Tag Archives: Buy

9mm Review: Violent, Vulgar, and Volatile

The App Store isn’t a stranger to the likes of “gangster” games; Gameloft has released their own in Gangstar and Gangstar 2, and Rockstar has also released Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on the iPhone and iPad.

And in the vein of these gangster-like games comes an all new title from Gameloft dubbed 9mm, a game in which you play bad cop, defeating all the gangsters and criminals in your way to ultimately save you and your team from death.

Looking at 9mm from a graphical standpoint, I would have to say that it’s quite impressive, although I’ve come to expect these types of graphics when reviewing Gameloft games.  One marked improvement above the rest, though, lies in the voice acting.  Now don’t get me wrong, the voice acting still needs a little bit of work, but it’s a very large improvement from the past, and the characters actually sound like they would in real life.

Of course, being a universal app always helps along with the inclusion of online multiplayer.  And the story isn’t too shabby either.

But be warned: this is one of the most vulgar games I’ve played on the App Store.  This is definitely not a game that should be bought for your 10-year old son’s birthday, and I’m not even sure I should be playing this game at times.  I’m not too bothered by vulgar language and such, but when there are unnecessary doses of four-lettered words, it does seem to get a little bit of an annoyance.

Still, 9mm packs some great graphics, an interesting storyline, and quite an interesting online multiplayer mode.

Likes

Voice-acting: I love when game developers approve on their next games, and while Gameloft took quite a while to shore up their voice-acting, they seem to be headed in the right direction with 9mm.  I wouldn’t say that the voice acting is spotless, but it’s enough to sit there normally without cringing at the sound of out-of-place tones and such.

Online multiplayer/universal: I think both of these points really speak for themselves; the inclusion of online multiplayer and being a universal app has been quite a staple in Gameloft’s recent games, and I just have to commend them for that.  Their Gameloft Live servers seem to have improved tremendously, overcoming it’s infancy and becoming one of the smoothest online multiplayer experiences on the iOS.  As for being a universal app, you can’t really say much about it other than the fact that you love it.  No more buying a game twice — one for your iPhone and one for your iPad — it’s now packed into one, convenient download, along with being, technically, half the price.  All in all, both the online multiplayer and universal are a winning combination for the consumer.

Action-packed: If there’s one thing that 9mm provides, it’s action.  The shooting scenes are quite exhilarating, the weapon selection is extensive, and the action itself seems to never end (which in this case is a good thing).  While I wouldn’t call it the most action-packed game in the App Store, I would have to say that 9mm is up there.  So if you’re looking for thrills and chills, 9mm is really the way to go.

Dislikes

Vulgarity: Like I mentioned before, vulgar language doesn’t really bother me too much.  But when it’s every other word, it really becomes unnecessary to use so much colorful language in such a short sentence.  This is totally subjective here; if you can compromise and deal with it that’s fine with me.  It’s just a warning to all purchasing that there’s a lot of language in here that may just not be suitable for everyone out there.

Short campaign: The campaign isn’t too long, lasting a mere 3-4 hours.  There is online multiplayer to add some more playing time to the game overall, but the campaign is a bit short.

9mm includes some improved voice-acting, great online multiplayer, an interesting storyline, and an overall action-packed adventure that is sure to entice third-person shooter fans.  Just note that the game isn’t for everyone, and I personally thought the amount of language in this game was really unnecessary.

9mm was developed by Gameloft, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPad 2.  The price is $6.99.

Swords And Soldiers Review: Vikings, Aztecs, and Chinese; What More Could you Ask For?

Two Tribes’s all new castle defense game Swords and Soldiers comes into the App Store after being mysteriously shrouded in secrecy; from what I can remember, most of the pre-release information were teasers.

But after playing around with the final release, I can’t say I’m not happy.

With some great, cartoon artwork and an addictive gameplay, Swords and Soldiers should keep you busy for quite a while.

But one aspect of the game really keeps me from giving this a perfect score, and that’s the gameplay balancing.  While the beginning of the game is more or less pretty easy, as the levels progress, the difficulty becomes way too much for gamers such as myself to handle.

It has led to a sense of frustration at times, and if I didn’t want to review the game, I would have quit playing a long time ago.

The gameplay is great for a while, but when it gets difficult, it’s hard to stay happy.

Likes

Artwork: The cartoony artwork is very well done, and I have to commend Two Tribes’s artist(s) for this artistic marvel.  I am in love with the artwork, and again, props to the artists.

Attitude/Atmosphere: The whole atmosphere of Swords and Soldiers is somewhat ridiculous — in a good way — along with being just plain silly.  There’s enough serious in here though, so you won’t exactly be laughing your head off.  Still, it’s silly enough so that you’ll actually feel a lot more laid back playing this rather than a lot of other games out there.

