Checkpoint Champion gets major update!

Checkpoint Champion gets major update!

Feb 27, 2015

Checkpoint Champion, a addictive little driving game recently reviewed on AR by yours truly has received a major update. Included in the update is a new set of icy stages full of slidey fun, a new car, lots of new challenges and more. This makes a already great game even better.

The list of new features, direct from the app page:

What’s New
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NEW LOCATION! – Ice Lake
– Features 24 brand new challenges!
– Ice and Snow terrain!
NEW ARENA!
– With a surprise mix of checkpoints!
NEW CAR! – Britannia Micro
– Features a slower turning speed – great for beginners!
– 7 shiny new paint jobs to unlock!
OTHER IMPROVEMENTS
– Added immersive mode.
– Added an Event of the Day star counter.
– Improved performance on slower devices!
– Various small bug fixes and improvements.

Robocop Review

Robocop Review

Feb 23, 2015

Poor old Robocop has had a bit of a curse when it comes to licensed products, particularity on the video gaming front. Does Glu capture what it means to be a nigh invinceable steel titan?

screenshot_2014-01-15-16-46-24Robocop’s gameplay is a bit like a dumbed down third person shooter. Hiding behind cover the player must pop out and spray down enemies that constantly filter into the area in front of them. Like any shooter timing your shots and taking cover from enemy fire is important. The player also must change cover shots to avoid sniper fire. A “scan” function can pinpoint weak points on enemies. Weak points either kill enemies nearly instantly when hit or disarm them. Disarming enemies allows you to arrest them which earns bonus resources.

There is nothing wrong with Robocop’s gameplay. It is however kind of repetitive and the shooting action lacks any visceral impact. Enemies kind of fall over silently and your guns just don’t feel punchy. Fighting robot enemies is more fun since they explode when they die and come for you relentlessly.

Robocop features a familiar strengthening system where resources can be spent on boosting Robocop’s stats. Most of these upgrades are really minuscule, such as adding 1 health point or slight, slight increasing damage. The really annoying part of this is that periodically though the upgrade tree the player must spend large amounts of resources on Breakout nodes that unlock new breaches of abilities. These are quite common and have a chance to fail to unlock, wasting the resources you spent. This all but forces players to spend large amounts of their other resources to avoid the chance of the upgrade outright failing and wasting their stuff. This is a terrible idea.

Screenshot_2015-02-18-15-57-29Freemium is well and truly in play in Robocop. Weapons cost so much money in game that it will take months of play to afford even the weakest ones. For example, a basic shotgun costs about 3000 gold. That much money in in app purchases is $20. For one virtual weapon. One of the biggest insults is the constant begging to watch a video for currency. Watching a video awards one gold. One. Robocop is playable without spending money in a basic way, but if you want any cool weapons expect to pay and pay a lot

Robocop has more popups than any game I can quickly think of. It is needier than any girlfriend. Between levels there is an ad for another game that can’t be dismissed for a few seconds, another popup suggesting you buy a first aid kit or whatever, other ones telling you that you have enough resources for an upgrade and ones begging you to watch videos for extremely small amounts of resources. It also insists on constantly sending notifications. The sheer amount of interruptions makes playing Robocop infuriating.

Robocop is a somewhat playable but very annoying shooter with too many popups, ridiculous in app purchases and gameplay that gets dull rather quickly. It’s worth a look for fans.

Samsung Ultimate Accessory Pack Review

Samsung Ultimate Accessory Pack Review

Feb 16, 2015

Ah the fun of buying new a smartphone! It’s always great having a brand new device to fiddle with, play games on or just enjoy using, especially if it’s a behemoth like the amazing new Note 4. However, a new phone means having to buy a new raft of accessories. Luckily, our friends at Mobilefun have a useful bundle of vital accessories available to get new owners of Samsung’s phablet up and running.

Billed as the Ultimate Note 4 Accessory Pack, this kit contains everything that a new smartphone owner might need.

First is the ever useful Micro Suction Desk Stand. This is a universal stand that will work with any phone model. It is a small, easily portable stand with a micro suction pad that sticks instantly to any phone. Using it is as simple as pushing the phone firmly onto the pad. Mobilefun have managed to do this in such a way that the sticky pad does not feel sticky at all to the touch and does not leave any nasty sticky residue on your device. The connection between the phone and the stand is very strong too; shaking the stand around will not dislodge the phone and you can rest assured that it will not fall or slide off. The stand even includes a plastic plate that can be stuck to the stand. This allows phones without flat backs, such as those in cases to be used with the stand without having to remove the phone from the case. This is a really nice feature.

