Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour Review

Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour Review

Dec 21, 2012

When it comes to FPS games, Gameloft has game. The Modern Combat series continually brings some compelling gameplay to Android handsets. Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour looks to continue that history.

The game opens up with two modes that will be familiar to fans of the franchise: Campaign and Multiplayer. I found four levels of difficulty: Easy, Normal, Hard and Extreme. As usual, I was part of an elite team tasked with some tough wartime missions behind enemy lines.

The graphics were beautiful, but I refuse to wave my hands in admiration too long; sorry Gameloft… we expect that from you now. Still, I was impressed by the visual texture. The scenes looked like, well, war scenes. It was very reflective of the carnage one would expect to see, with splashing sand and whizzing projectiles. I liked the attention to detail; the designers were careful to iron out specifics like perspective and angles.

The gameplay worked well, with basic instructions coming via communications from team leaders. I could switch weaponry by simply picking up discarded funds. Running, crouching and reloading accompanied the shooting and sights controls; the ubiquitous direction button was also there. I found the game to be fairly intuitive in that it was easy to figure out and it made sense. Depending on level of play, I had a limited amount of damage I could sustain before succumbing to the injuries. Shooting was also realistically portrayed, and aiming assistance was something that could be toggled from settings.

There were plenty of missions, which meant that there was plenty of opportunities to get addicted — even before the multiplayer option and its embedded leaderboards.

The game was quite vibrant, but it did freeze on me at times, which was not fun; I know this is not unheard of on today’s devices, but when the enemy is strafing me, I cannot bear to get kicked out.

What can I say? I liked this game. It packs a punch, has multiplayer capabilities and is mostly well designed.

Colosseum Review

Colosseum Review

Sep 1, 2011

Looking for some straightforward, mindless, hack and slash action? Then look no further; it doesn’t get much more mindless than Colosseum.

In Colosseum, you’re pitted against endless waves of ogres, skeletons and other beasties as you fight your way to the exit on the far side of the field. It’s not simply about making it to the end, however. You’ll have to find the key to unlock the door first, and that requires killing monsters. The key pops out after a set number of kills, and that number slowly inches its way higher as you progress through level after level. So long as you can survive long enough to find the key and make it to the door, you’ll be good to go.

After each level, you go to a store where you can buy weapon upgrades, armor and healing potion. As you can expect, each additional upgrade costs a little more.

Weapons come in two varieties: ranged and melee. Melee weapons do less damage than ranged but can be used much more frequently as they require less of a “cool down” period between usage. Ranged weapons also have magic powers. Bombs are eventually replaced by meteors, daggers can have fire elemental magic effects, the hatchet brings ice element effects while the spear does heavy lightning damage.

Colosseum is interesting for about an hour, if that. Once you’ve got the basic gameplay down, there isn’t much else to do beyond collecting money, buying upgrades, grabbing power-ups and seeing which weapon/magic skill you like best. Even as the monsters grow in number and strength, after a certain level, it just becomes endlessly more of the same. By the time I hit level 20, I’d purchased almost every item in the store and was quickly losing interest in the game. I fought through level after level, only to encounter the same level again and again. It’s like a hack and slash version of Groundhog Day. Almost nothing changes to keep this game interesting.

Other problems crop up in the controls, where button presses seem to be routinely missed. Some attacks do require a short “cool down” before they’ll be active again, but even attacks that are ready for action seem to ignore button presses. Sometimes, the directional buttons are ignored, as well. It gets to be frustrating very quickly.

Colosseum isn’t a terrible game, but it’s not a great one, either. The repetitive action and gameplay combine with the repetitive levels to make one mediocre experience. And the settings don’t make much sense, either. Going from a colosseum setting with large brutes coming at you to a graveyard setting with skeletons from every side is a terrible transition. At least if the setting changed to tell a story or reflect some kind of progression it would have made much more sense.

As it stands, Colosseum is a boring, repetitive game. It’s a little fun in the beginning, especially when you start coming up against some very big, very tough bad guys. After that, however, it’s just the same thing, over and over again.

