Archive for August, 2012

h1

Granny Smith review (iOS / Universal)

August 30, 2012

“Stolen apples taste the sweetest”

10 word description: Fast-paced racing platformer filled with crashes and stunts. Game Center.

10 word review: Fun, funny, colourful and easy to pick up and play.

You will like this if you enjoy: Endless runners, although this isn’t one. Dressing up as an old lady and chasing an apple thief on roller skates.

The good news: Graphics, controls and entertainment value are all impressive. Level design and environmental components are mostly well conceived. Consumables and unlockable characters are inexpensive (using in-game currency), so the IAPs are totally optional. The “vintage video” replays of your completed levels are very good. The crashes (Granny, not the game) are often very funny.

The bad news: The novelty and casual joy of the first set of levels (Farm World) fades slightly in the next zone, where the pretty rural environments are swapped for stark, angular cityscapes and stinky sewers. I’m willing to accept that this is just something that I happened to notice; as far as anyone else is concerned it probably won’t influence their enjoyment of the game one way or the other.

Arcadelife verdict: Although this isn’t an endless runner, the controls and general principles make it feel like one – a very good one! The old-lady-on-roller-skates character is amusing, as are the unlockable dog and old man. Earning enough coins to buy them, if you can’t wait to unlock them by completing the appropriate worlds, is very easy and doesn’t involve extreme level repetition. Environmental elements such as the zip-lines add variety to the racing and a fair amount of challenge in later levels. Personally, I prefer the relatively relaxed levels of the first world but then I’m getting old and I have enough brutal, crushing defeat in my gaming life playing Dark Souls!

Overall, Granny Smith is a very nice variation on the runner theme and an easy recommendation.

Arcadelife rating

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

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

Granny Smith website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (iOS 5.1.1)
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)
h1

Flying Kritters review (iOS / Universal)

August 29, 2012

“Baby, I’ve seen it all before”

10 word description: One-touch endless flying/sliding game. 9 characters, 3 worlds.

10 word review: Lazy Tiny Wings clone. Feels rough and unfinished, also crashes.

You will like this if you enjoy: Weak imitations of established iOS classics.

The good news: I’ll be as fair and objective as possible … and I still can’t really think anything good about this. Ok, I’ll admit that the graphics are tolerable, but the rest of the game just lets them down.

The bad news: It’s boring, badly derivative, slow, occasionally jerky, has adverts at the start, Game Center failure messages, all the characters and worlds are available immediately (that is bad, trust me) and when you scroll through the character list it eventually locks up and you have to close it down and restart it. Music is a repetitive, forgettable tune; sounds are limited to plinky-plinky noises when you collect coins. There are vertical lines where some of the landscape graphics join up; don’t ask me what the technical term for that is, probably something like “couldn’t be bothered to get it right”.

Arcadelife verdict: People need to try harder. If you’re going to blatantly copy a good game, at least try to make your version at least half as good as the one you’re imitating. There are coins to collect, but no record of how many you have collected and nothing to spend them on. The app store blurb mentions collecting coins to unlock characters and worlds, but they’re all available right at the start. There are no objectives beyond travelling as far as possible, but there’s no record of your best score/distance because the Game Center connection is broken and local scores aren’t held anywhere. The “flame” graphic looks like a place-holder. The game is not much fun.

In this case, I’m ignoring the mathematical way of calculating the final rating.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 5/10
Audio – 5/10
Controls – 7/10
Content – 2/10
Fun – 1/10
Final rating – 10/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0
iTunes link
Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (iOS 5.1.1)
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)
h1

Sling it! review (iPod/iPhone)

August 28, 2012

“This one’s from the hip, why should I know why?”

10 word description: Simple slingshot game. 35 levels. Game Center achievements and leaderboards.

10 word review: Basic gameplay, quite hard, could benefit from some secondary objectives.

You will like this if you enjoy: Very simple slingshot games.

The good news: It’s good for very quick games, as emphasised in the app store description.

The bad news: The one-shot win-or-lose gameplay is incredibly basic. Success often depends on repeatedly slinging your shot until you happen to luckily succeed. After playing any one of the billion other slingshot games on the app store, Sling it! feels like it is missing some fairly basic components, such as aiming your shot to collect stars/coins on your way to the exit. I’m not saying that this kind of secondary objective is essential, just that it feels like something is missing from this game. The physics and behaviour of the projectile are not very convincing. Audio is just an annoying tune; there’s even an achievement for “turning off the annoying music”. The launcher is near the edge of the screen, resulting in many unintentional launches while aiming.

