Traitor – Valkyrie Plan Review

Traitor – Valkyrie Plan Review

Jun 30, 2015

In recent times, a bit more attention has been to the plots against Hitler. There were quite a few, with varying degrees of failure as it were, but one of the ones that came especially close was also the last serious attempt; The July 20th plot is almost overshadowed by the coup attempt it prematurely spawned. Code-named Valkyrie, the plot called for the implementation of an emergency protocol that would, in essence, use reserve troops meant to resist a putsch to actually carry it out.

Valkyrie — the game — gently borrows from the true story, and creates a first person experience that pulls in other elements seemingly fill it out.

Visually, the game does not disappoint; the developer conveys a lot through the way pretend light is used. The changing scenery works well, and attention is paid to the little things, like shadows and sight perspective. The animations are relatively smppth, and while some secondary characters feel a bit stilted, the overall presentation is easy on the eyes.

As hinted at earlier, the game is in first player, and the player takes on the persona Colonel Claus (we have to assume this is based on the actual leader of the July 20 Plot, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg); like the real life model, our virtual hero is hurt in Africa, and upon returning to Germany, becomes certain that Hitler must be toppled.

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In this game, he decides to become a hitman.

The game teaches one how to play the game actively, and incorporates virtual buttons to tap and general area to use gesture entry. The opening tutorial shows one the basics, including movement, weapon use, interaction and more. As one goes on, other game concepts become more apparent, a big one being stealth. There is also come other things to think about like wearing the right uniform for the occasion, and even avoiding the dreaded gestapo.

So, in many respects, it’s a stealth/action thriller. Strategy does pay a big part, as one does need to figure out what to do when. It picks up fast, and the individual missions tie in together. It’s a cool going.

The control mechanism does seem busy, and the different sequences can be a bother. The dialogue boxes can use some polish too. In the end though, it’s all about the positives, and in this one, they (like the free demo) definitely outweigh the bad. Easily. In real life, Valkyrie failed. This game allows us to re-imagining it.

That’s reason enough to give it a try.

No Gravity (Fire TV) Review

No Gravity (Fire TV) Review

Jun 29, 2015

There is no such thing as too many games. There is definitely nothing like too many games for Fire TV.

No Gravity gives us the potential to get what we want.

It looks and sounds like an old-school arcade shooter, and that’s clearly on purpose; it transports one back to the game rooms of way back when, with half-burned out fluorescent bulbs and cheap carpets pockmarked with patches of spilled soda. It is presented in abbreviated rear-top view fashion, such that the player feels perched just off the tail end of the spaceship. The adventure takes place in space, of course, and the 3D renderings of the ship and other objects is pretty vivid. The coloration is fairly appropriate, with deliberate splotches of explosive color and smooth animations.

The gameplay is straight-up space shooter fare. It is set into missions, and the basic idea, as set forth in the hands-on tutorial, it take care of business and move on. Taking care of business does entail learning the basics of flying, and one learns how to maneuver and fire weapons, skills needed to get far in the game. Eventually, “real” missions open up, and the real action begins; there’s stuff like protecting space stations from a meteor strike. Using the sighting mechanism and directional controls, the idea is to get to the destructive rocks quickly by obliterating them with the supplied weapons. The gameplay concepts expand on from there with tougher (and eventually more cunning) targets.

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The game is a bit plodding at the beginning, but does pick up greatly down the line, with tougher missions and even boss-like experiences. There is a greater emphasis on skill and strategy, and finishing successfully is not as easy as originally inferred.

When it’s all said and done, No Gravity is an interesting game, fun by most standards, and greatly enhanced by the Fire TV compatibility. It really pops on the big screen, and is almost ruined for a post-Fire TV “regular device trial. All in all, it does well it does well, and even manages to surprise a bit down the line.

Biolith Lite Review

Biolith Lite Review

Jun 29, 2015

Biolith is simple.

And when we say simple, we do mean just that; the game is easier to play than to explain. The playing area is a 3-D board made up of smaller sections or tiles that are laid out 8×8. Close to the center, there is a small, paper cicada; it can move along the tiles, one tile at a time, and this becomes of use in the game.

One the outer tiles, there are “enemies” which look a bit like chess pieces, except that they are uniformly shaped and are of different colors: red, blue, green, yellow, purple and black. They close in on the poor cicada, and are able to slide a tile each based on an hourglass that continually runs and restarts. These pieces collectively move (mostly), and look to destroy the cicada by touch. The game AI controls these, and they do seem to possess a degree of cunning that increases further into the game.

