Tag Archives: $9.99

Real Racing 2 HD Review: Live your Childhood Dream

It’s in the movies, it’s in common culture; it’s everywhere: every kid wants to become some sort of driver some day.

Kids and adults, especially males, love cars.  That’s just the way the world revolves, and for me personally, driving a Lamborghini of any kind or a Ferrari would be a dream come true.

And I’m that much closer to reaching my dream, thanks to the efforts of Firemint and Real Racing 2 HD.

Packed with all of the features included in the iPhone version, I wouldn’t say it’s too huge of a difference.  One feature that was just released—HDMI output to play on your TV—is one that I haven’t tried out due to the fact that I don’t have an HDMI cord, but it’s one of the extra features included in this fullscreen iPad version.

Other than that, if you already have the iPhone/iPod touch version, you’re buying into the enlarged and absolutely gorgeous visuals.  It feels like I’m actually driving a car when in the cockpit view, and honestly, this is the most realistic racing will every get on the iPad.

Am I exaggerating?  Sure.  But this is one heck of a game that if you missed it on the smaller devices, the iPad version is the way to go.  The quality is unrivaled, the content is plenty, and for $9.99, I doubt anyone will be disappointed.

Likes

Graphics: One thing that makes the iPad the iPad is its larger screen, which brings about some crazy visuals.  The immersive environment really brings you into the game much more than any iPhone ever will, and it feels a lot more freer and open than the iPhone version.  As a stand alone iPad app — without comparing it to the iPhone app — this is the best looking iPad app to date.  Firemint always does a great job on its visuals, and Real Racing 2 HD is no exception.

Content: Looking for an iPad game to last you a good 10-15 hours?  Well here you go.  Easily even 20 hours if you’re into the whole achievement collecting business.

Controls: Fully-customizable controls topped with the fact that there are more options than I can count makes for quite a racing game.  There aren’t many games that can boast so many different options, and what I like about Firemint’s games is that they cater to my tastes and my “habits”.  There is no other company in the App Store that puts this much attention to even the smallest details, and the fully-customizable controls is a large reason why I absolutely love this game.

Dislikes

iPhone owners beware: For me personally, having already played through the entire iPhone version of the game, playing through the entire campaign didn’t have much appeal.  I still did it for reviewing purposes, but hey, it wasn’t as exhilarating as the first time.  For $9.99, you’re basically buying into the larger screen experience and the immersive environment it brings.  For one, you are definitely not buying any new features or content.

Real Racing 2 HD is unrivaled in the App Store.  There are no racing games like it, and if you’re even remotely into driving, then Real Racing 2 HD is for you.  While people who have already bought the game on the iPhone will have a hard time finding much appeal in this, people who haven’t bought the game yet should definitely check it out on the iPad.  And hey, bigger is better, right?

Real Racing 2 HD was developed by Firemint, and I played through version 1.1 on my iPad 2.  The price is $9.99.


‘Real Racing 2 HD’ Released onto the App Store

Firemint seems to have been hard at work and have finally released the HD version of its popular Real Racing 2.

But before you write it off as “just another HD version”, there seem to have been a lot of improvements from the iPhone version, mainly cosmetic along with iPad 2 optimizations such as full-screen anti-aliasing, fully-modeled vehicle interiors visible through translucent windows, high-detail objects and surfaces and enhanced reflections.

Along with that, Real Racing 2 HD supports the iPad 2’s gyroscope and precision steering, all making up to quite a tantalizing package.

Another cool feature is the ability to transfer game saves from your iPhone game to the iPad version, most likely using their Cloudcell technology.  It’s definitely a useful feature if you don’t want to go through the campaign again, although I’m quite looking forward to playing this all over on a bigger screen.

Real Racing 2 HD is available now for $9.99, and more details about the game can be found here.


Real Racing 2 Review: Quality at its Finest

People who have already played Real Racing 2 will probably be reading this review to see what score I gave it; if it’s lower than a Must Have, then I’ll probably receive mountains upon mountains of complaints such as “this reviewer sucks” and “this review is absolutely horrible”.

