January 2, 2012

I’m Sure Episode 2 Is Coming Any Day Now. Yep. Surely Soon.

Maybe I mentioned this? I ended up playing a bunch of iPad games while I wasted time Christmas morning and eve and whatnot. It was fun! It had been awhile. I think I mentioned that? I dunno.

Anyway, one of the things I played was the now almost laughably named Sonic 4 Episode 1. Because, there’s clearly going to be more episodes. Yep. Totally going to be. Most certainly going to be more episodes of that.

The game was fine. It’s very much a callback to old school Sonics, and there’s nothing wrong with that, if you’re into that kind of thing. The thing that’s really surprising is that it doesn’t play like complete garbage on the platform. It turns out that Sonic is mostly about holding to the right and then clicking the jump button appropriately, and the virtual thumbstick can totally handle that! You just hold right and just go! It’s fun! It does get a little more complex when you get to, say, boss battles that require you to actually maneuver, but even then, I didn’t find the virtual thumbstick that bad. I was able to beat the bosses I faced without TOO much trouble.

All that said, it almost seemed like too much of a throwback to me. Like, I dunno why you would play this over another run of Sonic 2 or something. I mean, it’s way easier, because they seem to throw lives at you constantly and whatnot, and the levels are like… all generic Sonic level with nothing really new about them. Okay, so, there’s little gimmicks in each level, but in general? Just Sonic level. Oh, look, here’s some Casino stages. Oh, look, here’s an airship of some sort. I’m not a huge Sonic fan, though they’re fun enough? I haven’t played the games to death, but it even seemed dull to me. I dunno. I’d rather play Sonic Colors. It would have a better soundtrack too. (Also, I hear Generations is really great? I can’t wait to try it whenever Gamefly decides to send it.)

But I mean, fuck, I paid a dollar, and it’s a solid product. Just not a particularly interesting one. Still, I’m sure Episode 2 will be even better! Coming any day now! Yep.

December 28, 2011

It Actually Was A Joy To Ride.

A bunch of bullshit happened today, but I don’t really feel like complaining anymore. So instead I’ll write about Jetpack Joyride.

Jetpack Joyride is a game I had heard quite a lot about, but I never really got the urge to play it. However, I finally moved my Roku into the bedroom and that freed up my iPad to no longer just be a bedtime video playing device, which let me look into some games I missed. I grabbed this Christmas morning while waiting for it to be time to go to the parents, and I played it pretty well nonstop.

It’s really good!

It’s not so much the actual gameplay that’s good. I mean, it’s fine. You press the screen to use the jetpack, and you have to maneuver around obstacles for as long as you can before you die. Simple stuff, really, and there’s plenty of games like that on the platform. Canabalt, Grim Joggers, and Robot Unicorn Attack, just to name a few. It’s nothing novel in that regard, really.

Where the game really shines is in the Mission system. The game gives you three missions, seemingly at random, and you need to complete them to level up and unlock more missions. These missions are sometimes just what you’d do anyway (Collect 5 Spin Tokens or whatnot) but are sometimes silly tasks that totally change how you play (Drag your head along the ceiling for 500 Meters, Reach 600 Meters without collecting a coin) and really keep the game fresh. Most of the time you have one mission that’s more long-term, and one that you can surely complete next run, so let’s go one more! It’s infectious. It keeps you playing and playing.

You also collect Spin Tokens as you play, and these let you get random bonuses at the end of a run. You may get bonuses for the next run (Double all coins collected, a 750 Meter Head start, etc) or something to keep your current run going (a bomb that propels you farther forward for free after death). Once again, these little bonuses are a great way to make you go “One more game” and they totally worked on me.

I dunno if this game normally costs money? I got it for free, and while there are microtransactions, the game really doesn’t force you to pay for them. You can have tons, tons of fun without paying a dime. It’s a great 2 minute game, certainly, and I understood why it got so much adoration from everyone. I would certainly suggest playing it, especially if that free thing wasn’t just some Christmas promotional sale.

