May 8, 2012

It’s Right In The Title. Of Course I Tried It.

I was on the app store, and there was an app called “Rocket Fox” and because I am literally the most predictable person, I downloaded it. Well, the free trial anyway. But I’m thinking about going ahead and ponying up for the full thing, because it was a fun time.

Basically, you are a fox (Yay!) who is tasked with bouncing around between these “rocket flowers,” that shoot off fireworks. You have to clear all the flowers in a stage by falling into one, riding the rocket up, and then gliding to fall into the next one. Every time you fire off a rocket, swirling foxfire springs up around you, which you can collect to unlock shit like silly hats and new firework colors. It’s pretty simple, but it’s easy to pick up and has a decent difficulty to it where you rarely feel like the game is fucking you over when you die: it’s always your fault.

This game is one of the best uses of accelerometer controls I have seen. The game is played in a top-down view, and basically you just tip the screen about to lean the fox around while he’s gliding in the air. This works way better than I anticipated: You kind of want to do that anyway, and they have it calibrated like… perfectly, even on the gyroscope-less iPad 1 I am using to play. It would probably be even better on a phone, where you could lean it easier.

I found the unlocks pretty rewarding. They’re just cosmetic, but getting new burst patterns to add to the random rotation, and new colors of fireworks feels pretty good. Eventually I’ll probably get all of them, though, and the little outfits didn’t seem very cool. I kind of liked how the fox looks without accessories. He looks much cooler. Oh well.

Anyway, give this game a try. It has a very nice demo, and it’s fun. It also has a fox. So, you know.

May 4, 2012

Yet Another “Fine” “Addition” To The With Friends Family

I’ve been playing Scramble with Friends with my brother.

I’m really just kind of fucking annoyed that Zynga has the market cornered on these good asynchronous games, mostly. They work without any problems, and they play across platform so I can play on my iPad with my brother on his Android phone. I am not a huge fan of Zynga the company! Most of what they’ve done with these games has been pretty sleazy! And yet, I play their games like… all the time. Most days I will play turns in Draw Something, Words with Friends, and now this. Ugh.

Anyway, Scramble with Friends is way better than Hanging with Friends, which just never caught on with me. Maybe it is because Boggle is just a more interesting game than Hangman. It’s model to get more money is also incredibly lacking in annoyance, so that’s nice.

You play a series of 3 back and forth rounds of Boggle with a friend. The second round adds “double letter” tiles, and the third adds “triple letter” tiles. The person with the most points at the end of all three rounds wins. Each time you want to play a round, it costs you a coin. Coins regenerate over time (faster in my version I paid a buck for, apparently) so they are mostly just a mechanism to keep you from playing 5000 games of Scramble with Friends at once. Unless you want to buy coins, of course. Before you start the round, you get to pick powerups. You can take one for free, but to take a second, it costs you another coin. There is basically no reason not to do this, especially if you are only playing against one or two opponents once a day. I have never fallen below like 17 coins (I think it maxes at 19 or 20) playing this thing, and I play whenever I want with two powerups.

There are three powerups. Scramble, ironically, is completely useless. It doesn’t actually scramble the board. It just rotates it in another direction. The words you can make don’t change. They took what could have been the most useful power, and made it completely useless. Freeze just stops the timer and gives you more time, which is good if you’re a good Boggler. Inspiration will let you just reveal a word you haven’t spelled on the board three times. This is where the money is. Most of the time, it’ll show you a word that you can also make plural, doubling your points. Since you can take two Inspirations, that’s six words, and that’s a huge point boost, as most of the time (not always) it’s showing you the big words, because you’ve already caught all the little ones. I always bring two Inspirations. It would just be stupid not to.

Anyway, I dunno, it’s boggle. It’s fun. There is nothing wrong with it, and again, the “get money” model does not hit or annoy casual players AT ALL, which is nice. Play it, I guess? Or don’t and continue to take a stand against Zynga. I can’t blame you for that one.

April 11, 2012

You Can Also Transform And Roll Out.

I got my mother playing Draw Something, and she seems to be having fun! So I went onto the app store to see if there was anything else we could play that she’d enjoy. While I was there I stumbled across this thing in the featured apps called Saturday Morning RPG. It was supposedly an RPG based on 80’s cartoons. I could dig that. It was using a fairly standard structure for apps now, where the first episode was free, then you buy more, so I went ahead and played the first episode.

It was okay? It was okay.

