Causality Review

Causality Review

Apr 24, 2017

Simple puzzle games are always potential charmers, and Causality is a new-ish one we couldn’t turn away from.

To start out, the gameplay shows up as being relatively easy. You, the player, take control of an astronaut stranded on a weird world, and look to get him to safety.

But these are very, very weird lands. Weird creatures, landscapes and such, but especially weird happenings: multiple instances of self that the player comes across while traversing the playing area, and the ability to go back and forth in time.

The multiple instances manifest as several astronauts, which start to appear after the first few cursory, introductory levels. The main idea is to guide the astronaut along the tricky squared path to an end square, at which point the level ends.

Soon, one has to deal with the first “extra” astronaut; with the use of the direction buttons, one can play around with which path to make them take. Solving the puzzles sometimes means getting to a button which opens a path, and then figuring out how to double back to get to the endpoint.

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The game also makes use of time limits, so doing solving before time runs out is key. If failed, one can reverse time to try another sequence of movements.

The game goes on and on, gradually increasing in difficulty, with more space gear-clad pieces making their way onto the playing area. The main goal remains; get the different colors from point A to the color-matching end square, avoiding all obstacles in the way.

If it feels a bit like the Go series of games, the familiality will be delightfully excused; the time manipulation concept works well to create interesting solutions. Because of the design, one is also able to correct mistakes at the point of creation, and also play around with different paths.

It plays as easy as itis to get into it, and has plenty of levels available.

Justice League Action Run Review

Justice League Action Run Review

Apr 24, 2017

As DC looks to close the mindshare gap between it and the other guys, consumers have been blessed with all sorts of content, especially movies. With those movies (and the burgeoning DC/Justice League Universe), ge get the almost ubiquitous movie tie-in mobile games.

Like Justice League Action Run, based off of the team and Cartoon Network show Justice League Action.

No mystery here… it’s a three-laned runner, yes, but looks to step beyond that simple descriptor with a bunch of enjoyable gimmicks.jlar3

At the beginning, the game leads you on a learning journey. Pick your noble champions from a stable that includes the Man of Steel, the Dark Knight, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and Firestorm. But wait… you get to pick three stars for each run? Interesting. Yes, each hero has cool abilities, and it’s possible to “switch” during a run.

The runs themselves are fun to get into, and the missions help spice up the familiar fare. One mission might be to collect items with a time trial, another to “follow” a baddie fir a set distance without getting tripped up. As hinted at, there are special powers that can be triggered, and there are several times it pays to be aware of a changing perspective.

Sometimes, the hunter becomes the hunted…

New characters can be unlocked, there are boosts, leveling and challenges. The game even tosses in boss fights for good measure.

Visually, the game does a good job of bringing Metropolis, Gotham City and Darkseid’s fiery Apokolips to life, with the characterizations being

Now, the game mostly manages to avoid the trap that most three-laned runners seem to fall in: swiping around, over and beneath obstacles has been done so frequently and so well that it’s stuff to set a game apart from the crowd. The elements in Justice League Action Run aren’t necessarily genre-defining, or unique, but they are placed well together, and feel almost natural in the DC Universe that the game is immersed in.

Mini Metro Review

Mini Metro Review

Apr 24, 2017

If I were to list some of the things that I find awful, trains would come near the top. They’re a mode of transport that doesn’t offer freedom and instead requires that you follow a rigid path through cramped tunnels and they only turn up when they want to. Imagine if your car refused to drive on anything other than the A13 and would only operate between the hours of 9am and 11pm. You wouldn’t stand for it, would you?

Anyway – my dislike for trains has been clearly noted and it’s only made it into this review to make the following statement even more impactful. Mini Metro is a game about operating trains and I think it’s outstanding. So there.

Some more detail, then. Mini Metro is something of an arcade puzzle game. The puzzle is that you’re looking at a map with train stations on it – much like the maps you’d see for London’s Underground service. These stations are all different shapes and soon you see they have passengers waiting at them. These passengers are also made of certain shapes which designates where they want to go. A small triangle waiting at the Square station simply means there’s someone who wants to go from the Square Station to the Triangle Station. Easy.unnamed-14

So you draw a line from one station to the next. The problem is that you have limited resources, such as tunnels, carriages and bridges. The arcade element comes with the pace of the game throwing new stations at you. The maps start off with 3 stations but very quickly you’re trying to figure out how to serve 20 stations of all varying shapes.