And good news for all of you just waiting to pounce on me, you don’t have to.

Real Racing 2 is quite frankly one of the best racing games I have played on the App Store.  Being quite a Gran Turismo and Pro Gotham Racing fan for consoles, I’ve always played the racing genre on the App Store to see if, one day, the quality would soon be up to par with some of the best PSP racing games.

And sure enough, here we are nearing the end of 2010 and almost two and a half years after the launch of the App Store, we have a PSP-quality racing game.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some flaws in Real Racing 2.  It’s by no means perfect and leaves enough room for their to be a third Real Racing, etc.  But honestly, looking at the level of quality and production values, this is one of the most complete games on the App Store.  I believe I said that (or just thought it in my mind) when the first one was released, and they’ve taken that completeness and completely rebirthed that ideology.

This is one game, folks, that you definitely don’t want to miss.

Likes

Graphics: Wow, how fast does time really go?  I played the original Real Racing a few days ago and thought to myself, “Wow, these graphics suck.”  No seriously, I did.  And I’m pretty positive that everyone of you—including me—that have played Real Racing when it was first released thought they were the best graphics ever.  I remember being mesmerized by the fact that there was a sun in the sky following your car, shining so brightly that it actually hurt your eyes.  Hurt your eyes, imagine that!  But fast-forward to present day and you see games with graphics like Aralon or Infinity Blade; my eyes are just completely spoiled now.  With that all said, Firemint did a terrific job of updating the graphics for Real Racing, and I honestly don’t know how it happened or when this transition from Real Racing looked amazing to Real Racing looks sucky happened (talking about the first one here, folks).  But wow.  I’m impressed.

Content: I’ve been playing for three and a half hours, according to the game clock, and I’ve finished 50% of the game.  And for all you math majors out there, that equates to around seven hours of gameplay.  And if that still has you questioning the amount of content, think of having to buy every car, get some achievements, and playing online multiplayer to increase even more your playtime.  It should be somewhere around ten hours before you’re completely finished with the game.

Options: You really can’t complain about anything when it comes to lack of features or having something wrong with the controls.  Like the first one, Real Racing 2 contains seven control options, sensitivity options, and brake assist options (i.e. 0 is no brake assist, 10 is basically the game drives for you).  There’s on or off vibration, anti-skid on or off, steering assist on or off… the options are countless.  I guess this like also falls under the category of controls, and heck, I can’t complain.

GameCenter: We here at NoDPad have fallen in love with GameCenter.  It’s fun, and while not perfect, it certainly does centralize a lot of our achievements into one place.  Real Racing 2 contains GameCenter leaderboards, achievements, and online multiplayer; you literally can’t expect more.

User interface: The first one didn’t have a horrible UI, but the one here feels much more professional and Need for Speed/EA-like.  That may not sound like a good thing—that a small company is going corporate-ish—but I would say it is when referring to the user interface.  It looks professional, fresh, and very clean.

Dislikes

Repetitive: Racing at its finest is actually quite boring when put into game form.  I can’t play this for more than 30 minutes at a time, mostly because of the repetitive nature of the game.  Race this track, race that track… the racing never really ends.

Balancing issues: I thought the beginning was a bit confusing, as I beat all the races that were in the start of the career mode only to have to re-race a track to earn enough money to buy another car.  I also think that it’s a bit unnecessary to have different speeds and engines for different races, as you should be able to race whatever you want as long as you have enough money and worked hard enough to gain that money.  I can see why they did it: for a fair racing experience and such, but I think you should be allowed to race any type of car on any career event.

Along with that, the difficulty balancing is a bit off.  The easy is way too easy, but the medium is too challenging (for me, personally).  On my first race I received 9th place (note I didn’t know what I was doing), but when changing my difficulty to easy, I received first place with 20 or so seconds to spare.  Maybe it was just that one instance or maybe I’ve improved drastically, but there does seem to be an unbalanced gap.

Real Racing 2 is basically what you thought it was.  It’s awesome, the graphics are great, and the gameplay isn’t too shabby.  Sure, there’s room for improvement.  And if you didn’t like the first one, you definitely won’t like this.  But honestly, compared to the competition, you really can’t ask for more.

