Archive for April, 2011


Platform Hell Pro review (iPod/iPhone)

April 30, 2011

“Hell ain’t no bad place to be,
You know that hell, ain’t no bad place to be”

10 word description: Retro style platformer. Single screen challenges. Collect diamonds, avoid enemies.

Aiieee! My eyes! - Graphically subtle, it is not.

10 word review: Deliberately garish presentation brightens up a relentlessly tough retro challenge.

Anything that looks this simple just has to be incredibly difficult. Has to be.

You will like this if you enjoy: Retro platform games – more Manic Miner than Super Mario.

All it needs are a few bouncing toilets and giant telephones...

The good news: Hardly anyone is going to be disappointed with this game because retro platform fans pretty much know what they’re going to get.

The bad news: Jumping sometimes feels a bit floaty (best word I can come up with) and it is often hard (deliberately) to make essential jumps between some platforms. Depending on what you’re expecting, this may not be bad news at all.

I love the "amateur home movie" screen transitions.

Arcadelife verdict: The clue is in the title of the game. This is a platform game for people who want to have their gaming prowess broken and humiliated. I’m still trying to get better than a bronze star on level 1. On most I wouldn’t mind any kind of star to replace the 99.99 best time… Maybe I’m just not as good at platform games as I thought I was.

You might as well smash yourself in the eyes with a kaleidoscope.

Retro platform fans will almost certainly appreciate the single-screen, limited lives, impossible time-limit, pink & turquoise kick-in-the-nuts nightmare on offer here. Anyone not too sure might want to try the free version first.

Arcadelife rating: 80/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0.1

iTunes link

XS720 website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 4.3.2)

Choo Choo Steam Trains review (iOS/Universal)

April 29, 2011

“They’re two, they’re four, they’re six, they’re eight
Shunting trucks and hauling freight”

10 word description: Conduct your own model railway. Real time train management puzzles.

The menu is a constantly changing, fully animated view

10 word review: Fun, addictive, fairly hectic train conducting. Not just for children!

There are several different levels, each with their own set of track challenges

You will like this if you enjoy: Trainz; Rails & Trains; Train Conductor; Railroad Tycoon (although it’s really not the same type of game); time management games (although it’s really not the same type of game); puzzle games; model trains, Thomas and Friends.

He's different enough from the Fat Controller to avoid a law suit, but let's call him "The Fat Controller" anyway.

The good news: It’s a surprisingly fun and polished game. Unlocking track pieces, trains and buildings for “Build” mode by completing levels in “Play” mode is great. There are lots of achievements. Playing with model trains, at least in this game, is not just for young children – it’s surprisingly challenging.

Passengers appear at each station. Tap the points (small light blue arrows) to choose which direction the train goes.

The bad news: Maybe the graphics could be a bit more detailed. Although it’s Universal, there’s no Retina support.

Graphics aren't exactly jaw-dropping. Oh look, there's Percy!

Arcadelife verdict: This one genuinely surprised me – the time management/puzzle style game in “Play” mode is really rather good. There are numerous challenge levels, starting fairly easily where you just have one train travelling around a track and only a single set of points to operate. Later on, it gets much more hectic with the introduction of additional puzzle elements like turntables, that can cause crashes if not set correctly, and more trains. It’s definitely not just a children’s game, even though it looks like one.

The Fat Controller was cross! "You have caused confusion and delay," he said.

“Build” mode allows you to freely create a train track from available track pieces and various buildings and other items. Initially, you don’t have much to use but you unlock track pieces by beating levels in “Play” mode. Actual track building is intuitive and fun. There’s an almost organic feel to placing the pices of track; they don’t have to be perfectly aligned and will bend slightly to match whatever shape you’re trying to create – within reason. Once built, you can view a train travelling around your track in 3D.

Building tracks is easy and quite satisfying. There are achievements for using certain numbers of pieces.

The final mode, “Watch”, is just a free ride on tracks that have been unlocked in “Play” mode (I think!). There’s not much to do, but you get achievements for using it.

There are lots of achievements but no Game Center

Overall, this is a great little game for puzzle and time management fans. Obviously, train fans and children hooked on Thomas and Friends will probably love it just because of the subject matter. The trains are even coloured in the same basic blues, reds and greens as the T&F trains … coincidence? I doubt it!

