Tag Archives: $6.99

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.


LotR Middle-earth Defense Review: A game deserving the wrath of Mordor

A thoroughly mediocre tower defense game wearing the thinnest veneer of a beloved intellectual property for the sake of retail markup, Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Defense is a game which ought to be thrown into the molten bowels of Mordor.

LotR:MeD comes in two miserable flavors, a $6.99 iPhone version and a $9.99 HD version for the iPad. In either case, you’re paying a premium price for the license only, because the underlying game is just wretched.

The game takes all of the epic encounters from the film trilogy, and pulls them down to a sluggish pace for the sake of creating a plodding, uninspired tower defense game. And as if the gameplay weren’t bad enough, the game is just plain ugly to look at.

Likes:

LotR: I love Lord of the Rings. I love the books, and I love the films. I even love the games. Just not this one.

Heroes: The game allows you to place the story’s heroes — Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, the hobbits and others — has towers on the field. Using gold acquired in combat, you can level-up their attack strength, range, speed and special skills. These aspects of the game are actually pretty cool, but a sad case of good ideas buried in a poor game.

Dislikes:

Graphics: Environments comprised of muddy textures, blocky and poorly animated character models, cheesy interface components and ugly text windows make the game an eyesore to behold. Even the typography is bad. To claim this game is HD is a bad joke, and I’m sure Glu will be laughing their way to the bank.

Pacing: There’s an option to run the stages at double-speed, but even that seems far too slow. I keep drifting off while playing the game, having to wrench my attention back to the screen to initiate the next wave of attack. The fact that the game can’t even hold my attention from one wave to the next is surely a bad sign. Eventually the game becomes difficult, but it never gets good.

Stage Design: Stages are not only muddy and ugly, but also poorly designed from the standpoint of interesting gameplay. Each stage consists of various paths along which the forces of Mordor may march. The game very clearly shows you the path enemies will follow. You can erect barriers to divert their progress along different paths, but the game only allows you very limited influence over their path. Likewise, friendly units may only be placed at specified points on the map were nodes indicate a defensible position. Everything seems to play out in a very by-the-numbers fashion, and players are provided much less control and far fewer strategic options than in other tower defense games. LotR:MeD really seems as if the developers mean for stages to be completed in only one way.

At time of this writing, LotR:MeD enjoys a solid four-star rating on the app store, but you and I know there are fanboys out there who will rate it highly based solely on the property. Truth be told, Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Defense is both the worst LotR game and one of the worst tower defense games I have ever played. And were it not for the LotR license being attached, I’m certain most gamers would pass it by without a second thought.

For fans of the story who simply must have it all, nothing I write here will prevent you buying it. But for anyone else, I strongly advise steering clear of this. There are a thousand tower defense games in the app store more worthy of your time and money, offering both a better experience and a better bargain. Play one of them instead.

Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Defense is developed by Glu Games, and available for $6.99 or $9.99 HD. Reviewed on an iPhone 4 and iPad.


Star Battalion Review: Futuristic Space Shooter with Intensity

Have you been missing a Warhawk, Starfox, or Rouge Squadron-like game on the iPhone? Gameloft has delivered by bringing out Star Batallion recently and surprisingly without much hype, to our touch devices. The title is a solid 3d space-shooter arcade-sim with 360 degree freedom-of-movement. It is a game that takes many inspiration from sci-fi shooters such as Starfox, Warhawk, and Rouge Squadron, among others — but comes out unique in its own way and should satisfy the 3d-space shooter itch mostly lacking on the iPhone. The gameplay shares similarities to Starfox in the sense that you have some wingmen along with you going through various missions – luckily two instead of three. The wingmen are just as useless, if not more so, than they were in Starfox, and they also ask you to rescue them from time to time. On the other hand I haven’t seen any of them die in any of my missions yet. In terms of movement of flight and exploration however, Star Batallion is more similar to other more open ended games like Rouge Squadron or Warkawk — because, although you are restricted to operate in a perimeter neat the mission objectives, you have 360 degrees of freedom to fly in.

