Hero Academy, originally released for iOS back in January, has made the jump back onto the big(ger) screen, releasing this past week on Steam. While that release was something fans were looking forward to, despite the core experience remaining exactly the same (and allowing for cross platform play) there are a few notable discrepancies between this latest version and the original release.
For those not already familiar with the title, Hero Academy is an asynchronous strategy game which has you select a team, then deploy units and items onto a grid based battlefield to attack and defend crystals. Your hand of available units is randomly generated (sort of like the letters in Scrabble) while you make a certain number of moves each turn before waiting for either random strangers or invited friends to take their turn in the game – basically, the game could be summed up as “Wars with Friends.”
The art and animation on the units looks great, and the units themselves even change in appearance based upon what types of items you equip them with. There’s a healthy amount of strategy involved in what positions you hold on the field, how aggressively you want to play, and what sort of units you pit against others. Naturally, there’s a system of magic, melee and ranged attacks, where each unit has their strengths and weaknesses in relation to one or the other.
Available in this Steam release is one faction in addition to the previously available four – the Team Fortress 2 squad. Playing with them is something Valve fans will enjoy, though playing against them can be a bit difficult due to the powerful nature of some of their abilities. That’s not to say that it imbalances the game – the TF2 team has their weaknesses. But what the Steam release of Hero Academy is hampered most by is something far more ridiculous: it suffers from poor pricing.
Back in January, and still to this day, you could own Hero Academy for the low, low price of free (with ad support) or for $1.00 if you prefer peace of mind. This meager investment gives you access to one starting race, with three others available at $2.00 each. If you purchase the game on Steam, you’ll pay $5.00 right out the door (no free option for you), then have to shell out an additional $5.00 if you want to purchase any of the other races that your iPad2-flaunting friends with their signature emails are getting for less than half the price. (Of course, you could always come to the realization that the iOS and Steam account purchases are linked, then “borrow” your friend’s device for ten minutes, buy the cheap versions of the teams and feel like you’ve outwitted some rich snobs – the developers, I mean, not your friends. Well, maybe your friends too.)
But let’s say that for whatever reason the pricing difference just doesn’t bother you – perhaps you learned to accept at an early age that logic has no place in this world. From an entertainment point of view, the game was originally designed to be played anywhere, anytime, in small, digestible asynchronous turn-based pieces. That worked out relatively well. So why give players the “opportunity” to purchase the game on Steam, where playing it inherently means that you’re sitting at home in front of the screen, with twenty different games running at once in the hopes that you won’t have to wait five minutes for your next turn notification?
It’s not hard to accept that people on their iPhones are engaged in other, more important activities, but may want to kill a couple minutes with a quick round of Hero Academy while waiting for a train, or elevator, or girlfriend to stop talking. But the desktop computer is the home of Diablo III for a reason – and that is because when people sit down to play a game at home, they want to be immersed in a world. They want to put off other tasks, eliminate distractions, and intentionally ignore boyfriends who won’t stop talking. (Palaver is annoying, irrespective of gender.)
Consequently, because the game just wasn’t designed for this new format (and because you can literally get the same thing cheaper elsewhere) Hero Academy on Steam is almost impossible to recommend. While the original game, in its portable form, is a fun enough idea to warrant everyone downloading it (it’s free – you’ve got nothing to lose!), shackling the game to a ten pound computer tower makes the otherwise unsinkable title drop like a stone.
Setting aside completely the format/pricing concerns and judging the game just on its own charm and merits, it fares better. There is still the serious question of just how far an asynchronous title can venture into strategy territory and still be successful – even if a game was designed to be turn based, deeper elements of strategy inherently preclude the asynchronous format: if it didn’t, then someone would have made a ton of money selling Chess with Friends (that is an actual game, released in 2008, which you have never heard of because I am right).
As Hero Academy is presented now, it is colorful and charming enough to attract a following, but by its nature those who would enjoy the game most are those looking only for a cheap, temporary distraction. If you’re looking to delve into the more strategic elements of the game (which are definitely there, just buried), then you’ll find that the format of the game (regardless of what you play it on) will discourage you from becoming engrossed until you eventually give up, and surrender to conversation with your significant other.
Chess with Friends: Seriously, it is an actual game. If you have a friend who wants to play a full game of chess but isn’t nearby, then it can be great to indulge in some deep strategy. But without a timer or AI opponents, the classic doesn’t transition well into the modern medium. Although I will say that making a single move at 4 am once every three weeks led to a stunning victory once “TH3kaspar0v” finally resigned to me.
The Sound of Silence: Whether you just want to be left alone or are craving some Simon & Garfunkel, nothing is superior. (Although parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme is a great recipe for some delicious chicken.)
