Monthly Archive: July 2012

Zombie Quest [Synaptic Wave] – $0.99/$1.99

Hex-based strategy games haven’t really been my cup of tea. New World Colony, Conquest!, Neuroshima Hex – none of them really did it for me, and with Neuroshima Hex being GameShark’s iOS GOTY, TouchGen’s runner up for Best Board Game, and a whole slew of fantastic reviews and press behind it, probably the ‘best of the best’ – I just figured the genre wasn’t really for me. Lucky for me, I was able to have an entirely different experience with Synaptic Wave’s (a 6 person outfit from the Ukraine, and developers of Tesla Wars and Tower Siege) Zombie Quest – Mastermind the Hexes! 
Maybe it appeals to me because I’m not a hardcore strategy fanatic, maybe I’ve still got some ‘casual’ gamer left in me from my early 20’s, I dunno, but Zombie Quest really hit’s the mark between casual and hardcore which is usually a difficult balance to achieve for most strategy developing studios, who generally go completely casual, or full-on hardcore within the genre. 
With Zombie Quest, you’ll be able to think your way through 5 different enemies, including Pinhead, Dracula, Lecter, Frankenstein and Torquemada, each having 4 different stages with increasing difficulty. The gameplay is simple enough, yet full of strategy. Whenever it’s your turn, you select one of your wolf characters on the screen, and you can either select a spot directly next to them, which will clone your character, and turn any enemy characters that are touching that spot into one of your characters, or you can jump up to 3 spaces away, not cloning your character, but sometimes being able to make it into a group of enemy tiles, resulting in a huge addition to your team. The side with the most characters on the board when there are no more moves left for one of the players, or the board is full, wins. 
The addition of power-ups makes the gameplay even more strategic. At first, you’re only able to use a shield, protecting one of your wolfs from becoming an enemy if they move next to your character. The enemy is also given a power-up, in the case of your first enemy, Torquemada, he’s able to use a crane like power-up, removing one character from the board. Once you complete the 4 Torquemada stages, you’re given that power-up, and can use it throughout the rest of the game. Also adding to the game is a special 2 player, side-by-side mode, which lets you play with another player on the same device. With not too many 2-player-1-device games out there, it’s definitely a plus, and was a pretty big surprise to find included with the game. 
It’s not really anything that hasn’t been done before, I’m sure, though I’ve never had the pleasure of playing a hex based strategy game that does what Zombie Quest does, with a surprising amount of polish on the animations and graphics, as well as casual gameplay that could easily appeal to hardcore strategy gamers looking for something to blow through, or take their mind off of extremely deathy gameplay. 
Zombie Quest also includes GameCenter integration with a total score leader board, and 15 achievements, adding some replay value to the game, but if you’re not really a high-score chaser, or achievement fanatic, the 20 levels don’t really offer up much replay value, and will probably not be a game you dive back into time and time again after completion. However, the time you do spend making your way through the game will be toughly enjoyed, especially if you’re new to the genre, or more of a casual gamer. 
With a few fairly deep strategy hex based games in the AppStore, games like Zombie Quest is something we could definitely use more of. If you’re looking for something with loads of depth, and endless replay value, chances are, this is not for you. But priced at $0.99 for the SD version and $1.99 for the HD version, it’s worth snagging if your interested in getting into the genre, are looking for another 2 player on 1 device title, or are interested in something that won’t push your mind to the edge through every stage of the game. With their previous Synaptic Wave releases, the updates have definitely not been in short supply. Hopefully Zombie Quest will get a couple more enemies to take on, or maybe even multiplayer in the future. With the gameplay, it’s easy to see multiple different routes being taken, and hopefully Synaptic Wave will take advantage of that. 

