Tag Archives: Arcade

Homerun Battle 2 Review: A Pathetic Excuse for a Sequel

Com2us has been one of my favorite developers in the App Store, especially with how they’re very interactive in the community along with coming out with great games.  Chronicles of Inotia 2 was one of my favorite games, and others such as Homerun Battle 3D, the first of the series, was a lot of fun to play.

So when they released Homerun Battle 2, I was quite excited, given my previous enjoyment with Homerun Battle 3D.  But when I opened up the “sequel,” I felt almost cheated, ripped off in a way.  And do you want to know why?  It’s the EXACT SAME GAME.  There’s nothing in here, from what I remember, that’s different.  It’s still the same online play and the same offline play; the user interface is a little different, and there’s a new mode on the offline play, but other than that, the elements are the same.

What’s even worse is that now they’re starting to make you buy outfits and such through in-app purchase.  There are so many bats, gloves, hats, etc. that are accessible only through in-app purchase that it almost makes me feel like the game is won by anyone who has the most money.  From what I’ve seen, there’s no way to earn stars except through buying them, and the outfits that they do have for gold balls are outrageously priced.

All in all, this is one pathetic excuse for a sequel.

Likes

UI Improvements: I’ll have to hand it to Com2us: the user interface improvements do look nice.  While it is a bit slight, it looks a lot better.

Universal and GameCenter: This was something that was missing in the first one, and I’m a huge fan of any developer who is willing to make an app universal along with adding some GameCenter achievements.  No matter how much I hate this game (which I’ll get to soon), I have to put this in the like section.

Dislikes

Advertisements: It’s great that you’re having a fire sale and all, but you don’t have to have the news banners take up nearly a quarter of my screen.  While I was provided a promo code to review this game, if I was a user and paid five bucks for it, I’d be furious.  There are a lot of games that have that little news banner, but it only shows up when you press on it, and it doesn’t take up a large portion of the screen.  It’s just an annoyance that shouldn’t be in a $4.99 game.

SAME EXACT THING: This is the part that makes me nearly furious.  You can’t call a game a sequel when there’s literally nothing that has changed.  There’s one new game mode in the offline play, but other than that, the online play is nearly exactly the same, the outfits and such are the same, and even some of the UI elements are exactly the same.  You’re basically paying $4.99 for GameCenter achievements and new main menu buttons, which is inexcusable given the fact that other sequels, such as Zombieville 2, provide complete UI overhauls, gameplay changes, and stylistic changes.  To see that Com2us named this “Homerun Battle 2” and have it be nothing close to even being a sequel makes me quite mad, and they’re basically ripping off people by selling the same game but marketing it as a sequel so that more people buy it.

I’m sorry Com2us, but this is the type of thing that is the difference between good developers and bad developers.  When you’re cheating buyers by saying that it’s a sequel when it’s actually just the same game, I take offense to that.

In-app purchases: In-app purchases… in a $4.99 game?  Now I understand when those in-app purchases don’t really matter to the game, such as Modern Combat 3, which has in-app purchases but doesn’t force you to purchase them in anyway.  But Com2us has implemented a sort of freemium model to an already premium-priced game by putting in “stars,” which can only be earned through buying them with real-world money.  I shouldn’t have to pay in order to completely unlock all of the accesses to the game.  Along with that, online play should be fair in that all players have the same chance to win: it shouldn’t be predicated on who has the most money to spend on in-app purchases.  Basically, whoever is willing to spend a lot of money on this game is going to be the best, and whoever doesn’t have money to spend is left out and will always be milling around the lower level players.

Homerun Battle 2, as you can see, makes me quite furious.  And disappointed.  And shocked.  I’ve beta-tested a lot of Com2us’s games before, and they used to be all about the consumer and how they can make their games more appealing to the consumer.  But when they put in absurd in-app purchases, sell a game that’s nearly the same thing as the one before it, and even have banners of their own news take up a large portion of the screen, I can’t help but be disappointed.  Com2us, I have lost all respect for you, as this “sequel” is, as the title suggests, pathetic.

The game itself is fun though, so go on and pick up the first one.  It’s on sale for $0.99 and doesn’t have such an absurd in-app purchase system in it.

Homerun Battle 2 was developed by Com2us, and I played through version 1.0.1 on my iPhone 4s and iPad 2.  The price is $4.99.

Atari’s Greatest Hits for iPad Worth Downloading for One Game

I recently have discovered the amazing gameplay of Atari’s classic arcade game Tempest and you guys want to know how? Through Atari’s Greatest Hits on the iPad. Although I’ve owned this collection since it came out a few weeks ago, I’ve never gotten into any of the games due to just how clunky and archaic they are; and based on control issues with some of them.