Arcadelife rating: 78/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0.1

iTunes link

Chillingo – Choo Choo Steam Trains website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 4.3.2)
iPad (OS 4.3.2)

Companions – Hands-on preview

April 28, 2011

Companions is a top-down RPG/Dungeon Crawler for the iPad, featuring a party of up to 4 player controlled characters. The game is playable as a campaign with a full-fledged storyline or as a single-map experience, packed with achievements and leaderboards.

I’ve had a preview/press build of Companions for a while and I’ve been having a great deal of fun dungeon crawling, looting and fighting a variety of living and (un)dead enemies. I’ve also been discussing the game via email with Martin from Smuttlewerk and making various suggestions about how the already impressive interface could be improved even further.

In the version that I have, there is a single map tutorial where you are introduced to each of the four character types and the first level of the campaign story. The campaign level is a huge, sprawling dungeon complex where each party member has their own individual intro story and mini solo mission before they start meeting up with each other. Unlike some party-based RPGS, you are not playing as one character and recruiting followers, you play each member of the group with the same degree of control.

Right from the start, there are important choices to make. You have to choose one of 3 class types for each character. The screen images explain this. I recommend clicking each image to view the full size iPad screen.

The Minotaur can be a Bull (Tank), Gladiator or Berserker.

The Elf can be an Assassin, Ranger or Archer

The human Mage can choose from 3 schools of magic - Light, Matter & Void.

The Dwarf can be a Miner, Draftsman or Engineer.

Once you have chosen your party members, it’s time to venture into the dungeons… The tutorial holds your hand and gives you plenty of time to familiarise yourself with the interface and the individual skills of each party member.

This old guy knows what he's talking about. It's a good idea to listen to what he has to say.

The game can be viewed (and played) at two different levels of zoom.

Although there are 4 members of the party you only ever control one at a time. To select a character, you tap the character itself or the portrait on the left side of the screen. Most of the time, particularly in battle, it is much easier to select using the portraits. The items and skills on display are those of the currently selected character.

When entering the campaign, a difficulty level must be selected. I liked the fact that the hardest setting is called “Normal”. Although it is very challenging, I found that much more amusing than something deliberately ominous such as “Super Uber Hard” difficulty.

Real men play on ten 😉

I’ve promised Martin I won’t give anything away about the campaign story, so I’ll try to just stick to facts about the gameplay.

The story starts … (that didn’t last long, did it?) … with each character separately entering the first dungeon for their own reason. I immediately got a good sense of a real world outside the immediate game environment; the back-stories are detailed and lend a sense of impressive depth to what is to follow.

Each party member enters the dungeon alone, with predictably limited and weak starter gear.

Starting each character alone in the dungeon is a great way to introduce each class, as well as allowing each character to have their own individual story and an explanation for their motivations. You may be playing all of the characters, but it’s surprising how different each one feels when you understand who they are as well as what type of skills they have.

It's not long before you start picking up better gear.

The game requires you to think ahead, plan when to use your skills (they all have a cool-down period) and not just rush blindly into large, empty looking rooms! If you attempt to play Companions like an action-RPG slaughter-&-loot-fest you will last maybe 30 seconds. The first thing that you learn is that you need to think. Quite a lot. Here’s an example… I am playing the Elf Ranger and she is alone. I find a large room full of bones and I manage to trigger an uprising of about a dozen skeletal warriors. They kill me. I try it again, using a very clever tactic called “running away” and they eventually catch up and kill me. So I think about it. I look at my skills and realise I can summon a Dragonking pet. Not bad. I summon him, watch him fly around for a while and then I go and trigger the undead apocalypse again. This time, I plan my running away a bit better. I use a natural choke-point, my pet does his best to tank the skeletons and I shoot holes in them from a  distance, taking no damage at all. Like this:

Slow moving skeletons are no match for my "hiding in a small room" strategy!

Each character has their own inventory, skills, attributes and resistances. You can view all this information in this information panel:

Tapping on an item or skill will open a smaller window giving stats for that particular thing.

