Piggy’s Adventure Review

Piggy’s Adventure Review

Dec 29, 2011

There’s more to a good game than just good game mechanics. A truly enjoyable game needs good presentation, effective controls, and it needs to be both stable and functional. Bearing all of that in mind, it’s hard to say for sure whether or not Piggy’s Adventure is truly a good game, or just a game with good elements.

The core gameplay in Piggy’s Adventure is solid. Piggy runs from left to right, and you determine when he performs either a small jump or a big one. Performing the right jump at the right time will help you overcome obstacles, and pick up fruit. The further you get, the higher your score will go. The concept is simple, but enjoyable – you’ll have to master the timing of each jump, and make split second decisions on which jump is right for a given situation.

These core gameplay mechanics really are enjoyable. Learning to time your jumps correctly, and improving your high score make for a satisfying gameplay experience, but everything wrapped around that gameplay experience detracts from it. The first thing you’ll see upon loading up the game is an ad for the developer’s other games, and after that, you’ll see a message about how the game needs to be connected to the internet at all times. Both messages are written in broken English which was poorly translated from the original Japanese used by the developers. Most of the text in the game is so poorly translated that it’s a little hard to understand at first glance, giving the game an unfinished, and shoddy feel. It also seems odd that the game needs a constant connection to the internet. There’s no multiplayer, and most games push your score to the leaderboard after the game ends.

It may be the need for a constant connection, or some other flaw in the code causing the problem, but either way Piggy’s Adventure crashes a lot. Almost every time I fired it up, the session ended with the game crashing, and either closing itself, or presenting me with a “force close” error dialog box. It never actually crashed during gameplay, but the frequency of the crashes definitely diminished my enjoyment of the game.

So, is Piggy’s Adventure a good game? That question remains difficult to answer. The gameplay is enjoyable, but just about everything else the game has to offer is off-putting. It’s free, so if you’re curious about it, there’s no harm in giving it a try – just be ready to deal with some frustrations caused by the game’s incessant crashes and poorly written text.

Atari’s Greatest Hits Review

Atari’s Greatest Hits Review

Dec 8, 2011

At the risk of dating myself, I’m going to admit that I’ve been playing video games since the early eighties. In fact, some of my earliest memories involve playing video games with my family on our Atari 2600. In fact, games like Breakout, Missile Command, and Asteroids were a big part of my young life. As an adult, I’ve moved on to newer video games, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for the classics.

Atari’s Greatest Hits is an effort on Atari’s part to cash in on that sense of nostalgia many gamers feel for classic Atari games. The app itself is free, and comes with Missile Command with each of the 99 other available games clocking in at $0.99. If you’re REALLY into classic Atari games, you can get the whole bundle for $9.99, which is a pretty good bargain when you consider the price of the individual games.

The concept is great – put all of the best games Atari has to offer in one place so that anyone can have them on their smartphone. The execution, however, isn’t as flawless. Scrolling through the games is an exercise in patience. When you swipe to one side or the other to select the game you want to play, the menu will often speed past the game you were aiming for. Coupled with somewhat unresponsive controls, the twitchy menu can be pretty frustrating.

As for the actual gameplay, each game seems to have its own strengths and weaknesses. Missile Command has extremely responsive controls, but the section of the screen taken up by those controls is significant. Super Breakout, on the other hand, doesn’t take up a lot of screen space with controls (just slide your finger from side to side to move the paddle) but the game hitches and hiccups, which frequently results in botched moves, and missed balls.

Despite the handful of technical hiccups, Atari’s Greatest Hits is still a great way to get a little taste of nostalgia on the go. It offers up just about any classic Atari game you might want to play, and for the most part the game does a good job of recreating the look and feel of the original versions of these games.

Brained Lite Review

Brained Lite Review

Nov 11, 2011

Since the early days of humanity, people have been creating logic puzzles in order to amuse (and sometimes enrage) their friends. As time went on we started publishing books full of riddles and brain teasers, and eventually we started creating video games full of brain teasers. Brained Lite brings a collection of brain teasers to the Android platform. Some of those brain teasers will be familiar to you, and some won’t, and some…. well some fall into an all together different category from the rest.

Brained Lite offers some puzzles you might recognize from other brain teaser games like Brainage for the Nintendo DS. for example, you’ll probably recognize the “click the right color” puzzle where you’ll see the name of a color written in a different color. The actual color of the text is the color you want to click. You’ll have to click the colors in a timely fashion to pass the challenge, and as such, it gives your mind a bit of a workout.

