Gravity Duck Islands Review

Gravity Duck Islands Review

Feb 21, 2017

It’s a rough and tumble world, and plenty of mobile games that mimic it. Battling, strategy… heck, even simulated “reality” games. Pick your poison, eh?

Still, there are times when we all wanna just be like the Commodores on a weekend day… this one just about gets you hummin’.

At first rip, Gravity Duck Islands looks and feels like your regular platformer. The cavernous pathways, gaps to jump and the the like allow it feel familiar out the gate; the core idea, presented in leveled fashion, is to avoid all the potential stoppers and get from the entrance door to the stage-ending exit.

The obstacles start out being relatively easy, and start getting harder by type and manifestation: endless gullies, good old lethal spikes, animals and more. To navigate his, first, we have a the ubiquitous jump button; there is also movement buttons that allow you to control the left/right movement of our protagonist duck. Running with the jump button creates a leap and all that hood stuff.

But the main gimmick in this game is the gravity button. This allows the player to literally simulate the reversal of gravity — the ground becomes the ceiling and vice versa. Now, it’s a fine tool from the get-go, as it becomes apparent from the first level that it is impossible to move on without looking to switch perspective and path to a fixed piece of play area.

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And the challenge then becomes timing jumps, gravity swaps and avoiding obstacles, while collecting collectibles and moving on. As you move on in the game, you will discover that our traveling duck does have a few more tricks up it’s wing feathers, like the ability o engorge itself with air like a balloon, and a funky teleporting skill.

It comes together fairly nicely, and overall, it’s a relatively enjoyable experience. premium, one-time pricing with no ads is the cherry on top.

Fire Emblem Heroes Review

Fire Emblem Heroes Review

Feb 20, 2017

Nintendo are under some serious scrutiny with their foray into the mobile game scene. Most other publishers can fart out a Flappy Bird clone and no one would think twice but this is Nintendo. Ninty. The House of Mario. Big N. They have standards and a reputation to keep (and a new console to launch) so it’s important that they do things right.

Miitomo aside and ignoring Pokemon GO (which they didn’t make), Fire Emblem Heroes is Nintendo’s first ‘proper’ game to launch on Android (Super Mario Run, where are you?). I’m pleased to say that it’s a success in many, many regards yet it also shows a naivety towards the mobile gaming scene in how it handles IAPs.

Before I get too ahead of myself, let’s explain what Fire Emblem Heroes is. Well, it’s a turn-based strategy game based on the hugely popular Fire Emblem series. Never heard of Fire Emblem? Well, that’s on you – because it is hugely popular. Honest.

The scenario is pure fantasy, dragons and magic fare. Fire Emblem games often boil down to wizards and kings becoming evil or fighting evil or wanting to be rulers of evil. So the story’s not important in the Fire Emblem world, what is important is the mechanic of how you build up an array of characters to go into battle with.

You see, the Fire Emblem games are filled with hundreds of unique characters and the thing that makes Fire Emblem stand out is that these characters can die. Die, die. As in the ‘this character got killed and we know you spent 20 hours leveling her up but she’s dead’ kind of die.

Pretty savage.

Now, Fire Emblem Heroes does away with the ‘proper dead’ mechanic but it is full of the titular heroes and more heroes are being added through updates. Not only has the Fire Emblem’s death mechanic been softened but so has everything else. Console Fire Emblem games can have sprawling battle maps and have you take a large number of units into battle.unnamed-2

Fire Emblem Heroes strips all of this back and has you take only 4 characters into the fight, with the battlefield being a single screen map. This works really well though, as it means that battles are over within a couple of minutes. The combat also has a fairly simple ‘rock-paper-scissors’ strength and weakness system involving spears, swords and axes. It’s straightforward but it’s fast-paced and really enjoyable.

