Xenowerk Review

Xenowerk Review

Jul 10, 2015

Here’s to Pixelbite’s Xenowerks.

Well, it feels a bit like hit game Space Marshals, that’s okay and very much allowed; sharing DNA with that game ensures that at the very least, we should get of sprinkling of good stuff. And we do, starting from the top-down nature of the view that allows the player to survey and control the action from “above.” The developer uses virtual light as an in-game tool quite effectively, and the overall sense of foreboding is well rendered. The sounds are also sufficiently creepy, seesawing from the eerie to the straight dangerous.

Getting into the action, the backstory in Xenowerk is simple mutant disaster fare: underground lab, secret research and something going down that cuts of communication and cameras. Of course, the area needs to cleansed, and who better than the player to get this accomplished? After getting decked out in basic gear (weapons and armor), one gets to go into the game directly, which, as noted, takes place in an presumably overrun lab.

Just like Space Marshals before it, this game uses a virtual dual stick shooter set of controls to run the player’s character, one for directions and one to shoot. There is a bit of tweaking that can be done — like switching which side either button is on — but for the most part, what you see is what you get. Using these controls, one can investigate the underground labyrinth and finish the leveled missions.


The main foils in this game are the organic monstrosities that roam the hallways and rooms. Getting too close can be dangerous, as they attack and reduce the players lifeline, causing death if left unabated. Shooting them is the proscribed method, but doing so without incurring damages requires a bit of practice to move and direct firing adequately. As one moves on, the game gets tougher, and one has to adjust to be successful. There are bonuses and other dangers on the ground, but the basic idea is to dispatch the mutants, upgrade weapons and armor and keep moving.

Xenowerk is a familiar caper, in that one knows what one is getting into… mostly. The gameplay isn’t too sophisticated, and that can be a positive or negative depending on the player. The control mechanism can take some getting used to, but is still a nice way to run things.

Risky Waters Review

Risky Waters Review

Jan 27, 2015

Risky Waters sounds like an exciting concept. Beset by evil serpents from beyond this world, the player must sail down a river as combat and destruction grips the land, destroying these mighty beasts with a ship mounted cannon. Failure to destroy the flying abominations allows them to breathe fire on your delicate craft. Killing off monsters grants experience that makes the cannon stronger. Shooting hearts can repair your redoubtable ship on the fly.

Screenshot_2015-01-26-18-51-22Unfortunately, the actual gameplay is very dull indeed. The game plays a bit like a shooter, one stick to aim and another to shoot. These controls make it very easy to target the airborne serpentine threat. The gameplay however is very dull indeed. The viewpoint is set so close it is down to pretty much luck if the player can take down a dragon before it sets fire to their ship and the game is extremely boring due to the one note gameplay and lack of skill required. There are no hidden depths or gameplay surprises here.

This could have been redeemed slightly if there was some kind of upgrade or experience system to permanently upgrade the player’s ship or its wussy little cannon, but experience only counts for the particular game it is earned in and seems to have little effect. It is not obvious what leveling up does for the player.

Risky Waters
also looks really bad. The graphics are drawn in a style which is both painful to look at and poorly colored. Bug eyed, purple dragons look like something from a fever dream. The aforementioned super close camera also makes playing the game much harder than it should be. At least the game is distinct enough on small screens and never lags or stutters.

The sound is unexciting. The weak blip of your cannon does not evoke any atmosphere and dragons are rather quiet. The music is passable.

Risky Waters is a dull, ugly looking game that really isn’t worth anyone’s time. There are a multitude of way better shooters on Android.

Inferno 2 Review

Inferno 2 Review

Jan 12, 2015

Inferno 2 is an intense dual stick shooter. With its super cool looking graphics, frenetic gameplay and stiff challenge, Inferno 2 nails the twin stick shooter genre and is a lot of fun to play.

In Inferno 2 players control a small ship with the familiar two sticks for moving and shooting. Players make their way through maze like levels with barriers that must be unlocked and copious enemies to be destroyed.

Screenshot_2014-12-20-12-51-11Inferno 2 is literally packed with enemies. Each level contains Cores, tough objects that constantly crank out enemies, often as fast as the player can kill them. The idea then is to wipe out the Cores as fast as possible while trying to avoid/kill the sea of enemies that infest the levels. Of course since enemies are created as fast as the player can kill them this involves an exciting, high risk style of gameplay where the player must move around enemies and be aggressive, threading their way through them to pick off Cores and stop the flow of foes without getting swamped. There are plenty of frantic moments spraying huge clouds of enemies with powerful weapons to try to thin the herd a bit in Inferno 2. This is a lot of fun.

