Posts Tagged ‘iPad’


Xenowerk review (iOS / Universal)

June 23, 2015


10 word description: Alien-blasting twin-stick shooter. 50 levels. Lots of guns.


10 word review: Great looking and cathartic, but repetitive and way too easy. 


You will like this if you enjoy: High-score chasing blast-fests. Killing aliens. A top-down Dead Space without the story, variety or challenge.


The good news: Presentation is top-tier. Visuals, sounds and effects create a great atmosphere. Controls are reliable, responsive, and can be customised. Loads of impressive weapons. The IAPs are purely there for the terminally impatient weapon-shoppers – there is absolutely no need to spend more money on this game in order to play it and enjoy it.


The bad news: Challenge is completely unbalanced in the player’s favour, which I’ll explain in the verdict section. Gameplay is repetitive, despite cosmetic attempts to make it seem like it isn’t. Missed opportunity for massive boss fights.


Arcadelife verdict: I like Xenowerk, but I also loved Space Invaders, Asteroids, and Smash TV. Xenowerk feels very much like the most recent version of Alien Breed, or an isometric Dead Space with the same lived-in space station vibe and darkly amusing messages and warnings scrawled on the walls by former inhabitants.

The first few levels introduce a game that could be the perfect touch-screen sci-fi shooter. There are weird, shambling organic aliens, a decent pair of starter weapons, a very helpful map, and a great, if not altogether original atmosphere. “Cool,” you think, as you back away from a lumbering blobby monstrosity, seeing it quivering under your concentrated fire before bursting apart in a shower of green alien guts.


A few more levels further in, and you begin to suspect that you have seen everything that Xenowork has to offer. Corridors, aliens, explosions, terminals to tap, and an elevator to reach to end the level. And that’s pretty much it. It’s fun, and tugs compulsively in a way that the old-school shoot-everything-that-moves arcade games did, but it is very simple and very repetitive. It’s also extremely easy, which isn’t blindingly apparent during the first few levels.


The main problem, as far as I can figure out, is caused by the fact that the weapons and armour can be bought at any time, in any order, if you have enough cash. The cash comes in quickly enough that you can buy a game-changing super-weapon by the time you have played most of the way through the first set of ten levels. Up to that point, the starter weapons and armour are more than adequate. Once I had bought what I like to call “The Gun That Makes This Game Too Easy” (purely because I liked the look of it), it didn’t take long to earn enough cash to go straight from the starter armour to the best armour in the game. Completing levels became a sequence of risk-free speed-runs, which is arguably what the high-score chasing is all about. I know I could have stuck with weaker weapons and armour, but the player shouldn’t have to gimp his own gear in order to keep the game challenging – that’s the job of the game developers and testers. If the available weapons were restricted based on level progres, that would go a long way towards fixing the balance issue.


Ultimately, Xenowerk is an addictive, flashy looking shooter with a couple of gameplay flaws that are not critical or impossible to resolve. Blasting corridors full of slimy alien blobs is a lot of fun. If you enjoy doing it with overpowered weapons in what feels like a cheat-mode then this may just be the game you’ve been waiting for.

Arcadelife rating

Presentation – 9.5/10
Visuals – 9/10
Controls – 9/10
Content – 7/10
Fun – 8/10
Final rating – 8/10


Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.2.1
iTunes link

Pixelbite website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPad (iOS 8.3)
This review was typed on a Das Keyboard Model S mechanical keyboard – check them out, they’re really rather groovy.

Hitman: Sniper review (iOS / Universal)

June 11, 2015

hitman sniper img_025810 word description: Fixed position Hitman shooting game. 150 Missions, 13 rifles, upgrades.  

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10 word review: Only one zone, but a hugely entertaining and atmospheric game.

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You will like this if you enjoy: Hitman games. Sniper games. Target shooting. Blowing stuff up and watching ragdoll bodies fly through the air.

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The good news: Great theme and style that fit perfectly into the Hitman universe. Control method is flawless enough to feel far more natural than using a mouse/keyboard for the same type of game on PC. Very nice graphics, sounds and effects create a compelling and believable atmosphere. Target and guard behaviour and AI, while not completely realistic, are plausible within the constraints of a video game about creative assassinations, and consistent enough to be used as a reliable mechanism in a variety of set-pieces and hit set-ups. New weapons and upgrades are acquired using in-game currency which can only be obtained in-game, meaning no currency IAPs. The IAP guns are completely optional, not necessary for playing or enjoying the game. 

