Topia Review

Topia Review

Aug 11, 2014

There aren’t much god games out there – not on pc, consoles or phones. So Topia is very much welcome, promising all kinds of cool stuff. But does it deliver on the promise?

Topia was a game I was very excited for. I love god games where I’m able to create land, water, life and flora. The ability to oversee life itself – and making it grow or die with just one tap on the screen – is an idea that really appealed to me as a gamer. I was thinking of ways to play the same game over and over again. This time without water, that time without threes and another time without land. Or with just docile animals, that really don’t do anything but eating leaves.

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At first sight, Topia promised me this kind of gameplay, with many features to experiment with. But, as one might have guessed, it did not live up to my expectations. Expectations I got after reading the description of the game and after firing the game up for the first time. There are supposed to be a thousand creatures to play with, complete with a natural ecosystem and a food chain. Three straight up lies if I think about it. I did not find any of it in the game.

Well, in some there is. There could be a thousand creatures. By choosing one of the six (!) animals and by tapping on screen, holding your finger on it and dragging it across the screen, there will be hundreds maybe thousands of creatures popping up. But those are all the same – the eat the same thing (sometimes each other), walk around aimlessly after eating everything they wanted to eat and then just drown themselves in the water or just die. Die in vain. And just disappear.

The only ecosystem there is, is the one that when there isn’t any water, the threes and animals die. The only food chain there is, is the one where bigger / faster animals eat the smaller / slower ones. There isn’t any other variation on the formula and there isn’t anything to do after I molded the ground like I wanted and putting threes and animals where I wanted. There are no goals and the game is to narrow to create your own goals. Frankly, there isn’t anything to do over here.

So after all that, I got excited over nothing. Really nothing at all. I wanted to have a god simulation game where I could mold flora and fauna the way I saw fit – instead, I got a narrow game experience which I cannot recommened to anyone.

Mucho Party Review

Mucho Party Review

Aug 4, 2014

Ever wondered how WarioWare of something like it could look like on a Android device? Look no more: enter Mucho Party.

Mucho Party is a gaming app full of ridiculously funny games. When I fired up the app for the first time, it asked me to make a smiling face, a sad face and a normal face (when possible, of course). It then made three pictures of my three different faces. While I didn’t know what to expect of the photo’s, I curiously started one of the twenty mini games and found myself laughing on the first site of seeing my own face in game. I laughed when I won, and drew a sad face when I lost.

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Although this idea is certainly not new in any way, it is executed like it should be. Seeing your own face constantly didn’t disturb me as the player of one of the mini games. In fact, it helped enjoying the game much more. Especially in multiplayer, where up to eight friends can join in on the fun, with there own expressive faces and pictures. Even the object around the photo can be chosen and colored in the way it suits your style. It’s so simple, and yet so effective.

Mucho Party offers four different modes, a random mini game function and the ability to just select a game from the grid and play it at once. Two of those modes offer gameplay for a two player multiplayer game, where one could either battle a friend or battle the computer controlled oppenent. The same goes for the multiplayer games suitable for three players or more. The computer controlled opponents can even be set to easy, medium and hard.

Being colorful and all, providing in single- and multiplayer matches and giving players some crazy mini games (like smashing some nails in to wood with a hammer, collecting your own spouse as a duck or playing football with cars) it has a distintive WarioWare feeling to it. It only lacks more games and the ability to play all those games right after each other, getting more challenging as the game goes on. Although the doesn’t really need it to be fun to play.

Mucho Party is one of those surprisingly fun to play apps, with its collection of crazy and original mini games, colorful and cheerful esthetics and cool features like three of your own expressions in-game. It has some solid multiplayer features, offering games for up to eight players – who can al make pictures of their own faces and enjoy the game the same as the main player.

Spy vs. Spy Review

Spy vs. Spy Review

Jul 29, 2014

Spy vs. Spy is, for me at least, one of those games I have fond memories of. Did I enjoyed myself while playing the just released Android version? Can’t say that I have…

Man, back in the days, I loved playing Spy vs. Spy with my friends. Just sitting here, writing my review on the just released Android port of the game, is making me more and more nostalgic. Like I want to go back in time and play the game for the first time, as an – what – seven year old boy who just got a way to old Sega Master System, ten years after its initial release (I was born at the end of the eighties). Seeing this game just got out on Android, I just had to play it. It just had to be.

