Tag Archives: Arcade

Guerilla Bob Review

With strong production values but little substance, Angry Mob‘s Guerilla Bob is a game without much staying power. The game’s story mode takes only an hour or two to complete, then unlocks a Survival mode. Sadly, even with the Survival mode there’s not much reason to come back to this one after finishing it.

Guerilla Bob is an arcade game with progressive levels masquerading as a dual-stick shooter. I say “masquerading” because the game borrows the dual-stick control scheme — a stick providing 360 degrees of movement, a stick providing 360 degrees of firing and buttons for switching weapons — without ever aspiring to the franticness inherent in the dual-stick shooter genre. At most, you will deal with only four or five enemies on screen at a time, and it’s rare to have even that many.

What Guerilla Bob most reminds me of is top-down 8-bit shooters like Ikari Warriors, or the top-down sections of the original Bionic Commando. But even those games, now more than 20 years old, displayed more ambition than Guerilla Bob.

Before I go any further, let me first say that Guerilla Bob is not a bad game. It looks nice and it plays nice, but provides a short and utterly forgettable experience. It’s a lot of hype and little delivery. The game plays out over eight linear, nearly identical levels and offers up only a handful of different enemy types. There are three pretty standard weapons: a machine gun, a rocket launcher and a flame-thrower, which can be upgraded during the course of play. The marketing jargon amounts only to so much jargon. It promises “FAST-PACED SHOOTER COMBAT”, and yet the game’s pacing is actually fairly pedestrian. It promises “KICK-A*S WEAPONRY”, but the included weapons are pretty typical. It promises “SECRET AREAS AND POWER-UPS”, where “secret areas” are usually just short side-paths off the main road leading to weapon upgrades, medals for extra points, or time-limited damage, defense or speed multipliers; an item sitting behind a building doesn’t qualify as a secret area in my mind. It promises “EPIC BOSS FIGHTS”, and while the bosses are larger than the standard soldiers, there’s nothing epic about them. The bosses are bigger, but follow the exact same patterns as their smaller counterparts and fall pretty easily. It promises “A VARIETY OF GAMEPLAY MODES”, amounting to a story mode with two difficulty levels — “Easy” for babies, and “Hard” for normal people — and a disposable Survival mode that’s hardly worth unlocking. In saying this, I’m not accusing it of being a bad game, but I do find the advertising lines to be somewhat misrepresentative of the actual playing experience.

The throw-away story pits Guerilla Bob against his childhood friend turned nemesis John Gore, from Mountain Sheep‘s MiniGore. In fact, Guerilla Bob spends so much time imitating MiniGore that it effectively fails to establish any identity of its own. During play, Guerilla Bob often shouts out Minigore-esque quips in a futile attempt at humor. And the inclusion of John Gore is laughable; Gore is a character who gets a lot more mileage than he deserves when you consider that the entirety of MiniGore is nothing more than a single, glorified Survival Mode. Mountain Sheep ought to spend less time pimping Gore out to other developers, and more time building content into their incomplete game, but that’s an entirely different editorial … My point is simply that rather than borrowing its identity from another title, Guerilla Bob would have been better off establishing a mythology all its own.

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Visual Presentation: Guerilla Bob’s strongest asset is definitely its visuals. Presented in stylistic top-down 3D, the game looks fantastic. The artwork is cartoony, but well-suited to the overall feel of the game, like a kid-friendly version of Rambo. It’s probably one of the best looking games of its type, and offers a consistent aesthetic throughout the experience that holds the game together.

Audio Presentation: Effort clearly went into the audio components of the game, which I appreciate. Far too many developers — even those of upper tier titles — neglect the importance of in-game audio (Soosiz and MiniSquadron, I’m looking at you). While I think Guerilla Bob’s MiniGore-esque quips fall flat, it’s nice to see Angry Mob trying, and the original musical score is a nice inclusion, though nothing I’d go looking for as a soundtrack purchase.

Progressive Stages: While most dual-stick shooters favor the open arena model, it’s nice to see a new entry providing progressive stages with “scripted” scenerios and boss fights. I think Guerilla Bob could have taken this a lot further than it actually does, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Achievements: As you play through Guerilla Bob, your accomplishments will unlock in-game achievements. I’m a big fan of goals in games, and of in-game achievements by extension. The game also takes advantage of Chillingo’s Crystal network, a service similar to OpenFeint, Agon or Plus+ which allows you to save and compare your achievements against others.

