It’s a shame that, with the amount of games on the AppStore, there really are very few development companies that can continually surprise and impress gamers with their releases. Granted, this number is starting to grow, and the future does look incredibly bright for iOS gaming, but we all know that that really depends on the market, and who can stick to their guns, deciding to not start making freemium IAP monger type games that are taking over the charts. I’ve felt this way for a while, but this week was an incredible week for iOS gamers, and has put a lot of that oomph back into our hearts. Aside from the best Action RPG to hit the iDevice, an amazing Physics-Puzzler, an incredible, and unique firefighting game, we received one of the most innovative, original and pure Puzzlers as well; Cipher Prime Studio’s Splice: Tree Of Life. If you’re into Puzzlers, Cipher Prime is responsible for the awesome iPad titles Pulse: Volume One [$2.99], Fractal: Make Blooms Not War [$4.99] and the iPhone game, Auditorium [FREE], each of which receiving great reviews with all but Fractal earning multiple awards.
With all of that in mind, our hopes and excitement for Splice: Tree Of Life was incredibly high, and after playing through the first couple levels of the game, once I started to understand the mechanics, I was hooked. There is no tutorial in Splice. There is a ‘?’ that can be tapped at any time during gameplay, containing 3 screens of instructions, but chances are, you’ll still need to mess around throughout the first world before you really get a handle on everything that’s going on.
The goal of Splice is to align microbes in the outlined pattern in the given amount of moves. In order to do this, you’ll need to drag-n-drop the misaligned microbes, attaching them to the one center microbe. Once you pick up a microbe, light grey outlines appear in places where you can attach it. If you don’t place it in one of those outlines, the microbe will jump back to where it originally was before you picked it up.
There are some microbes that have white symbols on them. These microbes, and sometimes, microbes attached under them, can be mutated depending on what symbol they contain. Some have an arrow that’s split in half, these can be mutated to split into two separate microbes, side-by-side, mutating all microbes connected under them as well. Another type has a regular arrow, and these mutate into two microbes as well, however, these mutate by splitting down so that the second microbe is directly under the original one, and these do not effect any microbes attached under them. There is also an ‘X’ symbol, which destroys that microbe, as well as any microbes attached beneath it. Once you hit World 6, you’re able to let microbes float. Here, the grey outlines don’t really matter, as you can place microbes out on their own. You’ll also come across stages where you’ll need to pull microbes that are out on their own into the design.
There are 49 original stages spread out across 7 ‘Sequences’ in Splice: Tree Of Life, with each stage called a ‘strand’. Once you complete these 49 strands, you’ll unlock the Epilogue. Here, there are 4 more Sequences, each with 7 more strands, for a total of 28 additional levels. These Epilogue levels are incredibly challenging, with fairly large strands to solve, using all of the mechanics from the original levels. Adding to this great challenge are ‘Angelic’ solutions. Each stage, having a certain number of moves available to complete the strand, has a potential ‘perfect’ solution, requiring less moves than that that are given. All of the levels are challenging enough, not to mention the insane difficulty increase when you move on to the Epilogue levels, but solving each and every stage with the Angelic solution should prove to be a challenge that not everyone can undertake. However, if you do get stuck and would like to know how to solve a particular strand, Cipher Prime’s website has posted all of the solutions via YouTube.
Like Cipher Prime’s previous releases, the graphics and atmosphere in Splice are phenomenal. The animations and movement for each microbe blends together seamlessly with the other microbes, as well as the movement of your fingers on the screen. This, combined with the beautiful soundtrack make for an incredibly immersive puzzler. You can also listen to and download the soundtrack on Cipher Prime’s bandcamp page, or check it out below.
GameCenter is supported, and includes 18 achievements (2 of which are hidden), which will only be unlocked by the best players. Unfortunately, there are no leaderboards, so competing with friends to see who can solve an entire Sequence the fastest will have to be done manually.
