Tagged "Android"

Feb 07
By Jake In Mobile Games No Comments

Piracy is rife on Android. Piracy is bad. But free is good. And you can have free Android apps without piracy. At a price. (Figuratively.) Here are two ways.

Amazon Underground

Amazon Underground launched in 2015, replacing Amazon’s daily free app offering. It’s an intriguing beast, offering apps for free that would cost you good money – either up front or in IAPs – elsewhere. How? Why? Quite.

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Feb 02
By Jake In Reviews No Comments

There’s no getting away from it: virtual reality is a bit of a faff. To get over that, a game needs to be both good and novel – to offer something VR-specific to make it worth the effort. Surprisingly, as a Google Daydream VR exclusive, EarthShape doesn’t.


And frustratingly, EarthShape is good. At heart, it’s a simple puzzle game: a ball enters a grid of dots and travels in a straight line, until it bounces off lines you draw between adjacent dots, to guide it into the circular goal. Complexity is added by time limits and introducing icons dotted around the grid – extra points, speed modifiers and so on. It works. It’s nice.

And it does work in VR: the Daydream controller is effective enough. But I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that drawing lines on a grid would be easier and more intuitive on a touch screen.

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Apr 05
By Jake In Mobile Games No Comments

Few companies have enough obsessed fans or intrigued observers to get a new social network up to critical mass on day one. But only Nintendo could get away with launching an odd little social network where everything happens by proxy.

That proxy is a Mii, familiar to millions thanks to the success of the Wii. Your first task is to design the Mii that will be your representation in Miitomo, or let the app give it a bash via your device’s camera. Miitomo keeps taking photos and generates a stream of wildly inaccurate Miis, to genuinely and presumably unintentionally hilarious effect. I had every colour of skin under the sun; my wife had a variety of facial hair.


Then it’s down to business: answering questions. “What have you just been doing?” “What have you noticed that has become popular recently?” The questions come from your Mii, and the Miis of your friends. Finding friends is easy via Twitter or Facebook – assuming you know the sort of person who would immediately download a weird Nintendo thing and link it to their social media accounts, which if you’re that sort of person, you probably do.

You can visit your friends’ Miis, to have conversations in which they pass on some of the answers your friends gave them. Your Mii will also visit other Miis, and have conversations with them, then have conversations with you about what they talked about, which will be what your friend told their Mii. Your friends’ Miis will visit you too, where you can talk to them, or leave them to talk to your Mii. It’s a charmingly convoluted question and answer system.

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Jul 23
By Jake In Mobile Games No Comments

For what looks at first glance like a simple word game with cute bears, Alphabear is surprisingly complex.


They had me at cute bears though, especially as they’re reminiscent of the chaps from Triple Town – which is because the game is from the same chaps, Spry Fox. And it’s a free download, so what’s to lose? A check of the IAPs is encouraging too, as unlimited honey – used up each time you play a game – is available for four quid, give or take. It turns out it’s not that simple.

But game before commerce. The aim is to make words from the letters available on the board, which clears space for your bears to grow bigger – and bigger bears mean bigger points at the end of the game. The first complication is that letters expire after a number of turns – and on doing so turn to immovable stone, inhibiting bear growth – so you need to prioritise.

Initially this is ample fun. Hit point targets, and you hatch a new bear – which I’m pretty sure is biologically sound. The bear says a couple of sentences of nonsense using words from the preceding game, and a social networking phenomenon is born. Sort of.

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May 23
By Jake In Mobile Games 1 Comment

Coin pushers: gateway gambling machine, disappointing old-fashioned seaside arcade amusement, or terribly modern entertainment sensation? It’s looking bizarrely like the last of those.

There’s daytime ITV1 quiz show Tipping Point, in which Ben Shephard has an only slightly easier job than Noel Edmonds on Deal Or No Deal in convincing the viewer that there’s appreciable skill involved. There are a baffling number of them available for smartphones and online. And Sega has lumped RPG and collectable elements on top of one for this free to play effort.

Dragon Coins

The collectable elements are monsters, from which you put together a team to take into battle. These monsters are of various elements, they evolve, and come in balls – in short definitely nothing like Pokemon. It’s all perfectly nicely done though, and getting rid of unwanted monsters by fusing them with others is enjoyable in an upcycling sort of way.

