Aralon: Sword and Shadow Review

Aralon: Sword and Shadow by Crescent Moon Games, $9.99

Though there are a slew of J-RPGs and K-RPGs on the App Store, there has never really been one fully-fledged, 3D, western RPG. Ravensword was close, but was missing so much of the RPG aspect that it was more of an 3D hack ‘n slash game rather than a W-RPG. However, Aralon: Sword and Shadow, a game created through collaboration between Crescent Moon Games, Elder Scrolls artist Mark Jones, and Galoobeth Games, aims to change that. Boasting over 30 hours of gameplay, hundreds of items, a day and night cycle, a pet and henchman system, mounts including various horses and dragons, three races, four classes, and more, this game really tries to deliver console-game worthy content onto the App Store.

When you start up Aralon: Sword and Shadow, you’ll notice the vast customization apparent in the game. There’s choices for character race, appearance, class, and more. Such a beginning to the game hints at the immense amount of gameplay time behind it, and Aralon delivers. With tons of loot to find, quests to embark upon, and equipment to buy, you definitely won’t be finishing it anytime soon – actually, you might even feel rather overwhelmed by the open world and beautiful atmosphere of the game.

The story follows you, the main character, as you begin a journey to exact revenge for your father’s murder and end the growing darkness that in the world of Aralon. You’ll venture out and clash with bandits, raid gnoll caves, and even run errands for a dragon. Though the main storyline is a good one, it’s extremely easy to forget about it as you run around living the good life and doing side quests – I feel that if there was more of an urgency to actually doing quests relating to the story, it would make the it feel more relevant to the game. However, this problem arises in all open-world games, but more incentive to keep the story would help make Aralon: Sword and Shadow an even better experience than it currently is.

Combat  in Aralon: Sword and Shadow is well-thought out, as each class has their own unique skill set and play style. The warrior is a tank that can easily absorb damage and dish it back out in return, the rogue is a stealthy assassin that relies on critical hits and accuracy more than brute force, the ranger can use ranged attacks as well as melee ones, and the mage harnesses the elements to defeat his opponents. Each one of these class warrants a play-through, as they are all extremely fun to use. Skills can be used by tapping their icon, and to attack all you need to do is hit the attack button. You can also block and parry with another button, but during combat it is extremely difficult to anticipate an enemy’s attack – by the time you’ve hit the parry/block button, they’ve already done damage to you even though the animation hasn’t finished yet. That’s my one peeve with Aralon’s combat system, but as a whole it works and you can easily go on a rampage killing all that you see when using it.

All in all, Aralon: Sword and Shadow an amazingly deep W-RPG game experience. There’s so much freedom in the game that you’ll be awed by the beautiful environment and lush greenery. A lot of the game can’t be explained in words; you have to play to understand. Long story short: if you like RPGs, Aralon is for you. Just make sure you have a 3rd gen device or better to play it!

Wizard Hex Review

Wizard Hex by Trouble Brothers , LLC -$2.99 (on sale, reg. $4.99)

I’ve played my fair share of board games, but so far none of the ones in the App Store have captured my interest – they either make me want to play a physical version more or they just aren’t fun when they’re translated onto an iPhone or iPod Touch. Wizard Hex is the first board game app that has fascinated me and kept me playing. Why? Perhaps because it’s one that does not have a physical version – it’s completely unique to the App Store (for now). Or maybe it’s because of the beautiful artwork and effects. Another factor could be that it comes from a quality indie developer. Whatever the reason is, Wizard Hex is an engaging board game that is sure to delight.

Wizard Hex, like all board games, is all about the gameplay. It’s meant to be more of a social experience; to gather your friends or family around to spend some time together. If you don’t have a physical partner, no worries – you can also play against the AI on one of three difficulty levels to challenge yourself. However, Wizard Hex was a game that is meant to be played with other people as it provides a more engaging experience.

Wizard Hex can be played with between two to six people, and each of them will play as an element – fire, water, wind, earth, ice, or lightning. Each element has its own “side” of the board, hence the hexagonal setup, and the goal is to have as many tokens of your own element on the board once everyone runs out of their tokens or once the board has been filled. Adjacent elements are allies, and cannot be attacked. If your tokens are tied with another player’s, then whoever has more allied tokens on the board wins. Non-adjacent elements can attach each other, which will result in both tokens “dying” and being taken off the board. Elements can be made more powerful by stacking multiple tokens of that element on top of each other to make it have extra durability when attacked. Bronze is the starting token color, and once a token is stacked it becomes silver and gives that token an extra “life,” and if another token is stacked then that token becomes un-attackable. However, gold tokens can go down in value when attacking, so they are not invincible. All of these individual rules and nuances of the game work together to create a fun and enjoyable game that can be played in a quick game or for hours on end.