The Dwarf has a unique talent – the ability to build things. Dangerous things, mostly, such as traps, crossbow towers and swirling blade constructions that damage all adjacent enemies. Cunning placement of different traps and structures is the key to success. If a swirling blade thing damages everything next to it, put a trap next to it that holds an enemy for a few seconds… and for those few seconds they are going to take massive damage from the swirling blades. That’s just one possible example out of many.

Each structure has its own health bar. Standing behind them will lure enemies into the line of fire.

So, you have a Minotaur who is either a Tank type character or a fairly tough melee fighter, an Elf with a bow (and occasionally a pet), a Dwarf who can build a lot of very useful things and, finally, a human Mage who can cast a variety of spells, some offensive, some heals or buffs, depending on the magic school you selected.

Yes, you're here to annoy the chief bad guy and boss everyone else around. Mages ... typical.

Companions is due for release in May. I don’t have an exact date, sorry, but I’ll be first in the queue when it appears.

Thanks very much to Smuttlewerk for giving me the opportunity to try out their game. Look out for a review of the full version on Arcadelife as soon as it is available on the app store, or maybe just a bit after that, depending on how busy I am playing the game!

Some links:
Smuttlewerk (website)
Companions Game (website)


Jeff Minter interview

April 27, 2011

Jeff Minter has been kind enough to take part in an interview for Arcadelife. Jeff is the founder of Llamasoft and has created games such as Gridrunner (1982), Attack of the Mutant Camels (1983), Llamatron: 2112 (1991), Tempest 2000 (1994), Gridrunner Revolution (2009) and, most recently, the first couple of Minotaur Project games on iOS devices – Minotaur Rescue and Minotron: 2112. I particularly wanted to interview Jeff to find out about his gaming history, thoughts on iOS game development and his farm animals…

Without any further delay, here’s the interview!

How big is your farm? Do you have to use a quad to travel around the fields?

It’s not that big, what we’d call a “smallholding” rather than a full on farm, at around 7 acres split into three fields. You can easily walk round it all although I have thought it might be fun to set up a quad track in the top field :). We use the top field mainly for radio aerials and the bottom two for the beasties. The bottom field is the largest, full of lush grass and trees, and in summer I like to go and sit there with the sheep; it’s like having your own private park. And us being nerds there’s wifi coverage in all three fields :).

How many different animals live on your farm? How many of them have been given names?

Currently we have 7 sheep, two llamas, a pygmy goat and a donkey.  All of them have names, of course. The sheep are Jerry, Fuwafuwa, Shaun, Katamari, Shaggysheep, Butterbean and Teddy. The llamas are Iki and Maya. The goat is Alice, and the donkey is Leona. We also appear to be the centre of a large bunny population and fat, relaxed rabbits are often to be seen in the fields and on the front lawn.

Alice the goat

Are the farm animals kept as pets or livestock, or maybe both?

 They are all pets; we ask nothing more from them than that they have happy, relaxed, and hopefully long lives :).

A happy, glowing sheep

Have you always lived in the UK? Never been tempted to move somewhere warmer?

I lived in the US for three years but never really settled in there. I missed my cups of tea and curry houses too much ;). It may rain a bit here but that makes the countryside very green and lush, and when the sun does come out in the summer it’s one of the best places on earth, I swear. You can’t beat a lovely sunny day in the bottom field watching plump, happy, contented sheep bumbling about, maybe occasionally coming over for cuddles and skritchies. Bliss :).

I’ve been hooked on videogames for over 30 years – What was the first videogame that you played and can you remember exactly where it was (pub, arcade, cafe)?

First ever videogame was probably a Binatone Pong set that one of my brothers got and brought over to show us. First coinop was Breakout, in a smoky wine bar in Basingstoke in which I was underage drinking with some of my brothers and their friends. But the first one to really hook me in was Space Invaders which I played for the first time at a travelling fair that came to our village. I’d heard of some new game that was huge in Japan and wanted to see it for myself. I got 470 points on my first go IIRC.

I recently went back to the place where I first played Space Invaders, a pub in Herefordshire near the Welsh border. They’ve extended the old back room where there used to be a pool table, juke-box, dartboard and videogame cabinet and turned it into a restaurant. Progress, maybe, but I think I preferred it as it used to be. Long-winded intro to the question – do you think the world was a more interesting place when there were videogames in pubs, cafes, chip shops and little backstreet record shops?

