Tag Archives: Must Have

League of Evil Review: Among the Best of iOS

The world’s best evil minds have banded together to produce a weapon of mass destruction capable of obliterating goodness everywhere. To combat this great threat, the GDF — Global Defense Force — enlists their most cyborginated agent to hunt down the evil scientists and to splatter their faces with his bionic fist of squish-making.

The League of Evil must be stopped!

League of Evil, by Ravenous Games is an action-platformer with an emphasis on speed-running stages. The stages themselves are short, many completable in under 15 seconds. At the end of each stage waits an evil scientist who must be pummeled into a puddle of guts. Standing between your agent and his target, however, are enemies, obstacles and defenses. Death comes fast and frequent, especially when trying to rush stages for completion times under par.

The Agent is incredibly nimble: light on his feet, able to jump and double-jump to great heights and distances, and able to slide down or rebound off of walls. Moreover, his punch attack doubles at a dashing maneuver, allowing him to quickly close the distance between his fist and his foes, or add greater breadth to his leaps.


Controls: League of Evil features some of the finest controls yet seen in an iOS platformer, being both precise and responsive. Agent be nimble, agent be quick, and with controls like these you will feel entirely confident in his footing as you rebound wall-to-wall, negotiate deadly spikes, tackle dastardly foes, dodge bullets and speed through level-after-level.

Content: The game’s stages may be brief, but they are plentiful and challenging. Players wanting to ace the game and win the corresponding Game Center achievements will find plenty of replay value attempting to finish each stage under par time for a three-star rating, and collecting the hidden briefcase in each stage. The original game includes 54 stages, and the recent 1.1 update has added an additional 30 The Blocks Cometh themed stages, plus 18 challenge stages. That’s a lot of game for your buck, especially if you’re shooting for perfect ratings on every stage.

Brand New, You’re Retro: League of Evil sports sweet pixel graphics and a rockin’ chiptune soundtrack for some of the finest retro action in the app store. The game feels old-school Mega Man, and it’s up there with other iOS retro greats, Hook Champ, The Blocks Cometh and Dark Void Zero in fun-factor. Retro for the win!

Decapitations: Fist to the head and the head goes flying in a spatter of gore. It’s morbid, but it’s totally awesome!! Don’t look at me like that; pixel blood is awesome!!


League of Evil is very to-the-point; it does what it does, and it does it very well, leaving very little room for complaints in the process. As iOS platforming is concerned, League of Evil is essentially perfect. That is to say, there’s nothing at all to dislike about solid action-platforming, brilliant controls, great tunes, ultra-rad pixel artwork and sweet character and stage designs.

Were I forced to nitpick, though, I might point out that the game has no options — not even to adjust the volume of BGM or sound-effects — nor does it include any way of accessing Game Center achievement lists from within the game, though it does allow you to access that information via OpenFeint; I just prefer Game Center. These are very minor gripes, though, and I mention them only because our review format encourages red paragraphs.

League of Evil is a rare find, a game that excels at short, quick bursts of gaming, but which also holds up in longer play sessions. Whether lounging about with time to spare, or trying to catch a quick game while on the toilet or between bus stops, League of Evil is a great fix, and probably the best dollar you will spend this year.

The. Best. iOS Platformer. Ever. Need I say more?

League of Evil [$0.99] is published by Ravenous Games. Reviewed at version 1.1 on an iPhone 4.

Wild Frontier Review: An Utterly Fantastic KRPG

I must be a glutton for punishment, the way I keep coming back to Korean RPGs. They constantly infuriate me with their level grinding and fetch quests, cliché stories and juvenile characters, clumsy interfaces and unresponsive controls. So why do I do it?

Well, because now and then a ray of light shines through cloudy, gray skies. Once in a while, rain falls even in the desert. And every so often, along comes a KRPG that really knocks your socks off.

Wild Frontier is that KRPG.

Wild Frontier offers a refreshing change of pace from the standard, tiresome KRPG norm. For once, your character is not the prophesied savior of the realm. The kingdom is not facing imminent peril at the hands of demons, awakened from centuries of slumber. The fate of the world does not hang in the balance.

You are Chris Noah, one of a party of shipwreck survivors washed ashore on a strange, new continent after tagging along with your girlfriend, Lamia, on one of her adventurers.