101 Games in 1 Review

101 Games in 1 Review

Jun 1, 2011

101 games for the price of 1. Sounds like a great deal, right? Especially when you consider that the price of those games is free, how you can you possibly beat that? Well, just because something is free doesn’t mean it doesn’t cost something. Like, your precious time, for example.

This collection of mini-games was produced by Nordcurrent, a European game developer and publisher. Ported from the iPhone, 101 Games in 1 features puzzle games, arcade action games, gallery shooters, racing, sports, cooking and even Sudoku. There’s a little something here for everyone, and as you play through them, you’re sure to find a few diamonds in the rough. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many diamonds to be found, but there is PLENTY of rough.

In the beginning, you start with 10 games that you can play to your heart’s content. Each time you play the game, you’re aiming to beat a certain score so that you can rack up enough points to unlock more games. As you go, the games become more expensive, requiring you to go back, play the unlocked games more and get even higher scores. It’s not an unreasonable proposition, and certainly adds to the replay value, assuming you like what you’re playing.

The games in this collection are all simple, easy to play games. Some simply require you to touch the screen to get some action to happen while others will have you frantically tapping and dragging objects all over the place. As for the difficulty, the games range from very easy to nearly impossible.

An example of an extremely easy game is the air-hockey game, Tornado Hockey. Laughably, I discovered several “sweet spots” where I was able to park my mallet and watch the AI continually miss the puck. Again and again, the puck just kept bouncing right into the goal. After a while, I set my phone down and waited for the timer to expire. The AI never variates its attack, the pacing never changes and the game never gets any harder. It just repeats the same exact movements until the timer runs out. It’s a bit pathetic, but it only gets worse.

These are among some of the worst, “Punch the Monkey” style games imaginable. Really, I’ve seen better Flash-banner advertisements than some of what you’ll find, here. Some feature controls that are so unresponsive that they are barely playable while others have such poor hit detection and physics that, even when you’re playing the game correctly, you still can’t win. They’re just broken, terrible games wrapped around advertisements and offers to gain points by downloading apps, signing up for services and more. And that’s 101 Games in a nutshell, really.

If you’re looking for a collection of quick games that don’t require a lot of time or commitment, this app is for you. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a well-produced game with real merit that is actually worth your time, I recommend you look elsewhere.

Chalk Ball Review

Chalk Ball Review

May 18, 2011

No matter how complex video games become, there will always be a place for simple games that provide rock solid gameplay. Chalk Ball puts an interesting spin on gameplay concepts introduced by classic arcade titles like Breakout while providing simple but enjoyable gameplay.

The object of the game is simple: keep the ball from falling off of the bottom of the screen. As the ball bounces around, you have to draw lines with your chalk to keep it from falling off the screen. Your chalk wears down as you draw lines, but you can replenish it by hitting power ups with the ball. Just be careful – there are items that will cut your chalk in half, or start the ball speeding around the screen. The gameplay may be simple, but it’s also extremely satisfying. Pulling off a last second save feels great, and it’s hard to resist going back for another game when you eventually lose.

The controls in Chalk Ball are both precise and intuitive. Each time you draw a line with your chalk, that line appears exactly where you were expecting it to. That may sound like a given, but many games that require you to draw a line output a jagged mess whenever you attempt to draw a straight line, and as such, Chalk Ball gets high marks for accurately outputting the line the player intended to draw.

Visually speaking, Chalk Ball has a unique look. Each level looks like a chalk board, and the ball, all the items, and the lines you use to keep the ball in play all look like they were drawn on with chalk. Unfortunately, the unique visuals are offset by a complete lack of sound effects. There isn’t even a “nails on a chalkboard” sound when you lose – very disappointing.

Despite Chalk Ball’s lack of sound effects, it offers a top notch gaming experience to any and all Android users The game has an abundance of style, solid gameplay, and responsive controls, making it a must-have for just about any Android gamer.

UPDATE: As it turns out, Chalk Ball does in fact have sounds, they just weren’t working on the device the game was reviewed on. At this point, we don’t know whether the issue is specific to the Motorola Droid, or whether it’s an isolated case. We’ll be sure to let you know more as information becomes available.