Yes, absolutely, in fact just a couple of days ago I was chatting on irc and mentioned how my mental map of the area I lived in in the 80s is tagged with arcade machines – Missile Command in the newsagents, Super Earth Invasion down the Ship Inn, Amidar and Donkey Kong at the Fighting Cocks, The Pit and Stratovox at the Fox and Hounds, Asteroids Deluxe at the Wellington Arms, Galaxian and Pac-Man at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment recreational society, Scorpion at the Hind’s Head… I served my Space Invaders apprenticeship at Harlequin Records in the new market square next to Basingstoke bus station. I do miss the old coinops being everywhere. I used to love the sit-down tables in pubs where you could sit down with a pint and a mate for a nice game of doubles. These days you only ever see coinop in seaside arcades (that are mostly pushers and fruitys anyway) and service stations and even then it’s only ever fighters, big driving cabs and gun games. I still think there’d be a place in pubs for a MAME cab where the game got changed every few weeks – I’d definitely play it, and I’m sure others would too, but there’s only ever fruities if there’s anything at all. I know we now all have awesome consoles at home, but it’s not about the tech, it’s being able to have a nice sociable game of something simple and fun… I do miss that.

Asteroids cocktail cabinet - sadly missed pub furniture

Out of all the videogames that you have ever played, which ones would you say were the most fun and/or the most significant and influential for you personally?

Definitely Eugene Jarvis’ Williams coinops (Defender, Stargate, Robotron, Sinistar) which were and still are a huge influence on my own game design style. Also obviously Tempest, Star Wars, Asteroids, Missile Command, Centipede, all great classics… Star Raiders on the Atari 400/800 was also awesome, one of the best home games of the 8-bit era, astonishing to think it was written in the 1970s. Rescue on Fractalus was a stunning technical achievement on a 1MHz 8-bit machine and great fun to play.. Thrust, Oids and Virus I also loved, I always really enjoyed those games where you have to control a ship with delicate touches of vectored thrust.  I remember I didn’t much like platform games until a journo friend of mine came to visit bringing a NES and Super Mario with him. We played for 4 days straight :D.

Oids - I loved that one too!

I’d say, looking at your impressive catalogue of games, that you’re primarily a fan of shoot-em-ups. Do you have one favourite shooter from the early days of arcade games?

If I had to name one shooter as my fave it would be without doubt Robotron. It is the pure distilled essence of shooter awesomeness.


What would you say is, or has been, your favourite device for writing and/or releasing games on, and why?

Probably the c64, not because it was the best hardware or anything, just because the times and the surrounding scene were just so great. You could bang out games in a month or two, there was a good market for them, you’d go to exhibitions several times a year and they were always great fun, you’d meet up with a lot of good people, play games, go out in the evenings and hang out in the arcades and pubs in London… just really good times.

Is there a non-mythical animal that you would like to put into one of your games but haven’t yet?

Oxen don’t get enough love in gaming. I guess I’m halfway there with the minotaur games. Maybe I should do a reverse bullfighting game where you’re the bull and you have to gore as many gaily-attired Spaniards as possible.

What music were you mostly listening to while working on the Minotaur Project games?

Probably Gary Numan and a bit of Underworld.

For touch-screen devices such as the iPhone and iPad, good controls are essential. For the Minotaur Project games, did you develop controls that you liked yourself or did you try out various control systems on a group of testers and go with the most popular?

For me part of a game’s design is the feel of the controls, the first thing I do is get the player character in there and controllable as soon as I start making the game, so as to be able to begin refining the controls at the earliest opportunity. They have to be efficient and to feel right, which is something that only comes with lots of testing and refinement. Simply plonking down an ugly onscreen joystick in a fixed position will NOT do. I thought I’d hate doing touch screen controls since I’d played plenty of games where the controls flat out sucked but in truth I found it challenging and enjoyable and satisfying when you get it right. For me that right feeling is a personal thing so I tend to develop the controls and then at the end put the game out to a few testers to make sure that they think the controls are good too.

Minotaur Rescue

Would you like to share any feelings that you may have regarding virtual joysticks in touch-screen games? I don’t understand why some developers seem to insist on trying to reproduce a physical controller on-screen when some of the best control methods are ones that have been designed specifically for the touch-screen and its limitations.

