Monthly Archive: August 2012

Rubicon’s Great Big War Game Merchandise Giveaway!

Rubicon has been fantastic with supporting Great Big War Game since it’s release a couple weeks ago. The online battles are incredibly fun, and with more and more players purchasing more of the map packs, there’s loads of different maps being played on. I’m actually finding it hard to pull myself away from GBWG so that I can get to other games and write up reviews (damn you Rubicon… hehe).
And now, Rubicon is going one step further, and having a Great Big Merchandise Giveaway!
At the end of each month, for the rest of the year, Rubicon is going to give away 1 merchandise pack to some very lucky gamers. In order to qualify, you just need to win one online match, which adds you to their leaderboard. You’ll also need to register on Rubicon’s forum (preferably with the same name you use for your GBWG online battles). That’s it!
For full details, hop on over to Rubicon’s forum page and check it out. Also, if you have some time to spare, why not spend it there? There’s some great gamers with some awesome hints, tips, and strategy help, and, of course, the awesome Rubicon devs. And who doesn’t like dialogue with awesome developers? =oD
**Don’t have Great Big War Game yet? No problem, check out our 5 star review, watch the trailer, and head on over to the AppStore to pick up one of the best games for the iOS to ever hit the virtual shelves!

Blade of Darkness [Zealm] – $1.99

With the recent release of Pocket Heroes re-igniting my love for D&D parties, and bringing back memories of playing Diablo back in the late 90’s, I’ve been on a sort of quest of my own. To find all the Diabloesque and Fantasy Card games for the iOS that I can. Low and behold, one of the first titles I came across, and just can’t get enough of; Blade of Darkness – an open-world 3D RPG/hack-n-slash game developed by Zealm (developers of Monster Fight, Zombies Runner and Angry Zombie Ninja Vs. Vegetables). 
Blade of Darkness starts out with a pretty impressive cutscene giving you a bit of backstory; seems darkness overtook the land after a meteor shower rained down from the skies. Zombies and other undead creatures started to appear everywhere, and the darkness slowly spread. This land is appropriately named ‘Shadowland’. On the edge of Shadowland lies ‘Sanctuary‘; a campsite set up where a small patch of sunlight hit’s the ground. It’s here that you’ll begin your journey. 
Actually, I guess I should say ‘it’s here where you’ll figure out what you’re supposed to be doing throughout the rest of the game.’ The tutorial is made up of 3 pop-ups. One telling you that the joystick in the lower left corner is for movement, another saying that the icon to the right is for jumping, and that to talk to people, you walk up to them and tap on them. Trust me, you won’t forget. Every time you come back to Sanctuary, you’ll need to go through the ‘tutorial’ before you get started again. From here on out, you’re on your own.
After figuring out that people in town with a “!” above their heads have a quest to send you on, you can try and figure out how to get out of Sanctuary. Turns out there’s a pathway right behind where you start from that leads out to two different warp areas, and from here, now you can start your journey. Your first task requires that you go to the East to find the wife of a wizard at camp. It seems they were separated, and he needs you to find her. Unfortunately, leaving the campsite will only take you South, through cemeteries, dungeons, and other dark lands which are full of undead creatures. Directions aren’t really accurate, and there will be quite a bit of exploring involved. 
The battle system is in real time, and is kind of reminiscent of CrimsonHeart. If you just run into a pack of enemies slinging your sword around, you’ll find yourself in trouble fairly quickly. Standing back and luring a couple of enemies towards you, and watching how they attack and block will be a valuable asset to learn early on in the game. Running around to the back of enemies helps you avoid their shields, and can give you some massive hits. Of course, not all of the enemies require this tactic. There are some that will just stand there while you walk right up to them and bash their heads in. It’s all part of the combat system dance. I guess. Once you start killing enemies, they’ll start dropping gold and other items, and you can get your loot on. Figuring out how to pick items up is another task that you’ll need to figure out on your own. I’ll help you out; Tapping on the item inside the window that pops up will put it in your equipment pack.
Don’t get me wrong. Once you figure everything in Blade of Darkness out, it’s really a fun game. But sticking with it through all of the figuring it out will be taxing, and currently priced at $0.99, there are going to be some people who just give up, and delete the game. But if you’re willing to stick it out, and not afraid to learn basically the whole UI on your own, the hack-n-slash, loot driven, Diablo reminiscent gameplay can be very rewarding. Finding those rare items, and beating the hell out of hundreds of enemies is great fun. You’re also able to play in CO-OP mode, which has the game controlling another hero along side you, Multiplayer Mode, where you can host or join another game, as well as an Arena Mode where you can battle other players online. Lets just hope that Zealm sells enough copies to be driven to keep the updates coming, because if they do, Blade of Darkness could turn into one hell of a Diabloesque title, and maybe even one of the top loot driven games on the iOS. 

