Trial of Bones Review

Trial of Bones Review

Apr 18, 2014

Man, skeletons are stupid. The undead kind, not the good kind that is just calmly resting inside of our bodies. I mean, animating a skeleton should be about the most difficult thing in magical world, because there’s absolutely no way they could move on their own – and yet, walking skeletons are the most basic enemy a hero can ever meet. Trial of Bones takes it to the next level by making skeletons the sole enemies. Sturdy and dangerous enemies, at that. I don’t want my life to be ended by a pile of calcium – give me real monsters!

Bearing that in mind, Trial of Bones is actually quite good, although it severely lacks content. There’s a short prologue that I frankly can’t remember by now, but the problem at hand is that the main hero is trying to get through a dungeon that is filled with skeletons with the help of his awesome sword, as well as the objects he finds on the way.

Trial of Bones 4Game screen is separated into four lanes, and player can switch the hero between them, trying to kill as many advancing skeletons as possible, before he is himself killed. The skeletons are endless and become more and more challenging to kill, with greater damage and more health. If the hero isn’t fighting a skeleton, his health begins to replenish – but if he evades fighting all the time, then he doesn’t get leveled up and will promptly die at the bony hands of the stronger skeletons. The upgrades that add to the hero’s survivability always come in fours, with an upgrade per lane, meaning the player can pick up only one of them. There are also potions that restore health or give a raise in damage and special expendable weapons that can deal a lot of damage when launched.

Alright, so maybe Trial of Bones doesn’t severely lack content, but I still feel like it’s too repetitive. Maybe it’s because there’s nothing to unlock or reach, so each run is exactly like the previous. Or maybe it’s because there’s no progress to mark, like unlocking new areas and enemies or whatnot. Whatever the case, I think the game feels a lot more repetitive than it should be, because I loved the actual gameplay quite a lot.

Fly Catbug Fly! Review

Fly Catbug Fly! Review

Apr 18, 2014

Fly Catbug Fly 4

This is a game about a cat. Not just any cat – it’s a game about a flying insect cat that collects flying trash. Fly Catbug Fly is a bit close to Flappy Bird, but it’s closer to the old helicopter game that Flappy Bird was ripped off from. Catbug (of Bravest Warriors fame) flies through the never-ending corridor, bordered by solid matter on top and bottom, and has to evade it, as well as some small “islands” in the middle, while collecting trash. The trash consists of truly random items, ranging from old bottles to what to my twisted mind looked suspiciously like dirty toys, to leprechauns. There are portals scattered around the levels, which take the trash from Catbug, and give some cash in return. After picking enough trash, a hyper mode of sorts kicks in and you lose. At least that’s what happen to me all the time.

The background and music changes after a while, and ranges from weird to yet weirder. To be fair, the same can be said about every in-game object. The fun part is that Fly Catbug Fly isn’t even trying to be strange – it’s an endearing little arcade that just happens to be rather insane. There are lots of obtainable paraphernalia, divided into four kinds. First, there’s swag that Catbug can wear and look cuter/even more bizarre. Then there are upgrades that improve Catbug’s health, diving ability that can help evade the sudden dips in the corridor.

Additionally, there are power-ups that are unlocked, and then can be found around the level, like magnets. Finally, there are unlockable people with level-destructing weapons that you can pick up like power-ups, but that hang from under the Catbug and fire their weapons into the level, clearing chunks of it out. It’s not only strange, but also rather counter-productive, as their giant height and explosions actually make it harder to navigate the level, and the only use they have is clearing out the little islands in the middle – and there are several of them, with an option to upgrade each one.

Anyway, apart from the strange armed people, Fly Catbug Fly is pretty neat. It’s just an infinite round of picking up trash and leveling, but it’s quirky and is fun enough to last for some time. If you pick it up, at least play until you see the partying lettuce horse people, and I do believe it’s the first time anyone has typed “partying lettuce horse people”.

Sonic Racing Transformed Review

Sonic Racing Transformed Review

Apr 18, 2014

When it comes to kart racing, Sonic is the man. And the hedgehog. Whatever… Sonic is the consummate console competitor, and he and his friends have done well on mobile devices too. Sonic Racing Transformed is yet another opportunity for us all to see how fast our blue bandit has come on Android OS.

