Archive for February, 2012

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Midway Arcade review (iOS / Universal)

February 28, 2012

“I’m all lost in the supermarket, I can no longer shop happily
I came in here for that special offer, guaranteed personality”

10 word description: Virtual arcade. 6 video games, more available via IAP. Game Center.

10 word review: Quite a packed arcade; few classics; controls could be better.

You will like this if you enjoy: Original arcade games on your iPhone or iPad. Defender, Joust, Gauntlet

The good news: Plenty of games in the initial download. IAP add-on packs are (currently) priced low. Quite a lot of content apart from the 6 video games. If you were waiting for a proper version of Defender or Joust (or Gauntlet if you want to spend a small amount more) on your i-device, this is where you can get the genuine article. Pretty virtual arcade / menu interface.

The bad news: The controls aren’t brilliant. While independent developers of retro style arcade games, such as Jeff Minter (Llamasoft), strive to provide touch controls that are as perfect as possible, it seems that the big names are happy just to stick a large red joystick on the screen and hope for the best. Some of the extra content (I won’t call it pointless fluff), for example the Air-Hockey, Pool, etc. is rather crap. No multiplayer. Joust and Gauntlet (especially Gauntlet!) would be fantastic with online multiplayer. A shameful missed opportunity.

Gauntlet - part of an add-on pack that is well worth getting

Arcadelife verdict: Playing miserable negative bastard’s advocate for a few moments, maybe some of the time and effort spent constructing the very flashy 3D arcade environment could have been better utilised developing excellent individual control systems for each game. I’m not stupid, I know different people are involved in those two processes, but the point is still valid. What we really want is to play the old arcade games, not gawp at a pretty virtual arcade. Sure it’s nice to have a visually appealing front-end, but once you’re in the game you want that game to be the best that it can be. Considering that the graphics, sound and gameplay were all sorted out back in the 80’s, all that needs to be done is for the touch screen controls to be perfected.

Of all the games that I have tried in this package (I only bought the ‘fantasy’ add-on pack with Gauntlet, Gauntlet II and Wizard of Wor), Gauntlet seems to have survived the dodgy controls the best as it doesn’t require pixel perfect placement or lightning reflexes. As the forerunner of the ‘action RPG’ it still offers a good deal of button mashing fun, and you don’t have to pump 10p into it every 30 seconds. Defender and Joust are playable, the challenge and addiction bordering on what I fondly remember, but the amount of eagerly anticipated fun is reduced by controls that require your constant awareness. It doesn’t have to be like this.

Rampage was never a great game. With a fiddly virtual stick to go with its original pedestrian pace, it has a proper “do I really have to have one more go?” feel. Spy Hunter is all you need to play in order to understand what I was saying in the recent Gridrunner review – our memories of classic arcade games are often seriously let down by the reality of playing them again now. Jaw-droppingly primitive and crippled by woefully inadequate touch controls, it’s like being groped by your drunk grandad who you never really fancied that much anyway.

Was this ever anyone's favourite arcade game? No. It was not.

Root Beer Tapper and Arch Rivals feel a lot like filler; I couldn’t really be bothered playing either of them for longer than it took to get a couple of screen shots.

I never saw this game in an arcade; maybe it never made it to the UK. What a shame

The inclusion of piss-poor versions of ‘arcade favourites’ (their words, not mine) Air Hockey, Arcade Basketball, Pool and Roll Ball is unnecessary and does nothing to improve the overall lasting impression of the app.

Nobody played these ball-chucking games in the original arcades for a reason. They're crap

Overall, it’s worth getting Midway Arcade and one add-on pack just for Defender, Joust and Gauntlet. For the money, those three games with better controls would be a great selection on their own; nobody would miss the extravagant 3D virtual arcade and the other pointless fluff.

