Archive for June, 2012

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AstroWings3 – Free for three days

June 29, 2012

I don’t tend to do “free game of the day” posts but I was asked very politely to mention this one and I have been playing it a lot since downloading it earlier today, so here it is.

AstroWings3 – ICARUS is a universal iOS bullet-hell shooter with nice visuals and great relative-touch controls; you can choose which side of the screen to position the special weapon buttons.

Performance on my 1st gen iPad is smooth and I didn’t notice any slowdown throughout the 3 levels I’ve so far played.

When you start the game, the only difficulty level available is “Easy”. While not a complete breeze it’s fairly straightforward to blast through at least the first two zones, earning yourself some in-game currency to buy a few permanent upgrades.

There are some IAPs, but nothing essential for playing and enjoying the game.

Apart from a couple of “translated by Borat” messages and a typo or two, the overall level of presentation is high, with an attractive menu system and fairly quick load times.

Get it while it’s free and see what you think.

Astrowings.org

iTunes link


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DM1 – The Drum Machine review (iPad)

June 28, 2012

10 word description: Advanced vintage drum machine. 64 drum kits. Pads, Mixer, Effects.

Each song is a sequence of patterns

10 word review: Gorgeous visuals, incredibly easy to use, feature-packed and fun.

Each pattern is a sequence of steps

You will like this if you enjoy: Creating music on your iPad. Drum machines in general.

You can play along or record in real time using the pads

The good news: Very easy to use. I only had to look one thing up in the excellent pdf manual and that was more because of my lack of observation skills than any problem with the DM1. It looks great (see pics). There are over 60 drum kits and many include more sounds/samples than just standard drum kit components, so you can create melodies or even imitation 8-bit theme tunes! Everything is very fast – song loading, drum kit swapping, pattern editing functionality. The mixer and effects add a huge amount of sound customisation possibilities. Loads of different demo songs to play around with and learn from.

There are a lot of different kits to choose from

The bad news: It’s not “a real drummer”. (Hmmm, actually that’s probably good news!). I mean that there is a limit to the sound customisation. For example, you can’t adjust the velocity/volume of individual notes/steps beyond ‘normal’ and ‘louder’; but, hey, it’s a drum machine – what were you expecting? The ability to import your own samples and build your own drum kits would, of course, be an excellent addition.

The volume/panning, etc. for each instrument can be adjusted in the mixer

Arcadelife verdict: I’ve always enjoyed playing around with drum machines and this one is a lot of fun. It makes very good use of the iPad screen and touch interface and is one of the most immediately accessible and easy to use music apps I have seen. Unless you go in expecting way too much, it will be a long time before you start thinking of things that would be nice to have in DM1, as it already pretty much has everything most people would expect or want from a drum machine app. The visuals don’t even have to be this good, but they are and they make using the DM1 an even more satisfying and enjoyable experience.

Two effects can be applied via this very easy-to-use pair of trackpads

Overall – highly recommended. It’s a great drum machine, a fun iPad app, and the developers are open about asking for user comments and suggestions for future updates.

Arcadelife rating
Note: I was going to alter the categories slightly for this app, but then I realised that I didn’t need to.

Visuals – 9/10
Audio – 9/10
Controls – 10/10
Content – 9/10
Fun – 9/10
Final rating – 92/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 2.1
iTunes link

Fingerlab / DM1 website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)

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Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – THE END

June 27, 2012

*** Warning – Contains spoilers ***

Death is inevitable. Hardcore Diablo 3 players will tell you that one unavoidable fact of playing hardcore is “You will die“. You agree with them, say that you fully understand, but privately you know that you won’t die, because your hardcore character is special. You … are special. You’re also wrong, so very wrong.

Nightmare difficulty is pretty tough, but some moderately decent gear and a bit of caution will get you through.

Beating Diablo himself the second time on your first hardcore character bestows a sense of invulnerability and supreme confidence. This guy, you tell yourself, can go all the way. It would be wise to treat these feelings of immortality with the contempt that they deserve. Oh yes, the benefits of hindsight are marvellous…

Hell difficulty is quite a step up from Nightmare, but levels in the early 50s can be easily achieved by farming the very first quest … over and over …

… and over again.

Tedious, maybe, but certainly safe. Safe enough to add yet a further layer of ill-advised confidence.

Suitably over-levelled, you will defeat the ‘Hell’ Skeleton King with almost as much ease as you did the previous two times.

Level 56, and now 60 doesn’t just look achievable, it looks easy.