The battle system is kind of a combination of a, say, Grandia style system, where the attacks you pick affect how soon you act, and a Mario RPG system, with little minigames for more damaged and timed defense presses. It was a pretty good battle system for a light and breezy RPG you’d play on your phone.
The battle system goes like this. You see an enemy on the field, and get into a battle. You scratch Scratch-n-sniff stickers before battle to give you buffs in a little minigame. You can swap and equip these stickers to give you access to whatever buffs you want, but the order you scratch them in is randomized, so you may not always get to the ones you want to use. Then the fight proper starts.
You have three main actions. Punch is your default attack. It does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING and is useless to try to use unless the enemy has, like, 2 HP left. Then you have a charge option, which lets you burn MP for a DBZ-style charge up to deal more damage on your next attack. This is the only use of your MP, and your MP recharges slowly over time in battle. Finally, you can use your items, which are basically little spells. Each spell has a set number of uses each battle, and you can only equip five. They’re 80’s references of a sort, for the most part. You can make guys explode with a Care Bear Stare, or trample them with Fruit Stripe Gum Zebras, for example. Each attack has a speed associated with it, and may or may not require passing a minigame in order to be effective. For example, when giving a Thundercats Ho! with your Sword of Omens, you have to do some rapid tapping to charge up the attack in order to deal the most damage. That’s a fast attack, though. The Care Bear Stare, which does a similar amount of damage as a fully-tapped Sword of Omens attack, doesn’t have a minigame, but is a lot slower.

Anyway, the battle system is simple, but keeps your attention. It’s fun. The rest of the game is kind of bad.

The entire premise is great. Fighting 80’s cartoon villain analogues with silly reference attacks is a good idea! But the problem is, it’s a good idea if it’s funny, and being funny requires writing. I was flat-out shocked at how there is basically NO dialog in this game. It’s ridiculous. There needs to be either 80’s cartoon writing that’s funny on its own ridiculousness, or you need to crank the references up so they’re smart and witty. Having a quest that just quotes this PSA and does absolutely nothing with it is just a huge waste of time. Was this just a group of programmers without a writer? If so, that’s a shame. They should find someone who can write some really entertaining dialog. That needs to be the basis of this, seriously.

Anyway, feel free to try the free episode if you want. Personally, there was nothing in it to make me want to buy the next one for a dollar, but maybe that’s just me. Maybe it’s fun enough. I don’t know. I just know I was a bit let down that the writing didn’t live up to the premise. Oh well.

April 7, 2012

A Game I Picked Up At Exactly The Wrong Time

Okay, so, I’m part of the problem. I’m really enjoying Draw Something.

I had seriously the worst luck, too. I bought the paid version for the game for a buck literally A DAY before Zynga bought OMGPOP. I am the worst. (Yes, I bought the paid version. I really get frustrated with ads, especially in a game like this where you need all the screen real estate you can get for doodling. It’s worth a buck to me to not have that. Plus, you start with a bunch of coins in the paid version which let me start with a color pack which makes the game much less frustrating.)

I’ve heard why this game is so popular talked about before, and it’s true: this game works because it is anti-competitive. There’s no time limits. You aren’t competing with who you’re playing with. It’s just you and your opponent trying to juggle a combo back and forth for as long as you can by not having any missed guesses. You can take forever to draw, and forever to guess. You can make as many wrong guesses as you want, you just have to eventually get it right, or give up and pass. There’s no stress. It’s just fun.

And I mean, fuck, doodling in general is fun. I suck at art, clearly. But it’s still fun to try to be creative when I doodle a little picture, and come up with an interesting way to get my friends to guess what’s going on. It’s nice. It’s also nice that I’m playing on an iPad with a stylus. That’s kind of cheating, as most of the people I am playing with are playing on phones, but it also makes it so I can have more fun playing the game, so I’m not going to complain.

There are certainly some things about the game that suck. Often you will get clues that are multiple words, but the game will not separate them or anything, so you end up with something like lordoftherings or something stupid like that. It just makes it all more complicated for absolutely no reason. It’s also kind of frustrating sometimes when people write words. The people I play with are normally pretty good about that, but I did try playing some random games and people would just write the fucking word on the screen after they drew, or if they had a hard word, just write the word in general. Way to drain all the fun out of the game and miss the point entirely, assholes.

Anyway, it’s basic, stupid fun, and it’s free. You should try it, even with it now being controlled by Zynga. Just don’t microtransact, and you’ll be fine. (Though those color packs are real tempting! But I have like 3 now and have all the basic colors covered, so I’m not too concerned. Still, when you only have the starting four, it makes you want to pony up. But just play the game, earn coins, and buy them that way!)