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The bad news: Only one map/zone. Action is arguably repetitive: shoot things from a single sniping location. IAP guns – does the game need them? No. Do they spoil the game? No, but I would argue that all weapons should be unlockable without spending more real money on a premium price game.

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Arcadelife verdict: 

I can overlook all the bad points (above) purely because the game is so much fun, so utterly addictive, a fantastic touch-screen game, and just a very cool example of how to take a basic video game concept, keep it simple, and build an immersive and stylish experience out of it.

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It’s initially a bit disappointing that there is only one map, with a single sniping location, but any doubts about the depth and entertainment value of the game quickly dissipate when you start to discover the amusing subtleties of gameplay and the attention to detail and opportunities for lethal pranking in the environment.

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Hitman Sniper’s “one more go” capacity is unquestionable. What does have to be questioned is whether shooting the same blissfully unaware victims in the head, over and over again, is appropriate content for a game. Who am I kidding? Of course it is.

Arcadelife rating

Presentation – 10/10
Visuals – 9/10
Controls – 9.5/10
Content – 7/10
Fun – 9/10
Final rating – 9/10


Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.2.0
iTunes link website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPhone 6 (iOS 8.3)
4th gen iPad (iOS 8.3)
This review was typed on a Das Keyboard Model S mechanical keyboard – check them out, they’re really rather groovy.

Sword of Xolan review (iOS / Universal)

May 21, 2015

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10 word description: Retro styled action platformer. Adventure and speed-run levels.

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10 word review: Probably the best iOS game I’ll play this year. Probably.

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You will like this if you enjoy: Touch-screen action platformers done really, really well. Goblin Sword. 

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The good news: Gameplay has that magical “familiar yet fabulous” quality that doesn’t come around that often, particularly on mobile touch-screen devices. Visuals are wonderful. Controls are as responsive and reliable as anyone could wish for. No in-app purchases. 

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The bad news: No cloud sync.

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Arcadelife verdict: This is pretty much a perfect touch-screen action platformer. I’m not saying it’s a perfect game, or that the iOS devices can finally rival PCs or consoles with this game, just read the sentence and understand it for what it is. There are 30 adventure levels, 3 bosses and 9 speed-run challenge levels. There are permanent upgrades that you buy (with in-game gold) by paying to turn over random cards in the card shop. It’s more fun than you deserve, particularly at the low price point.

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I’ve scored it 10/10 and I rarely do that. All you have to do is buy it.

Arcadelife rating

Presentation – 9.5/10
Visuals – 9.5/10
Controls – 10/10
Content – 10/10
Fun – 10/10
Final rating – 10/10


Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0.4
iTunes link

Sword of Xolan website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPhone 6 (iOS 8.3)
4th gen iPad (iOS 8.3)
This review was typed on a Das Keyboard Model S mechanical keyboard – check them out, they’re really rather groovy.

Devious Dungeon 2 review (iOS / Universal)

April 21, 2015

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10 word description: Action platform RPG-lite sequel. 3 playable classes. Upgrades. Boss fights.

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10 word review: Bigger, slicker, much harder than the original. Fast-paced fun. 

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You will like this if you enjoy: Action platform games. Simplified RPGs. Trolls. Fireballs. Spike pits.

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The good news: Several hours in, no crashes or memory-leak slowdown; I reckon they’ve fixed or rewritten their engine. Controls are reliable and responsive, although they can’t be customised. Varied and attractive environments, enemies and objects. Progress is well-paced, with permanent checkpoints every few levels. Three save-game slots. Generally a whole load of fairly mindless fun.

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The bad news: Cloud save-game blatantly doesn’t work. Gameplay is repetitive, but this is not necessarily a bad thing as the action is relentless and entertaining.

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Arcadelife verdict: I like it, even the pervasive sense of grinding while battling to reach each checkpoint. It might not exactly bring anything new to the genre, or even to the Devious Dungeon series, but it’s a worthy sequel that is fun to dip into for regular blasts of platforming action. A special mention goes to the long overdue overhaul of the buggy, crash-prone engine that is no longer buggy or prone to crashes. Well done.