November 29, 2011

Explore Here, Please. I’ll Pay You.

Okay, let’s reach back on the ol’ list of blog ideas that I haven’t gotten around to writing yet.
Oh, okay, here’s an old one. Majesty.

Majesty is a series that one Matthew Essner really enjoys. I knew that, but I didn’t know much about it until I watched a quick look of the new one on Giant Bomb. The idea of not having direct control over your units, just how you spend money, seemed really appealing, so when I saw that there was a Majesty game on iOS for a buck, I figured I’d pick it up and give it a try.

First off, let me just say that the controls are not that great. They feel like someone shoehorning in normal PC controls on a touch screen. It’s very hard to set items down exactly where you want them, because you have to double tap on a grid that is actually very small. This can create problems when you’re trying to place important structures like defense towers. It also is near-impossible to set “Defend this” flags, which is kind of an issue, too.

The other thing that really confused me is that this isn’t a port! Apparently the levels in this are completely different than in the PC version, which is just… crazy. If they were going to make new levels, why not make controls that aren’t ass? I only found this out when I went looking for help on a level I got stuck on, and Essner told me that level simply isn’t in the game he played. How crazy is that, right?

Still, the basic concept is still cool. Instead of issuing orders to your adventurers, you post various bounties. “Explore here, get 100 gold.” “Kill this, get 200.” The more money, the more people will want to do it. When you pay the adventurers for doing this, they will spend the money in your shops buying a new enchanted sword, or some healing potions so they can take on harder jobs. It’s like you’re controlling the random sidequest board in an RPG, and I am down with that. There were certainly some points where I was like “Dammit, just kill that thing!” but most of the time I enjoyed the feel.

This version has problems, though. It apparently works on an iPhone, but I have no idea how shitty the game would play on that small of a screen. It’s a weird product, but I suppose if you enjoyed the original game, and had a buck, picking it up wouldn’t be a bad move to have some more of that action on the go. I know Essner was certainly interested when I showed it to him.

November 2, 2011

Consider DoomRL Instead.

Let’s see what’s on the list of unused blog ideas… Doom II RPG, huh?

I really loved Wolfenstein RPG. Like, a ton. It was a lot of fun, and surprisingly strategic in its combat. Thus, when I saw that Doom II RPG was a thing, and it was on sale, of course I was there. I’d like more of that, please.

In a lot of ways, Doom II RPG is much more robust than Wolfenstein RPG, but it just doesn’t feel as fun to me. Is it because I’ve already played it? I don’t think so. It just feels less inspired.

Unlike Wolfenstein, you get to pick between three dudes this time. “Sarge,” who is more appropriately known as Doomguy, a lady, and a scientist. They all have different stats, so that’s different. I went with the lady because she is a lady. I didn’t really feel like my choice affected the game much. Maybe I had less HP? I’m not sure. The game also tries to throw a lot of more “interesting” weapons at you. For example, you early on get a Sentry Bot which you can send out and control separately from you and shoot guys with. However, it’s just not practical to use that stuff often, for reasons I am about to explain.

One of the weapons you get pretty early is a Holy Water Pistol. This refills at any sink or toilet. You can drink from it to heal yourself, or shoot enemies with it. It hurts demons, and inflicts a fear effect. Now, think about this: all enemies in Doom, except the basic zombie guys, are demons. This weapon clears rooms, keeps you safe, and you always have ammo for it. It just kind of breaks things wide open. Until you get to a boss, where it just doesn’t work, and you realize that without it, you really have shit for weapons! This weapon makes normal combat trivial, but then the bosses become a huge leap in difficulty. It’s just strange.

Similarly, all these stats are strange. You didn’t really have much in the way of player-changed stats in Wolfenstein, but in this game, you’re doing things like a dumb treadmill mini game to up your speed stat. The game wants you to grind, and the benefits for gaining one point are kind of minimal, as far as I could tell. I’m not going to sit there and grind until enemies don’t get two turns to my one or whatever. Not going to do it.