The trick is to try and figure out a sensible route for your trains to run, as customers will happily switch lines. What happens if you have too many people waiting at one stop though? What if 3 different lines all converge on one overcrowded station? It’s game over, that’s what.

The game will give you upgrades, such as faster trains, more carriages or more lines, but having these extra tools doesn’t always make your job easy. You still need to really think about just how to best serve your customers and just how overstretched one part of your train service is compared to other parts.

Each level does end in a ‘game over’ though, with the aim being to survive as long as you can. You need to transport as many passengers as possible and to reach a certain score to unlock the next level. However, even though each playthrough ends in a defeat of sorts, with you trying to best your previous score, it’s rare to feel angry at the game for causing your demise. 99% of the time you curse yourself for not changing the layout of your lines sooner, for not adding an extra carriage or for not noticing that a particular station was becoming too crowded.

There are the 1% of times, however, where you will feel slightly cheated by a sudden boom of popularity that simply couldn’t be predicted. These are few and far between though and what you have is a game that’s damn near perfect.

Mini Metro has sublime game design that has you cursing yourself, planning ahead and needing to react in the moment all at the same time. I hate trains. I love Mini Metro.


Real Baseball 3D Review

Real Baseball 3D Review

Mar 31, 2017

I know nothing about baseball. This still doesn’t stop me from realising that Real Baseball 3D is a bad baseball game. Someone who’s never seen a base nor a ball could tell you this.

The premise is simple. It’s baseball. When it comes to gameplay you’re only in charge of batting and pitching, with all of the fielding being taken care of for you. Occasionally you’ll be asked the question ‘do you want to steal a base’ or ‘do you want to throw to home or 1st base?’. Other than that, how successful your fielding is comes down to your player’s stats.

These stats are what the game’s all about. You collect cards which represent players. Each player will be rated on power, accuracy and the like. The game is set up in such a way that it obviously wants you to pay real money to get those better cards.unnamed-8

The problem is that pitching is boring and there’s little skill to it. You pick a type of throw, you aim and then you tap the screen when prompted to. Whether your AI opposition smacks the ball out the park or not is seemingly random.

Batting isn’t much better. All you need to do is tap the screen to swing your bat. Time it right and the ball sails away to get you a home run. Again, how the logic of this works out is unknown. Sometimes you’ll swear you timed your swing perfectly but, maybe, your AI pitcher has better stats than you so it means it goes straight into someone’s glove?

A massive problem with batting is that your swing occurs when you ‘release’ the screen. This means that your ‘tap’ feels delayed as it only starts animating once you lift your finger. Why on Earth it’s programmed this way, I have no idea.

Then there’s the adverts. There’s loads of them and they pop up right in the middle of a game. Seemingly random, some downs will end in an advert filling the screen whilst others won’t. Then there’s the messy menus to fight through all in the name of getting better stats so you can do ‘better’ in what is a really dull pitching and batting game.

There aren’t that many modes to enjoy either. You’ll spend most of your time improving your franchise but when it all boils down to playing a bad game of baseball, you’ll feel no desire to improve your team.

One last thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is the un-licensed nature of the game. It’s fine that you don’t have the MLB license, but have your game load with a poorly Photoshopped picture of the New York ‘Gibnts’. ‘Gibnts’ isn’t even a word and it makes no sense.

Shadow Mafia Gangster Fight Review

Shadow Mafia Gangster Fight Review

Mar 31, 2017

Gamgsters and stickmen? A match made in gaming heaven, perhaps?

We’ll see. Shadow Mafia Gangster Fight gives us a chance to check this amalgam.

It uses, well, stick figures for characterization, outside that, the 3D presentation is decently done.

The gameplay is broken down into missions; the intro mission kinda gives an idea of what you’re supposed to do: get briefed, and complete the mission. The controls are virtual in nature: spots for joystick generated motion, and others for attack, running, crouching, and the like. Missions include stuff like taking out spies, accosting LEOs, robbing banks and all sorts of illegal crime family fare.

The ability to attack from behind is interesting. It does allow for a bit of strategy to completing missions.