Look longingly at those 4 sets of controls and despair at the total lack of Gauntlet multiplayer in this app

It’s awkward calculating some of these ratings below for a games collection. To clarify, I’ll rate the games themselves, not the flashy virtual arcade. I’ll also omit the pointless fluff ‘arcade favourites’ as they would just drag all the scores right down needlessly. So what you’re seeing here are ratings for the six default games plus Gauntlet, Gauntlet II and Wizard of Wor – as they play on my iPad and 4th gen Touch, not based on personal nostalgia such as playing multiplayer Gauntlet in Weston Super-Mare or crowding round a Joust cabinet in a service station just outside Ross-on-Wye on a Sunday afternoon.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 7.5/10
Audio – 8/10
Controls – 5/10
Content – 8/10
Fun – 8/10
Final rating – 73/100

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

Midway Arcade on Facebook – 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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Temple Run – Best free iPhone game?

February 28, 2012

First of all, let’s completely forget the IAPs (in-app-purchases), as I’m looking at this purely as a free game, not a freemium game. There’s no need to spend anything in order to fully enjoy Temple Run and play it as much as you like, which is a very good thing in my opinion.

What you have here for your zero entrance fee is a 3D endless runner with a fairly generic Indiana Jones style “running away from angry tribesmen” theme. You use swipes to jump over or slide under obstacles, as well as changing direction at hazardous junctions. In every run you can collect the ubiquitous gold coins which can be used in the store to buy permanent upgrades and consumable boosters, and unlock other running characters.

The left/right junctions add a nice bit of variation to the running and also introduce a bit of additional peril, sending you hurtling to your doom if you don’t swipe in time to make the turn.

That's a corner coming up just after that gap in the path...

The permanent upgrades can each be increased several times, giving improvements to the collectable power-ups in the game and reducing the distance before the collected coin value increases.

There are also lots of mini objectives to achieve, which adds even more replay value to an already very addictive “one more go” game.

Of course, I can’t tell you whether this is the best free iPhone game or not. That’s an infinitely impossible question with more free games appearing every day on the app store. In a straight comparison with other endless runners, Temple Run does score very high and I’d say it’s a definite recommendation for any fans of that genre.

And … it’s a universal app, so you can play it on your iPad too.

iTunes link

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Rainbow Link review (iOS / Universal)

February 27, 2012

“I don’t care, ‘cos I like your style
Don’t know about your brain but you look alright”

10 word description: Clear grid by linking matching tiles. 3 modes, tutorial, Game Center.

You link the fruit by drawing rainbow lines with your finger between 2 or more matching blocks

10 word review: Stress-free, line-drawing match game. Free with unobtrusive ads.

Some forward planning is required in order to completely clear the board

You will like this if you enjoy: Match-3 games that do as much as possible not to be straight match-3 games. Fruit in video games.

If you're quick enough, you can try drawing a smiley face or something rather more offensive. It isn't part of the game, but it's still fun

The good news: Very clear and professional looking graphics – who knew there were so many different kinds of fruit? Nice mix of strategic board clearing and rainbow effect line drawing, all with no time limit. There’s an undo button.

The addition of new fruit after every level adds to the complexity of each new board

The bad news: It can feel a bit too easy (in normal mode) until you start to fail under the sheer weight of all those different types of fruit. I lost all my progress in a game that had gone beyond level 19 when the low battery pop-up caused the game to crash; when it came back, there was no ‘resume’ option. On the smaller iPhone/iPod screen, I missed a couple of fruits that I thought I’d touched, just because of the fruit size versus my finger size. It’s perfectly ok on iPad.

Hard mode. I have one move left and the board is red and twitchy, just to let me know I'm close to failure

Arcadelife verdict: I’d never use “It’s free!” as a reason to get any app store game, as the app store is full of free stuff and much of it is pretty dire. However, this game is very nice and … It’s free! Sure, there’s an IAP to remove the ads, get a bit more cosmetic content and double your level completion bonuses (ooh, sneaky) but the free version is plenty good enough to keep you happily absorbed for quite a while. The ads, although always there, are about as unobtrusive as they could be. The crash that lost me a fairly decent score was annoying; hopefully that doesn’t happen too frequently.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 8/10
Audio – 7/10
Controls – 8/10
Content – 7/10
Fun – 7.5/10
Final rating – 75/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.1.1
iTunes link

Wanderling Games 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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BitBaffle review (iPod/iPhone)

February 25, 2012

“There’s a pattern, there’s a pattern
There’s a pattern there to follow”

10 word description: Shape completion puzzle. Additional Arcade and Time trial modes.

