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.

Ninja Arashi Review

Ninja Arashi Review

Mar 27, 2017

Dastardly Orochi has escaped prison and has the gall to kidnap your son. Of course, that won’t stand. It’s time to don the black regalia again…

And this, in a nutshell, is the premise behind Ninja Arashi.

Did you say “ninjas?” Color us sold.

In gameplay terms, the rescue effort boils down to a leveled running platform adventure. It is an eerie visual experience, with plenty of dark tones; the artwork is mostly zany without teetering into the unserious… ethereal and foreboding at the same time.

The general direction is from left to right, and the running area is fraught with danger.

The first level doubles as a hands on tutorial. The main idea is to navigate the leveled action, and get our stealthy hero from Point A to Point B. As noted, there are a lot of things to avoid — gaps, glowing red punji sticks, human sentries, and even otherworldy matter. To get by, the jump/double jump button is key. There’s also other tools, like the rechargeable shiruken and conceal buttons, which are great against physical barriers and beings.

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There are also collectibles, and the game also incorporates RPG elements, like the ability to upgrade attributes. Levels can be repeated, and completing the one opens up subsequent levels. Death leads to respawning.

There is an energy requirement of sorts, though; there are only so many times one can be respawned.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen a platformer with this time of aesthetic; yes, the dark motif with splashes of glowing color lends itself especially well to this particular game genre. The bank of virtual controls are a bit cramped, which makes mishits something to be aware of.

Still, Ninja Arashi comes across as a competent platform game that is a cut above your everyday time waster.

Plus, ninjas are cool. Always.

Island Delta Review

Island Delta Review

Feb 28, 2017

It’s time to get to Island Delta.

The game itself is presented in expansive top-down view, such that the simple touch controls easily guide the characters through simulated roofless buildings. The color is well done, and the animations quite smooth.

The leading narrative is dastardly indeed. Zoe is our main protagonist, and she is working on an exciting mechanical development. Unfortunately for her, mad scientist Gunderson takes a shining to her invention, and steals it with the help of a lobbed grenade. Zoe embarks on a trip with trusted friend Baxter to Gunderson’s lair to retrieve her stuff.

Simple backstory aside, this one gyrates into action immediately; the game gives pointers in the early going to help move things along. You, the player, take charge of Zoe (who is armed with a nifty gravity tool), and then look to make it from Point A to Point B in a series of levels.

Now, as one would expect, making if from the starting point to the the exit of each level isn’t as easy as walking in a dainty, straight line; there are interesting obstacles in the way. These obstacles are fairly interesting and varied, ranging from human to humanoid to whimsically evil (weaponized crab-like robot for the win). At the risk of playing spoiler, I especially liked — despised, really — the rotating gun, because it added an interesting challenge.

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Through it all, the player is tasked with solving procedural puzzles, while collecting important data while avoiding and/or destroying sentries. The puzzles usually involve getting doors to open so as to move on, but might entail doubling back to get to something missed or recently unveiled.

The gameplay is simple, and the challenges competitive enough to keep interest piqued; it all comes together quite nicely.

As intuitive as the the touch controls are, this is definitely one game that I hope the developer does see fit to add gamepad support to; it could do fairly well casted to bigger screens.

For a one-time premium price, Island Delta just about feels like a seal. Rare in this day and age.

Terra Tank Review

Terra Tank Review

Feb 28, 2017

We’ve been keeping an eye on Terra Tank, and now that it’s been officially unleashed on Google Play, we got our hands on it.

Yep.

Terra Tank does a good job of creating a visual pop. It makes use of several different backgrounds, and the animations manage to be relatively smooth. Flashes of color are especially potent, and these deliberate touches allow the gameplay to really come forth.

The action is taken in in top-down perspective, which allows the player to absorb the action in landscape orientation.

In practice, the game is quite easy to enjoy and get into. As noted, you control a terrestrial tank, and the core idea is to take on enemies that are approaching with hostile intentions. Additionally, the secondary goal is to pick up enough goodies to refuel the ship so as to be able to fly away.

To play, one needs to get acquainted with the controls. Two main ones rule the roost: a movement button and a directional shooting button; both are virtual in nature. Now, used in conjunction with each other, it’s possible to move around and shoot at incoming enemies in a complete circle.

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As soon as the action starts with the ship touching down, the tank is dispatched and one is simultaneously on the offensive and defensive. Beat back the attackers, and get fuel. As one goes on, there are power-ups to collect and so on, but the main idea is to finish the level by refueling the ship.

The game provides two difficulty levels.

Terra Tank is an enjoyable time waster, and maybe — just maybe — even more. The changing backgrounds blend well with the gameplay, and the simplistic concepts are quite becoming in practice. It doesn’t do too much, and it comes together well.

The one-time pricing is definitely a positive.

Mysterium: The Board Game Review

Mysterium: The Board Game Review

Feb 28, 2017

Digitized board games can be loads of fun, and are the perfect complement for an increasingly mobile existence. Few entities do it better than Asmodee, and the publishers ever-swelling stable of games is good for Android users.