Yes, you heard that right. Lamia — not Chris — is the adventurer. As the game begins, Chris has never so much as touched a sword. But adventure does indeed await Chris in this uncharted territory. When Lamia leaves to explore the island in search of a dragon, Chris has little choice but to take up arms to find her, and to prove to her his worth.

During the course of his adventure, Chris is helped by his fellow shipwreck survivors Roman Whisker and Ben Krize, the mysteriously aloof Greg Wolfe, and the island natives who provide quests and services.

Players are given the choice of three characters classes, focusing in attack, defense or speed, and each featuring unique skill trees. On gaining experience levels, three points may be distributed amongst character attributes, and one point spent to learn or improve a skill.


Visual Presentation: Wild Frontier is fantastically pretty. While most KRPGs are ported from cell phones with smeared-looking visuals, Wild Frontier’s sprite-based graphics are crisp, clear and colorful, even on the iPhone 4. Characters and monsters are beautifully animated; camp fires flicker, fireflies flit about at night, water laps at the shore, and other visual details abound. The game even features day and night cycles, and weather effects such as rain and lighting. The character portraits look great too.

Without compromise, Wild Frontier is one of the prettiest sprite-based RPGs on the app store.

Weather & Day-Night System: The sun sets, day becomes night; the sun rises, night becomes day. Time passes in real-time, with transitions occurring while you explore your environment, and not while transitioning to a new screen. It’s impressive to behold, but the change is not merely cosmetic: monsters become more powerful at night. As you wander, rain, lightning and other weather effects also add to the game’s sense of immersion.

Chain Attacks & Skill Use: Unlike most KRPGs which simply allow you to activate your special attacks by pressing a button, Wild Frontier emphasizes combo attacks. To unleash your skill attacks, you often must chain them together in sequence with regular attacks. This system of attack combinations helps to keep the player engaged in combat, rather than just mashing the attack button.

Looting Bodies: Slain enemies fall to the ground and must be searched to reveal loot, usually including items, crafting components and/or currency. Searching bodies takes time, with larger enemies requiring more time to search than smaller enemies, and the longer Chris searches a body, the more items he is likely to turn up. Chris is unable to attack or defend himself while searching bodies, however, so it is often best to fend off other monsters before looting. It’s a cool game mechanic.

Story: The game’s story is light-hearted and fun; a welcome departure from the heavy themes (often poorly rendered) of similar titles. The characters are likable, and the fetch quests are often couched nicely into the tale. For example, an early quest sends you into the forest to collect medicinal ingredients for Ben. Ben is an elderly, wizened, Einstein-looking fellow; at this point in the game, he has tripped and wounded his ankle. Once you bring him the necessary ingredients, he is able to craft a potion to mend his wounds, then teaches the potion recipe to the villagers. Thereafter, Chris is able to purchase healing potions from the village’s item merchant.


Translation: Sadly, Wild Frontier suffers a number of Koreanisms. For example, the word “leaf” sometimes appears in the game as “reaf”. Also, the developer missed some text in their translation, and you will occasionally see Hangul (Korean characters) appearing in messages. So far, this has not proven to be a problem; all of the important text does seem to have been translated to English. As far as I’ve seen, only some incidental text — “?” instead of “Hm”, for example — has been missed in translation. There’s nothing game-breaking here. It’s just a spot unpolished that really stands out in a game that is otherwise polished to perfection.

Back in December I proclaimed Queen’s Crown a Zenonia killer. So what then do I call Wild Frontier? A Queen’s Crown killer?

Without question, Wild Frontier is my new favorite Korean RPG. The game looks great and breaks the KRPG mold in a number of significant ways. It includes items for in-app purchase, but these items are entirely optional and intended to enhance the game; they are not necessary to complete it.

Wild Frontier is a steal at only $0.99, and any fan of the genre should definitely pick it up. Popular KRPG developers Gamevil and Com2Us should wake up and take notice; KTH is new to the fray, but putting the veterans to shame. If all KRPGs were as good as this, I’d play them until the day I die and never speak ill of them again!

Wild Fronter [$0.99] is developed by KTH. Reviewed at version 1.0.1 on an iPhone 4.