10 word review: It’s different. Didn’t hook me, but certainly worth a look.

You're trying to complete the large picture (sort of egg-timer shaped in this example). The button to press is the one at the top right in the four rows below.

You will like this if you enjoy: Puzzles involving your memory (to some extent) and your ability to identify shapes and patterns under pressure.

Same shape. This time you want to press the second button from the left in the second row down. Get the idea?

The good news: It’s quite different, maybe even original for an iOS game. The basic concept is sound enough. Graphics and presentation are clear; controls and interface are intuitive.

In Arcade mode, the target picture changes every time you complete one

The bad news: You’re essentially doing the same thing over and over again (with different shapes). Sounds are a few boings and clunks. No music.

That's what it looks like when you make a mistake

Arcadelife verdict: Despite the large number of different shapes and three modes to play with, it felt to me that I was continually repeating the same puzzle. However, if you get into it (and I’m sure there are plenty of people who would) there’s a lot of challenge and enough shapes and levels to keep you going for quite a while.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 7.5/10
Audio – 2/10
Controls – 8/10
Content – 7/10
Fun – 5/10
Final rating – 59/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.1.0
iTunes link

BitBaffle website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 5.0.1)
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Gridrunner review (iOS / Universal)

February 24, 2012

“Shot by both sides
On the run to the outside of everything”

10 word description: 1982 shooter reimagined in the style of an arcade machine.

It's all here, even an attract mode and Engrish messages between levels

10 word review: Nostalgia made real; your best arcade memories on your i-device.

The 3-way shots are just one of many power-ups

You will like this if you enjoy: Updated retro arcade shooters. Other Llamasoft games, although this is more a pure arcade shooter with less trippy visuals and animals than the other games.

Shame this power-up only lasts a few seconds!

The good news: Fantastic arcade shoot-em-up experience. Very convincing and attractive pseudo-retro graphics and sounds. Controls pretty much perfect, although that’s hardly surprising. Hyper-addictive high-score chasing.

The bad news: There’s no iCloud sync of local high score(s), but that’s not really any kind of an issue. Never, ever turn your device to landscape orientation! (Now you will).

Turning your device into landscape does this. You won't leave it like that for very long

Arcadelife verdict: Scenario: You have beautiful, rose-tinted memories of an arcade game from the distant past. One day, many years later, you play that game on an emulator. It fails dismally to live up to your memories; it’s slow, ugly and appallingly difficult. It isn’t fun. Now, imagine a parallel universe where the emulator doesn’t just recreate the game but also endows it with all the fun, excitement and retina melting-wonder that you remembered it having…

Although it's very pretty, the visuals are actually quite restrained and you can always see what's going on

Gridrunner for iOS is an 80’s arcade game the way we’d like to remember them, not the way they really were. That’s a good thing, and also a rather fantastic achievement. Jeff has held back on the psychedelia and minotaurs this time and the game is better for it. Not that I have anything against those traditional Llamasoft game elements, but Gridrunner – pure arcade classic reinvention on a touch-screen device – doesn’t need any of that in order to succeed quite spectacularly at what it’s trying to do.

Game Over. This could be any game from the early 80's, but it isn't

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 9/10
Audio – 9.5/10
Controls – 10/10
Content – 9/10
Fun – 9.5/10
Final rating – 94/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 0001.01.00
iTunes link

Llamasoft 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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Vampireville HD review (iPad)

February 23, 2012

“Love me like you love the sun
Scorching the blood in my vampire heart”

10 word description: Hidden object, puzzle adventure game. 3D story scenes. Mini games.

Familiar hidden objects basics, but a lot of the background scenery (curtains, cupboards, etc.) can be moved or otherwise interacted with

10 word review: Varied puzzles enhance hidden object searches. Amusing, well made cut-scenes.

