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‘Retro Racing’ Review

Retro Racing-What’s in a Name? Everything.

Mysteriously, on March 23rd, Retro Racing was randomly pulled from the app store. Now, after a glitch-up on Apple’s side was corrected, it’s back on the app store and available for everyone again. In a nutshell, Retro Racing is, as one could assume from the name, a nostalgia-inducing racing game. Developed by Mr. Qwak, also known as the makers of All Terrain Racing and Nitro, two classic Amiga racers, it brings to the table a nice experience of retro fun, but not without a few flaws.

iPhone Screenshot 1

In Retro Racing, the controls are fairly simple: tap on the forward arrow to go forward and the sideways ones to go sideways (sometimes called turning.) If when playing this game you can’t understand that, even after the tutorial, and you aren’t a cat, I will personally write a letter of apology to your pride. Anyhow, the controls work alright, but they feel very cramped, mainly on iPhones or iPod Touches (on the iPad it’s much better.) One nice option would be an ‘auto-gas with left and right arrows on the sides’ control scheme or a landscape mode, both of which might help ease the controls’ weaknesses. Still, the current controls just don’t seem good enough most of the time. At times they work decently, but the sensitivity sometimes can be hard to judge even then, leading to crashes in-game. Most of the time though, they work fairly well, but they don’t provide the best possible execution consistently.

iPhone Screenshot 4

As the name implies, Retro Racing employs retro-styled graphics. While they’re not stunning, they get the job done perfectly well. It also plays great and is very enjoyable. As you could guess, the goal is to race through each level as fast as you can and to get first place. There are leaderboards for every track, fitting the style and pace of the game. There’s also a nifty two-player mode which pits you against another opponent (one-device only), which works very well and is really fun as well, even on the smaller iPhone. This is available for both iPhone and iPad after the recent update. Each race also has a variety of “power-ups” that boost your stats, plus nitro boosts as well. These make the game fun and fresher at its lower moments. While its still a stereotypical racing game in many aspects, it creates a fun-filled nostalgic game.

iPhone Screenshot 3

Level Design
The highlight of the game, though, lies in its nifty level design. In most racing games, the level’s just the track and where it turns. That’s not the case in ‘Retro Racing’. Each level is packed with a good amount of power-ups, extra paths, and more that make each level fresh and fun. False turns, cones, walls, and other cars all stand in the way of you and the finish line. The most enjoyable part of the game is how much the level design plays a part into the game. A nitro power-up could propel you into first place. Crashing into cones could lose you a position, while turning on a false turn could destroy your shot at taking the checkered flag. The level never feels unjustly made; even the frustrating moments make me want to play more. Each level feels carefully made to be the best it can be, and in turn propels the game

iPhone Screenshot 5

The weakest point in the game, however, lies in its balancing. If you ever want to achieve a score anywhere high in the leaderboards you have to purchase an extra $.99 car pack, which unlocks the final three cars, meaning that if you care about that type of thing, you will be wanting to buy the iAP, which seems missing in tact and unfair. The game feels somewhat balanced in its ‘campaign’, with the basic cars (and very rewarding when you win) but would get too easy with the iAP cars since their stats are over twice as high as the best of the basic cars. Plus, all the basic cars are unlocked from the get-go, meaning there’s no sense of progression there, besides levels. Often times that’s simply not enough, which can lead the game down some dire straits.

Retro Racing is a nice game weakened by so-so controls and imperfect balancing. However, if you’re a fan of the ‘retro’ or of the ‘racing’ then these problems are easily overcome by the sweet level design and fun gameplay, providing a very fun approach to the racing genre.


