Archive for August, 2011

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Sprinkle review (iOS / Universal)

August 31, 2011

“The whole world is blazing,
We need water, wow yeah good water”

10 word description: Water cannon physics puzzler. Extinguish fires using limited water resource.

You control the fire-fighting device on the left

10 word review: Original, attractive, very entertaining. Great water physics and level design.

The water jet can be used to interact with other objects as well as to extinguish fires

You will like this if you enjoy: Action-based physics puzzlers. Games where an impressive physics effect (the water in this case) is an integral part of the gameplay.

Here's a simple physics puzzle. The boulder has to be used to press the button to open the door...

The good news: Originality, graphics, excellent water physics, clever fire-extinguishing gameplay, smooth framerate, Universal app.

... allowing you to spray water through to the fire on the other side

The bad news: Prior to the most recent update, later levels required perfect completion of earlier levels in order to be unlocked, or an In-App-Purchase. This would have been bad news, however the IAP has now been removed and level unlock requirements have been reduced. Thanks!

Obstructions can be cleared with a well-aimed jet

Arcadelife verdict: This is a great game that shows there’s still plenty of scope for innovation in the fairly tired old genre of physics puzzlers and the screenshots really don’t do the splashy water effects any justice.

Directing a strong jet down a narrow fissure can result in a rather satisfying fountain

Arcadelife rating: 89/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.1
iTunes link

Sprinkle website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 4.3.5)
iPad (OS 4.3.5)
Update details:

What’s New In Version 1.1

* Supporting both landscape screen orientations.
* Due to popular demand the full set of levels is now available without needing to get full score on previous levels.
* In App removed – For those of you who already purchased the extra levels, you will be compensated by getting exclusive early access to future level packs, free of charge!

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Dust Those Bunnies! review (iPod/iPhone & XL on iPad)

August 30, 2011

“I could feel my eyes turning into dust
Into strangers, turning into dust”

10 word description: Sweep enemy dust-bunnies into the dustpan before it’s too late.

Thrilling concept? No, it really isn't.

10 word review: Triumph of style over content. For fanatical screen swipers only.

You will like this if you enjoy: Stylish casual games. Slowly swiping your finger up your iPhone/iPod screen.

The good news: Great style; scratchy black and white pre-war film-reel quality maintained throughout. Interface and back-story is consistent with the vintage theme.

The bad news: Incredibly simplistic “slowly brush dust-bunnies into dustpan” gameplay sounds like the winning entrant in a contest to create the least exciting game concept ever. In practice it isn’t vastly different from what you’d expect after reading the description. The game often ends with you losing due to factors that you were blissfully unaware of as visual feedback is limited and, for most of the game, your finger covers the objects that you are brushing into the pan. There’s no tension, no feeling of impending doom, just a ‘game over’ message that pops up unexpectedly, leaving you feeling slightly bemused.

If you're considering creating a videogame, try asking a few random people what they think of your idea before spending months of your life turning it into a product that you intend to market to a potential global audience. Just a suggestion

Arcadelife verdict: It’s obvious that a ton of effort has been put into the style, graphics and interface but the shortcomings of the game are even more apparent because of this. If it had generic doodle graphics and no attempt at any kind of visual polish then the weak gameplay wouldn’t stand out quite so prominently. As it is, it’s like watching a random episode of a burned-out soap opera that has mistakenly been given a £20 million CGI title sequence and special effects but has retained the original script, cast and director.

Arcadelife rating: 34/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0
iTunes link

Dust Those Bunnies website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 4.3.5)
iPad (OS 4.3.5)
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Volcano Island HD review (iPad)

August 29, 2011

“I am sinking, So I trick myself, Like everybody else”

10 word description: Turn-based; rescue inhabitants from sinking islands. Evade sharks, octopuses.

10 word review: Great turn-based variant. Amusing scenario disguises a tough challenge.

Another octopus! Oh great, that's all I need

You will like this if you enjoy: Turn-based strategy games, puzzle games involving planning and a bit of luck rather than logical or physical puzzles with a linear solution, games featuring marauding sharks and giant octopuses.