I’ve wondered myself why people do this and the conclusion i have come to is that onscreen joysticks make it easier for people to understand how to control a game, because they represent something familiar, but they are actually one of the worst ways to actually control something on a touch screen. Developers put them in because they make their games initially easy to understand, but in doing so they do gamers a disservice. There is no need to obscure part of the play area with drawings of a nonexistent joystick, nor to require directional control touches to fall on a specific target that it’s inevitable you’ll slip off of during the heat of gameplay. Directional controls should centre themselves wherever your touch falls, and there is no need to highlight their position by drawing anything – your control motions should show up in the behaviour of your onscreen character without the need to see anything extra where you touch the screen.  You should be able to shift your control position freely as the action moves around the screen. Unfortunately so many people have implemented sucky onscreen controls that people expect them a lot of the time now and can be initially confused when there’s no controls drawn onscreen. But almost inevitably once people get used to the idea that they don’t need onscreen joysticks then they find out that the game actually controls way better without them.  I’ve seen no end of comments on the minotaur games where people have said it took them a few minutes to “get” the controls but when they did, BEST CONTROLS EVER. As a designer, for god’s sake remember that the whole touchscreen is a versatile and sensitive control surface and use it as such.  As a player, take a few minutes to learn how to use games that do provide good controls and you’ll be rewarded with excellent control of your game rather than having yet another game that looks great but which you only ever play three times because the controls are just so broken and nasty. Onscreen joysticks – just say HELL NO :).

Do you think there’s any scope for a simultaneous two-player shooter such as something like Smash TV on the iPhone/iPad, either over bluetooth/wi-fi or, on the iPad, with 2 players on one device? Have you considered writing one?

I think that’d be practical on the iPad, I’d imagine 2-player coop on a single screen would be a tad cramped on the iPhone even with 2 phones over BT. On the iPad to have 2 players on 1 device playing an arena shooter I think you’d have to have each of them using a method like Simplified in Minotron, where each player moves but aiming and firing is AI controlled – getting 4 touches onscreen andstill be able to see the playing area would be a bit tough. If I were doing it I’d have some kind of thing happening where you could affect firing style by where you positioned yourselves relative to each other – maybe by moving closer together you could have a more defensive shot pattern covering the two of you, whereas moving apart would give you each a more aggressive hunting style of shots. Maybe in boss rounds you could have larger, more powerful shots aimed along the vector formed by you both as endpoints of a line. I am sure you could have quite some fun with such a game design while still only requiring one directional touch per player on the screen.

Are there any iPhone/iPad games that you have played recently that you really enjoyed or that struck you as games that really made the best of the device they were written for? 

I liked Space Invaders Infinity Gene, nice shooter and thank god proper controls. Orbital is very nice looking and a perfect example of a nice game from minimal (one touch) controls. My favourite of the running games is Robot Unicorn Attack because hey, robot unicorns.  Just recently I got Bit.Trip Beat (HD… developers, by the way, shut up with separate versions for iphone and HD for ipad, I don’t want to buy two separate versions one for each device – make your apps Universal as God and nature intended) and that’s fun, almost Pong-meets-Rez which is an odd but rather effective mix for a bit of fun every now and again. Final Freeway is outruntastic and controls very nicely from accelerometer controls (a rarity indeed).

Robot Unicorn Attack

What do you think of the iTunes app store as a marketplace? Is it strange to be developing new games for relatively new devices, knowing that the games will be on sale for such small amounts of money?

It’s ok although there’s a real problem with visibility. You get some stuff that sticks in the top 10 and does awesomely, then other stuff that maybe pops into the top 100 for a fleeting bit and then goes away and unless you’re looking for it is never seen again, and then the Nether Void. And with everyone pretty much expecting games to be super cheap that means the only people who do well out of it are those who do serious volume, which is pretty much only the ones who break into that magic top 10. There’s not a lot of scope for a comfortable middle ground. I’d prefer it if it were possible to work comfortably somewhere in the middle ground, where you could be a bit more experimental and off-mainstream but still get some kind of reasonable return for it. As it is it’s a bit of a lottery and it seems the emphasis is more on publicity and self-promotion than it is about game design. I hate marketing and all the associated crap and just want to make games :).