Luxor Evolved is a casual puzzle game by Mumbo Jumbo games. Though it’s difficult to get an accurate count, since Luxor came onto the puzzle scene back in 2005 there have been no less than ten distinct Luxor branded games (more than ten if you start counting bundles and multi-platform releases).
Originally criticized six years ago for being too derivative of Pop Cap’s award winning Zuma, that doesn’t seem to have impeded Mumbo Jumbo’s success. While Luxor eventually went on to develop its own style of ancient Egyptian marble shooting, it appears the series is now ready to take yet another leap, this time into the future. In adopting a more space age look, Luxor Evolved now seeks to distance itself further from its mediocre progeny.
The title itself – Luxor Evolved – conjures up a certain image of progress, and the graphics in a way attempt to serve that purpose. The colors are bright and vivid and the music is techno-styled, yet the fundamental gameplay remains in matching three spheres of the same color together to prevent orbs from progressing too far down a particular track. Throughout the experience of the game’s sixty-five levels, this blend of new and old remains a constant thing.
Even though the graphics have a certain futuristic leaning to them, featuring digitized scarabs, ankhs floating through space and l33t-speak stage names you would expect to see only if Microsoft was headquartered inside an Egyptian pyramid, the visual style is very similar to classic arcade games like Galaga, Asteroids and even Pac-Man.
There are various secret and bonus levels available to play as you bowl your way through stages between interesting boss battles, but despite the vibe the game tries to convey it comes off as more confusing than anything. Part past and part future, it doesn’t seem like there was a clear design direction, which is unfortunate because the actual hook of passing through stages while gaining points to unlock things is nearly enough to pull you in.
Exactly what that progress bar at the end of each stage is progressing towards is uncertain: all you’ll know is that you’re getting closer to something and that beating the next stage will unlock that “thing,” so that you can work towards the next one. If you’ve never played a Luxor game before, Luxor Evolved can work its subtle magic in this way to lure you in, whereas on the other end of the spectrum if you’ve played every Luxor game ever made you’re likely already addicted.
What Luxor Evolved fails to capture is the attention of the vast majority of gamers that live somewhere in-between those two extremes of complete naiveté and drooling fascination. If you’ve played a Luxor game, here there are similar power ups, similar gameplay mechanics and similar challenges to what you’ve accepted before. If you’ve played the breadth of puzzle games the iOS has to offer, there’s really nothing new here that you haven’t already experienced elsewhere.
In a certain way that’s an unfortunate thing to say, because when considered in a gaming vacuum, Luxor Evolved is great fun to play. It has cool boss fights, a decent little reward system to string you along and some flashy graphics and fast gameplay to keep your small screen interesting. But once you step back and consider that the concepts here are neither new nor groundbreaking, it’s hard to justify playing the game for too long before looking to broader horizons. Even with the various powerups to collect which can make your digi-marble shooter more powerful, or even stop progressing scarabs in their tracks, it just isn’t enough to hold long term interest.
Yes, if you are a Luxor fan or are completely new to the series, then you will like this game, provided that fast-paced match-three puzzlers are your thing. If you’ve exhausted other options such as Zuma, Tetris, Dr. Mario, Puzzle Quest, Hexic or even previous Luxor titles, then going with this one won’t leave you disappointed. As far as value for money is concerned, if you fit the category of player that would enjoy this title (i.e. if Luxor is completely new to you) then the single dollar it is currently selling for is a great bargain. But as far as recommendations go for gamers outside the Luxor-virgin spectrum, there are a large number of other puzzle games that should be higher on your list of priorities.
Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes: M&M is a relative new-comer to the puzzle genre, but was certainly a welcome addition. Once Puzzle Quest showed the world how interesting it could be to get some RPG in your puzzler (or puzzler in your RPG), Ubisoft produced this gem. It has the same unit matching gameplay, but throws in a bit more elements of strategy and story to give the game more longevity than Luxor Evolved achieves.
Poker Smash: Poker Smash is one of those under-appreciated titles. Though it features matching as well, the poker theme allows for a broader range of solutions and challenges you (quite literally) to make some clever arrangements. As you progress the boards change and the speed and tempo increases much like Tetris. To top it all off, it has what may be the best music ever in a puzzle game. If you haven’t checked it out already, forget about Luxor and download Poker Smash.
There’s a game called Speed Racer: The Beginning. Let me stop you right there, because I know that what you just imagined was wrong. The game you are imagining in your head is not the game that I’ve just been playing. I bet you’re saying to yourself, “All I imagined was a racing game.” Yep, that’s how I know you’re wrong.
