Archive for October, 2011

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Mage Gauntlet review (iPod/iPhone)

October 31, 2011

“You know me, you can’t resist
Devil’s grip, the Iron Fist”

10 word description: Classic style action-RPG, designed for iOS. 86 achievements. Pets.

Pay attention, every other action RPG - you don't need a clunky D-pad on the screen. Ok?

10 word review: Wonderful, fun game. Great looking and perfect controls too. Recommended.

Grumpy Gandalf lookalike is the first character you meet

You will like this if you enjoy: Action RPGs, done brilliantly on iOS.

Chests often contain nice items or weapons

The good news: Everything, really. To start with, the controls (in default mode) are about as good as you could ever hope for. The classic pixel-art graphics are great, with plenty of detail and characters that have an instant personality just from the way they look. Loads of action, items, achievements, locations. Fun story and witty dialogue.

Dialogue is far removed from the usual doom-laden pomposity or all-your-base Engrish of most iOS RPGs

The bad news: Well, I could say that it’s linear but that’s like saying Kelly Brook sometimes wears clothes. It’s unimportant.

This is what it's all about - smacking hordes of weird enemies around. Well, a small group anyway

Arcadelife verdict: Excellent action RPG and all round excellent game. Blasting through levels is fun, going back to explore for a 3-star (level completely cleared) rating is also fun. The amount of stuff (of all descriptions) to see, slaughter and collect is very impressive and the achievements are interesting and often amusing. This is a great game that you really shouldn’t miss out on.

The first boss battle is over quite quickly, thanks to a few handy spells

Arcadelife rating: 96/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.01
iTunes link

Mage Gauntlet website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 5.0)

I’ll tag a few more screens on at the end here, just because I can…

 

 

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Hamster Cannon review (iOS / Universal)

October 30, 2011

“It must feel nice to be a heavy metal hamster”

10 word description: Physics based puzzles. Launch hamsters out of cannons. Upgrades. Achievements.

Helmeted hamsters can break through stone walls, but only the first one they encounter

10 word review: Unambiguous title. Fun gameplay, nice graphics, decent controls, unobtrusive IAP.

Everything can be customised, although the majority are just cosmetic changes. The few items that affect gameplay do make a considerable difference

You will like this if you enjoy: The closest iOS game I can think of to this is House of Mice.

Fiery hamsters burn wooden obstructions. The fire spreads to all adjacent wooden objects

The good news: Looks good, plays well, controls work, performance is fine (on 4th gen Touch & iPad), the use of different hamsters to bypass or destroy puzzle elements is fun and results in some nice level design. The unlockable stuff is fun and can easily be obtained by playing the game rather than spending more real money.

Using a battery does this. You collect noms that are within your glowing pink aura, rather than having to directly touch them with the hamster

The bad news: I’ll mention the IAPs, because I always do, but they’re extremely optional due to fairly easy way to amass plenty of game currency by replaying certain levels where it’s easy to get all the coloured “noms” and achieve the 10x multiplier. The batteries (consumables that make collecting noms much easier) are fairly essential once you get through the first page of the first world, making nom-grinding a bit of a requirement.

Arcadelife verdict: Good game, nice mixture of aiming the cannon and tactically selecting which type of hamster to use, although you’re always limited to the ones that the level preselects for you – you can’t choose your own hamster team or anything deeply strategic like that. Overall, it’s fun and has plenty of appeal.

The 10x bonus is quite generous, making the very useful batteries a more than viable option

Arcadelife rating: 88/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0
iTunes link

BBB Arcade Support Page website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 5.0)
iPad (OS 5.0)
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Ninja Pong review (iPod/iPhone)

October 29, 2011

“Haru: Sensei, you called me a ninja.
Sensei: Yes, I guess I did.”

Ninja Pong - a game all about the pungent aroma of the Ninja...

10 word description: Bounce ninjas across the screen using a pong style paddle.

What's that pong? Oh, it's your ninja's toe.

10 word review: Addictive, polished, pretty and predictably loaded with in app purchases.

Is it a bird? A plane? ... Nope, it's a bomb.

You will like this if you enjoy: Casual games. Colourful, easy-to-learn games. Ninjas.

Never say "You and what army?" to a ninja

The good news: It’s very polished, has great graphics and simple, addictive gameplay. Performance is very smooth (at least on my 4th gen iPod Touch) and there’s a general feeling of high quality all over the game.

