Rico – A Tale Of Two Brothers Review

Rico – A Tale Of Two Brothers Review

Apr 8, 2014

Retro platformers are almost never a bad idea, and here, we get to see if Rico – A Tale Of Two Brothers continues the streak.

It is a story ying and yang story about brothers, one of whom is looking to restore the earth’s mystical balance.

The game is cool in the way it pills in several elements and houses it under one bountiful game roof: at its heart, it is a simple run and jump game that incorporates sideways scrolling, platform and even a bit of survival. The artwork brings in some retro sensibilities as well, with the chunky characterizations and stilted movements. It is strictly 2D, and the controls are minimalist in nature, with virtual buttons for moving left or right at the bottom left, and a jump button towards the right.rico1

The gameplay comes in several difficulty modes, with different gameplay attributes: easy, normal, hard and insane. The gameplay is further broken down into leveled words.

Starting out, the gameplay is fairly intuitive. Move, jump over and/or across obstacles and collect the gold coins that are spread out in the play area. To begin, the obstacles are fairly easy to traverse… the occasional gap, water, hilled platforms and such. As it goes on, the dangers get craftier, with laser blasts, dangerous fluids, mines, moving platforms and more that demand timing and accuracy to avoid. Running and jumping give way partially to going about things in a more cautious manner to reach as many checkpoints with as much collectibles as possible. The water can be especially treacherous; staying underwater for too long can be dangerous, but is sometimes necessary to collect gold or get from point A to point B. If the blue oxygen bar gets completely depleted while under water, our character dies.

The controls were a bit wonky for me; still I like that the game has a straightforward purchase model. For those on the fence, the atypical free version is available to assuage concerns about dropping $3.27 on the full version.

For now, the streak seems to be intact.

Rock Runners Review

Rock Runners Review

Dec 17, 2013

Rock Runners is yet another game in the scrolling runner genre from Chillingo.

It has vibrant looks, dark without being unsightly, with a lot of color used as visual markers that serve to highlight positive and negative factors in the game play. The nice graphics and smooth animations are definitely appreciated.

Our space mining runner takes off from left to right in a different dark environments, with several obstacles in the way. It’s a bit futuristic, so the radioactive material and “light beam grapple” shouldn’t seem too out of place. With several of these lethal goo puddles lining the floor (and spikes providing more dangers) along with reverse teleporters, the game pops off very quickly.

The biggest tool to avoid dangers is the ability to jump. Jumping is invoked by tapping the screen, and helps with rock1regards to getting by nastiness, and also in getting up to raised platforms or to collect the gems that line the running area. As an extension to that, there is a cool lasso thingie (the aforementioned “light beam grapple”), unleashed by tapping and holding, that helps with extending airtime; in some sequences, there are spider-man-like motions with the runner swinging from structure to structure to either avoid floor-level stuff or to make it to a higher spot. Finishing a level opens up more, and getting the coveted three stars usually means getting through faster than the suggested time and also collecting a set percentage gems.

And of course, as the levels go on, the challenges get more involved, with moving anchors and moments when timing is of great importance. There are keys that appear, and can be used to open up other levels; failed levels can be repeated, and because of the star and time measurement, local competition is possible.

All in all, it’s a fine game, easy to understand and enjoy, but with just enough complexity for it not to be a boring.

Ski Safari Adventure Time Review

Ski Safari Adventure Time Review

Dec 12, 2013

Ski Safari Adventure Time brings back Cartoon Network’s Jumping Finn Turbo, going up against the nefarious Ice King in this skinned version of the endless runner Ski Safari.

Finn has allusions to being a championship downhill skier, or so it will feel in this one. The playing area is downhill, left to right, with windy, bumpy, snow-covered slopes. There are boulders embedded in snow, presenting ever-present dangers up front; behind Finn’s back is his nemesis, the avalanche-surfing Ice King.

The gameplay starts with Finn’s trusty canine companion Jake dashing in to warn his sleeping friend of the thundering danger. Finn starts the downward journey on his bed, and it goes, uh, further downhill from there. The aforementioned rocks are best avoided by tapping the right post of the screen to jump. Further to that, for those feeling especially funky, backflips can be performed by manipulating the left part of the screen. Careful though; stunts do earn bonus points, but face-planting can be disastrous.2013-12-12 07.20.24

This is because the whole point of the game is to travel as far as possible, collecting collectibles and upping high scores by avoiding being caught by the raging snow. There are plenty of helpers and interestingly themed characters: bananas that double as surfboards, riding dogs and objects that give flight over periods of time. The slope gets sharper, and game speed picks up over time, and collisions and crashed landings burn up helpers and/or upend and stop Finn. The latter is especially bad, as the run ends when the snow overtakes our hero.

The game also uses an updating lists of quests, like traveling a set distance with nothing but the hiney, or using a particular tool to travel through a particular area. There are arcade elements like gold, magnets and boosts as well.

Fans of Adventure Time will like the familiar artwork and the characterizations. Finn and Jake are their usual misshapen, adorable selves, and the game incorporates coloring that works if a little subdued. The gameplay is not the most sophisticated, but that also lends to the built-in charm. The unending action is what makes this one so engaging, and it will be worth multiple looks… and runs. It builds upon a great game and at the very least that can be admired.

Burt Destruction Review

Burt Destruction Review

Oct 8, 2013

Burt Destruction rocks. A yeti intent on world domination doesn’t.