To avoid these, the cicada can use the aforementioned ability to move in an effort to elude the enemies. This is tempered by one issue: by default, the Cicada moves very slowly. When a tile is tapped to make it move to another tile, it has to turn and such to move; the end result is that if there is an opponent in an adjacent tile (the red zone, so to speak), there might not be enough time to get away.

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The most potent weapon for most might be the dual orbs which “hang” from up top. These orbs randomly change color, and can be used to blast an enemy of the same color. So, if the orbs flash black, a black piece can be tapped, and the orb fires a laser to destroy it. In this, the game boils down to mini-defense caper, with the action involving quick taps and even a bit of strategy; some pieces leave an extra life. Does one try to get to that tile to pick it up, or does one concentrate on the encroaching enemy. Does one give up a life (which destroys close-by pieces) or take a chance hoping for a fortuitous color change from the shooting orb?

If one is able to finish one wave, a faster, smarter one replaces it. Skill points are awarded, and these can be used to upgrade attributes and bonuses.

Simple does it, really. The artwork is sufficient, and the sound works. The game is somewhat addictive, and would be more so when the full version makes its way out.

MONOPOLY Dash for Chromecast Review

MONOPOLY Dash for Chromecast Review

Jun 28, 2015

We love Chromecast.

There really isn’t a reason to be bashful. Still, we’d be lying if we didn’t wish for more Chromecast-based games. there are a few, but Google Play can definitely use more.

Enter MONOPOLY Dash… the merge of the iconic game and Google’s streaming gadget.

Now, it deviates quite a bit from traditional Monopoly. The board retains the general form, with the same color-coded properties plus railroads and utilities along with luck cards and tax spots, jail, etc. all in their proper places. After that, we get a different playing mechanism. In this one, getting properties of the same color is still key, but there is less of an emphasis on property names, as there is almost no need. When playing as a single player against the game AI, the property cards are randomly dealt evenly to the 4 players, and the turns go in clockwise manner, and the general idea is to guess what the other players have so as to appropriate those cards, so that one get get all the cards in a color group.

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To explain further, after the cards are dealt, one might find that they possess two light blue properties (for the Monopoly aficionados, that could correspond to any two of Oriental, Vermont and Connecticut Avenues). The idea would be to get the missing light blue card as quickly as possible to complete the set. To do this, one selects another of the players and guesses which one has it. If the guess is wrong, the next player goes; if the guess is correct the player would, in this case, complete the set, and earn one-time cash payments for the hotels that are automatically built on the owned properties.

From this, the entire game concept sprouts; there is some strategizing to be done: watching guesses to glean who has what cards, mentally chronicling the amount of cards left so as to maximize guessing probability, and so on. It isn’t monopoly, but has enough of it in its DNA to make it familiar. Jail and chance cards make an appearance. When all the sets have been matched, the player with the highest dollar value in total wins, which points to the underlying theme which is the same for “real” Monopoly: sometimes, going for the highest value properties makes the most sense.

As a Chromecast dependent game, the streaming aspect is probably the most favorable. Multiplayer via TV is a nice feature, and the bright coloration translates well. One the one hand, I think a non-Chromecast option would be nice, but it is hard to complain about about dongle-based options.

Orbit Jumper Review

Orbit Jumper Review

Jun 27, 2015

The older I get, the more I tend to value simple endeavors, especially with regards to handheld gaming. You know, get a game my son and I can enjoy, without a lengthy tutorial, and battle it out one after the other. Orbit Jumper is another one of those games that is almost easier to play to explain. It is played in portrait orientation, going “upwards” in endless fashion, and incorporates an endless number of circular, 2D orbits that are arranged much like interlocking gears. The orbits are represented as white circles.

A rock rotates along the bottom-most orbit, on the outside, by default. The basic idea is to move upwards by making the rock jump to the next orbit at the perfect time — when the orbits are touching. Doing so late causes an run-ending collision, while doing so early causes the rock to jump on the inside of the orbit (itself dangerous if not corrected oj2quickly). Every orbit jumped scores a point, and as noted previously, the higher one goes, the better.

To add to the pressure of orbit jumping, a dangerous cloud emanates as soon as the rock moves to a new orbit. If it expands all the way to the orbit circumference, it ends the run. As such, one cannot stand pat rotating in place; in essence, there is a time limit to get to the next orbit. So, patience can he helpful, but tarrying can end a glorious run. For such a simple game, seeing elements like twitch reactions, hand-to-eye coordination and dexterous fingers is quite becoming. The low-frills environment works very well.