Triolith’s new Metroid/Mega Man inspired platformer, Megatroid hits the AppStore!

Last June (2011) a newcomer to the iOS gaming scene, Triolith Entertainment, released their debut title, Wisp: Eira’s Tale. In it, you needed to guide a glowing orb through small maze like levels, avoiding incredibly creative hazards, collecting elements, Fire, Air, Water and Earth, and then safely make your way to the exit. Since it’s release, it’s gone through quite a few price drops, and had some updates that completed the game, making it one of the most polished games of it’s type available. 

Triolith has also been hard at work on their sophomore title, Megatroid, a platformer/run-n-gun title with randomly generated levels, and loads of equipment. Judging by the game’s name, it’s pretty easy to tell what the influences are; Metroid and Mega Man. These happen to be two of my favorite old-school games, and I’m sure many of you are also pretty big fans of the two series, so when I heard about Megatroid, I just about did a backflip in excitement. 

Megatroid not only has endless replayablity, but also a story to go along with it, which was a pretty big surprise. You’ll control Hali, a member of GRiN (Galactic Rebel Information Network), as she fights her way through the Imperium army one station at a time. You’re accompanied by a mechanical pet orb, named S.P.A.K.K. (Self Propelled Aerial Kinematic Kitten – that’s right – kitten), who gives you various information, and helps guide you on your journey. Now, once you complete the first couple of levels, and collect the Imperial Warp Gate, you’re able to jump from station to station. This is where the randomly generated level system comes into play. 
With a little help from the developers, here’s how it works; 

Because computers are pretty bad at figuring out random stuff, the level generation is seed based. This means that a string of characters – “FN/#NS¤’MDFH” – is fixed, while any word you can think of is typed in, say “The App Shack”, and then combined with “FN/#NS¤’MDFH” in order to create the stage. Since every copy of the game uses the same seed, every copy of the game produces the same level when the same word is typed in. So if I type “Goobel-e-gla” in my copy of the game, and so do you, we will both play the same level. 

This works out for the best, as Triolith has hidden some levels within the game, and if you happen to type in a certain word, you’ll unlock the Hidden Game Mode. Hopefully more things like this will be added in future updates. It’s a really neat feature. 

If you haven’t yet got Megatroid, make sure you check it out! It’s available for FREE (that’s right, folks! FREE!!!!) in the AppStore. This does, however, mean that IAPs are included as well, but they are very non-intrusive, and basically there for players to donate some cash to the developers. There are two markets, the Premium and Black Market. Both contain weapons and armor, but the Premium Market has items which you can only purchase with Space Bucks, while the Black Market’s currency is with Coins, which you earn in-game by destroying enemies and completing levels. There’s two options for picking up Space Bucks; One – purchase them through IAP with $$, Two – check out and install free apps, or watch trailers, though this only gives you a couple at a time, it’s there if you’re determined to get Space Bucks. The weapons in the Premium Market are not much stronger than the items in the Black Market, so it’s definitely not required at all to progress through the game. Also, new items are added every day, so you never really know what’s going to be available to you! Very cool!

