Tagged "iPhone"

Sep 27
By Jake In Mobile Games 1 Comment

Rayman Jungle Run

Note to all: this is how to transfer a game to mobiles.

Okay, so it’s not a conversion of Rayman Origins per se – but that’s the point. The wonderful UbiArt framework has been retained, but the controls stripped down to accommodate the touch screen. Which leaves a sticky condensed residue of the essence of Origins, ideal for smartphone consumption.

Rayman Jungle Run

Running is automatic, with taps to jump, fly and punch – those abilities, and wall running, being introduced gradually. But in a very smart design decision, there’s no particular rush: where levels allow, you’re free to double back on yourself, meaning it’s not always a frantic run to the finish line. The opportunity for a bit of exploration is a very welcome change of pace.

Thankfully, none of the weighty, flappy feel has been lost. At its best – particularly in later, more complicated levels – Jungle Run matches the expertly crafted rhythmic level design of Origins, the environment and placement of Lums perfectly calibrated to Rayman’s movements. Collecting all 100 Lums on a stage is rarely easy, but worthwhile to unlock tougher bonus levels.

Rayman Jungle Run

There are more fiddly moments, usually involving flying, but nothing too irksome. And yes, it’s a bit expensive, and a bit short – but only relatively speaking.

It’s comfortably worth the asking price. I’d bloody love some updates with extra levels though, Ubisoft – HINT HINT.

Version: iPhone
iTunes App Store: £1.99

Sep 07
By Jake In Mobile Games No Comments

Mobile games are released at such an unrelenting rate, that I don’t generally find pre-release coverage very helpful. If I can’t click through and buy it immediately, then there’s every chance I’ll have forgotten about it by the time it’s released. But it’s been a pretty lovely week for announcements.

Rayman Jungle Run

Rayman Jungle Run

Everyone loves Rayman Origins, and it’s to Ubisoft’s credit that they’re not going to try to convert it to mobile. Instead, they’re using the same luscious UbiArt framework to create a new outing specifically for touch screens.

Going by the trailer, Rayman Jungle Run is going to be similar to the treasure chase bonus levels in Origins. It looks like it will be an auto-runner, with the jumping, swinging and punching you’d expect from everyone’s favourite French limbless platform star.

If the levels are anything like as expertly crafted as in Origins, and the controls are sensibly implemented, we’re in for a bloody treat.

Release isn’t far away: 20th September for iOS and Android. It’ll be interesting to see the price, but I’d imagine it’ll be more Chillingo than Square-Enix.

Year Walk

Year Walk

It’s hard to know what to make of Year Walk, the latest offering from Beat Sneak Bandit developer Simogo. As you can see, it’s strange and intriguing. So, let’s resort to recycling some of the developer’s words:

“Venture out into the dark woods where strange creatures roam, in a vision quest set in 19th century Sweden. Control and interact with the world, objects and creatures in every way you can think of in your search to bend the rules of the universe and open the rift that separates our world and what lies beyond it.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself? Curious – in a very good way. Matters may be clarified when it’s released on iOS sometime this winter.

Aug 17
By Jake In Mobile Games No Comments

Ghostbusters Paranormal Blast

All week I’ve been confronted by frightening, freakish visions on every street corner. That’s right, I’ve been in Edinburgh for the Fringe. Boom! (And, more relevantly, also playing a bit of augmented reality iPhone thing Ghostbusters Paranormal Blast.)

It’s a neat set up: a Google Map of your immediate neighbourhood displays calls for you to answer, and above that a news ticker tracks supernatural activity at nearby locations – churches, B&Bs, whatever it can scrape from the map. The Ectomobile takes you straight to each call, so there’s no need to move from your favourite corner sofa.

Actually, that’s not quite true. Once you answer a call, a high-res ghost appears on a low-res camera image of your surroundings, and proceeds to dart around absolutely over the bloody place. Given that you can only fire your ghost-busting proton beam into the centre of the screen, this leads to much spinning around and wild flailing of arms and body, trying to follow the not-really-there spook hither, and indeed thither. Try to stay seated in that corner sofa and you’ll be whacking your shins on the coffee table in no time.

Ghostbusters Paranormal Blast

Once the paranormal pest is sufficiently weakened, you fling the trap and guide it in. And that’s all there is to it, other than trying to avoid the unblockable attacks of your spirit foe, as it tries to do away with you before you do away with it. The real Ghostbusters weren’t afraid of no ghost, but I have a healthy fear of a ghost with an actual machine gun. A machine gun! Honestly.

There are upgrades to be had to make this less unfair, but I rather fancy that few people will feel the need to see much more once Slimer has flapped around their hall, stairs and landing.

A briefly distracting novelty, then. That, and an excellent way to make friends and passers by alike feel embarrassed on your behalf at an airport departure gate.

Version: iPhone
iTunes App Store: £0.69

Aug 03
By Jake In Mobile Games 2 Comments

London 2012 – Official Mobile Game: Swimming

The freemium model is a bit of a curious fit for an official Olympics game. It doesn’t quite give the right message, does it? If you want to succeed, you need to build on your natural talent through plenty of good solid practice. Or just bung us a few pennies and we’ll sort you out. Hmm.

