Tag Archives: Platformer

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.

Likes

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!!

Dislikes:

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.

Run Like Hell Review: A Frantic Run-and-Jumper

“Run Like Hell” is a game with a pretty simple premise:  You’re a treasure hunter, stranded on an island and being chased by hungry cannibals.  Your goal, naturally, is to run away from them and end up with some loot rather than in the stew.  It’s a game of roughly the same ilk as “Mirror’s Edge” or “Robot Unicorn Attack,” meaning that the gameplay consists basically of sprinting from left to right while evading obstacles by jumping and sliding.  “Run Like Hell” features both a story mode and an endless, score attack type of mode.  While it’s not exactly a genre of games that personally gets me jumping out of my chair with excitement, I found this to be a well executed title, with a few minor flaws holding it back from excellence.

Likes

Fast-Paced: This is a fairly simple style of game, so I appreciated Run Like Hell’s speedy gameplay.  Your character really moves like he’s running for his life, which gives things a sense of urgency and makes the gameplay reward finesse.  There are a goodly number of different levels to play through in the story mode, and a significant amount of variety therein, but the levels themselves only take a minute or two to complete.  This gives the game fun, fast-paced gameplay that makes it perfect for quick pick-up-and-play sessions.

Sense of Variety: Although this is basically a game that consists of doing one thing, the level design cleverly adds some variety to the proceedings.  The story mode takes you through jungles, beaches, caverns, ancient ruins, and cannibal villages.  Each set of levels has a distinct look and presents you with unique obstacles to avoid, and once you move on to a new environment the one you just completed is unlocked in endless mode.  The endless mode is really where the game’s replay value comes from in my opinion, and the game does a very impressive job of randomly generating infinite maps in the various environments.  It’s exactly the same gameplay as the story mode, but rather than reaching the end of the level, you run as long as you can before being inevitably captured.  High scores are integrated with both Game Center and OpenFeint, which is a nice touch.  It’s nice to see that the developers made intelligent, creative decisions to mix things up, because this genre of games is simplistic enough in terms of gameplay that I think run-and-jump titles such as these risk becoming quickly repetitive.  But it’s a good thing that Mass Creation has taken steps to avoid this pitfall.

Power-Ups: Another thing I enjoyed that I haven’t gotten around to mentioning until now is the power-ups.  Basically, they come in two varieties:  there is adrenaline, and there are a few types of power-ups which zap your pursuers and make them stagger a little further behind you.  Adrenaline fills up a gauge, and you can use it to run faster and jump higher.  Adrenaline can become very important in some stages, allowing you to get over obstacles more easily or jump a little higher to grab another power-up.  Thankfully, you can juke a little extra speed even when your adrenaline gauge is empty by quickly tapping the button.  I’m not sure if this was an intentional decision on the developer’s part, but it makes it almost unnecessary to go for the risky jumps sometimes required to grab an adrenaline power-up, and I thought I’d share the tip with our readers.

Dislikes

Repetitive: So, how can I simultaneously praise a game’s sense of variety and pan it for being repetitive?  Well, basically it’s not inherently the game’s fault, because Mass Creation have clearly thought about how to squeeze out a good bit of variety from a simple premise.  It’s just an inherent thing about this genre of games, in my opinion.  Those that are way into this type of game are really looking for the smooth execution of a simple premise over an enormous sense of variety or progression anyways, and this game delivers on its basic idea.  However, part of me can’t help but feel that this genre is less of the meat-and-potatoes of gaming, and more like the little candy you grab from a dish and consume in less than a minute.

No Personal Music Support: I think  it’s a little absurd, honestly, that there are still games released on the App Store that don’t allow the user to listen to their own music while they are playing.  This was a bit of a problem for me with Run Like Hell in particular, because the music is not the game’s strongest point.  Each set of environments only has one musical track, which doesn’t take all that long to loop over if you’re playing on endless mode.  I was annoyed to discover that I couldn’t play my own music while playing Run Like Hell, and I can guarantee this game doesn’t demand so much processing power that it would be impossible for the i-Device to do this.

