Game of Thrones Review

Game of Thrones Review

Mar 27, 2015

Telltale Games? Game of Thrones six-part game? Bring it on.

The game story picks up right before the infamous Red Wedding (and if you haven’t seen the gory spectacle, you might want to, if only to watch the interesting reaction videos that spawned on YouTube). The game focuses on the adventures of House Forrester, which most show fans may not recognize, as it’s a minor House with Northern allegiances. The decimation that occurs in the Red Wedding put House Forrester in a precarious situation that frames the gameplay.

In this game, we get to roam and alternate in the person of three characters. While the core Houses of the actua franchise are not the main ones here, we do get to enjoy cameos in action and voice. The narrative is fairly involved, and one might be forgiven for getting lost in the opening interactions. Thankfully, as the action starts, it gets busy enough. The game employ some Choose Your Own Adventure elements via the use of multiple choice dialogue boxes; picking any one choice affects upcoming action. It also incorporates a control mechanism that affects the game within the action; for example, swiping up can be the difference between raising a held shield or getting perforated by arrows. When such action symbols occur, one has to react quickly or suffer a (usually) painful ending.

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It must be said, it isn’t a game for the faint of heart… or ears or eyes, for that matter. The language is raw in parts, and there is a lot of involuntary loss of body fluids of the red variety. The artwork pays direct ode to the Game of Thrones universe, and having a preexisting affinity for the show definitely helps with enjoyment of the game. The dark themes fit perfectly, and the way the game moves on just makes sense. It helps that mistakes are forgiven with the automatic checkpointing.

As noted, the game is a six-part series, with subsequent ones (3-6) on the way. The first gets one’s feet wet, and the rest are available via in-app purchases.

It is a fun game, and one that can probably be played more than once. The best part? one need not necessarily be a fan of the show to enjoy the game.

But yes, as we said… it helps.

Grudgeball — Regulars Review

Grudgeball — Regulars Review

Mar 27, 2015

Chaos is the name of the game with regards to Grudgeball — Regulars.

The game brings some of the familiar characters from the Cartoon Network show it’s based on; of course, Mordecai and Rigby are front and center, as well as the rest of the crew. The game is set in the “far future” and grudgeball is the most popular — and dangerous — diversion. Teams of three settle out their differences and express their desires for domination in the famed Chaosphere.

The game screen pits three of the player characters against three opponents. There is one ball, and the basic rules of dodgeball apply, with the main idea being to knock the opponents out with said ball. The control mechanism entails tapping or swiping to control the ball. The first portion of the game incorporates a tutorial which shows the basics of attack, blocking, using special powers and more.

The game is leveled, and success in a level opens up the next. The developer does a decent job of adding new elements to subsequent levels, which does help limit monotony. The game allows for multiplayer play in addition to the regular single player option.

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In practice, it is a really fun premise: dodgeball without recrimination. Because of the the game area is set up, it does play better on bigger screens than, say, a regular sized Android screen. It felt a bit cramped on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 we tried it on. Even then, the control mechanism, while intuitive in theory, does tend to cause the screen to be partially obstructed at key moments, which can curb the fun. I also encountered a crash or two.

The artwork is better than enjoyable, with slick, arcade-y animations, and the accompanying sound works well with the gameplay.

All in all, it’s easy to like, what with the familiar characters and the aspect of dodgeball. As far as gameplay, the multiplayer option is great to have, and the pros generally outweigh the cons.

Real Steel Champions Review

Real Steel Champions Review

Mar 27, 2015

In case people don’t know what it is, True Steel is a movie that proved that even a movie about a bunch of robots who punch each other can be boring, if you make it about some young kid and his family. A concept, commonly known as “The Transformers Principle”. Likewise, True Steel Champions proves that you can make a game about said robots irritating, if you make it free-to-play, and mess up the actual fighting.