Yeah, I dunno. I would suggest you getting Wolfenstein over this one. They’re both very similar, in general, but I just felt like I found a lot of flaws with this “expanded” version. Maybe I’m just stupid though. I don’t know.

October 16, 2011

Voice In Your Ear Played By Random British Guy

I have done many things. However, one of the things I have done is beat the story mode of Anomaly: Warzone Earth HD on my iTronic Pad. Another thing I will have done in just a few moments is write a blog post about that experience.

Anomaly basically takes the idea of “WHAT IF YOU WERE THE ENEMIES IN A TOWER DEFENSE GAME?!” and attempts to make a whole game out of it. This is an interesting premise that hasn’t been done before! The result is fun but, unfortunately, not really a long-lasting fun like Tower Defense proper. At least in my opinion.

Basically, you have a little squad of six slots. You can place various units in them. APCs fire quickly and are general all-around units. Tanks fire slowly, but have heavy armor. Crawlers fire slowly, but fire very damaging rockets. Shield units put a recharging Halo-like shield on the units in front and behind it. Supply units spawn power ups when you get kills. Dragon tanks are super expensive, but can attack two towers at once and I think have a minimal DoT effect. You buy and arrange these units in these setups, then you move them about the map. You don’t have direct control, but you can basically plan where they will turn on the roads in the blasted cities you fight in, and can change that plan on the fly. For most missions, you are either trying to simply get through an area alive, or take out specific targets along your route.
This would be kind of boring, but the game gives you a bunch of powerups to play with. You can heal your units, or set up a smoke screen to make enemy fire less accurate, or set up a false unit for enemies to fire at. The real strategy of the game is deploying these correctly, because they are a limited resource, and are basically the only way of assuring you aren’t constantly losing units and not having enough money to replace them.

The interface in this game is just PERFECT for the iPad. I’m sure it’s a fun game on PC too, but I hear you have to move a little guy around to pick up powerups, which seems much less fun. Seriously, though, the interface is responsive and you understand it immediately. The game looks fantastic and doesn’t lag or have any issues like that whatsoever.

However, you really just kind of figure out what to do, and then the fun is gone. The campaign is 15 missions, and by the end of it, it really felt like they had used up all their variety ideas. Of course, they did a good job keeping it varied until then, but there wasn’t much left to do after that. So it was good it ended there. The game keeps an overall campaign score to compete with your friends, and has difficulty levels, of course, so if you want to eke out all the fun you can, that stuff is there. There’s also some sort of “Squad mode” which I assume is some sort of endless thing I don’t really want to play, so I haven’t. But, you know, they tried to make it worth your money.

I had a lot of fun with the game, but I also paid a dollar for it. It’s normally sold at a premium, and as much as I had fun, I dunno if it’s got enough staying power to be worth more than a buck or two. I probably wouldn’t have been happy to buy it on Steam for the 10 dollars it originally was. Then again, maybe I would be. I like game experiences that are fun, but don’t overstay their welcome, and this was that, to be sure. In any case, if the idea sounds appealing, it’s done really well, and you should try to play it sometime. It is fun. Just don’t expect it to last you a real long time.

October 9, 2011

Not One Single Dunk. Seriously.

I swear I had something to write about today, but fuck if I can remember what it was! So, you know, let’s just talk about Star Dunk Gold.

This was another game I downloaded for free after Tiny Tower asked me too, but unlike Hospital Story, which was pretty shitty if inoffensive due to the lack of cost, Star Dunk is actually kind of cool, if simple.

Basically, the idea is that you are shooting some mad hoops in space. You don’t actually dunk at all. The ball is placed at various places on the screen, and you move your finger to aim the little arc coming from the ball. Then you release, and if you aimed right, you make it in the basket. There is also a backboard, broken in the four sections. You can bounce the ball off of it to sink shots, of course, but each time you hit a section, it lights up, and when you’ve lit all four, you get a powerup. Some of them are useless (I have literally no idea what the fireball powerup does besides make you look cool.) and some of them are really useful, like the one that throws three balls for every one you throw, letting you sink three times the baskets if you’re good. You shoot for two minutes, and you try for a high score.