At level 57, I came as close to dying as I ever had. It should have been a warning that I heeded. Instead, I just interpreted it as yet another sign of Rollins’ charmed life. You can probably see where this is heading even if you have’t already scrolled to the end to see the last pictures…

This wasn’t the end, but it was the closest I had come to it so far

Level 58. How hard can it be to get to 60 from here?

Oops!

Less than a single bar of XP into level 58 and I made a very silly mistake. It wasn’t even a hard fight, but I stayed in it longer than I should have and I left a pack of champions wandering around instead of finishing them before taking on The Warden. The Warden didn’t kill Rollins, some lowly insignificant enemy and player overconfidence did. I laughed, more at my own stupidity than anything else, and started another hardcore Barbarian.

67 hours and 35 minutes that I’ll never get back… ha ha

There is poor old dead Rollins, forever remembered in the archive of fallen heroes. The skull helmet is rather appropriate, maybe not the pink armour.

The main difference between Rollins, with his one life, and me – at least he had a life!

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Go to Level 50]

[Diablo 3 Hardcore level 60 achievement – at last!]

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Darkside™ review (iOS / Universal)

June 26, 2012

“I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon”

10 word description: Space / sci-fi themed shooter. Campaign, Endless & Survival. Game Center.

10 word review: Essential eyeball-melting fun. It’s time to embrace the Darkside™.

You will like this if you enjoy: Dual-stick shooters. Any kind of shooters. Asteroids. Space Miner. More phenomenal full-screen exploding chaos than you could possibly imagine.

The good news: Look at the screenshots! The graphics, lighting and effects are incredible. The game runs well on a 1st gen iPad – I am so happy about this! Arcade mode is free. Controls are fine in their default mode but can be customised. Gameplay is fun, fast and full of beautiful looking power-up and destruction effects.

Boom. Yes, this is what it’s all about

The bad news: It should be in monochrome and all move a lot slower. Trust me, some human vacuum will probably post something along those lines in an iTunes review. That’s the downside of having an initially free download. I’ve got one tiny, insignificant gripe that I have been assured will be looked into … I like playing with the controls faded right out, but this makes the smart-bomb button tricky to locate.

Grabbing a blue points bonus

Arcadelife verdict: I can only tell you the truth; it’s all I have left: this game is absolutely awesome. Arcade mode is free; that’s a fantastic game mode all by itself. To unlock the full game – Campaign and Survival modes – it’s a single one-off IAP of 69p/99c.

To add some kind of perspective, I’ve been playing this game and subconsciously comparing the effects with the chaotic and beautiful Diablo 3 fights I’ve been seeing recently. Darkside™ just about wins, and some of those D3 Wizard spells are very pretty!

Essentially, what you need to do is what I did last week (yay for promo codes!): Get the free arcade mode. Play it for a few minutes. Shove your eyes back into your head. Buy the full game.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 10/10
Audio – 10/10
Controls – 9/10
Content – 9.5/10
Fun – 9/10
Final rating – 95/100

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

Darkside iOS website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (iOS 5.1.1)
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)
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Astronot review (iOS / Universal)

June 25, 2012

“Spaceman, I always wanted you to go into space, man”

10 word description: Explore the uncharted planet’s surface and discover what lies beneath. (Borrowed [and slightly edited] from app store description).

Early on, you find this yellow item which permanently improves your jumping ability

10 word review: Ultra-retro Metroid style explore-em up. Prehistoric yet essential.

He most certainly does not come in peace

You will like this if you enjoy: Proper video games. Ok, I’ll qualify that. Proper video games from the early 80s. NES games. Spectrum games (Jet Set Willy, Dynamite Dan, Pyjamarama etc.). Metroid style games.

That isn’t a dead end, it’s just the game’s way of telling you to turn around

The good news: Astronot nails the look, feel and almost total lack of any kind of help or guidance that epitomised platform adventure games from the golden age. Exploring, figuring things out for yourself and accomplishing undisclosed objectives is as much fun here as it always was. The controls and character movement are fine, although more on this very shortly. Excellent retro tunes and sound effects.

Small yellow spheres are hidden all over the world. Each one will permanently increase your maximum health

The bad news: (I’m laughing as I write this because it really does not matter at all). The controls take up a large percentage of the screen and the playable area is further shrunk by a large border making the whole thing resemble a Game and Watch. If there was an option to swap the coloured border for a plain black one, I’d take it.

This is how it looks on the iPad

Arcadelife verdict: Quite fantastic, really. I know I sound like I’m doing an Emperor’s New Clothes review here, pointing at something with 2 frames of animation and the colour palette of Clive Sinclair’s underpants and going, “ooh, it’s brilliant because it’s retro”, but it is. If you wanted a definitive example of “gameplay over graphics”, Astronot would be it.

