Shoot-em-ups. They’ve grown in popularity quite a bit since the introduction of the AppStore and iDevice. The touch controls make pin-point accuracy and quick movements that would otherwise be impossible as easy as dragging your thumb across a 3.5 inch glass screen. However, the 3D, 3rd Person/On-Rails shooter genre has been basically left out of this Shmup Revolution, with only a couple of titles available for the platform; Wizard Ops, Denizen, Dark Break, ExZeus, TheMars, Battle 3D 2: Iron Punch, and the more open-world type game, Battle 3D: Robots Sky. These titles have provided iOS gamers with countless Space Harrier type entertainment. But sadly, aside from these titles, there’s not others for fans of the genre to sink their teeth into. One-man, Australia-based Justin Hogie obviously knows this, but has still taken a wild chance with his first original iOS title, and created another game we can all add to that extremely short list; Running With Ninjas.
Running With Ninjas is an Endless 3rd Person On-Rails Shooter that puts you in control of a ninja running through the jungle and mountains while being attacked by, and attacking, other ninjas who are bound and determined to take you out. RWN contains one gameplay mode which has you defeating as many ninjas as you can before your health completely runs out. When you start out, you’ll only see 2 different enemies; Red and Green. Red enemies will throw Shurikens straight forward and once defeated, add to your special meter; displayed as writing under your health bar. Green enemies do not attack you, instead, once defeated, they will slightly refill your health bar. As you progress through the world, you’ll soon realize that these are not the only types of enemies. Bosses with strange turtle like shields on their backs, purple enemies that throw Shurikens directly at you, yellow enemies that toss bombs and more will all be after your head, and when all of these different types of enemies are on the screen at the same time, things can get a little hairy.
Once you defeat a boss, a scroll appears. These scrolls, once collected, give your ninja special powers, and this is where the special meter comes into play. After you collect a scroll, a special power is unlocked. To use this special power, you’ll need to draw a shape in the middle of the screen. This does take some getting use to, and I still think that buttons up the sides of the screen, or easier swipe gestures, like just swiping left to right, or up and down would have been a better fit, especially since the gestures are a little hard to remember, and can take more than a second or two to pull off, that is, if you can pull it off correctly. Each special power requires a certain amount of power from your special gauge. Once you have enough power, you can draw a certain symbol on the screen, and POW, enemies are in for some trouble.
The controls are fairly simple; you’re given a button for jumping, and a button for throwing your own Shuriken. Moving left and right is controlled by tilting your device. Normally, I don’t think I would have checked out a 3rd Person On-Rails Shooter that was tilt controlled, but the controls in Running With Ninjas fit the game extremely well. Also making it feel even better is the great camera control. When you tilt your device, your character moves, but so does the environment. This makes it a lot easier to focus on the gameplay, and not worry so much about where your character is located in the gameplay area. However, if you’re not comfortable with the tilting environment, you can always turn this option off in the settings menu, making the environment stay level as you tilt. I have experienced some issues with the controls, like an occasionally unresponsive jump button, some jitteriness while moving in the air, sometimes resulting in taking damage when I should have avoided a bomb, and some slight sticking of the character while on the edges of the gameplay area. However, these were all occasional, and not game-breaking by any means.
The graphics are pretty minimal, with very little details in the environments and characters, however, this does help to make the bright enemies stick out like a sore thumb, making it easier to focus on them while running at full speed through the environments. The animations are well done, with nice enemy appearance and death animations, cool looking special powers, and nice running animations also add to the feel and polish of the game.
With only one gameplay mode, and some needed tweaks that could make the gameplay a little smoother, not everyone is going to jump on the Running With Ninjas bandwagon. However, if you’re a fan of the genre, and willing to take a chance on a game that has some very solid core gameplay mechanics, for $0.99, you just might be very surprised. In the near future, Justin Hogie has said that GameCenter leaderboards and achievements, as well as possibly another gameplay mode that would revolve around preset challenges and levels, along with some additions to the enemies, stages, and special power scrolls. Hopefully RWN sells well and gets enough attention that these things can be added, because right now, Running With Ninjas shows an extreme amount of promise, and provides some great endless gameplay.
I won’t bore you with the excessively long list of games that were released before the inception of The App Shack. Needless to say; it’s LONG. But there are handful of games that will never leave certain iDevices, and games that we’re reminded of when a developer comes out with another iOS release. One of those games happens to be Grumpyface’s Wispin. Wispin was one of the first FREE games I ever got in the AppStore, back in December of 2010, right after I found out that developers actually had days that they would give their games away for nothing. That’s right, I was a slow learner. But once I found that out, I turned into an AppStore junkie, and Grumpyface’s Wispin had remained and been transferred over to every iDevice I’ve owned, and the release of Super Mole Escape has reignited my love of the game.