The visuals really help the game along. It’s a high-gloss affair, with white primaries backed by interchangeable pastel backgrounds. Within such a simple came, customization options must be lauded. The animations are crisp, and the whole experience adds to the game’s allure.

The easy-going nature that defines Orbit Jumper is a double-edged sword; the game is infinitely easy to pick up and go, but at the same time, there might be just a hint of monotony. There is not too much deviation from the standard concept, and that might give some players pause.

Still, if “simple” is the goal, this one achieves. It’s a fantastic timewaster, and probably more. It is engaging without taxing the brain too hard, and because of that, is perfect in any number of scenarios.

Gotta run. My son just beat my high score.

Radical Rappelling Review

Radical Rappelling Review

Jun 26, 2015

Radical Rappelling is a little different, and it’s mostly okay.

The gameplay is based on rappelling… duh. There is a steep, vertical mountain wall that descends endlessly; the basic concept is to use a game character to shimmy down the rope as fast as possible. The action incorporates the same jump off mechanism seen in real rappelling, with tapping and holding effecting a drop swing, and releasing makes the character to jump off against the rock. The kicker is that the swinging motion will eventually cause the player to “land” on the rock naturally (much like a jumper always hits the ground eventually), so the key is preemptively control the jumps by tapping and releasing as described above.

And why is controlling the descent important? Well, there are plenty of goodies to collect, for one. Gold coins, boosts and other specials line the play area, and can generally be collected and/or activated by contact. Conversely, there are also dangers to look out for as well — most notably some spiky thingies that look like mines — as hitting them ends the run ordinarily. Letting go of the screen causes the game character to jump off in place; this can be costly, as one should know about the lava fall chasing the rappeller down.

Oh, my. So there you have it. Tarrying too long is not a strategy.

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As one progresses, the duality of the gameplay becomes quite engaging: measuring the opportunity cost of going after the good and avoiding the bad. The developer also adds in a continuous stream of challenges to be completed; things like reaching a particular cumulative distance or tagging a set number of rocks are included. Game coins can be used for in-game improvements, and can be supplemented by real cash.

Looks-wise, it is a colorful affair, and uses music to underscore the gameplay. There is a whimsical nature to the art that fits in with the game premise.

Altogether, it is a cheery game, with plenty of play and an ability to cause addiction. Again, being different ain’t that bad.

EA SPORTS UFC Review

EA SPORTS UFC Review

Jun 23, 2015

If anyone should try to tackle a sports sim, it should be EA Sports. And tackle fighting it did with EA SPORTS UFC.

Somehow, the tutorial is quite enjoyable on it’s own. It’s of the hands-on variety, so one is able to learn while doing with visual cues that help folks to understand the control system — which incorporates gestures and swipes to control the basics. With said tutorial we see attacks and special attacks, defensive maneuvers, take-downs and even submissions. The controls require dexterity and a keen eye, as there are times a very precise tap is needed. The teaching tool also doesn’t clear until one is able to execute the moves proficiently.

After this, one is able to get into a practice “fight,” which gives one an opportunity to bring the recently learned moves to bear. The same goes for the next level too. After those two are completed, one can decide to try out the other modes.

The battling is straightforward, with two fighters going at it; the game engine feels realistic, and the artwork and animations are excellent, from the authentic-looking fighting area to the simple things like the UFC logo on the mouthpiece. One can pick a fighter, and it’s pertinent to note that a recent update brings female fighters to the fold.

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After each fight, performance determines how much game cash is awarded; the health left determines how many stars are given.

So, it does boil down to a war of attrition, as the overriding goal is to ensure that the opponents life bar is depleted before the player. At the base level, in career, one keeps on fighting and trying to move up the ladder — much like a real MMA pugilist would. Of course, as one makes his/her way up the charts, the competition gets better, which is where “training” and earned coins can be useful. The in-app store has a bunch of boosts and training packs and such that can be used to improve a character’s chances. Real cash can be used as well.

It all comes together well: nice graphics, fun options (like Live Events) and familiar names. It’s an easy way to fall in love with the sport it portrays, which underscores its value.

Spider Square Review

Spider Square Review

Jun 22, 2015

We did wonder just what Spider Square is all about. What better way to find out than to, well, play it?

Graphically, it looks like a basic affair; the game uses bright splotches of pastels, and is presented in 2D form. The animations are crisp, and as we see when we get into the action, the colors do frame the gameplay quite well.

