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Number of Results: 5

Running With Ninjas [Justin Hogie] – $0.99

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.

Bug Hunt 8-Bit [Dom n’ Tom] – $0.99

Old-school retro score-chasing arcade games have quite a following, especially in the iOS world. With so many older gamers coming back to the scene, finding out that they can enjoy quick gameplay sessions on their phone, it’s not really a surprise that there’s so many of these games available in the AppStore. Dom n’ Tom’s Bug Hunt 8-Bit is a prime example. 

The main goal of the game is to eat as many bugs as you can, getting the highest score possible. With bugs going back and forth across the screen, and mixed in with bees, which kill your character, it’s simple, quick gaming. Controlling your character is easy, just place your finger on the screen, and drag left and right to move your little frog, and swipe up and down to move his tongue. Once you have plenty of bugs stuck on your frogs tongue, drag it back down so that he can eat them, and get the points. Sadly, this is the only control setup, no virtual buttons for those of you who are comfortable with them.
There are 7 levels, kind of set up like Tetris’s levels. Each progressive level will give you more bunches of bugs, at a faster speed. While you’re playing, your level will increase as you catch more bugs, but you can choose to start at a specific level if you like. The background colors change as you play, but there are no real different environments. 
Unfortunately, this is all the game has to offer. Yes, it’s simple, yes, it has great retro graphics, and yes, it has the potential to become very addictive. But with only one gameplay mode, no power-ups, only 3 different bugs, and the biggest disappointment, no online leader boards, there’s not really much there to pull you back to the game after you play it a couple of times. 

Bug Hunt 8-Bit is great for those little spaces of time when you have a minute or two to waste, and being Universal and priced at $0.99, it’s not bad if that’s what you’re looking for. But if you’re hoping for something that will totally draw you in, and have you coming back to compete for high-scores, it’s lacking. Released last year, and not receiving one update, it’s not looking like that will change, but hopefully more attention is given to this little game with tons of potential so that Dom n’ Tom maybe get the push they need to take advantage of it. 

Warmongers [Category 5 Games] – $1.99/$3.99

Castle Defense titles have become a great way to grab a few minutes of defense strategy gameplay while on the go, because of the AppStore. They’re great anywhere, appeal to a wide range of players, and hit that strategic nerve a lot of us gamers have without requiring us to play through a 2 hour game, or 45 minute level. While games like Stick and Cartoon Wars pioneered the genre on the iOS, games like Legendary Wars and the Fortune series pushed it more towards the hardcore strategy gamer, and that’s where Category 5 Games most recent title, Warmongers, fits in. 
Warmongers is a single screen, 5 lane defense title, which requires quite a bit of strategy to progress through. While battling it out through hundreds of levels, you’ll be able to collect coins, unlock and upgrade characters, build up powers, and select special ability giving colors for your army. 
Starting off, you’ll need to play through one area, with 3 stages. Each of these stages has 3 separate battles that you’ll need to complete in order to take over the area. Once you battle your way through all 9 stages, each getting progressively harder than the last, the territory is yours. As you make your way through the territories, more and more battles are required to play through before you take the territory over. 
In order to win a battle, you need to get enough of your characters over to the enemies side. At the top of the screen is a gauge, starting with each side locked at the middle. Once you get a character over to the enemies side, your gauge takes over a little bit of the enemies gauge. If they get a character over to your side, the gauge moves back. To win the battle, you need to completely own the enemies gauge. Sometimes it can take less than a minute, others, it’s an all out epic battle, going back and forth, with each side almost winning multiple times. It all depends on what characters you send out, when you send them out, what power ups you use and when, and when you use your special color ability. With each character you send out costing mana, and only 200 mana available to you at any given time, it’s usually a struggle the whole battle.