Priced at $3.99, Splice: Tree Of Life, is a steal. Awarded as the Best Puzzle Game of 2011 via the Intel Level Up Contest, and including hours upon hours of gameplay and mind-wrecking puzzles, it’s easily one of the best puzzlers available on any gaming platform. If you’re looking for a new and unique game that will provide you with an insane challenge, look no further. Cipher Prime has done an incredible job with the creation of this title, and I feel lucky to be able to have a port of it available in the AppStore, for a fraction of the PC/Mac Version’s price. Splice is a wonderful experience that should not be missed.
Ever since the release of CrimsonHeart, RPG fans have been looking for the next title to live up to the very high standards set by ANBSoft’s amazing title. Now, I won’t lie. Not one Action RPG title has made me come close to thinking of CrimsonHeart since. Until now. Playbean’s Master of Dungeon. What first brought on the memories of CrimsonHeart? The 360 degree movement. Yup, that’s really all it took. Once you play an Action RPG with 360 degree movement, all others seem stiff, and Playbean has nailed the movement, controls, and camera angles perfectly. The only question remaining; Does the rest of the game live up to the criteria of Crimsonheart?
Master of Dungeon is a story about a place called World Tree. Light and Food is scarce, but the people of the land follow and believe in the Prophet, willing to do anything to please her. The English translation is pretty bad, and this isn’t helped by the text being broken up across lines (what a kawinkidink, just like CrimsonHeart!), but it’s understandable, and I never found myself at a loss for words not knowing what was going on in the story. Once you start you’re able to pick your class; Warrior, who has a strong physical attack with fencing skills and sword spheres, Assassin, who specializes in fist combat and is great when luck skills are increased, helping him find gold and rare item drops easier than the other classes, and the Wizard, who specializes in magic attacks and skills, and is better used at medium range instead of up close and personal.
Each different class has a different skill tree, and these skill trees are pretty extensive, offering up numerous skills to use and expand on, helping you immensely throughout the game. The skills you wind up choosing will play a major roll, effecting combat, and guiding how you control your characters from the beginning of the game. Unfortunately, the combat is not equal to CrimsonHearts. Running into a swarm of enemies and hacking and slashing your way through them will not severely drain your HP, or effectively kill you. Instead, mob management plays a roll, guiding enemies into large groups so that you can easily take them all out at once. This does, however, bring down the amount of grinding needed in order to level up, and because you’ll be leveling up fairly often, you will be spending quite a bit of time managing your skill tree.
Master of Dungeon is set up so that you’ll constantly be visiting your tiny town in-between missions, talking to the townsfolk, progressing in the story, and starting new quests. Once you have your quests, there’s one exit out of the town, and it’s straight into a dungeon. When you start, you’re only able to go into one area of the dungeon, but as you progress, more areas will be opened, and you’ll be able to transport your character to these places directly, making it easier to navigate through the seemingly endless corridors of the world. Unfortunately, there’s not much in the way of environmental changes, which does have a pretty big impact on the game. Visiting essentially the same areas over and over again filled with different enemies does get a little boring after a while.
The graphics and animations are reminiscent of CrimsonHeart, though not as extravagant, the attacking animations do contain a lot of flare, and utilizing the strengths of each class, they really do make you feel like a badass. The movement, death, and re-appearing animations are also well done, also having animations for various impacts like confusion, poison, and more, making the gameplay pretty flashy. Along with the great music and sound effects, it does create a fairly immersive gameplay experience.
Priced at $3.99, and being Universal, it’s not a bad game by any means, and fans of the genre will love the 360 degree movement. It is better than CrimsonHeart? No. Not really. Is it better than most of the other Action RPGs out there? Yes. Yes it is. The 360 degree movement makes a huge difference in the gameplay, and even though it’s not equal to CrimsonHeart, I don’t think players want another game that’s exactly like CH, and I’m pretty sure Playbean knows this. There’s enough similarities to keep fans of CrimsonHeart satisfied, entertained, and hooked on the game, while also having enough differences to not be just a copy. Playbean has done a fantastic job here, and with a couple tweaks, it could rank right up there with CrimsonHeart as one of the best Action RPGs available in the AppStore.