AXL: Full Boost [SpinVector] – $2.99

I’m generally not too big a fan of racers on the iOS. Even on console platforms, racers have almost always seemed a little dull after getting addicted to Kinetica on the PS2, and wasting a good 200+ hours of my life playing it. But there are a few that have that special spark that makes them stand out above the crowd. QuBIT, Protoxide, jAggy Race… and now I can add one more racing title to that very small list of mine; AXL: Full Boost, developed by SpinVector, an Italy based, 15-person studio who’ve won numerous awards. Now developing titles for the iOS, AXL: Full Boost is their second iOS title, the first being the award-winning BANG! With 10+ years of experience under the belt, it’s no surprise that at first glance, AXL looks amazing. But, as with other games that look amazing, the gameplay that lies underneath all the special glitz and glamour can make or break the game. 
Using technology developed by another Italian company, Raylight, AXL: Full Boost stands out by including orbs into the racing. These orbs can either be used to boost your racer, reaching insane speeds, or you can use them to take advantage of power-ups found throughout the tracks. The catch is, when you use these orbs, they’re left behind you, giving your opponents the opportunity to pick them up, and use them themselves, adding an extra little layer of strategy to the gameplay.
The technology also allows for Quick-Time Events. This is used for very sharp turns within the game. Whenever a sharp turn is coming up, an icon appears on the center of the screen, letting you know which direction you’ll be turning. When this does pop up, you’re able to twitch your device in that direction, and have your racer attach itself to a track within the turn, letting you keep up your high speed racing, and focus entirely on the racing and orb collecting/strategic aspects of the game. 

Looking at the screen-shots for AXL, it’s very clear that the graphics for the game are top-notch. The futuristic, clean, smooth, minimal look of all the buildings and racers definitely creates an intriguing atmosphere. Also pretty noticeable is the draw-distance. In most iOS games this is usually pretty short, but with AXL, the minimalistic graphics help to allow the developers to make the draw distance fairly large, which is a huge plus, and something that I hope is taken advantage of more within the genre. 
Once you get into the game, you’ll notice that not only do the graphics stand-out, but the automations are also fantastic as well, drawing you into the game even more. One of my favorite animations in the game is when you break, and get ready to boost, and your whole racer changes shape. It definitely adds to the feeling as well as style of the game.

Like a lot of other racers out there, there is a story intertwined with the game. In 2099, the environment collapsed, and humanity needed to find a new energy source, in 2123, HEX a new form of renewable energy was found. In 2150, Shifters, shape changing racers, were built using HEX, and after that, large corporations create newer and better Shifters, and the AXL Division of racing is established. This is where the game starts. 
At the beginning, like most racers, you’re only able to choose between one Shifter, and have to go through training missions before getting into the real gameplay. You also find out that you’re responsible for the loss of 55 Pan-American engineers. You were expelled from Rotco Global Defense Corporation, and have been sentenced to 4 years of civil labor. Later, found with contraband, you’re currently waiting for sentencing from the courts. Ikuma Energetics, a racing company that has scouted you out, has the power to suspend any criminal proceedings for the duration of your apprenticeship. Lucky you, you get to race Shifters.

There is loads of content within the game, 3 different modes; Starcade (or Story/Carrer Mode), Free Run, and Custom Race. As you progress through Starcade Mode, more tracks, and more Shifters will become available to you, there are 12 total, each having different statistics. Starcade Mode offers up 71 different races spread across 7 different locations. Free Run lets you practice on any one of the tracks that you’ve already reached, and Custom lets you race against however many opponents you want, and lets you decide if there’s power-ups included or not, as well as which track you race on. 
In the options, you’re able to adjust the Effects, and Music volumes, as well as change the view from First Person, Near or Far views, and adjust the sensitivity. Unfortunately, there is only a tilt control scheme, which really does have an effect on the gameplay. Even though you can adjust the sensitivity, until you get comfortable with the controls, more often than not, you’ll find yourself bouncing from wall to wall, which effects you more than you might like. With the Quick Time Events included in the tracks, you need to be going full speed to use them, which means that you can not accidentally touch the wall of the track, and need to have an orb for boosting right before it, which can result in your Shifter smashing right into the wall of the turn. Without orbs for boosting right before the QTE turns, you’ll need to take the sharp turn on your own, which almost always results in bouncing off the walls even more. But if you have the patience and determination to stick with it, and most likely play track more than once so that you can learn them, the controls become less and less of an issue as you make your way through the game.
Running at a smooth 60FPS, even on my 4th GEN Touch, which, with each passing week, is becoming more and more obsolete, and has fantastic tracks, amazing graphics and animations and great music and effects, with outstanding stand-out of the crowd mechanics with the orbs, power-ups, and turns. There are also 24 achievements, and 14 leader boards included in GameCenter, which definitely adds to the replay value, which is, of course, already fairly high. Sadly, the game is not Universal, which means you’ll be playing it in 2X mode if you’ve got an iPad. AXL: Full Boost is priced at $2.99, which is a fantastic price. Fans of the genre should definitely pick this up. It stands out in a genre full of like-minded titles, offers loads of content and basically endless replay value. It could very well wind up being the best racer available for the iOS, maybe even one of the best racers available on any gaming platform.