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But then again, with only a couple of rounds in, I wonder: why the hell am I playing this game? In a way, it is just how I wanted it to be. The game offers two version of Spy vs. Spy: the new, modern one and, of course, the classic version. And both of them play like the one I cherised in my head for years. Two spies get the same assignment: get for important things from a house with very similar looking rooms and make sure to come out as the winner. Oh, and everything is permitted, nothing is true.

While the player is searching the house for those important items, he is allowed to lay down some traps. But he has to beware of other traps to, layed down by the computer controlled enemy spy. By standing in front of a cabinet or painting (or whatever clickable household item there is), players can check if any of the important items are there. Sometimes there is a trap inside a cabinet (or, again: any other object), what will always result in losing massive amount of time on the players side.

And time is of the essence in Spy vs. Spy. The more time one has, the greater the chance he will come out as the winner of the game. But that may be tougher than it sounds. The controls are just aw-ful. Man, how is it possible to make them this awful. It is not responsive at all and doesn’t provide any feedback other than seeing the character on screen wobble around. Some games are just better played with a joystick and real buttons – especially games with a time limit like in this one.

The game doesn’t look that bad. Better said, the comical approach of the modern version suits the game very well. And I really liked the retro-styled version. But it doesn’t save it as a whole. The controls are way to clunky for that and sometimes, and it feels hard to admit, the game makes it harder for the player to search for the stuff he needs, because the rooms really, and I mean really, look-alike. And in my eyes, that is just plain unneccesary. I’m so sorry this game came out in 2014. It should have been left in the eighties were it truly belongs.

Free The Network Review

Free The Network Review

Jul 28, 2014

There are numerous endless runners on Android, and Free the Network is an okay one. It does at least three things right; mainly the controls.

The endless runner genre is highly represented on Android devices, mainly because, for one, it doesn’t take very much effort to develop one. Yes, there are some runners, like Subway Surfers, where one can clearly state that a lot of effort has been put in the creation of the game, but most of them are simple, 2D runners without any big differences compared to other titles. And some of those runners are 3D and simple, but do have some nice features to show for. Like Free the Network.

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Take, for instance, the graphical appeal of the game. Sure, it is not unique, but it looks really nice. Free the Network takes place on a endless tube, changing color depending on the zone the player is. Players must help the white ball on the bottom of the screen evade all the things that are on the tube and the further a player gets, the higher the score of course. The gameplay is right from the start fast paced and quite difficult, so players get challenged right away.

Next to the awesome graphics of the game, Free the Network does two other things right: it gives the player the option to control the ball (well, the tube actually) with the motion controls of the smartphone or with the two on-screen arrows. Normally, digital buttons wouldn’t be my first choice, but since precise motion controls aren’t invented yet on smart devices, I was really glad to play the game on my on way. I gave me a much bigger sense of control.

The second thing the game has going for it, is that it presents the moment the player died the round before. A big, white circle appears at that point, so players can clearly see their progression since the last round. It is a nice touch. Could have been better, though. Because it only presents the round before, players still get left in the dark in terms of overall progression. But hey, maybe another 3D endless runner could fill up that gap. But this one, this one is okay and quite fun to play.

Ruzzle Adventure Review

Ruzzle Adventure Review

Jul 25, 2014

What does a developer do when a game around forming words and multiplayer becomes a succes? It takes out fifty procent of that golden formula and turns it to a list of chores.

Ruzzle Adventure is a game where players need to form words on a grid full of letters. In the past, we’ve seen dozens of iterations of this concept in the form of Boggle, Wordfeud or even an earlier published version of Ruzzle. In all those games the goal is the same: make as many words as possible, to get the highest score. By making bigger words and combining tougher letters to make words with, the score multiplier raises and so does one’s score. Remember Scrabble?

