Tag Archives: Buy

Gears Review: Unique and Quite Enjoyable Ball-Roller

I’ve never been a fan of ball-rollers; they’re extremely frustrating, and I just never really saw the appeal in precision controlling.

Now let’s put Crescent Moon Games into the mix—the creators of arguably two of the best RPGs on iOS—and see if they’ve really reinvented the whole ball-rolling genre on the App Store.

Starting with the bare basics, Gears does basically what every ball-roller’s objective is: roll through the level hopping over obstacles and get to the end safely.  There are usually medals—as in this case—rewarded based on how well you completed the objective (time, how many coins collected, etc.).  Probably the best feature of Gears is its controls: spot on swipe controls that are absolutely brilliant.  The graphics are also not too shabby especially when playing on an iPad 2, and the environment feels like I’m actually inside some forbidden cave.

But Gears is far from perfect — yes, Gears does have its flaws.  For one, the tilt controls are absolutely horrendous; in fact, don’t even bother trying to make them work.  The calibration seems way off, and while it does mention that the game calibrates after the end of every level, you’ll have trouble even getting through the first one.

On top of that, for those that like to take in the environment and take as long as you want on any given level, too bad.  The time constraint does bother me a little since you must start the level over if you don’t finish, and it’s especially bothersome when the time expires right when I’m about to finish.  A new system of giving out trophies in which each one is based on how much time it takes you to finish would be a much better system, as it allows slow people to still advance into the later levels, albeit with lesser medals.

I’m not going to even get started on the fact that it doesn’t include GameCenter achievements.

But while Gears isn’t as perfect or as ideal as Crescent Moon’s past games, it’s still quite enjoyable and a thrill at times.  Getting through the levels does have its moments, and at $0.99, this is the definition of bargain.

Likes

Graphics: Crescent Moon Games has gotten this part down on their past two titles, and this is no different.  While I wasn’t overly impressed with the graphics on my iPhone 4, on the iPad 2, it was an entirely different story.  The graphics were absolutely phenomenal, and the detail was probably more than my eyes could handle.  I give props yet again to whoever does the graphics over at Crescent Moon Games because hey, they’re awesome.

Bargain: For $0.99, you’re getting a not too shabby game.  In fact, you’re getting a game that could as well be priced at $4.99, and I believe people would still buy it.  It’s universal, has GameCenter (although only leaderboards at the moment), and it contains some great content.

Swipe controls: The swipe controls are wonderful; in fact, they’re probably the best controls I’ve seen in a ball-roller.  It feels natural, it’s quick, and it’s comfortable.  Props to Crescent Moon Games for creating such a unique control scheme.

Dislikes

GameCenter: Achievements, anyone?  That’s what I absolutely love about GameCenter and any social platform for that matter.  But Gears’s lack of achievement is very noticeable, and I was actually quite disappointed.

Time constraint: I believe I’ve said everything needed to be said in the beginning of this review, but I’ll say it again: there are times when I just don’t feel like starting a level over.  Seems a bit brutal to me.  And hey, it would be nice to give me some more time to take in the beautiful surroundings.

Tilt controls: Ball rollers and tilting just seems so natural, and people like me actually like to tilt the ball.  But the tilt controls in this game are absolutely horrendous; I’ve never encountered such bad tilt controls.  I feel like I’m missing something in the options or anything, but scouring the entire game has produced no clues as to why these tilt controls are so bad.

Obviously I’m mixed concerning Gears.  On one hand, it’s beautiful, and the swipe controls work great.  It’s a bargain at $0.99 including the fact that it’s universal, and the game does have its shining moments.  Then there’s the other hand, which includes the fact that it doesn’t have GameCenter achievements, has terrible tilt controls, and that the time constraint does bother at times.  Ultimately, though, for $0.99, Gears is a game that’s too hard too pass up.  And considering Crescent Moon Games’s tendency to update its games, I would take a safe bet on this becoming great.

Gears was developed by Crescent Moon Games, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPhone 4 and iPad 2.  The price is $0.99.


