Squadron 1945 Review

Squadron 1945 Review

May 29, 2016

A WWII-era air battler? Squadron 1945 could do much, much worse.

Looks-wise, the game has a quiet, almost understated type of elegance to it. The graphics are slick, with really smooth animations that almost make one miss the somewhat detailed underlying background pieces. The “lighting” works, as do the sounds, and the gameplay is advanced nicely in the standard portrait orientation.squ3

Think of it as a squadron of four ships, each with unique abilities. The first ship takes on incoming enemy waves, guided by one’s finger, and perpetually shooting. The ships fly in a creative formation, mostly from either side, and, as to be expected, they have dangerous projectiles of their own. The main idea is to guide the current protagonist ship to take out the enemy ships, while avoiding the return fire.

Staying alive. For points. If a ship gets destroyed, one gets another ship, until all are depleted; in this sense, one has four lives. one can switch existing ships mid-flight if one so chooses.

The game is leveled, and includes a few more elements to boost its arcade cred. One interesting one is the passive control; one when takes the controlling finger off the screen, the game slows to a crawl. For anyone that has played this type of game, this is genius, as it, in essence, allows one to re-position one’s finger without losing serious ground.

The game also incorporates boosts too; these appear on the screen, and give extra attributes/powers for a time. There are also achievements which can be unlocked and tie into GP Games. And what type of arcade game would this be without boss battles? Check.

It comes together well, with a familiar feel, and is super-easy to get into. it probably could use a mini-game or two to shed some monotony, but it’s tough to dislike.

Angry Birds Action! Review

Angry Birds Action! Review

May 29, 2016

If one mobile gaming developer can claim to have changed the landscape, it’s probably Rovio. Angry Birds helped usher in a new type of game, and a new monetization system to boot.

And it isn’t over yet. Say hello to Angry Birds Action!

As to be expected, the name of the game is (still) recovering eggs, taking on baddies and doing other things which incensed avian creatures do when trapped in a recurrent pinball nightmare.aba3

Artistically, franchise savants should feel comfortable, what with the glossy, in-your-face graphics that catch the eye and define the very first Angry Birds way back when. There is a definite tropical feel to the game, and the use of color that manages to feel natural and whimsical at the same time. The sound is a good fit, with plenty of poppy effects. The game seems set to live or die by its animations, and it mostly lives.

The projectiles are quite familiar, as they are from the usual stable of creatures.

The gameplay boils down to pinball action, nothing is more suited as a control mechanism than the iconic pull and release motion that defines the original game. The game is consumed in portrait; in the playing area, there are eggs that are freed by contact, plus other obstacles and “bumpers” to keep things interesting. As noted, one drags the bird, sets the direction using a virtual arrow system, and then releases the bird to do mayhem.

The bird typically bounces around, doing its thing until it loses momentum; if all the eggs weren’t released, one gets to go again, up to the amount of times allowed. Yes, the idea is to release all the eggs with the fewest tries.

Finishing successfully opens the next level, and the 3-star system is in full effect. The game gets more challenging as one goes on. One interesting aspect are “birdcodes,” which allow one to access extra content via AB paraphernalia and even the upcoming movie.

All in all, it’s different, but familiar. It does have an energy requirement, but manages to be interesting, especially in spurs.

Vector 2 Review

Vector 2 Review

May 26, 2016

Tis the season for sequels. Vector 2 is here.

For those of us that were engaged in the original, this new game should be delightfully nostalgic. The game, again, is taken in in landscape, with dark colors taking precedence to give the game its core visual character. The main character looks shadowy in its black form, and the entire playing area looks believably futuristic, with plenty of smooth animated action that works in 2D. It’s easy to love the simulated parkour moves, and thesounds frame the gameplay well.

Think of this as a side-scrolling, platform adventure. The basic idea is to control the aforementioned silhouetted runner across an interestingly laid out running area, from right to left and hopefully all the way to the end of the level. Controlling the runner is done with the help of gestures, and these are fairly intuitive: swiping up initiates a jump, and swiping down invokes an evasive maneuver (like a slide); there are also times when one can swipe horizontally to create a burst of speed.

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Now, navigating the running area is where the game creates the challenge. At the start of an episode, the runner begins to run, and continues to run forward continuously on his/her own. There are plenty of obstacles, and it takes a bit of care to get by them, as in knowing when to jump or slide or even stay pat. Jumping a pit early can create issues, as one can land in a bad area, and jumping needlessly can have negative effects too. The cool visuals take front and center; the runner will usually execute a parkour-ish move depending on the the type of obstacle presented.