Speed Racer: The Beginning is a 2D side scrolling platformer. And in an obvious bid to be the worst side-scrolling platformer ever created, the game is a platformer where you cannot move your character left or right, you can only jump up and come back down while the world moves beneath you. Oh yeah, and there aren’t actually any platforms. There are just massive, gaping holes in the ground five times the length of your car, because apparently Japan’s public works department is horrendously underfunded.
Speed Racer: The Beginning clearly was conceived as something entirely different than the mess that finally made its way to the iOS. For starters, in what is borderline false advertising, promotional material for the game claims that SR:TB offers, “fast, addictive racing action.” Also listed among the features of the game: “Before and after each race, [SR:TB] will also allow players to customize the team and Mach 5…” and SR:TB “will even include exciting clips from the actual show before and after races.”
While it’s easy to forgive instances of hyperbole as industry-standard for marketers trying desperately to promote their games, what cannot be overlooked is the fact that the last two quoted claims are extremely misleading, if not demonstrably false. You can customize the team and Mach 5 before and after each race… provided that for the first two races you are willing to shell out real world money over and above the price you paid for the game.
It’s not quite as bad as Smurfberries, but for the game to tout a customization feature, then deliberately force you to play through the first two levels before you can even begin to use it without paying extra money seems a little underhanded, particularly in light of the fact that most gamers won’t play beyond the first stage.
The reason most people will break their iPods before reaching stage 2 is that this game is unnecessarily difficult and frustrating. As mentioned, the game challenges you to jump over holes in the roadway, in addition to other obstacles it eventually throws your way. The problem is that as you are driving down the road you’ll never know exactly how large a gap is that you are about to face – unless of course you’ve played the level a dozen times already and are aware that the particular gap coming up requires the use of a turbo boost powerup that you remembered to save specifically for this instance.
Barring that, there’s the occasional chance that you can make it across one of these seemingly impossible jumps because the game itself is absurdly broken. Approaching a gap you can hit the jump button on the screen, then if it turns out the gap was a little larger than anticipated you can jump again in mid air to get an extra boost. Even then, assuming that your tires are obviously not going to make it onto the next stretch of pavement, there’s always the possibility that you will see the very tip of your car catch a corner of the drop off, which will cause your car to magically creep forward, up and out of harm’s way. I’ve heard of all-wheel-drive, but front-fender-drive seems a little absurd, even for the souped-up Mach 5.
Let’s say you manage to make it through the first stage without expending all three of your allotted lives. What you have to look forward to is a second “race” which, if failed, forces you all the way back to the start. Although the game claims to offer twenty races, for some reason each race, or stage, is comprised of two distinct parts, where the obstacles in the second are typically just more outrageous than the first. For example, if you make it over the jumps of the first stage you’ll most likely be shocked to see another “racer” on the “track.” Although this other racer is not “programmed” to over-use “air-quotes” like a certain unfriendly interplanetary ninja assassin, what the racer is programmed to do is to drive erratically in front of you, then slam on the brakes, causing a rear end collision and costing you a life.
The trend of unnecessary surprises just continues as you attempt to progress through stages. Once you’ve learned to jump over racers doing brake checks, you’ll fall victim to a racer who drops an unexpected oil slick. Once you master jumping the oil slicks, the next guy will drop an oil slick, then brake check you once you land on the other side. Once you master outmaneuvering him, the next brake checker seems like a piece of cake, but once he disappears off the screen and you think you’re in the clear, the car suddenly appears again from behind only to ram into your rear end, which of course causes you to die.
If you can keep your cool long enough to cross a checkered line, more observant gamers will realize another glaring flaw in the system. Ostensibly the game records your score to post on leaderboards, where your score is affected not just by collecting little “Speed Racer” point icons floating in the sky throughout the stage, but is also increased by your simple forward movement. The score is kept track of in the upper left corner of the screen, and when you finish a stage, in the center of the screen it shows the score you just achieved, compared to your high score on the level. But if you look closely, the score in the upper left hand corner of the screen will always be slightly different than the score you receive at the end of the race. The variance is never more than a few points, but there is absolutely no excuse for the creators of the game to have neglected that detail.
Before you think that I’ve forgotten, there’s still the matter of the game’s claim of the inclusion of “clips from the actual show before and after races.” After completing four races, I saw zero clips. Perhaps once you reach race nineteen and twenty there are two clips there that satisfy the legal requirement to justify saying that there are clips “before and after races,” but at this point I’m prepared to call shenanigans.
