Tag Archives: $6.99

Dead Space Review: Prepare for some Thrills

Just a disclaimer: I’ve never played Dead Space, ever, in my entire life, so this was a first time experience.

So, I can’t compare it to the console versions or how accurate a translation it is from Xbox to iPhone, what features were taken in or added, and how the atmosphere and playing experience is different.

But I can review it as a game—just like any other game in the App Store—and look upon it as if it were an original title.  So with no comparisons and no real expectations going into the game, I was thoroughly surprised.

The game does start out slowly though, as you must find your weapons and situate yourself in the atmosphere.  There aren’t many actions or thrills until around 20-30 minutes into the game, and upgrading your weapons and armor take some time.  But once the action starts, the suspense is edge-of-the-seat, and I feel like I’m watching an episode of Flashforward (one of my favorite TV shows, by the way, but was unfortunately axed after one season).

So with all that said, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.


Graphics: The Retina graphics are popping, and I am in love with them.  While I can’t say they’re the best on the platform, I think they’re the best the iPhone 4 can handle (if that makes any sense).  The detail is great, and I’m still shocked at the sight of how far iPhone games have come in terms of graphics.

No “big arrow”: Gameloft has a habit of adding large, guiding arrows to their games, leading you to where your next objective is.  Dead Space gets rid of that and has an optional blue line you can summon whenever you need help in finding where to go.  This allows for some more traveling and exploring the small places of the spaceship, and if you’re lucky enough, you’ll find some rooms filled with credits, ammo, and other goodies.

Atmosphere: The developers did a phenomenal job with setting the tone, with enemies popping out of nowhere and nearly slicing you to pieces, along with the eerie music sending you chills while walking down an “empty” hallway.  Monsters pop out from everywhere, and the thrill and “scary” tone is set quite nicely.


Slow start: The beginning is a little bit slow, and it took a while for me to actually get into the game.  Impatient people, you have been warned.

GameCenter: The “big dogs” really need to start implementing some GameCenter into their games, and it’s a real shame that Dead Space doesn’t have it considering the fact that it has achievements.  The achievements are used to unlock a variety of wallpapers, but still, some GameCenter support would be nice.  Especially for those wanting to rack up as many achievements as possible.

Dead Space isn’t a game that particularly stood out and isn’t something that’s a no-brainer Must Have in my eyes.  The production values are high, and EA did a really nice job with this one.  I just wasn’t exactly addicted to it, and it never really grasped me from the start.  But the playing atmosphere and graphics are phenomenal, and the game as a whole is quite professional.

Dead Space was developed by EA Mobile, and I played through version 1.0.1 on my iPhone 4.  The price is $6.99.

Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 Review: Finish Him, Already!!!

Ah, Mortal Kombat…  What gamer of my generation doesn’t have some fond memories of this franchise?  I still recall the excitement and mystery it generated when a Mortal Kombat cabinet appeared one day next to Street Fighter II in the local arcade.  It quickly became the one game that always had a line in front of it, with scruffy older kids who probably smoked cigarettes ferociously gloating over their opponents and discussing how to perform Fatalities in conspiratorial whispers.  Mortal Kombat was a brand that embodied my nine-year-old’s version of “extreme,” and I was immediately hooked.  The year I got Mortal Kombat 1 for Game Gear, I faked being sick the next day so I could stay home and play it.  (And I took school pretty seriously.  This game was just that important.)  The franchise was a big part of my early adolescence.  So when Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for iOS came out, imagine my delight!  However, now that I’ve played it, I can hardly begin to describe my disappointment.

I think I should be upfront:  Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (“UMK3” from hereon, for the sake of brevity), as it exists in its current form, is one of the most unsatisfying games I’ve played for iOS to date.  This is partly because it displays enough potential that one can see that it could have been a really good game with a little more work.  Although it displays some good potential, and with the right updates UMK3 could become a top-notch game on iOS, right now it plays like a beta version.  There are a few commendable areas: Overall, the gameplay looks fairly good, and the animations are smooth.  Each character feels relatively complete, since they each retain most of their special moves, fatalities, babalities, animalities, and all the usual repertoire of Mortal Kombat malarkey that you have come to expect.

And, literally, that’s where my flattery ends.  If I didn’t have a journalistic obligation to uphold, I hardly would have even played this title for thirty minutes before deleting it from my device.  I can’t help but speculate UMK3 was the product of a very rushed attempt to get something onto the App Store before Apple’s holiday-season game approval deadline.  They probably should have just gritted their teeth and finished debugging it.


