Skyline Skaters Review

Skyline Skaters Review

Jul 15, 2014

Endless runners make for the perfect mobile games. A combination of accessibility and addictiveness make the genre ideal for gamers on the go. Skyline Skaters Rio is the latest game to take advantage of the portability of an endless runner, even integrating the World Cup into the game’s Brazil setting.

Rio is an update to Skyline Skaters that takes players to the favelas of Brazil. The Skyline Skaters version of the favelas ignores the dark side and presents a bright, vivid picture of the city. With the World Cup in town, the setting is full of color and full of life. Players will see nods to the soccer tournament as they skate on rooftops, noticing soccer balls bouncing, mascots jumping, and soccer-themed power-ups throughout levels. However, the soccer integration is merely a gimmick to capitalize on the popularity of the World Cup as it has no affect on gameplay.

The object of the game is guide your skateboarder through the rooftops, jumping across buildings and collecting coins along the way. The old saying “skateboarding is not a crime” is apparently invalid in Brazil, as a police helicopter gives chase to players. Hit a cone or other obstacle and you will allow the chopper to catch up.

Gamers also have to deal with several obstacles along the way, including flying missiles, floating obstructions and rails. To make dealing with these easier, players can obtain power-ups located throughout levels. Power-ups, which include a rainbow that bridges rooftops and a score multiplier, temporarily give players a boost that makes racking up high scores easier. The best power-up is the rocket, which allows players to sit back momentarily and watch their character fly through the sky and collect coins.

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There are also letters in levels players can collect to unlock a special bonus round. Spelling words such as “SPEED” or “SKATE” will take players to an area full of easy-to-collect coins.

Skyline Skaters is as simple as it gets when it comes to controls. A tap on the screen will cause your character to jump and a double tap results in a double jump. It is all very accessible and inviting.

With the Rio update comes a new soccer-themed Brazilian skater, but obtaining him can be a grind. Unless players are willing to shell out some real-world cash to purchase the character (or any other additional character in the game, for that matter), they will have to spend some serious time skating through Rio collecting coins.

Players who do not wish to deal with microtransactions will find it difficult to collect extras, upgrade their skateboards, or level up their characters past the early stages, which quickly reduces the game to a repetitive chore.

Skyline Skaters Rio is a colorful update to a solid endless runner. However, the fun of the game wears off unless users are willing to pay real world money to unlock new characters and upgrades. Without conducting microtransactions, the game becomes a repetitive quest to collect coins, and Android users will find themselves uninstalling the app.

MLB.com Home Run Derby Presented by Ford Review

MLB.com Home Run Derby Presented by Ford Review

Jul 11, 2014

There is nothing more exciting in baseball than the home run — the crack of the bat echoing through the stadium, the crowd roaring as the hitter rounds the bases, and the high fives and handshakes in the dugout. There is nothing like watching the best hitters in the world smash baseballs as far as they can. That is why MLB’s annual Home Run Derby exists. For those of us who will never get to experience what it’s like to hit a homer in a major league stadium, there is MLB.com Home Run Derby Presented by Ford for Android.

MLB Advanced Media recently released a massive update to MLB.com Home Run Derby that adds new game modes to the mobile home run contest and features 2014’s new home run derby rules. The update also includes the players selected to participate in the 2014 Home Run Derby and Target Field, where All-Star festivities will take place.

For those just jumping into the game with the update, it is exactly what you’d expect—players select an MLB star and try to hit as many bombs as possible. There are two control schemes; one in which players hold down on the screen to move their batter’s contact point and let go to swing, and one in which gamers tap the screen to swing. While the holding option seems to be easier, the tap-to-swing controls don’t currently work. Gamers will find themselves frantically tapping the screen while their hitter watches pitches go by. An update will likely fix this, but controls are broken for now.

The game is broken down into three game modes: arcade mode, single player and multiplayer. Arcade mode is the quickest game and easiest way to rack up in-game currency. Single player and multiplayer derby modes offer a more competitive experience, but each will cost players one ticket to enter.