The game also has some fairly dirty tricks to make life difficult for the player. Some passages have tidal effects that push players down them into waiting enemies or there may be barriers that must be touched with your ship to be released. Naturally, these barriers are packed with enemies who will flood out at point blank range after the barrier is dispelled.

A robust upgrade system helps the game along. Killing enemies and grabbing items during gameplay awards experience which can be used to power up weapons or increase max armour. There are multiple weapons in the game, such as bullets which bounce off of walls and are great for tight areas, homing missiles, mines and others. Each of these is good in a different situation.

Screenshot_2015-01-07-06-56-34Inferno 2 has a whole lot of levels and additional bonus levels are unlocked with keys. Keys can be bought with in game cash and that’s it. There are no IAPs here. The only cost for playing Inferno 2 is the app’s initial cost. The only thing that matters is the player’s skill.

Inferno 2 looks fantastic. A really cool, glowy retro-style makes Inferno 2 looks like a combination of a retro arcade shooter and modern. The never-ending sea of enemies and sharp, defined graphics really make the game a great fit for mobiles.

Inferno 2 is a premier dual-stick shooter with lots of intense, fun gameplay, slick presentation and no in-app purchases. For any gamer this is a no brainer.

JoyJoy Review

JoyJoy Review

May 15, 2014

Radiangames is back again, this time with a fun shooting game JoyJoy.

With regards to gameplay, JoyJoy incorporates dual-stick shooter methodology, allowing devices to feel like handheld game pads in the way the thumbs (presumably) have to be used. The big virtual buttons are for movement and dedicated shooting, and there are other special buttons present, but the aforementioned big ones are the main controls. The controls are somewhat faint, but quite responsive. The game also boasts Bluetooth control support.

The developer really wants one to play; I mean, how else does one explain the breadth of choice? The gameplay is broken down into Waves an Challenges, and then there are quite a few difficulty levels to choose from that line up with the players temperament and/or ability. Controlling the main unit is easily framed within the play. The joy1playing area is a a smaller rectangle within the bigger rectangle of the screen; within this rectangle, enemy crafts emanate from nothingness. The main premise is to avoid the bad guys, get power-ups and blast the enemy to smithereens.

Navigating the swarms is half the battle, and it’s a fun half. The game engine sends waves of enemy craft that follow the player incessantly, looking to inflict lethal damage. With auto-shooting functionality, it’s possible to concentrate on moving while the game engine allows for the home unit to blast the opposing forces. The power-ups definitely make it feel more arcade-y, with things like special shooting arrays, shields and health packs up for grabs before they disappear.

The game has a simple feel, but does not completely ignore colors; the scenery does change periodically, and the subtle touch works. the animations are pretty smooth, and the game comes together quite well.

It’s decently priced, easy to get lost in and packs a lot of levels.

A Thug in Time Review

A Thug in Time Review

Aug 14, 2013

A Thug in Time is a fun dual-stick shooter from Destructamobile. In this one, time is clearly of the essence. Literally.

The gameplay covers four distinct time periods, modern day New York, Vikings time, prohibition era Chicago and, thankfully, so thankfully, the Wild West. The hero, Kai is tasked with collecting crystals hidden in these time periods so as to save the earth from its fictional creators who have returned to destroy it.

To make it happen, the dual controls come into play. The left one controls lateral movement, and the other does both rotational movement (spinning) and shooting. With baddies coming in seemingly endless waves, the object is to dispatch as many enemies as possible without succumbing to them, while collecting all collectibles. Now, it does sound simplethug1 enough; there’s even an arrow that helps with navigation. The game does provide a good challenge, as the swarming enemy pieces don’t come from the same angle. They also are not restricted by some boundaries that affect the protagonist, like fences; thus quick shooting and rotations are needed to survive.

Beyond keeping the enemies at bay, Kai also has to collect crystals. This is accomplished by exploring, following the directions, using weaponry to gain access to locked places and finding stuff.

The top-down viewed are nice, and the graphics are rich. The period artwork is fun without being overpowering, and the animations mostly fit the game. There is a lot of dark scenery, and the buildings that “opened” when obstructing the view of our protagonist take a bit of getting used to, but overall here is little to dislike about the game graphically. Cue the sensitive music: I especially like the fact that there are no gruesome death drops. I hate to sound, well, paternal, but it was refreshing to see virtual death not overdone. The use of period styles is the game’s crowning achievement, I think. The cutscenes providing the storyline are masterfully done, and even weather patterns looked good.

