Reigns Review

Reigns Review

Sep 27, 2016

So many apps are built to make our daily lives simpler. One app that has achieved true notoriety made the whole dating process as simple as swiping left or swiping right. You know the one I’m talking about, you know it’s called Tinder, don’t play dumb with me.

What’s not a simple process is reigning over a kingdom. Being a king is tough work and full of gray areas but Reigns doesn’t care. It’s a mixture of Game of Thrones and a dating app where your main aim is to stay alive for as long as possible.

This is harder than it sounds because your ‘helpers’ aren’t that helpful. They’ll tell you that the castle’s on fire and you have two choices, swipe left to save the garrison or swipe right to save the treasury. Either way, you’re screwed because if you upset the army enough, they’ll overthrow you and kill you. If your coffers run dry, the rich merchants of your kingdom will overthrow you and you’ll die, penniless, in the gutter.unnamed-19

Reigns is a totally brutal game of decisions and balancing everyone’s needs. The church, the army, the people and your finances all need to be balanced out. It’s a fairly literal in letting you know how ‘well’ you’re doing in each area, as on the screen an icon representing each element fills up. You’d think that filling up your ‘money’ meter wouldn’t end up in death, but it does. So you’re not allowed to let any bar fill all the way up or go all the way down.

It’s really as simple as that. You’re given clues as to how your decision will be perceived, as before you let go of each swipe you will see a small circle or a large circle appear over the icons that will be affected by your decision. The trick being, you’re told if the decision will be positive or negative and you instead have to read the text and infer whether it will fill up or drain the icon.

Luckily, all of this reading and very simple gameplay is hugely enjoyable and incredibly stylish. Each character you interact with clearly has their own agenda and its fun to see how their stories play out (assuming you live long enough). What keeps things interesting is the way the game dishes out and adds new characters and potential cards the more you play. You’ll be given vague clues as to targets to accomplish, such as ‘discover the traitor’, but upon finding out who’s the traitor in your court, you’ll unlock new cards that will reveal themselves in later playthroughs.

There is also an actual end to the game, though the real fun is in simply trying to see how long you can keep your king alive and how long you can get away with making bad decisions.

Reigns is incredibly simple but incredibly well polished and full of humour and style. I hereby decree that Reigns should be downloaded forthwith! Swipe right.


Slash Mobs Review

Slash Mobs Review

Sep 26, 2016

It’s getting harder and harder to find new things to talk about when it comes to reviewing ‘clicker’ games. Here we are with a new game that plays itself, Slash Mobs. In Slash Mobs you’re taking on enemies with each click resulting in your hero swinging their sword. After a number of swings, the enemy dies and you get some money.

Simple enough, right? You can spend your money on upgrading your hero, so your clicks are more powerful or your can spend money hiring new heroes to help you out. These heros, once they’re hired, can also be powered up and at ‘level’ milestones (10, 25, 50, 100… etc) you can unlock new abilities.

This may sound complicated but it all comes down to spending money on yourself, so your clicks are more powerful, or spending money on heros so you don’t have to click and so you earn money whilst your phone’s in your pocket.unnamed-25

I may sound a little dismissive but as far as clickers go, Slash Mobs is a well made and feature rich example of the genre. There’s plenty of carrots to keep you coming back and there’s always something for you to be levelling-up. There’s daily quests to complete, there’s daily rewards to collect, treasure chests that unlock after a number of hours and so on. Pretty much every Free-to-Play hook you can think of is present in Slash Mobs.

Again, this may sound like a negative but Slash Mobs handles its micro-transactions really well, with plenty of opportunities to earn credits through watching adverts or simply playing the game daily.

On top of the well balanced enemies it’s safe to say that Slash Mobs has had plenty of care given to its graphics and visual design as a whole. Enemies are good looking and vary greatly from area to area. Some look like Pokemon, others look like they should be from Monster Hunter but all of them are nice looking and well animated.

In fact, the game as a whole has a level of polish to it which makes it extremely fun to play. Particle effects sprout up when you level-up a hero, your character’s special abilities work well and will help you get past any particularly difficult enemies and there’s an absolute ton of levels, heroes and items to unlock.