Arcadelife verdict: I think this one needs a bit of work if it’s going to have any chance of making a name for itself on the app store. There are too many slingshot games that do this sort of thing a heck of a lot better already. One thing I would immediately address is the way success appears to be governed by a combination of luck, wonky physics and extreme repetition, rather than any kind of skill on the part of the player. This is fundamental to creating an enjoyable, satisfying game. In its favour, each level can be completed in about a second once you stumble upon the correct launch trajectory and timing.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 6/10
Audio – 3/10
Controls – 6/10
Content – 4/10
Fun – 3/10
Final rating – 44/100

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

Sling it! website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (iOS 5.1.1)
h1

One Tap Hero™ review (iOS / Universal)

August 25, 2012

“I’ve got the key, I’ve got the secret”

10 word description: 2D platformer. Single tap control. 100 different levels. Game Center.

10 word review: Great graphics and music, innovative controls, diverse and challenging levels.

You will like this if you enjoy: Platforming with a bit of timing/reflex puzzling thrown in. Innovative touch-screen controls that actually work very well!

The good news: The one-tap control method is not a gimmick – it works, and it works really well. The game is visually appealing and not obviously derivative. Different hazards and puzzle elements are introduced as you progress. Bonus items, such as keys to unlock secret levels, are well implemented as additional level goals. IAPs (for coins to buy costumes and extra bonus keys) are entirely optional.

The bad news: Bonus level progress (and keys) do not appear to be included in the iCloud save. Hopefully this will be picked up and fixed. At one point, when leaving the shop to go back to the main menu, the menu backdrop appeared but there were no menu icons at all so I couldn’t do anything – I had to shut the app down and restart it.

Arcadelife verdict: I was dubious about the whole “one tap” control system for a platform game, but I was wrong and that’s a good thing. Beyond the excellent “no buttons” control system, the level design, interesting puzzle elements and hazards, great visuals and cool music, all combine to make a fun and compelling game. I like the way the keys for the bonus levels are included as particularly hard to reach items in certain levels; they could have been left as shop items (which they also are), but that would have felt very cheap.

Overall, this is a very well designed and presented game. There are a couple of weird issues, as mentioned above, but they don’t affect the gameplay.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 9/10
Audio – 9/10
Controls – 9/10
Content – 9/10
Fun – 8.5/10
Final rating – 89/100

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

Chillingo / One Tap Hero website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (iOS 5.1.1)
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)
h1

Mikey Shorts review (iOS / Universal)

August 24, 2012

“Mikey, step out in your forest green”

10 word description: Run, jump and slide through the land. Collect coins. Speedruns.

10 word review: “My first platformer” themed speed-runner, absent traditional platforming hazards.

You will like this if you enjoy: Trying to beat global speedrun times (on Game Center). Platform games without player death or any real hazards.

The good news: Graphics are crisp and clean. Controls are very good. The basic gameplay is very easy (I put this in the ‘good news’ section because my 4 year old son likes playing this game). Interface and options are very good; controls can be customised. Exploring story mode for the hidden golden shorts is quite relaxing. No IAPs.

Good news – no IAPs

The bad news: Story mode levels are short and can all be completed on the first attempt due to the lack of any player death scenarios. Apart from beating your own best time, or a random online stranger’s best time, there is a distinct lack of challenge and no risk at all. Levels are very similar, with the same kind of obstacles and level design features occurring over and over again. The different worlds only vary cosmetically; e.g. the ice world is just a blue and white version of the green world, and the lava world is just a yellow and orange version of the same thing. The water world is just blue platforms, there’s no water. There are lots of costume pieces, but they are unlocked so frequently that there is no excitement or satisfaction when a new item appears in the shop. Challenge mode is just more of the same, only with a more aggressive timer counting down.

Even if you fail to beat the timer, you can still progress to the next level

Arcadelife verdict: If you’re a speedrun addict who likes a game without any hazards, or a very young gamer learning basic platforming skills, this is probably your ideal game. For those of us looking for a traditional platform game, and by that I mean one where it’s possible to die among other things, this game feels rather underwhelming. I’ve covered most of my issues with this game in the bad news section, so I won’t repeat all that again here.

One big missed opportunity that I can see involves the level design. Every level is fundamentally a left-to-right run, but the engine could easily handle vertical levels or large zig-zag levels. The ways that some of the golden shorts are hidden are quite imaginative, but this only goes to underline the inventiveness missing from the basic level patterns. As for the lack of hazards, I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to see a spike pit as badly as I do in this game!

