Mini Metro Review

Mini Metro Review

Apr 24, 2017

If I were to list some of the things that I find awful, trains would come near the top. They’re a mode of transport that doesn’t offer freedom and instead requires that you follow a rigid path through cramped tunnels and they only turn up when they want to. Imagine if your car refused to drive on anything other than the A13 and would only operate between the hours of 9am and 11pm. You wouldn’t stand for it, would you?

Anyway – my dislike for trains has been clearly noted and it’s only made it into this review to make the following statement even more impactful. Mini Metro is a game about operating trains and I think it’s outstanding. So there.

Some more detail, then. Mini Metro is something of an arcade puzzle game. The puzzle is that you’re looking at a map with train stations on it – much like the maps you’d see for London’s Underground service. These stations are all different shapes and soon you see they have passengers waiting at them. These passengers are also made of certain shapes which designates where they want to go. A small triangle waiting at the Square station simply means there’s someone who wants to go from the Square Station to the Triangle Station. Easy.unnamed-14

So you draw a line from one station to the next. The problem is that you have limited resources, such as tunnels, carriages and bridges. The arcade element comes with the pace of the game throwing new stations at you. The maps start off with 3 stations but very quickly you’re trying to figure out how to serve 20 stations of all varying shapes.

The trick is to try and figure out a sensible route for your trains to run, as customers will happily switch lines. What happens if you have too many people waiting at one stop though? What if 3 different lines all converge on one overcrowded station? It’s game over, that’s what.

The game will give you upgrades, such as faster trains, more carriages or more lines, but having these extra tools doesn’t always make your job easy. You still need to really think about just how to best serve your customers and just how overstretched one part of your train service is compared to other parts.

Each level does end in a ‘game over’ though, with the aim being to survive as long as you can. You need to transport as many passengers as possible and to reach a certain score to unlock the next level. However, even though each playthrough ends in a defeat of sorts, with you trying to best your previous score, it’s rare to feel angry at the game for causing your demise. 99% of the time you curse yourself for not changing the layout of your lines sooner, for not adding an extra carriage or for not noticing that a particular station was becoming too crowded.

There are the 1% of times, however, where you will feel slightly cheated by a sudden boom of popularity that simply couldn’t be predicted. These are few and far between though and what you have is a game that’s damn near perfect.

Mini Metro has sublime game design that has you cursing yourself, planning ahead and needing to react in the moment all at the same time. I hate trains. I love Mini Metro.


Real Baseball 3D Review

Real Baseball 3D Review

Mar 31, 2017

I know nothing about baseball. This still doesn’t stop me from realising that Real Baseball 3D is a bad baseball game. Someone who’s never seen a base nor a ball could tell you this.

The premise is simple. It’s baseball. When it comes to gameplay you’re only in charge of batting and pitching, with all of the fielding being taken care of for you. Occasionally you’ll be asked the question ‘do you want to steal a base’ or ‘do you want to throw to home or 1st base?’. Other than that, how successful your fielding is comes down to your player’s stats.

These stats are what the game’s all about. You collect cards which represent players. Each player will be rated on power, accuracy and the like. The game is set up in such a way that it obviously wants you to pay real money to get those better cards.unnamed-8

The problem is that pitching is boring and there’s little skill to it. You pick a type of throw, you aim and then you tap the screen when prompted to. Whether your AI opposition smacks the ball out the park or not is seemingly random.

Batting isn’t much better. All you need to do is tap the screen to swing your bat. Time it right and the ball sails away to get you a home run. Again, how the logic of this works out is unknown. Sometimes you’ll swear you timed your swing perfectly but, maybe, your AI pitcher has better stats than you so it means it goes straight into someone’s glove?

A massive problem with batting is that your swing occurs when you ‘release’ the screen. This means that your ‘tap’ feels delayed as it only starts animating once you lift your finger. Why on Earth it’s programmed this way, I have no idea.

Then there’s the adverts. There’s loads of them and they pop up right in the middle of a game. Seemingly random, some downs will end in an advert filling the screen whilst others won’t. Then there’s the messy menus to fight through all in the name of getting better stats so you can do ‘better’ in what is a really dull pitching and batting game.

There aren’t that many modes to enjoy either. You’ll spend most of your time improving your franchise but when it all boils down to playing a bad game of baseball, you’ll feel no desire to improve your team.