So whilst Slash Mobs isn’t trying to do anything new, it is extremely well made and has really narrowed down what it is that makes a clicker game fun. Namely, you’re always within touching distance of a new item, ability or power-up and when you’re not playing the game your heroes are hard at working earning you money.

It’s not new, it’s not revolutionary but it is good. Slash Mobs is a worthwhile clicker that is full of content and will keep you coming back for more.

NCIS: Hidden Crimes Review

NCIS: Hidden Crimes Review

Sep 23, 2016

Make no mistake: NCIS is a cultural icon. I remember picking it up all the way back… you know, when that intense agent from the “Navy NCIS” (ha!) who first tried to put JAG darling Harmon Rabb behind bars — but the helping clear his name. With that simple beginning, that CBS spin-off has gone big, creating its own offshoots, and, for folks like us, companion games that help beget mindshare.

NCIS: Hidden Crimes is just that.

The action gets going almost immediately, with animated cutscenes allowing one to catch a glimpse of something nefarious. Then, just like on the show, Gibbs’ likeness pops up, letting us (the players/viewers) know about an untimely ncis3death somewhere in the city.

In this one, the crime has been committed, and the player, being a special agent, gets his/her “gear” on heads to the crime scene. At this point, the main foil of the adventure becomes clear: find objects. The trick, which is obvious to anyone who plays this type of game, is to pick out a list of objects that are placed in a larger scene. In this particular game, the objects are key to solving the crime at hand, starting by going into each visual puzzle and tap on the objects to “collect” them.

After objects are found, generally a secondary process begins. Evidence is analyzed and such, and eventually, a hypothesis might be formed, and, if one picks right, one might just get the person responsible.

So, the finding mechanism is enough to understand; the difficulty of the surveying task is mostly a function of the artwork in any level. It feels as though it gets tougher as one goes on, but the developer does an enviable job of using depth and simulated light to make targets less obvious to the eye. The crime-solving piece is a nice addition too.

The game feels a bit grindy in parts; the energy requirement isn’t too bothersome, and the artwork does make it feel somewhat familiar. On the other hand, it’s tough to make a hidden object game stand out, because the core element is so well known.

In the end, its hit show affiliation only helps, and the gameplay does well.

Mars: Mars Review

Mars: Mars Review

Sep 8, 2016

Space exploration is all the rave, what with lost space vehicles and ones found. Mars: Mars lets you get in on the final frontier, one well-timed hop at a time.

So… what’s the main concept here? Simple, really: guide the lander craft from one platform to another, going mostly rightwards.

The skill really lays in the mastery of the controls. As noted, it is easy enough in concept, and liberal enough to not be overly restricting. It does take some getting used to — one needs to get the tap timing just right.

One tap launches the craft; after this initial pop, the player can control the rough direction of the craft by tapping on either side to create a blast of the corresponding jets. Additionally, the player must contend with virtual nature; the craft is pulled down by gravity. Using tap controls — double tapping, in this case — is also used to slow down the craft, which is important considering the major task at hand, which is to move, and keep moving.

Landing anywhere but the platform is a fail. Landing too hard on the platform is a fail. And oh, by the way, the blasters depend on gas, of which there is a limited supply. Yep, you gotta be very circumspect with how often you blast, because once the fuel is depleted, control is lost.

Crash.

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And so the game goes on, encouraging the player to head on from platform to platform. A couple of new elements are added every so often, but for the most part, this one is a straight shot. There are achievements, as well as incorporated means of upgrading the craft. As one progresses, the platform-hopping gets trickier, and new foils get added; this invariably adds a bit of puzzle-solving to the mix. Toss in a game cash system, and it is easy to see why this game can be enjoyable.

Graphics are easy on the eyes, with several backgrounds in play, and add to the overall gaming ambiance.

Simple does it. Mostly well.

Soccer Shootout Review

Soccer Shootout Review

Aug 31, 2016

A an English person, the idea of taking penalties strikes fear into my heart. It’s just something we’re genetically unable to do. However, after some hours with Swipe Soccer, I fancy my chances from the penalty spot a little bit more.