True Steel Champions doesn’t have anything resembling a story, and instead simulates a boxing tournament, in which the player has to defeat a bunch of increasingly powerful opponents. The only difference it has to the other boxing sims, is that you can change the parts of your robot in-between the fights. Which would be fun, if the parts would contain at least some form of individuality. Instead, you just hoard up money from the fights and purchase whatever part has higher numbers next to it. There’s also an option of purchasing a ton of unique moves and combos – but even all of them put together could hardly fill a couple of Tekken characters. And Tekken is exactly what this game tries to be. The low-poly, glossy look of the fighters Real Steel Champions 4basically makes the game look like Tekken 2, with Mokujin as the only available fighter. The free-to-play stuff messes up the game even more, introducing such fun concepts as energy bar and unobtainable currency.

Of course, it’s not about the graphics, or the managing – it’s about robot fighting! And that part sucks, too. The combat is clunky as hell, and while all the fighting elements are there, they are not put together very well. The movements aren’t fluent, the combos aren’t comfortable, and the fights end up looking unsettingly close to the Rock’em Sock’em face-outs.

So, in the end, True Steel Champions is a very restrictive, not graphically impressive, boring and repetitive game that doesn’t explore any unseen parts of the movie world. I don’t really see any reasons to play it, unless you are really damn captivated by the generic robot designs.

AdVenture Capitalist Review

AdVenture Capitalist Review

Mar 26, 2015

Lemonade is the key to becoming a baron in AdVenture Capitalist.

It’s an interesting game, and exceptionally simple, kinda like Dope Wars, but simpler still and without illicit drugs. The main concept is entrepreneurial spirit, and using imaginary money to make lots and lots of more imaginary money.

The game is laid out simply, with business types laid out linearly. Starting off, a player gets an opportunity to build a lemonade stand. Once purchased, tapping on he lemon symbol yields profit, which is generated after a set time. The lemonade stand earns a modest payout, but soon, it is possible to invest in more stands, which bring in more profit. Eventually, one gets enough money to buy several more stands, or to move up into the newspaper delivery business. The same process plays out: tap on the business symbols and generate as much profit as possible.

At this point — sooner or later, depending on the player — a decision will have to be made, spurred on perhaps by a manager notification that pops up to the left. One of the biggest things to overcome is the need to continually tap on the business to get it to “run” and create profit. Hiring a manager essentially allows the business to run without physical interaction.

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So, in a lot of ways, the game is about opportunity costs. One can choose to upgrade to bigger and better paying businesses, or choose to hire a manager, or become more invested in an existing business… or to upgrade the speed of output of an existing business. It rolls together fairly reasonably.

The business transitions are heady stuff; lemonade to newspaper delivery to car washes all the way to oil companies and banks. As one’s dollar amount at the top left increases exponentially, there are several ways to spend. It becomes necessary to purchase managers for every business, and these managers become more expensive as the game progresses.

One interesting wrinkle is the use of angels. Angels serve as investors and an advanced form of in-game cash, and at points, the game will offer angels for restarting the game completely. There is also the opportunity to use real money to expedite stuff.

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There are times that the game lull sets in; I like that one can leave the game and the business runs in the background, but this efficiency also means that there are stretches where it feels like here is noting to do while watching the cash ticker increase unendingly. I would have liked some risk built in, say investing in the wrong industry too early causing something negative happening. As it is, I can’t shake the feeling that I can just sit back for a few days and buy everything with the resulting cash horde.

Still, it’s a great time waster, and it even has me wondering why the heck I didn’t become more serious about lemonade way back when.

Dudeski Review

Dudeski Review

Mar 26, 2015

Winter is finally over, so it’s about time people started missing it. For those that already do, here’s a great little game called Dudeski, that transports you to a snowy landscape – and into the nineties as well.

I imagine that most of the people have played, or at least heard about the rather old game, called SkiFree. It was extremely simple, but was able to kill hours of your time. Dudeski seemingly aims to recreate that with a similar theme and mechanics. It’s also covered in nineties slang like a Vanilla Ice song.