It’s simple, but the game has a really strong online feature. By switching the game to “online mode,” you will randomly be pulled into high score contests with other players playing the game. The game is constantly updating your position on the leaderboard as you’re desperately trying to sink dunks, and there always seems to be a fairly good number of people playing any time I’ve been on the game. It’s fun and simple competition with little overhead, because after two minutes, you’re done, and can just quit. I like that.

I guess Star Dunk Gold is some paid version that was free temporarily, and there’s a free version with ads? I dunno. I don’t know if I would pay money for this game. But it’s good, quick fun, which seems like the perfect sort of game to carry around on your phone while waiting in line. I approve of this game. I’m not going to spend any money on it’s microtransactions or anything, but I’ve had fun distracting myself with it.

October 5, 2011

Choo Choo Train Game! (Not Ticket to Ride)

Okay, let’s… well, let’s write about something less stupid than yesterday, hm?

Those hip cats over at the Video Games Hot Dog were talking about Trainyard. As you know, if anyone talks about any iPhone game and it is a dollar or less, than I will purchase it. This occurred, and I played it. Well, some of it. There’s a lot of it! And user created levels! But it is certainly a game.

Trainyard is a very abstract puzzle game that really has very little to do with trains. The idea is that there are train depots, who want certain trains of certain colors in a certain order and quantity. There are train stations that release trains of a certain color and number. You basically just draw tracks between them to make the trains go where they are needed.

However, the game is really weird. Trains can be smooshed together if two tracks combine at the point where two trains would meet. If two trains drive through each color, their colors mix, letting you make different colored trains. (So if you drive a red train and a yellow train past each other, you get an orange train.) What the game does is it will often give you way, way more trains than you need to deliver. You can’t deliver extra trains, so you have to figure out how to combine them. That’s the difficult part. You have to figure out timing and how to draw track so the trains meet at the right time. The main tool you have in doing this is switching tracks. This happens automatically, when a train drives over a track, so you have to set it up to cascade in a bit of a machine to get trains going where you need them to go.

There’s no timer, and no real motivation to push on via, I don’t know, a story or a scoring system or whatever. You can share your solutions with the world, if you want, and finishing puzzles unlocks more puzzles, but that’s really it. It’s just pure puzzles, and if that is your thing, there are a ton of them to work on here. I got a decent way in before I kind of burned out, and wanted to take a break. Then I wrote this. But it’s clear why the VGHD people liked it, and they are crazy “pure” puzzle people. If you are too, it’s totally worth a dollar.

September 28, 2011

Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Isn’t This Musical? Tap.

I guess I should probably look at the ol’ list of topics I haven’t touched yet and write about one of them, huh? Let’s see. Ah, Groove Coaster. How have I not talked about that yet?

Groove Coaster is a game by the people who made Space Invaders: Infinity Gene. I still haven’t gotten to play that one because I keep waiting for sales and stuff that don’t come, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. If it’s anything like Groove Coaster, I bet it’s great, because Groove Coaster is great.

You pick a little avatar (mine was a goldfish) and you ride a rail throughout a level. The rail twists and turns in a pleasing way. Whenever a dot would hit your little avatar, you tap to play a note. There are also hidden “ad lib” notes you can hit for extra points. In the beginning and on easier modes, the dots to tap are just sitting on the rail that you slide down, but on harder modes, they’ll do cool things like fly in from the side and other visual tricks that also make it a bit harder to keep your rhythm. They also add in “advanced moves” like holding down on the screen instead of tapping.