My son’s favourite costume combo – “He looks like a pirate”

After saying all that, and I know it may appear shockingly negative to anyone having a blast competing against the best Game Center speedrun times, I had almost given up on Mikey Shorts when I happened to let my son (4 years old) have a go on it. It was great to watch him take his time through the first few levels, learning to slide through the tunnels and perform short sequences of jumps between platforms without having to restart or backtrack every time he fell. “My first platformer” may appear an insulting put-down, but creating a game that is this friendly and simple for complete newcomers to platform gaming is quite an achievement. For me, it’s lacking much of what I look for in a platform game although, this time round, I’m willing to let that slide (pun very obviously intended).

Slash’s solo career ends up … somewhere warm

The content rating (below) isn’t very high because I don’t consider a load of very similar, easy to complete levels and cosmetic costumes as “lots of content”. The fun rating is marked down because this is really quite a niche game and didn’t really appeal to me – and I am a huge platform game fan.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 8.5/10
Audio – 8/10
Controls – 9/10
Content – 6/10
Fun – 6/10
Final rating – 75/100

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

BeaverTap Games website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (iOS 5.1.1)
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)
h1

A Plane in Storm review (iOS / Universal)

August 23, 2012

“Riders on the storm…”

10 word description: 2D scrolling plane flight. Avoid hazards, collect stars/coins. Game Center.

10 word review: Decent ‘endless style’ game. Unlockable skills make a significant difference.

Watch out for that house …

You will like this if you enjoy: Endless games with simple controls.

The good news: For a free game (there’s also a premium version) it isn’t completely ruined by adverts and IAPs, although they do make appearance. Gameplay is fun, fairly tricky until you get at least one of the skill power-ups. Graphics, although quite tiny, suit the “escaping a huge storm” theme.

The bad news: It’s simple and repetitive, but the same could be said for the majority of endless style games. In its defence, at least it has a second mode that isn’t endless, although it is otherwise quite indistinguishable from the endless mode! Adverts on the game screen, unless you play without a network connection.

Arcadelife verdict: I kept putting this game to one side as it didn’t look too promising but, after giving it a chance, it turned out to be a lot better than I expected. The clouds and obstacles initially feel like a wall of virtual impossibility, which is why the first skill is so useful – it moves the clouds away from your plane – and makes such a massive difference to the length of your flights. There are IAPs, of course, but you won’t need them. Overall, not a particularly stunning game but also not a complete waste of time; fans of endless games will definitely find it enjoyable.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 7.5/10
Audio – 6/10
Controls – 8.5/10
Content – 7/10
Fun – 7.5/10
Final rating – 72/100

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

Avko Labs website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (iOS 5.1.1)
h1

Toxic Frog review (iOS / Universal)

August 21, 2012

“I’m addicted to you, don’t you know that you’re toxic”

10 word description: Hop on lily pads; avoid enemies, eat fireflies. 30+ levels.

10 word review: Excellent retro arcade feel, great looks, addictive high score chasing.

You will like this if you enjoy: Games that are simple to learn and control but challenging to master. Retro arcade style high-scoring games with skill-and-strategy based high-scoring techniques.

The good news: Pretty much everything about this game is spot-on; there’s nothing here I have to warn you about such as poor controls, IAPs, crashes or lacklustre performance – this game has no apparent flaws. As soon as you start to figure out the best way to score big points it is almost impossible to put this game down.

The bad news: With only 47 players on the Game Center leaderboard (I’m currently ranked #2) this game is obviously being criminally overlooked, probably because it doesn’t fall into any of the usual, predictable app store game categories. If you genuinely like video games and aren’t just into “Mindless Clicking Empire” freemium bollocks or the next clone of Angry Birds or Temple Run, you really need to get this game.

Arcadelife verdict: Toxic Frog goes beyond just being a great iOS arcade style high-scoring game by totally recapturing the feel of playing an early 80s arcade game. It doesn’t look much like one, but the game elements – reaction tests and quick direction changes under pressure while chasing a high score – combine perfectly to evoke the same mental state I remember when playing games like Berzerk, Q*Bert, Pac-Man and, of course, Frogger.

Overall – Toxic Frog came out of nowhere for me, well, ok, it came as a promo code via email, and it ranks alongside NinjaBoy as one of the big surprises so far this year. An excellent game, well designed and clearly polished to a high level. Highly recommended.

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 1.0.5
iTunes link

Ramble Interactive / Toxic Frog website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)
h1

Random Heroes review (iOS / Universal)

August 20, 2012

“This punk’s got an equaliser, all it takes a little loot”

10 word description: Action platformer. Blast enemies, collect coins, buy weapons and costumes.

I would have called the game “Cheerleader with a Minigun” and left out all the other characters

10 word review: Short, generic, unmemorable. Crashes often. IAPs – why? Initially tedious combat.

You will like this if you enjoy: Disappointment.