Fans of Mega Man and Metroid (there are branching paths in the levels, but not much exploration, and no upgrades required to reach new areas, but you can still see the influence) as well as platformers and run-n-gun titles should definitely check out Megatroid. It’s on par with Wisp: Eira’s Tale, and could possibly become an iOS classic very soon. Check it out!

The App Shack’s first ever big ass promo code giveaway starts next Wednesday the 8th!

It’s been a long time since we had our last promo code giveaway. Last Christmas to be exact. And since then, we’ve gained quite a few more readers. Because of that, we figured it’d be a good idea to expose all of our new readers to one of our favorite things to do here on The App Shack (other than give you reviews of course!), giving away promo codes! 

We’ve got quite a few developers who’ve agreed to contribute this time around; Lightstorm 3D, The Quadsphere, Just Funny Games, FDG, A Small Game, Creative Heroes, Grab Games, and more have all been kind enough to give us a couple codes for some select games; Captain Antarctica HD, Hanger, Cats Away, Amoebattle, Icarus-X, Gene Effect, Gluddle and more! 

Our giveaway will start this coming Wednesday (August 8th). All you’ll need to do is follow #TheAppShack on Twitter, and Retweet our Tweets about the giveaways! We’ll be picking winners at random, and contacting them with codes for a whole week (through August 14th!). So keep a look out here on TAS for the beginning of this very special event, and let everyone you know in on the nifty giveaway we’ll have going on! You guys won’t want to miss out on it. =oD

Party Wave [Mistwalker] – $1.99

One of my favorite old-school video games has got to be Final Fantasty. Created by Hironobu Sakaguchi, pretty much everything his hands touched turned to gold; Kingdom Hearts, Parasite Eve, Vagrant Story, Legend of Mana, and loads more, Sakaguchi left Squre, created Mistwalker, and has since released some fantastic titles; Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, The Last Story, and more. Releasing titles on the XBOX 360, Nintendo DS, and Wii, Mistwalker finally found their way over to the AppStore with the release of Party Wave, a casual arcade title that has players controlling groups of surfers. 
Surfing really isn’t a sport that’s touched on much in the iOS gaming world; Rising Board, Derby Surf, Line Surfer, South Surfers, ePig Surf and Robo Surf are the only titles that come to mind, and with other genres overflowing with games, it’s pretty surprising to only have a few surfing themed games laying around. But with the reputation of Mistwalker, Party Wave has the potential to blow them all out of the water, so to speak, even before checking it out. Fortunately, that’s not how things operate, and getting our hands on the game, seeing how the first step away from the RPG genre Mistwalker has taken, as well as how they approach the casual arcade genre, we’re pretty darn impressed. 
For those of you who have never heard the term, ‘Party Wave’ is a term for any large wave which several surfers ride on. And that’s exactly what you’ll be doing in the game. Starting off, you’ll guide each of the surfers to a specific spot in the water by swiping on them, flicking them to the area. Once you get all of the surfers there, the fun begins. 
Each surfer will start to blink once they hit the bottom portion of the wave. This is your cue to tap them, sending them up and into the air. Once in the air, you can tap them again on their way up to do a trick, and again on their way down to do another trick. It sounds pretty simple, right? Just tap on the surfers when they’re at the bottom of the wave and in the air, no worries. But once you throw three or more of them together, and add in the hazards of the water, it can get very challenging, very quickly. What makes it even harder, is that some stages require that you get a certain number of perfect scores on previous levels in order to play them, and progress through the game, and sometimes you’ll need to go back and try and replay stages without having any surfers fall off of their boards. 
The gameplay is pretty straight forward, but can get awfully hectic at times. Quick reflexes, quicker thinking, and fast fingers are definitely an asset worth having if you’re going to compete on the leader boards, or complete the game. For those of you who really look for replay value when you get your iOS gaming on, Party Wave caters to you as well; the gameplay gets even more depthy the more you get into it. Perfect scores for getting all of your surfers on the wave, and not letting any of them fall off are great and everything, but what will really make you coming back, trying to max out your score? The little mechanics that add that special spark to a game, having it stand out above others within the genre, as well as all the titles available in the AppStore.
When you perfect clear a stage, stars start showing up. Collecting these while you’re playing will give you power-ups, like giving a surfer extra speed to make it to the wave catching area, which you can trigger by pausing the game, and touching the stars in the menu. You can also collect stars by touching the strange UFO which appears in the game at seemingly random times. Also, the closer you get to the hazards and objects in the first part of each level, while you’re flicking the surfers to the wave catching area will give you special little bonuses as well. 
Something else that will keep you coming back? The special ultra spiffy Arcade Mode! Here, you’ll try and get through six sets of four stages in a certain amount of time. Doing tricks adds to your time limit, while running into hazards depletes it. Arcade Mode can get very difficult, but never in a frustrating way, and when you nail tricks just right, it can become a lot more fun than the already incredibly entertaining Level Mode. 
Party Wave, priced at $1.99, being Universal, and having GameCenter support with 2 leaderboards, one for your total score in the level stages, and another for Arcade Mode, is a fantastic title. The experience of Mistwalker definitely shines through out the entire game, from the graphics to the gameplay, and even down to the little special mechanics that make the gameplay deeper than it looks on the surface, and keep you coming back for more. Party Wave is a shining example that yes, everything Mr. Sakaguchi touches really does turn to gold. 