However, once I pulled the trigger of a $.99 in-app purchase for Tempest, I never looked back. This game is so fun, addicting, and plays great in orientation mode (you can change various options in settings from the game screen). It is fun because the game looks like it could be made in any era. It really feels 3D and modern despite it’s age. This is the type of game I would like to play on the iPad 3 when it comes out with the rumored full-3D display.

the game made me realize how great the iPad really is for retro gaming. When I say retro, I am not talking about archaic and clunky like a lot of the other offerings of the app, I’m talking about simple but difficult and level-based games with high scores as the aim or level progression. Games like the recently released Enduro or retro-inspired titles like Gravonaut and League of Evil are what truly makes the platform shine.

Despite the many other retro offerings on the App Store, I would still say this one game, Tempest, is in the cream of the crop and really a timeless classic. So if you didn’t have interest in Atari’s Greatest Hits before, download it just for this game. The iPad app also runs different from the iPhone despite being universal, the iPad has both screen orientation options and the iPhone version may not. Either way, check Tempest out if you’ve never played it.

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Wispin Review: A+ for Addictive Arcade Awesomeness

Wispin is, quite simply, a little gem of a game.  Although some aspects of its gameplay are similar to other pick-up-and-play arcade games of yore, it also manages to combine them in an entirely original way.  It’s hard to argue with the App Store description of the game as a “totally unique fusion of color-matching gameplay and retro arcade action.”

The game manages to be both insistently offbeat and easily accessible, quirky and highly polished.  Wispin, the game’s protagonist, looks a bit like a cross between the Brave Little Toaster and an anthropomorphized marshmallow.  Wispin’s ability to change color, between red blue or green, is the key to dispatching the hordes of multi-colored Bloopers, the game’s cute, blob-shaped enemies.  Basically, if your color matches an enemy’s when you walk into it, you damage them.  If not, they damage you.  Wispin is an endless survival game which plays sort of similarly to a dual-stick shooter, except instead of having a second joystick to aim your weapons, you have a tricolor wheel which you can slide or tap to change Wispin’s color.  There are two game modes to choose from, Standard and Super Intense.  In Standard, you face the Bloopers in waves and start with three lives, whereas Super Intense starts you with one life and pits you against a never-ending horde of constantly spawning Bloopers.

Wispin takes this basic, fast-paced gameplay, and adds just enough twists to it until we’re nearly taken to the point of superlative arcade bliss.  The Bloopers themselves come in four different varieties, each of which behaves differently.  While the smallest bad guys just squiggle at you aggressively, the medium sized ones are capable of tossing bombs and shooting arrows, and also of changing their color (sometimes to orange, yellow, or purple, rendering them nearly invulnerable until they change back).  As with the enemies, if a bomb or an arrow is a different color from Wispin when it hits, it will damage him.  If you match its color, it will harmlessly bounce off you, and you’ll get some extra points.  Then there are the really nasty enemies, the Blaargs (who shoot a dangerous energy attack), and the Blommps (who are massive enemies who obscure your view of part of the arena, and bounce you away when you hit them, often into another enemy of a different color, damaging you.)  There are also randomly appearing power-ups to help you get an edge, such as arrows and bombs of your own, extra lives, rainbow blasts which kill all enemies in their radius, and cheese.  Yes, that’s right, cheese power-ups.

As brilliantly fun as all this is, the game’s combo scoring system is the real moment of genius, because it encourages the sort of fast-paced, aggressive gameplay that’s perfect for high-score lovers everywhere.  Each time you dispatch an enemy you fill a combo bar which takes a few seconds to drain away.  Keep it going quickly to rack up huge high scores.  Although it’s not like Grumpyface Studios are the first ones ever in the history of gaming to implement this sort of score multiplier system, it fits Wispin perfectly, and will likely get you hooked quite quickly.  While the combo multiplier encourages you to play it a little risky, the game is hectic enough to force you to balance your aggression with cautiousness.

Likes

Innovation Meets Fun: Wispin easily makes the short list for the most fun I’ve had on my iPod with anything remotely resembling a dual-stick shooter, and this is coming from someone who’s played enough games in that genre to get to feeling pretty stale with it.  By fusing together this sort of 3/4 top-down arcade action gameplay with the ever-popular color matching phenomenon, Grumpyface Studios have created an almost-perfect slice of arcade action nirvana.