Angry Birds Seasons Goes FREE!!!

Angry Birds is easily one of the most popular iOS games to ever hit the AppStore. Since it’s release, it’s been downloaded millions of times, and had 3 sequels; Seasons, Rio, and Space. It’s resulted in thousands of physics based puzzlers, and clones and basically pushed the genre into the hands of casual and hardcore gamers alike. Well now, if for whatever reason, you don’t yet have Angry Birds Seasons, you can pick the game up for free. That’s right. FREE. Both the iPhone and iPad versions of the game have just gone free as Apple’s App Of The Week. So be sure and pick this one up if you don’t already have it, or weren’t wanting to double dip after getting a new iPad or iPhone, and already having one version. It just might wind up turning you into a closet Angry Birds fan. Don’t worry, we won’t tell. 😉


All Tower Defense titles are not created equal; or so I came to realize only two levels in while playing the curiously unique and highly complex new Tower Defense game, Human Defense, by Heliceum. For the most part, I love all flavors of TD’s and have also come to realize that they usually all bear a similar formula; decide which tower to place where, start the onslaught, sit back, and for the most part (save tower upgrades of course) let the game do the rest. Not with Human Defense.

The newest cub to the genre has you defending the body’s organs, (heart, muscle, lungs, kidneys) against, well, what else, viruses! The domain for the frolic is done via astounding graphics of preset veins and unalterable tower locations, as well as an even deeper backdrop of the entertainments’ hosts lining up to get ready for the next wave.  The overall atmosphere and music is somewhat cartoonish which only adds to the novelty of the game, allowing the user to focus on the objective at hand concretely. The presentation was done really well on every aspect.
This Universal game is played in portrait mode with the latter levels providing a scroll bar for ease of navigation, without zoom capabilities. The adventure includes the customary three-star rating system; something I struggled with on nearly every level.

Unlike other TD’s, to build and upgrade towers, your resources (carbohydrates and proteins of course!) travel down the same paths as the enemy and are supplied in parallel with the attackers.
Yes, this makes the game very fast-paced. Want more? Try throwing in path switches and alternate routes, as you must not only build and upgrade your towers, but also administer the same asset’s to the body and constantly monitor it’s health via on screen watchdogs. Even on the final waves of most every TD game I have played, I have never felt the same sense of urgency as I have with Human Defense from the very first wave; imagine how I felt with the final wave! When upgrading your towers, you have to manage your resources precisely as immediately upon upgrade selection, the tower is rendered useless until all supplies have entered the tower.

Considering the pre-determined, and somewhat limited tower placements, there is quite a high puzzle factor with HD, something I have never experienced to such an extent with other Tower Defense titles. It really requires the enthusiast to examine and strategize even before hitting ‘Play’. Upon level completion, you will receive coins which are used to purchase one-time use artillery items (tower power, organs energy needs.)