It is an intense game, and definitely not for the spec faint of heart. There are two modes off the bat, Single player and multi player, with the single optioning into the advertised new World Tour. There is also the Weekly Challenge, which allows players to compete for streaks and prizes.

In the World Tour, it’s all about racing as we know Sonic to race. The vehicles are closer to real gear than karts, but the mechanism and feel is still the same. Using optional virtual controls that are nestled in the bottom left sonic1along with the miscellaneous gear counters on other parts of the screen, the idea is to jockey for position, avoid obstacles and deployed weapons while deploying your own to thwart the competition. It’s leveled play, with success in a current level needed to unlock higher levels. One interesting aspect is the ability to play these levels at different difficult levels, with correspondingly different payouts. This makes it possible to have a semi-new feel even after cycling through a few times, as there is a tangibly different feel on different difficult levels.

The basics of Sonic racing are all present; windy, way roads, light play, collectible goodies and more. The different racing environments are a discovery all by themselves, with creative vehicles matching the creative spots. The game employs tasks, and there are rings that can be garnered by placing well. Rings can be used to get the boosts and characters necessary to be successful, but they are in short supply.

The multi-player option allows for folks to compete with others, local and otherwise. While the game is stated to be compatible with third-party controllers, I didn’t get an opportunity to use one.

It’s a fun piece of software; there are in-app purchases, even after purchase, but it does pack a lot of play in its fine-tuned raceways.

Instantion Review

Instantion Review

Apr 17, 2014

Where is Dolly the Sheep when one needs her? Instation brings cloning to Android, and the replicated pieces make even the best line dancers look quaint by comparison.

The gameplay is leveled; in this one, we get a blue, somewhat luminescent running being, intent on doing what most platform side-scrolling runners want to do: run from left to right. The scenery had a touch of the futuristic tinged with a the ominous feel one gets from the occasional red lasers and bright obstacles that add context to game functions.

In its simplest form, the running creature meets obstacles. There is a jump button, direction buttons and an interaction button, with last being useful to toggle gates open or to assemble bridges. There are also green step instant1pads that also toggle gates open and shut. As the gameplay unfolds, the obstacles get trickier; what is one to do do when the switch for a bridge is on other side?

Here’s where cloning becomes valuable. Our humanoid has the ability to create exact copies of itself when fully charged, and the clones can be placed (via intricate and sometimes infuriating sighting process) where they need to be as long as the point is not too far away.

The interesting part is how the humanoid and the clones act; they do everything in unison… jumping, running left or right… everything the “true” unit does is mimicked in time simultaneously by the clones, unless restricted by an object or obstacle. This adds a completely different feel to the gameplay, especially in further levels. For example, the aforementioned energy fields reduce clones even when only the main unit goes through them. At one point, solving the puzzle of advancement means inching back and forth, while allowing obstacles to adjust the natural movement of the clones, until the target can be reached without going through the laser.

Finishing a level quickly is the goal, and each run is graded.

It comes together quite nicely, even if I think the game could do with a tutorial, as I spent some time spinning my wheels.

Puzzles. Running. Teleporters. Multiples. Welcome to gaming in the 21st century.

Disco Zoo Review

Disco Zoo Review

Apr 16, 2014

Disco Zoo is somewhat of an all-rounder. It’s chunky pixels are the perfect call to the joys contained within.

One of the biggest attributes of the game is the more-or-less logical flow. It is a management sim, and as such, there are resources, and a need to spend those resources wisely to expand.

As the tutorial cycles through, the player gets a bank of coins, which is useful to procure the vehicles and animals needed to make the gameplay work. Some elements are linked; for example, buying one hot air balloon unlocks the farm, and other unlocks and upgrades are affected by other factors such as number of animals and such.

And procuring animals to keep zoo animals patron paying for acess and tips is ultimately the name of the game. The first step is to “rescue” the animals from different habitats, but different habitats need different vehicles. Thedisco1 aforementioned hot air balloon is the bottom tier vehicle, and good for simple animals. To get more exotic animals, a better flying vehicle is needed to get to the outback, for instance. Well, to get that money to get the better vehicle, one needs to rescue the easy local ones.