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Tickets, MLB Bucks and coins are the game’s currency. They can be used to unlock new players and stadiums, and upgrade bats and power-ups. An in-game store also sells bundles of currency, which is severely overpriced but almost necessary to acquire some upgrades.

Graphics are surprisingly realistic. Player models are accurate recreations of MLB stars, right down to the batting stances. While players are console quality, crowd models are far from it. However, crowd reactions and in-stadium announcer voices are responsive and entertaining. From the moment the ball hits the bat, the sound adds to the ambiance, creating a great baseball experience.

The downside of Home Run Derby’s graphical prowess is the loading times players will have to wait before actually jumping into a game. Part of the mobile experience of video games is being able to pick up and play at any time. Long wait times hinder the game’s portability and make it less accessible for players with less time.

MLB.com Home Run Derby’s update brings the title from a cheap money grab by MLB to a full-fledged mobile title. With realistic graphics and new game modes, baseball fans will have little to complain about. However, microtransactions hurt the game’s replay value, and players probably won’t find themselves playing beyond this year’s All-Star break.

Cristiano Ronaldo Footy Review

Cristiano Ronaldo Footy Review

Jul 7, 2014

The FIFA World Cup leads to a heightened interest in soccer and Android developers are looking to cash in on the world’s newfound soccer fandom. A wealth of new soccer apps and games has popped up on the Google Play Store. Developer Digital Artists is taking it a step further by integrating one of the world’s most popular athletes into its game, Cristiano Ronaldo Footy.

Cristiano Ronaldo Footy is an arcade soccer game with RPG elements. Despite obviously drawing inspiration from popular arcade sports titles of the past, Cristiano Ronaldo Footy is clearly a game aimed at the youthful soccer fan. While children may find pieces of the game enjoyable, it is mostly an experience unworthy of Ronaldo’s name.

Players will immediately notice Ronaldo’s presence in the title is more gimmick than substance. CR7 will guide players through the menus initially, but there isn’t much beyond that to establish the Ronaldo branding.

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There are two modes of play in Cristiano Ronaldo Footy. The game’s campaign mode offers players a series of increasingly difficult “challenges” that merely consist of beating a team that is better than the last. However, it takes little skill to beat opposing teams at the start of the campaign and the difficulty only slightly increases as players advance. Defeating opponents quickly becomes a boring exercise offering little reward.

Users can also challenge their friends in multiplayer battles, which make for much more compelling matches.

Teams are made up of only four generic players, including one goalkeeper. Rather than providing a full RPG experience, the game takes a more simplistic approach. Individual athletes do not have skills and progression attached to them, but instead, the user earns experience points by beating opposing teams. Progression is divided up into experience points, coins, and rubies. New jerseys, shorts, and shoes will be available to purchase using rubies as players level up. Purchasing new kits will immediately improve the athletes on the squad.

While it is possible to play the game without spending money, funding through microtransactions grants players rubies and coins that can in turn unlock improved abilities and more stylish kits quicker.

On the pitch, Cristiano Ronaldo Footy delivers a quick mobile experience. Matches take only a few minutes each and there is no time to relax. In fact, the action is too fast paced. After scoring a goal, the ball randomly appears at midfield, up for grabs for any player standing near it.

Passing is game of chance as opposing players are likely to steal the ball away. Scoring goals is as easy as dribbling through opponents on the field and putting the ball in from a short distance. Beating the other team is more of a math formula than skill based. A.I. goalkeeper teammates will seemingly always stop the first few shots from the other team, so winning boils down to getting more shots on goal than the opposition. Powerups that can be bought in-game using coins add new ways to stop opponents or get the ball in the net.

Cristiano Ronaldo Footy is an obvious attempt at cashing in on World Cup fever, which is a shame considering it is attached to the one of the sport’s brightest stars. Ronaldo may be one of the best soccer players in the world, but that success does not translate to Cristiano Ronaldo Footy.

