Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter was one of the favorites, earning the Must Have award after its release, and since then, it’s been updated to support the Retina display along with going universal.
Given its success, Tatem Games decided to launch Carnivores Ice Age, which—you guessed it!—takes place during the Ice Age. You’ll be fighting anything from wild boars to wolves, and the maps are all redone to reflect the snowy atmosphere during that time period.
But one of the major differences I found between the Dinosaur and Ice Age version was the fact that the Ice Age version excluded the mini-game that came with Carnivores Dinosaur Hunter, a huge oversight in my opinion as that’s a game mode I went to to keep the game varied.
Along with that, the beginner animals (starting from the wild boar, which is only the 2nd animal), can kill you. Their diet consists of “plants”, but that seems to all go to naught once they start charging you.
With those two factors in place, Carnivores Ice Age is a much harder game to get into for beginners and people that haven’t played the first one. And if you have played the first one—like me—the game is still significantly more difficult. It doesn’t help that the pistol is way underpowered in that it takes 3-4 hits to take down even the easiest animal.
The price is low, it’s universal, and it supports GameCenter. But heck, tone down the difficulty.
Graphics: This may be a problem for others, since the graphics aren’t exactly crisp, and the surrounding environment looks old. For me personally, the graphics are quite fine especially on the iPad.
GameCenter: I’m glad that they decided to add some achievements to Carnivores, and GameCenter is always a welcome addition. While I’ve come to expect GameCenter now in most games, it’s always a plus to actually see some achievements in there.
Universal: I doubt that there’s anyone out there that DOESN’T like universal.
Hard to get into: Like I mentioned before, Carnivores Ice Age is somewhat tough to get hooked on and begin playing. Wild boars kill me from all angles, the walking is still extremely tedious, and the maps are filled with many more obstacles. If you’re a beginner, Carnivores Ice Age is just way too difficult in a lot of areas to really get hooked on. The pistol needs a lot more power than it has right now, movement needs to be faster or the maps need to get smaller, and there are just a lot of factors that need to be tweaked a bit.
Carnivores Ice Age does nothing to improve upon its previous; all it does is provide hunters with an entirely new theme. While I don’t think this would classify as a sequel, I do think that there are some things that could have been improved on — faster moving speed, a lower difficulty, a higher-powered pistol, and more animals that aren’t able to kill you. Still, the game offers quite a lot for extremely little.
In a genre as well represented on the App Store as dual-stick shooter games, it seems as if it’s becoming increasingly difficult for developers to find a unique twist that will make their title stand out among the pack. Nearly each week brings a new onslaught of these titles, proliferating as relentlessly as the robot drones and mindless zombies which populate the games. Etolis: Arena is one such title, and while it is fundamentally ok, there really is little about it which is likely to make it a unique or memorable experience.
Etolis Arena, while not a bad game per se, is about as run-of-the-mill as dual-stick shooter games come. The premise, such as it is, is that you are a guy in a futuristic space suit who engages in armed combat against endless hordes of robots and creepy crawly thingamajigs. Dispatch a few waves and you are given a chance to spend the ‘honor points’ you earn by killing baddies on various upgrades. A few more waves of bad guys down, and you unlock a new map. While this would seem to add a degree of complexity and progression to the game, in actuality it does little to offer variety. The level designs are all fairly basic, the enemy AI is rudimentary, and the different weapon upgrades are a little unimaginative.
Competent: While I didn’t find much about Etolis: Arena to recommend it above the hundreds of other dual-stick shooters available on the App Store, I want to make it clear that I don’t want this to be a complete bash. It’s an all right game, and it performs adequately (although not as well on my 2nd gen iPod touch as I’m sure it does on a more recent device). I just didn’t find much of a sense of excitement, or a “hook” to the gameplay. From the impressions of other users and reviewers that I’ve encountered online, it seems as if some people genuinely like this game, and maybe I’m just getting a little jaded from having played so many dual-stick shooters. If you’re just getting into this type of genre and want a streamlined sci-fi shooter, then it may be exactly your cup of tea. But, basically all I can offer is my personal opinion: While I didn’t have a bad time with this game, there really was nothing about it that kept me coming back to it over and over, or compelled me to spend a lot of time with it (which I generally see as the hallmarks of a great iPhone game). And after I delete it off my device, I doubt I’ll be compelled to reinstall it later.
Universal App: Considering how greedy most developers are as far as splitting their app into an iPhone and iPad version, it’s refreshing that Chillingo and Facet Studios made the decision to make this a universal app. (Although I think it’s a little strange that the App Store still makes it look as if there are two versions of the game, considering both versions say they are “designed for both iPhone and iPad.”) So, while it’s not exactly a groundbreaking or addictively fun game in my book, I think it’s commendable that the developers show this courtesy to their customers.