With all those broken promises, in addition to the overhead map of a winding race course featured before each “race,” you’d be hard pressed not to conclude that the concept of SR:TB was far different than the actual result. Whether or not anyone acknowledged this at any point, yet continued to press on with the project is unclear. It does seem awfully suspicious that when you go to “options” in the game and tap on “credits,” all you see is a single screen with a few different companies’ logos on it, instead of the traditional list of names of people that actually worked on the project. Perhaps this was done so as not to bring undue shame upon innocent families, or perhaps it is because “Olivia Neutron Bomb” is in fact the real name of the only living person that contributed anything to this title.
Though the game is horrible in nearly every regard, there actually are two positive things to say about the title. The first is that some of the artwork on the backgrounds of the stages actually looks pleasant; specifically, the mountains in the background of the third race have a nice blurred effect. The second positive thing to say is that, for the first two minutes of playing this game, it was so obviously awful that it was actually hilarious and I laughed out loud twice.
The first laugh came when I saw that someone had made a Speed Racer game that was a platformer without platforms. The second laugh was when I drove the Mach 5 off of a cliff and straight into a pit, which was funny only because the car didn’t tip forward and plummet like you’d imagine, it just sort of drove forward far beyond the point where physics should have taken over, then suddenly descended downward off the bottom of the screen, wheels still spinning in pointless futility.
Despite those two isolated moments of joy and the fact that this game costs less than a dollar in the App Store, there are absolutely no human beings on the face of this planet that I would recommend purchase or play this product. The difficulty is too high, the fan service is too low and it is only the mechanics of the game itself that manage to hit a sweet spot, where they nearly perfectly meet the definition of the word “broken.”
Hitting the jump button does not always cause your car to jump, while the speed of your vehicle will at times inexplicably change, causing you to fall into pits that you’ve effortlessly cleared a dozen times over. If there are any internal control measures on the App Store that prevent garbage from flooding the market, this game undeservedly slipped past someone’s radar. If there are no control measures over what does or does not get released, then there is no better argument for a policy change than Speed Racer: The Beginning. We’re not talking Official Nintendo Seal of Quality here, just a simple, “I see your game has a button. Does that button do what it is supposed to do?” In this case, that would suffice.
Pinball Shuffle: Pinball Shuffle was pretty bad, but it still had some redeeming qualities, as it held a little appeal for die-hard, desperate-to-play-anything pinball fans. But even if you hate pinball, or already own Pinball Shuffle, if you have a dollar to spend at the App Store and someone points a gun to your head and forces you to choose between Speed Racer: The Beginning and purchasing a second copy of Pinball Shuffle, there’s absolutely no question that Pinball Shuffle wins the day.
Matchbox cars: I don’t care how old you are, or how many arrows you’ve taken to the knee over the years. Getting down on the floor right this second and pushing a little Matchbox car around the house, pretending to jump over obstacles while realizing that you should really sweep more often than you do is definitely more fun than playing Speed Racer: The Beginning. That is not a joke, or an exaggeration. Every person alive, no matter the circumstances, would be better served to play with a Matchbox car on their living room floor than to spend a dollar on this game. (Yes, that’s a photo of a Hot Wheels car, not a Matchbox. Congratulations.)
It is not unprecedented for major game companies to release iOS tie-ins to AAA titles. Whether it’s Assassin’s Creed, Rage, Dead Space, or Mass Effect there have been some AAA game spin-offs on the iPhone and iPad. Epic broke new ground as a top tier company by releasing a new IP specifically designed for the iPad when they published Infinity Blade.
Now, Crytek (the maker of Crysis) has followed Epic’s lead by releasing Fibble Flick’n’Roll, a completely new IP for the iOS operating system. Fibble is a puzzler about a small alien who crashes on earth and must repair his ship. This sets up Fibble, with help from his friends, navigating tracks to collect coins, stars, and keys. This review was conducted on the HD version for the iPad, but a non-HD version is available for the iPhone/iPod Touch. Keep reading to find out if Fibble is like a bug that should be flicked from your shirt or like a small pet that rolls its way into your heart.
The title of Fibble Flick’n’Roll is fifty percent accurate. Fibble does ball up and roll through the tracks but you don’t actually flick the screen like you would in a paper toss mobile game. Instead, similar to Angry Birds, you pull back on Fibble to provide him momentum. The action feels a little more like a pinball game though because you are not launching Fibble. As you pull back, you get little dots indicating the strength of the pull and Fibble will begin to quiver as you prepare for release.
On the early tracks this is all there is to the game. You have three tries to get Fibble to his destination though to get a gold medal you will have to complete the track with one flick. There are places on the track that will serve to increase Fibble’s velocity, one arrow being a slight increase and three arrows being a more significant increase. The game also allows you to nudge Fibble when he has nearly stopped by tilting the iPad (using the motion sensing controls) as if you were titling the track (or bumping the pinball machine). These controls all work well as Crytek has done a good job in designing a game that utilizes the strengths of the iPad.
