attack you (watch out for that chandelier), or a particularly mean baddie with a burlap sack over his head and chainsaws for forearms that you need to dispatch with your trusty shotgun.  Considering these sights and sounds were produced over twenty years ago, it’s pretty impressive.

Faithful Re-Release of a Classic: The shock tactics of this game caused enough of a stir at the time of its release to get it pulled from many American arcades, and the home release on Turbo Grafx-16 was substantially edited in terms of the level of gore and several aspects of the gameplay and graphics.  Although the edited version was re-released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007, this marks the first time in a long while that the American market has had the chance to play the game as it was originally intended.  It’s nice in a way to think that our country has moved on to worrying about somewhat more prescient matters than the threat of a video game mid-boss, who is composed of six goofy-looking severed heads floating around an upside down cross, turning our youngsters into violent devil worshipers.  For some old-school purists, the faithful rendition of the title in its original glory is probably worth the download alone, and if you’re among that group you can stop reading because nothing I’m about to say will convince you to the contrary.  Otherwise…

Dislikes

Lackluster Gameplay: Frankly, Splatterhouse’s biggest problem is that it was made twenty-two years ago.  It plays and controls a bit like many side-scrolling Flash games that I’ve played, which I don’t necessarily mean to be a flattering comparison.  The speed of the gameplay is glacially slow by today’s standards, and it basically boils down to a game where you walk from left to right, hop up and down occasionally, and punch stuff.  Or pick up a meat cleaver or 2×4 and swing it at stuff.  The challenge is somewhat artificially inserted into the gameplay, because when you run out of lives you can continue from a predetermined checkpoint rather than the beginning of the screen you were on.  In general, there is a continue spot every four screens or so, but if you’re anything like me this is going to force you to replay some of the more boring segments of the game a few times when you die at a boss or need a minute to figure out the pattern of a room.

Repetitive Combat: For a beat-em-up game protagonist, there isn’t a lot of variety to the moves that Rick can perform.  Basically, you have a standing attack, a ducking attack, a jumping attack, and a slide attack that you can perform at the end of a jump (do yourself a favor and turn on the ‘assistance’ to give yourself a button to be able to consistently do this maneuver).  While the enemies look varied, there’s not much variety to what they do.  Each of them basically has one predetermined attack pattern, and the bosses have about three attacks or so (if that).  Speaking of the bosses, while they’re cool and memorable, the gameplay feels a little cheap in this aspect.  Nearly all of them outclass you in terms of reach and maneuverability, so it quickly devolves into memorizing where the safe spot on the screen will be and waiting while they do their attack animation, then bopping them a couple times.  Rinse, repeat.

No Real Replay Value: I think you would have to be a real hardcore fan of this game to want to revisit it often.  The added Rush mode actually does little to amend this problem, since all it really consists of is more of the same.  The twist, such as it is, is that you’re in a room the size of the screen, and monsters appear from all sides and bum-rush you (rather than reaching the end of the room, the goal is to kill as many monsters as you can, and to not die if you can manage to).  To their credit, Namco have integrated Game Center support for both Arcade Mode and Splatter Rush Mode, so players can compete for high scores to their hearts content, but honestly the replay value of the central game mechanics is so thin for me that I can hardly see getting too competitive over my top score.

It really is sad that Splatterhouse did not receive wider recognition during its time, because it was a good game for its time.  Hell, probably even a great one.  However, really all side-scrolling beat-em-up games boil down to the same essential gameplay mechanics, and this game is those mechanics at their most basic.  The signs of age are immediately obvious.  While it probably has incredible nostalgia value for some gamers out there and this is a perfectly capable port of the game in all its original gore and glory, those of us who missed the boat the first time around are pretty safe in missing it this time as well.  If you want a look at one of the earliest horror arcade games released in America, give it a shot.  But if you’re looking for excitement and deep rewarding gameplay, you can keep sloowly marching on elsewhere like one of the undead in Splatterhouse.  I’m giving it a ‘Worth a Look’ with a caveat, because I expect only the previously initiated or the incredibly retro-minded to enjoy this one.

Splatterhouse was developed by Namco, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPhone 4.  The price is $2.99.