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In Ruzzle Adventure, that base concept remains the same as well. But to spice things up, developer MAG Interactive made up a adventure mode around the concept of forming words, changing the succesfull multiplayer formula into a singleplayer campaign. And, as one might guessed it, it’s complete with those social gaming tropes of today: Ruzzle Adventure has leaderboards, the three golden stars system and even different kinds of power-ups to challenge players even more.

But the question is: does a social word game need an singleplayer complete with power-ups? The reason games like Scrabble and Wordfued were so popular, is because one had to play it with someone else. I found myself a bit isolated while playing the game and that wasn’t a nice feeling to deal with. I missed the social interaction of laughing when I won from a friend or complementing each other when we found a word that held massive points. It makes the game so much better.

But truth be told, the challenges in Ruzzle Adventure are mostly fun to play. There are different kinds of objectives present, like completing the game as fast as possible or breaking wooden or even stone bricks. Completing the objective results in receiving one star. When the player meets a certain amount of points, it receives the second star. And when meeting the higher expectation, a third star is obtainable – but that might take some practice, especially in the beginning.

But the challenge really disappears when there is a stone letter in one of the corners of the grid. I had the letter T right there and I needed to break it to move on. I couldn’t making larger words than ‘pets’, ‘hat’ and ‘rat’ and that feels a bit underwhelming. At that point, the gamer and the game are lacking creativity – which, in my opinion, should be a corner stone of the game entirely. But these kind of assignments, because that’s how they feel, are mandatory in order to complete the game.

At the end, that’s how I feel about Ruzzle Adventure. It’s a game were players need to finish assignments based around the concept of forming words by themselves, while it is much more fun to player these game competitively with at least one more friend around – hence the game that started it all, Scrabble. Leaderboards just don’t cut it. Why MAG Interactive shoveled out the multiplayer is a riddle to me, because some of the new gameplay mechanics could work fine in multiplayer.

Shurican Review

Shurican Review

Jul 25, 2014

Man, developers still make flappy games? I thought that that hype was over, but judging by the game Shurican, there still were some… I don’t know what to call it… Innovations..? …left in the subgenre. Yeah, I was surprised as well.

How much can different people do with one mechanic? And especially the flappy mechanic? By looking at the flappy games in Google’s Play Store, not very much. Many of the flappy games are direct and shameless clones of the original and unintended successful original one, but sometimes a good one pops up and offers the same, but somewhat a different challenge. Shurican is one of those game, and not only because the game is played in widescreen mode.

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In Shurican, players need to tap the screen to keep the black ninja afloat. Just like in Flappy Bird, one tap means a small boost upwards. The goal is to evade all the obstacles presented to the player. And believe me, there are much more of them then in any flappy game I have ever played. Saws, spikes, roatating saws, moving spikes, devils, shooting devils, smashing devils, fire, more spikes and saws – really, this game is brutal. The developer even asks the player not to hate him, in game.

Well, hate is a strong word and an even stronger feeling, so we won’t go that far. There is, however, a mechanic of which I’m not very fond of. If players tap the screen twice, the black ninja will shoot a metal star out of its hand, clearing the area of those pesty little devils. But the double tap also means that the ninja will go twice as high upwards, making it a decision between killing a devil of evading the rotating saw. Sounds fun, but in reality, it is not. It makes the game unneccesary harder.

Not that I don’t like a challenging game. Only this mechanic presents fake choices, because the ninja must and will always jump. Also, it doesn’t make the game any more fun than it would be without the mechanic. Still, if Android gamers still love the flappy games and are in need of a die hard challenge, I can recommend the game. Because just like any other flappy clone, the base is solid and the graphics are okay – and it even has two modes to dig in.

Box-e Review

Box-e Review

Jul 23, 2014

It kind of resembles Two Tribes’ Edge, but it has its own goals and control scheme. Box-e on Android offers great challenges for puzzle gamers.

Understanding a game like Box-e is not hard at all. Box-e is a fun, colorful little puzzle game, where players navigate a color changing block through a – at first not so difficult looking – maze. At its core, it is as simple as that. The tricky part is this: players can only use every tile of the level once in order to get the highest score as possible. If one uses the same tile again, the colors of the level will make room for black blocks, letting the player know that what they are doing is wrong.