Addictive Gameplay: Your average round of Wispin will last only a few minutes (even less on the higher difficulties.)  Despite this, you might have a hard time putting it down, since the game’s emphasis on a high score, high risk style of play keeps you constantly fiending to give it just one more go and rack up more points.

Crisp, Cartoony Visuals: Although it’s a little childish, the bright crisp graphic style is a good match, and a lot of fun.  Animations are smooth and fluid, and all the various characters have a lot of charm and personality.  Also, the game supports Retina Display graphics (although I can’t speak to how they look, *le sigh*).  This is truly ‘fun for all ages’ done right.

Game Center Support: They’ve done a good job with the Game Center integration on this one.  There are a plethora of leader-boards and a nice variety of achievements to go for.  Also, the game has a nice stat tracker for those of you who want to track your highest combo or the number of Bloopers you’ve busted.  Personally, I’m just glad it doesn’t tell me how many hours I’ve played.

Dislikes

Dying Like a Chump: If you hadn’t gotten this impression from my description so far, Wispin has some pretty darn hectic gameplay.  And although the controls work very well, every now and then you will die what feels like an unjustified death.  This comes in pretty much three different flavors: sometimes an enemy will spawn right where you were walking, sometimes there will be a small Blooper hidden behind one of the larger ones, or sometimes a medium-sized Blooper will change colors right when you were about to kill it.  Honestly though, this is a very minor quibble, and really the only thing I could point to as close to a negative aspect.

If I haven’t made it emphatically clear yet, I really like this game a lot.  Also, the developers promise free updates in the future, and are actively soliciting player feedback, which is always a positive in my book.  If you enjoy fast-paced addictive gameplay, wacky cartoon visuals, or just plain having fun, I would recommend this game as a…

Wispin was developed by Grumpyface Studios, and I played through version 1.0 on my 2nd gen iPod Touch.  At time of review, the price was $1.99.


EVAC Review: Pac-Man’s a square

Hexage — makers of Buka, Totemo and Radiant — have made a name for themselves developing quirky, neon, transcendental games for the iPhone and iPad. EVAC is their latest release, and it lives up in every way to precedents already set by these talented and unusual developers.

Around this same time last year, Hexage released Radiant, a space shooter paying homage to classic arcade shooters Space Invaders and Galaga, with nods to Pac-Man and other 1980s references as well. With EVAC the team once more returns to influences of yester-decades, this time paying more than a nod to Pac-Man. In fact, at first glance EVAC appears to be nothing more than an overly neon Pac-Man clone. Dismiss the game as such, though, and you will have done so unjustly. You will have also missed out on a real gem.

EVAC unfolds gradually, adding complexity as it does so. In the beginning, when the game is at its most basic — at its very foundation — the game is Pac-Man. Rather than a yellow orb with a mouth, you play a pink square with a face. Each stage is a maze, its halls littered with colorful pips that you must collect in order to advance to the next stage. Attempting to prevent your escape — filling in for Pac-Man’s ghosts — is a security force of red squares who sometimes patrol the halls, and at times give chase.

These labyrinthine halls belong to one Shadowbox, an evil black square with glowing, purplish eyes. You are his prisoner, but with the help of Cratos — a wizened, yellow box — you are determined to escape. Unfortunately, Shadowbox is quick to realize your intent and does not take kindly to your stealing his “colors” — the pips.

And that would be enough, if this game were Pac-Man. But it is not.

Beginning with the second stage, the game introduces puzzle elements such as pushing blocks, and panels that trigger events elsewhere in the stage. Blue panels open force-fields barring your path, while red security panels set off alarms and bring Shadowbox’s minions in hot pursuit. The third stage introduces stealth elements with safe-houses, hiding places where you may take refuge from patrolling reds. The fourth stage begins to introduce power-ups. The Ghost power-up temporarily allows you to pass through reds unharmed and move through force-field barriers. The Shock power-up zaps nearby reds, stunning them for a short while and rendering them harmless during that time. The Aura power-up surrounds you with a force-field that allows you to destroy the reds on contact for massive points. The sixth stage introduces traps, and so on with new stages gradually introducing new challenges and gameplay mechanics, ever building upon the simple Pac-Man premise with which the game begins.

EVAC also has an excellent scoring mechanism that rewards quick, skillful playing. Collecting pips builds your score multiplier, increasing the value of subsequently collected pips. Dilly-dally too long between pips, however, and your multiplier will begin to decrease until you start collecting again. You can suffer three hits from the reds before being captured, but each hit will immediately reset your multiplier to zero. Destroying the reds also boosts your multiplier and adds points to your score. Finally, at the end of each stage your progress will be rewarded with 1,000 points times your multiplier. To reach high scores, you will need to avoid contact with Shadowbox’s security forces, destroy them when you can, collect all of the pips quickly, and reach the exit before your multiplier begins to drop. The game tracks your high score for each stage, and optionally submits score to its online leaderboards.

