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.
Runners certainly have their fair share of fans, and it’s not really surprising. The gameplay is simple, addictive, easy to learn hard to master, and best of all, fun. Recently, these games have been changing and expanding, and usually, for the better. Studio Radko’s Starbounder is a prime example of this. A level based, space ship ‘runner’ where you glide along platforms in outer space collecting orbs and jumping from platform to platform.
Diving right in, you’re given a little bit of a story. Apparently, you’ve been in hyper sleep for the last 5,000+ years, and were only supposed to be awoke when you came into contact with something or someone intelligent. The systems woke you when coming across a giant platform. It’s up to you to explore and catalogue everything you can. What better way to do that than to race across the platforms at top-speed?
Starbounder only has one gameplay mode, but fortunately, there’s 6 separate environments, each with 10 levels. All 60 of the levels have 3 orbs which you can try and collect, acting as a ranking system. But without GameCenter leaderboards and achievements, the drive to go back and collect the ones you’ve missed is kind of lost. There is one racer which you can unlock after you get 180 orbs, and has special abilities, but the rest of the ships all have the same stats, same acceleration, top speed, and handling, so it’s primarily cosmetic. There are patterns and different colored boosters which you can select to change the appearance as well, but it really would have been great to have different stats for each vehicle.
The controls work well, having a break button in the lower left corner, and a jump button in the lower right, and tilt controls to move left and right. Each of the tracks are a straight shot, but they’re wide, and you will need to do some fancy maneuvering to make it through, but the controls are good enough to get you through, and the edges of platforms are forgiving enough so you won’t have any unfair crashes or descents into the blackness of space.
The graphics and animations are decent. There is a jumping animation which is nice, and the explosion animation is pretty cool, and both definitely add to the graphical look and feel of it all, and the backgrounds are beautiful. The music and sound effects are a huge plus as well, with pounding beats and great FX mixing in very well with the music, it adds a level of adrenaline to the game.
The level designs in the beginning are very simplistic, but as you progress throughout the game, they get more and more complex, and really become a highlight of the game. It’s very clear that lots of time, effort and testing has gone into the creation of the levels, and it has a huge impact on the gameplay, especially if you’re going to try and get all of the orbs. They are placed in areas which will require definite skill in order to collect them all, which does help to make up for the lack of GameCenter. There’s a great feeling of accomplishment after pulling off some sick jumps and quick turns to collect the 3 orbs, especially later on in the game.
There are two versions of Starbounder, SD and HD. The SD version is normally priced at $1.99, but is currently on sale for $0.99, and is made for the iPhone 4 and 4th Generation iPod Touch. The HD build is also originally priced at $1.99, but is on sale for $0.99 as well, and is made for the iPhone 4S and iPads 2 and 3. Both versions are Universal, so you should be careful as to which version you pick up. If you’re a fan of runners, especially level based runners, Starbounder is a great title to pick up. If you’re looking for a level based star racer, with twists and turns, power-ups and other racers, this probably won’t hit that nerve. Hopefully GameCenter boards can be added in the future. Having that extra drive to get better times, or collect all the orbs would be a great addition, and would keep gamers coming back to the game time and time again, even after completing the game. But as it is now, it’s still definitely worth checking out.
Endless runners are a dime a dozen in the AppStore. However, runners that incorporate more platforming than just mindless jumping are a pretty rare breed. Mirrors Edge, ChocoRun, Mega Run, 1-Bit Ninja… these are titles that take the running genre to the next level, adding in quite a bit of plat forming. So much so that it’s hard to decide whether to place them in Platformer or Runner folders on my iDevice. The most recent addition to this sort of sub-genre of platform running is Fabrication Game’s Project 83113 (Belle), published by NCSoft, and it could very well be the best of the best when it comes to these types of games on the iOS.
Back in April, when I first heard of, then named, Project Belle, I was ecstatic. The games graphics and presentation looked outstanding. The only thing I was really worried about, like almost all games that involve platforming, was the controls. It was the beginning of a short wait, unlike tons of other games that are basically forgotten between being announced and their release, it only took 2 months for Fabrication Games to get Project 81331 out onto the AppStore, and thankfully, the developers nailed the swiping gesture controls PERFECTLY.
Like all of my favorite platformers, Project 83113 has a decent story pushing the gameplay along. You’re never caught wondering what you’re doing and why, or trying to guess where you are or who put you there, which, in my book, is a huge plus when it comes to platformers, and mainly because so many of them don’t include any information about these things what-so-ever.
