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Titan Quest review (iOS / Universal)

May 19, 2016

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It’s here, at last – Titan Quest for iOS. Ten years after it was released on PC, here is one of the many action RPGs that followed in Diablo’s huge, fiery footsteps, but this one managed to convince many players that it was actually a better game. I have been playing it on iPhone 6 and iPad Air, and it has done a fair bit more than just bring back a few fond memories of an old PC game.

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For the purposes of this review, and keeping it fairly short, I’ve decided not to go into detail about the game content, classes, loot, skill trees, in fact pretty much everything that has been exhaustively covered all over the internet since 2006. I’ll focus on how the game plays on mobile devices (large and small), and what sort of a job DotEmu have done with transferring a fairly complex mouse & keyboard control system to a touch-screen interface.

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Before you ask, all the images in this review were taken by me on while I was playing Titan Quest on either an iPhone 6 or iPad Air. Click on any of them to view the full size image.

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First of all, the touch screen interface for the main game is extremely good. It is abundantly clear that a huge amount of thought, consideration, and play-testing has gone into this. Looking at the end result, I would bet that DotEmu tried various types of control interface before arriving at the final version. It is just very, very good. Personally, I would have provided an option to use relative touch on the left side of the screen instead of the d-pad, but that’s just because I always want a relative touch option.

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Moving your character around is easy, responsive, and never really feels any more awkward than it did with the mouse on PC. If anything, this kind of direct movement control will feel more natural for many players. Assigning skills to the hotkey buttons is straightforward and allows you to put skills wherever you want, within the limitations of the button positions. I haven’t had any problem triggering attacks or spells, so I’m completely happy with how they have set this up.

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There are a few minor issues with the control interface, but nothing anywhere near game-breaking. In NPC conversations, I found I had to move away and click the ‘talk’ icon again in order to get the follow-up part of a conversation or trigger a quest completion after the initial ‘well done’ chat. Once you’re aware of it, it isn’t an issue but it isn’t ideal. In fights where loot is dropping all over the place (which is a lot of the time) I sometimes found that my character was going into ‘collect loot’ mode instead of ‘hit things with a big sword’ mode. Again, once you’re aware of it, you can take steps to avoid it, but it will still occasionally occur and it can be slightly irritating if you don’t realise it’s happening during a tough scrap.

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Inventory management on the iPad screen is fine. I encountered various issues on the smaller iPhone 6 screen, particularly when trying to select and move single-block items (e.g. rings, amulets, potions and power-up components). Text also appears very small on the iPhone screen, with the game having a rather more fiddly overall feel than on the iPad, where it absolutely shines as a remarkable touch-screen achievement.

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In addition to the wonderful job of creating a clear, attractive, and very responsive new control interface for the game, there is also a clever feature for spell/skill use which replaces the original point-and-key-click with a drag-to-target mechanism. Whenever you tap and hold a spell icon, the action slows down into a kind of bullet-time mode while you drag your fireball spell or whatever to its target. Once you release, the action speeds back up to normal again, with an appropriate sound cue, and the spell hurtles to its destination. Very slick, very useful, and – most of the time – it works absolutely perfectly.

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Briefly, for anyone who hasn’t played Titan Quest (or Grim Dawn on PC/Steam, which is TQ’s darker, faster, and more thematically modern offspring) you run around slaughtering hordes of enemies, level up, collect loot, and repeat for dozens of enjoyable, carnage-strewn hours. At level 2 you select your first mastery (one of eight different classes), each with its own set of skills that can be unlocked and assembled into your own unique skill/spell choice as you progress. At level 8 (it’s 10 in Grim Dawn but you get there a little quicker in that game) you have the option to choose a second mastery (class) from the remaining seven classes, but it is entirely up to you whether you do that or stick with your single original class. Most players will opt to fill out there skills with some different ones from a second class, but that’s the sheer beauty of this game – it is entirely up to you.

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To summarise, Titan Quest is a classic PC action RPG that has been ported to iOS devices with an excellent touch-screen interface, with all the original game features and content included, and no in-app-purchases at all. It’s slightly disappointing that the Immortal Throne expansion isn’t included because it addressed several gameplay issues with Titan Quest and enhanced the overall experience. Despite that minor gripe, this is still a great game and it is certainly a brilliant touch screen port.

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The shopkeeper wants you to buy this game. I think you should.

Arcadelife rating

Presentation – 9.5/10
Visuals – 9/10
Controls – 9/10
Content – 9/10
Fun – 8.5/10
Final rating – 9/10

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0.0
iTunes link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPhone 6
iPad Air

This review was typed on a Das Keyboard Model S mechanical keyboard – check them out, they’re really rather groovy.

I also write novels. Find out more: jwtapper.co.uk

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Titan Quest iOS – Dev Diary 2

May 13, 2016

This has just been added on YouTube.

I played the hell out of Titan Quest on PC. The touch interface looks absolutely brilliant – great job, DotEmu. Now I just can’t wait to play this all over again on iPad, ten years after it was first released.

