SimCity BuildIt Review

SimCity BuildIt Review

Jan 16, 2015

Electronic Arts didn’t do very well with its latest PC entry of SimCity. It messed up with a bunch of different stuff, so I had high hopes for this mobile version of the game. And, well… Guess what.

When you think of SimCity, you think of a time being a mayor. You provide houses for the people of your city and also appropriate buildings for services like the police and firemen, energy, water, and so on. And although things like that are still possible, it is not that same as you would imagine it to be. But is that a bad thing?

If you do like the traditional SimCity gameplay, than yes, it is a bad thing. But since this is a free-to-play game, you have to consider the waiting time you need to endure while playing this game. And SimCity was, at least for me, always fun, because you could do anything you want, when you wanted. Well, if you had enough money, but it didn’t took the game long to give you some. But even though I still needed to wait a bit longer on my money, I always felt connected. Engaged, if you will.

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In SimCity BuildIt, that is not the case at all. Being the free-to-play title that it is, it constantly presented me with those waiting times. Of course, it is inevitable and understandable, but I wonder if the development team stopped and questioned itself if this was the right way to go for the series. Because next to thinking logically about placing fire departments close to a residential area or putting a factory as far as possible from it, there isn’t most of the management or stragetic gameplay the series always offered.

The game has been heavy simplified if you ask me. You start with a factory, farm its resources and build a residential area from them. When they’re all done, you get some coins and with those you can buy more utilities to keep the city from going dark or without water. Th bigger the city gets, the more utilities it needs – so you’ll have to keep on repeating the above process to expand.

And quit frankly, this isn’t much fun. It feels like work. Ironically maybe the work of a real mayor. But when I play a game, I want to be entertained. I don’t mind learning a couple things along the way or do mandatory stuff to proceed, but SimCity BuildIt, how promising it looks (no really, graphically, this game looks fantastic), it all work and no play.

OrangePixel’s Gunslugs 2 is a weird mix of elements, but it works

OrangePixel’s Gunslugs 2 is a weird mix of elements, but it works

Jan 15, 2015

Pascal Besteboer, the developer behind games like Gunslugs, Heroes of Loot and Meganoid, describes Gunslugs 2 as followed: “… the result of watching too many 80’s action-hero movies, cartoons, playing retro games, and tripple-A block-buster console games.” But what is it exactly?

Well, it is exactly what you think it might be, when combining the above mentioned terms into a video game: it’s frantic, full of action and explosions and heroes you might’ve heard of but not at the same time, and, of course, OrangePixel’s well-known pixelated graphical style. Oh, and it is one of the most hectic games of the year. Already.

gunslugs2-1I’ve played the first Gunslugs game and it was pretty good. So why did it need a sequel? Well, as it turns out, Pascal did find some thing to improve upon. “I was at the point where I thought I could improve on most of the stuff in the original Gunslugs”, Besteboer says. “I still enjoy playing Gunslugs, but I also see more and more things that could be done better. Like the level progression system.”

Instead of just presenting the next level after the other one, Besteboer came up with a real story to combine those action sequences. “It’s not the most impressive story”, Besteboer admits laughing. “But there is a clear direction the game takes compared to what the original Gunslugs did. Not even sure how that ended up in Hell, or in a steam-punk world… It just felt cool to add those worlds in the original one.”

So there will be a more cohesive story to the game and it’s worlds and why the characters are there. The downside, and problem Pascal did run into, is that the story also kept him from adding the weird but fun mini-stages found in the first one. “There was no room for a Donkey Kong world or a hand-drawn level. Perhaps a Gunslugs 2 – the Lost levels could be a thing in the future”, Besteboer says with a wink.

gunslugs2-2There are a couple of new things in Gunslugs 2. The biggest one is that the signal towers now have an actual building inside. “So when you enter a signal tower, you’ll have to fight your way up the tower in a procedurally generated level. It adds a lot of gameplay.” Besides that the game is rebuild from the ground. Very little code from the original made it into this one.

The special effects are improved, the graphics are much crisper, cleaner, and the game runs at a higher frame rate so everything is smoother. All those elements were initially inspired by the first game and its room for improvements. But 80s movies like Rambo, Commando, Aliens, or simply put the Expendables were an inspiration for the first title, and you can see that influence throughout the game.

But why do you need this game when you can play the first? Because it actually improves upon the first game in the series, in every possible way. Or, as Pascal says in his own words: “Gunslugs 2 is a procedurally generated action arcade game with it’s roots in 80’s action movies, 90s platform games, and current gen “over the top explosive action stories”. All in Orangepixel’s acclaimed pixel art. It’s a weird mix, but it works, why not give it a try!”

