Wipeout Review

Wipeout Review

Aug 27, 2014

Years ago, I was flipping through the TV, and stumbled across a show that forever changed my TV watching habits: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (MXC). The show itself was a irreverent Americanized version of the Japanese obstacle course show Takeshi’s Castle. The original show was a funny in and of itself, kind of like American Ninja Warrior on funny steroids; the added layer of deliciously re-edited and re-dubbed footage from the original took the show to hysterical heights.

A “true” American-centric version of the show popped up on the scene a few years ago called Wipeout. It is very similar to the original Japanese shows, down to the pain inducing obstacles and the zany commentary by the hosts. It was only a matter of time for the game to hit consoles, and it has since come to Android.


Wipeout will be comfortably familiar to fans of the console game and/or show; the basic premise is to make it wipe1through the obstacle course to the end in a reasonable time. The controls are pretty much all virtual in nature; the left side controls moving and running, while he right side can be used to invoke jumping and, with extra dexterity, diving. The obstacles run the gamut, and ae right in line with those from the real life game.

The action generally moves from left to right, and the player will want to jump and time movements so as to avoid being knocked or bounced into the water that is usually the only substance available to break one’s fall. If one falls or gets knocked off, one has to start right from the last section started. If one makes it the end in the time allotted, one qualifies for the ability to unlock the succeeding level with game cash.

Virtual pain gains game money (as does success); the two types of currency gained can be used in the in-app store to unlock characters, equipment and, as already mentioned, to formally unlock available levels. Equipment upgrades makes gameplay easier. These become important the further one gets in the game, as obstacles get harder. Of course, real money can be used.

It’s a fun game; I actually prefer it to the console version. The additional IAP after $1.99 purchase might give some pause, but I was able to play without going for real money. As such, the game represents the franchise well, and gives folks a relatively safe way to live life on the edge.

Spacebat Review

Spacebat Review

Jan 7, 2014

Spacebat is an old-school feeling game with an arcade touch. It’s simple in concept, challenging to play.

It comes in 2D form, with the sparse graphical elements that are usually associated with retro games. The protagonist bat is rendered in notable red, the background is expectedly black, and the other hand weekend make up most the game look.

The premise is simple: keep the bat afloat with the given controls by keeping it roughly central to the screen and not floating past the boundaries of the playing area (with the game boundaries are the sides of the hosting device). In other words, use the virtual controls to keep the bat alive as long as possible by not touching the sides of the screen. the controls are set to the sides, with specific dive functionality at the bottom of the screen.

Oh yeah… there are dangers on-screen as well, mostly in the person of snakes of different colors. These snakes have bat1mean steaks, seemingly would love nothing more than to see our lovable flying mammal fail. There’s also stuff like cannons, and things that suck the bat in. Any contact with these things or projectiles they emit ends the flight.

As noted, staying alive is the name of the game, and bragging rights are measured in seconds. In true arcade style, there is a running score in seconds at the top of the screen; as to be expected though, it’s never that easy; as the bat’s lifetime gets longer, the enemies get craftier and more plentiful, moving in interesting ways and generally making it much harder to avoid them. Our bat does get the privilege of procuring power-ups, and these do come in handy, especially when things get tough. Stuff like walls and spinning blades add to the pressure.

The graphics are decidedly retro in nature, with minimalist elements tha effectively convey the gameplay. It probably could use some extra pizzazz looks-wise even within that paradigm, but the gentle touches still work.

But, as seems to be the new wave, simplicity wins here.

The Impossible Line Review

The Impossible Line Review

Oct 10, 2013

The Impossible Line (from Chillingo) is so easy it hurts.

The game is simple, but with such eventual complexity as well; the dichotomy is infuriating. Basically, it’s all about getting from point A to point B by tracing a finger from the one to the other. Then, with progress, the real puzzles show through: getting from point A to point B by tracing around the obstacles in between them. And the kicker? The obstacles become invisible, and memory and precise fingers become a necessity.

It’s the equivalent of Martin Lawrence’s character bumbling around Will Smith’s character’s unlit apartment in the the1original Bad Boys while the former was forced to pretend to be the latter; bruised shins usually result from dark, furnished rooms.