Rescuing is a whole new element in and of itself; basically, there is a grid made up of smaller squares, and the operation plays out like reverse Minesweeper: locate the animals hidden underneath before running out of tries. To rescue a kangaroo, for instance, there are four kangaroo images hidden in a standard order; getting all four in ten tries gains the animal, which in turn gains money for the zoo operation. To move on to savanna animals, more money is needed, and so on. There are also coins to be gained from these searches. As new animals are garnered, more of the zoo is developed to accommodate them.

The game is enjoyable because it doesn’t require real cash, though it can be used if needed; there’s even the option to watch ads to get extra rescue attempts. The animals yield payouts every so often, and the rate can be increased by rescuing more of the same type. Animals go to sleep, and have to me wakened to earn money, but Disco Events can be organized (for a cost) that not only keep the animals awake, but yield more coins.

It’s an engaging game; it does require some amount of attention, and feels overly easy in parts, but it’s a fun game that can be tailored to fit individual and changing interest levels

Astray Review

Astray Review

Apr 15, 2014

With wearables and smartphones hitting the next level, and hardware components that are beginning to match standalone counterparts, games like Astray are inevitable. Or at least, they should be.

Astray is an interesting, augmented reality-assisted labyrinth game that touches on some interesting gameplay elements. The game walkthrough underscores some of the highlights, and ties in the important aspects together.

It would be a disservice to not lead with the fact that Astray is a 3D labyrinth game at heart; there is the maze, the metal sphere and the target location. The environment could be described as vaguely medieval, with a relatively well designed background imagery. Labyrinth core concepts are present: obstacles, gates and such. The dangers include stuff like colored portals that end the level unsuccessfully if the sphere falls into them.

The key part of the game is the picture; indeed, the gameplay starts with image acquisition. The first part of astray1setting up a game is taking a flat object (a piece of paper, a large envelope, etc.) and getting it within the program sights. It gives a visual score of how good the image is (with three stars being the best), and then, the game uses the object as a movable part of the game. The trick is that instead of moving the device, you keep it stationary, and use the underlying paper to guide the sphere to the right hole. Progress is timed, and solving one puzzle opens the next.

The game is well thought out idea. However, in practice, some things felt a bit weird. One thing was the picture taking mechanism; it seemed quite picky. The other issue is that by default, I ended up holding two things in the air with each hand, which can be uncomfortable over time, especially since I was using a tablet.

This is one game that I feel is worth waiting for, and the developers seem responsive (having already fixed a gripe I had in the last update). It’s free and interesting; how can one not like it?

Big kudos with regards to the musical score, one of which I understand was performed on a penny whistle by the lead developer.

Lost Light Review

Lost Light Review

Apr 15, 2014

Lost Light is a game from Disney with a familiar feel that sill manages to surprise in a pleasant way

It’s a matching game with a twist. Instead of matching by color as a lot do, Lost Light puzzles the player by incorporating numbers into leveled gameplay, with success at the opener of further levels.

The tutorial lays it out with its helpful squirrel by going through some of the sequences and playing methodology. The playing area has a darkish background, with numbered squares rising to the top gradually from the bottom. Using gestures, one looks to swipe groups of numbered squares to dissolve them as long as needed; if the column makes it to the top, the level is failed, so even if the the wanted sequence isn’t available, blasting squares to prevent the column from getting to the top might be good strategy from time to time. lost1

With regards to the gestures, swiping adjacent sets of the numbers is the general idea. If the game spits out a “4″ to collect, the player must then swipe through four lines of adjacent four squares to meet the goal. As the levels progress, the challenges (and associated time limit) get a bit tighter, with sequences that become a bit more varied. Of course, quick thinking and pinpoint connections are needed. There was the one where a point threshold has to be met in a set time. I loved the occasional ability to multi-swipe past the number needed to do more at once (this almost needs to be done to be understood).

There are powerups to help with the arcade feel.

All in all, it’s a simple game with plenty of puzzling and potential strategizing that makes it worth the sub-$2.00 price. Unfortunately, the game information states not all levels are free, which might cause some consternation, but it’s a good game nonetheless.