What’s a bit of a let down is the IAPs and the rest of the systems that exist outside of battles. The issue is that there’s shard, crystals, feathers, orbs, dueling swords and a stamina bar to keep track of. It’s more convoluted than it needs to be and it makes levelling up your character more of a pain than it needs to be.

The IAPs need to be called out in particular as they are such a miss it’s unbelievable. Essentially, the only thing you can buy in this game is ‘orbs’. These orbs are used to summon new heroes and they’re the key to getting your favourite characters from previous Fire Emblem games into your party. It takes 5 orbs to summon a character and it costs £1.99 for 3 orbs. 3 orbs are practically worthless. They can’t be used for anything good, so it means that, at a minimum, you’re going to spend £4 just to get a new character, at random.

When you take into consideration the chances of getting a good character (4 stars or better) are 43%. This is an absolutely shocking value proposition, so it’s handy that the game dishes out tons of orbs for completing missions. Which then leaves you wondering just how Nintendo plan on making money off this thing? Who’s buying these orbs?

Obviously someone is – with reports that the game’s already made over $5 million since launch. Still, that’s a topic for another time. This is a review and I’ve got to say I’m impressed with the game. It’s bitesize fighting with just enough tactical challenge.


Raft Survival Review

Raft Survival Review

Feb 20, 2017

Survival is the name of the game in Raft Survival.

The game starts with a bit of dramatic flair; you, the player, comes to on a raft. In the middle of endless ocean, no less. The entire world is taken in in first person perspective. The way the distance blends into fog is well done, and the water and wooden floating structure play the role of central characters rather amiably.

The game doesn’t do much by way of introductory pointers, but a lot of it is intuitive. A lot of debris (wood, grass, metal (yes, metal) and barrels float by; in your inventory, there is a hook. The beginning idea is to use the hook to drag in the floating materials. Why, you ask? To craft other valuable tools, of course.

The barrels are the great catches, as they carry a lot of goodies. When enough stuff is procured, when can ten make stuff like fishing rods, water purifiers, axes, and more to make one’s lonesomeness a bit more palatable.

The idea is to build, stay alive and avoid the gruesome-looking shark. Staying in the water too long is deadly, as is, say, not replenishing the drinkable water quickly enough. With a bit gumption, the goal is buid an ocean house with walls, windows and even floors, and to eat and drink. And thwart the shark.

It is is an interesting idea, and comes together relatively well — ocean survival, in essence.

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To be fair, there are plenty of games with this general concept, and with good reason: it’s a fun, waterborne survival adventure. Still, this particular one has some interesting quirks that hold it back a bit.

There are some graphical occurrences that defy the laws of physics, and there are other visuals that twist the imagination somewhat. Then, there are a few glitches, like not being able to switch tools, or a particular one not working as intended.

My biggest whine is the absence of of a tutorial. Now, I actually don’t mind exploring games on my own, and this one certainly lends itself to that, but I think it would be helpful to have one in this particular game. The trailer (below) is okay but hardly sufficient.

And then… those ads, sir. A premium ad-free unlock would be dearly welcome.

All in all, it still manages to be a fun diversion. It’s a simple crafting adventure, and doesn’t try to be too much more — to its credit.

War Wings Review

War Wings Review

Feb 20, 2017

When it comes to action games, few genres beat the trusty aerial shoot-em ups. In any case, we still want to be wowed, so Sixjoy’s new game War Wings does have a lot to live up to.

Yep, it’s a slick affair from a visual, uh, point of view; the presentation is well done, with a great use of color. The animations really bring the game to life, and the accompanying sound is excellent.

To start out, you get to pick from a, well, lowly rated plane; the game then takes you in on a hands-on tutorial. This tutorial is helpful with regards to using the controls (the game allows the player to pick tilt, virtual buttons or external bluetooth controller). After that, it leads you on a couple of game-like missions.

