Tagged "iOS"

Aug 26
By Jake In Mobile Round Up 2 Comments

I beligerantly maintain that Zoo Keeper was, and is, the best game for the Nintendo DS. GameRankings disagrees, but GameRankings is wrong. 193rd? Shove it up your arse, GameRankings.

It took a long time for it to make the natural transition to iPhone, but now that it has, I thought I should assess some of the contenders for the match-three crown.

ZOOKEEPER DX Touch Edition

ZOOKEEPER DX Touch Edition

It’s not as good as the DS version. That has to be the starting point, I’m afraid. Only two modes have made it over: normal (levels require an increasing number of each animal to be caught) and tokoton (catch 100 of an animal to level-up). Meagre.

Not only is there not as much game as the DS version, but what there is isn’t as well balanced. The specific problem is the sudden speeding up of the timer when rabbit is added to the mix. It’s a difficulty spike not present in the DS version, and it’s not terribly welcome.

But still, it’s a ruddy good match-three game. The animals are as charming as ever – possibly more so in glorious pin-sharp resolution – especially when they’re the only animal you need to collect to level-up, and their faces go all grumpy. Wonderful.

It’s also still the best match-three for bringing it back from the brink: even when there’s virtually nothing left on the timer, a good run of matches and combos can replenish to back to a healthy level. And doing so remains a joy.

Piyo Blocks 2

Piyo Blocks 2

Before the official version came along – with its shouty all-caps contraction of a title – Piyo Blocks 2 was pretty much the iPhone version of Zoo Keeper. If it wasn’t so good, it the similarity would be shocking.

In fact, overall, it’s better. The only negative I have is that once the timer gets low, unless you can get to the next level, it’s pretty tricky to recover – the amount the timer gets replenished is just a touch too stingy, to my mind.

Oh, and it’s not quite as sharp looking. The animation is a little smoother, though.

There are generous additional modes, two of which are rather fine. Three second mode gives you, yes, three seconds to make each move, and is delightfully relentless. Disco is even better: it’s all neon colours, and every so often the blocks all change colour, keeping you on your toes, and making for some incredible combos.

The power-ups are nicely implemented too, and achievements add welcome targets somewhat more reasonable that the worldwide high score tables. It’s the full match-three package.

Bejeweled 2 + Blitz

Bejeweled 2 + Blitz

I don’t entirely get Bejeweled, to be honest. Classic mode ends when there are no more moves on the board, which strikes me as not fully under the player’s control, so at best arbitrary, at worst unfair. It just doesn’t work for me.

Action mode is against the clock, and much more what I’m looking for when matching three. All perfectly servicable, and it definitely has the most interesting special blocks of three games, some requiring a little work to actually use them.

The swishy wormhole-style graphics between stages, and incongruous photographic backgrounds are hugely enjoyable too.

The Blitz element, on the other hand, is some sort of Facebook time attack thing, which I frankly can’t be doing with.

Piyo Blocks 2 wins

Aug 19
By Jake In Mobile Round Up 1 Comment

Price is always a favourite subject for mobile games. When they’re cheap, the industry says they’re undervaluing games as a whole; when they’re less cheap – expensive seems like an overstatement – consumers are shocked and appalled.

Free is always good though, right? Depends what kind of free.

Linkem

Linkem

Developer Somethin’ Else has been in the news a bit recently, after it emerged that it was Apple who suggested the premium price point for innovative audio game Papa Sagre. Ironic, then, that they followed it up with the similar and excellent The Nightjar, which was free thanks to backing from Wrigley’s.

And this is another free game from Somethin’ Else, this time thanks to Channel 4. Why? Something to do with SuperMe, which is all about helping you be “better at life”. No idea.

What I do know is that Linkem is nice. Which is not to damn it with faint praise; I use ‘nice’ advisedly.

This is how it goes. You have white beads and orange rings, and special tokens which swap the beads and rings around. Line up four or more orange rings to make them disappear, but don’t stack too many otherwise the white beads will break. Initially it seems like quite convoluted, but it becomes second nature in no time.

It’s quite a calm affair, with no time pressure to speak of, so mistakes are solely a result of you not thinking things though properly. Oh, and before you know it, games can comfortably last an hour or more.

Frisbee Forever

Frisbee Forever

Frisbee Forever isn’t free for promotional or philanthropic reasons; it’s free to lure you into in-game purchases. But if you ask me, it’s not much of a lure.

It falls prey to that most disappointing of failings: offering two control methods, where the one that’s more fun isn’t as effective as the other.

Flicking the screen to throw the frisbee, then tilting the iPhone to steer it around the course is quite fun. It’s not quite as precise as it needs to be though, and far more reliable is to use buttons on either side of the screen to tilt the frisbee left and right. But where’s the fun in that?

Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint

Magnetic Billiards

No, if you’re going to rely on in-game purchases, you’d better make the basic (it’s not free any more, alas) content pretty bloody wonderful. Which is exactly what the Pickford brothers have done with Magnetic Billiards.

It’s delightfully simple: clear the table by knocking like-coloured balls into clusters. The delight comes from trying to do it well – which means plenty of high score fun.

What’s impressive is that trying to earn the higher grades isn’t remotely repetitive. That’s because what you’re rewarded for is the same as what’s fun – trickier shots, neat cluster shapes. The Pickfords’ sense of humour – some unexpected achievements, for example – does no harm too.

ChuChu Rocket!

ChuChu Rocket!

