Monthly Archives: March 2010

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.

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Tilt to Live Review: The Dawn of the Red

One Man Left Studios just became my new favorite indie developer. Why? Because of their amazing first release on the App Store – Tilt to Live. At first, the game looked extremely simple and underwhelming, but as soon as I got into it I realized it was extremely hectic, fun, and addicting. With a concept as simple as keeping a white arrow away from red dots, One Man Left Studios has managed to create something that might just be the next App Store classic.

In Tilt to Live, you control a white arrow whose sole goal is to eradicate as many of the red dots before he gets taken down. I have no idea how it got there, and why it’s trapped in a finite box with an infinite amount of red enemies, but I do know that Tilt to Live is extremely fun and well thought out.

Controlling the arrow is done by tilting your iPhone or iPod Touch in the necessary directions. While games utilizing the accelerometer have never been very attractive to me, Tilt to Live is just too hard to resist, especially since there are three preset tilt positions (normal, bent-over, and sleepy), and a fourth where you can calibrate the acceleromter to your liking. I have no gripes whatsoever regarding the controls; navigating my arrow through the swarms of red opponents is fluid and easy to do.

The game isn’t frustratingly hard, but nor is it easy. Somehow, the difficulty level is perfect for beginners and hardcore gamers alike, and that’s a factors that’s extremely hard to put into a game. In the beginning, the rate of dot spawning is slow, and they move at you in a sluggish and lethargic manner. However, as time goes by, they become fast, and will form shapes to target you in creative ways. For example, a clump of red dots may form arrows to home in on you, or even create two paddles and a square to play a game of Pong with your arrow caught in between. This is where the game gets hard and requires skill. However, it never feels like the difficulty ramps up, unless you think about it, because it just feels so natural. By being able to target both the casual and hardcore crowds, One Man Left Studios shows their talent at creating games.

There are numerous powers at your disposal, with more of requiring a certain amount of points to be unlocked. The first three “basic” weapons include a bomb that triggers upon being touched, and wide plasma blast that is fired from your arrow after a few seconds, and a weapon that unleashes a set of five homing missiles. Thankfully, the point requirements for new weapons are cumulative, meaning that you can get 5,000 points in one game, then get another 15,000 in another to unlock a weapon that requires a total of 20,000 points. That means you can play Tilt to Live on and off whenver you want, and still unlock cool new things to play around with as time goes on.

Lastly, Tilt to Live has been stuffed full of humor. The loading screen is downright hilarious. For example, the loading screen might say, “To get into the game, you must play a game of thumb war with yourself and win” or “To play the game, you must hide from your iPhone for several seconds.” In addition, the achievements are funny as well. When you get a combo of five kills, you’ll gain the “Highest Combo Conceivable” achievement, but then once you get a combo of twenty kills, you’ll get the “We Lied” achievement. There are also references to the movies “Dawn of the Dead” and “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” which will make you smile and chuckle when you see them.

Tilt to Live is an amazing, addicting game that should be on everyone’s iPhone or iPod Touch. The fun and humor in this game just can’t be passed up on. I highly recommend Tilt to Live, but before you go and purchase the game, I warn you to be wary of one thing. Prepare yourself for the Dawn of the Red.


Gore Ball Review: Mashing Multiple Mesmerizing Modes into Mush

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play a game that is made up of equal parts fighting, brick breaking, and zombie slaying? Gore Ball tries to bring the best of all three worlds into one game – a game where you break tombstones with magical “gore balls” and fight against zombies with your sword as you try to eradicate all evil from the land. It’s a great concept, but ultimately Gore Ball falls flat on its feet due to a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s the cracks that weren’t filled when the three genres were mixed together, or it’s just the insane difficulty. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the game just because of the unique novelty of the gameplay.

This concept of integrating many diverse game ideas into one game is uncommon on the App Store. So many apps are either bland and mainstream or flatulence related spam apps. Gore Ball is unique; it stands out and isn’t afraid of the fact it’s not like other games. In fact, it flaunts that factor, and that was what attracted me to the game in the first place.