The good news: It’s genuinely different from pretty much any other iOS game I’ve played, and not just being different for the sake of it. It looks quite pretty, particularly for a hex-based game. The game is simple to learn but provides a big challenge almost immediately. It’s definitely fun.

Information on how to play is plentiful

The bad news: Hopefully I’m wrong about this, but I think the odd combination of cartoon octopuses and hex-based gameplay will turn people away from this. Hardcore TBS fans, who I’m sure would enjoy this, won’t see the cartoon marine life as serious enough. Casual gamers looking for their next cartoon octopus game could be put off by the turn-based nature of this one.

Don't be put off by the hex-based gameplay. It's fun, honest

Arcadelife verdict: It’s a good game and I’m enjoying playing it, despite the fact that it almost completely destroys me on every attempt. I’ve completed the first island a couple of times (go on, laugh!) but the success never lasts. If you’re worried, after looking at the screens, that this game is somehow lightweight or will not present an adequate challenge for your finely honed gaming skills, step up and let the cheerful cartoon octopuses rip your feeble strategies to pieces.

Arcadelife rating: 81/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.2
iTunes link

Volcano Island website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPad (OS 4.3.5)
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Avadon: The Black Fortress HD review (iPad)

August 27, 2011

“You’ll die as you lived, in a flash of the blade”

10 word description: Deep, old-school fantasy role-playing game. 40+ hours gameplay.

I know it's only an intro screen, but I like it

10 word review: Superb RPG. Best on iPad? If not, then it’s close!

You start alone. Predictably, I chose the cutest looking character

You will like this if you enjoy: Huge, serious RPGs. Other iOS games such as Companions, Battle for Wesnoth, Highborn.

Detailed inventory, party roster, mini-map... there's a ton of stuff here to get excited about. My problem is that I still sound sarcastic even when I'm genuinely enthusiastic about a game! Sorry.

The good news: It’s big, detailed, very well designed, an excellent port of a PC game, looks good, plays really well, has a virtually flawless interface, seamlessly integrates turn-based combat with real-time exploration, and gives iPad RPG fans pretty much exactly what they’ve been looking for.

Character development is highly customisable... as you can see

The bad news: Your life’s pretty much over once you start playing. All those other iPad games you used to play… forgotten. For quite a long time.

During a fight, you have access to a menu for selecting active offensive and defensive skills

Arcadelife verdict: Wildly generalising here, but I’d speculate that the average casual Angry Birds player would choke on their caramel macchiato just looking at the instructions menu for this game. It’s not going to be for everyone; that’s OK, I understand, nothing is. However, for anyone who has been longing for a serious, dare I say “hardcore”, RPG on their iPad, well, here you go. Buy this one and see how deep and involving iPad gaming can actually be.

Each entry on the left has its own page(s) of text that display on the right. Nobody is pretending this is a simple game

Despite a long history spending countless hours on games like Baldur’s Gate (PC), I still wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about playing something like this on my iPad. It’s therefore  interesting (particularly if you’re thinking about buying the game) that playing it on a touch screen doesn’t feel strange in the slightest. In fact, if I hadn’t known in advance that it was a port of a PC game, I would have happily accepted that it had been specifically designed from scratch for a touch interface. Admittedly, the numbered dialogue responses and floppy disk save/load icon kind of give it away, but even these details could be dismissed as deliberate “old school” charm.

Arcadelife rating: 94/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0.1
iTunes link

Spiderweb Software / Avadon website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPad (OS 4.3.4 & 4.3.5)
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SplitApple review (iOS / Universal)

August 26, 2011

“This target’s hit, and i’m settling scores”

10 word description: 3D Archery / target range. Multiple modes, moving targets, varying wind.

It's gorgeous, it's 3D, it has awesome physics. It's an archery target.

10 word review: Graphically splendid, quite difficult, reminiscent of a Wii archery game.

That's you, in your back yard. With Ted Nugent's bow and arrows.