‘Bug Heroes’ Review: Inventive, Addictive, and Just Plain Crazy-Fun

‘Bug Heroes,’ by Foursaken Media, quite simply deserves to be on every iGamer’s device.  Its gameplay is a wickedly fun hybridization of the dual-stick shooter and castle-defense genres, with light RPG leveling-up elements.  Admittedly dual-stick shooters and castle-defense games have been around on the App Store for what feels like forever, but ‘Bug Heroes’ combines its various gameplay elements with such a masterful touch that it seems almost in a league of its own.  If you want to stop reading this review right now and go ahead and buy the game, I would endorse that decision.  😉

‘Bug Heroes’ is a pick-up-and-play game on the surface, but there is so much depth to the gameplay that a good session in Adventure Mode might literally take an hour once you get the hang of the game.  In Adventure Mode, the player controls a trio of heroic bugs, an ant, a spider, and a beetle, and leads them in the perpetual battle to protect their stash of food against a never-ending horde of enemy bugs.  You control only one of the three bugs at a time, although you’re able to switch freely between them as much as you like and they all bring unique skills to the team.  Alternately, you can choose Coliseum Mode, where you control one of the three heroes against a never-ending horde, without having to worry about the additional complexities of defending a food stash.  When your food stash is entirely eaten by enemy bugs, or all three of your heroes are killed in battle, it’s “game over.”

Your demise is inevitable (and you never really ‘win’), but you have a wide arsenal of upgrades for your characters and to build turrets for your base, leaving you with the constant task of gathering food, dispatching wave after wave of vicious enemy bugs, and strategically upgrading your resources in order to set high scores.  Nearly every aspect of the game is highly polished, and the wide variety of skills, upgrades, and turrets rewards experimenting with new strategies.  The tone of the game is wacky and fast-paced, and between several arenas, two different game modes, three levels of difficulty, three different heroes (all with their own unique strengths and weaknesses), and many different types of enemies with their own strengths and vulnerabilities, there is a huge amount of variety to enjoy.


Two Classic Flavors that Taste Great Together: Quite frankly, before I played this game I had gotten a bit tired of both dual-stick shooter games and castle-defenders altogether.  Sure, these are styles of games which lend themselves very well to the touch-screen interface, but by now I thought there was relatively little room for innovation within these genres.  ‘Bug Heroes’ is enough to prove I might have been wrong because the developers have managed to merge these two styles into an excitingly fresh and addictive treat, much like the mad scientists who first combined peanut butter and chocolate back in days of yore.  Giving the player multiple characters to fight with and manage, as well as the food stash (the ‘castle’ that you defend in this game) provides a unique twist to the usual dual-stick action shooter formula that we’ve all become used to.  I also like how your food stash doubles as your main supply of health in the game’s main mode, Adventure Mode.  This creates an interesting dynamic, because you must protect the stash above all else, but you also have to know when to dip into it to give a much-needed health boost to your team.  All in all, the gameplay is just dynamic and fun, and I obviously get a little verbose in trying to describe just how awesome it really is.

Charmingly Detailed Graphics: This game reminds me of playing a Pixar movie in the palm of my hand.  The environments are impressive to behold, and all the character models are lovingly rendered with a huge level of personality and detail.  Even playing on a 2nd generation iPod touch, which only allows me to select the lowest level of graphical detail possible, this is a visually striking game with a lot of character and appeal.

Memorable Protagonists & Vile Villains: I guess it’s a little dorky, but if the three insect heroes from this game were real, I would totally keep them in an extra-large Mason jar in my room just so I could hang out and watch their goofy antics.  Which is my way of saying they’re pretty cool, and I enjoy the variety that having three protagonists brings to the game.  While the beetle has the highest armor and is best at controlling swarms of less powerful enemies with a stick he uses as a club, the spider is best for one-on-one combat, since she is quick and capable of dealing out massive critical damage with the blades she wields with her four front arms.  Meanwhile, the ant is a very strategic character who not only has the only ranged attack of all three of your heroes, firing with a machine gun, but he also has a lot of team-player type skills, such as healing your team in small increments or laying mines and miniature turrets around the battlefield to control the swarms.  Managing your team and coming up with a strategy for each level is essential to doing well in this game, and there are a wide variety of tactical choices you can make.