The storyline isn’t anything extremely special, but it works. You play as Hale, the main character of the game, whose wife and daughter were destroyed by an evil engulfing the land. Since you’re a knight, you decide to cleanse this evil from the land. It’s somewhat stereotypical, but the way the story was presented made it seem special. The voice acting in the beginning of the game was a good surprise too.

I’m not a big fan of accelerometer based games, and Gore Ball is one of those. You tilt to move the main character back and forth, and tap to launch the ball or swing your sword at a zombie. Not very convenient for me, though the controls may feel like second nature to others.

When you’re in combat with the zombies, the animations for the sword swings aren’t very convincing. Instead of looking like Hale is fighting for his life, it looks like he’s using his sword while he has a major cramp in his swinging arm.

This is where the game fails. It’s way too insanely hard. Even on the Easy difficulty, I cannot get past the second level. My suggestion would be to tone down the number of hits it takes to destroy a tombstone – currently each tombstone takes around five hits, and two hits for each would be more than enough. In addition, it’s hard to aim where you want the ball to go, since Hale’s hand that he uses to hit the ball is only so big. Maybe making the energy aura around the hand bigger and the physics somewhat more accurate would make things much better.

Gore Ball, isn’t an exceptional game, but neither is it a bad one. A unique novelty to own on your iDevice, Gore Ball demonstrates that fresh ideas are always here for new games. It’s enjoyable and fun to play, but the difficulty and control method keeps it from really showing its true potential.


Spartacus: Blood and Sand Review: A Gory, Glorious Fight for Survival

Artificial Life’s last action-packed release, Pandorum, was none too impressive. Happily however, their recent gladiator-based arena fighting game is much better and shows true quality. Spartacus: Blood and Sand is aptly named and based on the Starz’s new TV series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” (which in itself is based on an actual history). The game is chock-full of bodiless heads, severed limbs, and tons of gore and blood; something most gamers would gladly jump on. Surprisingly, there aren’t many problems, and Spartacus: Blood and Sand is an extremely fun, realistic, and gruesome fighting game.

In the story mode, you play as Spartacus. You will challenge your commanding general, become a slave, train as a gladiator, fight in the dog pits, and then, if successful, challenge the final three opponents for honor and freedom. A strong, wonderfully told story told in between battles provides a realistic setting for the fights, and compels the player to keep on playing to see what happens to the main character next.

The moves and combos were easy to remember, easy to execute, and beautiful to look at. No thinking or planning required – each button combination makes a different move, and it’s fun switching between the various attacks your character can execute just for style.

In addition, the previous controls had quite a bit of lag with them, but Artificial Life has addressed this in a new update, fixing the unresponsiveness and making this game even better. That shows true effort – they listened to their audience and tweaked the controls accordingly.

I have to give credit where credit is due; the slow-motion effects are fantastic. They make moves look even more brutal and aesthetically appealing, and blood spatters across the screen when you manage to slice or pound someone with your weapon.

All the characters have different attacks, and no two animations are the same when you execute a fighting move. This brings fresh gameplay and much replay value to the table when you go back and play one of the Arcade Modes.

For those who want a story, they get it in the Story Mode. For those who want a quick game, they get that in the Challenge Mode. For those who want to see how long they can last, they get that in the Survival Mode. There’s definitely a lot of replay value here, and I can see myself coming back to this game time and again. The only bonus the Story Mode gives you is two extra characters if you complete it twice.

The graphics a beautiful. The background is somewhat static, but the character models, weapons, and animations are smooth, realistic, and very appealing. Though graphics aren’t the whole of the game, they do make the game just that much better. I believe Artificial Life got this aspect right, and I commend them for that.

Gladiators always sustained injuries, especially severe ones, in the heat of battle. This game is not for the squeamish or bloodophobic – it has blood, and tons of it. Blood will spatter on the ground, on your screen, and around your fighters with every hit you score. In the end, you’ll execute a beautiful and brutal kill combo, slicing off your opponent’s right arm, left arm, head, and then upper torso. Once the enemy is literally lying in pieces in the sand, you’ll move on to the next round. This is gore and dismemberment at its best.

Currently, no matter what character you use, in the end you’ll kill your enemy by slicing them into the exact same pieces. If there were different death animations the game would be even better.