There are IAP options as well, but I did not feel the need to purchase any (although, I also contended with each level tooth and nail to just finish them, let alone get three stars!) The entertainment doesn’t stop there as included within the diversion is a ‘Lab’ section with quick write-ups on the organs and their functions; kind of a mini encyclopedia with a Human Defense spin; pretty cool. There is also a secondary game mode, Emergency mode, which is similar to Endless.

Human Defense is definitely the most engaging Tower Defense title I have come across with each level requiring you to highly strategize and during every minute of gameplay, not let your guard down, not even for a split second. It is not for the casual, relaxing, watch the towers do their stuff consumer. Although, if you want one of the more complex and engaging Tower Defense titles on the AppStore, you may just find what you’re looking for here.

Rainbow Tissue Cat [Sunny Tam] – $0.99

Sunny Tam, developer of two of my favorite shmups on the iOS, Danmaku Unlimited and Storm Strikers, has just come out with another title. This time around, it’s not a bullet hell, but it’s still seemingly influenced by Japanese culture. Rainbow Tissue Cat, a Super Crate Box type title where you try and hit birds and collect stars while avoiding bullets and samurai stars was released a couple weeks ago, and if you’re a fan of the SCB genre, or just love cats, Rainbow Tissue Cat is for you.
Starting it up, you’re able to choose to play the Morning Stage. Afternoon and Evening are unlocked after you score a certain amount of points. Your castle is under attack from swarms of woodpeckers, and you need to take care of them by bouncing on your special roll of toilet paper. The controls are easy to use, and surprisingly accurate. Tilting your device moves the cat left and right, while bouncing is done automatically, ala Bean’s Quest. It would be great if virtual buttons were added to the game, since it is Universal, and tilting an iPad plays hell on your wrists. 
The graphics are great, and super cute, with the background colors changing depending on what time of day/stage you decide to play in. Each time you start up a new game, the layout of the platforms changes, which kind of makes it feel like you’re playing in a different stage each game. 
There are three types of blocks which you’ll be able to bounce on, big, small and blocks with arrows. The bigger blocks stay in place, while the smaller blocks drop down and disappear after you bounce on them, reappearing a short time later, adding to the challenge of the game, and the arrow blocks bounce you higher than you normally would. There are also two different types of birds. Your regular birds, and then pink birds, which, once you run into them, will give you either a 2X points multiplier, a power-up which slows down time, or a special ‘more birds’ star, which sets off a huge wave of birds.
Each time you hit a bird, they will drop a star. These don’t add to your total level score, but they can be collected and used to unlock different suits for your cat. There are IAPs, but these aren’t pushed on you at all, and are really just there if you want to support the developer, and get a couple of different looks for your cute little cat. You can also earn stars by getting promotions, this is done by hitting a certain number of birds as you play through the game. 
Like you might expect from a developer who’s done Bullet Hell titles in the past, the scoring system is a huge plus. For each bird that you knock down, you’re given 1 point, unless you can hit them in a special spot giving you a critical hit which is worth 10 points. Unfortunately, this spot isn‘t really clear. Sometimes you‘ll get it if you hit a bird on it‘s stomach, sometimes if you hit it on it‘s tail, sometimes directly in the face. If you manage to hit a bunch of birds in one jump, it’s a combo, and this is where the real points are. Collecting combos adds a bonus combo score at the end of your game, which can boost your score up quite a bit. 
Rainbow Tissue Cat is Universal and priced at $0.99. It’s supported by GameCenter with 13 achievements and 3 leader boards, one for each time of the day, adding a bunch to the replay value. Fans of the Super Crate Box genre should definitely check this one out. The only thing it really needs is a nice tutorial, explaining the scoring, power-ups, and what not to come into contact with (the first time I saw a samurai star, I thought it was a special power-up, and then died). 

Bug Hunt 8-Bit [Dom n’ Tom] – $0.99

Old-school retro score-chasing arcade games have quite a following, especially in the iOS world. With so many older gamers coming back to the scene, finding out that they can enjoy quick gameplay sessions on their phone, it’s not really a surprise that there’s so many of these games available in the AppStore. Dom n’ Tom’s Bug Hunt 8-Bit is a prime example. 