You will like this if you enjoy: Target shooting games, specifically archery games. Graphically impressive games.

Take aim and focus ... aim slightly high to allow for the distance...

The good news: It looks quite stunning; that’s the first thing I thought when I played it. The modes are all worth playing and are offer different challenges. The kinetic effect when an arrow hits a target is one of the most convincingly solid and realistic physical impacts of this type that I have seen in a videogame on any device. The controls, while forming a large part of the game’s challenge, make sense and work admirably considering the limitations of representing archery on a touch screen. It’s hard to see how they could have done it any better.

... and that's not bad. Now try it with a bit more cross-wind

The bad news: The whole game is set in the same location from the same viewpoint/shooting position. It’s a very pretty location, admittedly, but it’s still just one. Also, there is only one bow, which is kind of a missed opportunity. I’d like to see a few more bows to choose from, maybe a very simple “stick and string” type bow and something ultra-technical with laser sighting or some other modification. These different bows could be part of a difficulty setting, or added as unlockables.

Or just make it a moving target and stick a great big wooden board in the way!

While I’m having ideas, how about a set of much shorter challenge levels, bronze/silver/gold rated, where you get rated according to score, arrows used, time taken, etc.? The current challenge mode takes quite a long time to complete (for a casual archery game).

One last bad point – scores are only saved (in-game) if you are online. This seems a bit daft for a single-player game and I would really like to see it changed to always record your score.

Don't worry... play offline and you will never be reminded how bad that score was

Arcadelife verdict: This game is similar to Flick Golf – gorgeously rendered setting(s) and a fairly simple target shooting game, albeit a very polished and impressive target shooting game. The overall feeling I have of it was backed up by the reaction of a friend when I let him try it out: Initial awe (at the graphical splendour) and then a slightly anticlimactic sense of “Is that it?” when the full game turns out to be target shooting in a single setting.

I love it when games hand you that final review screenshot on a plate. Thank you!

I don’t have any real criticism of the graphics (which really are very good), controls, archery realism, target physics, interface … the components of the game are generally way beyond satisfactory. The problem I have is that the polish of the game promises more than the current content seems to deliver. Would I have any criticism at all if this game had more locations (or at least some different viewpoints), a few unlockable bows and a set of short mini-challenge levels? Probably not.

Arcadelife rating: 77/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.3
iTunes link

MKO Games website link
SplitApple on Facebook

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 4.3.5)
iPad (OS 4.3.5)
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Rogue Sky HD review (iPad)

August 25, 2011

“Dark clouds are hanging all around me
These dark clouds are hanging all around”

10 word description: Arcade flying game; navigate cloud-filled skies; hand drawn environments.

10 word review: Good looking, smooth controlling, relaxing yet challenging balloon-flight experience.

You will like this if you enjoy: Lunar Lander / Thrust style games, with some shooting and fairly forgiving controls. Thoughtful shooters with more emphasis on negotiating tricky levels.

The good news: Lovely hand-drawn graphics, amusingly evil looking player character (kind of a Halloween pumpkin hot air balloon), responsive and instantly intuitive controls, good level design, nice effects, fun and challenging gameplay. Unlockable characters with different strengths/weaknesses for tactical choices on later levels.

The bad news: As usual, I’d ask why we need on-screen buttons for basic left/right movement? Why not just have the screen sides as the controls instead of on-screen buttons? Come on, at least add this as an option, or have the buttons fade away after a few seconds. Ok, I know that other buttons become necessary later in the game, so maybe a total lack of buttons won’t quite work in this case.

Arcadelife verdict: This is a fairly unusual game, sharing some obvious elements with other games yet still looking and feeling very fresh. That in itself is an achievement on iOS devices, but this game is also immensely playable and a good deal of fun. There are many features that stand out for me; the player character, environment design, the arc of your shots as you lob them towards an enemy, lightning crackling from dark thunderclouds…

Overall it’s a cool and polished package, one of the better games I’ve played recently.