But actually, the freemium elements aren’t particularly problematic. Stamina – which is required to play and is depleted by doing so – recharges with levelling up, and early on that’s pretty frequent. Stars aren’t handed out quite so liberally, but you get a decent number for free – and even more in the premium version – so it’s not a problem to unlock most of the events on offer.

There’s plenty of standard issue button bashing – and variants thereof – and that remains a surprisingly moreish activity – for a bit, anyway. Only 9.90 seconds in the 100m? Pah! I can do better than that! That is, until you realise that you can’t do any better, and enough is enough.

A word of warning though: button bashing on a slippery iPhone is a risky business. Maybe it’s my technique, but it’s all to easy to get carried away and see the shiny slab flap all over the shop. I wouldn’t want to try it on public transport.

London 2012 – Official Mobile Game: Archery

The tilt controls are less of a risk, but they’re bloody awful. Sluggish isn’t the word. Actually, it’s exactly the word. Switch them off, though, and the virtual controls are generally fine. Other than canoe slalom, which is pretty poor either way.

But it’s mainly fine. There are a few rough edges, but it looks moderately nice, and it’s quite diverting. And free. At least, I managed to keep it that way: by the point that it started to look like IAPs might soon become necessary, I’d got plenty of tapping out of it.

Usually, I’d feel a bit bad for not paying for something that’s given me some entertainment. But in the case of the Olympic Games, with their invasive corporate sponsors, I’m quite happy to take what I can get. Plus I’ve paid more than enough for my athletics tickets…

London 2012 – Official Mobile Game
Version: iPhone
Free: iOS (free) / Android (free)
Premium: iOS (£0.69) / Android (£0.69)

Jul 13
By Jake In Mobile Games No Comments

Tiny Wings was Apple’s 2011 game of the year in Europe, and deservedly so: it’s lovely. A delightful teaser trailer for Tiny Wings 2 surfaced last week, with a release date of 12th July 2012.

Collective conclusions were leapt to, but we should have been looking more closely at developer Andreas Illiger’s Twitter stream:

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Tiny Wings 2 actually turned out to be Tiny Wings 2.0, an extensive update to the existing app. Illiger explained his decision to Touch Arcade:

“I decided to give it away for free as a big ‘thank you’ to all my fans for changing my life. That’s really important for me and the reason why I make this little stupid marketing trick of confusing my fans before the release.”

I wouldn’t call it a “little stupid marketing trick”; I’d say it was very clever PR. Also very generous, but clever nonetheless, because it virtually guaranteed that there would be no negative coverage, and a lot of positive coverage.

Had Tiny Wings 2 been released as a stand alone app, there would have been initial interest, but then inevitable complaints of cashing in – with comparisons to Angry Birds – and slightly underwhelming reviews when the game turned out to be less than a complete reinvention.

Had it been announced as a Tiny Wings 2.0 update in the first place, there would have been nothing like the same interest in it, and coverage of it.

But this way, Illiger secured coverage in anticipation of a full-blown sequel, then follow-up good news stories that what everyone was expecting to pay for, is in fact free! That it’s ‘only’ an update is, by this stage, irrelevant.

Granted, Illiger isn’t getting a penny from everyone going out and enthusiastically downloading the 2.0 update. But what’s that creeping up the App Store paid chart? At #22 yesterday and #12 at the time of writing – oh look, it’s Tiny Wings. Plus there’s the new iPad version to promote, which is earning him several pennies.

So yes, it’s generous. But also excellent marketing.

Tiny Wings 2.0

And what of the update? The original game has now been designated Chapter 1: Day Trip, and wisely otherwise remains as was: touch the screen to plummet, release it to fly, and get as far as you can before the sun goes down.

The new mode is Chapter 2: Flight School, which is actually very similar to Chillingo’s Woody Woodpecker game, in that it’s basically Tiny Wings but in a race format.

It’s set on fixed levels rather than the original’s procedurally-generated endless style, and you’re rewarded with bigger fish for beating more of your three competitors – which is a three-star system slightly disguised. It makes a nice change: memory comes into it to beat the faster birds, and the later levels require a good bit of skill to avoid the increasingly awkward lumps and bumps in the landscape.

So in the unlikely event that you’ve not already got Tiny Wings, there’s no excuse. 69p? Madness.

Jun 15
By Jake In Mobile Games 1 Comment

Gauge - iPhone

It takes a few goes to get Gauge. The titular bar is not unlike something you’d have seen in a golf game fifteen years ago, but it’s not a helpful comparison – trust me. So forget I said it. But once you do get it, and score slightly less pathetically, the game tells you: “Now you start to get it.” Indeed I do!

Touching the screen fills the gauge, and the idea is to keep it as high as you can – since that’s where the big points are to be had – without touching the outer or inner edges – for that is where death is to be had. Lives are earned periodically, and also act as a score multiplier.