Next is the Universal In Car Mount. This is a very important item for most any mobile phone owner. It sticks securely to the dash of your car and allows a clear view of your phone for actions like GPS and voice replies to SMS. The holder’s arms support any phone from the gigantic Note 4 to smaller iPhones. The suction cup uses a unique twist-lock mechanism that causes the device to stick fast to glass. It also includes an adhesive pad that allows it to stick to other surfaces like plastic.

I found this a bit problematic however. I tested this by sticking the phone to my fridge. After about half a minute the phone holder itself came away from the suction part and my phone ended up on the floor. The second item I tried, the suction cup failed and the entire holder ended up on the floor. While a great idea and very simple to use, I would not trust this device with very heavy phones.

Next is the Universal Car Charger. This is a familiar charger than plugs into your cigarette lighter and charges your phone. The device also includes an additional USB port to allow charging of two devices at once. This is very good.

There is also a smaller mini desk stand/desk stylus included. This is small enough to fit in a wallet and is very useful.

Also included is a basic Perspex case. It only covers the back of the phone, but it feels solid and does the job. 5 screen protectors are also included.

All up the Samsung Note 4 Ultimate Accessory Pack is a solid pack of useful items. The stand and the car charger work great and the case and screen protectors are a good starter set, although the car holder is a bit unreliable. For $30.99 its a bargain. Recommended!

Thanks to our friends at Mobilezap for providing the items for this review.

Shadowrun: Dragonfall Review

Shadowrun: Dragonfall Review

Feb 13, 2015

Shadowrun: Dragonfall starts off great. Players are offered a bewildering array of skills and races to choose from. All of them are clearly described and it is really possible to make just about any character you like. Rifle toting elven dignitaries, dwarf computer hackers and troll mages are more than possible.

Screenshot_2015-02-03-05-26-23Shadowrun: Dragonfall is a tactical RPG. Combat is all about good positioning and flanking attacks, using cover and picking off enemies smartly. Using your party to support each other is essential and running in guns blazing will result in death in record time. The game is difficult and fans of X-com or other rock hard tactical games should settle in for a long tough campaign full of exciting tactical gameplay.

A robust help system also teaches gameplay concepts in a fast and simple way. The game’s branching dialogue system is loads of fun and the game is very well written with lots of funny moments and character nuances. The game has a real magic vs tech feel to it as guns exist alongside mages and totem sprits. Shadowrun’s world is vibrant.

Unfortunately, nearly every other aspect of Shadowrun: Dragonfall on Android besides the character creation and story is a dismal failure.

Screenshot_2015-02-03-05-01-37Even on the biggest phones on the market, like the Note 4, Shadowrun is the definition of unplayable. Fonts are completely unreadable. Interface icons are so tiny it’s difficult to press the one you meant to and characters and enemies alike are indistinct, vague shapes on the large 5.7in screen. There is no excuse for this whatsoever. There isn’t even a zoom control. X-com Enemy Unknown, a simular (much older) game managed to be playable even on the smaller S4 and it is even better on the Note 4. The sheer smallness of everything in Shadowrun makes it impossible to see what skills do, let alone coordinate combat in a meaningful manner.

Things don’t improve very much when output to a big screen either. There is still no zoom control and you still need to use your phone to control the game’s tiny, tiny interface.

Shadowrun: Dragonfall looks poor. The game looks a year or two old and the muddy textures, flat colour palette and microscopic size of everything make it a dull looking game to say the least. The game is also extremely laggy. It takes multiple attempts to get taps to register and movement feels very stilted. The sound is very flat. Unexciting gunfire and quiet, subdued spell effects add no atmosphere to the game at all.

Shadowrun: Dragonfall takes a great PC game with a great story, impressive writing, fascinating skill trees and interesting tactical gameplay and ruins it with zero mobile optimization, appalling performance problems and one of the worst interfaces seen in an Android game in recent memory. By all means buy it for PC, but stay far, far away from this unplayable port.

Huge Monster Dash Update Adds Ghostbuster and New York Backdrop

Huge Monster Dash Update Adds Ghostbuster and New York Backdrop

Feb 12, 2015

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the legendary movie Ghostbusters Halfbrick and Sony Pictures have teamed up in a huge update to the popular game Monster Dash. The update adds Peter Venkman himself to the game, a perfect fit. Also included is a New York backdrop for Venkman to do his busting in and a new weekly event called Who you Gonna Call on Wednesdays and Saturdays! The daily event of course includes Slimer which Venkman can bust with the new proton pack weapon, for maximum retro cool.