Dislikes

Gameplay balancing: I somewhat ranted about this in the beginning, and this is really my only dislike for the game.  Everything else is great; this part of the game, though, really cripples a lot of the game experience.  It looks great, plays great for the first few levels, and it feels just so enlightening.  But once those difficult levels set in, there’s really nothing but frustration awaiting. 

Swords and Soldiers could just be the next best castle defense game on the App Store.  But the gameplay balancing really needs some tweaking as does some of the difficulty; with those fixed, I would be more than happy to slap a Must Have rating on Swords and Soldiers.  But still, it’s a solid game for those looking for something new to play.

Swords and Soldiers was developed by Two Tribes and published by Chillingo, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPhone 4.  The price is $2.99.

Backstab Review: A Story of Betrayal, Love, and Quite a bit of Action

The story starts out with you, the main character, as a high-ranking official in the British army going to war with the intruding Spanish army, presumably sometime during the 18th century and the French and Indian War (Hundred Years’ War, etc.).

But in a story that somewhat reminds us of The Count of Monte Cristo, you get betrayed and imprisoned, ultimately going from high-ranking official and soon-to-be wed to imprisoned, tarnished, and ruined.

You then join some sort of rebellion against Britain; therefore, you become an enemy of the country you once fought for.

The gameplay itself is very much like Assassin’s Creed with a little bit of Grand Theft Auto elements snuck in there, suck as the “criminal” level, along with being able to steal other people’s horses.

It’s all quite an intriguing mix of story and gameplay — one that is actually quite enjoyable — but there are some factors that leave it short of ultimate praise.

For one, the gameplay is very repetitive in the whole tapping mechanism; shooting the soldiers is very inconvenient and takes a bit too long in the heat of battle.  Also, the graphics and animations on the iPad 2 aren’t exactly the greatest, as the framerate seems a bit slow, and the player models are very geometric.

Likes

Gameplay: Gameloft is really one of the only companies that manages to create these blockbuster, action-packed games, and it seems to manage to create a slightly different gameplay mechanism in each of its games.  Backstab isn’t any different — what — with its guns, grenades, swords, cannons… the list goes on and on.  While the gameplay does get a bit repetitive—I do wish there were some sort of combo system—it is quite enjoyable and one that shouldn’t disappoint action fans.

Storyline: The storyline really reminds me of Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, one book that I enjoyed and still continue to enjoy.  And if I’m not mistaken, this seems to be an original Gameloft game with no real “copied” game that I can think of.  Well props to them for such an intriguing storyline and a game title that fits quite snugly with the entire theme.

Universal: I love universal; even more when Gameloft decides to go universal for no extra cost.  Nothing to lose, so much to gain.

Dislikes

Repetitive: The fighting system in this game could use slightly more depth; there are no different combos and the like, with only one button for sword fighting and one for shooting.

Graphics, Animations, Etc.: I never thought this day would come: the day I bash on Gameloft’s graphics.  Well here I am, looking at Backstab, and sitting in utter disbelief at how terrible the character models, animations, and graphics are.  Ok, maybe not terrible.  But definitely not up to par with the graphics of games such as Aralon or Nova; heck, not even up to par with Modern Combat: Sandstorm.  The framerate on the iPad 2 also seems less than ideal — maybe around 20 fps at times — and it all just seems quite out of character for Gameloft.

The graphics and animations aren’t so horrendous that it ruins the gameplay, but it could use some improvement.  And it is definitely not on par with Gameloft’s previous games.

Backstab is an enjoyable, action-packed game that I don’t think will disappoint many in terms of gameplay and storyline.  All of it is intriguing, interesting, and enjoyable; there’s nothing like it on the App Store.  It is a little repetitive though, and the graphics and animations really keep it back from being named one of the best on the App Store.  The performance isn’t really up to par either.  But all in all, Backstab is a solid game that is enough to keep you busy for more than a few hours.

Backstab was developed by Gameloft, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPad 2.  The price is $6.99.


Icebreaker Hockey Review: Different Sport, Same Gameplay, Same Fun

NaturalMotion.

A company that entered the App Store with so much fanfare with their highly-touted, new animation system that was supposed to be the best of the best.  And more than a year later, that animation system has proved to be the backbone for both their follow up Backbreaker Football 2 and Icebreaker Hockey.

The animations are still some of the best I’ve seen on the iPhone thus far, which does help its case, and entering hockey into the mix of its series really adds a whole new dimension.  For one, along with dodging all the defenders with spin, juke, and stop, you must get as close to the goal as possible without having the goalie take it away from you.

I do have to admit that the campaign mode is a little short—10 levels, 30 minutes—but it’s 30 minutes of thrill and just plain awesome.  You can also go back and try to earn all three stars on each level, plus there are over 40 achievements to unlock.  Not too much to complain about if you ask me.