The house where Fibble crash landed has four rooms for you to explore. The first two rooms have seven tracks each and the last two have eight tracks each. These numbers include one track in each room that requires a special key to play. You can find these keys in the later tracks or you can purchase them. There are a couple of other items available for purchase to aid you in completing all parts of the game if you choose to go that route.
As Fibble progresses in the game, he is reunited with his friends. Four different friends are added through the game, the first being Byte. As Fibble rolls over a location where Byte is, you can touch the screen and Byte will pop up out of the ground and send Fibble flying. Other friends include Docto who can grab Fibble and then spin with him until the player again touches the screen releasing Fibble. This allows you to change Fibble’s direction. Vroom and Ragno are two more characters that are unlocked to help Fibble on his journey.
Early in the game the player is allowed the option of placing the characters on set locations on the track. For example, you may be given three Doctos and two Bytes to place on any one of five green X’s on the track. Figuring out who goes where is not difficult on most early maps, but once three or more characters are available part of the challenge is the correct placement of the characters. In some cases the tracks have more X’s than available characters so you also have to choose which X to leave empty.
Tapping the screen to get the characters to interact with Fibble also works well. Fibble has to be close to the character for the tap to work, but when he’s in range a green circle will light up around the character (the circle is also visible when placing characters). For Vroom, tapping as soon as Fibble enters this circle will impart more momentum to him. Also, the circles may not overlap so on some tracks where two X’s are close together placing a character on one will mean the other must remain empty (see screenshot above where Docto on the left is blocking the visible X from being used).
At the start of each track you are provided with criteria for getting a bronze, silver, and gold medal. If you do not get a gold medal but do complete the level, the game encourages you to try for the gold. Gold is frequently tied to completing the level with one flick and getting a certain score. Coins are scattered all over the track and collecting coins will increase the score. Big score increases occur for collecting stars, a maximum of three per level. To beat the gold score level you generally have to collect all three stars. There is also a bonus to the score for completing the game under an unspecified time limit (the greater the difference between your time and the target time the higher the bonus). That the time limit is unspecified and that the amount of time you are taking is not displayed may be troubling for some. Having this would also have encouraged many players to attempt speed runs through levels but it’s more a missed opportunity than an actual problem with the game.
Besides replaying the levels to get a gold medal the game does record what percentage of coins you have collected on each track. The completionist will want to collect them all and certain levels will require repeat plays to collect all the coins in one run (one in particular is challenging in this regard). The game also has achievements within the game and leaderboards on the iOS GameCenter app.
Crytek is known for their system straining graphical fidelity, but in Fibble they opted for a more cartoon style graphic. It is sharp on an iPad 2 and looks beautiful. There have been some complaints from those that were expecting a more typical Crytek look, but that wouldn’t have fit the nature of this game. As is, the characters are great and easily distinguished and the maps are beautiful if not realistic.
Fibble Flick’n’Roll is a great addition to the mobile gaming space. It has a lot of personality and solid gameplay. While it tends towards the easy side as a puzzler some tracks will require repeated plays to get the gold level. Fibble is a recommended purchase for anyone with an iPad.
Angry Birds: There is no doubt that for less money you will get more content in Angry Birds than in Fibble Flick’n’Roll. If that is your criteria for what makes a game worth it, then Angry Birds is your game. But in every other way Fibble is superior. Fibble is graphically better than Angry Birds with much richer environments. Rather than the pigs snickering at you when you fail, Fibble expresses joy when you fling him in the air. The tracks on Fibble are better designed and you have more control than with Angry Birds.
Infinity Blade: Infinity Blade has more realistic graphics than Fibble Flick’n’Roll but again, in almost every other category, Fibble is a better game. Infinity Blade is the game you will pull out and show to your friends when you want to impress them with the iPad’s graphical capabilities. Fibble is the game that your wife and kids will be playing, making you complain that they’re hogging the iPad. But when they let you have the iPad, you’ll play Fibble too.
WWE Wrestlefest is an iOS game that seeks to recapture the magic that once made you do such terrible things to your younger brother by providing you an updated home version of the arcade classic WWF Wrestlefest. With the plethora of wrestling titles out there to choose from, Wrestlefest tries to deliver something more than waves of nostalgia with updated visuals and a (partly) new roster.
What THQ actually ends up delivering is precisely the sort of thing that Strauss Zelnik recently criticized the company for – a lower quality licensed game. Wrestlefest does have its redeeming qualitites and is certainly something that fans can enjoy, but the nature of creating a licensed game inherently limits the developer’s level of creative input. This means that, try as it might, for everything Wrestlefest gets right, it is forced to get something else wrong.