When we say “simple” with regards to the gameplay, we mean just that. The idea is so easy to grasp, the game barely needs a formal tutorial. It’s an arcade game that is delightfully cloaked as a platformer. The action “moves” from left to right, and the main concept is to get a square, uh, spider(?) to keep moving rightwards (forward) for as long as possible. The main tool is a rope, and the cube moves by swinging from said rope attached to the roof of the playing area. The kicker is that the cube can’t touch the floor or ceiling.

The rope is evoked by longpressing, and the cube swings forwards automatically; releasing the screen makes the cube release the rope. The basic idea is to release and make a new rope, and to continue swinging forward, much like Spider-Man.

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The main problem is the travel area, obviously. Neither floor or ceiling is regular; there are segments that jut out, and then there are straight obstacles in the middle, and touching them ends the run. So, one has to get the timing just right, avoiding (or using) obstacles all the way. It is quite an enjoyable romp, even if the gameplay is more than a little hard.

There is gold that can be collected on runs, and these can be used to unlock other blocks or even extend runs. I like the simple unlock process, which allows for real cash if one so chooses.

Even before Flappy Bird — and heaven knows, to infinity after its release — difficult games have had a place in mobile gaming. What Spider Square does well is that it allows for different modes to make continued gameplay even more attractive. You get an enjoyable multiplayer challenge, and the perverse requirement that the easy mode has to be unlocked is a cheeky aspect I like.

All in all, it’s a pretty fun game. It is perfect in bunches, small or big, and it manages to do one thing well in different ways.

Alphabetty Saga Review

Alphabetty Saga Review

Jun 22, 2015

Yes, Alphabetty Saga is a word game, but clearly wants folks to know it is more than simply that; it packs in elements across the board, from Scrabble, word search, matching, and even a lit bit of Tetris-y gravity play… and then some. It does a lot, which helps it come out the gate strong.

At first glance, it’s easy to see developer King’s handprint on the visuals. The game employs bright colors and graphics that lean towards the whimsical without necessarily stumbling into the cartoonish. As a word game, it relies heavily on tiles, but the developer isn’t so jaded as to forget splashing character into the background. It’s a vivid presentation, and it mostly works in the plying area, which usually consists of random word tiles.

The gameplay, as noted, is a conglomeration of concepts. The core concept is the word search using tiles that hearken to word formation games. Using gestures, one can “dissolve” tiles by forming letters with them; the forming rules are fairly liberal, and one slide forwards, backwards and diagonally, and even cross each other. As long as the stream is connected by adjacent letters and it is a recognized word, it’ll probably count. When a word is made, the letters used to form it disappear, and. the resulting gaps are filled by randomized cascading new tiles. As one would expect, longer words are good, and it’s possible to earn power-ups and to make use of the occasional special tile that drops in.

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It’s around this cornerstone a lot of the gameplay is built; the leveled gameplay has the player complete tasks like dropping an item or group of items from the top of the grid to the bottom, or popping a set number of special bubble tiles, using formed words. To up the ante, there is usually a set number of moves one can make per level, so strategizing becomes key. Each level is graded on a three-star system.

Added all together, it makes for a relatively engaging experience. There is an energy requirement, but it can be alleviated by prior success or real money.

When it’s all said and done, Alphabetty Saga is a cool journey that is easy to pickup and consume in tailored gulps, and that’s why it’d probably a safe bet to try.

Death Race: The Game Review

Death Race: The Game Review

Jun 19, 2015

If Death Race: The Game evokes Jason Statham, that’s okay. After all, it is based on the major movie of the same name starrring the aforementioned actor. In any case, one can be promised a lot of gunfire, which makes it good enough to review, thank you very much.

Graphics-wise, the game packs a punch. It manages to reflect the source material vividly with the dark tone and decrepit scenery. Everything, from the vehicles to the race environment conveys a feeling of dread and destruction. The sound is equally foreboding, with a judicious use of effects that embolden the gameplay.

And with regards to the gameplay, the game serves as teacher within, giving the basics of how to play as it unfolds. As one would guess, it leans heavily on the originating movie: a major depression causes crime to climb, and eventually private prisoners and, uh, pay-per-view hold sway. Of course we then get something similar to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Running Man: prisoner-based gladiator games. In cars, no less. Heavily armed racing cars.