Another of the brain teasers found in Brained Lite tasks you with cracking the combination to a safe. Above the safe are four dials. Each dial has a slit on it, and without giving anything away, those slits give you the combination. Not the most imaginative puzzle, but still a brain teaser.

Then there’s this other “puzzle”. At one point, the game flashes a series of circles on the screen and asks you to click only circles of certain colors. That’s it. That’s all their is to that particular brain teaser – just click the right colors as they flash across the screen. No logic necessary, just good old fashioned reflexes.

Brained Lite is sort of a mixed bag. Some of the puzzles will test your critical thinking skills, and force you to use logic to find the solution, while others will reduce you to tapping the screen quickly, or just using random guesses to find the answer, as there is no actual logic to them. Brained Lite is free, so if you really love brain teasers, it may be worth slogging through some of the worse puzzles to get to some of the better ones, but realistically, you’ll probably want to hold out for a better brain teaser game, or just pick up one of the many high quality puzzle games we’ve covered in the past.

Virtual City Playground Review

Virtual City Playground Review

Nov 8, 2011

Virtual City brought the city-building genre to the Android platform with strong game mechanics, and solid game design. The game offered all of the city building features you’d expect – you have to keep your population up, keep your citizens happy, and provide transportation and shipping routes to keep your people happy, and your factories producing products.

The original Virtual City taught you how to go about building an effective city by using a very structured approach to gameplay. The game contained a series of missions that first taught you the basics, and then taught you some of the more advanced details of city building. Virtual City Playground pushes all of that aside in favor of pure, simple city building. The game does include a steady stream of objectives to give you something to shoot for, but in terms of structure, you won’t find very much of it in this game.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. The sandbox gameplay found in Virtual City Playground is actually quite enjoyable. The only goal is to build your city up, and keep your people happy, and that into and of itself is extremely enjoyable. As with the original, you’ll have to set up all of the structures necessary to keep your city running like a recycling plant, a shopping mall, and various landmarks, The sole difference between the two games is that Virtual City guides you through the game with missions while Virtual City Playground just provides simple optional objectives.

For the most part, the lack of structure doesn’t hurt Virtual City Playground… or at least that’s true if you played Virtual City. Newcomers to the series will likely find the game overwhelming, as it does nothing to guide you through the various menus you’ll have to navigate in order to get anything done. If you are new to the series, and you’re not interested in the mission-based Virtual City, it’s still a good idea to play the demo before diving into Virtual City Playground. There’s a lot to do, and a lot to understand about this game, which is what makes it a great city building sim. Unfortunately, that also means there’s a steep learning curve; a tutorial would have benefited this game greatly.

Despite lacking a tutorial, Virtual City Playground is still a great game well worth playing if you enjoy city building sims like Sim City, or Cities XL. then, at the low low price of “free”, Virtual City Playground is a must have game.

Enigmo Review

Enigmo Review

Oct 31, 2011

If you hop on the Android Market looking for a puzzle game, you won’t have any problem finding one. Thanks to the simple controls provided by touch screen devices, puzzle games have found a home on smartphones. In other words, Enigmo has a lot of competition. Fortunately, the game does a solid job of setting itself apart from the crowd.

As is the case with many puzzle games, the core concept behind Enigmo is simple. Each level has one (or more) colored jars dripping similarly colored water down, and your job is to move that water to another jar of the same color using a wide variety of items designed to bounce, absorb, or otherwise manipulate the water drops. As the drops fall, your potential score goes down, so you’ll want to think on your feet, and try to solve each puzzle as quickly as possible.

As you progress through the game, things get harder and harder. You’ll have to deal with multiple jars, and you’ll even have to hit a button with one jar’s water in order to activate another jar before you can take the water from that jar, and get it where it’s going. Some of the levels will really make you think, and you’ll find yourself feeling a sense of satisfaction just from finishing a level in some cases, even if you don’t score a single point for doing so.

Visually speaking, Enigmo looks pretty good. The designs for all the various elements of each level are easy to recognize no matter how far you zoom in or out. The high quality visuals make it all too noticeable that the same attention wasn’t given to the sound design. There’s no music, and the sound of water drops clanging on the various elements of each level gets real old real quick. In fact, before you start playing the game, just go ahead and pop open the settings menu and disable the sound. Trust us, you won’t be missing anything.