Soccer Shootout’s a straightforward idea. It’s a penalty shootout game where you swipe at the screen to take a penalty or to get your goalkeeper to dive. You can apply swerve, direction and power to your shots by swiping in a particular way. Swipe quickly for more power, swipe at an angle to aim for the corners and draw a line that’s not straight for curve.

It’s the same thing for goalkeeper control too. Swipe left, right, high or low – it’s dead simple and actually quite fun.

The game has some added depth thanks to the fact you can unlock and buy new players. These are important as different players will have different stats. How good a player is will actually affect how hard you have to swipe and how precise you can be with your kicks. On top of this, players and ‘keepers can have special abilities. These abilities allow you to swerve the ball more wildly, reduce your opponent’s field of vision and even perform a really odd lob kick that belongs on an American Football field.SS1

The game has both singleplayer and multiplayer options. In the single player mode you take on teams from around the world, touring the globe one country at a time. As this isn’t an officially licensed product you’ll be facing off against some weird looking crests that will remind you of a real team’s logo, but most certainly are not a real team’s logo. This also goes for the names of the players, though some of the names have been so heavily altered it’s hard to recognise who they’re trying to be.

Online is fun, though you can sometimes come up against people who have much better players than you. Being in a shootout with players that are way better than your own means your keeper won’t have even moved by the time the ball’s flown into the net. I understand you want to reward players that have spent more time and money on the game than others, but it’s a little bit too much.

As you play through either mode you’ll earn money. This can be used to ‘train’ your players, which is just another way of boosting their stats. You can also save your money up and got ahead and buy an entirely new player. Those of you that are willing to part with your real money for access to the game’s fake money will have access to the more expensive and therefore better players.

In the end, Soccer Shootout is a pretty fun game that has a really simple premise but it’s so well made, it’s hard not to have fun. There’s new players being introduced regularly, so if you’re happy constantly taking penalties, there’s plenty to keep you going.

Flip Diving Review

Flip Diving Review

Aug 31, 2016

There are a lot of things that I think are pretty cool, but have NO intention of ever doing. Say what you want, but I have a healthy respect for my own limitations. I don’t mind watching professionals do these things… heck, I’d even pay to observe.

I’m talking about stuff like surfing killer waves. Skiing slopes that have a hint of dangerously cascading snow. Base jumping. All things I have no problem passing on.fd3

Oh yeah… and cliff diving.

Keeping this in mind, it’s easy to see why a game like Flip Diving — from prolific Android publisher Miniclip.com — is made for wusses like me.

If complexity is a problem, this one is all but home free. The basic premise is ultra easy-to-understand, and the graphics mostly do the job of giving context to the gameplay. The player controls a diver, with everything in a vivid 2D presentation. Using a simple tap/release system, one can make the person jump and start to do flips in the air.

One aspect to getting a good score is releasing at just the right time, such that the diving character goes hands and headfirst/feet-first into the water. This small piece really works; release at the wrong time, and the diver may default to a detestable belly or black flop.

Another element are the collectible gold coins that line the flight path, and the landing area that decreases in size as one goes further and further. New tricks are unlocked with progress, and there are other arcade elements to keep things interesting.

When it’s all said and done, having a good sense of timing is probably the easiest way to make gains. As stated earlier, the game controls are quite intuitive, and as such, getting one’s tuck-on feels natural and is easily invoked.

He-Man Tappers of Grayskull Review

He-Man Tappers of Grayskull Review

Aug 31, 2016

Leather underoos aside, I loved He-Man. Bulging muscles, a cool sword and a transformable pet. He-Man wasn’t just another ordinary man, he was (is?) the man.

Hey, taking on the enemies of the universe takes a man of action.

In He-Man Tappers of Grayskull, the player gets to partner with our famed champion at least one more time.

The graphics are bit more modern than the original, which should appear o newer fans. The game uses a host of gentle heman3colors to frame the gameplay, and the main game incorporates a lot of animations. The sounds are reliably haughty, and in a lot of ways, the looks and sound are the some of the best aspects of the game.

