Tag Archives: mini-games

Knife Toss Review: Don’t Try this at Home

One thing that always drew me into playing video games is the fact that there are many, many things you can experience in a video game that you will likely never get to experience in real life.  I can whip out my iPhone and play Skee-Ball or Arcade Hoops anytime I want… but I can also go to any arcade and physically play these games. Knife Toss at its core is a mini-game with a similar essence to Skee-Ball and Arcade Hoops, but I don’t know that many of us will ever find ourselves in a real-life situation where we are allowed to throw knives at balloons, with a clown attached to a spinning wheel. I’d throw down some serious quarter for that kind of action.

The game is fairly simple:  there is a spinning wheel with a brightly clad clown attached to it, spinning round and round.  On the board, nestled between clown appendages, are balloons just asking to be popped.  Thankfully you are there to accommodate.  Aiming is accomplished by tilting your device and tapping the screen will send your knife flying with deadly accuracy.  Your goal each round is to pop all the balloons on the board, before time runs out, and without hitting the poor clown… too many times.  As you progress through rounds, the board spins faster and you have to anticipate your throws more and more.

There are also several powerups that occasionally pop up very quickly off the sides of the wheel.  Hitting these before they disappear will activate different scenarios like stopping the board from spinning for a few seconds, getting more time on the clock, and receiving double points for each balloon popped. The game tracks high scores, streaks, and comes loaded with OpenFeint integration.  The tilt calibration is very accurate and while there are no options to adjust it, in my opinion it’s already good enough that you won’t need to fiddle with it. A feature of the recent 1.1 update includes auto-calibration upon pause of the game and also brings in a couple new backgrounds.  There are three difficulty options: Easy, Medium, and Hard, with the latter two requiring you to unlock them.  Once you get to Medium difficulty you throw butcher knives and unlocking Hard will grant you tomahawks to toss!

Likes:

Theme: I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a game like this before on any platform.  I think it is unique and definitely a fresh break from my standard, go-to mini games.  The graphics and music fit nicely into the theme with bright vibrant colors, great art style, a musical track that is absolutely perfect for this game, and a slightly demented undertone throughout.

Controls: Calibration and sensitivity is spot on, and though not adjustable, they do not need to be.  Simple tilting and tapping makes it a very easy game to pick up and get the hand of immediately.

Menu and User Interface: Again very well done, very polished.  Everything is intuitive, responsive and looks nice.  The Help, Options, Credits and High Scores menus are simple and give you just enough information and options so you have what you need, and all the filler is left out.  In addition to OpenFeint integration the High Scores menu tracks quite a few stats as well:  High Score, Highest Round, Best Streak, Accuracy, and Fastest Round.  And to top it all off, the default name for High Scores is I.P. Freely!

Dislikes:

Difficulty: This is kind of embarrassing but I found the game, even on easy, to be pretty tough.  Once you get through a few rounds, the difficulty ramps up and the board starts moving pretty fast.  It took me probably 7-8 thorough attempts to unlock Medium difficulty.  It can get frustrating when you get through several rounds but then miss a balloon by a few seconds and have to start all over, just to beat Easy mode.  For this reason, I have yet to unlock Hard.

No Music In-Game: There is music in the main menu, which I actually quite like, but unfortunately it is not extended to the game.  There are sound effects, but with no music playing it takes away from the experience.  No in-game options to play your own music either, and while you can go around that, it’s nice to have an option in the game.

For all those times you’ve ever been frightened of a weird clown in a scary movie (or real life), Knife Toss is your opportunity to stick it back (Ba-da-bing!) to those creepy clowns.  In an Appstore full of all sorts of various mini-games Knife Toss does a good job of standing out from the crowd with a sense of uniqueness and charm that you don’t have to be a Carnie to appreciate.  While there are a couple shortcomings I think the polish and originality of the game do well to compensate.  If you enjoy mini-games such as Skee-Ball or Arcade Hoops, I think you will definitely enjoy Knife Toss as well.

Knife Toss is published by Elevate Entertainment, LLC, and costs $0.99.  Reviewed on an iPhone 3GS.


Surviving High School Review: Any Up for a Rerun of 90210?

With the success of lifestyle games like The Sims, it was only a matter of time before game developers expanded the genre for the teenie set. Electronic Arts‘ latest offering Surviving High School is an honest attempt to do just that. The game plays not like simulation per se; it is more like an interactive story with a series of mini-games thrown in. Like in Fable, decisions early on effect people’s perceptions of you. Ultimately, these decisions limit what players can do towards the end of the game’s campaign. For example, should you choose study instead of watching television, you won’t be as popular and therefore you’re limited in both friends and dating partners. Yes, it’s as simple as that.

Likes

Presentation: The game carries competent visuals along with a musical score that does its job. Simple, static shots of a classroom or hallway fill a screen while bubbles with characters’ head speak to players to progress the plot. The controls are simple; players touch a choice and story moves on.

Mini-games: Success in mini-games also effect the plot. Trivia in the form of homework might spur players to brush up on their academic skills while the weekly football game built into the first season of the title adds a nice climax to each in-game week. However, because the difficulty in these games is almost non-existent, the best function they serve is to separate the talk of plot-driving scenes that sometimes labor on and on.

Replay Value: Since different choices lead to different scenarios, players might enjoy replaying this title to see how complex the interactive story takes them.

Dislikes

Stereotypes: One shouldn’t expect too much from a game that centers around the high school experience, but the blatant stereotypes and canned dialogue scream cliche. Although some characters’ motivations evolve into a decent story arch, the game will harken more memories from Degrassi High than The Wonder Years; there’s nothing conceptually here that exceeds the episode of a WB television series.

Female Representation: Much has been said about female under-representation in video games. Unfortunately, this game, too, repeats the same mistakes so many developers make. Those wishing to play female characters have no option to do so. This is especially odd. Considering the game’s casual approach and he-said/she-said story, this game seems poised for the female demographic.

Episodes: Continuing the game in the form of weekly episodes seems like a good choice, but this soon loses its appeal when players discover that their previous avatar is no longer accessible. Instead of extending the plot using your original character, players are stuck assuming the roles of secondary characters from the original campaign. In the developer’s defense, there are extra episodes available at $0.99 each which may add more content than the free weekly extension this gamer explored.

Although Surviving High School fails to deliver one-tenth of the charm or insight of a good John Hughes flick, there is enough drama here for those who relish in less poignant fair. Younger teens and those adults wishing to relive their formative years may get a kick out of this title, but there’s little here for anyone who has discovered the wider world that exists beyond high school.

Worth A Look

Surviving High School was developed Electronic Arts and is available for $2.99. The game’s 1.0.0 version was played on an iPod Touch 2G equipped with OS 3.1.1 software. There’s also a lite version to try.

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