Have you got any essential advice for someone thinking of writing a new game for the iPhone/iPad market?


What’s your favourite non-game iPad app? I’m guessing the Korg iMS-20, but that’s just because I’ve seen you mention it on Twitter.

Yeah, I’d definitely say the iMS-20. It is just fantastic fun for anyone with even a passing interest in synths and amazing that you can have a really great emulation of a classic analog synth for under a tenner. It’s a close enough emulation that I learned my way around it by watching some tutorial videos of a guy using a real MS-20 and I was able to follow along and replicate all his demo patches on the iPad. Brilliant fun and feels like more of a real instrument than some of the other music apps out there which are fun but a bit more toy-like.

On the UK app store, Minotron: 2112 and Minotaur Rescue have a lot of really positive review comments, many that are clearly from long-time fans of your games. What do you think it is about the games (and Jeff Minter himself!) that attracts dedicated fans like that and keeps them coming back for more of the same psychedelic ruminant shoot-em-up action for so many years?

I think that there are some people who obviously like the feel of the games and enjoy a bit of good old fashioned arcade-style action, and who know I can generally be relied on to deliver that. And they obviously don’t mind a bit of humour with the games too.

Minotron: 2112

Here are some quick, interview cliché questions (sorry!) …

Favourite book: – any of the Culture novels by Iain M. Banks.

Favourite film: – Blade Runner.

Favourite band: – Pink Floyd.

Favourite album: – Wish You Were Here.

Favourite colour: – Dark purple.

Favourite food: – Chicken Vindaloo

Favourite drink: – A nice cup of tea.

Where did you last go on holiday? What gadgets did you take with you? Did you buy any new gadgets on holiday?

Portugal, last year. Took my iPad, iPhone and the digital camera I’d bought the year before, also in Portugal, when I sat on my old one.

Would you like to give any clues or other information about further games in the Minotaur Project series?

The next one’s quite different.

Last question – How would you like to be remembered?

Hopefully as someone who made some people happy making fun toys and who always had happy sheep.

Many thanks to Jeff for taking the time to provide an informative and quite fascinating interview.

The two Minotaur Project games can be found on the iTunes appstore here: Minotaur Rescue and Minotron: 2112.


Interstellar Force (iPod/iPhone) – update news

April 26, 2011

One of my favourite retro style shooters on my iPod Touch – Interstellar Force – has recently received an update to version 1.3, described officially as follows:

What’s New In Version 1.3
1. Added “relative touch” control mode – this is now the default control mode (the player can now easily touch and drag the ship around)
2. Fixed bug with pausing the game and with the application being interrupted by a phone call, text message, etc…
3. increased autofire repeat rate.
4. Fixed player not getting points for enemy ship being blown up by a bomb.
5. Changed application icons to new style

As always, it’s great to see iOS games getting regular updates, but I particularly like this one because it includes the relative touch control method that I asked for in the original Arcadelife review. Since then, I’ve been involved with testing this version of the game and providing feedback and suggestions about the relative touch control method. I’m pleased to say it works fine – just don’t try continually taking screen shots (as I tend to do for reviews) as this temporarily interferes with the touch control. Playing the game normally, you won’t have any problems with it!

Yay - Touch control! Let's have a party!

Of course, you can't actually SEE relative touch control in a screen-shot. Duh.

Retro style shooter fans should go get this game now. If you don’t like the relative touch control, please feel free to direct all abuse this way as I am (mostly) responsible for it being in this game.

iTunes link


Doodlebug updated – version 1.1 with PROPER control method!

April 26, 2011

In the original Arcadelife review of Doodlebug, I rated the game very low because the control method, for me anyway, completely killed the game. It was a single thumb controller that did everything – multi-direction movement, jump and fire. It just didn’t work. The game is a tricky, challenging port of an old Amiga/Atari ST game and the last thing it needed was some wacky, frustrating and virtually useless control method.

So … fast forward to today. Version 1.1 has been released with the following update notes:

What’s New In Version 1.1
* New additional and alternative virtual control pad and buttons added!
* Start of first Toy Land level slightly easier.
* Minor bug fixes.
* Rebuilt for iOS3.2 upwards.