Likes

Animations: It’s been over a year since Backbreaker Football was released, and still, the animations that are used are by far the best in the App Store.  Sure, it’s much harder to tell if the animations are the best or not, but NaturalMotion has done a great job with sticking to their roots and to the whole reason why they’re so successful in the App Store.

Replay value: Even though there are only 10 levels and two game modes, there is a lot of replay value enough to play over the game at least three times.  There are three difficulty levels for you to get through in each of the modes as well, so there’s actually much more than the 30 minutes of gameplay I mentioned above.  Casual games usually contain a lot of replay value, and Icebreaker Hockey is far from exempt from that.

GameCenter: The GameCenter implemented does contain some flaws that I’ll mention later in this review, but you really can’t complain about 42 or so achievements.

Dislikes

Graphics/UI: There’s no option to return back to the start menu; you have to go through that whole customizing player screen before getting to the start menu.  Along with that, it seems like a lot of the graphics aren’t Retina-friendly such as the opening logo for NaturalMotion and some of the UI elements.  I’m not going to say that it’s horrible, but it is unacceptable considering that Retina-friendly is pretty much given nowadays.

GameCenter achievements: Now I know I mentioned that there were a lot of achievements, but it would be nice if they actually synced with GameCenter.  For some reason, the achievements I’ve collected within the game don’t transfer over to GameCenter itself, meaning that the achievements in-game screen shows over 20 achievements achieved, but when going inside the GameCenter app, it shows that I have complete zero achievements.  It’s quite frustrating when you’re as competitive as I am, and a fix for this would be nice.

Icebreaker Hockey follows the footsteps of both Backbreaker Football and Backbreaker Football II with a fun and addictive gameplay, great animations, and great character models.  The UI and other graphical elements do need some work, and the GameCenter needs a bit of fixing up to do, but overall, Icebreaker Hockey is definitely worth the low asking price of $0.99.

Icebreaker Hockey was developed by NaturalMotion, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPhone 4.  The price is $0.99.


Orions 2 Review: a Deep and Engaging, if Somewhat Derivative, CCG

Orions 2, published by Chillingo, plays like what would happen if a bunch of Magic: the Gathering cards somehow combined their DNA with a deck of Tarot cards and a Risk board-game, and then spliced in a dose of resource management mini-games on top of that. Although Orions 2 boasts some multi-faceted gameplay, with quite a few different modes and options, it is a collectible card game at its core… So as a caveat, obviously if that’s not your type of game, this probably isn’t for you.

Orions 2 features a campaign mode, which adds on a lot of upkeep and planning to the gameplay, in the form of managing resources, capturing new territories (through card battles), acquiring new cards for your deck (which contains limited quantities of each card, each use counting for one copy out of your stash), and ultimately trying to beat your CPU adversary (again, in a card battle). It’s fun, but it can be quite lengthy, and some of the resource management bogs down the speed of gameplay. Campaign mode is a nice option, but not the best way to learn the game. Thankfully, Orions 2 can be played in single-round sessions that focus solely on the card game aspect of the gameplay. These can be enjoyed either versus the CPU, or against human opponents either with pass-and-play games, or in online matches over the Game Center or Crystal networks. In the campaign mode, however, you fight for territories on a game board, with an added element of managing and investing mana points to acquire new cards for your deck.

If this makes the game sound a.) pretty complicated, b.) a little derivative, or c.) pretty damn fun in spite of those faults– well, that’s because Orions 2 is all of these things. Overall, Orions 2 does a good job of providing different methods of gameplay, and in having a solid game mechanic for the card-on-card combat. While it won’t win any awards for originality, and it is not without room for a few adjustments I’d love to see in an update, the good far outweighs the bad, and for fans of the genre it will probably be worth picking up.

Likes

Good Card/Game Design: A collectible card game is only as good as the design that goes into the cards it features (although to be technical, this one eschews collectibility, since it gives you all the cards when you purchase the game). And this is one area where I feel that Orions 2 gets it pretty well right. As someone who plays a good bit of Magic: The Gathering every now and then, I can say without a doubt that the card design owes a lot of inspiration to Magic. And this is not really a bad thing in my book.

Orion 2’s card battles are essentially creature-heavy slugfests, and all of the non-creature spells in the game are either enhancements for your creatures, ways to gain life or add various-colored mana (your resource for playing cards) to your supply, or ways to kill or weaken your opponent’s creatures. The card battle rules are fairly streamlined and simple: Your objective is to reduce the opponent to zero life; you lose if you are reduced to zero life. Each player can play one card per turn, as long as they have enough mana for it. The mana for that creature or spell is then taken away from the player’s mana pool. There is no ‘hand of cards,’ each player may play any one card from their deck during their turn, provided they have enough mana. Many creatures also have abilities, which come in two basic types. Active abilities may be used once each turn (and sometimes require mana or some other payment), whereas other creatures have passive abilities such as giving their owner health or mana each turn, healing ally creatures, etc. At the beginning of each turn, a player gains one mana of each color. Creatures are played onto the playing field, which has five slots for each player. Each creature occupies one slot, so the most either player can have at any time is five creatures. At the end of each turn, the player’s creatures that have been in play for at least one turn attack the creatures in the slots opposite to them. They assign damage according to their power, either to the enemy creature or the opponent if there is none, and damage permanently subtracts from enemy creature’s health total. If it reaches zero, the creature dies…. And that’s basically it.

