Tagged "iPhone"

May 04
By Jake In Mobile Games No Comments


I can’t imagine why I’ve never been asked to contribute to Thought For The Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. I’d totally base one around iPhone game Crow. It’s got moral choices, you see. Really unsophisticated ones, which do little but switch the game into hard mode if you try to be good. I could relate that to Jesus, no bother. I doubt Anne Atkins has even heard of Crow. Then again, she does have religious conviction, regular commissions from national newspapers and three published novels. Fair point.


Crow’s gameplay – split starkly into ‘adventure’ and ‘action’ sections – largely continues the unsophisticated trend. The adventure element involves flying high above the landscape waiting to happen upon trinkets, pompous story points and action levels. Which is as interesting as it sounds.

The action is slightly more involved, though being on-rails, not hugely so. You have two gesture-initiated spells – a shield and an attack – and the ability to move around the screen to dodge incoming attacks – which is trickier than it should be because the perspective is a bit wonky. Boss battles can turn into a test of patience, requiring numerous ‘laps’ of the on-rails environment to inflict sufficient damage. It’s as satisfying as circling above Heathrow waiting to come in to land.


The trinkets you collect are used to purchase upgrades to your shield and attack. Later in the game, with faster regenerating magic and life energy, and with a chance of inflicting a second attack for free, there’s the beginnings of a moderately fun combat system. Then it ends.

It is pretty though. Developer Sunside’s in-house game platform is called Radiance, and the game does look suitably radiant. It looks better in screenshots or at a distance though; up close some of the detail is a bit lacking.

Despite all that, I began a second play through – the first took well under an hour – to unlock the aforementioned hard mode. As far as I can tell, it just makes you vulnerable to the point of instant death. Thanks for that.

Version: iPhone
iTunes App Store: £1.99

Apr 13
By Jake In Mobile Games No Comments

774 Deaths

I imagine that, after playing Square-Enix’s 774 Deaths, most people would be comfortably able to describe it in one word. Not necessarily the same word, mind. In my case, that word is BRUTAL.

The difficulty is brutal. Each death, usually on a blood-splattered blade, is brutal. The graphics and sound are brutally retro – though also endearingly so, to my eyes and ears.

774 Deaths - tilting!

Little in the way of explanation is ever offered – brutally so, if you like – but it’s not hard to get the gist. Each room contains a number of doors, complete enough of those and you unlock the next room.

The four varieties of game behind those doors are equally simple to fathom: standard platforming levels, complete with virtual controls; auto-running levels with a tap to jump your only input; tilt-controlled maze-like levels; and levels that you fall through, again with tilt controls.

That’s the simple bit. The tough bit is not dying. Repeatedly. The game delights in throwing virtually unavoidable obstacles against you, and relishes you making the wrong choice. This delight and relish mainly comes in the form of killing you. Repeatedly. Did I mention that?

774 Deaths - falling!

But, in common with the chase levels in Rayman Origins, the game minimises the frustration: restarting a level is speedy, and the controls are surprisingly spot-on. No mean feat, given that virtual buttons and tilt controls have a habit of being as precise as rounding a really really really small number to, like, one decimal place.

As such, although death is rapid-fire, with sticking with it yields incremental progress. Levels are often like puzzles, and completing them equivalent to finding the solution – albeit a solution which requires some exceedingly accurate tapping or tilting to execute.

In that way, there are some lovely puzzles, which initially appear impossible, but reveal themselves after either rethinking, or just being even more bloody precise. In fact, it’s genuinely surprising just how precise you can become with repeated attempts.

774 Deaths - platforming!

That lasts for a while. I even chuckled once or twice when, in reach of the level exit, the game throws something unreasonably harsh at you. Dead. Do it again. Ho ho!

But I imagine most people will reach a point at which the part company with the game. The problem, to my mind, isn’t increasing difficulty – though it does get tougher, obviously – but that the levels get too long.

It never becomes less than satisfying to master yet another tricky section of a level, but when the game doesn’t even let you know how much more you’ve got to persevere to reach the exit, it’s hard to keep committing time to it. And coming back later isn’t an enticing prospect, since you’ll have to virtually relearn the timings and so on.

774 Deaths - running!

So about half way through the nine rooms and 33 doors, after more than 600 deaths, I’d had enough. Not angry, not frustrated, just a bit bored of it.

For 69p – the all too brief promotional launch price – it would be a recommendable little bugger. But now at full price – £2.49 – it’s a tougher sell.

