Heroes of Atlan Review

Heroes of Atlan Review

Jul 22, 2014

Heroes of Atlan is a new demon slaying tactical adventure. Does it stand out from the recent flood of entries in this genre?

Heroes of Atlan is a tactical RPG in its purest form. The player takes no active role during combat. Instead, the player is relegated to equipping their team and positioning them to support each other. Unlike most RPGs of this type, there is absolutely no way to influence a fight once it begins; it’s all about the planning. Battles are short enough that they don’t drag on and the cool monster designs and decent animations make watching battles fun. Like any RPG, it is always satisfying seeing upgraded equipment or boosted levels turning the tide of battle.

Screenshot_2014-07-11-15-08-54A great thing about Heroes of Atlan is that it has an actual story. There is plenty of dialogue to read and some surprising moments. Nearly every battle has some interesting pretence to it and there is a real feeling of the kingdom galvanizing behind the player.

Heroes of Atlan uses a map based system where energy is expended to enter each battle. After winning a battle, the player earns experience and cash and moves onto the next battle. Previous battles can be replayed for more loot. As long as the player tempers their equipment and so on the difficulty is quite reasonable. Heroes of Atlan also includes a PvP arena, but it is filled with very high level players. Combat is completely hands off, just like single player so it really comes down to a pay to win scheme; the player with the best equipment will always win.

Upgrading equipment in Heroes of Atlan can be accomplished in two ways. First there is Tempering, which is a cheap, immediate boost to an item’s stats. This only requires money. Crafting is much more complicated and involves using a wide range of reagents to change an item’s form. Reagents take time to hunt down, but crafting makes equipment much more powerful. Once an Item has been crafted, it can be tempered all over again and the cycle starts anew.

Screenshot_2014-07-11-14-30-00Heroes of Atlan looks decent. Presented in a bright, colourful 2-d style the game features pretty nice character design and there are always new enemy types to see. The animation is fairly primitive, but the graphics aren’t really relevant to a game of this genre. Cool looking characters are just a bonus. The sound is likewise middle of the road. The music gets rather repetitive and there is no voice acting or even battle cries.

Heroes of Atlan is a pretty fun tactical RPG, at least in single player. While its lack of control and obvious freemium-based multiplayer might annoy some players it tells a good story and there is enough game here that gamers will keep gaming for a long time.

Stick Soccer Review

Stick Soccer Review

Jul 22, 2014

Stick Soccer is yet another attempt to celebrate the now-passed World Cup. Is it worth playing?

Stick Soccer is less soccer and more a series of penalty shootouts. Soccer balls bounce across the screen and a simple swipe arcs them towards the goal. A goalie and a few opposing players stand around to block shots. There is no actual soccer played in Stick Soccer. It is simply a series of shots on goal and no other players move besides the keeper. Despite this, whatever team opposes the player scores regularly during the game. Winning the game by scoring more goals than the opponent completes the level and unlocks a new, harder one against a different nation. Stick Soccer gets tough in a hurry. The first few levels aren’t too hard, but the game rapidly requires pinpoint accuracy and there is never any indication as to why certain shots beat the keeper or not. The game lacks a power meter or any other influence on shots besides swiping, which just isn’t accurate or engaging enough to be enjoyable. Besides the normal single player mode, a Time Attack mode is also included. This features the same gameplay, except even harder.

Screenshot_2014-07-08-05-01-29Stick Soccer’s gameplay is framed in a neat system where scoring goals adds to that nation’s global total which is shown in the main menu. Thus the game is sort of a global competition which is a nice motivation to play.

Stick Soccer isn’t a very fun game. It is difficult and its shallow gameplay is uninteresting. It is often unclear how to beat the keeper and most of the time scoring seems like simple luck. Fueling this belief is the fact that there is an in game shop with soccer boots for sale which boost the player’s stats. Some pairs can be unlocked by playing the game, but the criteria for unlocking them is tough to complete and the game would really like you to pay.