Now, just like Bring Me Sandwiches!! and Super Mole Escape, Wispin is a little wacky. Granted, it’s not as totally off the wall as BMS!!, but Grumpyface’s humble roots are definitely showcased within it. Wispin contains 3 separate environments each in 2 different gameplay modes; Standard, which starts you out with 3 lives, and Intense, which starts you out with 1, and further into the hectic, Standard gameplay.
Containing two control methods, there are two different ways to play the game, and I absolutely love when controls offer up a totally new gameplay experience. When using the tilt control method, Wispin plays a little like Tilt To Live, with color control, and using the virtual joystick plays more like a dual-stick arcade title.
The main goal is to change the color of Wispin with the color wheel, to match up your color with the enemy’s color, and then smash into them, effectively destroying them. There are 3 different colors you can turn Wispin into; Red, Green and Blue. However, not all enemies follow this set of 3 colors all the time. Occasionally, they will turn purple, yellow, orange, and more, making you avoid them until they turn back into one of the 3 basic colors you can match up with. Wave after wave, Wispin is an endless game, with you trying to survive as long as you can.
The scoring system helps add to the fantastic gameplay, with perfect rounds and multipliers/combos, reaching for both is essential in scoring big. At the end of each wave, if you did not get injured by one of the evil Bloopers, you’ll get a ‘Perfect Wave’ bonus, and this bonus score increases with each consecutive perfect wave you manage to get. Multipliers and combos are based on a gauge. Once you destroy a Blooper, the gauge is filled, and starts quickly running down. To keep a combo going, you’ll need to destroy another Blooper before the gauge empties again. This gauge can also be filled up to the point where you’ll spin wildly around, bouncing off of everything in a ‘controlled’ sort of chaos that lets you destroy all Bloopers of all colors.
Along with the spinning power-up, there are items which you’re able to pick up as you make your way through each wave. Cheese that draws Bloopers of a certain color into one area, bombs that take out one color of Bloopers, arrows that you can fling at Bloopers and a special tap power-up, which, once activated, turns Wispin into a blob, disappearing from the gameplay area, and lets you tap on each of the Bloopers, destroying them. The items do stack up when you collect like items, but if you pick up a cheese item when holding arrows, the arrows will be replaced.
The graphics and animations in Wispin are fantastic. Cartoon-esque environments and character models, which are great by the way, and great explosion/death animations all runs extremely smooth, even on 1st Generation iPod Touch devices. The music and sound effects are great as well, adding to the arcade sound and feel of the whole game.
Although it could use another gameplay mode and more enemies. Maybe a couple more power-ups, with Wispin priced at $1.99, and $2.99 for the HD build (which has bigger gameplay areas, and re-sized virtual controls), and GameCenter support with 14 separate leaderboards, including boards for highest score in both Standard and Intense Modes on each of the 3 different environments, highest wave reached in each environment, longest survival time in each environment, highest combo and total Bloopers destroyed, as well as 21 hard to snag achievements, there’s endless replay value, and several different ways to play when score-chasing. Since Wispin’s release, Grumpyface has created two more extremely wild and fun titles, both of them getting 5 star ratings in our reviews, but it’s great coming back to Wispin, to see where it all started. It’s a game that was amazing when it was released, and still holds up extremely well a couple years later. I’d definitely recommend it to all iOS gamers, casual and hardcore, and consider it a classic iOS game.
Tilt controlled platformers are a bit of a touchy subject, especially for hardcore fans of the platform genre. Fortunately, there are a couple of titles out there that use tilt controls, and do it exceptionally well, building the game around the controls, instead of building a game and throwing in tilt controls because they’re available; Crazy Hedgy, Bounce On and Hoggy are a couple titles that instantly come to mind. Well, now platformer fans can add one more title to that very short list. The brother-duo development team, 2 Ton Studio’s, who’ve, until now, been releasing games for the WP7 (originally though to be one of the iPhone’s most competitive devices, crashing soon after, they released Flying Heads, Akiak, and a title recently brought over to the iOS, NinjaBoy), have finally decided to spread their wings, and attack the AppStore bringing over the quick-level platformer, NinjaBoy.
Now, I will admit that when I first heard of NinjaBoy, I blew it off, and it was because of the controls. More often than not, I absolutely despise tilt controls in platformers, and with so few titles utilizing them and building their game around the controls, it’s pretty easy to say that 95% of tilt-based platformers are going to crash and burn. Fortunately, I’ve got some very pushy gamer friends who would not let up. Finally, I caved. And my iPod is all the better because of it.
NinjaBoy is the story of a fallen kingdom, and a harsh ruler. Tadeo, the character you’ll be controlling, and his master, Minoru, escaped the land, running to a forgotten temple to train until Tadeo is strong enough to battle Lord Hito and take back the kingdom.