Venkman is only playable in the daily event unless players spend money on an In App Purchase, but this is more than reasonable considering the raft of new content. Download Monster Dash and get bustin’ today!

Grand Ride NXG Review

Grand Ride NXG Review

Feb 11, 2015

Grand Ride NXG plays a bit like the well-known classic Spyhunter. Taking control is a well-armed motorbike the player powers their way up the road blasting suspicious looking cars and grabbing powerups to blast more cars. The poorly translated plot mentions something about an invasion and racing to a border but the game is little more than shooting and driving.

Screenshot_2015-02-08-13-13-24Unfortunately this isn’t very interesting. Bullets don’t seem to damage your vehicular enemies so rather than blasting everything the game is more about dodging cars until you happen to find a bomb power-up then destroying everything around you with a smart bomb like explosion. Then the cycle repeats. There are no other power-up or weapons.

Grand Ride NXG looks very unpolished. It looks quite poor to the point where it is difficult to tell what things are. The player’s bike barely animates and the bullets it fires are barely even visible, making it difficult to aim.

Screenshot_2015-02-08-10-55-59Even more glaringly, the game is very buggy. Text routinely fails to line up with windows which make it impossible to read. The game often continues to play sounds even when the player switches away from it or exits it until the phone is rebooted. Most text is full of typos. As said above It also seems to be impossible to blow up enemies. Shooting at them seems to do nothing. Fortunately, enemy guns are just as useless; their shots seem to almost never hit the player no matter where they are. This renders the game completely pointless. The only way to blow up enemies is with the occasional bomb.

Grand Ride NXG is also festooned with ads. When the game is launched it begins with a full screen ad with a “click to play” button. As soon as the game loads another ad appears. After every game another ad appears that must be dismissed.

Grand Ride NXG is a poorly made game that is no fun to play. It just lacks any spark. Players expecting Spyhunter mobile will be very disappointed with Grand Ride NXG.

Air Strike 3D Review

Air Strike 3D Review

Feb 10, 2015

Air Strike HD might look like a flight sim, but it is more of an endless runner. The player’s plane can only move left and right and there are buttons for both missiles and machine guns. The plane moves forward automatically while an endless stream of kamikaze pilots hurtle towards it. The player must dodge left and right to avoid the enemies while shooting down as many as possible. There are so many enemies that blowing them out of the sky before they reach you is the only way to survive.

Screenshot_2015-02-08-03-42-47And that’s all there really is to Airstrike HD. The enemies do shoot back, but their bullets do no apparent damage. The game is simply about getting as far as possible while wiping out enemies. There is not much else to the game.

The problem with Air Strike HD is that it has no overarching aim to speak of. There are no upgrades the game never changes and there is not even a distance meter or score to speak of. It is just the player flying along while blasting enemies until they invariably get blown up. The only measure of the player’s progress is a few unlockable achievements. The serious lack of variation makes the game get dull fast.

Screenshot_2015-02-08-03-42-00Air Strike HD at least looks pretty good. True to its name it is sharp and detailed and the game is full of explosions and shiny planes. The endless sea the player flies over is kind of dull but at least the water looks nice. It is hard to appreciate the graphics however as the only plane the player sees is their own. The others move too fast to be appreciated. The sound is rather good however. Explosions sound just fine and the constant tik tik of gunfire gets the job done. Air Strike 3D isn’t anything special, but it’s certainly easy on the eyes.

Air Strike HD is a flashy game that’s a bit of fun, but the chronic lack of depth makes it little more than a distraction. Try Sky Gamblers instead.

American Idol Shines in Latest Update to Hit Mobile Game Band Stars

American Idol Shines in Latest Update to Hit Mobile Game Band Stars

Feb 10, 2015

The highly popular game Band Stars has just been updated to celebrate Season XIV of AMERICAN IDOL. Players can now take fictional characters inspired by the hit TV show’s budding superstars on a musical mission to form the world’s hottest band with the biggest songs.

Included in the update are six new characters based on contestants in American Idol, although Halfbrick does not mention what contestants the new characters are based on. 16 new challenges have been added to the game as well which task players with such varied activities as recording themed songs or completing vocal solos. Download Band Stars today to check out all the new content!