Screenshot_2014-07-08-05-02-24Stick Soccer lives up to its name. Tall, stick like soccer players dominate the game and the animation is very basic. Stick Soccer just doesn’t have much to look at. Soundwise, the game is just as simple. Besides a roaring crowd and the sound of bouncing balls, there is little to hear.

Stick Soccer’s replay value can be measured in minutes. Its one dimensional gameplay and reliance on in-app purchases doesn’t really make it an enjoyable experience.

Stick Soccer isn’t much fun and is little more than another shallow game based on soccer fever. There are much better World Cup themed games to play on Android. check out Winning Kick instead for a more interesting gameplay experience.

Great Little War Game 2 Review

Great Little War Game 2 Review

Jul 21, 2014

Great Little War Game 2, much like the first game in the series has the player taking control of the blue army vs. the ever present red army menace. Using infantry, tanks and artillery the player will fight across deserts, beaches and forests to wipe out the enemy.

Screenshot_2014-07-20-12-53-02Great Little War Game 2 is all about using the terrain well and using units together so they can support each other. Units on elevated terrain can shoot further and thus can avoid return fire. Using artillery well, covering base approaches with snipers and backing up your grunts with medics among other tactics is both fun and vital to success.

Great Little War Game 2 features no in-app purchases whatsoever. All sixty levels are available from the beginning and unlocking new units to use boils down to collecting bonuses during levels and beating missions. Once the player earns enough battle points they can spend them on both unlocking new units, like better tanks or infantry or improve the ones already available. There are no shortcuts here. If a level is lost it is always down to improper tactics or a lack of skill, instead of not spending enough money on the game. This is a wonderful feeling and sure to be a big boon to players.

Screenshot_2014-07-19-16-51-58A minor downer in Great Little War Game 2 is the removal of the often funny and always interesting mini cutscenes that provided so much entertainment in the first game. No longer do players get to see the latest ridiculous reason the Blue Army goes to war for or the latest pervy comment at female soldiers. Each mission is simply served up with a screen showing the map and the objective. This is an understandable sacrifice given that there’s a massive 60 missions in this game, but it’s still hard not to miss the window dressing. The complete removal of multiplayer is a somewhat larger sacrifice however. Hopefully this is restored in a future update.

Luckily, the game still features lots of highly amusing banter and snide anti-war snippets thrown in as units blast the stuffing out of each other. Hobo turd indeed. The game also looks very good, nearly identical to the first game although with better terrain effects.

Great Little War Game 2 has tons of replay value. As said earlier with sixty missions, loads of unlockable units and addictive tactical gameplay GLWG2 will last for a very long time.

Great Little War Game 2 is a fantastic game both for newcomers to the series and veterans eager for a boatload of new missions to play. A premier mobile game, it is a must play.

Evolution: Battle for Utopia Review

Evolution: Battle for Utopia Review

Jul 15, 2014

Evolution: Battle For Utopia is an interesting mix of small scale combat, exploration and base building. Is it a gaming utopia?

The combat portion of Evolution: Battle for Utopia is actually very robust. Attacking is handed automatically and the player can select a target. After every few shots the player must reload and this can be sped up with a well-timed tap Often one enemy will have a crosshair over them and attacking these targets will dish out more damage. Human enemies shoot back and glow red when they are about to allowing the player a second to duck behind a shield with a swipe before the lead starts flying. Incoming grenades also need to be tapped on to avoid them detonating in the player’s midst. There is a lot to do during combat and the mechanic for picking targets and taking cover make it feel like a real gunfight, which is impressive. Picking targets is important as some enemies are far more powerful in melee and must be dropped fast while human soldiers need to be taken out one by one to cut down on the number of people shooting.

