SideSwype Review

SideSwype Review

Apr 10, 2014

Nice to meet you, SideSwype.

The playing area is a 5×5 grid, with space for 25 squares of different colors. if filled all the way. The sparse white background is a great counterpoint that highlights the coloring of the squares, and the smooth animations are just what we’d expect from a game that uses gestures as the main form of movement and problem-solving.

The game is fairly easy to understand: match 3 or more squares and strive to keep the board as empty as possible. In other words, the run ends when the grid is full of squares. To prevent this from happening, it is possible to slide the boxes present in either of the four cardinal directions (or, relative to the grid, to the right or left and up or down). The unique thing is that the squares all move in unison but obey physical logic. Squares that are plush against immovable squares or the walls of the grid will not move, but others will move until one of those side1conditions are met.

Any sets of three or more that are formed as a result of a gesture action will cause a mostly welcome reaction of dissolving the squares (according to rules of the gameplay), thereby opening up space and keeping the run alive. Countering the smashing of blocks is the replenishment system; like Tetris, there is an indicator telling the player which blocks are coming next, and after every swipe, the new ones are added; thus, constant removal is necessary for success. Points are awarded for smashes, and high scores are recorded.

There are special blocks with special powers that require just a bit more strategy. The game also allows for some customization with regards to sound and looks.

All in, it’s a fun, consuming game, priced to move ($1.99) and no extra purchases needed.


Fiz: Brewery Management Game

Fiz: Brewery Management Game

Dec 20, 2013

It’s no secret that craft beer is the fad that brings everyone from all walks of life together; hipsters to lawyers, middle aged middle management to college students, men and women, all have enjoyed this new phenomenon where your local watering hole or liquor store doesn’t feature the same boring watered down beverages, but rather those made with passion and love that taste amazing. Similarly, the game Fiz: Brewery Management also possesses the soul of those great craft breweries; a game that was built from the ground up by a group of passionate beer drinkers, with a little financial help from those on Kickstarter.


Many management style games utilize microtransactions or a way for the player to “cheat” their way to the next level. Players of Fiz will not see anything of the sort. Instead currency must be earned through financial management, budgeting, marketing research, beer sales, and participating in given events. While this title never let’s you completely tank, it also doesn’t make it a cake walk to earn the big bucks and become a world renown brewer either. This title really makes the player have to think and be resourceful, even more so than popular NimbleBit or Karisoft titles. Anything from where you sell, to what you sell, to how it’s made can make or break your digital brewery, much like real life.

Beer Geeks will also love the deep selection of styles of beers one can brew in Fiz. Anything from Lagers to IPAs, to Saisons and Russian Imperial Stouts and even Barleywines are some of the many types of beer you and your pocket brewery can produce for the various unseen e-customers. Of course, not all beers are created equal, as some have higher costs than others and some don’t do as well as others do at certain establishments. You could spend most of the game brewing the basic Lager and selling it at your buddy’s market, but no brewer with any merit wants to do just that. Besides, where’s the adventure and money to be made?


Even the individual brews can be affected depending on any number of factors. The equipment in which your establishment owns to who you have on staff, can affect the quality or time it takes to make a beer. Even special modifiers can be put in which can increase player’s XP, beer quality and a number of other factors. There is an absolute ton of different things players need to factor in when trying to make that perfect beer.

There is just so much about this game that makes it a lot of fun, interesting, and a title that you just won’t be able to walk away from. It also gives players the freedom to play as much or as little as they like, with the game’s time pausing upon exit. This way one needent worry about time passing without profit. Not only is Fiz one of the most realistic management games out there, it’s probably one of the most interesting. Much like your favorite beer, once you try Fiz, you’re going to want to tell everyone else about it.

Super Crossfire Review

Super Crossfire Review

Oct 14, 2013

Earlier this year, Radiangames published all of its mobile games on Google Play. Well, all except one: Super Crossfire. iOS gamers were well aware of it from its Chillingo-published version in 2011. Even Blackberry Playbook owners knew about it because Unity Games published a version on there. Now in 2013, Android owners finally get to play this flip-floppy space shooter, and it has been well worth the wait because it is a brilliant game.