This simple screen explains the entire game

The bad news: There’s only the default control option (finger on or just under the paddle). Where’s relative touch or an option to use the sides of the screen? Tilt, even? Not everyone will want those options, but not everyone will prefer the default over all of those. IAPs, yet again. They’re like a virus, or a curse. I know I can ignore them, I’d just prefer it if they weren’t there at all.

He's a ninja. With a flag

Arcadelife verdict: Very good game, spoiled a bit (for me) by the long list of additional stuff that can be bought with real money. At least one item can only be bought with real money. Apart from that, great fun and really nice graphics.

Arcadelife rating: 85/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0
iTunes link

Ninja Pong website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 5.0)
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Skyrim – Two weeks to go…

October 28, 2011

With just two weeks until Skyrim’s release date – 11.11.11 – I thought I’d cobble together a small collection of the most recent and/or most interesting media currently available for the game.

To start with, here’s the live action TV trailer posted by Bethesda on 24th October:

Followed closely by Todd Howard being interviewed about Skyrim, plus a fair amount of gameplay footage:

Here’s a great video that contains a good mixture of concept art and game footage.

Here are some of my favourite in-game shots taken from the Skyrim website.

It's good that they're dropped the clunky brown menus from Oblivion in favour of something that looks like it should be in Mass Effect 3...

Here’s a link to the official Bethesda/Skyrim site.

If you’re looking forward to playing Skyrim, I’ll do my best to post a release day review, although it will possibly only include the character generation and first few minutes of the game…

Normal service (I mean an iOS game review) will be resumed tomorrow.
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Dark Incursion review (iOS / Universal)

October 27, 2011

“Purple haze all around
Don’t know if I’m comin’ up or down”

10 word description: Side-scrolling action/adventure/exploration. Pixel art. Upgradeable weapons & abilities.

The game starts on a train and plays very similarly to Green Beret for a few screens at least

10 word review: Looks the part; potentially brilliant but not quite there yet.

Searchlights track ominously back and forth against purple skies while everyone you meet tries to shoot you in the face

You will like this if you enjoy: Side-scrolling action games. I hesitate to mention Castlevania because, although Dark Incursion has pretensions (and the potential) to be that kind of game, it has a few issues that currently cause it to fall a bit short of the target.

Anya is searching... Loot generally consists of upgrades for your weapons and abilities

The good news: Pixel art is attractive and suits the game well. Characters, objects and backgrounds are all nicely depicted. Since version 1.1 the controls have been improved. The fighting, of which there is plenty, is generally enjoyable. Upgrading from looted items isn’t original but it adds a bit of extra depth and interest to the game. Music and sound effects are good and have separate volume controls. Levels seem varied enough so far (for a scrolling action game, anyway).

This is a save point. Luckily for me, saving the game also restores Anya to full health

The bad news: Although “fixed” according to the app store description, the control method has really just been improved with no alternate control options added. The 3-directional controller feels too large and uncomfortable on the iPad. There’s still plenty of room for more improvement on the controls. The inability to flip screen orientation seems prehistoric as far as iOS games are concerned. To make matters worse, the default orientation is the opposite of what I, and most gamers, would consider to be the normal orientation for gaming. It’s only possible to save in fixed locations which are too far apart, particularly for a mobile game, and inflict a hefty amount of repetition. Some of the enemies, mostly the flying ones, are positioned in such a way that you can’t avoid taking hits as you attempt to manoeuvre to a place where you can attack them.

This small chopper is trying to make up for its lack of size by hovering just out of reach

Arcadelife verdict: This game has a huge amount of potential; it’s the kind of game that you want to enjoy and almost feel yourself willing the game to be just that bit better than it is because you can see how great it could be. It’s encouraging that an update to improve the controls came out quite quickly. All I hope now is that Big Blue Bubble keep listening to what the players are saying and improve a few other aspects of the game. For a change, we don’t want more, we just want what we already have to be a bit better.

No doubt because some unfeasibly large breasted psychopath is running around shooting everything

Arcadelife rating: 70/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.1
iTunes link

Dark Incursion on Facebook website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 5.0)
iPad (OS 5.0)
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Bike Baron user tracks (iOS / Universal)

October 27, 2011

I’ve started creating some tracks for Bike Baron. The first two are roughly based around the old “KickStart” style of trials course, so it’s more about cautious ramp climbing and precise jumps than high-speed loop-the-loops.