Belle is part of a slave race, controlled and used by machines. Born out of the eyes of the machines, she was raised and trained to be The One who could free their kind from slavery. She is… Project 83113 (hehe). As you progress through the game, blasting your way to the hub of the machine’s haven, you’ll come across various weapons and robots which will help you defeat some of the more powerful machines.
You’re able to collect upgrade coins throughout the game, but you can also buy them in the shop, which is accessible through both the level selection screen and the pause menu. Here, you can buy upgrade coins and bombs, as well as upgrade your weapons and take a look at all of the story fragments that you’ll be collecting throughout the game. There are IAPs, but you’re never driven towards purchasing them, and are really just there if you’d like to help support the developers, and completely max out your weapons.
Right now, Project 81331 contains 33 levels; 27 regular levels spread across 3 worlds, with each world having one boss level, and one stealth level. There is a 4th world, and even though I haven’t gotten that far yet, it’s not included in the GameCenter scores, so I’m assuming that it’s coming in a future update. Either that, or it’s a very small world consisting of the center of the machine’s haven (here’s hoping). Each of the 27 standard levels has 3 different badges you can earn; one for finding the hidden object within the level, one for defeating all of the enemies in the level and one for completing the level without taking any damage. This last badge is what really adds to the replay value, and ups the difficulty quite a bit. Even by level 1-4, you’ll be going nuts trying to complete the stage without getting hit.
The controls in Project 83113 are fairly simple. Swipe right to move right, swipe left to move left, swipe up to jump, and swipe down to slide. As you make your way through the game, more moves will be unlocked, like dashing in the air, double jumping, and gliding for short distances. Belle fires her weapon automatically whenever she’s in range of an enemy, and you’re also able to fire a special shot by tapping on an enemy. However, this drains a little bit of your energy, so you’ll have to watch how many times you use it. There’s also an icon of a bomb in the lower right corner, which clears the screen of all enemies and projectiles.
Graphics-wise, Fabrication Games has done an outstanding job making a game centered around machines and corridors incredibly vibrant. Each of the character and machine sprites are fantastically done with the environments matching the high quality set by them. Animations are detailed and, well, just plain awesome. The explosions look great, and everything down to Belle crouching looks amazing. The game is also super smooth, especially on the iPad, but I didn’t encounter any slow-down or frame-rate issues while playing on my 4th generation iPod Touch either, which was a huge shock.
With the price of Project 83113 set at $0.99, being Universal, including GameCenter leader boards for the total score of each separate world, and having 20 incredibly difficult to unlock achievements added on top of them, combined with the mind-blowing production values and amazing game-play, this is one game you do not want to miss out on. Project 81331 will definitely wind up on my top 10 games of the year list, and is one title that I’ll be recommending to all of my co-workers, and gifting to everyone in my family. It’s that good. With the insane amount of replay value, I’ll be hooked on Project 83113 for quite some time. But it’s safe to say that Fabrication Games has not only raised the bar for games in the platform runner genre, but completely blown everything else out of the water. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us in the future!
Endless Runner based level games are starting to grab a group of fans. Fatcat Rush, Mirror’s Edge, Run Fox Run, Brain In Jar, Bouncing Penguin, DoDo Fly, 1-Bit Ninja, these titles will usually upset platformer fans because, well, they’re not platformers, and cause endless runner fans to scream “those are not endless runners!”, but whether you love or hate these types of games, you can’t deny that there are gamers that thoroughly enjoy games like these, and that there are more and more of them popping up as more and more gamers get hooked by their gameplay. I, for one, and a big fan of these types of games. Maybe it’s because my favorite genre of games is platformers, and I enjoy endless runners quite a bit. Maybe it’s because they’re perfect for playing while sitting in the bathroom, who knows? Whatever the case may be, a new title has emerged, and is ready to be conquered by gamers everywhere. Zombie Parkour Runner, developed by Break Media, is the newest addition to the endless runner/platformer mesh genre.
You’ll control Kara while she jumps, zips, climbs, swings, wall-runs, and kicks some zombie butt trying to get her stolen cat back. There’s 24 levels of smooth playing parkour running that you’ll control simply by tapping on the screen. A quick tap will give you a short jump, while holding your finger on the screen will give you a long jump, then timely taps on the screen when a white silhouette of your character appears will cause you to do specific parkour tricks and spiffy zombie attacks while running through each level.
