Armadillo Gold Rush Review

Armadillo Gold Rush Review

Feb 3, 2016

Armadillo Gold Rush… what gives?

The game has a definite old-school feel to it, as seen in the graphics. it makes use of a lot of jumpy animations, and the animations are deliberately stilted, with muted colors across varied playing areas set in landscape.

The first few levels highlight the game well. Our protagonist creature can be launched to roll in either of the for cardinal directions, and this is initiated by gestures. Using paths in the playing area, one is gently guided to collect coins (which is the overarching goal) by completing the puzzle therein. As one gets used to the style of play, the puzzles do get a good deal more creative, with several things like switches, trap doors, lethal gulleys, bodies of waters and more (lobsters? Say what?). The creativity fused with the whimsical is an engaging mix.

Success is measured in time and points; as such, one can always look to better one’s high score; using less moves is best. As such, the extra goodies all involve a measure of opportunity costs. The race against time also adds to the game’s allure.

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As the game evolves, it retains the core elements, and surrounds the basic premise with plenty of interesting material. Several new gameplay gimmicks begin to mage an appearance, from fans to movable boxes on to death traps and beyond. The difficulty level is directly proportional to the implicit requirement to think out of the box, and in this regard, the developer does a great job of bringing the player along with this tenured game. The puzzles become more intricate the further one goes, everything ties together fairly well

Still, the game might feel a bit unilateral after a few rounds; it does what it does well, but one might be forgiven for considering it a tad one-dimensional.

In the end, the pros do seem to outweigh any perceived cons, and this game is well worth a look.

CLOCKS Review

CLOCKS Review

Feb 1, 2016

If you know us, you know we like em simple.

CLOCKS is simple.

The premise is pretty easy to understand, and even funner to play. There are two modes: Survival and Quest, and we started off in Quest, which brings leveled gameplay. The game is oriented in portrait, and in its basic form, uses basic colors as the background. On said background, several 2D clocks of differing sizes are placed, somewhat randomly on the grid. Each clock has an hour hand, spinning around the clock… some go clockwise, and others anti-clockwise.

Now, imagine that each moving hour hand is a loaded cannon. Using the prominent “shoot” button at the bottom of the clocks3playing area, the idea is to start with THE prominently highlighted start clock and shoot into another clock — or, pass on the playing pellet if you will. It takes a bit of timing to hit the shooting button right at the exact time; missing automatically ends the run, so one needs to be pretty sure-fingered.

As soon as one hits the one clock, it’s off to shoot the next, and so on and so, until the clocks are cleared.

Oh yeah… did we talk about the clock? There is a nefarious countdown timer, and one can earn a cool bragging star for clearing it. Finishing a level opens the next, and failed levels can be re-played.

Survival is more of a “go-on-till-you-miss experience; no clocks here. Just play till one can’t.

It works because it is able to bring a challenge, but isn’t crazily difficult. One has to do several things, and do them quickly: identify the starter clock (and it isn’t always the same one, for those wondering). Then, dealing with clocks that move at different speeds makes for engaging play. It comes together well.

There are ads, and some that open a chance for a last shot re-play; ads can be killed via in-app purchase.

All in all, simple but fun, and quite worth a look.

Shapeout Review

Shapeout Review

Jan 31, 2016

Shapeout feels familiar.

For the uninitiated, it might look and feel a lot like the cross-platform classic Tetris, what with the portrait orientation, 2D playing area and cascading pieces. The color scheme is fairly simplistic, but that does work for this particular game. It also employs easy animations and light effects which help enhance the overall experience and underscore the quick thinking aspect of the game.

And hold up… just to be clear, this is far from being a JATC (Just Another Tetris Clone); the similarities are beyond just cosmetic, but in this one, instead of working to arrange falling 2D shapes to clear rows, one looks to rotate bi-colored shapes such that the hues create closed shapes that dissolve the housing squares, thereby prolonging one’s gameshape3 life.

It comes in three modes: Classic, Survival and Endless (we tarried in Classic).

It has to be played to be really understood it. The cascading squares, as noted, are either of two colors, lime green and/or black. One way to imagine it as green squares with black indents. The indents are somewhat random, and the idea is to create closed, symmetrical shapes by rotating squares such that the aforementioned shapes are formed. When a qualifying shape is formed, it is highlighted, and dissolves, and is replaced by a new cascading square.