At its heart, Super Crossfire is essentially Galaxian but with the ability to flip to the other side of the playing field. This allows players to avoid shots that come in, of course, but it also becomes necessary to take on the complex enemy formations that are encountered. Some enemies can only be hit from one side. Some enemies with giant lasers are best faced from the back. Some enemies provide shielding to nearby enemies and must be taken out. Thankfully, players also have a powerful super attack that recharges by collecting gems, to help wipe out the trickier formations.

Honestly, the game is more fun than the average space shooter because of the simple complexity. Players learn how to survive in quick order, and it just becomes an instinctive thing. Basically, just avoid the bullets and lasers, kill the UFOs that go past to get their lucrative powerups, and just don’t screw up.


The upgrade system plays a helping hand as well. Players get additional points every 5 to 10 levels that go into one of eight stats from additional health to more firepower. The best part is that the upgrades can all be reconfigured as needed. Didn’t like that shot spread upgrade and want to bank the points toward an additional armor point? Do it! It’s kind of a Radiangames tradition, and it’s a great fit here.

The Android port is great: the game is faithfully intact, and its graphics, while largely flat, have the same great effects. It’s a stylish game. The touchscreen controls are effective enough, but want to really have some fun? Get a gamepad. Super Crossfire supports HID gamepads and is a ton of fun with it. I feel better at it, but it also might have just been a good run I got on where I beat the game in one sitting with a gamepad. Still, this is one where it’s fun to sit back and enjoy the game with actual controls where possible.

As well, there’s Google+ support for leaderboards, achievements, and cloud saves, featuring a friendly warning dialogue when switching devices to load from the cloud.

The intense retro-style shoot ’em up action that encapsulates Super Crossfire makes it one of my favorite mobile games of all time. Two years later, with this perfect Android version, it only reiterates how great this game is, with its hundreds of levels, upgrades to unlock, multiple difficulty levels, and more. There’s a lot to do and a lot of fun to be had. Buy this game.

bit Dungeon Review

bit Dungeon Review

Jun 4, 2013

I wanted to love bit Dungeon. A fast paced, 16-bit, rogue-like RPG, what’s not to like? Well, not much initially. The game dropped me straight into a randomized dungeon and I had to progress through it, clearing rooms of enemies and finding new loot until I reached the boss. After defeating him I went on to a new dungeon, with different enemies and better loot and it went on like that.

The graphics are great (if you’re not sick to death of 16-bit style games), the music and sound effects are suitably retro and there’s a good amount of variety in the enemies and the dungeons.

The controls are slick too, simply tap somewhere to move there or tap on an enemy to attack them, that’s about it. It’s really addictive in the early stages and it features perma-death (in other words, dying means starting the whole game again) so defeating a boss feels like a real achievement.

But bit Dungeon isn’t without its flaws. When I said that it dropped me straight into a dungeon I really meant it, there’s no story, beyond a vague mention on the Google Play page that the main character is trying to save his wife. The description on Google Play is also the only place where there’s any explanation of how to play. I missed that when I first started and was left guessing.
bit dungeon1
There’s no character creation or choice of class either. The main character is always a warrior and while leveling up presents players with a choice of attributes to improve, the only options are ‘attack’, ‘critical’ or ‘health’, so there’s not really any scope to specialize in a different area, making subsequent playthroughs feel similar.

There is magic in the game, but only one spell can be had at once and the game seems to randomly choose a new one at the beginning of each dungeon, so it’s not possible to really play as a mage.

The game becomes quite repetitive too, with only one character to control and only two attacks (hitting things with a weapon or firing a spell) there’s not much tactical depth and while the dungeons look good they’re all laid out in roughly the same way- a 3×3 grid of rooms with randomly positioned doors linking them up. Every single room has enemies in it and they need to be defeated to advance. It goes on like that until the player dies or gives up.