The enemies are also a lot of fun.  There are hordes of army helmet wearing ants with pistols and fleas with knives chasing you down at every turn, and never-ending hordes of grubs who go straight after your food stash, disregarding you entirely.  Then there are the bigger, meaner baddies who range hilariously from grenade-launcher-wielding cockroaches, to lady-bugs swinging huge clubs, to queen ants (who boost all the other ants on the field to dangerous levels), to poison-spitting slugs, heavily armored snails, and finally all the way up to vicious scorpions and voracious centipedes who can wipe out your food stash in about three good bites.  There’s an impressive variety of enemies, I’m even leaving a few types out of the list.  Some levels also have a huge indestructible enemy that roams the environment, attacking you or the hostile bugs indiscriminately.  These are a toy robot in the playroom stage, and a house-cat in the back yard stage.  They can create a lot of havoc, but they’re pretty easily outmaneuvered, so you can manage to use these as additional defense with a little crafty gameplay.  Basically… it’s a lot of fun.

Room for More in Updates: Maybe this is just me being greedy, but I’d love to see the developers give us even more bang for our proverbial buck in future updates.  There is a wide range of stuff they could expand on, such as giving us more levels in either Adventure Mode or Coliseum Mode, more skills for the three protagonists, more types of turrets and base upgrades, more enemy types, and perhaps even more heroes to unlock.  (I for one, think it would be really cool if we could play as this “Bruce Flea” that they mention in one of the unlockable ‘history scrolls’ that you get from some of the side quests.  (Double parenthetical: that’s right, there’s also side quests.  Seriously, just buy this game already.  For two dollars, it’s insane.))  The game is already pretty close to perfect, but a little extra content in a free update never hurt.  So if anyone out there from Foursaken Media is listening, more please.


No GameCenter: My only major gripe won’t even be an issue for much longer, since the developers have already responded to user requests for GameCenter integration, and they’re promising it in a future update.  It’s really a no-brainer in a game like this, which hinges on addictive high-score action gaming elements, and I’m looking forward to it.  The developers have already shown very fast turnaround time in giving us an update that fine-tuned the controls and squashed several bugs that caused the game to crash after long extended play, and are showing themselves to be very responsive to users’ critiques.  So, even in my dislikes section, I must once again issue some well-deserved kudos.

In short, this is the first superb new iOS game of the new year.  I sincerely hope this review convinces at least a few people to head on over to the App Store and give it a download.  This is a truly creative, well-designed, highly polished, and downright enjoyable game, and I think it deserves to be a big hit.  In short, it’s what I’d call a…

Bug Heroes was developed by Foursaken Media, and I played through version 1.0.1 on my iPod touch 2G.  The price is $1.99.

Wizard Hex Review: Under Its Spell

Board games and the iOS are a match made in heaven. All of the fun and none of the mess. The AI does all the calculations for you and you never lose a piece under the couch. What more can you ask for? Well, add in some creativity and you get unique games for the platform and lookie here – Wizard Hex by Trouble Brothers is born! Trouble Brothers is affiliated with Fargoal, LLC. Developers of a game you might be familiar with – Sword of Fargoal? Hmm, yeah, I thought that might ring a bell!  Wizard Hex is the first of three board games being released under the Trouble Brothers, LLC umbrella and let me tell you they have a winner for their first release. Jeff McCord states that Trouble Brothers has a “cool philosophy about creating multiplayer game experiences so that people can play games together on iPad like you might have with traditional board games in the past! Also, no spilled game parts.” And this is completely and utterly true.

I loaded up the game, started to play, and I am embarrassed to say how much time went by before I took a breath!  And this was with an iPod Touch, and me against the AI! I can only imagine what a breath taking experience this is on the iPad. Not only that, with so many options to play even as a single player vs the AI, the possibilities are endless. Play with your allies at your side, play asymmetrically; truly you can set the game up any way you want, and because of this the strategy will be limitless.

At the risk of sounding cliche, Wizard Hex takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master. The endless strategy and game play abounds and literally no two games will ever be alike. You think you have mastered a strategy when suddenly it fails and you must think quickly and move forward in that game another way. You will find yourself relying on your opponents / allies as much as yourself. The game rules are such that you can not attack a neighbor which leads you to progress with your neighboring element across the board, possibly attacking an ally to gain the upper hand and sneak into enemy territory, oh I am telling you, the possibilities are truly endless.

