Tag Archives: Karmastar

Our 2009 Games of the Year Revealed: Gaming Overload!

Wow.  What a year it’s been for the app store.  This was the first full calendar year that the store has been open for business, and we’ve been treated to a countless amount of games.  Now, all of us have attempted to give a summary of some of our favourite games from the year.  We’re about to list a lot of great games, so sit back and see if you’ve missed any gems from last year or disagree with any of our choices.

Matt: Overall, 2009 was a great year for iPhone gaming. My personal favorite release of the year was the re-imagined classic Space Invaders Infinity Gene, easily the iPhone’s best shoot’em-up. The stages, visual presentation, sound and gameplay combined to make this a game I found impossible to put down. The inclusion of music stages, generated from songs in your music library, make this a game with an infinite amount of new challenges, and the recent update made things even better. Space Invaders Infinity Gene is the best example I can think of of a major game publisher simultaneously revitalizing a classic franchise while doing right on the iPhone platform. Kudos to Taito for a job well done.

For me, the year held a number of other highlights. Meteor Blitz is the best dual-stick shooter I’ve ever played, with sumptuous visuals and perfect controls. Flatspace delivered the most open-ended space role-playing experience on the platform; how you outfit your ship plays a huge role in how you play the game, and you’re welcome to play in any way you like, as law-enforcement or pirate, trader or bounty-hunter, good guy or bad guy. Chronicles of Inotia: Wanderer of Luone and Dungeon Hunter offered up the platform’s best fantasy RPGs, while Rogue Planet delivered an SRPG to rival those on major consoles. Robocalypse, ported to the iPhone from the Nintendo DS, was the year’s best RTS, and IUGO’s Star Hogs was an artillery game not to be missed. GeoDefense and GeoDefense Swarm were the year’s best tower defense games. Chillingo‘s Defender Chronicles effectively tipped the tower defense genre on its side, imbuing it with RPG qualities along the way and cementing it as one of the deepest and most rewarding alternative takes on tower defense yet seen. In addition, the developer has set a new paradigm for the support of existing properties with constant and hearty updates in content. Knights Onrush is the App Store’s best castle-defense game, even beating out Gameloft‘s take on the genre. But it’s Gameloft’s NOVA that takes the crown for the year’s best FPS, highly polished with a robust single player campaign and an excellent multiplayer mode. My favorite retro fixes were the addictive Hook Champ and the lite roguelike The Isle of 8-bit Treasures. For casual games, KarmaStar was a favorite for cramming incredible depth into bite-sized portions, and Canabalt for incredible atmosphere and short, but addictive gameplay sessions. My list is long, but the last games I absolutely must mention are Rolando 2 and I Dig It 2, incredible sequels to their equally incredible predecessors. Damn, what a year!

Daniel: My game of the year would have to go to NOVA from Gameloft. Call me a first-person shooter junkie, but Gameloft did an amazing job with both the campaign and online multiplayer. There have been tons of other games that have come quite close to taking home the award though, from ngmoco’s Rolando 2 to Illusion Labs’ Sway. Com2uS also came out of the box after releasing Homerun Battle 3D along with Inotia  2: Wanderer of Luone, both of which were definite must have titles for me. Chillingo‘s Ravensword was yet another title that I was overly impressed with, along with their fun Speed Forge Extreme.

The list goes on and on, including Firemint‘s Real Racing and Flight Control, Illusion Labs’ Labyrinth 2 and Touchgrind, Gameloft’s Modern Combat: Sandstorm and Gangstar, Godzilab’s iBlast Moki, and much, much more. 2009 was a year quite improved from the initial release of firmware 2.0, and I’ll be surprised if developers keep up the same pace. I’m sure there are games that were forgotten, but either way, let’s say hello to 2010.

Nick: Going back a full year and trying to figure out the best games launched on the app store is definitely a tough task.  Choosing a single game of the year though is easy.  The game I have in mind had an impressive graphical upgrade from its predecessor, and the gameplay’s tweaked difficulty and rolling variations kept me fully interested throughout.  Yes, the game I’m thinking of is Ngmoco and Hand Circus’ Rolando 2.  After replaying levels just to grab all the items I missed on the first time through, I realized the game was something special because replaying is something I rarely do.  I initially opened this site to try and cover games that push forward the idea that the iPhone is a legimitate gaming platform, and Rolando 2 fits the bill perfectly. In trying to list other favourites from the year, I’m sure I’m going to forget many great games.  Here’s a quick attempt at other standout titles I really enjoyed: Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, Sway, Let’s Golf, Peggle, geoDefense, 2XL ATV Offroad, and Hook Champ.