That’s… pretty much it. The music is the sort of standard techno fare you’d expect. It’s great for in-game, but it certainly isn’t something I’d listen to outside of playing Groove Coaster. Really, what draws you into this game is the great visual style. Again, from what I understand, it looks a ton like Infinity Gene, which I haven’t played, but it just looks great. It looks retro, but not in a particularly identifiable way. It doesn’t seem like they’re copying a style. It feels like their own, but it also feels old. It’s pretty cool. Colors flash, and it responds satisfyingly to your input.

The thing that seems weird is the ability to buy power-ups for real cash. I mean, I guess that’s just going to be a thing now? But it just seems really odd in a game with a clear DLC model of more songs, which they are also doing. I can’t really fault them for throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks, and it’s not like any of that stuff is required to enjoy the game: I certainly didn’t buy any of it and had a blast. But, well, it’s there if you’re allergic to it, I suppose.

I feel like this is not a game for everybody. It is very “old school rhythm game,” though not in the “punishingly hard” way like a Beatmani or something. But I love music games, and I quite loved this. So there.

September 13, 2011


Another iOS game I’ve been playing, one that is pretty fantastic, is Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard. It’s a Gameloft joint. I never know what to think about Gameloft. Their games are normally solid, but they’re also normally complete fucking ripoffs of console IP. Still, this one is licensed and it is really great.

I’ve been thinking of the game as SWAT 4 Lite. This game has most of the fun parts of SWAT 4 (looking under doors, planning attacks, clearing rooms, ordering your squad) without all the tedious parts (being incredibly difficult, following police procedure) which were cool to include in SWAT 4, but make it a game I will never play for fun. Basically, you get thrown into various scenarios around the world and your squad of three people (I guess the other three people of the Rainbow Six are backups in case you die? I dunno.) has to infiltrate buildings, rescue hostages, diffuse bombs, and so on.

The graphics in this game look fantastic for iOS. They’re basically of an early PS2 sort of quality. They’re not as pretty as, say, Infinity Blade, but this game is doing a whole lot more than Infinity Blade, what with tracking two companion AIs around with you and all the enemies, so I think it’s really good visually.
The game also has really slick presentation. When you peek under doors, the enemies are having funny or relevant conversations, which is a nice little touch. Your mission briefings and guy in the ear guy does a great job of being a tired veteran of this sort of thing. All of the icons on the screen make basically perfect sense without having to decipher them. (I knew, for instance, what the “Flashbang and Clear” icon meant before the tutorial told me.)

The controls, however, are shit. I’m sorry, but emulating dual analog shooters on the touchscreen just DOES NOT WORK, no matter how much you want it to. You just cannot do any sort of twitch shooting and moving in this game. Luckily, the game knows this, and this isn’t a twitch shooting kind of game. It’s very methodical, with a majority of the kills coming from ordering your teammates, if you’re playing right. They also layer on a fuck-ton of auto-aim, which helps a lot. When I first started the game, I thought the controls would be a dealbreaker, but as I learned that normal FPSing wasn’t the focus of the game, I really changed my tune. They did a good job of making up for the flaws in playing a shooter on an iPad.
The only other control thing that seems a little wonky is the cover mechanics. You can only get into cover at certain points, but the game is sometimes kind of picky about what distance from them you have to be to get into cover. It’s normally not a life-or-death thing: you’re normally getting into cover by a door before you tell your team to breach, for instance. Still, it’s a bit frustrating, and I kind of wish they would have made that as sticky and forgiving as the auto-aim for shooting is, as then you could take a little more active role in taking out bad guys without getting yourself killed, if you were the sort to want to do that.

The game has an EXP system that unlocks weapons a la Modern Warfare, because that’s a thing all games must have now. It’s inoffensive, but also mostly useless. I don’t know. I haven’t switched from the assault rifle I started with, because of course I want an assault rifle. It’s flexible. If I took a shotgun, I wouldn’t be as good as sniping from cover. These unlocks carry over into the deathmatch multiplayer, which I’m sure is pretty bad and I haven’t even pretended to be interested in. The game, however, does have co-op through the story, which is crazy and seems like a feature nobody would use, but I guess for the like 2 people who both own this game and have iPads in the same room or whatever, that would be pretty damn sweet.