‘Call of Cthulu’ Review

Call of Cthulu is a H.P. Lovecraft inspired turn-based strategy game which thrusts you into the untold story of World War I. Not to spoil the story too much, you play on the side of the Allies, alongside such characters as Professor Brightmeer, Sid Brown, and several others, to take out the cultists leading the German army. The gameplay is based on Call of Cthulu RPG, and while the game is heavily story-based, it feels much more like a normal Turn Based Strategy game than an RPG.

iPhone Screenshot 1

Controls/Interface: 3.5/5

For a Turn Based Strategy game to work, it has to have quality controls and a workable interface. In ‘Call of Cthulu’, the controls work solidly, though they feel somewhat unintuitive at times. To move your character, you tap on them and then tap the place you want to go. Attacking requires you to select your character then tap and hold on the enemy you want to shoot at. These mechanics work fairly well, though will occasionally not do exactly what you to (i.e. it will infrequently take several tries for a tap to be recognized). One minor annoyance with the mechanics is that you can’t move around or select anything else while your character is in motion; you have to wait for the character to get all the way there and stop to select another character. This is only really annoying when you have to move your characters over a longer distance. The only glaring problem with the controls, however, is that when you accidentally make a mistake or realize you went too far, there’s no undo button available. Any minor control pains and nuances could be heavily alleviated and eased with this addition. Especially with the importance of action points, even the smallest mistake can feel brutal. Other than that fact, the controls usually work very well and feel solid enough. There are also several options like rotating the field of play that can make the game feel more intuitive. The interface feels fairly good as well, albeit a little bit scary to inexperienced players. Especially on the character screen, the sheer number of skills and numbers can leave the player confused and uncertain of what to do. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as most of the skills are easy to understand, albeit a bit difficult to interpret their usage in-game. Though they work decently for the game, the controls and interface still have some room for improvement.

iPhone Screenshot 2

Graphics/Music: 4/5

The graphics in the game look fairly nice. However at times, the graphics do appear a little on the blurry side; even on retina-enabled devices they don’t look perfect. However, they do get the job accomplished and feel particularly fitting for the game. Some graphical effects like smoke and twitching makes the game feel more vivid and real, even at times when the game is stalled. The music and sound effects fit the game very nicely as well. The music feels very ghostly and somewhat sinister, with thunder and thumps in the background. Sound effects are as they’d be expected to be, with nothing really out of the ordinary. The music to the game leaves little to be desired, but the graphics do have a small margin for improvement.

iPhone Screenshot 3
Gameplay/Story/Extras: 4.5/5
In short, the game is fairly fun and enjoyable. It’s very satisfying when you hit an enemy, and the idea of accuracy and missing makes the game feel a good deal more fresh and different. It also makes the game much more exciting and thrilling, keeping you on your toes throughout the game. Another nifty trick is the speed-up button, which allows you to quickly speed through movements and enemy turns. The storyline also feels exciting and interesting. To those that hate RPGs, its not overbearing, but to those that do it provides an alternate approach to the First World War. This whole idea is carried out very nicely throughout the course of the game. While the game plays much like other turn-based-strategy games, it brings enough new to the table to make it feel both fun and unique.

Overall: 4/5
‘Call of Cthulu’ provides a solid and enjoyable TBS experience. For any fans of strategy games, it’s a nifty addition to one’s collection. However, frustration will be multiplied for those that are very inexperienced in the genre or dislike it altogether. However, for what it does, Call of Cthulu is a very enjoyable and fairly unique approach to the genre.

‘Bean’s Quest’ Review

Bean’s Quest
In ‘Bean’s Quest’, a delightful platformer by Kumobius, you play as Emilio, who has been transformed into a Mexican Jumping Bean and his girlfriend and pets taken away by a dark wizard. The game was originally released in mid-July with just eight levels, but has since been continuously updated by the developers to now include fifty levels. The latest update added 23 new levels and finished the story. Bean’s Quest mixes around between traditional platforming elements and a truly unique and creative execution.
 iPhone Screenshot 1
Gameplay/Controls: 4.5/5
The controls are very simple in ‘Bean’s Quest’: touch the left side of the screen to move left and the right side to go right. This is combined with the fact that you are constantly jumping, so you have to time your movements accordingly. The controls work flawlessly, though for those heavily accustomed to normal platformers, the jumping mechanic will take time to get used to. The gameplay and controls work perfectly together in creating a truly unique experience. Different gameplay elements, like enemies, giant wheel-like objects, and tiny blocks help you along the way, even causing some levels to feel like a mix between physics puzzlers and platformers. ‘Bean’s Quest’ is a very fun and enjoyable game, bringing wildly new elements to a somewhat-standardized genre.