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Aliens vs. Pinball review (iOS / Universal)

April 27, 2016

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The first two Alien movies are easily in my top 10 favourites of all time, probably top 5 if I ever bothered to give the list any serious thought. AVP and the other sequels, well, not so much. The three tables in Aliens vs. Pinball are very good. The Aliens table is my favourite, and it also seems to be the most forgiving after a few games on each.

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It’s worth playing these tables while wearing headphones because a lot of effort has been put into the audio. The ambient sound effects are extremely atmospheric, and there are plenty of samples from the movies (and the game on the Alien Isolation table). A few of the Aliens samples did make me smile, because they were not the same ones that have been worn out through years of overuse, although the predictability of Hudson’s ‘Game Over’ line almost made it feel like a lazy inclusion. Note – almost, because it is a true classic, right up there with ‘I’ll be back’ in my opinion, and I would have been shocked if it had been left out.

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The AVP table is arguably more fun than the film. I can’t rate the Isolation table against the original game because I haven’t played Alien Isolation. I know I should have, but I’ve had to really cut down on gaming (and posting on Arcadelife, which you probably noticed) as I am using the majority of my free time for writing novels.

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Overall, Aliens vs. Pinball is a great addition to the already substantial mountain of Alien games, movies and other media. I didn’t hesitate in paying for the full unlock (less than five quid) and I am having a good time with all three tables.

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Arcadelife rating

Presentation – 9.5/10
Visuals – 9/10
Controls – 10/10
Content – 9/10
Fun – 9/10
Final rating – 9/10

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0
iTunes link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPhone 6
4th gen iPad

This review was typed on a Das Keyboard Model S mechanical keyboard – check them out, they’re really rather groovy.

I also write novels. Find out more: jwtapper.co.uk

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Crimzon Clover – On sale, must buy!

November 25, 2015

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Steam link: http://store.steampowered.com/app/285440/

Crimzon Clover is a highly rated, critically acclaimed bullet hell shooter. It looks great and it plays even better than it looks. It’s currently on sale for £1.74 on the Steam store. I suggest that you go and buy it right now.

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Steam Store blurb…
Prepare yourself for an insatiable rain of bullets, bombs, and beams in Crimzon Clover. From Japanese indie developer Yotsubane, this retro top-down shooter is a wild ride you won’t want to miss out on.
User reviews: Overwhelmingly Positive (584 reviews)
Release Date: 6 Jun, 2014

 

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PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist review (iOS / Universal)

September 28, 2015

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10 word description: Retro style 2D action platformer. Bosses, unlockables, humour, No IAPs.

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10 word review: The most essential ‘for gamers – by gamers‘ iOS release this year.

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You will like this if you enjoy: Platform games. Hard platform games. Platform games with some side-scrolling shooter levels. Parodious style gaming humour. Retro 16-bit graphics. Flatulent dogs.

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The good news: Controls, visuals, effects, level design, fun… it’s all here, all good, and it all works well together. Add in three difficulty levels, loads of unlockable stuff (characters, power-ups), no IAPS, and cloud-syncing, and you have one of the best platform/action games on iOS. 

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The bad news: The only problem I have with this game is understanding why some gamers are refusing to play a really good game because they don’t like the extremely popular YouTube gamer PewDiePie. Whatever next, refusing to play Call of Duty because you don’t like war? Hang on…

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Arcadelife verdict: This is a great game.

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Arcadelife rating

Presentation – 9/10
Visuals – 9/10
Controls – 9/5/10
Content – 8.5/10
Fun – 8.5/10
Final rating – 9/10

GREAT

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0.0
iTunes link

Outerminds website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPhone 6 (iOS 9.0.1)
4th gen iPad (iOS 8.4)
This review was typed on a Das Keyboard Model S mechanical keyboard – check them out, they’re really rather groovy.
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This War of Mine review (iPad)

July 20, 2015

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10 word description: Party-based real-time war-themed survival game. Scavenge. Craft.

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10 word review: Depressingly realistic. Think: The Sims – Holocaust Edition. Great PC port.

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You will like this if you enjoy: Base-defence games. Stealth games. Party-based RPGs. Realistic war games. Helplessly watching your friends starve to death and then hanging yourself as a final, desperate attempt to escape the appalling horrors of war.

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The good news: Utterly engrossing. Thought-provoking in ways few other games can ever be. Visuals are suitably colourless and depressing. Decisions feel heavy, and frequently go horribly wrong. This is a game you will remember long after you finally give up and go back to far more lightweight and entertaining distractions. No IAPs. Very good touch-control system, particularly for a port of a PC game.

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The bad news: It’s really grim, relentlessly downbeat, not exactly a casual mobile game. Autosave only occurs at the start of each day, meaning that you have to complete a full day/night cycle or you will lose all progress since the start of the current day; not a perfect system for a mobile game.