Chris: 2009 was certainly a banner year for the iPhone and its gamers. In 2008 we witnessed the birth of the app store. In 2009 we witnessed it grow into something akin to a child: both awkward and wonderful; sometimes gawky, sometimes menacing, but always full of promise. This year we’ve seen everything from the great Halo clone N.O.V.A. to truly unique puzzlers like Labyrinth 2 and Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor. But for every geoDefense we also had an onslaught of forgettable tower defense games that simply were a recycled waste of time. The still incomplete Minigore gave us a good laugh while Samurai: Way of the Warrior showed us that 3-D wasn’t always needed. At the beginning of the year, who would’ve thought a simple running game like Backbreaker Football could bring so much more life to football than the iconic Madden? That’s what makes the iPhone as a gaming device so special: it surprises us. This little machine somehow manages to bring a decoupage of gaming experiences that no other device seems to match. Gamers everywhere have to agree there’s nothing quite like Zen Bound for the console. As for the best of 2009, that’s tough. The Wing Commander-esque Galaxy on Fire comes close, but ultimately I’m a sucker for the well-rendered RPG; Ravensword: The Fallen King is certainly not without its flaws, but it is the first iPhone game I found truly amazing… utterly escapist. What can we anticipate in 2010 now that the iPhone’s proverbial childhood is over? The fast track into adulthood. With Apple’s newfound success in the gaming world comes a new set responsibilities… and new competition. Also, we all have bigger expectations for this little device than we did a year ago. Things could get really interesting. So, here’s to a new and even better year of gaming in 2010. Good luck, Apple, and keep on gaming!

Jeff: What if iTunes didn’t exist? What if there wasn’t an App Store? What if the technological marvel known as the iDevice was never conceived? Each and every one of us would have missed out on something amazing and revolutionary.  It’s a worldwide store where you can buy all of the newest music of any nationality from anywhere in the world, and purchase multiple games that fit in your pocket starting as low as 99 cents and (almost) not going anywhere above 10 dollars. This universal store has brought many people happiness, and the offerings that you can choose from are astounding. Music will always be changing, and so will the future of gaming. However, I’ve never thought that gaming could change so suddenly or quickly. Five months ago, I would never have thought of the iPhone or iPod Touch as something I would play games on, much less play games on for hours on end. This year, and more specifically, these past few months, have changed the iPhone and iPod Touch into my main gaming platform. And why? Because iDevice games are the only ones that get updated, changed, and churned out so quickly, yet still maintaining the polish and quality we expect from all games.

Now that the iPhone and iPod Touch have been established as possible gaming devices, what are the best games for this “platform?” Or, what is the number one game that all iDevice owners should have? It’s a hard choice, but I have to go with N.O.V.A.. This game has the best graphics, best controls, and debatably due to multiplayer, the best replay value of any game on the App Store. It has all of Gameloft’s quality and polish, and it isn’t a game you just finish and forget; it’s an experience that you remember and keep coming back to, time and time again. On the other hand, there are many great offerings for the iDevice, including Jet Car Stunts, Asphalt 5, Need for Speed, FIFA, Inotia 2: A Wanderer of Luone and many more titles that deserve mentioning. Of course, if I mentioned all of them, the list would be too long since there are just so many different options. All in all, 2009 has been an awesome year both for myself personally and the App Store, and I can’t wait to see what new events and things are in store for me this year. Onwards, and let’s all have a great 2010!

Ryan: The app store has come a very long way in such a short time. I remember when I was impressed by the simplest of games on a mobile device like an iPod. The app store has become a whole new market now with ‘real’ games becoming more polished and fun. One signing example of this is Nova. Nova is a first-person shooter developed by Gameloft that somewhat resembles Halo (ring any bells?) Nova is the most complete, comprehensive game on the app store to date. Not only does it have an engaging single player mode, but it comes with surprisingly fun online multiplayer mode as well. It is no surprise to me that Gameloft is the company behind Nova. After all, they have proven to be strong players in the app store market and have developed a number of hits. Each game they release seems to push the envelope (and my expectations) just a little further. I now expect an iPod/iPhone game to deliver much more than I did even a few months ago. I am excited to see what the app store holds for 2010. I think Nova will be hard to top, but based on what I have seen so far, it is complely plausible.

And that wraps up the gaming year of 2009.  I’m sure 2010 will be bringing us even more impressive games from all the developers on the app store who will continue to push the limits of the platform.  We’ll see you the same time next year for another wrap up!

Karmastar Review: Life as Strategic Microcosm

Life is made of choices. Some choices set you ahead, while others set you back. Your choices often affect not only your own life, but, for better or worse, also the lives of those around you. And their choices, in turn, can often affect you. The moral pendulum swings both ways. While doing the right thing can often push you in the right direction, doing the wrong thing can sometimes push you in the right direction faster. And sometimes, you fall flat on your face either way.