One last thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is the un-licensed nature of the game. It’s fine that you don’t have the MLB license, but have your game load with a poorly Photoshopped picture of the New York ‘Gibnts’. ‘Gibnts’ isn’t even a word and it makes no sense.

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.


Overtake Review

Overtake Review

Jan 30, 2017

I’m all for simplicity. I’m always impressed when a game can be fun and engaging when all it asks you to do it tap on the screen, learn one or two rules and doesn’t require you to play an hour long tutorial.

In this regard, I suppose, Overtake : Car Traffic Racing is something of a success. It’s blindingly simple. You are a car, you go forward and you try not to crash into other cars. Simple.

This is about as far as I can when trying to praise this game. The simplicity on offer is then let down by pretty much everything else. Firstly, the controls. At the start of each run you get to choose if you want to tile your phone to steer or if you want on-screen buttons. Whilst playing the game I found neither particularly responsive enough to avoid the oncoming traffic, which led to collisions.

Collisions are awful. Instead of looking like tons of metal colliding into one another it instead resembles two dry sponges bouncing off each other. Often a collision won’t be enough to end your run, as the run only finished when your car’s health gauge reaches zero. This means that the collision has now pointed you in the wrong direction, leaving you to right yourself using the previously mentioned awful turning mechanics.

Maybe I’m just not good at the game? Maybe I need to unlock a better car? Maybe you’re right. What isn’t right is the way the game locks everything behind paywalls or asks you to grind for hours to unlock anything. New cars and new tracks will take an absolute age to work towards and their IAP prices are pretty tough to swallow.

Add to the mix the fact you have randomly appearing adverts. After some runs, an advert will fill the screen. After some returns to the main menu and advert will fill the screen. You get no rewards for these adverts and they’re intrusive.

And that’s pretty much all there is to the game. There’s 3 ‘modes’, but they just alter the direction of the traffic you’re driving past. The game is nothing more than a series of dodging challenges but with some bad steering controls. There’s different tracks to race on but they don’t change the game in any meaningful way.

Overtake is boring, controls badly and offers no variation to its poor gameplay. It looks quite nice, I suppose, with some well modeled 3D cars. That’s about the nicest thing I can say about Overtake. It has some nice car models. Avoid it.


Tap Tap Tap Review

Tap Tap Tap Review

Apr 20, 2015

Style over substance. Form or function. Here’s an idea, how about we have both. Tap Tap Tap is both a hugely stylish game and also a ton of fun.

Truth be told, it’s incredibly simple. A hot, phat or dope (depending on your preferred parlance) beat drops and it’s down to you to follow the rhythmic instructions. In time with the beat simple instructions will appear on the screen and it’s down to you to follow the instructions before they fade away.

As your score goes up the time it takes for the instructions to fade away decreases. This means keeping up with everything that’s going on, as you’d imagine, gets harder. Not only does the speed increase but the commands themselves get a little more complicated as ‘taps’ turn into ‘double-taps’ and ‘swipes’ make way for ‘drag and drops’.taptaptap1

There’s a slight issue here as there were a number of times I could have sworn I’d tapped a circle or swiped on a piece of text, but it didn’t register. This probably isn’t a real issue and is probably down to my own ineptitude. What is definitely a real issue is how the audio commands start to trip over themselves.

When there’s a whole load of instructions rapidly one after the other, the smooth flow of the music and the announcer’s voice doesn’t quite match up as well as it does when there’s fewer hurdles being thrown onto the screen. When the game’s at its most simple, it’s arguably at its best.

I’ve said the word ‘simple’ a number of times now, but I mean it as a sincere compliment. Tap Tap Tap takes no explaining, lays all of its cards on the table within about 2 minutes of play and yet it’s had me wanting to beat my high score all week long. Considering this is a free game, one that’s not trying to coerce you into in-app purchases, it’s hard to see why you wouldn’t give it a download and see for yourself what’s up, up, up with Tap Tap Tap.

A simple game that does one thing not just well but with tons of style too. Why haven’t you downloaded it yet? It won’t change your life but it’ll make your day a little more funky. Or cool. Or wicked. I don’t know what you kids are saying these days…


TravelPop Comes to Android

TravelPop Comes to Android

Nov 6, 2014

TravelPop, the hit travel/trivia quiz game from NY-based development house FreshPlanet, is now available for Android devices via the Play Store.

From the press release:

Are you a world trivia master? TravelPop puts your knowledge to the test with hundreds of quizzes featuring over 30,000 beautiful photos. Quiz yourself on food, landmarks, culture, inventions, and more from 13 countries including China, Brazil, Australia, and Canada.