PES Manager Review

PES Manager Review

Jun 24, 2014

Soccer fever is spreading across the globe thanks to the World Cup. If you are a soccerfan looking to take your addiction on the go, look no further than PES Manager for Android.

Sports management sims generally require a large time devotion and tons of knowledge about the sport. However, PES Manager is not your typical sports management sim. The experience is catered to more casual players who only have a few minutes to play at a time. Rather than bogging players down with a plethora of options and deep menus, PES Manager opts for an RPG-style experience.

More than 1,500 real-life football stars from European leagues are represented in the game in the form of badges. Players collect badges by winning matches and will have to set up their team for the best chance of success. Users can change formations and substitute players into the starting lineup before fielding their team in friendlies or special matches.

New badges are earned through the game’s prize draw system, which is powered by friendship points and energy balls. Taking on other players in the game nets users friendship points, which can be used for a normal prize draw. Winning matches gives players energy balls that unlock more helpful premium prize draws. If all of this sounds foreign to football fans, that’s because it should. PES Manager aims to harness the mobile strategy, ditching realism for a more fantastical approach that is more accessible.

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During matches, players are shown the action on the pitch. You can watch in real time or use a fast forwarding mechanic to skip to the most important moments. However, it is all kind of pointless for a mobile sports sim. Every part of the game is designed for playing on the go, so a brief flash of the score and rundown of the game would serve the same purpose without costing players’ time.

It is easy to get lost in the menus while playing PES Manager, but success comes down to fielding the right players, improving player badges and earning points during matches to continue improving the squad. In order to achieve this, players must first overcome a confusing menu system.

Most of the game is spent setting up formations and managing badges in the menus, which suffer from a poor user interface. It sucks the fun out of the game by reducing its most important aspects to a mindless clicking chore. While users are never in control of the players on the field, they will sometimes feel they are not really in control of their team off it either.

PES Manager is only a soccer game in title. At its core, it is more Pokemon than sport. When leveling up player badges, users will almost expect to see Ronaldo evolve into a Charizard (which would probably make for a better game). Achieving success feels more like solving a game-beating formula, but it can only come from grinding match after match. In the end, having a dominant team offers little reward.

Mini Dodge Ninja Review

Mini Dodge Ninja Review

Jun 6, 2014

Unless you’ve been under a rock in a wireless dead zone for the past few months, you’ve probably heard of Flappy Bird. The simple screen-tapping game took the world by storm and caused its creator so much stress that he decided to take down the game. Since then, a plethora of similar apps have invaded the Google Play Store in attempts to recreate the worldwide frenzy that was Flappy Bird, including Mini Dodge Ninja.

Mini Dodge Ninja takes some elements and makes them its own, but it is an obvious duplication of the Flappy Bird formula, right down to the bird main character. While gameplay is similar to Flappy Bird, Mini Dodge Ninja offers a significantly greater challenge in a less vibrant setting.

In the game, players take a control of a ninja bird–apparently ninja birds wear straw hats so you can tell they are ninjas. The bird is dropped down a tunnel in his dojo and players must repeatedly tap on the screen to keep him afloat.

As players venture down the tunnel, a series of pipes appears to block the little bird’s path. But these pipes offer problems even a famous mustached plumber couldn’t fix. Pipes open and close, giving the mini ninja a chance to pass. Players must tap on the screen to help the bird fly and time their taps (and moments when to not tap) perfectly to guide the bird through the maze of endless pipes.

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While it may not seem like it, this poses a significant challenge. Pipes are placed closely together, so players have to find a balance between hovering over the next pipe and flying too high with a pipe above. In addition, pipes open and close at different times, meaning players will find it difficult to pass through more than one at a time.

Unfortunately, its difficulty is the only aspect of the game that captivates players’ attention, but it is an immediate turn off when starting out. Racking up higher scores takes practice, but players will find themselves uninstalling the game immediately before putting in an effort to master it. Rather than feeling they will be able to top their high score with the next attempt, players are left thinking they had some dumb luck on their side when performing so well.

