Archive for July, 2012

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Splishi Splashi review (iOS / Universal)

July 31, 2012

“Surface slowly at your own speed, waiting for some sky”

10 word description: Endless swimmer. Collect orbs, evade predator. Retro graphics. Game Center.

10 word review: Simple, fun, good controls, great music, very addictive and entertaining.

You will like this if you enjoy: One-touch endless runner/swimmer/flyer type games.

The good news: The one-touch relative/analogue control for the fish’s swimming/jumping angle is very good. Retro graphics are nicely done. Music is excellent. Gameplay – collecting orbs/coins and achieving greater and greater distances while avoiding obstacles – is finely tuned and a lot of fun.

The bad news: There’s a scrolling advert on the menu screen, but it’s hardly worth complaining about so I won’t… although I suppose I just did.

Arcadelife verdict: In a crowded genre, what do you need to stand out? A cute fish, retro graphics, great music, reliable controls and solid gameplay are a good start. Although the game relies heavily on repetition (like the majority of endless/distance games) and lacks any additional modes, what you do get is quite a lot of fun. It’s also moderately easy with obstacle collisions slowing you down rather than instantly killing you. Overall – well worth getting.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 8/10
Audio – 9/10
Controls – 9/10
Content – 6/10
Fun – 8.5/10
Final rating – 81/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.2
iTunes link

Splishi Splashi website link

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

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ORC: Vengeance review (iOS / Universal)

July 30, 2012

“Ain’t no feeble bastard, no f***ing scapegoat”

10 word description: Action RPG / dungeon crawl. Loot, upgrades, boss fights, IAPs, Game Center.

10 word review: Looks and sounds very nice. Needs some additional control options.

You will like this if you enjoy: Action RPGs, of which this is (one of) the best on iOS.

The good news: Very good graphics, if a little dark in some areas. Appropriate and rather epic sounds and music. iCloud progress saving seems to work! Good attempt at avoiding on-screen buttons, however…

The bad news: While the attempt is admirable, the tap-to-move and gesture based skills don’t feel like the best control method for this game. Some areas are very dark – with graphics this good, they don’t need to be hidden by low light levels. Pay-to-win IAPs and Game Center – always a great combination. Fairly frequent crashes on 1st gen iPad. Power attacks occasionally seem to completely miss enemies standing right in front of the player character.

Arcadelife verdict: As an iOS action RPG it stands up very well against the competition, particularly the recent Gameloft competition and anything from the Orient that is purely a vehicle for selling IAPs. Graphically it’s excellent, particularly the environments, and the sounds and music are also very effective.

Orc’s shortcomings are not specifically related to hardware limitations of the devices it runs on but the curious choices made by the developers. The tap-to-move control system does a great job of removing an on-screen directional pad, but the same effect could have been achieved with a relative touch method which would have given precise and direct control and a far better connection between the player and the character. The gesture based skills, again a good idea in principle, conflict with the movement tapping, particularly any skill you assign to “double tap”, and end up feeling far more cumbersome than they need to be. A row of buttons at the bottom or side of the screen – let the player choose where – could have the skills and potions assigned to them. This would work well and would eliminate all the accidental or missed skill deployments caused by movement/gesture fumbles.

I ended up completely ignoring potions as assigning them to a gesture just wasn’t going to work for me. Anyway, the best tactic in fights is to run around in circles while your health and armour regenerate – yes, your armour regenerates, much like an energy shield in a totally different game.

As for loot, as soon as you buy the best item that you can afford from the vendor (and this is completely without going anywhere near IAPs), anything that drops or comes out of a chest after that is only worth picking up to sell because the decent vendor items, at least as far as I have seen, are far better than anything you are going to get from loot.

Overall, Orc: Vengeance is a great looking action RPG with a different kind of hero. It does a lot of things very well but could seriously benefit from some fundamental changes to improve the experience.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 9.5/10
Audio – 9/10
Controls – 4.5/10
Content – 9/10
Fun – 7.5/10
Final rating – 79/100

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

Chillingo / ORC: Vengeance 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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Manos – The Hands of Fate review (iOS / Universal)

July 29, 2012

“The hand of fate is on me now
It pick me up and it kicked me right down”

10 word description: Very retro 2D scrolling platform/exploration adventure. Guns and bosses.

10 word review: Hard but very enjoyable; younger gamers probably won’t appreciate it.

You will like this if you enjoy: Extremely retro (in look and feel) platform adventures. NES games. A hell of a lot of perseverance; yes, I mean trying again and again until you get it right.

The good news: Astoundingly accurate retro gaming experience.

Cool, a 1up – what’s the betting I die while jumping back from there?

The bad news: Astoundingly accurate retro gaming experience. (Sorry, I know it’s a complete cliché to repeat the good news in the bad news section but, as this game is so incredibly retro, I thought I could get away with it just this once).

