Conjurer: Awoken Review

Conjurer: Awoken Review

Jan 10, 2014

If Zombies were so 2012, H.P. Lovecraft inspired games were so 2013. It’s true that the 1920’s author’s works did not reach the levels of success that zombie titles have, but many game developers nonetheless have used the mythos from his writings as a basis of their games. Among these in 2013, is a small title called Conjurer: Awoken. This title, while not necessarily ripped from the late author’s pages, is inspired by his style and incorporates the ideas of the arcane, relics of the past, and an overlying sense of dread and horror.

But another thing that Conjurer: Awoken is, is a lot of the same old game we’ve seen time and time again. This title is a tower defense game boiled down to the most basic it could possibly be. For instance, all towers are already pre-placed, meaning there is no strategy of construction of where you place the towers, as seen in the Fieldrunners games. Rather, players can choose from one of two elements, fire or ice, to cast upon one of the “towers”. Ice slows down the enemies, while fire hurts them. You can make the affects more powerful by holding down on a particular tower longer, but the time and ability to do that depends on the mana one has.


The story in this title, is that you are a mage, drunk on power, who has unleashed hellish beasts onto the world, and now must stop them from destroying everything. Again, while not taken from the pages of one of the best horror writers of the 20th century, it nonetheless has a little bit of his flair. Then again, the argument can be made that any creepy horror that doesn’t contain Eli Roth levels of gore could be inspired by H. P. Lovecraft, so to conjure his likeness for promotion of this game may be somewhat of a stretch. Of course, one will need to get used to those aforementioned beasts, as they will be the only enemy one will see in the entire game.

Another thing anyone will notice when playing this game, is just how ancient the overall presentation seems. The text, graphics and menu options all look like something that would’ve been exemplary in the late 90s or early 00s, but not in the second decade of the 21st Century. In fact, they feel quite underwhelming, making it even harder to get behind a title that gamewise, already comes off a little drab.

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I can appreciate what the developer of this title was going for, but Conjurer: Awoken feels like just another tower defense title. It’s graphics, presentation and overall gameplay are far from impressive, and borders on tedious. Everything about this title is plain, old, dull and something we’ve all seen before, which is unfortunate given that the game is advertised as something much better.

KickStarter Spotlight: Tridek: Creatures of Galena

What happens when one crosses the addictive and balanced gameplay of Magic: The Gathering with the free-to-play ease of access of League of Legends? Well, Tridek: Creatures of Galena is setting out to answer that question. Tridek is a Kickstarter project that not only is free-to-play but it also has some great multiplayer gameplay that will keep fans of popular card games entertained for hours of grudge matches. Unfortunately, there are no tactual cards here which is kind of a different feeling than a faceless opponent behind a screen. This is a large problem to address because there really is a big draw to the feel of sitting across from a friend and the physical nature of holding actual cards. As of this closed beta, there is no way to chat during the game which would really go a long way into restoring this feeling. The beta was not without flaws, but fortunately most of them were technical ones that should be easily ironed out come the full release. That said, setting up a game was quick and easy and finding friends was easier than in some console games.


Looking at specifically the gameplay; it feels very familiar, but it also introduces a few new wrinkles that allow for it to feel fresh and new. Most important of these changes is the scoring system that determines how matches are won. In most games each player has a set amount of health that are slowly whittled away by direct attacks. However, in Tridek each creature card has a number 1-6 that determines the amount of points their owner receives when those creatures win a battle or perform a direct attack. Little creatures matter more here, because they generally give more of these Victory Points than large powerful ones. This number is also different from the typical attack/defense points which pack in a few new features of their own. Each creature can be put in two different areas, one for attack and one for resistance. When a creature is in attack mode it’s attacking number is what matters, and vice-versa. This means that each creature basically deals two amounts of damage depending on where they are on the field. All of these small variations really add some more layers of strategy and keep the game balanced. There is also some more changes, such as how creatures are summoned and when they can be, but I’ll direct everyone to their KickStarter page for more information.

Tridek is in desperate need for some funding as there are only 15 days remaining and it is still less than 40% funded. I strongly urge anyone to go a sign up for the beta on their website, and give Tridek an opportunity to bring similar games to the masses.

Exorcist Review

Exorcist Review

Jul 10, 2012

Exorcist is a game where the character being controlled is out to stomp out some evil creatures. With the overhead view, it is easy to see the fast moving spiders, bats and other attacking creatures. The hard part is attacking before they do. When enemies attack, they are do so in waves. Each wave is a bit stronger or there are more creatures attacking.

When the enemies are terminated, they leave behind some gold. The gold is used in the store to buy more and better weapons, armor, potions and magic. All of which have a limited number of uses. If in the middle of attacking a wave of evil all of the arrows from the crossbow are used up, more can be bought without leaving the game. Crystals can also be used to purchase items in the game. However, the crystals are a more difficult to earn. When a wave is completed and almost no damage is taken on, crystals are awarded. Crystals can also be purchased in-game with real world money.

The controls for Exorcist are an onscreen joystick and buttons. These controls are more accurate than similar controls in others games I have played. While moving the player around, there is a little arrow to guide the way. Just head towards the way the compass looking arrow points and there is sure to be a battle waiting in the midst. The control type can be changed in the settings to a “tap and run” kind of control. Just tap the part of the screen where the character should go and she will head there.

Starting out, there is only access to one of the 5 areas of the game. The Entrance is where the game begins. Once more levels are completed, other areas are available like the Cemetery and Hell. As the game progresses, Exorcist does get quite challenging.

