Tag Archives: Must Have

Air Penguin Review: Yet Another, Quite Exhilarating Bird Game

Air Penguin is just the latest App Store game to implement some sort of flying, bird creature; the latest game to hit the #1 paid App Store spot after the hits of both Angry Birds and Tiny Wings.  While at the time of this writing it has been dethroned—thanks to EA’s $0.99 sale on NBA Jam—there’s really no doubt in my mind that this deserves the #1 spot.

Air Penguin is in one word, fun.  There’s nothing too complicated about it, and like most casual games on the App Store, Air Penguin is extremely easy to learn but quite difficult to master.  Upon opening the app, you’ll be greeted with a simple tutorial: tilt left to move left, tilt right to move right, etc.

The point of the game is to reach the endpoint without falling into the water, precisely controlling the bird to collect little fishies along the way.

Packed with some cute, fun-loving artwork, Air Penguin is quite a winner in my eyes.


Artwork: Like I mentioned before, the artwork is quite appealing.  The universal, cartoon look of games in the App Store these days does get quite annoying, but hey, Gamevil usually does a great job in their presentation.

Gameplay: This has the “it” factor, especially for me, as I haven’t been hooked on a game since beating Puzzle Quest 2.  This game just has that fun factor—maybe caused by the “easy to jump into” factor, I don’t know—and I’ve been playing this for over an hour at a time.  The story mode and survival mode are equally enjoyable, and I don’t see this getting boring anytime soon.

GameCenter: 40 GameCenter achievements is nothing to scoff at, especially when earning most of these achievements is not too difficult.  It adds a lot of replay value to an already replay-heavy game, and for those that love collecting achievements, Air Penguin is a great game to look into.


Collecting fish: I guess the whole point of the game is to figure out ways to try and collect the fish, and I totally understand why they made it the way they did.  But still, collecting all the fish within any given level—yes, even the beginning levels—is a bit more difficult than I would like.  It should be easy, especially for beginners such as myself.  While this is by far not a huge deal at all, it’s always comfortable to collect all the fish instead of only two or three.

Controls: The controls feel a little off, with the tilt controls a bit too sensitive.  Some customizable interface would be nice, although the current setting shouldn’t bother too much. The high tilt sensitivity is noticeable, but nothing to get up in arms about.

Air Penguin is a fantastic casual game and one that will not disappoint.  As seen by it’s success, it’s quite literally the next Angry Birds.  It has gotten me hooked and playing for hours at a time—a feat that not many games can boast of—and quite honestly, I think this game is the best “bird” game out of the Big Three.

Update: Seems like Air Penguin does in fact have a customizable sensitivity option.  While accessing the sensitivity controls isn’t exactly convenient, it gets the job done.  I’ve updated the review accordingly, and of course, the review score has remained the same.

Air Penguin was developed by Gamevil, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPhone 4.  The price is $0.99.

Gangstar Miami Vindication Review: The First Great iOS Sandbox Game

I remember waiting for Gameloft to release the first Gangstar episode (Gangstar: West Coast Hustle), but I found the game to be a little ahead of its time on the iOS platform.  This was evidenced by the very short draw distances and the overall lack of a very important factor, fun.  Well, I have good news for those of you that felt the same.  I have had a chance to play through nearly all of Gangstar: Miami Vindication, and I find it to be everything that Gangstar: West Coast Hustle was, but it has improved graphics and is a lot more FUN!

In a lot of ways, Gangstar: Miami Vindication reminds me of the fun I had playing GTA: Vice City.  It has a decent (although stereotypical) storyline, and the missions are varied enough to keep almost any gamer entertained for hours.  To get to the point, Gangstar: Miami Vindication is now one of my top three most played games on my iPhone.


Gameplay: This is the first ‘Like’ I look for in any game.  Is it fun?  Does it keep me engaged?  The answer is a resounding yes to both questions.  Gangstar: Miami Vindication has varied missions (and a lot of them) as well as a fun, lively city.  The first Gangstar seemed a little weak on that front, but this episode of Gangstar makes up for that and then some.