Who’s That Flying?! Review: A Soaring Good Time

The Guardian of Earth has failed in his duties, has allowed hordes of Doom Beasts to run rampant in Earth’s fair cities, and has been put to trial by his intergalactic peers — the Galactic Counsel of Space Justice — to face space justice for his inadequacies …

Who’s That Flying?! — a.k.a. WTF?! — is a unique side-scrolling shooter emphasizing both its narrative and its action. The tale unfolds as the Guardian of Earth recounts events to the council, often hilariously, with players reliving his exploits — as action-packed stages of alien blasting! — in the telling. The dialogue is punchy, full of banter, and laugh-out-loud funny, if a tad juvenile at times.

With excellent use of humor, unique game mechanics and a presentation as stylish as it is adorable, WTF?! manages to set itself well apart from other app store shooters. What’s more, the game is just plain fun!

In most shooters, players must avoid collisions with enemy ships and projectiles, while collecting power-ups to better their chances of success. WTF?! eschews even these basic conventions. For starters, the Guardian of Earth cannot die; he can only fail in his appointed duties. Ravagers are the most basic of enemy types, but also of greatest concern to our hero; their goal is not to defeat him, but to get past him so that they may rampage in the city. Each ravager that gets by the Guardian of Earth will do damage to the city, and when the city suffers enough damage, the Guardian will have failed.

The Guardian of Earth is too powerful to be harmed by these creatures; collide with a ravager and the Guardian will simply tear it apart. More effective in dealing with the ravagers’ constant threat, however, is the stream of laser beams the Guardian constantly spews. By destroying ravagers, the Guardian of Earth builds his multiplier. As the multiplier builds, his Awesome Meter increases in several levels, each level corresponding to increasingly devastating special attacks. Allowing a ravager to slip by, however, breaks the chain and empties the Awesome Meter’s current level progress.

The thrust of the game then is to chain attacks, building the Awesome Meter to unleash destruction upon your foes, and not allowing a single ravager to slip past you. Collisions are okay, but misses are not.

Beginning with the second stage, however, new enemies appear to attack the Guardian of Earth directly. While they cannot kill him, they have various means of distracting him, stunning him or blocking his attacks, allowing ravagers to slip by unharmed to wreak havoc upon Earth’s cities. Larger enemies need be softened up with laser beams, with the Guardian then able to grab hold and pummel them. Fun stuff!

And so WTF?! is both a shooter and a defense game, an intriguing blend of genres.

The game’s audio/visual presentation is cartoonish and further serves to drive the game’s humor. The Guardian of Earth spins and hurtles through the air impressively, showboating for his fans while battling invaders. As he builds chains, the crowds below can be heard cheering, but begroan his failures when a ravager gets by him. All the while, the Guardian proclaims his own awesomeness and enthralls his audience with his tales of daring-do.

The game includes 12 achievements, in-game labeled as “Evidence” for the trial. The OpenFeint social gaming platform is supported, but Game Center is not — indeed, WTF?!

Aside from the lack of Game Center support, the only gripe I can level against the game are its controls, which take some getting used to. Left or right joysticks are available as options, but the Touch controls are definitely the way to play. But even so, the touch controls are a mite wonky and imprecise. Essentially, a joystick is centered wherever you touch the screen; I find myself having to crank the sensitivity WAAAAAY down to prevent my Guardian from swirling all over the screen. After a short adjustment period the controls become manageable, but I would far prefer to see 1:1 relative touch controls, like those found in Space Invaders Infinity Gene and a number of other shooters. Maybe I can hope to see such controls (and Game Center support?!) added in an update …

Minor shortcomings aside, Who’s That Flying?! is a wonderfully fun game and an easy recommendation. I’ve been having a blast with it!

Who’s That Flying?! [$2.99] is developed by MediaTonic and published by Capcom. Reviewed on an iPhone 4.

Soccer Superstars 2011 Review: This is One Great Soccer Game

I feel like I’ve been playing a lot of Gamevil games recently; Air Penguin sucking up the “waiting” times, while Soccer Superstars 2011 has been sucking up the rest of my time.