Dudeski puts the player on top of a Shred Lord mountain and challenges him to make it all the way down. For some Dudeski 2reason, conversely to real world, the mountain gets more challenging the lower you go, and when you fail, the hero gets transported all the way back to the top, no doubt by those jerk penguins. The controls are very simple. Press on the left side of the screen and the skier slides to the left. Press on the right side of the screen, and the skier slides to the right. Press and release both sides of the screen, and the skier will jump slightly. That’s it. However, the simple controls don’t translate into a simple game, since the track is pretty difficult to traverse and contains a lot of trees, rocks, and crevices, not to mention the giant avalanche that is following the player character.. The skier also moves at a pretty high pace, to the point where the passing terrain slowly begins to blur together. Which might be bad for my eyes, but definitely makes for great game.

Dudeski is free-to-play, but it doesn’t really have any restrictions, so I guess you could say that it’s free. The in-game “store” which is just a couple of penguins that sell protective equipment and shortcuts at certain points, is entirely trading on the pine cones that can be collected on the track.

In short, Dudeski is an amazing free-to-play skiing simulator that is simple, interesting, and exciting at the same time. Definitely a pick for everyone, who isn’t very bothered by the fact that this game is RADICAL, man!

Space Chicks Review

Space Chicks Review

Mar 25, 2015

Save the chicks! Space Chicks-style!

When it comes to gameplay, the developer brings some interesting elements to the table; describing it solely as an endless runner is almost certainly a disservice. As the name implies, it is set in space, and our leaping hero hops from rotating planet to rotating planet in a quest to travel as far as possible while saving as many chicks as possible.

Easy enough, right?

Key here are the rotating space rocks. there is a bit of gravity play, as the jumper is generally attracted to the space object that it is closest to. Traveling from left to right is the goal, and jumping is performed by tapping, but one should be warned: the ever-rotating planets can create havoc with timing. One has to pick the right point to jump off, to begin, and as the game progresses, paying attention to where one lands is of essence as well. Coins line the rough travel way as well, creating different type of risk/reward scenarios.

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But yes, saving chicks –as in baby chickens, people — is the name of the game. To this end, our hero will encounter chicks periodically, which need to be deposited at a rocket which get them to safety. As noted though, the game gets harder, with different obstacles and dangers that can dislodge a rescued chick and even cost the player a life. As these tests become more prevalent, there is a bigger onus on the player to use quick reactions to continue moving.

The developer does a decent job of breaking up the monotony with a change in the action; the one allows the player to use a rocket to gather coins and extra lives, which is great, because there is a limited amount of lives that can be used up per run. On the flip side, there are several power-ups that can be acquired, giving the game an arcade flair too. Collected coins (and, optionally, real cash) can be used to upgrade stuff in-game.

It’s surprisingly entertaining, with a lot to playing points and simple single-touch controls. Even if saving chicks is not one’s thing, this game should be fun.

And why wouldn’t it be?

ZigZag Review

ZigZag Review

Mar 25, 2015

ZigZag epitomizes the mobile trend of taking classic gameplay and modernizing it with more pleasing aesthetics. On both fronts, ZigZag is to the extreme — the gameplay formula dates back to carnival challenges before video games existed, while the simplistic, square look is a modern artist’s delight. Combined, it makes for a frustratingly fun experience that is an artful time waster.

The game is as simplistic as possible — players will only need to tap the screen to change the direction of the ball. With no tutorial or instructions, it can be tough to jump right in. However, it is not difficult to tell what the objective is — move a ball along an appropriately zigzagging path.

Like Mario Kart‘s infamous Rainbow Road, players must proceed carefully, as one false move or failed action will lead the ball off the course nearly instantly, but there’s no coming back in ZigZag. Instead, players will have to start all over in hopes of getting further. It is much like a well-known carnival game in which players must use a steering wheel to direct a ball down a path in order to win a prize.

