Tag Archives: iPad

Why Nostalgia Can Be A Dangerous Thing

Nostalgia is awesome, it allows long-time videogame fans such as myself to go back and play through some excellent retro games. Take Earthbound as a recent example of nostalgia working in my favor. Game companies like Nintendo have been making millions off of gamers’ nostalgia for retro games. It’s one of the main reasons why the Virtual Console has been such an international hit, because people always hold certain vintage games in a certain light because of the nostalgia associated. This article isn’t about the pros of nostalgia though, no instead this article looks at how certain publishers are using nostalgia to cash in, when in fact their product is actually garbage. Case in point…

Say hello to Contra: Evolution, which is a complete reworking of the original NES classic by Punchbox and Konami. This is a perfect example of a publisher simply cashing in on players’ nostalgia of one of the best NES games ever released. This game is absolutely horrible as it is, yet looks awesome and is currently one of the highest selling apps on Apple’s App Store. It has sold well over 2 million units already, since being released in late June. So what gives?

For one thing, Konami knows if they price this thing at $0.99 people will buy it based purely on nostalgia, and that’s exactly what people are doing. The comments say it all.

“This game plays like complete crap, but for a buck why the F not.”

“I can’t even survive the first minute, but come on its an NES classic!”

Doesn't this look awesome?  Shame it plays so awful that you won't want to play for more than five seconds after purchasing it.
Doesn’t this look awesome? Shame it plays so awful that you won’t want to play for more than five seconds after purchasing it.

The list of comments like these go on and on for pages. So what kind of a message are gamers telling publishers when they purchase games like this? Well for one, that there’s no real point to put any effort into making a videogame based on an existing property. To make matters worse the in-app purchases are a complete joke. You can pay real-world money to purchase extra lives, continues, and even weapons. I mean, really?!?! What’s sickening is that the game is making millions for Konami!

Don’t think for a minute it’s just Konami either, oh no, all the big console and PC publishers have learned that people buying these games are completely clueless. Capcom released an all but unplayable version of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, EA released Battlefield 3: Aftershock which just might be the worst app ever released on the App Store, and the list goes on and on. So why are these smart AAA publishers doing this, because people are buying these dollar games like wildfire, which constantly pushes them to the top of the charts and as a result gives these companies no incentive whatsoever to try and make better products. In the end, they’re using our very memories of these classic experiences, or famed franchises against us.

As awesome as it sounds to play a classic game completely remastered, without having proper and precise controls there’s no way these games can hold a candle to their original versions, however people overlook these “minor inconveniences” thanks to the incredibly low asking price. This is one of the major reasons why dedicated portable gaming devices like the 3DS have been so successful, because publishers know they have to put a thoughtful product out there or no one will pay $40 or more for it. Dedicated gamers know this, and as a result are playing significantly better games.

At the end of the day people are to blame for what’s currently happening to the mobile gaming market, and I fear that one day this could spread to the rest of the industry. Once prices go low enough, and people start buying games without even thinking about what they’re buying, publishers stop caring about releasing a quality product. As it is now, I’ll gladly go buy Contra Rebirth on the Wii eShop for a few bucks more, knowing at the very least I’m getting a much better product in the end.

A New Mega Man Game?!

CAPCOM has not enjoyed the best relationship with its fanbase for the last year or so, especially with the Mega Man faithful. Following the cancellation of Mega Man Universe and Mega Man Legends 3, fans are feeling particularly sour. Some people look for any reason to be upset, whether it’s the inclusion of hilarious Bad Box Art Mega Man in Street Fighter X Tekken (which is so radical I’d buy the game just for him), the lack of Mega Man in Ultimate Marvel vs. CAPCOM 3 (the way he was butchered in Marvel vs. CAPCOM 1 and 2 makes me grateful he wasn’t in, to be honest), and the frankly lazy iOS port of Mega Man X. But some fans will be very justified in their dissatisfaction with CAPCOM’s latest announcement, Rockman Xover (pronounced “cross over”).

The concept made me excited beyond words at first. According to the translated description posted on sites like The Mega Man Network, the story goes: “It’s a world where all the worlds of Rockman have crossed over. The gulf of space-time has been closed thanks to the efforts of Dr. Wily, Sigma and other villains to Rockman and co.! Dr Light and Dr. Cossack work together in creating a new robot to oppose this crisis. A production model, this robot uses “battle memory” that has been scattered over the world, and possesses infinite potential to transform and increase his power. The player battles evil as this new type robot. Create your own Rockman, and battle with others to protect peace!”

A crossover game putting together every series in the Mega Man franchise? That sounds amazing! I would’ve loved to see all of the Mega Man characters team up to take down villains from the franchise. The description, however, leads me to believe that it isn’t really “all” of the games, but rather the classic and X series respectively, given the inclusion of Dr. Light and Dr. Cossack, as well as Sigma. What could possibly be so bad about this? Well, it’s a Social RPG for iOS. I can’t say I’m too excited for the idea. Actual game mechanic details are slim at this point, so it’s probably too early to make a judgment call, but I just can’t shake this feeling of disappointment. Some fans are obviously taking this too far, claiming that CAPCOM intends to kill the franchise intentionally–which is just silly and misguided. Hopefully more games will be announced as part of the 25th anniversary and this is just a taste of things to come, and for what it’s worth, this may end up being a fun and addictive little diversion.

 

 

As a quick disclaimer about compatibility,  it will run on iPhone 3GS/4/4S, and iPod Touch models beyond generation 3. It is playable on iPad, but the game is not designed for the iPad’s resolution. The game is currently set for release in Japan this Fall. CAPCOM has already confirmed that this will be released in the US and European markets. Thanks to 4Gamer.net for posting the original story.