All good news, but the real clincher is the new control method. The virtual pad (on the left, where it should be) + buttons for jump and shoot, work really well and perfectly suit the game.

The "normal" control choice - D-Pad + buttons works, dare I say it ... perfectly!

Top marks and many thanks to Mobile Amusements for listening (not just to me) and giving this game a control method that really does it justice.

I’ve updated the original review and changed the rating. Go and read it to find out just how much improved it is…

I can now recommend this game. If you want it, here’s the iTunes link:

iTunes link


Air Penguin review (iPod/iPhone)

April 25, 2011

“They would start a new age
If they could just take time
It’s a penguin attack”

10 word description: Jump, fly and dodge through Antarctica. Travel vertically, tilt control.

By the time you get this far, you will probably have had enough.

10 word review: Initially entertaining, ultimately repetitive cartoon bouncing. Sharks could be funnier.

A few more frames of animation, a shower of blood and this could have been funny.

You will like this if you enjoy: Bulba The Cat – a better game if I’m honest. Bounder – anyone remember that? Casual tilting games.

Air Penguin gets the turtle's head.

The good news: It’s colourful, cute and has a topically flightless bird in it.

He believes he can fly, etc.

The bad news: It gets repetitive very quickly and there are no real surprises apart from that.

You can waste more money on in-app purchases if you like.

Arcadelife verdict: Bulba The Cat has the same bouncing going on, but also features large proper 3D levels and the ability to move wherever you want, i.e. not just along a mostly vertical predefined path. Air Penguin is pretty to look at but the gameplay stagnates all too soon, rendering it more of a chore than an addiction.

Where's the glory in beating a fat kid at sprinting?

Shame, I was expecting something a bit more fun than this.

Arcadelife rating: 68/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0

iTunes link

Gamevil website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
3rd gen iPod Touch (OS 4.3.2)
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 4.3.2)

Asphalt 6: Adrenaline HD review (iPad)

April 24, 2011

“I, I just took a ride
In a Silver Machine
And I’m still feeling mean”

10 word description: Car racing, 42 licensed vehicles, multiple modes, crashes, adrenaline power-up.

10 word review: Exciting, super-fast destructive racing. Loads of vehicles and upgrades.

You can paint the cars any colour you like and cover them in crappy stickers.

You will like this if you enjoy: Crashing virtual cars at high speed, trippy power-up visuals, arcade smash-em-up rather than realistic simulation racing.

Blah blah ... don't try this at home, etc.

The good news: It’s great fun. It’s fast. There are motorcycles as well as cars. It looks great.

That's one of the more subtle effects.

The bad news: Occasionally it will hang inexplicably for a second or two – for no reason I could identify. Someone looking for a realistic hardcore racing sim will probably not like it. It’s probably a bit too easy, at least for the first few groups of races.

Dominating the first couple of leagues is fairly easy.

Arcadelife verdict: This is my favourite iPad racing game (at the moment). It’s colourful, energetic, stupidly fast and it does very unrealistic things with “real” cars. The different race modes are all fun and eliminating other cars by ramming them at high speed never gets old. The occasional verbal comments are neither soulless pit-crew guidance or overenthusiastic yelling commentators; it’s an amused sounding woman who sarcastically points out that you shouldn’t have wrecked your car, or laughs appreciatively as you smash another opponent off the track.

There's no intrusive scenery pop-up, at least none that I've noticed.

Although it’s mostly very smooth and appears to shift at a respectable framerate, there are occasions when it hangs for a couple of seconds in the middle of a race, for no apparent reason. While this isn’t game-breaking, it happens often enough to be irritating.

"Hey dude, let's do a Hell landscape!" - "But this is supposed to a realistic driving sim!" - "Uh, you missed the latest memo, didn't you?"

Overall, if you want a frenetic arcade style racer where you can endlessly smash up Ferraris and Bentleys, progress is quick and there are many different tracks and vehicle upgrades, there really isn’t much else out there that does it as well as this, at least not on the iOS devices.

Of course I do.

Arcadelife rating: 85/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.2.6

iTunes link

Gameloft – Asphalt 6 website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPad (OS 4.3.2)

Coin Drop! review (iOS/Universal)

April 23, 2011

“I play Deji Pachi in my Pachinko dream”

10 word description: Drop coins, hit bad pennies, score points, 60 levels, Game Center

It's really nothing like being in school. Unless you did a load of acid and someone tipped a bucket of coins on your head from the 2nd floor window of the 6th form common room.