The game allows for attributes and equipment to be upgraded using a dual system of game currency. Real cash can be used, but can be avoided with patience, as this one has an energy requirement.

Still, it is an enjoyable romp, and is capable of providing loads of entertainment.

Hungry Shark World Review

Hungry Shark World Review

May 24, 2016

The ravenous sharks are back… in Hungry Shark World.

The game retains the visual charm of its predecessor, with fun 3d color use that clearly underscores the underwater/seaside environment. The developer does a pretty good job of simulating a natural aquatic environment, with dark hues and plenty of marine life wandering around in the three provided worlds.

The corresponding life and air scenes are believable as well, and the both scenes complement each other well. The animations are pretty slick, and, as an element to help convey aspects of the gameplay, are quite proficient.

Sounds? Appropriately gruesome when needed, and help frame the experience in a positive manner. The game is able to be played silently for those who need or want to, which is another testament to the graphics.

The core gameplay is fairly easy to understand, especially for those who played the original; one gets to start out with shark… basic, maybe a bit entry-level. Said sea beast is controlled via two main virtual buttons: one serves as a joystick, and the other is a boost button, which gives the shark temporary vitality. The shark has a life-bar that is continually consumed by just swimming around. If the bar is completely depleted, the shark dies.

There’s one way to keep the life-bar up. Consume food.

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As such, one roams around, looking to eat smaller fish and a few other morsels. The schools of fish are smart enough to avoid the shark though, so one has to be crafty, quick of hand and willing to use that boost ability periodically.

Easy? Not so fast.

See, it’s not all marine goodness for the shark; some creatures bite (and sting back). Some things are toxic, and some things are just bigger. Some edibles can only be overcome by bigger sharks, and one has to do all this stayin’ alive while completing tasks like looking for gold. The game incorporates leveling, and one can procure better sharks (up to the famed Great White), but it takes a bit of time and patience.

All in, it’s a fun going, with easy-to-understand progressions and the ability to be challenging and creative.

Tank ON 2 – Jeep Hunter Review

Tank ON 2 – Jeep Hunter Review

May 12, 2016

A fun game is worth its weight in gold, and it’s clear that Tank ON 2 – Jeep Hunter wants to be chunky.

Very, very chunky.

The action reflects well via the graphics, which are presented top-down in landscape mode. It possesses simple looks, with easy-to-identify characterizations and soft colors. The animations do the job, and convey the action reasonably well.

The basic gameplay premise is to protect a land-based set of buildings from incoming waves of vehicles intent upon inflicting damage. The main player deterrent is a turret; it can be moved along the incoming path, continually firing on its own. So, in the perfect world, one slides along, shooting and destroying the invaders by reducing their individual life bars to nothingness.

The base one is defending can only take so much damage, so one has to move expeditiously and wisely to dispatch with the baddies before seeing the base’s life bar depleted, which causes the run to end unsuccessfully.

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As to be expected, the incoming vehicles have varying attributes (like tougher skins and more potent weapons); conversely, there are different type of weapons one can use, and newer ones can be unlocked. For most actions, there is an opportunity cost that the player must consider. For instance, using the one weapon means it isn’t available for use till it is recharged. There isn’t an unlimited supply of resources either.

Success leads to game cash, which can — and should — be used to make improvements to one’s weapons and such.

For what is in essence a tower defense game, this simple action adventure comes together well. There isn’t too much complexity, and one doesn’t have to wait too long to get tougher sequences. Things can be expedited with real cash, but having real money doesn’t seem overly mandatory.

All about the gold…

The Abandoned Review

The Abandoned Review

Apr 30, 2016

Nothing beats the outdoor, especially when you don’t need to be outdoor… something like that. Safe capers come and go, and The Abandoned looks to be one Android users won’t forget soon.

It’s a survival adventure; to begin, the player is presented with a post-apocalyptic backstory. For an unknown reason, a part of the land becomes isolated, with weird happening and creatures in its dangerous, unexplored confines. The player takes on the persona of a helicopter passenger that is marooned in this area due to an accident.

The adventure begins.

The game is absorbed in first person (via landscape orientation), allowing one to consume the hi-def 3D graphics that define the gameplay; denizens of Minecraft might feel somewhat comfortable in the environment. It is an expressive representation, able to incorporate a natural feel with its deliberate use of colors. Animations are mostly smooth (despite the occasional stutter), and the use of highlights to help the gameplay along is relatively subtle. The sounds match the looks. Movement is facilitated by a liberal touch joystick.