The graphics in Wizard Hex are extremely detailed and look realistic enough to almost be a physical board game. It can be seen that a lot of care and attention has been put into the background and other art in-game; they are simply beautiful and make the game experience all the greater because of it.

There are many different set-ups and scenarios that can happen in Wizard Hex, the most interesting of which is an “adjacent game.” In an adjacent game, you and another opponent are right next to each other, so you are allies and can control each others’ pieces, but you are also enemies since both of you want to win. This leads to the necessity of using interesting and unorthodox strategies to win the game.

It’s hard to explain exactly what Wizard Hex is all about, but it is in my honest opinion that it is a triple-A quality board game that should have a physical counterpart so that everyone can enjoy it. Overall, Wizard Hex comes highly recommended.

Here’s a video (courtesy of the developer’s YouTube channel) so you can get a better idea of what the game is like:

Summation Review: The Gamebook Adventures Series 1 to 4




I’ve always been an avid reader of any kind of book that contains at least three of the following elements: suspense, action, mystery, logic, or and extremely well written plot. That’s when I stumbled across the “Gamebook Adventures” series on the App Store. My interest was piqued when I found that not only did the gamebooks seem to contain all of the aforementioned elements, but it also allowed me to make my own choices, had a multitude of different endings, beautiful illustrations, and a unique combat system. I had my doubts of whether these gamebooks would really be the perfect blend of an RPG and a book, but I’m glad to say that none of my doubts were justified.

The iteration of the Gamebook Adventures series has its own unique plot, including stopping a necromancer from destroying the continent to escaping from a vicious gladiatorial arena back to your homeland or Orlandes. Each gamebook’s plot is fresh and exciting, and full of twists and turns. To keep the plot going, you just select what you want your character to do next. If you are unsure whether a decision is good or not, you can place one of your limited amount of bookmarks on that page and it will act as a save point you can come back to should you do something that is detrimental or leads to your demise. There are usually two to four options to choose from, and some actions your character can do (in the right context) include buying items, doing detective work, and hiding in the sewers. What an interesting aroma.

There are three difficulty levels: Novice, Bookworm, and Classic. Each of them has their own set amount of bookmarks and conditions regarding Health and Fitness, which are randomly determined before the game starts. Novice is the easiest, Bookworm a bit harder, and Classic is the way the game was meant to be played – with caution and quite a bit of luck. Needless to say, these three difficulty levels provide quite a bit of replay value. In addition to the difficulty levels, there a lot of achievements and art that you can unlock, which also adds to the gamebook’s replayability.

In each gamebook there are a multitude of endings, some of them happy, some of them sad, and quite a few of them ending with your death. Only one of these is the “Ultimate Ending,” which is somewhat akin to the “happily ever after” endings in fairy tales. The ultimate ending always fills me with a sense of accomplishment, and is extremely satisfying to attain.

The Gamebook Adventures series also has an interesting combat system system relies on randomized dice rolls. The number of dice you roll depends on your weapon and armor rating, and if you win the roll the total of all your dice is the amount of damage you do. You can also tip things in your favor by using your Fitness level. Fitness is also using in context in the gamebooks during dangerous events such as avoiding traps or escaping from guards.

Each of the gamebooks in the Gamebook Adventures series are great interactive, pick-your-own-path books. It’s hard to recommend any one of the current four, as they all have their own plot merits; however, if I had to pick the most enjoyable one it would probably be Gamebook Adventures 3: The Slaves of Rema, as it was the most suspenseful and action-packed of the four. Overall, all four gamebooks in this series are heartily recommended and worthwhile purchases if you are the least bit interested in books or an interesting new take on an RPG game.

Zombie Crisis 3D Review

I’ve always wanted to be able to play one of those light gun games I see in arcades on my iPod Touch, but so far most of them have been half-hearted attempts (like Time Crisis) or just downright horrible. However, KongZhong Corp. has changed my view on this matter by bringing Zombie Crisis 3D, an on-rails shooter a la House of the Dead. Zombie Crisis 3D promises many levels, simple and linear progression, three different weapons, and quite a few boss fights. It delivers everything it promises, but there are a few points in which it can improve.

