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Review Rewind: Mos Speedrun

One of our favorite speedrun platformers has to be Physmo’s Mos Speedrun. The graphics, controls, physics, soundtrack, music, challenge and difficulty are all, for lack of a better word, perfect. Since it’s release back in April of 2011, Mos Speedrun has received 7 updates, adding more content, more enemies, more costumes, video recording and uploading to YouTube, and more, making it a prime contender for best Speedrun Platformer on the iOS, next to League of Evil. If you’ve yet to pick up Mos, didn’t have an iDevice back when it was released, or just missed out on it, it’s one game every platformer fan needs to own. Snagging the spolight for our third Review Rewind title, Mos Speedrun is still on our devices, and will never be taken off. It’s a great game that we’ll keep coming back to time and time again when we’re looking for a great platforming challenge. 
**Note: This review was written after playing Version 1.5.
Running. When your pudgy like most adolescent kids these days the sound of that very word strikes fear into your little cheeseburger-loving heart.  Fortunately for you this game encaptures the fun that isn’t running and wont make you sweat at all. The gameplay is quite simple, your goal is to run to the goal in the fastest time possible while trying to be speedy around obstacles and enemies.  
Quick reflexes are the name of the game here but with time even the most pitifully uncoordinated player will be able to play like a pro.  The first level is the of course the adjustment level where you get used to the controls and the nuances of the game. After that you are basically on your own to explore and finish all of the levels. Each level is unlocked once you complete the prior level regardless of whatever you scored on it.  In each of the levels there are a variety of different paths that you can take some of which net you more or less coins that influence your endgame score.  Through a process of trial and error you begin to figure out what works and what doesn’t and how you can begin to improve your time and score.  
The reason I am really enjoying this game is due to that factor of replayability.  No matter how well I finish a level I am always intrigued enough to try it again and try to shave a few seconds off for bragging rights on the leaderboards.  At the end of each level you score badges on the various things you did. For example if you found the hidden skull in each level you get a badge, you finish inside the time limit you get a badge as well.  I usually don’t enjoy games that have a in-game timer but I’m okay with it in this orientation because speed is this games middle name and being able to see the amount of time your wasting trying to find the skull and increase your panic level.  After you die in a level (which will happen often believe me) you are sent back to the start where you can watch as a ghost of your previous attempt runs alongside or ahead of your current effort to not die. You have the option to turn off the ghost respawning and the type of control you use in the blatantly obvious option menu. 
Another nifty feature in the option menu is the fact you can change your characters look from there.  The costumes include a ninja, the atypical purple jogging suit, and a bee.  There are 5 worlds in all and to unlock the next one you need to earn a certain number of badges in the previous level. Overall this a extremely addicting game that has you shaving off the seconds in the pursuit of a better score to boast about.  With tons of replayablility and hidden objects you will always find new content in Mos Speedrun.  I give it a 5/5.