April 6, 2012

Why Is Dino-Rang Firing This Gun? He Has BOOMERANGS! BOOMERANGS!

Let’s talk Skylanders.

Let’s talk Skylanders: Cloud Patrol.

Someone on twitter is like “Oh, it seems like they’ve released a Skylanders game on iOS” and then feel free to put two and two together and figure out what I did. (I threw down my buck and bought the game immediately. If you guessed that, you know how predictable I am.)

Skylanders: Cloud Patrol is pretty alright! A lot of times, shit like this would be thrown together as a quick cash-in, and wouldn’t really have any real value as a game. Cloud Patrol is a legit little casual game. I’m not going to play it for hours, but at least I can appreciate that it’s not a huge waste of my time.

Basically, Cloud Patrol is sort of Fruit Ninja with Jetpack Joyride’s constantly shifting mini-challenge system. You pick your Skylander (who all function the same, just look different. The only reason you’d want to have another Skylander in the game is to look cooler or to match the daily elemental bonus to get more money.) and fly out in a little airship to shoot escaped trolls. You have to tap or draw a line between trolls to target them and shoot them, but if your target line swipes over a mine, you die. The powerups you get in the Adventure Packs fly about, and can give you score bonuses and little buffs, like temporary invincibility, if you tap it. It’s a simple game, but it’s fast. You can play a round in a few minutes while waiting in line or whatever. It looks nice, and it is responsive. What more could you want?

You can unlock all your Skylanders and Powerups in the game by entering in the web codes. Again, besides the powerups, this doesn’t give you TOO many advantages, besides the Powerups. I did it anyway because I am stupid. However, you can also earn Gems in the game by leveling up, collecting presents in game, and, of course, via microtransactions, which you can use to unlock various Skylanders without owning the figure and play with them. Of course, if you own the figure, it gives you a little crown by the Skylander, so…! Little Crown! Come on!

Anyway, it’s a buck, and if you were actually obsessed with Fruit Ninja and want something like that, Skylanders: Cloud Patrol is a quality product that does not require you to own any figures to have fun. It’s been a nice hour or two of distraction for me? That’s all I really need out of a dollar purchase, I suppose.

February 12, 2012

The Anticlimax of Grisly Manor

I played and beat a video game! Are you surprised? Well, to be fair, this game took me all of like an hour at most to beat, so that’s probably why.

Awhile back, I found out that The Secret of Grisly Manor was free for a day. It was a little point and click puzzle thing, so that sounded like something worth trying, anyway, so I grabbed it. Then I played through it.

It was okay? I dunno.

The game is basically like a super-polished and not completely stupid version of a lot of those horrible Adventure games Retsupurae has let’s played. You’re in a world of static pictures, and you move around and solve puzzles. The little house you’re in is completely ridiculous in a lot of ways, but for the most part, the puzzles make way more sense than some in this genre, so I didn’t have much of a problem with them. There were some ridiculous, nonsensical parts. For example, at one point, you stick a rod in a whole, and then lightning just happens to strike it for some reason, and that, for some reason, makes what the rod is stuck in disintegrate, revealing a door. This isn’t like… a magic house or something. That makes little sense. Also, your character is extremely concerned with not killing a goldfish? But you’ll put the goldfish in a tub full of dirty, soapy water which would almost surely kill it. I don’t think you’re supposed to put a fish in soapy water! But what do I know, I guess.

The game did have one clever and hard puzzle that was fair, but stumped me for awhile. The clues were all out there, but it did take some thinking to put them together, mostly because there were multiple clues scattered about the world in non-obvious ways, and not like, a single clue that once you pick it up, you solve it. I appreciated that. On the whole, though, it was mostly uninspired “unlock this to get the clue/key to unlock the next puzzle” stuff. Inoffensive, fun while it lasts, but again, if you have half a brain for these sorts of games, you’ll breeze through the whole thing in minutes.

Uh, sorry for ruining the plot of this game, I guess, but it is kind of laughable. Like, you get to the end, where a door in the basement leads outside for some reason (?) and your grandpa, who you were trying to find, is just there. Like, he’s just in the back yard. You could have just walked around the house. You even go around the house to a shed at one point to solve some puzzles. And he’s like “Sorry it seemed like I was dead, but I invented time travel, let’s go!” And that’s it. Just “good job solving my puzzles, I invented time travel” and then it kicks you to the menu. You’d think with a title like “Grisly Manor” you’d have something like… scary or something happen. There’s nothing vaguely scary about the game. They didn’t even try for scary. It’s weird.