Likes:

More Neon Goodness: Hexage’s games bear a distinct look and feel. The company has a knack for imbuing simple shapes — circles, squares, etc. — with vast personality, then cranks the fluorescence to 11 such that everything glows in the dark. Sounds weird and looks questionable in still shots, but the games are lovely in motion and EVAC is no exception.

Sound Design: It’s as easy to recognize a Hexage game by the music and sound effects as by the neon visuals and adorably simplistic shapes. As in the games which have come before it, the sound design in EVAC is spectacular, a thick tapestry of transcendental electronica, and soothing blips and pings.

Puzzling Puzzles: EVAC’s puzzles are lovingly crafted and challenging, but always logical and fair. Some are entirely optional, rewarding you with power-ups, but unnecessary to complete the level.

Flexible Level Design: There are often multiple methods of completing a stage. The seventh stage, for example, presents you with an optional puzzle wherein blocks must be pushed onto eight floor panels to remove barriers obstructing an aura power-up. The bulk of the stage’s pips are in a section of the maze heavily patrolled by reds, with entry only possible by crossing over an alarm panel and raising security. And so the player must decide how to proceed. She can solve the puzzle, collect the aura power-up and use it to muscle through the guards while collected the pips. But the puzzle is challenging; one false move and ruin it, and it’s even possible to trap yourself with no way out, requiring the stage to be restarted. All of this can be avoided; the player may simply trip the alarm, then rely on stealth to get past the guards, ducking into safe-houses and waiting until the coast is clear. So much waiting around, though, is going to hurt your multiplier. It’s really up to the player to determine how they wish to proceed, how their efforts are best spent, and what method might allow them to attain the highest possible score for the stage.

Great Replay Value: Tying into the flexible level design, players may wish to revisit completed levels in an effort to better their score, and to determine the most effective strategy for completing any given stage.

iOS Multitasking: EVAC supports iOS multitasking. Hurray!

Dislikes:

No Game Center Support: Sadly, EVAC lacks Game Center support. It would be great to see achievements implemented for completing various tasks in the stages. For example, completing the puzzle and attaining the power-up described above, or meeting a high score threshold for each stage.

Hexage makes good games, and EVAC is yet more proof of it. The game takes the relatively simple arcade mechanics of Pac-Man then expands upon them manifold with elements of puzzle, stealth and action gaming. Rarely do games accommodate so many different styles of gameplay while maintaining a perfect balance, but EVAC pulls it off. The game plays equally well on the iPhone and iPad, so it’s entirely up to your preference whether to buy the SD or HD version, or both. The game’s 24 challenging levels and excellent replay value offer great value for your buck. Fans of Pac-Man or arcade games in general, consider EVAC a no-brainer. Buy it.

EVAC and EVAC HD are developed by Hexage and retail individually for $0.99. Reviewed at version 1.0 on an iPhone 4 and iPad.


Heavy Gunner Review: Testing your thumbs’ dexterity

Heavy Gunner 3D marks Com2Us‘ first foray into the science-fiction genre. Previously known for their successful RPG The Chronicles of Inotia: A Wanderer of Luone, this new title is something of a stylistic departure for Com2Us. The game favors an aesthetic of gritty realism over the cartoon fantasy and sometimes cutesy presentation of previous titles, with gameplay bent towards arcade action.

As the game begins, you find yourself in the gunner’s seat of the new UESF defense weapon, the Integrated Combat Platform (ICP), developed in a last ditch effort to protect the human race from extinction against the Tarmat invasion, the Tarmats being an alien race bent on the utter annihilation of our species. The ICP is a dual cannon, fixed position artillery unit capable of firing in a full 360 degree arc, and used to fend off incoming attack. The two cannons are operated independently by a single gunner — which makes little sense in reality, but makes for a unique video gaming experience. As the campaign progresses, the battle will move from defensive battles on earth, to offensive attacks on the Tarmat forces with the ICP mounted on starship hulls.

On-screen, the two cannons are controlled via virtual joysticks in the lower corners of the screen, operated using your thumbs. The cannons can be manipulated individually to blast incoming forces anywhere on the screen. Enemies will attack in waves from all directions, necessitating that you pivot your turret to defend your sides and rear. Heavy Gunner offers two control options for turning, tilt and touch. I personally found the tilt controls to be extremely frustrating, but began to enjoy the game much more when I switched to touch control, which allowed me to touch and swipe from the center of the screen to pivot the ICP. A radar display allows you to track incoming forces, and missions have different objectives such as surviving for a set amount of time, eliminating a set number of targets, or destroying a specific target.