Arcadelife rating: 89/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0.1
iTunes link

Chillingo / Rogue Sky website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPad (OS 4.3.5)
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Galaxy Express review (iOS / Universal)

August 24, 2011

” ’cause the galaxy is crazy,
it doesn’t amaze me”

10 word description: Space themed logic puzzler; set directional waypoints, guide spaceship home.

10 word review: Polished and challenging example from a fairly prolific iOS genre.

You will like this if you enjoy: “Course plotting” puzzle games.

The good news: The story (via comic-strip cut-scenes) is nicely integrated into the game and is also used to introduce additional puzzle elements. Graphics are clear and generally quite attractive. Puzzle elements are well developed and create a good learning curve. Progress is fairly rapid and there is enough variation to keep you playing through the considerably large number of levels.

At this point, I was less than a tenth of the way through the 100+ levels

The bad news: There’s a slight issue with the arrow placement that I am assured is being addressed in a future update. The item is always placed in the square directly below the one where you would logically assume it would go. Once you’re aware of this it doesn’t cause major problems, however a fix would be much appreciated as it would improve the overall experience.

The introduction of moving enemies tends to turn what you have already learned on its head

Arcadelife verdict: I’ve played quite a few of these “course plotting” games recently – forgive me if I haven’t learned the correct term to describe the genre – and this one tends to stand out as one of the more fun ones. The cut-scene characters and dialogue are amusing, which adds some much needed humour to what could essentially degenerate into a series of rather perfunctory item-placing exercises.

Overall, it’s an enjoyable puzzle game with a degree of polish and an admirable sense of fun. Good luck out there.

Arcadelife rating: 79/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.2.2
iTunes link

Arctic Empire / Galaxy Express website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 4.3.5)
iPad (OS 4.3.5)
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Conan: Tower of the Elephant review (iOS/Universal)

August 23, 2011

“Master swordsman of Hyborian Age
His name is legend to this very day”

10 word description: Action adventure. Explore world, defeat enemies, find treasure. 50 quests.

10 word review: Rather rough, occasionally buggy, lightweight combat, yet still quite entertaining.

Because that game is called Nebulus and you are not in it

You will like this if you enjoy: Dungeon Hunter, action RPGs, anything to do with Conan.

Conan receives the Copper Pipe - a special award for killing the same thief in the same back alley 25 thousand times

The good news: Simple, fairly intuitive gameplay. Clear, albeit unremarkable graphics. Fairly easy, plenty of health pick-ups in loot and barrels. Nice graphic novel (cartoon) style cut-scenes.

The inventory is largely pointless, at least as far as I could tell. Unless you feel like glitching your way to a full bag of health potions

The bad news: A general feeling that it hasn’t been extensively tested. Quests and dialogue/messages sometimes repeat after they should have been completed or have since been superseded by in-game events. For example, the “talk to someone, then open a chest” tutorial quest can be repeatedly taken and the quest item (a health potion) can be earned a potentially infinite number of times. The game occasionally crashes during transition from one area to another, or when something significant occurs, such as a quest objective being completed. NPCs can glitch when trying to go through a doorway and get stuck. Enemies respawn rather quickly, leading to Groundhog Day style journeys through the city. Merchants, instead of stocking a range of gear, have a very simple “Do you want to upgrade, Yes/No” option.

Another brawl breaks out in the slums

Arcadelife verdict: This game is a bit of a paradox. The game engine, while reminiscent of a PS1 title, is perfectly acceptable for a game like this. The cut-scenes are not bad and the menus and interface are fairly polished. However, there are too many bugs, glitches, crashes and over-simplified game elements. It just feels unfinished, or hastily finished. Sometimes an arrow will point to a quest objective, sometimes it won’t. You often have to jiggle Conan around in front of an NPC in order to get the speech bubble icon to appear, and the same criticism applies to any kind of object interaction. Combat feels insubstantial as there are no indications that your blows are even hitting your opponent until he falls over.