Dislikes:

Available Difficulty Modes: The Easy mode is way too easy, like baby easy. The Hard mode should have been labeled as Normal, and a third, more brutal difficulty setting would have been appreciated for the hardcore. Even on the Hard difficulty, I think dual-stick aficionados are going to find this one pretty easy.

John Gore: There are now so many characters in MiniGore that John Gore is barely integral to his own title, let alone as an inclusion in others. Guerilla Bob’s inclusion of such a disposable character only further compounds its own disposable nature, and borrowing so much of its identity from another game — a that game barely a complete experience — ultimately waters the title down. On finishing Guerilla Bob, it even suggests that to get “John Gore’s side of the story”, you should go play MiniGore. I actually laughed out loud. MiniGore doesn’t have a story … Prediction: the next MiniGore update will add Guerilla Bob as a playable character.

Survival Mode: The story mode being so short, the Survival Mode is an obvious bid at extending the playability of the title. Unfortunately, the survival mode becomes tiresome far too quickly. In my time with the mode, I never saw more than five enemies on screen at a time. If I want to play a Survival shooter, I’d be more likely to pick up something like … well, MiniGore honestly. Something frantic rather than plodding. Guerilla Bob’s survival mode just doesn’t provide enough incentive to keep returning to the game.

Repetition: Despite it’s progressive stages, Guerilla Bob ultimately feels pretty repetitive. The same art assets get reused in every stage to the point where the stages tend to run together. The biggest differential from one stage to the next is that some are daytime and some at night. Otherwise, you will follow the road through each stage, passing by recycled scenery and fighting the same enemies over and over again. It’s like one stage played eight times over with minor variations.

Guerilla Bob’s conclusion nods to the likelihood of a sequel, and it’s a game with much greater potential than it ever actually realizes. My only hope is that when the sequel comes, it brings more to the table than eight nearly identical stages and a handful of similar enemy types. For the sequel, Angry Mob should focus on delivering a more action-packed experience, with globe-trotting stages taking us through jungles, deserts, canyons, caverns, villages, towns and enemy compounds. Look to games such as Contra for inspiration in settings. The enemies we’ve already seen make the basis for standard enemy types, but should be more varied in appearance to match their setting: jungle soldiers in jungle levels, desert soldiers in desert levels, etc. In addition to these enemy types, add jeeps, tanks, helicopters, land mines, grenade tossers, bayonet and machete soldiers, snipers and attack dogs. Bosses in Guerilla Bob look different, but behave the same: without exception, they chase you and shoot. For truly epic boss battles, look to pattern-based opponents from old-school action games. Pit Guerilla Bob against a wall of fortified turrets, larger-than-life super-soldiers with special attacks, and opponents who in one way or another utilize unique environments in their attack patterns. If 8-bit developers could exercise such creativity on the NES, then I’m certain such feats are well within the realm of possibility for a Guerilla Bob sequel.

There are moments throughout Guerilla Bob when the game hints at brilliance in its design. Sadly, these moments are too brief and too few, but I’d like to cite them in the hope that Angry Mob will lend an ear and pay more mind to such moments in future games. The first is the bulldozer chase, in which an enemy comes up behind Guerilla Bob and pursues him through an obstacle course of boulders. The second is late in the game, where three bridges span a river; Guerilla Bob takes the center bridge while enemies attack from the bridges on either side. And the last is even later in the game, where Guerilla Bob rides a raft down a river while enemies attack him from the shore. These moments break the monotony of the stages, and help to vary the action that’s so uniform throughout the rest of the game. Any sequel to Guerilla Bob should play these variations to greater effect and provide more of them.

Back to the present and the game immediately at hand, Guerilla Bob is briefly entertaining and technically impressive. The game is short on lasting appeal, and leans too heavily on MiniGore, but is nonetheless worth a look. A dual-stick stick shooter for casual gamers, Guerilla Bob is best taken in short spurts over time. Hardcore players tending to devour games in one or two sittings will quickly tear through the game and leave it in their dust.

Guerilla Bob is developed by Angry Mob Games and distributed by Chillingo. The game is currently priced at $2.99. Reviewed on an iPhone 3G.


Blue Defense! Review: This early gem hasn’t lost its sparkle

One of the iPhone’s earliest gems is still one of my personal favorites. John Kooistra’s Blue Defense! was first released to the App Store in November 2008. More than a year later and having received two sequels, the game that started it all still refuses to show its age.

In Blue Defense!, you are the planetary defense cannon tasked with defending your blue world against an endless onslaught of red attackers. The odds are against you from the start; your attackers come in droves from all sides, while you can only fire straight up. Luckily, “up” is relative. By rotating your device — often frantically — you can change “up”, effectively aiming your cannon in any direction you please. It’s a mechanic that works extremely well for the game, making brilliant use of the iPhone’s accelerometer as a primary gameplay mechanism and providing a gaming experience not dissimilar to playing a game on Nintendo’s Wii.