Although this sounds simple, the cards are really well-designed, and all of them have an application (although as always, some are clearly on a higher power level than others). Games tend to fluctuate fairly regularly, and it’s possible to pull out a victory when you thought you would be crushed… Or to have the rug swept out from under you by the opponent’s clever maneuver. Overall, the gameplay encourages fluid analytical thinking in a fun way, and the cards are pretty well balanced overall, so it doesn’t feel like there are really any brokenly unbeatable cards.

Game Center: Yup, it’s got it. Oh yeah, and Crystal too… if anyone still uses that.

Universal App: Yay!

Online Capabilities: Without a doubt, the game mode that I keep coming back to is the online player-vs-player matches. I do have a couple gripes about the online mode, which I’ll save for the “Dislikes” section, but overall I’m very happy that they included it. Online play is what gives Orions 2 its replay value, and I’ve found that with a couple minutes patience, I can pretty much get a game going with someone at any time of the day or night.

Smooth User Interface: Overall, the UI of Orions 2 is easy to use and intuitive… although there is one slip-up (namely the placing of buildings on the minimap in campaign mode, which feels pretty clunky). The game uses a tap-and-drag mechanic for nearly every action, from deciding which slot to play a creature in, to activating your creatures’ abilities. If you need to re-read a card, you just double tap on it. This kind of simplicity in the controls lets them slip into the background where they belong, and allows you to focus on your strategizing.

Dislikes:

Campaign Mode is a Little Clunky: I mistakenly tried to learn the game from playing the campaign mode, which can be a frustrating way to begin. There are just too many factors that are extraneous to the central card-game component, such as choosing which cards to buy for your deck, how many mana points to invest into building each turn, how many territories to try to claim each turn, how few cards you can get by on spending mana points on for your deck, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have the option of the campaign mode included, because it really does challenge the player with a lot of different things to think about… but I find I don’t end up playing it much.

A Few Gripes with the Online Matches: These are all fairly minor, since I still really enjoy the online versus mode, despite a few flaws. I’m just going to put them in list form:

-To me, the biggest problem with the online mode, is I want to be able to use the decks that I’ve built to fight against human opponents. For each online match, the game assigns a random assortment of cards of each color for each player’s deck. While this adds a fun element of chance, and I think it should still be an option, I’d really like to be able to use my home-brewed creations for online matches. After all, it gets a little old only being able to play with user-created decks either in pass-and-play mode, or against a CPU opponent.

-Another quibble with the online matches, is that it feels that no bragging rights are really at stake, since the game doesn’t track win-loss records. I can see how the designers might have left this out on purpose, since not receiving a loss for a match is usually as simple as rebooting the app when you see that you are too far behind to pull out a win. But still, somehow I feel like I’m missing out on the glory when I crush an opponent, only to be rewarded with… well, nothing really.

-A third, slight problem with the online matches is that you only get one minute per turn. This is usually enough time, but there can be particularly tough decisions where you want to reread a few cards to decide what to play. And there is nothing more soul-crushing than having the timer run out on you, and therefor missing your chance to play a card that turn because you were reading cards and analyzing what was on the board.

-Lastly, although the game gives you the option to do draft games against an online opponent, I’ve never ever been able to find anyone else trying to match up for a draft match. But I suppose this isn’t really any fault of the game designers on this one… I just thought I’d mention that it was an option, so hopefully someone reads this and we can get a bit of a draft game playing community.

Lack of Graphical Panache: Overall, the look of Orions 2 is clean and well-designed. But it’s a little bland and unexciting. The artwork on the creatures and spells is fairly small, and while it’s not bad, you can tell they didn’t invest too heavily in getting top-notch illustrations. The menus and maps are also not going to cause any eyesores, but they’re not exactly what anyone would call graphically stunning.

The absolute bottom line is that Orions 2 provides an engaging and entertaining experience for fans of the collectible card-game genre. I do hope that they add more features to the online gameplay (most importantly being able to use user-created decks). But this is a really good title at the end of the day, and the solid game-play mechanics, creatively designed cards, and the carefully weighed balance among the power levels of the various cards all make this a winning choice in my book.

Orions 2 was developed by Chillingo Ltd. and I played through version 1.0 on my iPod Touch, 2nd gen. The price is $2.99.