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The idea is to get as clean and colorful as possible to the end of the stage. Speed does not count toward the high score, so players can take their sweet time to lay out a strategic road for the controllable block. And that is quite necessary. Because right from the start it gets very difficult already, making it not only fun, but also challenging to play. Players really need to think before they tap, in order to finish the level as colorful as possible.

Players control the block in four directions, by tapping in one of the four corners of the screen. It is possible to go a bit lower than that – but the danger is here that one might cross over the invisible line of the direction boxes, resulting in the block going the wrong way. On the other hand, when a player does use the right corners, it is possible to open the history of used apps window or to press the back button. Luckily, that last one does not work, so that won’t disturb one’s game.

The game only has 25 levels to beat and most of them are pretty hard to get the maximum score of three golden stars. I don’t know if there will be more levels, but it is quite the downside. Most free puzzle apps have more levels to beat and this one cost money (1 dollar 21 cents to be precise), so it feels kind of weird to pay for something that has less content. But overall, the game offers an enjoyable experience in terms of challenging levels and very nice graphics.

Bezircle Review

Bezircle Review

Jul 22, 2014

Bezircle is best described in two words: chaotic and paradoxical. Both descriptions are, however, in favor of the game, because it is very addictive and has some through through its game design.

It has been months since Bezircle first launched on iOS, but now it is finally available on Android: Bezircle, from the Dutch developer Ludomotion. It is a tactical ‘beat-the-stuffing-out-of-that-button’ game. That may sound a bit contradictory: in tactical games, players need time to reach certain goals in the game and those games give players the time they need. And an old fashioned button smasher is quite the opposite: the faster one reaches their goal, the better.

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In the chaos of the paradox that Bezircle certainly is, players may find a true addictive game. The addictive nature of the game is what makes it truly unique. The goal is to ‘bezircle’ the circles on screen. Players need to move the worm from circle to circle, but that is only possible via the link road with just a tap of the only (digital) button. When the player is at the circle they want, they need to hold down the button, while the worm makes his round. After that, the circle is for the player.

In the singleplayer of the game, players are constantly getting introduced to new gameplay elements: new enemies, weapons and goals to reach – there is really nothing one cannot think of that isn’t here. Getting those circles costs energy and the worms can get that by eating smaller animals. Later on in the game, there are levels where there aren’t much of those animal to collect, so players need to think about getting them as soon as possible. Otherwise, it is game over before one might know.

That one button in game is something that makes Bezircle that much accessible. But it is also a source of irritation and frustration. It is digital, and there isn’t any feedback for the player. And because it is so small, one might press right next to the button. Also, it is all the way in the right corner of the screen; my thumb was in an uncomfortable position during gameplay. We it is not possible to just press anywhere on the screen, is a riddle for me. This is just frustrating.

The multiplayer is where the game shines. Bezircle is playable with four players, but on a smaller screen (my Nexus 5 has five inches of screen space, but that is still too small) is it hard to see what to do. The best way to enjoy this game with friends, is to play it on a tablet. That way, nobody will be in someones way with their hand or anything. The singleplayer of this game is actually a very long tutorial for the otherwise brilliant multiplayer, because it is much more fun when players know what to do and when to do it.

Glowgrid Review

Glowgrid Review

Jul 18, 2014

Some puzzle games can be really relaxing, while other games of the same genre can be brutal as heck. The ambient puzzle game Glowgrid is a little bit of both, thanks to his two game modes.

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If one would see the title ‘glowgrid’ and fires the game up, he would instantly see that the title of the game matches with the aesthetics of it. Like anyone could predict, in Glowgrid players get to fill up a glowing grid with some well know and lesser known shaped blocks, where they need to combine four or more blocks of the same color. The goal is to fill up the bar at the top of the screen, with a total worth of one hundred points. If players get to that point, the bar immediately empties itself. The next goal is to fill it up once again, only now while players need to figure out a way in their own mess, because the grid still contains like ninety pro cent of the blocks one previously placed there.