The puzzle genre seems to be one of the most expansive genres of video games right now, reaching out and being merged with other genres and unique ideas week after week. Back in February, newcomer Fluttermind’s first iOS title, Incoboto, hit the AppStore, and gamers were exposed to one of the most unique, atmospheric and incredibly immersive action puzzlers to ever be released. And a couple of days ago, it was updated to include iPad 3 retina support, making it one of the most graphically stunning games available for the iOS.
Incoboto is the story of a little boy named Inco, living in a dying Universe, who awakes to find everyone he’s known dead and gone. Luckily, he’s not completely alone. That day, a sun named Helios approached Inco, saying he was hungry. Tired of staring off into space, watching the Universe die, they set off on their journey. Clues are left everywhere pushing him in the direction of The Corporation. The company who’s built, produced and basically rules everything, everywhere.
Movement is simple; touching on either side of the screen moves Inco in that direction, and tapping on the screen or swiping upwards causes Inco to jump. You’re also able to choose a joypad control scheme which gives you left/right buttons. Still, a tap or swipe upwards is required to jump. When you run into an object that can be fiddled with, read or picked up, a finger will appear above it, and to interact with it, you just need to tap under the finger. In order to drop an object, you tap Inco, to throw an object, you need to draw a line from Inco in the direction you want to throw, and to scan objects, you press two fingers down on both sides of the object.
Each level contains a certain amount of Starpieces, which you need to figure out how to collect so that you can feed them to Helios. Once you do, he will have enough power to open up the next Stargate so that you can progress to the next level. There are also 50 Star Charts lying around throughout the game, which you don’t need to collect, but collecting them all will get you a bonus at the end of the game.
Each world you come across will become progressively more difficult, with more and more objects, hazards, and gameplay mechanics being introduced almost every time you move forward. These include gravity beams, rotating planets, movable platforms, objects which require energy balls in order to run and loads more. The level design, and where all of the interactive objects are placed are fantastic, and very well thought out.
Graphically, the game is incredibly atmospheric, and combined with all of the clues and other text included in the game, creates a very gloomy and bittersweet environment. The lo-fi ambient music and sounds also help lend a hand to the game’s feeling, and perfectly complete the immersion provided by the gameplay.
With Incoboto priced at $3.99, it’s a steal, as it’s one of the must have titles available for the iPad. GameCenter is supported, and includes 12 achievements, but once you complete the game, there’s not much replay value there. However, the 6 or so hours it’ll take you to complete the game is 6 hours you won’t soon forget. Fluttermind has created an iOS classic with Incoboto, and if you’re even remotely interested in puzzle, adventure, or darker video games, this is one that you need to check out, and we, here at The App Shack, are eagerly awaiting to hear what Fluttermind will bring to the platform next.
It’s always great seeing something new and unique hit the AppStore. With so many new developers that have hit the AppStore over the last 4 or so years, it’s incredible that there are developers out there that have ideas that haven’t been done or taken advantage of yet. That’s the case with Jorge Hernandez’s Astronaut Spacewalk, an astronaut simulation title that has you move and control an astronaut around a spaceship right above the earth’s atmosphere.
The first thing you might notice when starting up the game is the detailed controls. Going through the operation manual is something you really should do before you start playing. The controls are unlike anything I’ve experienced on the iOS as of yet. You’re given buttons which will move you up, down, forward, back, left, right, rotate you right, left, strife right, left, rotate you forward and back, and controls that will move the camera around you, however, they aren’t your typical virtual controls. On the left side of the screen, you’re given your basic movement buttons, and on the right you have your rotating, and the center of the screen controls your camera. It does take a little fidgeting around before you get comfortable with them, but once you do, the controls are perfect for the game.
Starting off, you’ll need to guide the astronaut to various spots around the shuttle. You have a certain amount of boosters, and re-aligning energy, as well as a set amount of oxygen. If you can’t make it to all of the checkpoints around the ship with the given amount of energy and oxygen, you’ll need to start from scratch. There are also set boundaries around the shuttle, and if you leave them, you’ll need to restart as well, so no making your way from the shuttle to the moon, or re-entering the atmosphere in your suit. There are some glitches that occur if you manage to collide with the ship, and keep going forward, you can wind up getting stuck inside of the ship, unable to make your way out, but this really only happens if you’re trying to make it happen.