Likes:

Concept: Heavy Gunner is a hardcore arcade shooter with a unique twist. Defending your position on all sides using two independent cannons, as a concept, really sets this game apart from other arcade shooters. As shooters go, Heavy Gunner is a world apart from Time Crisis or Duck Hunt.

Visual Presentation: Com2Us has in the past gone with fairly cartoon-like, 2D graphics, but not here. Heavy Gunner foregoes sprites for full 3D, and a “hard sci-fi” look akin to the Terminator or the 2003 Battlestar Galactica television series. Heavy Gunner looks pretty badass.

Nonstop Action: Constantly under fire from Tarmat forces, Heavy Gunner doesn’t give you much downtime to ponder things. The action is fast and furious, and you won’t last long on your laurels. Even the short breaks necessary to reload your cannons between salvos seem an eternity with enemy forces bearing down on you. Keep pace or die.

Customization Options: Mission success nets you currency to spend on new weapons and weapon upgrades. In combat you can arm both a primary and secondary weapon and switch between them on the fly, and weapons are different enough to be interesting and employed with purpose. For example, the Crusader Light Machine Guns can be aimed independently to fire on separate targets; the Avenger Heavy Machine Guns deal significantly heavier damage, but can only fire dead-center, meaning that you much pivot the entire ICP to aim and can target only one Tarmat at a time. The Crusaders are great for wiping out large invading forces, while the Avengers are ideal for dealing with large, singular targets. There are also energy and missile weapons, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Your weapon selection can really impact how you play the game.

In addition to offensive customization, you can also spend credits to improve your ICP’s defensive capabilities, shield regeneration and even purchase an EMP “weapon” to use when feeling overwhelmed.

Stage Rank, Achievements and Difficulty Settings: In-game achievements give you goals to strive for beyond mission completion, of which I am always a fan. Stage Ranks are also used to rate performance for each mission, with greater rewards being given for a job well done. Achieving the S-rank and unlocking all achievements gives Heavy Gunner a lot of replay value. There are also three difficulty levels to choose from: Normal, Hard and Extreme. Fans will have plenty to keep them busy shooting for 100% completion.

Dislikes:

Controls: The first few times I played Heavy Gunner, I hated it and the controls were entirely to blame. By default, cannon pivot is set to tilt control and the pressure of aiming at separate targets with two thumbs while keeping your device in a flat position and using the accelerometer to adjust your view … well, it sucked. It wasn’t until I delved into the options menu and discovered touch-turning that I began to enjoy the game.

Even still, the thumb-sticks for the cannons don’t feel as smooth as they should. It’s not the deal-breaker that the tilt-turning was for me, but still a gripe. It makes targetting feel imprecise, and your cannons jerky.

Audio: Heavy Gunner’s audio is a mixed bag. The heavy metal riffs definitely suit the game, and I have no gripes with the audio content, but with the audio quality. It just sounds too compressed, like listening to mid-quality MP3 files instead of the original CD. The sound effects seem a little canned, and not quite as immersive as they should. Playing with headphones definitely improves things, but the audio isn’t quite at the level I’d like it to be.

I admit, I was not impressed with Heavy Gunner at the start. My first few attempts at the game left me with a poor aftertaste, and the only motivation I had to come back to the game was the fact that I had been assigned a review to write. But ultimately, perseverance has shown me the error of my first impressions. My first step towards enjoyment was ditching tilt-turning for touch control; I cannot emphasize enough what a difference this made in my enjoyment of the game. Then I delved into ICP customization and realized how unique each of the available weapons was, and the effect they had on the overall experience. My time with the game, and the discoveries I made only after penetrating the surface have led me to a very positive conclusion on Heavy Gunner.

On the surface, Heavy Gunner appears to be a shallow shooter, with the dual-thumb cannons only a gimmick. Taking the plunge beyond that surface, however, reveals the game to be quite deep, full of choices and with great replay value. How you choose to upgrade and deploy your armaments can vastly impact how you play, while the achievements, stage rankings and difficulty settings will keep you returning to previously completed missions, striving for perfection. In addition, the game has great visual and audio style, and the English translation is Com2Us’ best to-date. Heavy Gunner is one of the best arcade shooters in the app store, and a game I definitely intend to spend more time with.

Heavy Gunner 3D is developed by Com2Us and sells for $2.99; a free version is also available. Reviewed on an iPhone 3G.