Beyond the training, the actual gameplay comes in three more flavors: multiplayer, season and a challenge mode. For the most part, the action boils down to a lot of dogfighting; in the multiplayer, one gets to play with other players in teams set via the game servers. It takes a while to get used to stuff, but it comes together well. Trying to shoot while being shot at is pretty fun.

One thing that makes the game enjoyable is the inclusion of different play modes; with this, you can become as involved as you like. Wanna quick shot? Here. Season action? Check. Training? Oh yeah. The game can be very involved, so it’s a good idea to serve up different servings of playable action.

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Another aspect I like is the control mechanism. The default is quite intuitive, and gives the game a degree of realism despite the simplicity. As noted, the action can be controlled in several ways, and the gamepad support is especially fantastic.

The upgrade aspect feels a bit busy, but again, it does help with the realism.

The IAPs weren’t too invasive; we were able to get plenty of play without spending real money. However, we did take advantage of some free goodies, and yes, the game does pick up a good deal with them.

Corpse Party BLOOD DRIVE EN Review

Corpse Party BLOOD DRIVE EN Review

Feb 6, 2017

We love our exploration games, and Corpse Party BLOOD DRIVE (from 5pb) is one we’ve been keeping an eye on.

It’s been two months since the “Book of Shadows” incident — for those keeping tabs on the storyline, this refers to the events Corpse Party Book of Shadows. Now, the player takes on the persona of our heroine, who has to return to a world with a familiar faces completely erased erased.

The visuals are an interesting blend: on the one hand, we get the anime characterizations and cutscenes that make it easy to delve into the game; on the other hand, the panicked splotches of blood (along with screamy outbursts) do make for an eerie counterbalance. Visually, it comes across as a horror experience that isn’t overly horrific at first.

The game controls translate well; it’s easy to figure out illumination and how to run. The game fits in pointers through the lengthy intro, so that when the action really starts, it’s easy to feel comfortable with the game mechanics.

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And lengthy the intro is. Wow. I caught myself wishing I could fast forward through the bulk of it. It does well to frame the action, but there is a lot of dead space.

The main action boils down to a lot of point and click action. The narrative is compelling, with plenty of apprehensive turns. The game does demand a bit of patience, and with this type pf game, that is perfectly okay.

It’s a great concept, but the connecting dialogue feels convoluted in parts; it is tough to pay attention to the side content while seemingly looking to move on in the game. The black scenes are great, but again, I feel a bit of moderation is what would make them resonate.

When it finally gets going, it does manage to keep one’s digits going, but the in-between grate on the nerves more than a bit. In the end, that’s what matters.

WWE Champions Free Puzzle RPG Review

WWE Champions Free Puzzle RPG Review

Jan 31, 2017

Truly, we didn’t know what to expect with WWE Champions Free Puzzle RPG. I mean, it’s WWE, so there’s going to at least be a suplex or two, no?

Ah… not so fast.

From looks standpoint, it has a bunch of comfortable characters. It isn’t too glitzy, and the stars themselves look a bit whimsical. The animations are decent, and the other visual pieces are quite well done. The game plays in portrait.wwe3

The game launches with The Rock — and, seriously, no one is better — leading the tutorial. You’re the team manager, and here’s the opportunity to lead WWE superstars to victory.

By now, you must have figured it out: this is a match-3 game. Come again? Yep, this is all about manipulating pieces for points.

The game leads you to a grid with gems of different colors. The idea is to, of course, make matches by gesture swap. Making matches dissolves the gems and yields power.

And here is where the main gimmick really reveals itself: the gems power WWE stars… wrestling WWE stars. Said fighters are above the grid of gems; every time you make a match of three (or more) horizontally or vertically, the star you are managing is able to perform some action against the opponent.

And then there are some special cases. Matching specific colors unleash specific moves. Combos are always great. There are special move cards that can be charged, and everything is geared towards dealing enough damage to be able to pin the opponent.

Now, a great element is the defense. When a pin is attempted, the defending wrestler gets three opportunities to match three gems to generate enough energy to kick out. If not, match is over.