One key is learning when to go full out, and when to be slick. The enemy are somewhat smart, in that if one gets careless and is “noticed” by a sentry or target, said target/sentry might attack or flee, causing the mission to be failed.

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Failed missions can be re-done though.

It’s an interesting stealth mission adventure no doubt; I admit that some elements, like some choice of the targets, made me queasy. I mean, it’s a mafia game, and there can be no shortage of underworldly characters to fill out the list off baddies to leave the game early. Hey, I admit, I am a bit of a wuss in such matters.

Also, some of the visual tools could be a bit more refined to further help along the gameplay. For instance, the panning action would be a bit more effective with, say, an automatic portion I think.

All in all, it is a bit of an atypical gangster caper, and that helps it with regards to potential mindshare. In a crowded app market, that’s a great foundation.

N.O.V.A. Legacy Review

N.O.V.A. Legacy Review

Mar 31, 2017

Gameloft’s N.O.V.A. series has come quite far — so much so, that simply referring to it as a Halo clone feels unfair, given its longevity. In N.O.V.A. Legacy, we get to see the latest Android iteration of the first person shooter series.

Backstory: it’s the future, and humans have had to find places beyond earth (near orbital satellites) to live. New alien threats have also appeared, and forces like the Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance — yep, NOVA — are formed to protect humankind.

The player takes on the persona of Kal Wardin, a retired NOVA soldier called upon to figure out what has happened on the Colonial Pride Frigate.

The game comes forth in first person perspective, allowing the player to glean the action through the “eyes” of the screen. The main character is equipped with weapons, and the main idea is to advance to way points — in other words, finish missions and move on.

The first step is getting through the hands-on tutorial. We’re introduced to the invaded ship, and learn how to use the controls to effect sweeping vision and movement. Then, using the weapons provided plus reloading, and interacting with objects that allow for such.

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And taking on the ghastly Xenos bent on human destruction. Especially that.

Using simple touch controls, the player goes through the ship, looking for goodies and looking out for enemies combatants. The game utilizes sights, with which one can shoot the enemy; they fight back though, and some even use evasive moves to make them harder to hit.

This cover and shoot element goes both ways; it is a great tool for our hero. There are grenades, codes to collect and utilize, and even strategic decisions to make when dealing with waves of enemies.

After a level is complete, collected goodies can be utilized; the game incorporates a crafting element. The arena multiplayer part is the cherry on top.

Mysterium Review

Mysterium Review

Mar 31, 2017

We’ve been keeping an eye on for Mysterium for quite a bit, so it did have a bit to live up to.

The game manifests in two flavors, regular “Play” and Story Mode; the former is further broken into Quick Play, Online, Blitz and Solo. The game highly suggests starting out in Story Mode, and there wasn’t a reason not to oblige.

The backstory sets the mood. It’s the 1920s in Scotland, and murdered people are beginning to pile up. After the count hits four, a boy is caught and held accountable for the killings.

Ah, but the murders don’t end.

After a few more, a female culprit is apprehended. The common trend? Both suspects claim to have no recollection of the actual crimes. The two are labeled as being possessed by evil spirits.

A local nobleman that moonlights as a psychic looks to solve the puzzle, and recruits five fellow psychics to help him to unravel the mystery. He also gets the kid released and sets him up as his apprentice.

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The initial gameplay is helped along by text boxes. The graphics are dark and engaging, if a bit whimsical.

The game boils down to a card game, the ghosts has unclear visions, and it is up to the player, who works as the apprentice, to glean clues from the cards to pick the right situation (weapon, location, murder weapon, etc.) that solves the case.

The trick is in the cards, obviously. It’s all about analyzing and putting two and two — sorta — together. After a sequence of (hopefully) correct guesses, one gets to pick from a choice of sequences for the win.

Then it is on to the next mission. Different storylines, but the same core gameplay principles with regards to solving.

It comes together very well. It doesn’t do too much, but manages to hang on the mind. The different play modes extend the engagement, and the game works quite well in short or long bursts on the go.

Clue Review

Clue Review

Mar 31, 2017

When we a version of popular board game Clue on Google Play, we had to check it out.