Version: iPhone
iTunes App Store: £2.49

Mar 30
By Jake In Mobile Round Up No Comments

Interesting tales at both ends of the App Store this week. Angry Birds Space achieved 10 million downloads in three days, a story so important that literally every site on the internet reported it.

At the other extreme, one-man developer Mr Qwak had his well-received iOS game Retro Racing removed from the App Store for what amounted to a banking error, then thankfully reinstated, albeit a few days later. His account of the removal and subsequent reinstatement is admirably balanced, and offers a fascinating insight into indie development.

Anyway, onto a couple of games that don’t really need any more coverage, but I feel compelled to write about.

Beat Sneak Bandit
version: iPhone

Beat Sneak Bandit

I’m awful at rhythm-action games, and I know it. But every few years, a game too interesting to ignore comes along, convincing me to give the genre another try. Space Channel 5 was one. Loved the look and sound of the game; bloody awful at it. Hence misery.

Beat Sneak Bandit is the latest: it’s achingly stylish, and the sneak-to-the-beat premise is inspired. It’s funny, and the levels are exquisitely designed.

Yet I just can’t deal with it. It’s hard work for me: I can manage a couple of levels before my concentration falls, and I begin to fall out of time with the beat – through a combination of ineptitude and impatience – and get stuck there.

It’s completely my fault. The game is outstanding, but I just can’t enjoy it like I want to. Highly frustrating.

iOS (£1.99)

version: iPhone


ZiGGURAT, on the other hand, has turned out to be something of a slow burner. It’s incredibly simple: you’re the last human alive, standing atop a ziggurat (look it up), armed with a laser rifle, fending off the advancing aliens for as long as possible.

A couple of goes, and you’ll have the measure of it. Next. But there’s a strange appeal. Back I went. A few more goes. And actually, the aiming system – sliding your finger along the bottom of the screen to aim, holding it down longer to charge the shot to a maximum which is maintained just for a moment – is more precise than it perhaps first felt. Failure is my fault.

Not wishing to invoke the name lightly, it’s starting to earn a long term place on my iPhone similar to Canabalt. It may not lend itself to prolonged play, but the simple mechanic, together with distinctive looks and sound, mean it’s always tempting when I’ve got a few minutes to fill.

iOS (£0.69)

Mar 23
By Jake In Mobile Games No Comments

Angry Birds Space

They say that there are five stages of grief. Well, in my experience, there are three stages of Angry Birds Space.

1. Anticipation

Fuelled by the NASA association, endless tie-ins and ceaseless media attention, the impression that this is a Big Deal built and built. With it came an assumption that it must be a departure for the series – otherwise it wouldn’t be such a Big Deal, surely.

2. Disappointment

Angry Birds Space

Oh, it’s still Angry Birds. Sure, there are gravitational fields and all, but essentially it’s just flinging birds at pigs in a faintly haphazard way. Again. But in space.

And it’s over-sensitive on the iPhone screen, so releasing your finger can be enough to shift the trajectory. A result of focusing on the bigger versions, perhaps?

3. Acceptance

But still, back you come, for more and more of it. The realisation dawns that gravity does open up some fun opportunities – slingshots, that sort of thing. It’s not huge – not a game-changer, if you like – but it’s enough to make it more than just a bunch of new Angry Birds levels.

One day, Rovio are going to have to take a risk, and do something genuinely different. That’s a day I’m looking forward to.

Meanwhile, despite its absolute ubiquity, Angry Birds Space is still fun. And selling by the arse-load, of course.

Version: iPhone
iOS: £0.69, £1.99 (HD) / Android: free (ads), £0.63, £1.89 (HD) / Mac: £2.99 / PC: €5.95

Mar 02
By Jake In Mobile Games 1 Comment


It’s hard to predict what’s going to make something stand out on the App Store. In the case of Gluddle, it was the screenshot above faintly recalling some Lemon Jelly album artwork. It’s quite the stylish game, to my eye.

It’s more physics-based fun, in this case launching bouncy balls (‘Gluddle’) to knock into targets (‘The Supervision’). Handily, you can freeze a Gluddle in mid-air whenever you like, to bounce subsequent Gluddle off. Less handily, The Supervision can also freeze Gluddle if they stay in their gaze too long.


As usual, levels slowly become more complicated – by the likes of black holes and transporters. And of course there are targets on time and number of Gluddles used.

What’s nice is that not all of the levels are highly orchestrated. There are levels with targets such that there’s only really one solution, but also more free-form levels. These have much higher targets, letting you freeze Gluddle all over the place and improvise your way to completion.