One can also manipulate each square by tapping. Tapping on a square causes it to rotate 90 degrees clockwise. Using this tool, one with an enterprising eye can create a dissolver with a quick roll. Thing is… one has to think through the rotations; every time a square it rotated, an additional square drops, so it pays to have a purpose with every tap. When the entire playing area is filled, the run ends.

It’s simple, is able to squeee in a few modes, and is a great time-wasting tool.

All good.

Gangster Granny 3 Review

Gangster Granny 3 Review

Jan 31, 2016

Gangster Granny 3. Yep, she’s back.

Off the bat, this one makes use of pleasantly zany graphics, Miss Madam is just the way we remember her, as are other characters. The environment is decidedly 3D, and protagonist movements are guided by virtual movements that control the abbreviated first person view the player has. The game uses an animated mapping system, and the developer makes use of color well. The dialogue is light-hearted and fits well with the overall sound scheme.

The intro manages to merge the comedic with the ominous: using stills cobbled together into comic-book cutscenes, the player learns that our sweet protagonist character is under siege since a particular heavy with plans of domination needs something she has, and sends his minions to get her. The bozos snatch her up, and take off in a chopper; Granny isn’t having that, and ends up parachuting from the damaged helicopter.

Then, interestingly enough, we get a mini-game of sorts, which entails helping GG to land, from there, we roll into the game proper.

The game breaks down into missions. The first  all-encompassing objective is to find a new flying machine in the town-ish place Granny landed in. Roaming around is interesting, and almost boring, but for one fact: there are a lot of thugs on looking to pick up Granny, and they are not shy about using force. Some wield heavy tools, others shoot, and it’s up to Granny to avoid damage from them while inflicting her own.

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The combat is pretty engaging, with plenty of offense and defense, and even a bit of strategy involved with regards to temporary retreats or aggressive posturing. The ability to avoid fire is fun, and the bad guys inject just enough sneakiness to make the engagements non-monotonous.

Besides the bad guys, the game incorporates collectible goodies, like health refills and ammo packs. There are accompanying opportunity costs, and goodies can be left for later. There are boss battles, other mini-games and a bunch of puzzles.

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The game comes together well, and feels like a full-fledged arcade experience on the go. It’s easy to get lost in, and pays homage to the concept of endearing characters.

Skytek beware.

Traffic Rider Review

Traffic Rider Review

Jan 31, 2016

Be honest… deep down, everyone wants to race.

It isn’t even all about being first all the time. It’s about freedom, and the ability to defy physics, be it a game of tag, or being the test driver looking to break the land speed record.

We like speed.

Mobile games allow us to push the limits, albeit in a safe, legal way. If there are leaderboards to reinforce bragging rights, even better. Give me good graphics, decent sounds and a heady experience, and I’m good.

Traffic Rider: check, check and check? Let’s see.

What do we have? A bike riding adventure, and by “bike,” we are referring to the mechanical kind. Visually, it’s nicely done, with great use of perspective. It comes in landscape orientation, and gives the player a first person view of the action. The colors and manipulation of virtual light is admirable, and the artwork frames the action to come capably.

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From the beginning, it’s easy to glean the leveling aspect of the game. There are four game modes: Career, Endless, Time Trial and Free Ride, as we happily obliged ourselves with the first. One starts with a very basic machine that looks and sounds suspiciously like a moped. No need to fear though, because this game is all about moving up the ranks via action.

On the first go, one is taught how to increase speed and break; one moves left or right (as in switching lanes) by tilting (which can be changed in Settings). Initially, the main concept is to make it to checkpoints and finish “missions” by avoiding cars and other obstacles. It took a little while to get used to working all the controls together, but it is actually quite fun once one gets a hang of it. Racing up from the rear is engaging, especially with the break lights and occasional lane switching. Accidents “feel” real, and the game manages to avoid gore.

The further one goes (or better yet, finishes the section) the more cash and LP one can earn. Earned cash can them be moved to improve one’s machine, and there are some nice whole pieces to pick from. Leveling up opens more levels, so everything is somewhat interconnected.

It’s a simple game, but works because it doesn’t overly rely on real money to advance. It incorporates ads to give folks an alternative for continues for instance, and it also gives decent game cash payouts. Having several game modes allows for the game to be consumed in different ways, and that can only be good.