iPhone Screenshot 5

Graphics/Music: 4.5/5

 The graphics feel very fitting as well, with a nifty semi-pixelized look. It feels like the perfect blend between retro and modernized graphics. The game looks how you’d want it to by playing it: retro streaked with a cool, new-age flair to it. Different worlds have different looks, giving a nice change-of-pace between them.  The music feels as great as I could imagine, with a chiptune-like soundtrack mixed with the Spanish flair fitting of a Mexican Jumping Bean. Each world also has a separate music number. As a whole, ‘Bean’s Quest’ presents itself in a method pleasing to both the eyes and ears.

iPhone Screenshot 2

Content/Variety: 5/5
 If I were reviewing this game before any updates, the game would definitely be lacking in this category. But thanks to major updates, it’s grown in size to become a powerhouse in terms of content. Each level has three very difficult goals: collect all the gems, find your pet Axolotl, and try to do it within the par jump, bouncing as few times as possible. Each of these will take you several tries to achieve, adding a lot of replay value to the mix. Plus there are Game Center Leaderboards for each world as well as 33 achievements to collect. To complete the game alone will take awhile, but to accomplish all three goals for every level will last you a long time in terms of playing time. There’s also a lot of variety, with five definedly different worlds and an epic boss battle finale. Worlds feel a lot different too, with different enemies, obstacles, and more in each world. As far as content and variety goes, ‘Bean’s Quest’ brings you a lot of both, giving a game one could play for hours and not get bored with.
Overall: 4.5/5
 Grab your sombrero and start jumping, because this platformer is definitely one of the most creative takes on virtual controls. Hop to it and buy this wonderful gem.

Bean’s Quest (is currently on sale from $2.99 to $0.99 in celebration of its most recent, content doubling update)

Download from the App Store

‘Crazy Hedgy’ Review

‘Crazy Hedgy’, developed by Cybertime Games, is the first great 3D platformer available on the App Store. In it, you play as the delightable hedgehog Crazy Hedgy, traveling through three well-crafted worlds. In each level your goal is to get to the end, but also to collect gems and the three hidden coins. Full of life and variety, Crazy Hedgy doesn’t disappoint as the first true 3D platformer for iOS.
iPhone Screenshot 1

Controls: 5/5
As far as platformers go, it’s essential to have great controls. On the app store, tilt controls hardly ever mesh well with a platformer, as accelerometer controls don’t provide the layer of precision required. Crazy Hedgy is just the opposite, giving you more intuitive controls than a virtual joystick or virtual buttons could ever work. I’ve found that, when required, you can roll along a tiny ledge, grab a coin, then flip around while on the very edge, and make it back safely. The rest of the controls along with this are very simple as well: touch the left side to punch and touch the right side to jump. When unlocked, you can also use special moves that allow you to do different attacks, like the ‘grab’ upgrade, which lets you pick up Spankos and throw them. The controls have yet to fail me once, proving to me that accelerometer controls can provide the incredible precision needed in a platformer.

iPhone Screenshot 2
Content and Variety: 5/5
In ‘Crazy Hedgy’ you fight through more than 35 very large levels, which takes a very long time to complete. Inside each level are a large amount of gems that need to be collected to purchase upgrades and gain a better score. Also hidden in each level are three coins, often found in the toughest parts of the level. These coins are the only way to unlock more worlds, and also the key to unlocking upgrades in the shop. These upgrades feature anything from unlocking new attacks to buying better bubble gum (which can actually be a lifesaver in the game).  There’s a total of seven items in the shop, each with four or so upgrades per item. For those that hate In App Purchases, have no fear: there are no iAPs anywhere near. The upgrades in the shop don’t feel like a grind to reach them either; each unlock feels like it was timed perfectly to coincide with in-game progress. Another interesting addition in the game shop is magnets, which grab collectable gems (the currency in the shop) and even increase the value of each gem. That means that even after playing through all the game’s levels, you can also replay levels for a higher gem score. One tiny gripe with the game is that the previous score on a given level isn’t easily accessible, though when you get a high score on a level it does let you know at the end of the level. The total score from all levels is compiled in a single Game Center leaderboard. There’s also a fun arena mode, which sticks you up against varying waves of enemies, giant mines, or other obstacles in a small arena.
The game also features a ton of variety. From level to level you’ll face different enemies, bosses, traps, trampolines and far more. Even getting near the end of the game, it still managed to throw new elements into it. The many upgrades in the shop also create more interest in playing, as each one gives you something fun and new. Each level is well designed as well, including wildly different elements in each level. Each world is also very unique, with a new look and more types of obstacles and ingenuities. There’s also numerous ways to kill enemies, from causing them to get in a fight with each other to hitting them into a trap. Often times the key to killing a tough enemy is either quickly downing a crazy potion or using the environment to you’re advantage. The whole game feels complete and full of life, without even a trace of it getting old.