2 Ton Studio’s has marked NinjaBoy as a puzzle-platformer. And it is, of sorts. Quick thinking and figuring out how to get through the screen-sized levels so that you can collect all 3 stars before hitting the exit can prove to be a bit of a challenge, especially after you make your way through the first set of levels.
Starting off, you’ll need to go through the Dojo, where you’ll go through 40 levels, learning the basics, and preparing yourself to enter The Kingdom. The Dojo is split up into 3 sections, the Lower, Mid and Upper levels. Each stage has a possible 3 star ranking, though not required to move on, this is where the core challenge is. In each stage, there are 3 stars which you can grab, and an exit. If you touch the exit before you collect all of the stars, the level ends, and you’ll need to replay it if you’re trying to get all 3 of the stars. Some levels also have a locked exit, and a key. In these levels, you’re able to pass through the level’s exit before you have the key, and still be able to carry on, collecting the rest of the objects in the level.
The levels are designed so that you’ll need to figure out the best way to collect all 3 stars, the key, and reach the exit in the quickest time possible. In the Lower level stages, you’ll learn the game’s basics, but as you move on into the Mid level stages, it starts to get a little more tricky. Here, you’ll start to encounter trip-wires and golems. If you touch the trip-wires, you’ll need to restart the level. Now, since one hazard isn’t really sufficient, you’ll also come across golems. These creatures kill you if you fall into their direct line of sight, so avoiding the front of them is essential for progressing through the stages. In the Upper level stages, it gets a little more tricky. Here, you’re exposed to different trip-wires. In the Mid level stages, the trip-wires were red, and killed you on impact. In the Upper level stages, you’ll come across blue and green trip-wires. Green wires let you fall down through them, while blue wires let you jump up through them. If you happen to go the wrong way through them, you’ll be killed. You are graded on how many stars you collect, the amount of time it takes you, and your efficiency. This is how you earn gold. The higher your grade, the more gold you’ll earn.
In the shop, you’re able to spend your earned gold on various items and costumes, all with different abilities and stat increases. Different outfits will give you different abilities; The red outfit will let you tap and hold while you’re jumping to slowly float downwards, while the green outfit boosts you back up if you happen to fall past the bottom of a room. Along with 3 other outfits, there are also charms which, when held, can give you a gold boost at the end of every level, and potions, which let you bypass trip-wires and get past golems without being seen.
With tight controls, playing NinjaBoy on the iPhone/iPod Touch is a blast, and does provide a great challenge. However, even though the game is Universal, there are no other control options, so playing on the iPad can get kind of frustrating. With the constant tilting, your wrists are in for quite a workout. Though I’m not saying that I’d like to see virtual controls, because the game is built around the tilt scheme, I am saying that the game is a lot more comfortable for gameplay on the smaller devices. Priced at $0.99, and containing 80 levels, each with a possible 3 star ranking, there is quite a bit of content to play through. However, there is no GameCenter support, which does take away from the replay value, and the drive to play your best to unlock achievements. Hopefully GameCenter will be added in a future update, because I’d love to battle it out on some leaderboards, and see what extra challenges some achievements could add to the game. 2 Ton Studios has provided a really good tilt controlled platformer with NinjaBoy, and it’s very well developed. I’d love to see them bring more titles over to the iOS in the future, and will definitely be keeping my eyes on them from now on.
Sunny Tam, developer of two of my favorite shmups on the iOS, Danmaku Unlimited and Storm Strikers, has just come out with another title. This time around, it’s not a bullet hell, but it’s still seemingly influenced by Japanese culture. Rainbow Tissue Cat, a Super Crate Box type title where you try and hit birds and collect stars while avoiding bullets and samurai stars was released a couple weeks ago, and if you’re a fan of the SCB genre, or just love cats, Rainbow Tissue Cat is for you.
Starting it up, you’re able to choose to play the Morning Stage. Afternoon and Evening are unlocked after you score a certain amount of points. Your castle is under attack from swarms of woodpeckers, and you need to take care of them by bouncing on your special roll of toilet paper. The controls are easy to use, and surprisingly accurate. Tilting your device moves the cat left and right, while bouncing is done automatically, ala Bean’s Quest. It would be great if virtual buttons were added to the game, since it is Universal, and tilting an iPad plays hell on your wrists.
The graphics are great, and super cute, with the background colors changing depending on what time of day/stage you decide to play in. Each time you start up a new game, the layout of the platforms changes, which kind of makes it feel like you’re playing in a different stage each game.