Currently, Spartacus: Blood and Sand is a very worthwhile fighting game, and one of the best on the App Store. I believe it trumps Blades of Glory (by Gameloft), but I guess all a matter of opinion. If you want to feel how it’s like being a gladiator, then look no further. This game is one of the most realistic, bloody, and brutal gladiator-based combat games you’ll ever see. If you’re slightly interested in this type of game at all, get it. Prepare yourself for the arena.


Metal Wars Review: Creaky Joints and Rusty Weapons

I’ve played my fair share of mecha and robot fighting games, but not many of them have stacked up very well on the iPhone and iPod Touch. However, Metal Wars by Goorusoft was released some time ago, and it was another arena fighting robot game – except it wasn’t in top down view, it was in 3D. This alone intrigued me to no end, and I wondered what the gameplay would be like. After trying it out for some time, I found it to be just another run-of-the-mill dual-stick shooter.

You can unlock new weapons and mech parts after almost every battle, and getting the newer ones is always a fun experience. What’s more, you can choose from three different paint jobs for your mech (if you’re willing to pay a paltry five gold). The different themes are snowy, sand camouflauge, and red. This level of customization isn’t deep, but its adequate enough for players to enjoy themselves.

The 3D graphics are great. Everything from the models to the weapons are nicely done, and the effects aren’t bad either. If you’re looking for solid graphics, this game has it. Though it can’t be classified as great, Metal Wars has some pretty good graphics.

The duke-outs are pretty enjoyable – they’re genuinely fun and the special effects are well done. The gameplay is rock-solid, and the amount of equipment you can unlock is adequate. All in all, the fights in the game are pretty solid, especially since you can order a second robot to join the fray with you and tell them to “Hold,” “Attack,” or “Follow.” Using your pal as cannon fodder is always good, but you get a bonus reward at the end of each stage if he’s still alive, so the game requires skill and strategy.

The arenas are bland, drab, and all there isn’t much variation, since the arena seems to change only every ten stages or so. Some environmental factors and decorations would be much appreciated, since everything looks so blocky and boring.

The weapons are all pretty much the same in terms of damage, and it seems that only the fire rate and visual effects are different. I do about the same amount of damage shooting for ten seconds with the missile launcher and shooting for ten seconds with the most basic weapon. A customization factor is present, but since the weapons are all basically the same, it boils down to different robot parts and different skins, which is not adequate enough for me to play the game for more than a few minutes at a time.

Metal Wars is a good mecha brawler, but don’t expect anything new or revolutionary. I had a fun time with it, but in the end it just didn’t have the content, flexibility, or uniqueness for it to be an outstanding game. Right now, it’s just average. Hopefully, in the future it’ll get better, but as of now it’ll only be fun for a niche audience – hardcore robot and mecha fighting fans.


Crusade of Destiny Review: Extremely Vague, Yet Extremely Fun

Many RPGs have sprung up on the iPhone and iPod Touch, and some of them have been amazing. However, there are very little 3D RPG offerings, and Ravensword: The Fallen King is pretty, but very short on content. I’ve been searching the App Store for something that has all the elements of a good 3D RPG, and the only interesting one I’ve found was Crusade of Destiny by DVide Arts. At the time it was released, the game was horrendous, and I didn’t bother taking a look at it. However, I think now is the time for a reconsideration. The game now offers fully 360 degree camera panning and controls a la Gameloft’s FPS control schemes, and has tons of skills, attacks, quests, a big world, and full-blown magic elements. Let’s take a closer look…

One of Ravensword: The Fallen King’s shortcomings was the fact that there was no real magic in the game; you could only use “runes” that summoned magic, and these runes had a set limit to their use before having to spend money to recharge them. In this game, however, magic is a completely different skill, and the amount of times you can cast a spell is determined by your mana, not your money. In addition to magic and melee, there’s also archery in game, and sniping enemies from afar never gets old. The skills themselves are varied, and after experimenting with them I found that some attacks worked better on specific enemies, and same with the magic – fire would work better on the wasps, but the goblins were hurt by electric shock more. I expect that the combat system gets more complex than this, since there are still more than ten skills I haven’t unlocked yet.