Insensitive?: While all of my friends who I’ve asked (which is not that many because I feel a little lame bringing it up) assure me that this is a non-issue on their political corectness radar, I can’t help but think it’s a little weird that it’s 2010 and we still have video games where the protagonist is a white guy being chased by cannibalistic Pacific Islanders (after having stolen their treasure).  But whatever, I guess…

…Overall, I had a good time with Run Like Hell, and despite my quibbles I could recommend it to fans of the genre.  Don’t necessarily expect anything new, but this is a smoothly animated, fast-paced game with controls that work well.  If this is your type of game, I’d look into it for sure.

Run Like Hell was developed by Mass Creation, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPod touch 2G.  The price is $0.99.


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.

Likes

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…

Dislikes

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.


Blimp HD Review: Best Use of Hot Air in a Game, EVER

Blimp HD is both a wonderful piece of gaming nostalgia and great new platformer that takes full advantage of the technology at its disposal. It’s both easy to pick up and play for a minute and totally satisfying to play for long stretches at a time.

On my first Gameboy, I loved games that put me in control of a vehicle and made you navigate through some complex series of massive mazelike obstacles. Add to it things that that shoot at you and a nice arsenal of weapons at your command and ten year old me was in imagination heaven. Ten year old me is happy again.

Blimp HD puts you in command of a blimp, as you might imagine. Each stage is set on a steam punk alien world where you transport workers and cargo from platform to platform in a fixed amount of time. There are time extensions, bonus crystals, and health boosts to be collected, and in later levels your blimp will be armed with bombs you drop onto your enemies below.

The real strategy comes in deciding how you’re going to organize your trips around the stage. It’s both a time management problem and strategic combat one with both elements giving each stage of the game significant replay value.

The controls are easy to learn and yet sensitive and difficult to master once you’ve got weaponry to deal with while keeping your blimp aloft with constant well-timed jets of hot air. What’s brilliant is that you can control the movement of the blimp with either the accelerometer or an on screen slider you can toggle on and off. I assumed the slider would be harder than just tilting my iPad but it turned out it works really well and saves me looking like a freak on the bus.

I frequently harp about the non-gaming aspects of games and in this case I’m happy to say that the developer has created a really nice package. Much like early Gameboy games, Blimp HD is not without a story, and a reasonably imaginative one, but also doesn’t make the story the main focus of the game. Blimp HD is all about gameplay and beautiful design.

Finally, this is not a game to play without headphones. The music is gorgeous and made me very badly want to break out Garage Band and pretend I could make cool music too. For the record…I can’t.

So, in a nutshell…

Likes

Gameplay: This is solid, very recognizable gameplay and that’s not a bad thing. I’d love to see more games that resurrect this style of imaginative play. Something about it just stirs my imagination and makes me want to keep playing.

Art: This is one of the truly beautiful games. Everything from the writing of the pre-level briefings to the sound effects and music makes this a top-notch experience. The stage design is lush and colorful, never becoming old or repetitive.

Replay Value: The story is fine, but what really hooks me is the gameplay and the fun of navigating your blimp around each gorgeous stage. The stages are so much fun I find myself just wanting to play one because it was fun, kind of like your favorite play set as a child.

Dislikes

No Connectedness: Pretty much, these days, anything that doesn’t in some way utilize Game Center is going to be knocked down a notch, even if it’s a miniscule notch as it is in this case. It’s really not necessary but would add even more fun with high scores and achievements. Yes, I’m one of those achievement loving people. You know who you are.

Blimp HD is a solid, professional, and top-tier game that I’d be thrilled to see on any handheld gaming platform. To find it on an iOS device is thrilling and speaks really well for the platform. You should get it ASAP.

Blimp HD is developed by Craneball Studios and is available on the iPad for $3.99. It was reviewed at version 1.0 on my iPad.


‘Sonic 4’ Coming to App Store October 7th

SEGA has announced that they’ll be releasing Sonic 4 for the App Store on October 7th, earlier than the release date on other devices: October 11th for the Wii, October 12th for the PlayStation Network, and October 13th for Xbox Live Arcade.

SEGA has also decided upon accelerometer or d-pad control methods, along with two additional levels having to do with the accelerometer.  The whole point of Sonic 4 was to return to the roots of the 2.5D, side-scrolling, platform action.

This rendition will be Episode 1, with more coming in following episodes.