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Master of Dungeon [Playbean] – $3.99

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. 


What makes a good RPG / Dungeon Crawler? If you were to ask someone like myself, who almost never plays them, it would be one that appeals to the masses in its gameplay encompassing something for everyone, not being to in depth to understand what the heck is going on, and having an even level progression and gripping storyline.

Orc: Vengeance, Chillingo’s latest fledgling entry to these adventures, is something that caught my eye from its initial release, and even being somewhat adverse to the genre, I thought I would give it a go. Mind you, the last time I dug into a similar title was Aralon: Sword and Shadow. I am certainly glad that I hit that Buy and Install button!

The story of Orc is actually a worthy one, even with other reviews saying that it may fall into the cliche category, with you taking on the guise of an Orc Warchief, Rok, who’s homeland clan, Argon, is threatened by the ever flourishing ‘Dark One’. Your objective is to take on said damnable force and breach their stronghold head on, and put an end to this evil that was actually brought on by the now mortified humans. There are a variety of cutscenes that tell the story, but the more interesting way the chronicle is told is via strewn about books that you find similar to loot.
The graphics are gorgeous. The animations are top notch, and the backgrounds are all exquisitely detailed. The framerate never suffers, and I can definitely say this is one of the prettier games I have had the pleasure of playing while maintaining such a great framerate.

The loot system is downright perfect, with the enthusiast never feeling the urge to even glance at the all to existent and optional IAP system. Each enemy you destroy drops some coins, and there are also treasure chests impeccably placed around each level. Another way to earn loot is to pick up dropped weapons from your defeated enemies, and sell them to the vendor whom you are prompted to visit upon each level completion. You can also hit the main menu at anytime, go to the vendor, and select the level you were on and you’ll be returned to the last checkpoint.
The weapons and shields have the typical attributes such as speed, opposing weapon upgrade capabilities, and defense powers. The weapons are all fun and unique, and I personally thought that having the biggest, baddest weapon was the best and didn’t care that it was the slowest. Their are limited inventory slots to use, which may be a put off to some, but I found the ones available to be plenty.

The leveling system is standard fare as well; attack, defense, greed (ie. coin % earned), and vengeance. Vengeance is a key component to your combat as it is limited in supply, although is replenished over time, and is what is drained when doing your advanced combat ‘Skill’ moves. These skills are found in chests, so it is key to explore, something I found pleasure in and I think adds to the game. You can upgrade all of the skills, everything from the blizzard slam attack to the replenish health points, and this is based on your character’s current level.

The combat is awesome. The interface is made up of a tap to move system, and the combat/skills are similar in using swipes and other gestures. You are allowed up to four(4) inventory gestures; I used two combat skills, and two for health/vengeance upgrades. Some may question the use of the touch to move interface as opposed to a joypad, but I can confirm that it works fine.
Combat scenes are extraordinary. Everything stops for a second, sort of a cutscene, and you will feel your adrenaline surge until Rok bangs on his shield as if to say ‘Bring it!’
The adversaries will certainly gang up and smother you if you don’t keep moving, which really add to the urgency of the combat scenes. The adventure has a great sense of pacing in that you will have an insanely intense battle scene, a perfectly placed checkpoint, and then you will be allowed to explore for a while to loot and upgrade etc. I found great pleasure in not having to battle back to back, well, not until the final few chapters anyway, but that’s to be expected when you’re getting close to your villain.

If there is one fault of Orc, is that the foray went by all too quickly with the entire game taking me roughly 4-5 hours. I certainly think that the money spent was entirely worth it however. Those looking for an all around dungeon crawler with amazing retina visuals, fast paced combat, and great albeit not too in depth character and weapon leveling up systems will find a great time with Orc and I highly recomend it to those new to the genre, as well as to the seasoned Hack n Slash veterans.