It’s latest project is one we’ve been keeping an eye on for some time; Mysterium is an engaging board game in its own right, and we are eager to see how it translates to handheld.

The gameplay comes in a few flavors; at the onset, the game itself highly suggests for the player to get acquainted with Story Mode.

The game’s underlying story is set in Scotland in the 1920s. After numerous gruesome murders, someone is arrested, but after several more murders are committed, yet another perpetrator is apprehended.

Both claim no memory of the actual crime.

A local psychic is intent upon figuring out what otherworldly forces might be at play, and calls on a few psychic colleagues for assistance.

That is our setting, and the game proceeds thus.

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The visuals fit well. Graphically, the game isn’t overly serious, and is willing to use whimsical depictions to give characters life. It uses popups to help move the gameplay along, and there is an ethereal, almost ghostly feel to the game, which is entirely appropriate.

This a card game, and it involves making educated guesses based on communication from a ghost; as such, it incorporates murder mystery elements. One might be forgiven for seeing some parallels with Clue, but this one is very, very far from a clone. One looks to decipher things like location, tool, weapon etc, and to add to the challenge, there are time limits involved.

After some (hopefully) shrewd guessing, one gets to “solve” the case… and move on.

Not bad.

The game also includes solo play and a multiplayer option.

It comes together surprisingly well, and is great for short bursts or extended play periods. It is engaging enough to not need the physical game to create fans, and that’s saying a lot.

Gravity Duck Islands Review

Gravity Duck Islands Review

Feb 21, 2017

It’s a rough and tumble world, and plenty of mobile games that mimic it. Battling, strategy… heck, even simulated “reality” games. Pick your poison, eh?

Still, there are times when we all wanna just be like the Commodores on a weekend day… this one just about gets you hummin’.

At first rip, Gravity Duck Islands looks and feels like your regular platformer. The cavernous pathways, gaps to jump and the the like allow it feel familiar out the gate; the core idea, presented in leveled fashion, is to avoid all the potential stoppers and get from the entrance door to the stage-ending exit.

The obstacles start out being relatively easy, and start getting harder by type and manifestation: endless gullies, good old lethal spikes, animals and more. To navigate his, first, we have a the ubiquitous jump button; there is also movement buttons that allow you to control the left/right movement of our protagonist duck. Running with the jump button creates a leap and all that hood stuff.

But the main gimmick in this game is the gravity button. This allows the player to literally simulate the reversal of gravity — the ground becomes the ceiling and vice versa. Now, it’s a fine tool from the get-go, as it becomes apparent from the first level that it is impossible to move on without looking to switch perspective and path to a fixed piece of play area.

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And the challenge then becomes timing jumps, gravity swaps and avoiding obstacles, while collecting collectibles and moving on. As you move on in the game, you will discover that our traveling duck does have a few more tricks up it’s wing feathers, like the ability o engorge itself with air like a balloon, and a funky teleporting skill.

It comes together fairly nicely, and overall, it’s a relatively enjoyable experience. premium, one-time pricing with no ads is the cherry on top.

Fire Emblem Heroes Review

Fire Emblem Heroes Review

Feb 20, 2017

Nintendo are under some serious scrutiny with their foray into the mobile game scene. Most other publishers can fart out a Flappy Bird clone and no one would think twice but this is Nintendo. Ninty. The House of Mario. Big N. They have standards and a reputation to keep (and a new console to launch) so it’s important that they do things right.

Miitomo aside and ignoring Pokemon GO (which they didn’t make), Fire Emblem Heroes is Nintendo’s first ‘proper’ game to launch on Android (Super Mario Run, where are you?). I’m pleased to say that it’s a success in many, many regards yet it also shows a naivety towards the mobile gaming scene in how it handles IAPs.

Before I get too ahead of myself, let’s explain what Fire Emblem Heroes is. Well, it’s a turn-based strategy game based on the hugely popular Fire Emblem series. Never heard of Fire Emblem? Well, that’s on you – because it is hugely popular. Honest.

The scenario is pure fantasy, dragons and magic fare. Fire Emblem games often boil down to wizards and kings becoming evil or fighting evil or wanting to be rulers of evil. So the story’s not important in the Fire Emblem world, what is important is the mechanic of how you build up an array of characters to go into battle with.

You see, the Fire Emblem games are filled with hundreds of unique characters and the thing that makes Fire Emblem stand out is that these characters can die. Die, die. As in the ‘this character got killed and we know you spent 20 hours leveling her up but she’s dead’ kind of die.

Pretty savage.

Now, Fire Emblem Heroes does away with the ‘proper dead’ mechanic but it is full of the titular heroes and more heroes are being added through updates. Not only has the Fire Emblem’s death mechanic been softened but so has everything else. Console Fire Emblem games can have sprawling battle maps and have you take a large number of units into battle.unnamed-2

Fire Emblem Heroes strips all of this back and has you take only 4 characters into the fight, with the battlefield being a single screen map. This works really well though, as it means that battles are over within a couple of minutes. The combat also has a fairly simple ‘rock-paper-scissors’ strength and weakness system involving spears, swords and axes. It’s straightforward but it’s fast-paced and really enjoyable.