The RPG part is pretty involved. Winning yields coin (and more, like more superstars and XP), and the game money can be used to improve one’s stars, which is important. There is a collaborative online mode, and other aspects that make the game fun.

There are opportunities to use real cash to expedite processes.

All in all, an engaging, atypical “wrestling” game. Not bad.

AB Blast Review

AB Blast Review

Jan 31, 2017

Alrighty, AB Bast is yet another Angry Birds game.

But can you blame them? The flippin’ green pigs just won’t stop.

The game should look familiar to anyone who has played a Rovio game — and at this point,who hasn’t? High definition graphics, liberal use of color and very whimsical characterizations. A lot of the constituents will be familiar too, which can be good or bad for some.

Controls? Taps just about all through.ab3

The main gist of the game is that the troublesome pigs are at it again; this time, they have trapped the birds in balloons. This translates to a portrait-orientation game, with a wooden frame housing balloons that are replenished endlessly from the bottom as some of them are popped.

Freeing the birds entails popping groups of multiple same colored adjacent balloons; one balloon can’t be popped, but at least two touching can. When they are popped, the birds physically fly out to freedom.

The first few levels are just about that: freeing the birds. The goal might be to,say, free 7 blue birds. Okay… did we mention that there is a move limit? Yes, you only get so many taps to get to the requisite 7 birds. The idea is to then tap groups (or, strategically pop others to manipulate such groupings) until the count meter is down to zero. In true Angry Birds fashion, we have the three-star scoring mechanism: completing with less taps is always good.

There are boosts to use,and as with other aspects, strategy comes in handy here.

As more levels are opened, the game does gets more complex — and more interesting. Soon, some of the elements from the original slingshot games (like crystal structures) make an appearance. Pigs? Yessir; there are levels where beating them up and defeating them by contact is the goal. These are pretty engaging.

In the end, AB Blast is a bubble popper. There is an energy requirement, but there are in-game tools (like video watching) that can help you avoid in-app purchases.

Pokémon Duel Review

Pokémon Duel Review

Jan 31, 2017

It’s a Pokémon world. You and I just live in it.

Yes, that insane Pokémon GO is still turning heads it seems, and on the heel of that, we should expect more games to take advantage of the mindshare. In Pokemon Duel, we get that: the lovable creatures set to a digitized tabletop game that is made for duels.

The true essence of Pokémon, no?

There’s backstory too. Look, you (the player) are taking part in the — wait for it — the “Pokemon Figure Game World Championship” at Carmonte Island. The grand prize? A skyscraper known as the Jewel Tower.pd3

The game has a tutorial that introduces folks the the gameplay basics and the visuals that make up the game. To begin, the games gives you a “Duel Set” (figures and plates) and a mask, and then walks you through a shadow match of sorts.

There are different gameplay modes: local multiplayer, online duels and even the ability to be a spectator at featured duels.

After the tutorial, the game is open for the taking. If you pick the online duel, the play opens up just as is shown in the tutorial: you get a set of Pokemon pieces and plates; the game selects an opponent, and the match is set.The main idea is to get to the goal of the opposing player before he/she/AI can do the same to you. Whoever gets there first wins the match and earns goodies and XP.

What makes it stand out is the nature of the gameplay; there is a decent amount of depth. It comes across as a less glamorous form of chess, and the ad hoc battling (involving spinning wheels and other elements) is a nice twist. Different pieces have different abilities, and the game adds in fusing and leveling. It does involve strategy, and the different modes help keep it fresh.

In retrospect, the tutorial feels detailed, but probably won’t be nearly enough to get a good understanding of the game. Thankfully, there is a training portal that uses challenges to help bridge the gap; the game becomes much more enjoyable much quicker with this.

If PVP is not you’re thing (or you’ve had enough of blasted rattatas), this one might fall flat. One can spend real money, but it’s possible to enjoy without.