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There are three gameplay flavors (Story, Adventure and Survival); we couldn’t help but get into Story mode, which gives a great taste of the game. One starts wandering almost immediately… there are helpful dialogue boxes that provides hints and instructions, and it becomes apparent that, at the core, quickly completing tasks is a major element. With that, one learns how to collect materials, and then how to craft more complex tools, and even how to use them. Collected materials can be stored for future use.

Now, a lot of thought is put into the survival aspect; remember, this is the Exclusion Zone after all. One needs to find food, do rudimentary stuff like build fires and such, and create the tools to do so. In this sense, the elements are fairly interconnected, providing a logical sequence of actions. At the risk of being a spoiler one needs to watch one’s back, because there are a lot of unexplained creatures.

One can earn XP points, which can be used to improve one’s attributes.

It’s definitely an interesting going, with plenty of suspense and a heaping of implied creativity. It was temperamental in parts, but is overall a premium game, even with the optional extra in-app purchases.

Groove Planet Review

Groove Planet Review

Apr 30, 2016

I’ve been playing Android games long enough now that I’ve run into a fair few ‘clicker’ games in my time. It’s always difficult to stand out in an over-crowded genre, but Groove Planet has got a unique angle. It’s a ‘clicker’ enfused with a music twist where you have to click in time to the beat. Could we call it a ‘beater’? No – better not.

The idea is that you’re mayor of an extraterrestrial planet. You’re tasked with making and spending ‘beats’ – which is basically money. Using your beats you build musically themed building – recording studios, radio towers, for example. These buildings earn you money without needing to tap and from there it’s pretty much like every other ‘clicker’ – watch the number grow, buy buildings to make the numbers grow quicker.

What you can do is tap alone in time to a beat. Tapping in time to a beat will grant you a bonus that soon multiplies in size. The reward is substantial and well worth doing. The problem is that this is just one of many extremely generous ways that the game increases your income, soon making progress trivial.

For example – during your time with the game there are missions you can complete. These are often very easy, such as tapping 200 times or earning a certain amount of money. Completing these missions grants all of your buildings a permanent buff, often 250x production, sometimes even 500x production.

There’s also ‘chances’ that appear very often. ‘Chances’ see you presented with 3 albums. You don’t know what the album will do and there is a chance (hence the name) that the result will be negative. However, receiving a positive result gives you huge buffs, which watching an advert can make even bigger and any negative results can be ignored by spending the game’s premium currency or, again, watching an advert.

This means that you may be working towards one goal, say building a new giant microphone, and it’ll seem like a real challenge. However, if you hit a couple of missions, get a good ‘chance’ result and tap to the beat a few times and you’ll be seeing your bank balance where it needs to be in no time.groove 2

This goes against what a clicker should be, as they need to reward patience and time spent not ‘on’ the app but at least with it installed and you checking in regularly. Having the rewards dished out so easily means it fails as a clicker in that regard but the game also fails in another regard. There’s no incentive to leave it running and to keep returning to it.

You see, most clickers are all about setting up a better production line of money and leaving it to get on with it so you can come back to the game in a few hours or days and reap the rewards. Groove Planet doesn’t reward you for leaving the game alone.

Another problem is that Groove Planet has you construct a specific building which is responsible for collecting money in your absence. The issue here is that the sums of money this building can hold are so small, they’re insignificant and yet to level-up this building soon becomes too expensive and a waste of money.

This means that Groove Planet is a clicker where you very quickly unlock everything and are offered no incentive to ever leave the game alone let alone return to it. What should be enjoyable, opening up the app and seeing what you can spend your money on, is instead an anti-climax.

Groove Planet is a ‘clicker’ that actually wants you to play it – which is exactly what a clicker shouldn’t demand. Why shouldn’t they demand this? Because actually playing a clicker is just clicking! By demanding your full attention you soon come to realise what a pointless and boring thing it is, to click on a screen mindlessly.

A shame really as Groove Planet looks nice enough and it’s neat idea, being able to play your own tunes and tap along to their beat. The problem is this is a game that should be much more passive but wants far too much attention.

Metal Slug Attack Review

Metal Slug Attack Review

Apr 29, 2016

I don’t think I’ve seen better animated pixels than in the Metal Slug series. Wildly goofy gaites and exaggerated throwing motions were always the staple of the series, which was known as a brutal hard side-scrolling shooter back in the day.

Metal Slug Attack has retained the glorious and gorgeous sprite work of previous Metal slug titles but instead plays completely differently.