Despite the poor sound design, Enigmo is well worth your time and money. Each level will have you thinking on your feet, and each victory will provide you with a sense of satisfaction.

Spider Jack Review

Spider Jack Review

Oct 26, 2011

When a game does well on one platform, the next logical step for the developer is to bring it to other platforms in hopes of increasing their profits. Spider Jack was originally published for the iPhone by Chillingo’s Clickgamer label, the same folks who published Angry Birds and Cut the Rope.

Spider Jack actually has a lot in common with Cut the Rope. Both games have you manipulating a character dangling from a string in various ways. While Cut the Rope has you doing a lot of, uhh, rope cutting, Spider Jack actually has you doing more rope climbing, and swinging. Spider Jack is out for some delicious flies, and in order to get at them, he’ll have to shoot web to various spots in the level, cut web in order to fall, and deal with obstacles like bubbles and blow dryers.

The core gameplay is actually extremely enjoyable. The gameplay mechanics are somewhat similar to those found in Cut the Rope, but there are enough differences, and additions to make Spider Jack feel like a unique and well-thought-out game.

So, remember that part where I said that Clickgamer shouldn’t have passed this game on to Chillingo? That’s because the Android version of Spider Jack crashes. A lot. When I say “a lot” I mean I had to try starting the game no less than six times before I was actually get all the way to a playable level. After two more levels, the game locked up, and dumped me out to the home screen. This happened time and again over the course of my time with the game, making it extremely difficult to play it for more than one or two levels at a time.

At first I thought that maybe there was a problem with my phone – the choppy gameplay, and constant crashes just seemed excessive. So, I checked out the reviews on the Android Market, and found that I wasn’t alone – there are a lot of negative reviews complaining of the exact same problems I was having.

If the game didn’t crash so often, it would actually be extremely enjoyable. As it stands, the game suffers from far too many issues to recommend it to anyone. If you still feel curious about it, try the demo version – if that runs on your phone, then pick up the full version. Just don’t expect it to run on your phone.

Buka HD Review

Buka HD Review

Oct 20, 2011

There are a few basic qualities that define something as being a game. It has to have some sort of end goal (a way to win) and a set of rules that you work within to reach that goal. While Buka HD does strictly speaking qualify as a game, I still have a lot of trouble referring to it as such.

Your job is to guide Buka, some sort of outer space bowling ball creature, through space, keeping him safe from all of the angry space creatures that want to hurt him.

Buka teaches you how to play the game by spouting line after line of baby talk about things like “happy points”. The problem here is that the game doesn’t need that much explaining – you can drag Buka across the screen, but other than that, you’re just tapping the screen to make enemies move out of the way, and holding down on the screen, then releasing to make them explode into smaller bits that you then have to get rid of. The enemy types change a bit, but the gameplay never does – move Buka around, and tap frantically to get rid of the enemies.

To be fair, the game functions as intended. The controls feel snappy and responsive, and we never ran into any problems getting Buka to go where we wanted him to go. While it is functional, the whole experience just feels excessively simple and repetitive.

For gamers looking for a super simple casual experience they can take everywhere with them, Buka HD will provide that experience. You can pop open the game, tap the screen frantically for a minute or two, and beat a level. Just don’t expect the experience to get any deeper than that. Buka HD is good at what it does, it just doesn’t do much.

Orbital Review

Orbital Review

Oct 11, 2011

There are a lot of puzzle games available on the Android platform, but let’s face it – most of them are variations on the same old “match three of a kind” formula. Sure, there are variations on how you go about matching three of a kind, but at the end of the day, a lot of puzzle games have very similar gameplay mechanics. With a handful of exceptions, the puzzle game genre has become somewhat stagnant over the past couple of years, and that makes it extremely exciting when a game like Orbital comes out.

Orbital has the player firing orbs onto the playing field, and then breaking those orbs by firing other orbs at them. Each orb will expand until it hits either another orb, or one of the walls on the playing field. It takes multiple hits to destroy each orb, so it’s really easy to fill up the screen with orbs making it impossible to fire off another shot without having it ricochet off of one of those orbs, and across the death line at the bottom of the screen.

There are three game types that use this interesting gameplay mechanic: Supernova, Gravity, and Pure. All are available for multiplayer as well as singleplayer.