The game will take players right into the story of an inter-galactic war being fought as a Resistance fighter, and squadron captain, Sonan, of Orion Force One. Two forces at war are the Resistance, and the The Royalists, and as you may notice, the story borrows a lot from the Starwars franchise of light vs dark. Some of the missions and planet layouts also share similarities, but are unique in their own right. The graphics are truly amazing with the Retina display, and there is usually a lot of action happening on screen with voice narrations and cut scenes before, after, and sometimes during missions. I only experienced some slowdown during heavy battles, but what Gameloft accomplished is still pretty amazing in terms of visuals and presentation.

There are various missions in the campaign ranging from escorting ground forces and protect their flanks, to taking part in large dogfights where you end up having to take on an enemy capital ship, and to collecting square energy fields in space. missions take place over vast areas, and planets — ranging from ice and snow, deserts, and cities. There is never shortage of action and intensity right from the get go.

Gyroscope controls are enabled with tilting and turning as the default control method. Although the sensitivity is a bit jerky at times and may need to be tinkered in the options menu, the tilt controls allow very fluid motion without the need to concentrate on a lot of touch inputs. I found them better than the alternative touch controls as my finger would slip from the control input and I had to take my eyes off the action to place it back. Barrel rolls with the swipe of the finger are used to escape enemy missles and lock-on, and there is also a Starfox-esque U-turn that you can do with a vertical touch-input and both these touch inputs work real well.

There are also two views you can choose to fly in. A cockpit view and a third person perspective view where you can see the plane in front of you. They offer almost two completely different experiences but both are made pretty well to control.

Likes

GameCenter support: There are various achievements to unlock and co-op online play is offered through either GameCenter or Gameloft’s service.

Graphics: Retina display is amazing, with great use of color and backgrounds. The landscapes in the background are usually very interesting to look at and very detailed. Examples of this are objects such as large spaceships to shoot down or cities located on the landscape, and far away planets or moons in the air. The polygon look very anti-aliased or with a lot of nice filtering because they are very smooth, moreso than I’ve even seen with other Gameloft titles.  There is a wide range of terrain throughout the game overall and all the areas you explore are interesting.

Overall-presentation: The presentation is excellent overall, with mission briefings taking place explaining the background and story of the game between mission chapters. There are also very nice cutscenes present rivaling console titles, and often they take place even after completing one mission objective and getting ready to start another in the missions. Sometimes unexpected turns and twists occur inside missions. The voice acting is very good overall and each character seems to have their own personality carved with character.

Intensity: The combat is very intense and literally made my adrenaline spike to the point where I stood up playing some missions.

Dislikes

Movement and Controls at times: Although there is a fair amount of freedom of movement offered I would have liked to be able to fly higher and lower than my default plane at times as there were many obstacles I kept hitting that I should have been able to fly over or under.

Target lock-on system: The targeting or aiming also needs fine-tuning, as you can’t choose who to target but the nearest enemies, and sometimes they are not even located in front of you but behind some object blocking your path like a piece of debris. I usually take out auto aiming in games such as this but the hit detection system and aiming is quite difficult in this title without it, almost too difficult as some laser shots seem to fly right past or through the enemy unless auto aim is on.

Sometimes you have to destroy small enemy forces like drones in the game or locate objects, and the automatic targeting system doesn’t always pick these out — assist stays on the enemy whose path you are nearest or across from. Finding these small enemy ships or objects to destroy can be difficult.

No online battles: Although there are multiplayer co-op campaign missions to play, I think games like this are truly designed for competitive dogfighting sessions if played in multiplayer.

Speed and acceleration adjustment: I was confused for a while between adjusting my speed in the game before figuring out there are only three options. There isn’t an actual throttle slider but you have to tap each of the three icons — one of which is a square signaling the mid or neutral speed and the other two are arrows signaling fast and crawling slow. I originally thought the square is where the speedometer is set and you have to adjust it either up or down — but instead of it being a slider, it acts as one of the buttons.At least the game allows some speed control as you can accelerate to catch enemies and later slow down when you want to target them for a clean shot. There is also an acceleration that occurs when you switch to the fastest speed from either of the slower once that sometimes causes your ship to fly further than aimed.

Overall, despite some minor gripes that can be fixed with updates such as deathmatch multiplayer, or lock-on controls, Star Batallion is a great flight-sim package that is very arcade-like in execution at times, but offers solid twitch-gameplay and challenge, with great presentation and graphics. I recommend it to any gamers looking for some dog-fighting action on their iPhone.

