Archive for December, 2011

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GOTY delay apology

December 31, 2011

I have to apologise for my failure to post the Arcadelife Game(s) of the Year 2011 awards today. It’s taking me a lot longer than I expected to trawl through the year’s Arcadelife reviews and I don’t want to just pick some random pretty game that was released a few weeks ago and claim that it’s the best game ever. No, because that’s my normal review style and I think it’s time for a change…

Happy New Year and I’ll see you tomorrow (hopefully) for the Arcadelife GOTY awards.

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PixelBall review (iOS / Universal)

December 30, 2011

“My balls are always bouncing
To the left and to the right”

10 word description: Retro Breakout game. 50 levels, 10 power balls, Retina, Game Center.

10 word review: Minimalist visuals, uninspiring gameplay and poor paddle control. Well done.

You will like this if you enjoy: Pedestrian paced Breakout games with jerky “jump to where my finger is” paddle control. Seriously, implement relative touch control and have the paddle track smoothly with the movement of your finger. Having it jump to where you touch the screen feels totally wrong, and just a little bit rubbish.

The eternally tedious wait for the ball to eventually make contact with the final couple of bricks.

The good news: This is the last Arcadelife review of 2011!

The bad news: I’m sure 2012 is going to bring far worse offerings than this.

Arcadelife verdict: In the era of 5-minute, throwaway games … [finish the sentence yourself].

Arcadelife rating: 30/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0
iTunes link

PixelElement website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 5.0.1)
iPad (OS 5.0.1)
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Time of Heroes – hilarious power-metal trailer

December 29, 2011

Only the genius minds behind Companions (currently on sale at 99c/69p) could have come up with the power-metal song accompanying the trailer for upcoming universal iPhone/iPad turn-based strategy game Time of Heroes. Here it is, in all its glory:

Driven by cold, driven by hunger
Leaving the king and their old ones behind
Led by Prince Minos and his friend Ungbar
Sails set Southward with prevailing wind
Ungbar’s a strong man, he has a thick hide
He fights in the water and that’s how he died
Now Minos is smarter and clad in strong mail
He fights on the plain, he’s sure to prevail
Ariadne’s a beauty, she’s really quite hot
Her magic is burning the fiends on the spot
Rholtwest is old but quick nonetheless
When flying beasts see him they take their last breath
So always remember, use the best terrain
Utilize your strength and don’t attack in vain
The perils are plenty, fearsome to behold
But, alas, the dead will die as foretold
Dwarves and elves, strong and precise
Battle the forces of Detexx, Gods of demise
The Northlander’s fate is bound to Altland
Bring hope to the people… Make a stand!

Thanks very much to smuttlewerk for letting me know about this. The trailer has given me the best laugh this week and the game looks pretty good too.

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Skyrim guides … a guide

December 28, 2011

I have rather heroically (or tragically, depending entirely on your point of view) played Skyrim for over 100 hours. I thought that was long enough to have formed enough of an opinion and gained enough first-hand experience and knowledge to enable me to assess and review some of the guides and wiki style websites that are available for the game.

Quentin the Orc pauses for a few moments while deciding where next to cause vast amounts of bloody carnage

Personally, I don’t feel much of a need for guides for a sandbox/exploration game like this, however they do seem to be very popular so I’d be a mug to miss out on the opportunity to write about something that could pull in a few site visitors… I also find the whole topic rather intriguing even if the guides themselves aren’t directly much use to me.

First up, an iPhone application called The Guide – Skyrim Edition. This is a great example of how to cobble together walls of text from other sources and pass it off as your own work. It’s dull, worse than looking at the same text in your browser, and I can’t recommend it. Here’s an example, where they have copy/pasted text from the Wikipedia Skyrim page and haven’t even bothered to remove the numbered links to the source references:

Every page is just a bunch of text. There are no links to cross reference quests and items, so it's not a lot of use

So that’s not a very good start. It gets worse, with rambling self-congratulatory speeches from the authors of the text walls, who may not even be associated with this app, and includes half-hearted, incomplete lists and item descriptions that fail to include the actual statistics of the items.

Universal (iPhone/iPad) app, Skyrim Alchemist has generally favourable app store reviews, but it only covers Alchemy, so its usefulness to you will depend entirely on how deeply you include Alchemy (if at all) in your play-style. At least it uses some decent touch-screen functionality and isn’t just a textual copy/paste exercise.

A fairly good looking (and one of the more expensive) universal iOS app is MAppz – Skyrim Edition, a map application that allows you to add your own notes to maps and use location filters to display different classes of location on the map. I haven’t tried this but it looks quite interesting and appears to be receiving regular updates based on user feedback.