There are three types of blocks which you’ll be able to bounce on, big, small and blocks with arrows. The bigger blocks stay in place, while the smaller blocks drop down and disappear after you bounce on them, reappearing a short time later, adding to the challenge of the game, and the arrow blocks bounce you higher than you normally would. There are also two different types of birds. Your regular birds, and then pink birds, which, once you run into them, will give you either a 2X points multiplier, a power-up which slows down time, or a special ‘more birds’ star, which sets off a huge wave of birds.
Each time you hit a bird, they will drop a star. These don’t add to your total level score, but they can be collected and used to unlock different suits for your cat. There are IAPs, but these aren’t pushed on you at all, and are really just there if you want to support the developer, and get a couple of different looks for your cute little cat. You can also earn stars by getting promotions, this is done by hitting a certain number of birds as you play through the game.
Like you might expect from a developer who’s done Bullet Hell titles in the past, the scoring system is a huge plus. For each bird that you knock down, you’re given 1 point, unless you can hit them in a special spot giving you a critical hit which is worth 10 points. Unfortunately, this spot isn‘t really clear. Sometimes you‘ll get it if you hit a bird on it‘s stomach, sometimes if you hit it on it‘s tail, sometimes directly in the face. If you manage to hit a bunch of birds in one jump, it’s a combo, and this is where the real points are. Collecting combos adds a bonus combo score at the end of your game, which can boost your score up quite a bit.
Rainbow Tissue Cat is Universal and priced at $0.99. It’s supported by GameCenter with 13 achievements and 3 leader boards, one for each time of the day, adding a bunch to the replay value. Fans of the Super Crate Box genre should definitely check this one out. The only thing it really needs is a nice tutorial, explaining the scoring, power-ups, and what not to come into contact with (the first time I saw a samurai star, I thought it was a special power-up, and then died).
It’s always exciting seeing a new coming development company come to the AppStore, especially when they have previous iOS experience, release their first iOS game. Suspect In Sight, from Jujubee Games (founded in 2012 by ex-Projekt RED, Traveler’s Tales and Infinite Dreams developers), is their first release, and it shows that they have quite a bit of experience behind them.
Suspect In Sight has you controlling a helicopter, chasing suspects cars, lighting them up until the police can take them out. The game has 4 separate game modes, and 3 cities to chase the criminals in. the main game mode is the campaign, where you’ll gain experience points and chase down wave after wave of cars until your time runs out. Starting in Miami, you can choose between two different control schemes, tilt and joystick (on the left or right side of your screen), and are given a basic helicopter to start off with.
As you chase down the cars, gems are given to you after each capture which add to your overall score. There is a multiplier gauge as well, which increases if you can keep the cars in your spotlight until they’re taken down. Each car also adds 5 seconds to your time limit, and there are also “?” scattered throughout the stages which give you little bonuses, like extra time, increased speed for a short time, extra points, stopping the cars for a short time, and more. Experience is gained depending on how many suspects are arrested, how many waves you complete, and your time played.
Leveling up is required to unlock the extra modes. Race for Gems Mode has you following a stream of gems throughout a level, trying to get them all in the shortest amount of time. As for the other two modes, AC-130 Mode, and Bird of Prey, I haven’t been able to unlock those yet. Which brings me to pretty much my one and only complaint with the game.
Unlocking modes requires you to reach certain levels by gaining experience. Race For Gems requires Level 3, AC-130 – Level 7, and Bird of Prey – Level 12. After playing for about an hour and a half, I managed to reach level 4. Generally, each game takes about 5 minutes, and only nets between 300 and 600 experience points. Level 3 is at 5,000 experience points, and level 4 is at 10,000 experience points, with level 5 at 15,000 points. With the gameplay being pretty basic, and everything that might make the game a lot more entertaining locked away when you first pick the game up, the grind to get up to level 12 (which is when Bird of Prey is unlocked) can turn out to be long and boring. I’m assuming others are experiencing the same type of grind, as I’m currently #11 out of 5,125 players on the Highest Score board, and #18 out of 5,141 players for Total Experience Points.
This is pretty disappointing, considering how great the graphics are, and how much potential the game seems to have right now. GameCenter leaderboards for Highest Score, Total Experience Points, and Best Time in the Race For Gems, along with 18 achievements. Being Universal, priced at $0.99, and having loads of replay value, it’s a great game that all action/arcade + high-score chasing fanatics should check out. Hopefully the experience points required for leveling up will be lowered, or the next helicopter I unlock (whenever I reach whatever level I need to reach in order to unlock it – it doesn‘t say when it is unlocked) helps me gain experience points faster. In the beginning it’s a pretty big downer seeing how long it’s going to take to unlock all of the modes.
There are quite a few games revolving around aliens in the AppStore, but only a few of them offer up some really exciting gameplay that will keep you coming back again and again. Future Games Of London (Hungry Shark Series) has delivered just that. A mission based alien title that puts you in the drivers seat of a UFO, and keeps you coming back over and over, trying to better your previous score, and it has a pretty cool name to go with it; Grabatron.