The game starts out as one versed in the game would expect… with the selection of the character. the whole crew is present: Mustard, newish character Orchid, Scarlett, Green, Peacock and Plum. Then, one can pick other virtual players, and select the difficulty from three levels, ranging from easy to hard.

Then, it’s off to the game.

Yes, Boddy is our victim. The idea is to figure out the where, what and the who of the crime; this is done by deducing the cards in the solution envelope.clue3

The gameplay pits the player against the game UI, and one can select to against two or more virtual opponents. The virtual playing cards are set in their categories (Suspects, Weapons and Room), and one random card from each category is placed in the solution envelope. After this selection, the rest are dealt amongst the players. These animations are all performed at the onset, and is pretty nifty.

The game starts with the roll of the dice; this done by tapping the virtual pair. The idea is to get to rooms, and then “suggest” who did the deed, along with what weapon. The basic strategy from the “real” game remains: after each player’s suggestion, the successive player(s) has to show a card that is part of the current suggestion that is in his/her possession. The other players take relevant notes to narrow down the choices.

Here is where the arguably the biggest adjustment manifests. Instead of a physical note and pencil, the game utilizes an automatically-filled out digital form. This does make the game quite manageable, though it somewhat eliminates the game’s native charm.

And thus it goes, until the final guess is proffered. If successful, the player wins. If not, game over.

So… to the big question: how does it really compare to the physical board game? Quite well, actually. Anyone who has played the physical version should enjoy this. On the one hand, the lack of multiplayer is somewhat understandable but still pertinent.

FZ9: Timeshift Review

FZ9: Timeshift Review

Mar 30, 2017

We’ve been keeping an eye on FZ9: Timeshift. Well, it’s here.

Off the bat, great looks and varied environments give the game visual spine.

The game gently suggests getting in on Story Mode, and as such, Story is where we spent most of our days. The game gets you in on the action quickly. Yes, first person is the how this one is perceived, and it works well at first blush.

The main gimmick is the slowing down of time. Taking on the persona of our hero Mak (and controlling his movements via virtual joystick) one takes on missions with plenty of armed enemies with various types of weapons. When not moving though, time is slowed to crawl, allowing the player to see (and possibly dodge) incoming bullets. it also slows down incoming attackers and everything else. This “ability” gives our dude an edge in combat.

The game employs a simple targeting method using a simple crosshair; it can be adjusted manually, or one can rely on an automatic sighting button to help. When it’s all said and done, two main goals are clear. Shoot, and don’t get killed. The gameplay flows logically, as one navigates environments populated with hostiles.

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One aspect that is decently done is the weapon usage. Our guy typically has a handgun to start with limited ammo, and the idea is to procure discarded or dropped to continue. When all else fails, one can look to use the time control to get close to an attacker and take out said attacker with a knife. As always, follow the direction arrows, and get from Point A to Point B.

It pays to remember: getting shot (or being caught by a melee attacker) end the run. Unsuccessfully.

There is an energy requirement, and there are leveling elements. Attributes can be improved too.

Stealth – hardcore action Review

Stealth – hardcore action Review

Mar 27, 2017

Stealth – hardcore action doesn’t carry many airs with it. Nah, with simple blue hues and a top-down 2D look, it feels very unassuming.

Simple as it is, the game still manages to wear “puzzle” garb quite ably. With the aforementioned top-down view being our visual gateway, the game is very easily taken in and understood.

The game play is all about avoiding detection. On the one hand, there are sentries with lights that roam around, and on the other, you… the player. The latter is looking to avoid the former. As the player, you think of yourself as a shrewd operator versed in subterfuge. Think hostages. Think danger.

Think smart.

The simulated lights are the aggressor’s tool of discovery; they flare out and have fixed ranges, and are perched in front of the sentries, much like you’d see on a cartoon car. As the sentry moves and switches direction, the locator light is shined on a new area of space. As hinted at, the main idea is to avoid having the light set upon the your play piece. To increase the fun factor, it is also possible to creep behind a moving sentry, all furtive like; as long as the subject isn’t caught in the light, it’s all good.

If the light does chance upon you, the sentry is alerted, and chases you down… level failed.