The coin pusher-based battles are initially chaotic affairs, with as much skill involved as you might imagine. Your monsters line up along the bottom of the screen, and as coins fall into their slots, they attack. They also earn special moves, such as speeding up the pusher or showering coins on the stage. You drop coins onto the pusher, limited only by the fact that each enemy has a countdown, and after you’ve dropped that many coins, they attack. This doesn’t tend to happen much at the start though, as combos and defeated enemies make coins spew all over the stage, keeping itself going like a madly coloured perpetual motion machine.

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Oct 25
By Jake In Mobile Games 1 Comment

Fist of Awesome has been one huge charm offensive: from the early animated GIF screenshots, through the doubling-its-target Kickstarter, to designer Nicoll Hunt’s beard.

It’s been either: (a) a cleverly orchestrated PR campaign; (b) a demonstration of the benefits as an indie developer of being a bit different; or (c) proof that people really really want to punch a bear IN THE MOUTH.

Fist of Awesome

The game will certainly sate that particular desire. For enjoyably irrelevant reasons, Tim Burr’s fist has taken on a personality of its own, and he must avenge or rescue or something his family by lamping an awful lot of wildlife. And there’s kicking and stomping and shoving and throwing, as well as a charged punch, in addition to your common-or-garden punching.

That little lot is handled admirably by the gesture controls. Logical taps and swipes on the right of the screen take care of the action – tap to punch, swipe up to jump, down to stomp etc. Only the pushes and throws are a little awkward, and as always a virtual d-pad – in this case wherever you touch on the left of the screen – is less precise than you’d ideally like, but it’s as good as it’s going to get.

It’s a solid scrolling fighting game mechanic, but not quite enjoyable enough on its own to carry the game. The storyline and humorous touches dotted around the levels hit more often than miss, but again, aren’t quite enough to carry the game.

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Jul 17
By Jake In Mobile Games No Comments

You know when you’ve been playing a game of an evening, and you can still see it in your mind’s eye when you go to sleep?

Match-three puzzlers have a habit of doing it to me. Well, Garfield isn’t an obvious choice for an endless runner, so Namco-Bandai have had to set Wild Ride in his dreams. And he’s evidently been playing Jetpack Joyride.

Garfield's Wild Ride

It really is very, very similar: the simple touch-to-rise controls; the coins, the obstacles, even the warnings of approaching enemies; the ‘vehicle’ power-ups; the challenges, three active at a time; the slide along the ground when you eventually come a cropper.

It’s diligently similar, in that it’s still a bit of fun, but it adds virtually nothing of its own. And the basics are lacking: the controls are flabbier for one thing, which isn’t satisfying whether it’s intentional or not.

The presentation is at least solid: the menu screens are very jazzy, it sounds quite jolly, and the graphics are perfectly pleasant – even if the inexplicable floating obstacles look like strange mattresses, and the lasagne pick-ups looked more like hot dogs at first.

It starts to look samey very quickly though: you start with only one location – the street – and variation only comes from buying additional themes. The cheapest is yours for 100,000 coins – not earned in-game at anything like that magnitude, but inevitably available as IAPs. That number would set you back £1.99, several times the up-front price. Poor show.

Which all adds up to little reason to throw money at a slightly pale imitation, rather than Halfbrick‘s modern mobile classic, or one of the many games which have managed to actually build on the formula.

Version: iPhone
iOS: iTunes App Store (£0.69)
Android: Google Play (£0.69)

The Great Brain Experiment
Mar 20
By Jake In Mobile Games 1 Comment

They might have peaked in about 2009, but there’s still a healthy market for games with the word ‘brain’ in the title – certainly on mobile. But rather than playing another clone of Nintendo and Dr Kawashima’s 2006 effort, why not contribute to medical science?

Well, there’s an app for that: The Great Brain Experiment, from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London, launched to coincide with Brain Awareness Week. Which was last week. My brain, clearly, was not aware.

The point is to harness all sorts of buzz words – ‘big data’, ‘the crowd’, ‘citizen science’, ‘gamification’ – to research a number of brain questions on an unprecedented scale. So rather than collecting data from a subject in an fMRI scanner, scores and basic demographic data are harvested from the willing smartphone population.

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