You make countless decisions on a daily basis — right, wrong, good, bad, moral, immoral, etc. Now, imagine your entire life, from birth to death, summarized in only eight decisions. Which decisions would they be, and would kind of person would they make you?

And that’s the game of Karmastar, a virtual card game for the iPhone in which your entire life happens in only eight rounds, or rather, in eight choices.

The rules are simple: In Karmastar, three players take turns competing for the highest score. The game lasts for eight rounds. Each player has five traits — Health, Mind, People, Love and Money. Higher traits help you win in combat. Traits max out at a value of five, at which point the trait becomes locked and cannot be stolen by your opponents. Each turn, you are given a choice between three randomly drawn actions; there are two types of actions. Boosts raise a trait by one and grant you a single point. Attacks are waged against your opponents, and win you two points if victorious; traits do not improve, and losing combat grants you nothing. During attack, players roll “dice” against one another. The higher the trait used for the attack, the more dice you roll. Players also receive wildcards at the beginning of each round, which can be played during your turn. Wildcards can help you boost your traits, steal traits from opponents, improve your chances in combat and more. Through the course of the game, you may also be awarded bonus points for meeting particular requirements. Wildcards and bonus points are key to winning the game.


Presentation: Karmastar is both charming and attractive. Karma being a cosmic force that binds as all together, the game naturally occurs in space. Players are represented as astronauts floating around the planet Earth, and animate based upon your choices and actions. Traits and actions are nicely represented by icons, choices are randomly assigned karmic descriptions and pictures such as a hike in the woods, giving your first public speech, shopping for lingerie, being robbed by a bully, having a weird cousin move in, or having a bird poop on your picnic. These occurrences are well drawn and often humorous, and it’s always fun to find something new. The game is divided into four phases — childhood, adulthood, middle age and old age — and the action descriptions are also relevant to the phase in which you are currently playing. During childhood, actions may be school related, while in old age you might break your hip. The user-interface is great, and the sound-effects and ambiance are fantastic as well.

Karmastar is extremely well polished. Majesco Entertainment has clearly put a lot of care and effort into the game’s details. It’s been sitting at version 1.0 without an update since its March release, not because Majesco isn’t supporting it, but simply because there’s nothing wrong with it. The game offers a complete and well polished experience, without bugs or rough edges. I’ve been playing Karmastar for months, and the game has never crashed or offered up any other type of problem. Other developers should take notice; all games should be this polished at 1.0.

Strategy: Playing your turns is not going to win you the game. Victory is achieved by carefully managing your wildcards, and planning your choices to meet bonus point conditions. Bonus points can be scored by raising a single trait twice in a round, stealing traits from both opponents, winning the star by gaining a three point lead on the opposition, pummeling the star-holder in combat, winning the star twice in one game, being the first to max out each trait, and many other ways.

At first glance, Karmastar looks simple and very straight-forward. It quickly reveals itself to be a game of brilliant strategy, however. And with only eight moves in which to act, that strategy must play out quickly. Wildcards can be game-changers, and so strategies must also be adaptive.

Quick Sessions: I’ve never seen so much strategy crammed into such short sessions; eight rounds go quickly. I often find myself playing Karmastar in movie theaters waiting for the feature to begin, during commercial breaks while watching television, at restaurants waiting for my food to arrive, while having coffee at Starbucks, waiting in line at the bank, or between speakers at conferences.

Achievements: Karmastar includes a decent number of achievements which will only be unlocked over the course of many completed sessions. Some of them are quite easy to attain, while others require much more planning and/or patience.


Limited Social Aspects: Yes, you can play against other humans using multiple devices on local Wi-fi; but you cannot play against human opponents remotely, or by sharing a single device. Yes, there are numerous achievements to unlock; but there is no support for social platforms like Plus+ or Open Feint. If Karmastar ever does receive an update, I hope to see these issues addressed.

No Avatar Customization: This is really a very minor thing, but I would love to be able to customize my astronaut. This would be especially awesome if the game were ever to receive improved multiplayer support. Players could maybe be awarded additional customization options by unlocking achievements. This isn’t a complaint against the game, but simply an item for the wish list.

Karmastar is a great game, and I think the best of its genre in the App Store. If you enjoy games like Zooloretto or Uno, you’re going to love Karmastar and I’d rate it a Must Have. If strategic card games aren’t your thing, I still think Karmastar is worth a look, but it may not be an imperative purchase for you. I can tell you this much: I’ve sunk as much time into few games on my iPhone as I have into Karmastar. It’s another of those rare games to have earned a permanent place on my home screen.

For a limited time, Karmastar is on sale for $0.99. At that price, it’s a steal. Don’t miss it.


Karmastar is developed by Majesco Entertainment; reviewed at version 1.0 on an iPhone 3G. Karmastar usually costs $1.99, but is presently on sale for $0.99.