Those who remember the original WWF title (from the days before the panda-lovers worried about brand confusion) will instantly see similarities here. The updated WWE version of Wrestlefest has prettier graphics, sure, but the rings, the matches and even a few of the wrestlers have returned. Looking through the roster to decide who your tag team partner will be shows familiar faces such as Jake “the Snake” Roberts and Big Boss Man (both of whom featured in the original), along with fan favorites like The Undertaker, Rey Mysterio, Steve Austin, The Rock and Randy Savage.
At first the lock icons on two-thirds of the wrestlers seems like a challenge to make you complete matches and earn the right to play as some of your classic favorites. Not so fast though, this is an updated, modern version, which means if you want to unlock grade-school role models such as Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Sgt. Slaughter and Yokozuna, you’re going to have to shell out some extra cash; in addition to the three dollars you’ve paid for the game, extra wrestlers and an additional ring are available for the low sum of ninety-nine cents.
Apart from the micro-transaction business model, actually playing the game is a walk down memory lane. With the familiar iOS joystick in the bottom left of the screen and two buttons that either kick or punch, the controls are less complicated than the majority of NES games. Most of your matches will consist of hammering away endlessly at the punch button, which performs different context-sensitive maneuvers like throwing, pinning, slamming, picking up or (yep) punching your opponent. The kick button… well… that has about as much variety as the agility of the WWE superstars allows, which is to say that the kick button kicks ‘em, especially when they’re down.
WWE has six different modes, all of which ultimately feature standard wrestling. It should be noted that Royal Rumble is among those modes, which allows for up to six wrestlers in the ring for some crazy button-mashing mayhem. There are also multiplayer features, though it’s hardly worth waiting around to find a lobby when there’s not much functional difference between the AI and a mute human being.
All in all, WWE Wrestlefest isn’t in a great position to begin with: most of the classic wrestlers you remember from the arcade are missing, which means die-hard fans of the original could feel more than a little disappointed. Though the game has been given a pleasant face lift, the core gameplay mechanic is the same button-mashing, wrestling action in the paid for version as it is in the lite option, which makes it hard to justify shelling out for something that you realistically aren’t going to play for much longer than it takes to fondly remember the original. If you’re the sort of person that could sit and button-mash for hours, it might be worth it to pay for this title, but for most people Wrestlfest is nothing more than an average diversion whose experience can just as easily be captured though a brief demo.
WWF Wrestlefest: As a matter of straight comparison, WWE looks better and handles a little better, but the original’s roster comes out on top. When you consider that you don’t have to pump endless quarters into the game, WWE seems to edge ahead, until you realize how many quarters you’ve already invested in your iPad 2. The one area where WWE clearly excels is the fact that this new version is portable, which means you are free to play the game for five minutes, then try The People’s Elbow on your unsuspecting siblings as they sleep comfortably in their beds.
The memory of NES Pro Wrestling: If we’re going to bring back the old, THQ really should have gone with THE original. They could have side-stepped the whole problem of creative license and come up with a completely unique game. Who wouldn’t want to know the origins of Starman or The Amazon? And Pro Wrestling wasn’t about hammering on the buttons either, it was about the classic 2D jockeying for position that made side-scrolling beat-em-ups popular for decades. If you’re options are between spending three bucks on WWE Wrestlefest, or spending three bucks on a phone call to your cousin (who now lives in Alaska) to reminisce about playing Pro Wrestling when you were young, you’d do better to make the phone call in more ways than one.
Tower defense games are some of the nicest games for portable devices and tablets. It’s easy to grab a quick game as the levels usually only take a couple minutes and it doesn’t take much to get into. Galactic Alliance 2 depends highly on this easy to pick up formula to create an interesting tower defense for iPad owners.
The goal in Galactic Alliance 2 is quite simple: there are alien ships attacking and it is your job to set up defenses to prevent them from getting through and attacking Earth. Since the entire game takes place in space you are working with satellites, space stations and asteroids to help destroy the enemy.
The most unique aspect of this title is that levels contain wide open spaces which need to be defended. In many tower defense games enemies attack on a set path and you simply set up along the route to hold them off. In Galactic Alliance 2 the key to success is crafting a winding, twisting maze to funnel your attackers through, delaying the enemy from reaching your base and increasing the amount of time they are under fire. You cannot block them completely from getting through, there has to always be an open path, but the better you are at making a long path the better your defense will be.