 

N.O.V.A. 3 Review

N.O.V.A. 3 (Android/iOS)
Players: 1-12
Genre: FPS
Developer: Gameloft
Marketplace/Apple Store Price: $6.99 ($4.99 through Gameloft’s website)
Release Date: May 31, 2012

Played on ASUS Transformer Pad TF300 w/Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Sampled on HTC Rezound running Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)

Parent Talk: N.O.V.A. 3, with its technical polish, is unsurprisingly the most explicit installment of Gameloft’s sci-fi franchise. Kal Wardin swears, the combat is more visceral, and there are suggestive themes. The game overall is the most ‘mature’ of the series.

Review Basis: Finished campaign on Normal; participated in several online (wi-fi) competitive matches.

Our old A.I. friend Yelena has beckoned N.O.V.A. hero Kal Wardin back to Earth. He doesn’t know what for on the way in, but it doesn’t take long for him to discover that Volterites have assaulted his home planet. Why? There’s supposed to be a ceasefire between humanity and the alien race. That matters not however, as Kal quickly joins a ragtag N.O.V.A. team working to repel the invasion. He ultimately learns that the humans have done something very foolish, and Prometheus steps in to force our hero into his final mission. Let’s just say things don’t look good for humans or Volterites.

The Great:

Eye-popping! When N.O.V.A. 3’s teaser trailers emerged, everyone agreed that Gameloft was once again raising the bar for visual polish in a mobile game. That’s what N3 has done. Our Executive Director Jarrod and I agree that the game could easily pass as a first-generation Xbox 360 or PS3 title. It’s not exactly shocking given the ongoing technological evolution of mobile devices, but I don’t think anyone anticipated a game like N3 arriving so soon. I can only imagine what it looks like first-hand on the iPad’s retina display. Yet no matter your device, the N.O.V.A. and Volterite models, environments, and effects are second-to-none. N.O.V.A. 3 is in the top three prettiest mobile games.

The Good:

+ The cast. Kal Wardin, Yelena, Prometheus, and a couple newcomers come together to deliver the most enjoyable and emotional plot in this sci-fi series. I cared more about each than in the previous two installments. That’s always good.

+ The weapons. Kal’s arsenal is fun to play with. I’m sad that the dual-wield pistols and auto-shotgun were given the boot, but the rest of Wardin’s toys are entertaining.

+ More skills, again. Melee has been inexplicably removed, but at least replaced and supplemented with ‘slow motion’ and ‘repel’ abilities. Thus, you can either send enemies flying (a la Jean Grey), or enter what is unaffectionately known as bullet time. Both are fun and useful, along with the mainstay freeze power.

+ Piloting a mech. It’s more or less identical to doing so in N.O.V.A. 2, except flashier.

+ Grenades. I’m often unimpressed with the results of explosives in games, especially shooters. Yet N.O.V.A. 3 makes every grenade toss a wonderful anticipation of a loud and pretty boom, not to mention a dramatic scattering of any Volterites caught in the blast.

+ Flamethrower! OK, I suppose I can forgive the omission of an auto-shotgun. It may not arrive until later in the campaign, but you can’t help but smile while burning Volterites to a crisp.

The So-So:

+/- Gyroscope controls. N.O.V.A. 3 is the first mobile game where I’ve given gyro control a spin. It’s an aid and a pain at the same time. Gyro doesn’t replace a second analog stick, but still allows you to not have to swipe across the screen to aim in battle. However, it can easily disorient you when enemies move around around a lot. You can only twist a tablet so far, thus trying to move, fire and use the gyro function in a way that feels natural is next to impossible. Where’s my Android gamepad?

+/- Voice acting. The voices sound great; the script is written well, and the dialogue is convincing. It’s too bad then, that the mouth syncing is hit-or-miss. You should never see a character’s mouth still moving when his/her lines are finished being spoken.

+/- Multiplayer. The overall structure is very well-done. There’s a healthy selection of enjoyable maps; you can customize your warrior to a great degree; you can participate in tournaments; the modes you expect are there, etc. The big problems are lag and players infrequently joining matches in progress. Lag isn’t prevalent in every match I’ve played, but very noticeable when it occurs. I wish that those who pay for 3G or 4G service could take advantage of that for online play. It’s also not fun to be consistently outnumbered…

The Bad:

–  Let me customize! I don’t understand why Gameloft’s older Modern Combat 3 allows you to choose where to place every input icon, and choose the size of each, but N.O.V.A. 3 doesn’t. You can shift everything but the reload function, which is the most important to be able to! This isn’t so bad for smartphone users, but you must completely move your hand on a 10.1″ tablet to manually replenish your weapon’s magazine. That’s unintuitive.

– Ending. I’m disappointed with how lazy Gameloft is with concluding its games. After a brief final scene after defeating the last boss, N3 abruptly ends. No closing cutscene that clarifies plot elements, nothing. I’m interested in knowing what happened to these characters, and likely never will. This is worse than the pre-DLC Mass Effect 3!

– Renting weapons, seriously? It’s very strange that the sci-fi weapons are only accessible from the in-game store. You can’t acquire them by eliminating enemies. It’s further disconcerting that it isn’t a permanent purchase. I bought a fun, new gun the moment I had a chance, and it was gone the following mission. Eh?…

– Aiming on a jeep. I thought there was something horribly wrong with my game while manning a jeep during the second mission. I even restarted it multiple times. Several minutes later, I finally discovered that shifting your reticule around normally requires swiping from one side of the screen to the other. Well, that’s plain stupid. Does this affect phones too? I don’t know.

The Ugly:

Bugs galore! It’s very unfortunate that N3 looks so good and is fun, but filled to the brim with bugs. You name a glitch, and it’s probably able to happen. I fell through floors. Key game events failed to trigger. The game force-closed. The Volterites would stop moving. I would stop being able to move. And I’m sure others encountered glitches that I haven’t. I don’t know who was responsible for the game’s testing, but I strongly question the job they did for this experience. I hope Gameloft releases a big patch job soon.