Screenshot_2014-07-15-07-35-24Beside combat, there is a map based mode where dialogue and exploration take place. This is well done. Base building is done in typical freemium style with timers a plenty and many buildings to construct and tech to research. The graphics are noticeably poorer than the combat here and buildings are just dull, static blocks. The base building isn’t very satisfying and there are very few building types. This is in stark contrast to the cool combat segments. The game does have an interesting story which helps push it along.

Screenshot_2014-07-13-07-43-39Of course, as is common with mobile gaming, freemium comes along to ruin any fun the game might have had. The game’s difficulty shoots up extremely quickly after the first few missions and resource generation is a slow, plodding affair that requires logging in constantly to tap on buildings. Combat goes from fun and doable to tough and failing a battle once locks that battle away for 20 hours. Twenty hours. Missions can only be attempted if the player has sufficiently long range helicopters to reach them and this generally means that failing 1 or 2 battles can prevent the player from playing the game at all for the better part of a day. The tragic part is that if this was a premium game without paywalls it would be absolutely worth playing. The gameplay is satisfying and unique.

Multiplayer is a bit of a joke as well. Pay to win is the rule in Evolution: Battle for Utopia. The matchmaking system seems flawed as well; every multiplayer battle I ran into was against much higher level opposition.

Evolution: Battle For Utopia looks great, sounds great and has a lot of varied gameplay styles. As a whole it is very in depth for a mobile game. Unfortunately, some terrible freemium features and some very long timers really go a long way towards killing the game.

Wayward Souls Review

Wayward Souls Review

Jul 14, 2014

Wayward Souls looks and sounds like the spiritual successor to the well-received Mage Gauntlet. Prepare to be surprised!

Wayward Souls is an old school rougelike with style. A virtual stick moves the hero, while a tap on the screen executes a normal attack. Abilities are handled with swipes. For the Warrior a downward swipe uses his shield, which defends against any attack or projectile for a few seconds. An upward swipe unleashes a throwing axe for defeating enemies that are too dangerous to get close to. This super slick control scheme works very well indeed and is much less fiddly that a collection of small icons.

Screenshot_2014-07-13-04-19-51Players can pick from three initial classes in Wayward Souls. Like many RPGS it features a Warrior, a Mage and the ever popular Rouge. The Warrior is tough up close and can throw axes and gain high health. The Mage can attack from a distance, but must allow her energy to recharge to attack, so she’s very vulnerable to getting overwhelmed. The Rouge meanwhile attacks and moves very quickly, but isn’t as good in a stand up fight as the Warrior.

Except to die early and often in Wayward Souls. Wayward Souls is HARD. The player will die repeatedly. Enemies move around faster than even the Rouge and do loads of damage and there are tons of them. A lot of skill and constant attention are needed to survive for any length of time. Enemies are deadly and even the weakest ones, like berserk miners who throw pickaxes will do a lot of damage. A few enemies ganging up on the player can drop their health like nothing else. Of course like all rougetypes, as soon as the player dies, they must start the game all over again.

This is compounded by an almost total lack of healing. Getting hit kills the player fast and healing potions drop so rarely from enemies I wasn’t aware they even existed for a long time. The main source of healing is the small amount of health restored by reaching the end of a dungeon level and descending into the next.

Screenshot_2014-07-12-07-09-21Wayward Soul’s challenge is a breath of fresh air. While a lot of mobile games embrace pay to win and do not require skills, Wayward Souls is unashamedly a game in the vein of old school, rock hard SNES games which will eat players alive if they don’t have gaming chops and this is something not seem very often on Android. Indeed, it is often ports from other systems, such as Dragon Quest VIII and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas that aren’t afraid to kick the player around if they can’t hang tough.

Thankfully, a satisfying persistent upgrade system is in play. Coins can be grabbed during games and traded for permanent upgrades. These can boost the chance of doing critical damage, boost attack damage or recover energy for special attacks faster. Each upgrade also boosts maximum health and energy, so characters will gradually become stronger. This allows players to make it just that little bit further before becoming just another stain on the floor. This kind of slow burning gameplay is an acquired taste, but the game hands out plenty of coins and there are no nasty in-app purchases to dilute the feeling of progression.