Real Racing 2 was developed by Firemint, and I played through version 1.01 on my iPhone 4.  The price is $9.99.


Puzzle Quest 2 Review: The new king of iOS match-3 games

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords revolutionized the match-3 genre. If you don’t believe that, then I don’t believe in you. At all. The game took hold of Bejeweled’s overly simple premise of lining up three or more like-colored gems, and ran with it. It ran fast and far, and the wind that it made as it ran was the very breath of life. Naturally, the game was a runaway success.

No longer was the match-3 relegated to the loathsome existence of a scoreboard-driven, too often copied, two-dimensional puzzle. It became the basis for a vast and epic world, a world of doorways leading to possibilities, and every door hinging upon the outcome of a puzzle. The game brought to the table beloved elements of the role-playing genre: a tale of good versus evil, a hero’s epic journey, memorable characters and monsters galore, character development, skills and magical spells, weapons, armor, citadels, sieges, mounts and more. The matching of gems became the gathering of resources to fuel your hero’s abilities, and the puzzle became a battleground for epic encounters against diverse and formidable foes, demanding that you constantly mix up your strategy. Puzzle Quest offered depth beyond depth, while simultaneously presenting that depth with the accessibility of the match-3 puzzle, a concept so simple it could be grasped by even the most novice of players in a matter of moments.

To state the case very simply, Puzzle Quest is one of the only match-3 games in which matching a set of gems (or not) has positive or negative repercussions. There are consequences and motivations for what you do. And so the game does not reward your matches with points, but with growth, victory or defeat, and provides incentive or consequence for strategic decision making in the heat of puzzle.

It’s a lot for a sequel to live up to. So much, in fact, that the game’s spiritual successor, Galactrix — released for various devices but not for iOS — sallied forth about as well as a derailed train. That is to say it was a disaster.

Thankfully, Puzzle Quest 2 is a proper and admirable sequel.

Players are given the choice of four character classes, and may choose to play either a male or a female in each class. Gender has no impact on game mechanics; only on the character portrait and sprite used to represent your character in the game world. Assassins begin the game relatively weak, but their spells combine to create some of the game’s most lethal damage combos; they are the only class capable of using the most powerful poisons. Barbarians are well-rounded, with good offensive and defensive abilities, and high life points; they are the only class capable of wielding heavy-hitting, two-handed weapons. Sorcerers have low life points, but a diverse array of spells, capable of dealing direct damage or manipulating the board in various ways; they are the only class able to use mana tonics. Templars specialize in defense, and are the only class able to equip plate armor and tower shields; they are relatively weak on offense, but are very difficult to kill.

At this point, anyone familiar with the first game will notice that none of the original classes have returned. This is both a blessing — as each of the four classes will provide a new and unique experience compared to the previous game — and a curse — in that favorite classes and strategies from the first game are nowhere to be found.

Whereas the first game took place on an expansive world map, the adventure in Puzzle Quest 2 more localized, taking place within a small village and a nearby dungeon. Players are much closer to their characters this time around, following them from room-to-room rather than from town-to-town. The game is navigated by selecting active nodes within each area; these nodes may be characters with whom the player interacts, monsters which must be fought, treasure to be looted, doors to be opened, or simple markers indicating exits to the next areas and other events. Selecting a node gives the player several options from which to choose; for example, selecting a door-type node will give the player the options to either pick the lock, bash the door or leave it alone.

Many of these actions will result in a match-3 puzzle being used to determine the outcome. The most common and robust of these puzzles is that used in combat. The player faces off against an opponent over a grid of colored gems, which must be moved to create matches of three or more like-colored gems. The player alternates turns with the enemy, each making matches. Matched gems are captured as mana; the five colors of mana — red, yellow, blue, green and purple — are used to fuel the character’s spells, which have various affects such as dealing damage to the enemy, buffing your character, debuffing your opponent, or manipulating the board. Matching skulls inflicts damage to your opponent, and matching gauntlets accumulates action points. Action points are spent using your weapon to inflict damage upon the enemy, or your shield to temporarily increase your defense. Combat is won by reducing your opponent’s life points to zero.