We couldn’t agree more.

Tales from the Borderlands Review

Tales from the Borderlands Review

Jan 8, 2015

Borderlands is more than a game. It is a concept. And the game Tales from the Borderlands proves that idea. One of Telltale’s finest.

Tales from the Borderlands is a story driven game by Telltale games, a developer you know from games like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. The story is about two people actually, both telling their side of a story.

We won’t go tell to much about the story, because it is one of the highlights of this game. What we can tell you is that the narrative perfectly falls into the established Borderlands world and lore and if you’ve played previous iterations of the series, you’ll know what’s up.

tftb2And if it is indeed the case you’ve played Borderlands 2 to be exact (and maybe perhaps the Pre-Sequel game), you’ll know where the story left off. Tales from the Borderlands explores the universe without a very important character from those games and shows us what it is like to be someone we haven’t been before. It sounds rather vague this way, but I rarely play Telltale games because of their gameplay.

The story is what counts and I can only imagine others would prefer, just like me, to not be spoiled by some review. Just know that their is an heavy emphasis on action oriented story telling, in which characters are meant to react quickly. It puts the player on the edge of his seat, but it is now always like that. Like other Telltale productions, there is plenty room for character development.

The best part of Tales from the Borderlands is that this game shows us that Borderlands is more than a game. It’s a concept. A concept of different worlds to be explored by different characters – or in this case, the same world with characters that put you, the player, in the shoes of people from the other side. Or aren’t they? It eventually all comes down on that shiny treasure.

So yeah, if you like Telltale games, this is one of the best playthroughs I’ve ever had. I heard that Game of Thrones Episode 1 is even better, but I haven’t had the chance to play that one yet. So if you haven’t, this is the best one yet. And if you like Borderlands and are in need for some more stories from a certain planet, than it is also a save bet for you downloading this game.

Dragon Quest Review

Dragon Quest Review

Nov 14, 2014

If you’re in to old school RPGs and you haven’t played the first Dragon Quest, then you’re in for a treat.

Ah, the first Dragon Quest. Although I did not played it when I was young, I did manage to pick the game up later on. And as a RPG lover (especially turn-based ones), I loved what I saw and played. Now I that game is out on Android (for a very cheap price, I might add), I is time for everyone to relieve one of the classic and leading RPGs of all time. Well, if you’ve got the time, that is.

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Because Dragon Quest is one of those first classical Japanese role-playing games. It provided players with countless hours of fun turn-based battles in a massive world to explore, while living the story the game’s developer told through hundreds lines of text. When the game first came out on the Nintendo Entertainment System, it was a first of its kind and later on became the fundamental base for one of the most loved RPG series ever.

This Android version contains everything what made the first game in the series so great. It has that typical storytelling of some youngsters that need to save the world, it has the classic turn-based gameplay where you could put a lot of strategy into and it has that feeling of a great adventure to experience. So the fundamentals are all there; how do does standards live up to today’s standards?

Well, you need to really want to spend time in the world of Dragon Quest. Granted being one of the best RPGs of all time, doesn’t mean it won’t feel like a chore to play. Sometimes you don’t know where to go or you need to grind some levels in order to move on, so it is really a matter of choices.

Just know what you’re getting yourself into, that is the advice I want to give to the newcomers or gamers who’ve never played the first entry in Dragon Quest. But if you’re up for the task, you won’t be disappointed – not even by the choice of digital controls.

Circle Review

Circle Review

Nov 12, 2014

If you still can’t get enough of Flappy Bird clones, then here’s another one for ya.

When it comes to games that look and feel like Flappy Bird… Well, you got a lot of choice. When you look back at the game, it is actually quite unbelievable what that game did. It did not only make one guy very rich (by mistake?), but it also gave life to a new genre, we’ve called the ‘one button gameplay’ here on Android Rundown. If you can’t can enough of those games, here is another one.

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This Flappy Bird clone is called Circle and is made by the same guys who made Escape Bird. In this game, you control a circle (hence the name of the game). By tapping on the screen, the circle goes up – just like any other flappy clone. But there is something completely different about this game: you must avoid touching the line on screen in order to progress through the stage. If you hit the line, it is game over.

Maybe you recognize the formula of an old TV show where contestants had to hold a magnify glass (without the actual glass) and guide it through an obstacle course without touching the rails. It was nerve wrecking just looking at it. Well, this game borrows some of that formula, but instead of being nerve wrecking, I felt quite zen playing this.