Boiled down, Metal Slug Attack is a card collecting game where each card represents a troop you can take into battle. Win battles and you earn more cards. More cards means you can level-up your existing army, etc, etc, you know the drill. There’s all sorts of convoluted hooks in the game to get you to spend money on cards. Free spins of digital roulette wheels every day, coins that turn to gems, gems that turn to coins and tokens that are granted every 2nd Thursday of months ending in ‘Y’. It’s incredibly convoluted.unnamed-6

Luckily, you can ignore most of that and get into battle straight away. Battles are all about protecting your drop-pod and attacking the enemies’ instead. The two pods are placed at each end of the screen and you have to tap at the cards you’ve taken into the fight to spawn little dudes or dudettes that will dutifully walk from the left to the right, shooting at and being shot by the enemy.

The strategy is that your different troops do different attacks. Grenadiers lob explosives whilst other troops are capable of sniping from a distance. Some characters like to get up close and personal, carrying a knife and running to the left with no regard as to their own safety. Your points slowly fill up as the game goes on and you can spend points on an upgrade that makes your points fill up quicker. You gotta spend points to make points, as they say.

So it all looks lovely. I can’t stress how much I love the Metal Slug series’ 2D style and animations. The gameplay itself is fine, with some wiggle room for you to create an army that plays just how you want. The problem is that it’s all wrapped up in such a confusing and obtuse array of systems, currencies, special daily bonuses and limited-time quests. It becomes overwhelming to know what you should focus on, whether you should upgrade your characters or save them for some other poorly explained trade-in system that buried twelve menus deep.

If you can spend the time and read the wikis to get your head around how all of the meta stuff works, Metal Slug Attack might turn out to be totally engrossing and well worth getting into. As it was for me, I found it really pretty, enjoyable to play but ultimately confused me to the point of no return. As in, I played it for a week and now don’t want to return to it. A shame.


slither.io Review

slither.io Review

Apr 28, 2016

I don’t like snakes.

I wouldn’t describe myself as deathly terrified (I guess it’s normal to be so), but I won’t go out of my way to hang with them. If there were a pet hierarchy, snakes wouldn’t make the list for me.

They’re just creepy, and then there’s that whole Garden of Eden incident.

But then, there goes slither.io. Simple game, easy-to-grasp concept… and slithery beings one might not even loathe that much. Maybe.

The playing area is a fusion of dark, tiled background, over which splashes of color are clearly defined. it utilizes relatively smooth animations, and the control mechanism is via touching the screen.

The main idea is fairly simple: survive and grow bigger. it is an online multiplayer game, and the boundless playing arena consist of multiple, user-controlled snakes. The player starts with a relatively tiny specimen, and an initial goal is to consume the colored pellets that are scattered around the area. Consuming them allows the user’s snake to grow incrementally bigger. Guiding the snake is important, and is done by the aforementioned screen taps.

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Secondary to consuming pellets, one has to beware of opposing snakes; running into another snakes body with one’s head is deathly. Conversely, if another snake runs into the player’s animal, it is obliterated. Snake remains are quite valuable, with regards to getting bigger, so one should look to consume them.

With those parameters in place, the game feels a lot like a a game made for Patches O’Houlihan: dodge, duck, dip, dive and (uh) dodge. One has to guide one’s snake swiftly and decisively, avoiding head contact with bigger and faster snakes, while being offensively-minded as well. There’s a running tally of one’s length, and rank among other players.

The game gets more interesting the longer one plays (and grows); one has to balance evasive maneuvers with a willingness to be aggressive and look to make contact. The competing serpents can be fairly skilled, and so in the playing arena, every action has an opportunity costs of sorts.

As stated… simple.

The controls could use some refining, I think, and a few power-ups wouldn’t hurt, but the game does have a certain charm to it. It isn’t the most unique of ideas, but the online component is compelling.

All in all, it’s an interesting romp, and worth a look.

Damn Daniel Review

Damn Daniel Review

Apr 27, 2016

Why would anyone spend time making a game only to burden it with being associated with a meme that’s going to be forgotten in a week? That’s the number one question that sat on my mind during my time with Damn Daniel.

You see, Damn Daniel is basically a simple infinite-runner that’s grabbed onto the coat-tails of a meme, where one student points at another student’s shoes and shout “Damn Daniel!”. He makes comments on said shoes and it’s funny. Not actually funny but, you know, ‘internet funny’. Look it up.unnamed-3

You play as a cartoon version of the titular Daniel and you can see the trainers (sneakers) in question. They’re white and they stand out. This 2D infinite runner takes place in some form of infinite space, with a blue background broken up by blocks that you run over.

