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.


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.