This giant space slug was my first boss fight

Initially, the unnecessarily reduced game screen and the huge buttons look like a joke, but the gameplay and the way those screen-dominating red buttons actually work almost instantly remove all misgivings and transport you to a much better place.

Lava (the red enemy is standing in it) will instantly kill you, no matter how much health you have

Guidance is virtually non-existent, rudimentary at best. If you want to know what a switch does, try activating it. Of course, nobody has told you how to activate a switch, or even if switches exist in this game, so you’re on your own. And there’s no map. Boo hoo, better get your memory working or maybe even draw one yourself.

Collect all the green squares! Why? I don’t know, just collect them all!

If you like this game, and I know a great many gamers will, you will also want to check out Mystery of the Japanese Werewolf. Very similar in concept to Astronot with more of a 16-bit than an 8-bit aesthetic.

Here’s a tip. Do not jump down there…

If you’re still not convinced about Astronot, or you think you might not be able to cope with the extreme retro experience, try the lite version first.

Arcadelife rating

Please note – the Visuals rating for Astronot is based on how well it imitates similarly themed games from the 1980s. The next Infinity Blade this most certainly is not!

Visuals – 9/10
Audio – 8.5/10
Controls – 8/10
Content – 8.5/10
Fun – 9/10
Final rating – 86/100

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

Wade McGillis website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (iOS 5.1.1)
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)
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Junk Jack review (iOS / Universal)

June 24, 2012

“Haven’t I seen you somewhere around before?”

10 word description: 2D sandbox; explore, build, survive in randomly generated worlds. Game Center.

An iPhone / iPod screen. The view on iPad is much more ‘zoomed out’

10 word review: 2D Minecraft or Mario Builds Stuff – it’s up to you.

You will like this if you enjoy: Minecraft in 2D on a touch screen. Sandbox platform games with randomly generated worlds. Terraria (quite similar).

The sun is setting. At night, hostile creatures appear

The good news: Familiar yet often surprising. Very nice visuals, particularly the day/night cycle. Lots to do and plenty of achievements. Excellent controls. Frequently being updated with additional content and enhancements.

A small shelter and some torches should get you safely through the first night

The bad news: Gamers who prefer fixed objectives and clearly defined “things to do” would probably find the complete freedom rather perplexing. This would be true of most sandbox games and isn’t a bad feature of this one, just something I thought I’d mention.

Crafting is very similar (ok, almost identical) to Minecraft. Plans and recipes exist in the world as notes that can be collected

Arcadelife verdict: It’s impossible to review this without pointing out that it is very similar in concept and content to Minecraft. Personally, I’d much rather a 2D exploring/building/crafting game on a touch screen device than a 3D version as the controls are instantly a heck of a lot more friendly and don’t get in the way of playing and enjoying the game.

Beyond the Minecraft parallels, of which there are quite a few, Junk Jack is a very good game in its own right. If you always fancied this kind of sandbox game on your iPhone or iPad, but just couldn’t get on with the controls in a 3D world, this is an easy recommendation.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 9/10
Audio – 8.5/10
Controls – 9/10
Content – 10/10
Fun – 8.5/10
Final rating – 90/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.1
iTunes link

PixBits / Junk Jack website link

Junk Jack official wiki website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (iOS 5.1.1)
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)

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Unicorn Rush review (iOS / Universal)

June 23, 2012

“Follow that unicorn on the road to love”

10 word description: Take flight through the night skies as a magical unicorn. (Taken from app store description).

10 word review: Not at all like Robot Unicorn Attack. Ok, it is.

You will like this if you enjoy: Robot Unicorn Attack. Endless runners. Endless runners that also have a bunch of challenge stages with 5-star ratings.

The good news: Very pretty. Controls are spot on, although it would have been hard to mess them up in this type of game. In a direct comparison, I prefer this to RUA for several reasons, mostly the additional challenge levels, the upgrades and the graphics. Progressive quests add to the challenge.

The bad news: IAPs and Facebook postings to earn in-game coins. Please get a life.

Arcadelife verdict: Nice game. Plenty of challenge and a fair amount of decent upgrades and playable unicorns to unlock without touching the IAPs. It’s obviously going to be directly compared with Robot Unicorn Attack and I think it comes away from that comparison very favourably.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 8.5/10
Audio – 8/10
Controls – 9.5/10
Content – 8.5/10
Fun – 8.5/10
Final rating – 86/100

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

Unicorn Rush website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (iOS 5.1.1)
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)