Archive for February, 2011

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Chess: Battle of the Elements HD review (iPad)

February 28, 2011

“But it ain’t him to blame,
He’s only a pawn in their game”

All screens are from the "HD" iPad version. Click any image to view the full 1024x768 screen.

10 word description: Single/Multiplayer, 500 chess challenges, 4 board/set graphic styles.  
10 word review: For chess fans only; graphics lack definition; challenges add variety.

Text appears very jagged and 'scaled up' for an iPad game.

You will like this if you enjoy: Chess.

Choosing to play as a particular element is a purely cosmetic option.

The good news: Challenges add a lot of content for the single player. As a straightforward game of chess, the AI is more than capable of offering a good fight.

The bad news: Graphically it could do with being more “HD” than it is. Individual pieces lack detail, appearing almost blurred. I couldn’t tell the queen from the bishops at times.

Classic top-down view is easier to read when playing, which kind of defeats the object of the 3D graphics.

Arcadelife verdict: There are a lot of chess games available for the iPad. Some offer much better graphic definition on the pieces (e.g. tChess Pro), others offer online play (e.g. iChessHD), and some provide a no-frills, classic game of chess and have been around for a while (e.g. Chess Genius). It’s not unfair to mention these games because most people will compare any new chess game with what is already available before deciding what to buy. Chess: Battle of the Elements HD provides a good game of single player chess and also offers a huge amount (500) of chess challenges spread across the 4 different elements (Water, Earth, Fire & Air). Where it falls down slightly is the lack of any kind of online or 2-device multiplayer and the fact that the graphics look like scaled-up iPod graphics – text is jagged, set and board graphics are indistinct and blurry. If the graphics got a proper HD make-over and some form of online multiplayer was added, this would be a massive improvement. The core game is fine and the challenges are a great addition.  

A chess puzzle. One of the easier ones.

iTunes link for Chess: Battle of the Elements HD  

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on an iPad, running OS 4.2.1.
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Volcano Escape – review updated for 4th gen devices

February 28, 2011

In the original review of Volcano Escape I had problems with the performance and controls. I have subsequently played it on a 4th gen iPod Touch and the performance is much better; the game is smooth and fully playable without any annoying lag or stuttering, at least as far as I noticed. I’ve updated that review and I thought it was worth posting a news item to highlight the performance differences on 3rd and 4th gen devices.

Apologies, kind of, to Bravo Game Studios because the game works fine on a 4th gen device. I’d still like the controls repositioned, or be given the option to move them myself, and the performance on 3rd gen devices either needs to be addressed or a warning added to the app store description that Volcano Escape doesn’t run particularly smoothly on older devices.

Check out these screenshots on the Retina display to see how much better the game looks. (Click any image to view it at full resolution).

I like the little graphical details such as the cobwebs on the skull.

Maybe I am, but I can't blame the frame-rate for it on a 4th gen iPod!

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Lost Mummy review (iPod/iPhone/iPad)

February 27, 2011

“I’ve lost my mummy, a-ha-ha-haaaa,
I’ve lost my mummy.”

All you need to know - now save that mummy!

10 word description: Physics/platform puzzler, lost mummy, blocks, elevators, explosions. 48 levels.
10 word review: A real hidden gem. Excellent use of physics. Frequently funny. 

Bomb goes on the elevator...mummy goes on the elevator..."Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies..."

You will like this if you enjoy: Challenging physics-based platform puzzlers. And seeing a well animated ragdoll mummy getting blown half way across the screen into a wall by an explosion.

*BOOM* Shake, shake, shake the tomb!

The good news: It’s unique and entertaining. Manouvering the exploding balls in an attempt to dislodge piles of crates is fraught with danger and the endless potential for sending the poor mummy hurtling across the screen to his amusing ragdoll demise. You often feel sorry for him, he only wants to get back to his sarcophagus for a sleep after all.  

Probably not the best way to deal with this situation.

The bad news: The background graphics could legitimately be accused of being a bit brown. Like its Aniware stablemate, Brutal Labyrinth, this game could prove to be too hard for some players to really enjoy. 

A star rating system = replayability. Fact.

Arcadelife verdict: I am really glad I was asked to review this or I would probably have never seen it and therefore lost out on playing a very entertaining game. The mummy is well animated, puzzles are imaginative and often treacherous, physics is convincing and well integrated into the puzzles. The basic game mechanic of rolling the explosives, jumping on them to trigger them and then running like hell to escape the blast leads to some very challenging level designs and often amusing outcomes when it all goes wrong. Note that the latest update includes better support for retina and iPad display. Lost Mummy is a universal app.  