The playtime of this game is impressive. After I had finished the first area (out of five or six total areas in game) I was surprised to find that I had already spent over five hours on the game. The content in the game is pretty impressive too, as there are over ten different swords, shields, bows, and armors, respectively. You’re getting a lot of bang for your buck when you purchase this game, and it’ll definitely last you for some time – the iTunes description states the playtime is over 40 hours. Even after finishing the game, you can just run around, ride a horse, go fishing, swim, or kill things, which are always enjoyable experiences.

The controls are easy and very functional – swipe to look around, an analog stick to move, and attack and magic icons for their respective functions. The camera is very smooth, and the controls are pretty much flawless.

Crusade of Destiny isn’t without its problems though. In this game, it’s the first time I’ve ever disliked the quest system in an RPG, and I hope it’s the last. In Crusade of Destiny, the quests are vague, and you only get a general idea of what you’re supposed to do. The directions need to be more specific and concise, because a lot of the time I spent was walking around, finding I was in the wrong place, and then walking back to the village, starting over again, only to find that the next place I had gone to wasn’t right either. The quest system is really frustrating, and I hope it gets fixed in an update, because it’s one of the only things holding this game back.

Crusade of Destiny is a good game, but a couple of things keep it from being a shiny gem to add to my collection of great iPhone and iPod Touch games. However, with the current content and playtime, and at the current $2.99 price point, the game is a worthy purchase, but the quest system may make the game annoying, frustrating, or downright unplayable for some.


Sword of Fargoal Review: A Fun, Classic Roguelike Game

The App Store has a diverse selection of games, but I have yet to find a perfect roguelike that harks back to the 80s. However, now I believe I’ve found the game that meets my requirements – Sword of Fargoal. Jeff McCord gave his old game a new graphics makeover and released it on the App Store a few weeks ago without losing any of the charm or gameplay elements; it’s still a legitimately great game, and one that you can spend hours on. It even has unique new elements added in such as monsters that were not in the original. With free episodic updates and in-app purchases coming soon, I’m pretty sure that Sword of Fargoal is the roguelike that I’ve been waiting for.

No level will be the same after the first time, since they are all randomly generated. This leads to massive amounts of replayability, especially if you don’t feel like actually finishing the game and just want to wander around collecting gold, exploring the levels, and killing stuff.

As it should be for a roguelike, combat is simple yet satisfying. You can engage a monster in combat by simply swiping from your character to the enemy when it is a tile away. You then engage in combat, where your character and the monster exchange blows and one of you dies. Watching the fight and killing the enemy has a fun factor that I never thought there could be.

Though I thought I’d never say this for a game that’s over twenty years old, Sword of Fargoal’s revamped graphics are what I consider pretty good-looking. The new art and character models also lend the game a charming aspect, and I began to enjoy the game right as I started it up and looked at the professional, smooth, yet somewhat childish-looking character. I felt that instead of controlling the character, I could actually connect and be the character since he wasn’t one of those bearded, veteran soldiers whose appearances speak of their age and experience.

There many different monsters, items, and spells in this game, and the variety also helps give the game a more immersive atmosphere. With over forty monsters, items, and spells in total, the game can be quite fun when you want to use and discover everything.

With all of the aforementioned features, and being a port of an old, classic roguelike, this game may seem very complicated and intimidating. However, I can confidently say that both new players that only want to walk around killing things will enjoy it as much as hardcore roguelike fans that want to find all the items, spells, monsters, and treasures. The game is both casual and hardcore, and it’ll appeal to the two extreme audiences of the platform, and everyone in between.

As for things I don’t like, there aren’t very many. I’m just nitpicking, but it’d be great if my character had some visual attack animations. At the moment, he just moves and body-slams the enemy, though he obviously has a sword in his hand. It’s nothing really big, but more eye candy in the form of attack and defensive animations for the character would be great.

Overall, Sword of Fargoal is currently the best roguelike game in the App Store, and will probably remain so for quite a long time, if not forever. Jeff McCord and Fargoal LLC have done a great job with the iPhone version of the game, and I commend them for that. With engaging gameplay, tons of replayability, charming graphics, a wide variety of things to find and fight, and both casual and hardcore, Sword of Fargoal is a Must Have for any iPhone and iPod Touch gamer interested in roguelikes and adventure games.