All in all, it is a fun product that is easy to enjoy.

Dogfight Elite Review

Dogfight Elite Review

Jan 28, 2016

Air battling is almost always fun, especially that of the gaming kind. Add in retro aircraft and weapons to the picture, and we get an idea of just what Dogfight Elite is looking to be.

Not a bad goal if you’re asking us.

The artwork in this one gets straight to the point. We get interesting skyscapes and and admirable use of virtual perspective; one almost yearns for the horizon. The view is first-person (adjustable to behind) in landscape, and this helps frame the gameplay with a veneer of realism. The colors are a tad muted, but are still effective, and along with the sounds, it’s a fun media experience.

The control mechanism is admirably optioned; early on after launch, one gets to pick between tilt control or virtual joystick (we picked the former to begin). There are also two control frames — cockpits — to select from: one for lower spec’ed decides, the other for more powerful machines (we began with the latter).

One can also adjust the tilt sensitivity, which is definitely a big plus.

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The gameplay comes in two flavors, Practice and Multiplayer; Practice exists to provide players an opportunity to hone their skills. It’s split into a few missions, allowing different elements to be explored. Using text, the game encourages the player to handle the virtual throttle, which gets the plane up in the air.

Training comprises of, initially, flying through rings, and then stuff like attacking and landing. Doing such takes a bit of doing at first, but after a while, it was possible to sharpen our flying/attacking proficiency with the preferred tilt controls; the gliding, diving and even crashing feel natural. The Practice section actually manages to be fairly engaging all on its own, and feels more than just another tutorial as it morphs into full blown dogfight missions.

The dogfighting does feel a bit insurmountable in places; it does take a great deal of patience to down enemy craft; still, it admittedly feels satisfying to do so. Also, one might crave a little bit more depth, but this game works-as-is on several levels.

Edge of Tomorrow Review

Edge of Tomorrow Review

Jan 28, 2016

All hail the continued extended experience that major motion picture companion games bring.

Looks like they’re here to stay for the foreseeable future, and we sure as heck are not complaining; what’s not to love in games that are based off of movies and animated shows that we are going to see anyway? It makes sense for all parties involved, plus we get to see new games that are mostly commissioned by studios that have loads of cash to throw at mobile development.

Games like Edge of Tomorrow, based on an interesting movie that came out a while back featuring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt.

The opening cutscene is a direct cut from the movie, which should be a boon to fans of the movie, as it does a great job of the mimicking (see what I did) the opening battle scene, with plenty of explosions, crashing ships. landing troops and enemy creatures. The artwork is pretty engaging; one practically can feel the kicked up sand in one’s mouth, and feel the fear.

The method here is fairly easy to understand; it comes in FPS/portrait, and swiping across the screen swings one’s view and the gun sights. A generous virtual joystick is provided on the left side, and the main idea is to avoid hazards (especially the blighted Mimics) and make it to a waypoint. When the sights land on a Mimic, the gun auto-shoots till it is out of ammunition, at which point one generally uses another weapon, or is killed by the eventual Mimic.

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There are goodies to be picked up, yes, so the game is able to feel a bit like an arcade title.

There are several enjoyable elements that make the game stand out. For one, the shooting mechanism is fairly easy to get with and use. The auto-fire makes it easier to wield, and the system works very well with the first person view. Then, the way the game incorporates the reincarnation aspect from the source movie is fairly seamless — not exact, but close enough to be noted.

On the other hand, the gameplay’s innate action creates quite the chaotic experience, and sometimes, it feels overly busy… almost as if the game is being forcibly restrained by the source material.

All in all, it comes across as a pretty great companion game, and is strong enough to survive as a standalone FPS adventure.

World Spin Review

World Spin Review

Jan 26, 2016

If we said it once, we’ve said it several times before: complex, plot-driven games are to die for, yes, but every now and then, give us a quick-hitting time-waster to unwind with.

Something like World Spin, perhaps?

The main attribute that comes to mind when getting into this game is how simple it is; right from the start, with the sharp colors and definite shapes, one absorbs an easy-to-digest visual presentation that highlights a game that clearly wants one to focus on the goal at hand. It incorporates smooth animations, and as one finds, this is a key aspect of the game. The options reveal a whimsical side to the developer, and the cheery sounds hint at a arcade-y experience.ws3

It is a puzzle game, yes, and it’s all about the switch. The aforementioned button is the target in each level, easily identified in it’s red manifestation. It is generally nestled in a layered, somewhat irregular shape, full of aisles and more. Somewhere on this structure is a ball, gingerly resting.