iPhone Screenshot 3
Graphics and Animations: 5/5
Another item to consider about the games is how it looks. This can be a game changer, especially with a 3D game. However, Crazy Hedgy looks exceptional, especially sharp when Retina display is enabled. However, all the rest of the effects work on 3rd generation devices as well, meaning no matter what device you use it’s definitely a looker. The characters and environment all have a clean and polished feel, giving it a very likeable look. Everything is also very well detailed and gives the perfect look to represent how well it plays: amazing.
With graphics, animations also have to be taken into account. A game can look great in stills but look horrible in motion. However, Crazy Hedgy finds definitely finds its groove in animations, with it all moving cleanly and perfectly. The enemies also have distinct personalities, looking and moving differently than each other. The great animations of the game just help to build the game up, adding to its personality.

Overall: 5/5

All in all, it’s hard to find anything bad to say about Crazy Hedgy. Between it’s perfect controls, amazing level design, and great graphics, there’s almost nothing to fault. ‘Crazy Hedgy’ rolls itself along as one of the best games available on the app store. It’s an amazingly fun platformer, and one I can’t recommend enough.

‘Niko’ Review – $1.99 (by Sulake)

‘Niko’ is a unique platformer published by the Sulake Corporation, also known as the makers of Habbo Hotel, which is integrated into the game with badges and medals. ‘Niko’ is released with six free levels, with a 1.99 purchase for the full game, which contains over 30 levels in total. In it, you take control of Niko, a lovable little character, in his quest to rescue his friends from the Otherworld. Along the way he can also release the mysterious Sun Sprites, who have been trapped in the Otherworld along with his friends.

iPhone Screenshot 1

Controls: 5/5

What makes or breaks a platformer is how good its controls are. Often times when a developer experiments with new control types it ends up reflecting poorly on the game. Luckily for the player, the controls work great. There are two options in the controls. One utilizes tilt to move left and right with two buttons to drag to jump. The other one, my personal favorite, is left and right arrow buttons on the left side of the screen with a draggable button on the right. To jump in the game, you simply drag the button down for power and sideways to jump directionally. A dotted line indicator allows for precision jumping as well. Another nice touch is the ability to drag off the character to jump as well. The drag-to-jump mechanic works surprisingly well, and combines perfectly with the game’s ingenious level design.

Graphics and Animations: 4.5/5

The graphics of ‘Niko’ look very good, with a pseudo-3D effect on the otherwise 2D graphics. The animations are also great, particularly the jumping animation, which has you spinning like a ball through the air. At times I almost wish it allowed you to do this when running as well, but I think that would make it look too much like Sonic. Some of the art may take a little time to grow on you, but it does look nice, particularly the Niko character on the menu screens.

Content: 4/5
Though the game does have decently large levels, it does feel a tad bit low on content. With 30 levels, you might go past them a little quick. However, with a 3 star rating to attain each level and 3 switches to find, it does make up for itself. Game Center achievements and leaderboards are also available, along with Open Feint, allowing you to compete against people around the world. Overall there’s a decent amount of content here, but I think a little bit more would make it better.

Overall: 4.5/5

‘Niko’ combines several game elements to make an enjoyable game experience for even someone who isn’t a fan of platformers. There’s no risk in just trying it out either: Niko comes in a free to play model, with six levels completely free before a $1.99 purchase for the full game. Sulake and Fabrication Games team up to bring us an inventive and enjoyable platformer.
**Review reposted due to site glitch**