Supernova mode puts you in direct control of the cannon that fires the orbs. You can either put your finger on the cannon itself, or the guideline it displays. Using the cannon will result in faster, twitchier movement while holding down on the guideline will result in slower, more accurate movement. Unfortunately, when I say “more accurate” I mean “more accurate than a map made by a blind drunken cartographer”. The guideline is actually a little thinner than the shot fired from the cannon, so, sometimes when it looks like you’re going to clear an orb, you actually wind up hitting it. To make matters worse, when you take your finger off the screen, your shot fires, often in a slightly different direction than you intended. As you lift your finger off of the screen, the line will jump just prior to firing the shot. In a game where one death ends the game, these inaccuracies are absolutely inexcusable.

Both Gravity and Pure mode are a little better off than Supernova when it comes to accuracy. These modes both have the cannon swaying from side to side, and when you tap it, a shot fires. Believe it or not, it’s far easier to get a shot to go where you want it this way than with actual control over the cannon. It doesn’t hurt that it only takes three shots to destroy each orb in these modes as opposed to the five shots required in Supernova.

While it’s easier to get a shot to go where you want in the Gravity and Pure modes, it’s still not extremely accurate, and again, you only get one life which only serves to highlight the inaccuracies found in aiming a shot.

Alright, now that all of that is out of the way, Orbital isn’t a bad game, it just has some flaws. The core concept is actually really unique and well worth checking out if you’re in to puzzle games. I’d really love to see an update hit this game that improves the controls and allows for greater accuracy when firing a shot, but as it is, it’s worth checking out… just try the demo before spending your hard earned money on it.

Symphony of Eternity Review

Symphony of Eternity Review

Oct 6, 2011

In the early 90’s I spent a lot of my free time playing RPGs on the Super Nintendo. Games like Final Fantasy II (IV if you want to get all technical about it) kept my attention for hours upon hours by providing a decent plot coupled with a good turn-based combat system. Throw in a bunch of loot to be collected, and equipped, and you’ve got a recipe for a long lasting and enjoyable gaming experience.

Symphony of Eternity attempts to revive the old school RPG genre on the Android platform, and in a lot of ways, it succeeds. The game starts in a castle in the kingdom of Eashtend where a coup is taking place. The princess escapes, and meets up with a pair of adventurers questing to find a magical wish-granting item.

As you follow the characters on their journey, you’ll fight monsters in turn-based battles, collect new equipment to help your characters beat the monsters they’ll encounter, and level up to increase your stats, and learn new special skills. The combat and leveling systems both feel great when compared with classic games in the genre. If you played 16-bit era RPGs you’ll feel right at home in Symphony of Eternity.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the plot. Alright, maybe that’s not fair – the game was originally written in Japanese, and the English translation definitely has a few hiccups, so maybe the story beats just weren’t translated well. For example, the kingdom of Eashtend was probably supposed to be Eastend, but thanks to a rough translation, we wound up with the more unusual name.

If you can tolerate the massive amount of mediocre dialog that drives the story along, you’ll find yourself enjoying a great RPG with intuitive controls, and a well done combat and leveling system. Symphony of Eternity may not be the rebirth of the classic RPG, but it’s definitely a solid entry in the genre. If you like classic RPGs you’ll probably want to check this game out.

Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack Review

Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack Review

Sep 23, 2011

Any PC gamer worth their salt is familiar with the Serious Sam series. In preparation for the third installment in the franchise, publisher Devolver Digital has been releasing a series of indie games set in the Serious Sam universe.

Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack has been released for the Android OS, putting players in the role of one of Sam’s worst enemies – the Kamikaze. For those unfamiliar with the series, the Kamikazes are headless guys with bombs where their hands ought to be. Their only goal in life is to run up to Serious Sam, and explode. I can say with certainty that this game does a great job of capturing the lifestyle of the Kamikaze.

The concept is simple – you play as a Kamikaze that’s running toward Serious Sam. You have no control over how fast you run, all you can do is choose when to jump and when to attack. The result is an action game that relies heavily on good timing.

Each level has a main objective, and a secondary objective. The main objective (obviously) is to kill Sam. The secondary objective can be anything from killing Sam in a specific way to kicking a certain number of a certain object. These secondary objectives really add a layer of depth and challenge that you might not expect from a game with such a simple concept.

Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack can begin to feel a little stale after a while, but that’s easily remedied by checking out the game’s challenge modes. The challenges all take different approaches to the gameplay, forcing you to think outside the box in order to complete them.