Even the draw of shinier and better loot begins to dull after a while, particularly since the game doesn’t let me horde it to sell on later. It’s only possible to carry things that are equipped, so for example getting a new sword meant ditching that trusty axe that saved my skin more than once.

It’s not a bad game and for a while it’s really good fun, but with no real sense of change or progress the fun slowly slips away. Perhaps there’s a final boss and an ending where the silent protagonist is reunited with his wife, but if there is I haven’t found it, death always finds me first.

Star Wars Pinball Review

Star Wars Pinball Review

May 24, 2013

Pinball is an interesting state of flux: the genre as a physical form is not in great shape, but it is doing fantastic in virtual form. Fans of the silver ball have series like Pinball Arcade and Zen Pinball which both provide regular amounts of new tables to freshen up the experience regularly. Star Wars Pinball, a standalone release of the Zen Pinball table based off of Empire Strikes Back, is a great way to check in to this series.

While the game includes in-app purchases for two other Star Wars tables, the base purchase includes just the one table. That’s hardly a bad thing – there’s a lot going on here. There’s multiple missions to complete by hitting various triggers, lots of targets to go for, and plenty of flashing lights and loud noises. The fanservice is strong with this one – there’s all kinds of art and sounds from the movie. This isn’t a cheap cash-in, a lot of love was put in to this game.

The physics feel realistic enough, though as someone who’s not a pinball expert, I’m not the best judge of this. Still, it’s easy to tell when a game’s physics feel fake, and this definitely does not. The game is a natural fit for the Nexus 7 with its portrait mode display, but for those that want to play in widescreen, well, that’s possible too. Pretty much every camera orientation that a person could want to play a virtual pinball game with is supported here.


However, Star Wars Pinball just does not do a whole lot for me on its own, without much in the way of context. I’ve heard pinball experts raving about it, but to a relative neophyte like me, it doesn’t really come through. I tend to enjoy my pinball experiences as more fantastical games (I have sunk countless hours in to Pokemon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire for Game Boy Advance) rather than as more realistic ones.

So, for the casual or lapsed pinball fan, this is definitely worth checking out, or even in the context of the larger Zen Pinball series – this table is available as add-on content for the main app as well. Star Wars fans should check it out because it’s a pinball game that pays great homage to the series. I hear only rave reviews from the pinball-obsessed as well.

I don’t know if this is the game to get people in to pinball for the first time, but for those with a pre-existing interest in pinball or Star Wars, this is a must-have.

Hyperwave Review

Hyperwave Review

Jan 17, 2013

Hyperwave is a perfect example of a game that takes an interesting premise, and just winds up being wholly uninteresting.

The game initially appealed to me thanks to its immediate similarities to Super Crossfire, a shoot ’em up from Radiangames that sadly hasn’t made its way to iOS, though it is on the BlackBerry Playbook! The game uses a similar style of having flat ships and enemies on a 2D plane, that’s then tilted vertically for a 3D effect. Players move left and right, trying to protect the bottom of the screen from enemies; each one that gets past the player damages their health, though getting hit by enemies directly does massive amounts of damage to the health bar, so sometimes it’s better to let the enemies slip by than to try and kill them at the last second. Players must survive ten levels with a limited set of lives (that expands over time) to get to the next set. Thankfully, temporary upgrades and powerups can be used to help turn the tables.

I like the colorful visual style, which is colorful, and it’s nice to have a Super Crossfire-esque game on Android. There’s plenty of challenging enemies and formations to take on. An endless mode is available along with 5 sets of 10 levels each. But the game just was one I didn’t quite fall in love with.

Part of the problem is that nothing feels like it has much of any punch. Destroying enemies just isn’t that satisfying. The attack where the player’s ship flies upward and destroys multiple enemies just doesn’t feel all as deadly as it should. It could be the sound design that doesn’t provide the crunchiness to enemy hits. There is just a curious disconnect in the feel of movmeent and what actually happens. The ability to shoot diagonally is largely useless, as it’s hard to be accurate, so shooting straight upward is more useful.