To play these, it’s the same process as playing any user-created track. Go to “User Levels” in the game, select Download and enter the four character code to download the track.

The first one is called “Kickstart Fail”. The code is ADZF

ADZF - Kickstart Fail - Pic 1

ADZF - Kickstart Fail - Pic 2

The second track is called “Bridge Too Far”. The code is AFE5 

AFE5 - Bridge Too Far - Pic 1

AFE5 - Bridge Too Far - Pic 2

I’ll add more tracks to this post, as and when I create them.

If you download and play any of  the tracks posted here, please post a comment on this page or send an email to arcadelife@planetshooter.com letting me know what you think of them.

The Arcadelife review of Bike Baron is here.

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iCade review (iPad / Hardware)

October 25, 2011

“You can keep the color TV, those soaps just make me sick
All I’m asking you leave me is my little red joystick”

10 word description: Mini arcade cabinet for iPad. 8 buttons & joystick. Bluetooth.

This is what it looks like before you put it together...

10 word review: Solid, well made, decent looking, yet arguably a novelty item.

... and this is how you put it together

You will like this if you enjoy: Playing iPad retro arcade games on traditional hardware joystick and buttons rather than using touch-screen controls. Having a rather geeky conversation piece on your coffee table.

The good news: For anyone who desperately wants a fully functional miniature arcade cabinet for their iPad, this is probably the simplest way to get your hands on one. The cabinet material, although nothing spectacular, feels solid and sturdy while you’re assembling the iCade and proves to be heavy enough to prevent the cabinet wobbling and rocking when in use. Bluetooth connection setup worked first time for me, no problem with that at all. Playing most of the supported games, Asteroids being a great example, on hardware buttons is a definite improvement over any touch screen control configuration. When using the iCade, the normal on-screen controls (for touch screen) are not displayed (not a feature of all games), which improves the visual appeal of the games. Packaging and assembly instructions are good. Batteries are included. Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, you can use the iPad in landscape mode on the iCade, thanks to the channel cut into the top of the sloping control surface – just about visible in the picture above (Earlier models may not have had this landscape mode channel, I’m not 100% sure about that).

The joystick is a bit high, as demonstrated here by someone probably very important

The bad news: The number of games with iCade support is still small, but steadily growing. Joystick and buttons are not the highest quality available; joystick has a deadzone in every direction before registering movement; buttons are very ‘clicky’, requiring slightly more pressure to activate than I would prefer. The joystick seems a little too high for me; a shorter stick would be more comfortable. A couple of the screws that hold the cabinet together persistently cross-threaded despite several attempts to line them up and encourage them to go in straight during assembly. Button clicks are rather loud, amplified by the cabinet. Even when using earphones they are distinctly audible and can become annoying for people nearby who are doing something of vital importance like trying to watch X-Factor. Although there’s a DC input, there’s no mains power supply included, possibly due to the multiple configurations necessary for international sales.

Sorry the photo quality is rubbish, it's taken on my iPod Touch in poor lighting. This shows Mos Speedrun (landscape), perfectly slotted into the iCade's little iPad gutter.

Arcadelife verdict: First of all, much of what is listed under “bad news” is fairly trivial and only there because I’ve tried to test the iCade extensively and provide as much of a balanced review as possible. The joystick height is a matter of personal taste. After playing several games, I started to think it might be ok. It isn’t, but playing iPad arcade games on a joystick and buttons is a lot of fun; enough to make me forget the height of the joystick. Here’s a list of the games I’ve played on the iCade for this review:

Asteroids (Atari Greatest Hits)
Centipede (Atari Greatest Hits)
Millipede (Atari Greatest Hits)
Goat Up
League of Evil
Meganoid
Minotaur Rescue
Minotron 2112
Mos Speedrun
Muffin Knight
Stardash
Super Mega Worm
Velocispider

The majority of those games play much better on joystick/buttons than using touch screen controls. Asteroids (using just buttons), League of Evil, Velocispider and Muffin Knight are hugely enjoyable on the iCade. Overall, minor quibbles aside, and if the price doesn’t scare you away, the iCade is definitely a novelty item for gaming geeks, bit it’s also pretty good at what it does and gives an added dimension to some of the best iPad arcade games currently available.

Arcadelife rating: 85/100

ION iCade website link
iCade – compatible games list website link 
Arcadelife played and reviewed iCade with:
iPad (OS 5.0)