Users had better want to compete on leaderboards because the game will consistently ask players to connect their Google Play Games account. Simply jumping in and playing is impossible without linking stats to a Google account. Players are also forced to link their Facebook account if they want to unlock new characters, which is the only real variety Mini Dodge Ninja offers.

If a game causes players to die often and die quickly, it should have a simple replay button that appears after deaths. That is not the case in Mini Dodge Ninja. Users are forced to go back to the main menu before starting up another attempt to tab their way to a high score.

From its gameplay to its imperfect menu system, Mini Dodge Ninja gives players brief moments of satisfaction that are drowned out by constant frustration. Its attempts at recreating the magic of Flappy Bird wear thin quickly and the challenges that it offers are too difficult for casual players.

Dragon Coins Review

Dragon Coins Review

Jun 3, 2014

Dragon Coins is a game that wants to be judged by its individual parts rather than the sum of those parts—parts that nobody could have requested should be blended together in a single game. It takes the charm of classic coin dozing and randomly adds RPG elements that simply don’t fit in. At times, players will be equal parts satisfied and confused.

As a game, Dragon Coins is fully functional. It is basic at its core; anyone who has dozed coins in a mobile game or at the arcade will be able to jump right in. However, there are layers of additional gameplay plastered over the coin dozing aesthetic that justify the use of word “dragon” in the game’s title.

Rather than requiring players to collect items or reach a high score, Dragon Coins forces players to defeat enemies by dozing coins to prompt attacks from a hand-picked team of monsters. Dropping coins into slots for each monster will cause them to attack enemies. Collecting more coins in each slot allows monsters to use special abilities such as speeding up the dozer and putting up sidewalls so coins can’t fall down.

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Each new level—which is actually considered a mission or quest—throws waves of enemies at players, all leading up to a final boss battle. Like an RPG, attacks drain enemy XP, but players also have a health meter that can be emptied. Using too many coins before taking out enemies leaves players vulnerable to attack. However, this rarely challenges players as enemy blows are not often powerful. Coin dozers will find themselves sacrificing a few hits for extra coins.

If the premise seems weird to you, that’s because it is. Gameplay is more of a hodge-podge of different genres rather than a cohesive unit, and Dragon Coins attempts at added depth only placate the retro appeal of dozing coins. But the RPG elements of Dragon Coins are interesting outside of traditional coin dozing.

Players earn new monsters as they collect gems and advance through levels. Of course, they will have to manage these new characters between missions. Users can only keep a certain amount of monsters, so they will have to sell off some for extra coins or fuse together monsters to create a more powerful team.

The Pokemon-like creatures also have elemental characteristics, forcing players to plan out their attack strategy carefully and select the most effective monsters before taking on enemies. While this is an important aspect of the game, it is all based on a small symbol found on each characters’ avatar that can be difficult to decipher.

Unfortunately, this is all still tied to a game that simply revolves around dozing coins. RPG elements clash with the simplistic gameplay formula, and the game’s poor excuse for a plot is confusing and pointless.

In trying to establish a unique identity, Dragon Coins instead has none. Classic arcade coin dozing, RPG elements and even friend requests are all meshed together in a nonsensical mess. While the game’s attempt at innovation is commendable, there are plenty of other more accessible coin dozing titles available.

Disco Bees Review

Disco Bees Review

May 29, 2014

Candy Crush would be better if you replace the candy with bees. And of course, those bees love to dance to disco music.”

If those thoughts have ever crossed your mind, Disco Bees is the perfect Candy Crush clone for you. Disco Bees has its own unique charm but in terms of gameplay, it is a mirror image of King’s popular candy-matching title.

Players must rescue bees trapped inside their honeycombed hives by matching a line of at least three same-colored bees. Just as in Candy Crush, there are additional challenges that arise in levels as players progress through the game, including clearing out honey and collecting pollen. All of this must be done within a set amount of moves.