After the first mission, you’ll be faced with objectives that generally have you moving from one area to another, and staying there while something is fixed, attached, or checked out. You will need to align the astronaut in the correct positioning in order for this to happen, which can get quite challenging. Even further on, you’ll be making your way to satellites, space stations, and more.
The graphics are definitely a highlight within the game, with the Earth, Shuttle, Astronaut, and space debris very detailed. Combined with the controls, physics, inertia, and basic gameplay, Astronaut Spacewalk becomes a very immersive experience. Something that also helps is the music and effects, as well as the constant background NASA chatter. Astronaut Spacewalk is really less of a game, and more of a challenging experience. Each of the 20 Missions provides unique tasks which you must complete before you run out of air and power.
Having a launching price of $3.99, it’s a fantastic simulation title to pick up if you’re interested in something new and unique, and are up for a challenge. I can’t really see the gameplay appealing to a wide audience, but hopefully it does. With more and more people becoming interested in space and NASA, now seems like a perfect time for a game like this to hit the AppStore, but with so many casual gamers, it’ll be a hard sell. Being made only for the iPhone is another thing that will most likely keep people from purchasing it, but if you’re willing to play in 2X mode, with a little bit of pixilation, or just have an iPod/iPhone, it’s definitely a game you should check out. I can’t wait to see what Mr. Hernandez has in store for future games on the platform. Here’s hoping this is only the beginning.
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.
Action RPGs have quite a fan following in the AppStore. I’ll admit that since Hybrid and Zenonia, I’ve been hooked on them. But there comes a time when the same thing over and over again becomes dull, and with the crazy amount of Action RPGs available for the iOS, it’s no surprise that seemingly everything that can be done with them has been done, and, aside from an interesting story, the genre is in kind of a slump for the time being. Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel. South Korea’s own Oozoo Inc., a new studio on the iOS gaming scene, has given gamers a very interesting new Action RPG title, Brandnew Boy, developed with one of the best engines available, Unreal.
Brandnew Boy is the story of Rookie, a young boy who’s lost his memory, but happens to have a little TV robot to help him out. As you’ll quickly find out, to figure out who you are, where you are, and what has happened in your past, you’ll need to fight. Various enemies are attacking you for no reason, but you appear to have what it takes to survive, and find yourself.
Brandnew Boy is a 3D game with 3rd person view, something that’s rarely done with iOS RPG titles. What makes Brandnew Boy really stand out is the combat system. To attack an enemy, you just need to tap on them, and then tap in time with the attack animations. There’s also a gauge at the bottom of the screen which lets you know when the optimum time to tap is. This isn’t required, but tapping right when you hit an enemy results in a lot more damage. Once the enemies are about to attack you, an exclamation point appears above their head. To avoid their attack, you can swipe on the screen in any direction, and Rookie will dive out of the way. The movement controls are simple as well, tap to move, and swipe on the screen to change the direction of Rookie. To stop moving, simply tap on the screen again. These controls allow for a clean UI, and work great.
There are two game modes to choose from, Scenario Mode, which is the basic campaign/story mode, and Infinity Mode, which lets you battle it out with various enemies, trying to get the best score you can before you die. As you can imagine, the graphics are top notch. Oozoo Inc has done a fantastic job creating a wonderful world with vibrant colors, loads of detail, amazing animations, and great character designs. The music and effects also help to create an incredibly immersive gameplay experience.
As you level up, and your stats increase, you’re also able to unlock and purchase more items from the shop. Here, you can buy various gloves, shirts, accessories, skills, rings, potions, and more. There are IAPs available, but you can earn quite a few coins just by going through the stages, and playing in the Infinity Mode. You’re also able to replay levels, which is great, because if you get stuck on a stage that’s too difficult, you’re able to go back and earn more coins, and maybe level up some more, increasing your stats.