Arcadelife verdict: The high difficulty, Game Over = complete restart, fall = instant death and often evil level design could possibly put some people off. However, none of that falls outside the aims or claims of the game and anyone getting involved should be aware of that and not shocked when they discover that this is indeed a game without any semblance of a safety net.

Graphically, it is an 8-bit memory reborn on your i-device. The sounds are wonderfully prehistoric too. What is most impressive is the convincingly ultra-retro gameplay. You run, you jump, you shoot, miss and die. Over and over again. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but the big, nasty boss at the end of stage 3 is completely overshadowed by the screen-smashing frustration of stage 4. That’s as far as I’ve got so far, but I keep going back because I remember this kind of eternal struggle from the dawn of ZX Spectrum gaming and I will not give up. Not today anyway.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 8/10
Audio – 8.5/10
Controls – 9/10
Content – 8.5/10
Fun – 8.5/10
Final rating – 85/100

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

Freakzone Games 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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10000000 review (iOS / Universal)

July 28, 2012

“Time, got the time tick tick tickin’ in my head”

10 word description: Dungeon crawling RPG matching game. Match, kill, loot, upgrade. Retro.

10 word review: Proves beyond doubt that great games do not need IAPs.

Match by sliding whole rows or columns, not moving individual blocks

You will like this if you enjoy: Match-3 RPGs. Examples would be Dungeon Raid, The Dungeon Saga and Puzzle Quest. However, ignoring the minor sub-genre pigeon-holing, this game should appeal to pretty much anyone.

The good news: This game is a lot of fun to play. That’s important, don’t overlook it! Graphics are decent and retro-looking, music and sounds are good and rather entertaining. Upgrades and evolving objectives contribute to the intense “one more go” hook of the game. No IAPs, none at all. I imagine if this game had originated from Korea or Gameloft or any one of 10 million other iOS developers it would be a massively different story. Well done to the developer, you are to be applauded and thanked. A lot.

Complete objectives to level up. Levelling up increases the score multiplier, among other things

The bad news: It’s a time-sink. While this is arguably not “bad”, it’s the core of the game and the only way to improve your performance, much as in many standard (and highly acclaimed) role playing games. If someone has a higher score than you (and you probably won’t know or care as there’s currently no Game Center integration) it’s only because they’ve played it for longer.

Arcadelife verdict: It doesn’t take long while playing 10000000 to notice that it’s a lot of fun and incredibly addictive. It takes slightly longer to realise that it isn’t your elite Match-3 skills or rattlesnake reactions that are improving your scores, it’s the time that you are putting into the game. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s almost the total opposite of the appalling In-App-Purchase “buy to win” bollocks that is so successfully spoiling a lot of current iOS games, and I like it even more because of that. Hell, it’s worth buying this game just to show that a pure, fun and immensely playable game can turn a decent profit even without being bogged down with IAPs.

There’s an intensity to the game that is very close to perfect. I have occasionally hit some kind of stress wall while playing, where I lose the ability to function, paralysed by a grid where I can see no useful matches, while my stick figure avatar is being pushed relentlessly off the left side of the screen and all I can do is stare, twitching a bit. That doesn’t happen by accident – this a very well devised and executed game.

However, the despair of each defeat is tempered by the fact that each attempt earns you something, whether it’s materials to improve your castle or gold to buy upgrades. If IAPs were involved, it would feel cheap and pointless. As it is, it feels like something that you not only MUST DO but that you absolutely WANT TO DO, because it’s that much fun.

Keys unlock things. I bet you didn’t know that…

Some closing thoughts: There’s nothing wrong with the name 10000000. Try typing it into iTunes… I did and I saw this game and Galaxy on Fire 2 in the search results. Now that is good company to be in, although I haven’t got a clue why GoF2 comes up. 10000000 isn’t the best game ever, but it’s the closest you’re going to get this week.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 7/10
Audio – 9/10
Controls – 10/10
Content – 9/10
Fun – 10/10
Final rating – 90/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0.0
iTunes link

EightyEight Games 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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BLAZING STAR review (iOS / Universal)

July 26, 2012

“Astrophysics you’ll never be my closest friend”

10 word description: NEOGEO scrolling shooter. 6 different ships. Bluetooth multiplayer. Game Center.

6 ships to choose from. Don’t automatically pick the one with the prettiest pilot

10 word review: It’s not Last Resort, but get it while you’re waiting!

You will like this if you enjoy: Arcade shoot-em-ups. Playing old NEOGEO games on your iPhone / iPad.

The good news: It was already a good game (although Last Resort is better, at least as far as I’m concerned) and this port is very good. Performs well on my 4th gen Touch and 1st gen iPad. Mission mode is a nice addition, as it was in the recent Metal Slug 3 release for iOS. Not too hard, although limited continues mean you’re probably not going to breeze through it in your first session. Controls are completely customisable, so you can put the buttons wherever you like. Relative touch, as always, is the best way to go with this kind of game and it works well here.