The main goal of the game is to eat as many bugs as you can, getting the highest score possible. With bugs going back and forth across the screen, and mixed in with bees, which kill your character, it’s simple, quick gaming. Controlling your character is easy, just place your finger on the screen, and drag left and right to move your little frog, and swipe up and down to move his tongue. Once you have plenty of bugs stuck on your frogs tongue, drag it back down so that he can eat them, and get the points. Sadly, this is the only control setup, no virtual buttons for those of you who are comfortable with them.
There are 7 levels, kind of set up like Tetris’s levels. Each progressive level will give you more bunches of bugs, at a faster speed. While you’re playing, your level will increase as you catch more bugs, but you can choose to start at a specific level if you like. The background colors change as you play, but there are no real different environments. 
Unfortunately, this is all the game has to offer. Yes, it’s simple, yes, it has great retro graphics, and yes, it has the potential to become very addictive. But with only one gameplay mode, no power-ups, only 3 different bugs, and the biggest disappointment, no online leader boards, there’s not really much there to pull you back to the game after you play it a couple of times. 

Bug Hunt 8-Bit is great for those little spaces of time when you have a minute or two to waste, and being Universal and priced at $0.99, it’s not bad if that’s what you’re looking for. But if you’re hoping for something that will totally draw you in, and have you coming back to compete for high-scores, it’s lacking. Released last year, and not receiving one update, it’s not looking like that will change, but hopefully more attention is given to this little game with tons of potential so that Dom n’ Tom maybe get the push they need to take advantage of it. 

Boom Brigade 2 [10Tons] – $3.99

10tons has brought out some fantastic titles for the iOS gaming scene. Azkend, Joining Hands, Grim Joggers, Sparkle, and more. Boom Brigade, a tower defense/line-drawing strategy arcade title, is definitely one of my favorites from 10tons, which is kind of funny, because line-drawing games and I don’t really get along. But there’s something about Boom Brigade which just hit’s the right nerve with me. Now, I get to experience it all again. Boom Brigade 2 is finally here, and it’s everything you would expect in a sequel. The same great gameplay mechanics and type of gameplay as the original, with more of everything.
Boom Brigade is a real time strategy line drawing defense title. You might not think it, but all of those genres mashed together really seems to work out well, especially since 10tons has done such a great job with the design of the game. You’ll guide army men around the map by drawing lines for them to follow. Enemies come at you from all sides of the screen, and you need to defend your base through wave after wave. 
There are two modes contained in the game, the 30 level Campaign, and a Survival Mission Mode. In the campaign mode, before each mission, you’re able to select your load outs for the givin units, and then go into battle. While you’re in battle, you’re able to pause the action with the icon in the lower left corner, and draw the lines for your men to follow along. This really helps out when the action gets hectic, and it does get very hectic. Throughout the stage, various power-ups and health containers are dropped from the sky, helping you to fend off the onslaught of aliens. 
Boom Brigade’s line drawing controls are some of the best I’ve ever experienced on the touch screen. One of the things that really turns me off of line drawing games are the clumsy controls, never really drawing the line exactly where I want it to be, or not responding and cutting off halfway through a path. Here, 10tons has done an excellent job making the controls precise as well as responsive. 
Graphics-wise, Boom Brigade 2 has a top/down view of the battlefield, but that doesn’t effect the gameplay like you might think. Your units are very clear, and it’s easy to tell if you’re moving your machine gunner or shot gunner, and the environments have plenty of detail. The animations also help add to the gameplay, with great death scenes and sounds, blasting the enemy away becomes very satisfying.
With 30 missions spread across 3 environments, unlockable upgrades for every character, and loads of line drawing strategy, Boom Brigade 2 is a game that’s definitely worth picking up if you’re even remotely interested in the genres. Priced at $3.99 (on sale ATM for $2.99), and Universal, as well as including GameCenter support with a whopping 11 leader boards, and 16 achievements, and a whole set of Survival Missions, there’s loads of replay value to be had.