Also unique is the way in which the game progresses. You will begin the game with your device held in the standard vertical orientation, defending only a narrow swath of your planet’s surface. Following the first wave of attackers, the perspective zooms out, and you find yourself defending a wider area of your world. The perspective continues to pull out as you eliminate the enemy waves, and eventually changes altogether. You’ll soon flip your phone on its head to defend against attacking waves coming in from behind you, and then in a horizontal orientation to defend your sides, and eventually from all directions at once, forcing you to defend the full 360-degrees of your planetary surface.

As the swarm increases in numbers, resilience and firepower, you will find your device performing somersaults in your hands as you frantically attempt to defend the 6,000,000,000+ residents of your world from genocidal annihilation.

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Action: Blue Defense! plays like an arcade classic, the sort of game to which you might have lost a fortune in quarters back in the 1980s. It’s fast-paced, totally addictive, and offers one of the most frenetic gaming experiences on the iPhone. Of course, we’re lucky the game never hit the arcades. Just think of all the back injuries that would have ensued from having to juggle an arcade cabinet like a hot potato!

Variety: Blue Defense! includes a ton of levels, progressing in difficulty as you play but presented in a somewhat randomized fashion, ensuring that the game never plays the same twice. You’ll never quite know what wave you’ll be facing next, what enemies will comprise it or from what direction the assault will come.

Fluidity: No load times, no breaks, no hitches or hangups of any kind. Blue Defense! is nonstop action. New waves come quickly on the heels of their obliterated predecessors, and perspective shifts occur immediately to deal with incoming threats. The key to survival is most often the ability to quickly identify and deal with immediate threats, while merely managing incoming ships and projectiles from other directions until you’re better able to devote your full attention to blowing them out of your space.

Visuals: Simple neon shapes in empty space have never looked so good as they do in John Kooistra’s games. Blue Defense! is the very definition of visual simplicity, and yet manages to pop with visual style and flare. You’ll never find a more visually appealing game using only two colors.

Dislikes:

Handle with Care: Maintain a firm grasp on your device at all times. Do not play over puddles, pools or in the bathtub, nor over hard surfaces, chasms or lava pits. With your survival essentially dependent upon your own dexterity with your hands, playing Blue Defense! may put you into a situation in which you could easily drop your iPhone or iPod. I’ve never dropped my phone while playing, but I could totally see it happening. Just mind your hands while defending the world from destruction.

Blue Defense! is a game that distills the classic arcade experience to its most essential form, then places it in the palm of your hand. Though now more than a year old, I still haven’t played a single iPhone game that makes such demands upon my manual dexterity, nor that gives me the same adrenaline rush as a session of Blue Defense! Perfect for quick-play sessions, and great fun for longer periods of play, Blue Defense! is a game that no iPhone should be without.

But wait! There’s more! Blue Defense! 2.0 includes a level select mode that allows you to take on individual stages in one-off sessions to complete medal challenges. There’s also a Quick Start mode that allows you to choose your starting wave, from 1 to 100, in case you’d like to jump straight into heavier onslaughts.

For such a simple concept, Blue Defense! is a lot of game and well-worth the $0.99 price of admission. Since releasing Blue Defense!, developer John Kooistra has also released the sequels Blue Attack!, in which you take the fight back to the red home planet, and Red Conquest!, an innovative RTS game taking place in open space battlefields. Both games are worthy of their own reviews — surely to come in good time — and expand upon the glowing universe in which Blue and Red are constantly engaged in mortal struggle.

If some you’ve somehow overlooked Blue Defense!, or if you’re a new iPhone or iPod owner having not yet discovered this gem from the App Store’s past, do yourself a favor and pick it up.

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Blue Defense! is developed by John Kooistra, and costs $0.99. Reviewed on an iPhone 3G.

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Iron Fist Boxing 3rd Strike Review: Knocking Competitors Out of the Ring

I got the game Iron Fist Boxing 3rd Strike a little while ago, and it is one of the best games that I have played in recent memory. Iron Fist Boxing 3rd Strike is a fighting game with incredible graphics, gameplay, content, and it even includes and RPG-like leveling system for your character. I only had one problem with the game, but other than that, Iron Fist Boxing 3rd Strike is one of my favourite games on the App Store.