The Lowdown:

Since its teaser trailers released, I rooted for N.O.V.A. 3 to be the best of the best in mobile gaming. In the looks department, Gameloft’s product has virtually no equal. Yet in so many areas, N3 reminds you that videogames will always be imperfect. To what extent is up to the developer and its QA staff, and the extent to which this title takes you out of the experience is discouraging. Of course Gameloft can issue updates in the future, and I believe they will. For now, Kal Wardin’s final mission may be fun romp, but it may leave you feeling a tad irked when all is said and done.

Final Score: 7/10

N.O.V.A. 2 Review

N.O.V.A. 2 (Android/iOS)
Players: 1-8
Genre: FPS
Developer: Gameloft
Marketplace/Apple Store Price: $6.99 ($4.99 through Gameloft’s website)
Release Date: December 16, 2010

Game played on HTC Thunderbolt running Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)

Parent Talk: If your child plays Halo, there’s no reason he/she can’t play N.O.V.A. as well. The violence and content overall is much milder.

Review Basis: Finished campaign onNormal; participated in an online (wi-fi) competitive match.

N.O.V.A. 2 is a sequel to N.O.V.A., or Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance. Six years have passed since Kal Wardin faced off with the Xenos aliens and encountered the Judges, and now humanity is at each other’s throats in a bloody civil war. You have the Terran Orbitals on one side, and the Human-Volterite Alliance on the other. Wardin tried to leave his N.O.V.A. service [again], but is thrust into the middle of this conflict when the peaceful planet of Scorpius that he retired to is attacked by the Volterites.

The Great:

Combat variety. Wardin of course fights most of this war on-foot, but also mans a jeep turret, pilots a giant mech, drives a speed bike (a la Star Wars), and has access to much more weaponry than the original N.O.V.A. provided. Kal has dual-wield pistols, a submachine gun, pump-action and auto-shotguns, grenade and rocket launchers, a slew of Volterite weapons, and explosives. You really can’t be bored using N.O.V.A. 2’s toys. Of course I’m partial to the auto-shotgun and always will be, and Kal’s didn’t disappoint.

The Good:

+ Much-improved visuals. Like the transition from Modern Combat: Sandstorm to Black Pegasus, N2’s improvement over N.O.V.A. is striking with its jump in polygons and overall greater detail.

+ The cast. I appreciated Kal’s personality much more than last time. His lines before sounded awkward, as though his voice actor was altogether uninterested. He offers more emotion and substance here, and it helps his relationship with Yelena. Neither is perfect, but the communication isn’t ever really annoying.

+ Upgrades. It’s pitiful how few hidden credits I found in the campaign, but I enjoyed using them nonetheless to improve Kal’s abilities and weapon attributes.

+ More skills. The freeze ability returns, but the same icon on the touch screen eventually can be switched to a disc attack. It’s fun to get up-close-and-personal to your enemies and issue an insta-kill. You simply have to be careful the opposite doesn’t happen.

+ Piloting a mech. (I wanted to offer more detail.) One mission places you in the body of a metal beast, sort of like an AT-AT. You get to fire a chain gun, let rockets loose, and cause a mess of chaos. Destroy the environment, other mechs, and a bunch of hostile ground troops. Very enjoyable!

+ Enemy AI. It’s fascinating, and somewhat sad, that N.O.V.A. offers fairly intelligent enemies. This is a mobile game with much more limited technology mind you. They try to dodge when it makes sense, band together, and use cover in a moderately wise fashion. I’m quite impressed.

The So-So:

+-  Music. It does the job, but is forgettable. The main menu theme is catchy though.

+- Multiplayer. Accuse me of not experiencing it enough by participating in only one match, but I could do nothing more. Just a few people were online, as obviously fans are playing N.O.V.A. 3 now, and I was lucky to even do that. It was a decent match. Nothing exciting, but I managed to land some kills.

The Bad:

–  Poor optimization. N.O.V.A 2 never played smoothly for me. I’m again sure iDevice users don’t experience this, and I still don’t know if other Android gamers do, but the game lagged and stuttered considerably across the board. It wasn’t enough to ruin the experience, but it certainly doesn’t add to it.

– Driving a speed bike. (I wanted to offer more detail.) A number of times you drive a speed bike. That’s not so bad; you tilt your mobile device to steer, and it works well enough. What I hated was shooting a gun at the same time. Why they decided to place the fire icon squarely in front of your view is beyond me. Plus, it’s not automatic, so you have to tap a million times. I died quite a bit. Not enjoyable…

– No level select? It’s not unreasonable to expect access to each level individually as you finish them, right? Apparently N.O.V.A. 2 thinks it is. After I finished the campaign, only starting a new game altogether was available.

– Too much! A virtual stick, fire icon, reload, weapon-switch, special ability, grenade, jump, pause; all these inputs are on your screen simultaneously. I don’t care if you’re playing on a smartphone or tablet; that’s a little much to keep track of all at once.

The Ugly:

Kill that b******! You hear this line over and over from the enemy. I was tired of it after a handful of times, and it didn’t stop there. Videogame dialogue overkill, to say the least.

The Lowdown:

It’s nice to see N.O.V.A. take on more of its own personality with this sequel, despite how obvious the franchise mimics Halo. Kal and Yelena are more enjoyable, and the offensive arsenal is exquisite. The story isn’t exactly riveting, but Gameloft has quite the above average shooter here. That’s impressive considering their AAA Modern Combat series. Maintaining two quality 3D FPS properties at once can’t be easy.