Checkpoint Champion Review

Checkpoint Champion Review

Feb 4, 2015

Checkpoint Champion is a cool new driving game that rewards careful, skilful driving. Taking control of cute SD versions of well-known cars the player weaves their way to greatness.

Checkpoint Champion is a great fit for mobile gaming. Using a simple control system, the player must weave their way through very short ten second challenges. These involve driving into checkpoints before time runs out. Each challenge features plenty of fiendish challenges like hairpin turns; handbrake turns, obstacles that need to be avoided and plain tough driving. Checkpoint Champion rewards precision and it is very satisfying to get a level right.

Screenshot_2015-01-31-19-36-58Each level is fun in its own way. For example Tornado has its checkpoints appear in a tight circle on a dirt surface. Since the player is driving in a small circle they kick up a lot of spiraling dust, hence the level’s name. Another involves slaloming though slippery mud and another has your car driving very fast around a tree without hitting it in a level aptly called Ring A Rosy. Every level is different and the game never gets dull.

Like most games of this type each level gives the player a rating from 1-3 stars. Unlocking new cars requires a certain amount of stars and getting three stars is of course where the real game lies. Checkpoint Champion can be very difficult but this difficulty never feels unfair. Completing each level isn’t too hard, it’s getting the best rank that really provides the challenge.

A game that demands precision like Checkpoint Champion needs great controls and thankfully the game delivers on that. Holding either the left or right side half of the screen steers in that direction while holding both uses your turbo. The control system feels very sharp and well made.

The game also uses your Google+ profile to display scores from friends which is always fun and motivates you to beat them.

Screenshot_2015-01-31-20-54-09Checkpoint Champion has no IAP to speak of. All cars and their paintjobs can be unlocked by simply playing the game and there is no nasty energy meters or other restrictions. The sole piece of IAP in the game is a $1.99 purchase to remove the ads and unlock a few Prostar paintjobs. This is a great change from the freemium choked cesspit that is the Google Play store. Bravo Prostar.

Checkpoint Champion looks very good. The cars on offer are cute versions of well-known cars. The Levin/Trueno in particular is cool looking. A lot of additional paint jobs can be unlocked by completing goals in games. The sound is really good as well. Some very, very catchy music pumps away in the background and the car’s motor sound and effects for collecting checkpoints are just fine.

Checkpoint Champion is a fun and addictive game with plenty of content for $0. With no nasty freemium and excellent gameplay on offer everyone should get a lot out of Checkpoint Champion.


City Island 3 Review

City Island 3 Review

Feb 3, 2015

City Island 3 plays somewhat like a simpler version of SimCity. The player begins with a empty island and must construct a city from the ground up. Houses are placed for your citizens to live in and just like SimCity it is best to construct ones that hold more people to make maximum use of space.

Businesses can be placed as well and these are the ones that generate money for the player, using a familiar timer based system. Businesses must be staffed with employees and thus you need to balance the amount of houses and businesses so there is always enough staff to crew your profitable businesses.

Screenshot_2015-01-31-07-26-52City Island 3 isn’t anywhere near as complex as SimCity though. Besides the business and citizens ratio there is no tax rate, special buildings or the like and gameplay basically boils down to placing whole lot of buildings and grabbing cash when it is ready. There are different kinds of terrain and some buildings can only be constructed at certain locations like lava or the beach so unlocking new islands in the game is required to build everything. It is a bit of fun building different looking cities. It is still the same gameplay no matter where you are though. It takes a very long time to unlock islands and purchase all the land plots as well.

City Island 3 is far more generous than most freemium city builders. Players can construct or upgrade 5 buildings at once, much more than most games allow. The game also has fairly short timers and money comes in fairly fast. New buildings are also unlocked pretty quickly. It does have a premium currency, in this case gold bars. After building a few of the better buildings and business, building more requires small amounts of bars to construct rather than cash. They are also used to speed up timers.

Screenshot_2015-01-31-07-15-30City Island 3 has a few full screen ads. The game itself lampshades this with a popup notifying you that the purchase of any in app purchase will remove all ads and that they are required due to the expense of developing the game. There aren’t too many ads, but when they do show up there is no warning and they are full screen. These interruptions are irritating.

City Island 3 looks good. The game is very colorful and there are vibrant beaches, green grass and each building looks very different to each other. It is still rather hard to construct a varied city though as there are only a few house designs. The sound could be much better though as there are previous few sound effects and no city ambiance or sound effects to speak of.