Some smart game design ensures this needed replay never feels like grinding either. Like most Rougetypes, Wayward Souls is procedurally generated. Each time a new game is started the layout of the dungeon and enemy type and placement is randomly determined to ensure an entirely new brand of rage inducing death. This makes each game feel new and guards against frustrating repetition. It also prevents the player learning patterns and making the game too easy.

Wayward Souls is tough then, but it is the good kind of tough. It’s what gaming should be; a game that punishes you for not playing well and rewards the player when they do. Players who relish the challenge of extreme games like bullet hell shooters will likely revel in the unapologetic ass kicking Wayward Souls will deal out if they slip up.

Screenshot_2014-07-10-06-27-32Wayward Souls looks incredibly good. A super smooth, warm pixel art style defines the game. While pixel art on Android isn’t exactly hard to find, the great lighting effects, detailed sprites and the attention to detail make Wayward Souls look like a very pretty 16 bit game. The way the player’s character changes appearance as they get stronger is great as well. The music is extremely well done as well. Some excellent ambient tunes warble on in the background and really suck you into the game. Noodlecake are known for their great music and Wayward Heroes is another example of this skill.

Wayward Souls
has enormous replay value if players can stomach the challenge. The extreme amount of skill needed to even begin to get anywhere in the game will require much practice and stat boosting and the three classes and three more unlockable ones give plenty of replay value.

Lastly, Wayward Souls has a good bit of story. Each time the player descends a dungeon level more about their character and their motivations are revealed. These simple story scenes really reward progression. Rougetypes aren’t known for their story, so this is very engaging.

Wayward Souls is unabashedly made for a specific kind of player and helps propel mobile gaming into a more hardcore, serious level of gaming. Players who are dyed in the wool gamers who take any challenge in stride and will persevere and will take the time to learn the game will enjoy it. However more causal mobile gamers, such as those who like their freemium city builders and such will find it an impenetrable game. Even fans of Mage Gauntlet may not enjoy Wayward Souls due to its difficulty. Well-made but merciless Wayward Souls is the Dwarf Fortress of mobile gaming and only the player can decide if Wayward Souls is the game for them.

SoulCraft 2 Review

SoulCraft 2 Review

Jul 10, 2014

Soulcraft 2 takes a leaf out of Diablo’s book. Its story revolves around the endless war of Heaven vs Hell. Heaven sends some badass angels down to smack around Lucifer himself until he cries uncle. Meanwhile humanity is attempting to discover the secret to immortality. This would halt the flow of souls to the angels and thus rob them of their power.

Screenshot_2014-07-10-01-02-58Soulcraft 2 is a fairly average hack and slasher. The player moves with a virtual stick and a few buttons to control attacking and special skills. Soulcraft 2 is split into missions that boil down to either killing a lot of smaller demons, or fighting a boss. Most of these missions are quite short and never get more complicated than just hanging around and killing everything.

Soulcraft 2 features two currencies, Souls and Gold. Gold is a premium currency and must be used to unlock most items before they can be purchased with Souls, which are picked up during gameplay. Needing to pay to unlock equipment before even getting to pay for it by other means is a bit ridiculous. Buying the second cheapest gold pack awards the player permanent gold membership. This removes ads and doubles the number of Souls dropped by enemies.

Screenshot_2014-07-10-02-28-27Soulcraft 2, while its base gameplay is decent enough, lacks what makes a dungeon crawler great. Namely loot. The fun of dungeon crawlers is finding that next bit of swag that makes the player just that little bit tougher and able to take out more enemies. Finding a new flaming sword, cold resistant armour and so on is fun and keeps the player playing to see what comes next. Enemies in Soulcraft 2 very rarely drop loot. Only a few enemies even have the possibility of it and I saw no loot drops during my time with the game. Since the player spends most of the time with the same equipment due to the lack of loot, this can cause Soulcraft 2 to get rather dull.