Final Score: 8/10

 

And while you wait for Justin to finish N.O.V.A. 3 on his Android tablet, please enjoy the trailers below for the game, straight from Gameloft!

Shadowgun: The Leftover Review

Shadowgun: The Leftover (v1.1) (Android/iOS)
Players: 1
Genre: Shooter
Developer: Madfinger
[Apple] Release Date: December 21, 2011
[Android] Release Date: January 30, 2012

Game played on HTC Thunderbolt running Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)

Note: Please read our full review for the original Shadowgun to learn the core details of the game. This follow-up covers the enhancements featured in The Leftover expansion.

Review Basis: Finished on Normal difficulty.

If you haven’t played or finished Shadowgun, don’t worry I won’t spoil anything. Just don’t take that to mean that the game’s story is some Pulitzer work. The Leftover picks up exactly where Shadowgun ends, seeing as Mr. Slade isn’t quite done with his mission. John has to…you know, leave? Trusty S.A.R.A. is fully aware of our bald friend’s situation, and most happy to lead him to the exit.

The Great:

Better than Shadowgun. The Leftover isn’t a giant improvement over the main campaign, but brings upgrades to the table. Four additional levels, a new weapon, original enemy type, fresh environment interaction, and soundtrack come with Madfinger’s. It’s also more fun, and I wish Shadowgun played this way in the first place.

The Good:

+ Affects Shadowgun campaign. I didn’t play Shadowgun before The Leftover was released for Android, and that’s probably a good thing. TL adds a roll function, camera shaking and bullet trails that wouldn’t have been there to spice up the action had I been an earlier customer. Where’s the ability to run though?

+ Over or under. Madfinger added finger-swiping to slide under and hop over obstacles in the environment.

+ New riffs. The music is the same rock motif, but it’s nice to hear new stuff.

+ Ends quicker. TL is a better experience than Shadowgun, but I’m glad it didn’t last longer. I was bored with the main game by the time I finished it, and I didn’t want that to be how I felt in the end about The Leftover.

+ Still fantastic visuals. Subtle improvements all-around make an already-impressive looker even better-looking.

The So-So:

+- Not exactly devastating. The plasma rifle is a neat toy; it looks and sounds cool. However, it doesn’t rip enemies apart like you’d hope. So much for that technology.

The Bad:

Overlapping inputs. With the plasma rifle providing a fifth weapon, it was occasionally a pain to select it. This probably doesn’t apply to tablet users, but I shouldn’t be compelled to move the action inputs around just because I’m playing on a phone. I liked where my main functions were, and shouldn’t be punished for that.

Why bother asking? You make a seemingly important decision after defeating the final boss of Shadowgun. Yet I think all it affects is the very brief conversation that ensues. When The Leftover ends, I couldn’t tell you what else that choice may have influenced.

The Ugly:

Still lags… I no longer expect the more sophisticated Android games to perform well on my Thunderbolt, which is sad. It’s a powerful device, so I don’t understand this problem.

The Lowdown:

It’s great that Android and iOS make it so easy for app developers to push out updates to their paying customers, but why not release Shadowgun without the need for a Leftover? I think it would’ve been a better product overall. I do understand Deadzone, the game’s upcoming multiplayer component, being released independently, but perhaps I’m alone here. Still, I don’t want to come off as having hated John Slade’s adventure; I didn’t. It’s a quality game that demolishes most efforts out there for Android and iOS gaming. If you’re a shooter aficionado, Shadowgun and its expansion would be a great investment.

Average Score Scale: 7.5 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 8/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: It’s better than Shadowgun.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: It may be better, but it’s not that exciting either.

The Walking Dead Episode 1 Review

The Walking Dead Episode 1 (Available on PC, Mac, iPad, PS3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: April 27, 2012
Price: $5/400 MS Points

Parent Talk: The Walking Dead is rated M, and for good reason. It contains gory scenes and plenty of F-bombs.

Plays Like: An adventure game set in The Walking Dead universe.

Review Basis: Completed Episode 1.

I’m not ashamed to be a huge fan of The Walking Dead comic series. It’s my favorite in fact. Think it’s just another zombie apocalypse story? Wrong. Instead of banking on every cliché known of the genre, TWD actually deals with the issues at stake if such a tragedy would ever occur. Zombies are second to character development. The writers aren’t afraid to kill characters either, even major ones left and right. It’d be foolish to think that everyone should survive during such an adventure. Further shocking; I had no clue a game was coming out for my beloved series. As soon as I saw the reviews, I knew I had to play. Here’s what I think.

The Great:

Perfectly represents The Walking Dead. The game takes place in the same universe as the comics, but the cast is brand-new. You bump into familiar faces, but this is a fresh experience that retains the series’ charm. It’s classic adventure: you find items, talk to people, and solve puzzles. Like the comics, the character interactions steal the show. Nobody deals with the disaster the same. Some characters clash. In horror movies, it never makes sense why they don’t cooperate, and instead spend as much time fighting each other as they do the monsters. Here (just like in the books… again repeating myself but it’s an honest take on the series) you come to understand why people behave that way.

The Good:

+ Simple, but quality controls. You walk around exploring, interacting with different items or people. The combat functions basically the same, but feels tense thanks to the clever targeting system.

+ Decisions count. Your choices impact every character. This is the first of five episodes, but Telltale promises that everything you do will carry over. A simple lie might seem harmless, but destroy a relationship in a future episode. Plus, two instances force you to save a character, but not another. This guarantees tons of replay. With three save files to boot, you’ll want to finish the game over and over just to witness the different outcomes.

+ New details. We finally understand better how the epidemic started, but don’t know the cause. (I hope we never do; it shouldn’t matter). TWD starts at a time when the events are just unfolding. It’s always entertaining to see someone’s first reaction to a zombie.