Graphics: Groan-inducingly enough, one of the few things I can list as a positive aspect of this game has already been a point of contention in how people have received it.  Instead of using digitized sprites for the character models, the designers have opted to go for three-dimensional animated character models. Personally, they don’t really bother me and from what I understand this was a necessary concession to keep the game running at a good frame-per-second rate.  However, response has been mixed, and I think there are some Mortal Kombat purists out there who consider anything besides a strict two-dimensional layout and digitized-sprite character models to be an unforgivable deviation from the formula.

Ambitiousness: Although the actuality of UMK3 as it exists currently is rather disappointing, I admire the scope of what the developers were trying for.  The gameplay doesn’t really work 100%, but to the extent that it does, it’s pretty reminiscent of the original Mortal Kombat 3, which was a good iteration of the series.  The characters all have a wide variety of finishing moves, unique special moves, and the usual generic Mortal Kombat arsenal of punches and kicks.  There is a good variety of arenas, many of which have arena-specific fatalities, and the general presentation of the game is fairly well-done.  It just seems as if for whatever reason, the game was rushed into Apple’s approval process before it was really ready to be released.  Which is a shame, because it feels like it could have easily been a much better game than it is.


The Kontrols are Krap: Really, there is just no way to make a good 1-on-1 fighting game without making sure it has adequate controls.  And whatever there is good about UMK3, of which there is some, gets completely undermined by the fact that the controls don’t work well enough to actually let the user derive any enjoyment from playing the game.

I would have a lot more sympathy for UMK3 if games like Blades of Fury and Street Fighter IV hadn’t already been out for this platform for quite some time now, proving that fighting games are possible on iOS (and in the case of Street Fighter, very good.)  However, especially in comparison to its old rival, the Street Fighter franchise, this version of Mortal Kombat suffers miserably when it comes to the controls.  Street Fighter is able to survive the translation to iOS still feeling much like the same game, by limiting the punches and kicks to one button each, as opposed to three for each.  Whereas Street Fighter IV for iOS accommodates itself to the limitations of the iPhone’s touch screen by significantly paring down the basic attacks available to each character, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 includes its full repertoire of basic attacks.  While this would be a bonus if the controls were sensitive enough, in short, they’re not.  The virtual joystick is painfully small and unreceptive (even for someone like myself whose thumbs are definitely not oversized).

There are two configurations of settings for the virtual buttons.  The first is the classic six-button arcade configuration, with high kick, low kick, high punch, low punch, block, and run.  The other configuration is a five-button setup with one punch, one kick, block, run, and a button to assist the player to pull off special moves more quickly and easily.  While this sounds all well and good, each configuration presents unique problems.  With the classic six-button approach, some special moves and nearly each and every Fatality can be maddeningly difficult to pull off, thanks in part to the muddy responsiveness of the virtual joystick.  However, with the five-button approach, you limit your ability to perform each character’s “cheese combos,” which are already really difficult to pull off anyways but deal so much damage as to be implicitly enticing.

To make matters worse, of course, the AI opponents have no trouble inflicting these massive combos on you.  Times are tough in The Outworld, apparently.

Load Times: There’s just a little too much loading between matches for my tastes.  This gets to be especially frustrating when you’re playing against Shao Kahn, because it can feel like you spend about ten seconds waiting to select your character, then about ten seconds waiting to fight, and then you lose the match in about twenty-five seconds.  Rinse, repeat.  It’s not too terrible, and honestly the other problems this game has far overshadow the load times.  But it’s a little extra irksomeness on top of all the annoyance that’s already there to be experienced.

Character Selection: Hopefully we can look forward to more characters in future updates (although fix the controls first or don’t even bother.)  But for now, the roster feels a little anemic.  We’re missing such fan-favorites as Raiden, Johnny Cage, Baraka, Kabal, Kano, etc.  Not to mention that some of the characters they’ve chosen to include seem like odd choices which could have been someone cooler.  Sheeva and Nightwolf?  Really??

Buggier than an Alabama Screen Door in July: As I’ve already mentioned, this game pretty much feels like a beta version.  The AI is extremely imbalanced and easily exploited.  For example, I’ve found I can effectively spam a computer opponent by running up to them and throwing them ad nauseam for the entire match.  On the other hand, if you should try to fight fair, you’ll most likely get that ass whupped on all but the easiest difficulty setting.  Again, this is largely because the CPU can, for example, freeze you and then effortlessly perform that six-hit combo that it takes you ten attempts to pull off correctly.