The graphics are superb, and the environments full of great looking details and objects. The animations are also very well done, and make the game flow extremely smooth. The tap controls are very responsive, and even though it sounds like just tapping on the screen to do pretty complex moves sounds easy, choosing the right path, along with tapping at the right time can prove to be pretty challenging.
Making it through all 24 levels won’t take a lot of gamers too long, but making it through all 24 levels with a 3 star ranking and grabbing the special item in each level should take more than a little while, as should finding all the hidden areas and unlockable levels. There’s also a GameCenter leaderboard for each level, along with a board for the best score in a level, and 39 achievements, all adding immensely to the high replay-value. It would be nice to see a shop where we could unlock more characters, or different outfits, maybe give all those coins another purpose besides adding to the high-scores of players, and give those gamers out there that are not obsessed with high-scores something to aim for.
If you’re a fan of the genre, Zombie Parkour Runner is a game that’s definitely worth checking out. The addition of the Parkour moves, running on billboards, swinging off of poles, going down ziplines, and more adds quite a bit to the gameplay, as do the different zombies and zombie attacks. Priced at $0.99 for the iPhone version, and $2.99 for the iPad version, it’s a great buy, and a great game that will give you hours upon hours of entertainment.
RunDaLine is a new casual runner game by Randerline GMBH in which you guide Pancho the skunk through 50 levels by controlling the terrain that he runs on. In order to progress through the game, you’ll need to collect a certain amount of coins, keeping them until you reach the finish line, while avoiding hazards that can cause you to loose your collected coins, or end your run all-together.
The controls in RunDaLine are done pretty well, and are responsive and tight. You’ll control the terrain that Pancho is running on by dragging your finger up and down on the screen, moving the terrain up and down, creating hills and dips while Pancho runs along. You can also make him jump by tapping in the upper corner of the screen. You are able to use your right or left thumbs, and whichever you prefer, the set-up makes it so that what obsticles are coming at you are displayed on the opposite side of the screen than where you’re touching, so that your fingers don’t get in the way. However, this setting is not saved after you exit the game, so if you would like to use your left hand, and be able to see everything coming at you better than if you’re using your right hand, you’ll need to go into the pause menu and change the control settings every time you play the game.
Throughout each level, you’ll come across brick walls and clouds with lightning bolts in them, both of which cause you to loose all your coins if you hit them, lightning bolts that cause you to speed up, and bombs that end your run. There’s also clouds that double the amount of coins you have, but only if you hit them while jumping, and do not count if you run through them, and temporary shields that let you plow through tougher areas without losing any coins. As you move on throughout the game, each world gets progressively harder, but you do not encounter anything new after the first couple of levels.
Graphics-wise, RunDaLine is pretty simple looking. Nothing too impressive, but it is smooth and the animations for Pancho running and jumping are done decently well, and so are the animations for the objects when you run into them. The environments are pretty bland, there’s clouds in the sky and hills in the background, neither of which have any detail, and the terrain that you run on is shaded nicely, but also lacks any real detail, no grass spots, no shrubs. Each of the 5 different worlds environments are only different in color. It would be nice to see some additions to the environments, and maybe some animation additions to the objects/hazards you’re trying to avoid, instead of only having an animation for when you hit them, maybe seeing the bomb’s wick be on fire, and moving while the fire gets closer to the bomb, or seeing the cloud with a lightning bolt in it have a little rain coming out of it that doesn’t reach the ground, just falls about half a centimeter from the cloud then disappears with a little bit of electricity going around the lightning bolt, little things like this would give the game some personality and add to the polished look of it, because right now, it looks like an un-finished demo version.
RunDaLine is supported by GameCenter, and has 6 different leader boards, one for the amount of coins you’ve collected in each world, and one for your total amount of coins collected, there’s also 12 achievements, and with the 3 coin (like star) ratings for each level, does, like usual, add quite a bit to the replay value, which is good, because completing the whole game took about an hour. The game is also not randomized, so you can go through a level multiple times, and memorize it, eventually being able to get a perfect run through maximizing your total score. The blandness of the environments, lack of animations, lack of new content as you progress through the game, and the game not saving your control settings are all things that could easily be fixed in an update or two. But right now, with the game being $0.99, it is a nice casual, level-based runner that’s accessible to gamers of all ages. My 4 year old nephew had no problems getting the controls and gameplay mechanics down, and it’s still challenging enough to keep me entertained, but I do hope to see more added to it in the future.