Tag Archives: Namco

Namco Holds Thanksgiving Sale

Namco, the developers and publishers of games such as Pac-Man and Galaga, have put on sale some of their most popular games for Thanksgiving.  The sale prices range anywhere from $0.99 to $2.99, and I’ve bolded the games that I personally recommend above the others (please note I haven’t played all of the games mentioned, so there may be some hidden gems that I just haven’t tried out yet).

The sale starts today and will end on November 28th 11:59 PM PST, so be sure to pick them up anything you’re interested in before time runs out.

‘Bird Zapper’ Free for Today Only

Bird Zapper by Namco has dropped down to the price of free for today and today only.

A fun little casual game, Bird Zapper was recently updated to include some Easter goodies such as bunnies, eggs, and a new powerup.  It’s universal and has GameCenter achievements, so there’s really no reason not to download.

I personally think that this is a great casual game, and the great thing about the App Store is that you can get these great games for paying absolutely nothing.  There are three gameplay modes included: Survivor, Blitz and Zen mode, and this game should last you at least throughout the day.

You should download the game with some urgency though, as it’s free for today only.

Puzzle Quest 2 Review: The new king of iOS match-3 games

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords revolutionized the match-3 genre. If you don’t believe that, then I don’t believe in you. At all. The game took hold of Bejeweled’s overly simple premise of lining up three or more like-colored gems, and ran with it. It ran fast and far, and the wind that it made as it ran was the very breath of life. Naturally, the game was a runaway success.

No longer was the match-3 relegated to the loathsome existence of a scoreboard-driven, too often copied, two-dimensional puzzle. It became the basis for a vast and epic world, a world of doorways leading to possibilities, and every door hinging upon the outcome of a puzzle. The game brought to the table beloved elements of the role-playing genre: a tale of good versus evil, a hero’s epic journey, memorable characters and monsters galore, character development, skills and magical spells, weapons, armor, citadels, sieges, mounts and more. The matching of gems became the gathering of resources to fuel your hero’s abilities, and the puzzle became a battleground for epic encounters against diverse and formidable foes, demanding that you constantly mix up your strategy. Puzzle Quest offered depth beyond depth, while simultaneously presenting that depth with the accessibility of the match-3 puzzle, a concept so simple it could be grasped by even the most novice of players in a matter of moments.

To state the case very simply, Puzzle Quest is one of the only match-3 games in which matching a set of gems (or not) has positive or negative repercussions. There are consequences and motivations for what you do. And so the game does not reward your matches with points, but with growth, victory or defeat, and provides incentive or consequence for strategic decision making in the heat of puzzle.

It’s a lot for a sequel to live up to. So much, in fact, that the game’s spiritual successor, Galactrix — released for various devices but not for iOS — sallied forth about as well as a derailed train. That is to say it was a disaster.

Thankfully, Puzzle Quest 2 is a proper and admirable sequel.

Players are given the choice of four character classes, and may choose to play either a male or a female in each class. Gender has no impact on game mechanics; only on the character portrait and sprite used to represent your character in the game world. Assassins begin the game relatively weak, but their spells combine to create some of the game’s most lethal damage combos; they are the only class capable of using the most powerful poisons. Barbarians are well-rounded, with good offensive and defensive abilities, and high life points; they are the only class capable of wielding heavy-hitting, two-handed weapons. Sorcerers have low life points, but a diverse array of spells, capable of dealing direct damage or manipulating the board in various ways; they are the only class able to use mana tonics. Templars specialize in defense, and are the only class able to equip plate armor and tower shields; they are relatively weak on offense, but are very difficult to kill.

At this point, anyone familiar with the first game will notice that none of the original classes have returned. This is both a blessing — as each of the four classes will provide a new and unique experience compared to the previous game — and a curse — in that favorite classes and strategies from the first game are nowhere to be found.

Whereas the first game took place on an expansive world map, the adventure in Puzzle Quest 2 more localized, taking place within a small village and a nearby dungeon. Players are much closer to their characters this time around, following them from room-to-room rather than from town-to-town. The game is navigated by selecting active nodes within each area; these nodes may be characters with whom the player interacts, monsters which must be fought, treasure to be looted, doors to be opened, or simple markers indicating exits to the next areas and other events. Selecting a node gives the player several options from which to choose; for example, selecting a door-type node will give the player the options to either pick the lock, bash the door or leave it alone.