Speaking of buggy AI, fighting the bosses in this game is an excruciating annoyance. Motaro incessantly teleports from one side of the screen to another, in a way that feels less like the AI’s strategy and much more like a programming glitch.  Also, he frequently performs his next hit on you when you’re in the middle of your standing-up animation from his last one.  Shao Kahn on the other hand, just won’t let you get a hit in edgewise.  The only real way I’ve found to beat him so far are really cheaty-faced techniques, like getting a little damage on him and then spamming him with Stryker’s ‘takedown slide’ move.  If you just keep performing the move over and over, the clock will run out without him being able to hit you…  And that’s not exactly what I call ‘fun.’  But hey, I felt I had an obligation to at least finish the game, mind-numbingly frustrating as the experience became.

In short, I couldn’t recommend this game to anyone right now in good conscience.  It really could be terrific if the developers take the time to go back and meticulously fix the controls, and offer us a solid update.  I would love to see UMK3 stand tall as a worthy contender among the scarce amount of arcade-style fighting games on the App Store.  If we get controls that work, the next thing I would like to see would be more characters added to the roster.  But right now, all that is a mighty big if. As it currently stands, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for iOS gets low marks indeed, because it doesn’t feel quite ‘finished’ and the sheer frustration of trying to work with the controls precludes any real chance of having fun.

Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 was developed by EA Mobile, and I played through version 1.0.4 on my iPod touch 2G.  The price is $6.99.

Asphalt 6: Adrenaline Review: Losing Ground

Racing games have been one constant for the App Store, with Gameloft, EA Mobile, and Firemint leading the way.  I remember the first legitimate racing game, Asphalt 4, was released on the App Store alongside Real Soccer 2009.

And boy oh boy, did I enjoy that one.  I played that game for at least 8 hours, beating the career mode and collecting all the cars.  I thought the graphics were great at the time, and overall, it was just plain fun.

Then Asphalt 5 came along and the experience just wasn’t the same; there had been other arcade racers such as Need for Speed Undercover that completely raised the bar when it came to racers.  The graphics for Asphalt 5 were much improved from Asphalt 4, but other than that, everything else was much the same.

Now come 2010/2011, we have the release of Asphalt 6.  And I’m starting to get the feeling that Asphalt will never have the same experience as I did with the first one, as Asphalt 6 seems almost like a rehash of Asphalt 5.  The graphics are better, there is online multiplayer… but the game experience is more or less the same.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great game.  Crashing other cars, gameplay variety, tons of cars—the whole lot is still there.  I just think that the whole lot has appeared in all three Asphalts.  In other words, it’s getting old.


Graphics: The graphics aren’t of Real Racing 2 caliber, but they’re good enough.  They’re an improvement—albeit not huge—from Asphalt 5, and it really does show what the iPhone is capable of graphically.  I remember trying to play Fruit Ninja on my friend’s Droid Erus… didn’t work out too well.

Online Multiplayer: This is a feature that I have been clamoring for since the release of Asphalt 5, a game that looked perfectly ready to take on an online multiplayer feature.  While the online isn’t too deep and won’t provide tons of replay value, it’s online multiplayer.  I mean, what more can you expect?

Controls: I’m pretty sure by now, if a developer cannot get the controls for a racing game down, they either don’t know how to develop or are too lazy to make the adjustments to create the right control scheme.  Gameloft has them down here—like it has in all previous games—and no one should have a problem with them.


Nothing different: I stated it in the beginning of this review, and the Asphalt series really needs to find something that will make it stand out.  It feels like I’ve played this game before around a year ago on Asphalt 5, and the gameplay experience just doesn’t differ from its predecessors.  It’s the same old arcade racing experience: take down enemies, eliminate them, etc.

Gameloft Live: It’s sluggish, old, and much too clunky to be even added anymore.  Hopefully they give it up for GameCenter, as they’ve changed the UI for Gameloft Live at least three times now—the current one looking pretty ugly—and the interface as a whole is quite unresponsive.  And if they’re going to add achievements and leaderboards, why not GameCenter?