MANOS – The Hands of Fate [FreakZone] – $1.99

Retro platformers have been making a real comeback. It seems like with every new generation of video games, players keep longing for the games that got them hooked in the first place. But it’s always great seeing a new and original title hit the scene, and newcomer FreakZone, has shown that he knows what it takes to create a true NES like experience with his last game, Awesome Land. Now, with that title under his belt, FreakZone has released another retro platformer, MANOS – The Hands of Fate, and this time around, he’s taken everything he’s learned since releasing Awesome Land and thrown it together in a great gaming package. 
Mike and his family have gotten lost while on vacation, and they couldn’t have picked a worse spot to get lost in. Now Mike, armed with a gun, needs to get his wife, daughter, and dog, safely home before the monsters wind up getting the best of them. Like many platformers, the game doesn’t really rely on the story to drive the game, but it does help explain why you’re fighting massive rats and avoiding floating skulls. It also opens up a fairly wide variety of environments and situations which you’ll be able to run, jump, and shoot your way out of. 
Like we’ve said numerous times before, a huge part of having solid platform gameplay relies heavily on the controls, physics, and inertia. With Manos, they’re all NES perfect. With the controls, you’re given left/right arrows, and jump/shoot buttons. They’re placed just right, and you don’t need to pick your finger up to change movement directions, which really helps the fluidity of the gameplay. The physics and inertia are what you would expect from a top-notch old-school title. Not too floaty, not too heavy, not stiff or loose, and landing on one block platforms is a piece of cake, and never winds up being something that you’ll need to struggle with throughout the game. With the game being Universal, the controls on the iPad are also very important. You’ll be happy to hear that the buttons are positioned closer to the edges, and in the corners so that you don’t need to reach inward towards the center of the screen in order to move. Though being able to position the buttons wherever you’d like to would be ideal, and is something I really hope is included in a future update, the current controls work well enough to enjoy the game. 
The level design is top notch, though there are some aspects of the design that I didn’t completely agree with in the beginning. For instance; There’s a lot of screen changing done with stairs. These stairs often go down. However, if you jump just a pixel beyond the stairs, you won’t land on the stairs on the screen beneath, you wind up dying. This is kind of frustrating, and hard to understand at first, but as you progress through the game, and see all of the areas that you can reach by not going down stairs, and by trying to jump, and maneuver around enemies and hazards in order to get there, you see why it was done that way. If you could just fall into a screen under where you were, there wouldn’t really be any consequences for missing a jump, or running into a rotating spike. Though since the game is also centered around speed-runs, falling down screen after screen could have been an even better deterrent from screwing up at those parts, it would also make it easy to fly through a couple screens. And now I completely understand why it is the way it is, and feel I should praise FreakZone for giving thought to every angle, and coming up with the best solution for things like this throughout the entire game. 
Now, as you manage to find your way through each level, you’ll come across many stone hands. When shot, they usually reveal either a health pick-up, extra life, or a gem. There are also special hands which increase the amount of hit points you have, however, most of these will require some searching. And here’s where the two GameCenter leaderboards and replay value come in. In GameCenter, there’s two boards, one for score, and one for how long it takes for you to complete the game. With the stone hands, you can either take your time, look around and explore, finding all of the hands you can, and racking up all the points you can find, collecting extra lives and increasing your available hit points, or you can avoid everything, and try and find the quickest route from point A to point B. Personally, I love when games offer up two or more possible ways of playing, and here, FreakZone nailed it. 
With no save spots, and having to start from Stage 1 every time you start up the game, it truly feels like an old-school plat former. Though being kind of short, with only 7 levels, they‘re fairly large, and will take a while to complete your first couple of times through. The graphics, sounds, as well as gameplay, level design and mechanics are all great as well, making it stand out as one of the better retro platformers available. Manos – The Hands of Fate provides a challenge, and is a game that, even after you complete it, has what it takes to keep you coming back time and time again, trying to better your score, or shave seconds off your time. If it was released back in the 80’s it would have easily been a huge hit. With the game being Universal, and priced at $1.99, it’s a must buy for fans of the genre. Since the release of Awesome Land, FreakZone has nailed everything it takes to produce a top-notch retro platformer, and I hope to see many more titles flow out of their studio.

Dynamite Jack [Hassey Enterprises] – $2.99

The first stealth game I played on my first iOS device was Silent Swords. Since then, the stealth genre hasn’t really gained much ground in the AppStore. It’s not something fans of the genre aren’t use to, good stealth-based games don’t come along too often, and on the iDevice, we’ve only got a couple available to us. But  thanks to Hassey Enterprises, developers of the iOS version of Galcon, we can add one more title to the list of so few; Dynamite Jack, a new iPad only stealth game where you control Jack, a captured space marine who was forced to work in the mines can only use bombs and a flashlight to escape. 
Don’t get me wrong, there are many more items that Jack can use during his escape, but your two main resources are your flashlight, and an endless supply of bombs which you can use to break through walls, and destroy enemies. You’ll also need to find and collect keycards, data chips, crystals, and more while figuring out how to move through each section of the mines without being spotted. 
There are two control setups in Dynamite Jack, a virtual joystick which can be fixed or float, and a line drawing option. If you’re more comfortable with the Spy Mouse or The Nightworld setup, you might want to use the line drawing controls, but for those of you who prefer it, the virtual joystick is a great option, even though it can be kind of finicky with movement, especially if you choose the floating joystick option. This can sometimes get frustrating when trying to quickly hide from guards or quickly place a bomb. With both control schemes, you’re also given icons for turning your flashlight on/off and placing + exploding your bombs. 
You’ll have to be careful as to when you have your flashlight on, as it can draw the attention of the mine supervisors, and their only job? Shoot on sight. Not only do you need to be very cautious with your flashlight, but also your bomb placement. Since bombs also draw the attention of the supervisors/enemies, and you’re only able to place one bomb at a time, not being able to place another one until you set off the one you’ve already set, placing a bomb in the wrong spot can get you killed. You’ll need to figure out where exactly to place a bomb so that you can be far enough away, but also not be in the line of sight of the guards as they come over to inspect the loud boom they just heard, and maybe be able to place a bomb between them and their designated lookout area so that you can kill them on their way back to patrol. 
What really stands out, aside from the fact that this is quite possibly the best stealth based game I’ve played on the iOS yet, is the fantastic level design. Needing to explore, and being forced to use your flashlight, even in the most inconvenient of times in order to figure out where to go, or how to reach a certain item is fantastic, and adds a ton of challenge and difficulty to the game. 
With 28 levels, the game may seem short, but there’s plenty to do even after you’ve completed the game. Each stage has 3 objectives which are optional, but which add to the replay value, or, if you’re determined to snag them all the first time through, add a crazy challenge to the game. These objectives include beating levels in a certain amount of time, getting through levels without using your flashlight, collecting all of the crystals, leaving all of the guards unharmed, collecting all of the data cartridges, beating a level without dying, detonating a certain amount of bombs, and loads more. 
Also adding to the replay value is GameCenter integration which includes 13 hard to unlock achievements. There’s also leader boards for speed run times on every level within the game. Here, you can go against your GameCenter friends times, as well as compete with players around the world. If that isn’t enough, there’s also a level editor, which lets you create levels, and community area, where you can share your levels as well as download maps from other players. 
With Dynamite Jack priced at $2.99, and definitely standing out as one of the best stealth games available for the iOS, it’s a must buy for fans of the genre. I’d consider it the best if the controls were tightened up a bit. But even if you’re not into stealth games, Dynamite Jack provides a great challenge for casual and hardcore gamers alike, and is definitely recommended.