Anyway, free was the right price for this. I enjoyed it for that. If you really like this kind of game and are okay with it lasting about an hour, a dollar might be fair. I’m pretty sure they’re charging more for it, though, which is pretty crazy. There are better point and click flash games out there than this. But eh, again, it entertained me for awhile. I can’t complain. And I think this was their first game. Maybe the other ones they made are better? Who knows. I’m probably not going to go out of my way to find out, though.

January 28, 2012

Oh, Right, The Building Controls On The Planets Were Also Counterintuitive.

Ascendency was basically my first experience with what I believe is called the 4X genre of games. Reading about it after the fact, it was apparently broken as fuck, and I’m sure there are many better games of this type out there now, and in the past, but it was just one of those formative gaming experiences for me, and I loved it.

So then it came out on iOS and then it went on sale so of course I bought it.

There is simply a ton to the game, and even vaguely remembering it in the past, it was hard to figure out all the controls and stuff. There are a ton of them, and some things, like being able to use your race’s special power if it’s an activated power, is kind of stored in a fucked-up place in the menu that’s not very intuitive to find. I always liked to play as the terraformer people, so being able to activate that ability whenever I needed to was important, and it took me awhile to figure out. Similarly, it’s hard to guide your ships to where you want them to go. I don’t remember ever having any trouble dealing with the pseduo 3D spaces in the original game, but I often had trouble telling a ship to go to the star lane I wanted them to go to. Sometimes they’d just kind of stop beside it for no reason, and I wouldn’t realize it. It was annoying, because you might not find that out until like two turns after you give the order, if you tend to build a fleet of super-slow colony ships like I do.

Other than having to get used to the controls (and I can’t even imagine how bad they’d be on an iPhone. They were bad enough with the screen real estate of my iPad) this is the game I remember. Apparently bugs that I never knew about from the original were fixed in this, making it harder or something? I didn’t notice. I did what I always did, being a super-peaceful researcher and colonizer, and it didn’t seem to really be any different. It is Ascendency. That’s pretty cool.

Of course, what’s not cool is when you get like 2 hours in to a game, and then it crashes for no reason and you lose progress and then stop playing. That’s pretty annoying! That happened. I reloaded though, and it happened again. I don’t know why. But that was enough to make me stop trying, at least for now. They do seem to still be patching it, so hopefully that’ll fix it? Hopefully.

I like Ascendency, but I think this is merely a nostalgia thing. There has to be a better game of this type on iOS, or just out there in general, nowadays. I just don’t know if someone coming in to it new would be interested. However, I mean, if you can grab it for a dollar like I did? That is a lot of solid game for a dollar, as long as it doesn’t crash on you. So maybe it’s worth trying anyway. Who knows?

January 23, 2012

I Never Could Shoot The Little Cowboy Man When He Came Out Of The Mine, Though.

A quick one, because work schedules suck! And I need to be up in like 4 hours to do all my teaching bullshit.

Remember back on Christmas, when I played a bunch of iPad games? Well, I also played Pinball Collection HD! It’s the last one I played that day, promise.

Anyway, it was pinball! You got a table for free, then they wanted money for additional tables. Pretty fair, really. What’s there is really impressive, too, so I could see somebody wanting to buy more, if they actually liked pinball. I’m… not really a pinball person! But it was pretty impressive.

The graphics were really nice. It looks really impressive on that iPad screen! They’re going for a fairly realistic sort of pinball table: no stuff that can’t exist in real life. Maybe these are real-life tables remade? I dunno. Anyway, it all looks like it should, with all the lights and the dings and sounds you’d expect from a real pinball table. The presentation is top notch.

The controls, too, are pretty well perfect. Tap on the left, left flipper, tap on the right, right flipper. Simple as that. It feels really good holding the iPad and just bopping the screen with your thumbs. I certainly felt like I had about as much control as I ever do playing pinball when I was playing the game, so that’s nice.

The free table, Wild West, is really easy, though. Again, I am not very good at pinball, but it did not take me very many plays to figure out how to unlock the bank vault, and then rob it, which made it easy to rack up extra lives. This almost seems like a problem to me? I was getting kind of bored during my last run because it just wouldn’t end, and was not in any danger of ending! Not that I want to be dead in like two seconds or anything, but it seems like there should always be a risk of failure, right? I dunno.

Anyway, it’s got your high score tables and everything you’d want. If you like Pinball, you should clearly own this game. It’s clearly made with a lot of love. I was glad to just waste some time playing the free table, though.