This plays neatly on the chaotic nature of the physics, where a small change to the launch angle can result in a very different path for your Gluddle several bounces later. It’s like throwing a bouncy ball very hard indoors and seeing what it smashes. Fun, in other words.

The only sticking point is the price. Peanuts in absolute terms, yes, but three times the price of many equally good one-screen physics-based games? It’s a tough market out there.

Version: iPhone
App Store: £1.99

Feb 24
By Jake In Mobile Games 1 Comment

Beat Hazard Ultra

Beat Hazard Ultra looks fantastic, with its neon explosions and swirling backgrounds, and sounds – well, it sounds as good as your iTunes library. Which in my case is excellent, I’ll have you know.

Here’s the twist: the soundtrack you choose is used to generate the on-screen action. More going on aurally means more going on visually, affecting the enemies, your firepower, and the backgrounds. Volume power-ups heighten the effect, and there are others to increase your multiplier, smart bombs and so forth.

Beat Hazard Ultra

The action matches the music enough to convince, but not too much to hamper the game. There’s a lot of fun to be had just playing around with different types of music; Girls Aloud work fantastically, Fanfarlo less so.

There’s a choice of single and twin stick control. Shooting is automatic with a single stick, leaving you to duck and dive – but mainly just enjoy the visualisation effects, as the auto-firing is fearsomely accurate. It’s inevitably a more challenging beast with twin sticks. Either way, the virtual controls are surprisingly unproblematic; it’s hard to quantify exactly what makes them work where others don’t, but they’re responsive, accurate and unobtrusive.

They need to be, too, particularly for the boss enemies. The pace varies hugely, not always entirely based on the music, but at times you’re faced with a screen full of hell. Which, as every gamer knows, is a good thing.

It’s a fun visualiser, then, but also a very nice shooter. And all that by one man UK studio Cold Beam Games. Ludicrously impressive stuff.

Version: iPhone
App Store: £0.69

Feb 10
By Jake In Mobile Round Up No Comments

Some games are dangerous. There was no mobile round-up last week, because Triple Town monopolised my time to the point that I’d not played the rest of the games I was intending to write about.

Actually, that’s not quite true, because I did get around to writing about Kimi Raikkonen ICEONE Racing elsewhere. (It’s not great.)

So: onto the games that I should have written about last week.

Sir Benfro’s Brilliant Balloon
version: iPhone

Sir Benfro’s Brilliant Balloon

In an App Store full of cartoon-cuteness, it’s surprising that more games don’t try to stand out by being differently lovely to look at. Like Sir Benfro here, with his gorgeous eye-nugget of a world, the tone to my mind recalling Wes Anderson as much as the stated influences of the likes of Terry Gilliam and Studio Ghibli. Which is a good thing. It’s so successful, in fact, that a picture book based on his travels is already in the works.

As a game, it’s not quite as interesting. Exploring the four worlds uses a tried and tested mechanic: tap and hold to float upwards, release to drop. You have to collect the ‘hilariously’ named Light Emitting Daves – which make a sound which might as well have been lifted from LocoRoco – to keep floating, and bumping into the scenery or monsters causes a further loss of Daves.

It’s passably entertaining, but the balance is slightly off. It’s too easy to get stuck on an obstacle, losing all your Daves in the process. With long levels which require a modicum of memory, this can be a touch tiresome.

But it really does look ruddy lovely. For visual nourishment alone it is emphatically worth 69 pennies.

iOS (£0.69)

Triple Town
version: iPhone

Triple Town

Apparently, Facebook games aren’t all rubbish. This is, quite genuinely, news to me. Shameful, I know, but there it is. The proof is Triple Town, frankly one of the most inspired ideas in years.

I love a bit of match-three, but that’s ingeniously turned on its head here. Placing three or more matching items on your town map not only removes them, but replaces them with an evolved item where you put the final one. Grass becomes hedges becomes trees – it goes on. These evolved items can too be matched, and so it continues. Cue much mental gymnastics to work backwards four or five evolutions. It’s fantastically intricate.

Bears complicate matters by wandering around, getting in the way. But they can be turned into gravestones by trapping them in a space, and these can be matched to turn into churches – and so on. Later, ninja bears are even worse, as they can’t be trapped. But robots can be used to destroy any item, and there are crystals to use as wildcards. Plus a shop for when you need it, where you can spend coins earned or bought.