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Arcadelife rating

Presentation – 9/10
Visuals – 8.5/10
Controls – 8/10
Content – 8/10
Fun – 8.5/10
Final rating – 8.5/10


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

Ravenous Games website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPhone 6 (iOS 8.2)
4th gen iPad (iOS 8.2)
This review was typed on a Das Keyboard Model S mechanical keyboard – check them out, they’re really rather groovy.

Midnight Miner review (iPhone)

April 9, 2015

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10 word description: Endless vertical auto-run depth-driller. Permanent upgrades, leaderboard, achievements. 

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10 word review: Addictive, challenging fun. Free with unobtrusive ads – recommended.

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You will like this if you enjoy: Endless runners/diggers. Mining games. Permanent upgrades. 

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The good news: Clean, attractive graphical style that is retro without going into the realms of extreme pixel graphics. Reliable, responsive controls. Great sense of constant progression through affordable (game currency) permanent upgrades and unlockable minerals. No single-use consumable items – yay! Despite being a free game, there is no need to buy any IAPs – progress is constant and swift using just the easily obtainable in-game currency. 

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The bad news: There are adverts, but it’s a free game so what do you expect? They’re not particularly obtrusive and they can be instantly dismissed, not the type with timers where you have to wait before clicking the X to close them.

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Arcadelife verdict: It’s a bit like a twitchy, fast-forward version of Mr Driller or Doug dug, with a lot less strategy but loads more upgrades and unlockable stuff. I tend to avoid free games on principle, but this one actually gives the player a really fun, fully functional game that can be played, rather than an empty hole to throw money into. The upgrades and unlockable minerals can be earned very quickly, rapidly contributing to larger and larger scores. It’s extremely addictive and stands out as a shining light of the free game genre, something against which the majority of other free games, plus a whole slew of paid ones, would struggle to match for pure gaming fun.

Arcadelife rating

Presentation – 9/10
Visuals – 8.5/10
Controls – 9/10
Content – 8/10
Fun – 9.5/10
Final rating – 9/10


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

Developer website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPhone 6 (iOS 8.2)

This review was typed on a Das Keyboard Model S mechanical keyboard – check them out, they’re really rather groovy.


Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic review (iOS / Universal)

March 9, 2015

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10 word description: Turn-based, 3-member party, roguelike RPG quest-em-up.

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10 word review: Very retro, genuinely amusing, old skool addictive loot-tastic fun.

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You will like this if you enjoy: Side-scrolling pixel graphics, turn-based RPGs with a ton of loot, loads of fights, big bad bosses and a sense of humour that consistently hits the mark. 

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The good news: Very entertaining. Fun! Makes the tired clichés of pop culture and self referential humour feel surprisingly fresh and relevant. Controls are pretty much flawless (on iPad). Graphics are as retro-pixellated as the game title promises, and the animations are woefully inadequate in a so-crap-it’s-genuinely-funny way. Loot, levelling, healing, and fighting are all handled so effectively that it takes a while for you to actually acknowledge just how well it all works together. Loads of character classes, an almost infinite number of 3-man teams to choose. Lots of achievements and unlockable characters. No IAPs. No grinding.

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The bad news: Someone isn’t going to like the uber-retro graphics. Too bad, go play some freemium crap instead. Screen layout is a bit ‘could be better’ on iPhone 6, looking like something that happened a few years before widescreen was invented; I don’t care, I play it on my iPad.

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Arcadelife verdict: Here’s the game that made me take a short break from writing my latest Neo-Noir Vampire novel because I wanted to review it so badly. Pixel Heroes is fantastic and deserves to be played and played and played. There are so many stand-out moments, from the bizarre mid-journey encounters and the wonderfully mad bosses to the frequently hilariousrandom comments by the playable characters. Even the advert is genius. Just buy this game.  

Arcadelife rating

Presentation – 8.5/10
Visuals – 8/10
Controls – 10/10
Content – 9.5/10
Fun – 9/10
Final rating – 9/10


Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1
iTunes link website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
iPhone 6 (iOS 8.1.3)
4th gen iPad (iOS 8.1.3)
This review was typed on a Das Keyboard Model S mechanical keyboard – check them out, they’re really rather groovy.