Soulcraft 2 is very glitchy. Switching away from the game or receiving a call almost always causes the screen to simply go black, forcing the player to terminate the app before it can be played again. Levels sometimes load up as glitched messes and bouts of random lag are common. This detracts from the game a great deal. These issues are on a Samsung Galaxy S4, so owners of older devices should beware of Soulcraft 2.

When it is not glitching out, Soulcraft 2 looks quite nice. The character design nails the heaven vs hell vibe and there are plenty of intimidating enemies and killer angels to see. Combat looks pretty good too, with plenty of nasty looking animations. The sound gets the job done as well, but isn’t exceptional.

Soulcraft 2 isn’t a bad game. Its bugginess and lack of loot detract from it a great deal, but its reasonable gold membership is a pretty good deal. Hack and slash fans could do worse than taking a look.

Swipe Quest Review

Swipe Quest Review

Jul 9, 2014

Swipe Quest is a strange game to say the least. It blends classic 8bit era RPG gameplay with a bizarre grid based system where monsters and items are represented by tiles. As the player moves around, running into enemies fights them and sliding into items grabs them. There are also stones and trees which can be collected for gold and experience points, representing resources.

Screenshot_2014-07-06-03-02-16Combat in Swipe Quest is a strange beast. Each enemy has a number in attack and defense. The player boosts their stats by sliding around and grabbing swords and shields to boost attack and defense respectively. Both can also be purchased from the in game shop. Running into an enemy with enough of each uses up the equipment to kill them and leaves the player undamaged. If the player has enough swords, but not shields they take damage directly to their health instead. Defeating enough enemies boost the player’s level, which increases their maximum life and grants a few shields/swords.

Gaining levels also unlocks new quests and tougher enemies begin to appear. Tiles move along with the player and tiles of the same type that run into each other combine. This includes enemies. If the player moves in such a way that they are surrounded by enemies, a timer begins to count down and the player will be killed if they can’t escape.

Quests also randomly appear that are worth a good chunk of experience. Quests range from finding a lost boy, to killing a certain amount of enemies. The dialogue for quests is very strange and is obviously a parody of the often terrible translations found in classic RPG titles. Not good orcs indeed.

Screenshot_2014-07-06-03-21-17Despite Swipe Quest’s unique gameplay, it is just not very interesting. The game is so simple that after a few games the player has seen most of the game and the one dimensional gameplay just isn’t compelling for very long. There is little skill in the game and calling it a puzzle game is rather disingenuous. The player simply needs to keep searching to find sufficient swords and shields to defeat enemies. The only real danger is becoming surrounded, which is easily avoided. Swipe Quest just has no depth.

The game doesn’t look good either. Despite its attempted 1980s PC RPG style graphics, it just doesn’t make use of the medium at all. Repetitive, boring tiles of monsters on a plain green field and endless tiles of samey items just don’t do the game any favors. True retro style games have a style all their own, but Swipe Quest doesn’t play to the era’s strengths.

Swipe Quest won’t hold interest either. Its many unlockable characters just have slightly different starting numbers of swords and shields. They do not actually play any differently.

Swipe Quest is a prime example of why gaming conventions aren’t bad. Swipe Quest’s interesting ideas don’t hold up past a few games and it doesn’t look or sound good either. For a buck it’s worth a look as a novelty, but don’t expect much fun gameplay.

Danger Boat Review

Danger Boat Review

Jul 8, 2014

Danger Boat is a new; boat based endless runner style game by Pixelocity Software. These guys have done work on Age of Empires III and, unsurprisingly, Spyhunter!

