Invaders Inc.

Invaders Inc.

Jun 20, 2016

Sometimes I play games to build. I want to grow an empire, lead a sports team to victory or just construct a castle of sorts. Other times I’m all about that destruction. Wiping out civilizations, demolishing towns and annihilating entire planets. Invaders Inc is the latter rather than the former.

It sees you playing as a race of aliens looking to make Earth their new home. If you’ve played Plague Inc., you’ll have an idea of how this plays. Like a cross between Risk and Xcom, you need to invade different countries and build-up your offenses.

This may sound exciting, but it’s really quite dull to play. For starters, this whole game plays out at one pace. You can’t fast-forward the game, so at some points you’re sat there waiting for something to happen – a new ship to be built (which is done automatically), a new genetic upgrade to unlock or a new weapon to invest in.invaders2

All of these upgrades and improvements are unlocked through nothing more than a series of menus, meaning the gameplay boils down to waiting and clicking through menus. This wouldn’t be too bad if there was some grand strategy to the things you’re doing. However, there’s not.

You see, the ‘strategy’ is all to do with each country’s heat, cold, science and military values. These values all relate to your own aliens IQ, strength, heat tolerance and cold tolerance values – and that’s it. If your aliens have a low heat tolerance you need to invade a mild climate country and then invest in, you guessed it, your heat tolerance. If a country has a high science value then you need to invest in your alien’s IQ values. There’s no risk or reward to anything and it’s all quite predictable.

Eventually, the invasion stops being a secretive operation and it soon descends into an all-out war. This might sound exciting, but like everything else in the game, this is all about bars filling up and upgrades being bought via a menu. You see, as you’re invading, the human’s ‘awareness’ gauge slowly fills up. It’ll fill up more quickly if you invade ‘high-science’ countries – this can be slowed down by upgrading your alien’s ‘stealth’ capabilities.

You should see a pattern here. One bar fills up so you need to buy an upgrade. You wait and watch bars fill up and as a result, you then buy another upgrade. Rinse and repeat. War breaks out but nothing changes as – yet again – you simply watch bars decrease this time.

It’s a real shame that such a good premise fails in its execution. Having played Plague, Inc. I could see what the game was aiming for, but there’s little polish or flavour to the game.


Super Jabber Jump Review

Super Jabber Jump Review

Jun 20, 2016

Super Jabber Jump somehow feels like a breath of fresh air.

Off the bat, the graphics transport one back… way back, to a glorious time when platformers fashioned after prodigious brothers and inquisitive gorillas held sway. Yep, chunky graphics and retro-ish washed out graphics meld together to create a visually pleasing environment that helps to enhance the game.

With regards to gameplay, we have a 2D platform caper; the player controls the protagonist that moves generally from left to right, looking to make it to the finish line to complete individual levels. Movement and actions are controlled by a virtual set of controls: moving in either direction, jumping and throwing weapons.

Of course, such a bank of controls hints at some of the goodness — and dastardly obstacles — to come. There are wondering baddies that look to hurt our protagonist. With a limited amount of lives, one needs to be smart, and either avoid or jump. There are also exhaustible weapons one can use on enemies and structures, plus different leveled areas, and one can exploit special areas and block pieces to collect goodies. Coins line the travelways, there is a time trial element, and there are some tricky aspects that become apparent when one gets further into the game. Boosts are available too.

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It incorporates a simple upgrade system, with purple diamonds being the main game cowrie shell. The game issues an allotment that can be collected at intervals, and one can use them to extend boosts and the like.

It comes across as an engaging platformer, with enough familiar elements to make one fairly familiar with the gameplay. The combination of action and graphics works well, and it is able to engage by adding new twists every so often. The controls are easy to navigate, and it is also blessed with a relatively intuitive upgrade process.

Some folks might want a bit more action, but the game mostly succeeds because it doesn’t do too much, and in the long run, that is almost always a good thing.

That seems to hold true here.

Stickman Soccer 2016

Stickman Soccer 2016

Jun 20, 2016

Soccer games have been getting more and more complicated as the years have gone on. Now you’ve got through-balls, lofted passes, finesse shots and so on. It’s sometimes too much and these complicated controls don’t translate well to mobile phones or tablets.