Zombie Crisis 3D contains traditional light gun gameplay, and it never really deviates from that formula. This makes for a game that pays homage to House of the Dead extremely accurately, and a blast to play. The gun that you would use in a light gun game is swapped for you finger, which you can use to tap anywhere on the screen to fire. There’s also a knife ability for when you don’t want to waste any of your precious ammo. Zombie Crisis 3D controls beautifully, and there are no problems at all with the control scheme. It’s easy to pick up and easy to use, which makes it playable for almost anyone from the get-go.

The graphics in Zombie Crisis 3D aren’t bad either – as the title suggests, it uses fully 3D character models. The character models and environment all look great, but the animations are somewhat lacking. The blood effects look out of place compared to the good character models, and the knife swipes in the same direction no matter what way you swipe. Other than that, the graphics and animations work well.

Gameplay consists of going through a multitude of rooms and environments eliminating whatever zombies you find with either a pistol, shotgun, or minigun. The story behind this is the cliche “something happened in a lab, we need to check it out” kind of thing, but you can’t really judge Zombie Crisis 3D by its story, as it is meant to be an arcade zombie shooter and not a fully narrated, beautiful RPG-shooter game. Movement is done automatically as you progress and shoot through the levels, so all you really have to do is concentrate on the aiming.

Zombie Crisis 3D also has some pretty cool boss fights, but the fights can easily become a chore to go through as they are somewhat anticlimactic, and the boss takes ages to kill. However, they’re a pretty cool addition to the game, and the only problem I have with the boss fights are how slow-paced they are.

All in all, Zombie Crisis 3D is an enjoyable arcade shooter a la House of the Dead, and though it may have a couple problems with its boss fights and animations, it’s a game that all arcade shooter fans should have on their iPhone or iPod Touch.

A Look Back in Time – Inotia 2: A Wanderer of Luone

A year ago Com2uS released their champion RPG, Inotia 2: A Wanderer of Luone. It was met with outstanding praise from iPhone/iPod Touch gaming sites, and I myself enjoyed it immensely. It was the first App Store RPG that had a complex 4-person party system along with all the other trappings of an RPG such as tons of items, weapons, armors, skills, and more. I’ve decided to take another look at this RPG, a year after its release, to see how it still holds up.

After firing up the game again, the first thing I noticed was that there was a new class that I had never noticed before: the Ranger. Com2uS had updated the game with a completely new kind of character to play with, and this further increased my conviction that they were a developing company dedicated to the games they created.

I played for a while, traversing through the expansive world of Inotia, and the gameplay is still as solid as it was before. Leveling up, hiring new party members, and finding great loot is still a satisfying experience. There’s just so many things to buy and collect that I doubt that I’d manage to finish the game fully even once – it’s just that mind blowing.

However, the graphics aren’t held in as high esteem as they were before, since newer 3D games have crisp character models, shadows, textures, and more. That doesn’t mean that the graphics in Inotia 2: A Wanderer of Luone are bad; they just weren’t as good as they once were.

Overall, if you’re an RPG enthusiast, Inotia 2: A Wanderer of Luone will still definitely capture your interest and keep you playing, but it’s not king of the hill in the App Store RPG category anymore. However, it’s still an extremely enjoyable experience and one that will last you for hours and hours as you get lost in the huge world of Inotia.

If you’d like to read how my previous review of Inotia 2: A Wanderer of Luone, please see here.

Zombie Crisis 3D Giveaway

It’s been a long time since I’ve actually posted a review other than the recent one on Dark Lords, but now that I’m back in gear I’d like to celebrate with a promo code giveaway! This is the first time I’m doing this on my blog, but it definitely won’t be the last.

I currently have a couple codes for Zombie Crisis 3D, which is a great light gun-esque game for the iPhone and iPod Touch. I should also have a review of the game up in a few days.

If you’d like to win a promo code, comment on this post with your view on zombie games on the App Store – fun, getting old, or does the genre never die? Leave an interesting/creative response below in the comments section, and I’ll pick the ones that I like the most to win codes for Zombie Crisis 3D!

Dark Lords Review

Dark Lords, by Gamehunter, is a recently released side-scrolling RTS game for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It features two different races, more than 10 different types of units, an upgrade system, and beautiful silhouette graphics. However, what really sets Dark Lords apart from other games of its kind is its ability to capture the chaos and epic proportions that a real war contains.