Redundant: There really is not a lot about this game that differentiates it from the ever-growing horde of dual-stick shooters on iOS. The graphics are nice enough, but not great (it actually looks a bit better in stills than in motion.) The controls are ok, but not what I would describe as smooth or responsive. And above all, the gameplay just isn’t exciting enough to make me want to play this above any of the old chestnuts I have in my collection of games like this on iOS.
If you just can’t live without some sort of sci-fi themed dual-stick shooter where you kill robots and there are different maps, it might be just the thing for you. But for my money, there are more exciting experiences available in this genre on the iOS platform.
The running-game genre has received a lot of new additions within the last couple of months after the success of Canabalt and Robot Unicorn Attack.
And like always, indie developers usually decide to cash in on the trend and develop games that contain a little more features than the “original” game (Canabalt being the “original” in this genre). That’s exactly what Playus Soft did in the creation of Stylish Dash, which features a Robot Unicorn Attack-like dash and jump features added in with star, coins, and 0ther items.
You earn SP/money depending on how far and how many coins you collected in each run, and the money translates into items that can increase your stats such as speed and gravity. There are multiple maps to unlock after completing the objectives on the previous map(s), and the gameplay as a whole isn’t too shabby.
Where the game breaks down is its difficulty level, which—by golly gosh—is pretty ridiculous. The second map requires you to run 1,000 meters before unlocking the third map, which is utterly ridiculous and took nearly 20 tries to finally achieve that score. The third map requires a 1,500 meter mark before proceeding, and again, utterly ridiculous.
I also thought that, according to the screenshots in the App Store, the graphics would be appealing. Instead, the colors are dull, the player model is barely 2.5D, and the overall look of the game isn’t all that great.
And mixing all these factors into one game results in another, generic run game that feels rough around the edges.
Clothes: Who doesn’t like dressing up his/her character in clothes? Hence the Stylish Dash title; you can style your character into a number of outfits that look quite amusing, although it does take a while to gather enough cash to buy an outfit. But once you are able to buy something, there is a noticeable difference.
GameCenter: Not sure how much longer I’m going to put this in the ‘Likes’ section, but I’ll probably but GameCenter in until a majority of developers finally understand that gamers want achievements and leaderboards through GameCenter. I’m seeing maybe a third of all games in the App Store with GameCenter, and nearly a half of that third does not contain achievements. Stylish Dash contains both leaderboards and achievements, so for those collecting achievements, this is definitely one to look into.
Doesn’t record length after objective: What’s odd to me is that on one map, when I reached the 1,000 meter objective, it stopped going any higher. My length just stopped at 1,000, which totally takes the competitive nature out of the game. Not that the game was competitive to start with…
Non-competitive: Running games like these should be competitive — I should be saying to my brother, “Hey, I beat your score!” I know for Robot Unicorn Attack my friends and I battle out nearly every week on Facebook. But Stylish Dash doesn’t seem to invoke those feelings largely due to its storyline type of game mode, killing off much of the replay value. You’re not going as far or as high as you can; you’re going just to beat the objectives and move on. Where’s the fun in that?
Graphics: Like I mentioned before in the beginning, the graphics aren’t all that great. The colors are bland, the character model is pitiful, and the overall look isn’t aesthetically appealing. I thought—judging from the screenshots—that the game would look great. Instead, I’m stuck with a half-Retina, half-normal screen that’s not too pretty. So don’t be fooled by the screenshots in the App Store; the graphics aren’t all that great.
The only reason I can recommend Stylish Dash to you is if you have every other good running game, if you want to gain some more GameCenter achievements, and if you’re up to the steep challenge. It’s also only $0.99, so you’re not really losing much if you don’t like the game. But still, I wasn’t too thrilled with my game experience, and it’s failed to really hook me in.
Ten One Design recently shipping their Fling Game Controller for the iPad. The Fling is an interesting concept that attempts to give the iPad physical analog sticks, supplementing the virtual analog sticks used in many games. The intended advantages of using the Fling are that is provides a tactile controller and stick resistance while playing games. In theory this is a very cool idea; in practice, it flounders.
The Fling Game Controller is a coiled bit of plaster which attaches to your iPad screen using two suction cups. This design allows the Fling to be placed anywhere on the iPad to accommodate any game’s analog “hot-spots”. Two Fling controllers may be fitted to an iPad to accommodate dual-stick shooters.
The coil allows the stick to be pushed in any direction for precise control, with resistance increasing the further you push the stick. The stick returns to center automatically when pressure is released.
In all honesty, the design is very clever. And as a nice perk, the Fling includes a drawstring pouch for storage.
