Sky Force 2014 Review

Sky Force 2014 Review

Jul 24, 2014

Sky Force 2014 is a curious mix of freemium and old school shooter. Does it work?

Sky Force 2014 is a classically styled, old school vertical shooter. The player travels up the screen dodging around and blasting the heck out of a bunch of different enemies. Huge, ships small planes and gigantic bombers fill out the vast armies the player fights on each level. And players will have plenty of time to admire these enemies. The game works on a grading system where the player must repeat levels until they gain a certain percentage of enemies destroyed or so on. This leads to rather a lot of grinding to afford better parts to actually complete these challenges.

Screenshot_2014-06-21-15-17-24Skyforce 2014 lacks powerups and even alternate weapons, which may be a bummer for some players. Part of the fun of shooters is picking up and using different weapons and powerps. Sky Force 2014 however mostly gets by using the same main gun which can be upgraded with stars collected from dead enemies. These stars can be exchanged for upgrades between levels that make the gun fire faster and do more damage, but it never really gets more interesting than its single orange bullets without a lot of invested time. There are a few other weapons in the game, but it is not clear how to unlock them or indeed how different they are.

The lack of weapons and pretty tame gameplay kind of sabotage Sky Force 2014. With the large amount of great looking, full featured shooters on Android it is difficult to find time for one that has so few weapons and also attempts to nickel and dime the player. The game just never seems to hit a groove and the most fun part of the game is the very beginning. The player flies a very powerful ship for a few minutes, before it is destroyed and they return in a very weak fighter, pew pewing small bullets.

Screenshot_2014-06-21-13-42-52Skyforce 2014 looks great. Some sharp, colourful graphics really make the game pop and small details like the way stars sparkle and smoke hangs in the air from destroyed enemies gives the game some class. There is a great variety of enemies and the game as a whole is silky smooth and looks excellent. It nails the vibe of an old school arcade shooter while still looking modern.

The sound is similarly excellent. Skyforce 2014 has some very unique music that sounds just like 8 bit chiptunes, which are very catchy. The sound effects for shooing and explosions work well. There is a fair bit of speech in the game as well to alert the player of game events and to provide a bit of backstory. Great stuff!

Sky Force 2014 has a fair few levels and the game is quite difficult, but it is hard to tell if this is by design, or due to the in app purchase system deliberately weakening the player.

Sky Force 2014 is a tolerable shooter, but its lack of interesting weapons and annoying, grindy freemium system dooms it to take a backseat to many other shooters on the platform.


Sailboat Championship Review

Sailboat Championship Review

Dec 19, 2012

Sailboat Championship is fun. How fun?

So fun that I actually got lost in the tutorial, trying to break my own record.

In real life, I admit that racing yachts doesn’t exactly tickle my fancy. I mean, come on; I never did the prep school thing, don’t really know my starboard from a starfish and sure as heck am not in need of a tan. Yes, I’d probably watch on tv, but would probably be more interested in watching a lobster boat.

I’m just being honest.

Sailboat Championship didn’t change this, but it did make me appreciate the art of competitive sailing a bit more, and did so while incorporating top-notch graphics, sounds and fun gameplay.

First of all, the graphics: wow. The developer gets lots of praise from me for making water that looked like, well, water. The hues brought the water to life, making it the most important element in the game. The rocks formation and wakes were very nicely rendered, and the animations worked well to. The top-down view of the boat also emphasized the overall craftsmanship of the visuals. Sunken ships and crashed planes provided an eerie backdrop.

The game started with a two-part lesson: I had to learn how to work the sail to maximize wind direction and effect speed of travel, and I also had to figure out how to steer. It might not have been real maritime school material, but for a novice like me, it did make sense and even sparked some appreciation for the science of controlling these vessels. The tutorial-ending time course was really fun. I had to maneuver through buoys and different wind patterns to make it back through the finishing line with the best time possible. I found myself looking to break my own record again, and again.

The actual racing was fun too; the game engine gradually got more difficult, with upgradeable equipment and coins. Beginning with the second stage regatta, there were multiple sea vessels in the races, and the game took on a whole new level, with jockeying for position and more.

Sailboat Championship is a very compelling game, and almost forces addiction.

Can Knockdown 2 Review

Can Knockdown 2 Review

Apr 29, 2011

Don’t you love games with accurate titles? Portal is a game all about portals, for example. Angry Birds involves a lot of malcontent birds. Fruit Ninja involves ninja-type activities with fruit. In this proud tradition, Can Knockdown 2 involves knocking down cans. Similar to carnival and theme park games designed to take your money, this $0.99 app has you tossing balls at cans to knock them down. There are 3 different modes to play: one mode has you launching balls at stacks of cans, trying to knock them down from a set of 5 balls. Every time you complete a level, you get an extra balls, so you obviously want to try to knock them down in one shot, or knock down the cans that provide extra balls if you can. As you complete levels with one ball, you get point multipliers as well, for high scores. There is also a mode that has you trying to hit cans that are being tossed in the air, with the goal being to hit as many as you can in a minute, and a mode that has you not hitting cans at all; this mode has you trying to hit targets, with bonus points awarded for hitting closer to the center of the targets.

The target mode (officially known as Classic mode, according to the OpenFeint leaderboards) of Can Knockdown 2 is probably the most fun of all 3 modes, as it is the one that develops your skill and encourages proper strategy. The mode is a static sequence of can structures, so the repetition teaches you how to knock down the cans perfectly, and how to properly use the controls, in a way that the other two modes don’t. The target mode is fun, even if it doesn’t exactly involve cans, and it doesn’t teach you as much on how to play the game’s other 2 modes. The game comes with support for OpenFeint for achievements and leaderboards.

The controls can be problematic at times – I often found myself shooting for a certain spot, and I’ve often thought that I was shooting for one spot, only to have it be slightly lower than I expected. It can be frustrating, as it gives the expectation of the game just being inconsistent, and untrustworthy in its mechanics. This makes it harder to enjoy the game, as when you don’t have faith in the controls, it leads to frustration over the idea that your performance is based on factors besides your own skill. The time attack mode where you have to hit cans that get launched up in the air just isn’t as fun because of the entirely new and difficult challenge.

Can Knockdown 2 can be entertaining, but its occasionally sketchy core gameplay mechanic drags it down a bit. Check out the first Can Knockdown before deciding to “invest” in the sequel.