Or… you could try this, bounce around the leagues and be a beast. Hey now…

RealMyst Review

RealMyst Review

Jan 30, 2017

Wow…

It’s a beautiful environment, distinctly island-y, with quiet paths,stone outcropping and interesting looking buildings.Go forward? Backwards?

Hmmm…

This is pretty much how realMyst, the classic PC-borne puzzle game, unveils itself on Android.

And yes, the visuals are the a great intro. The graphics do underscore the PC roots, with plenty of attention to detail in the varied environments. Sunlight cuts to darkness appropriately, and the fantastic objects almost adopt a ring of truth. The game is all about discovery and exploration, and the game eye candy is clearly privy to this. The game is taken in in first person, just as it is in the original iterations.

The default controls make use of touchscreens, and the in-game helper gets one going fairly quickly; in short order, one learns how to move forward, normally and at pace, as well as going backwards. Swinging one’s view up and down and from side-to-side is fairly intuitive.

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The action gets going. Immediately. Right from the start, the player is invited to move around, and interact with objects. Nothing is too obvious; one has to take in information, and look for patterns, and, every now and then, double back to find something missed. The puzzles are quite interesting; without playing spoiler, it pays to pay attention to shiny things and buttons. As already noted, exploration is the name of the game, and there are several mechanical solutions that become apparent when sequences are figured out.

It comes together quite well. It doesn’t deviate too far from the source ports, and the puzzles do provide a good deal of challenge. The combination of artwork and fantasy tales work well together, and the narrative is pretty decent. There are achievements to garner, and the game even packs an onboard guide (psst: if you get stuck, there are walkthroughs online. I think).

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Still, those controls probably could be tweaked a bit, and the unilateral nature of solving puzzles might be a bit of a drag.

Nontheless, this is a fun one. It is very easy to get into, and the relaxing nature of the game is a great draw.

Tap Titans 2 Review

Tap Titans 2 Review

Jan 30, 2017

Another clicker game? Why do I do this to myself? Good clicker games will simply hook into the part of the brain that creates habits and will keep you playing even if you don’t want to. Bad clicker games are beyond dull and offer no gameplay whatsoever. There’s no way to win when clicker games are involved.

Except – this time it’s different. Honest. This time I’m playing Tap Titans 2 and this time the game is really… good? Who am I kidding? Tap Titans 2 is good in the same way that a Big Mac* is good. You know it’s bad for you but damn it’s tasty.

What makes Tap Titans 2 so tasty? Well, for a start, it’s absolutely loaded with carrots. They’re dangling everywhere you look and there’s just so much to unlock. There’s a daily login bonus, there’s tons of ‘allies’ to unlock, upgrade and each of them has skills to unlock, there’s items to find and equip, there’s artifacts to unlock, there’s skills to learn there’s…unnamed-31

There’s a lot going on and it would be easy for Tap Titans 2 to fail in expressing what everything does. It doesn’t fail and in fact one of the strengths of Tap Titans 2 is the fact that it’s so easy to see what’s happening with each tap and with each unlock. Some unlocks make your taps stronger, some will make monsters drop more gold, some will boost your allies’ strength and it’s simple to figure out. Bottom line is that whilst you have the app open and you’re tapping away, you’re never more than a couple of seconds away from being able to unlock, upgrade or equip something new.

The gameplay itself is nothing special. It is, after all, a clicker game. All of these unlocks and abilities do nothing more than make small numbers turn into bigger numbers. You start off earning 100 gold for each kill but soon earn 100 million. You begin doing 1 damage per tap and quickly start doing 1 trillion.

But it’s all done so well. The graphics are sharp and characters are well animated. There’s tons of content, with lots of different enemy types and locations to work through and at the heart of it all there’s just an unforgiving number of ‘hooks’. Hooks that keep you playing, hooks that convince you to open up the app every day and hooks that make you want to get to the next level. I’ve not even mentioned the fact you can join clans.