Kid Vector [Uncade] – $1.99

Back when I first got my 2nd generation iPod Touch, platformers were pretty hard to find. There really only seemed to be a couple decent ones available for the iOS at the time. Since then, the genre has grown and grown, and kept growing into the massive collection it currently is. Now, with well over 50 platformers on my iPod alone, the only hard thing to find is which game I want to play. Luckily, this week, Virginia based developer, Uncade, released his third platform game, Kid Vector. 
Like Uncade’s last platformer release, Blast Ball (now named Blast Soccer), Kid Vector uses beautiful retro graphics to enhance the gameplay. Personally, I loved the graphics in Blast Ball, but with Kid Vector, the backgrounds are all animated, adding to the look, as well as the feel of the game, and bringing an extra level of polish to the whole package. 
One (of very few) shortcoming of Kid Vector is the length. Containing only 15 levels, chances are you’ll finish the game relatively quick. However, even that can provide a decent challenge, and when  you bring into account the 3 badges that each of the 15 levels has, you’ve got yourself one hell of an old-school challenge to complete. 
Each level contains a certain amount of coins, as well as 1 hidden star. Collecting all of the coins gives you the Coin Badge, while finding the star will get you the Star Badge. Each level also has a time limit which you can try and complete the level by in order to get the Time Badge. Now, don’t get the wrong idea, just because there’s time limits does not mean that Kid Vector contains bite-sized levels. The levels are actually pretty big. Big enough to have a checkpoint, and time limits around 50 seconds. 
The level design for Kid Vector is fantastic. With the crazy amount of hazards (spikes on the ground and the ceiling, falling spikes, flame throwers, laser blasters, large caterpillars, UFO beams and much more!) placed perfectly, and moving as well as disappearing platforms, and the animated backgrounds adding to the whole layout as well as challenge, it’s one of the most well designed iOS platformers I’ve had the pleasure of playing, and I’ve played just about every single one of them. 
Priced at $1.99, being Universal, including different placement of the buttons for the larger iPad screen (though you’re unable to move the buttons), and GameCenter integration with 7 achievements, Kid Vector is a great buy, especially if you’re a fan of old-school platformers. The 3 badges for each level do add to the challenge, and the replay value, but once you complete that, there’s really nothing to come back for. GameCenter leaderboards for each of the 3 world’s total times, or including a scoring system for score-chasing would have been a huge plus. Though, with Uncade’s previous releases getting some fairly big updates, fully rounding out his previous titles, there’s a pretty good chance that Kid Vector will only be improved as time goes on. As it is now though, there’s quite a bit of gameplay to keep even hardcore platform veterans busy for hours as the challenge more than makes up for the lack of leaderboards and the shortness of the game. Uncade has definitely pushed the bar for iOS retro platformers with slick graphics, awesome music, fabulous level design, and a crazy amount of hazards. Kid Vector is one title you should not pass up. 