Mike Lowrey would love this game, but he did have sharp fingers. After a few seconds of starting a new level, the “walls” that have to be navigated around disappear. During the trace around the still-present obstacles, an errant touch against one end the level (which, thankfully, can be replayed). The puzzles do get interestingly challenging, with the wide arcs that help get through the earlier levels essentially being negated by the intricate nature of the obstacles in the later levels.

The game is set on a virtual chalkboard, and the animations that drive the gameplay are not over-powering. I liked the little touches (like the post-try replays and the warning radar indicator). There are helpers like lamps and such to help get through the harsher levels.

I’m not one to complain about ads. Developers deserve to monetize, and if they are nice enough to provide stuff for free, and we want to keep on enjoying it for free, accepting ads is a reasonable concession. Having said that, this is one game that I think purchasing ad-removal is almost needed (this can be done in-app). Also, monotony might set in for some players.

Still can’t knock simple as a concept, and in this, The Impossible Line delivers.

Blocks Party Review

Blocks Party Review

Apr 19, 2013

Simple games will always find a home with me. Blocks Party, come on in.

Blocks Party is a game with an easy premise. You guide a rolling ball on a track with plenty of bonuses and obstacles to the end as fast as possible. Now, it’s the type of obstacles — coupled with the breadth of control options — that really made the game such a compelling option for me.

The colors were sharp, allowing for the visual separation that made playing a quick-reaction game of this type possible. It was a rich fantasy environment, with beautiful pastels outlining the sky, the ground and everything in block1between. The green foliage that showed up in most screens evoked memories of the Dorothy prancing down the Yellow Brick Road.

Controlling the game via the touchscreen was mostly intuitive, if a bit jerky at first. The default movement of Mr Rollio — the ball, thank you very much — was forward. Even after hitting an obstacle, he gathered his wits, and continued the forward movement. I could touch the screen to the left or right to guide evasive or purposeful movement in the respective direction. I had goals on the runs, one of which was to free caged comrades by barreling into the jail structures. The gameplay moved from fairly easy, fixed structures to moving barriers that forced me to think proactively. I liked the special powers; jetpacks ALWAYS make things better.

I would be practically criminally derelict if I didn’t mention the Green Throttle functionality. My review of the bluetooth gamepad led me to this game. It worked very well with this title, and I actually think, for better or worse, the game actually worked better with it. Simple joystick movement replicated the onscreen inputs, and there was no noticeable lag. I loved that the game morphed into something more when paired with the control (along with HDMI adapters).

All in all, it was a fun game, with or without the gamepad, and that was its true testimonial.

The Jump: Escape The City Review

The Jump: Escape The City Review

Mar 26, 2013

We all love our distance running and driving games; they tend to be interesting, easy to understand and allow for mindless, quick fun. The Jump: Escape The City ties in this genre to the social upheaval that will clearly occur in about 500 years.

Set in a futuristic dystopian-looking society known as Monopolis, I had to escape the ominously-named World Corp goons who were after me, and I got to try to escape by jazzy vehicle.

The gameplay was fast and furious. The play area was a three-way highway, and in true distance running/driving style, it wasn’t as simple as just any other regular road; there were several obstacles and powerups. In addition, there was an ever-present, grim-looking helicopter just over my shoulder, waiting on me to crash or simply drive slow enough to catch me.

Using thumbs (preferably), I had to tap left or right to pick up objects or avoid the obstacles. I also could swipe up to jump, and swipe down to invoke specialized powers like temporary invincibility. The obstacles were interesting… collapsed roadways, random, bulky debris, abandoned vehicles and the like. The power cells I had to collect were green orbs. Before every run, I had the opportunity to select three power-ups for the chase.Some could be invoked manually, while some started up automatically.

As an added challenge, there were “speed-up” spots on the roadway, as well as opposing slow down areas. These were useful, but also had associated drawbacks. For instance, hitting too many of the former afforded me less control due to high speed. Going too slow made dodging easier but eventually allowed the helicopter catch up with me and end my run. The scoring system gave me points, and the in-game purchasing was in place to support that if it was too slow for me.