Lyne Review

Lyne Review

Apr 15, 2014

Lyne is just what the doctor ordered.

The gameplay provides what I would describe as a gentle challenge over increasingly difficult levels. Matching and connecting are the root elements of the game, but even more enjoyable is the puzzle-solving aspect.

This is one of those games that is best explained by actually playing it. The opening helpers are especially brief, but do give an idea of the control set and playing methods. Basically, there are similarly shaped 2D objects (squares, diamonds and triangles) in the grid that comprises the posting area; matching like colors by swipe gestures completes the riddle.

It gets trickier when multiple colors/shapes are in the grid. At this point, the “end” units become more apparent; these are white-dotted pieces that more-or-less start and end the swiping motion, and their are guiding paths to lyne1help frame the allowed movement, and swipes light up the paths. Crisscrossed swipes are not allowed, and the game engine gradually gets more complex to force thought to be applied to solutions.

Soon, light blue octagon “junctions” (as I refer to them) begin to appear. The junctions have jokes in them, and can be helpful in bridging matching shapes, but all the available holes need to be filled for the puzzle to be solved. In this, the junction units bring the game a whole new, engaging angle without overly changing the general gameplay; figuring out how to double back within the rules and get through a junction piece the required number of times can be quite battle.

When a level is complete, the pieces flash bright white, and more levels are opened; levels can be repeated infinitely. this easy pace is yet another enjoyable aspect.

For the easy-going gamer, Lyne is an answered prayer. It’s a lullaby that relaxes without knocking one out, and is able to toe the delicate line of calm and challenging without tipping over into boring and infuriating.

It’s $2.50 on the Play Store.

Dead End Review

Dead End Review

Apr 14, 2014

Zombies have become a gaming mainstay. With good reason too; they are the perfect adversary, as they’re stinky, they walk funny and tend to crave weird things to eat. In the inevitable zombie apocalypse, we are all gonna have to find innovative ways to dispatch the undead, and Dead End provides us with a cool, relatively painless way of doing it.

The first thing one should notice in this game is the interestingly zany artwork. It hearkens back to a time of the Big Red Machine and when John Travolta made a living on the dance floor. The 70s motif is especially reflected in the reversed reddish monochromes that the gameplay is bathed in.

The gameplay itself is as simple as it gets. The player is in a vehicle, and using optional tilt controls or dead1virtual direction buttons, the overriding goal is to take out as many zombie jay-walkers as possible to score points; different types have different point values. To counter this, there are different types of road hazards — stuff like spikes in the road and strewn debris — that reduce the motility of the driven vehicle. Running over zombies usually leads to splatter on the windscreen that blocks vision, a swipe gesture activates wipers.

So, at the base level, a lot of quick reflexes are needed to make the most of the runs. Challenges are incorporated, using things like distances, combos and money spent. I liked that the developer flips these challenges around further on, and makes players go distances without hitting zombies. In and of themselves, the challenges should provide plenty of enjoyment.

Crushing the zombies yields cash, and cash can be used to upgrade the car. Upgrades are valuable as they increase vehicle attributes and also provide exhaustible boosts. These definitely come in handy with regards to the missions.

All in all, the game comes together well, and has many hidden elements. It’s a worthy freemium game, and 99c unlocks the full game.

Polar Bowler Review

Polar Bowler Review

Apr 14, 2014

There are bowling games, and there are bowling games. Polar Bowler looks to NOT be your momma’s bowling simulation, and at first blush, it does well at being the renegade.

In a post-Angry Birds world, the initial element of catapulting animals will be fairly familiar. In this one, our genial bear, PB, straps himself on a tub of sorts, and with the help of a massive human-sized slingshot, becomes just the bowling ball that the curiously laid out set of bowling pins need.

The graphics are fairly sharp, quite representative of a polar atmosphere with a lot od whites and blues making up the landscape. The 3D representations are mostly reasonable, and are buttressed adequately by the animations. The control set involves gesture pulling and the occasional taps. The controls are a big part of the gameplay; to get PB in motion, “pulling back” and releasing in the direction of the pins is necessary. There are direction buttons pol1on each side of the play area that allow for the sling to be adjusted before the shot, and to also alter the direction of the already launched bear.