+ The episodic setting. I think the pacing will be perfect with these episodes. Plus, the price is right. Buying each individually will cost $25 in the end, which isn’t shabby for a 12-hour console experience.

+ Sweet visuals. It’s just what I imagined TWD would look like in game form.

+ As fun as the comics. The story has the potential to be even better because of the branching paths. There will probably be dozens of endings and thousands of possibilities. You can stick to your original choice for an authentic adventure, or try to experience it in many different ways.

+ Time limits. To emphasize the survival-horror feel, you don’t have forever to think about your decisions. This fits the game like a glove. Just like in real life, the wrong words might come out in a tense, “under pressure” situation.

The Bad:

– No inverting? Why can’t I invert the controls? My mind learned the controls after an hour or so, but there’s no reason not to allow such a simple option. For some, TWD could prove unplayable. Fix this soon please…. or include it in future episodes.

The Lowdown:

Here’s a few reasons why TWD should be your next purchase:

* You’re a fan of [classic] adventure games.

* You adore zombie movies/books/stories etc.

* You like The Walking Dead series in either the comic or TV show format.

* You like video games.

* You have $5 lying around.

Only gamers who insist on constant action or can’t stand adventures wouldn’t like The Walking Dead. It’s worth playing, and for such a cheap price, The Walking Dead deserves your attention. While you’re at it, check out the comic books too. They’re awesome. A must-buy!

Final Score: 9.5/10

Shadowgun Review

Shadowgun (v1.1) (Android/iOS)
Players: 1
Genre: Shooter
Developer: Madfinger
Google Play Price: $5.25
Apple Store Price: $2.99
[Apple] Release Date: September 28, 2011
[Android] Release Date: October 26, 2011

Game played on HTC Thunderbolt running Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)

Parent Talk: Shadowgun stars a sarcastic and occasionally potty-mouthed galactic bounty hunter. You shoot to kill genetically-engineered enemies in this third-person shooter, but the violence isn’t as pronounced as Gears of War or Call of Duty. Shadowgun is relatively mild compared to most of today’s popular shooters.

Plays Like: Gears of War, and any other third-person shooter that features cover.

Review Basis: Finished the game on Normal difficulty.

It’s a good thing Shadowgun is playable now, because none of us will be around in its year 2350 era of evil governments ruling the denizens of space and terrestrial bodies. John Slade, a galactic mercenary and protagonist of epic baldness, is contracted by the shady Toltech Corporation to capture one Dr. Edgar Simon. The former employee of the trans-galactic entity and renowned geneticist is wanted. Why? Well you’re not told of course, but Slade doesn’t care about anything but payday. Kindly bring the mad scientist out of hiding, and nevermind that the gentleman hiring you looks like a cross between Shredder and Baraka.

The Great:

This looks….great! If Modern Combat 3 is the visual benchmark for FPS titles, and Infinity Blade for RPGs on mobile devices, then Shadowgun is the same for third-person shooters. Powered by the Unity engine on iOS and Android platforms, Madfinger put together an amazing-looking product. John Slade looks like a perfect fit for the COGs, if you ignore his lack of tank armor, and the environments overflow with detail. The opening cinematic is especially striking, reminding me of the quality of Dead Space. If you like games that show off your phone or tablet’s horsepower, Shadowgun will do that.

The Good:

+ Set-piece bosses. You face off against a number of giant mechanical bosses. They’re appropriately challenging (meaning they hurt), and fun to eliminate.

+ Boomstick. Forget realism; whacking foes from yards away with your auto-shotty is a plus in my book.

+ S.A.R.A. Finish the analogy: Master Chief is to Cortana, as John Slade is to _____. If you answered S.A.R.A., have yourself a cookie. Anyway, I can’t believe Slade’s robotic mission support never annoyed me. She doesn’t speak too much or too little, and actually has a cool personality, occasionally even mimicking Slade’s wit. Madfinger designed a great companion for this ride.

+ Interaction. Piggy-backing the previous item, though Slade and S.A.R.A.’s relationship doesn’t avoid missteps, I thoroughly enjoyed their back-and-forth banter.

+ Hacking. Various weapon crates and locked door panels require you to watch the game highlight any of nine symbols in a random order and length on the input pad. You repeat it, and move on. It’s nothing extravagant, but a healthy distraction from all the fighting.

+ Cover. It works mostly well. When Slade approaches a barrier designated for cover, he auto-snaps to it. You can then pop out for some shots, or slide along left or right. Some cover degrades from enemy fire as well, forcing you to make another move.

+ Hidden cards. Shadowgun tucks away over 20 symbols that resemble the game’s app icon. Each unlocks relevant information about the campaign, which is interesting to glance at.

The So-So:

+- Music. Madfinger employs a handful of guitar-laden tracks to attempt to keep the action entertaining. It’s successful initially, but I was sick of hearing the same material the further I progressed.

+- No melee? Gears of War fans I’m sure would agree that the chainsaw bayonet spoils gamers. Such fun… With Shadowgun being so similar, it’s somewhat disappointing that you can’t even whack a guy with your gun.

+- Controls. They generally work well, but sometimes you’ll fumble looking around or something when your finger slips or is on the wrong part of the screen. Thankfully your gun always shoots, and shooting is fun.

+- Enemy tactics. At the beginning it appears that Slade’s opposition works to flank and out-muscle you, but it’s clear over time that Simon’s minions rely on generic path-finding that at times provokes odd decision-making. Why would a guy I’m shooting from a distance suddenly run right up to the other side of the barrier I’m using? They’re not completely stupid, but not smart either.

The Bad:

– Stuttering. I’ve learned it’s not necessarily your device’s fault when a game doesn’t run smoothly on it. I’ll probably never know for sure, but sadly Shadowgun was never silky on my Thunderbolt when blasting away Dr. Simon’s legion. Hiccups even occurred moving around. This tends to be discouraging, but I still enjoyed the game in spite.