10 word review: Slick, colourful and stylish Pachinko/Peggle variant. Cute casual fun.

As with many games, the tutorials miss out the part about technicolour chaos.

You will like this if you enjoy: Peggle or other Pachinko style games; casual games involving luck and skill in a roughly 80:20 ratio.

Anyone familiar with Peggle will not be surprised to see the word "Frenzy" popping up on a regular basis.

The good news: It’s super polished, colourful and cute. Peggle fans will probably love it.

Rating is points based. Points are achieved by bouncing coins off stuff. It's really that simple.

The bad news: The nudge function involves shaking your device. I don’t like that; I’m not alone.

The rockets and moons move around, following predefined paths.

Arcadelife verdict: A bit of a big departure from what you’d expect from Full Fat Games, but that’s not to say this isn’t a highly polished and entertaining game. It’s slick, addictive, well designed and the graphics are very attractive. Apart from the issue with shaking-to-nudge (I dislike any kind of shaking in iOS games) this game does exactly what it sets out to achieve. It’s not a brain-teasing puzzler or the next big physics game but if you ever got even slightly addicted to Peggle, get this game and it will happen all over again.

Hit pins, change their colour, score points.

One thing – I mentioned the C word earlier in the review and, although Coin Drop! is undoubtedly a Casual game, it is still very challenging and you won’t score 3 stars first time on every level, or possibly even on any level. This is a good thing – never complain that a game isn’t easy.

Arcadelife rating: 77/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0

iTunes link

Full Fat website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:~
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 4.3.1)
iPad (OS 4.3.1)

Roly review (iPod/iPhone)

April 22, 2011

“I get the pressures of life through lack of patience”

10 word description: Platform puzzler, physics, solve problems, object manipulation, rolling ball character.

I know how he feels

10 word review: Graphically polished, let down by loading delays and slow gameplay.

If it was only about looks .... but it isn't

You will like this if you enjoy: Platform puzzlers, but only if you have a great deal of patience.

The good news: Visually it’s up there with the top cute/cartoon physics puzzle games.

The bad news: Afflicted by The Curse of Game Salad, every screen transition involves an inexplicable delay. Level intros involve a slow reverse pan of the whole level which you can never, ever skip. The first level involves pop-up tutorial text boxes that seem to stay on screen for an eternity. Controls (tilt or joystick) feel unresponsive because Roly accelerates incredibly slowly. Physics puzzles involving being bounced from springs shouldn’t feel completely random, but they do here.

That spinning "Game Doing Something" icon - bottom right - get used to that, you'll be seeing a lot of it.

Arcadelife verdict: Being forced to repeat a level, or parts of a level, because a spring (over which you have no control) shot you into a chasm, is no fun. When this happens after a slow, unavoidable level intro, preceded by one of many long loading delays, your rational first instinct, unless you have the patience of a saint (or you’re reviewing the game) would be to quit.

This is part of the intro to level 1. You can't skip it, ever. It lasts for ages.

Roly looks great. The graphics and presentation (apart from not being able to skip the level intros) are very high quality. The trouble is, there are major annoyances and frustrations in the core game mechanics, such as the unpredictable elements of the physics puzzles and the painfully slow acceleration of the player character, that need to be sorted out in order to make this game fun. I don’t know if anything can be done about the incessant loading delays; that’s a Game Salad issue.

This spring will shoot you onto another spring. That spring will either shoot you too far or not far enough, both of which will put you back to here. Unless you get a lucky bounce. This isn't fun.

It’s hard, sometimes, doing this. I’d love to be able to say I thoroughly enjoyed this game, as it’s clear that a lot of effort has gone into it. However, even if you ignore the loading delays and the painfully slow level intros, there is still something missing in the way it plays. If Roly was considerably speeded up it might help, but I’m honestly not sure. I hope this game gets tweaked quickly enough to get a decent chance, before too many people pick it up based on the great way it looks and end up disappointed.

Arcadelife rating: 45/100 (most of those points are for the graphics)

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0.1

iTunes link

Space Monkey Studios website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 4.3.1)