And God knows how many times a started a new game. Too many times, at least more than I would and should admit. This game has some a nice use of colors going for it and the fact that the circle always stays within reach, is kind of soothing. It helped me relax after a busy day of work and I think that is the best compliment a video game can get.

So in a way, and just the other one-button-gameplay games I’ve played, this title manages to give his own twist to a dying gameplay formula, by digging up the past and using warm color schemes. So if you can’t get enough of Flappy clones or are in the market for a new one, know that this game will help you relax – even after a dozen of continues.

Secret of Mana Review

Secret of Mana Review

Nov 10, 2014

Square Enix re-released on if its best rpg’s on Android. But is this old title still worth your time?

If you are a rpg gamer like me, than you must have heard of the game Secret of Mana – whether you’re old or young. It is a game that influenced a lot of other rpg’s out there, with his innovative Ring Command system and real time battles. At the time this game first came out, it was the fresh juice the genre needed, because most of the role playing games were turn-based. This was completely different.

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Well, maybe not a hundred percent different, because just like any other Japanese rpg, there this one kid who needs to save the world and during his travels, his newly made friends will accompany him in his journey. It is a old, but successful formula of which Japanese developers did not stray away from and in this day and age, where there are lots of more rpg’s, it is kinda cool to go back again. Although there are many modern rpg’s that follow the same outline, but none of them has the same amount of flare Secret of Mana has, mainly due to some exaggeration.

Like I said, two of the strong pillars of the game are the Ring Command system and the real-time battles. The latter is something we see in ever day rpg’s, so that wasn’t as spectacular. I even want to address that it is a weak point this time around, because of the clunky controls. I find digital controls not responsive in general and it didn’t do anything good for Secret of Mana as well.

The Ring Command system is as welcome as it ever was, making the game, in combination with those real-time action moments, feel way more faster and action oriented than most of the rpg ports. It allows users to make quick decisions about the battle they’re currently in and it felt ever so good when the chosen strategy worked like it did in my head. So it is still one of the strong points of Secret of Mana.

But is the game still worth your time, even after playing two, maybe three decades of playing rpg’s? I say yes – yes to those whom have never played the game before and yes to those whom long for some old school rpg action (even after you’ve played the game already). It is one of the best rpg’s out there – but that doesn’t mean this is the best version. That honor goes to the original one.

Jewel Breaker Review

Jewel Breaker Review

Nov 7, 2014

The Dutch game developer Excamedia delivers his first game on Android: Jewel Breaker. A quick puzzle game with solid controls.

The first game from a new game developer is always important. It is possible you’ve heard of the name Jewel Breaker before. Not because of this game though – but because of the simple fact that Jewel Breaker is a common name to give to a puzzle game, container jewels that can be broken. This is the first misstep a newly developer can make. This game is practically doomed from the start, because it is very hard to find the game in the Play Store or through search engines, without using ‘Excamedia’, the developers name, along with it.

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But once you’ve found and downloaded it, you’ll come across another problem: although the game has a solid base, the gameplay doesn’t stay interesting for too long. In Jewel Breaker you’ll need too, well, break jewels. You do that by tapping the big jewel in the centre of the screen to match the small jewels that are going right for it. Once the colors match, you can break the small ones. When the small jewels hit the big one, it is game over for you. The only aspect that changes during gameplay is the speed and the amount of different colors.

Although that could be enough to entertain for I while, I found myself missing another button. A back button of some sort, where I could change back to the previous color. Now, it is only possible to go ‘forward’. And later on in the game, it is nearly impossible to match the colors, because there simply isn’t enough time to match them. Seems to me like an odd game design decision; the game doesn’t give me the chance to be better at it, by remembering the order of the colors. I just mash the big jewel, hoping to be on time to get the right one.

And that didn’t enhance my experience with the game. Something else that didn’t helped, was the fact that the game looks pretty low budget – the biggest jewel isn’t even in high definition and looks to be made in Paint. Well, not really of course, but that shouldn’t be the level of quality you must aim for as a beginning developer. Jewel Breaker could’ve been a lot better with slightly more time: polish up those graphics, produce a better fitting tune and bring in a back button, and I’m game. But for now, Jewel Breaker only shows us a good base for that game.

The Wolf Among Us Review

The Wolf Among Us Review

Nov 6, 2014

After a stupid exclusive deal with Amazon, The Wolf Among Us is finally out on Android. Was it worth the wait?