– We meet again… Maybe I’m picky, but I think Shadowgun could’ve spared more enemy types, or at least balanced the encounter frequency. It wasn’t long before I started to wonder if our mad scientist’s army enlisted mostly Psycho Mantis wannabes, and I think it did. Yes you also battle tickers, grenade-launching space suits, and others, but they’re uncommon in comparison.

– Return to sender, please! Shadowgun didn’t seem interested in weapon variety. You start with a standard-issue SMG, and eventually acquire a shotgun, grenade launcher and rocket launcher. These instruments reside in distinct treasure chest-looking crates too, and the number of duplicates made me sad. Why bother leaving these all over the place when ammo is already aplenty? Think of it like opening one of your most anticipated games as a present on your birthday, only to do it again at Christmas. Um…

– Take a bullet, will ya?! It’s stupid that Shadowgun requires your targeting reticule to be red before an enemy receives damage. In other words, if you point at a creep and the reticule isn’t red, cover or no cover, damage won’t be done. Stupid, no? And worse, often half or more of your SMG clip is needed to down a single enemy.

The Ugly:

Final boss. If you learn the quick way to kill him like I did, after several tries that is, it’s not so frustrating. Otherwise, the battle is frustrating. The ending is also a purposeful cliffhanger that encourages you to play The Leftover expansion included, and plain uninteresting altogether. After about four or five hours, I was ready to put the game away.

The Lowdown:

Shadowgun’s problems damage the experience for me; I won’t lie. Of course you may not encounter everything I did either, which I would be happy for. Yet regardless of what issues affect who, Madfinger still produced a very good third-person shooter for phones and tablets that probably knows no equal right now. The action maintains your attention well enough, and Unity really makes the game beautiful on whatever your screen may be. The price is acceptable on both platforms, so by all means invest on the one you have.

Average Score Scale: 7.5 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 7.5/10 (Neutral)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: Shadowgun doesn’t lag on your device.

AirAttack HD Review

AirAttack HD (v1.3) (Android/iOS)
Players: 1
Genre: Shooter (plane)
Developer: Art In Games
Google Play Price: $2.99
Apple Store Price: $.99
[Apple] Update Date: November 30, 2011
[Android] Update Date: July 28, 2011

Game played on HTC Thunderbolt running Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)

Parent Talk: AirAttack HD is a fighter plane shooter that tasks you with destroying aerial and terrestrial targets. You witness explosions left and right, but nothing that should harm a child.

Plays Like: Other plane/space shooters.

 

Review Basis: Finished the game on Easy andNormal difficulties.

AirAttack HD sounds awfully generic, but don’t let its unexciting name fool you. AA HD is one of the most polished, frantically fun and memorable smartphone/tablet plane shooters. Despite a completely non-existent story, you battle sky and land enemies in a fictional Nazi Germany WWII era, and the action happily keeps you on your toes.

The Great:

The orchestrated music. It isn’t often that a game’s sole standout attribute is its music, but I was enthralled by AirAttack HD’s the moments the menu theme began to play. The sound quality is amazing, and to this day I’m dumbfounded that a mobile game can bring audio like it to the table. The track list isn’t extensive, but what pours in through your earbuds as you’re playing sticks in the mind. The material is exactly fitting for an action game or movie. Art in Games’ efforts are commendable.

The Good:

+ Very challenging. No gamer wants to see ‘Game Over’ on his/her screen, but to avoid that here you must focus on hostiles in the air and on the ground across the eight missions that span four sets of ‘Operations’ (Green Fox, White Storm, Dark Sand, and Red Sea). Numerous enemy projectile types and the ominous bodies of unfriendly vessels constantly threaten your well-being, and dodging both is a must. You’ll pay the price for carelessness.

+ Work of art. Art In Games lives up to its group’s name with the visual presentation AirAttack HD brings. The action never slowed on my phone, a pleasant surprise, and I’ve no complains about what I saw. The environment terrain varies across the different missions; there are many enemy plane types; every boss is unique; the physics are perfectly convincing; there’s real-time shadowing; etc. This mobile title serves the eye candy.

+ Boss fights. Each stage sends you a unique major foe, and they’re all fun to fight. It’s a mix of logical and bizarre. You start off destroying a castle stronghold, and meet others later on such as a gigantic destroyer boat, a secret mech, and more.

+ Constant fire. The game fires your main weapon constantly; I appreciate that.

+ Two planes. Before each mission begins, you choose between the standard fighter and one that can switch between bullet fire and using a flamethrower. That’s quite a startling difference, but the options are welcome and shake up the gameplay a little bit.

+ Interesting upgrades. At pre-determined points of each mission, a giant aerial store swoops in to sell weapon upgrades and specials. You can soup up your main gun(s), purchase an auto-turret, equip a lightning beam, and more. It all costs money that can be tough to acquire, but it’s a guilty pleasure to possess a fully tricked-out fighter plane.

+ New Game+. AirAttack HD strangely doesn’t tell you that it can be replayed with all your purchased upgrades. Yet I figured out that if you play again on the same difficulty that you just finished, your upgrades and high score are preserved. It’s pretty sweet because the enemy basically takes a pounding at that point.

The So-So:

+- Finger obstruction. This may not be an issue if you play AA HD on a tablet, but I think it’s cheap to lose a life simply because you couldn’t see an enemy projectile or craft about to hit because your finger was in the way.

+- Distinguishing pickups. A Help section educates you about the different facets of the action, and the different pickups that appear after creating chaos. However, not only do most people not bother with those things, but its organization doesn’t encourage a proper study of the information. Why not give just a simple tutorial mission that explains the money, weapon upgrade and other awards left behind?