There are plenty of online guides and wiki sites around. Here are the two that I think are particularly worth checking out if you need a bit of detailed information or feel like cheating…

UESP (Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages) Skyrim wiki

This one is probably my favourite (although I don’t use it at all, ever, for anything…) with a great, consistent style, a powerful search facility and tons of well written, clearly illustrated and relevant information. This is what it looks like if you browse it on an iPod:


The IGN Skyrim Wiki Guide

Nicely presented and easy to navigate, with a lot of cross-referencing links. I found one or two pages that ended up in a 404-not-found but, apart from that, this is a good site.

Finally, there’s the Besthesda Skyrim Forums, where you can witness the inevitability with which every player eventually hits a wall of boredom in an open and never ending videogame… good luck!

 

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TrainMania review (iOS / Universal)

December 24, 2011

“Pardon me, boy
Is that the Chattanooga choo choo?”

10 word description: Rail themed traffic based puzzle game. Guide trains to stations.

10 word review: A bit like Trainyard, minus the track building. Not bad.

You will like this if you enjoy: Line switching puzzle games. Trains.

The good news: Train graphics are clear and crisp. Gameplay is fairly intuitive. Plenty of levels + 3 modes.

The bad news: You never get the chance to build tracks, just to control the track-switching and, in Rush mode, to choose when trains leave stations. Initially, it feels rather slow.

Arcadelife verdict: Trainyard set a high standard for other top-down train controlling games to match, or even come close to reaching. TrainMania isn’t a bad game, but it doesn’t do well in a straight comparison with Trainyard; it even has less levels than the free version of Trainyard. If you completed Trainyard and you’re looking for something similar, this game may do it for you… but I’m not going to tell you it’s a better game, or even a very close competitor, because it isn’t.

Arcadelife rating: 71/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.28
iTunes link

TrainMania website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 5.0.1)
iPad (OS 5.0.1)
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Dude Man MotorX review (iPod/iPhone)

December 23, 2011

“Out of shadows, shining ever-bright
Neon Knights!”

10 word description: 2D neon visual style motorcycle challenges. 45 levels. Game center.

10 word review: Slight clunkiness and loading delays don’t really spoil fun game.

You will like this if you enjoy: Fairly simple side-view bike games with trippy neon graphics. No, I couldn’t really think of any others in that exact genre either, although Neon Rider is close – neonrider.org.

The good news: Great graphical style. Controls generally seem to work. Plenty of levels. Essentially a fun game.

The bad news: Apart from unexpected crashes caused by falling into holes that you don’t even know are there (due to flying very high up in the sky) or the rider vanishing (presumably because you weren’t level enough when hitting the ground), it’s pretty easy… maybe a bit too easy. The loading delays start to get irritating fairly quickly.

I can't believe we're collecting stars ... in a videogame! (Sorry, that was cheap and I acknowledge the fact)

Arcadelife verdict: Not bad at all, and the graphics and sense of fun save it from the annoying loading delays and occasional weird restart scenario. It shouldn’t take more than a few tweaks to sort this one out. Fun and playable as it is, but an update or two won’t hurt it.

Two good points here - it's pretty and it doesn't say Game Over

Arcadelife rating: 68/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.1
iTunes link

Waves & Blaze website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 5.0.1)
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Sonic The Hedgehog 4 Episode I HD review (iPad)

December 22, 2011

“Wish you could see us when we’re at our best now
We draw rings around the world”

10 word description: Sonic sequel for iPad. Special stages, exclusive iOS levels. Game Center.

10 word review: Really impressive Sonic game for iPad. Blurs at speed, unsurprisingly.

You will like this if you enjoy: Sonic the Hedgehog. Very fast-paced platform/running games.

The good news: Graphically impressive. Performs very well (reviewed on iPad 1). Music and sounds are great. Gameplay is fun – Sonic fans won’t be disappointed. After first act of first zone, the first 3 acts of each zone are available to play in any order.

The bad news: It won’t convert anyone who doesn’t like the whizzy, spinny, often rather chaotic world of Sonic. Ironically, the graphics look their best when you are moving slowly, or not moving at all, but that’s hardly something to complain about.

Arcadelife verdict: A lot of fun and a very good implementation of a Sonic game on the iPad. If you don’t have an iPad 2, I can confirm that this definitely looks and runs fine on an original iPad. If you’re a Sonic fan, that’s probably the only question you were going to ask.

Arcadelife rating: 89/100

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.00
iTunes link

Sonic 4 Episode 1 website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPad (OS 5.0.1)