Screenshot_2014-07-06-00-08-01Danger Boat sees the player navigating a sleek speedboat though a maelstrom of bombs, rocks and whirlpools, Steering uses the accelerometer. While avoiding hazards is all well and good, the real goal of the trip is the lines of buoys planted around. Passing ten buoys on the indicated side awards a random power. These powers range from coin magnets, turbo boosts, backup allied helicopters and even lasers to shoot though any threats in front of the speedboat. These cool powers are usually used for completing challenges, such as destroying a certain amount of rocks, gaining a certain amount of coins or so on. Completing challenges builds up a score multiplier, so later games let the player achieve higher scores.

Like most games of this type, gold coins float on the waves, just waiting for a speedboat to grab them. Coins can be used to buy upgrades to powers such as a longer duration or new boats to use . Barrelling over jumps and avoiding missiles in a riverboat is always fun.

The great thing about Danger Boat is that it is very well made and has no nasty in-app purchase surprises. The game is fun and challenging. Not being nickel and dimed every five seconds will likely be a breath of fresh sea air for Android gamers. Coins can be purchased in game, but the player is never nagged about it and a few dollars will buy enough coins to unlock quite a few upgrades.

Screenshot_2014-07-06-02-03-09Danger Boat looks slick without being overcomplicated. The game’s elements are really well drawn and the game looks and feels a lot like a spy film. The James Bond style surfy music, floating bombs and mysterious black submarines that try to blow the player’s boat away give the impression this little boating escapade isn’t entirely innocent. Indeed, one of the coin purchases is a replacement for the starting harbour, a shady headquarters. A really cool touch is that as the player motors along, the weather changes now and then, so there are snowy sectors with ice instead of rocks and stormy sectors with lighting strikes.

Danger Boat has plenty of replay value. There are daily challenges to work on, as well as standard challenges to boost the score multiplier. There is always something new to try.

Danger Boat is a super stylish game with lots of good ideas a cool vibe and a focus on fun. It’s worth a look for any mobile gamer.

Eternal Crusade Review

Eternal Crusade Review

Jul 8, 2014

Eternal Crusade is described by its marketing as “an adrenaline-fueled game” that will be “catering to a global audience of mid to hardcore gamers.” Playing the game itself, however, it is difficult to see how either of these statements is true.

In Eternal Crusade, the player picks a hero and builds up a squad of mercenaries. Mercs range from curiously momentary inclined monsters, to plain old human fighters. Mercs are super varied and building a team is enjoyable.

Screenshot_2014-07-05-21-35-01Eternal Crusade is almost devoid of actual gameplay. Despite looking a lot like a classic grid-based RPG, a la Final Fantasy Tactics, the player has next to no control over combat in Eternal Crusade.

The only thing the player does in combat is tap buttons to use special abilities when they charge up. A target can’t even be chosen. Some battles later in the game can be extremely long. Spending 5-6 minutes tapping a button and watching combat play out gets very dull.

Every merc feels exactly the same and elemental properties don’t seem to matter too much. Like most games of this type, characters can be levelled up with items looted from battle and evolved into stronger versions. Unfortunately, the majority of these fighters just attack enemies in slightly different ways. The only true differences between monsters is if they can heal or not. Still, the great graphics of the game make it fun to see what monster or cute fighter will be revealed next.

Screenshot_2014-07-05-21-54-59Since battles are entirely automatic, there are literally no tactics to be employed. What enemies are attacked and if the AI is smart enough to do things like focus its fire or match elements to weak enemies is completely out of the player’s hands. Battle tends to devolve into a flurry of animations that make it difficult to follow what’s going on or what’s effective against what. This doesn’t really matter though, because the game is very focused on pay to win. Either the player wins the battle or they lose through no fault of their own and must grind previous battles for items to boost their fighters. Of course the cash shop has boosts for sale and the game isn’t shy about its freemium tendencies.

Eternal Crusade looks very nice indeed. Some excellent artwork and imaginative monsters really give the game a cool anime look. Everything in the game is bright, colourful and varied. The sound is very good as well. Combat sounds impressive, as do spells. Music is well done as well. Eternal Crusade’s excellent presentation is its only redeeming feature.