Brandnew Boy is above and beyond, one of the best Action RPG/3D Action-Combat titles available for the iOS. The great graphics, and superb gameplay offer up a fantastic gaming experience. For $3.99, it’s a great buy for anyone remotely interested in Action RPGs, and a must buy for fans of the genre who have gotten tired of the same old recipe developers have been using. Including 99 achievements 6 leaderboards in GameCenter, coupled with the Infinite Mode, there’s endless replayability. Right now, Brandnew Boy is on sale for $0.99, so it’s an even better time to snag this great game. With more updates in the works, I can’t wait to see what Oozoo has in store for us in the future.
Castle Defense titles have become a great way to grab a few minutes of defense strategy gameplay while on the go, because of the AppStore. They’re great anywhere, appeal to a wide range of players, and hit that strategic nerve a lot of us gamers have without requiring us to play through a 2 hour game, or 45 minute level. While games like Stick and Cartoon Wars pioneered the genre on the iOS, games like Legendary Wars and the Fortune series pushed it more towards the hardcore strategy gamer, and that’s where Category 5 Games most recent title, Warmongers, fits in.
Warmongers is a single screen, 5 lane defense title, which requires quite a bit of strategy to progress through. While battling it out through hundreds of levels, you’ll be able to collect coins, unlock and upgrade characters, build up powers, and select special ability giving colors for your army.
Starting off, you’ll need to play through one area, with 3 stages. Each of these stages has 3 separate battles that you’ll need to complete in order to take over the area. Once you battle your way through all 9 stages, each getting progressively harder than the last, the territory is yours. As you make your way through the territories, more and more battles are required to play through before you take the territory over.
In order to win a battle, you need to get enough of your characters over to the enemies side. At the top of the screen is a gauge, starting with each side locked at the middle. Once you get a character over to the enemies side, your gauge takes over a little bit of the enemies gauge. If they get a character over to your side, the gauge moves back. To win the battle, you need to completely own the enemies gauge. Sometimes it can take less than a minute, others, it’s an all out epic battle, going back and forth, with each side almost winning multiple times. It all depends on what characters you send out, when you send them out, what power ups you use and when, and when you use your special color ability. With each character you send out costing mana, and only 200 mana available to you at any given time, it’s usually a struggle the whole battle.
In the shop, you’re able to upgrade your characters, powers and colors. With each character, you can upgrade their level, which increases their defense, speed, and attack, or increase their attack and defense separately. You’re also able to purchase Bloodlust abilities, which are special attacks that can be used when your bloodlust gauge is filled.
There are IAPs in the shop, and with no levels being able to be replayed for extra coinage, and the pretty high cost of upgrades and character unlocks, and the difficulty brought on by only having 200 mana available to you at any given time throughout the game (with characters mana costs being between 35 and 45) it can feel like the game is pushing you towards purchasing extra coins quite a bit. This is a shame, because everything else within the game is top-notch. Unfortunately, this push to purchase extra consumable IAPs after the original purchase of the game can be a real deal breaker for many gamers.
Right now, Warmongers is having a 50% off launching sale, and the iPhone version is priced at $0.99, with the HD version priced at $1.99. Considering it’s pushed towards purchasing extra coins through IAP, having a $1.99 and $3.99 title, and not being universal, it’s a hard game to recommend. But if you’re looking for a game that pushes you towards making certain upgrades without any experimentation, and loads of challenge, and high difficulty, then Warmongers is a strategy game you’ll most likely fall in love with.
One of my favorite puzzle platformers available for the iOS is LostWinds. Beautiful graphics, nice controls, fantastic gameplay and an immersive world with great music and effects make it an easy game to love, and I’m incredibly grateful Frontier Developments ported it over to the iDevice from the Wii. It’s also been one of the few games my entire family, wife, 3 kids, nephews, nieces, have all enjoyed playing together. Now that LostWinds 2: Winter of the Melodias has been ported over as well, my whole family has been excited to get into Toku’s world once again.
LostWinds2, like the first, has you controlling Toku with the help of Enril and the power of wind. This time around, you’re on a mission to rescue your mother, and you’ve got help from quite a few characters, including some that you helped out in the previous title.
The most notable difference between the two games is the season changing mechanic. Once you reach a certain area in the game where a special bear can be found, you’re able to switch between Winter and Summer by using statues of the bear. This definitely adds to the difficulty of the puzzles, but also adds an entirely new, and unique level to the game.