One aspects that makes the game unique is how the sets of pins are laid out. A typical level could have an initial set of pins, and another set or two in different areas that need some sort of finagling to get to; the basic idea is to knock down a set number of pins to advance.

The game has plenty of power-ups, some from wood cases that show up in the playing area, and others that are bonus grabs, or can be purchased with coins garnered from playing. The power-ups are stuff called tubes that can be selected prior to a run… stuff like pin magnets or extra jet power.

Yep, it’s fun. Some might balk at the additional in-app purchases after paying, but even as-is, it doesn’t feel like a wasted 99c.

Golfy Bird Review

Golfy Bird Review

Apr 11, 2014

Okay, I admit it. I really didn’t want to have a go at Golfy Bird. I mean, it is from Noodlecake, yes, which is almost always a positive. Still, it sounds suspiciously like The App That Was Pulled that we deign not mention by name. Frankly, the clones that popped up were somewhat depressing, and I even winced at real birds for a spell.

I was wrong.

Golfy Bird is its own person, and it’s somebody that might be very easy to like, and even fall in love with.

The graphics are appealing, in that they are fairly familiar, with a tint of retro that works. It is first and foremost a golf game, so the 2D graphics that highlight interestingly designed golf greens are expected. The animations are useful, and the whole visual representation is far from flashy, which I think is a good thing. If the courses look familiar, you’re not mistaken; they are based off of the courses in Noodlecake’s Super Stickman Golf 2 game.golfy1

As already noted, it’s a golf game — the idea is to pocket the bird in the holes with the least number of taps. To do this, the controls needed are a left movement button and a right movement button; tapping on them moves the button in the corresponding direction, while continuous, close-interval taps cause the bird-ball to go airborne in the corresponding direction, and it remains airborne and moving. The holes start out easy, and then get harder, with obstacles, bounces and combinations becoming integral. I thought the game could dearly use a zoom mechanism to cut out some guesswork, but the holes can be replayed, which is of some consolation.

The game employs a similar “scoring” system as to that made ubiquitous by Angry Birds, in that there are thresholds of success. If one makes it in the par number, one passes with bronze. A few shots less? Silver… and so on. The game play is leveled, and stars (which are accumulated by finishing holes) are the currency to get into the 30+ successive courses. To remove ads in this freemium game, a 99c in-app purchase is required.

I don’t always fall in love with games, but when I do, I fall in love with games like Golfy Bird. Give it a shot to find out why.

Mikey Hooks Review

Mikey Hooks Review

Apr 10, 2014

Mark my words…

There might be a zillion RPGs, and countless board games, and twice as many hidden objects games… no matter the time frame, or the medium of gaming, there will always be a place for arcade action gaming.

Always.

Mikey Hooks, which comes to us via platform heavyweight Noodlecake Studios and BeaverTap Games, is just one of those games, and I admit that I had pretty much decided to like it at first glance.

It is a 2D platform game, and the general concept is to move rightwards, avoid the obstacles, pick up the goodies and survive till the end of the level. Visually, it’s not as outwardly festive at the beginning as preceding title Mikey Shorts; the scenery here feels a bit darker versus the initial outdoorsy look of the predecessor, but the concept is the same: people need rescuin’, and rescuin’ (with aplomb) is what Mikey is all about.

The initial frame gives a decent idea of the gameplay and how to use the given controls; there iare two direction mik1buttons that guide our hero in either direction, and there is a red jump button and a blue slide button. When double tapped, he red button initiates a bigger jump, and when there is a large gulf and a hook present, double tapping then holding the red button allows Mikey to use a special rope to swing from one end to the other, Tarzan-style. There is gold and hearts lives to be collected by contact, but some are placed precariously.

The obstacles and dangers are plenty and varied; spiked animated objects and walls; some parts of the play area move, so timing is a huge part of success. Finishing a level is not enough; the faster the better, because these obstacle courses are timed, and stars are awarded based on speed.

The in-app shop is full of extras to buy… heads ropes and more.

I thought the controls could be a bit more refined, and I would have liked more bi-directional action and time bonuses. All in all, its familiar, but still loads of fun, and can be as involving as one lets it.