In the shop, you’re able to upgrade your characters, powers and colors. With each character, you can upgrade their level, which increases their defense, speed, and attack, or increase their attack and defense separately. You’re also able to purchase Bloodlust abilities, which are special attacks that can be used when your bloodlust gauge is filled. 
There are IAPs in the shop, and with no levels being able to be replayed for extra coinage, and the pretty high cost of upgrades and character unlocks, and the difficulty brought on by only having 200 mana available to you at any given time throughout the game (with characters mana costs being between 35 and 45) it can feel like the game is pushing you towards purchasing extra coins quite a bit. This is a shame, because everything else within the game is top-notch. Unfortunately, this push to purchase extra consumable IAPs after the original purchase of the game can be a real deal breaker for many gamers.

Right now, Warmongers is having a 50% off launching sale, and the iPhone version is priced at $0.99, with the HD version priced at $1.99. Considering it’s pushed towards purchasing extra coins through IAP, having a $1.99 and $3.99 title, and not being universal, it’s a hard game to recommend. But if you’re looking for a game that pushes you towards making certain upgrades without any experimentation, and loads of challenge, and high difficulty, then Warmongers is a strategy game you’ll most likely fall in love with. 

Buster Spirits [Iskandar Inc.] – $1.99

Every time a new shmup hits the AppStore, I get extremely excited, especially when it’s from a well known developer. Iskandar, developer of Bit-1, Brutal Fantasy, Cut Him Up, and the ever popular shmup, Buster Red, has just released a follow-up to Buster Red called Buster Spirits. This time around, Iskandar has created a shmup more directed towards fans of the genre than another casual shooter. 
The first thing that stands out about Buster Spirits are the new graphics. Even though they’re retro-inspired, and look old-school, they’re a huge change from Buster Red, which had a more cartoony look to it. But aside from the graphics, like most sequels, Buster Spirits is a lot like it’s predecessor. The game is level based, containing 20 separate stages spread across 4 different worlds, and having 4 huge boss battles. There are also tons of enemies with randomized power-up drops, but in Buster Spirits, the enemies also drop coins, which you’ll need to collect to build up your score. 
Now, unlike Buster Red, Buster Spirits contains a new scoring mechanic which definitely adds to the hardcore feeling of the game. Grazing. Just mentioning the word gets shmup fans charged up. Buster Spirits gives you bonus firepower for grazing bullets and enemies, which can result in clearing out screens after screens full of enemies in a flash, and adds a ton to the difficulty, as well as the fun, factors. 
Unfortunately, it’s not all great. There is no main menu, and no options for the game. Considering the controls are more like a Minter game (think Gridrunner) and there’s no option for 1:1 relative touch controls, it’s a pain to get into. Constantly re-adjusting your finger, and under/overcompensating for the extra space your ship will move while trying to dodge huge amounts of bullets of enemies gets very frustrating, very fast. This is kind of a shock, because Buster Red’s controls are fantastic 1:1 relative touch, so it’s strange that this was left out of the sequel. 
Also, there’s only one Mode in the game, whereas Buster Red has a Boss Rush Mode, and an Elite Mode. This doesn’t really take away from the replay value, because there’s always a high replay value when it comes to shmups, and GameCenter leaderboards, but it does take away from the feeling of a complete game. Almost every shmup in the AppStore either has Arcade and iPhone Modes, Boss Rush Modes, Practice Modes, or more, and not having this included in Buster Spirits does make it seem kind of incomplete. 
There’s also no difficulty settings, and only one ship to choose from, which, when it comes to shoot-em-ups, is a very big deal. Considering almost all of these things were included in Buster Red, I can’t help but wonder why they were left out of it’s sequel. But priced at $1.99, and being Universal, if you’re a shmup fanatic, it’s hard to pass up another Buster title. Unfortunately, you might not be too pleased with the product. Hopefully Iskandar Inc. adds to the game in future updates, but as it is now, it’s a hard recommendation, even with some great Buster titles under their belt. 