It may not be the most rich and complex game ever made, but Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack is simple and enjoyable in a way that few other games on the Android platform have managed to achieve. Simple, but responsive controls along with good old fashioned enjoyable gameplay make Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack a worthwhile experience.

Sentinel 3: Homeworld Review

Sentinel 3: Homeworld Review

Sep 15, 2011

Tower defense games have made a home for themselves on the Android platform. It makes sense; it only takes a couple of minutes to play through a level, and that makes the genre a great fit on mobile devices. Unfortunately, a lot of tower defense games wind up feeling remarkably similar to one another. There are really only a handful of variants on the core gameplay, and as a result, the tower defense genre has a few really great games, and a bunch that feel really similar to one another.

Sentinel 3: Homeworld is one of those rare few tower defense games that really stands out from the crowd. Sure, you’re still setting up towers along a fixed path in an effort to wipe out the enemies before they reach the end of the trail, but this game sets itself apart from the rest of the genre in a few key ways.

First and foremost, Sentinel 3: Homeworld uses barriers to create natural “choke points” in each level. In order to progress further into the level, the enemies will have to break down the barrier. In order to keep the barriers in one piece as long as possible, you’ll want to place your first batch of turrets ahead of the barrier. In fact, you may find yourself placing turrets in less-then-ideal locations just to put a few more obstacles between your enemies and the nearest barrier.

Sentinel 3: Homeworld also differs from other tower defense games in that you actually have an on-screen character. Your Sentinel will automatically attack any enemies that get too close to it, and it even has special abilities you can use to bring your enemies to a halt.

You will also unlock various other special powers that you can use to to wipe your enemies off the map. When things get rough, you can just fire some missiles at your enemies and level the playing field – if you have enough energy to do so that is.

If all of that wasn’t enough, you also earn experience as you play, and as you progress through the game you’ll level up, and unlock new towers and abilities. Before you go into a new level, you’ll have the opportunity to customize your load out with the towers and abilities you want to take into combat with you.

If you have any experience with the tower defense genre, you probably stopped reading this review about two paragraphs back, and bought Sentinel 3: Homeworld. If you haven’t already done so, thanks for reading the whole review – and yes, I definitely recommend you pick up this game.

Virtual City Review

Virtual City Review

Sep 9, 2011

Back in 1989 Will Wright created the original Sim City. In doing so, he launched a new sub-genre of strategy games. Over the past twenty years, these city-building games that originated from Sim City have graced just about every platform games are played on, and a number of city-building game franchises have cropped up.

The city building genre has finally made its way to the Android OS in the form of Virtual City. The title might be generic, but the actual game is anything but. Each level of Virtual City lays out a specific set of objectives for the player to achieve with the ultimate goal of expanding your city and keeping your population up, and your citizens happy.

You’ll have to set up public transportation, garbage collection, get supplies where they need to go, and perform many many other similar tasks to reach the goals set out by each level. Balancing these tasks against your budget can be tricky in later levels, but ultimately, victory feels extremely rewarding.

Getting things done in Virtual City never feels cumbersome or difficult – if you want to interact with a vehicle or building, just tap on it and a menu full of easy-to-understand icons will pop up. You can zoom in and out by pinching the screen to make it easier to tap on the right vehicle or building, making the whole process extremely smooth and enjoyable.

Before you go download Virtual City, there are a few technical issues you should know about. The first time you fire up the game you’ll have to wait for it to download approximately 30 MB worth of files. Doing this over 3G is likely to result in at least one failed attempt, so make sure you’re connected to a wifi network the first time you launch the game.

Purchasing the full version also lead to a great deal of trouble. You can’t just buy the full version outright from the Android Market, you actually have to upgrade from within the free version. That wouldn’t be a problem, except that when I went to do so, I received an error message saying the transaction had been refunded due to the connection timing out. My credit card had been billed, and I also received a receipt – it took a couple of days to get the whole thing straightened out. Before you go blaming the instability of a 3G connection, I was connected to a wifi router roughly six feet from my desk when I attempted the purchase.

Creating a player profile also proved more challenging than it should have been. Each time I tried to create a profile it wouldn’t stick, and ultimately, I had to delete all of the game’s saved and cached data from my phone before I was able to successfully create a profile.

These technical issues are extremely frustrating, but once you get past them, and into the game, they’re easy to forget about. Virtual City provides an enjoyable and robust city building sim on the Android platform. With rich gameplay and solid controls, it’s definitely worth checking out.