Cars: I have read complaints about the driving controls, but I do not have that problem myself.  There are three schemes total (accelerometer, a wheel, and a bar), and if you can’t find one that works for you, then you should probably practice.  I prefer the wheel driving control, and I really like that Gameloft programmed the cars to remain aligned to the road.  The biggest thing they got right: driving is fun.  I love the physics of driving and find myself taking a motorcycle or race car on a spin just for fun.  You can slide around all over the place with a remarkable amount of precision.

Price: For a game with this depth, I think $6.99 is a steal.  Most $3-$6 games on the app store don’t have nearly as much content.  There are a variety of missions, side-missions, races, and achievements.  If that isn’t enough for you, then you can also roam freely and wreak havoc on the city of Miami.


Glitches: I read one review that claimed Gangstar: Miami Vindication was ‘too big for itself,’ and I see where they were coming from.  There are occasional glitches that pop up throughout the game.  Sometimes the voice-overs may cut out, or text may appear that doesn’t belong, or a texture may randomly change.  While these glitches are not common, they are more prevalent than I would like.  I would like to see Gameloft polish the next rendition a little more.

‘King Factor’: Gangstar (both episodes) still lacks one major element that I look for in a sandbox game: you never really achieve taking over the city.  That is one of the most fun parts of any sandbox game.  As you progress, you own more properties and slowly take over the city.  I don’t feel that Gangstar leaves the player with the same feeling.  If you could collect properties and store cars, the game would be even better than it is.

Gangstar: Miami Vindication is a fantastic sandbox game and is one of my most played iPhone games.  I would recommend it to any fan of sandbox games.  More than that, I would recommend it to any fan of games in general.  One warning; the game does have mature content, so it is not for kids!  This is the first sandbox game that I have rated a ‘Must Have.’  I hope you enjoy it as much as me!

Gangstar: Miami Vindication was developed by Gameloft, and I played through version 1.0.0 on my iPhone 4. The price is $5.99.

Hunters Episode One HD Review: A Quite Enjoyable TBS

Hunters Episode One.

I mean, how epic does that sound?  On top of that, the pre-release screenshots looked killer, and I was more than excited to get my hands on this title.  And boy oh boy, I can’t say enough praise for Hunters Episode One.

It’s not without its flaws: the visuals can still do with some improvement, and the speed/framerate of the game is a bit slow even on the iPad 2.  I wish I could skip all the enemy actions, along with changing up the UI a little bit to be a bit brighter.

But the gameplay itself is fun.  You can’t really ask for much more in a game, and this is probably one of the few games that have proved worthy of my precious hours.


Just Plain Fun: I love strategy games: anything that has to do with challenging your mind.  Hunters Episode One does just that with around five different unit types, each with their own set of weapons/armor, and completing each mission is just a blast.  I honestly don’t have any words to explain why it’s fun: it just is.

Variety: There are so many items and armors that I doubt anyone will be able to buy even a quarter of what the game’s store has.  There are just so many items all with their ups and downs, and the possibilities are endless.  All of the missions are quite varied too, from protecting the reactors to finding artifacts and returning them to the base.

Visuals: I almost didn’t put this here since they’re not perfect, but you have to admit the lighting effect looks cool.  I’m not sure if that’s part of the image and doesn’t change, but even if it is, the artist sure has some skill.  The characters could use some more decorations in their armor and such, and choosing your own team color would be nice.  But these are all extra features; the ones right now should suffice.


GameCenter: Achievements and/or leaderboards anyone?  From a lot of the developers I’ve heard from, GameCenter does seem to boost some sales.  And it makes me a happy camper.  Just saying.

UI: The UI is a little dim, nothing too major.  It just seems like the buttons are “off-limits” when they’re that dim.

Skip enemy turns: This is probably one of the biggest features I would love to see implemented into this game.  Instead of waiting and seeing what your enemy is doing, it would be awesome to just skip that and see the results of the enemy’s turn (if that makes any sense).  Also, fast forwarding through all those unit movement animations would make each game a lot faster.  Right now it feels like I’m wasting precious time on what could be used for other things.