January 7, 2012

I Hear @reibeatall Missed Out On Having His Picture In The Game, Too.

What’s next on my list of things I should have written about months ago? Hm. Ah, Crimson Steam Pirates. That sure is a game!

I like the idea behind the game, as well as playing it. You were a steampunk pirate fleet: nothing wrong with that. The gameplay itself felt a lot like my time back in the day with Pirates of the Spanish Main. You moved all your ships each turn, and then saw how it played out for a few seconds before you picked moves again. It’s a kind of strategy game that’s pretty perfectly suited to the iPad, and I’m surprised I haven’t seen more of them. (I think Steambirds is one like it? I dunno, I haven’t played it.)

The game is microtransaction-based, in that there are “episodes” of content, and while the first one is free, the rest cost money. This is a fair model, and the first episode seems of a decent length. I certainly didn’t beat it. However, it also seems like the first episode is mostly a kind of tutorial, showing you various mission types and ship types that you can have in your fleet. Again, nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but I got kind of bored with it by the time I stopped.

There are plenty of things in the game that had potential. You could assign crew, and different crew members had different abilities they would give the ship. However, this really seemed mostly pre-set: you had a small amount of customizability, especially when you captured a ship mid-mission and decided who would leave your ship to crew it, but not as much as I would like. This game needs you to be able to pick your own fleet, and play missions your own way. I wasn’t really seeing that, though maybe that’s something that happens in later episodes? I dunno.

The game is polished, and it’s free to try, so you might as well try it! Again, it controls perfectly, and might have what you’re looking for. I found it lost my interest really fast because I was not invested in my fleet or tweaking it to make it work in various scenarios. That seemed like where fun would be in this sort of game, but maybe I’m wrong.

Sorry for the quickie: I’m quite tired, but I didn’t want you to go without blog content, even when it’s over something I haven’t played for months and don’t have time to refresh myself on! Am I the worst sort of blogger? You be the judge. Anyway, I’m off to bed.

January 6, 2012

Simulated Towers. (NOT Tiny Ones, Though.)

Let me look at my list of blog topics…

Goodness, Mega Mall Story? Damn, it’s been awhile since I played that. Best clear that off of there. Maybe this week will be “Games I should have written about like two months ago” week.

In any case, Mega Mall Story is Kairosoft’s attempt at making SimTower, and to be fair, this is probably one of the better Kairosoft games. However, in some ways, I feel like it suffers a bit from the smaller scope Kairosoft tries to stick to. They always keep their types of whatevers limited and dole them out slowly over time to make you want to keep going. However, in Mega Mall Story, I was really feeling it. I simply didn’t have enough store types to expand far enough to unlock more store types, and that felt weird to me. You don’t, say, but two different book stores in a mall. You just don’t. Whereas in, say, Hot Springs Story, it made sense that you were putting like a million hotel rooms down of the same type: that’s what goes on at those sorts of places. Maybe that’s just me thinking too hard about the scenario. Then again, you build apartments with your own money, but don’t collect rent from them, but instead just get another customer in the area. So if I want to pick apart the “story” of the game, there’s probably more interesting things to poke at.

But I digress. The game attempts to fix this problem of not enough new stuff by having “combos,” which are strings of stores placed together to make certain types of customers come. For example, if you put a toy store, a candy store, and a capsule vending machine together, you get a “Kids” combo. The problem is, while most of the combos make some sort of sense, the game doesn’t outright tell you about them. You have to either stumble upon them accidentally, or you have to buy them from this guy to learn about them. More unlockables, sure, but I’m not just going to move my stores around for no reason to try to find these things, you know? Plus, when you buy them, you may get plans that involve stores you don’t have access to yet. Not knowing them gives me no way to plan a new floor in a new or interesting way. I clearly thought my stupid original layout was fine. I don’t want to change it without reason, you know?

Still, if you liked SimTower at all, and, uh, don’t just want to buy SimTower under it’s original name, YootTower, on iOS, Mega Mall Story is for you. I find I have more and more diminishing returns on Kairosoft’s games. They are all pretty similar. Yet they all still have the magic of previous games in there. I feel like it’s just something where you should pick the one game that really speaks to you more, whether it be Game Dev Story, Pocket Academy, or whatever, and play that one to death, you know? You probably don’t need to play every single one like me. I’m pretty sure I still have Grand Prix Story sitting on my iPad, as of yet unplayed. But someday I will play it! And it’ll be cool, I’m sure. Kairosoft is good people.