As far as I’m concerned, ChuChu Rocket! should always be free. It’s Sega’s fault for giving away the original Dreamcast version, in order to tempt people to venture online on the console. As a result, the game has no intrinsic value to me. Harsh, perhaps, but true.

Sadly, it’s not free on the App Store. It was for a brief period, though, and I grabbed it then, making it three formats I’ve not paid for the game on – the other being Game Boy Advance, which I was sent to review.

It’s not a bad port, but I can’t recommend paying for it. The controls aren’t quite accurate enough for the frantic versus mode, and the puzzle mode is put to shame by the likes of Trainyard.

Trainyard Express

Trainyard Express

Ah, Trainyard. Praise has been heaped upon it, and rightly so: it’s visual style is magnificent, and the track-laying puzzles require genuine thought and concentration. It’s a joy.

My only criticism is that the free version is needlessly generous: at 60 levels, I’ve yet to finish it.

I want to pay for the full version – it feels only right that I should – but I need to polish off the free batch first. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Bonus!

Elsewhere I have also been playing Red Bull Kart Fight, which is free for promotional reasons, and almost no good at all.

Jul 01
By Jake In Mobile Games 5 Comments

This can’t have been originally conceived as a James Pond game. I say that not because it bears no resemblance the fondly remembered ’90s platform games, but because one of the three controls puts James Pond into reverse. Now, I realise that some fish can swim backwards. But if you were bringing James Pond back, your first thought wouldn’t be: “Yeah, I liked the platform games, but they really suffered from a lack of reversing. We should fix that.”

James Pond in the Deathly Shallows - iPhone

So, it’s not a James Pond game in anything but title. Though, incidentally, that’s one thing they did get right: an completely unrelated film pun in the title is very much in-keeping with the series.

What have we got then? Well, it looks like a shoot ’em up – except the firing is automatic when there’s an enemy roughly in front of you. The game itself uses the phrase “underwater maze” – except your path is almost always obvious. Maybe it’s best described as the swimming equivalent of a platform game – except without the platforms. Clear? Excellent.

The challenge is just staying alive. Tapping the screen to swim is a rather blunt control method; slightly lagged and over-responsive. Hitting the scenery reduces your health bar, and that’s not uncommon even once you’ve tamed the controls. Also, the game frequently likes to ensnare you on the scenery, so you end up staying there until you die.

Shooting isn’t much better: as I said, it’s automatic, so there’s no opportunity to conserve your air supply, which powers the bubble gun. Which is doubly frustrating because that same air supply is what you need to fly above water – and reverse, for that matter – and doing so is not just an optional extra. Cue more helplessly hitting the scenery until you die.

For the most part, all this is merely inconvenient, because the game’s pretty easy – and brief, at six levels. The final level is trickier, only because there’s a lot of flying to do, and large shoals of enemies to get through – both of which need a lot of air, and keeping your supply topped up becomes virtually impossible. You see, the air above the surface is no good – it has to come from bubbles underwater. Obviously.

To its credit, the game’s not bad looking, and the individual animations are quite nice. It’s a bit jerky though, thanks to the twitchy controls and awkward transition between animations.

It’s the sort of slightly shoddy effort, that people who are sniffy about mobile phone games, think all mobile phone games are like. It’s remarkable only because it’s had the James Pond license slapped on it; otherwise it would have been widely ignored, along with countless other unnecessary iPhone games.

Jun 29
By Adam Philbin In Reviews 3 Comments

Grand Prix StoryI should be making my own game right now, but I’m not, I’m playing Game Dev Story. Oh wait, that was the last Kairosoft game. Now history is repeating itself, but this time I’m engrossed playing Grand Prix Story, which as the name implies, is a racing version of Game Dev Story. Kind of.

One of the most likable things about Game Dev Story, aside from the geek fantasy of making your own games (within a game), was that it played so heavily to your imagination. You chose a genre, a release platform and the game’s name, but other than that, it was largely a case of creating better games by grinding away to earn higher and higher skill levels and numbers. The cool stuff happened within the player’s imagination, where you created your own vision of the game. As such, I still have a fondness for my fictitious Sushi and Sumo game franchises (sidenote: one of which I’m releasing for real next month, in name at least).

Vroom vroom KairosoftGrand Prix Story is a bit more literal. This is probably a good thing in this case. You get to see the actual races play out. For the most part, you’re just a spectator watching your cars race around the track, although you can occasionally decide when to use a turbo boost. The races are short and sweet enough that they don’t feel too repetitive, and you don’t mind sitting through them for 30-60 seconds, watching your little driver and carefully constructed car whizz around.

The rest of the game consists of carefully deciding what cars and technologies to research, upgrading them with your experience points, spending money to train your drivers and mechanics, and picking appropriate sponsors for your race team. It’s all very similar to Game Dev Story in that regard – essentially a game of generating ever higher numbers, presented in a nice interface with cute little characters.

Construct your own race teamIt’s a bit like a role playing game where they’ve stripped out the game and kept just the leveling system, making the process of earning experience points the entire game. If you look at it cynically, that’s fairly accurate. But once again, a mixture of cuteness and imagination make it much more than the sum of its parts. If you happen to like the idea of a racing management game too, then you’ll be most pleased.

Grand Prix Story is perfectly suited as a mobile phone game (currently available on the Android Market for about £3, but surely an iPhone version will soon follow). In theory, it’s the type of little game that you can dip in and out of at will. In reality, it’s the type of game that has you staring at your mobile phone screen for hours on end, until the battery begs for mercy.

Well done Kairosoft for creating yet another nugget of digital crack.

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