Stickman Soccer 2016 looks to remedy this. It does this by giving you two buttons – one that passes and one that shoots. If you’re defending, you have a button to switch which player you’re controlling and another button to carry out a slide tackle.

That’s it. It’s unbelievably simple yet does produce some moments of fun. On the harder difficulty settings you’ll need to pass the ball around enough to try and get the opponent’s defenders out of the way. Also, shooting from afar doesn’t result in goals too often, so passing and moving are required.

Defending is a little harder as it seems a bit random as to whether your tackles work or not. On the harder difficulties it seems like the AI can read your mind and dodge out of the way of sliding tackles with cat-like reflexes.stickman4

Aside from the basic arcadey gameplay there’s really not much else to talk about. Sure, there are teams to unlock, and they have different stats and kits, but there’s nothing else to really aim for or complete. Seasons can be played out, but there’s no real progression or development to your team – you won’t be taking part in transfers or developing talent.

Also, the different leagues and cups you want to play in need to be unlocked through watching adverts. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the game didn’t ask you to watch 5 adverts in a row before unlocking the content. Why it can’t ask you to watch an advert after every 3rd game, I don’t know. Instead it wants you to watch all adverts in one block and it’s a real slog.

The adverts don’t just get in the way when you’r eunlokcing content but they also intrude when you’re playing the game. Whenever you finish a match or pause the game, an advert takes over your screen. Sure, you can buy an IAP to get rid of these adverts, but the game is so slim on gameplay I’d find it hard to recommend.

Also – a quick mention of the game’s attempt at representing women’s football. Essentially, it alters the ‘normal’ stickman model to one with inflatable balloons for breasts and a pony-tail. There you go ladies, enjoy!

Stickman Soccer 2016 is a bare-bones arcade game that goes from being too easy to too hard in the blink of an eye. It’s also got very little variation to keep you playing.


Thunderbirds Are Go: Team Rush Review

Thunderbirds Are Go: Team Rush Review

Jun 8, 2016

The Thunderbirds franchise reached iconic status a long, long time ago. After an iconic series and a few reboots — on small an big screens — the action narrative about a family of heroes using futuristic craft to put out conflagrations from one global hotspot to another is ever cool.

The latest series brings a modern feel, plus a companion mobile game, Thunderbirds Are Go: Team Rush. Hey, companion mobile games are what we expect; they’re practically the sign that a movie or series is to be taken seriously,tag3 no?

So far, so good.

The game graphics highlight the unique roots of the original animation, with a modern veneer. There are several scenes with interesting backgrounds, and the fusion of technology and nature is mostly becoming. The color usage is pleasantly judicious, and the perspective switches help bridge the sequences from a one scene to the next.

The sounds are inviting and appropriate, and work well to frame the action.

And what does the gameplay bring? Well, the core experience is fashioned after the tried and true three-laned runner. The game helps one along, with the persona of one of the crew, running along a path with all sorts of obstacles, outcroppings, rock, falling debris and more. One has to use the practically standard gesture controls to navigate the terrain: swiping up to jump, down to slide low, and left or right to dart to the respective side. It feels easy to get into, and is quite intuitive, what with the collectibles that create opportunity cost situations.

But the gameplay morphs every now and then, and does so in such a way that incorporates the franchise as a whole (and mini-adventures specifically). Different craft come to fore, and then there is even a team component to completing missions. Collected coin can be used to improve one’s abilities, and one gets to do different things in different locales.

All in all, it does well to utilize a well-worn element, and give it a blast of fresh air; in many ways, its greatest strength (familiar gameplay) can be a doubled-edged sword.

It’s hard to see true Thunderbirds fans complain too much.

Assassin’s Creed Identity Review

Assassin’s Creed Identity Review

May 31, 2016

Assassin’s Creed Identity. Need we say more?

Hey, it’s only one of the more popular game franchises across the board. A new title on Android has a lot to live up to, and rightfully so.

Based on the game pedigree, we do expect topnotch graphics; fortunately, the game mostly delivers, with rich, descriptive looks buttressed with smooth animations and time-appropriate scenery. The game comes to life on screen in landscape, and along with the sounds, the media presentation is fantastic indeed.