Many of these actions will result in a match-3 puzzle being used to determine the outcome. The most common and robust of these puzzles is that used in combat. The player faces off against an opponent over a grid of colored gems, which must be moved to create matches of three or more like-colored gems. The player alternates turns with the enemy, each making matches. Matched gems are captured as mana; the five colors of mana — red, yellow, blue, green and purple — are used to fuel the character’s spells, which have various affects such as dealing damage to the enemy, buffing your character, debuffing your opponent, or manipulating the board. Matching skulls inflicts damage to your opponent, and matching gauntlets accumulates action points. Action points are spent using your weapon to inflict damage upon the enemy, or your shield to temporarily increase your defense. Combat is won by reducing your opponent’s life points to zero.

Outside of combat, there are many mini-game variations of the match-3 puzzle used for other actions. Looting chests, picking locks, bashing doors, extinguishing fires and more all result in different types of match-3 puzzles. As did its predecessor, Puzzle Quest 2 gets a lot of mileage from the match-3 mechanic, and despite so many RPG trappings remains a puzzle game at its core.

Puzzles won reward the player with experience points, and as the character levels up, her overall strength increases and new spells are unlocked. Five spells may be equipped for battle at once, meaning that players will need to carefully choose which abilities to carry into each encounter, as characters will learn far more than five spells by the time the game is done. Additionally, characters may be equipped with various weapons, helmets, suits of armor and accessories to aid them in battle. These items affect the characters offense and defense, but may have additional impacts on mana collection, stat bonuses, etc.


Visual Presentation: If the first game was pretty, the second is a sight to behold. The rooms which comprise the game world are each hand-drawn and look fantastic, the character and monster art is top notch, the puzzle boards look fantastic, and the interface elements are very well-designed. Puzzle Quest 2 is polished to perfection, and visually outclasses the first game in every way.

Strategy: The Puzzle Quest series elevates the match-3 mechanic from simple casual game for non-gamers, to a game with enough content and depth for even the most hardcore of gamers. There’s a ton of strategy to be had depending upon your character class, active spells, and the opponent you are facing. Some encounters can be played very offensively, while others must be played defensively, making matches not to fuel your own spells, but to prevent your opponent being able to use their most powerful attacks. Every encounter requires careful examination, consideration and planning. It’s not often match-3 games can make such claims.

Response: This is a difficult point to quantify, but Puzzle Quest 2 just plays better than the first game. While the first game was most definitely enjoyable and still one of my favorite iOS puzzle games, there is no denying the sloppiness of the iOS port. The first game was made better when re-released as Puzzle Quest HD for the iPad, but even that feels wonky by comparison to Puzzle Quest 2. Here, things happen as a comfortable speed, and the game’s feedback to player input just feels right. And that’s a feeling the first game never managed.

Game Modes: Puzzle Quest 2 offers a generous amount of things to do. There’s the main Quest mode, in which your character takes part in the story and evolves by acquiring spells, equipment and experience levels. Each of your characters may also participate in Quick Battles — one-off encounters taking place outside of the story line, but with experience gained being applicable to other modes; great for puzzling on the go or grinding your character when stuck in the main game — or Endurance Mode, in which you are pitted against one foe after the other until you can stand no more. There’s also Tournament mode, where players get a chance to play as the game’s monsters, selecting a line-up of four for both the player and the computer AI, then battling it out for supremacy.


What happened to …?!: There are things from the first game that I miss in Puzzle Quest 2, such as the many character classes, sieges, my citadel, mounts, and the ability to make matches for gold and experience points in the heat of battle.

Navigation: In the first Puzzle Quest, it was easy to identify the location of events simply by panning around the map and looking for markers. It was then easy to get there; there might be enemy encounters along the way, but the journey was fairly quick.

In Puzzle Quest 2, events appear as directional markers on your compass and sometimes on your map, but it is difficult to determine exact location or distance from your current location, and often takes far too long to get there as your character must trek back through cleared rooms to reach a portal. Between each room there is a load time, then you have to select a navigation point, choose an action, wait for your character to move, endure another load time, and repeat this for each room standing between your character and  your objective. This quickly becomes frustrating, as rooms once cleared have nothing left to offer you on repeat visits.

To wit, travel in Puzzle Quest 1 was easy and breezy, and it was clear where you needed to be. In Puzzle Quest 2, travel is tedious, a chore, and it’s never entirely clear where you need to be for an event, or what stands in the way of your getting there. Getting around the game is easily the worst aspect of Puzzle Quest 2, and while the rooms look great, that’s no reason I should have to trek through them again and again with nothing to do there.