As each photo pops up, quickly swipe or tap to answer. Answer quickly and correctly to win coins, level up, and unlock souvenirs (achievements). Challenge your Facebook friends or match up with random opponents around the world!

TravelPop brings the quiz gameplay perfected in SongPop to a whole new audience. Learn more about the photos featured in the game with Wikipedia integration, and share your favorite photos on Facebook, Instagram, and more.

Key Features:

– 30,000 iconic photos spanning over 140 categories.

– Quizzes from several of cities and countries including USA, Japan, Italy, Mexico, and more.

– Available in 13 languages (French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Russian, Indonesian, Turkish and English).

– Dozens of souvenirs (achievements) to unlock by completing challenges.

– Connect with friends via Facebook or play against random players worldwide.

TravelPop is free (with in-app purchasing).

[Source: FreshPlanet Press Release]

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Boss Monster: Dungeon

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Boss Monster: Dungeon

Aug 22, 2014

Boss Monster is a physical card game that was successfully funded on KickStarter, and has since gained a substantial following in the gaming community. The game is quite revolutionary and turns the traditional dungeon crawling genera on its head by putting the player into the role of the evil villain who is tasked with building as treacherous a dungeon as possible. These are then invaded by well-meaning adventurers at the end of each turn, and the winner is the player who has the last “Boss” standing.

While I have no personal experience with the game, it seems to be beloved by fans and because of its inventive premise it is something I could really see myself getting into. The crowdfunding project we are shining the spotlight on today is the attempt by the developer of Boss Monster, Brotherwise Games, to build a digital version for the iPad and Android tablets. Having spent considerable time with the Magic: The Gathering app for the iPad recently I understand how well these tabletop games can translate onto the large tablet screen.

It makes sense for Brotherwise Games to be creating this app at this moment, as the ubiquitous accessibility, as well as the spontaneous nature, of app stores can greatly increase their footprint and create a larger legion of Boss Monster fans. I will admit that I was not initially sold on the initial card game KickStarter, but with the addition of a cheaper and more convenient mobile app the odds of me investing in Boss Monster has definitely increased. Included in the game is the ability to battle against up to three AI opponents, and this feature is essential for a card game who’s main draw is head to head competition.

The first thing that struck me while perusing through the KickStarter page is how the app easily conveys the atmosphere of the retro dungeon crawlers it is based off of. The graphic design is spot on, and the audio, which is being recorded by a professional studio, is nearly indistinguishable from late-90s PC adventure games. As of the time of writing, Boss Monster is over halfway to their $85,000 goal; so please, considering supporting this innovative game and its incredible developers by visiting their project page and possibly earning some cool limited edition digital cards in the process.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Hat Cat

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Hat Cat

Jun 20, 2014

With the popularity of Portal and its sequels it is a wonder that there are not more mobile games that are based around this physics warping premise. I have seen a few in development for the PC, but these games offer the ability to bring something truly mind-bending and fresh to the puzzle genera. This week we are shining the Crowdfunding Spotlight on a small game called Hat Cat that attempts to remove the silly ovally confines and gives you an entire resizable box to work with.

Instead of a gun and putting the two portals wherever one pleases, Hat Cat allows the user, with a simple drag of the finger, to place a square on the 2-D screen around the character. When the admirably hatted cat walks into a side of this box it appears on the opposite side inside the box. Essentially once the box is up the cat cannot leave, but one the user removes it the cat is free to roam. What sets it apart is that all four sides of the box can be used, which makes solving more vertical oriented puzzles quite the challenge.

Speaking of those puzzles the difficulty curve in this game is very gradual, but that is not to be confused with easy. The levels become quite diabolical, and force the player to use both axises simultaneously while also balancing the same conservation of momentum laws that govern the Portal series. There is a demo available for the PC and more than anything it illustrates how well this game will transition to the world of touch screens. Simple drag and drop controls are perfect for a game that does not necessarily try to appeal to a hardcore audience.

Hat Cat does not set it’s aim very high, with its target fund only set at $500 to cover the App Store and Google Play fees, and with donations set to $1 and $5 rewards only they certainly are trying to keep expectations tempered. This also means that for just $5 and donor can get their name in the “Special Thanks” screen of the app, which is definitely a pretty cool reward. So, please check out Hat Cat, and help make what has ultimately been a three year dream for a handful of young developers become a mobile success.