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The path is randomly generated and will be different with each attempt. To add flair, it changes colors, but this can also make navigating the ball more difficult. As the path zig and zags quicker, it can be tough to maintain perspective as the main path blends in with the base. Part of what makes ZigZag unique is how the brain perceives the winding path. At times, it can look like an eternally sloping stairway to nowhere, but if the brain sees it from a three-dimensional view, it is just a square sidewalk. Of course, this doesn’t change gameplay, but depending upon the player, the way it the path is perceived could make racking up a high score easier.

Simplicity and minimalism is a constant theme throughout ZigZag, and not just with the visuals. Unfortunately, that means there is little objective outside of beating your own high score. There is a shop in which players can purchase different colored balls for 100 currency each, but putting them to use does nothing to impact fundamental gameplay.

Connecting to a Play Games account will allow players to establish a leaderboard and unlock achievements. However, the mere five achievements are not nearly enough to catch the attention of even the most meticulous achievement hunters, especially considering the ease in which players can earn all five achievements. ZigZag is aware of its depth issues, but they ultimately don’t matter.

The game was not created to give players a complex experience, but rather embrace the simplicty of mobile gaming. And it achieves its goals gallantly. Anybody can pick up and play ZigZag within a matter of seconds, and that inspires old school social gaming as friends try to best each other. There is no doubt that a few added achievements and more varied unlockables would make ZigZag a better game, but even without the extra incentive to continue playing, ZigZag is visually appealing and addictive.

Goats on a Bridge Review

Goats on a Bridge Review

Mar 23, 2015

So what happened to the billy goats after the fable? That’s the story Goats on a Bridge tries to tell.

Goats on a Bridge is a new game that re-imagines Three Billy Goats Gruff in the essence of a platform puzzle and race game.

The idea is fairly easy, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t start off by mentioning how it looks. It packs a vivid visual punch, with bright colors that are seemingly made to underscore the gameplay. The animations are not too complex, and invoke a playful air.

The gameplay comes in two main modes: Dash and Puzzle. In Puzzle, one gets to see the game in somewhat of a standard form… a raised platform above water being the main environmental pieces. Our protagonist is a jolly, lovable goat, and the goal is to get said goat from point A to point B as fast as possible. Of course, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill walk in the park; what type of platform game would this be if it didn’t have some obstacles?

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The first obstacle, in a manner of speaking, is mastering the controls, which consist of abbreviated gestures and virtual buttons. More specifically to the gameplay, there are gaps in the platform that have to be navigated by jumping. Jumping, however, is a precise process in that being too far from the take off point causes the leap to be short, making the goat take a run ending plunge into the water below. Being too aggressive in getting to the end of plank can be just as dangerous. In any case, the jumps can be hazardous, despite the collctible gold coins that line the travelways. Gold can be used for in-app uogrades (along with real money.

Then there are other obstacles, like boxes, and the surfaces of the platforms change, with multiple goats (which invites multiple person play) becoming part of the gameplay.

Some of the same elements can be found in Dash, but in this, we have something more akin to an endless runner, but with collapsing ground, spikes, gaps and more making appearances. There are achievements and other arcade elements as well.

All in all, it’s an interesting game that invites extended gameplay.

Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders Review

Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders Review

Mar 23, 2015

Like dogfights? A WWII fan? Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders might be just what you’re looking for.

If the aim of the developer is to suck people in with Grade A graphics, I believe that mission is mostly successful. Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders looks slick, with nice-looking graphics that transition well enough to allow the game maintain a decently realistic feel. From the shimmer of the sea to the ghostly plumes of airborne artillery, most of the artwork is well done, and fits in with the game especially well. Same goes for the in-game sounds. The battle sounds reflect just what I’d expect a major air battle to sound like.

The game starts out with a set of tutorials that are interactive in nature, and quite useful for getting into the swing of tings. It helps show basics like controlling airspeed, maneuvering, take-off and landing, and, of course, how to use one’s weapons. Again, because of how the learning tools are designed, they almost serve as a section of gameplay in and of themselves.