Le Havre [Codito Development] – $4.99

Like Point & Click titles, Board games seem to be a complete fit the iOS device. Perfect for the touch screen UI, multiplayer capabilities and none of the setting up, putting away, or deck/piece/board maintenance. One of the most recent board games to hit the AppStore is Codito Development’s (the same company that brought Tikal, Tigris & Euphrates, Ra and Medici to the iOS) Le Havre (The Harbor). The popular board game, released in 2008, that has you controlling the development of the town, Le Havre.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of playing this 2009 International Gamers Award winner, you’re in for a real treat. Le Havre has you building up as much wealth as you can over the course of 18 turns by constructing buildings, owning ships, and bringing in goods through the harbor. The tutorial is very well designed, and easy to understand, giving you the full scope of the game’s mechanics your first time through. There’s also an option to keep hints on while you’re playing, just in case you need a little extra help through your first couple of games. It’s fairly complex, and includes a bit of depth, but once you get the hang of it, it actually becomes pretty simple, and you’ll probably wonder why it took you so long to figure everything out.
There are two gameplay modes available, Local, which you’re able to set up with up to 4 AI opponents as well as other players via pass n play type gameplay, and Online Multiplayer through GameCenter. You’re able to set these modes up in one of two different ways; Short Game and Long Game. In a short game, you’re given 12 rounds, each round containing 3 turns, and are given a couple of building supplies to get you started. This mode is best for newcomers to the game, while a long game includes 18 rounds, and you are not given any building materials to start out with.
Using your basic building materials; wood, clay and iron, you’ll be able to use the buildings that the town has already built in order to create them. For instance, the town has built the Construction Rirm. You can use the Construction Firm to build up to 3 buildings per turn. Once you build these buildings, you own them. The buildings that you’ll build will help you create more food (which is required every round to feed your workers/employees), more complex building materials, like bricks and iron, and more. Also, with each building you own, your wealth goes up. 
Using the dock, you’re able to collect materials and food, used to feed your workers and build. Starting a long game can take a couple of turns to get into as you collect your materials. You’ll also always need to make sure you take a turn or two to either collect food, or turn food into more processed food, which in-turn feeds more of your workers. Feeding your workers is a huge part of the game. If you can’t afford to feed your workers, you’ll be required to take a very costly loan from the bank, and that can pretty much damage your chances of winning. 
Le Havre is, by far, one of the most impressive board games I’ve had the pleasure of playing on the iOS. The graphics, user interface, and just the mechanics of it all create an incredibly immersive, and very entertaining gameplay experience. Priced at $4.99 and being Universal, if you’re a fan of board games, Le Havre is one that you need to own. GameCenter leaderboards for wins, total wealth, and more, it’s one game that will take you a while to master, but is incredibly enjoyable throughout the entire learning process, and even more-so after you finally figure out the best ways to become the wealthiest man in all of Le Havre. Codito Development just can’t seem to do any wrong. 

Cats Away [NNT + ZigZaGame] – $0.99

Casual arcade games are a sort of secret obsession of mine. With as many as there are in the AppStore, it’s really no wonder a lot of gamers are looking for more when it comes to their app purchases, but when it comes to score-chasing casual arcade titles, especially games with combo and multiplier systems, I just eat that stuff up, and love every minute of it. NNT + ZigZaGame’s new title, Cats Away, is the most recent little addiction of mine, already sucking away at least 5 hours of my spare time.
In Cats Away you’ll collect cats with different UFOs which you’re able to purchase with coins that you earn in every game. The higher your score, the more coins you get, the more coins you get, the better ships you can afford, and the better ships you have, the higher your score’s gonna be. It’s a vicious cycle, and getting wrapped up in it will cost you hours upon hours of your life. 
The game starts out a little slow at first, with your one and only ship able to only pick up the smallest cats on the screen, earning you only a couple coins with each game. But luckily, the developers over at ZigZaGame have also included an upgrade system. For 10 coins, you’re able to increase the stats of your first ship, making it a lot more powerful than you’d think. Before you know it, you’re controlling a pretty decent UFO, and are working your way up to hitting 1,000,000+ points and getting 100+ coins per game. 