What’s a bit of a let down is the IAPs and the rest of the systems that exist outside of battles. The issue is that there’s shard, crystals, feathers, orbs, dueling swords and a stamina bar to keep track of. It’s more convoluted than it needs to be and it makes levelling up your character more of a pain than it needs to be.

The IAPs need to be called out in particular as they are such a miss it’s unbelievable. Essentially, the only thing you can buy in this game is ‘orbs’. These orbs are used to summon new heroes and they’re the key to getting your favourite characters from previous Fire Emblem games into your party. It takes 5 orbs to summon a character and it costs £1.99 for 3 orbs. 3 orbs are practically worthless. They can’t be used for anything good, so it means that, at a minimum, you’re going to spend £4 just to get a new character, at random.

When you take into consideration the chances of getting a good character (4 stars or better) are 43%. This is an absolutely shocking value proposition, so it’s handy that the game dishes out tons of orbs for completing missions. Which then leaves you wondering just how Nintendo plan on making money off this thing? Who’s buying these orbs?

Obviously someone is – with reports that the game’s already made over $5 million since launch. Still, that’s a topic for another time. This is a review and I’ve got to say I’m impressed with the game. It’s bitesize fighting with just enough tactical challenge.


Raft Survival Review

Raft Survival Review

Feb 20, 2017

Survival is the name of the game in Raft Survival.

The game starts with a bit of dramatic flair; you, the player, comes to on a raft. In the middle of endless ocean, no less. The entire world is taken in in first person perspective. The way the distance blends into fog is well done, and the water and wooden floating structure play the role of central characters rather amiably.

The game doesn’t do much by way of introductory pointers, but a lot of it is intuitive. A lot of debris (wood, grass, metal (yes, metal) and barrels float by; in your inventory, there is a hook. The beginning idea is to use the hook to drag in the floating materials. Why, you ask? To craft other valuable tools, of course.

The barrels are the great catches, as they carry a lot of goodies. When enough stuff is procured, when can ten make stuff like fishing rods, water purifiers, axes, and more to make one’s lonesomeness a bit more palatable.

The idea is to build, stay alive and avoid the gruesome-looking shark. Staying in the water too long is deadly, as is, say, not replenishing the drinkable water quickly enough. With a bit gumption, the goal is buid an ocean house with walls, windows and even floors, and to eat and drink. And thwart the shark.

It is is an interesting idea, and comes together relatively well — ocean survival, in essence.

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To be fair, there are plenty of games with this general concept, and with good reason: it’s a fun, waterborne survival adventure. Still, this particular one has some interesting quirks that hold it back a bit.

There are some graphical occurrences that defy the laws of physics, and there are other visuals that twist the imagination somewhat. Then, there are a few glitches, like not being able to switch tools, or a particular one not working as intended.

My biggest whine is the absence of of a tutorial. Now, I actually don’t mind exploring games on my own, and this one certainly lends itself to that, but I think it would be helpful to have one in this particular game. The trailer (below) is okay but hardly sufficient.

And then… those ads, sir. A premium ad-free unlock would be dearly welcome.

All in all, it still manages to be a fun diversion. It’s a simple crafting adventure, and doesn’t try to be too much more — to its credit.

War Wings Review

War Wings Review

Feb 20, 2017

When it comes to action games, few genres beat the trusty aerial shoot-em ups. In any case, we still want to be wowed, so Sixjoy’s new game War Wings does have a lot to live up to.

Yep, it’s a slick affair from a visual, uh, point of view; the presentation is well done, with a great use of color. The animations really bring the game to life, and the accompanying sound is excellent.

To start out, you get to pick from a, well, lowly rated plane; the game then takes you in on a hands-on tutorial. This tutorial is helpful with regards to using the controls (the game allows the player to pick tilt, virtual buttons or external bluetooth controller). After that, it leads you on a couple of game-like missions.

Beyond the training, the actual gameplay comes in three more flavors: multiplayer, season and a challenge mode. For the most part, the action boils down to a lot of dogfighting; in the multiplayer, one gets to play with other players in teams set via the game servers. It takes a while to get used to stuff, but it comes together well. Trying to shoot while being shot at is pretty fun.

One thing that makes the game enjoyable is the inclusion of different play modes; with this, you can become as involved as you like. Wanna quick shot? Here. Season action? Check. Training? Oh yeah. The game can be very involved, so it’s a good idea to serve up different servings of playable action.

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Another aspect I like is the control mechanism. The default is quite intuitive, and gives the game a degree of realism despite the simplicity. As noted, the action can be controlled in several ways, and the gamepad support is especially fantastic.

The upgrade aspect feels a bit busy, but again, it does help with the realism.

The IAPs weren’t too invasive; we were able to get plenty of play without spending real money. However, we did take advantage of some free goodies, and yes, the game does pick up a good deal with them.