Mineshaft Review

Mineshaft Review

Dec 8, 2014

Mineshaft is one of those games that takes a simple idea and turns it into a game that is hard to put down and can be played by just about anyone.

Players control a miner on a frightfully unreliable elevator. If this deathtrap slams into anything at more than a very slow speed it explodes, ending the game. The elevator automatically moves downwards and the only player control is a brake to slow it down or stop it. When the elevator comes to a stop, a stick of dynamite is laid and the idea is to get the dynamite as close to the bottom of the mineshaft as possible to dig deeper. The force of the explosion sends the elevator hurtling upwards afterwards threatening to smash it against the top of the mineshaft. As the shaft gets deeper the fuse of the dynamite also comes into play as there is only about 5 seconds to plant the dynamite before it goes off, blowing the flimsy elevator up again!

Screenshot_2014-12-06-16-49-35The game thus becomes a balancing act of getting to the bottom of the shaft quickly with the dynamite before it blows the halpless miner into chunks, but not so fast that the elevator breaks apart like a piece of wet tissue paper. This is great fun and incredibly addictive. Mineshaft is very difficult which just adds to the appeal since every screwup in the game is the player’s own fault as there are no nasty freemium features or paywalls. The one finger controls also make it easy for even the most casual gamers to play. The game also keeps track of how far you dig, how many bombs you plant and how many miners have been “retired”.

Mineshaft does feature ads, but they are only on the screen after the game ends, so they do not detract from gameplay. Both a banner ad and the occasional popup are present, but never any super annoying video ads. The pop up ads only appear every five games or so which is not too often and the game has no in app purchases at all. There is no “shafting” here.

Mineshaft looks nice. A clean, simple pixel style makes the game easy to play on any device and doesn’t distract from the important business of not getting blown apart. The animation for the miner being smashed apart is a hilarious as well as bits and pieces of elevator and miner go every which way and ragdoll all over the place which is always funny to watch.

The sound is simple yet effective. There is the frenetic sound of the elevator hurtling towards its doom that gets louder and higher pitched as it moves faster and faster, the nice BOOM of dynamite and when the game is over a really catchy piece of music plays. There is no music during the actual game. The screaming of the elevator cable really drives the game’s atmosphere home.

Mineshaft is fun stuff and can be played for any length of time. The super simple controls, clever gameplay and fierce addictiveness make it a winner. Pick it.

Huey Review

Huey Review

Nov 20, 2014

Huey is an old school platformer featuring cute monkeys! What’s not to like?

Huey has all the elements of a classic platformer. Players guide Huey along precarious platforms, jumping over deadly pits, avoiding traps, bonking enemies by jumping on their heads and grabbing coins on the way to the stage’s exit.

Screenshot_2014-11-17-05-38-26Huey lacks any kind of tutorial. While the titular monkey can grab coins to trade for extra lives or even the ability to skip levels, it’s unclear what the eggs are used for.

Hey is quite tough. Like most old school platformers, one wrong step generally results in death and enemies aren’t pushovers either. The challenge is engaging without being overwhelming and makes Huey a tense experience. For players that really get stuck the ability to skip levels with coins might come in handy.

The game does have some pretty cheap moments however. Snails and hedgehogs fire nearly impossible to see projectiles and there are quite a few very cheap obstacle courses involving instakill spikes. With the way the game allows skipping of levels it is tough to tell sometimes if these puzzles are designed solely to frustrate players into paying for coins. The game is never impossible however.

Screenshot_2014-11-17-05-41-13Huey looks average It feels a few years old and lacks the sharp pixel art found in other games of its type. It certainly looks 16 bit and has some personality. There are plenty of enemies to fight and besides the aforementioned hard to see projectiles the game is easy to see.

The sound could be a lot better. With nope speech at all and very muted sound effects Huey feels a little amateurish. The music suits the game well though.

Huey controls well enough. The stick works fine, although sometimes I could have sworn I pressed the jump button an instant before it responded, resulting in me falling onto spikes. The game does not support external control pads, which is a pretty big oversight in this age of mobile gaming.

Huey has a lot of levels and the game’s stiff challenge will ensure it will take a lot of time to work through them. The game makes reference to future updates as well so expect more levels in the future.

The game has a few ads bit these only appear between levels and are very short. Coins can be spent to remove ads.

Huey has few surprises, but it is still a competent platformer, if nothing too amazing. Players who grew up with 16 bit games should check it out.