Hunters Episode One HD is far from perfect when it comes to features, but the gameplay is nearly perfect.  I love turn-based strategy games, and I’ve never poured so many hours into one iPad game than I did with Hunters Episode One HD.  Sure, there are a lot of games on the iPad I haven’t played.  But Hunters Episode One has captured my heart and there’s no doubting that.

Hunters Episode One HD was developed by Rodeo Games, and I played through version 1.03 on my iPad 2.  The price is $4.99 for the full version of the game and can be downloaded for free.

Shadow Era Review: A Successful TCG on the iPhone

I’ve never really been into TCG; maybe collecting cards, but never trading.  When I was young I had some Pokemon cards, but other than that, trading card games were never my thing.

Enter Shadow Era, one of the first TCG games I’ve seen on the App Store aside from Orions (a game that I never tried).  And boy oh boy, I really can’t say anything but good about it.

The first thing Shadow Era does right is that the gameplay structure is built so that you keep playing: level up to be able to use more powerful cards, along with earning coins and experience after every battle to be able to buy new cards.  You can buy money through in-app purchases which in turn are used to buy more powerful cards, but you can always earn your way to buying cards.

While there was some lag on my iPhone 4, and the UI could use some improvement, the overall game has got me into the trading card game genre.  And best of all, it’s free.


Graphics: We’ve come a long way graphically from Battle for Wesnoth.  The artwork is—for lack of a better word—amazing.  The 3D effects when playing the actual game is not too shabby, and the visuals have really impressed.

Cards: There are a large number of cards.  And that’s probably the biggest understatement of the year, as there’s at least 200 cards to choose from.  There are so many decks, booster packs, and single cards that it’s somewhat overwhelming to try and choose which deck.  There’s just so much here, along with the fact that each card is aesthetically appealing.

Free: I don’t really know how well Shadow Era is doing financially, but for me, this is the ideal freemium title.  You can earn your way to buy the things you can buy with really money, and if you’re lazy, you can just quickly purchase more powerful packs.


Multiplayer: It was tough matching up in a multiplayer match, and it would be nice if the developer streamlined it a little more.  It’s not bad, but it does take a while to actually play someone.  Also, it does look like you can’t challenge a specific person.

Slow: The game does get a bit slow when casting spells such as the Fireball, and it would also be nice if we could skip through the AI’s turn.  Just a better performance overall would be nice, but the speed right now is bearable.

Shadow Era is a fun, enjoyable TCG game.  Like I said before, I’ve never really been into TCG until now, and the experience has been nothing less than positive.  I would like to see some improvements in speed and multiplayer match-ups, but other than that, Shadow Era is a game that you won’t want to miss out on.  Plus, it’s free.  You can’t really get any cheaper than that.

Shadow Era was developed by Kyle Poole, and I played through version 1.23 on my iPhone 4.  The price is free with varying in-app purchases.

Battleheart Review: Mika Mobile Does it Again

Mika Mobile has created some of the best games for the iPhone platform, starting with Zombieville USA.  Back then, there was no such thing as OpenFeint, leaderboards, and achievements.

It was all blood, gore, and an overwhelming dose of addictiveness.

And most importantly of all, Zombieville USA was fun.  The artwork was impeccable, the quality was stupendous, and ahh — the memories were fond ones.

Now fast forward to more than two years later to arrive at Battleheart, their third game released on the App Store.  It’s their first game to be universal, and it’s also their first RPG.

In Battleheart, you traverse through different levels by controlling your party: draw lines to direct their path along with using the lines to attack the enemy.  After each level, you’ll receive a certain sum of money along with some experience points to level up your character.  New abilities are unlocked every 5 levels; so at level 5 you’ll receive two new abilities, at level 10 two otehrs, and so on.

As usual, the cartoonish artwork is more than appealing, and the animations that go along with it are seamlessly implemented.