And with good reason: Soccer Superstars 2011 may as well be the next, great sports game on the iPhone.  Before this, I’ve been playing Madden NFL 11—that’s right, 2011—on my iPhone, as it was the only sports game that really was enjoyable for me.  I love soccer as well, but all of the soccer games on the App Store are pretty outdated, starting with X2 Football 2010.

I do see some glaring issues with Soccer Superstars though.  So far, after 6 hours of play, it has crashed on me twice causing me to start over whatever game I was playing.  Along with that, Gamevil continues to apply the horrid, extremely small buttons in the UI along with the extremely small text.  On top of that, the controls are slightly off in that whenever I try to change direction, it takes about half a second to switch.  And when a defender is in front of you, that’s a bit too late, as the ball has already been stolen from you.

Restoring your condition after every game is a bit of a nuisance as well, on top of the whole “you look tired, I’m going to bench you” sort of thing that appears in the My League mode.

And while that looks like a large pile of bad things compared to a small pile of good things, Soccer Superstars 2011 is still, probably, one of the best soccer games to date.

Likes

Improved: I never played Soccer Superstars 2010 for a lot of reasons, starting with the controls and frustrating UI.  While Gamevil went on to fix the controls, by that time, the game had already been deleted from my phone and that was that.  While the controls here need a very slight improvement, it’s come a long way from the controls found in the first edition.  On top of that, there’s that it factor in here that wasn’t in the first one; I don’t feel compelled at all to delete this game.  In fact, this is probably my most played game on my phone as of this instance.

Content: The content here is endless, considering that in the My League mode—the mode I’ve been playing the most—you go from Year 1 to Year 2 to Year 3, etc.  There’s really no end to it, and it’s pretty realistic for a cartoony soccer game.  Each year is different, with you trying to win the championship at the end (kind of like winning the Super Bowl).  On top of that, there is the season mode, match play (some variant of online multiplayer), dramatic mode (solve missions and earn G points), and the exhibition mode.  For $4.99, you’re getting a boatload of content and lots and lots of “productive” hours.

Dislikes

Small annoyances: There are a lot of nitpicky annoyances in the league mode, especially the times when “Chance!” comes up on the screen.  You can switch from playing only when you have the ball or just watching the game unfold before you; the latter being the much better choice.  But it also comes with its problems, as there are times when those chances come up and you’re either offsides, someone else has the ball, or you are nowhere near the ball.  Other small annoyances include the offsides rule itself.  One time I was shooting the ball and it happened to hit one of my players; that player was “offsides”, and even though I was shooting and not passing the ball, it was still called as offsides.

Another annoyance is the clock.  I’m shooting the ball, it reflects off the goalkeeper, and right when I’m about to shoot the ball again, it says “Halftime”.  That has happened to me a numerous amount of times, and it does get pretty annoying.  Especially when you lose by one goal and know that it could have been a draw.

And yet another annoyance: stamina and “condition”.  I’m currently in Year 5 and I have to recover my condition every single time after a game.  And even though I recover my condition, it doesn’t really do much.  And it gets even more frustrating when your guy gets taken out 30 minutes into the game, and with no goals or attempts, your morale, popularity, reputation, etc. all go down because of it.  I really, REALLY hope Gamevil strongly considers removing this feature because 1) it’s useless and 2) it’s annoying.

UI: The text is too small, the buttons are too small, and the main menu is too confusing.  This has been a main problem with most Gamevil games, and while it’s a bit better in Soccer Superstars 2011, it still does bother at times.

Soccer Superstars is an extremely fun game.  I would go right on ahead and give it that coveted Must Have award, but there are those small, nitpicky annoyances in there that prevent me from doing so.  I’ve spent hours upon hours playing this game, and while a huge improvement over the previous edition, it still needs some work, especially on the whole stamina and condition thing.  But other than that, for $4.99, you’re getting at least 6 hours of simple, soccer fun.

Soccer Superstars was developed by Gamevil, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPhone 4.  The price is $4.99.


Kami Retro Review: Puzzle-Platforming Perfection?