You have to go near the inner edges to grab bonuses, which give you a second gauge, or a nice haul of points if you’ve already got both gauges in play. The second gauge is controlled by tapping on the other side of the screen, and moves at a different speed to the first. And that’s when you really need to start concentrating.

Explaining the mechanics misses the point though. What makes the game great is that it really, desperately wants you to fail while you’re playing. But it adores you afterwards if you’ve done well. It is a harsh lover.

Gauge - iPhone

To help you fail, the game has a big old bag of distraction techniques to dish out at you.

The background starts off crisp and clean, but pulsates, flashes and changes to unhelpfully similar colours to the gauge. The gauge itself moves and jerks around the screen, becomes thinner or dashed. The game speaks to you in text above and below the gauge, which ranges over amusing, annoyed and downright tricksy. The music isn’t helpful either. Also lolcats.

It really throws everything it can at you, and watching it all build up in increasingly ridiculous ways is simultaneously maddening and brilliant, surprising and hilarious. If you like that sort of thing. Which I do.

It’s an incredibly pure game based around one idea, executed with skill and humour. What’s more, it’s free for the timed mode, and only 69p to unlock the endless and touch modes. Rude not to, frankly.

Verison: iPhone
iTunes App Store: free (69p IAP to unlock extra modes)

May 30
By Jake In Mobile Games No Comments

Let's Eat Sweets!

How do you choose a game from the baffling variety on offer on the App Store? When it’s only 69p at stake, the name is as good a reason as any to splash the pennies. Let’s Eat Sweets! – that’s Temporal Games’ exclamation mark, but I like it – definitely falls into the ‘good name, what the hell’ category.

After all, who can resist sweets? I know I can’t, and that’s why I run. The little girl in Let’s Eat Sweets! also combines running and sweets, but the former in order to obtain the latter, rather than in mitigation for it.

Not only can she run along any side of the screen, but she can also fall from any side to any other, in a slightly undefined floaty way. The tilt controls are good though, and with a bit of practise you can glide around the screen in wide arcs. It’s just not abundantly clear why you can.

But the point of doing so is, naturally, to eat sweets. Equally important are the bonuses – extra time, speed-ups – and avoiding the opposing anti-bonuses. One bonus turns all the sweets on the screen into chocolate-covered sweets, because chocolate is best; an anti-bonus turns them all into bagels, because bagels are not sweets.

It feels slightly unbalanced at the moment, in that the appearance of sweets and bonuses – and thus the chance of a good points haul – is a bit on the erratic side, and the floaty mid-air control isn’t exactly intuitive.

Yet the unusual physics are part of what makes it curiously likeable. That and the look of the game, which is cute while managing to remain distinctive – no mean feat on the App Store.

Verison: iPhone
iTunes App Store: £0.69

May 11
By Jake In Mobile Games 1 Comment

Don't Run With A Plasma Sword

I’ve been playing Don’t Run With A Plasma Sword recently. It’s been hard to put my finger on why it’s not entirely satisfactory, but I’ve got there: it’s a packet of Party Rings.

It’s unarguably a great name for a game. The sense of humour is carried through to the loading screens, where you’re given more advice of what not to do with a plasma sword: pick your nose, use it as a pointer in presentations – it’s good stuff. But it’s just the colourful sugary crust on the Party Ring, a one-note attempt to try to make a rather ordinary biscuit look exciting.

The game itself – the biscuit in the metaphor I am going to persevere with – is a perfectly serviceable auto-runner. There’s more to do than usual: jump, slide and attack with your plasma sword, all via virtual buttons. It works nicely enough, though the relative complexity means it always takes a couple of goes to get back on top of what’s required of you.

Jetpack Joyride

So why is it different to, say, Jetpack Joyride? Ah, because that’s a bag of Haribo Starmix. Whereas Don’t Run With A Plasma Sword is fairly uniform throughout, each mission in Jetpack Joyride is a different chewy little sweet, and you want to keep going until you’ve greedily devoured the whole damn bag.

There’s no particular attraction in going back to sniff the empty bag afterwards, but that doesn’t mean you won’t want a bag of Tangfastics before long.

Canabalt

Different again is Canabalt. I touched on it when I wrote about ZiGGURAT, that it’s a slow-burner, completely satisfying in short bursts. It was put better by Vertex Dispenser designer Michael Brough on Hookshot Inc., who described ZiGGURAT as “solid nourishment”.

Along those lines, I’d say Canabalt is a really good dark chocolate – from Hotel Chocolat, perhaps. Refined, a little bit classy, just a morsel or two is entirely satisfying – and you’ll come back for more later.

Alas, there’s not much in the way of dark chocolate out there in App Land. There’s a fair amount of Haribo, admittedly, but far too many Party Rings.

Don’t Run With A Plasma Sword: iOS (£1.49) / Mac (£1.99)
Jetpack Joyride: iOS (free)
Canabalt: iOS (£1.99) / Android (£1.99)

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