The Tiny Bang Story Review

The Tiny Bang Story Review

Aug 1, 2013

It seems quite counter-intuitive that mobile puzzle games are as popular as they are. Puzzle games require three things: calm, stable environment, lots of free time on one’s hands, and a big screen to see every pixel. None of these are available to most of the mobile gamers, and yet, high-quality pixel-hunting puzzles and adventures are released every week, and it’s always a pleasure to pick a new one up. Tiny Bang Story is one of the puzzle games, available on the mobiles, and it also features a great gameplay quality, along with beautiful music and backgrounds.

Story in Tiny Bang Story is mostly visual, and is secondary to the gameplay. It’s still a bit blurry for me to describe, but the game takes place on a strange, steampunky land that was shattered by an asteroid impact, and now needs to be rebuilt by completing various puzzles and finding specific objects. Tiny Bang Story is a mix between a puzzle and a hidden objects game. Although the core gameplay consists of finding various objects that are required to advance into the world, and into the story, there are also plenty of puzzles and challenges that need to be completed. Since the game has virtually no written explanations or directions, which is itself an interesting feature, finding what to do next is quite a puzzle, as well. Tiny Bang Story is controlled by the usual clicking on everything suspicious, until the way forward is found. To draw some comparisons, I found this game to be quite similar to Machinarium, and the other Flash adventures.
Tiny Bang Story 1

Although pixel-hunting is made easy even on the smaller screens, by letting the player zoom in on the level, the controls aren’t perfect. The main problem is that there’s no clear way of saying, when the transition between different screens happens, so sometimes it’s a challenge to go where is needed, and sometimes – it’s a challenge to stay. I think that simply marking exits with arrows could have eliminated this problem. In any case, besides the slightly uncomfortable controls, the rest of Tiny Bang Story is almost perfect. Puzzles are challenging, but not particularly frustrating, the environments are rich in details and drawn quite marvelously, and the soundtrack is a beautiful instrumental arrangement. It’s everything one could expect from a portable puzzle game. Although the price tag can scare some people off, and it’s somewhat short – it can be finished in about a couple of hours – great quality makes it quite a worthwhile experience.

Overload Review

Robot toasters, mad scientists, a girl with an electro-gun, and a snarky pal. More than just a video game concept, Overload’s story brings to mind an 80’s Saturday morning cartoon. It’s even set in an airship! This game has so much whimsy I found myself grinning the second I got to the cut scenes.

The plot is simple: Professor Goodman is visited by his granddaughter Elle and her ennui-stricken friend James. Elle, to story’s protagonist, is a spunky girl who wastes no time getting to business when Goodman’s lab is attacked. His rival, Doctor Shwarzmann appears with destruction in mind, armed with a fleet of evil/possessed household appliances. Desk fans, toasters, and tea kettles begin destroying the airship and endangering the crew. Elle takes up Goodman’s most recent invention, the Elec-Glove, and uses it to literally over-power the robots until they explode. For such a developed storyline the gameplay is quite simple – tap the robots as they appear on screen until they explode.

The robots are released onto the game field via portals. The portals open slowly so you have a half-second’s warning before another one pops out. All you need to do is tap the robots enough times to blow them up. The stronger machines take more taps to blow up, and the evil toasters are my favourite because their little piece of toast pops out with a ding. They also zoom around the screen with increasing speed as you progress. At time the game field looks like a strange ant farm with all of the robots flying around blasting holes in your airship. You are fighting a timer in a lot of levels, so speed is the key to success in this game.

Overload’s strongest point is its simplicity. No complicated walk throughs are needed. Robots appear on screen, you tap them, they explode. It really is that simple. But just the same the developers clearly enjoyed creating this steampunky world. They put a lot of thought into the character personalities, the opponent design, and the music as well. Even the menus are steampunky, with clanking sounds as the options reveal themselves. The design is delightful from start to finish, it’s a game you’ll want to show your friends. Lots of little detail makes what is really a very simple game more engaging than you’d expect. My favourite touch is the *ding* sound made by the toaster as it explodes and toast pops out.

Unfortunately I found that Overload’s biggest drawback is that same simplicity. You tap robots and they explode – nothing more. The story is cute, but unnecessary to learning how to play. Not all games need a story (did Asteroids have a story?), but Overload needs help from its characters to get you to buy in to the action. After all, frantically tapping frantically on your phone’s screen gets old rather quickly. The story is cute, but there’s not a lot of draw to return to it.