The Asphalt series are getting old.  That fact is quite evident in this review, and it just doesn’t feel any different from Asphalt 5.  If you’re really desperate for online multiplayer—again, not really a make-or-break feature—then I guess you can pick this up.  Other than that, there’s really no difference.

Asphalt 6: Adrenaline was developed by Gameloft, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPhone 4.  The price is $6.99.

Aralon HD Review: Ravensword, Step Aside

Fully 3D RPGs is one genre that’s not too plenty in the App Store, partly due to the fact that it takes a lot of time and money.  But there are some developers out there that have taken the challenge, Crescent Moon Games being the frontrunner of 3D RPGs.  And they’re back for more with the release of Aralon, and I’m going to say it right off the bat: this is probably one of the best games I have ever played on my iPhone.

The story starts out with you trekking out to Taryn Ridge and talking to Sufok.  You discover that your father was actually the captain of the army until he was murdered by someone within the organization.  As you start taking odd jobs throughout the empire, you’ll discover that the queen was killed by the king’s right hand man Mercificus, as he is actually a demon most likely waiting to take over and pour out his evil over the entire empire.

So basically your job: find a way to kill Mercificus and save the kingdom.

The obvious difference between Ravensword and Aralon are the graphics, as Aralon sports some of the best graphics I have ever seen in an iPhone game.  On top of that, Aralon boasts of an innumerable number of items—weapons, armor, shields, etc.

And even on top of that, Aralon boasts of around 15 hours of gameplay, which I can attest to as being an underestimate, and overall, it’s a huge step forward in not only 3D RPGs but iPhone gaming as a whole.

The story is a little bit hard to follow and feels a bit stretched out, but other than that, this shouldn’t even be disputed on whether or not to buy.  And for all you explorers and boy scouts out there, this should be a dream come true.


Graphics: This should be a no-brainer; just look at the screenshots and determine it for yourself.  These graphics are striking, almost eye-shatteringly good.  And if you’re fortunate enough to have a Retina-equipped device, get ready for some eye-burning.

Atmosphere: The surroundings and environment aren’t exactly expansive; you’ll have designated roads and such with no real exploring into the mountains.  But the atmosphere and just the Aralon world is absolutely massive, and while exploring really isn’t my cup of tea, you just can’t help but roam around to see what some certain cave contains.

Content: I’ve honestly poured my heart and soul into this game for at least 10 hours, and at level 40 and kind-of almost done with the game (not really), you won’t find many games with this much content.  If you’re buying this for just something to play, then I thoroughly recommend it.  I’ve killed so much time while waiting in lines, waiting in the car, etc.  This is the perfect time-killer and may even be the perfect play-at-work-while-no-one-is-watching game.

Items: The items are all over the place, probably somewhere in the hundreds of thousands.  While that’s probably an exaggerated estimate, there’s definitely A LOT more than I remember from Ravensword.  The item system is very similar to Dungeon Hunter in that it’s the same item with different “levels to it” (i.e. Poor Axe, Good Axe, etc.)

Universal: Everyone loves it when a game supports both iPhone and iPad resolutions, and I’m not exempt from that love.  I absolutely love it and love the fact that the developers included it.  Kudos.


GameCenter: There are achievements, but they’re not really related to any social platform.  In recent days I’ve been more and more enamored by GameCenter, and with this having achievements, it would be nice if these achievements counted towards something.

Grinding: Level up, level up, level up.  Of all the 30 hours of boasted gameplay, probably 20 is spent leveling up to complete the next quest.  If you hate repetitious fighting, then I can’t say this is a game for you.  And if you’re playing for more than 2 hours in one sitting, then it starts to get really repetitious.

Walking: Of all the good things I have to praise about Aralon, walking is one of my #1 pet peeve.  Sure in real life I get my exercise in, but usually in a game, I want to sit down, relax, and not have to worry about exercising.  But Aralon seems to want you to mentally exercise, and walking is a pain.  You can’t run, you can’t ride your horse in the city, and you can’t teleport from one place to another.  It’s just, in my opinion, a complete waste of time.

Aralon is quite simply the best RPG on the App Store.  I can’t really say enough about it, but man, Galoobeth and Crescent Moon have really outdone themselves.  If you haven’t picked it up already and/or is on the fence, just go ahead and pick it up.  I doubt it’ll be $6.99 for long.

Aralon HD was developed by Crescent Moon Games, and I played through version 2.12 on my iPhone 4.  The price is $6.99.

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.


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.


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.