Like LostWinds, there are enemies scattered throughout the world which you’ll need to avoid, or get rid of with the power of wind. There’s also various puzzles which will require you to carry objects from one area to another, or figure out how to reach a lever, opening another section. But unlike the original, Winter of the Melodias also has sections where you’ll need to do quests for townsfolk in order to progress through the game, like collecting a certain amount of items, putting out fires, or defeating x number of creatures.
The puzzles found throughout the game can be kind of challenging, especially once the Winter/Summer mechanics are added, but they never reach a frustrating level, and making your way throughout the game can be considered more of an experience than anything else.
LostWinds2 has the same control schemes as the original as well; tap+swipe controls, and a d-pad coupled with swipe controls. Personally, I got through the first LostWinds by using the tap and swipe control scheme that was originally the only option. It felt perfect, and even more precise than when playing with the controller on the Wii. After lots of gamers said that it didn’t feel natural, a D-Pad was added for movement, and swipe sensitivity options were added. This did tighten up the swiping and wind mechanics, which was great. LostWinds2 has been released with both of these control options, so players can choose which scheme feels the most comfortable, but both take a little getting use to, especially using the wind swipes to move Toku around. Once you are familiar with the controls, the game plays perfectly, with basically no issues with the controls what-so-ever.
LostWinds is also graphically amazing, with vibrant environments, loads of detail, and exceptional polish. The animations, music, and effects all aid in creating one of the most immersive gameplay experiences available within the AppStore. There hasn’t been one spot where the camera, animations, or control scheme brought me out of the game, and while playing, it feels like you’re sucked into the world of Toku, going through the adventure right next to him. Priced at $3.99, being Universal and including GameCenter support with 16 achievements, it’s a game that you might not feel driven to replay after you complete it, but is incredibly easy to recommend. The Journal Pages and collectibles do help add to the gameplay, and might even push you towards replaying the game. But at it’s current price point, and with the fabulous gameplay, it’s one adventure game that we’re very lucky to have available to us on the iOS.
AAA developers moving over to iOS development is enough to get any iOS gamer excited. There’s always loads of potential that comes along with the title of ‘AAA Developer’. Unfortunately, more often than not, we’re shown what AAA developers really think of the mobile device when we’re given something that doesn’t really hold up against most indie developed titles. Thankfully, there are those few that really understand what the iOS device can handle, and give mobile gamers an outstanding gameplay experience.
Kotomon, developed by Monstars Inc. is the latest addition to the AAA Developer list, with Osamu Kodera, a 20 year game development veteran who worked at SEGA (and designed the boss encounters in the game Rez. as well as creating Lumines, a critically-acclaimed hit), and moved on to the Xbox 360 PS3 as the technical director of Child of Eden and Sawako Yamamoto who has 10 years of experience, and started at CAPCOM, moved onto Electronic Arts Japan, and oversaw releases of Star Wars and James Bond 007, finally ending up at Q Entertainment guiding multiple projects and helping to produce Child of Eden. In October 2011, Sawako and Osamu founded Monstars Inc, a mobile development project, with Kotomon being their first release. With all of that experience, it’s hard not to expect a lot from Kotomon. Unfortunately, the game falls a bit short of expectations. However, if you go into it not expecting a AAA effort, you might wind up being pleasantly surprised.
Kotomon has you guide a little red character throughout 24 short levels. There is no story, and no real feeling of progression as you make your way through the game. Joined by other little creatures, you’re able to move using a floating joystick control scheme, and can pick up the creatures simply by walking into them. You’ll need to use these different creatures to destroy the enemies throughout the levels by tapping on the screen once you’re holding one of them, which makes you throw the creature at the enemies. The more enemies you destroy with an enemy, the higher your combo score will be. The main goal of the game is to get 3 star rankings in each of the levels by quickly killing the enemies by grouping them together and getting combo scores.