The attribute ratings (apart from health) don’t make much difference

The good news: It’s short. Graphics are quite nice. Controls are generally ok.

The bad news: In no particular order: It’s very short, with only the prospect of unlocking weaker weapons and costumes as any kind of incentive to keep playing after beating it. The controls are ok, but there’s no option to resize or move the buttons – this makes iPad control a bit awkward. The levels are unimaginative, generic, repetitive and dull.

Here we see the achievement for completing the first level appearing at the start of the third set of levels. Again.

There’s no score, no speedrun rating and no secondary objectives, so all you need to do is head straight to the exit, even on levels where there are alternative routes and branching paths. The bosses are incredibly basic. Level hazards and elements such as lifts and moving platforms are repeated (in the same patterns) over and over again. It crashes a lot. The achievement notifications keep appearing over and over again, particularly if you play without a network connection.

The first boss is ridiculously easy and drops a lot of coins. Repeat until you have the gun and/or costume you want, then have (a little bit) more fun with the game

With the weapon that you start with, it takes 8 shots to kill the weakest enemies in the first level – that becomes tedious very quickly. The “hold jump to go down” control mechanism is pretty stupid; the designers must have thought so too, as it doesn’t appear very often, making no appearance at all in the third chapter.

Your move … creep

Arcadelife verdict: Very disappointing. The components for a great game are all here, but they’ve been mangled into a bland, forgettable mush of cut-&-paste levels, weak weapons, bugs and boss grinding (for coins). Incredibly, probably due to the overall shortness, I’ve played it all the way through and did get some small amount of fun from it. I wouldn’t completely dismiss it, as it is enjoyable on a very simplistic level, but it is nowhere near as good as it could easily have been.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 7.5/10
Audio – 8/10
Controls – 7/10
Content – 5/10
Fun – 4/10
Final rating – 63/100

Rating categories explained here.

Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0
iTunes link

Random Heroes website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (iOS 5.1.1)
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)
h1

My Kingdom for the Princess III review (iPad)

August 16, 2012

“Your king-kingdom kingdom kingdom”

10 word description: Time management/sim/strategy sequel. 5 locations, mini-games, Game Center.

10 word review: More of the same, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

You will like this if you enjoy: The first two games in this series. The Roads of Rome games. Time management/building games.

The good news: The proven formula is still pretty much intact. It’s visually quite appealing. Mini-games, such as a tap/defence reaction challenge versus waves of attacking wolves, add variety between the standard levels.

The bad news: I have to be honest, there’s not much difference between the three My Kingdom games and the two Roads of Rome games, and they’re not the only members of this genre. Some of the changes to Part III do not obviously improve on the previous games. It’s still not possible to queue actions or cancel actions.

Arcadelife verdict: While this isn’t exactly a massive departure from the first two My Kingdom games, I suppose there is a decent, if clichéd, argument that you don’t need to fix that which is not broken. Personally, I would have liked to have seen some elements that immediately made me think, “Wow, that’s new and different!” but that didn’t happen. The level select screen has been transformed from a pleasant map to some rather large square buttons – an odd design decision that doesn’t feel like an improvement to me.

Overall, if you are a fan of the My Kingdom games (and Roads of Rome, and all the others), you will enjoy playing this one despite the very traditional feel and the lack of significant changes to the formula.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 8.5/10
Audio – 8/10
Controls – 8.5/10
Content – 8.5/10
Fun – 8/10
Final rating – 83/100

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

Nevosoft / MKftP3 website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)
h1

Lexual review (iPod/iPhone)

August 15, 2012

“And there’s not a word that I’ve ever heard
That would make me change my mind”

10 word description: Word game; tap letters in grid, form words. Game Center.

10 word review: Enjoyable, challenging word game with a very clean, impressive interface.

You will like this if you enjoy: Word games. The option to have a timer or not.

The good news: As far as iPhone word games go, this is one of the (much) better ones. I love the interface. (Is that too sloppy and emotional?) Gameplay is fun, far more than I’d expect from a grid-based word making game.

The bad news: The timer is quite tiny, although I didn’t find myself looking at it in timed mode much anyway. Probably not an issue.

Arcadelife verdict: The game is good, interface is excellent. If you’re interested in word games and you want one on your iPhone that plays really well and looks quite exquisite, this would be the one to go for. There are two modes and three difficulty settings. The dictionary seems good; I didn’t have any problems with any of the valid words I entered or slightly iffy made-up words I tested on it.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 10/10
Audio – 8/10
Controls – 9.5/10
Content – 8.5/10
Fun – 8.5/10
Final rating – 90/100

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

Synoptical Studios / Lexual website link

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