This app has proven to be a nice, quick diversion when I have a few moments to kill when waiting for a bus, but otherwise it’s not worth devoting much time to.

Theme Thursday – Steampunk Rusted

Theme Thursday – Steampunk Rusted

Sep 29, 2011

This week’s theme is Steampunk Rusted, an attractive theme for all the steampunk enthusiasts out there.

To say the steampunk crowd are an eclectic bunch would be an understatement. Not content to exist solely in our modern era, they don’t quite dwell in the past, either. Instead, they invent a new era that melds the old with the new, creating an alternate timeline — a history that never was.

As such, the steampunk aesthetic represents a fashion, a taste for objects that eschew modern design while maintaining modern function. Featured heavily are modified clothing and gadgetry designed to look as though the Victorian period never ended and here we are today. Fond as steampunk enthusiasts are of customizing objects, it makes perfect sense that any easily modifiable entity will be made to resemble that imagery — an Android device running ADW Launcher, for example.

ADW Launcher, the customizable home replacement utility for Android, can easily undergo drastic changes in design and function simply by selecting a new theme and applying it. Taking the idea further, you can mix and match themes, designing a wholly new theme just by editing objects and settings to your desire. It’s no wonder there are several steampunk designs in existence on the the Android Market.

Featuring a grunged up interface, laced with corrosion and signs of wear, the metallic and glass elements mixed with mechanical accoutrements in the backgrounds (notice the gears on the wallpaper in one of the screenshots, below) lend themselves to the steampunk aesthetic in many attractive ways. The icons are similarly fitting, resembling small buttons with crystal caps and brass fittings.

If you like the look of Steampunk Rusted, you can take it even further with several additions, such as this Steampunk Clock widget and this Steampunk Gears live wallpaper. Steampunk Rusted also features compatibility with several other launchers, especially Panda Home.

Steampunk Rusted is available on the Android Market for US$1.29.

Cranky Cat Review

Cranky Cat Review

Aug 12, 2011

I’ve never participated in the “steampunk” sub-culture that has grown immensely popular in recent years, but I’ve always appreciated the aesthetic. Victorian-era clothing mixed with modern styles, modern devices modified with brass fittings, gears, rivets and bits of machinery sticking out — it’s striking, and I’m surprised that more designers don’t borrow this concept for their games.

In the case of Cranky Cat, the concept, backstory and visual style borrow heavily from steampunk. Characters, menu items and other objects all fit the steampunk ideal. The level select screen appears as a medicine cabinet with bottles representing each round. The actual game screen is a giant gear with a foggy lens revealing the machinery within, featuring dials, gears, belts and pulleys that move and turn when you rotate the cluster of bubbles. It’s fun just to watch it go.

The gameplay, however, has its roots staunchly in modern times. At its core, Cranky Cat is a match-3 game reminiscent of Bust-A-Move, but turned on its head.

To go a bit more in-depth, the point of the game is to operate a devious machine that’s been invented by Cranky Cat in an attempt to distill certain elements that will restore his youthful exuberance. By swiping or tilting your device, you rotate a cluster of colored bubbles arranged in intricate patterns as colored bubbles form on the edges of the screen and collide with the cluster. You just rotate the cluster to expose like-colored bubbles to the incoming bubble and try to match up 3 or more. Matching up like-colored bubbles causes them to burst, and you simply repeat until the field is cleared and the next round begins.

With enough practice, you can get a bubble close to the center of the cluster and hit a crucial point where several other bubbles are hanging on. This can cause all the bubbles that were hanging on to break off and go flying towards the edge before falling back to the center. This allows you to set up combos by rotating the main cluster to match up with the incoming bunch. If you’re not careful, however, the bunch will regroup and go off the edge of the circle, causing the game to end. It gets tricky in later levels.

Despite the excellent visuals and fun gameplay, Cranky Cat does suffer from some severe frame rate drop when you detonate bombs or set off a chain reaction. Sometimes, it’s barely noticeable, but it usually happens when there’s a lot happening on screen.

After having been drawn into Cranky Cat for several hours, and coming back for more, I can definitely say it’s worth the money. Performance issues aside, it’s just a great game that I had a ton of fun playing. Highly recommended.