The Wolf Among Us is a game by Telltale Games, a developer we all know and love thanks to the awesome series The Walking Dead. The Wolf Among Us is also a episodic game. Now it is out on Android, you can get the first part for free and buy the rest of the parts via in-app purchase. In the game, we follow Bigby Wolf, none other than the Big Bad Wolf, in his quest to uncover the truth behind a gruesome murder. We won’t go in to too much details here, because of spoilers.

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Just know that the combination of storytelling and gameplay are as ever intwined as it was the case with The Walking Dead series. The thing I always liked about The Wolf Among Us (or Fables comics or even the tv series Once Upon A Time) is that the characters aren’t what they seem to us – the way we know them by stories told by our (grand)parents through fairytale books. It is always a surprise to see a character in a different role – but perhaps not to different, when looking at an origin story.

Anyway, I’m slowly fading away from the main point. This first gem of episodic content is one you should play. Why wouldn’t you; it is free, after all. I know for sure you will be hooked – even if it is your second time. Because now you cannot only take the adventure with you on those long plane of train rides, but it is also possible to decide different things within the same situations, resulting in a different outcome. Maybe not as a game al together, but for your own experience.

So if you aske me to download the game as a whole, I say yes. Especially when it is your first time with the series. Either way, you won’t be disappointed by what you see on you (small) screen – I mean that figurative and litteraly. The game looks very good on you smartphone and tablet and – when you’re a first timer – you’ll be amazed by the story. So go and check it out.

Retry Review

Retry Review

Nov 5, 2014

Rovio isn’t just a company making games – specifically making Angry Birds games. It also published games from other developers, like the game Retry.

It wouldn’t do the game Retry justice by calling it a Flappy Bird clone. Maybe that game brought a new genre of mobile games upon us, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. In case of Flappy Bird, well, there was a lot to wish for. You know, like, better, more responsive controls, for instance. Or how ’bout an hit detection that actually makes sense. Stuff like that.

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Over the past few months, we’ve seen, and sadly: I’ve played, a lot of games within the same ‘one button gameplay’-genre, otherwise known as Flappy Bird clones. They all had something different than the original. Better controls, colorful environments, a hit detection that actually makes sense or even game modes or gameplay interpretations we thought we’d never see with this kind of gameplay.

Enter Retry, a new ‘one tap’ game, published by Rovio. it is a game where you control a plane across a level. The thing it, it only starts its engine, when you tap the screen. If you hold the screen, the plane will go up, making a looping as a result. By slowly tapping the plane, you’ll see it will actually glide along the clouds and bushes, on its way to the end of the level (where you can land as you see fit).

The controls of Retry are brilliant. It did not took a long time to get used to them and within minutes, I was flying the plane like I intended to do. It really felt I was controlling it and that is an important aspect of this genre. Also: the hit detection made sense. Literally everything you touch is deadly, except for the runway of course, but it was always fair in my eyes.

The game has plenty of levels and challenges you can complete, so there is enough to do. In those levels, there are even checkpoints you can activate by spending an in-game coin. Coins you can collect during flight (there is always one easy to grab) or can buy from the menu. But I never felt forced to do so. Fun is what matters in this game – so give it a try. Even if you hate Flappy Bird.

Angry Birds Transformers Review

Angry Birds Transformers Review

Nov 4, 2014

When this game was first announced, I didn’t know what to expect from it. But now I’ve played, I like it a lot. Because of two contradicting things.

I followed the announcement. I followed the news stories as they came. But it never became clear to me what to expect from Angry Birds Transformers. Well, now that I’ve played, I can truly say that I enjoyed it a lot. Angry Birds Transformers is a special game in my opinion. And a good one, because of two contracting gameplay elements. The running and shooting and the massacre of the green pigs.

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Thankfully, the character (otherwise known as the birds disguised as robots in disguise) walks automatically. That is such a good design choice – it made the game that much playable. During the endless running, you shoot at the pigs in the back or evade falling structures. It is really chaotic gameplay. And if we needed to control running as well, I think it would be unplayable. So, good job, Rovio!

You shoot by tapping on the enemy or structure. In old Angry Birds fashions it is possible to let a structure collapse, killing all the green pigs (disguised as robots… you know what I mean) in it. It is the base of the Angry Birds franchise, melted into this action packed game – and it doesn’t feel unwelcome. It feels like a solid gameplay element instead, making shooting something strategic instead of mindless.

