Crystal Storm Review

Crystal Storm Review

Aug 26, 2013

Pick 3 games are renown for being easy to understand. Bejeweled ensured that it remains a popular genre, but there are several challengers to the throne. Crystal Storm makes a good case to be the go-to pick 3 game, and that’s because it mostly does not stay pat; it is an adventurous title.

What sets this game apart are the elements included. First, the grid containing the colored jewelry is not necessarily square, so it looks a bit different. The duality of the gameplay is also refreshing; there is rapid fire gameplay that pits eyes and fingers against a time else clock, and there are slightly more relaxed levels that have a finite number of moves. I like the way these change as it keeps the senses in tune to the game.crystal1

The actual gameplay is similar, at first blush, to Bejeweled: find sets of three or more adjacent jewels of the same color, and tap them to dissolve them. Dissolving the jewels scores points, and dissolved jewels are replaced via virtual gravity from an unending supply at the top. The shapes of the playing grid generally lend themselves to the creation of interesting cascades, and a little bit of strategy can lead to advantageous swathes of same colored items. The gameplay is leveled; success opens up more levels and coinage. There are special power ups that can be unlocked or purchased with game coins as well; they help with garnering more points.

And it wouldn’t be a good pick 3 game without good artwork. The graphics are top notch, and the animations were effective at enhancing the game play. The jewels had a nice glimmer to them, and even the suggestion flashes were nice. The sounds match the gameplay, and can be toggled.

The game’s in-app store was very much a part of the game; losing the allocation of lives freezes play for a set time unless credits are purchased. It’s an interesting process that I didn’t mind too much; I mean, it makes the game that much more addictive. You can also boast about achievements on Facebook.

Familiar, but unique… this game is mostly wrapped in the attributes that make a winner.

Zapresso Review

Zapresso Review

Jul 10, 2013

Bad Crane brings us Zapresso, a game that taxes the mind and finger dexterity.

Most likely, it bring to mind cross-platform hit Bejeweled, but the gamepley is a bit more free-flowing. The square grid that makes up the game has squares of different colors, just like in Bejeweled. It looks appealing, with utilitarian visuals and effective animations.

However, the gameplay had more than just subtle differences. Instead of manipulating the board to get sets of three (or more) jewels of the same color to pop, in this game, the strategy is to zap big clusters of jewels that touch each other. Demolished squares yield points, and are immediately replaced by new, ransom squares that cascade from the top.zap2

And all this is done against a countdown timer. In true arcade style, large zaps cause valuable time bonuses to be earned and added, allowing for more time to score even more points.

I like the special bombs and the flashing squares. Tapping either of these at the right time unleashes explosive stuff that helps take out like-colored squares. There are also built-in penalties that occur if a solitary square is touched; then, standing time is deducted from the countdown timer, thereby reducing the time one can use to accumulate points for higher scores.

I think the true appeal in this game is the ease of play. After a few rounds, I got what I thought was a decent high score. I got my 7-year-old son, did some boating, and watched with dismay as he broke my treasured score on his first try. For a time, we went back and forth, having an immense amount of fun while trying to usurp resultant high scores.

If family fun is a worthy goal, this game fits the bill, and I’ve seen the proof firsthand. It’s a fun game, with plenty of upside.

Jewel Bash Pinball Review

Jewel Bash Pinball Review

Mar 12, 2013

Picture this: a violent collision involving Bejeweled and your favorite pinball machine. Bam. You now have Jewel Bash Pinball.

The game itself came in three different flavors. Mount Olympus took me high into simulated altitudes with an especially long playing area fitted with an extra set of paddles. It was an interesting look, with the combination of jewels and white background making it look like slalom course. Wooden Cabinet played with a background that evoked deep teak. Techno Jam pleasantly assaulted just about all the senses with its appropriately named playing environment.

As in any regular pinball game, keeping the ball in play for as long as possible was the main strategy. In addition, the mini-game of jewel popping gave me an opportunity to score more. Hitting sequenced colors was big, and after a while, I figured that timing had a lot to do with general accuracy, just as in — wait for it — real pinball. The developer was able to create a very authentic simulator that left me believing the physics of the gameplay. The plunger launcher and active bumpers were especially lively, and the spinners were a nice addition. I ESPECIALLY liked the Awards board, which was a list of achievements that I could attain over time.