Each of your little creatures have different attributes, like the little blue guys being quick and able to travel pretty far, they have a light attack, but are able to follow enemies, while the big lumpy white creatures are slow, but a lot stronger. The smaller purplish creature can be flung straight and is very quick, while the red guy shoots fire. Each of the creatures adds to the gameplay, and you’re able to take 5 creatures with you into battle, so figuring out what creatures have a leg up on the enemies within a level will usually allow you to get a higher score, and 3 star rating.
The graphics in Kotomon are fairly interesting. The character and enemy models are great, and it’s clear that tons of work went into creating them. However, the environments are pretty dull, and bring the interesting factor down quite a bit. The same happens to be true of the level designs. Each level is pretty much set up like an elaborate boss arena, which isn’t too surprising considering the background of Osamu Kodera.
Judging by the animations and light shows that the floating orbs within each level show off, the game is supposed to flow alongside music. However, with the arcady action oriented gameplay, this is really thrown into the background. The enemies dance to the music, but other than that, music really doesn’t play a roll in the gameplay, which is sad, because having some sort of attacking system that was intertwined with the scoring system, making the attacks and combos even bigger, and maybe adding more of a lightshow within the animations for the enemies dying (instead of just a little puff of smoke) all based on the beat of the music track for the level would have been a fantastically awesome inclusion.
It’s apparent that Monstars Inc. has some very good ideas swirling around, but I was hoping for more with Kotomon. Each level is more like a short type of arena based boss battle in which you need to play a couple times in order to figure out which critters will give you the best score. However, there’s no real drive to do this because of the lack of achievements and leaderboards. A story, and some more depth within the gameplay, attacking, and scoring system would have been great. Also, seeing another mode or two would really help out with replayability. With Kotomon being priced at $3.99, it feels like an expensive demo version of a game that has potential, but hasn’t taken advantage of it yet. Hopefully Monstars Inc. is planning on adding a lot more to Kotomon, because I’d hate to see it just get pushed aside and have yet another AAA Development team figure that no money can be made in the AppStore. It’s definitely a game you should keep your eyes on.
The racing genre on the App Store has been dominated by games like Real Racing, Asphalt, and Need For Speed. It’s time to welcome a new top dog, Mini Motor Racing. This masterpiece by the Binary Mill combines crazy arcade racing with visual glory and customization to create a truly amazing gaming experience.
If there is one thing that I would boast about Mini Motor Racing, it would have to be the aesthetics. This game is a real treat for the eyes as well as the ears. Extremely detailed cars and tracks, along with beautifully fluid menus make MMR a joy to play. The upbeat music fits perfectly with the wacky vibe and the tune has been stuck in my head for the past few days.
Controls are a huge plus as well. The gods over at the Binary Mill went all out with 4 different control methods ranging from a simple steering wheel, to a slider bar. The steering wheel has been perfect for me so far, but the other methods work just as well. Also, you can turn auto-accelerate on or off to make the experience a little more realistic. With 4 control options, there is bound to be one that will work for just about everybody.
Moving on to the heart of Mini Motor Racing, there are multiple game modes including Championship, Quick Race, and Multiplayer. Championship mode consists of a whopping 120 race career which goes from normal events to feature cups like the “Fruit Ninja Cup” and the “Holiday Cup”. Quick race works as it normally would. You can “quickly” jump right into a race and practice your skills. Multiplayer is limited to local WiFi and Bluetooth right now, but an online mode should be up and running soon.
To those who love customization, you will love Mini Motor Racing. The game has over 20 tracks to choose from, all of which are absolutely gorgeous, and 13 cars to unlock. The tracks are rather short, but they are designed to encourage rough play. You will inevitably find yourself ramming your opponents out of the way and nitro-boosting your way to first place as you zip around corners. The cars range in design, but they are all very detailed. Some upgrades that are available are nitro boosts, top speed, handling, and acceleration. Upgrades are purchased with in-game cash that is earned by winning races. The wide variety of cars and tracks adds to MMR’s long list of awesome features.
Check out the launch trailer for Mini Motor Racing. If our review didn’t get you pumped up for the game, then the trailer definitely will.
I definitely recommend picking up Mini Motor Racing. The standard and HD versions are separate, weighing in at $1.99 and $3.99 respectively.