The map is a bit messy and only occasionally useful

And yet, despite all that, I do want to keep playing. It’s a shame whenever a potentially great game gets let down by a bunch of minor issues that could be easily sorted out. Conan is a classic character, a perfect action RPG candidate. Please don’t leave him to flounder about in a buggy, unpolished game.

My recommendation for anyone considering improving this game – take a few tips from the best unofficial Conan game: Barbarian, which absolutely nailed Conan style sword-fighting. Then build the rest of the game up from that. Sure, your age rating will rocket, but so will your game’s popularity.

The Prince of Thieves is just ... ever so slightly camp

Arcadelife rating: 58/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.1
iTunes link

Chillingo / Conan website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 4.3.5)
iPad (OS 4.3.5)
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Blast Zone Mega review (iPod/iPhone)

August 22, 2011

“The sirens make you shiver,
You bet my aim is true”

Deliberately minimalist title screen adds a hint of innocent ambiguity to the carnage to follow, and reminds us of the good old days of the NES

10 word description: Guide falling bombs to destroy city targets for high scores.

You are left in no doubt as to where this game takes place

10 word review: Morally questionable, great fun and very challenging, world-destruction fantasy.

Your bomb is deployed automatically by a mysterious black drone plane, effectively absolving you of all guilt

You will like this if you enjoy: The idea of playing the bad guy in a top down version of missile command. Slim Pickens’ bomb ride from Dr Strangelove. *

In order to destroy all targets, you will need to power up your bomb by successfully passing through a series of red rings

The good news: A great concept that doesn’t follow any particular iOS gaming trend. Nice retro style with some genuinely evil looking bombs. It feels good being bad; there’s immense satisfaction to be had when fully powering up a bomb and hitting the centre of the target zone. The challenge increases considerably as you progress, and holds your interest.

A successful strike results in a perfectly circular firestorm that destroys any target within its radius

The bad news: The game becomes a bit too difficult too soon, although that’s arguably not a bad point. Bombing cities, even anonymous 8-bit cities, might be a bit too grimly realistic for some.

If your falling bomb hits a plane it will explode harmlessly in mid-air. Well, harmlessly apart from the hapless passengers of the plane, of course

Arcadelife verdict: Overall, this is a refreshing variation on the theme of blowing stuff up. The fairly realistic setting, weapons and destruction are fascinating because they highlight why many successful games feature silly looking zombies, cartoon animals and bumbling, flightless birds – most people, particularly casual gamers and normal people, need some kind of light-hearted escape from reality in their games. The rest of us - angry loners harbouring dark world-destruction fantasies – will get a big, disturbing kick from the smouldering blast-radius circles and the fact that we caused them.

The extermination of countless lives is richly rewarded

Arcadelife rating: 80/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.1
iTunes link

Blast Zone Mega website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 4.3.5)
* – Just because you don’t know what I’m talking about doesn’t automatically mean that “it sucks”.
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Word Ball review (iPod/iPhone)

August 21, 2011

“C’mon baby tell me, what’s the word?
Word Up!”

10 word description: Create words using available letters. Multiple modes, Game Center, Retina.

10 word review: Simple, fun and addictive word game. Moving letters increase challenge. 

Resist the temptation to always start with the same word...

You will like this if you enjoy: Word games! No, seriously. I’m not going to link any specific ones here because there are loads available.

It really isn't as complicated as it looks

The good news: It’s simple, very cleanly presented and the gameplay is very good. It’s borderline educational, in the same way as fiddling about with anagrams. 

It's like playing scrabble, against the clock, on your own, without a scrabble board ...

The bad news: Anything with an online leaderboard invites cheating from those who feel insecure enough to need that kind of ego-bolstering. All you need is the pause button and a free online anagram solver and you too can be the best player in the world. Just don’t. 

Don't think about spamming the same 3 letter words - you can't

Arcadelife verdict: Good game. Play it the way it’s meant to be played and don’t get hung up on beating the world, because you won’t. Unless you’re the person who is currently top of the leaderboard, in which case – congratulations on finding the pause button.

Arcadelife rating: 70/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.21
iTunes link

Continuous Integration website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 4.3.5)
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