The game will be appealing because of its innate simplicity and breadth of gameplay. The action is constant, and this game still manages to look good while keeping busy.

Ballistic SE Review

Ballistic SE Review

Jul 26, 2013

Ballistic SE is something of the second game in a trilogy of titles from Radiangames. Fireball SE is the arena survival game, Ballistic SE asks what would happen if we gave the player guns to fire back at the enemies with, and Inferno+ (which we’ll review soon) asks: what if we made the dual-stick shooter deeper, with levels and upgrades?

Well, Ballistic SE, like I said, lies somewhere in between there. This is a traditional arena-based dual-stick shooter at its core: there are lots of enemies, and lots of shooting of them. It’s possible to go ballistic occasionally through a meter that charges up, making weapons extra-powerful and slowing everything down to make it more manageable. A lot of enemies will be on screen at once, so good luck with that.

The other thing that separates this a bit from other dual-stick shooters is that there’s an upgrade system: every few levels, players get an extra upgrade point that can be used to upgrade stats like ship speed, ballistic recharging, or unlock mines that drop behind the player.


The game has very abstract visuals: everything’s pretty much an orb, as opposed to anything representing ships or enemies. It’s orb-on-orb violence. Oh, the humanity! Er, orb-anity! At least it all looks great in high resolutions.

There’s a main mode with over 100 levels, and five challenge modes that feature specific parameters and limited lives to play with. The latter are especially great for pick-up-and-play gameplay.

Controls-wise, I was disappointed to see that physical controls aren’t supported on the standard Android version (at least not the MOGA Pro in both MOGA API and HID modes) while there is at least an Ouya version. Still, this is a game that would be perfect for a controller! The virtual joysticks do a decent job, and are highly configurable as well at least.

The ability to auto-fire when not firing on the second joystick helps keep the chaos manageable, as it does a good job at handling general nearby threats. In cases where it may be preferable to blow on through a series of enemies in one direction, manual fire comes in handy.

Ballistic SE is fairly familiar territory for the dual-stick shooter, but its chaotic gameplay can also be a ton of fun.

Zombiewood Review

Zombiewood Review

Nov 7, 2012

Zombies have invaded Los Angeles! (Cue the funny Botox jokes NOW).

Gameloft formally goes into entrepreneurial mode by spitting out a game that explores the bright side of a zombie invasion. Hollywood has become Zombiewood.

The plotline is hilarious. Not to be deterred by the undead, a movie director gets a brilliant idea (undoubtedly stoked by not having to deal with stuntsmen fees and Actors unions): let’s make a movie starring live-action zombies!

Brilliant, dear sir.

The great graphics start from the intro cutscene; excellent colors and animations set the tone, and quickly sucked me in. The tutorial was straightforward, giving me an opportunity to work on shooting at props, and then took me directly into the game. Control-wise it made use of two main virtual controls: the movement toggle and the shooting stick. The shooting control worked way better than I envisaged; I started off with two powerful hand cannons that dispatched zombies with the quickness. The zombies came at me in swarms, and I had the upgradeable guns and special power-ups as my defense. And some of this power-ups were quite cool. I couldn’t get enough of this mass-exterminating grenade thingie. Mercy.

The sounds were great without being distracting, and helped create the appropriate ambiance.

The game is free, but as expected, there are upgrades available via IAP. I was able to provide and accumulate game cash and rewards, but it is clear that there was more fun to be had with real money. I admit that I was – and am – tempted. But that is a credit to the game, and what the developers were able to pack in.

Frankly, it is odd the season of the undead. There is a a zombie game on every cyber-corner. To garner attention, a game title is gonna have to pack a mean combination off looks and power under the hood.

Well done, Gameloft. Well done.

Age of Zombies Review

Age of Zombies Review

Jun 10, 2011

It seems like forever ago that Age of Zombies came out on Android as an Xperia Play exclusive. Well, finally, the rest of us get a chance to play this dual-stick shooter from Halfbrick Studios and see what we’ve been missing out on.

In Age of Zombies, you control Barry Steakfries as he travels through time, blasting zombies that have been released into the past. You start off in the prehistoric era, surrounded by zombie cavemen. Your standard weapon is the pistol, but you get temporary upgrades to other weapons as they randomly pop up, like shotguns, SMGs and more, including my personal favorite, the buzzsaw! There’s nothing quite like mowing through a horde of zombies with a giant, spinning blade to paste a big grin across my face. You also have a small supply of grenades to turn a mob of brain-hungry zombies into a blazing bonfire of the undead. It’s a lot of fun.