My only main problem with this is the lack of achievements and/or leaderboards; their previous games did that only because they could.  OMG! Pirates was released during a time when social platforms were fragmented and none really stood out.  Zombieville USA was releaased when social platforms just flat out didn’t exist.

But in this day and age, games like these always require some sort of achievement system, and since Apple released GameCenter for all developers, there’s really no excuse.


Artwork: The artists over at Mika Mobile are extremely talented.  All of their work has been top-notch quality, and I honestly believe that games from Mika Mobile contain some of the best artwork on the App Store.  Battleheart is no different, as I believe the artwork in here is their best work yet.  It also helps given the fact that it’s Retina ready and iPad optimized.

Gameplay: It’s original.  And most of all, it’s fun.  Battleheart is simple—extremely simple—but the gameplay ramps up to the point where you’re tapping quickly, casting a spell, switching characters, casting another spell… the list can go on and on.  I would have to say that Battleheart is the definition of a pick-up-and-play game for the iPhone: it’s easy to learn, extremely difficult to master, and it provides either one minute or 30 minutes of play.  You can play it while you’re waiting, while you’re eating; heck, even when you’re on toilet if you’re that addicted.

RPG Elements: The RPG elements are light, but they definitely add a lot of twist.  There are different spells you can choose, but wait, you can only choose one out of two new spells.  One is offensive, the other defensive — which one will you choose?  Along with that, there are a number of recruits you can hire from the tavern, with each having their own skills.  Magicians usually are high on power but extremely low on defense.  Knights are balanced offensively and defensively.  Rogues are a little more offensive than defensive… again, the list goes on.  You have to strategize which character to put in at what situation, which spell you want to choose for each character; there are so many different strategic scenarios that it does add some depth to the otherwise simple gameplay.

Universal: Who can forget this?  While it would have been nice if Zombieville USA was universal (if you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a huge Zombieville fan), I’m glad they made Battleheart so.  The iPhone version works fine, although it is difficult pinpointing a character within tight quarters.  I do find myself scrambling to pick the right character, and that’s usually an indication that a bigger screen would be better suited.  This is not a gripe towards Battleheart but to universal applications as a whole in that I wish I was able to transfer my save data from the iPhone to the iPad; otherwise, you pick one device and that’s the device you’ll use for the rest of the game.


User interface: The user interface looks fine, but navigating through everything does get quite confusing sometimes.  For instance, it would be nice if the keep contained information such as what each character is wearing or what each characters’ abilities are.  Instead, you have to switch out party members, then go into the Armory section just to see what the reserve character is wearing.  Then, if that character is really just a reserve character, you’ve got to back and switch everyone out again.  It’s a small gripe, but a hassle nonetheless.

GameCenter: I don’t understand Mika Mobile’s unwillingness to add a social platform, and Battleheart is desperately in need of one (or more like I’m desperately wanting one).  Achievements seem like a perfect addition to this game, and it would be a shame if the developers don’t decide to put it in.  Again, it’s a mystery as to why they don’t just implement it already.

Tight quarters: Like I mentioned before somewhere in this review, the iPhone contains some pretty tight quarters.  You’ll select the wrong character nearly 50% of the time, and that’s not exactly a good thing once things become hectic (especially when fighting that huge spider).  I’m not sure how you would fix this, since the controls look like the only viable option, but maybe that’s why they made it universal; maybe it was made for the iPad.  Whatever the case may be, this is just a warning to those purchasing to play on the iPhone.  Not a game-changing problem, but it does get frustrating every once in a while.

Battleheart is the epitome of casual gaming on the App Store.  It goes alongside Fruit Ninja, Flight Control, and Canabalt as one of the best casual games I have ever played.  Sure, there seems to be an end to it.  But there’s an endless mode, there’s always the possibility of replaying the levels, and I’m pretty sure all the characters won’t have each ability unlocked by the time you “beat” the game.  There’s just a lot here to dig into, and the RPG elements work fantastically.  Do yourself a favor, skip that cup of coffee, and buy this game.

Battleheart was developed by Mika Mobile, and I played through version 1.0.5 on my iPhone 4.  The price is $2.99.