Commander Pixman – 1.99 (One Minute Games)

I’ve said many times before that Metroidvania games are my favorite types of games, but right under it is, of course, platformers. Before playing Super Meat Boy for the first time last year, I hadn’t come across any speed run platform game, and since, only a couple made for the iOS; League Of Evil and Mos Speedrun being the first two, and then the recent release of Stardash added to that little list of mine. Now I have yet another speed run plat former to drive me crazy and go nutzo over.

Commander Pixman is this new addition, developed by One Minute Games, and is their 2nd release in the AppStore (preceded by Quad Pong). First off, I should say that if you’re expecting another LoE, Mos, or Stardash type game, you will probably be disappointed once you start up Commander Pixman. The physics take a little getting use to, as do the controls, and the main character has a gun. However, once you get use to the controls, thinking of the jump button as more of a jetpack thruster button, the controls and physics come together nicely. If you completely avoid using the gun, you’ll make it harder on yourself to get through the levels, but you’ll be able to get through them quicker once you figure out the right path, which will take you numerous re-tries, which is to be expected in the genre. Though taking your time, and using your gun to destroy all the enemies in a level will earn you a badge for that level.
The graphics are 8-bit retro styled, which in itself has become more modern than old-school over the last couple years, though here, it fits. The difficulty and ‘learn the controls’ feeling you’ll see from the beginning of the game through to the end completely screams old-school inspired. The soundtrack is also done in chip-tune style, and helps add to the overall feeling of the game.
Each of the 80 levels (65 regular levels plus 15 unlockable ones) contains hazards and obstacles for you to jump over, through, or avoid while trying to make it to the end of the level as quick as you can. The faster you make it through each stage, the higher star rank you’ll get at the end, while a perfect run will give you 3 stars. There are 20 different hazards/obstacles, including spikes, laser doors, rotating chainsaw blades, mines, various monsters, moving platforms, disintegrating platforms, sections of the floor that boost your jump, and in the later levels, portals that transfer not only you, but your momentum, and more.
To unlock each of the 15 bonus levels, you’ll need to complete different objectives. To unlock the first bonus level, you’ll need to get reach level 20, and to unlock the second bonus level you need to kill all enemies in level 22 in less than 13 seconds.
Now, even with it centering around collecting badges and getting the quickest time you can, there is no online leader board or achievement support, which does kind of take away from the drive of getting 3 stars in a level, or getting the best time you can, and collecting all the badges. Also, you can not run off of a platform that has a spike sticking off the 90 degree edge of it without dying. I don’t know why this bothers me so much, but it does. The left and right directional arrows are kind of too far apart as well. But aside from these things, Commander Pixman is a very competent speed run plat former, with controls that work very well once you get use to them, and great physics. There’s also portals with the nice physics attached to them, and that does add a ton to the gameplay. Right now it’s on sale for $0.99, but only for a limited time, after that it’ll be $1.99, and with all the content within the game, even without online support, is well worth the price. There’s also more content promised in future updates, so if you’re a plat former fan, speed run fan, or old-school game fan, Commander Pixman is definitely worth picking up.
Commander Pixman gets a score of 8 out of 10.