Kami Retro, by Gamevil and Paw Print Games, is a psychedelic-looking little game which combines aspects of platforming games like Mario and ‘find the exit’ games like Lemmings (this description of the game has been done to death, but it really is the best way to describe it). The result is an original, addictive puzzle/platformer which is high on fun but not without its hair-pullingly difficult moments.

Like many of the most financially successful titles for iOS to date, Kami Retro is one part “pick up and play,” mixed with one part “wait, just one more time.” The goal is to guide your hero to the exit of each stage, using various placeable stage elements, such as trampolines, bounce pads, giant fans, cannons, and the like. Each level essentially has two parts: you must first solve the puzzle by positioning the provided set-pieces in such a way that you can have your hero navigate the stage and reach the exit. Next, you must guide your avatar through the stage, performing increasingly precise jumps and turn-arounds in order to avoid the many environmental perils which stand between you and victory. Your avatar will automatically move forward on his own, so the player’s task is to make him jump or turn around at the appropriate moment. To make matters more difficult, each stage provides the player with four little dudes to guide to the exit, who spawn from the entrance point at regular intervals. This interval of time remains constant, even as the levels become increasingly complex and demand more and more precision, so by the later stages you can expect to be frantically flicking and tapping the screen as you try to guide as many of your heroes as possible towards the exit. In order to pass a stage, you must only reach the exit once, but in order to achieve the highest possible score (earning stars which go towards unlocking subsequent sets of levels), you must guide all four avatars to safety.

I feel like I should put it out there: I’m no wiz-kid at puzzle games, and I tend to get frustrated with them fairly easily, especially ones that have linear solutions. I can get down on something like Tetris or Bust-a-Move, where play skill boils down to a factor of reflexes, simple geometric reasoning, and endurance. That’s because in those games, there is no “getting stuck”– you just hold on for as long as you can, until you inevitably succumb to the unbeatable odds. But I can get pretty discouraged in games like Kami Retro and its ilk when I reach a level I’m unable to get past, because I don’t like the feeling of bottlenecking too much before I’ve beaten a game… And although Kami Retro provided me with a few frustrating moments, I found it to be very enjoyable altogether. The level of challenge is pretty intense (especially if you want to get a three star rating on each level, an achievement which I honestly think I’m never going to even attempt), but the game does a good job of holding your hand at just the right points, so you never feel truly lost.

All in all, despite not being exactly my usual cup of tea, this game did a good job of winning me over. There were moments when I got so frustrated I had to take a nice long break from the game, but usually the level I was stuck on would seem much more beatable when I came back to it. Although in the end I have a few quibbles, I really enjoyed the way in which Kami Retro combines geometric puzzle-solving gameplay with old-school side-scroller platform hopping action.

Likes

Wacky Aesthetics- Kami Retro looks like an acid-trip-homage to 8-bit gaming, with just enough of a modern flair to keep it from being boring or overly familiar. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of ‘cute’ games, but Kami Retro nails this look right on the head, with bright vibrant colors, goofy pixel art, and maybe just a few visual references to the world of gaming’s favorite Italian-American plumber.

Unique Blend of Gameplay- I really enjoyed the way that Kami Retro combines puzzle-solving gameplay with good old Mario-esque platform hopping. Each level must essentially be solved and then played through, and your jumping skills are equally important as your puzzle solving chops, in your quest to collect the bonus stars and reach the exit with as many of your four men as possible. Also, the game’s platforming element serves to somewhat relax the demand to solve each puzzle with 100% precision, since you can sometimes jump your way to victory despite not having built a very good structure for your character to bounce his way along. There were a few levels where I wasn’t able to find the “correct” solution, but I was still able to ham-fistedly navigate one man to the exit door and move on to the next stage thanks to my platforming pedigree.

Dislikes

Cramped Controls- Although the game’s swipe-based controls are adequate to the task, they become somewhat burdensome on the later levels. Sometimes you will tap a springboard or a fan when you’re trying to get your guy to jump or turn around, which nearly always leads to death (and potentially having to reset the object you may have moved). When you’re tasked with trying to control two dudes at once (as is often the case in some of the later stages of the game), it becomes especially hard to maintain the level of precision necessary to make all your jumps. To some degree, this is the point. The developers were obviously trying to make a challenging game, and in this they succeeded. And overall, it’s still very fun. But sometimes I felt that between the frantic pace of the later levels and the high level of precision demanded in some stages, I was claustrophobically and frantically swiping around the screen without being able to get much control over the characters.