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In order to conquer these more difficult obstacles, players can unlock superpowered bees by matching up four or more bees. Bees can be moved vertically or diagonally to make matches and clear the board. Supercharged bees will clear whole sections of bees in a single move. That is all there is to gameplay but the simplistic charm makes Disco Bees accessible and addictive.

Disco Bees is free to download but it is monetized through microtransactions. While it never truly requires players to shell out real money, frustrated users are encouraged to drop a few dollars in order to pass levels or unlock new hives. Disco Bees most obvious attempt to invade players’ wallets is by limiting their lives. Players are only allowed to fail a certain number of times before being forced to pay or put down the game. If users fail too often, they will have to wait before earning the ability to continue.

Each level contains a three-star scoring system that grades players’ performance. Points are racked up as players clear out bees and complete challenges. The game’s first 25 levels are divided into two hives but to advance any further beyond that point, users must earn three stars on each level or be willing to spend some cash. Although Disco Bees offers an alternative to paying, it is disappointing to get into a nice groove with the game only to have the flow disrupted by microtransactions.

Disco Bees’ appeal comes from its bright and vivid color palette and its characterization of cute bees. Setting off a chain of colorful events as bees buzz across the screen is only made more rewarding when animations tell you that move was “beeautiful.” The bright colors make the game seem like it is geared towards a younger audience, but all players can’t help but enjoy the happiness-evoking visuals.

Unfortunately, the allure provided by the adorable bees quickly wears off due to the overuse of bee puns. From the start screen to the menus and even during moments of gameplay, phrases such as “bee prepared” and “beegin” appear all too often.

While Disco Bees has its own unique charm, players will be left feeling like they’ve been here and done this before—because they have, only with less microtransactions. Instead of a Candy Crush clone, Disco Bees should buzz off and try to bee itself.

Lost Bubble Review

Lost Bubble Review

May 16, 2014

Bubble breaking games are timeless reminders of the charm found in classic arcade titles. Striking the perfect balance, bubble popping games are the perfect mix of simple to play and difficult to master. Bringing these types of games to the modern gaming audience can also be a matter of finding the right balance. Lost Bubble, developed by Peak Games, fails to recognize the charm of classic bubble breakers by reaching too far for a modern overhaul.

Like any bubble breaking game, the premise of Lost Bubble is simple. Players enter a level with colored bubbles populating the screen. It is the player’s job to shoot matching colored bubbles in order to make them fall. Early levels are quite simple, but the game challenges players with more bubbles to break and new obstacles as they advance through stages.

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Lost Bubble adds its own unique flair to the classic bubble popping formula. Users must clear Pandora’s Boxes on each level, which are usually placed in areas of the stage that are difficult to reach. However, hitting one of Pandora’s Boxes results in immediate death—a twist not normally used in bubble breakers. As players try to rack up high scores and clear all bubbles with as little moves as possible, avoiding Pandora’s Boxes can be a difficult task and running out of lives can force players to wait a certain amount of time or pay before moving on. The game also integrates stones that turn into bubbles once surrounding bubbles are popped.

Players who plan their attacks and strategize will be rewarded in Lost Bubble. When bubbles closer to the top of the screen are broken and release the bubbles below it, players net bonus points. Each level also contains a set number of bubbles to shoot. Using less than the allotted ammo to clear all bubbles in a level results in extra points. There are three score targets at each stage. Players are rewarded with one key for each of the score ranges reached.

Lost Bubble differentiates itself from other bubble breakers by adding in power-ups and special abilities. Players can switch between two bubbles to shoot or spend gems on paint used to change the bubble being shot to a certain color. Other abilities allow players to purchase extra ammo and earn score multipliers.

While these are welcome additions, useful power-ups must be purchased with coins or gems earned in-game. Of course, some of these abilities are expensive, so players are encouraged to use real-world money to make in-game purchases. It never feels necessary to spend some real life cash, but perfectionists looking to earn all three keys at each level will likely find it difficult not to buy some additional perks.