Another key to destroying the enemy is by using the variety of defenses available to you. You have several building options available from basic things like rapid-fire satellites and missile towers to more unique options like towers that slow fast moving enemies and gates you can lay down that shock anything passing between them. Alien forces are just as distinct with slow moving tank-like ships, lightly shielded speed demons, enemies that can cloak and plenty more. You’ll need to mix up your defenses to take care of everything.
Galactic Alliance 2 isn’t the longest game in the world, with five levels of increasing difficulty for the campaign. You can play each level on three different difficulties as well. Once you tire of those you can jump into Endless mode which, naturally, tests your ability to hold out for as long as possible. A good run through Endless can easily take over an hour, assuming you’re up to the task.
A cool feature is the game’s ability to be played cooperatively with up to four players. Multiplayer is done with one iPad with each player getting a side, his own units and his own bank of credits to spend. I tried it out with two players and found it to be a nice table top experience although I imagine four players would involve a lot of crossed fingers on the relatively small real estate of the iPad.
The graphics in Galactic Alliance 2 are sharp, the game runs well and you will definitely get at least a couple hours for your $1.99. Total replay value may not be great because there aren’t very many maps and you’ll likely come across a strategy that works for you pretty easily without much need to try different things. Still if you are a fan of tower defense games you will find some fun to be had in this small title.
Plants vs. Zombies: When you think about tower defense games on the iPad, Popcap’s massive hit is going to be one of the first you think of. Honestly Galactic Alliance 2 doesn’t hold a candle to Plants vs. Zombies, which offers tons of different strategies, amazing replay value and an amusing aesthetic. However for a third of the price Galactic Alliance 2 still holds up well in comparison.
Asteroids: We’ve come a long way as far as space games go. One of the original space defense game, Asteroids, let you defend yourself against rampant chunks of rock flying through space. To show how far we have come, Galactic Alliance 2 lets you actually harness the power of these asteroids to use as cheap barriers to help fight off the new threat to the galaxy: alien ships that look surprisingly like casino chips.
They fly through the air with the greatest of ease. No, it’s not the daring young men on the flying trapeze, but the return of those Angry Birds. Angry Birds is the biggest franchise in mobile gaming, and after the original Rovio treated gamers to Angry Birds Rio and Angry Birds Seasons. Now, the birds and their nemeses the pigs are leaving the comforts of earth and heading into space.
Angry Birds Space has released everywhere, and the iOS versions include a free (ad-supported) and paid version plus Angry Birds Space HD, a paid version specifically made for the iPad. This review was conducted on the paid iPhone version and was played on an iPhone 4S and an iPad 2. Keep reading to find out if the birds still soar in the cold, lifeless expanse of space or if they come crashing to the ground.
Angry Birds Space keeps all the essential Angry Birds elements. The birds are angry because the pigs have stolen the birds’ eggs to go along with the ham they already possess. The player is now helping the birds exact revenge. This is done by slinging different types of birds at structures which the pigs have constructed as protection. This is to say that the game is a physics-based puzzler where, using the birds allotted to the player in the order they are supplied, the player has to kill all the pigs.
The structures that must be destroyed to kill the pigs are built out of ice, wood, stone and metal. Ice and wood are easier to break than stone and metal and the thickness of the blocks, beams, and other building elements also affect how hard they are to destroy.
Many of the previous types of birds are back including the Red Bird, the Bomb Bird, the Speedy Bird, the Big Brother Bird, and the Triple Bird. These all play the same as the previous games except Angry Birds Space changes the behavior of the Speedy Bird. In Angry Birds and in Angry Birds Space, the Speedy Bird flies faster when you touch the screen while the bird is in flight. But where in previous games the Speedy Bird would increase his velocity along his current flight path regardless of where the player touched the screen, in Angry Birds Space the Speedy Bird’s flight path changes direction to the point on the screen where the player touches.
The game also introduces a new bird type: the Ice Bird. The Ice Bird turns anything it touches to ice, making it easier to break. Additionally, shortly after it first touches something the Ice Bird will explode turning a larger area to ice. As with the Bomb Bird the player can choose when to explode the ice bird by touching the screen or just allow it to happen.
The biggest change, as the title would suggest, is that all of this action now takes place in space. This allows Angry Birds Space to tweak the Angry Birds formula by introducing a more significant effect of gravity. In Angry Birds the birds will arc in the air according to the general laws of mechanics (the physics kind, not the automotive kind). So how far back you pull on the slingshot and the angle you use affects how far the birds fly and at what speed. In the previous games gravity will affect the flight path and pull the birds to the ground (the birds really don’t fly, they are just projectiles).