The storyline stays right about where fans of the cartoon would expect it be: mega-villain Skeletor is nothing if not a schemer, and right at the onset of this saga, he’s plotting to take over Eternia. Nothing uniquely new; Skeletor is always the epitome of dissatisfaction.

Skeletor does have a new process to effect victory, by way of misappropriated magic that enlarges his minions to otherworldly proportions. Now, He-Man has to take on enemies several times his size.

He-Man does one thing well: fighting. The player, as He-Man, takes on hoards, individually, by tapping. Enemies pop up, and one reduces the lifebars, on and on. It helps to be quick, and gold coins are the reward for doing well. Gold coins can be used to improve attributes, and down the line, bosses need to be dealt with.

Allies can be summoned, and it does take a bit of thinking to get through some boss levels. There are also achievements one can garner via gameplay.

The game works well because one need not necessarily be a He-Man feen to enjoy it. The clicker mechanism is universal and fairly intuitive, and stands on its own. The host of characters and such will be a cherry on top for fans of the franchise.

On the other hand, it is a lot of the same; some folks might prefer a bit more complexity.

In the end, it does its thing, doesn’t stray too far into details, and can be played in a pinch.

You have the power…

Tricky Test 2: Think Outside Review

Tricky Test 2: Think Outside Review

Aug 29, 2016

Got some time? Want a challenge? Ah… have a go at Tricky Test 2: Think Outside.

The graphical presentation is fairly simple; it shows up in landscape, with simple texts and diagrams on a dark background. The music is somewhat soothing, and can be toggled.

This is a brain teaser game, and it presents riddles one after the other. Solving the one leads to the next, and said solution means understanding a riddle, and somehow getting the correct answer. Thing is… these ain’t straightforward questions.tt3

The puzzles range for torturous brain teasers to the delightfully silly. At the risk of being a game spoiler, I found the creativity inspiring: some riddles demand that one isn’t too literal, while others are the exact opposite. Math questions make an appearance, but nothing overly algebraic, and then puzzles that are shielded as math questions. There are situational questions too, so one shouldn’t get too bored too quickly.

The game has a clue system that helps with tougher questions, and if that isn’t sufficient, the solution can be requested. Both have a cost in game coins though.

When a puzzle is solved correctly, the player gets greeted with a visual hand clap with matching sound. A bad guess generally yields one life lost; when all five are drained, the games energy requirement kicks in, and the aforementioned coins come into play. Thankfully, the developer does provide ways to get more coins and/or continues, like ad-watching, timed regeneration and more, including the use of real cash.

When one gets the end, the game even gives one an IQ sore. Cheeky.

It’s infinitely simple to understand and get into, but that ease almost forces a complaint… that the game is really, really short as is at 60 questions. It isn’t hard to fly through the questions, especially when one gets going. The developer does promise to continually address this via updates, so one can look forward to that.

All in all? Worth a look and a try.

Deus Ex GO Review

Deus Ex GO Review

Aug 29, 2016

Phones and tablets, more often than not, can’t do what PCs and consoles do. It’s just a fact. Different control schemes and a lack of powerful hardware means it’s just not possible to plonk a beloved series onto a phone.

This is why Deus Ex GO is so impressive and continues the success that the GO series has had to date. Previous GO titles include Hitman and Lara Croft, where the games captured the spirit of their franchises whilst converting them into simple, turn-based puzzle games. Which is just what’s happened in Deus Ex GO too.

You play as Adam Jensen, protagonist of the recent Deus Ex console and PC games. The story is pretty throwaway, with you infiltrating a corporation’s building, espionage and so on. There’s links to the new Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, but the links aren’t that meaningful unless you’re a hardcore Deus Ex fan.

The game itself, as mentioned, plays almost like a board game, with you moving your one piece (Adam Jensen) whilst the computer controls everything else. The goal is quite simple, with you starting at one side of the ‘board’ and all you need to do is make it to the exit, which is a designated space on the board, often opposite to the side you start on.unnamed-2

This isn’t a simple game of snake and ladders however, as you need to watch out for all manner of enemies, traps and defences. All of these obstacles behave in fairly simple ways and are introduced at a good pace, keeping things interesting. The first set of enemies you’ll run into (hopefully not literally) are soldiers that, when they spot you, grow an exo-skeleton making them indestructible and they charge at you. The solution is to simply approach them from behind or from the side and, like a game of chess, you’ll remove them from the board. Of course, they can also remove you from the board and force you to start over. Other enemies include turrets that kill on site, robots that kill if you approach from the front and so on.