It Cheats!: I have no way of proving it, but the AI cheats. There is simply no other explanation for the ridiculous run of good luck enjoyed by most of the opponents you will face, with literal cascades of matches falling onto the board during enemy turns, piles of skulls exploding in your face, and your opponent constantly receiving extra turns . The game cheats. Meanwhile, you will be lucky if you’re ever able to line up more than two cascading matches.

No Multiplayer: It’s utterly baffling why Tournament Mode doesn’t allow for two-player competition, human-vs.-human, either online or sharing a device face-to-face. The game mode is a natural fit for play against friends.

Puzzle Quest 2 is a universal app, playable on iPad, iPhone or iPod, but I find it most enjoyable on the iPad. The game really takes advantage of the larger screen, with a more intuitive and attractive interface. Unfortunately, the game is not optimized for the iPhone 4’s Retina display, and actually looks pretty ugly on that device.

In many ways, Puzzle Quest 2 improves upon its predecessor and is overall a better game on iOS. That’s not to say, however, that the game is without its frustrations. Getting around the game world sucks, the game is a shameless cheater, and I am sorely missing some of my favorite aspects of the first game, such as the Knight class, developing my citadel and training mounts. The good news is that you can still go back to enjoy the first game, and have a somewhat different experience than is offered by the sequel. That is to say, Puzzle Quest 2 is not a replacement for the first game as is often the case with match-3 sequels; if you play Bejeweled 2, there’s really no reason to return to the first Bejeweled. Instead, Puzzle Quest 1 and 2 coexist happily on one device, offering a multitude of classes, quests and strategic possibilities between them.

If you enjoyed the first game, you will enjoy the second. If you missed the first game, but find yourself enjoying Puzzle Quest 2, then give it a try as well. But if you are determined to have only one or the other, then make it Puzzle Quest 2. On the other hand, if the first game didn’t really do it for you, probably Puzzle Quest 2 isn’t going to do it for you either.

I would like to see more content added to the game via updates or IAP. There’s plenty of room for new classes, and I would love to see classes from the first game reworked for play in Puzzle Quest 2. I would also like to see the developer add support for local multiplayer, with the possibility to play against human opponents in tournament mode, and also to play against human or AI controlled player characters. How fun would it be to complete the game as both the Assassin and Barbarian, then to pit the two characters against each other in a VS. mode?!

As match-3 games go, Puzzle Quest 2 is king of the hill. And while the game has been out for several months on Nintendo DS and Xbox Live Arcade, the App Store is really where it belongs. The game is a natural fit for touch-screens, and I would say that the game is at its definitive best on the iPad.

Puzzle Quest 2 is is published by Namco, and a product of Infinite Interactive and D3 Publisher. Available as a universal app for $9.99. Reviewed at version 1.0.0 on an iPad and iPhone 4.

Splatterhouse Review: Yesterday’s Gore-fest is Today’s Snore-fest?

I think it’s safe to say I missed the boat by a bit on the original Splatterhouse.  To be fair, it came out twenty-two years ago, so it’s not too surprising that it slipped under my radar while some of Namco’s more ubiquitous releases like Pac-Man and Dig-Dug would go on to loot many a quarter from my twitchy young fingers.  So apparently, it created a bit of a stir when it came out.  The game follows the young Rick and his girlfriend Jennifer, two intrepid young students of parapsychology (one of those majors only offered at more specialized universities no doubt).  Upon going to investigate the spooky mansion of the mysterious Dr. West, who is rumored to have disappeared years ago while conducting nefarious experiments on the dead, our young lovebirds predictably get trapped by a thunderstorm.  You guessed it, after seeking shelter in the mansion, they’re totally trapped inside, Jennifer gets abducted by demons, and Rick gets knocked unconscious.  Our hero awakens with the mysterious ‘Hell mask’ grafted on his face, an ancient Aztec artifact with some sort of dark power.  And, this being a video game made in the 1980’s, so begins the hazardous shlep to rescue your kidnapped female companion.