Magnetized Review

Magnetized Review

Feb 26, 2014

I have to admit, my initial impression of Magnetized was that it’s somewhat boring, but has a potential to become good. Little did I know that the game actually does become good, you just have to play it for a while to get there. Magnetized is repetitive at first, and I’ve almost dropped it after a while. Good thing I’ve decided to wait until the second part of the game to stop, because when I actually got there, I couldn’t stop anymore. It sucked me in, and although I still can’t complete it, I think it’s a great puzzle game. Or is it an arcade game? That’s what is very unusual about Magnetized, and it’s what kept me interested in the game. On one hand, Magnetized requires fast reflexes and precision, but on the other – there’s no finishing a level on “perfect”, without deconstructing the level in your head and thinking your moves through.

The player needs to look after a little flying pixel. The pixel comes on a level from some side of the screen, moving in a straight direction. It needs to “pick up” three stationary pixels that are placed in certain places around the level, and then move out of the level, without hitting any walls or obstacles. Otherwise, the level ends and needs to be replayed. The trick is that the pixel itself isn’t controlled by the player. There are “grips” in the certain places. A gripq becomes active when the pixel comes closer to it than to others. When the player touches the screen, the Magnetized 3active grip “lassos” the pixel and performs a certain action to it. The grips in the first levels spin the pixel around themselves, much like actual lassos. When the player releases the finger, the pixel keeps moving in the changed direction. Levels become increasingly trickier, but when you get a grip on the mechanics, the game slowly starts to become a chore. But then, other types of hooks starts to show up, and Magnetized becomes a lot more interesting – especially when different kinds of hooks start being mixed together, and some parts of the level start moving around.

Magnetized is a very unusual game, no doubt about that. Very simple Atari-like graphics and chiptune soundtrack, as well as lack of hints or other in-game help set it aside from most of the modern puzzles and make it, for the lack of a better term, very old-school. I’ve personally had a blast, and although it gets quite challenging at the end, it’s definitely an interesting game.

KickStarter Spotlight: Pixel Press

KickStarter Spotlight: Pixel Press

May 22, 2013

I think everyone at some point in their lives has doodled during a long class or a boring meeting. Sometimes we doodle words and sometimes we’ll draw random cartoons in some scenario. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see one of those hand drawn doodles come to life and conquer their challenges. After all something drawn on two dimensional paper has no chance of moving and leaping across that page, but with a little digital magic all this might actually be possible. This week’s KickStarter Spotlight shines solely on an incredibly inventive game called Pixel Press. While the game cannot technically make any doodle into a full fledged game, it does a very good job at giving the user full control with absolutely no coding.

Pixel Press is basically just a platformer who’s levels come from user’s hand-drawn creations. It does this by having the user print out a gridded piece of paper that ultimately becomes the blank canvas for their future game. On this piece of paper imagination can run wild and any level can be created. Well, almost any level. There are rules; a jump, for example, is 4 blocks high so anything that needs traversed must work with that constraint in mind. Other than the basic mechanics the level design is completely up to the artist. Hazards follow the classic platformer ilk, with spikes, lava, moving platforms, and pistons. These are simple to place into the level as they can be added simply by outlining the shape and adding some triangles for spikes or filling in squares with x’s for lava. Fill in a square and it becomes a customizable power-up, and fill in another square on top of that and it is now a portal. Everything is done by hand on the free, printable graph paper which is scanned into the game by merely being photographed.


After taking a photo of the paper it is converted into a basic, wireframe of a level with any errors or confusing marks hilighted in red. Then it is up to the creator to prove to the game that their level is passable and once that happens the fun part comes. Included in the game are a handful of different design choices for the background, hazards, structures, character, and more. For the more technologically inclined the option to upload a custom skin and sound effects is a stretch goal for the project. Like many similar games with user created content there will be an common marketplace where levels are rated and judged for endless variation and hours of enjoyment.


The goal is lofty, sitting at a cool $100,000, but seeing as it is already a third of the way there with still 23 days remaining, I have no problem seeing this project becoming a wild success in the future. Stretch goals include a mode that is more friendly to children, more custom options, and a sooner release date. I have no doubt that Pixel Press will reach at least one of those goals, and incentive filled pledge packages are going fast so be sure to get in on the ground floor of this amazing and ambitious KickStarter project.

KickStarter Spotlight: Another Castle

KickStarter Spotlight: Another Castle

Mar 6, 2013

Platformers may be one of the oldest and simplest forms of video games; so it makes sense that they are the most widely auditioned game type on KickStarter. Even more common are the pixel art varieties because of their ease of production and popular appearance. What we have here for today’s KickStarter Spotlight is something that does not deviate too far from the formula, and yet still manages to impress. The project’s name is Another Castle, and the Mario references and similarities do not end there. The overarching plot of the game involves an intrepid, accidental explorer in a quest for some randomly chosen artifact; be it his girlfriend or a flaming sword. The game is very self-aware and makes it part of the story that it blatantly sends the player from castle to castle because, of course, the item is always “in another castle”.