I’ve played 5 or 6 of the missions so far, and I really had a lot of fun. I bought it on sale for a buck, and I don’t know if I’d quite bite at the $8.99 I think it normally sells for. But this is Gameloft: next time they have a sale, probably around Thanksgiving, it’ll be a buck again. When it is, you should really consider picking it up. It’s just a really polished, really fun game. I was surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did, and I’m glad I picked it up on a whim.

September 12, 2011

Ah, I See, His Name Is Dr. Home. How… Hilarious… I Guess…

Before I get started, I decided to add an iOS category today, which I should have done a long time ago, as I know some of you probably don’t give a shit about the iOS games I talk about. This took forever because I had to go and label all my old blogs, and I don’t know if you know this, but I have written a ton of stupid blogs! Anyway, I hope that’s useful. Then again, I doubt anyone uses the categories, but eh, whatever. It’s sorted and shit, right?

Anyway, today I want to talk about Hospital Story. No, this isn’t a game by Kairosoft, the people who brought you hits like Game Dev Story and Hot Springs Story. They really want you to think it is, though, with the icon looking pretty well exactly like those Kairosoft games. No, this is a fairly useless microtransationfest that probably isn’t going to hold your attention more than 15 minutes. Still, it’s free, so maybe 15 minutes is enough.

I downloaded this game because I often click on the little ads that give you free Tower Bux in Tiny Tower because 1) I want free Tower Bux, 2) It takes like 2 seconds, and 3) I want to support the people who made that game, because it is so awesome, and I assume they get money for people who agree to take a look. Hospital Story was the first game on there that really seemed like it might be fun. I thought maybe this would be someone else’s take on the Kairosoft sim model, and I was interested to try it.

Basically, the game goes in rounds. People come in the top of your hospital, and they need various treatments. You have a little electric machine, and little heart monitor, a strange machine that looks like a hand, and some sort of brain scanner. You drag the people to the machines, then tap on them to send one of your workers to do the procedure. Many patients need multiple types of procedures, so then you drag them to another place, tap on them to send a guy, and so on. Finally, after they’re cured, they’ll go to the desk, and, you guessed it, you have to tap on them to send a worker over to take their money. A game day is maybe a minute or two long, and then you can upgrade your equipment and hire more workers or whatever before going at it again. The game also gives you experience points, and you level up, but these levels seem to do absolutely nothing besides show up on the top of the screen. I don’t know why there’s an EXP system besides the fact that games have EXP systems, I guess.

This game is all about microtransations. You can upgrade your stuff with the in-game money, but hiring most of the staff requires “Medi-Points” which, as you can probably guess, they’ll be happy to sell you. They give you a few to start, which is enough to hire a few people and not be totally screwed, but it is really frustrating. They do have one thing I found smart, though: they have this weird thing where you can elect to watch commercials to get small amounts of Medi-points. Instead of forcing them on you, it’s voluntary, but they reward you. I could really get behind this sort of model as an alternative to paying, but the returns just aren’t any good. I had to watch like 7 commercials to get enough Medi-points to hire one of the cheapest nurses, and that was only with the bonus points they gave me for starting the game. I’d be doing that for an hour or more before I’d be able to buy, say, the Cat Doctor. It’s just not worth it.

As you play through the game, patients start coming in faster and faster, and you have to scramble to get them all taken care of. This might be a cool little arcade game, if for the fact that basically the only thing that makes it possible to do the numbers they throw at you is having enough staff. If you don’t have enough, you’re screwed. If you do, it’s a cakewalk. And, of course, you have to hire new workers with Medi-Points. Yeah.

Once the game picked up speed, I had fun with it for a little while as a time-waster, but it’s nowhere near deep enough of a game that anyone would ever think to spend money on it, and their little “watch ads” thing, while smart, just doesn’t give enough of a return for you to even want to try it. It’s free, sure, but there’s no reason to try this game.