While these aren’t big flaws, overall, they just add up to a game that I didn’t really feel compelled to come back to again and again. It’s not bad, just that it feels somewhat inessential.

TNNS Review

TNNS Review

Nov 20, 2012

TNNS is Action Button Entertainment’s second game and first Android title, co-created with Rabbx. Those who recall my Ziggurat review (due to the original publisher folding, the game’s been re-released as a self-published title now with widescreen support) will know that I loved the game except for one thing: the controls. Well, history repeats itself.

This is a take on the classic Pong and Breakout formula, where the goal is to break blocks by bouncing balls off of the block at the bottom. The twist is literal: the balls can be bent in any direction or sped up by moving the finger in the desired direction during the slowdown period after the ball is hit.

This mechanic gives the game a unique feel, and it makes it feel like the player has more of a say over what is happening; a perfectly-bent shot is like nothing else. The goal is to hit the star box in each level to complete it, and with hundreds of level segments appearing in random order, each time feels different. Oh, and there’s same-device multiplayer for that true Pong action, in both TNNS enhanced mode, and a classic no-frills mode as well.

But oh, much like Ziggurat, my frustration with the controls is the one thing holding me back from truly, truly loving this game. The paddle controls are all 1:1, which allows for bending of the ball as it hits off the paddle to work extremely well. But it seems like there’s just not enough room for the player’s thumb to maneuver the paddle without obscuring things. This is because due to the ‘waggle’ mechanic, there’s just too much two-dimensional movement of the thumb to not often be blocking something. It’s especially noticeable on the iPad. Even on a widescreen device, it still feels like there’s just too much obscurity, in a literal sense. I played this game on 6 different devices across iOS and Android, and I only really felt somewhat comfortable on the Motorola Xoom, a 16:10 10.1″ tablet. Seriously. Perhaps if the game gave players three lives to play with instead of just one, so that mistakes didn’t feel like end of the world, then the game would be a lot more fun.

Someday, I’m sure that the creative ideas of Action Button Entertainment will come in a package that I will truly appreciate the controls for, and I will love it unequivocally. Maybe next time.

DeathMetal HD Review

The first thing that drew me to DeathMetal HD was the title. After all, I do love me some death metal. All the screaming and blast beats find a way to satisfy me and my cold, black heart. Now, the game features not a lot in the way of death metal: there’s some heavy riffs that get involved in the menu and when powerups are activated, but this is really just a grungy-looking Breakout-style brick-breaking game. I mean grungy-looking not to say that it’s ugly, or that it looks like grunge music, but that it looks like it takes place in a dirty factory.

The core of the game is really quite familiar: paddle at bottom, bricks at top, ball somewhere hopefully between the two. Powerups for making the ball turn into fire (and unleash some metal riffs straight from hell), increase the paddle size, and make it magnetic are available, along with powerdowns like speed-ups, paddle shrinkers, and ball shrinkers. No one likes shrinkage.

Now, where DeathMetal HD succeeds is that it has a brilliant control scheme: because the game takes place in landscape instead of portrait like many games of the same genre, it has the ability to use a two-thumbs virtual button scheme. The left thumb moves left, the right thumb moves right. There’s also a swipe control by touching the paddle directly, and tilt controls available. But having these thumb controls makes the game just feel infinitely better than many games in portrait that just use swipe controls.

That may be the most interesting part of the game: there’s not a whole lot to make it stand out, it’s an otherwise fine Breakout-alike. The worlds are long, and it’s not possible to continue progress mid-world from where a game ends. So expect to replay the early levels a lot if shooting for progression; playing it as a high score game appears to be the real aim.

While DeathMetal HD could use more death metal and a few tweaks, its control scheme alone makes it a satisfying brick breaking game.

Pix’n Love Rush Review

Pix’n Love Rush Review

May 31, 2012

Pix’n Love Rush is a game that celebrates all things retro. Retro-style pixels are everywhere in this multi-variate platformer.