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.

Defender Review

Defender Review

Jan 23, 2012

I think we all have days when we feel besieged. Wave after wave of setbacks try to keep us down, and we soldier on. I may be going out of a limb here, but I think that’s why, subconsciously, defense games are so popular. A horde approaches to knock down your tower, and you are all that is standing between Good and Evil. It can be cathartic to take that feeling of overwhelming odds and turn it into a challenge to beat. And, specifically, to fire arrows at.

Defender is a game with a simple title, and a seemingly simple objective: stop monsters from destroying your tower. You are the tower’s archer, and you use your bow to hold back and destroy the creatures that appear in waves, bent only on breaking through your walls. The instructions are also simple and straight-forward: tap the screen to fire arrows, long-press for continuous fire, and drag-and-drop your spells onto enemies to trigger them. You earn gold killing enemies and crystals for successful level completion. Gold and crystals are them used to upgrade your weapons, defenses, and spells.

One of the things I like about Defender is that when you die you don’t actually lose anything. You start each round with full health and mana, and you also keep any gold you may have earned despite dying. You don’t earn crystals though, so it is still a challenge to increase your strengths without the mana boosts necessary. The game does offer you the option of purchasing extra gold or crystals. Ordinarily I hate the idea of paying extra for game-components, but considering the fact that the game is free…it’s actually completely fair for the developers to try.

I do wish though that they would tweak the attacks mechanics a bit. You have the option of single-firing arrows, but since every enemy needs at least two shots to take it down, you’ll find yourself exclusively using continuous fire immediately. And the problem there is that you end up essentially dragging your finger all over the screen, blocking your own view. As well, the game can’t fire arrows and cast spells at the same time. This is a problem because when you’ve been in continuous fire mode for too long and try to cast a spell the game needs a second to catch up. It doesn’t lag, it just delays your spell cast. This can give enemies the time they need to get past you and score some costly points.

Battleheart Review

Battleheart Review

Jun 3, 2011

Paring down a game so that it works on a touch screen phone is a difficult job. Essentially, you have to utilise the space you have on screen as a control system as well as a display. In other words, whatever a player’s fingers are doing, it can’t get in the way of the action that’s happening in-game. One way to counter this is to make a player’s finger taps and slides an integral part of the gameplay itself.

Such is the path of Battleheart, a new RTS/RPG hybrid from Mika Mobile. Eschewing story for a charming art style and simple character progression, Battleheart lets you control epic fantasy battles with a few swipes and taps on the characters involved. It’s not quite an intuitive system, but it does work very well. Most of the time.

Battleheart is a lovely game to look at, full of quirky, cartoony detail and charm. It wears its fantasy cloak with a wry grin and a cheeky wink and never takes itself too seriously, which is good for a game that deals with wizards, rogues and barbarians. The game itself is pretty simple – you hire mercenaries, wipe out any resistance in a level, rinse and repeat. Of course, there’s more to it than that, with levelling up, team balancing, roles, gear and skills all to be taken into consideration as well. Micromanagement of funds, characters and equipment is the key to victory, as well as some nimble fingers and a keen eye.

The game doesn’t quite get its control system right, unfortunately. There are times, especially when the screen is full of enemies, when getting the right person to do the right thing becomes too much of a chore. That’s a far from ideal situation for an RTS to find itself in, but it’s a minor price to pay for what is a lovely game.

Battleheart is a perfectly bite-sized mobile game that’s deep enough to get lost in if you want, but has enough pick-up-and-playability to appeal to the less tactically minded as well. Add to that a great art style, a wicked sense of humour and a smooth UI and it becomes a no-brainer. You should play this game.

Note: The Android Market version of the game doesn’t work on some devices, such as Galaxy S phones, because of download cache issues. However, the Amazon Appstore version should work for those devices affected.

Crusade of Destiny Review

Crusade of Destiny Review

May 4, 2011

Sometimes, it’s okay to do things by the book. There’s no shame in finding a formula that works and then sticking to it, especially if that formula is one that has brought joy to an awful lot of people. That, at least, seems to be the ethos behind Crusade of Destiny, the new action RPG from Dvide Arts Incorporated.

Crusade of Destiny casts you in the role of an elf-like warrior, who sets out on a quest to rid the world of evil, kill various spectacularly enlarged insects and mammals, loot their corpses and find, fetch and carry a variety of objects to and from people and places. In other words, it’s exactly like every other action RPG you’ve ever played, except this time, it’s on your Android-powered device.

The controls are simple, with a big on-screen button controlling your movement and attacks and items and actions controlled with taps on interchangeable icons. You can move the camera angle around with a swipe, but it’s an unwieldy method and the game could do with a camera that follows you around instead.

The graphics are solid but far from overwhelming, and the sound is almost exactly what you’d expect from an RPG you can play on your phone. In fact, it’s fair to say that everything about the game is almost exactly what you’d expect from an RPG you can play on your phone. That’s not a bad thing though, the developers have set themselves a task and stuck to it admirably.

Crusade of Destiny isn’t without its problems – the lack of a map is the biggest of these. While you can purchase maps of the areas you find yourself in, you don’t start off with any money, which means you spend a lot of the start of the game flailing around in the dark, trying to trace your steps in a landscape that all looks the same.

Cliches aren’t the worst things in the world, but if you’re looking for something original and refreshing, Crusade of Destiny isn’t going to be for you. If, on the other hand, you’re a fan of Zelda and its ilk, and you fancy a little questing on your phone, then it could be right up your street.