What’s so great about this game is the way all of the enemies interact with each other. One example is the turret and the indestructible exo-skeleton man. On one level, the solution involved me triggering the guard, moving to the side and then having the guard block the turret’s line of sight. This game keeps things fresh and interesting as there’s a near constant stream of new enemies and traps appearing and the fun is in finding out how they’ll affect each other.

On top of this there’s powerups to find, that can turn you invisible, for example and terminals to hack, meaning turrets are your friend and will shoot down any antagonistic guards or robots. The game is constantly asking you to rethink about what you already know and it’s so rewarding when you finally figure out a particularly difficult level.

On top of this, the game looks really great. It’s not a graphical powerhouse but it has absolute style. Adopting a polygonal look, characters burst apart into a stream of triangles when they’re defeated and each level has a unique layout, with different furniture littered about each board.

Deus Ex GO manages to keep its Deus Ex roots whilst distilling them down into a simple to play puzzle game. With tons of enemies resulting in tons of variety for each level, I can’t recommend this enough.


Soundtrack Attack: Steven Universe Review

Soundtrack Attack: Steven Universe Review

Aug 29, 2016

I’ll admit to something right off the bat – I’ve never watched an episode of Steven Universe. I’ve seen plenty of gifs and whatnot, my Twitter feed is full of people who love it, but I’ve just never given it a shot. Bear this in mind when reading this review and when I tell you that Soundtrack Attack is a rhythm game that has a soundtrack which means nothing to me.

You’ve all played a rhythm game before, right? The notes appear on the screen in time with the music and you’ve got to press the right button at the right time. It provides the illusion that you’re actually ‘playing’ the music when in reality you’re just strumming a plastic guitar or, in this case, simply tapping, dragging and holding your fingers down on the screen of your phone. All in all, it’s a pretty average rhythm game, though there were instances where I felt that the game was a little too forgiving. When faced with a screen full of notes I’d eventually lose track of what was going on yet somehow get through even the trickiest of sections with my combo intact, thanks to the fact I’d tapped randomly on my screen. I guess this makes it more suitable to what I imagine is its younger intended audience.su1

Another more personal issue I have with the game is that I just didn’t enjoy or recognize any of the music. Imagine playing Rock Band or Guitar Hero and having never heard any of the songs before. Imagine that you’d not only never heard them but that you thought they were bad. So this might be a harsh criticism and one based on the fact I’m not a fan of the series, but it’s a criticism all the same. There also seems to be a fair amount of reuse, as the same song will appear on several levels with only slight alterations to it.

On more positive notes, fans of the series should find enough to enjoy with Soundtrack Attack: Steven Universe. You get to create your own character (called a Gem?) and you can customize her as you progress. More customization options become available as you complete songs, with better performances earning you more coins to spend on these character altering elements.

There aren’t any power-ups to buy or use during levels. Once you’ve played through a level and heard its song, that’s all there is to it. There’s plenty of levels, mind, though not much to keep you coming back unless you’re after high scores or a perfect run.

In the end Soundtrack Attack: Steven Universe is a well made game even if it is a little basic and a touch too forgiving. This probably suits the younger audience out there, though I know a lot of Steven Universe fans who are well into their 20s. They might want to skip this.


Dots and Co Review

Dots and Co Review

Aug 26, 2016

I often think long and hard about the words I write. It might not seem like it sometimes, but it’s true. I fret over each adjective, hoping that I find the one that really evokes the meaning I’m going for. With Dots and Co I’ve struggled to find the perfect word. I wanted to say ‘nice’, but nice seemed a little bland, a little basic and a touch too simple.

However, Dots and Co is a simple, somewhat bland and basic puzzle game. It’s really nice.