Namco Bandai are re-releasing the original, unedited game on iOS to coincide with the revival of the franchise on PS3 and XBox 360.  At the time of its release, Splatterhouse caused enough hoopla to cause it to be gradually pulled from most American arcades, relegating it to the shadowy corners of out-of-the-way pizza parlors and bowling alleys.  In fact, it’s pretty unlikely that you ever played the arcade version back in the day.  So how does it stack up by contemporary standards?  Read on, dear reader.  Splatterhouse is, as far as I can tell, a very faithful port of the original game (as it was released in the arcades, not the edited home console release).  And from what I gather, this will mean a great deal to a small, select group of people.  If the very phrase ‘faithful port of the original’ gives you some sort of retro-stalgic gore-gasm, then I would recommend you buy this game.  However, the uninitiated should be aware that what they would be getting themselves into is a very simplistic side-scrolling beat-em-up experience, with gameplay that may well feel dated by today’s standards.  On the one hand, the game has an enjoyably spooky/kitsch 16-bit horror aesthetic, and its progression keeps you genuinely wanting to plod along to the next room so you can see what happens.  On the other hand though, the gameplay can become tedious and a bit of a chore, and despite Namco’s token offering of a ‘Splatter Rush Mode,’ there’s not ultimately much to it to make you want to keep coming back.


Horror Movie Aesthetic: Splatterhouse is like a living monument to the horror flicks of the 80’s.  The protagonist looks about 97% like Jason Voorhees, many of your enemies would look at home in the Evil Dead movies, and Dr. West the mad scientist of unorthodox parapsychology is a reference to H.P. Lovecraft’s “Reanimator”.  Considering the hardware restrictions developers were working with in 1988, Splatterhouse does a remarkable job of establishing a creepy vibe.  There are plenty of memorable B-movie-ish moments, like a poltergeist that animates every object in a room one by one and makes them attack you (watch out for that chandelier), or a particularly mean baddie with a burlap sack over his head and chainsaws for forearms that you need to dispatch with your trusty shotgun.  Considering these sights and sounds were produced over twenty years ago, it’s pretty impressive.

Faithful Re-Release of a Classic: The shock tactics of this game caused enough of a stir at the time of its release to get it pulled from many American arcades, and the home release on Turbo Grafx-16 was substantially edited in terms of the level of gore and several aspects of the gameplay and graphics.  Although the edited version was re-released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007, this marks the first time in a long while that the American market has had the chance to play the game as it was originally intended.  It’s nice in a way to think that our country has moved on to worrying about somewhat more prescient matters than the threat of a video game mid-boss, who is composed of six goofy-looking severed heads floating around an upside down cross, turning our youngsters into violent devil worshipers.  For some old-school purists, the faithful rendition of the title in its original glory is probably worth the download alone, and if you’re among that group you can stop reading because nothing I’m about to say will convince you to the contrary.  Otherwise…


Lackluster Gameplay: Frankly, Splatterhouse’s biggest problem is that it was made twenty-two years ago.  It plays and controls a bit like many side-scrolling Flash games that I’ve played, which I don’t necessarily mean to be a flattering comparison.  The speed of the gameplay is glacially slow by today’s standards, and it basically boils down to a game where you walk from left to right, hop up and down occasionally, and punch stuff.  Or pick up a meat cleaver or 2×4 and swing it at stuff.  The challenge is somewhat artificially inserted into the gameplay, because when you run out of lives you can continue from a predetermined checkpoint rather than the beginning of the screen you were on.  In general, there is a continue spot every four screens or so, but if you’re anything like me this is going to force you to replay some of the more boring segments of the game a few times when you die at a boss or need a minute to figure out the pattern of a room.

Repetitive Combat: For a beat-em-up game protagonist, there isn’t a lot of variety to the moves that Rick can perform.  Basically, you have a standing attack, a ducking attack, a jumping attack, and a slide attack that you can perform at the end of a jump (do yourself a favor and turn on the ‘assistance’ to give yourself a button to be able to consistently do this maneuver).  While the enemies look varied, there’s not much variety to what they do.  Each of them basically has one predetermined attack pattern, and the bosses have about three attacks or so (if that).  Speaking of the bosses, while they’re cool and memorable, the gameplay feels a little cheap in this aspect.  Nearly all of them outclass you in terms of reach and maneuverability, so it quickly devolves into memorizing where the safe spot on the screen will be and waiting while they do their attack animation, then bopping them a couple times.  Rinse, repeat.