The bad news: No autofire. I don’t miss it, but I know other players will. While they’re adding that, maybe stick a casual mode in with infinite continues. Again, I don’t personally want that but it might open the game up to people who aren’t shoot-em-up experts but fancy a go anyway.

Arcadelife verdict: Let’s get all the essential but still second-best NEOGEO shooters out of the way and port Last Resort to iOS. Please! Sure, Blazing Star is very pretty and has a lot going on, six ships to choose right from the start and some impressive effects, but Last Resort is (in my opinion, obviously, but I’m right) easily SNK’s best attempt at ripping off and improving on the R-Type formula, even though it preceded Pulstar and Blazing Star by quite a few years. Last Resort is harder, more satisfying and the bosses have more character and individuality… great soundtrack too.

Still, this review is supposed to be for Blazing Star, not a rant about Last Resort. What can I say? Blazing Star is fun, solid, runs really well (on my test devices), has configurable controls and is as addictive as it always was. No negative points from me apart from the lack of autofire which could put some people off. Did I mention I prefer Last Resort? Maybe that will be out next month…

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 8.5/10
Audio – 9/10
Controls – 9/10
Content – 9/10
Fun – 8.5/10
Final rating – 88/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.00
iTunes link

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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Best free iPad calculator

July 25, 2012

For no particular reason other than I wanted to get a decent free calculator for my iPad, I downloaded a folder full of top-rated (iTunes ratings) free calculator apps and did a fairly quick comparison of them all.

If you have a folder full of free calculator apps and you’re not going to delete all but one very soon, there’s something wrong and you should seek help!

In case it’s any use to someone else, I decided to use the results for a comparison review feature on Arcadelife. Review criteria – pretty simple; I’m not concerned about lots of scientific functions, I want a calculator that loads quickly, looks nice, isn’t swamped with adverts or nags, and calculates percentages and repeated presses of the equals key properly. What I mean by “properly” is the same way the calculator on the iPhone works, and also the majority of hardware calculators.

Example 1 – I want to enter “125 + 50% =”  and get the answer 187.5. Seeing the calculated percentage value (62.5) as an intermediate figure is nice to have.
Example 2 – I want to enter “2 x 2” and have each subsequent press of the equals button display the previous result multiplied by 2. E,g, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc.

Some of the following calculators perform both those calculations as described above. Many others that I tried did not. Some even gave the result of  “125 + 50% =” as 125.5

I’ll list a few basic facts and some pros & cons for each app that made it to my final list. I’m not going to talk about features that are available as IAPs or that only exists in the full (bought) version of any of these free calculators. If you click the app icon for any calculator, it will take you to the iTunes page for that app.

Calculator+

File size: 42.3mb
Default skin is very similar to iPhone calculator.
Includes two other skins but they are not very nice.
Percentage key is only available in landscape mode.
Adverts appear at the bottom of the screen.


Verdict – Very large file size, nasty additional skins and lack of percentage button in portrait mode undermine a basically decent calculator app. It does show the intermediate value when adding on a percentage.

Calculator LCD Free

File size: 1.5mb
No adverts apart from permanent prompt to get the full version, top right corner of screen.
Nag prompt every time it starts, asking you to get the full version.
Doesn’t use “equals” as the end of a calculation. Entering a new number will include that number with the previous calculation unless you specifically press the cancel key. If that doesn’t make sense, download the app and try it for yourself. Enter 2+2=. You get 4. Now enter “6”, press equals or any other function key and you get 10. It added 6 to 4 without being told to do so.


Verdict – One of the best looking calculators I tried, very clean graphics and nice big display area. The adverts aren’t particularly annoying but I don’t like the way it doesn’t interpret “equals” as the end of the current calculation. If you like gimmicks, it even dims the fake LCD display if you cover the fake solar panel with your finger.

Calculator for iPad Free

File size – 5.3mb
Log of calculations.
Freehand notes feature.
Intermediate percentage value displayed (and added to log).
Nice skin – metal/glass effect calculator in leather wallet.
Upgrade prompt has “Do not show this again” as an option.
Small adverts appear at bottom of screen.


I’m not entirely sure how much use the freehand notepad feature is, but it’s easy to hide if you don’t need it

Verdict – One of my favourites, but is it the one I chose over all the others? You’ll have to wait, or scroll down to the end of this post, to find out. A very smart, clean looking calculator with plenty of features, an upgrade nag that can be turned off and a very handy log of your calculations.