An early puzzle involves placing cogs to complete a mechanical sequence

You will like this if you enjoy: Hidden object puzzle games; way too many to start listing them. If you like this kind of game, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Rooms tend to have a set of object searches and puzzles to complete, before you can move on

The good news: It’s fairly easy and the hints unlock quickly enough that you don’t get stuck. Graphics are good in the hidden object screens and very well done in the story scenes, of which there are plenty. Voice acting is passable, predictably hammy in parts and often quite funny. Other sound effects are ok. Good variety of puzzles and mini-games in addition to the hidden object searches that often span multiple screens.

The bad news: Vampireville sounds like a freemium “build your own vampire town” type game, which is a shame. I’m just here to point out that it definitely isn’t one of those. There is an option to buy more hints (with real money) but, if I don’t need them, you certainly won’t.

Her dad's a vampire, so I'm guessing there's a good chance she is too

Arcadelife verdict: The hidden object genre isn’t one of my favourites so it’s quite significant that I got hooked on this one, puzzling my way through the first 6 chapters without taking a break or feeling like I wanted to. (I’m now up to chapter 9). Whether this means the game will appeal to hardcore hidden object experts or prove possibly a bit too easy for their awesome skills, I couldn’t possibly say. Compared to other HO games I’ve played, it’s as much fun and it has a quirky and very well presented set of 3D story scenes that add a lot to the atmosphere and rather odd charm of the game.

Here's the character that you play. Yes indeed, it's a Keanu Reeves tribute act

I’m having a lot of fun with Vampireville; some of the latest puzzles, such as reassembling a faded black & white photograph, are starting to get quite tough but not to the point of bringing the experience to a frustrating halt. If you’re into hidden object / puzzle games, I think you’re going to be happy with this one.

There are 24 chapters, so you won't be rushing through this in 5 minutes

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 8/10
Audio – 8/10
Controls – 8.5/10
Content – 8.5/10
Fun – 7.5/10
Final rating – 81/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.4
iTunes link

Nevosoft / Vampireville website link

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

February 22, 2012

“We’ve planted a seed
An ever growing wonder to a beautiful tree”

10 word description: Ambient strategy game of space exploration, conquest & bio-mechanical evolution.

10 word review: Stylish, refined RTS; sometimes familiar, but in a good way.

You will like this if you enjoy: Real-time strategy games; Galcon, maybe even Homeworld for the space-themed RTS connection. Moderately trippy games with ambient audio and stylised visuals.

Cleanse the sickness ... even the typeface is very, very serious

The good news: Very clean, stylish graphics that mix minimalist tech visuals with organically evolving entities. Great soundtrack and audio effects. Very good touch interface; responsive and easy to use. Gentle introductory learning curve, customisable speed and difficulty.

There are three speeds (top left). The fastest is useful when you're waiting for seedlings to be produced in large numbers

The bad news: I have to say it – Eufloria is very serious in its presentation and the way it gives feedback to the player. There’s no intentional or even unintentional humour, which may not appeal to some gamers, particularly those looking for 5 minutes of fun every now and then. Also keep in mind that there is no mid-level save facility (you need to play a level to completion to register your progress) and it might not be exactly the game that you’re looking for. However, if you won’t miss a bit of humour and you like spending plenty of time on iPad strategy games, there’s really no reason not to get this.

Those little streams of dots heading to the red circle... that's my invasion force right there

Arcadelife verdict: Eufloria mostly avoids the unrelenting intensity of Galcon’s “must spam overwhelming force as quickly as possible” principle of space conquest, going out of its way to present you with options to play at a fairly leisurely pace, if that’s what you prefer. The game-speed options are useful for reducing lengthy periods of seedling growth and accelerating journeys from fully populated asteroids to distant targets.

They could have called this game Testicle Invaders

I have successfully avoided using the word “immersion” in almost 300 Arcadelife reviews, but it’s genuinely appropriate in this case; despite the clinical visuals and the solemn presentation and storyline it’s an engrossing game, although the fun stems from watching your little dots spread successfully across an expanse of anonymous space, rather than bouncing up and down wearing silly hats and whistling the Benny Hill theme.

I've done well, but there's not even a single firework or smiley face

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 9/10
Audio – 9/10
Controls – 9/10
Content – 8.5/10
Fun – 8/10
Final rating – 87/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0.1
iTunes link

Eufloria website link

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