No Real Replay Value: I think you would have to be a real hardcore fan of this game to want to revisit it often.  The added Rush mode actually does little to amend this problem, since all it really consists of is more of the same.  The twist, such as it is, is that you’re in a room the size of the screen, and monsters appear from all sides and bum-rush you (rather than reaching the end of the room, the goal is to kill as many monsters as you can, and to not die if you can manage to).  To their credit, Namco have integrated Game Center support for both Arcade Mode and Splatter Rush Mode, so players can compete for high scores to their hearts content, but honestly the replay value of the central game mechanics is so thin for me that I can hardly see getting too competitive over my top score.

It really is sad that Splatterhouse did not receive wider recognition during its time, because it was a good game for its time.  Hell, probably even a great one.  However, really all side-scrolling beat-em-up games boil down to the same essential gameplay mechanics, and this game is those mechanics at their most basic.  The signs of age are immediately obvious.  While it probably has incredible nostalgia value for some gamers out there and this is a perfectly capable port of the game in all its original gore and glory, those of us who missed the boat the first time around are pretty safe in missing it this time as well.  If you want a look at one of the earliest horror arcade games released in America, give it a shot.  But if you’re looking for excitement and deep rewarding gameplay, you can keep sloowly marching on elsewhere like one of the undead in Splatterhouse.  I’m giving it a ‘Worth a Look’ with a caveat, because I expect only the previously initiated or the incredibly retro-minded to enjoy this one.

Splatterhouse was developed by Namco, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPhone 4.  The price is $2.99.

Despicable Me: Minion Mania Review: Be Prepared for a Challenge

Despicable Me is an upcoming movie that I’m actually looking forward to watching; the only real movie that I’ve enjoyed this summer thus far was Toy Story 3.  Karate Kid was far too bland, The Last Airbender consisted of horrendous acting, and Knight and Day was… just not my type of movie.

I think I’ve seen the trailer for Despicable Me way too many times though, and the iPhone game was just a way to pass the time as I’m waiting for the actual movie to be released this Friday.  Sure, the game could use some more levels, but the amount of brain power needed to accomplish each mission is quite fantastic.

If you’re a puzzle fan at all, this is definitely one for you.  Although for anyone else, you may find it a bit difficult and the graphics a bit too pixelated.


Challenge: I’m usually not one that likes difficult games, but this one actually works your mind and requires you to think.  It also requires you to test each piece of the level, whether it be buttons, guns, or grappling hooks.  It’s almost like Toki Tori except with a Despicable Me theme added to it, making for quite a gameplay experience.

Each level is unique: After one level, the next one seems to be an entirely different puzzle.  I’m encountered with more items, more rooms, and even more… whatever those yellow creatures are called.  The variety alone makes me come back to the game to test my mind, and it’s definitely a game that’ll keep your mental strength quite even.

The extras: The only reason I would buy a DVD is for the extras.  iTunes provides such an easy way to download and purchase movies, I’m too lazy to drive over to the local supermarket and buy a DVD.  And the same seems to be with a game: without the extras, it’s hard to recommend.  Fortunately, Despicable Me has some surprising extras that actually shocked me, such as the ability to purchase clothes for your yellow creature and the fact that new clothes are revealed after beating a certain level.  Achievements are also included, making the bonus pack quite larger than expected.


Glitches: I’ve run across a couple of glitches; for one, I shot my little creature out of the cannon only to witness the “ball of death”.  That basically means he got stuck in the cannonball form and never returned.

More levels please: 20 levels should last you anywhere from 2-4 hours, but still, it would have been nice if they added some more.

Physics: I know this isn’t a physics puzzler, but it would have been nice if they added some realism to this game.  For example, the little creature is physically rendered as more of a box than an actual, breathing entity.  When shooting these “boxes” onto platforms and such, they seem to just appear there and not gracefully jump or fly there.  While I see why they didn’t pay much attention to this area, it would have been better if they did.

Graphics: I highly doubt Namco went for the pixelated yet 3D look, and if they did, it looks absolutely horrible.  The colors are also a bit dull, and like I said before, the character models are quite pixelated.

Despicable Me: Minion Mania isn’t the first of its kind nor is it the best.  As you can see from above, there are numerous number of flaws that are holding this one back.  But because of the ability to customize your character and the fact that it’s quite challenging make this an easy recommendation for any puzzle fans out there.  So if you’re in need of some mental boosts, be sure to put this one atleast on the wish list.

Just a word of warning, it seems as if the game is crashing.  I haven’t had any issues, but many people on iTunes are complaining of that issue.  Let’s hope it gets fixed.

Despicable Me: Minion Mania was developed by Namco, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPhone 4.  The price is $4.99, and there is a lite version to try before you buy.