Play-wise, the action gets right into it. After a few perfunctory pointers, one is presented with a hands on tutorial which gives an idea of how to use the controls. Movement is performed via virtual joystick (by default), and attacks are selected from a wheel selector. One learns to fight and become comfortable with the tasking and waypoint system, as well as how to use mapping system to figure out how to get to where one wants to go. It feels intuitive, and plays as such.

The control system provides options, which is always a good thing.

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As soon as this intro portion is done (as in the missions completed), one is welcomed to the game proper. The whole experience comes to life as an RPG adventure, what with the ability to pick a character, and customize him to a degree. There are different type of assassins with different skill sets, and more that can be unlocked. There are missions to complete, and goodies to attain, and XP helps one progress up the ranks. The game incorporates several elements to make it feel more authentic… stealth mode? Yep.

One great thing is the depth of content. There is a boatload of missions, and the diversity of action does a good job of keeping one engaged. It does get a tad busy at times, and even a bit formulaic, but the overall game is net positive.

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga

May 31, 2016

I’ve played plenty of Lego games in my time. From Hobbits to Batmen, I’ve enjoyed the platforming fun they provide and appreciated the humour they manage to cram into their levels and their cut-scenes. I’ve never, however, played one of these games on a touchscreen mobile device.

So it took me no time to decide that I wanted to get my hands on LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. It’s essentially an action platformer set in the first 6 episodes of the Star Wars. Whilst some Star Wars fans will want to deny all existence of the prequels, fans of Luke Skywalker and Jar Jar Binks alike will have something to look forward to.sw2

The game itself is fairly straightforward. As it’s an action platformer you’re required to make your way through the levels, jumping from ledge to ledge and taking on all manner of enemies. Where it gets interesting is the way the LEGO license is used, as some puzzles within levels can only be completed by putting together LEGO bricks to make bridges and all manner of level-specific objects.

What’s amazing is the sheer amount of content that’s on offer. Each film, of which there are 6, is made up of multiple levels. Each level has multiple cut-scenes, all of which are full of humour and sure to delight kids both young and old. All of your favourite characters are playable (as well as some of the more obscure ones) and they all have different skills which means replaying levels is well worth doing. C3PO, for example, can’t run or jump but he can access control terminals which will unlock areas otherwise impossible to get to.

The only issue I encountered is the controls. This is a platforming game and as such it requires quite some precision to be able to complete some of the harder jumps. LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga offers you two options. The first option is your standard on-screen controls, where you drag your thumb around and it acts like a normal controller. As is always the way with this type of control scheme, the lack of physical feedback when pressing buttons makes it less than ideal and will see you falling into Rancor pits.

The other solution is ‘tap controls’. This dumbs down the control scheme so that all you need to do is tap to where you want to go. For the more difficult jumps all you need to do is tap close to the ledge and then swipe upwards and the game does the difficult jump for you. This is too easy. I hate sounding like Goldilocks, but there’s no control scheme that’s ‘just right’ so I found myself with on-screen controls that were too hard or tap controls that were too easy.

It’s a real shame, as this would otherwise be a game I recommend without any hesitation. As it stands this is a game that I recommend but with the caveat that you need to be prepared to battle some wonky controls.

Swordbreaker Review

Swordbreaker Review

May 31, 2016

Swordbreaker seems like something one can get into.

It is a zany affair visually, and easily invokes medieval imagery, if a bit fantastical. It makes use of colors in an engaging way, with brightly illustrated stills depicting wild action scenes. One gets interesting creatures and occasionally gory scenes which, especially at the beginning, capture one’s attention while doing a better than decent job of framing the gameplay.

Getting into the playing action is easy. It utilizes a thought out backstory, and then proceeds on into a Choose Your Own Adventure vehicle to really get things going.

The beginning gives a great view as to how it works: our hero gets to a massive castle, and has to figure out how to get in; using a simple 1-2 (usually) option system, one gets to select how from a couple of options. Once in, us then presented with different scenarios based upon what choice one selected previously.

And so on…

There are interesting creatures to fight, and it us possible to make a bad move. If one does select a non-optimal path, the game just might lead one back a step or two and have another shot at getting further.

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What it boils down to is a varied adventure that allows the player to wade through a set of predetermined outcomes. It is fairly forgiving in the way it leads players down specific paths, but it also makes it a bit rigid; it could probably use more cohesive paths to make the whole thing more diverse.