Eternal Crusade is not an enjoyable game at all. It lacks any real gameplay, its stat boosting system has been done better on Android many times and there is just little fun to be found in it. Check out Brave Frontier or Slash of the Dragon for a much more fun experience.

Heroes and Castles Review

Heroes and Castles Review

Jul 7, 2014

Heroes and Castles is a new Action RPG/strategy game where chopping though a huge undead horde is just another day at the office.

Players can pick from one of a well-known cast of RPG favorites. There’s the stealthy assassin, the healing paladin and the tough knight, among others. Each is every different and provides a different style of gameplay.

Heroes and Castles mixes RPG gameplay with a pinch of strategy. While the player moves and fights much like any other button mashing action RPG, the game is set up so they cannot survive alone.

Screenshot_2014-07-02-20-30-21Troops can be recruited to aid in holding back the shambling undead before they beat their way into Hinton castle’s strangely wooden walls. Quite a few troops from weak archers to armor clad, pike welding badasses can be recruited to both serve as distraction and kill enemies in their own right. Using troops well is the key to success.

A few buildings can be constructed as well. The most common one are gold mines that generate money to train new soldiers, but arrow towers and a few others can be built. After each battle gems are earned that can be used to boost skills and learn new ones.

Screenshot_2014-07-02-20-13-02Lamentably, some really interesting gameplay ideas are undone by the incredibly high difficulty of Heroes and Castles. The first few levels are simple enough, but from about level 4 onwards the game becomes a whole different ballgame. Enemies arrive in droves. The introduction of armured enemies who both dish out and take a lot of damage makes the game much more difficult. Their armor makes them nearly immune to attacks from nearly every troop type, including the player. The only troops that can counter armored enemies are very expensive pikemen that cost more than an arrow tower each.

Rarely can the player afford enough pikemen to have much chance of winning and it is obvious that Heroes and Castles is steering the player towards purchasing in app purchases which boost abilities and make the game slightly easier. There is a lot of in app purchases in Heroes and Castles. This would be more acceptable if the base game did not already cost money.

Graphically, Heroes and Castles is quite simple, but with the large amount of characters on screen during a major battle this is understandable. The game would just not have a stable frame rate otherwise. The sound is similarly second rate. Combat sounds more like banging forks together and voice acting is very poor. A strange omission is the lack of death cries for both enemies and allies. This makes it difficult to tell if troops are holding if the player cannot see them. The music gets the job done, but it is a much better idea to turn it off to better keep track of battle.

Heroes and Castles delivers a unique experience for mobile and some interesting gameplay. Unfortunately it then shoots itself in the foot with in-app purchases, poor presentation and very high difficulty. Only rich strategy fans should apply.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review

Jul 7, 2014

XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the legendary tactical shooter of yore has sure had a long time between drinks but at least this cracking, if highly challenging series of games has graced Android. Is the magic intact?

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is all about dealing with hostile aliens invading earth for unknown purposes. Working out just what they’re after is high on the agenda, but so is blasting ton of them into goo.

Screenshot_2014-07-04-21-53-41XCOM is divided into two parts. There is base management and combat. Base management involves building new facilities for X-COM’s secret underground base, researching new items and recruiting new soldiers. Bases require power plants, engineering areas to manufacture researched items and satellite arrays to detect aliens in flight and intercept them.

Combat takes place whenever an alien UFO is downed if the player chooses or when the aliens themselves decide to attack.

Combat in XCOM is gripping and strategic. It uses a tried and true turn based system. There is plenty of cover to hide behind and flanking and keeping your men in cover is essential to winning. Aliens are quite smart and don’t hesitate to cover each other and use grenades. Reaction shots a are huge part of X-COM. If an enemy is suddenly exposed due to moving or their cover being destroyed allies and enemies can fire at the exposed enemy, so cover fire can be very effective. There is also a morale system and too many deaths or some alien abilities can lead to soldiers running away or shooting their friends.