You have to eliminate all the zombies in each of 3 areas across 5 different eras, giving you a total of 15 zombie-filled stages. Before you can leave an era, however, you have to go through an insane boss fight with some pretty tough characters, like a zombie t-rex! Then, when you’re done with Story Mode, you get to see how long you can last in Survival Mode, fighting off waves of zombies as you try to build up a high enough score to rise to the top of the leader boards.

Age of Zombies brings a good, tongue-in-cheek approach to the world of zombie survival. Barry is awfully fond of his one-liners, even if they come up flat every now and then, and the caricatures of period-appropriate zombies keeps things fresh as you progress through the game. Zombie cavemen, zombie gangsters, zombie mummies, zombie ninjas and… zombie alien cyborgs. I guess things get a little nuts in the future.

Players get plenty of options when it comes to controls. You can either have “floaty” controls that pop up when you touch the screen and move relative to how you move your thumb, or you can have static controls that are always visible. You can even adjust the size of the stick area, custom tailoring the experience to your style of play.

Halfbrick did their best to bring something new to the dual-stick shooter genre, and while Age of Zombies may not play all that different from industry standards, it sure does bring a lot of heart and character. Fun graphics, great gameplay, funny dialog and characters that all add up to a fantastic game. Although it may be a bit short, it’s a lot of fun to play again and again. We’ve been waiting a long time for this one, and it’s good to see that Age of Zombies delivers!

PewPew 2 Review

PewPew 2 Review

Apr 13, 2011

PewPew 2, a sequel to the free dual-stick shooter PewPew, is largely similar to the first game – it looks and plays almost identically to it, minus the addition of new powerups and ships. However, what you get for your $2.99 is more content. You get a new endless mode not in the original PewPew, and a new campaign mode that presents you with a variety of challenges to complete, and actual levels to progress through. This both introduces you to the game’s new elements, and provides you with a challenge to try to beat. Oh, and there are tricky boss fights as well.

PewPew 2’s greatest strength is its variety. It’d almost be enough for the game to have just its 5 endless modes, one of which is exclusive to PewPew2 (with 2 extra ones unlocked after completing the two Campaign chapters), but the game ‘s 2 campaigns add in a lot more length and challenge to the game. Some of the modes, like the Chromatic Conflict mode that have you changing colors to take out enemies of the same color, make this game more than just the typical Geometry Wars clone. The online leaderboard service is also ingenious – it not only shows the top 48 global scores, but it lets you watch the replays for all the top scores, and it saves the replays for all your local top scores. The vector graphics are not complex, but they allow for the game to run incredibly well, and the game looks crisp on high-resolution displays.

PewPew 2’s controls are probably the biggest trouble spot – the on-screen indicator often makes it hard to tell in which direction you’re shooting, exactly. It makes it often difficult to angle your shots perfectly, and a more traditional joystick visual design would help. There is no cooldown invincibility when you take damage like in most games, so it’s not hard to die quickly when you get in trouble.I have Sometimes the challenge and design of the modes can make you feel like you’d need actual physical controls to handle it. This is especially true in a level like Chapter One’s “Ying”, which demands that you jacknife through waves of green and blue enemies while you try to change your ship’s color so you can destroy them. As well, the game largely just serves as a full version to the original PewPew, considering the only real additions are 3 new endless modes and the Campaign mode, making this more of a paid upgrade rather than a sequel.

PewPew 2 lacks at times in the originality department, being another dual-stick shooter that borrows from the Geometry Wars design aesthetic. However, beyond the controls, it does what it does really well, and this is definitely one of the finer dual-stick shooters available on Android.

Meteor Blitz Review

Meteor Blitz Review

Mar 31, 2011

The mobile gaming market has seen a renaissance for dual-stick shooters, and Meteor Blitz is another entry in this venerable genre. Meteor Blitz is less akin to a game like Geometry Wars (and many, many other dual-stick shooters on mobile OSes), but rather closely follows after Super Stardust HD for the PS3. You’re dropped on to a planet, tasked to destroy asteroids and other assorted enemies, including fire and ice meteors that you must destroy with your ice and fire cannons respectively, along with your neutral element cannon. You have the standard bombs that you can unleash to clear the screen, a boost attack to get out of hairy situations, and a gravity gun that you can use to suck in asteroids, and shoot them back out at enemies. You have an Arcade mode that takes you through 25 levels and has you collecting rings that go towards persistent upgrades, and a Survival mode that puts you somewhere in deep space, and tasks you with scoring as many points as possible with only 3 lives. This mode also makes you start out with all your upgrades from scratch each time you play.