The gameplay is actually much simpler than it sounds. 1-6 players lay tiles on a hexagon board, each with elemental symbols on them. The goal? Occupy more of the board at the end of the round. There are some simple rules to follow as you begin your quest and whether you play one on one with the AI, or with 5 of your closest friends you will definitely use each other in your strategy. Build, attack, there will always be a strategic benefit to both; but it is up to you the player to determine when that time is. You may start each game at one of three levels: Apprentice, Journeyman, and the highest is Master. Do you have what it takes to challenge the Master?

As if this wasn’t enough, McCord promises more in an update:

Once people get used to the basic gameplay mechanics there will be “Spells” that we will add! Each time you master certain gameplay combinations (to be determined) you can unlock a new set of spells. We will start by introducing one into the spellbook. For example, for wind there may be a special spell for “blowing” a piece or pieces sideways. Or for Fire there might be a way to “burn” a piece or pieces next to you. Since spells will be powerful it might take the form of one enchantment or special token per game. AND it will always be evenly matched. If you unlock an Earth spell it will also unlock the other equivalent element spells. Some spells will be attack and others defense.

I finally was able to round up the troops and get some real life multiplayer action in and wow I can say that it exceeded any expectation that I had! It led to some interesting thought processes and insightful strategy. Not only that, everyone wanted to play a different element on a different round just to see how that would work out. Again, I have to remind you this was hovered around an iPod Touch. The experience around an iPad has GOT to be incredible and I can easily see this taking over Game Night at a future gathering.


Gameplay: As the developers themselves stated it is a mix of Go, Chess, Backgammon, Reversi, or any other strategy game you can think of in an entirely original presentation. There are so many variables with 1 to 6 players that you will never be playing the same game twice. Attack one of your allies to get to your opponent; use your ally to block your opponent; don’t forget to build the untouchable gold tower; there are so many ways to play! One thing remains constant though, control as much of the board as you can at the end to win.  And remember, even if you have “allies” they do not count as you conquering the board – so remember to play your own element. Don’t get too caught up in the “team” bonding thought like I did. Just because in a single player game you might control three elements, only one is yours. Think of the others as a support staff if you will.

The bottom line though bears repeating – this game has simple rules but very deep strategy. To consistently be successful you will need to learn several forms of strategy. The AI is very intelligent and will have you guessing each and every time.

Controls: The touch screen is very intuitive. The pieces you can move light up to give you a little assistance. Drag and dropping your pieces on the board is seamless. There has not been a better interface.

Overall presentation: I am not sure I can say much more about this. Everything is very polished with great graphics, sound effects and music that add to the atmosphere. You name it, it has it. At the risk of gushing too much, all I can say it is spectacular.


Tutorial: As easy as the gameplay actually is, the game could use a little more instruction. But that too is promised in an update. There are some intricacies in the game that I discovered by accident or by conversation with the developer. Since the average consumer won’t have the opportunity that I did, a bit more on the instructions would be great.

So even with all that, I am happy to say – but wait there is more! McCord has a list of additions as well. These include: the special spells for each element mentioned earlier, GameCenter support, continually improved AI for solo play, zoom into book pages for iPhone version for better viewing on screen, and as I hoped for, more detailed instructions and tips & tricks.

A dedicated Troubled Brothers Forum is in the early stages for all three of their new board games. Start to play this game and I am sure you will want to find your way over to chat with other fans and compare strategy notes.

Wizard Hex by Trouble Brothers makes its way into the appstore and while it was optimized for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch owners will want a piece of this Universal action as well. With depth and originality, the first of three board games by Troubled Brothers will exceed anyone’s wildest expectations. Packed with strategy and thought, no two games will be the same. Learn new techniques the more you play in this truly easy to learn, take your lifetime to master gem. I have to say this is one of the best games I have played in some time. I have no problem recommending this to everyone, whatever device you own!

Wizard Hex by Trouble Brothers is available on the appstore as a Universal application for $4.99. It was tested on a 4g iPod Touch with iOS 4.1.

Real Racing 2 Review: Quality at its Finest

People who have already played Real Racing 2 will probably be reading this review to see what score I gave it; if it’s lower than a Must Have, then I’ll probably receive mountains upon mountains of complaints such as “this reviewer sucks” and “this review is absolutely horrible”.