And it’s free, for God’s sake. That gives you limited – though quite generous – moves, which replenish over time. But if you’re not willing to spend £2.49 (on iOS at least) to unlock infinite moves by the time you need them, then you’re just being difficult.

iOS (free) / Android (free)

version: iPhone


As even Nintendo would admit, WiiWare hasn’t exactly been a rip-roaring success. But it has been peppered with highlights, one being 2008’s LostWinds. An adventure game with vague nods to the likes of Zelda and Metroid, the core mechanic of creating gusts of wind makes it a good candidate for a touchscreen conversion.

For the most part, it’s a very successful job. The intriguing, but manageable, unravelling game world definitely helps in the mobile suitability stakes, and the wind-based puzzles – which variously involve water, fire, boulders and the like – are no less charming.

The controls have been tweaked in an update since release, but I’m not convinced that a game converted to rather than designed for a touchscreen is ever going to feel absolutely right. Nevertheless, drawing a gust of wind to carry Toku over a chasm is a delight, and movement by tapping areas of the screen is effortless. Other than the awkward combat, it’s just when fine accuracy is required that it falls short, probably nothing more than an inevitable result of a fat finger on a reasonably small screen.

iOS (£2.49)

Jan 27
By Adam Philbin In Mobile Round Up 3 Comments

Though it was released quite a few months ago, Temple Run is the game dominating the App Store today – yes it’s free, but it’s also high up in the Top Grossing chart, thanks to the sheer volume of downloads and in-app purchases.

Tiny Tower developers NimbleBit rightly had a pop at Zynga this week, after Zynga shamelessly copied Tiny Towers to make a rip-off called Dream Heights. It’s nothing new for Zynga though, a company well known for copying, buying and sometimes stealing other company’s games – such as MyFarm and Mob Wars.

Now, how about some nice mobile game reviews.

Paper Monsters
version: iPhone

Paper Monsters iPhone

The monsters in the title might be a bit misleading, as they’re merely there for you to crush and jump on, as in Mario and countless other platformers. But regardless, Paper Monsters looks lovely. Really, quite pretty indeed.

It’s a fairly standard 2D platformer, as you run along at a fairly relaxing pace and jump to collect buttons and paper clips. The characters are all beautifully created, origami-style 3D creations, in a bright landscape full of flowers, mushrooms and rainbows. Ok, no points for originality, but it looks oh so very nice. Occasionally the frame rate struggles to keep up, and the controls can feel a little unresponsive at times, but… puurrrty!

iOS (£0.69)

Epic Astro Story
version: Android

Epic Astro Story Android

Kairosoft can basically do no wrong, we all know this by now. As the name suggests, Epic Astro Story is possibly their most epic game to date – this time, you’re in space! (Well, a newly colonised planet, with space tourists and interplanetary expeditions.)

Fans of other Kairosoft games such as Pocket Academy and Hot Springs Story might know what to expect, although Epic Astro Story crams a bit more in. You basically need to develop your colony – in a manner similar to Sim City or perhaps Civilization. Whilst at the same time, you need to train and level-up your “away team” (full of appropriately named characters such as “James Turk” and “Jean Luc Vicard”), as you send them on missions to other planets and unexplored lands. This is where it all gets a little bit Final Fantasy, as you arrange your away team members, equip them with appropriate weapons and armour, and watch them scrap it out with alien monsters. It’s mildly strategic and exceedingly cute.

It’s hard to say anything negative about Epic Astro Story, as it really does its name proud. Perhaps a sequel could be a little more in-depth… maybe the phone battery could last a bit longer. Probably if it was 69p more people would buy it. It’s close to flawless though, and exceedingly adorable at the same time.

Android (£2.99)

Paper Glider vs. Gnomes
version: iPad

Paper Glider vs Gnomes Neon Play

The latest Neon Play game. Those guys are great, huh, huh (wink, wink!). (Full disclosure – a Games Asylum writer may have worked on this game.)

What do you get if you cross Paper Glider, with one of those destructive, puzzly physics games (yeh, you’re all thinking it… Crush the Castle!). You get Paper Glider vs. Birds Gnomes, that’s what!

There’s a bit more to it than just flinging a rock at a tower though – you need to throw your glider, drop bombs, and use a little thought to deal with the various contraptions, switches and puzzles. Plus it looks quite nice, the gnomes sound funny, and it’s free (you can buy power-ups, but they’re really not necessary), so you can’t say fairer than that.

iOS (free) / Android (free)

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