I liked the smoky, dusky look of the game. There was something about it that made me think of Mad Max… and the dark theme of the game reflected the despair. Bright color was used when needed. The 3D graphics were nicely rendered, and the animated sequences were pretty cool. I loved the achievements; they were varied and creative. I also liked the social sharing and the optional leaderboards. I do wish the game had landscape mode, though I somewhat understand the design perspective with regards to perspective.

The game did well to keep my attention, and has plenty of upside.

Tiny Owls Review

Tiny Owls Review

Nov 16, 2012

Tiny Owls is a deceptively simple game from games2be that can be likened to rehearsing for a highwire routine. Buttressed by bright graphics and deceptively simple (in theory) gameplay, Tiny Owls easily left an impression with me after just a few goes.

On paper, I had to guide an owl in its quest to find and rescue its offspring. In reality, it was a bit more challenging, with untouchable boundaries and unfriendly water. In other words, it was like playing Operation with bird in an ever-changing Cavity Sam.

Making use of my finger (to provide lift) and the tilting capability of the tablet (to maneuver), I guided the parent bird to make contact and “free” its kids. But touching the sides of the cavern proved disastrous. Something in those walls was kryptonite to my wings, and caused me to drop a life. Three (3) hits and I was done, but I had the opportunity to re-do the level.

As the game progressed, the exotic nature of the threats changed. The water soon contained leaping, chomping sea beasts, and there were even long-tongued creatures that tried to stop me from getting the birdlets to safety. For such a simple game, I frankly marveled at the ingenuity of play. I found the game to be infuriating at times (a good thing in my book); it rewarded patience and a steady hand. Combining leaping fish with wing-breaking walls while trying to capture a baby bird created timing puzzles that were challenging to solve, but not so challenging as to become frustrating.

The parallels to Angry Birds may be there with regards to moving ahead, but I think the game does quite enough to sufficiently define its own space in the key area of gameplay gameplay. In any case, there are plenty of worse things that can happen than being positively compared to one of the most popular mobile games, like ever.

My advice? Don’t try this game unless you have a block of time. The birds will grow on you, and you’ll probably take their saga very seriously.

RocketBird Review

RocketBird Review

Jan 13, 2012

Some games thrive on backstory, detailed plots, and compelling characters to draw you in. Other games are inherently interesting enough not to need any trappings, and Rocket Bird is one of them. In fact, with no story and no tutorial, you find yourself playing the moment you start the game. But luckily the learning curve is short and you’ll be on your way in no time.

RocketBird seems like the result of someone having a funny dream about a jetpack-enhanced chicken, and this is the realization of that dream. The game gives you a third-person view of the bird on its path, or rather a view of the bird’s behind and the rocket on its back. He’s wearing a crash helmet and flaps his little wings intermittently and it’s just too adorable. He’s flying along a pastoral countryside, just zooming along as fast as possible. The goal of RocketBird is distance covered without crashing. As you fly, various obstacles appear suddenly in your path, such as fences, pine trees, windmills and cows. You use the accelerometer to navigate, and are actually able to make some pretty steep turns when avoiding sudden trees. You have a meter running down beside you as you fly, and it’s essentially a fuel gauge. To gain speed and keep your meter topped up you must steer into any lightning bolts that appear in your path. These give you a sudden hyper -boost, accompanied by a brief and rousing “Halleluiah!” But beware, the sudden boost can make navigating a bit of a challenge. Don’t avoid the lightning bolts though, because when the meter runs out your journey will end rather abruptly. When you do crash, you land with a *bonk* and a cartoon cloud of chicken feathers.

I never expected to find a game that is simultaneously hypnotically calming while at the same time being randomly stress inducing. I don’t think that the bizarre combination was the developers’ intent, but it is an interesting result in any case. I’ve found myself playing the game right before I go to bed and then closing my eyes to see the flying continue. But as you go faster and faster a sudden crash can be quite jarring.

I just wish that the game makers had spent a bit more time on making sure that the different levels are properly different in appearance. With over 20-levels I expected some newness in each but instead found more of the same: watching the same clumps of tree constantly pass by eventually made me feel like I was in a Tom & Jerry cartoon.