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Graphics: The graphics in Iron Fist Boxing 3rd Strike are among the best I have ever seen for any game on the iPhone and iPod Touch. For 3GS and iPod Touch 3G users, the game has OpenGL ES 2.0 shaders that make the characters seem even more realistic. However, when I was playing through the game on my iPod Touch 2G, the graphics were still fantastic and I loved them.

The blood effects make the game for an older audience, as there’s no shortage of blood and sweat when you make contact with the opponent, which puts a sense of realism in the game. Once your opponent gets damaged somewhat, they will begin to sport injuries on their face. After you knock down your opponents, their face will be a veritable mass of bruises, injuries, and missing teeth. During the slow-motion mode, you can literally see the opponent’s face get crushed by your character’s fist. I think this is a nice touch, and adds more to the realism of the game.

Gameplay and Content: There are six game modes and ten initial characters, each with different fighting styles and different stats in speed, stamina, strength, power, and rage. While you’re using a character in career mode, their stats can be drastically improved if you do well in the matches and training mini-games in career mode. However, these improved stats only last for the duration of the game; once your fighter finishes their career their stats will go back down to the ones that had at the beginning of the game.  Characters have different fighting styles with multiple fighting styles in-game such as kickboxing, boxing, Muay Thai, brawling, etc. In addition, there are slow-motion and special moves. To execute slow-motion mode you have to have at least one full star in your special move bar (you fill the bar by successfully blocking, dodging, or hitting your opponent) and to execute the special moves to have to have a full filled special move bar.

Controls: The controls in Iron Fist Boxing 3rd Strike are superb, and I had no problem with them at all. You tap the four quadrants (upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right) of the screen to execute a basic attack, and tilt left or right while tapping one of the quadrants to execute a hook attack. You block, you hold the block button, and initiate slow-motion mode or the special attack mode you tap on the special move bar in the extreme upper left of the screen.

Different Camera Views: There are four different camera views; first person, third person, third person left, and third person right. These different camera views allow for different viewing preferences. My favorite was first person view; I got totally immersed in the game.

Dislikes

Recovering Mini-Game: I only had one gripe with Iron Fist Boxing 3rd Strike; after you get knocked down, you have ten seconds to get back up, and this is done via a tilting mini-game. The tilt isn’t very sensitive, and I often found it difficult to get it to the right degree for more than a moment. I have managed to get up after knockdowns quite a few times, but the time limit and insensitivity will be very hard for many players. This is the game’s one and only fault, but a big one. I look forward to this being fixed in an update.

Overall, Iron Fist Boxing 3rd Strike is a great game, and ultimately worth the price of $3.99. I think it knocks its competitors Touch KO and Super KO Boxing 2 out of the ring.  In my opinion, the game is something that you must buy if you are even slightly interested in fighting or arcade games.

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Iron Fist Boxing 3rd Strike was developed by RealTech VR, and I played through version 3.0 of the game on my iPod Touch 2G (OS 3.1.2).  The game costs $3.99.

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Tap-Fu Review: Punching Ninjas in Their Faces

Tap-Fu is a game about beating up ninjas and taking their candy, because Sensei has a sweet tooth, and because the ninjas took it first. Dirty ninjas! But let us not dwell upon the story, because if the story isn’t trite, pointless or the polar opposite — eternally convoluted — then you’re probably not playing an iPhone game. After all, the candy is just a motivator for punching ninjas in their faces, and the level of enjoyment you’re likely to find in Tap-Fu has nothing to do with candy, and all to do with whether you like punching ninjas in their faces.

As you might have guessed by now, Tap-Fu plays like the beat’em ups of yester-years; like Bad Dudes or Double Dragon, games that were also about punching ninjas in their faces. The 1980s being done and over with, however, Tap-Fu does away with the macho posturing of those classics in favor of a lighter presentation. Your hero is not a buff dude with a greasy coiffure; he’s a scrappy kung-fu kid. We’re not going to rescue Billy’s girlfriend this time around; it’s the candy that’s in peril now, and Sensei needs his sugar fix. I’ll save you, Sensei! screams the scrappy kung-fu kid.

Oddly enough, the iPhone games Tap-Fu shares most in common with are the side-scrolling blast’em ups Inkvaders and Zombieville USA. Instead of collecting ammunition, though, you’re collecting candy; and instead of shooting aliens and zombies, you’re punching ninjas in their faces. But the basic premise — running left and right, pummeling increasing numbers of bad things — remains the same. In the blast’em ups, you purchase bigger, better guns; in Tap-Fu, you learn new moves. Potato, potahto.