City Island 3 is a long way ahead of most other city builders on Android. While it is a bit simple, its generous freemium features and large amount of content make it an enjoyable game for fans of city building. More hardcore players will be better off with SimCity however.

Tangram Quest Review

Tangram Quest Review

Feb 2, 2015

Tangram Quest is exactly what it says on the tin; a fun Tangram game that is so long that completing it is indeed a quest!

Tangram games are all about making pictures by filling in outlines with seven shapes known as tans. Starting with an outline of the picture, such as a bird or a person the player must use the tans to complete the picture. This is done by positioning the shapes and rotating them if necessary in such a way so that they fit together to form the picture. This is much harder than it sounds. Tangram requires a lot of thought.

Screenshot_2015-01-31-06-33-11Tangram Quest is a relaxing game to play. It might not look as nice as some other Tangram games have in the past, but it is clear and colorful and there is no shortage of puzzles to compete.

Puzzles are organized into categories such as People, or Animals and there are even simple genomic shapes or random objects such as a teapot or a bowl. There are dozens upon dozens of puzzles in Tangram Quest, enough to keep even the most ardent block slotter happy for a long time.

Screenshot_2015-01-31-05-07-12Tangram Quest looks nice. The outlines for the tans are clear and it’s very easy to tell what they all are. The tans are nice and colourful and the game as whole is easy on the eyes. There is an ad banner at the bottom of the screen, but there are no annoying pop up ads. Considering the gigantic raft of content that is available for the base price of zero dollars this is more than acceptable. There are no nasty IAPs or the like here, just pleasing gameplay. The way that the game fills in the tangrams on the menu as you complete them is satisfying too. There is no sound to speak of except a bumping noise for selecting items.

As mentioned above one of the best parts of Tangram Quest is the sheer amount of puzzles. For a free game, Tangram Quest has a ton of gameplay on offer.

Tangram Quest is a fun and well-made Tangram game and a great fit for Android. It is well worth having on your device for killing a few minutes or a few hours.

Natsu Runner Review

Natsu Runner Review

Jan 30, 2015

Natsu Runner is a step above the average runner. With varied attacks, a copious upgrade system and enemy filled gameplay, is it a recipe for success?

While it is never mentioned in game, Natsu Runner is based on an anime called Fairy Tail. The main character of that anime is known as Natsu Dragneel and that is who the player plays as. I have never watched the anime but this is hardly important to playing Natsu Runner, which is a strange hybrid of a beat ‘em up and an endless runner.

Screenshot_2015-01-31-03-50-21While sprinting along a landscape and jumping over gaps, poor Natsu constantly comes under attack from various enemies. Whenever it’s flying mini dragons, large enemies with axes or huge purple fireballs, everything in the game wants him dead. Luckily, Natsu has access to three attacks as well as his basic punch combo. He can unleash either a powerful fireball which wipes out any enemy in front of him, a huge burst of fire that kills anything around him or even turn into a fireball and shoot forward into enemies.

This depth is a nice change from the recent glut of simple endless runners. With three attacks and endless enemies to defeat, Natsu Runner is quite engaging and interesting.

A few technical problems really work against Natsu Runner. For starters, the collection detection is just awful. You’ll constantly be injured by enemies who somehow damage you before they touch you or simply ignore your attacks and take a huge chunk off your lifebar instead if you try to fight them. It is difficult to get very far in the game at all because of how easy it is to die. The lack of any kind of block button exacerbates this. Natsu Runner is often chaotic and it often feels like its pure luck whenever an enemy kills you or not. The graphics are a bit too indistinct for such complex combat.

Screenshot_2015-01-31-03-51-21The game is also very laggy. For some reason the game scrolls along very jerkily making it slightly awkward to play and everything in the game just feels off due to the strange scrolling. The game also lags quite a bit when a lot of enemies are on screen and often I couldn’t get a playable framerate without restarting my device first.

Natsu Runner also had a lot of very annoying ads. After every death (and you die often) a full screen ad appears that must be dismissed. Very annoying.

Natsu Runner looks nice. It looks a lot like the anime in question and Natsu looks like he should. The sheer number of enemies on screen is impressive and they are colourful and varied. Compared to most runners Natsu is very impressive. The sound is poor however. Just about every attack in the game produces a dull “bonk” sound and the music is unexciting.

Natsu Runner is a decent enough runner but its technical issues ruin it somewhat. Fans of the anime should enjoy themselves with this one but the laggy gameplay and poor collision detection will annoy most players. This is a shame as Natsu has a lot of good ideas.