This needs to be challenging otherwise it would be less of a game than it already is. So what happens is these blocks drop away and sometimes they shift left or right. Basically, your route shifts right before your eyes and it’s your job to keep on top of this by tapping on the screen to jump to avoid gaps.

This is all fairly innocuous. No doubt you’ve played something similar before – the issue is that the shifting of the platforms feels unbalanced. It feels like sometimes the blocks will shift in such a way that escaping death is impossible. As if unfair deaths weren’t annoying enough, your demise is met by a sound clip from the meme that gave birth to this whole game.

“Daaammmn, Daniel!”

It gets very annoying very quickly and there’s little to make you want to keep on. The only glimmer of reward is that you can collect gems whilst playing and these unlock alternate clothes for Daniel to wear.

That’s it.

A highscore table and the ability to watch some adverts to grab extra gems are available but why bother? Damn Daniel is a bad example of what mobile gaming is about. A cynical attempt at riding the wave of popularity a meme is having by spitting out a sub-standard infinite runner. We can do better.

Damn, Daniel…

Rolling Sky Review

Rolling Sky Review

Apr 27, 2016

Imagine an infinite runner that has an end combined with a maze that shows you the way out. That’s what Rolling Sky is.

You control a rolling ball, controlling its horizontal movements by simply swiping left and right on the screen, as it makes its way from the start of the level to the end of the level. It’s so simple it requires no explanation. So ignore this entire paragraph.

The challenge comes through in the form of numerous obstacles that litter each level. Some levels are full of lasers, some are full of weights dropping from the sky and others have trees that cause you to explode.unnamed-3

Each level is set in stone. Where the spike pit was last time you played is where it’ll be this time. This means you have to spend time ‘learning’ each level and this is no easy feat. Some of the levels are seriously tricky and will require multiple attempts, especially if you want to collect the diamonds that are scattered about.

This would be annoying and boring if it weren’t for the presentation and the audio. The level’s are synched to the music which helps give everything a real punch. As the bassline of the song kicks in, the weights drop from the sky and it goes without saying that the music is pretty darn great.

Each level’s audio takes on a slightly different genre of music and the songs go through ups and downs with the levels representing this as well. When the song’s having a quiet moment you’ll be guiding your ball through a relatively simple slalom but when the beat kicks in, you’ll soon notice more hammers, spikes and other pitfalls coming your way.

Also nice to see is the way the game’s monetized. It’s not too abrasive, with 10 extra lives requiring that you watch an advert or wait for a period of time. You can also purchase your way out of this advertising which is a nice option for fans that hate adverts and want to throw some money the developer’s way.

On top of this there’s been updates throughout the game’s life, with new courses being added. Last I looked, the game was up to six. These courses only last about 3 or 4 minutes each, which may not sound like much of a game, but when you consider how hard they are to finish and how much harder it is to finish AND collect all the games, you’ve got something that should keep you busy for some time.

To finish, it’s safe to say that Rolling Sky isn’t revolutionary. It’s exceedingly simple but it’s all done exceedingly well. Well worth a download.


Aurora: Quarantine Review

Aurora: Quarantine Review

Apr 19, 2016

Simply put, Aurora: Quarantine is so easy to get into.

The backstory has a dystopian tinge to it, with a futuristic tale that is interestingly detailed and scarily familiar; the year is 2098, and in response to humans laying waste to resources, new “ecological cities” are created. These are only available to the wealthy though, and in time, a huge gulf between the haves and the have nots is created. In time, the cities have walls and such erected to keep the unwanted folks away.

Within one such city, a resistance group forms, and get a hold of dangerous stuff, and modify it; they use the weapon to annihilate the city, but the weapon has even further-reaching consequences than envisaged. One major fallout: no human can survive going into the city.

In an effort to save the city, the powers that be develop and deploy robots to find an antidote. The mission? Control one spherical robot in a quest to find the materials needed.

Whew.

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Le’s segue to a summary of sorts… it’s a freakin’ enjoyable game. One gets to use one’s finger (or, alternatively, a bluetooth gamepad) to control a sphere, and the idea is to guide the sphere in a series of tasks before completely expending limited resources.

The tasks tie together well, and require the player to due his/her due diligence… it behooves one to look around, and to pay attention to direction arrows, instructions and energy levels. Secondary to that, it makes sense to pick up XP bottles for leveling. One does need to be have a deft hand, and in several ways, the physics creates puzzles.

When it comes to visuals, this game goes all out. It presents a rich #D, landscaped environment, with stark graphics that make excellent use of virtual light. The animations are vivid, and the eye cues do the job of capturing one’s attention.