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Presentation: Tap-Fu looks great. Stages feature parallax scrolling, with nicely illustrated set pieces. The bushes, trees and rocks look almost like cardboard cutouts adhered to the ground, and the sky a painted backdrop in the distance. Sounds weird, I know, but it feels almost like the game plays on a theatrical stage, and it works. The game’s interface is well-designed and attractive, with good buttons, windows and text. The only eyesore in the game is the Pause button, which seems oddly out of place. The game’s music is of high quality, and the sound effects are good (except for the character mumbling; see Dislikes). The characters are nicely drawn and animated, and I think Tap-Fu has some of the best looking ninjas on the iPhone. You’re going to see (and punch) a lot of ninjas, so it’s nice that they’re so well-designed. With so much candy in the game, it’s nice to see that Neptune Interactive didn’t skimp on the eye or ear candy.

Controls: Two control types are on tap (har-har). Gesture-based controls are the default, and they’re surprisingly functional. I’ve played quite a few games with gesture-based controls, and few of them nail it as well as Tap-Fu. The only problem I every had with the gestures are that I would sometimes execute a back kick (half-circle swipe) when I was trying to throw a fireball (full-circle swipe). For those unable to come to grips with the gestures, joystick and button controls are also available, though they’re a greater eyesore than the Pause button. Still, it’s nice having the choice.

Dislikes:

Repetitive: I hope you like punching ninjas in their faces, because in Level 1, you’re going to punch ninjas in their faces. In Level 2, you’re going to punch more ninjas in their faces, and sometimes kick them. In Level 3, you will punch even more ninjas in their faces, sometimes kick them and also roll. Look, it’s like this: In Chapter 1 of Tap-Fu, you’re going to punch a lot of ninjas in their faces. Neptune Interactive is working on an update adding a second chapter, though, in which they promise we’ll get to punch pirates in their faces too. I can’t wait!

Dialogue: Tap-Fu’s dialogue comes in three different shades of lame. Whenever characters start talking between levels, my lids start getting heavy. “Blah blah blah, get more candy, blah blah blah,” is basically what’s being said, and whatever jokes they try to include fall flat somewhere between the “Blah” and the “blah blah”. When characters talk, there are also some mumbling, gibberish sound-effects. Unlike other games, such as Little Big Planet, that use this technique effectively, the mumbling in Tap-Fu is neither humorous nor endearing; it’s irritating.

Can Jump, But Why?: By swiping up, you can jump. But it’s never clear why the game allows you to jump. There are no jump attacks, and there are no obstacles that require being jumped. Beginning in level four, you are attacked by hawks, but they mostly fly into your fists while punching ninjas in their faces, so there’s no need to pick them out of the sky. Honestly, there is never any reason to leave the ground in Tap-Fu, which makes me wonder why they didn’t simply map the up-swipe to another form of attack, like maybe a headbutt, a jump kick or a roundhouse kick. You know, something useful.

Short: Presently consisting of only a single chapter, Tap-Fu’s Story mode clocks in at six short levels, and can easily be completed in under an hour. Achievements and two additional modes, 100 Rounds and Survival, add more value but little diversity to the package, being more of the same: punching ninjas in their faces. Cross-reference with Repetitive above.

In the end, Tap-Fu boils down to a shallow, but entertaining casual brawler for your iPhone. In the app description, the developer compares the game to Karateka and Double Dragon, which I think are fair comparisons. But they also compare the game’s combo system to Devil May Cry, which is laughable. Devil May Cry is a hardcore gamers’ game, and Tap-Fu is anything but. The gesture-based combat is simple, but effective. If the game had a single attack button, it would get old quickly, but the gestures and combos provide just enough oomph to prevent it getting stale too quickly.

Tap-Fu is a game likely to appeal to fans of the blast’em ups Inkvaders and Zombieville USA, but without the gore in those games. It may also appeal to those who enjoyed the combat in Hybrid Eternal Whisper; the combat isn’t nearly as deep, but for some gamers that may not be a bad thing. The gesture-based combat in Tap-Fu is much more accessible for its simplicity. The game is also a great choice for younger gamers, given its lightheartedness and relatively cute presentation.

Given the game’s short length and simple mechanics, $3.99 seems a bit high of an asking price. It’s currently on 50% sale, though, and the buy is much easier to swallow at $1.99.

Tap-Fu comes from Neptune Interactive, the developer also responsible for the well-regarded and relatively deep tower defense game 7 Cities. While Tap-Fu definitely is not a bad game, good odds the company will be more fondly remembered for 7 Cities.

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Tap-Fu is developed by Neptune Interactive, and costs $3.99. The game was reviewed at version 1.0 on an iPhone 3G.

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