You’ll be able to control a UFO by tilting your device, and tapping to unleash your claw, which can pick up anything from humans and pigs to tanks and huge boulders. I’m not generally someone who likes tilt controls, but there are a couple of games that just feel completely right with them, and Grabatron happens to be one of them. The world is spread into sections, with big mountains separating them. The thing is, if you fly too high, you’ll have to deal with swarming jets and other aircraft all trying to shoot you down, and they will, without a hitch. To get through the mountains, you’ll need to explore, and find the upgrades that are hidden in the first section. Armor upgrades, and a big claw upgrade, which lets you move the huge boulders blocking the entrance to the middle of the mountain.
While you’re exploring, looking for upgrades, you’ll sometimes come across animals or humans with green arrows above them. If you pick them up, you’ll get some health, as well as start a mission. For instance, if you pick up a cow with a green arrow above it, a mission might start where you’ll need to pick up 8 more cows in a certain amount of time. This is how you earn most of your points. While doing this, you’ll sometimes trigger multipliers, or short time shield power-ups. There are other missions that are triggered when picking up objects that do not have a green arrow above them, like if you pick up a tractor, a mission might start where you’ll need to kill a certain amount of farmers with that tractor before the tractor explodes.
The graphics are fantastic, with even the small humans having quite a bit of detail, as well as the signs, and you could even sit there and count the leaves on a tree if you were so inclined. It’s actually very impressive that the load times are not long at all, and the game runs super smooth with no lag or framerate drops at all. The animations are also great. If you fly close to the ground, dirt will be thrown up in the air, the humans and animals all walking around look great and the explosions are incredibly impressive. There’s also a cut scene at the beginning of the game which shows your UFO flying towards earth, and it looks fantastic.
Priced at $0.99, including GameCenter with a leaderboard and 41 achievements, with tons of missions, and crazy high replay value, Future Games Of London has delivered one of the best action games in the AppStore. Seeing a challenge mode, or maybe even multiplayer, trying to grab objects and toss them at the other player, taking down their UFO, or maybe even co-op play would make Grabatron amazing. Though, I might just be asking for too much there. If you’re looking for a great action/arcade title, and love the idea of exploration mixed with mission based game play, and don’t mind tilt controls, Grabatron is a game you should definitely pick up.
Magic Cube’s Infect Them All holds a special spot in my heart. It was released around the time I started loosing faith in casual iOS gaming. More and more developers were diving into the IAP scene, making games that pretty much showed gamers how they were truly viewed as consumers instead of gamers or fans. Then along came Infect Them All from a company I previously hadn’t heard anything about, and I was hooked.
Now, after hours upon hours of gameplay with Infect Them All, Magic Cube’s sequel, Infect Them All: Vampires has just been released. There’s not too much of a difference between the two titles, they both include a Campaign, Infinite Campaign, Survival, and Blitz Modes, they both control the same with either tilt or virtual joystick options, can both have a whole lot of enemies on the screen at once, both have 50 Campaign levels, awesome boss battles, and more. The biggest difference you’ll notice at first is that ITA: Vampires gives your character a special ability. With your first character, you’re able to attack humans by hitting an attack button, causing your vampire to jump and slash twice in the direction you’re tilting or pressing on the joystick. After you attack humans, a reaper will appear above all of them that were in your way, and you can either let them die, or jump on them quickly to infect them, making large groups of humans easy targets.
There are also upgrades, like in the original, but this time around, there’s a few more upgrades that you’ll be able to buy, considering the special abilities that each vampire has. The upgrades this time around are set-up in branches. You’ll need to upgrade certain perks before you can upgrade others, leading to more attacks, stronger attacks, and yes, the typical more health, quicker movement, and so on. But the abilities really do add quite a bit more to the game than you would think, adding more strategy, more action, and quicker, more arcade-like gameplay.
As in the original Infect Them All, you will need to infect a certain amount of humans before Survival and Blitz Modes are unlocked; 5,000 to unlock Survival, and 7,500 for Blitz. It does seem like quite a bit, but after you get through the first couple of levels, infecting 30 humans a stage is not too hard, and much, much more (up to about 75) in the later levels, all of which are re-playable, will unlock the extra modes in no time. The two extra characters are also unlocked based on how many humans you infect. The first character unlocks at 1,000, and the second at 3.000, so you’ll have all 3 characters to play with before you unlock the extra modes, giving you adequate time to upgrade all their skills and abilities before taking on the harder modes.
Infect Them All: Vampries is supported by GameCenter and OpenFeint, having leaderboards for each of the game’s modes, and 23 achievements. Considering you can re-play levels, the main boards most gamers will be competing on will be the Survival and Blitz boards. But if you want to play and re-play levels, trying to get into the top 10 or so scores for the Campaign Mode, get ready to sink a good 40 hours into the game. At $0.99, it’s a great buy, especially if you enjoyed the original Infect Them All.