A main character of sorts welcomes players to each new level and stands mid-screen as if she is shooting off bubbles. A trip to the main menu reveals a large world, which helps players keep track of progress but also tries to tie the game’s levels together. Overall, the farce of a story takes away from the natural bubble breaking charm of Lost Bubble.

Couplo Review

Couplo Review

May 15, 2014

Popular mobile games generally fall into two categories—games that help serve as an escape from the grind of daily life by providing mindless entertainment and games that put your brain muscles to work by throwing challenging puzzles at you. Word games are part of the latter group, forcing you to scan your own personal dictionary in order to rack up high scores.

Couplo is a word game by Last17, but unlike another well-known mobile game that uses letter tiles, it is a strictly solo experience. Players are given a board filled with colored letter tiles and must connect at least three tiles in order to form words to score points. Tiles can connect in any direction, and players can earn bonus points by making words out of the same colored tiles.

To make matters more difficult, entering words that don’t exist will have a negative impact on your score. This causes some frustration as users will opt to play it safe by not entering words they think could possibly not be a word at all, and there are also words that the game does not recognize.

There are three modes of play in Couplo. Time Trial is as simple as the game gets and nicely sums up the game’s premises. Players have 60 seconds to score as many points as possible using any combination of letters on the board.

The game’s bread and butter is the Challenge mode, which requires players to perform certain tasks on their board. For instance, a challenge asks players to score 150 points using only words with three letters. It sounds simple enough, but players will quickly find out how their brains perform under pressure.

Couplo’s biggest weakness is its difficulty. Even early puzzles in Challenge mode feature difficult levels that will take dozens of tries to complete. This is undoubtedly part of the game’s appeal, but it can also lead frustrated users to give up on the game before experiencing its addictive nature.

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While completing challenges is the true substance of Couplo, actually figuring out what the challenge is can be quite a challenge in itself. Challenges have brief names such as “Vowel Play” and “Colour-full” that require trial and error before realizing what the actual challenge is. Most challenges are simple enough to figure out, but some could benefit from a description.

Depending on your device, it can also be difficult to connect tiles by swiping across the touchscreen. Players will inevitably connect tiles they did not mean to touch, wasting valuable seconds. Couplo can be played much more comfortably on the larger screen of a tablet.

The game is free for all to install, but there are microtransactions for more serious players. Tournament mode, which pits players in a worldwide competition in which all players use the same board and compete to get the highest score in 60 seconds, costs $2.50 to unlock. Other enhancements also must be purchased, including additional challenges. However, there is plenty of entertainment packed into the free version of Couplo.

While cheap players may not want to fork over some real-world cash to compete against friends in Tournament mode, users can trash talk friends by comparing stats and browsing through awards. Couplo keeps track of various stats in all games played. The game also supports multiple profiles on one device, allowing other users to pass challenges on their own.

Smash Wave Review

Smash Wave Review

May 13, 2014

Before phones became smart, there was Snake. In the game, players controlled a dark object they were told was a snake as the creature slithered across phone screens looking for an apple. Snake was as basic as a game could be, but it had a certain appeal that modern mobile games still try to recreate.

Smash Wave takes the concept of Snake and spins it on its head for a whole new generation of gamers. It is flashier and smoother than Snake, but at its core, Smash Wave is a modern day incarnation of the beloved classic.

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Players control an asteroid-like floating block in a confined space. Its tail sparks comparisons to Snake but it only appears for stylistic reasons; the tail does not grow and it is not another obstacle for players to avoid. Controls are as simple as possible—tap the left side of the screen to turn left and the right side of the screen to go right. That is all there is to Smash Wave.

Of course, it is not that simple. The block is stuck in a tunnel and must work its way up levels by collecting a large floating orb (or the apple in this updated version of Snake). This would be easy if it weren’t for the closed-in QR code-like walls and the blocks that randomly stand in the way at each level.

Like an endless runner, Smash Wave cannot be finished. The objective is to collect as many orbs and advance to as many levels of the tunnel as possible. The only way to earn points is by moving up levels so it is best to immediately seek out the orb, which can be spotted in the 2.5-dimensional world by its hanging shadow.