Questionable Replay Value- Whether or not you will want to replay this game honestly depends on what kind of gamer you are. If you love going back and continually trying to perform the same task more and more precisely, you will probably find yourself compelled to try for a perfect three star rating on each stage. Personally, I was just happy to beat them all. While for the most part, I had a lot of fun with the game, in no way do I feel compelled to go back to some of the hardest stages and try to ace them. I was happy to get one guy to the exit door on some of these levels; I can’t really fathom the level of perfectionism it would take me to get all four guys to the exit and collect all the bonus stars. On the other hand, this is exactly the sort of thing some people go in for, and you probably know who you are.

In short, Kami Retro deserves the critical praise it’s been getting. It blends some quite familiar styles of gameplay into a distinctive little treat of a game, that’s great for short sessions. The amount of time you spend with this title might ultimately depend on the level of perfectionism you apply to your gaming, but it’s appealing enough to get the nod of recommendation to anyone with a fondness for puzzles, platformers, or just plain old 8-bit nostalgia.

Kami Retro was developed by Gamevil, and I played through version 1.1 on my iPod touch 2G.  The price is $0.99.

Land-A Panda Review: Casual, Cheap, Captivating

Pandas.

What can you not like about pandas?  They’re cute, cuddly, and just so good looking.  Maybe this is all due to my Asian heritage and the fact that those animals literally crawl all over my country, but hey, you have to admit these bears are quite cute (sneezing panda video, anyone?).

And that’s what made Land-A Panda so enticing: that cuteness factor, the such artsy graphics.

But of course, gameplay always comes first in my eyes, and I’m going to go straight to the point: it’s average.  I’m not entirely hooked on Land-A Panda, but there’s no way I’m going to absolutely despise the gameplay.

For starters, there could be a lot more GameCenter achievements; 15 isn’t going to cut it.  The gameplay does feel a bit repetitive in the beginning, and as the levels go on, the difficulty ramps up a little too quickly for my taste.

But when it’s all said and done, it’s 0nly $0.99, it’s got a ton of levels with more coming soon, and the art style is just too great to not like.

Likes

Content: The App Store thrives on these type of games: $0.99 with a lot of content.  It almost felt like the developers went the Angry Bird route in the way they presented the level menus and the star system, but there’s really nothing wrong with copying a winning formula.  There’s really just a lot here, and I doubt that there are many games out there that can boast so much content for so little money.

Artwork: I’m going to rave about the artwork until I’m blue in the face because I am just absolutely in love with it.  Props to the artist, you deserve it.

Price: Price is always an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to apps, especially in the stingy environment known as the App Store, and that $0.99 price point is quite appealing for a game like this.  While we’ve seen games like Dungeon Hunter 2 go on sale for $0.99, Land-A Panda has an odd sense of appeal to it that I can’t quite put my finger on.

Dislikes

All too familiar: I mentioned it before, but for some odd reason, I feel like I’ve played this game before.  Maybe it’s the Angry Birds level style or the casual gameplay itself, but the experience is just too familiar for me to say that this is an original game.

Difficulty: Timing is everything in a game like this—with not much real thinking involved—but the difficulty ramps up quickly even within the first world.  I’m not a huge fan of difficult puzzle games, along with maybe 90% of people out there, and Land-A Panda gets difficult.

The verdict: Land-A Panda is quite average.  But the tantalizing price point and the cute graphics seem to balance out the average gameplay, along with the ton of content involved.  I feel like there are more and more of these casual games in the App Store—in fact, it seems like those or the only games we’re getting review requests for—but Land-A Panda seems to do everything a casual game should do.

Land-A Panda was developed by Big Pixel Studios, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPad 2 and iPhone 4.  The price is $1.99 and $0.99 respectively.