Star Batallion was developed by Gameloft, and I played through version 1.0.0 on my iPhone 4. The price is $6.99.


Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus Review: The Most Complete Experience on the App Store

Gameloft, I now salute you.

In their most blatant copy yet, Gameloft has proved that they have enough resources and financials to create one of the most complete first-person shooters on the App Store; heck, the most complete experience on the iPhone period.  While the multiplayer, font, and single-player campaign almost feel like I’m playing Modern Warfare 2 (not ignoring the name either Modern Combat 2), the graphics, controls, and multiplayer experience made me overlook the unoriginality and enjoy the game as a whole.

With four different multiplayer modes: capture the flag, battle, team battle, and defuse the bomb, the multiplayer experience is much more robust than the freemium Eliminate, and definitely more complete than Modern Combat: Sandstorm and Gameloft’s Halo clone NOVA.

The single player campaign is also quite complete, and while it’s nothing wow-some and worthy of extremely high praise, it provides enough content and game time for those not connected to the Internet.

Don’t get me wrong: even with all its wonders it still has some flaws that bother me, mainly pertaining to the multiplayer.  An overpowered pistol, problems with rankings, and a buggy server all add up to some annoying problems; but overall, I can’t help but bring on a ton of praise for Gameloft.

Likes

Graphics: I can’t tell if Modern Combat 2 is better in terms of graphics than Modern Combat, but it sure does look pretty.  The Retina-ized graphics look absolutely beautiful, and while previous Gameloft offerings had only some parts as Retina and other as normal, I can’t seem to find any pixelized parts in any part of Modern Combat 2.

Multiplayer experience: I’ve found myself rarely playing the single player campaign and instead playing the online multiplayer for more than an hour straight.  The only time I don’t play multiplayer would be outside when WiFi is not nearby.  While it is almost exactly like Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, it’s too gripping to stay away from.

The multiplayer mode alone would actually warrant this game the Must Have award; the experience is beyond NOVA, Modern Combat Sandstorm, Archetype, and Eliminate; this is the online multiplayer experience that I have been waiting for ever since the App Store opened doors.

Controls: Customizable controls and three different options allow you to pick and choose whatever way you think is the most comfortable.  There should be no problems here.

Dislikes

Server problems: I’ve come across some server problems with Gameloft Live, including the fact that quick matches never work and you must almost always have to search for a match.  Also, I’ve found myself being disconnected at times and the game freezing, causing me to having to restart the device to play the game again.  While Black Pegasus doesn’t stutter while playing an online match, before is quite a hassle with the cumbersome and sluggish online menu.

Along with that, I have found my ranking go down atleast 3-4 times; after achieving rank 9 in a 30-minute match, my rank went up to atleast 9 then when I logged into Gameloft Live again, all my rankings were gone.  I’ve only had this problem in the beginning of my online multiplayer ventures, but it is annoying when almost an hour of play goes to waste.

Lack of checkpoints: The single player campaign needs some more checkpoints, and I’ve noticed this problem throughout many of Gameloft’s games.  Because of the quick nature of iPhone gamers, there is no time to play 10 minutes just to get to the next checkpoint.

Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus is one of the most complete and best games I have ever played on my device, and with such a complete online multiplayer experience and a solid single player mode, I can’t see any other game really topping this, atleast for a while.  If you haven’t picked it up yet, you’re missing out.  Big time.

Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus was developed by Gameloft, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPhone 4.  The price is $6.99.


‘Spider Man: Total Mayhem’ Swings into the App Store

My spidey senses are tingling.  What could it be?

Just the fact that Spider Man: Total Mayhem has entered the App Store in full swing, courtesy of Gameloft.  Not surprisingly, Spider Man: Total Mayhem seems to be quite similar with other Gameloft offerings like Iron Man 2: 12 levels of play, a story mode similar to that of the comic, and an acceptable set of combos.

You also have the ability to wield your “Black Suit” and revisit all the levels in said suit, and you’ll unlock the powers of a Symbiote substance.

Spider Man: Total Mayhem is also Retina-optimized, and the price is $6.99.