It us a premium title that is self-contained, and one should tip a hat to the developer for providing a separate demo version.

All in all, it does manage to suck one in in parts, and it is a fairly cohesive experience, definitely worth sending quality time with the aforementioned demo.

Hockey Stars Review

Hockey Stars Review

May 31, 2016

NHL Playoffs are reaching their zenith, and in the down time, Hockey Stars might be the perfect time-waster.

For folks who grew up playing bottle top soccer, the game should bring back memories right from the get-go. The game plays in landscape orientation, and uses a playing area etched out in the general form of a hockey ice rink. The players look like the aforementioned bottle tops, being round in nature, and each team gets six play pieces.

The puck is smaller still, and comes in the familiar black. The artwork is better than utilitarian, and does the job of hs3underscoring the gameplay, with the top-down view and bright team coloration. The template is easy to understand, and comes to life intuitively.

The gameplay is equally easy to get into. The control mechanism is gesture based, and involves dragging and directing a player piece to hit the puck — hopefully into opponents net, or with that in goal. The brief tutorial is all one really needs… pull to “build” momentum, release. Rinse and repeat.

And then it’s off to play. One can try out the mini-games, play with friends, practice offline or go 1 on 1 online (tourney play is noted as being on the way). We cut our teeth in the 1v1 mode.

This is an online battler for goodies, with different locations that have varying “entry” fees. The game is timed turn-based, so both players have a chance to do damage one after the other. With a bit of experience, strategic options do begin to show themselves. Protecting one’s goal is obviously very important, and one can use rebounding and deflections advantageously. The physics aspect is well-done, as the objects usually act like one would expect similar pieces to do in real life. At the base level, two goals wins, so being able to score quickly is key.

There is an entry fee, and winner takes all. Goodies can be used to improve attributes, and there is a leveling component. Doing well allows one to eventually unlock stuff like new formations and even whole teams and countries which can be useful against better opponents.

It is a surprisingly fleshed out experience despite the simplistic cover. It did have a hiccup here and there, but for the most part, the positives heavily outweigh any perceived negatives, and the free-to-play aspect makes it easy to try. The little add-ons (like mini-games) are a plus as well.

Infinity Loop Premium Review

Infinity Loop Premium Review

May 29, 2016

Interestingly enough, Infinity Loop Premium exists in that realm where simplicity meets mind-bender. Puzzles can be enjoyably atypical, and this game’s developer clearly wants that joint attribute.

From a graphical point of view, it’s a bare bones experience… but definitely in a positive manner. The playing area is fairly stark, allowing the relevant pieces to shine forth for player manipulation. The animations are seamless, and the use of color is regulated well, creating a relatively engaging adventure. It utilizes simple controls (taps) and incorporates easy menus that can be hidden, allowing for few distractions when the play starts.

Once one gets said playing, one might be forgiven for doing a double take a time or two. A graphical representation is the centerpiece, and even though it isn’t initially apparent, it consists of numerous smaller pieces. Each of these pieces can be rotated by tapping, breaking any common lines and even connected to different end points, or rotated all the way back to its original position.

The core concept is to rotate all the individual pieces, such that a new, mostly closed 2D object is created. Since there are several pieces to move around, there are a number of possible permutations, so it takes a bit of playing and around and logic to arrive at the solved image. using end pieces as a guide, one looks to move stuff around until the puzzle is solved.

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Solving a puzle opens up a tougher one; the game is leveled.

As far as geometric puzzlers go, Loop is definitely interesting, especially in the way it seemingly varies the difficulty levels from level to level. Just when one narrows one’s eyes in readiness for a mind bender, one gets tossed for a loop — delightfully so.

A hint system could probably help, but the developer does allow for levels to be replayed, and all together it is a fun caper.

Squadron 1945 Review

Squadron 1945 Review

May 29, 2016

A WWII-era air battler? Squadron 1945 could do much, much worse.

Looks-wise, the game has a quiet, almost understated type of elegance to it. The graphics are slick, with really smooth animations that almost make one miss the somewhat detailed underlying background pieces. The “lighting” works, as do the sounds, and the gameplay is advanced nicely in the standard portrait orientation.squ3

Think of it as a squadron of four ships, each with unique abilities. The first ship takes on incoming enemy waves, guided by one’s finger, and perpetually shooting. The ships fly in a creative formation, mostly from either side, and, as to be expected, they have dangerous projectiles of their own. The main idea is to guide the current protagonist ship to take out the enemy ships, while avoiding the return fire.