The Tilt To Live and Shmup genres have been mashed together a few times, and have had extremely nice results. FlipShip and Blue Attack come to mind right off the bat. Though it’s no surprise really, as the whole Tilt To Live genre is basically bullet hell without any bullets, dodging and weaving through enemies like you would a bullet onslaught in a Cave title. True Axis (Jet Car Stunts) is the most recent publisher to see the potential with this genre, as they’ve released PomPom’s title, Space Tripper, their highly anticipated iOS port of the PSN and PC game, Astro Tripper.
In Space Tripper, you’ll shoot and dodge your way through 14 levels, split up across 4 different worlds, of wave-enemy battles, with quite a few boss fights, and even a task or two to mix things up, all building up to a final boss battle that could very well cause your heart to explode from adrenaline. One of the first things you might notice about Space Tripper, if you’ve never played it before, is that it is set up more like a shooter than a Tilt To Live type game, making it more reminiscent of Blue Attack than FlipShip or any other TTL genre’d title. However, if you go into the game thinking it’s going to play like your typical shooter, you’ll be in for quite a surprise, and maybe even disappointment.
Space Tripper is controlled by tilting your iDevice, which is where the Tilt To Live comparisons come into play. There are no touch, or relative touch for that matter, controls, which might throw some people off, and in some cases, might result in a few lost sales. But if you go into the game thinking of it more like a TTL type game with more shmup elements than any other TTL title, chances are, you’ll end up pleasantly surprised. There’s also controls for flipping your ship left and right, which is done by tapping on the right side of the screen, and changing your shot from straight on to a much wider shot, by tapping on the left side. The tilt controls are extremely tight, and work very well within the game. There’s tilt sensitivity options if you’d like to try and make it tighter, and an option to set up calibration, which, for some reason, is often forgotten in tilting games, which the only reason I’m bringing it up. The graphics in Space Tripper are ported amazingly well. Even though there aren’t as many particle effects as you’ll find in the PSN version, it definitely doesn’t look dull. A lot of the environments are almost reminiscent of R-Type, as are a lot of the enemies, though everything is done with 3D models, and very modern, it just has that old-school feeling about it all.
The level design is something that really should be brought up as well. The levels are not very big, but do scroll left and right as you move along, and a lot of the designs would be perfect for an FPS multiplayer area battle, with different levels, and great layouts. In a lot of the levels, you’ll end up spending your time on one side of the level, trying to take out an enemy that’s the cause for a ton of spawning enemies, while on the other end, the same enemies are forming an army while waiting for you to finish off the opposite side. This is where the 3D modeling for the levels can be used to your advantage, as you can fly over to the side holding the army, and come up over the edge of a ramp, swing from the bottom to the top portion of the screen, and then back off onto the ramp again, causing all of the enemies projectiles to either fly over you, or hit the bottom portion of the ramp, and then go back in for another strike.
You will need to be careful with how you handle all of the enemies though, as you won’t always have enough time to play cat and mouse with them, because all of the levels have a time limit. This adds to the already fairly high difficulty, and to the adrenaline you’ll pump out while playing Space Tripper. You’re given 3 lives in the beginning, and if you waste those, you’ll have an option to reset your score for one life. Don’t be fooled, even veteran Tilt To Live and Shmup players will have a fairly hard time with the game on Normal difficulty. The game is incredibly fun however, which will give you that ‘one more time’ thought over and over again, until you’ve wasted an hour of your life hammering away at a couple levels. The game is saved once you beat a world though, so you can come back and start a world with the lives that you had when starting that world, even after a game over, and once you finally do beat the game, you can try out the Hard and Very Hard difficulty settings, as well as the Score Attack and Challenge Modes that all provide an insane amount of replay value. On top of that, there’s OpenFeint and GameCenter integration, containing 21 different leader boards, one for each level in Score Attack Mode, one for each difficulty of the Campaign, and one for each of the 4 endless Challenge Levels. Not to mention the 8, incredibly hard to achieve, achievements.
Gamers have been waiting for this iOS port of Astro Tripper for quite some time, and even if you’ve got Astro Tripper, the gameplay in Space Tripper is different enough with the tilt controls that it’s basically a new gameplay experience. You’ll need to change your strategy, as tactics that are memorized, and fairly easy to pull off with a controller, are not to easy to pull off on a device utilizing tilt controls. $3.99 for this Universal game is a great deal, and one that any arcade, old-school, shmup, Tilt To Live, or adrenaline fanatic should jump on immediately. PomPom has definitely shown that they are the equivalent of Cave Inc. within the Tilt To Live genre.