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The controls incorporate tilting and touch, and, interestingly enough, consists of a few elements. Players learn the aiming mechanism, which needs a bit of practice, and other concepts like drifting. The “racing” is 1v1 in beat-down areas, and the idea is to work hard to outlast the competition by reducing that driver’s lifebar to nothingness before the opponent does the same to the player; thus it is a war of attrition. Combat and ramming take front stage; the vehicle moves on its own, and the former requires keeping a steely hand to ensure the weapons are trained right. In Ramming, it’s a matter of quick reflexes, as a decreasing circle measures the amount of damage one inflicts on the opponent. The pieces come on and off until one racer is destroyed.

Performing well allows one to level up and earn game cash, which allows one to get better gear and upgrade vehicle attributes; in many ways, it’s a self-contained adventure that rewards continued action. It doesn’t make the mistake of forcing canon accuracy. It is a lot of the same, but “same” here mostly works because the battles are not too drawn out.

It’s a cool game, with cool backstory, and one cool main dude. Carry on.

Angry Birds Fight! Review

Angry Birds Fight! Review

Jun 19, 2015

Angry Birds were first released in 2009 – six years ago. It’s literally a thousand years in internet time. Although the franchise has long been erased from the collective memory, the games are still being released, and judging by Angry Birds Fight, they’re still going quite strong.

Angry Birds Fight is a simple match-three arcade with some fighting flavor thrown in for a good measure. The player picks one of the birds that have different abilities and stats, and fights against other players in a simple 1v1 matchmaking multiplayer. The task is to get more of attack and defense boosts than your opponent until the time runs out. After this, the birds fight each other and the winning bird gets experience, gold and possibly – some items as well. Defeating a certain amount of enemies allows the player to fight against AI pig boss that, when defeated, will open a new location and spawn some random accessories as well.

The match-three mechanics don’t really do anything different to any other similar, arcades, the only difference being that the players can mess each others’ boards by making different combos, erasing four or five blocks at once. The inventory system is really unoriginal, and while it provides some variety, I found it a bit cumbersome for simple gameplay of Angry Birds Fight. Really, the whole game has too many elements and would work a lot better as a simple multiplayer match-three arcade without the lengthy campaign and useless ship battles.

Angry Birds Fight is surprisingly balanced, if you don’t count the obnoxiousness that is its FTP restrictions. While Angry Birds Fight 2the gameplay itself is rather skill-based – at least for the time I’ve played it – there’s the whole package of the free-to-play elements, including the gems, the item upgrading, and the energy shtick, which is as repugnant as it always was. But, if you’re okay with playing up to fifteen minutes at a time, the game is rather enjoyable.

Overall, it’s another game, ruined by corporate greed and desire to have the same elements that the popular kids have. Angry Birds Fight could be a really great, simple game with good design, just like original Angry Birds were, but it’s sinking under the weight of the obligation to include every single FTP mechanic there is.

Dude Perfect 2 Review

Dude Perfect 2 Review

Jun 17, 2015

To understand Dude Perfect 2, one almost has to be acquainted with the source franchise, which is based upon a group of friends doing trick shots and other guy things that make the rest of us jealous. If this game is a cute way to get us to live out that life just a little bit, we are grateful.

The game is zany in appearance, featuring a vivid use of color on an eye-catching template. The animations are fairly smooth, and off the bat, the design evokes a sense of playfulness. When it comes to the gameplay, the first series gives an idea of just what the player is looking to accomplish: making basketball shots. At first, it’s easy; to make a shot, the player manipulates a shot and distance meter to get the right balance and get the ball in the ball in the hoop. The less balls one uses, the better, and success yields points and cash. At the end of a series, a three-star system rates one’s performance.

Simple.

Except that it does get harder. As one goes on and opens up more levels, the physics puzzles get tougher, and more elements are added in. Soon, one needs to start thinking of bouncing and squeezing balls into tight places, and giving mind to momentum and such. After a while, there are bowling balls added as a smashing option, and levers with gates and more, such that making trick shots becomes a true part of the gameplay. The arcade element brings cool, consumable power-ups (hello, air drop) and there are even creative, time-sensitive combination plays that have to be made.

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Levels can be repeated, but there is an energy requirement that can be alleviated over time or with game cash or the real kind.

Essentially, it boils down to leveled gameplay based on physics puzzles; a little bit of Angry Birds sauteed with interesting power-ups.

Dude Perfect 2 is the consummate dude game. The trick shots contained therein are whimsical, silly and intelligent, ask at the same time. On the surface, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but one can’t help but enjoy the depth of its geometric riddles.

The dichotomy is very becoming.