I'm brilliant, I know. Lost Mummy is pretty good too.

iTunes link for Lost Mummy
iTunes link for lite version

Aniware website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on 3rd and 4th gen iPods and iPad, all running OS 4.2.1.
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Crazy Bikers review (iPod/iPhone)

February 26, 2011

“Jaws was never my scene and I don’t like Star Wars”

10 word description: Freestyle bicycle racing game, 4 zones, 16 tracks, 6 playable bikers.
10 word review: Fun racing/tricks game, replayable for unlocks and stars. Entertaining.

Wow, crazy. Don't be put off by the zombie. He's the final unlockable rider.

You will like this if you enjoy: Mad Skills Motocross, Moto Mania, iTrials, BMX Bandits, ET, Queen, etc.

Fill the "Acrobatics" bar by doing tricks and you get a turbo boost for a limited amount of time, usually enough to secure 1st place if you don't fall off.

The good news: Starts quite easy, riding and doing tricks is actually great fun, characters are easy to unlock once you figure out the quick way to do it.

Tip: Grind the first race - every time you come 1st in it (or any other race) you unlock another playable rider.

The bad news: I got stuck on World 2, Track 2. You may not. I could just be really bad at that particular track.

Extreme sport mummy bike racing on ice. Jon Bon Jovi should have a go.

Arcadelife verdict: This is a fun variation on the side-scrolling bike race theme that caught my attention and kept me playing for quite a while, until I got stuck on the 6th track. The bikers look a bit like minor characters from Beavis and Butthead or King of the Hill; the tracks and backgrounds are nicely drawn in a cartoon style. The races are not overbearingly difficult; it’s fairly easy to get gold stars (for completing the tricks) and also to achieve 2nd place in order to unlock the following track. See the screenshot captions for more on how to easily unlock all the characters. Nailing the tricks is also quite easy; you won’t get frustrated trying to do double frontflips, for example, as the tracks have plenty of great drop-offs and jumps all over the place. Overall, this is well worth playing. I’ll go back and try that 6th track again soon.   

iTunes link for Crazy Bikers

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on a 3rd gen iPod, running OS 4.2.1.
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Last Stand Stan review (iPod/iPhone)

February 25, 2011

“Here am I, sitting in a tin can, far above the world”

10 word description: Space shooter; campaign & survival modes; 4 bosses; multiple weapons.  
10 word review: Solid tap-to-shoot game; great graphic style; challenging campaign.

In space, no-one can hear you whimper

You will like this if you enjoy: Making a valiant last stand against waves of alien spaceships!

The good news: Highly playable before the latest update, Stan now feels completely polished. (All screenshots in this review are from latest version – 1.1)
The bad news: The comic-book style back-story sequence needs a page-turn option as well as “skip” which takes you to the main menu. Yes, that’s pretty much all I can find to complain about.  

Although not "universal", Stan looks good at 2x on an iPad.

Arcadelife verdict: Stan rocks! If he was a Pixar character, Bruce Willis would do the voice. The basic game mechanic – tap-to-shoot from your rotating, fixed position ship – is solid and feels familiar, and a strategic depth is added by the limited, slowly replenishing ammo of the upgrade weapons. The circular weapon select menu is a great touch, negating the need for a permanent HUD. Add a host of good-looking alien ships, each with different attack methods, and some exciting boss encounters, and you have a very cool touch-screen shooter. Survival mode is a nice bonus. Game Center high scores for both modes. Achievements are coming in a future update.

Stan rocks out in a purple haze...

Here's the weapons menu on an iPad screen.

iTunes link for Last Stand Stan

LastStandStan.com

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on an iPod Touch (3rd gen) and iPad, both running OS 4.2.1.
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Shadow Era – my first time… (iPod/iPhone/iPad)

February 24, 2011

Here’s a small disclaimer before I start: I’m not a trading card game player. Some of the content of this article may deviate into the realms of cheap humour, possibly at the expense of some small degree of stereotyping and generalisation. If you are personally offended or insulted by anything in this article, please feel free to leave a comment. 

Somewhere out there, is a 30 year old goth virgin who will never see this screen.

Shadow Era is a free universal game. Because it’s free, I downloaded it to try it out. I already knew it was a trading card game, albeit without any actual physical trading cards, so I sort of knew roughly what to expect.

I can't tell how well I'm doing. If you know, just from this screen shot, maybe now would be a good time to take a bath.