The most intereting part about this game is that the final product will feature levels that are generated entirely by random. This is very intriguing because it eliminates that tiring grind when starting a level over and over again as the terrain and length are constantly changing. The overworld, or overarching map, is also randomly-generated; ensuring that no two games play the same. Included in this game are a myriad of power-ups, defensive items, weapons, and special attacks. These sometimes approach absurd territory which is definitely a good thing because having the ability to launch a giant great white shark at an opponent is an idea that should never be turned down. Like everything else, these are randomly strewn about over the map in chests.

There is an playable demo on the game’s website and after a few play throughs I can definitely say that it is more different than I initially thought. Each weapon has a special touch to it and there are not too many games that could be mistaken for Another Castle. I enjoyed the pixel art and the subtle 3D effect was incredibly well done. As of right now the game is obviously in a very rough, initial stage but what I was able to play was very impressive. All that is left in the game are more level locations and a few player movement tweaks, but I was really impressed by the high level of quality this game possessed. My sole complaint is that I felt a far majority of the traps or obstacles in the game centered around a circular hazard and that did become repetitive after a while.

Putting all that aside, however, this game; still in its infancy, is terrific. I highly recommend giving it a play, and, of course, a generous donation. With plenty development coming in the future I see good things ahead for Another Castle.

KickStarter Spotlight: Pixel Kingdom

KickStarter Spotlight: Pixel Kingdom

Jan 10, 2013

One of the great things about KickStarter is that people who would normally have a very hard time developing games because of the steep monetary cliff are able to get a barometer from the public to see if their idea is worth publishing. This is especially true for college students who are financially strapped as it is with the rates of tuition, room & board, and books. There rarely is enough time or money to sit down and purchase the developing software and licenses to produce the games of the future. Today we’re looking at a game that is the brainchild of a college sophomore from Central Florida and it is a fresh take on the game-type that was popularized by games such as Plants vs. Zombies; where waves of enemies come down set lanes, and it is up to the player to deploy defenses down each specific aisle. Named Pixel Kingdom it is a small twist on this idea is that here these defenses are actively moving down their lane in an endless battlefield against the ranks of evil. Thrown in are a handful of bosses that fill multiple lanes, such as random dragon attacks.

The whole art direction is very familiar but also very well done. Pixel art is nothing new, but when done right the affect is both attractive and still different then a majority of the apps in its category. Each unit; there are 9 of them so far, has a very unique design and they all look great, and it is very apparent that a lot of effort went in to the design of these units. The kinds of units vary greatly as well and range from the usual warrior and archer to necromancers and berserkers who are clad in purple and red, respectively. The variation in unit types is essential to a game like this as it adds much needed variation and increases the opportunity for creativity, which is rarely a bad thing.

Pixel Kingdom promises infinite levels which is a great idea because it promises that the game will never end and there will always be something new to play. The idea of having an invite level is great, but I do find it concerning because that means the game is never really done which means that there is no real conclusion to strive for. Seeing as this game is still very much still in the developing phase there still is a long time for changes to take place, and I have no doubt that with some funding from the KickStarter crowd more features will begin to appear that will make this game a Play Store juggernaught. I see a lot of promise in this young sophomore and I hope the KickStarter community does as well; as it stands at the time of writing, with a month to go Pixel Kingdom still needs more than $4,000 to meet its goal. So spread the word, and help give some deserving young developer a shot at glory.

Editor’s Note: Read our review of the final product here!

Pixel Towers App Review

Pixel Towers App Review

Mar 30, 2012

For anyone who has ever been to the game room at a restaurant or movie theater recently those block stacking prize games should be familiar. Typically in those games any piece that is not stacked onto a block below it is lost and the game continues until there are no blocks remaining. Coming from the fine people at The Grey Studios is Pixel Towers, a game that is fundamentally unchanged from those arcade standards albeit with a clever new coat of paint. Even thought it is made kind of obvious by its name, the art design in Pixel Towers is pixel art and, even though there isn’t much time to take it all in, the detail in each block is quite extraordinary. Each block is a new level for an office building and they are bustling with workers and the floors are surprisingly varied keeping things fresh and interesting.

As expected, the higher the office gets, the faster the blocks fly by, but Pixel Towers throws in a sly wrinkle by slowing things down randomly; on paper, this seems like a hanging curve but in reality the dramatic change of speed is the equivalent of a change up in baseball. Another smart addition is that every so often the game will give back a lost square. For example, if there are two squares remaining, it will turn into three at random moments giving the player a second chance after a mistake. This mechanic helps make a very unforgiving game a little easier.

Unfortunately, even with these two additions the game remains just too simple to really captivate anyone for more than 5 to 10 minutes because it is essentially the TicTac of the gaming world. After playing two or three games, the Pixel Towers really loses its charm right up until about the next time five free minutes become available.