But in Angry Birds Space you are not on earth. You are somewhere in space and the size of the asteroids nearby will vary significantly. As their size varies, so does the effect of their gravity. This means you can often use the gravity to loop a bird three quarters of the way around the asteroid and hit the structure from the complete opposite side of your slingshot. On some levels you may have to shoot a bird into an area where gravity has no affect at all. This means there is no arc at all to the bird’s path and it flies in a straight line until it hits something. This does add another element to the strategy of the best way to destroy a structure and kill all the pigs.
To help the player understand this, Angry Birds Space adds a couple of visual aids. First, each asteroid large enough to have a gravity field will display how far out the field extends. The player is then able to gauge if the flight path of the bird will be affected by gravity. Second, there is a line showing the path of the bird for a certain distance. If the bird does enter the gravity field, this line shows how gravity will arc the bird when the bird enters the field. Having these aids was not necessary in previous Angry Bird titles but Angry Birds Space would have been frustrating without them.
The other new element to the game is hidden levels. Since this is the most spoilerish of topics for the game not much will be said. But as you look at the menu you will notice that the last world has far fewer levels than a typical Angry Birds section. These are levels that you enter from one of the other worlds in Angry Birds Space by hitting a trigger mechanism. These levels are played immediately (in the middle of the other level you were playing) and after completing them you return to your prior level. Once a level has been unlocked you can return to it from the main menu.
Graphically, Angry Birds Space is not much different than Angry Birds. On the iPhone’s screen the birds were harder to distinguish, particularly the Speedy Bird and the Triple Bird . This was easier when playing on the iPad, but on the iPad the non-HD version was obviously not made for that screen. If you are going to buy a version to play on the iPad, you should get the HD version.
Angry Birds Space will satisfy many Angry Birds fans but it is not without problems. The biggest issue for many will be that the amount of content is much smaller than previous games at the same cost. The original Angry Birds has a total of three hundred eighteen levels but Angry Birds Space comes with only two groups of thirty levels plus the five hidden levels (a third group of thirty levels is available for the same cost as the two other groups). Other content is listed as coming soon; whether this will be free is not clear, but likely it will be behind a pay wall.
Still, if you are a fan of Angry Birds, then you will want to play Angry Birds Space. The changes are interesting enough to make this game stand out more so than Angry Birds Rio or Angry Birds Seasons. But if you are starting to grow weary of the series, the changes are not substantial enough to revitalize interest. Angry Birds Space is a recommended buy for fans.
Angry Birds: Angry Birds is a better buy if you have not already played it. There are more levels and it spends more time helping the player to understand the different elements of the game. Angry Birds Space assumes some previous experience with Angry Birds. To complete a level and unlock the next level the games are equivalent in difficulty. If you are someone who has to get three stars on every level, Angry Birds is a harder game than Angry Birds Space.
Pain (PS3): In Pain, instead of using a slingshot to fling birds, you are using a slingshot to fling a person. Pain is a 3-D world as opposed to the 2-D world of Angry Birds Space but in both there are boxes of dynamite and you get points for destroying things. Pain obviously looks better and there are more objects per single map to destroy in Pain. But there are many more levels in Angry Birds Space. Also, if you are a closet sadist, playing Angry Birds Space will allow you to maintain the illusion that it’s all about saving eggs. If you are an open sadist, play Pain as it’s more fun.
Heist: The Score, is a fast-paced rail shooter that will become available on March 2, 2012 for your IOS and or Android devices for .99 cents. Heist is developed by N3Vgames and is set in 1920′s American Prohibition Era. N3V tells Heist as a thrilling story of a bank robbery that is carefully plotted only to have things go horribly wrong, leaving you to fight your way out of an impossible situation.
You begin the game as a low level thug working for the mafia under the very enigmatic Salvatore Da Luca, a veteran of the Great War, he now uses his military training to fill his duffle bags with cash instead of military gear.Â Sal also brings along his right hand man Giuseppe Gallo, a loose cannon that should have been a lobster because he’s always finding his way into hot water. He’s taking aim at the world and you just happen to be in his crosshairs.
Hit the jump to find out if Heist: The Score is trying to liberate your bank account of your excess holdings.
Pinball Shuffle is a $0.99 iOS game that allows you to take on the role of legendary pinball wizard Stabb Gunner. Perhaps you’ve heard of him – he was the main character from the previously released Pinball Massacre, also created by Nuclear Nova Software. Though he may not be deaf, dumb or blind, I am told that he sure plays a mean pinball.
Nuclear Nova claims to bring an exciting world of pinball to your small screen by providing boss battles, “massacre mode” and the intriguing idea of pinballs that level up, causing them to, “generally behave more awesomely.” While the ideas may have all sounded good on paper, what you’ll get for your just-under-a-dollar investment is actually, in practice, not worth it.
Hold the plunger down, then release to hit the jump.