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Arcadelife verdict: This is about as far as you want to go, where divisive games are concerned. I can’t imagine anyone feeling indifference after playing this. You’re either going to be entranced by the brutal, harsh, and relentlessly sad gameplay or you’re going to dislike it intensely and drop it like a burnt, severed limb.

Where some other survival games give you the promise of looting and levelling your way to a point where you can stride around the post-apocalyptic wasteland in a mech suit, dispensing your own brand of justice with a plasma mini-gun, “This War of Mine” challenges you to find enough bits of wood to block the holes in your wrecked home to hopefully prevent armed looters stealing your food and hurting your friends. And you’re probably going to fail. One thing is for certain: you’re never going to laugh.

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It’s a different kind of game, a different way of thinking. There’s no humour, no parodying, no cute pets or collectables, just sickness, hunger, lack of sleep and the constant threat of losing everything. Victories are small and relatively meaningless: you have a good night scavenging and come home with a bandage and some empty shell cases, or maybe you manage to make a stove and cook enough food that two out of your three survivors are less hungry for a day.

If you’re after a hard game, a hardcore game, a challenge to your morality as much as your gaming prowess, this is what you need to be playing.

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Arcadelife rating

Presentation – 9/10
Visuals – 8.5/10
Controls – 9/10
Content – 9/10
Fun – Not applicable
Final rating – 8.5/10

GREY

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.2

iTunes link

This War of Mine website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPad (iOS 8.3)
This review was typed on a Das Keyboard Model S mechanical keyboard – check them out, they’re really rather groovy.
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Xenowerk review (iOS / Universal)

June 23, 2015

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10 word description: Alien-blasting twin-stick shooter. 50 levels. Lots of guns.

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10 word review: Great looking and cathartic, but repetitive and way too easy. 

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You will like this if you enjoy: High-score chasing blast-fests. Killing aliens. A top-down Dead Space without the story, variety or challenge.

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The good news: Presentation is top-tier. Visuals, sounds and effects create a great atmosphere. Controls are reliable, responsive, and can be customised. Loads of impressive weapons. The IAPs are purely there for the terminally impatient weapon-shoppers – there is absolutely no need to spend more money on this game in order to play it and enjoy it.

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The bad news: Challenge is completely unbalanced in the player’s favour, which I’ll explain in the verdict section. Gameplay is repetitive, despite cosmetic attempts to make it seem like it isn’t. Missed opportunity for massive boss fights.

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Arcadelife verdict: I like Xenowerk, but I also loved Space Invaders, Asteroids, and Smash TV. Xenowerk feels very much like the most recent version of Alien Breed, or an isometric Dead Space with the same lived-in space station vibe and darkly amusing messages and warnings scrawled on the walls by former inhabitants.

The first few levels introduce a game that could be the perfect touch-screen sci-fi shooter. There are weird, shambling organic aliens, a decent pair of starter weapons, a very helpful map, and a great, if not altogether original atmosphere. “Cool,” you think, as you back away from a lumbering blobby monstrosity, seeing it quivering under your concentrated fire before bursting apart in a shower of green alien guts.

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A few more levels further in, and you begin to suspect that you have seen everything that Xenowork has to offer. Corridors, aliens, explosions, terminals to tap, and an elevator to reach to end the level. And that’s pretty much it. It’s fun, and tugs compulsively in a way that the old-school shoot-everything-that-moves arcade games did, but it is very simple and very repetitive. It’s also extremely easy, which isn’t blindingly apparent during the first few levels.

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The main problem, as far as I can figure out, is caused by the fact that the weapons and armour can be bought at any time, in any order, if you have enough cash. The cash comes in quickly enough that you can buy a game-changing super-weapon by the time you have played most of the way through the first set of ten levels. Up to that point, the starter weapons and armour are more than adequate. Once I had bought what I like to call “The Gun That Makes This Game Too Easy” (purely because I liked the look of it), it didn’t take long to earn enough cash to go straight from the starter armour to the best armour in the game. Completing levels became a sequence of risk-free speed-runs, which is arguably what the high-score chasing is all about. I know I could have stuck with weaker weapons and armour, but the player shouldn’t have to gimp his own gear in order to keep the game challenging – that’s the job of the game developers and testers. If the available weapons were restricted based on level progres, that would go a long way towards fixing the balance issue.

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Ultimately, Xenowerk is an addictive, flashy looking shooter with a couple of gameplay flaws that are not critical or impossible to resolve. Blasting corridors full of slimy alien blobs is a lot of fun. If you enjoy doing it with overpowered weapons in what feels like a cheat-mode then this may just be the game you’ve been waiting for.

Arcadelife rating

Presentation – 9.5/10
Visuals – 9/10
Controls – 9/10
Content – 7/10
Fun – 8/10
Final rating – 8/10

GAME OVER, MAN

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.2.1
iTunes link

Pixelbite website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPad (iOS 8.3)
This review was typed on a Das Keyboard Model S mechanical keyboard – check them out, they’re really rather groovy.
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