Kiwanuka Review

Kiwanuka Review

Jun 9, 2014

Kiwanuka is a game about freedom in a mystical world; it challenges players to solve innovative puzzles in the name of helping the people of this realm to discover freedom.

The lead tool in this saga is the lightning staff; the bearer is able to create solutions to physical problems, most of which revolve around leading refugees to a mystical pyramid, which usually has yet another being contained within. So, in essence, getting from point A to point B safely is the name of the game.

The key word is “safely.” The mass of people follow the torch bearer implicitly, and a wrong move can have them all stepping off over a ledge to nothingness. The game graphics define the gameplay to a degree; it is a bright, imaginative affair, with unique crystal structures that serve as platforms and irregular land masses. There arekiw1 different colors on the land masses, with the darker colors usually being lethal if touched; in other words, guiding the torch bearer to these areas ends the level unsuccessfully, in a splash of exploding crystal.

The player has some tricks to employ, the main one being the ability to use the staff to summon the followers to stack and form a human, end-to-end tower. This tower can be manipulated in different ways, the most obvious being pulled horizontally to form a human bridge which allows the leader and other followers to get from one mass to another. It can also be used to create human ropes to shimmy down, or, at one point, a dissolvable bridge that can drop the leader in a hole where the end pyramid resides. The physics-aspect is well done, with droops and shakes appearing where one would expect them to appear, and a lot of the elements feel logical, even within this mysterious fantasy world.

I felt a bit more could be done with the graphics, but the simplicity mostly works, and the important aspects of the gameplay are sufficiently conveyed. If anything, one will fall in love with the straight-to-the-point action.

Hard Lines HD Review

Hard Lines HD Review

Oct 4, 2011

The witty Tron light cycles and Snake mashup, Hard Lines, has made its way to Android thanks to developer Spilt Milk Studios and Android development studio Jakyl, known for several ports to Android, including Spirit. Players control Lionel, a yellow line who loves to eat dots, crack other lines’ skulls, along with cracking wise. Players swipe to move around the level, picking up dots for bonus points, trying to get other lines to crash into the trail behind them, and trying not to crash into themselves! The trail does disappear after a certain distance, it’s not persistent like Tron. It doesn’t extend after eating dots like in Snake, except for the mode that plays like the classic Snake games. This mode is aptly entitled Snake. The other modes focus on survival in an arena with other lines roaming about with different rules in place; one mode only has dots pop up when enemies are killed, for example.

The game’s simple swipe-based controls work very well, and the gameplay is familiar enough for anyone to pick up and understand quickly. What’s interesting is that the other lines exist with the same rules; they will also eat dots, so it actually becomes a competition to get them. The various game modes present a great variety of gameplay, as well. The game’s sense of humor, largely provided through the random quips that the lines make, is just cheesy and quirky enough to be endearing. Tablet owners will be glad to know that the game supports “Extreme Mode” like the iPad version of the game does. The rules of each mode are identical, but the playing field is twice as wide and twice as long. This gets to be extremely crazy on modes like gauntlet where dozens of lines are on screen at once. Fans of the iOS version will be glad to know that the gameplay is identical in the Android version.

It is very difficult to tell which line is the player’s line, and which ones are the enemy lines, especially in modes where there are many lines on screen at once. There’s no OpenFeint support in the Android version at launch, so there’s no way to compete with friends for high scores like in the iOS version. This is hopefully something that will arrive in a future version of the game.While Jakyl prefers to just use stretching to fill up the screen, and I understand why they would do this, I still wish for some kind of option to display the game pillarboxed on wider displays. The various lines don’t look malformed, but text clearly is.

Fans of classic arcade games will get a kick out of Hard Lines, and its pick-up-and-play gameplay will have a wide appeal. For those who haven’t checked this out on iOS, pick this one up.

Spirit Review

Spirit Review

Jul 5, 2011

Spirit does things quite differently from most of the Geometry Wars-inspired “glowing objects in space” visual aesthetic games, though. In order to defeat enemies, they must be sucked into vortexes. To create them, the player must create them from the trails that emanate from behind them. Small vortexes are easy to create, but large vortexes require quick movement, as well as the skill to dodge any enemies that might get in the way while the vortex is being created. In Pulse mode, the trail rules don’t apply; instead vortexes are created by picking up icons that create a vortex on the spot. These icons oscillate in size, so picking them up when they’re largest is the goal.

The controls work on a 1:1 offset with adjustable sensitivity settings; it can be tricky to get used to the controls at first, but over time, they work really well. The game is quite different from many other games in its genre because of its vortex mechanic. It’s a lot of fun, especially in the Pulse mode, where it becomes about many moments of proper timing while trying to hit the pulsing icons at the right time, and trying to get as many enemies as possible in a vortex for more points, and to generate more multiplier icons. The primary vortex mechanic in Classic and Extreme modes is still quite fun, but there’s something about the simplicity of Pulse mode and its additional depth that makes it the go-to mode. This is a port of an iOS game, and the controls have translated great, though the game does seem to vertically stretch to aspect ratios taller than the original game’s 2:3.

There are no online leaderboards in this version of the game; the iOS version had OpenFeint support, so it’s unclear why this version doesn’t. Also, the app doesn’t resume from the last game played if it is quit, or even if the Home button is hit. This is a problem because on phones with softkeys, it is possible to accidentally quit the game while trying to make a particularly large vortex while engrossed in the game. Fingers can and will obfuscate enemies while on the board; learn to use the offset controls properly.

Spirit is another fun iOS title brought to Android, and while the lack of online leaderboards and the aspect ratio stretching are a shame, they are only minor quibbles on a fine title. Fans of ‘arena survival’ type games will want to check this one out.