Like in the original XCOM: Enemy Unknown, soldiers that survive combat rank up and gain stats. They also gain a number of abilities and are assigned a class. Snipers for example can use a very powerful headshot skill to deal massive damage and can share sight with other squad members, while heavy machine gunners can suppress enemies and launch rockets. Abilities are vital to success in X-COM and picking the right ones so a squad works together adds a lot to the game.

Screenshot_2014-07-04-21-45-13XCOM: Enemy Unknown revolves around research. From the word go humanity is completely outmatched by the aliens. Their conventional weapons are cutting edge, but compared to lasers and plasma rifles they might as well be firing pillows. Wiping out aliens and capturing them and splashing UFOs allows the player to research myriad different projects. There is, for example flight capable armor or heavy laser rifles. Flying laser snipers and stealth suit wearing shotgunners and more are possible.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown looks fantastic. Aliens look really menacing and environments look great without looking artificial. Soldiers vary nicely and some of the more high tech gear is really cool looking.

Compared to the console versions of XCOM, the Android version takes a graphical hit, but this is mostly limited to lower resolution textures.

The sound is incredibly well done as well. Aliens scream and moan disturbingly and weapons have all the bangs and cool sounding zaps expected of sci-fi weapons. The music is really good as well, particularly the music during actual combat.

X-COM: Enemy Unknown is a no brainer for any fan of tactical shooters. It is huge, deep and full of satisfying gameplay and for the price it is an absolute steal.

First Strike Review

First Strike Review

Jul 2, 2014

First Strike is all about nukes. The crux of many an action movie nukes can be fun to throw around. First Strike contains all the fun of launching arrays of nuclear death without all that pesky fallout afterwards. First Strike throws diplomacy out the window. By the time of the game the world is already going to be bathed in nuclear fire. The only question is who will do most of the bathing?

First Strike divides each nation up into sections and each section has a number of silos, the number of which is controlled by tech level. Each silo can have a particular kind of missile. There are cruise missiles which are used to intercept incoming nukes and ICBMs, which are used for nuking other nations.

Screenshot_2014-07-01-14-53-53Actually attacking enemies (i.e., anyone not you) is very easy. The player just taps on a nation and then taps on an opposing nation. Intercepting nukes is easy as tapping on an icon. Building a combination of missiles is important as without cruise missiles there is now way of stopping incoming nukes.

Once the player has a big enough arsenal they can launch the titular first strike, which is an all-out attack where every nation launches their nukes at the target. This is accompanied with a great swell of music and usually reduces the target area to rubble.

Screenshot_2014-07-01-13-52-16Nukes themselves cause parts of the map to become barren, destroying any missiles there and removing it from control. These areas can be reclaimed by expanding to them with another option. While a nation is expanding it cannot defend itself, but the more of the map a nation has under its control, the more space there is for additional nuke silos. A balance between taking over the map and attacking your enemies is essential.

Research is important as well. Longer range and more powerful missiles can be researched as well as advanced radar to detect incoming missiles. A few super weapons work great for wiping out a stubborn opponent.

The game contains three difficulty levels, each of which is a different nation. The USA is quite easy what with its already advanced tech and large number of territories. North Korea on the other hand is backward tech wise and cannot even detect incoming missiles for starters.

First Strike looks excellent. A great military computer like style with glowing lines and simple icons make the game feel like some kind of military computer and when a major nuclear exchange erupts and dozens of missiles all with targeting lines and icons fly through the air it is a sight to behold.

The game also sounds excellent. Minimalist, flowing music is punctuated with bursts of loud pumping riffs when First Strikes happen. Missiles launching and detonating sound great and the beeps and boops of the interface really make you feel like you’re hunched over a screen in some bunker somewhere, watching the end of the world happen.

First Strike is a fun and super stylish game and should be loads of fun for any fan of strategy.