9 Iron Ninja Review

9 Iron Ninja Review

Nov 30, 2012

9-Iron Ninja is an interesting title. The core concept is something that has the potential for real fun, but it feels like it wasn’t completely executed.

The best way to describe the game in relation to existing titles would be Super Stickman Golf Blitz. That is, this is a 2D golf game, like an Artillery game but with golf balls raining from the sky instead of death and destruction. But instead of playing on set courses of different holes, 9 Iron Ninja tkaes players through the game one hole at a time. Players get 6 strokes per level in which to sink the ball. If they don’t, it’s game over. Getting the ball in sooner nets more points, and high scores are definitely the goal here.

The game is free and ad-supported, with stars that can be earned for unlocking new disguises and trophies. The stars that are earned for doing well on a hole are built around a currency system that can be used to unlock new colors and costumes for the ninja, along with trophies. The developer claims that the game is built around being a zen-like experience, and to that end, it is very easy to sink loads of time in to the game, as the experience tends to seamlessly blend one hole into another, even after a game over, which still allows the player to finish their current hole.

But there lies the problem: 9 Iron Ninja seems to lack any kind of punch. The holes can wildly vary in difficulty and they still have the same 6-shot limit, which means that there’s no balancing, and it means that a long session may be a case of just getting the luck of the draw with easy holes. The experience just winds up being a random wandering, rather than anything that drives the player to keep going, keep coming back to the game. The game also desperately needs high-resolution graphics; it looks very blurry on the Nexus 7 and Galaxy S III.

9 Iron Ninja feels a lot like the prototype to a “blitz”-style 2D golf game that I could see being realized at some point in the future. Perhaps someday soon, this will actually be realized, but until then, to get a glimpse of a possible future, download 9 Iron Ninja, but realize that it’s not fully-formed quite yet.

Scorched Monster Review

Scorched Monster Review

May 3, 2012

Scorched Monster brings together the kind of arena survival popularized in the modern era by Super Crate Box (and iterated by Muffin Knight on Android) and one of the original games in the genre: the original Mario Bros. from Nintendo. Players control a flamethrower-wielding man, who must go around and scorch monsters, presumably because they are monsters. Hopefully our protagonist understands what Nietzche once said about monsters. The goal of the game is to try and achieve the goal score on each level, rack up high scores, and increase rank with successful playthroughs until the rank of “Scorch Master” is achieved.

It’s actually difficult, if not outright impossible, to be hurt by the enemies themselves, which makes killing them easy, just come in close proximity to them to activate the flamethrower and kill them. It’s something that has to be learned, as my automatic reaction to enemies at first was “I should probably not touch them”, though until I tested whether this was true or not, I avoided bopping enemies on the head. Thankfully, they just get scorched immediately.

The pixel art looks great. The game is colorful and the pixels are crisp – the game is definitely a looker for fans of the retro art style. The game uses virtual controls, but they’re very accurate, I had no issues with them at all. The left and right arrows are spaced well enough apart to where I never had any accidental inputs.

Scorched Monster is set up great for both short sessions and long-term play. Levels take 45 seconds each (though additional time powerups can be collected), and then each level’s score goes toward a total 10 level score. Games can be picked up and resumed at any point. Then, there’s the long-term play, as the goal score in each level increases, because only true Scorch Masters should be given that rank.

The game does get a bit repetitive over time. The level layouts don’t appear to change much, though the backgrounds change. Levels use many of the same tricks, such as spikes that are on ceilings, making them tricky to jump through. The enemy types only really vary in terms of their appearance and score types, they don’t do anything besides walk around.

Scorched Monster is a fun retro-style diversion for Android. The game comes in both ad-supported and paid versions, though it appears as if the ads are only in the menu, not in the game itself. Remember, supporting indie devs is always a good thing! This is a fun game, worth the download.

Diversion Review

Diversion Review

Aug 19, 2011

Diversion is a 2.5D take on the endless runner genre that has taken off on mobile platforms. The meat of the game isn’t necessarily ‘endless’ though – this is primarily a level-based game. Players must navigate through levels filled with hazards, trying to collect gems and stars while constantly running forward. The gems can be used to skip levels and buy additional character costumes. The game is ad-supported, though with the new 1.2 update, players can purchase additional gems, which will also remove the ads. The cheapest gem pack is $0.99.

The game does have a lot of content in it; with the new update there’s over 100 levels not including endless levels. Though, each level is not exactly the same; they are actually randomly generated, but each level has a particular theme and set of obstacles that are prominent in it. Thus, when restarting a level, it may seem familiar, and the ability to learn from mistakes exists, but nothing is quite what it seems. There are a variety of costumes to unlock to customize the character, and they actually have an in-game purpose, as some levels will grant the player double the gems for using the correct costume. This can only be discovered by finding the “character” icon in each level. The game is optimized for Honeycomb tablets, as well. Developer Ezone will be giving away codes for extra costumes and gems on their Facebook fan page.