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Actual gameplay is varied, with several different modes to choose from. In singleplayer, one can pick a host of playing options: capture the flag, free for all, defend the base, and more. The “campaign” singleplayer subset is based upon actual WWII combat, and is split up into missions that generally consist of enemy craft coming in to initiate a war of attrition. There are some precise elements employed by the developer to make the whole piece feel authentic, like the ability to close rank with one’s squadron and such. Enemy gunfire is especially hair-raising, and the ability to switch views is a fantastic touch. The gauges and virtual buttons manage to be ever-present without blocking the screen, and the aircraft is quite responsive to the touch. Altogether, the gameplay comes together quite nicely.

There are other planes and knickknacks that can be purchased with real cash, too.

And the whole game does as well. I would have preferred a more refined sighing system, and I do feel bigger screens highlight the elements of the gameplay better, but it’s a wild ride that keeps on giving.

Bolla 7 Review

Bolla 7 Review

Mar 20, 2015

Bolla 7 is the type of game that should play perfectly on mobile devices. It’s easy for any type of gamer to play, fast-paced, and intense. However, the game fails in execution because it lacks one fundamental element of video games — the ability to win.

Immediately after booting up the game, Bolla 7 conjures up memories of classic PC games of yesteryear. Dots scattered across the game board will take older players back to the days of passing the time in Minesweeper, and the color-matching gameplay is about as classic a concept as gaming itself.

Players must touch on colored circles and move them around the game board’s tiles. The object is to match these dots by color in order to eliminate them and clear the board before time runs out. But this is easier said than done. Players are inevitably forced to move dots around when there are no matches, and that wasted move will unleash a scattering of more new dots on the board.

This can be incredibly frustrating as users attempt to strategize moves and set themselves up for success when more than a single move is needed. After moving a non-matching dot to set up a second move, a new dot will often appear on a tile between the two matching dots to spoil gamers’ plans. The clock winding down adds an additional layer of frustration as players scramble to find matches before time is up. Games can be played with a time limit of one or five minutes, or with no limit at all.

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However, regardless of whether you play with a time limit or not, the game is impossible to actually beat, and that is the downfall of Bolla 7. The simple, yet punishing gameplay system works for a mobile game, but the inability to actually win removes the sense of satisfaction that keeps players coming back.

The game is not divided into levels, and the difficulty will be at its maximum at the moment players install it. This means it’s difficult to master, but players will quickly be turned off by the fact they don’t feel they can master it at all. Clearing the board is impossible, as players will assuredly run into multiple instances of having no matches. Instead, users fight to best their high score, but there is little acknowledgement even when they do. With no levels, challenges or achievements, Bolla 7 quickly leaves its players in the cold.

Another disappointing aspect of Bolla 7 is its sound, or lack thereof. Players will hear the satisfying sound effect when they move matching dots together, but it feels like something is missing. Soothing background music that speeds up as players near their time limit would fit perfectly into the game, but instead there is no music at all.

The concept of Bolla 7 is not groundbreaking, but it should be the type of game that finds success on the Google Play Store. Instead, it feels like an unfinished products. With little incentive to continue playing, users will find themselves uninstalling Bolla 7 from their collection not long after installing it in the first place.

This Is Not A Test Review

This Is Not A Test Review

Mar 18, 2015

This Is Not A Test tells the story of a man’s attempts to survive a chemical weapon attack on his country. With just a truck, a few skills and a gun they must work their way through a variety of harrowing situations to survive the disaster. Or not survive as the case will likely be.

This Is Not a Test is all about choice. There are multiple ways to handle a situation. What items and skills your character has always affects what options there are. For example if you’re in your truck and gas is entering you can tape up your cars air vents to protect yourself, if you have duct tape or simply skilfully weave though the gas cloud to avoid it, if you have driving skill. Violence is much easier and indeed often only survivable if you have brawling or marksmanship skills as well.