There are 4 separate worlds in Cats Away, each offering up fairly distinctive gameplay, and very different environments, each with their own ways of getting huge scores. In the first world, you’re given 90 seconds to collect as many cats as you can. These cats range from small to extremely large, with the larger ones really testing your patience, and pretty much just laying there laughing at you as you unsuccessfully try and pick each of them up. There’s bushes all over the level, which hide more cats, as well as power-ups and coins behind them. Your UFO’s beam is able to break up the bushes, revealing their hidden goodies, and this is something you’ll need to do over and over again if you want to score big.
The first world contains sleeping power-ups, which put all of the cats to sleep for a short period of time, making it easier to snatch them up, beam power-ups, which upgrade the strength of your UFO’s beam, making it easier to pick up the small kittens, and, depending on how many of these you can uncover, you’ll be able to pick up the medium sized cats as well. Lastly, there’s the cat fever powerup, which draws more small cats in from the edges of the screen. Collecting the Beam and Cat Fever powerups are essential in getting large scores. In each additional world after, you’ll come across more and more power-ups and special boosters, like meteors which hit the ground, and throw all of the cats into the air, making them easier to grab, time pick-ups, adding 5 seconds or more to your time limit, and more. 

The scoring system is one of my favorite aspects of Cats Away. Getting huge scores (in the millions) is always a plus with casual score-chasing arcade titles. It leaves a lot of room between the first and last place scores on the GameCenter leader boards, which, in turn, adds to the drive to better your score, if even just by a couple hundred points. You’re given a combo bonus each time you collect more than 2 cats at the same time. The more cats you collect at once, the larger your bonus will wind up being. This has a huge effect on the gameplay, with loads of cats on the screen at once, it’s almost impossible to not try and grab as many as you can before sucking all the cats into your UFO. However, this means that the cats floating around in the UFO’s beam have more time to be tossed about, and even flung out of the beam. It’s a nice risk-reward, especially with the game’s time limits. 
The controls in Cats Away took me a little playing around with before I really felt comfortable with them. But once I did, it became very easy to get into a groove, and loose hours of my life. The UFO will jump above your thumb wherever you place it on the screen. This might seem strange, since it’ll cover up the area where you collect cats, but this makes the UFO’s beam appear under your thumb, which is a perfect placement for it. Dragging your thumb across the screen, the beam will pick up any cats which it’s strong enough to grab. Once you have cats floating around in the beam, you’ll need to take the UFO up to the top portion of the screen in order to successfully snatch everything up. If you don’t take the UFO to the top of the screen, you’ll just have cats, power-ups and coins floating around in your beam, and once it’s full, start flinging them all over the screen. 
The graphics and animations are very well done, adding quite a bit to the gameplay. It’s great seeing cats being flipped every which way while in the air on their way into the spaceship. The exploding bushes and projectiles that some ships are equipped with have minimal animations, but they fit the graphic look of the game very well. The physics are another very polished aspect of the game, with each cat having their own weight and feeling to them, adding another layer to the gameplay. All-n-all, it’s a very polished game that you can tell a lot of thought went into while creating it. 
Priced at $0.99, being Universal, and including GameCenter integration with boards for each of the 4 worlds adding to the already insanely high replay value. Fans of the genre, or score-chasing fanatics should definitely check out Cats Away. There’s loads of unlockables, and the incredibly addictive gameplay will give you hours upon hours of gaming entertainment. I’m definitely looking forward to updates, hoping that more worlds and ships will be added, but even more so, I’m on the edge of my seat wondering what ZigZaGames will come up with next. They’ve definitely figured out how to spark all the right nerves in our video game focused brains.