CalcMadeEasy Free

File size: 6.3mb
Log & Notepad (calculation log and free keyboard entry).
Copy/paste in display line, including results history.
List of universal constants.
Extensive help/tips within app.
All buttons available in portrait and landscape.
No adverts.
Doesn’t repeat equals, meaning if you enter 2×2 and press equals more than once the result stays at 4. Personally, I prefer it to work the proper way.

Verdict – Apart from my own gripe about equals not performing a repeat function of the previous calculation, this is easily one of the best free calculator apps available. Some of the functions are not immediately apparent, but the built-in help is very good.

Calculator Free

File size: 3.3mb
Results log.
Full calculation displayed under main display line.
No percentage button in portrait mode.
Adverts displayed at bottom of screen.


Verdict – Very good, apart from the lack of a percentage button in portrait mode.

Calculator HD+ Free

File size: 4mb
Three workspaces (separate calculation areas)
Results displayed and updated in separate log zone while typing.
Unique visual style.
Undo button.
Adverts displayed at bottom of screen.
Doesn’t repeat equals, meaning if you enter 2×2 and press equals more than once the result stays at 4. Personally, I prefer it to work the proper way.


Verdict – If you’re looking for a fully functional calculator app with its own unique visual style, this would probably be the one to go for. I’d prefer repeated presses of equals to repeat the last function on the previous result, but this one doesn’t do that.

Calc Pro HD Free

File size: 23.7mb
Switch between standard & scientific without altering orientation.
Tape (log) of calculation steps.
Doesn’t repeat equals, meaning if you enter 2×2 and press equals more than once the result stays at 4. Personally, I prefer it to work the proper way.

Verdict – Decent enough, but doesn’t do much to make it a must have over some of the others. The file size is also a lot larger than similar (and better) calculators.

Big Calculator Free

File size: 14.6mb
Paper tape (calculation log).
Memory contents displayed in a button.
Standard calculator only – no scientific or advanced maths functions.
No adverts, but IAP functions are permanently displayed when in landscape mode.


Verdict – Nice basic (non scientific) calculator with a few extra features such as the paper tape (useful) and the memory amount being displayed on the MR button.

And the winner is…

For me, it came down to a choice between Big Calculator Free (the last one in the list above) and Calculator for iPad Free (the one with the metal/glass in a leather wallet look) and, of course, I went for the one that I thought looked nicer. Because that’s what it’s going to be about when you choose, unless one of them has some weird gimmicky function that you just can’t live without!

Congratulations – this one will be the one I keep on my iPad, for a week at least:

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The Dark Knight Rises review (iOS / Universal)

July 23, 2012

“We flap our wings but we never leave the ground”

10 word description: Superhero action game inspired by the movie. Missions, upgrades, IAPs.

10 word review: Although there’s plenty to forgive, it’s still a fun game.

You will like this if you enjoy: Batman. Third person action games. Fighting games (there’s a lot of fighting). The grapple in Just Cause 2.

The good news: It’s a very good movie tie-in. Although much of the game is dark, the graphics are consistently pretty good. Sound is excellent, particularly the voice acting. Grappling and gliding around the city is convincingly done and always fun. The simplistic fighting is quite entertaining and doesn’t become frustrating.

The bad news: Graphics are at their best on Retina devices; on iPad 1st gen  it doesn’t look particularly fantastic. Camera angle is occasionally straight into a wall, or the ceiling, or Batman’s armpit. Fighting is limited to hammering one button until the ‘counter’ icon appears, then tapping that before returning to the main button. Note – keeping the fighting controls simple (very simple) is arguably a good thing. Enemies have no intelligence; they’re just there to be beaten up. There’s no real skill involved with grappling or gliding; landing on a target building is even done for you when you get close enough during some missions. There are lots of  IAPs, some with insanely high prices.Finally, if you play the game before you watch the film, expect to see some spoilers.

Arcadelife verdict: While this game won’t completely blow your mind, it’s easily good enough for me to recommend to anyone interested in playing a Batman TDKR game on their iPhone or iPad. Some of the dark interior locations are easier to navigate on the iPad’s larger screen, but that’s hardly a revelation. I like the grappling hook and the associated ability to reach the top of very high buildings; it immediately reminded me of playing Just Cause 2.

Junction box mini-games pop up occasionally – they’re pretty easy

Ultimately, I ended up forgiving the game for quite a lot but still enjoying it. Gameloft games are now completely out of control as far as IAPs are concerned, even ones like this that are priced well above tier one. Luckily, TDKR seems to be perfectly playable without any additional purchases, but I still feel entitled to be annoyed by the existence of all the IAPs. The game is well worth getting for Batman and action game fans alike; just don’t expect a perfectly flawless experience!

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 8/10
Audio – 10/10
Controls – 8/10
Content – 8.5/10
Fun – 8.5/10
Final rating – 85/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0.0
iTunes link

Gameloft / TDKR website link

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