The controls were generous, in that tapping on the left of the screen controlled the leftmost paddles, and any task on the right did the same for the corresponding tools on that side. I found the paddles to be fairly responsive. The game looked great as well, with bright, fun animations, and the use of color especially showed in the depiction of the jewels.

It was a pleasant juxtaposition of two very fun type of games, and it is merged very well. Frankly, I was surprised at the lack of awkwardness the gameplay. It all seems to make sense.

Jewel Towers Deluxe Review

Jewel Towers Deluxe Review

Mar 14, 2012

I think whether or not a game needs a plot is best determined on a case by case basis. Bejeweled has no story but is still wildly popular. But sometimes, a story or theme can help to revitalize a tried and true idea. In the case of Jewel Towers Deluxe it is my guess that this is the reason behind taking the classic jewel-matching game and giving it an Indiana Jones-esque story. But guess what, it works.

Jewel Towers Deluxe is the story of a grizzled adventurer on a quest to steal stones from an ancient, vaguely Aztec culture. There is a spirit guarding the stones, trying to prevent him from collecting them all. Each level assigns a number of each type of stone to be collected, and jewels must be collect in groups of three or more. Furthermore there is a limit to the number of moves that can be made during each level. Exceeding that limit means game over.

The game is interesting in that rather than swapping two adjacent stones, users rotate groups of three highlighted stones. This allows stone to be adjusted multiple times across the board, sometimes even moved from one end to the other to achieve a match. There obstacles in the form of rocks that can’t be matched, or jewels trapped in settings. At each level the game board changes shape for variety and greater challenge. Earning points also lets users buy power-ups in the form of spells. Spells are associated with specific jewels and can be activated when they specific jewel is captured on the board.

The adventurer theme is kind of cool because it adds a mild sense of drama that Bejeweled lacked. The Aztec mummy both taunts and guides users, and the colour scheme of the game gives it a strangely successful crypt-feel. I like the idea of rotating three stones at once, as it reminds me of one of my favourite games, Hexic. I find myself returning to this game fairly frequently.

Unfortunately it has horrendous control issues. The mechanics of moving the jewels requires that the highlighted bracket be moved users tapping it across the field. I should be able to tap anywhere on the board to highlight a bracket, instead of this time consuming process. Even more frustrating, the responsiveness of the game board is not great either and it can take multiple taps to move the bracket even one space. This is especially bad at the edges of the game board where it doesn’t seem to register input at all.

It needs a lot of work, and I urge the developers to put out some improvements soon. The game is fun, but frustration should come from a challenging game, not one that is physically difficult to use.

Happy Vikings Review

Happy Vikings Review

Jun 13, 2011

If history tells us anything about the Vikings, it’s that the Scandinavian terrors were far from happy with their lot. Bored with ice, snow and inventing death metal, they set about plundering, pillaging, persecuting – and doubtless countless other unpleasant activities starting with P – their European neighbours. Of course, games hold historical accuracy in the same contempt that the Vikings held non-Viking human life, so Happy Vikings can be forgiven for seeming a little revisionist.

The game, as the title suggests, paints the Vikings as happy-go-lucky scamps, with huge ginger beards and big smiling faces. Sure, they’re out robbing, but look how cute they are, you can’t blame them for being a little boisterous. That boisterousness takes the form of a loot stacking puzzle game, which makes perfect sense if you don’t try and think about it.

You play a lone Viking, running around the bottom of a long boat as your comrades in beards catapult the spoils of war in your general direction. It’s your job to stack the herring, jewels, lumps of meat, treasure chests and barrels of mead into matching piles of three or more. This turns them into coins, which steadily fill up the boat.

Happy Vikings plays like a mix between Tetris and a classic 2D platformer. You jump around, collecting loot as it falls, whilst trying to figure out the best arrangement for all the tumbling goodies. The more loot you burst in a single go, the more points you receive. So, whilst you can finish each level by only chaining in threes, if you’re after the big score and the adoration of your Viking friends, then you have to think on your feet and plan ahead.

For some people, Happy Vikings’ constant cheeriness might be a bit off putting, others still may find the slightly clumsy control system too unwieldy. These are minor flaws, however, in what is a well put together and immensely enjoyable game.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of Happy Vikings is the way it does something different. It may not be hugely original, but it’s far from a straight forward clone, unlike a lot of the titles that you’ll find on the Android Market. It’s fun, addictive and, best of all, won’t come to your village in the dead of night and slaughter all of your loved ones.