We mentioned in an earlier review that the iDevices, with their option for tilting controls, have opened up another little world for game development and genre expansion. Here we have another example of a genre expanded by these tilt controls, ball rollers. Escape From Cyborgia is a new addition the genre, developed by Maniac Dreamers.
First off, the graphics, like most other great ball rollers, are very immersive, drawing you into the dark world full of hazards and obstacles. The animations for all the moving objects, liquids, steams, and fires in throughout the game are also done very nicely. Coupled with the awesome music, great physics, and ability to tilt the camera by swiping on the screen you can see the levels from different angles, the developers have created an amazing atmosphere, making Escape From Cyborgia a game that you’ll experience just as much as you’ll play. There is also a story that is accessible from the main menu, which does add to the experience and feel of the game if you decide to take the time to read it. It’s pretty interesting finding out why you’re trying to “escape from Cyborgia.”
To make it through each of the 30 levels, you will need to guide your mechanical orb through the maze of paths, hitting switches that allow access to new areas, and collecting green, red, and blue orbs that give you points. These points can be used to slow down the timer or plant new checkpoints. You don’t need to plant checkpoints, but if you want to make it through the levels in a timely matter, it’s a good idea. Sometimes the orbs need to be collected by pushing crates or barrels over edges into the orbs, which counts towards your collected points as if you had run into the orb yourself. With this feature, the developers were able to make collecting all of the orbs a task that generally only the better players will be able to do, by placing some on the ground floor, which you are not able to touch without dying, in fire, at the bottom of holes in the floors, or behind other hazards, only accessible by finding the right switch, or moving a crate or barrel to the area, and dropping it on the orb.
You do not need to collect all of the orbs in order to finish the levels, but you will need to open up pathways by clicking on certain switches, which does require quite a bit of backtracking. The level design is extremely well thought out, giving players the opportunity to either spend more time in a level, and gain more points, but also run the risk of dying more, or let players try and speed roll through each of the levels, making it through as fast as they can, gaining a higher star ranking in the level.
The controls and UI in Escape From Cyborgia are very tight, and nicely laid out. You can adjust the calibration at any time in the main, or pause menus, as well as the tilt sensitivity. There are 3 buttons on the bottom right, and 3 on the bottom left corners of the screen. On the left, you can pause, go back to your last planted checkpoint, or reset your checkpoint to the beginning of the level. On the right, you can slow down the timer, requiring 1,500 points, set a new checkpoint, requiring 1,000 points, or enter the birds eye view of the level, which you are able to zoom in and out of as well as swipe and scroll around in. You can also swipe the screen at any point while playing the game to tilt the camera at a different angle, seeing if the pathways are slanted up or down, or maybe see if a path is accessible by seeing the set-up at a different angle.
For Maniac Dreamers first iOS release, Escape From Cyborgia is a very immersive addition to the ball roller genre. The only cons I can see is that there is no online integration, so there’s less drive to go back and replay levels with the hopes of bettering your score or ranking. Also, the level select screen always starts on level 0, so you will always need to scroll through the levels to find the one you last completed. There are also some sections on the paths, in the first couple levels, that have slight tilts on them. These slight tilts are almost impossible to see, even while tilting the camera. To make it over these slanted areas, players will need to tilt their devices to a pretty uncomfortable position. When you finally do make it past the slanted area, your ball will almost always go flying across the path. This isn’t too big of a deal, because the levels that do have these slants are only in the beginning, and there’s guard-rails on the path-ways, so you will not fling your ball onto the floor or into the green goo, but it is kind of strange that these sections only appear in the beginning of the game, and that more was not done to make them visible. Aside from that, which really isn’t anything to seriously complain about, and nothing that could not be fixed in an update, Escape From Cyborgia is a very well made, with skillfully thought out levels and textures. $2.99 for this Universal game is a solid price.
With Apple bringing gamers a device that can utilize tilting controls, developers have pretty much been able to invent new genres of games based around that device function. Tilt To Live is one of these types of games, making gamers tilt their iPods to maneuver their triangle through dots/enemies on the screen, using power-ups to defeat them. Since then, there’s been quite a few games that have built on this type of gameplay, and created a whole “Tilt To Live” genre of games for the iOS. The newest addition to the TTL genre is FlipShip, by ByteSize Games, which is their first iOS release. And what a great first release it is.
Expanding on the Tilt To Live idea, you’ll maneuver one of three types of ships around your screen, dodging two different colors of enemy ships, shooting, and using power-ups to take as many of them out as you can. Here’s the catch; to shoot an enemy, your ship must be the same color as that enemy, and to change colors, you simply tap the screen. Also, the longer you stay one color, the bigger your combo gets, and the more points you get per destroyed ship – but that combo score is banked, and only added to your total score once you change the color of your ship again. This can lead to the loss of millions of points if you’re not careful, but also gives gamers a very nice risk/reward gameplay mechanic.