The meat of the game is the Classic Rush mode, where players navigate short platforming sections, with the goal being to collect coins and kill enemies, while not scrolling off the screen, and avoiding the angels. High scores are the goal, and the way to get them is by keeping combos going, by collecting coins and destroying enemies all in a row, without hitting the negative coins, or hitting enemies, which decreases the combo by one level. Killing all enemies and collecting all coins in a section grants a 10000 point bonus that can be multiplied. Keeping an x10 bonus is the way to get high scores, but with the tricky level layouts, this is not easy.

The other modes are more basic and all involve different auto-running mechanics. Cursed Rush has players trying to navigate one of 5 extremely difficult auto-running platforming sections. Rainbow Rush lets players jump up, and they must try to avoid the walled parts of the 4-tier playing field. Finally, On-Off Rush has players running one direction to collect sun pieces while the sun’s up, then flipping around to collect moon pieces when the moon’s in the sky, while trying to avoid the other type of piece. Combos in this mode go toward collecting extra time.

The game is a must for anyone who loves retro 80’s gaming style, because it is chock-full of it. It’s not just the pixel art, the way the graphics shift also recall classic video game consoles and even the original Game Boy and Virtual Boy. Yes, the Virtual Boy, lest we ever forget the time when Nintendo made us see red, and then not see anything because the thing blinded us. The wide variety of game modes ensure plenty of replay value, along with the fact that they’re built for repeat play and high score chasing.

Controls are the issue here; the virtual buttons are small, and I regularly mis-hit buttons. Larger touch-enabled areas and even Bluetooth controller support would help out a lot with this. It’s a shame, because the controls were less of an issue in the iOS original; ironing these out is all that stands between me and a full recommendation for this game. Still, for those willing to deal with some occasional control hiccups, this is a retraux masterpiece.

Mini Motor Racing Review

Mini Motor Racing Review

May 15, 2012

The racing genre is particularly adept at putting the name of their genre in the name, making the jobs of us writers much harder. “Mini Motor Racing is a racing game? Of course it is, stupid writer. What did you think I would think it is, a first-person RPG?” Well, snarky rhetorical reader, Mini Motor Racing is a racing game, and shut up.

It takes place from an interesting camera perspective: it’s isometric, but also follows the racers around the track. There are no weapons, though each racer has a supply of nitro boosts that can be replenished by picking up additional boosts on the track. The main attraction of the game is the career mode, where money can be earned toward making that vehicle better. All the turbo boosts!

Mini Motor Racing is a really pretty game. It’s got a great amount of detail, fantastic lighting, and looks great on high-resolution phones and tablets, though some interface elements could look better. There are plenty of tracks to race on. While the game claims 212 races, that includes tracks that are reversed and take place at night, though there’s still a lot of tracks – 30 in total.

In fact, the game does something interesting with the tracks: there’s no set starting point, so each time a race restarts, it might start from a different point. It means that even a course that’s been raced multiple times may still have an alien feeling because of that different starting point, and it may even change the strategy of boosting based on where the finish line is.

The controls are a mixed bag. The default method is a steering wheel that must be pointed in the direction the player wants the car to go, and given the twisty tracks, this is better than the Reckless Racing method of having left and right controls, primarily because it gets hard to decipher what turning left or right mean! It’s accurate, but still kind unwieldy to use the wheel controls, and I occasionally hit the software back key on my tablet accidentally with the palm of my hand while playing.

Mini Motor Racing has plenty of fun in it, with plenty of longevity to boast as well. Figure out which direction is which, and prepare to have some fun with this one.