Despite its simple control scheme, Smash Wave is extremely challenging. While whizzing through the tunnel in different directions, it is very easy to forget which way is left and which is right. There are also far too many instances in which a quick tap fails to register. Whether it is the fault of the game or the device being used to play it doesn’t matter because it leads to frustrating unnecessary deaths.

Fortunately, those deaths are stylized beautifully. Crash your floating block into a wall or object and it will disintegrate into a wave of smaller blocks. Apart from efficient death sequences, graphics are overshadowed by the game’s sound. Music is a major component of Smash Wave, and the thumping futuristic beat that plays during the game perfectly captures its spirit.

As players get a feel for the game in lower levels, music is slowly introduced. A few seconds in, the lonely bassline turns into a catchy tune that further encourages players to stay alive. Users will quickly find themselves tapping the screen along with the beat of the music.

Smash Wave is a solid time waster, but little else. Aside from the opportunity to top your own high score or compete with friends to see who can last the longest, the game offers little replay value. It successfully captures the spirit of old mobile titles such as Snake, but it is a reminder of why mobile gaming has moved on from the past.

Kitten Challenge Review

Kitten Challenge Review

May 6, 2014

Where would the Internet be without cats? The cute, furry creatures have invaded Tumblr, YouTube and Internet memes. What’s the next step towards feline world domination? Video games, of course.

Cats are the star in Kitten Challenge, an indie game developed by Robert Nikicionek currently available for free on the Google Play Store. While the game’s star, Ginger Kitten, is an inviting kitty that could be the star of a children’s cartoon, the title’s true keyword is “challenge.” Disguised behind colorful backgrounds and old school level design, frustratingly difficult gameplay makes Kitten Challenge addictive fun.

In roller coaster-guided levels, the adorable Ginger rides a cart on rails, collecting coins and avoiding obstacles along the way. Players must flip Ginger upside down and jump–or use a combination of both–in order to dodge blocks and clear levels. Because cats have nine lives, hitting an obstacle won’t instantly end your run, but fail too often, and you will have to start again. Each run nets players a score based on their performance.

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Kitten Challenge doesn’t seem like much of a challenge at first, but it quickly turns difficult. Gameplay elements are gradually introduced to players as they advance through levels. Beginning stages solely involve flipping the cart around and jumping over obstacles, but players quickly learn that jumping is much more complex while obstacles come faster and faster.

Ginger can come down from jumps quickly or use its tail to float in the air while descending. This can be used to glide over longer obstacles or pounce swiftly to grab coins. Sections of rails also make Ginger’s cart move faster or slower, forcing players to adjust to new speeds on the fly. Controls are simple–players simply tap the left or right side of the screen to perform maneuvers–but they can easily be confused while attempting to clear levels.

Like classic games from the NES era, Kitten Challenge forces players to flex their brain muscles as well as their thumbs. Players should not expect to complete levels on their first try; passing stages involves repetition and memorization. The sense of accomplishment comes not from passing levels quickly, but instead is achieved by finding the best sequence of maneuvers to avoid obstacles and collect the most coins before reaching the end of the roller coaster.

If Kitten Challenge were a show cat, it would score a perfect 10 on level design. The game’s levels are bright, brilliant reminders of the past. Colorful backgrounds and simply designed obstacles are reminiscent of Mario Bros.–and the running score on the top right of the screen hammers home the comparison.

Despite their charm, levels are maddeningly difficult. Roller coasters twist around awkwardly placed obstacles, putting players’ reflexes to the test. In haste, players will find themselves pressing the wrong buttons on their way to their inevitable death–and because of this, Kitten Challenge makes players think “I can pass this level with one more try.”

Kitten Challenge will test your reflexes, memory and patience, as well as your love of kittens. Ginger Kitten’s cuteness wears off rapidly as players begin to associate the game more with frustration than adorable cats. However, great level design and addictive gameplay ensure that Kitten Challenge always lands on its feet.