Outside of combat, there are many mini-game variations of the match-3 puzzle used for other actions. Looting chests, picking locks, bashing doors, extinguishing fires and more all result in different types of match-3 puzzles. As did its predecessor, Puzzle Quest 2 gets a lot of mileage from the match-3 mechanic, and despite so many RPG trappings remains a puzzle game at its core.

Puzzles won reward the player with experience points, and as the character levels up, her overall strength increases and new spells are unlocked. Five spells may be equipped for battle at once, meaning that players will need to carefully choose which abilities to carry into each encounter, as characters will learn far more than five spells by the time the game is done. Additionally, characters may be equipped with various weapons, helmets, suits of armor and accessories to aid them in battle. These items affect the characters offense and defense, but may have additional impacts on mana collection, stat bonuses, etc.

Likes:

Visual Presentation: If the first game was pretty, the second is a sight to behold. The rooms which comprise the game world are each hand-drawn and look fantastic, the character and monster art is top notch, the puzzle boards look fantastic, and the interface elements are very well-designed. Puzzle Quest 2 is polished to perfection, and visually outclasses the first game in every way.

Strategy: The Puzzle Quest series elevates the match-3 mechanic from simple casual game for non-gamers, to a game with enough content and depth for even the most hardcore of gamers. There’s a ton of strategy to be had depending upon your character class, active spells, and the opponent you are facing. Some encounters can be played very offensively, while others must be played defensively, making matches not to fuel your own spells, but to prevent your opponent being able to use their most powerful attacks. Every encounter requires careful examination, consideration and planning. It’s not often match-3 games can make such claims.

Response: This is a difficult point to quantify, but Puzzle Quest 2 just plays better than the first game. While the first game was most definitely enjoyable and still one of my favorite iOS puzzle games, there is no denying the sloppiness of the iOS port. The first game was made better when re-released as Puzzle Quest HD for the iPad, but even that feels wonky by comparison to Puzzle Quest 2. Here, things happen as a comfortable speed, and the game’s feedback to player input just feels right. And that’s a feeling the first game never managed.

Game Modes: Puzzle Quest 2 offers a generous amount of things to do. There’s the main Quest mode, in which your character takes part in the story and evolves by acquiring spells, equipment and experience levels. Each of your characters may also participate in Quick Battles — one-off encounters taking place outside of the story line, but with experience gained being applicable to other modes; great for puzzling on the go or grinding your character when stuck in the main game — or Endurance Mode, in which you are pitted against one foe after the other until you can stand no more. There’s also Tournament mode, where players get a chance to play as the game’s monsters, selecting a line-up of four for both the player and the computer AI, then battling it out for supremacy.

Dislikes:

What happened to …?!: There are things from the first game that I miss in Puzzle Quest 2, such as the many character classes, sieges, my citadel, mounts, and the ability to make matches for gold and experience points in the heat of battle.

Navigation: In the first Puzzle Quest, it was easy to identify the location of events simply by panning around the map and looking for markers. It was then easy to get there; there might be enemy encounters along the way, but the journey was fairly quick.

In Puzzle Quest 2, events appear as directional markers on your compass and sometimes on your map, but it is difficult to determine exact location or distance from your current location, and often takes far too long to get there as your character must trek back through cleared rooms to reach a portal. Between each room there is a load time, then you have to select a navigation point, choose an action, wait for your character to move, endure another load time, and repeat this for each room standing between your character and  your objective. This quickly becomes frustrating, as rooms once cleared have nothing left to offer you on repeat visits.

To wit, travel in Puzzle Quest 1 was easy and breezy, and it was clear where you needed to be. In Puzzle Quest 2, travel is tedious, a chore, and it’s never entirely clear where you need to be for an event, or what stands in the way of your getting there. Getting around the game is easily the worst aspect of Puzzle Quest 2, and while the rooms look great, that’s no reason I should have to trek through them again and again with nothing to do there.