Justin Smith’s Realistic Summer Sports Simulator Review

Justin Smith’s Realistic Summer Sports Simulator Review

Apr 24, 2012

Justin Smith’s Realistic Summer Sports Simulator is an accurate representation of those classic Olympics-style events games that were all the rage in the 80’s and 90’s. That is to say that this game is horrifically counter-intuitive and almost unplayable – on purpose. There are 15 events, which all have the basic premise of actual Olympic-style events, that then all go horribly awry. All the graphics look like they were plucked from the Atari 2600, and the controls use swipe gestures. They’re accurate, but everything is just kind of unwieldy. The horse in the equestrian event just kind of tumbles through the air. The javelin launch is kind of just flung from the body of the ‘athlete’.

Taken at face value, as a game where everything controls horribly and some events are basically impossible, this should mean that I hate it, right? Nope, because it’s just so stupid that it feels like that’s the point. When there are country names like Jakraine and Kazakhstingapore, I’m not quite sure things are meant to be taken seriously. Watching a guy flail through the air after a javelin toss, or shimmy while racewalking, or a swimmer rapidly turn his tiny pixelated arms in the air as he tries to get back in the water, that’s the fun. Hey, at least the game lets the player in on the joke that these events are practically impossible. That old NES summer sports game played its difficulty straight.

For those looking for a bit more balance, events can be removed from the main competition. I am convinced that I will never get higher than a 2.4 on the Rings competition, or that I will ever not DNQ in Weightlifting. I am Lord of Archery, though. I set a world record in swimming! I do well in the hammer toss from time to time! I watched this video on how to do the pole vault and I do pretty well in it now! I managed to not hit anything once in equestrian!

Some of the events are actually shockingly playable, and while they’re still goofy, they aren’t as funny. This may be the point, of being the few events in those compilations that actually are fun.

Still, it’s silly to complain that a game’s drawback is that it’s occasionally playable. It may be well-designed in the sense that it isn’t well-designed, but Justin Smith’s Realistic Summer Sports Simulator is still incredibly fun. Gather a friend or 3, laugh at all the faults that will inevitably occur and represent the proud nation of Monganda!

Mos Speedrun Review

Mos Speedrun Review

Jan 16, 2012

Mos Speedrun is a unique little game; it takes the short bursts of gamepaly provided by endless runners and it replaces it with set levels, designed to be speedrun through. This uniqueness is what makes it an interesting platformer for mobile gamers to check out.

The levels feature multiple goals, and badges for doing just that. There’s just plain completion, which may take a minute or two the first time through levels. Then, there’s a badge for executing the “speedrun” part of the title, completing in under a certain amount of time. There’s also the badge for collecting all coins in a level, and for finding the hidden skull. These badges aren’t just for posterity’s sake; players must also collect a certain number of badges in order to unlock later levels.

The game’s multi-objective levels are part of what make it so fun – first time through is usually careful exploration, learning the timing of enemy patterns and just figuring out the layout of the levels. Then comes trying to collect all the coins, the level’s skull, and occasionally the ghost that unlocks new outfits. Then, comes the speed run through the level, trying to perfect the path through the level, to get in under the timer. The levels are perfectly designed for these multiple approaches, and it brings a lot of variety to a game where the only commands are running and jumping.

The Android version of the game doesn’t stretch out to fill the screen like other iOS to Android ports – it instead uses its TV effect to create a rounded black border that looks natural. It’s far nicer-looking than stretching, and I hope more games on the platform start to do this.

The touch controls are what they are – they’re a little touchy, and can be a bit tricky for a game that does often require quick-yet-careful actions in order to succeed. Tablet owners should note that the game doesn’t support the devices properly yet – the game runs on tablets, but the controls are optimized for phone screens, so it’s a bit uncomfortable to play. According to Physmo, they didn’t have a lot of devices that they could test on, so if sales improve, then tablet support along with physical control support may come in the future.

Mos Speedrun is a game that fans of retro platformers should definitely check out. The speedrun level format fits for short-burst on-the-go gaming, and the level designs are perfectly made to be played in several ways. iOS and Android owners would do better to check out the iOS version, especially with its extra features, like iPad, iCade, and speedrun recording supporting, though they are otherwise feature-identical.

Note: Media is from iOS version of the game, but are visually identical to the Android version.