In Dark Lords, you can play as either a human or demon lord. Both of them have their respective strengths and weaknesses, so once you have finished playing as one race, you can start anew with a different strategy with the other. Currently there are two modes – a campaign and a challenge mode. Campaign mode is where you will unlock all the units, upgrades, and spells, whereas Challenge mode is Dark Lords’s version of various survival modes. Sadly, there is no real story in Campaign mode, and Dark Lords could have been much more immersing had there been an interesting plot in the game. Thankfully, the gameplay still makes for a very enjoyable experience despite this shortcoming.

For each of the stages in Campaign mode there are three difficulty levels; Easy, Medium, and Hard. While the enemy does get more powerful units as you go across the map, only the Medium and Hard difficulties provide any challenge. As each difficulty for any stage is beaten for the first time, one AP point is gained, which can be used to spend on upgrades in the shop. Though the Easy difficulty is an extreme pushover, it gives you much-needed AP points so you can stand a change against the computer in the harder levels. Replaying levels does not give you more AP, but new difficulty levels do.

The units in Dark Lords comprise of a vast variety of soldiers, from axemen to grim reapers, and each unit has its specific role in the fight. You can upgrade unit abilities too – for example, undead soldiers can be made to resurrect once after death, and knights can get a charging ability and a more powerful lance. The upgrade system in Dark Lords is truly astounding.

Another incentive for playing the game is how beautiful the graphics and effects are in Dark Lords. The silhouette units marching across the screen through the game’s night/day cycle look great, the various effects make the dark battlefield strewn with blood and fire, and the death animations suffice. In addition, one of Dark Lords’s main advantages over its competitors is that while most side scrolling RTS’s only send out a soldier at a time and create a feeling of a minor skirmish, Dark Lords sends out multiple soldiers in each unit so that the feeling of a full-scale battle is really captured.

All in all, Dark Lords is one of the best side scrolling RTS games out there and it is definitely worth the purchase, especially at the current 99 cent Thanksgiving sale price point.

Vampire Origins Review: Midnight Fight Until Twilight

Around a year ago, Chillingo released extremely eye-catching screens of their upcoming game “Vampire Origins.” At the time, these images were revolutionary images for an iPhone and iPod Touch game and almost too good to believe that it would be for this platform. Now, after multiple delays and around a year later, Chillingo has finally released this game to the public. The visuals certainly are beautiful, and they probably will entice many potential buyers to purchase the game. However, if a game doesn’t have enough content it really doesn’t matter how pretty it is. Is this the case with Vampire Origins?

You play as Vincent, a vampire hunter that’s been resurrected by the lord of the underworld to stop vampires from taking over the world. This cannot be allowed, since vampires are immortal and will never have to go into the realm of death. The story is told through beautifully illustrated comic strips in between the gun-slinging action as Vincent shoots his way through hordes of otherworldly monsters.

As I previously mentioned, you’ll notice that the graphics are superb. A lot of effort went into the art assets, and everything in this area is commendable. The animations, backgrounds, and boss fights all sport amazing eye candy that gets the player immersed into the action.

The controls also work quite well. You can either tap anywhere to move and tap on enemies to shoot, or use a virtual joystick to move and an auto-targeting button to shoot. Both are easy to adjust to and suffice for their purpose.

The problem with Vampire Origins is that it offers barely three hours of gameplay. Once you defeat the third boss the game ends, and a “to be continued” screen shows up. It seems that the year’s worth of development time all went into the visuals, and much less time was spent on adding actual content to the game.

That wouldn’t have really mattered if they had implemented an additional game mode, but unfortunately “Survival” isn’t really a survival mode. You have a set objective and you can actually finish it in ten minutes or so, which defeats the purpose of having an actual survival mode in the game. Granted, there are three maps, but that only adds up to around half an hour of extra game time, which will put you at a grand total of around three and a half hours of content for Vampire Origins.

At its current $6.99 price point, Vampire Origins is not exactly the best value you can get for your money and it’s far from what people expected it to be. However, if you don’t mind the short gameplay time and want it solely based on visuals, then it might be a good purchase. Currently, Vampire Origins is worth a look, but I’d recommend purchasing something else unless an update brings more content or a price drop.