+- Dropping bombs. You can drop a bomb by double-tapping the screen, but it’s not consistent. There’s an independent icon in the bottom-left that’s specifically for it, but that amounts to nothing more than a distraction. Given that the majority of your cash is acquired by exploding ground structures, you’d want a reliable input method while still concentrating upon dodging enemies and attacking them.

The Bad:

– Too short! You might encounter a handful of Game Over screens because games like AirAttack HD don’t highlight your skills. However, that’s no substitute for a game to have an appropriate length. You can finish all four Operations within two or three hours, and less than an hour on New Game+. Art In Games didn’t commit a egregious offense with this, but an additional Operation or two, or even another mode would’ve been nice.

The Lowdown:

Regardless of your platform and associated cost, you can enjoy a very well-put-together plane shooter on your iOS or Android phone/tablet. I think the effort we see that AIG put into AirAttack HD is a step or two above most mobile games. Sure, it’s not very long and you can struggle controlling the game a bit, but those flaws are bunk considering the grand scheme. So if you’re tired of all the first-person shooters this generation, why don’t you hop into the cockpit of AirAttack HD and blow something up?

Average Score Scale: 8.5 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 9.0/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: It’s short, lacks a story, and not always easy to handle. Regardless, AirAttack HD is great fun.

Angry Birds Has Now Invaded Space!!!

This is likely going to be the biggest release of the entire year, yes bigger than Call of Duty, at least in terms of units sold.  The original Angry Birds has sold over 450 million units since it was originally released.  Angry Birds Space is now available on Apple’s App Store for both Mac and iOS devices, PC, and it’s also available on the Android Marketplace.

There’s little doubt this will be one of the biggest games of the entire year, and either Justin or I will get a review out for this bad boy shortly.  As of writing this news piece Angry Birds Space is already the number one selling paid app on the iPhone and on the iPad, and number two on the Mac App Store behind Mac OS X Lion, but I’m certain Lion will be dethroned within the hour.

Which format are you going to download it on?  I’ve already downloaded it three times on the three platforms I just mentioned.  :)  Let the fun begin!

Apple Sends Out Invites To iPad 3 Event

The picture says it all really.  Apple will hold an iPad 3 event on Wednesday March 7th, and will likely confirm longstanding rumors about the new iPad having a retina display, quad core processor and more.

I’ll be sure to post whatever news is revealed at the event.  I think it might be time for me to upgrade my original iPad ;)

Ash II: Shadows Chapter 1 Review

Ash II: Shadows Chapter 1 (Available only for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad)
Rating: 9+
Players: 1
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Konami
Developer: SRRN Games
Release Date: January 19, 2012

Parent Talk: The ESRB doesn’t rate iOS games, but Apple and iOS developers do. They rated the game 9+ for crude humor and fantasy violence.  If you’ve played SNES RPGs like Super Mario RPG, Chrono Trigger or any of the early Final Fantasy games, you know what to expect.

Plays Like: Any 16-bit Japanese RPG.

Review Basis: Finished the quest, awaiting the release of chapter two.  I played through the game using the original iPad.

Pricing: The game’s Gold Edition runs $4.99 on the App Store, which includes the first chapter and perk of downloading the remaining five free of charge once they’re available. The Silver Edition can be bought for $2.99, bringing the first chapter, the ability to download the second free of charge, and a 50% discount for the remaining chapters. There are also in-app-purchases for those that want status-boosting items, Facebook gamers, there you go.

Ash II: Shadows follows the hit iPhone RPG, Ash, but those who didn’t play the first game need not worry. Ash II is unique, and stands on its own. Everyone should try it.

The Great:

A real, honest RPG for when you’re on the go.  A simple, yet elegant battle system, exploration focus, and wonderful narrative aid Ash II in delivering a console-like experience. By being able to save anywhere, this pick-up-and-play RPG harkens back to SNES-era classics. The package is just delightful. I’m now a believer in mobile RPGs.

The Good:

+ Interesting narrative, great humor and perfect timing.  The cast of characters is charming, the plot focuses on an eventual world-threatening enemy, and there’s light-heartedness where it belongs.

+ Real-time encounters. Ash’s random encounters are out, in is a system more akin to Chrono Trigger. Enemies are visible on the battlefield, and can be avoided.

+ Simple battle system that finishes the job. Tap the desired action (attack, magic, defend or flee), then tap the enemy or ally you wish to attack or heal.  It works perfectly.

+ Strategic battles.  The top of the screen displays the character and enemy turn order. Players can perform a range of special magic attacks that affect enemies in different ways, from status effects to altering their turn in the battle.

+ Equipment/weapons can change with accessories. This makes exploration worthwhile.  If you locate a unique rune and equip weapons/armor from the same class, your characters become extremely powerful.

+ Great controls.  A virtual d-pad and action button can be used to talk and investigate environments, or your finger can move the character around. Both methods work perfectly.

+ Fantastic audio-visual experience.  Regardless of the iOS device, you’re in for a treat.  Varied environments, detailed sprites and an awesome soundtrack make this an RPG to return to.

The So-So:

+/- Too simple for its own good. Items don’t exist. If a character is low on health, only one character can heal. Magic is unlimited however, so you can cast as many spells as you wish.

+/- Unproven business model. You can pick whether to buy every chapter now via the Gold Edition, or two with the Silver. There’s a problem though; we don’t know what the remainder of the game will be like. It’s hard to gauge the overall value.

The Bad:

– Unbalanced difficulty.  When Ash II launched, it was a cakewalk. Bosses could be destroyed in seconds by spamming the attack command. Since the latest update, bosses aren’t more difficult per se, but attacks now miss or are blocked.