Kotomon [Monstars Inc] – $3.99

AAA developers moving over to iOS development is enough to get any iOS gamer excited. There’s always loads of potential that comes along with the title of ‘AAA Developer’. Unfortunately, more often than not, we’re shown what AAA developers really think of the mobile device when we’re given something that doesn’t really hold up against most indie developed titles. Thankfully, there are those few that really understand what the iOS device can handle, and give mobile gamers an outstanding gameplay experience. 
Kotomon, developed by Monstars Inc. is the latest addition to the AAA Developer list, with Osamu Kodera, a 20 year game development veteran who worked at SEGA (and designed the boss encounters in the game Rez. as well as creating Lumines, a critically-acclaimed hit), and moved on to the Xbox 360 PS3 as the technical director of Child of Eden and Sawako Yamamoto who has 10 years of experience, and started at CAPCOM, moved onto Electronic Arts Japan, and oversaw releases of Star Wars and James Bond 007, finally ending up at Q Entertainment guiding multiple projects and helping to produce Child of Eden. In October 2011, Sawako and Osamu founded Monstars Inc, a mobile development project, with Kotomon being their first release. With all of that experience, it’s hard not to expect a lot from Kotomon. Unfortunately, the game falls a bit short of expectations. However, if you go into it not expecting a AAA effort, you might wind up being pleasantly surprised. 
Kotomon has you guide a little red character throughout 24 short levels. There is no story, and no real feeling of progression as you make your way through the game. Joined by other little creatures, you’re able to move using a floating joystick control scheme, and can pick up the creatures simply by walking into them. You’ll need to use these different creatures to destroy the enemies throughout the levels by tapping on the screen once you’re holding one of them, which makes you throw the creature at the enemies. The more enemies you destroy with an enemy, the higher your combo score will be. The main goal of the game is to get 3 star rankings in each of the levels by quickly killing the enemies by grouping them together and getting combo scores. 
Each of your little creatures have different attributes, like the little blue guys being quick and able to travel pretty far, they have a light attack, but are able to follow enemies, while the big lumpy white creatures are slow, but a lot stronger. The smaller purplish creature can be flung straight and is very quick, while the red guy shoots fire. Each of the creatures adds to the gameplay, and you’re able to take 5 creatures with you into battle, so figuring out what creatures have a leg up on the enemies within a level will usually allow you to get a higher score, and 3 star rating. 
The graphics in Kotomon are fairly interesting. The character and enemy models are great, and it’s clear that tons of work went into creating them. However, the environments are pretty dull, and bring the interesting factor down quite a bit. The same happens to be true of the level designs. Each level is pretty much set up like an elaborate boss arena, which isn’t too surprising considering the background of Osamu Kodera. 
Judging by the animations and light shows that the floating orbs within each level show off, the game is supposed to flow alongside music. However, with the arcady action oriented gameplay, this is really thrown into the background. The enemies dance to the music, but other than that, music really doesn’t play a roll in the gameplay, which is sad, because having some sort of attacking system that was intertwined with the scoring system, making the attacks and combos even bigger, and maybe adding more of a lightshow within the animations for the enemies dying (instead of just a little puff of smoke) all based on the beat of the music track for the level would have been a fantastically awesome inclusion. 
It’s apparent that Monstars Inc. has some very good ideas swirling around, but I was hoping for more with Kotomon. Each level is more like a short type of arena based boss battle in which you need to play a couple times in order to figure out which critters will give you the best score. However, there’s no real drive to do this because of the lack of achievements and leaderboards. A story, and some more depth within the gameplay, attacking, and scoring system would have been great. Also, seeing another mode or two would really help out with replayability. With Kotomon being priced at $3.99, it feels like an expensive demo version of a game that has potential, but hasn’t taken advantage of it yet. Hopefully Monstars Inc. is planning on adding a lot more to Kotomon, because I’d hate to see it just get pushed aside and have yet another AAA Development team figure that no money can be made in the AppStore. It’s definitely a game you should keep your eyes on.