So basically, this game tells the gamer: once you made your bed, you must lay in it. Players better make sure to make as less mess as humanly possible, because when there are to much blocks, it is game over. This idea, like the shape of some of the blocks, looks similar to games like Tetris, but due to its grid and other types of blocks, it does feel like it is a new type of game. Combining the blocks seems easy at first, but when players pilled up some blocks here and there to make a combo of a certain type of color, they could make it potentially harder on them self when it comes to another color that needs to be taken care of. So for the player, it is a constant struggle where to place the blocks, keeping in mind that, in the near future, they may need to work around them.

But is fun and it stays fun for a while. In the casual mode, players get to take the time they need to decide where to place the blocks making it, combined with the neon styled graphics, a relaxing puzzle experience on the go. But in the hardcore mode, there is a time limit that makes life awful while playing this game, because of the idea that there is not only yourself to make the game hard, there is also a nasty time limit to shake things up. But like I said just a moment before, it is always fun to play.

Making Space Forest Dilemma Fun To Play Was More Important Than Giving It Great Graphics

Making Space Forest Dilemma Fun To Play Was More Important Than Giving It Great Graphics

Jul 18, 2014

Space Forest Dilemma is a very simple game to understand, but don’t let it fool you. The game is tough as nails, but never unfair. That is, among other things, the result of focused gameplay, rather than polished graphics.

Newborn developer Papaquark just released their first, fast paced puzzle game on Android devices, called Space Forest Dilemma. In Space Forest Dilemma the objective is, according to the developers of course, very simple. Just do not collide. On screen there is a grid and on that grid, there are different obstacles and objects – all with their own different movement patterns. To succeed in the game, players need to memorize all those patterns and have to plan ahead of those patterns so they can move all the moveable blocks right after one another.

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Space Forest Dilemma is being praised all over the place. But how did the team of only two guys, Michael and Andreas, come up with the idea? Michael, one of the co-founders, explains. “The idea was originally hatched a couple of years ago during a period of long train rides. Inspired by Rube Goldberg Machines, the basic concept was invented and eventually discarded, since it didn’t play well with a mouse on pc.” This was before everyone had a smartphone with touchscreen. “Last summer we made a prototype on a smartphone and with new touch controls the old idea actually turned into something that was challenging and fun to play.”

If players do not pay attention, the game can be very challenging – perhaps to challenging. But that was a deliberate decision. Both co-founders love old school games and games where one need to think ahead and plan their next move. “This basically includes everything from old school puzzlers like Tetris, to strategy games like the original UFO: Enemy Unknown, to classic adventure games like Grim Fandango. The kind of games that make you feel smart when you get it right, you know.” So based on that – and our own play sessions – the game is hard, but never unfair.

To me, the game has a rough-kinda look and feel – there isn’t much variation on screen and the colors don’t seem to complement each other. Like it is still a beta or early in development or something like that. “It’s a bit of a mix really”, Andreas explains to me. “None of us is a wizard when it comes to graphics, and also we kinda like (or at least we don´t mind) the slightly rough do it yourself style.” They spent a lot more time on testing different game mechanics, making levels and stuff to make sure the game was fun to play, than they did on the graphics.

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“We had an idea to get help with polishing things up, but in the end we decided to do everything ourselves as a learning experiment. We finally ended up with a style that we felt was fairly unique, a good fit with the gameplay and that we could handle with our limited graphic skills. Hopefully we’ll get better and better at graphics too, not necessarily to make it more polished, but to be able to create the right style and feel that we want for our next game.” In that light, it was a good decision to gave the graphics less attention – it helped the developers to get the best out of the gameplay.

Since this is Papaquarks first release, I expected that the team of two guys had to overcome big obstacles to get where they are now. “The hardest part was probably coming up with a name for our studio”, Andreas says with a big smile on his face. “No, but seriously, this is the first game we have ever completed so just finishing and being able to publish it felt like a huge accomplishment for us. Completing a game was simply a lot more work than we had anticipated and we ran into a lot of obstacles. Being our first game though, we kinda expected to make mistakes along the way.”