Screenshot_2015-03-05-12-27-17TINT however isn’t that well written. Characters you meet are boring and one dimensional, there is minimal dialogue and what’s there is dull. The story just lacks tone and the desolate feeling that better visual novels like Overlive have. Interesting details are few and far between and there is just little payoff for reading it. Go ahead, shoot everyone you meet. You sure won’t feel bad about it. Some of the endings are ridiculous as well. Like the one where the military simply allows you to starve to death. Or be crushed. Are they the world’s most inept soldiers?

Speaking of feeling bad, death happens often in TINT. The story is quite short, a lot of the endings are bad and you die often unless you had the foresight to grab certain items. There are checkpoints and the game is short enough that restarting isn’t a huge bother. The game keeps track of what endings you’ve seen including ones where you die so it’s fun to try to find new and creative ways to kill yourself which isn’t something that often happens in a game.

Screenshot_2015-03-05-12-48-40This is Not a Test unfortunately features ads. While you’re working your way through the story and trying to immerse yourself in the world an ad banner is flashing away at the top of the screen. The ad isn’t even static; it is constantly moving and changing, trying to get your attention which is a superb way to distract someone when they’re trying to read. Removing the ad is part of the game’s solitary IAP, which is a $2.50 fee to remove ads as well as display color artwork rather than black and white. This is totally worth the cost.

Some of the endings in TINT make no sense at all. For example in one ending you’re trapped in a house that fills with gas, suffocating you. The problem with this is that I had already picked up a gas mask early in the game and had it with me still. Apparently, my character just decided to not use the gas mask he bought hours beforehand. There was no option to use it either. What the?

This Is Not a Test is worth a read, but it is nowhere near as good as a far more advanced game like Overlive and the writing and logic leave much to be deserved. Still, it’s certainly not a bad romp.

Ice Hockey 3d Review

Ice Hockey 3d Review

Mar 17, 2015

Ice Hockey is a really under represented genre on Android. While there are penalty shootouts, management sims and even flight simulators, plain hockey is hard to come by. Finally, Ice Hockey 3D comes along to scratch that goal scoring itch.

The funniest part of Ice Hockey 3D is the team names. With bizarre parodies of real teams like the Flamingos and my favorite the Violent Bears this is difficulty not an officially licensed game!

Screenshot_2015-03-03-04-12-18Once you’re on the ice, Ice Hockey 3D is a very traditional hockey games. Rather than silly penalty shootouts or the like Ice Hockey 3d is simply a full game of hockey, as you skate around the rink trying to score a goal. This isn’t that well executed however. The controls feel rather loose and it can be difficult skating accurately to clean up loose pucks or aim a shot. The virtual stick doesn’t feel precise enough and the lack of physical buttons seems to affect this sport more than most.

The AI is really poor, particularly for teammates. They routinely skate right past loose pucks, make no real attempt at defence and never seem to check opponents. Speaking of checking, the check button doesn’t seem to work at all. Brushing up against opponents and mashing the check button doesn’t seem to do anything. The only real way to take the puck from the opposition is to intercept a pass or steal it.

The player control switch is also annoying. It often switches you to a player who is useless for the current situation or not the one closest to the puck. This is very frustrating and since the teammate AI is so useless it makes defence way harder than it would otherwise be.

Screenshot_2015-03-05-08-10-35As well as normal Hockey, Ice Hockey 3D features Air Hockey. This is a very basic take on the classic game, but it works well and the AI is quite smart compared to the main game. It can be played by two players as well.

The game is festooned with F2P elements. Coins that are earned by winning games an logging in on consecutive days can be spent on boosting player stats, it is unclear whenever boosting stats only affects players that the player controls or their whole team but these stats boosts really make a big difference., It is very tough to score goals without boosting your shooting skill and speed is vital to attacking effectively. A large amount of currency is handed out when the player first loads the game but this is quickly spent and winning games to earn more is quite difficult. This F2P isn’t very satisfying and makes it unclear is player skill or simply unbalanced stats come into play more.

Ice Hockey 3D is a somewhat decent, but flawed take on Ice Hockey. Still there aren’t many pure hockey games on Android, so if you can live with useless teammates it could be worth “checking” out.