It’s ‘online only’ at the moment, although it sounds as though the first update will include an offline mode. So currently, the first thing that you have to do is register by entering an email address and password. After that, you have to choose a hero character for your starter set of cards. Predictably, I chose this one:

A cute blonde mage in a minimal outfit. How did you guess?

Next, I had a look at all the menu options. The menu is cunningly hidden away behind something that looks like part of the screen border. Unless you pay close attention to the pop-up tips, you might miss this completely and never realise that there’s a menu there. I had the option to start playing the campaign or jump straight into a game against a real person. As I’m a complete noob I figure it’s probably advisable not to get into it with xxXDoomLordXxx or LadyFelicity just yet, and pick a fight with a random AI controlled card-meister instead.

Blanka from Street Fighter IV whacks my gorgeous bimbo with a big sword. Unfair!

Following the on-screen tutorial prompts, the first thing I have to do is choose a card to sacrifice in order to get resources in order to be able to play a card. See, at this point, I started fondly remembering how much fun it is to play videogames. With no real appreciation of the battle value of one card over another, I flicked sequentially through the few on offer in some vain attempt to determine which one to throw away. There were no cute girls on any of them so I went for some random bloke in glasses who apparently makes some kind of +2 contribution to an attribute the purpose of which I hadn’t the faintest notion.

Another degenerate loser smacks my girl. I know you can't get one in real life, but do you really have to beat up on trading card bimbos to get your jollies?

Having successfully thrown away a couple of cards, the game informed me that I could now play one into the arena of titanic battle, or whatever. Cool, here we go … erm …. Once again I was faced with the paralysis of complete ignorance. Does it really have to be this impenetrable? Feigning indifference, I casually sent a bloke with a sword into the fray. Well, not exactly fray, more like empty space with a card in it. Within seconds my opponent chose its own card which attacked my sword-bloke-card and beat it. Somehow. I don’t know how, I’m still learning the game, ok? Although actually, no, I’m not learning anything. 

Trust me, I could buy 50 packs and I'd still be crap at this game.

Five minutes and about 20 turns later, my heroic bimbo mage is dead and I’ve been defeated, apparently. It doesn’t really feel like a defeat because at no time did I know enough about what was going on to realise, or even mind, that I was losing. I figure that’s the appeal – spend half an hour gawking at scantily clad, unfeasibly breasted Sword n Sorcery bimbos and you won’t care whether you win or lose the card game either.  

I'm fairly sure this pack is a top seller.

Maybe I’ve missed the point. Perhaps this is what I should have been doing back in 1980 instead of playing Asteroids. What on earth was the appeal of Asteroids? No scantily clad women, no feral wombat-beasts, no +2 heal spells. Man, I must have been such a loser.

It's your worst nightmare - damage received is reduced by 1. OMG!!! Pwned!!!

For the large percentage of people who followed a link to get here, thinking this was going to be a serious article about chumps, goldfish, janky decks and maxing your tier one…. I’m very, very sorry. For you. 

iTunes lnk for the FREE game, Shadow Era 

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Brutal Labyrinth review (iPod/iPhone)

February 23, 2011

“You’re lost in a labyrinth, scream now it’s not too late”

10 word description: Labyrinth game, rolling ball(s), physics, destruction, traps, obstacles, 42 levels.
10 word review: Brutal take on ball/labyrinth theme. Great style, fierce difficulty.

Boom! Keep rollin', rollin', rollin'. Yeah, I couldn't resist that.

You will like this if you enjoy: Labyrinth, Wooden Labyrinth, Little Metal Ball, Tilt Maze, masochism, etc.

My 17th attempt at level 2 is rewarded with ... "Acceptable". That's brutal.

The good news: It’s a great variation on a familiar theme. Starting hard, it feels like you’re playing an extreme set of new levels for an existing game.
The bad news: It doesn’t take prisoners. I fought my way to level 10 in about an hour, replaying many levels countless times. It may prove too tough for some. Luckily, there’s a lite version to try.

This is why it's not called "Pink Fluffy Labyrinth".

Arcadelife verdict: Great style; imaginative puzzles and multi-ball tactics; good graphics, decent effects. Perfect controls (tilt). Very hard, almost right from the start. If you’re bored with normal labyrinth games, give this a try. No easy wins here, but that’s how we like it, right? In all my failed attempts at various levels it never felt frustrating. The style helps it immensely – top marks for that.
 

Hard won victories are the best. Or so I've heard.

iTunes link for Brutal Labyrinth
iTunes link for Lite version

Aniware / Brutal Labyrinth website link.

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on a 3rd gen iPod Touch, running OS 4.2.1.