The technical problems they experienced were like learning experiences for them, which helped with the motivation. “Thankfully we’ve known each other for a long time so we’re not afraid to speak out when we think something’s not that great. We’re also pretty good at knowing when to push each other or when to give each other a break.” Another thing that can only help the final product, which players can download now from the Google Play Store. “Our goal has been to create a game that’s both unique and fun and we believe we have done just that.” Download it here.

Hopeless: Football Cup Review

Hopeless: Football Cup Review

Jul 18, 2014

In Hopeless: Football Cup, players get to experience a different kind of football videogame. If I have to put a game next to it that closely resembles it, it should be Orange Pixel’s Tapkick Football. In the good and the bad way.

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Hopeless: Football Cup is a game where players need to tap on the touch screen, in order to make the blob on-screen head the ball away. If they don’t, the ball will simply demolish the little bugger and than it is game over for the player. It is a hard concept, similiar to games like Flappy Bird; players just need to keep on tapping at the right moment to succeed in the game. Hopeless: Football Cup perhaps stands even more closely to Orange Pixel’s Tapkick Football, a game that featured the studio’s own vision on the simple tap mechanic of Flappy Bird.

And like Tapkick Football, Hopeless: Football Cup has only one mode. This could be enough if the game would be as simple als Tapkick, where players can only choose different country’s. Those country’s teams had no effect on gameplay and just changes the color scheme of the players. Hopeless does things a bit different. Players need to get high scores to earn money and with that hard earned cash, they can buy extra stuff to make life more comfortable for those sad looking, little blob fellows. But sadly, this game isn’t that much fun to earn that money to make life more comfortable – in fact, the gameplay is a bit dumb if you ask me, being a bit to unpredictable in terms of tapping that ball away because of the inaccurate animation of the blob.

But the game does look very nice. It has some awesome graphics going for it and the sound effects really puts stuff in perspective. The blob isn’t there by free will and the people around him are throwing balls at him to hurt him or something. It is pretty scary if you think about it… Anyway, although it is yet another take on the simple tap mechanic, it doesn’t come much far because of, in my opinion, a bit to unpredictable gameplay in combination with inaccurate controls.

Virus Jiggling Fever Review

Virus Jiggling Fever Review

Jul 17, 2014

Don’t be mislead by the graphics or screenshots from this game. Old gamers, pay attention; this is a retro trip back to the eightes.

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Virus Jiggling Fever is a very retro styled game on so many levels. In the game, players need to shoot a special bullet from te tower on the left side of the screen to the colored viruses on the right side of the screen. Those bullets have different kind of colors as well: green ones shoots a green virus and red ones shoots a red virus. When the players hits a virus, or the wall, the ceiling or floor, the bullet bounces back to the player – forcing them to use their shield to once again bounce the bullet back at one of the viruses, depending of the color of the bullet at that moment.

It may sound a bit complicated at first, but when one is playing the game everything speaks for itself, really. And that is, of course, a good thing. What is also a good thing, is the way the game is played. The character isn’t very flexibel, meaning he can only go up or down the ladder of the tower. But in this game, that is al it needs. It kinda reminded me of those old Game & Watch games from the eightes, where characters had pre-drawn sprites and could only move accordingly. It feels the same way to, so that are some massive points in terms of the retro feeling of the game.

But that is not the only thing the game does to reminds us of past video games. The graphics are Game Boy Color like, with minimal animations and bright colors. And the sounds and music – oh man, that music – it has written Game Boy all over it. And if I think about it, Virus Jiggling Fever could very well be a Game Boy Color game, with al the basics and aesthetics at the right place. Only in the wrong time. Nowadays, game producers can do so much more with graphics and gameplay, and a retro – no, just call it old fashioned in a good way – game like this, feels refreshing at some level.

But is the game any fun? That answer is undoubtetly yes. The controls may be a bit different; slow and not responsive at all, if you will. But thanks to the overall old fashioned feeling the game radiates, it is forgiven. Fever Jiggling Fever reminds me of the days of the Game & Watch and the Game Boy Color and, man, those were the days.