Staying alive. For points. If a ship gets destroyed, one gets another ship, until all are depleted; in this sense, one has four lives. one can switch existing ships mid-flight if one so chooses.

The game is leveled, and includes a few more elements to boost its arcade cred. One interesting one is the passive control; one when takes the controlling finger off the screen, the game slows to a crawl. For anyone that has played this type of game, this is genius, as it, in essence, allows one to re-position one’s finger without losing serious ground.

The game also incorporates boosts too; these appear on the screen, and give extra attributes/powers for a time. There are also achievements which can be unlocked and tie into GP Games. And what type of arcade game would this be without boss battles? Check.

It comes together well, with a familiar feel, and is super-easy to get into. it probably could use a mini-game or two to shed some monotony, but it’s tough to dislike.

Angry Birds Action! Review

Angry Birds Action! Review

May 29, 2016

If one mobile gaming developer can claim to have changed the landscape, it’s probably Rovio. Angry Birds helped usher in a new type of game, and a new monetization system to boot.

And it isn’t over yet. Say hello to Angry Birds Action!

As to be expected, the name of the game is (still) recovering eggs, taking on baddies and doing other things which incensed avian creatures do when trapped in a recurrent pinball nightmare.aba3

Artistically, franchise savants should feel comfortable, what with the glossy, in-your-face graphics that catch the eye and define the very first Angry Birds way back when. There is a definite tropical feel to the game, and the use of color that manages to feel natural and whimsical at the same time. The sound is a good fit, with plenty of poppy effects. The game seems set to live or die by its animations, and it mostly lives.

The projectiles are quite familiar, as they are from the usual stable of creatures.

The gameplay boils down to pinball action, nothing is more suited as a control mechanism than the iconic pull and release motion that defines the original game. The game is consumed in portrait; in the playing area, there are eggs that are freed by contact, plus other obstacles and “bumpers” to keep things interesting. As noted, one drags the bird, sets the direction using a virtual arrow system, and then releases the bird to do mayhem.

The bird typically bounces around, doing its thing until it loses momentum; if all the eggs weren’t released, one gets to go again, up to the amount of times allowed. Yes, the idea is to release all the eggs with the fewest tries.

Finishing successfully opens the next level, and the 3-star system is in full effect. The game gets more challenging as one goes on. One interesting aspect are “birdcodes,” which allow one to access extra content via AB paraphernalia and even the upcoming movie.

All in all, it’s different, but familiar. It does have an energy requirement, but manages to be interesting, especially in spurs.

Vector 2 Review

Vector 2 Review

May 26, 2016

Tis the season for sequels. Vector 2 is here.

For those of us that were engaged in the original, this new game should be delightfully nostalgic. The game, again, is taken in in landscape, with dark colors taking precedence to give the game its core visual character. The main character looks shadowy in its black form, and the entire playing area looks believably futuristic, with plenty of smooth animated action that works in 2D. It’s easy to love the simulated parkour moves, and thesounds frame the gameplay well.

Think of this as a side-scrolling, platform adventure. The basic idea is to control the aforementioned silhouetted runner across an interestingly laid out running area, from right to left and hopefully all the way to the end of the level. Controlling the runner is done with the help of gestures, and these are fairly intuitive: swiping up initiates a jump, and swiping down invokes an evasive maneuver (like a slide); there are also times when one can swipe horizontally to create a burst of speed.

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Now, navigating the running area is where the game creates the challenge. At the start of an episode, the runner begins to run, and continues to run forward continuously on his/her own. There are plenty of obstacles, and it takes a bit of care to get by them, as in knowing when to jump or slide or even stay pat. Jumping a pit early can create issues, as one can land in a bad area, and jumping needlessly can have negative effects too. The cool visuals take front and center; the runner will usually execute a parkour-ish move depending on the the type of obstacle presented.

The game allows for attributes and equipment to be upgraded using a dual system of game currency. Real cash can be used, but can be avoided with patience, as this one has an energy requirement.

Still, it is an enjoyable romp, and is capable of providing loads of entertainment.