The pace of the game can be kind of slow, and with restarting levels from tghe beginning, this means that seeing the later content in the game will take a while. It would be nice if gems could be spent to unlock future levels; the initial environment gets a little boring after a while! After a while, I just feel like falling and getting spiked to death in different environments. The game would also do well to track which outfits unlock double bonuses when the icons are collected, especially as early on, some of the outfits necessary to get the double bonus aren’t unlocked until way later in the game. Some kind of note on the character list would be helpful.

Diversion is quite different from the rest of the genre, but its slower pace can make it frustrating to play at times, especially when trying to complete levels. This free download is a solid investment of time, though.

The Hills Are Greener: The Perils of Freedom

The Hills Are Greener: The Perils of Freedom

Jun 27, 2011

Is it really possible that a major game can’t sell on Android? Cut the Rope has taken the same path that Angry Birds has taken with distribution on Android, which is to give away their app for free, generating revenue by way of in-game ads instead of selling the app as a paid app like on iOS. Kami Retro from Gamevil has also gone down this path, showing that they might be experimenting with this ad-supported game model on Android as well.

It’s not quite clear why publishers and developers have decided en masse to pursue this model when releasing on Android beyond reaching a wider base of Android owners. If it’s a piracy issue that publishers are worried about, it seems kind of silly since adblocking on Android is not all that difficult for those with the technical knowhow. Essentially, if people don’t want to give a developer revenue, it’s not that much of a stretch to actually do. It seems like it’s just attacking the lowest common denominator, instead of actually solving the problem of not being able to sell paid games on Android. Plus, it just doesn’t sound smart to have a game that displays ads for other free games that people could download; while playing Cut the Rope, I’ve seen ads for not only Words With Friends for Android, but also for Angry Birds in Google Chrome! Such is the peril of allowing advertisements.

As well, this has the long-term potential of hurting the growth of paid applications on Android Market. A larger developer can make up for small click-through rates on ads by way of sheer number of users playing the game and viewing the ads; this requires a game with a name like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, or Words With Friends. As someone trying to make money with Android has shown, when just trying to start from the ground up with an Android app, the results can be rather rough. If big-name apps and games continue to hit Android as free downloads, and users continue to expect to get premium quality apps and games as free downloads, then why would they ever pay for apps and games? Fruit Ninja has succeeded on the Android Market, but it appears to be the notable exception to the rule, rather than any kind of indicator that other developers are taking.

If the Android Market is ever going to reach a point where major developers will consider it worth the financial benefits of working on it, then it will require a market where users will expect to pay for some apps; when major apps are regularly being released for free, how can this ever happen? Do I like free games? Sure! Call me a hypocrite for playing and downloading these games when they go free, but I am still just a man who likes getting things for free. However, I still recognize that this trend ultimately is bad for smaller developers looking to grow on Android because they cannot ever expect to make meaningful revenue, even just starting out. The big guys just aren’t making it any easier for the little guys, because free is hard to beat.

Cut the Rope Review

Cut the Rope Review

Jun 24, 2011

Cut the Rope has finally made its way to Android. This puzzle game features gameplay that is exactly what it says on the tin – ropes need to be cut to get the candy from the starting point into the adorable Om Nom’s mouth. Along the way, there are three stars to collect; unlike Angry Birds, where 3 stars are based on some arbitrary point value, getting 3 stars in a level means actually collecting all 3 stars in a level. Later levels introduce things like bubbles that float a candy up toward the top of the screen, air gusts that can blow the candy around, and other things that make the game more about than just rope-cutting. The game comes with 7 level packs, comprising 175 levels total.

The fun of Cut the Rope comes from the simple gameplay that quickly turns ingenious; the game starts to add a lot of elements gradually to make the experience vary as it goes on. The controls never get overly complex, as everything is directly interacted with through taps and gestures. The game also features achievements and high scores through Scoreloop. The Android version is a great transition from the iOS version; the gameplay has translated perfectly to Android, and ZeptoLab made the game run on different resolutions perfectly without any skewed aspect ratios, unlike PopCap’s Android ports. All the content from the iOS version is here as well. The game is also a free download, with small banner ads displayed at the title screen and between levels.

The Android port is not without its issues, at least right away; the game occasionally doesn’t load on the Samsung Galaxy S, and requires to be closed out before relaunching. Some levels won’t load as well; the experience may vary based on phone model, of course. The game’s later content is locked away right from the beginning, so people who may have played the game on iOS a while back and haven’t gotten to check out the new content will have to play through the old content to get back to that point.

Cut the Rope is yet another fun game brought to Android. While more original content would be great, getting games like this on Android is only a positive. It is a free download, and the ads are unobtrusive. Go to the GetJar store and download the game now, although it will be propagating to other app stores in the near future.