– Easy regardless of balance issues.  Without MP and items, characters are healed fully when battle is finished. That eliminates any fear that another enemy could be right around the next corner.

The Ugly:

Fighting a boss I can’t seem to hurt.  How can he defend against everything I try to do?

The Lowdown:

Ash II: Shadows Chapter 1 is a solid and fun RPG. It’s a throwback to a simpler time. The problem is it’s just too unbalanced in terms of difficulty. It’s also impossible to know if the pricing models are wise. There’s certainly room to fix the balancing, and the game is improved since the updates, but I hope SRRN focuses on the strategic elements of battle. In the meantime, anyone wanting an RPG with a great story, huge cliffhanger and interesting characters ought to invest in Ash II.

Average Score Scale: 7.0 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 7/10 (Neutral)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: RPGs are your favorite genre and you crave something on-the-go. The production values are worth the cheap price.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: It’s a simple game. If you want to be challenged for hours, skip on this.

 

Saudi Arabian Developer, Semaphore, Working On Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta

Take a look at the following image:

Doesn’t that look a bit like Uncharted, but with a distinct Middle Eastern flare?  That’s because that’s exactly what Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta is.  It’s a clone of the Naughty Dog classic, with a unique twist.  The Saudi Arabian developer, Semaphore, is using Uncharted as their inspiration for this game in virtually every way possible.  That’s not a bad thing, I mean honestly everyone has to start somewhere.  What’s so interesting is that this title will still skip the Xbox 360, instead being released on virtually every platform except the 360 including PC, Mac, iPad/iPhone, Android devices, PS3, etc.  Semaphore has released a pre-alpha video of the game which we have for you here.

We don’t have a lot of story details at the moment, but what we do know is that explorer Faris Jawad is searching for the hidden treasure of Ibn Battuta.  Obviously there will be tons of people who try to stop Faris along the way.

For those that don’t know the Saudi region is really starting to get into game development in a big way, and this looks to be one the highest profile games coming out of the region.

Apple Sends Out Invites For Media Event To Be Held On March 2nd

I’ll give you two guesses as to what Apple’s March 2nd media event will be about.

Umm…yeah.  Anyone care to guess?

As if we really needed to tell you, this event will be all about Apple’s forthcoming iPad 2, which is rumored to have a whole bunch of new inclusions.  Let’s see, it’s supposed to have either a FaceTime front-facing camera or that and a rear-facing camera as well.  It’s supposed to have a significantly faster processor, and there have been all kinds of rumors about a mystery port.  Is it a mini-USB port, a Display Port, who knows.  I’ll have all the details next week, so be sure to stay tuned for that :)

I’ve got a really nice first-gen iPad right now that I use virtually all the time instead of my MacBook Pro, and I’ve come to really like the old boy.  I doubt I’ll be upgrading to the new model until the third generation rolls around, but for now, what about all of you?  What will it take to convince you to pick up an iPad, or are you already onboard?

iOS 4.2 Now Ready For Download

If you own an iPhone, iPod Touch, or an iPad, then today’s your lucky day.  Apple has just released the latest operating software for your i-device.  By and far the largest changes pertain to iOS 4.2 for the iPad.  The iPad now receives full multitasking, folders, and everything else your shiny iPhone 4 has had since launch.  Game Center also finds its way to the iPad with this update.  Perhaps the most significant update for those of us that use our iPads for work purposes is the AirPrint feature.  This allows the iPad to join a network printer.  You can imagine how useful something so basic would be.

Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs had the following to say.

iOS 4.2 makes the iPad a completely new product, just in time for the holiday season. Once again, the iPad with iOS 4.2 will define the target that other tablets will aspire to, but very few, if any, will ever be able to hit.

Find My iPhone is also available for download from the App Store for free, instead of being linked to a MobileMe account.  This is great news as it allows users to locate their missing i-device from anywhere so long as it is active.  You can even remotely disable your device in case it gets stolen/lost, etc.  If you misplace it, just activate Find My iPhone and you’ll see its location via GPS on your computer.  I’ve used it before and believe me it’s a life saver.

iPhone and iPod Touch users will notice only a few updates, mainly coming from AirPrint and AirPlay, the new i-device to Apple TV streaming service.  It costs nothing and transforms your i-device to a perfect accessory for your Apple TV.  You can stream music, movies, and pictures.  Naturally you have to own an Apple TV in order to make all this work, but hey, at least it’s free.

For all you iPhone 3G users out there, Apple has once again given your phone a little boost in speed thanks to a more refined system core.

Once you finish messing around with the new OS be sure to drop us a line and let us know what you like/dislike about it.

Apple Reports Record Sales

I told you all earlier that Apple was holding a conference call this afternoon to reveal their latest finances.  Well that time has come and gone.  I don’t want to bore you with all the details, so here are the highlights.

Apple posted revenue of $20.34 billion and net quarterly profit of $4.31 billion, or $4.64 per diluted share for the fourth fiscal quarter of 2010.  Gross margin was 36.9 percent, and international sales accounted for 57 percent of the revenue.

Apple shipped…

3.89 million Macs
14.1 million iPhones
9.05 million iPods
4.19 million iPads

Steve Jobs, company CEO and co-founder had the following to say about this record breaking quarter.

We are blown away to report over $20 billion in revenue and over $4 billion in after-tax earnings – both all-time records for Apple.  iPhone sales of 14.1 million were up 91 percent year-over-year, handily beating the 12.1 million phones RIM sold in their most recent quarter. We still have a few surprises left for the remainder of this calendar year.

I could go on and on with tons of other little details, but I think most people are only interested in the cold hard numbers, so now you have them.  iTunes also brought in over a billion dollars in revenue for the quarter.  It’s just incredible how much this company has changed in the past decade.  Remarkable.