Super Doge Combines Flappy Bird, a Goofy Shiba Inu, and Cryptocurrency for 2014’s Most 2014 Game Yet

Super Doge Combines Flappy Bird, a Goofy Shiba Inu, and Cryptocurrency for 2014’s Most 2014 Game Yet

Mar 4, 2014

Super Doge for Android combines several of the internet’s top hot topics into one blazing-hot game: take a Flappy Bird game, mix in the “Doge” meme, and make it so that players can win dogecoin, the cryptocurrency named after said meme which helped get the Jamaican bobsled team to the 2014 Winter Olympics. That’s Super Doge. Quite possibly, the first two months of 2014 couldn’t be more succinctly described, and this game did it. The game is available now from Google Play; thanks to Jared Steffes for the tip.

Samsung GamePad Officially Released In Europe, Releasing in Additional Territories Soon

Samsung GamePad Officially Released In Europe, Releasing in Additional Territories Soon

Dec 23, 2013

GamePad  2

Samsung has released its controller, fit for a Galaxy phone of any size, up to 6 inches in size. It has NFC and Bluetooth 3.0 to connect to the device, and acts, pretty much, like a proper console controller would. It even has special button to browse supported games from Play Store, and can be connected to a TV-screen via HDMI cable. It’s said that it will soon be available in European stores. See the original press-release here: Samsung Website.

KickStarter Spotlight: Hey, Shu!

KickStarter Spotlight: Hey, Shu!

Dec 11, 2013

Hey, Shu!

That’s the name of this weeks KickStarter Spotlight; it is a game full of colorful personality that provides relaxation by means of terraforming a barren planet. Seems like hard work, repopulating a planet devoid of any plant life, but all in a day’s work for a little green legume ball named Shu. A miniature arboretum, Shu rolls across the countryside planting a carpet of grass in her (his?) wake and picking up seeds from other mature plants. Shu’s job is to traverse this once vivacious land and reawaken it by re-energizing the atmosphere via a few different plants that each contribute a separate, and necessary kind of gas. The ratio is so far unknown, and the point is to manually figure out the correct proportions in order to have the most efficient ecosystem.

The world of Hey, Shu! is an ever changing one and every action has a slight, but definite, impact on the world around Shu. The game is a 2-D side scroller that follows the curvature of this unknown planet, and the colors and animations of the game are very vibrant and excellently done. Shu hops along its planet squealing with delight, days pass by in real time, and clouds shift in and out in accordance with atmospheric makeup.

As I’ve stated before here the gameplay is essentially about rebuilding the ecosystem on a barren planet one tree at a time. Shu automatically plants grass and every time it passes a tree it collects a seed that can be planted to grow more trees. Some of the gameplay mechanics have not been disclosed at this time, and even the fully dependent atmosphere feature is in testing. The game, as a whole, is said to be in alpha mode, but I am still impressed by some of the gameplay shown in the video on their KickStarter page. Hey, Shu! is a game that is meant to be played often but in short increments, and I definitely feel it will find a market with thousands of smartphone users looking for a relaxing romp restoring life and creating, rather than destroying, something beautiful.

Middle Manager of Justice Review

Middle Manager of Justice Review

Dec 3, 2013

I have to say, Middle Manager of Justice is a pretty different take on the superhero game. Instead of being the superhero all of the time and fighting the evil, this game takes the role of the organizer. The person behind the scenes who manages all of the paperwork and all the stuff the superstars don’t have time to deal with.

What I liked about Middle Manager of Justice was the different angle it took. Usually games involving the games out there involving super heroes, the game is usually played from the point of view of the super hero or the villain, not a third party like an office manager.

middle-manager-of-justice-5Starting out, a hero needs to be recruited. There are a few to choose from in the beginning but the choices increase and change as the game moves forward and the manager can afford more. Right away, there are a couple of bad guys to fight. Give it a whirl and see how it goes.

When the heroes are not fighting bad guys or saving people from other mishaps, they hang out at the office. The office has a place for them to rest and regain health. Also, there are places to learn more and gain skills.

Playing as the manager, there are also specific skills and abilities to increase productivity and earn more when the heroes sent out to do the good deeds.

I like how the fights are on autopilot for the most part. A few actions like using special items or abilities are controlled by the player.

I have to say Middle Manager of Justice is a pretty fun take on the superhero game genre. I like how there is a lot to do but it’s not focused on the action like most super hero games. When playing, it’s easy to get lost in the game and I found it pretty replayable.