Kickstarter Spotlight: Pixel Sand

Kickstarter Spotlight: Pixel Sand

Feb 1, 2012

Editor’s Note: Kickstarter Spotlight is a new weekly column spotlighting promising Android-related Kickstarter projects. Have any suggestions for projects to be featured on Kickstarter Spotlight? Leave them in the comments or send an email to the author.

The great thing about Kickstarter is its ability to give under-funded app developers a chance to create great, innovative apps. Last week I wrote a blog post about a great website called Kickstarter, and in it I mentioned a developing app, Pixel Sand. There are a few “falling sand” games scattered around the internet, and for those unfamiliar with them, they are basically an open sandbox with small particles that react to gravity and to each other. These particles can be anything from water to fire to nitroglycerin. Here, take a look. The problem with these games, other then being a black hole to free-time, is that there has never been a foray into expanding these games from simple sandbox to full, story driven, co-op titles. As is probably obvious by now, one man, Trevor Sundberg, is trying to tackle this very thing. Already with a working game for the PC, Xbox, and Windows Phone 7, Trevor is trying to expand his game by adding a campaign and of course, expanding to iOS and the little green robot.

The proposed new game elements are genius and are sure to have users stretching the limits of the platform. As I stated in my earlier review of Apparatus, from prior experiences with games such as Little Big Planet, Halo, and Minecraft there are no limits to what the community can create if given the right tools. Seriously, click on those links, the Minecraft one specifically is that perfect internet mix of impressive and sad.

That is what makes the stunningly simple inclusion of electricity so smart; it is such a simple yet absent addition in the few other “games” in this genre. Other great elements include power-ups and doors that only open after a select number of coins has been collected. I personally am excited to see some of the user-generated content, and one thing that is a definite is that someone, somewhere will re-create the iconic first Super Mario Bros. level.

Unfortunately, as of now, Pixel Sand still needs funding. There is still time, however, and I strongly encourage everyone to click on the link in this post, head over to Kickstarter and help this game out because it deserves to be realized to its full potential.

KickStarter: The Perfect Opportunity for Small Developers

KickStarter: The Perfect Opportunity for Small Developers

Jan 27, 2012

The hardest part of creating a breakout app from your great idea is finding funding. Let’s face it, if you’re independently wealthy the odds of you going out of your way to create the next Angry Birds are small. Most of the greatest games on the Xbox Live Arcade, Apple App Store, and, of course, the Android Market are indie games: pet projects of people risking a lot on the success of these innovative games. Competition necessitates innovation; this is what drives the gaming industry. Sure, EA can manufacture hundreds of sub-par mobile puzzle games, but the real innovation comes from startups; young college kids looking to get their foot in the door with some novel idea. A quick look at the top 24 paid games in the Android Market shows just 9 titles by the traditional big players in gaming: EA, Gameloft, and Rockstar. Of these nine titles, six of them are remakes of classic games like UNO, Monopoly, the Sims, and GTA III. Look up the Wikipedia page for EA and then look at the Wiki for the developer of one of the most popular games on the Market, ‘Cut the Rope’. That’s right. Two whole sentences.

What I’m saying is that people love fresh, indie games, but getting backing for indie games – similar to movies – is hard and usually frustrating. That’s where an increasingly popular start-up called KickStarter comes in. You’ve probably seen them on the news or read about them online; they’re a great tool for anyone looking to get an idea off the ground. What KickStarter does is provides a place for normal people to help fund a startup. Instead of getting one company to invest $10,000 into the next Braid, KickStarter allows 1000 people to each invest 10 dollars. For your payment there are tiered rewards that are chosen by the developer. For donating over $5.00 you might get a personalized hand-written letter, and for going over $25, maybe an advanced copy of the product. These tiers go all the way up to $1,000 which could include a trip out to the launch party (not that I have $1000 to throw at a cool project). The way KickStarter regulates this system is by a.) Approving every application that is submitted and b.) Making it that if a project doesn’t reach its target amount in it’s allotted time then no money is given and the backers don’t pay anything. It’s kind of a cutthroat system, but it is a necessity.

KickStarter is the perfect opportunity for Android developers, building a fan base while also funding your project. One promising Android project that needs your help is Pixel Sand. As you can see with their video, this developer is attempting to revolutionize the relatively new falling-sand genre by adding unprecedented RPG, puzzle, and mulitiplayer elements to it. Other, non-app products include an initially impressive phone grip, iSLIC and the already funded phone platform/tripod adaptor Capta. KickStarter also allows developers to expand their business and work on developing for multiple platforms. A perfect example is an already-profitable PC game Hexxaxix XXI. Reaching the goal on KickStarter would allow for this game to be available for download across a large range of platforms including Sony’s new Play Station Vita.

So I encourage all of you to check out all the projects on KickStarter, not just Android ones. There are plenty of great projects out there that just need a little “kick” to get “started.”