I have to salute the makers for the cutscenes and in-game hints. That, along with the sounds and graphics, really lends itself to an excellent media experience. The use of color is highlighted in the different levels, and such use ensures that the game feels new with every successful step.

For a platform runner, the action in Burt Destruction is constant. In the very first level, there were tons of obstacles to avoid and/or disable: stationary objects like walls, menacing yeti, some weird jumping fairy beings and even trickily placed stacks of TNT. Jumping over the “live” beings helped, but jumping on them destroys them. Thus, a good strategy of timing and controlled jumps is useful.bd1

On the other hand, running into these objects drained Burt’s life source; again, timing the jumps is key. Contact with these items drains Burt’s life, and with enough hits, Burt dies.

Fortunately, there are plenty of power-ups and arcade-y upgrades to match the expected increases in complexity that advanced levels bring. A lot of the power-ups have to be unlocked, and upgrades can be effected by collecting the coins that line the playing area. In-app purchases are available, but don’t feel necessary. The “big” Burt is fun to invoke, as is the replenishable ally Big Foot.

With regards to the playing area, the developer does well to create an expansive area that feels different each time it is played. To use the first level of the game as an example of the game, there is more than just the ground level. it is quite possible to vault Burt onto roofs, verandas and raised platforms and travel “above” the ground. The same dangers lurk at higher platforms, so the same success precepts apply. Different levels vary, though; in one level, for example, errant jump actually causes an endless (fatal) fall. Again, the artwork helps keep the gameplay fairly engaging, with stuff like cannons and even snapping sharks making appearances.

Yes, platform games are, well, platform games. Still, it’s hard not to like the eye candy. For a game that has significantly more positives than negatives, this is well worth a look.

Totem Runner Review

Totem Runner Review

Oct 3, 2013

Totem Runner (from mobile development heavyweight Chillingo) is an agrarian fable with an platform/endless running twist.

In this one, our hero is a valiant warrior who rises against an evil threatening his land. He is gifted with mystical powers, and along the way, also loads up stars and disperses seeds to boot.

The graphics feel hauntingly similar to fellow sideways runner Vector… and that is in a good way. The initial look of our protagonist is shadowy, with the movement from left to endless right. The backgrounds are swathed in nighttime-y pastels, which do great to highlight both the humanoid, animal and otherworldly beings hat inhabit this fantasy world. The animations are just about right; the developer mostly avoids the temptation to be a bit long-winded with regards to effects. The animations are inventive and lend themselves well to the narrative and gameplay.totem1

Gameplay? This is where the game gets fun. As noted, it is left to right. All sorts of obstacles appear to prevent progress, and they run the gamut: deathly valleys, floating blades, archers, hanging vines and, of course monsters. To deal with these, our runner has mystical powers; he is able to turn into an eagle a rhino or even a dragon. The eagle is great when it comes to avoiding the gullies and gaps, as well as getting the special orbs that hang in the air. The rhino was great for spearing and discarding dangerous items in front of our runner. The dragon was a replenishable power, and when toggled, it is able to traverse all types of terrain and obstacles efficiently. The built-in tutorial does well to explain how to play and use the special powers. The game gets harder further on demanding quick transitions and reactions.

A big part of the game is the controls. Virtual buttons toggle the eagle and rhino; each special manifestation lasts as long as the button is held. When released, the animal turns back into the humanoid runner. When fully charged, the dragon button goes live. I thought the controls could use a bit more of a visual component.

Totem Runner is able to squeeze a good deal of character into a familiar genre. The leveled gameplay makes it worth the time.

Monsters, Inc. Run Review

Monsters, Inc. Run Review

Aug 13, 2013

When it comes to movie tie-in games, Disney is becoming as prolific as the best of ’em. I say it’s good business; mobile games can be easy ways to get people to engage with any franchise. Monsters, Inc Run is a sideways scrolling running game that incorporates running, jumping and some of Disney’s favorite characters.

The artwork does Monster Inc proud. It’s a really bright, but can’t be simply described as being kid-friendly; it’s actually pretty nice. There’s a pervasive but pleasant use of green, and other colors used combine with it well. The animations are decent, and the game did have an arcade feel to it visually.monsters1

The gameplay is full of action, with only two major controls: tap to jump, and tap and hold to jump longer. These can be invoked anywhere on the screen. The running area is built out of several non-continuous platforms of varying lengths. The “natural” gaps in the running area encourage jumping, and it is evident early on that harnessing the jumping power can also get our running monster to upper lanes. Plenty of goodies are available to be collected all through the running paths; they range from all sorts of upgrades to gold coins that can be used in the in-app store. Each run is, in essence, a race; at the end, time and points determine performance ranking measured by three hearts. The game speed and monsters get tougher as the game goes on, and I especially like how Scully makes his upgraded appearances.

As noted earlier, there are some obstacles, living and inanimate. Bad monsters can be jumped on, over or (with an appropriate power up) run through. Usually, though, touching these specific type of monsters knocked our running monster down a level, or worse — into nothingness, ending the run prematurely. The gameplay is leveled, and XP opens up further levels (and consequently, new attributes).

The game store does encourage the purchasing if upgrades. The good news is that the gold coins can be used. Some attributes are level-dependent, and the game does accept real money as well.

It’s a game that does Mike and Scully proud in their quest to save Boo.