ExZeus Review

ExZeus Review

May 4, 2011

Action games on the Android platform often suffer from one of two problems – either the controls interfere with their playability, or gameplay is made overly simple in order to compensate for potential control issues. Fortunately, ExZeus doesn’t suffer from either of those problems. Unfortunately, it suffers from a set of problems all its own.

In terms of presentation, ExZeus is easily the best looking and sounding Android game I’ve come across. Characters and environmental elements look great, and the music and sound effects received no less effort than the visuals. In short, this game is a treat for the senses.

The gameplay in ExZeus takes a little getting used to, but once you get a handle on it, it’s extremely enjoyable. You move your character around the screen by tilting the phone, and fire your weapon by tapping the screen. Aiming takes a little effort to master, but once you get the hang of it, ExZeus feels great. Speaking strictly to the gameplay, it does a great job of implementing the formula set forth by games like Space Harrier which clearly provided inspiration for ExZeus.

Unfortunately, the beautiful visuals and top notch gameplay are severely disrupted by some serious technical issues. The first time I ran the game, I had to try no less than ten times to get it to connect to the authentication servers to validate my license. I switched back and forth between my 3G connection, and a wifi connection multiple times, and eventually, the validation went through. I’ve never seen anything remotely like this in any other Android app, and it wasn’t the last time a technical frustration interfered with my enjoyment of the game.

Once I finally got the game registered, it then had to download about 50MB worth of data. The transfer failed repeatedly, and the process took over an hour using a strong wifi connection.

Once the game was registered, and all the files were downloaded, the technical issues weren’t over. While playing ExZeus, it crashed on me multiple times, and on one occasion, it completely rebooted my phone. The crashes weren’t frequent enough to make the game unplayable, but they definitely provided an additional level of frustration.

ExZeus blends strong presentation with solid controls and gameplay to create a strong game. Unfortunately, the dash of technical issues mixed in really hurts the final product. It’s entirely likely that the game will perform differently on different phones, but without a free demo, it’s hard to recommend buying ExZeus given the possible technical hiccups you may face.

SteamBall Review

SteamBall Review

Apr 29, 2011

I probably could have put a down payment on a house if I had saved all the quarters I dropped into the Marble Madness arcade cabinet at the local arcade. As an adult, I’ve moved on to the Monkey Ball games on pretty much every platform they release them on. Needless to say, I was intrigued when I heard about SteamBall. It’s a fully 3D game where you guide a ball through a maze, and in many ways, it’s a very well put together game.

Visually, SteamBall is a masterpiece. The 3D graphics look great, and the sound effects punctuate the visuals nicely. The game runs very smoothly, and I never ran into any frame rate issues, or other performance hiccups. SteamBall looks great, and runs very smoothly.

Gameplay consists of tilting the phone to control the movement of the ball. The controls feel extremely intuitive, and the game even calibrates the controls at the start of each level, so if you move around a lot while you’re playing, it will adjust accordingly. The mazes start off easy enough, and get increasingly more difficult as you progress through the game. If the included mazes aren’t enough for you, you can make your own using the level editor, or you can download other people’s creations using the built in level downloader. At the time of this review, there weren’t any levels up for download, but over time, that will likely change.

SteamBall looks great, the gameplay feels solid, and the controls work well, but there’s one rather large flaw that interferes with what would otherwise be a top notch game. The camera does a terrible job of following the ball as you change directions forcing you to guess at whether you’re going to get the ball on the narrow path you need to cross in order to reach the goal. In fact, on one particular level, the ball was completely hidden by the level as I was attempting to take it around a sharp corner. It’s surprising to see such a large flaw in what is otherwise a well polished game, nevertheless, the camera can and will cause you to fail many many mazes.

It’s hard to recommend a game with a glaring flaw such as the camera in SteamBall, but it’s also hard not to recommend a game that’s so polished in every other way. If you’re ma fan of the Monkey Ball games, or Marble Madness, give the demo version of SteamBall a try. If you can get past the terrible camera, there’s a great game here that will keep you playing for hours on end.