It Cheats!: I have no way of proving it, but the AI cheats. There is simply no other explanation for the ridiculous run of good luck enjoyed by most of the opponents you will face, with literal cascades of matches falling onto the board during enemy turns, piles of skulls exploding in your face, and your opponent constantly receiving extra turns . The game cheats. Meanwhile, you will be lucky if you’re ever able to line up more than two cascading matches.

No Multiplayer: It’s utterly baffling why Tournament Mode doesn’t allow for two-player competition, human-vs.-human, either online or sharing a device face-to-face. The game mode is a natural fit for play against friends.

Puzzle Quest 2 is a universal app, playable on iPad, iPhone or iPod, but I find it most enjoyable on the iPad. The game really takes advantage of the larger screen, with a more intuitive and attractive interface. Unfortunately, the game is not optimized for the iPhone 4’s Retina display, and actually looks pretty ugly on that device.

In many ways, Puzzle Quest 2 improves upon its predecessor and is overall a better game on iOS. That’s not to say, however, that the game is without its frustrations. Getting around the game world sucks, the game is a shameless cheater, and I am sorely missing some of my favorite aspects of the first game, such as the Knight class, developing my citadel and training mounts. The good news is that you can still go back to enjoy the first game, and have a somewhat different experience than is offered by the sequel. That is to say, Puzzle Quest 2 is not a replacement for the first game as is often the case with match-3 sequels; if you play Bejeweled 2, there’s really no reason to return to the first Bejeweled. Instead, Puzzle Quest 1 and 2 coexist happily on one device, offering a multitude of classes, quests and strategic possibilities between them.

If you enjoyed the first game, you will enjoy the second. If you missed the first game, but find yourself enjoying Puzzle Quest 2, then give it a try as well. But if you are determined to have only one or the other, then make it Puzzle Quest 2. On the other hand, if the first game didn’t really do it for you, probably Puzzle Quest 2 isn’t going to do it for you either.

I would like to see more content added to the game via updates or IAP. There’s plenty of room for new classes, and I would love to see classes from the first game reworked for play in Puzzle Quest 2. I would also like to see the developer add support for local multiplayer, with the possibility to play against human opponents in tournament mode, and also to play against human or AI controlled player characters. How fun would it be to complete the game as both the Assassin and Barbarian, then to pit the two characters against each other in a VS. mode?!

As match-3 games go, Puzzle Quest 2 is king of the hill. And while the game has been out for several months on Nintendo DS and Xbox Live Arcade, the App Store is really where it belongs. The game is a natural fit for touch-screens, and I would say that the game is at its definitive best on the iPad.

Puzzle Quest 2 is is published by Namco, and a product of Infinite Interactive and D3 Publisher. Available as a universal app for $9.99. Reviewed at version 1.0.0 on an iPad and iPhone 4.

Real Racing 2 Coming Next Thursday, 16-Player Online Multiplayer Included

Firemint is going all out with the upcoming Real Racing 2 release in just a few-days wait. Besides the 16-player online mode, The game will feature real car licenses of 30 vehicles and not just generated models this time around. Firemint also promises a career mode with over 10 hours of gameplay along with 15 locations to race in.

In-game currency will be earned to purchase new vehicles and upgrades. Vehicle damages will also be visible after crashes and the game will feature five camera angles along with replays.

Real Racing and Real Racing HD have also recently been given an update in the form of a four-player multiplayer mode already available on iPad and in the approval process at Apple for the other iDevides that should tide over some gamers who can’t wait till Thursday. The first title has been hailed as a gamer’s racing game and one of the show-off app for the iPad when it was first released along with Firemint’s other hit, Flight Control HD. Although Firemint promises Real Racing 2 to have 16 cars smashing into each other online the game will only support an eight-person local multiplayer mode.

The price for Real Racing 2 has been announced for all App Store regions and it will be $9.99 in the U.S., £5.99 in the UK, €7.99 in continental Europe, $12.99 in Australia, and ¥900 in Japan. The title will support GameCenter and Cloudcell integration.

For more screenshots, be sure to check out their website.