My two Fling controllers having arrived earlier in the week, I quickly set about gaming. Unfortunately, my experience with the Fling has been somewhat disappointing …
As cool a design as the Fling is, there is one MAJOR flaw: the stick has no grip. The analog sticks on the PlayStation 3’s DualShock controllers feature a rubber coating that prevents your finger from slipping off the stick when playing. The Fling has no such coating, and I constantly find my fingers slipping off of the stick as resistance increases as I push it further from center.
That’s not the only problem I have with the Fling, however. The amount of the resistance is also too high, I think, such that I find it difficult to use the sticks with any of the promised precision. Rather than controlling my in-game avatars, I feel as if I am fighting with them to move.
In several of my play tests, I have found that the range of the stick is insufficient for playing the game. And as you might expect from having coils of plastic attached to the device’s display, the Fling often obscures other interface elements.
As examples, I began with the games featured in the imagery on Ten One Design’s website.
To get up and running with Meteor Blitz, I first had to go into the options to realign the game’s controls, as the default stick positions placed one of the Fling’s suction cups directly on the iPad’s Home button. Getting the sticks to align with my attached Fling was a bit of a chore, but manageable. In game, however, I quickly found that the Fling’s resistance was too high and that it was a struggle to maneuver my ship with any precision at full speed, full speed being at the extreme range of the Fling’s movement capability. A drag, but I find the game easier to play without using the Fling.
And so I moved on to Across Age.
At first impression, the coil seemed a perfect fit for the game’s analog control area, and I thought this was going to be good. And because fast reactions are less imperative in Across Age than in Meteor Blitz, I assumed the resistance would be less of an issue. Sadly, I was mistaken on both counts. The coil is indeed a good fit for the game’s analog control area, but it obscures dialogue during conversations. The stick resistance also made it very difficult to maneuver my characters, whom I constantly steered into and snagged onto environmental objects such as trees. Aiming my attacks also became a chore, as I found it difficult to differentiate my input between attacking in a straight line or on the diagonal.
After these two disappointments, I was actually surprised when I found the Fling to be rather enjoyable for playing Super Mega Worm. Likewise, Death Worm proved to be fairly entertaining with the Fling.
My hopes thus bolstered, I moved on to Chaos Rings HD only to be let down once more. The range of the Fling is insufficient for playing Chaos Rings, as it is impossible to move your character at speed any faster than a walk.
Meow Meow Happy Fight HD was my next test subject, and while I maintain that I am better at the game whilst NOT using the Fling — again Fling resistance vs. maneuverability and precision — the game wasn’t bad to play, and was definitely better than playing Meteor Blitz.
I decided to fling my Fling at a few more dual-stick shooters. Geometry Wars performs well with the Fling, as the controls are loose enough that the Fling’s range and resistance don’t really become an issue. Also, you can double-tap using the fling to detonate bombs, so there’s never reason to reach beyond the Fling to trigger the screen.
Infinity Field, a newer dual-stick shooter closely resembling Geometry Wars, was slightly less comfortable to play with resistance becoming a minor issue in maneuvering the ship, but certainly not a deal-breaker.
Isotope revealed a new shortcoming, though. While in Geometry Wars and Infinity Field the objective tends to be to avoid collision with swarms of enemy ships, Isotope prominently features enemies that shoot back at you, requiring you to maneuver between bullets. Such maneuvers often require very fine movements, and while stick resistance wasn’t much an issue, I found it difficult to make small movements using the Fling as I would often have to overcompensate for the resistance it offers. Weaving between bullets it not easy with this thing.
Red Nova was like nightmares on ice, with the Fling crapping all over its unique (and pretty sweet) control scheme.
For my final round of initial testing, I decided to ply the Fling to some Gameloft titles.
Dungeon Hunter 2 HD: Playable, but once more the Fling’s resistance made the game uncomfortable. As maneuverability is not crucial to the game it wasn’t really an issue, but it was less than ideal for moving my character at full speed and I just found the Fling to be a hinderance.
Avatar HD: The Fling was pretty decent for playing Avatar, with the game being from an over-the-shoulder 3D perspective. While I did not feel the game was improved in any way, the Fling at least did not seem to hamper my enjoyment of the game as with other titles.
Hero of Sparta 2 HD: Starting off, the Fling was honestly great for playing this game, and as I rushed through the first stage of the game I only wished that it had some type of rubber coating to provide a better grip on the stick. But as I engaged the Serpent in combat, things quickly fell to pieces. I began tapping skulls for a focus kill, only to find that the skulls would sometimes appear beneath the Fling’s coil where they were difficult — and sometimes impossible — to reach, leading to my death. That’s a deal-breaker.
My best experience with the Fling was also my last, that being N.O.V.A. HD. Of all the games I tested, N.O.V.A. HD was the only title for which the Fling felt truly appropriate and fully enjoyable to use.
