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Our second Review Rewind spotlights the great little retro platformer Bloo Kid. Developed by Eiswuxe, Bloo Kid started off as an Android title, but found it’s way over to the AppStore, and I, for one, and definitely glad that it did. With a great challenge and 84 levels, it’s still a game that can be found on my iPod, and that I occasionally play whenever I’ve got a couple minutes to spare. The bite-sized levels make for great jump-in-and-play-for-a-minute gameplay, but it still provides enough challenge that you can sit there and all of a sudden realize that a good hour has gone by. Old-school fans, and platformer fans looking for another under-rated gem need look no further. Bloo Kid is where it’s at.
**Note: This review was written after playing Version 1.0.
Bloo Kid is the first game for the iOS by Eiswuxe. It’s a platformer, soit’s a risky first game, but Eiswuxe has pulled it off almost flawlessly. You play as Bloo Kid, who is trying to rescue his girlfriend from the evil Wizard. You’re given 60 levels through 5 different worlds. Each level is the size of the screen, so don’t expect any side-scrolling goodness. But to avoid clutter, the developer has made it so that enemies spawn in different places of the levels, giving you waves of enemies to defeat before you complete the level. In each level, you can get 3 stars. One star for beating the level, another for collecting the star that shows up at the end of the level, and lastly, for making it through the level without taking any damage.
With platformers, controls and physics are huge. If you can’t nail those, then your game will pretty much tank. Eiswuxe has done an amazing job here making the physics and controls work great. The controls are nice and tight, you don’t need to lift your thumb up to change directions, and the jump button is very responsive, and how high you jump is directly related to how long you hold on the jump button. The buttons are also placed very well, and are just the right size. The physics are great. The game doesn’t feel floaty or weighed down at all, which is always very nice to see. It makes the game feel like a game that’s meant to be played instead of a game that’s meant to be fiddled with, struggling with the controls the whole way through.
World 1 stars out pretty bland, but it’s designed for you to get a real grasp on the levels and how the game works. Eiswuxe decided to make the first world available in the lite version, which might have been a mistake, because most of the interesting gameplay comes after the first world. World 2 gets more difficult, and way more interesting, as you’re faced with enemies that throw objects at you, more platforms that move and take you to other parts of the level, bouncing spikes that you need to avoid, dashing enemies, enemies that you need to jump on in order to make it to other parts of the level, and enemies that need to be jumped on more than once in order to kill them.
From here on, there’s not too many new enemies, but you will facemore and different ones as you progress. The level design as you go along gets better and better as well, and level design in a one-screen platformer is very important. But just like the controls and physics, Eiswuxe has pulled it off almost flawlessly. There are a couple of areas that it’s impossible to jump over spikes without an enemy being there, and a couple levels where the star is placed in an area where you’d need to jump on the last enemy in order to get there before the star shows up. You are given 5 hearts in each level, but having the stages set up this way just adds to the difficulty, and if you’re really worried about getting 3 stars on each of the 60 levels, this adds to the re-playability of the game.
At the end of each world, you’re faced by a boss, who takes 6 hits to kill. Each of the bosses has a special attack that you’ll need to figure out in order to survive the battle. Also, at the beginning of each world, you’re given a little clip of your girlfriend being taken to the next area where you’ll be playing. The animations in Bloo Kid are done very well, even when you stop running your character starts to take deep breaths. It’s got a cute factor to it, but it’s a game with difficulty for sure. Especially if you’re trying to get all the stars. Making it through some of the levels without taking damage might take you multiple tries, but each time you screw up, you’re going to end up cussing yourself, and not the controls or game. The retro graphics are fitting, as it’s a game that reminds me of older NES games with it’s frustration level, and difficulty, and that just draws me to it even more.
For their first game in the AppStore, Eiswuxe has shown that even though they’re new, they can make a professional game with top notch controls and physics, along with wonderful level design. You can check out the lite version in the AppStore, but it only contains the first world, which isn’t a very good representation of the entire game. I almost skipped out on this one because of the lite version, and it would have been a mistake on my end. But the lite version will give you a feel for the game, and let you check out the controls, physics, and first world level design for yourself. I’m giving Bloo Kid 4.5 out of 5 stars, and recommend it to all platformer fans. It could be a 5/5 game if it had online leaderboards, achievements, and some power-ups thrown in, but it’s definitely a game that you will play all the way through, and then most likely end up going back to just to try and get most or all of the stars. For $0.99, it’s a wonderful game.
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.
Shoot-em-ups are really thriving in the AppStore. But with Cave pretty much having a monopoly on the high-end, extremely polished side of things, it’s hard for others to really compare to the insanely high quality they bring to the table. Fortunately, there are some developers that can compete with this, Taito being one of them. The release of Space Invaders: Infinity Gene, and ports of DariusBurst and RayForce are considered to be some of the best non-Cave shmups available on the iOS, and with good reason. The gameplay, graphics, music and amount of polish are all top-notch. And now they’ve added one more game to the list of ports to hit the AppStore; RayStorm. Originally released for the PSX, SEGA Saturn, and for Arcades, it’s also been ported over to Windows, XBLA and the Playstation Network, it’s now available for your iDevice.
RayStorm is the only Taito Ray-title that’s not connected to the series. Released before RayForce and RayCrisis, what there is of a plot is not connected to the other two in any way. The game takes place between August 4th and 7th, starts on Earth, moves into space, and ends on the planet Secilia. Like RayForce on the iOS, RayStorm contains both an Arcade Mode as well as an iPhone Mode. The two play pretty much exactly the same, but with the iPhone Mode, the enemy placements, game music and color schemes are different, while the difficulty settings have been revised to make the gameplay a little easier.
In the Options Menu, you’re able to set the difficulty for both modes to Very Easy, Easy, Normal and 5 different Hard Difficulties; Hard 1, Hard 2, Hard 3, Hard 4 and Very Hard. You can also change the movement ratio from 1:1 to 1:1.5, 1:2, 1:2.5, ect, up to 1:4, as well as change the button positioning from left to right. From the first time you start up the game, you’ll be able to start from any of the 7 stages in both modes and select between 2 different fighters. Both of these fighters have fairly different ways of playing and scoring; The R-Gray 1 uses a spread shot and can lock on to 8 enemies at once, while the R-Gray 2 uses a condensed laser shot, but can lock onto 16 enemies at once. The Gray1 is better for new-comers to the game/genre, while the Gray2 is built more for experienced players.
Graphically, RayStorm looks great on the small screen, but unfortunately, the game is only built for the iPod and iPhone, and does not contain retina graphics, so playing on the iPad requires 2X mode, and as a result, is pretty pixilated. But for fans of the genre, this shouldn’t really pose a problem, as there are very few HD/Retina shmups available in the AppStore, so it’s not really a deal breaker. The animations for shooting projectiles, movement and explosions are all fantastic, and with the movement of the backgrounds creating a 3D environment, even though some of the background images can look pretty ugly, coupled with the smooth controls, and great music, RayStorm turned out to be an incredibly immersive shooter.
Priced at $8.99, and including GameCenter integration with 4 leaderboards, one for each ship in each mode, along with 31 achievements, chances are, even though it’s one of the better previously released shmups ported over to the iOS, only hardcore fans of the genre will wind up purchasing it. If you’re new to the genre, you might want to check out some of the cheaper titles before diving right in, but for fans of the genre, RayStorm is a great game, and is really only out-done by Cave’s titles. Taito has shown, once again, why they have been around since 1953, are still highly respected, and have a very loyal fan following.