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But then, one has to contend with the collectible pieces –ah, the “hostages” — that are placed at different places on the board. They are rescued by contact, and when all are collected, an escape portal appears, which one has to navigate to safely. There are bonus objects, and one nifty trick is the ability to eliminate sentries by contact. This isn’t for the faint of heart, as it entails continued contact from behind, sometimes while said sentry is moving and twirling around.

As the game goes on, the levels become a bit tougher, which is to be expected.

Stealth wins because it is simple yet engaging. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel; it just presents an easy-to-chew portion of it. When it comes to mobile games, simplicity is an attribute to strive for, and this one mostly delivers.

Akihabara – Feel the Rhythm Review

Akihabara – Feel the Rhythm Review

Mar 27, 2017

I feel sorry for game designers sometimes. It can feel like every ‘type’ of game has been made already – just how do you come up with something people have never seen before? One easy way to do this is to simply combine already popular ideas together.

So this is Akihabara – Feel the Rhythm – it’s combination of Tetris, Connect 4 and a rhythm game. This means that blocks fall from the top of the screen and land at the bottom. The blocks are different colours, so you naturally need to have 4 of the same type touching each other to ‘clear’ them and get points. The rhythm-wrinkle comes from you being able to alter the colour of falling blocks by tapping the screen at the right moment.

This is because as with all good rhythm games you have a line travelling from left to right and it’s moving in time to the beat. Each beat of the song you’re hearing is timed so that the line transitions from one block to the next. To get a high score and a multiplier built up, you need to time your colour-swapping screen taps in time to the music.unnamed-11

It’s a nice idea and one that had me interested to play Akihabara – Feel the Rhythm in the first place. Sadly the rhythm aspect of the game doesn’t really matter, so it kind of falls flat as a rhythm game. You’ll never ‘fail’ a level because you’re tapping out of time.

Then it’s sad to say that the Tetris / Connect 4 elements doesn’t work too well either as there’s no sense of danger when blocks are falling. This is because all blocks are the same shape, they’re just squares. Also, each time you tap the screen you can see what colour you’ll be swapping a descending block for. There’s no randomness to the blocks falling or to the order of which new colour is being inserted into the falling block.

It means the game’s not a challenge in terms of puzzling and it doesn’t really care if you can keep a beat either. So you’re left with falling blocks that you can easily change the colour of and all you need to do is group 4 of them together.

It’s a shame because the idea’s a good one, the music’s nice and the controls work well for what they are. It’s just that there’s no excitement to playing the game and when all you’ve got is a ‘campaign’ which is more of a battle of endurance than skill, it kind of stops being fun.

Akihabara – Feel the Rhythm sits in a bizarre no-man’s land of genres. It’s a solid idea that’s lacking in its execution and won’t grab you like a good puzzle game needs to and it won’t challenge you like a good rhythm game needs to.


Super Mario Run Review

Super Mario Run Review

Mar 27, 2017

We’ve been waiting for it, and it is now here: Nintendo’s Super Mario Run is now on Google Play.

If you have seen any part of the iOS port, the game should feel quite familiar. It is a brightly colored affair, with an overall look that is very Mario in nature. The main gameplay manifests in 2D and is presented in portrait.

When it’s all said and done, this is a damsel in distress story. Familiar Nintendo characters hold sway here… Bowser, the King of the Koopa is up to his usual nefarious ways. This time — as in time past — Peaches is his target. Mario takes on the role of enthusiastic, running hero.smr3

And run he does. The game opens with a hands on tutorial that explains the basic playing mechanism: our hero runs forward perpetually without any input from the player, and also jumps over small obstacles all by himself.

Soon, a bit more user interaction is required though, and this is where tapping the screen comes in. This invokes a jump, which is great for jumping over gaps or reaching things suspended in the air. Holding the tap makes a higher jump.

It’s leveled, and the partial goal is to make it from the beginning to the end in the allotted time. That means to avoid the obstacles and enemies successfully; secondarily to that, there are plenty of coins to pick up (including specially colored ones).

The game also has alternative play options; Toad Rally is a great way to mimic PvP action.

Alas, as you probably heard, the game is limited. It has a few levels available, after which you’ll need to drop $9.99 to unlock the full game. Not back-breaking, but in the mobile space, some folks might balk.

There is a good deal of activity available though, and the source material definitely gives this one a bit of mindshare.