I may continue to experiment with the Fling in coming days, but my impression at this point is that the Fling Game Controller is a curiosity and an interesting conceptual piece, but nothing more. While it worked out pretty well with N.O.V.A. HD, it did not prove itself to be a necessity and in most titles actually became a hinderance to my enjoyment of the game. At this point, I cannot think of a single game that I would rather play with the Fling than without, and I say with confidence that my two Fling Game Controllers will be spending the bulk of their time in that cloth pouch they came with.
The Fling Game Controller may be order from the Ten One Design website, $19.95 for one or $29.95 for a set of two.
Have you got a Fling? Share your thoughts, and tell us what games you think it works particularly well or not at all with in the comments.
Time Management games seem to be the perfect genre for the iOS platform. Different of course from their Tycoon cousins, time management games lend to a little at a time gameplay. Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery by 10tons, Ltd is exactly one of those time management games that has you hooked from the get-go. In a typical “just one more level” fashion, you quickly find yourself devoting several hours into the game before coming up for air.
In the highly anticipated sequel to Miriel the Magical Merchant, you are again tasked by grandma to watch the shop. But this time there are answers to be found. What is the mystery behind the artifact shaped like an egg? What clues can anyone provide? In a search for answers, Miriel must go on a quest to different towns to help mind the shop while the owners help search for answers. This quest system separates Miriel’s Enchanged Mystery from other Time Management games that simply change around the “Dash” mechanics and story lines. As a twist to the overworked formula, the goal of some levels is collecting items from patrons as opposed to always collecting coins. The variety works very well as you are suddenly determined to trudge onward, not just for yourself but for Miriel and Grandma.
Gameplay: Of course the touch mechanics are similar to its predecessor and the tasks seem the same, but somehow they seem very fresh and different. Each town has a specialty item that you must unlock from the traveling merchant to offer your wide range of customers. Combinations of items and the line up of items for the rack is a strategic undertaking. Take too long and you will not be able to use your magic. Upgrade your equipment for optimal serve times, and set out your tasks in advance for best results. Serve your customers quickly enough to be able to use your magic which helps you beat each level optimally. Collect combos for more coins and more reward. Satisfy each customer quickly so a new one has a space at the counter giving you more opportunity to reach the expert goal in each level.
Story and quest system: The game has a story that actually sucks you in, teasing you with bits and pieces as you go along, stringing you along to the finish of a heck of a lot of levels. Collecting items from customers instead of coin is a nice change. Having a chance to upgrade the equipment and Miriel’s abilities adds to the game for those inevitable hectic times where there is a mad rush of customers. Because the game is based on a story, there is no straight line to follow and Miriel bounces back and forth from place to place on an expansive map making gameplay fresh and fun.
Can’t replay levels: Ok so I am a perfectionist when it comes to these games and maybe in this case I need to let it go, but I find it annoying that if I merely complete a level without the expert goal satisfied, I can’t replay it to try again. I am used to following a path of levels and gold starring each one but in this case I can’t – because I am not allowed to. Miriel goes from town to town, satisfies the shopkeepers to gather her clues, but I am left a little empty when I am one point away from the expert score.
Frenetic gameplay: There are times where there is a rush of customers and poor Miriel is expected to balance 5 items at once, make different combinations and recipes, get the cheese and frostberries ready for sale etc but sometimes the touch screen just doesn’t register an action and you find yourself short one bag of flour, or one loaf of bread. Maybe I tap too quickly, maybe I miss the mark in my frenzy, but perhaps the touch mechanic is not as sensitive as it should be.
Hidden Object Mini Game: The items are too tiny and actually looking for the pieces of them is an exercise in futility. Thankfully there is no penalty for random tapping so in order to get through what to me became, a minor nuisance to pass before I could continue with the game, I just tapped the heck out of the screen until I passed the level. Unfortunately I have no idea what it was I was looking for or what it was I found.
So Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery by 10tons, Ltd arrives on the appstore as a sequel to Miriel the Magical Merchant without much of a change in mechanics but the addition of quest driven gameplay and the hunt for clues to figure out what exactly this artifact means. Thankfully all the real world recipes are available to unlock in case you have a hankering to make your own “Tasty Strawberry Soup.” Lots of Lifetime Achievements are calculated and there are several Awards to unlock in game. Game Center would add a new dimension to the game and you could share your achievements with friends but alas, there is no social network available.
If you are love Time Management games and are looking for something a little different than the usual, give Miriel a whirl. Collecting magical harps and dying cloth has never been so fun! But if you are new to the genre, start with Miriel the Magical Merchant for a solid time management title that pushes the limits of the genre to new directions.
Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery by 10tons, Ltd is available on the AppStore for $2.99. Version 1.0 and 1.0.1 were tested on both a 2g and 4g iPod Touch with iOS 4.1. (as a side note, 1.0.1 was released to remedy the “retry level bug” but I still can not find a way to replay a level as I mentioned above) An iPad HD version is available for $4.99.