Slash or Die! [PNJ] – $0.99

PNJ has come out with quite a few really decent games over the last couple years. The first game I managed to grab from their studio was Terra – Eternal Chaos, an action RPG. Since then, Real Fishing 3D, Zombie Run, Block Knight! and plenty more have all graced my iDevice. But their latest title, Slash or Die, definitely has that spark that makes it stand out. And even though it’s pretty grindy, and has IAP with expensive items, it’s still a game that I’m enjoying quite a bit. 
Slash or Die has you controlling Blade, a super powered being who’s the only hope for Earth once Machines, Aliens, Ghosts and Demons start invading. There is only one gameplay mode, but you’re given an option for Hardcore Mode once you complete the game, which definitely does add to the replay value as well as the difficulty, and with 24 challenging missions, there’s enough content to keep you busy for a while.
Controls are simple; a left/right slider bar and jump + attack buttons. Your character basically stays in one spot on the screen the whole game, and the slider bar controls which way he’s facing, as well as how fast he goes. Forward increases your speed gradually over time, while facing backwards slows him down. As you make your way through each level, enemies will come at you from both sides, and you’ll often be faced with the decision to either attack an enemy in front of you, but risk a bad attack, causing the enemy to fly backwards instead of die, or maybe even miss the enemy, in order to be able to turn around and hit an enemy coming at you from behind, or turn around, and make sure you get the enemy behind you, and risk not being able to turn back around quick enough to hit the enemy in front of you. Mob control winds up being a core aspect of the gameplay. 
The graphics are top notch, looking fantastic on retina display, and the 4 environments that you’ll guide Blade through each have their own look, as well as enemies and objects. The character design is a huge plus in Slash or Die!, with 4 different enemy races, and a total of 22 separate enemies, each having their own unique way of moving and attacking. There are also various objects which Blade will need to either dodge by jumping, or slash through as he’s running through each of the levels. These various objects generally come at him quicker than the enemies, so keeping an eye out for them is a big priority. If you don’t, chances are these are what will cause most deaths. The animations are also very well done, with the running, attacking, and jumping as well as the explosions and each of the enemies attack animations all look fantastic, and definitely add to the look and the feel of the game. 
With Slash or Die! priced at $0.99, and being Universal, it’s a great title for fans of runners and hack-n-slash games. With GameCenter support including 2 separate boards, one for your Stylish Points, and another for your Max Combo, along with 25 achievements to try and grab driving the replay value alongside Hardcore Mode. Slash or Die! is easily my favorite PNJ title next to Terra – Eternal Chaos, and if this is any indication of the direction PNJ is going in in the future, it’s definitely looking bright. 

Avenger [CWA Games] – $1.99

Castlevania influenced games are basically non-existent within the AppStore, so when CWA Games (one of the biggest mobile development teams in China) released their first iOS title, Avenger, fans of the niche genre jumped at the chance to check it out. Judging from the trailer, the gameplay looks solid, but the grammar looked like it might have been translated by Google, which, if you’ve used ‘Google Translate’, you know is pretty horrendous, and for a lot of gamers, bad English translation is enough for them to stay away from a game. 
Demons have built a castle in the human world, and are trying to take it over. You’ll play as Cyprus, a prince who has the abilities to save the world. Throughout the game, you’ll be chasing the Devil Queen and searching for the Castle of Shadows. The grammar throughout the game does take away from the story, as it’s kind of hard to understand exactly what’s going on, and is made worse by how quickly the text appears and disappears during the cut scenes. 
Unlike Castlevania, there is no real exploration or backtracking, which is unfortunate. A game in the same vein as Castlevania feels kind of incomplete when it’s so linear. The combat system is fairly simple, with one button for attacking, and then two icons in between the joystick and attack+jump buttons for special attacks. You are able to execute different attacks depending on where your joystick is placed. For instance, an attack that flings you up into the air is done by holding up on the joystick and pressing the attack button, while holding back on the joystick and pressing attack will make you do a backflip attack. 
As you progress through the game, you will gain experience which upgrades both your character and your current weapon. When your character advances a level, his Hit Points, Magic/Mana Points, Attack and Defense all increase, while with a weapon, the attack power increases and you’re able to assign a special attribute, like extra attack points, more experience earned, and things of this nature, but you have to pay to ‘enchant’ your weapon. This is where most of the gold that you collect from killing demons will go. But once you enchant your weapon 3 times, it will receive a special ability, like increased agility, or increased attack strength for the first couple of hits in a new room, and more.
You will also be picking up other items as you make your way through the game. More powerful swords are awarded each time you beat a boss, HP and MP bottles will fall from treasure chests and enemies, and scrolls which send you back to Twist Space which is where you’ll be able to enter different mirrors which take you to different sections of Avenger’s world. Here, you can go to previously beaten areas, and purchase potions, weapons, and scrolls. 
Avenger’s gameplay is great for those of you looking for a Castlevania themed button masher. But the gameplay doesn’t really overshadow all of the issues. The framerate could be smoother. It’s not as bad as it looks in the trailer, but it’s not smooth by any means. Like Casltevania, you’re only able to save at certain spots throughout the game. This wouldn’t really be a bad thing, except that this is a mobile game, and for some reason, the game quits whenever your device goes into sleep mode, or you get a phone call, which means you could be loosing quite a bit of progress fairly often. 
All of this, coupled with the grammar issues makes Avenger a hard game to recommend. But with so few Castlevania inspired titles in the AppStore, it’s also hard not to recommend. If you can deal with some funky grammar, a low frame rate, and making sure that you save before taking a call or having your device go into sleep mode, Avenger is a game you should definitely check out. The graphics are fantastic, with awesome character and enemy sprites, and vibrant environments. The animations are also great, even with the low frame-rate.
Right now, Avenger is on sale for $0.99 instead of it’s normal price of $1.99. There is no online leader board or achievement support, which does take a little bit away from the game, but the game is fairly large, and side-scrolling RPG hack-n-slash games aren’t really known for their replayablity. If you’re a fan of the genre, or are looking for another title to add to the Castlevania type games on your iOS device, Avenger is a great one to own. Those of you who are very picky with your English grammar and buttery smooth frame rates might want to pass. Hopefully an HD or Universal version will be released in the near future, as playing in 2X mode on the iPad looks pretty pixilated, but considering this is the first iOS release from CWA Games, and how big they are in China with Java and Android titles, I’m putting complete faith that they will come out with an update very soon with some of these issues fixed.