The game is free-to-play, so there had to be a money making model. In this case, it is the upgrade system. Sometimes, it is (nearly) impossible to complete a level without upgrading. And you need coins for that. Which you can buy, of course. And whether you bought them or not, there is also a waiting period for the upgrade to install. Of which you can speed up the process by spending money. Or you can wait.

It does, however, takes the word ‘fast’ out of this fast action packed game and that is a shame. Also: shooting sometimes feels kinda random and not really precise. But those are the only stains on this game. Well, if you can get past the part of the Transformers franchise being used within the Angry Birds franchise. Put that pride away and give this game a chance. I know for sure it is well worth your time.

Trigger Happy Review

Trigger Happy Review

Oct 31, 2014

Lunagames launched a Halloween-themed shooter for Android, but is it worth you time? Well, that depends: do you like murdering zombies?

Trigger Happy from Lunagames is a straightforward action packed shooter. In it, you need to shoot every zombie or other Halloween themed monstrosity that’s coming right for you. You can do that with just your handgun, including unlimited ammo – the way I prefer to play my Halloween/horror games. But that won’t do the job in Trigger Happy.

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So luckily, when you play the game, you can earn all sorts of bonuses. One of them is earning coins by shooting at them when they lay down on the ground, right after they popped out of the zombie you just killed. With those coins, you can upgrade your current weapon or buy new ones – and if you want the special weapons, you can always throw some real money at the screen. But that is optional, as I did not get the feeling the game forced me to do so.

But before you can start upgrading your stuff, you need to get a lot of points to raise you level. Because at higher levels, you can get better weapons. It is as simple as that. For a free game, it actually has been balanced out – putting fun at the first place. And that is something I can really enjoy in a free-to-play video game.

The only thing I didn’t like about Trigger Happy from Lunagames is that I stood still on one point. There wasn’t a moment where I could move – either automatic or normal – and I thought that was a shame. The action feels kind of static now and therefore the game can be repetitive at a faster rate than normal. Which is a shame. Because if you’re looking for a fun little Halloween game, which doesn’t charge you for every move and let’s you have fun with every fired bullet, you can give this game a chance.

MIRAGE 2.0: unrecorded essence of offline communication

MIRAGE 2.0: unrecorded essence of offline communication

Oct 27, 2014

mobli Media has announced MIRAGE2.0, an updated version of its ephemeral instant messaging app. We got the chance to speak with CEO Moshe Hogeg. “Ephemeral messaging imitates the feeling of a natural, real-life, unrecorded conversation.”

MIRAGE was launched by mobli in July 2014. The stand-alone app is an instant messaging platform that enables users to send and receive messages that disappear after a few seconds. The app’s interface is based on a one-tap principle. As soon as the user opens the app, all of their contacts are immediately available. Even if a contact does not have the app installed, they can receive the message from a link via SMS.

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MIRAGE is focused around ephemeral messages: messages that disappear just seconds after the receiver opens them. CEO of mobli Media, Moshe Hogeg, thinks that these kinds of messages are important, because of the way that people communicate in real life. When we say something, the message will disappear as soon as the receiver heard it and there is no non-technical way to retrieve them.

This form of communication is very different when compared to digital communication, where the reader or viewer can always look back at what he or someone else said. “The first generation of communication apps focused mainly on providing us with ways to communicate that were not possible without technology. However, we are now seeing a break away from these forms of now ‘traditional’ communication technologies”, says Hogeg.

“Ephemeral messaging imitates the feeling of a natural, real-life, unrecorded conversation. People are seeking out messaging apps that enable a sense of light, easy and free conversation. We don’t need to examine every word, or make sure that every picture is exactly right. It frees us to have a normal conversation, digitally.” Also, Hogeg would like to point out that nothing is recorded or stored. “It’s making our digital communications real.”

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MIRAGE is an app where people can send text, voice, photo and video messages within one application. However, Hogeg doesn’t think that there are ‘too many’ options, compared to apps specifically designed to do one thing. “The user interface is incredibly simple and easy to navigate. Everything can be done with one simple tap.”

“In fact, I think that because we have created an app where users can very simply switch between voice recordings, photo messages, video messages and text messages, whether sending these to an individual or a group, we are making the experience for our users much easier because they can come to MIRAGE, and do all of these things within the one app simply by tapping and swiping the screen. It’s that simple.”

And what it gives them in return is one single app that they can enter to have their online communications that comes with an “incredibly fun and empowering feeling of spontaneity and privacy that emulates their offline interactions”. The MIRAGE app, designed to take the dynamic, spontaneous and unrecorded essence of offline communications into the digital world, is now available in the Google Play Store.