Tapping on the left side of the screen rotates the structure to the left, and tapping on the right makes it go that way. The ball acts as if affected by physics, and rolls accordingly. The basic idea is to guide it to the red switch so as to open up subsequent levels and to earn points.

If the ball falls off the structure, the round is failed, and one is allowed to retry indefinitely.

Frankly, it can be plenty of fun. As one progresses, the puzzles get delightfully harder, demanding a firm touch and more than a little patience. The game engages because it manages to overstep the “basic puzzler” descriptor by adding in unexpected twists just when one thinks its figured out. It might feel monotonous to the hyper-industrious, but the developer does well to make the game more-or-less play well, even without really having to spend real money.

There is nothing wrong with being simple.

Gods of Rome Review

Gods of Rome Review

Jan 25, 2016

How cool would it be if there was a fighting game that took inspiration from Greek and Roman mythology? Something like Street Fighter mixed in with God of War. It’d be great.

Luckily for us, this is what we’ve got – Gods of Rome is a fighting game that has fighters ranging from Zeus to Hades with a sprinkling of minotaurs, cyclops and Julius Caesers.

It’s not all perfect though – sorry to burst your bubble. Fighting games have always had issues when being ported onto touchscreen devices so the agreed upon solution has been to dilute the beat ‘em-up genre to fit into simple tap and swipe controls. This means that Gods of Rome doesn’t feature any real combo system and isn’t particularly complicated or nuanced in its one-on-one battles.

You tap the right side of the screen to throw a string of light punches, you swipe right for a medium attack that charges and you can hold the screen to charge a strong attack that can break defences. Defence consists of holding the left of the screen to block and swiping left to dash away from your opponent.gods3

This means that although you’ll get punished for simply tapping away with light attacks and you’ll soon feel the full force of heavy attacks if you try and block too much for too long, there’s really not much else to the fighting outside of this. Sure, the fighters themselves act a little differently, having different speed of attack and varying reach to their strikes but it’s all fairly rudimentary.

This simplicity often means that the fighters with the best stats are the winner. As this is a free-to-play game, the hook here is that your fighters need to be upgraded using orbs. Orbs are dished out by playing the lengthy and ever-expanding story mode, by taking part in special event fights or by forking over some cold, hard cash.

It’s a fairly forgiving and generous model – there’s plenty of game to be played before the game asks for money. It’s always refreshing to see a game that isn’t aggressive in its quest to become profitable so Gods of Rome needs to be commended for the way it treats its players in this regard.

Overall, Gods of Rome treats its players to great visuals, it papers over its cracks with some simple gameplay and ultimately provides some simple entertainment. Not exactly heavenly but you could do a hell of a lot worse.


Bouncing Tank Review

Bouncing Tank Review

Jan 25, 2016

From the onset, Bouncing Tank looks simple — and that isn’t a bad thing.

As we have said before, there will always be a place for simple games that are easy to navigate but nonetheless provide a worthy challenge to players. Yep, we crave such.

The artwork is basic; if the developer’s goal is to not distract from the gameplay to come, that feels mostly achieved. It occurs in landscape orientation, with subdues pastels marking the background, and utilitarian artwork alongside smooth animations. Our protagonist tank is enjoyably rudimentary, and even from the main menu page, shows of the, uh, bounceability that lends itself to the games title. Sound-wise, the cheery tunes makes one think of arcades, and as actual play shows, this isn’t too far off.

Upon starting the game proper, our bouncing take takes center stage, bouncing “forwards” from left to right. Coming towards it are fired weapons looking to stop it cold. Thankfully, one gets five shells to take out the incoming weaponry.

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Tapping causes the tank to fire; the trick is in the timing. That cute bouncing creates the challenge, as it ain’t that easy to line up on the obstacles while going up and down and up again; it’s probably why sharpshooters don’t use trampolines in training.