And good news for all of you just waiting to pounce on me, you don’t have to.

Real Racing 2 is quite frankly one of the best racing games I have played on the App Store.  Being quite a Gran Turismo and Pro Gotham Racing fan for consoles, I’ve always played the racing genre on the App Store to see if, one day, the quality would soon be up to par with some of the best PSP racing games.

And sure enough, here we are nearing the end of 2010 and almost two and a half years after the launch of the App Store, we have a PSP-quality racing game.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some flaws in Real Racing 2.  It’s by no means perfect and leaves enough room for their to be a third Real Racing, etc.  But honestly, looking at the level of quality and production values, this is one of the most complete games on the App Store.  I believe I said that (or just thought it in my mind) when the first one was released, and they’ve taken that completeness and completely rebirthed that ideology.

This is one game, folks, that you definitely don’t want to miss.


Graphics: Wow, how fast does time really go?  I played the original Real Racing a few days ago and thought to myself, “Wow, these graphics suck.”  No seriously, I did.  And I’m pretty positive that everyone of you—including me—that have played Real Racing when it was first released thought they were the best graphics ever.  I remember being mesmerized by the fact that there was a sun in the sky following your car, shining so brightly that it actually hurt your eyes.  Hurt your eyes, imagine that!  But fast-forward to present day and you see games with graphics like Aralon or Infinity Blade; my eyes are just completely spoiled now.  With that all said, Firemint did a terrific job of updating the graphics for Real Racing, and I honestly don’t know how it happened or when this transition from Real Racing looked amazing to Real Racing looks sucky happened (talking about the first one here, folks).  But wow.  I’m impressed.

Content: I’ve been playing for three and a half hours, according to the game clock, and I’ve finished 50% of the game.  And for all you math majors out there, that equates to around seven hours of gameplay.  And if that still has you questioning the amount of content, think of having to buy every car, get some achievements, and playing online multiplayer to increase even more your playtime.  It should be somewhere around ten hours before you’re completely finished with the game.

Options: You really can’t complain about anything when it comes to lack of features or having something wrong with the controls.  Like the first one, Real Racing 2 contains seven control options, sensitivity options, and brake assist options (i.e. 0 is no brake assist, 10 is basically the game drives for you).  There’s on or off vibration, anti-skid on or off, steering assist on or off… the options are countless.  I guess this like also falls under the category of controls, and heck, I can’t complain.

GameCenter: We here at NoDPad have fallen in love with GameCenter.  It’s fun, and while not perfect, it certainly does centralize a lot of our achievements into one place.  Real Racing 2 contains GameCenter leaderboards, achievements, and online multiplayer; you literally can’t expect more.

User interface: The first one didn’t have a horrible UI, but the one here feels much more professional and Need for Speed/EA-like.  That may not sound like a good thing—that a small company is going corporate-ish—but I would say it is when referring to the user interface.  It looks professional, fresh, and very clean.


Repetitive: Racing at its finest is actually quite boring when put into game form.  I can’t play this for more than 30 minutes at a time, mostly because of the repetitive nature of the game.  Race this track, race that track… the racing never really ends.

Balancing issues: I thought the beginning was a bit confusing, as I beat all the races that were in the start of the career mode only to have to re-race a track to earn enough money to buy another car.  I also think that it’s a bit unnecessary to have different speeds and engines for different races, as you should be able to race whatever you want as long as you have enough money and worked hard enough to gain that money.  I can see why they did it: for a fair racing experience and such, but I think you should be allowed to race any type of car on any career event.

Along with that, the difficulty balancing is a bit off.  The easy is way too easy, but the medium is too challenging (for me, personally).  On my first race I received 9th place (note I didn’t know what I was doing), but when changing my difficulty to easy, I received first place with 20 or so seconds to spare.  Maybe it was just that one instance or maybe I’ve improved drastically, but there does seem to be an unbalanced gap.

Real Racing 2 is basically what you thought it was.  It’s awesome, the graphics are great, and the gameplay isn’t too shabby.  Sure, there’s room for improvement.  And if you didn’t like the first one, you definitely won’t like this.  But honestly, compared to the competition, you really can’t ask for more.

Real Racing 2 was developed by Firemint, and I played through version 1.01 on my iPhone 4.  The price is $9.99.