Tagged "iOS"

Tengami
Feb 28

Have you seen just how many Flappy Bird clones there are on the App Store now?

You don’t need to, because Stuart Dredge has been keeping a slightly obsessive eye on it for The Guardian. In short: lots.

Tengami

If Nyamyam had been so inclined, they might have renamed Tengami ‘Flappy Paper’. They might have got a few sales by association, but probably not the headline promotion from Apple that the game’s received.

It’s just the sort of thing that Apple likes to give prominance to. The art style is mature and beautiful, rather than the standard cartoon world; it’s from developers with a bit of a track record – in this case, ex-Rare people; and of course it costs three quid, which can’t hurt when Apple takes a chunky cut of that.

And anyway, ‘Flappy Paper’ would be an altogether inappropriate name – there’s nothing flappy about the paper in Tengami. The pop-up landscapes are precision folded, crisply opening and closing as you swipe, with impressively intricate detail.

It’s an effective atmosphere, enhanced by the soundtrack, played on traditional Japanese instruments. But not enhanced by the game itself, which gives you too much time to think, and not enough to think about.

Tengami

It’s a slow moving game – literally. Literally literally. The protagonist walks at a leisurely saunter, which is in-keeping with the tone, but with fairly sparse landscapes doesn’t do much to keep your mind occupied.

The puzzles, which are few in number even for a game which is over in a couple of hours, fall into three categories. There’s the odd nice puzzle, satisfying to work through logically. There are slightly laborious puzzles, which you’ll be a few steps ahead of, limited only by the slow pace of movement. And there are puzzles that are just a tiny bit obtuse – and in an arbitrary, rather than a clever way.

Tengami

With not quite enough stimulation on offer, I found myself pondering the inconsistencies in the mainly glorious presentation. Most page turns require a swipe across the screen, but a few don’t. The music occasionally takes a slightly darker turn, but without any noticeable change on screen.

In that way, the lack of substance isn’t just a problem in itself, it actually detracts from what the game has going for itself – the style. It ends up feeling a bit empty.

And then, abruptly, the game ends.

Version: iPhone
iTunes App Store: £2.99

dungeon_keeper_announcement
Feb 10

Back in the ‘90s, Bullfrog was one of the biggest names in PC gaming. Theme Park, Theme Hospital, Magic Carpet, Syndicate and Populous became instant classics overnight, but it was Dungeon Keeper that turned the fantasy genre upside, making the player the bad guy instead of the hero.

dungeon-keeper-screen02-ios

The game’s tag line “It’s Good to be Bad” was no lie; the demonic ‘God sim’ claimed uncountable hours of our youth, planning routes to gold veins to keep our minions happy, digging out what must have been realistically tonnes of rock to make rooms for new monsters to move in, work, build, research, work out in and eat in, all for the sake of protecting the dungeon from heroic invaders coming to take us out.

Upon hearing that EA had a Dungeon Keeper revamp in development, we desperately wanted to discard more countless hours into what we hoped was going to be a modern re-imagining of our favourite game as a teen.

What we were left with was disappointment and resentment.

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The main premise is the same – you create and defend a dungeon. Due to being a total overhaul rather than a remake however, that’s where the similarities end.

The demonic advisor in the original has been replaced by a questionably effeminate Horned Reaper, who asks you to call him “Horny Reaper” or “HR” (human resources – EA made a funny!), but rather than growling at us that our minions are deserting, he tells us certain actions have now completed in a voice we’re pretty sure is the father from Peppa Pig.

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Fist of Awesome
Oct 25

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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Garfield's Wild Ride
Jul 17

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)

Scurvy Scallywags
Jun 28

I bloody love a match-three puzzler, and the tile-swapping variety is that rarest of things: a game mechanic born on a controller that actually benefits from a touch screen. Certainly that’s one reason there are so many on iOS. And very nice they are too.

Increasingly though games are playing with the formula – games like Scurvy Scallywags. Its notoriety is not down to innovation though, more that it’s from the brain of Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert.

Scurvy Scallywags

Which goes some way to explaining the convoluted set-up: the pirate theme comes courtesy of a theatrical production, with the game’s storyline switching between the real world of the theatre and pirate world of the play. It’s not as clever in execution as that might have made it sound. The dialogue – pirate sea shanties, the theatre manager fretting – is gently entertaining, but not enough fun to carry the game on its own.

And what of the game? Your main task is to defeat enemies as they appear on the board. Matching swords increases your power, and once it’s above an enemy’s, you can defeat them by manoeuvring next to them. Fighting depletes your power though, so match more swords before encountering the next enemy, or you may die.

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DumbT
Jun 05

You’d have to be either very dumb or incredibly naive to deny that Dumb Ways to Die is a blatant clone of Nintendo’s Wario Ware. Unlike many of the App Store’s copycats though, it’s very easy to look past the plagiarism on the account that it has clearly had a bit of love and attention put into it.

DumbWays4

A little bit of history: Dumb Ways to Die began as a safety video from Metro Trains Melbourne to prevent stupid people from messing around on train tracks. Thanks to a daft sense of humour and lovable cast of characters the video went viral, spawning the game seen before you. There is still a hint of educational value present here, but don’t let that put you off.

Like the game it imitates, Dumb Ways to Die offers a quick-fire burst of mini-games lasting just a few seconds each. Tapping, swiping and tilting the screen are common themes – tapping wasps off a little yellow chap’s face, wiping puke off the screen and keeping somebody upright by tilting your iDevice are just three of the tasks at hand. Every mini-game is as smartly presented as the last, complete with a few little nice touches here and there.

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The Great Brain Experiment
Mar 20

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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Ridiculous Fishing
Mar 20

There are a lot of ‘angles’ on Ridiculous Fishing: the tortured development; the indie supergroup that eventually finished it; the chart success since last week’s launch, despite having been preceded by a blatant clone; the active eschewing of IAPs in favour of a £1.99 upfront price tag. And 45 degrees: the angle that the graphics rigidly stick to.

Ridiculous Fishing

But only one thing really matters: it’s bloody good fun.

The mechanic is simple: drop your lure into the ocean, guiding it into the depths by avoiding the fish on the way down, using tilt controls of rare quality; when a fish is finally snagged, guide it back up, this time grabbing all the fish you can; when they the hit surface they’re launched into the air, which is your cue to shoot the heck out of them by tapping the screen. Simple, slick, ridiculous.

It’s everything that surrounds this that elevates it from simple fun, to alarmingly addictive.

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