The controls for FlipShip are, like you’d hope for in a game like this, very nice and tight, making weaving in-between groups of enemies doable, if you’re careful. One tap on the screen changes the color of your ship, and resets your combo score, saving the score you’ve built up, and tapping on the icon in the lower right corner (this can also be changed to go into the left corner) will activate your special ability, which is different with each ship. There are quite a few calibration options, but by default, the game will automatically calibrate at the beginning of every game, and every time you resume the game from the pause menu. You can also adjust the sensitivity of the vertical and horizontal tilting aspects.
The graphics are retro/vector styled, and really feel quite nice. There is more detail than most vector styled iOS games within the different ships and enemies. The backgrounds are all pretty much the same, but each time you play, the background and enemies will all be different colors. There’s red, blue, green and yellow, and each time you play, two of these colors are chosen. The music is your typical pumping electronica music, but, like most games, it fits in very well with the action.
Now, with the power-ups, they are all the same for each of the 3 ships, there’s two types of bombs, once regular, and one electrical. The regular bomb blows up everything within it’s radius, and can cause a chain reaction, but generally not a big one. The electrical bomb shocks everything in it’s radius, and jumps from ship to ship if they’re close enough, so you could, in theory, clear out an entire screen of enemies if you time running into this electrical bomb just right. The clock power-up slows down all the enemies on the screen for a short period of time, making it easier to escape large groups of enemies that are the opposite color of your ship, helping you build your combo score even higher. There’s also a power up that boosts your ship in the tilted direction, flying through, and destroying, any ships in it’s way, a seeker bomb, which sends out 6 different missiles, seeking out any enemies on the screen. Then, of course, there’s a shield power-up, and a power-up that refills your ability icon.
As for the abilities; they are different for each ship. There is a slow, average, and fast ship, each also having different firing attributes. The slow ship, called the “Steinway”, fires long projectiles out of a narrow section of the front of the ship, and it’s special ability is sending out 4 drones, 2 of each color. These drones don’t last long, but they can clear out quite a large group of enemies if used right. The average ship, called “Deadeye” shoots a short projectile out of a wide area of the front of the ship, and it’s special ability is called “Starburst”, which sends out a burst of colorless material in 8 directions, destroying everything in it’s path. The 3rd ship is the fast ship, and it’s called the “Preacher”. It’s able to shot in all directions, but it only shoots enemies that are close to it. It’s special ability is being able to change every ship on screen into the current color of the ship, making it pretty easy to build up a huge combo pretty quickly.
There is only one mode within FlipShip, but you are given 6 different difficulties; Very Easy, Easy, Medium, Hard, Very Hard and Insane. All of the different difficulties are on the same difficulty scale, but starting on the harder difficulties starts the game off harder, stays harder, and increases the difficulty quicker. Each different difficulty effects the enemy spawning rate, their speed, what enemy patterns you will see, and how difficult those patterns will be. So really, if you start a game on Very Easy, and you’re good enough, you can make it to the Insane difficulty gameplay. It will just take you longer than if you start out on any difficulty above Very Easy. Insane difficulty throws you right into the hardest difficulty the game will be. This growth of difficulty makes the game accessible to all gamers, and also gives hardcore gamers quite the challenge. However, making it so that less power-ups were present in harder difficulties, and the players abilities charged slower the harder you started the game off at, would be a nice addition to really separate the difficulty modes a bit more. It would also be great to see more gameplay modes in the future. There’s also the feeling that one death is enough to re-start the whole game. If you’re playing, and rack up a score of 1 million points with your first life, and end up loosing it before changing colors and banking that score, it really makes more sense to restart the game than to play through your last 2 lives. Some gamers might also find that 6 difficulties is just too many, especially when they’re all basically the same. There are also some color combinations that don’t mix together too well. For instance, Green and Yellow are a little too much alike, and do not have much contrast. However, Red and Blue, or Blue and Yellow, go together very well, and being able to choose these colors would be great, and would also be a good idea for our color-blind gamers out there.
But FlipShip, as it is now, with GameCenter support, leader boards for each of the difficulties, 50 achievements, 3 ships, accessibility to casual and hardcore gamers, and an exceedingly well done addictive risk/reward combo scoring system, $1.99 for the game is a great price, made even better because right now it‘s on sale for $0.99. It’s got tons of style, and some very intense action. ByteSize Games have proven that the Tilt To Live genre is still alive and thriving, and can still be expanded on. If you’re a fan of the genre, want a challenge, or are a high-score monger, like myself, FlipShip is a no-brainer must buy. I’m definitely looking forward to future updates, and seeing what ByteSize brings to the table with future games.