Tag Archives: Chillingo

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.

‘Cut the Rope’ Receiving Yet Another Update, Plush Toys Coming Soon as Well

Cut the Rope, the very successful iPhone puzzler published by Chillingo, will be receiving a new 1.4 update in the coming months, which includes 25 new levels, a new character, and all-new gameplay mechanics that challenge the players to bounce the sweets into Om Nom’s mouth.

Along with that, the new update promises the introduction of the Star Key, which allows you to unlock future level boxes.  There are also hidden drawings within each box, and once found, you can post them on Facebook; the update also includes the ability to choose what type of candy you want to play with — donuts, cupcakes, and hard candy.

In other news, Chillingo and Zepto Labs have announced the upcoming arrival of Cut the Rope plush toys for all those Cut the Rope fans out there.  These will be arriving sometime in September through online gift and specialty stores.

If you haven’t picked up Cut the Rope yet, be sure to check out our thorough review of the game.  It is available now for $0.99 on the iPhone and $1.99 on iPad.

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.


‘Cut the Rope’ Announces New Easter Update

Cut the Rope is one of my favorite causal games and probably one of the most played.  Yes, even more than Angry Birds.

And I guess they’re not done with updating Cut the Rope yet, as they’ve just announced a new Easter update codenamed “Magic Box”, which adds yet another set of levels to the game.

And for those that have already beat the game, this magic box seems like a doozy, as the trailer suggests some pretty difficult levels.  The update will be coming soon sometime around Easter.

If this is your first time hearing about Cut the Rope (or if you haven’t purchased it yet), be sure to read our glowing review of the game; quite frankly, we absolutely loved it.  And hey, Cut the Rope is only $0.99.  You really don’t have a lot to lose.

Etolis Arena Review: Nothing We Haven’t Seen Before

In a genre as well represented on the App Store as dual-stick shooter games, it seems as if it’s becoming increasingly difficult for developers to find a unique twist that will make their title stand out among the pack.  Nearly each week brings a new onslaught of these titles, proliferating as relentlessly as the robot drones and mindless zombies which populate the games.  Etolis: Arena is one such title, and while it is fundamentally ok, there really is little about it which is likely to make it a unique or memorable experience.

Etolis Arena, while not a bad game per se, is about as run-of-the-mill as dual-stick shooter games come.  The premise, such as it is, is that you are a guy in a futuristic space suit who engages in armed combat against endless hordes of robots and creepy crawly thingamajigs.  Dispatch a few waves and you are given a chance to spend the ‘honor points’ you earn by killing baddies on various upgrades.  A few more waves of bad guys down, and you unlock a new map.  While this would seem to add a degree of complexity and progression to the game, in actuality it does little to offer variety.  The level designs are all fairly basic, the enemy AI is rudimentary, and the different weapon upgrades are a little unimaginative.

Likes

Competent: While I didn’t find much about Etolis: Arena to recommend it above the hundreds of other dual-stick shooters available on the App Store, I want to make it clear that I don’t want this to be a complete bash.  It’s an all right game, and it performs adequately (although not as well on my 2nd gen iPod touch as I’m sure it does on a more recent device).  I just didn’t find much of a sense of excitement, or a “hook” to the gameplay.  From the impressions of other users and reviewers that I’ve encountered online, it seems as if some people genuinely like this game, and maybe I’m just getting a little jaded from having played so many dual-stick shooters.  If you’re just getting into this type of genre and want a streamlined sci-fi shooter, then it may be exactly your cup of tea.  But, basically all I can offer is my personal opinion: While I didn’t have a bad time with this game, there really was nothing about it that kept me coming back to it over and over, or compelled me to spend a lot of time with it (which I generally see as the hallmarks of a great iPhone game).  And after I delete it off my device, I doubt I’ll be compelled to reinstall it later.

Universal App: Considering how greedy most developers are as far as splitting their app into an iPhone and iPad version, it’s refreshing that Chillingo and Facet Studios made the decision to make this a universal app.  (Although I think it’s a little strange that the App Store still makes it look as if there are two versions of the game, considering both versions say they are “designed for both iPhone and iPad.”)  So, while it’s not exactly a groundbreaking or addictively fun game in my book, I think it’s commendable that the developers show this courtesy to their customers.

Dislikes

Redundant: There really is not a lot about this game that differentiates it from the ever-growing horde of dual-stick shooters on iOS.  The graphics are nice enough, but not great (it actually looks a bit better in stills than in motion.)  The controls are ok, but not what I would describe as smooth or responsive.  And above all, the gameplay just isn’t exciting enough to make me want to play this above any of the old chestnuts I have in my collection of games like this on iOS.

If you just can’t live without some sort of sci-fi themed dual-stick shooter where you kill robots and there are different maps, it might be just the thing for you. But for my money, there are more exciting experiences available in this genre on the iOS platform.

Etolis: Arena was developed by Facet Studios and Chillingo Ltd.  I played version 1.01 on my 2nd Gen iPod Touch.  The price is $1.99.