And then, there are “safe” pieces one is prohibited from shooting, and of course, these tend to fly in the path of the “bad” pieces. Yay. Hitting them decreases one’s bullet count, which brings us to that aforementioned element: the player’s shells. Yes, there are five, and as long as one hits the the baddies, they don’t deplete. Hitting a friendly or missing a target reduces one’s stash, and running out is tantamount to eventually getting struck, which ends the run.

Success is measured by the number of hits one accumulates before succumbing to contact.

It’s a compelling adventure that veers on the side of quick reflexes; the strength of this game lays in the sum of its cohesive parts: bouncing firing pieces, objects to avoid, objects to hit, and a deliciously limited supply of ammunition to make things happen. The biggest challenge is oneself, and the ability to stay alive.

The game can be played among friends locally, and also has leaderboards via Play Games, it’s ad-supported, and ads can be disabled via in-app purchase.

All in all, it’s another case of “simple does it.” Quite well, even.

Brick Breaker Hero Review

Brick Breaker Hero Review

Jan 20, 2016

Full disclosure: I cut my mobile teeth on BlackBerry OS.

Yep, I did my thing on the physical keyboard, and did all manners of business on my units. As my last mobile OS stop before transitioning to Android for daily driver, I developed most of my mobile device usage mores on it.

One game that makes me reminisce positively was the stock arcade game Brick Breaker: 2D, paddle-style trackball goodness. High scores were shared, reputations built and time enjoyably wasted.

The game (along with assorted variants) eventually made its way to other platforms, and one of the more recent ones, Brick Breaker Hero, is now available for Android perusal.bb3

It’s a pretty simple game; looks-wise, one gets into this one in portrait orientation. It keeps the rough 2D look, but is way more colorful than the original, with a series of characterizations and foliage to make the game feel more “alive.” The game is heavily dependent on animations, and the ones therein are quite smooth, with colorful explosions and cascading effects.

The sounds are equally effective, with the cheery signs underscoring the game’s arcade cred. For those that rather have a quiet experience, the sound can be toggled off and on via the game’s settings.

The gameplay is leveled and easy to understand; in the foreground, one controls a paddle, and launches a ball. The idea is to use the launched ball to smash bricks and other objects by keeping the rebounding ball in play. The side walls also bounce the balls, so when a ball is returning towards the paddle, one needs to account for such actions. The idea is to smash all objects, accumulate as many stars as possible and move on to the next level.

There are power-ups, which are great when it comes to harder levels and faster moving balls. One does get a set number of balls to clear every level, and if completely depleted, one loses a life… and yes, lives are not unlimited. If all are used up, one can use real cash, or wait on more lives to regenerate over time.

Games like this invariably end up pretty safe to try; this one is familiar enough to get old heads to try, and fresh enough to potentially lure in folks new to the concept, and others in-between. It flows well, and even the energy requirement manages to be not so annoying.

Buried: Interactive Story Review

Buried: Interactive Story Review

Jan 14, 2016

Buried, an interesting Choose Your Own Adventure caper from Bromoco, is here.

It’s about time.

The game relies heavily on rolling text, which is interrupted periodically by graphics which help frame the story. The presentation is fairly utilitarian, with aforementioned text laid on a dark background; when graphics appear, the way they fade into the background is a nice touch.

The adventure starts ominously enough, with first person dialogue, hard hats, logging business and middle-aged angst. buried3One gets to know the protagonist as he awakens from a mysterious slumber and looks to piece together what happened, and where the rest of his work crew is.

Then, the game presents a couple of options — presented as text boxes — one has to choose from to move on. Every choice has a consequence, and therein is the game’s main element: choose a path and reroute the plot. It provides an opportunity to think, weigh options, and be as decisive as one can bear.

Take the first set, for instance. Personal safety, or find the others? Such is the way the choices go, creating internal debates, and even having players contemplate ethics. It is pretty interesting, in that overthinking paths is not entirely impossible. Research, or flee. Trust, or suspicion. On and on…

With a game of this type, the experience inevitably comes down to the creativity of the developer; the narrative has to be able to carry one along, and the alternate branches have to be logical. This one mostly delivers, right from the somewhat unnerving intro through to the optioned storyline. It actually can be played several times, and each trip has the ability to feel a bit new.

Now, it probably could use more visual cues; still, the choice engine works in that it doesn’t make a habit of creating clear cut “good vs evil” sets.

It all flows together quite well, and brings a survival, otherworldly tale to mobile in an enjoyably creepy fashion.