It’s a really stylish looking game full of clean designs and pastel colours. Cute characters and animals place themselves at the top of the screen, acting as your avatar. There’s a good amount of polish to proceedings, with your avatar following your touch across the screen and with blips, blops and pops following every action. There’s also some really… nice ambient music that accompanies everything, filled with chilled out acoustic guitar.dots2

The game is made up of coloured dots placed on a grid. You need to draw a line between as many dots of the same colour as you can. Drawing a line causes the dots to disappear and more dots fall from the top of the screen to take their place. The challenge is that you need to clear a certain number of certain coloured dots to complete each level.

Adding some difficulty and variety to proceedings is special abilities you’ll pick up as the game progresses, ice blocks that stop you starting a line on certain squares of the grid and the fact that the grid itself will change shape and size from level to level.

The problem is that each level doesn’t really ask too much of you. There’s very little strategy to any of the proceedings means it’s hard to really call it a puzzle game. You just do the thing it’s asking you to do and all without much thought. I guess this makes it ideal for a casual audience but it’s probably safe to say that Dots and Co is a little too casual, especially for the first 50 or so levels.

This being said, it’s hard to be too negative. It’s just too nice, too relaxed and too gentle for you to get sick of it. I found myself not so much bored, more in a state of zen.

Which might be exactly what you’re after. A game to kill some time whilst you’re sat on the bus, something to keep you busy whilst waiting for a microwave to ding, something that requires very little thought and it really quite pleasant to look at.

Dots and Co is a nice game.


Mobius Final Fantasy Review

Mobius Final Fantasy Review

Aug 23, 2016

I have to admit it. When I first saw the screenshots for Mobius Final Fantasy, I didn’t believe it’d look that good, let alone look that good on my crusty old phone. I was wrong. This will undoubtedly be the first thing you’ll likely notice about Mobius Final Fantasy. It looks brilliant and it’s beautifully animated too.

The game itself is both confusing and extremely straightforward at the same time. The bit that’s easy to get your head around is the fact that this is simply a set of battles, one after the other. There’s a map shown to you but there’s zero exploration as all you need to do is simply click on the next location you need to move to. It’s entirely linear and it’s only the animation that takes up the top of the screen that lets you know that your character is actually on the move.

What’s also easy to understand is the controls. To fight your opponents all you need to do is tap on the screen to do a normal attack and press a button to cast some magic. Dead easy.ff3

This is now where things get out of hand and the tutorial lets you down in a big way.

You see, Mobius Final Fantasy is actually all about collecting, fusing and levelling up cards in a deck. The cards you’ve got will dictate what type of fighter you are, a melee, ranged or magic user, they’ll dictate what spells you can cast and they’ll also decide what your summon attack is.

The thing is, there are so many stats to each card and so many ways you can build a deck it makes your head spin.

Each deck has to have a ‘job’ card, this can be levelled up to unlock more jobs, has status boosts and abilities that can also be unlocked on it. Each deck has to have a weapon, this will also boost stats and attacks and statuses. Each spell also has abilities, both passive and active that can be levelled up. You can fuse two cards together to make the levelling up process quicker. There’s also an ‘affinity’ system during battle that means you take less damage from those types of attacks. Using and ‘affinity’ spell will mean you’re less likely to receive seeds of that type. Seeds are used to cast spells but only spells of that type of seed. Before you go into battle you can ‘rent’ a card. This is a card that is owned by another player and by fighting with it you gain experience for that card. This is good for the other user because they can be offline and have people level up their cards for them.

That giant paragraph I just wrote? It seems like total nonsense to me and I wrote it. Lord only knows how you feel.

So this is the major problem with Mobius Final Fantasy. It’s a bunch of systems built on systems with other systems that support it. Fuse this, rent that, meld them, collect these, pick up shards of the other… it’s too much for what is essentially a game that requires little skill.

Maybe you’ll enjoy building decks but the only thing that changes after you’ve spent hours in confusing menus with confusing systems is the fact you get to see larger numbers appear over a monster’s head. It’s so much work to play and to understand and not much fun to play. A visual spectacle that dazzles before the gameplay itself confuses. You can always press the ‘Auto’ button, whereupon the game literally plays itself. At least it seems to understand its own rules.