GooMonsters – 0.99 (DigitallyBold)

GooMonsters is a new top-down hack-n-slash game from DigitallyBold, the makers of Fly Away Rabbit, which was on the CNET 100 in 2010. With their success of Fly Away Rabbit,DigitallyBold has set their standards pretty high. GooMonsters is a great example of that. In GooMonsters, you play as a girl who ends up stranded on a remote island in the middle of the ocean. When you come to, you realize that your dog has gone missing, and that there’s tracks leading off to the distance. Following them, you find your dog, only to see him right before he’s taken away by a Goo Monster. Now, you need to battle the Goos in order to save your dog,Fluffy.

Starting off in the Campaign Mode, you’ll go through 26 stages, each having one of 4 different missions to accomplish, Vanquish, Survival, Collector, and Trainer. Vanquish missions give you a certain number of Goo’s to kill while in Survival missions, you just need to stay alive for a certain amount of time. Collector missions give you a certain number of items to pick up, and Trainer missions require you to stand next to a Goo for a certain amount of time without killing it while other Goos come at you. You only have one life, but unlimited retries, if you die you start the mission over from the beginning.
There’s 11 mini-games that are unlocked while you progress through the Campaign Mode. These are pretty much mini-missions, not unlike the missions in the Campaign. For instance, the first mini-game you’ll unlock is called “Green Overdose”, in it you’ll try and kill as many Green Goos as you can in one minute. The second mini-game puts you up against Goos that explode and Black Goos that stick to you and slow you down, seeing how long you can survive. It’s a nice addition to the game, but some more differences here, really separating it from the Campaign Mode would have been nice.
There’s also a practice mode, where you can select which Goos you want to practice against in a sort of training level. If you get hit, you just re-spawn at the center of the screen with the stage cleared of enemies. It’s nice for getting use to the different goos you’re having problems with if you get stuck in Campaign Mode. You can also find a weaponry area where you can unlock different bombs and weapons setting their buttons next to your attack button. Once you unlock a bomb or weapon, you don’t need to buy more, they slowly recharge after each use. There’s lots of different items here, bombs that attract goos, drones that help you take out goos, weapons that emit high-frequency sound waves that have vibrations that blow goos up. Unlocking these weapons and bombs is a big part of the gameplay, using them to your advantage will be critical in moving on in the game, and DigitallyBold has done a great job giving us loads of different items to buy. There are no IAPs in the game, everything is unlocked with in-game points, and everything recharges, you don’t need to keep purchasing weapons after you’ve unlocked them, which is very nice.
There’s numerous colors of Goos, each with different abilities. Green Goos don’t really do anything, and you can just hack-n-slash at em all you want, they also are the only Goos that don‘t hurt you if you run into them. Blue Goos leave a puddle of blue goo on the ground, if you walk into it, the goo splatters onto the screen, blocking your view of a small area for a short time. Yellow Goos leave an acidic puddle on the ground that can damage both you and other Goos. There’s loads more, each with different attributes.
The controls in GooMonsters aren‘t what I was expecting from the screen shots. You tilt your device to move the character, holding on the button in the left corner to stop and stand still, rotating your device to turn around, and tapping the button in the right corner to attack. You are given calibration options before you start levels, but no sensitivity options, and I found myself wishing I wasn‘t needing to tilt my device as much as I was quite a bit while playing. During the first couple missions, I also couldn’t help but think that the game would play a lot better with a joystick and attack button. I did get use to the tilting controls, but I still really think that some control options should have been added into the game, and hope that they are thrown in in the future. The controls as they are now are very responsive though, and do end up working pretty well. The graphics are nice and polished, and the animations for the goo moving around and splattering on the ground are nice, and there‘s different animations for each different goo. You can tell that a lot of work went into making each goo look and move differently, and this does add quite a bit to the gameplay. The music and FX are fitting for the graphics and gameplay as well. The game does run very smoothly, no lag or jitters, and the game hasn’t crashed once on me.
There are GameCenter leader boards for the campaign, along with separate boards for each of the mini-games. There’s also 58 achievements, all of which adds a ton to the replay value. I’m going to give GooMonsters a 3.5 stars out of 5, and if you’re into hack-n-slash games, this is one worth checking out. At $0.99, it’s a great deal, and includes lots of content to keep you playing and re-playing for quite some time.