Tap Titans 2 isn’t a great game but it is an outstanding clicker. It will reward you for doing nothing more than tapping mindlessly at your phone. But boy do those rewards feel good.

*This only makes sense if you enjoy a Big Mac from time to time. Insert your own junk food / guilty pleasure here


Imprint-X Review

Imprint-X Review

Jan 30, 2017

We were probably more eager than usual to finally be able to play imprint-X, a new game from Morgondag; with its recent release we finally got our chance.

The artwork is exceptionally zany, borderline ethereal. It uses a lot of dark backgrounds with delicate pastels, and this backdrop allows the depiction of the core machine-ish objects to really stand out.

The gameplay backstory is a geek’s dream, if a bit busy. Bad nanobots called wardens are hurting people, and the player takes on the persona of a “hacker clones” that can free infected brains; this then boils down to solving puzzles in real life.

The intro cutscenes are long and creative. It might not really help with eventual gameplay, but this sequence is a nice touch. With regards to controls, it’s mostly about tapping.

And gameplay? It’s leveled, and it begins with the presentation of a sequence puzzle. Most levels begin with an interesting looking structure with buttons. Now, the idea is to figure out the correct sequence to free the mind. When one level is solved, another is open.

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The puzzles start out pretty easy, but as one goes on, they do get more challenging, and even a bit more engaging. Now, memory really plays a part with regards with potential success, because if one hits the wrong button, one has to backtrack and remember the previous button presses while finding a new series to press. Keep your eye on the prize; those light flashes run quick!

And it is isn’t just a monotonous set of button presses; there are interesting sets that test reaction time as well. Nifty.

The game has a sedate feel to it, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea; the somewhat slow beginning and amorphous intro are, well, different. Going in further does fulfill a lot of the game’s promise, and there are a lot of brain and dexterity teasers to keep one busy for some time.

Overtake Review

Overtake Review

Jan 30, 2017

I’m all for simplicity. I’m always impressed when a game can be fun and engaging when all it asks you to do it tap on the screen, learn one or two rules and doesn’t require you to play an hour long tutorial.

In this regard, I suppose, Overtake : Car Traffic Racing is something of a success. It’s blindingly simple. You are a car, you go forward and you try not to crash into other cars. Simple.

This is about as far as I can when trying to praise this game. The simplicity on offer is then let down by pretty much everything else. Firstly, the controls. At the start of each run you get to choose if you want to tile your phone to steer or if you want on-screen buttons. Whilst playing the game I found neither particularly responsive enough to avoid the oncoming traffic, which led to collisions.

Collisions are awful. Instead of looking like tons of metal colliding into one another it instead resembles two dry sponges bouncing off each other. Often a collision won’t be enough to end your run, as the run only finished when your car’s health gauge reaches zero. This means that the collision has now pointed you in the wrong direction, leaving you to right yourself using the previously mentioned awful turning mechanics.

Maybe I’m just not good at the game? Maybe I need to unlock a better car? Maybe you’re right. What isn’t right is the way the game locks everything behind paywalls or asks you to grind for hours to unlock anything. New cars and new tracks will take an absolute age to work towards and their IAP prices are pretty tough to swallow.

Add to the mix the fact you have randomly appearing adverts. After some runs, an advert will fill the screen. After some returns to the main menu and advert will fill the screen. You get no rewards for these adverts and they’re intrusive.

And that’s pretty much all there is to the game. There’s 3 ‘modes’, but they just alter the direction of the traffic you’re driving past. The game is nothing more than a series of dodging challenges but with some bad steering controls. There’s different tracks to race on but they don’t change the game in any meaningful way.

Overtake is boring, controls badly and offers no variation to its poor gameplay. It looks quite nice, I suppose, with some well modeled 3D cars. That’s about the nicest thing I can say about Overtake. It has some nice car models. Avoid it.