Twilight Golf Review: Enjoying a Couple Rounds of Golf In An Ancient Temple

Physics games have always been both mind-boggling and fun and the same time, and Twilight Golf (by Howling Moon Software) is a great addition to the genre. The game is centered around a vague background story of how the sun forgot to rise, so you have to connect the ancient powerful orbs together to save the world. It has a nice amount of depth and provided me with quite a few hours of enjoyment. I’ve played a lot of both physics games and casual ones, and I have to say that Twilight Golf certainly stands at the top of the list.  The beautiful backgrounds, art, nice lighting effects, easy controls, and fun levels are what makes Twilight Golf great.

The controls aren’t difficult at all; you tap the orb, drag to determine how far you want it to go, and a faint trajectory line appears. Release your finger and your orb will go flying. The line approximates the direction the orb will go in, and your objective is to get the shining orb to match with its darkened counterpart, which is usually all the way on the other side of the screen.

The game is played on a 2D plane and the lighting effects are very impressive. The dark atmosphere and flickering torches match well with the vague background story, and help the game have an eerie, ancient look.

The gameplay is where Twilight Golf soars above other casual games. There are thirty two levels, each with their own unique elements and obstacles. Among the numerous challenges you’ll find many things that influence the direction, gravity, and movement of your orb. There are orbs that generate a gravity field and force your orb to stick to it, other orbs that send your orb in a different direction, and assorted items that will hinder your movement such as falling rocks, pillars, and more. The goal of the game is to get your orb to its counterpart in as little an amount of strokes as possible, and needless to say, difficulty ramps up as you advance in the game. Surprisingly, the game was never so difficult that I got frustrated and decided to quit the game.

I didn’t have many problems with Twilight Golf, but I would like to see more content in the future; more obstacles and levels would be nice to have.  I think it could benefit from an extra boost in longevity.

Overall, I have to say that Twilight Golf is something that you should buy.  If you’re looking for something that will last you a good amount of time and isn’t too challenging or linear, then Twilight Golf is the game for you. I enjoyed the time I spent with it and it’s a worthy addition to my collection of casual games.

Cocoto Magic Circus Review: Classic Circus Shooting Action, With Online Multiplayer!

Multiplayer games have been, on the whole, somewhat average on the iPhone and iPod Touch. However, you can always count on Eurocenter to create quality multiplayer games that everyone can enjoy – with a wide variety of games from online pool to cart racing, it was only a matter of time before Eurocenter was able to think of another great concept for multiplayer gaming. It just so happened that this next great concept was circus styled dart shooting, and I was extremely elated I could enjoy the fun of dart shooting without having to go to a circus.

The controls are extremely easy to adapt to; all you do is tap where you want to shoot. It’s simple, it’s easy, and it’s a good control method. It should also not be a surprise that Eurocenter has put a lot of detail into their game – if you miss a target and hit one of the backgrounds, you’ll see your dart physically hit the object and stick on it. This makes it almost hilarious when you’re fighting a boss and it’s stuck full of darts like a pincushion.

I’m very glad that Eurocenter included a single player mode, since it’s quite obvious that most people won’t be near a WiFi signal 24/7. In single player, you can choose between the story/arcade mode and a free play mode that lets you select one feature of the game (i.e. a boss fight or a monster shooting spree) to play.

The story/arcade mode is extremely linear and has repeating objectives, but it’s still extremely entertaining due to the diverse amount of environments and things to shoot. You’ll be freeing your fairy friend, playing with some target practice, sniping monsters, defeating bosses, and collecting golden apples in environments that look like fascimiles of heaven, dungeons, swamps, and more.

The free play mode is just as entertaining as the story mode. You’ll be able to select which type of gameplay you want (sniping monsters, target practice, boss fights) and the game will automatically put you in one of the situations you’ve come across in the story. It’s extremely good for quick bursts of fun, and also extremely immersive and addicting.

The multiplayer mode is great – I had a match with my friend and it was extremely entertaining. You try to get more targets than your opponent, and though you never seen your opponent you will see him shooting. Multiplayer is competitive yet lighthearted, just like what it would be like at a circus. The feeling is imitated almost exactly, and I have no complaints here either.

The only problem I have with the game is extremely small, and it has to do with performance. Sometimes the game will run at a slower frame rate than usual, resulting in a less smooth experience. This doesn’t happen often, but since it has happened before I’d recommend that  you play this game with an iPod Touch 2G and up. Hopefully Eurocenter will be able to make the performance silky smooth in an update.

Cocoto Magic Circus is one of the best games you can get at the $0.99 price point and still have endless replay value. If you enjoy dart shooting and target practice in the least, then this game is for you. Kudos to Eurocenter for creating another great single player and multiplayer experience on the iPhone and iPod Touch.