Best iOS games 2014

December 29, 2014

While not exactly restricting myself to games that I’ve reviewed in 2014, these are all iOS games that I have played and, most importantly, enjoyed in 2014. Categories have been assigned where they serve a purpose, otherwise you can assume that these games are great just because I say they are.

To put the list into some kind of perspective, I really like RPGs and platform games. Just in case you were wondering.

Hands-down, no argument, my absolute iOS Game of the Year 2014: Battleheart Legacy

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Why? Because it’s insanely addictive, massively replayable and a huge amount of fun. It’s arguably unfinished, with a virtually non-existent story, and gameplay that devolves into a grind-fest almost immediately, but the core RPG mechanics, constant action, diverse playable characters, and hugely entertaining arena mode make it easily my favourite and most-played iOS game of the year.

UK App Store verdict: 4.5 stars from 147 ratings.

Closest second place ever and one of the best iOS platform games of all time: Goblin Sword

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Why? I’ll refer you to this quote from the Arcadelife review: “Much like dating a really cute lingerie model and finding out that you not only like the same movies but that she also has a twin sister who is “up for it”, Goblin Sword is so much fun that you’re going to have to keep checking that you’re not dreaming while you play it.” It is classic platforming and an absolutely essential game for anyone with even the remotest interest in the genre. The attention to detail alone is worthy of an award. And, yes, I know that the review for this game says it’s the best iOS game I played this year, and it was, but Battleheart Legacy got the award. Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

US App Store verdict: 4.5 stars from 714 ratings.

The best game you never played. Naturally, I’m the best player in the world on it: Revenge of Toxic Frog

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Why? The developer thinks I’m mad because of what I do with his games, specifically how I apply high scoring strategies that he had never imagined, to the extent that he included an achievement in this game for scoring 500,000 points – called The Arcadelife Cup. Not that anyone will ever know, because nobody else plays the game. Ok, a few people do, but that’s really not enough.

App store verdict: Not enough ratings to have one.

Best Metroidvania games of the year: Traps n’ Gemstones and Space Expedition: Classic Adventure

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Why? Because they are two different examples of just how great this kind of game can be, not just on a touch screen device but on any platform. Admittedly, Space Expedition is short, but so is Monument Valley, and…

Most gorgeous and jaw-dropping puzzle game of 2014: Monument Valley

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Why? Imagine if Rubik’s cube was actually fun, and had atmosphere, character, and the aesthetics of an Escher style modern art masterpiece. And more than one level. There you go. Pretty good game too, although kind of easy.

Best retro homage in a sub-retro style: Air Supply – SOS

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Why? Jetpac + sheep = awesome. And you just need to play it. Seriously. Although it isn’t serious, just very good.

Best “Endless” game: Doug Dug

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Why? If you’re after a game with depth… ok, yes, I know, I have been waiting weeks to write that. This game is pure gold because it does something that iOS games have been avoiding for way too long: it gives you a genuinely retro game experience where the only way you can beat your previous score is to get better at playing the game. No unlockable hats, boots, pets or coin doublers. No pay-to-win IAPs, or any ****ing kind of IAP. Just the game and your skill, or lack thereof. If you’re a high-scoring strategist, this game is for you. It also has one of the most inspired implementations of a relative touch control method I’ve ever had the good fortune to experience. I play this game a lot.

Best port of a retro shooter: R-TYPE II

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Why? Ha ha ha, do you really need me to answer this? Of course, that update where they made the player ship invincible… bit of a colossal screw-up, but what can you do? Still a fantastic game and a truly wonderful iOS version.

Trippiest dual-stick shooter of the year: Inferno 2


Why? Despite having the least inspiring app store icon ever (see above), Inferno 2 manages to outdo not only its predecessor in the trippy neon graphics stakes but also delivers the kind of insane bullet-hell action that keeps you playing long after all sense of feeling has left your thumbs. Look, this is what I’m talking about:

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Second opinion – I asked a friend for his list of the best games from 2014 (where they were different from mine) and this is what he came up with:

Leo’s Fortune
Skyforce 2014
Candy Crush Soda Saga
Valiant Hearts

That’s it from Arcadelife for 2014 – See you next year if I’m not too busy writing novels.